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Friday, 29 August 2014

Teaching as Inquiry: Create Challenge

Today we were challenged to create a DLO that illustrated a current teaching as inquiry focus.

Here is my Prezi presentation which I used for the first time today.  I had a lot of fun!  Enjoy...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Collaboration: sharing is not enough - a response to Rebbecca Sweeney

Ok, so please don't report me for offensive matter, but the first word that came to my mind after reading Rebbecca Sweeney's Colllaboration:  sharing is not enough post was:  Circlejerk.  Please do not look this up, as there are two VERY different definitions - one being NSFW, but trust in my provided definition:
@War Against Normal coined this, the 'Period of Froth' in which we come together, to share, to collaborate, to discuss, to inspire.  We feel great!  However, just like the froth at the top of our beer or coke soon subsides, so too does our motivation and we soon return to how things once were.  

What we need, to sustain learn and change and improvement and academic progress, is to move beyond the comfortable level of sharing.  We need to step outside the box - or in this case, the circle.  We need to continually challenge, reflect, inquire, respond, react, debate, question - all those good things we ask our students to do. 

Rebbecca challenges us to collaborate, not to tick a box next to 'PLD 2014', but to seriously engage with each other and better ourselves as we continue to form an evolving education system that is being recreated and reformed before our very eyes.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Engaging Students into Writing

 This week, I have been trying to model the writing process as part of my aims and goals as a mentor teacher.  The focus of these sessions have been behaviour management and student engagement.
The inspiration for this writing focus came to me through facebook.  The Coconet page shared the animated version of Sina and the Tuna.  If you are an educator you should definitely check this site out, regardless of if you have a high percentage of Pasifika learners in your school or not.  The resources are both informative and highly entertaining (See:  Baby Oil - The Potion of Doom)

Lesson One:  WALT Plan a legend.

I used the Sina and the Tuna video to motivate discussion about legends.  Students had to identify the structure of a legend - at Tamaki Primary, we use the T.O.P.S acronym, which our Year 7s and 8s are very familiar with now.  T - meaning Title, O - meaning Orientation, P - meaning problem and S - meaning Solution.

At Tamaki Primary, we use the story map - or 'backwards S' to plan our narrative stories.  The first thing we did, was to plot Sina and the Tuna on its own story map to show how the story fit, and how the story achieved according to our TOPS model.

Students were then paired up and asked to agree on a favourite sea creature (our current inquiry topic is the sea), and something about that creature that made them special, e.g. a turtle and its shell, a shark and its sharp teeth, the fish and its scales etc.

They were then challenged to work in pairs to come up with a legend about how that creature came to have that special feature.  Students worked in pairs using big paper and felt tip pens to create their story maps.  We created a class Success Criteria for this task.  We agreed that successful story maps had to include:

  • TOPS
  • Pictures
  • Key words
  • Sentence starters
Lesson Two:  WALT verbalise our legend story.

I started this lesson, using inspiration from a colleague of mine - Aireen Ah Kui, who posted about this very writing process on her own professional blog.  It's always good to use examples/models of work, and even better if they are from students at the same school.  This really engaged the students in my class because they saw their friends learning and following this process, and so were motivated to work just as hard.

Again, the students constructed a success criteria to guide their verbalising.  We agreed that successful verbalisation of a storymap had to be:
  • Clear 
  • Succinct
  • Flow from start to finish
  • Both buddies needed to know the story - not just one buddy
  • Both buddies needed to contribute
  • Use the pictures and key words to guide the story
  • Proudly presented - don't hide the story map and don't mumble
Students were so engaged practicing with their buddies because they knew "Both buddies needed to know the story."  Then, when asked to pair up with another group, they were proud and LOUD.  The noise level didn't bother me though, because I could see that students were engaged!

We reflected on our lesson at the end, and I posed the question:  "How does verbalising a plan, help in writing?"  And received thoughtful responses such as:  "It helps me to get a head start in my writing."  "It will help me to start my writing tomorrow because I will know what to do."  "I won't be struggling tomorrow for writing because I can just get started straight away."  "It helped me to organise my story better because some of my work didn't make sense."

Lesson Three:  WALT craft our legend story

As the students predicted - these planning and verbalising sessions helped to get the students writing quickly and with focus today.  No one said "I don't know what to do."  Or, "I don't know what to write about."  

