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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Visible Learning - Student Lead Learning

This week, we evaluated our Writing Data.  We do this after every e-asTTle assessment, as part of instructional group time.  I do this for three reasons:
  1. Students can see where they are at and can identify where they would like to go next.
  2. It makes my hours spent planning much easier - because it is the students telling me what they would like to learn.
  3. It gives the students a sense of purpose for our lessons, as I put the responsibility back on students i.e don't blame me, you chose to learn this! 
Sharing the Data with the students:

This is my first step.  This is an example of how students have annotated their own data using Google Draw and a screen shot of their e-asTTle learning pathway:

This helps students to get familiar with reading the pathway and finding what is relevant for them to know and what isn't.  We have added other things to our annotations as we have discussed the pathways in our instructional groups.

Writing S-M-A-R-T-E-R Goals:

From annotating this data, we then start crafting our SMARTER goals in our Learning Logs.  SMARTER stands for:

S = specific
M = measurable
A = ambitious
R = realistic
T = time frame
E = evaluate
R = reevaluate

This was a framework for writing goals that was introduced to our staff by Kate Birch as part of our Professional Learning Development.  It has been a great framework to use with students to get beyond the "I want to get better at maths."  "To get better at maths, I need to try harder." sorts of goals.

A Learning Log is simply a Google Presentation that students update by 'adding a new slide' with new goals, or reflections about their current learning.  Here is an example below:

Hopefully you will be able to recognise more depth in the way students think about their learning.

Putting Goals into Action

As the classroom teacher, I record all goals on our class site as 'group goals.'  Each writing session, I focus my feedback specific to that student's goal and sometimes, students might reflect on their progress by updating their Learning Log.

It focuses my teaching because I can see what the students need/would find helpful.  It saves me time from coming up with numerous WALTs as each child knows their own 'WALT.'

How do you encourage self directed learning in your class and achieve student lead learning?  I'd love to hear back about the strategies and pedagogies that you use!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Inquiry in Room 8

This week, we were asked by our leadership team to consider: "How has 'create' been reflected in my reading/maths or inquiry programme this week?"

As I have been participating in the creation of resources with Rebecca Sweeney as you may have seen mentioned in other posts, I chose to reflect on the 'creates' that students in my class are currently completing and the process leading up to these 'creates' in relation to Inquiry.

This term, our Inquiry topic was called 'Discoveries.'  The key question/idea, being "How have discoveries impacted our lives?"  Rebecca made the first of many visits to Room 8, just as we were beginning to start creating our questions for inquiry.  This was in Week 6 of the Term.  Prior to this session, we had had 5 weeks of making connections and frontloading.  We had unpacked what the word 'discovery' means, the types of people that make discoveries (scientists and inventors) and what qualities of these people do we admire as learners in Room 8 (risk taking, curiosity, asking questions, determination, commitment...).

So, fast forward 6 weeks, and we were now ready to start asking our own questions about the world around us to investigate.  We used a KWL chart to help organise our thinking.  We spent a while recording all that we knew and had learnt in the weeks prior.  I modelled this initially and then students broke off into groups of three to complete their own (they had the choice of vivids and big paper or creating a table using GAFE).


Within the 'L' of their KWL charts (K= what we already Know, W = what we Want to learn and L = what we have Learned), students had written many different questions that covered many different topics.  Our next step was to make our questions more specific.  This is so that we could "Help Google to find the right information for us."  

After students had recrafted their questions so that they were more specific, we were ready to categorise our questions into common groups.  I created a Google Presentation, which all students had editing rights to.  On each slide, I put a suggested sub-heading and as we got going, students suggested other sub-headings of topics that were not yet included in the presentation.  In their groups, students worked together to put their questions on the right slides.

Once all questions were categorised, students were then able to choose the area of inquiry that interested them the most and that they would like to investigate further.  Here is a view of the Google Presentation:

This was great for classroom management too, as all group names and questions were in one place.

We were now finally organised and ready to begin our research.  Research skills are integrated across the curriculum so there were no formal lessons about going about this, but there was lots of reminding about the hows and whys throughout the research sessions.

