Friday, 15 April 2016

End of Term 1 - reflection and next steps

Today marks the end of Term 1, 2016. I have had many congratulations this week for surviving my first term, without any sick days as well!

It had been an awesome journey thus far, I have learnt an incredible amount and feel as if I am a different person now then I was at the beginning of the term.

There are some things I personally feel I need to work on next term, which include
-using more DATs to get a bigger shift with my learners 
(I feel like I focused a lot this term on settling in, getting used to the school, building relationships etc that I didn't push my students as much as I could of)
-being more pro-active with my university readings 
(as I have really let this slip this term and have been doing them at 11pm the night before, or during lunchtime the day of class)
-doing more things for me 
(I have stopped going to dancing and no longer have anything I do just for 'me')

As I have been reflecting on my journey this term, I also wanted to see what my students thought about it.
I sent them a Google Form which they filled out. The questions were mostly about their own learning and responses to what we have learnt and what we will learn next term, but I added two questions just for my own interest. Here are their responses...

Ah, the honesty of children...
I thought it was interesting that they said they wanted me to read with them more, because I did at the beginning of the term and it seemed to be boring for them.. Yet they want it. So, reading from a novel everyday it is!

One student said 'explaining to us the meaning of the problem'. This is something I am already working on, and talked to the students about how I need to get better at this with their help (see here). But I am glad that he pointed this out so I don't forget - I'm not accountable just to myself anymore, my students want to see my progress too!

I also love that one student said 'she can get better at learning more and more'. This reflects how I have encouraged a growth mindset with my learners and been open about how I am a learner in our team as well as they are! Yay for culturing a positive learning culture.

Time to take a wee break before really knuckling down next term!

Digital Immersion (day 10)

Today we continued working on our site that we will be using for next term. 
Mine is based around our inquiry topic,

Reading for leisure, writing for pleasure

This week I added another page, as I have been thinking a lot about how we assess students and the students awareness of the assessments we are doing of and for them. I decided I wanted to do a rubric based around the key competencies, as we don't refer to these a lot in our class and that is something we need to work on. 

How this works is that the student will circle or highlight which level they think they are at for each of the key competencies, and write a comment about how they feel they did overall for each one. Then the teacher will circle or highlight where they feel the student was working at, and leave a comment as well. This becomes a discussion tool for next learning steps for the student, that aren't based around curriculum levels or specific subject-specific learning goals. 

I personally feel like this will encourage a growth mindset in our classroom, as their assessment is no longer enforced upon them, they become a part of it. They are no longer passive, but active in their own assessment of their learning. It gives them back the ownership of their own assessments.

By assessing their learning outcome against the key competencies rather than a skills based rubric, we show that the task (in this case, an E-book) was not an end in itself, but a way to develop skills in the student. It makes the assessment about the student's growth, rather than the quality of their outcome or their ability to read or write, to draw, to paint, to 'do' the thing they had to do.

The 'next steps' for the learner are then a development of themselves,  as they move along from levels 1-2-3, instead of task focused assessment which would leave them with nowhere to go when the 'unit' of work is finished.

More about key competencies for my non-teacher followers can be found here

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Open-ended maths questions!

Last week I taught my class about open and closed questions, and also had my maths observation where I then immediately tried to implement some of the feedback.

Today I combined both of those things, and gave my class an open-ended maths question.

One of the pieces of feedback I was given was to move onto broader, group word problems as my class was ready and able to do them now they have begun talking about their thinking and working collaboratively with confidence. 
Every maths problem I have ever seen and used in maths are closed questions, where one particular answer is sought, so using an open-ended question was quite different for me and I wasn't sure how the students would respond.

My word problem was 
Miss Ashley wants to order pizza to share. If each of her friends will eat 1/4 of a pizza, how many pizzas does she need to order?

Immediately, a student asked 'Miss how many friends is there?'. We broke down the problem (ala the other piece of feedback I have implemented) and talked about why I didn't tell them how many friends I had on purpose. I asked them 'what kind of question is this' and they could instantly tell me it was an open question because there was more than one answer. So proud! 