We watched Sina and the Tuna one more time, and created a class Success Criteria about what good legends have.  We agreed that we would aim to include:
  • Powerful and purposeful language
  • TOPS
  • Dialogue between characters to move the plot along
  • Correct punctuation
  • Interesting sentence starters
  • Use the same tense (past tense) - (To which I overheard "Yesss...I'm good at past tense!")
  • Paragraphs with one main idea
One student said "Use the word village instead of town and that was amazing for me, because that was an amazing shift in thinking about writing that this student made - in that statement, he had shown that he was considering the purpose, audience, voice and tone of his writing - SUCCESS.

Students were then encouraged to get started on their legend crafts.  Which were to be done, as the planning and verbalising had been done, in pairs.  

I walked around the room initially to work with specific writers who needed extra support, then I was able to give feedback and feedforward through the teacher dashboard.

What Next?

My vision of next steps will include:
  • Specific teaching of language features to enhance the writing e.g. similes, metaphors, personification etc.
  • Publishing and sharing - both online and classroom display.
  • Recording and sharing 'audio book' collection of their stories
  • Reflecting and evaluating their writing using the TPS Writing Rubric and updating our learning logs.
What I noticed through this process:
  • I noticed engaged writers
  • I noticed that 'those boys' who are sometimes seen by others as disengaged, being active participants - reading their storymaps using expresseion and being applauded by their group members, contributing to our plenary discussions thoughtfully, asking "Miss, is this OK?"
  • I noticed that students were smiling and looking forward to writing their legends.
  • I noticed that I didn't have to growl much at all during writing time.
  • I noticed that I had support to fall back on when giving feedforward (they created the success criteria, so I used their language and they understood what I meant).

I have been a very happy teacher going home this week.

UPDATE - here are some example stories that were the outcome of this process!

Click here to read Iziah's and Tanisslous' Legend

Click here to read Mavis' and Mehi's Legend

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Reading Log: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's third novel – her first, Purple Hibiscus, which was the first that I read from Adichie, was longlisted for the Booker prize and her second, Half a Yellow Sun, which I am yet to read, won the Orange prize.  This book spoke to me on so many levels.  The love story intertwined with commentary about race relations in the USA.  So many moments, I was like, "Boom!"  And wish I could memorise so much to quote in arguments later on in life.  I also liked the fact that the main character let her love interest pluck hairs from her chin and only wore black underwear because she finds the 'pretty' kind irrelevant.  So good.

I really recommend this book - I would recommend reading Adichie's shopping list.  Seriously.  Big fan.   

Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - also available as an audio book on itunes.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Mentor Diaries

Today, I turned a corner in my own learning of what it means to be a mentor teacher.  This is my first year in such a role.  Prior, I had only had experience as an associate teacher or facilitator.  Both of which were for shorter amounts of time and both of which, I felt, had less at stake for the other person, than for the MDTA teacher I am currently responsible for 'mentoring.'

Like students, I want the best for this teacher.  I want them to feel inspired, to love learning, and above all else, LOVE teaching - as much as I do.  When I thought I wasn't being very successful at this, I began to feel quite down about it.  As I would, if there were a challenge student in my class.  I thought about it constantly, talked about it with my friends, bored my partner to death about it...but it grated me.  How could I get what I wanted from this?  

Like students, adults are all different.  They bring their own backgrounds to the classroom, own experiences, own habits, own baggage...  In a classroom, an experienced teacher is able to understand and notice these things about particular students or groups of students and therefore, adjust their approach to those students to engage them, extend their thinking, motivate them, support them and help them to learn.  Adults are the same.  However, as a mentor, I had not transferred my learning as a teacher of children to my mentoring adults.

I was expecting that the learning would occur as it does for me.  That the best approach to take, was the approach that worked best for me.  Through experiencing for myself and reflective questioning and goal setting.  However, that wasn't working.  Rather than reflect on my own mentoring, I would blame.   Blame the teacher, blame the programme, blame studies, blame family, blame the students, blame the weather.  

So when another colleague of mine tried a more upfront, no fuss approach - and it being received in a truly transforming way, I realised, my approach was not right for this 'student.'  That I have to adjust my approach.  That for some adults, this is a better way to address their learning needs.  Just like it is for students sometimes.

It's someone who teaches for a living, that I was struggling to find how I could help in this situation.  I think I have higher expectations of adults - but really, it's not about kids, adults, teens, elderly...we are all LEARNERS.  

I think I turned a corner today.  We are life long learners who need different approaches.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Professional Highlight: Illustrating Student Engagement with Manaiakalani

Here is the completed and published research that I worked with Rebecca Sweeney to illustrate.  Please watch and let me know your thoughts!  Confession:  I hate watching myself so haven't viewed this, but I'm sure I didn't sound too crazy that day!  Thank you to Rebecca for her guidance and editing skills.  Thanks to Manaiakalani for giving me this opportunity.