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.


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.


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.