Friday, 13 February 2015

Creating something that is going to help somebody else learn:

Today the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers 2015 (MIT15) group met to share the focus of our inquiries. It was inspiring to be a part of this discussion and to have the opportunity share this process with such talented educators.

Stage #1:

I am very passionate about shifting student achievement and know that by empowering my learners with the tools to help them reach those ever changing ‘next levels of learning success’ is one way of achieving this.

Student success in Writing is quantified against a series of levelled national standards and national norms. The achievement levels of our own priority learners are measured against the achievement levels of all New Zealand students at the same year level, and sadly our data continues to reflect noticeable disparities. Last year an assignment for university provided me with an insight to the power that peer led feedback had on shifting student achievement in Reading when it was given and received in real time and context. This year MIT15 is allowing me an opportunity to explore if by drawing on this knowledge, I am able equip my students with some of the metacognitive tools that will allow them to strengthen their own understanding of the language features and structures needed to reach national levels in Writing.

The ‘Comments’ tool in Google Docs, when used as a forum for the learning conversations peer led feedback facilitates, will afford my learners opportunities to learn with and from each other in a safe place, where successes and errors are noticed; and ideas can be suggested, challenged and resolved, as opportunities to 'create something that is going to help somebody else learn' are actively sought.

                                            William Glasser

Stage #2:

I will ask the questions:
  • ‘Are the feedback skills and knowledge in one curriculum area transferrable to another?’
  • ‘Are all learners able to notice and feedback on the deeper features of their peer’s writing?’
  • ‘Is the feedback justified and interactive?’

Shifts in student achievement will not happen simply because the concept of critical friendships is introduced. Attaching a name to something will not cement understanding. To build and strengthen the content knowledge of my priority learners I need to borrow from Dorothy Brown’s idea by providing opportunities for ‘repetition without boring’ so that real connections can be made and understandings strengthened through informed learning discussions.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sparking Student Interest:

This week saw the start of my MIT inquiry. I selected a group of talented young writers who will become not only my target group, but also our resident Room 5 'experts'. The group challenges will provide opportunities to work independently, collaboratively and with me on writing tasks that will challenge the students to move their writing to the next level. Taking a forensic (really close look) at what their peers have written is what will help each student in their 'critical friend' role to give focused feedback and feed forward. 

Learning from and with each other will help increase our overall understanding of structure and language features as our Room 5 writing programs evolves this year. The students are expected to take risks by trying to incorporate new learning into their independent tasks and when asked justify (say why) this new learning was used when responding to feed back.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Shaping Aotearoa

A reminder from Dame Whina Cooper that we are the guardians who take care of the children and so shape Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Week 1 Term 1 Reflection:

The first week of this new school year was very different than those of past years as this year I have an extra set of eyes on me. Room 5 have welcomed our fabulous student teacher who will be with us on and off throughout the year as she works towards her final teaching practicum. I have been teaching for over two decades now... shocking when you put a time frame on it! In my mind it seems like only yesterday that I was starting my first class as a beginning teacher, as we were called back then. Over the years experience has taught me what works and what doesn't in the first week of school. The learning I plan for that first week is instinctive and is done in such a way that not only do the students get to know each other and their teacher, but I also get to know what make my learners tick. In saying that I have never had to justify the purpose behind why I do things the way I do. I am sure walking through the door of the classroom as a student teacher on the first day must be a daunting challenge, but in saying that think about this from the perspective of the classroom teacher. Everything you do and say is being observed and analysed. Luckily as 'teachers' we clicked straight away which I'm sure not only put her at ease but also allowed me to breathe out!

So why do I do the things the way I do? It's simple really. To begin laying the foundations needed to build the collaborative learning environment needed to help grow the seeds of knowledge. Everything serves a triple purpose. Its about working smarter.

Purpose 1: To build the collaborative group working skills that allow the students to practise the thinking, sharing, negotiating and decision making skills they need to function successfully as one group as we unpack the skills and values that will help them make the important connections to their learning.

Purpose 2: To use the evidence of this thinking and create wall displays that reflect personal connections to the learning environment. I don't fill the walls alone when the students have left for the day we incorporate this into the lesson so that the ethos of shared decision making is encouraged. I have found by getting the students involved in creating the displays they are genuinely able to talk about what is on the walls and why it is there. An added bonus is that everyone takes ownership of the environment.

Purpose 3: To create a digital record of our learning that is shared on our individual blogs. In the past this would have been done in books as we practised ruling the pages, writing the date and the learning intention and reminding people (who most probably hadn't picked up a pen/pencil for the last six weeks) to write neatly. Sadly the audience for this task would have been limited to the author and myself. Parents and caregivers would only know what we had been learning if they worded their questions about the day cleverly enough to get beyond the typical responses of 'Nothing!' Being a 1:1 digital learning environment means the students and their parents/caregivers are able to access their learning or the record of their learning anytime and anywhere.

The buy in from the students has been amazing. I found myself almost apologising to my class on Thursday afternoon for not doing any art. I was in the middle of praising them for their contributions this week and explaining why it had been so important to establish routines and collaborative working skills when one of the students put up her hand and said, "Its ok Miss, look at our room, it looks great. We did heaps of work and we all practised those skills you were talking about." My heart melted to see the foundations of the very important student/teacher connections were being laid.