Friday, 12 April 2019

Term 1, Week 10 - If Not Now, When?

Focus #1 - continue to work on the work-life balance
Focus #2 - grow my own passion for literacy
Focus #3 - grow my practice in numeracy
Focus #4 - building my practice in a traditional space

How’s this week been?

No gym sessions this week - energy levels were still not 100% after the weekend and I got into a routine of getting jobs done after school so will look to make up for this week over the upcoming holidays.  Great to notice that I actually missed exercise, so that is a bonus of not going this week!

I am still reading “The Invaders” by John Flanagan and enjoying it more as I read it.  The characters are being fleshed out more, particularly the supporting ones so I am glad I made the investment into the next two books in the series when I discovered them on sale a few years back.  Something that I am noticing though is how I need to put aside time for our class read-aloud as we are not making traction with the book and I do enjoy reading with the class.

We have selected our PLCs for next term to support our inquiry into numeracy.  I have chosen to join the group focusing on “using concrete materials to develop a rich understanding of mathematical concepts” as I feel this is what a number of my class require as we start to delve into new territories of numeracy next term and it will also build my confidence with how to properly utilise materials in my numeracy programme.  I am looking forward to having a shared focus on my inquiry as this is an aspect of teaching that I am missing from my previous experience at Stonefields.

We have had some great discussions in Room 13 this week about reflecting on the term that we have had and what we are looking forward to next term.  It has helped me identify who may still not be feeling part of the wider class and got me thinking about class culture over the holidays for anything that I can look to introduce in Term 2.

Teaching Highlights:
As mentioned above, we had a couple of great sessions this week on how we are finding life in the class and what things are missing from the kid’s perspective.  I did a bus stop activity where the kids had to respond to the following questions:

  1. What have you enjoyed about Term One?
  2. What have you found challenging about Term One?
  3. What can we do differently in Term Two?

Without prompting, the kids got into the activity and I took the moment to stand back and observe.  At first, they were intent on adding their own responses on the sheets of paper, however, after around 10 minutes, I noticed that some of the kids started to talk to each other and ask each other questions about what they had put down on the paper.  This then turned into a whole class discussion and we made some goals that we wanted to achieve in Term 2.

Another thing that I was proud of the kids this week was that I decided that I wanted to grab a writing sample from them so I could assess over the holidays and plan based on what I found in these assessments.  These kids love to write, however, the writing sample prompts are never that fun so I discussed with them the day prior to them doing about why I was doing this and what could we get from doing this piece of writing.  Come Wednesday morning, I had 29 eager kids wanting to write about the life cycle of a monarch butterfly “because it would help me help them in their learning”.  Direct quote, no prompting needed.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Term 1, Week 9 - Feeling Fine?

Focus #1 - continue to work on the work-life balance
Focus #2 - grow my own passion for literacy
Focus #3 - grow my practice in numeracy
Focus #4 - building my practice in a traditional space

How’s this week been?

Only 1 gym session this week as I found myself getting a bit tired and run down.  This ended up with me taking Friday off to rest up.

The upside of being sick on Friday was that I was able to finish The Song of Achilles and have moved into the second book in the “Brotherband” series by John Flanagan.  I got into the Ranger Apprentice series a few years ago and ploughed through that so have started this series which I really enjoyed.  The backstory as to how John got into writing was something I found interesting where he started writing these stories as his son, at the time, was not interested in reading.  I have managed to hook 1 boy in my class onto the series so far as he was not enjoying Percy Jackson.

This week in numeracy I have been focusing on our Statistics strand as we near the end of the term.  I was also fortunate enough to have our Maths Lead come and model some number knowledge activities in class to a group of my focus learners as they move from Early Stage 5 (numbers up to 100) to become more confident with numbers past 100 leading into 1000 and 10,000.  As I have Learning Support in my class on alternate days, I will need to plan for this group of kids to have a boost of knowledge activities on those days.

I have also noticed that I am doing a lot more whole class teaching which is something that I need to look at for Term 2.  The majority of this term has been the build-up of our expectations and routines in Room 13 however it is slowly becoming the default for most of my literacy and numeracy teaching so now that I am getting a better understanding of the kids and what they are capable of, I should be starting to differentiate based on their needs.

