Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sentence Structure

Today I used my MIT group as 'experts' but have noticed that these students all have strong and dominant personalities. This often results in them taking the lead leaving those who need further support in coasting mode. However today there was a twist... the 'experts' could only question the people in their groups. This completely changed the locus of control, something my 'experts' found very frustrating. 

How did one 'expert' overcome this 'frustration'? 

St. #1: This is really frustrating Miss, they just didn't get how they had to write things in their own words.
T: So what can you do to help them?
St. #1: I could ask them different questions using easier words I think.
T: True... and while you're thinking about what you could say think about how Austin's friends helped him...
St. #1: Oh... I need to be more specific!

T: (thinking) Yah! Connection made!

Having worked through the collaborative challenge we played a version of whiteboard tag. Each group member had a role to play in sharing their understanding of our learning. Sajiha, Fine and Yvette created this quiz about sentence structures to help Room 5 consolidate their learning. We wanted everyone to be successful so allowed the 'open book' option using the group notes if answers needed to be checked. The best part was that by the responses I could see every student showed that they had made a connection to the learning.

Monday, 30 March 2015

How Austin helped Room 5

Sharing Austin's Butterfly with my MIT focus group helped them make real connections to the power of feedback. The students were amazed at the transformation of Austin's initial image to his final drawing. This clip allowed them to see how using 'the eyes of a scientist' his peers were able to guide him through six drafts. Our challenge was to notice what the feedback looked like. 

What we did:

Ideas were recorded on whiteboards independently then shared with a partner. The objective behind the 'list sharing' being to compare lists and merge ideas into one list. This allowed a further two opportunities to connect to the feedback. Once all lists were compiled we shared as a group. By doing this we were able to co-construct the success criteria that would guide our own feedback skills.

We think feedback is:

  • Information that supports the learning
  • Kind and positive
  • Helps people realise and see their errors
  • Critical (but not mean)
  • Detailed and specific
  • Useful - should have a purpose
From our success criteria we derived our learning intention:
  • LI: To give useful, specific feedback 
This lesson was observed by our literacy facilitator who asked if they had the opportunity to make a decision about their learning during that lesson and if it was successful.

Student 1: Yes I did because I got to help decide what our Learning Intention was and what that would look like. It will help me to help my critical friend by getting them to see their mistakes in a kind way.

Student 2: Yes because we set our own success criteria. It was fun learning about how Austin changed his simple butterfly into a detailed picture. I think I will think about this when I'm helping my critical friend because it will help me look at my own work too.

What's next?

I need to provide real situations that will allow for specific feedback to be noticed and given. This will allow the students to see how the feedback helped them make changes. To move learning to the next level I will need to provide time for the students who receive feedback to explain in their own words why they were given this advice.

Friday, 13 March 2015

... and we're off! MIT15 Update #2

What a week! It's the end of Week 6 and those of you who are teachers will know that means we are now half way through term one. For me that also signifies the conclusion of our visit from the Education Review Office (ERO)! 

When reflecting on the last week I have identified a personal high point of ERO's visit. I know that for many teachers having a visitor in your room is daunting, but when you are part of the Manaiakalani cluster visitors to your learning environment are the norm. I have learned to embrace visits as opportunities to share my classroom practice and celebrate my student's learning successes. Someone was definitely looking after me that day because my observation took place as we were building the foundations of my MIT inquiry! In addition to being asked about the current learning taking place, I was asked to talk about the ways I extend and engage my students. Apart from this being something I am truly passionate about, having an active class site and blog meant I had a wealth of supporting evidence at my fingertips. Many of my learners were spoken to and it was evident from our discussion after the lesson, that all the students spoken to understood what they were doing, why they were doing it and could talk about what they needed to do to get to the next level in Writing. This excited me as I could see that my MIT focus was very much alive in Room 5.

One foot in front of the other:

My next step from Update #1 was to look closely at the content of the comments and see if genuine connections had been made by comparing the comments with the actual work analysed. Unfortunately when I did this my initial euphoria did a very large u-turn. I noticed that there was a significant amount of mismatch between what had been written in the task and what was 'noticed', evident in the comments.

