Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Year That Was 2013

Well it has been another amazing year being a teacher and being privileged enough to spend my days with so many awesome kids and colleagues.

A big thanks to the Manaiakalani Trust and the Telecom Foundation for giving me some time this year to focus on an inquiry into something that I am really interested in and that is very real to my students. My boys have benefited immensely from my inquiry becoming far more aware of their learning in writing and thinking deeper about how they can improve. The girls have also benefited because they have been caught up in the slip stream of the inquiry as well.

I feel like this year was successful but also that the things that I discovered will benefit my students next year more so than this years group. The strategies I learned to really push cognitive thinking are going to benefit the kids when exposed to them for a whole year and not just half a year which is what happened this time around.

Some key points from the year and the inquiry that stand out to me:
  • Variety - give students choice and ownership and change things up even if its just slightly.
  • Learning Progressions - give the kids clear learning progressions that they understand and are in their speak. 
  • Honesty - show them where they are and where they should or could be and encourage them to share with others.
  • Excellence - show your students what excellence looks like. Share good pieces of writing above their level to give them something to aim for. 
  • Environment - provide an environment where the kids are comfortable and where they have options of where, how and who they work with. They love new furniture or moved furniture.
These are just some of the things that I will take forward into next year and continue to inquire about. Now that I have started down this road I know I will continuously be searching for the answer to the question, 'What motivates boys to get better at writing?' I know for sure I am am still trying and as you can tell my punctuation and grammar need some real work.

Next year I am shifting to a new school with a different demographic of students, so I am really looking forward to seeing how much of what I have learnt about my kids this year can be transferred to my new school. I'll let you know!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ulearn Presentation 2013

This is a copy of the presentation I gave at Ulearn 2013. It does have some notes that go with it, so it is not exactly what was shown or talked about but gives and overview.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Mindcraft Rulez

(movies accompany this post below, so scroll down to view)

Mindcraft Rulez! This was a statement from one of the boys in my class and I just had to share. He keeps referring to this highly engaging learning tool as Mindcraft, which I think is quite appropriate really.

This year we have embraced the craze of Minecraft and are seeing some rewards for doing so. We came to the conclusion, as teachers battling to keep students on task and not sneaking into enticing places like Minecraft, that if you can't beat them, then why not join them!

The boys were the ones who were using the game at home and were enthralled with it, but the girls have become just as enthusiastic about it.

This week we have been integrating the tool in literacy and the boys have been so engaged in inquiring, writing, creating and sharing what they have learnt. We have been learning about Myths, Legends and Fables this term so this week we have been investigating where these stories originated. 

We began by inquiring into the origins of the Myths, Legends and Fables and recorded our findings to be used in a voiceover for a movie.
Following this we  have re crafted in Minecraft, buildings that were built in the times that the stories were written, and then added a voiceover that explains where the Myths, Legends and Fables originated, information about the building and finally comparisons of life then and now.

Minecraft Tours Iisa - The Reichstag from Team 4 Pes on Vimeo.

Parthenon - Faaiua's Minecraft Reconstruction from Team 4 Pes on Vimeo.

Jordan Minecraft from Team 4 Pes on Vimeo.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Reward without Distraction

This week we introduced a new reward system which rewards those who have been engaging cognitively in their learning with the opportunity to have some free time. Most of our first weeks winners chose to spend time on Minecraft which was great but did cause some rather major distractions for those who did not get any free time. So out came the sheets and these huts were built. They worked a treat and the kids underneath thought it was brilliant. As you can see in the picture on the right, it is as if they don't exist at all.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Cone of Silence

Last week I found some plywood and someone was nice enough to cut it up for me. So now we have a row of study booths for the kids to use if they want to focus and get away from distractions. First day, nobody went near them but now the boys are loving it. They still lean around and have a chat every now and again but they are far more focused. The boys are choosing to sit there themselves and they just come and go throughout the lesson.

So this all came about after noticing that some of the boys really struggle to get away from friends who distract them. They aren't strong enough or don't feel confident enough to ask their friends to be quiet. Alternatively they get distracted by looking at their friends work and seeing that they have done more than them and so start to worry.

Basically the idea is to give the kids options of places to sit. They are now appreciating the benefits of each space and will move around depending on their needs at the time. I will add more photos of some other spaces the kids have been using and some new ways of using coffee tables.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Two is Better Than One

My plans are to explore collaboration in writing latter this term or next, but I did get a little taster for it this week. Our goal for a task was to use a variety of sentence lengths (they tend to write a lot of short sentences) and I let the kids do this in pairs. I asked them to come up with three sentences to make a paragraph. They also had to do this verbally as apposed to writing it all down, which they did do latter in the lesson. 

We haven't done it for while and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. Their was some great conversation going on as they worked together to create what they thought was a good paragraph. I then asked them to share their paragraph to another group and allowed the other group to be critical. The result of this was more good debate and collaboration which culminated in paragraphs that had a variety of sentence lengths.

I wonder how this would work for a whole piece of writing for something like a narrative? I'll give them a chance to this for sure.

Digital Skills and Writing

Teaching in a 1:1 device environment brings its own challenges and one of those that really influences boys writing is digital competency. This year I have a mixed year level class, so therefore have a group of kids that have been learning in a digital environment for a year, as well as a group of kids who are new to the environment.

It is very hard not to think back to the learning and the skills my class had in term four last year and expect the same at the beginning of the new year. Big mistake on my part. How can I expect my year five boys to produce quality pieces of work when they don't have the digital literacy to do so just yet. It's really hard for them to think solely about their writing when they are also just discovering the ins and outs of their netbooks and Google Docs. 

On the flip side it is great that my year six kids are flying and they were able to come back to school and get straight into it. All is not lost with my year fives though, scrolling through their blog posts I notice that the quantity and quality of their writing is improving from the beginning of the year as their digital literacy improves.