Teaching Highlights:
Writing has been a highlight this week as we finish up our recounts of Garden To Table to send onto Anita at Stonefields for her learners to read and engage with.  Having this authentic audience has been really interesting as it has helped the kids focus on the following elements of their writing:

  • The actual physical aspect of writing - as a class we chose to handwrite these pieces of writing as I noticed that when I said publish, the kids defaulted to thinking about typing their ‘good copy’ out and printing it.  
  • The focus - while typically a rowdy class, when it comes to writing, Room 13 love quiet so we have made it a tradition to try and have as much quiet for around 15 minutes.  I have tried to implement the noise monitor on Class Dojo to help with this however the majority of the class seem to be able to manage themselves and are quick to let others know if they are not following suit.
  • Feedback - we had a great session on Tuesday after I noticed I was starting to get the queues for conferencing (10 kids deep at one point!).  After some diagrams and discussion about them potentially only having a teacher edit and check their writing up until now, the kids were receptive to reading their writing to one another and I even had a few of the more confident writers start to critique and give feedback to each other.  This is very promising as I have also started to teach the class how to use both a dictionary and thesaurus in their literacy sessions so I will continue to grow this capacity as we move into Term 2.
  • The level of detail - from my initial assessments, I noticed that the majority of the class were confident with simple recounts, however, these lacked detail.  Due to our prompt of writing recounts for another school who did not have similar experiences to ourselves, the kids really thought about how they could portray their messages.  This led them to use more adjectives, a range of different sentence types and a lot of them injecting their own voice into their writing. 

Friday, 29 March 2019

Term 1, Week 8 - A Bit Late!

Focus #1 - continue to work on the work-life balance
Focus #2 - grow my own passion for literacy
Focus #3 - grow my practice in numeracy
Focus #4 - building my practice in a traditional space

How’s this week been?

I am slowly getting into a routine with the workload with working to 5pm three nights a week so I can head straight to the gym afterwards.  I am finding that this time helps me finish any jobs after school as well as get organised for the next day.  This also means that I am getting around 3 decent sessions at the gym before going home.  I’m finding that this also means that I am not taking as much work home so once I get home, I do not have much to do in the evenings.

I have been using Goodreads to track my progress with reading books.  I am currently reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller which was her debut novel.  I had previously read Circe, her second novel which helped me remember all the Classical Studies I did at university.  I also found a Myth Atlas which I added to our class library and it has been great to see the kids show an interest in myths and legends.

Numeracy has been interesting - I have been doing some addition/subtraction diagnostics with the kids and moved into showing the kids some different strategies for this.  I have been showing them the reversibility of addition and subtraction as the majority of the kids are saying that they are confident with addition, however, struggle when it is subtraction.  We have been practising family of facts which I have been able to adapt for my four maths groups with the numbers used.  I need to explore resources in the Junior School as I have a student operating at Stage 1 of the New Zealand Maths Standards.  While challenging, I am excited to work at that level of maths as it will help me build an appreciation for the foundation of skills that all my class need to progress.

I have also noticed that I am doing a lot more whole class teaching which is something that I need to look at for Term 2.  The majority of this term has been the build-up of our expectations and routines in Room 13 however it is slowly becoming the default for most of my literacy and numeracy teaching so now that I am getting a better understanding of the kids and what they are capable of, I should be starting to differentiate based on their needs.

Teaching Highlights:
I was really proud of the kids this week as we had our first set of goal setting conferences with our whanau.  For all the kids, this was the first time that they did this and they handled it amazingly.  From previous experience, I noticed the majority of students tend to freeze in the moment so I thought I would keep this clear and simple of the kids by using a template.

The result was that all the goals presented were ones that I co-constructed with each student meaning that their voice was more present in the conference rather than me taking the lead.  The majority of the feedback was that the kids are enjoying being part of Room 13 and love coming to school so I was really happy to hear that.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Next Chapter!

Kia ora whanau!  I have finally unlocked the blog for 2019, admittedly I had a few technical issues as I had forgotten to link my own Google account to this blog however I'm here now so let's get into what has been happening!
The major change this year is that I have moved schools and am currently teaching in a more traditional setting (ie, one teacher and a class of students).  This is more commonly known as a 'single cell' set up but this terminology has never sat well with me so you'll find me refer to it as traditional in relation to an ILE where I taught previously.  My main decision for moving schools was to experience this as my time at Stonefields meant that I only knew team teaching and I was not able to compare the two teaching experiences to help better inform my practice

Some things have remained the same - I am teaching a composite class of Year 3 and 4 (29 students) so my content knowledge from the last three years will help me as I work with my class with navigating Level 2 of the NZC.  While there is technology in the class, the ratio is 1:3 so one of the opportunities this year is how to maximise the affordances of technology as well as grow my practice as I learn to work with more of a balance with the digital resources I have at my disposal.