Building on their understanding of open questions, they knew they could find more than one answer, and were eager to give it a try.

 It was interesting to see the different strategies they used. As you can see, 
- one group got distracted by Miss Ashley's friends and spent maybe a bit too much time drawing pictures of the friends (bless them!)
-most groups drew the pizzas or represented them by squares with four sections to show the quarters and counted out a quarter for each person until they had enough pizzas for the friends. 
-one group drew the pizzas, labeled each quarter, then had to 'name' each piece of pizza with an initial of one of the friends to ensure they didn't miss anybody.
-one group didn't draw any pizzas, and used their knowledge of doubles and their 4x tables. They knew that you need 4 pieces of pizza/1 whole pizza per 4 people, so they found one quarter of the number of people as their number of pizzas required.

 We came back together and shared all our different answers. I felt that the students were more open to sharing their thinking with an open ended question, as there wasn't as much chance they would be 'wrong' (compared to a closed question, where there was only one answer that could be right.)

Every group shared at least one answer, and the group who used their multiplicative knowledge could explain to the rest of the class what they did as well which was awesome!

I also loved how this activity cemented and demonstrated what the students have been learning about fractions for the past six weeks. Most of them instantly knew that 1/4 means you need 4 equal groups, they knew that 4 quarters made one whole pizza, and that you could have lots of quarters that then made lots of whole numbers.

Next time I use an open-ended question, I think I will use one that does reinforce what they have been learning, but frames it in a different way so they are challenged more by it. 
This could even be the wording the problem uses. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Digital Immersion (day 9)

Today we began making our sites that we will use for teaching and learning in Term 2.

Here is my site.

It is built around our inquiry topic for term 2, which is

Reading for leisure, writing for pleasure

I played around a lot with this site, trying to get things where I wanted them to sit and creating the supporting HTML for my design. Over the past two weeks we have revised a lot of the things we learnt about HTML, especially the use of tables to hold content. My Inquiry site is made entirely using HTML formatting (rather than WYSIWYG formatting) which is quite an accomplishment for me. It is very helpful to refine my skills by creating different layouts, changing/merging cells in invisible tables, set theme colours, fonts and styles to override the automatic formatting.

Not to say I am an expert, certainly not. This page I literally scraped and started again, four or five times. It was difficult to get the page to do what I had in my head (diagonally downwards, L to R) using HTML. In the end, I discovered the best way to do it was to have invisible cells either side of each piece of content, and change the width of those cells to make each one sit either hard left, center, or hard right accordingly. I got there in the end, but no small feat!

I'd love to see what you think of this site.
Constructive criticism welcome! 
(Remember that this is made for my own learners, who are 6-9 years old and who are very new to using technology for learning)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Implementing feedback!

One of the things I had to work on from my maths observation yesterday was talking about the problem more, and breaking down the question. 
Today I talked to the students about how I didn't do that part of our lesson, and if it affected their learning or not. 
They said it did, and that if I had explained it, they would have had a better understanding of what to do.
So today I made sure to break down the problem... 

We highlighted, drew circles and wrote on the board to pull apart the actual question, which parts are just information or context, and which were the important pieces of information. 

We then talked about what we knew already that could help us, and what things we had to do before we could get to the problem.

It was a wonderful learning opportunity for Room 6 to be able to talk about the teachers mistakes and how we can help the teacher learn from their mistakes. It reinforces that I am part of our team, I am a learner too and that we can ALL learn from our mistakes, even me. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The perfect metaphor for teaching!

Today I heard the perfect metaphor for teaching and just had to share it.
Rebecca, one of my uni lectures told us that teaching is like riding a mountain bike.
Below, I explain in my own words.

