Monday, 31 July 2017

Engaging and Empowering...

Photo via Good Free Photos

Today we began our journey into this terms reading challenges and I needed to get those cogs turning! I have chosen to explore the suffragette movement to help my learners make deeper connections to the upcoming elections. Understand the importance of having the right to vote, and why people in the past fought for this right underpins the texts chosen to explore this topic.

I know my learners and I knew that I needed to engage them by selling this topic in the right way. I thought that it was important to use my blog as a platform for reminding people about the importance of finding a way to bring a difficult topic back to the world of our learners to allow them to make strong personal connections.

What I did to build connections together:

I began by asking my learners to find an learning buddy and by asking the questions:
  • Who is in charge of New Zealand?
  • Who makes the laws and rules?
  • Who is NZ's Prime Minister?
  • How did he/she get this job?
Initial responses were interesting and varied, but none were correct. We then used our smart searching skills to find this information. To bring it back to our immediate world we looked at our own school. I knew I need to build vocabulary knowledge so we use our devices to define the words: vote, parliament and government.

I borrowed an idea from Adrienne Dines at St Patricks School and introduced the notion that talk is the action born from thinking’. We unpacked this statement together by me asking why I was sharing this.

"So we talk about our thinking..."
"So you know we are thinking..."
"Because if we talk it kind of goes in our brain and help us understand more..."

I shared our 'Votes for Women' site and shared the fact that a long time ago it was only men who were allowed to make decisions about how we lived. Women, alcoholics, criminals, men under 18 and those classified as insane were not allowed to make any of these decisions. To say the girls in this group were shocked is an understatement! The result of this statement was a buzz of talk as I was immediately bombarded with questions as to why women weren't allowed an opinion. No answers were given as I pointed out this was what we were going to find out.

We used the learning buddy partnerships to then explore the amazing interactive timeline on the NZ parliament site. Their task was to use their skimming and scanning skills to find and briefly summarise information they found interesting. While this was happening I worked my way around each group having rich conversations about their identified points of interest. It is important to mention here that I had previously looked through this information so I was able to recall and discuss it without referring to my computer.

To capitalise on today's engagement I asked each pair to record something on the white board that they wanted to find out more about. These questions excite me as I can see that deep and critical thinking is emerging.

  • Did the Queen have anything to do with the law that only men could vote?
  • What convinced the men to allow women to vote?
  • Why didn't men let women vote at first?
  • What convinced the men to allow women to allow women to stand for parliament?
  • Why were men from other countries not allowed to vote?
  • Why was Wellington chosen to be the place of parliament?
  • Which men agreed with Kate Sheppard and made women's rights possible?

My learners felt engaged and empowered, and I was reminded of how important it is to know your learners, know your topic and know how to make connections to your learner's immediate world.

The images used do not reflect my target students 

Midway Reflection...

Last Thursday we met as a CoL group to share and reflect on our inquiries at the midway point. This shared check-in allowed us to talk about the successes, failures and improvements we have experienced and noticed, with colleagues who are working towards the same achievement goal. 

In my class we live by the ethos that 'we learn best when we learn with and from each other', something I capitalised on myself in this meeting. By listening to Adrienne Dines share how her inquiry is progressing, I realised our inquiries crossover in many areas. We have drawn similar conclusions and have implemented similar interventions to increase the levels of talk amongst our students. Adrienne’s statement that talk is the action born from thinking’ is something I will unpack with my learners as I see this as an additional way of strengthening their connections as to why having learning conversations are so important.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Comprehension strategies and learning conversations... Will this keep the talk going?

When putting together learning opportunities for Term 3, I not only had to think how I could capture and maintain my learner's interest but also how I could delve deeper into my teaching inquiry. I looked through a wealth of texts before selecting one I will call my anchor text, that would link to and help my learners strengthen their connections to the upcoming elections. 

I plan to capitalize on our established routines and groups to open the doors of familiarity. It is my hunch that by using the peer to peer rapport in place, alongside well practised learning frameworks, the initial shyness that often inhibits my learners will dissipate far quicker than it has previously. 