As it is a new year (yes I know it is Week 7), I wanted to let you know about what some of my focuses are for 2019.  I will look to update these as the year progresses.

Focus #1 - to work on the work/life balance.  Now that I'm in my fourth year, I want to really work on how much time I am spending with school and how am I ensuring that I am looking after myself.  I have started a new gym and am enjoying these sessions so I am using that as motivation to keep better hours at school.

Focus #2 - continue to grow my passion for literacy.  While I enjoy reading, I have found that lately that I have either been reading for school or university.  In the past I have called myself a reluctant writer however I do want to continue to develop my skill in writing and would like to make more time for that.

Focus #3 - grow my practice in teaching numeracy.  Our school focus for 2019 is to lift achievement in numeracy and I am keen to develop my practice as well as look for more opportunities to integrate numeracy into my programme rather than teaching it independently.

Focus #4 - reflect on how my overall teaching practice is operating within the traditional space.  Naturally, the first few weeks of Term 1 are used to get to know the kids and start to bring in the routines and expectations but now I am seeing that without other adults in the classroom, I need to ensure that I'm focusing on the consistency and transparency of my teaching style.  To help with this focus, I want to continue to read professionally as I feel a lot of my practice has come from observing colleagues in action and my luck and chance while I stumbled through my first few years of teaching.

Twitter has been great in me seeing how all my colleagues from Stonefields and Manaiakalani are starting up and focussing on for 2019 so it was great to see how Nicola was doing a weekly update and I liked the snapshot approach of her blog posts so I am going to endeavour to keep more regular updates.  Look forward to sharing more!

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Bringing Our Best Together!

This term we have been focusing on creating artefacts for our school exhibition which we were using
as a launch pad for our new school values.  This spawned from a staff PLD earlier this year where we looked at our current set of values and from that came these three ideas for focus:

Being My Best Self (incorporating our vision principles of Building Learning Capacity and Making Meaning)

Bringing Our Best Together (incorporating our vision principle of Collaboration)

Breaking Ground  (incorporating our vision principle of Breaking Through)

The exhibition was an opportunity for the kids to create artefacts that helped us show our current understanding of these values as well as create some permanent features around our school environment.

If you have ever been to our school, you may have noticed some large rocks around our playground.  Upon investigation, the kids found out that these represented some of our local maunga (mountain) and we created a project to see what we could create to help people understand the nature and significance of these rocks.

We investigated signs and a lot of the kids made connections to the AA Road Sign at Cape Reinga and it was quickly decided that they wanted to create their own sign to help people understand which each rock represented as well as how they are connected to the creation of our school - these was a theme that all our groups were investigating.

Insert teacher panic here... I had managed to fumble my way through woodwork growing up but the creation of a signpost was looking daunting, however through the natural curiosity and fearlessness of the kids, I was eager to take the challenge on.  We decided that our focus through this project would be bringing our best together as we knew that the group of 30 could not all possibly work on the same aspect of the project at the same time.

The kids did really well to unpack what it would mean to collaborate on this and quickly assumed roles and responsibilities to get the project from idea to a design phase.  I was able to enlist the help of both our school caretaker and one of our parents for their technical experience and it was great to see the kids evolve from an attitude of "we can just ask someone else to do
this for us" to "I am keen to get involved myself."

What did this mean?  For the kids and as you will read through their reflections below, it was a lot of sanding.  However over time, I got to see kids who normally would not take leadership roles within the hub find an opportunity to shine and take risks on elements on the project that they wanted to try out or felt comfortable stepping into.

