Weekly Reflection: Supporting each other

At the start of 2014 I watched a clip about Lollypops for Leadership by the inspiring Drew Dudley – another mint TED talk.  Drew has a thought provoking approach to leadership – leadership is about changing the lives of people around us in the everyday lives of people.  Excellent!  We often put leadership into a box for certain people – but it is for all of us.

So what?

As teachers, we all experience hard days when we all get caught up in the not so great things.  It happens to us all and it is an important part of coping – being able to debrief, rant and rave.  I decided that, yes, we need to talk about those hard times but we also need to acknowledge and think about the things that happen in our day and life that make our life better at that time.

So, in our staffroom I made a post it comment wall for us all to jot down the neat things that happen in our classes that fundamentally make our lives better at that time.  It’s not a competition, there is not a tally or standard that each post it comment must meet.  It is a way of acknowledging the neat things that happen and sharing with each other.

I have found that when I have a ‘bad’ session in class; something ‘neat’ can happen that will unequivolently make my day better.  A student that keeps ‘forgetting’ to raise her hand dramatically puts her hand up before speaking and waits.  Just made my life better and buoys me for the rest of the day.  These moments need to be acknowledged and celebrated.

A by product, and not the intended outcome, is the positive conversations that arise when you read a comment and seek out the author to celebrate and marvel.  During lunch I read,

Mrs B you have lost your talk.  Miss 5 yr old – 1 term

What entailed was a conversation about the sweetness and cuteness of this gem and the further inclusion of 4 other staff members in the conversation.


Weekly Reflection: Gaming and learning

As you can see I am playing reflection catch up.  This term we have increased the number of tasks that involve the phonomenon of gaming based learning and teaching.  WOW!  What a great way to learn and practise a piece of learning.

In term2, I introduced the maths game, SUMDOG, as a method for learners to practise different math concepts.  What a success.  On the first day, the class downloaded the app and signed up – all very boring and time consuming but a frequent part of digital learning.  A large part of exploration of new tasks is applying an inquiry approach.  The students are given a set time to ‘explore’ and to inquiry into the apps usefulness and appropriateness.  Then, as a whole class we complete a ‘PMI’ and assess if the app is and can

1. interest and motivate us to learn

2.  help us to learn

3.  is fun – learning has to be fun

What a marvellous response.  One boy exclaimed,

“Miss Turner, this is like a home game.  It is not even like school work.  These games are cool”.

Another boy piped in, “oh, I want to play SUMDOG all the time”.

I was gobsmacked with the level of engagement and motivation to do maths.  Most learners were not really aware that as they compete against the computer and their peers they were practising multiplication, division, addition, and much more.

An awesome feature that is so effective for teachers is that the application monitors what the students are working on and adjusts the content to suit.  In addition, (sounds like a uni type essay!) you as the teacher can set the content that you want students to work on.  Finally, the app is highly competitive.  Boys thrive in competitive contexts and I have noticed how motivated and engaged my boys are when they play and his is amped up when they play and compete against each other.

SUMDOG has become a daily part of our math program as a great way to practise math knowledge and skills for short periods.  And it is html capable so is accessible with an iPad.  Great subscription and a winner in our class.


Weekly reflection: Google Sites

As a teacher in a digital 1:1 iPad class a clear dilemma I encountered in term 1 was what Managed Learning System should I use to enable my students to access their learning?

Option 1:  Edmodo

An easy to use secure site that enables students to ask questions, access learning, engage in learning conversations and to provide feedback spontaneously to their peers and teacher.  My class loved the whole experience and I was greeted with “Are we allowed to use Facebook?  Is this Facebook?”.  As an educator, I found Edmodo easy to use and access.  I could provide links to google docs, websites and presentations.  I could even access built in apps and assignments.  Downside of a messaging type site: on the first day of use a small number of students used the site to post negative comments about a student.  However, the upside: a real moment of how to be a responsible digital citizen.  As a class, we developed a key understanding of what we post online stays online and we can’t always take back.

Option 2: A Google Class site

The internet is a great source of information, ideas, how to do it, images, videos and the list goes on.  I have found the powerful and inspiring work of the Pt England teachers and school to be a wonderful resource to implementing the google site approach to planning and using an online managed learning system.

Professional Development: Throw back Thursday Document viewer

Our wonderful Reading Recovery, Paul, shared not only a range of effective teaching strategies in reading and writing but a document viewer he unearthed that was purchased 8 years ago.  What a niffy piece of technology – I could see a range of in-class uses – a microscope, a way to explicitly show students how to edit a text, sharing exemplar student texts…..the list goes on.

A foundation of his discussion was the Marie Clay self extending system via the document reader.

A key question: is the self extending system applicable to teaching as inquiry?

Some key features that are common to both

  • self monitoring: in both areas learners must self monitor their knowledge and understanding.
  • searching: in both areas learners must search for meaning and information.
  • cross checking: in both areas learners must check validity of understanding and validity of information.