I refer once again back to Jason Borland's thinking in our 2015 Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher's PLG where he stated that "You can't help yourself if you can't see yourself." This thinking resonated with me when I first heard it, and after following Jason's inquiry I have often repurposed this idea to meet the learning needs of my students. 

My idea is that if I record (with student permission and knowledge of purpose), our learning conversations, we can look back at our own contributions and notice when we were active participants and how we could possibly make changes to become more active participants. In my case it will help me see what changes I need to make to my teaching to help my learners understand how to become more active participants. 

I realise it is sometimes the suggestions of our peers that can help us move our learning to the next level. With this being and already established routine in our class, I hope my learners will be able to strengthen their connections and understandings to the content by through talking about their reasoning for the comprehension strategies used. 

Here is the link to our reading challenges for the start of this term. 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Professional Development: Jeff Anderson - I've Never Written So Much

A fabulous day of learning with Jeff Anderson @writeguyjeff today. It is always exciting as a teacher when you attend a professional development day and the connections between the content and your learners are immediately obvious. I am really looking forward to being able to implement some of the strategies (these are in the link to my notes below) I learned about, and did myself, with my reluctant writers. 

As teachers we often the fact many of our learners do not have strategies in place to help them overcome doubt when facing the blank page. We can’t make our learners write but we can inspire them by making the outcome seem possible. We need to remind them that they don’t get it perfect, but they do ned to get it written! Encouraging our learners to reread their own texts will help them find things to fix. Practise and time strengthen ability

It is important to remember that the writing process is not formulaic or linear, and our responsibilities as writing teachers is to create spaces where writing behaviours happen. Afterall as Cynthia Rylant states, “I learned how to write from writers. I didn’t know any personally, but I read."

The link to my notes is here.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Sharing and Modeling

Photo: @Karen0986

Earlier this term Karen Fergusonone of my CoL colleagues from Tamaki College came to visit us in LS2. She spoke to my learners about how we use self assessment in our learning. Karen's blog post about her visit can be found here.  Although initially a bit shy, it was great to see how my learners were able to talk confidently about their learning. I was able to see from Karen's conversation with my learners that I scaffold this quite a lot, and perhaps need to lessen this to promote increased independence. My take away is to visit Karen and have a similar conversation with her Year 9/10 learners. Doing this will help me blend into my instruction, some of the self assessment language she uses to set our students moving on to Tamaki College, up for success.

Today Dot Apelu, another of my CoL colleagues from Tamaki College came to observe us in LS2. Dot had seen a previous post I wrote and contacted me about sharing my practise. Her summary of our initial discussion is here. I explained to my learners that Dot was here to see how we used some of our learning strategies to strengthen our understanding to new learning. 

To model our dialogic learning in practise, I asked my learners to identify and summarise the main points of our learning linked to our work with Tamaki Wrap the previous day. I explained that we needed to hear their learning talk so it was important to use their words, and as we moved around the groups I observed something that was new to us at the beginning of the year, is now something perceived by my learners to be the norm. They were able to explain their thinking and use examples from the available information (including our rewindable example of the flipgrid they created yesterday) to support their reasoning. 

The well established collegial connections we have in place in Manaiakalani are definitely as asset to both our teachers and our learners as we work towards bridging the transition gaps between Year 8 and Year 9. My take away from today is to make time to observe more of my colleagues across our cluster, as the best professional development is available right on my doorstep.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Capturing ALL voices...

Today we worked with Dorthe and Liz from Tamaki WRAP, to explore what 'away' looks like when we say we have 'thrown something away', and why there is a need for initiatives like Plastic Free July

I wanted to find out what my learners had found interesting, what they had found shocking or what an important message to share might be. I knew if I asked these questions during a class discussion I would get a few responses from those who felt confident enough to share. I knew if I asked the same questions with my learners working collaboratively in small groups, the more dominant personalities would shine and the quieter ones would remain silent. Using flipgridcom to gather my learner's perspectives enabled me to capture everyone's understanding of the learning. 

This is our first attempt at using this app and I quickly realised that if I stepped back and let my learners help each other to record their thinking I would get a much richer bank of evidence. This is an unedited version and it captures exactly what I had hoped it would. All my learner's voices!