Students are guided throughout this, and given a sense of purpose in two ways.  The first is the 'end of term product' which is a whole school science fair.  Students need to have something to contribute to the whole school event/celebration of learning.  The second, is the class Inquiry Rubric.  This rubric was co constructed by our class and is a way for students to assess their presentations:

So far, I have never seen such enthusiastic students who are so focussed in their 'creates.'  I believe it is because of these reasons:
  1. Scaffolding - questioning, information finding skills, front loading
  2. Purpose - Whole school science fair (the whole school is behind the learning)
  3. Ambitious and Achievable - Rubric outlining how to achieve
  4. Freedom/Creativity - to create something interesting to share their information
  5. Peer interactions - learning more through the create process with each other!
Here are photos of current creates taking place.  We are presenting to the class on Friday to select which presentations will be included in the whole school science fair.  I am SO excited to see what these students come up with!!!  I will update this post with videos from the presentation day so come back after Friday!  (Please excuse the no uniforms - it was Crazy Socks Mufti Day when these photos were taken!)



Here is a photo slideshow of the TPS Science Fair, in which two final groups from Room 8 participated:

Here is the 'Dinosaurs Group' class presentation (am still editing the other group presentations):

Professional Development: Maths with Lucie Cheeseman

Today,  I was fortunate enough to observe a model lesson presented by Lucie Cheeseman of Team Solutions .  In this lesson, Lucie worked with 8 year 7 and 8 students who are currently achieving at a Stage 4/E5 level.  The focus of the lesson was to order fractions visually using materials, including improper fractions like 5/3 and 7/4 , and explain what the numerator and denominator mean.
As an observer, I was focussed on the types of questions Lucie asked and the use of materials for scaffolding.  The former focus, being something that I am trying to develop across all curriculum areas myself.  The latter, being a goal of the MDTA teacher I mentor.  I wanted to see best practice so that I would know how to support him in the use of materials and scaffolding strategies in his instructional group lessons.


I tried my best to write down all of the questions Lucie asked to see if I could identify any patterns.  What I did notice, was that there were many closed questions in the beginning to middle part of the lesson.  Upon reflection, I think this is was for many justified reasons:

  1. This was the first time working with these students and so she needed to gauge their levels and level of number knowledge.
  2. She had to repeat key information and so by asking questions over and over again, she was able to consolidate key knowledge.
  3. Due to the urgent need to accelerate the learning of these students, Lucie had to prioritise how much time to spend on each area of learning.  So she may have made the decision to get 'surface knowledge' 'out of the way' so that she could get to the strategy learning and the deeper questions faster. 
  4. Lucie mentioned "Being a good mathematician means you’ve got to be right and you’ve got to be quick."  This means that we need to have quick number knowledge.  This may have been the reason behind such 'quizzing questions.'
Towards the mid-end part of the lesson, the questions became a bit more open ended.  Questions like:  Why do you think that?  Can you tell me why?  What if...?  Where did you get that answer from?  I think this may have been because...

  1. They were at a stage now, where they had the knowledge, and were now being extended to transfer that knowledge into problem solving and strategy learning.
  2. Lucie was trying to encourage students to make the connection between what they already know and what was being learnt.
This affirmed my practice, because I too, aim to prioritise learning time in such a way, that do not spend more than the necessary time on what students should already know.  Rather, I like to spend time on the extending of ideas and I try to aim for accelerated learning.  Meaning that students are making bigger leaps within a lesson, rather than lots of little steps over a series of lessons.

Questioning and cognitive engagement are a big focus for me, as part of Manaiakalani.  Through this observation, I was able to see how I might structure my lesson and the types of questions I might ask.  I saw how I might prioritise learning and my attention in order to achieve accelerated outcomes.

Scaffolding - Materials

I observed fantastic use of materials to help the students to visualise and to support their thinking.  Lucie used:
  • Pre-prepared circles cut out for the students to divide into fractions and to shade.
  • Pom-poms (or "lollies")
  • Lolly vending machines outlines for students to 'fill'
  • Post-it notes for writing of the abstract fraction symbols
  • Fraction 'flip cards' that displayed a range of fractions that were easy to flick through, rather than to draw them, or create them using the foam fraction pieces.  They were great for a quick fraction knowledge check!
Through the use of such materials, students were able to make connections between the continuous (shape or region) to the discrete (set or number) and the abstract symbol (e.g. 1/4).

