Last night the six of our Maniakalani CoL teachers presented an overview of their inquiries this year at the Maniakalani Boards Forum. The purpose of our presentations was to highlight how we are working towards each of our achievement objectives. Donna Ryan from Sommerville Special School, captured the common theme of the evening in her blog post. What stood out for me in these presentations was how clear it was that we had all very much been on this journey of shifting student achievement together. Everyone has willingly opened the both the physical and virtual doors of their classrooms allowing us all to learn from and with each other.
Photo credit +Fiona Grant
Here is my presentation from last night.
This year as the in-school CoL teacher for Panmure Bridge School I have been looking at how I can strengthen my learner’s connections to content and accelerate shift in reading through talk. I call this talk having a learning conversation. Simply put this means I encourage my learners to use evidence from the texts we are reading, to agree and disagree with one another to help them strengthen their understanding of the text.
In a typical learning situation I noticed my learners tended to accept what was said, even when they don’t fully agree with the opinions or facts shared by others. This often results in mismatches between what is correct and what is incorrect. As teachers we are always looking at different ways we can help our learners move through the learning levels. To do this we look at assessment results, think about what we have noticed in the classroom, listen to feedback from our learners and seek guidance from our colleagues.
When thinking about talk, shyness was one of the biggest hurdles I needed to help my learners climb over. Many of them lacked the confidence to say what they think, and why they think this way. I felt this shyness could be overcome if I took the time to show how to talk about their thinking.
My inquiry this year has reminded me to make sure the instructions I gave were very clear. I made sure I gave them the tools that would help them carry out the learning successfully, taught them how to use these tools and planned for opportunities for these skills to be used in real learning situations. We call this scaffolding as it is the term used for the support systems we put in place in our classrooms to allow our learners to have a go at new learning without being afraid to fail. No one, regardless of age wants to make mistakes in front of their friends.
I broke down the hard words by linking what they were asking them to do, to things they were familiar with. This is called making connections. As a result my learners now know that talking about their thinking is important and they know how to do it.
We don’t get it right every time so we revisit the same learning in different ways. What has excited me as a teacher is that the learning conversation skills we have been exploring in Reading have been transferred by my students to other learning areas. Why? Because it helps them make sense of new information.
Confidence levels have risen, and as a teacher I have been able to introduce more challenging learning opportunities as my learners have the skills to break down the challenge, to help them make sense of the new information.
As I mentioned earlier I listen to the feedback my students give me. This has helped me to design learning tasks that meet their learning needs. Our classroom is rich in talk because my students know how to talk, listen and challenge each other’s thinking.