Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Amazing Writers

My inquiry this year has morphed since the last time that I wrote about it.  I was first looking at the connection between both engagement and achievement in writing with the use of non-cognitive skills, last term as I was analysing the data that came from my sample, it was clear that I needed to examine how students were interpreting the role of these skills within the context of their writing.

This realisation brought both joy as non-cognitive skills have become somewhat of a passion of mine to explore within my practice, but also fear as this meant that I would have to rewrite a large portion of my dissertation.  This fear also showed me that I had forgotten about myself as a learner of writing.  This year the academic writing has not come easy to me and it is something that I have had to persevere at and build my confidence in.  I have drawn on the elements of writing that I have been teaching this year - using the conferencing time with my supervisor to discuss openly how I am feeling about my writing, reflecting on feedback and seeing it as a prompt to practice more but most importantly continue to believe in my skills as a writer.

Looking back at where this low opinion of myself of a writer comes from, I can only pinpoint some report comments that stuck with me from when I was a similar age as the kids I now teach.  This is where the passion for developing non-cognitive skills in my students comes from, I do not want to have kids say that they aren't 'good' at something.  I would rather have them reflect on how we can work together to overcome learning that they are finding challenging in the moment and equip them with strategies to help look at problems from different perspectives.

So yesterday I decided to be open with the kids and tell them about an upcoming piece of assessment that was happening this week.  We spoke about who our audience would be for this writing to give them a chance to think about the reason behind this assessment.  Responses I got (unprompted) were like the following:

"So you can see how I am going with my writing."

"So you can talk with me about how I am making progress in my writing."

"So I can see my progress in my writing."

This was a pretty awesome moment to have in Day One, Term Four.  I decided to ask the following question to the group: "How do I show that I am an amazing writer?"  The amazing writer is an in joke with me and the kids as earlier this year, I had over-indexed in using the word amazing to describe progress and the kids picked up on it.  So now it has become the norm to describe ourselves as amazing writers.  The kids rushed to write on these pages and again the responses were amazing for kids who did not enjoy writing in Term One.



All the responses resonated that these kids have become more self aware of their writing abilities and are determined to give any writing challenge a go.  So I am looking forward to reading through their samples this week as they have inspired me to continue developing my craft as a writer to help become a stronger teacher of writing.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Perceptions of Progress

In order to prepare for Term Four, I got learners to do a reflection on how they enjoyed their learning this term as well as ask some other questions to get insight into how they were finding my planning and instruction.  As these learners have been with me for the majority of the year now, I chose to add in a question about had they felt that they had made progress in their learning as I was interested to see what voice came back from them in this regard.  Having used Google Forms to capture this information, I have been able to analyse and graph their responses.

NUMERACY:

All these learners are now moving from Early Stage 5 to Stage 5 so it was great to see from their responses reflect some of the different areas that we were learning about this term.  I chose to explore a more hands of approach with these learners where we problem solved together and share our ideas on a group modelling book which the learners enjoyed judging by this graph.



I also chose to dedicate one of our weekly sessions to building their confidence with strand maths as most of our learning had centred around either number knowledge or strategy.  By making these lessons more hands on, the learners have been able to make progress in areas that historically I have left to the end of the term to go through and they have been able to make connections to other parts of their numeracy learning.  However how did they rate their own progress?



Reading through the responses, the majority of them talk about being able to work through 'harder' or 'bigger' strategies which rings true to how I introduced the bulk of the Stage 5 strategies to the groups.  We would start with Stage 4 or Early Stage 5 strategy first and unpack that before making connections to the Stage 5 strategy.  The one learner who felt that they did not make any progress is one that I have been tracking for confidence and their response reflects this.  What was more awesome to read however was that they wanted to continue their learning and wanted more assistance (a 'workshop') to help them with this.

READING:

We have had a busy term with literacy and these learners have been able to move into more complex texts based on the learning that we had done the previous two terms.  We have also looked at building our inquiry skills with information literacy.  As I have mentioned earlier, this group are very engaged and their reflections about the term mirror my observations:


The two learners that said 'no' are ones that have recently moved to new reading levels and I have been working with them to manage any anxiety over the shift in focus.  

I also asked all the groups about what they thought their reading focus was for this term (please note, it was a bit of a trick question as all answers they could choose from were focuses but I was more interested in seeing how they responded):

Gold 21 and 22 Groups:

Silver 23 and 24 Groups:

Having asked about their focuses for the term, it was great to see how some of these had come into their responses about making progress.




I am currently looking at how learners self-report as part of my dissertation so am aware of any bias that may come from these responses however I am more happy to see that the learners are seeing themselves making progress.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Google Forms are Choice!

I am a big fan of using Google Forms in my practice.  It is a great way to capture voice, check for understanding and gain feedback on lessons.

However when I did my Level 2, I learned about how you can maximise the element of choice in your forms.  Prior to this, I had created forms that took learners through a series of questions from start to finish.  However now I can add sections to a form and have learners go to different parts based on responses that they give.

This has helped me support learners who may struggle with a concept so rather than just have them answer "no" or "I don't know" to a question, I can now take them to a different part of the form where I can ask specific questions to help me gain further understanding of what I might need to assist them in their learning.  I also learned how to add videos to help learners build their knowledge of concepts before answering questions.