From this discussion, I am motivated to head to the $2.00 store to get some more creative materials that will help to engage the learners in my class!

Scaffolding - Folding Back

There were two instances, where Lucie folded back.  In this case, one step back, two steps forward is a good thing.  The first instance was when students were no longer thinking about their responses - but calling them out - or, guessing.  Lucie stopped the lesson and encouraged students to think before they responded.  This helped the lesson to slow back down to a steady workable pace that all students could participate in.  By recapping what had been learnt so far, students returned to thinking through the process, rather than calling out random numbers.

The second instance, was when there was a noticeable difference in the two halves of the groups.  One half was calling out and contributing ideas at a rapid pace, the other half were mute.  To ensure that it was because of shy-ness, rather than lack of knowledge, Lucie folded back to work with halves.  Something that all group members were confident with.  She went on to say "You know halves, that's too easy, so now we are working on quarters."  We concluded from this that these students were able to use this strategy, they were just very shy to contribute ideas and because of that, were not able to process the new learning.

In our professional follow up discussion, we talked about the possible use of speaking frames to help structure speech.  I have these somewhere in my teacher cupboard/files and will get these back out!  The second strategy was to have a tangible ‘speaking tool’ to hold such as a koosh-ball or plastic microphone.

Light Bulb Moments

I had three lightbulb moments during this observation:

  1. ‘Creates’ in maths don’t need to be fancy. The simpler the creates the more depth you can add into the description and discussion.  
    1. As we continue to 'figure out' what Learn, Create, Share looks like in Maths, I am realising more and more, that it is perhaps the most simple creates that are better.  In maths, it is the thinking, articulating of that thinking and reasoning behind decisions that are the most important.  In the observation, Lucie instructed: "Here is your cake - you are going to show me three quarters on there (circle card cut outs) -you might need to fold, shade in…"  Students were 'creating' their own versions of what three quarters looked like to them.  They were also negotiating, decision making, thinking and problem solving.  Taking a photo of this with a written description along with it, is a much more valuable 'create' for students who are in need of accelerated learning, rather than spending a week creating a poster with a similar message.
  2. OTJs = do they apply the knowledge to problem solve and strategies - need explicit teaching on this.  
    1. One thing that Lucie mentioned in our follow up discussion was the fact that OTJs should not be based on number knowledge alone.  They need to be based on how well students transfer this learning to problem solving tasks and to new strategies.  This means we need to allow for more opportunities for students to show that they can.  This leads me to the third light bulb moment.
  3. Accelerated learning means that we need to provide rich tasks that integrate all strands together.
    1. Because we are aiming for accelerated learning, can we really justify spending two weeks or more on one strategy or even strand?  I believe that it is through rich tasks that help to integrate all number knowledge, strategies and strands, that students are given opportunity to transfer their number knowledge to real life problems, and give teachers opportunities or 'teachable moments' to extend thinking and introduce new concepts.  E.g. Miss Kyla wants to buy a bag.  It is $20 but there is a 30% off sale.  How much will Miss Kyla have to pay?  Through this task, students are required to do the following:
      1. Find a tenth of 20 = $2 (division, decimal, fraction knowledge)
      2. Multiply 2 by 3 to find 30% = $6 (mult/div knowledge)
      3. Take away 6 from 20 = $14 (add/sub - could use tidy numbers, number line etc).
    2. This has inspired me to think about how I might structure my maths lessons in the future.
    3. This also highlights the need for teachers to understand, with depth, the strand expectations, knowledge expectations and strategy expectation so that they can conduct formative assessment through these tasks for individual students.

It was such a great lesson overall.  As I missed a bit of PLD from Lucie last year due to Maternity Leave, I found this lesson motivating and affirming.  I am excited to deepen my knowledge about Maths as I have always felt that this was my personal area for development out of Reading, Writing and Maths.  Thank you Lucie Cheeseman for presenting a great lesson!