What was the result?  The project ran to time and was executed so we had the sign up for the night of our exhibition.  The sense of pride that the kids had when they saw the post going up was incredible and it is great to see other learners in the school start to use it.  Something refreshing is that a lot of the group still have some ideas about the next iteration of this project and have seen this attempt as a first draft that they can build on as a legacy item they have created for their school.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Show Me Your Understanding - Update

I have been fortunate enough to pick up some time with our Agency team where I spend time observing another teacher's lessons to see how they are promoting agency within their practice.  Based on discussions had so far, I realised that I have been promoting aspects of agency within my numeracy programme based on the initial hunch I had earlier this year about the learners I am teaching.  Student agency is something that I have been wanting to investigate more due to moving to a different year level so I am grateful for the opportunity to spend this term doing so.

I have always given learners the opportunity to reflect in various formats however I noticed that this year I needed to dedicate specific time each session for learners to reflect on their learning.  I updated my modelling books to add in a slide like the one below where I ask the learners to reflect on what part of the learning pit they found themselves in during the session.

This is the basis that the learners to use and I found that it reflects the concept of the knowledge action gap that I heard about when attending the NZAI presentations earlier this year.  Each session learners have the choice to upload in SchoolTalk an element of evidence on that session.  Historically learners have seen this as completed work however I have been encouraging them to upload learning that they are still completing or reflections on how they have been finding the learning.  This is great as I am getting snapshots on all the groups thoughts.  Here are some examples of how the kids have been reflecting:

This has been going for a few weeks now so now the next steps is to build the kids confidence in the articulation of what specific elements of the learning that they are having issues with so I can tailor learning to help them with those.  I am still modelling thinkalouds to boost discussion and reflection in the moment so they feel confident to discuss at any part of the lesson.

Looking ahead:
I have had some conversations with the kids and their whanau about anxiety in maths.  When we discuss where this may come from, a lot of the conversations come back to some of the kids feeling surprised when we start a new unit of learning.  While at Claremont, I saw a wall display where the teachers encouraged questions from their learners on the next week's learning.  They will display both the learning goals or main objectives for the next week as well as resources for the kids to help them to make meaning of the topic.

As the kids love Padlet, I chose to create a digital format of this display which looks like this example:

After asking questions on the learning goals, I give the kids the option to book into a workshop based on their confidence in this topic.  So far the kids have really enjoyed this weekly part of our learning as they are coming to the relevant workshop with a lot more confidence and the questions they ask help me tailor the learning to any specific knowledge gaps.

Next Steps:

So how has this focus on communication impacted on the kids understanding?  I did some analysis based on the learners' Gloss assessments from Term 4 2017 to Term 2 2018 and for the majority, they have made shift in at least one element of this assessment (green). 

Looking forward to working with these kids for the remainder of the year!  We have moved into a strand focus with looking at elements of geometry and algebra which is new to both the kids and me so I am enjoying learning alongside this group of kids as we continue to communicate with each other about our numeracy.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Why mentor?

Today my stint as a mentor teacher came to an end.  It was awesome to see someone grow in both confidence and their practice and it wasn't until I had a conversation with a colleague that they pointed out that this growth was for me as well.  Personally I think I should have waited another year before offering to be a mentor however as my colleague discussed with me, the insight into my current practice was invaluable for not only the remainder of the year, but my continued teaching practice.

As I reflected, I found this blog post that helped me articulate how the experience had helped me grow as both an individual and a teacher.

I learned that I am a bit of a control freak!  I am one of those 'details' type of people who will often get entrenched in the daily grind to stop to ask those 'why' type questions that open up to the blue sky/ocean way of thinking.  I have noticed that this has come back a bit more this year where I default to the "yes but..." type responses when listening to others and need to remind myself to continue to listen with purpose.

Having another adult teach alongside me helped me understand the importance of relationships with the kids.  Through discussion, I found myself learning more about the kids as we analysed why  some lessons did or did not work for particular learners and while observing lessons, it was able to give me more insights into how I could adapt my practice to better suit the needs of the kids I am working with.

I learned to make learning more fun again - again me getting caught up in the details and with Term 2 having a lot of focus on assessment, I wasn't enjoying how I was planning or some of the outputs from my planning and I can bet the kids were feeling the same way too!  Observing lessons where the kids got to be creative or try new things has inspired me to continue to push this inquisitive nature of my practice as well as realising that it is ok for me to learn alongside the kids more so.  Stay tuned for how Term 3 is going to turn out - I am looking forward to it!

So thank you to AUT for allowing me the opportunity to test out the mentor role - I got a lot out of the experience!