When things are going great, you feel like you are flying.
When they are not, all you can do is hold onto the handle bars, try to stay upright and hope for the best outcome.
When you are scared, in the pit, or taking a huge risk, all you can do is take a deep breathe, roll over the edge of the mountain, and hold on tight.
When you are obsessing about trying to get everything piece of data in, assessment marked, blog commented, it is like you are too busy fiddling with the gears that you forget to pedal.

New teachers tend to look straight down, at the wheel in front of them. They are worried about what they are doing now. The hurdles, the bumps, the nooks and crannies we can fall into. It is almost like we are just trying to avoid things that will knock us down. 
New teachers are just trying to keep peddling the bike. 

More experienced teachers, look up. They ride their bike with their heads held high, trusting in themselves they know what is on the ground in front of them and how to deal with that. They look into the distance, the long term goals for their student achievement. It is not a mentality of 'what am I doing today?', but of 'If this student needs to be at X level by the end of the year, they need to move Y levels every month and how can I best facilitate that learning?'
Experienced teachers look up towards the horizon, confident they can keep peddling.

And both of those are okay. 
Even as a new teacher, sometimes I will feel confident enough to quickly glance up and check what is on the horizon. Other times, I will be so busy taking deep breathes and holding on tight and trying not to fall off my bike, that I won't have the energy to look up. 
And that's okay. That is part of riding the bike. 
That is part of the journey.

Maths observations

Today I was observed by Sue Pine, our TPS Maths PLG leader (an expert bought into the school to help us get better at teaching maths.)

Eek! Although I was nervous, I did feel as though I have gotten a lot better in the past few weeks at teaching maths and using talk moves and number talks. (Scroll further down in my blog to see previous observation notes.)

I knew I was proud of how far I have come, so having somebody observe me and give me next steps was a nerve wracking next step for me.

Things I did well
A well worded problem
 (Sue even said that this would be a really good national standards problem for testing the strategies students know and used, as there are many ways to solve it.)

(I used the same number for my number talks as in my problem (24) so students could apply the knowledge they had talked about in the number talks to their feijoa word problem.)

(I used a good structure of my lesson and it generally flowed nicely from one activity to another.)

Things to work on
Launching the problem
(I can work on this by ensuring I read the problem aloud, then talking to the students about the problem and ensuring they understand what the problem is asking them to do, what are the important parts etc.)

(I can keep working on this by choosing wether to do number talks or the warm up, whereas I had been doing both of them. This will cut ten minutes out of my lesson and help me speed it up. Another thing I can work on is getting the students who have understood the problem and are just sitting to get started with their follow up work, and continue my eliciting answers and talking about them with most of the class instead of all of the class, then quickly moving onto smaller group clinics with those students who need it most.)

Other notes
Growth mindset
(Sue pointed out that at one point, I told a student 'you are so smart'. This encourages a fixed mindset. I always try to make my praises about the learning, but evidently some comments still slip through. Tomorrow I will be sure to change my comments to things like 'you are thinking very hard', 'you explained your thinking very well'.)

Friday, 1 April 2016

Digital Immersion (day 8)

Today in our digital immersion, we collaborated on a current events site, that when it is finished, will be gifted to the teachers of Manaiakalani for them to use, and to use a template as well.

This is our site.

As you can see, each section is a different current event, designed around a different group of learners/learning age.

This is my page - be sure to scroll down!

At a surface level, I have created my learning based around the changing of China's one child policy. Although this is not a current event in April 2016, I felt that it was an interesting enough of a story and had enough meaty content that I could relate to my learners, so I chose it anyway. I have included a full weeks worth of planning, learning outcomes and success criteria, and all the resources you would need to complete this study down the bottom of the page. 

At a deeper level, unseen from the naked eye, is the cementing of my own knowledge by using HTML code to create this page. I also used tables to structure my content, and then had to revise how to make the borders invisible, change sizes of cells, merge cells, add rows, add colour to cells etc.  None of the formatting on that page is pre-made, I created it myself.

I am quite proud of this site, as it not only cemented my own knowledge and challenged my HTML abilities, but is now a resource I can use in my school and class, and others can use as well.