Saturday, 17 December 2016

Signing off at PES

What an amazing 2 years I have had at PES. I feel I have developed in ways and in directions I never thought I would go in 2 years ago. Surrounded by friends and experts I have learnt so much that has helped me become the teacher I am today. Yes, I have become a digital teacher, I have learned all about the affordances of digital technology in the classroom but the overall big learning for me these years has been the value of whanaungatanga. Relationships are key if you really want to see learning take place in the classroom and for many children it is the relationships that they need. Getting to know parents, know the names of brothers and sisters, knowing that they had a big rugby game in the weekend - all of this can add value to school in the eyes of the kids and their whanau. I have spent 2 years in one of the most digitally advanced schools in the country and I hope to take what I have learned and add to it. I hope to continue working with Google Sites and get to know how to use Chromebooks well. I hope to continue to create activities that push kids and get them to learn, create and share. I really want to make sure I continue to develop my practice and become the best I can be.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Wednesday Afternoon Was Beach Day

As a reward for reaching the top of our Ladder of Kindness, Room 14 went down to Pt.England beach for the afternoon. 

The plan was simple: We'll take a couple of balls and let the kids have free play (with some adult supervision).

The result was a fantastic success. The rugby ball and football were pretty much ignored and instead the kids built sandcastles with classmates they didn't usually play with, collected shells for each other, buried friends in the sand, hunted for crabs, collected clay, investigated rock pools, tried to catch fish, looked under rocks. It was wonderful to watch.

I saw lots of real work on Key Competencies. The kids were placed in a very stimulating environment, away from the familiar playground and familiar routines and they were let loose into this new playground and had a very valuable experience. For me, it was very interesting to see how the children interacted with each other differently and made decisions about how they would spend their time on the beach.

Needless to say we're doing this again.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Gem Sharing

We were asked to share a gem, a lightbulb moment, a highlight, a moment of rapture in our inquiry over the year to date. My gem was simple. But come to think of it, it was more of a flash of realisation than a gem.

Having followed a very structured writing programme that has scaffolded the writing process for the children in my class, I have come to realise that there is a small minority on my class who would rather not follow the "recipe" they are given and would rather write to the beat of their own drum. It is these beat poets I need to consider more next year.

How can I offer them the support they need as well as provide the scaffold that the majority of the class need?

Our chat also got me thinking a lot about an area for improvement in my teaching, and that is how I use and promote the kids' blogs in class. If the blogs are meant to act as the showcase for the kids then they need to be promoted much more in class than I currently do. Perhaps if the kids really feel ownership of their blogs, then the quality of the work in it will be higher?

Things to consider:

  • Blog of the week (celebrated)
  • 2 weekly rotations to give FB on work (half of the class a week)  
  • (could also be in writing books with the kids given time to read their feedback and and then take this feedback into their next writing as its fresh in the mind)
  • Give kids time to read their own blog
  • Google Docs - Comments

Monday, 22 August 2016

Inquiry Update

The writing programme is cruising along. We've hit a few bumps but we're trying to find a way up the mountain.  Some very helpful feedback from Juanita Garden (AP) revealed that I had shifted the focus of my writing towards vocabulary and had removed some of the successful scaffolds that I had been using in the past.  I have since reintroduced these scaffolds and they are providing a useful framework for the children to hold onto.

It's also become clear that writing can be a tricky area to hook the children's interest in. She's a fickle mistress. One of my boys started one writing task off very slowly to the extent that I thought I would get very little from him. The following day he went for it and did his best writing to date! The praise I gave him seemed to motivate him greatly and consequently he seemed more engaged in other tasks the following day.

My learning to date would be as follows:

  • make sure kids are as settled as possible before starting with clear expectations
  • talk through the task before hand and input in as much awesome vocab/grammar as possible
  • try to engage the children as much as possible
  • scaffold the task and have that scaffold available to the kids
  • monitor/help/praise/manage
I want to really try to engage the kids more to the tasks. I did a little piece of mime to motivate them to write about the 100m sprint which went down well.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Inquiry: The end of term 2

Inquiry aside, I have learned a lot about young year 3 kids and the writing process. Apart from the contexts that each child brings to the classroom on any given day that can impact on their writing on that day, I have realised that there are a multitude of teaching decisions that can affect the quality and quantity of writing that might be produced.

Some of my kids are very easily distracted which is hard to manage in a room full of 27 children. These kids benefit from a quieter learning environment. I have tried a lot to create this by thinking carefully about where the children sit but this only creates surface changes, what is needed is a "culture of quiet" (I would settle for "quieter"). I plan to get this going next term with the teacher as The Volume.

For some reason, I have shifted the focus of my writing scaffold away from helping kids produce longer texts to concentrating on the input of vocab. I need to shift back again - but keep the vocab focus there. Perhaps this will provide the framework some of my weaker writers need - not the vocab.