The collaborative success criteria based on content only:

You will have done this correctly if you have:
  • Written in past tense
  • Listed at three goals you hope to achieve
  • Explained what you will need to do to achieve these goals
  • Included at least one question

The example above shows that the success criteria was used to help prompt the feedback but it is incorrect. There is no evidence of a question being asked, nor any evidence of how this student hopes to achieve these goals. 

This week saw us peel back and start by developing student content knowledge. I took advantage of the fact we have just done e-asTTle writing samples as that made the task of how to give feedback both purposeful and relevant. I explained that the rubric was what helped teachers find out what level their students were working at and helped them find out what they needed to teach next to help everyone move their work to the next level. This will make an interesting comparison when I compare my marking with theirs!

Again the students were paired with their critical friends. Each pair was given a version of the e-asTTle marking rubric written in 'kidspeak'. The more able student was given the task of noticing what their partner did well as I want my learners to see receiving feedback as a positive part of our learning. The purpose: To identify what level they are at now. 

What we did:

This was a step by step process as we explored the 'Ideas' component. Exemplars were used to show what this might look like at different levels. We then discussed what it was we were looking for and then carried out the task. I found the students to be extremely honest in their evaluations. Interestingly I noticed that the owners of the writing were fully engaged in trying to 'prove' they were at a certain level, and the critical friends were searching for real evidence to support this. Without me saying anything I observed that each pair was looking at the next box on the rubric to identify next steps. Yah! Connections are being made! We then wrote statements following a prompt:

I think I am at level ____ because _____. To move to the next level I need to _____.

I found that proving where they were at was the easy part. We had to reign back the next steps to only one point (per criteria) as there was a little bit too much ambition. I need this to be achievable in reality and not simply look good on paper.

The best part was this is what ERO observed taking place! Way to go Room 5 your learning conversations showed that you know where you are at and what you need to do to move your learning to the next level.

Throughout the week we continued the process exploring each component of the writing rubric.

What's Next?

I need to have the same learning conversations with my more able learners so that they too can identify where they are at and what their next steps are. Once we have done that we will devise a way of making our learning needs visible that everyone is happy with. Not sure what this will look like but I am sure of exactly what is needed in my planning!

Friday, 6 March 2015

First Steps: MIT15 Update #1

I have been fortunate enough to move through to the 2015 teaching year with some students who were in my class in 2014. This has given me 'feedback experts' who have a level of skills and knowledge in one curriculum area and can talk those new to our class this year through the process of giving peer led feedback. We have a new independent reading challenge which is allowing us to build on the familiar. By that I mean strengthening the feedback comments that were developed last year. This has been a very positive process so far. I love hearing the learning conversations that take place as the 'experts' guide my new learners. The exciting part for me is that the buy in and engagement in these tasks is gaining strength as the unfamiliar becomes the familiar. I have set up the program so that everyone has a buddy. This has allowed me to spend time guiding and conferencing each pair at the level they need. For some we have walked slowly through the process, and for others the scaffolding has almost been removed. 

The album below reflects examples of peer lead feedback in Reading, the curriculum area we focused on last year. The next step is to find out if my learner's feedback skills and knowledge in one curriculum area transferrable to another.

By providing this 'peg to hang the new learning on' I leapt into the oblivion and buddied up my class so that each person had a 'critical friend' to give them feedback on their personal writing. I needed to see where my learners were at as far as being able to give feedback in Writing so I simply asked them to work together to see if, when wearing their critical friend glasses, they could use our success criteria to notice where their partner had made a connection. 

The album below reflects examples of peer lead feedback in Writing. This is a snapshot of the initial independent feedback comments. The students were reminded only to use the success criteria to see where their partner had 'got it right'. 

What's Next?

The comments I have included in the album show that I have a great starting point. My next step is to look closely at the content of the comments and see if genuine connections have been made. I will do this by comparing the comments with the actual work analysed.