I have updated a lot of the current Google Forms that I use with my groups and now really enjoy seeing how learners are making choices and decisions and then justifying these decisions.  Here are some examples of how I have updated these forms.

Reading:





I have been getting the groups to evaluate their texts this year by rating it on a likert scale, however this term I chose to change it up and allow learners the chance to give a more definitive answer which is closely followed by the chance for them to justify their decision based on their response.

Numeracy:




I am revisiting a lot of the Early Stage Five Addition and Subtraction strategies with my groups so have been giving them some activities and videos to help me gauge their understanding before moving onto the Stage Five equivalent strategy.  This helps me to structure the learning based on which learners are feeling about the current learning.

Writing:



Similar with my numeracy groups, I am trying to do some refresher workshops with my writers on how we refine (edit) our writing.  This also gives me the chance to see what learners need assistance with their current skill sets or spot opportunities for future workshops or sessions.

To sum it up, I think my title of the blog post hits home - I do find using Google Forms a key part of my practice and am looking how I can continue to challenge my skills in this area.  Stay tuned for future updates!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Impact Stories 2.0

This morning I, along with the rest of the Stonefields staff, presented our impact stories to each other.  These presentations are an update on our teaching as inquiries, however as a PRT, I had to present one of my term goals towards registration.

I chose to use Powtoon to make an animation detailing my inquiry - this goal links in with my dissertation focus with my group of writers.

While it was great to trial a new app for learning, I probably over invested time in getting this done.  Check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts on my progress so far!


Monday, 21 August 2017

Exploring New Ways for Publishing

This term, we have been exploring how to write information reports that links in our learning about the forest.  Most of the writers I work with have not had much exposure to report writing so I thought if we started with looking at the structure of a paragraph would be a great start.

An opportunity that I wanted to explore with the group was thinking about both the purpose of their writing as well as their audience.  We decided that we wanted to create information for visitors to our school and this got me thinking, how would we be able to share these with others as well as demonstrate our skill in writing paragraphs.

Looking at some of the senior hubs blogs, I noticed that they had been using an app called Thinglink that allows you to turn images into interactive graphics.  With this in mind, I chose to model an example first to see what the response from the kids were:


There was a buzz of excitement when I showed the kids this and lots of questions about where I had
chosen to place my paragraphs and then I noticed, that they were reading the paragraphs and giving me feedback.  With this goal in mind, everyone set off to create a Thinglink of their own.

When it came time to take their photos, I saw a great deal of care from the kids to make sure that the image not only suited their writing but also demonstrated empathy for their audience by considering what message they wanted to portray.  These are kids who normally can't wait to be finished with a piece of writing however they were analysing their photos and retaking after having conversations with one another.

Check out their finished pieces on our hub blog:

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Power of Padlet!

I have used Padlet as an information collection tool in my practice - mainly for me to capture voice from the learners and use it as a visual brainstorm.

This week I went and observed one of my colleagues, Mel, who teaches in one of our Year 4/5/6 hubs. My observation focus was how she teaches Year 4 literacy as I now have learners who are accessing this area of the curriculum.  One thing I noticed and liked was how Mel used her modelling books as an interactive tool with her learners, enabling two way communication between herself and her learners.

Reflecting on this, I really wanted to see how I could try something similar with my literacy groups so I thought about how Padlet may allow now only me to see how the kids are engaging with their learning but also with each other.

This week, I reintroduced the idea of quad blogging to my reading groups as they seem now more interested in engaging with other blogs.  We discussed why we had a hub blog and I let the kids write their thoughts down on this padlet.

Made with Padlet

There was an instant buzz in the air as everyone started to write their ideas down however the really cool thing was when they noticed that they could read each others ideas.  Questions sprung up straight away to one another about why they would write that or noticed similarities or differences in their comments.

With this initial excitement, I have decided to incorporate Padlet into the Build Knowledge element of my reading programme where learners can write their predictions down in a Padlet and we will use this as the springboard into our guided reading sessions.  I was conscious that I may need to give the groups time to experiment more with Padlet so was glad to read this blog post from Troy on allowing sandpit time with new apps, with a focus on Padlet.

Looking forward to seeing how this encourages collaboration between learners!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

How to teach spelling like a pirate?

Roll on Term 3 and Hub Whenua are already into assessments with our mid year snapshot of learners spelling ability.

The learners who I am supporting with their writing have come such a long way with their spelling as detailed in this graph where I compared their result at the beginning of the year to what they were able to achieve this week.


This success has come from the learners being determined, fantastic support from whanau and the inclusion of spelling into my practice each week.  However while these results are fantastic, I am not seeing the transition of this confidence with vocabulary when the learners are crafting their writing.

This has got me thinking about how I can redefine the spelling component of my practice.  How can I turn something that has the potential to become 'boring' and 'repetitive' into something that learners want to engage with and can make links with while writing.

I am currently reading "Teach Like A Pirate" by Dave Burgess and one of the first areas of passion that he writes about is content.  While I consider myself to be a confident speller, I really need to up my game with knowledge to be able to confidently pass these skills onto learners.  I am fortunate to have worked with our PE specialist Rachel and she has introduced me to activities to help develop confidence with spelling but I feel that I need to continue to explore this area too so I have a kete of resources to use.

Stay tuned - this pirates spelling ship is just setting sail!  Always grateful for ideas or insight into others spelling programmes.