So going into term 3 there is going to be a big shift in the way writing is taught - primarily in the classroom noise level and the structure provided that will support my writers.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Inquiry: Week 7


Generally I am seeing an increase in confidence with the writing of some of the children. My more able writers are also producing some of the best work I've seen all year. My lower writers are not producing good work. Reasons for this are, I think, mainly behavioural and I'm trying to find a way to address these. They are given lots of scaffolding and support, but I'm seeing them surrounded by distracting children which results in no work.

My instinct tells me that I need to reconfigure the way the children sit as I have all the lower literacy kids sitting together so that I can help them. But what I am seeing is about 6 kids who aren't able to manage themselves sitting together, annoying each other and stopping each other from writing.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Inquiry: Term 2 update

The State of Affairs
So term 2 has begun and I have identified the children who need that extra help with their writing. These are the children who have more difficulty than the others in getting their ideas down onto paper. I have a list of 12 children. I am going to whittle this down to 5 in order to really see some progress. 

My feeling at the moment is that I definitely want to focus on the ESOL learner (Arthur), I also have a very able silver level reader (Ben), a very quiet one (Chris), one who seems consistently unable to complete class activities (Doreen), and another who is a total conundrum at the moment (Ed). A nut that is I think will be harder to crack than the others. I think that's enough to be going on with.

Arthur: Freezes when unable to spell a word correctly (cultural?), developing a sense of grammar.
Ben: Clever boy, a little nerdy, could be motivated more by the appeal of seeing writing on his blog.
Chris: lacks confidence, is starting to write more, responds well to PBL.
Doreen: a bit of a wild child, often ignore scaffolds and wants to write her own piece, needs assistance in crafting these though.
Ed: responds well to quiet and communication with whanau.

What's my goal with these kids?
I'd like to see them producing pieces of writing independently by the end of the term. By independently I mean without my presence over their shoulder. They may be using other scaffolds to assist them but I am hoping that they will be able to complete their expected work, essentially, by themselves.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

End of Term 1, 2016 Inquiry: Getting reluctant readers to write

I reached a career changing conclusion this term.  One that, I guess, every teacher must reach at some point. One that is better reacher sooner rather than later: Kids learn differently. I realised that the 12 reluctant writers in my class have 12 different reasons (and some) why they do not freely put pen to paper. Each and every one of them have their own backgrounds, stories, learning needs that have determined how they approach writing. There isn't a magical broom I can use to sweep aside all these complications. There isn't 1 amazing writing lesson I can plan and teach that will blow their minds and motivate them to write beautiful sentences. Each of these 12 children has their own, unique to them, reasons why they find writing a challenge and are reluctant writers.

I have started to discover what some of these reasons are and have begun to implement strategies to try to help these kids succeed in their writing. For example the lower literacy learners are given very scaffolded templates to help them to complete the tasks, the ESOL learner is gifted quite a lot of vocab and closely monitored, the child with behavioural problems is carefully managed.

Term 2 will see me digging deeper in an attempt to help some of those 12 who I feel are still under my radar and still in need of help.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Incredible Years

I am 2 sessions into the Incredible Years programme and, without a doubt, there has been a shift in my teaching practice. I am feeling more comfortable with the way I am teaching and with the environment in my classroom. I think I am making progress with the kids who are often the most challenging and I feel I am making some closer connection with whanau.

Trying to bring large doses of positive energy into the classroom has been a challenge.  Not because I am not a positive person, just that I don't gush positivity. I have expectations that, I believe, should be met and the praise pops out when people go beyond those expectations. This has had to change. I am making efforts to praise kids for meeting those expectations, hoping that this behaviour can become viral. I am trying to catch my interesting kids being good and am choosing to ignore that which can be ignored.

I would love to know if the kids have noticed a change ... 

Monday, 29 February 2016

Inquiry 2016: How can I increase student independence in writing (lowest group)?

Writing and reading are passions of mine in the classroom. I enjoy teaching both of them. In my current class I have some very able readers and the average reading age is much higher than that of my last yr 3 class. However, I do have some very reluctant writers and others who i can confidently say find writing immensely difficult. I am determined to improve the writing of the children in this class. To do this, I will need my lower writers to become more able to write independently of the teacher and be able to meet my expectations without looking over their shoulder all the time as I want to make myself more available to the other children to help push them in their writing and provide feedback whilst they are writing, not when they have "finished".

I have started observing the writing that is produced and taking note of how I am teaching and how the children are responding.

It is early days.

Friday, 5 February 2016

2016: Term 1: Week 1

The week went way better than last year. I felt more confident in what i was doing and felt like i had some strategies and method. I struggled a bit with the new timetable. Creatures of habit us teachers apparently. But we must adapt or die. I need to really consider the time allowances that the new timetable provides more carefully. My reading activities were too difficult. Next week I am going to use the same template for my EE activities for all groups and introduce new templates to the whole class and then eventually pick and choose templates according to need and appropriacy. The class has some good writers but I am going to treat them like an ESOL class as of next week to push their sentence structure and grammar. Next week I will continue enforcing expectations and introduce the class rule-system (thinking space first time, out the class, the second). Still have to think about how i am best to distribute ipads and I need to make sure the kids feel accountable for the work they produce. Lovely kids. I'm looking forward to our journey together!