Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Te Taiao o Tamaki Hangouts

What a great morning we are having in LS2! Today our Manaiakalani schools are celebrating our cluster wide inquiry at Te Oro with presentations and performances. Not all of us were able to attend so the wonderful hangouts have enabled us all to be a part of the learning celebrations. We began by watching Glenbrae students present their inquiry. It was really interesting to see the learning other schools have been doing. When it was time for the PBS performance we all sat glued to our screens. 

 Listening to the Glenbrae students present their learning.

 Watching our own Panmure Bridge School performance.

Watching Tamaki College students present their learning

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

A tiny speedbump...

We have spent the last few weeks using a wide variety of learning opportunities to facilitate discussion, with the DLO above reflecting some of the synthesising that has taken place. Moving from group to group today I found that my learners were happy to share their opinions, but was met with a wall of silence when I asked why they felt like this. It is hard to keep quiet and not immediately scaffold and support by saying I share their thinking, but it is important that I continue to grow and nurture their ability to make an informed opinion.

I was completely taken aback today when one of my learners was told me that he didn't like sharing his thinking because he might have the wrong answer and he didn't want to be mocked for not knowing the right facts. I see from this honesty that we have work to do to ensure that everyone in the group feels 'safe'. Going forward I'm going to use google forms to find out if others feel this way and if so, will use the same forum to find out from their perspectives what I can do to help them feel empowered when their personal perspectives differ from the perspectives of their peers. 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Perspectives and Negotiations...

Having spent the last three weeks preparing for camp, going on camp and celebrating camp I knew I had been given a 'fresh' and informed start when thinking about my reading program. I started as I mean to go on by actively planning opportunities for talk to take place.

We began by unpacking the word perspective by exploring provocations that I knew needed a point of view to be chosen about issues linked to our current cluster wide Te Taiao o Tamaki Inquiry. This allowed my learners a chance to state their opinion and use the texts in front of them to justify their thinking. Once we had two opposing sides I physically moved my students to different sides of the table then gave them time to share their thinking with those who held a similar opinion. No one was being asked to take a personal risk that might leave them feeling vulnerable. The 'team' approach meant their was confidence in numbers and the discussion flowed as each team endeavoured to persuade the other. I knew that by seeing what a guided dialogic discussion looked like I would be able to set a task that capitalised on this learning experience.

We used a task shared by Aaron Wilson from Wolf Fisher to help us identify the three most vital ideas in a text. To get to this point my learners began by individually identifying ideas they saw as important. These were recorded on post-it notes and placed in the 'Important Ideas' column on the table we were using. The next step was to discuss each point as a group and use their negotiating skills to decide which points they would move to the 'Important Ideas' column or the 'Vital Ideas' column using the evidence in the text and their own connections to the content to support their reasoning. Apart from moving between the groups and prompting through provocation the only scaffold I provided was the word 'because'.   


To complete the task we shared our informed perspectives as a class. I then asked my students find a critical friend and tell them about one opinion they agreed or disagreed with when they were negotiating. Finally I asked my learners to think about their own contributions and each critical friend was asked to co-construct a next step goal that would help their buddy take a step forward along our dialogic learning pathway.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Putting my new learning into practise... Awesome!

Last week I went to my first session of maths professional development with Bobbie Hunter. What a fabulous opportunity! So much of what she said made so much sense to me with light bulb after light bulb going on as the session progressed. This year it would be fair to say that the low levels of mathematical ability in my groups have challenged me week after week. I have gone back to the drawing board so many times as I endeavour to help my learners make the important connections to the skills and knowledge needed to allow them to operate at the Year 7/8 level. However despite my continued efforts I have remained completely perplexed with this situation.

A discussion I had with Bobbie forced me to take a step back and think about how my low expectations were affecting the outcomes in my maths lessons. I am very aware of the need to provide learning opportunities that my learners can resonate with, but for some reason I have overlooked the obvious when thinking about what needed to change. Me!

She suggested I let go of the desire to build number knowledge to a level that I felt my learners could cope with and actually provide learning opportunities that ticked the Level 4 boxes of the NZ maths curriculum. By lowering my expectations I was actually hampering my learner's progress. Whilst I have used thinking groups successfully in the past, this year I have completely overlooked this as a teaching tool as I thought (wrongly), that my learners would not be able to actively participate. I definitely had not thought about the fact that regardless of level (in this case ranging from JAM stage 1- 4) that there is so much that can be gained by providing opportunities to 'argue' reasoning and thinking. At no point had I thought about the importance of allowing my learners to engage with their errors in a peer protected environment. 

By embracing the idea that if my learners could explain and justify their thinking they could understand and use I introduced todays problem...

The question(s) I posed were linked to my learner's own worlds through our cluster wide inquiry and our recent camp at Hunua Falls. This empowered everyone from the outset as they could relate to what I was asking them to do. The affirmation came in the form of one student who said, "I understand why you need us to work this out Mrs Anderson. We have to help Auckland save water."

To set the scene I read out and showed a recent mailer I received with my water bill. We tapped into our inquiry knowledge to make connections to the topic then met our new thinking groups. To make sure everyone knew what 1 litre looked like we created a list of what we knew that came in 1 litre amounts. Coke was the most popular so that is the image I grabbed.

With initial connections made my learners took their first tiny steps into the world of problem solving. I told them they could use any strategy, number knowledge or maths equipment they wanted to find the answer. After a slow start this lesson took off. We celebrated every answer regardless of how the answer was found. Then in groups had our first dialogic maths conversations to decide as a group which strategy was the best one. The only scaffolding I put in place was the word 'because' and used the think aloud strategy to model how to state an opinion then use the word 'because' to support my thinking. Surprisingly each group had a different opinion.

Finding out how many litres of water we could save individually per week if we saved 20 litres per day was answered first. After the discussions I outlined above I posed the second part of the problem. 'How many litres of water would LS2 save per week if all 50 students saved 20 litres per day?' Once again I noticed a wide variety of strategies being used. Interestingly a few students were experimenting with the thinking shared in the first problem. I am excited to see where this journey takes us tomorrow...