This was an interesting discussion that reiterates that the majority of teaching and learning strategies can be used in a range of contexts and a range of learning areas.  Great PD at Turaki.

Weekly reflection: SAUCE inquiry learning

Inquiry learning.  A key element in all 21st century classrooms.  

What is it?  A whole list of words spring to mind: student based learning; student research; questions; project based learning; collaborative; knowledge building; creation; critical reflection; celebrating; sharing & presenting; constructivist; experimental; hands on learning…… the list goes on.

As I prepare for a new school term, 7 more sleeps to go, I am refreshing my approach to inquiry learning in my class.  I stumbled upon a great resource on the SAUCE approach to inquiry teaching and learning, thanks Trevor Bond.  I really started to critically reflect on my own approach to inquiry learning and what my intended outcomes for my learners are.  Trevor makes numerous links to using inquiry learning to scaffold learners to become independent learners and illustrates how simply re-working tasks can transform the learner onto the road to independence.  This resonated with me as I am not sure all of my teaching and task selection is fostering deep conceptual understanding of a concept and independence.  During a culture inquiry unit, I do not believe that some of my learners developed deep conceptual understanding of culture.  So, enter the SAUCE model to inquiry learning.  Key thing I love about this model: Celebrate understanding: learners produce/share/celebrate their understanding of new learning vs Celebrate Found – which is sharing new learning they have found (information recall).  As I start to plan and gather resources for my classroom, I am going to ensure that I create tasks and experiences that enable my learners to celebrate their deep understanding of the key concepts and to develop independence.  As a 21st century educator, it is so important to revisit strategies, models and to reflect on what I am doing and to make changes that will transform my teaching and the learning of my students – (teaching as inquiry!)


A New Look Classroom Layout: flash back to January 

Towards the end of 2013, myself and two other teachers at my school visited Leamington Primary School. The focus of our visit was to observe a 1:1 iPad class in action, in anticipation of our own 1:1 iPad journey for 2014.

Observing the spectacular classroom teacher was awesome but what really inspired me for 2014 was how the teacher had created a learning space.  In place of individual student desks were kidney tables – at various heights, rectangle tables, swivel chairs, shared working areas, large cushions, swiss balls, kneeling tables, tote trays, students sitting on the floor and cocooned in a corner amongst cushions and bean bags.

Whoa, I thought I want one of these!  My class of 2013 was a traditional 1 desk per student set up with limited floor space – due to the quantity of desks, 28 in total.  After this visit to Leamington, I decided a modern learning environment was for me.

New Year: New Space

I jumped into setting my class up with vigour over the Christmas break.  It was a blur of scribbled layouts, hours spent pouring over Pinterest, reading articles and scouring the school for furniture in the hope of repurposing.

image (12)


After making the decision to vito individual desks, I was compounded by the question, “where will they put their stuff?”. I stumbled upon the spectacular idea of BUCKETS – thanks to a wonderful teacher named Judy.  On the first day, I added a lollipop, a ‘I PICK’ bookmark, a piece of card for a name tag and first day notices.  They are great because my learners can take what they need with them as they move around the class.  I see these being used to also carry their iPads around in the safe manner.



image (9)In class we have 2 kidney tables – for student work shops – and 2 rectangle tables for individual or group work.  The two rectangle tables are pushed against the walls to create space for gathering areas.  I see this tables being moved as the needs of our learners and space changes.


3 flip-top desks have been repurposed as ‘learning booths’. A chance for students to work independently from their peers or to work together.

A small collection of bean bags, cushions & swiss balls. A bench is pushed against the wall to the create a ‘kneeling’ bench or a bench seat.image (10)

I repurposed camp chair. I intended for this to be my teacher chair – however my thinking has changed to an inclusive approach that no one (teacher included) has an individual piece of furniture. Share and share alike is our new motto.

image (11)

The majority of furniture, tables and bookshelves are pushed against the walls and the outside parameter of the classroom.  I attempted to create as much open space as possible to allow for flexibility – lying on the floor, seating in small groups on the floor, grouping cushions or bean bags, and a whole class gathering space.   A new addition the week before school started was a flat screen TV for the projection of student work.  We now have 2 possible presenting arenas, the TV and the whiteboard & projector.


I started with a teacher desk pushed against the wall in the ‘teacher corner’ – a few book shelves and a lockable storage cupboard.  In another part of the school there was talk of ‘losing teacher desks’.  The more I visited my class, the more I revelled in the idea of losing the teacher desk.


In short, I had a vision of the class as an organic space that could and must change as our learning needs, choices and activities change.  My own work space and how I choose to work was flexible and organic as well.  Sometimes, I enjoy sitting on the floor with a group, other times it is important for me to be in amongst the learning and ordered chaos to remain with it and at times I require an area separate from the class to work one on one. So, I move around as I need.  Finally, and if not the most important reason, I have challenged my class to lose their desks and to inhabit a bucket that they are required to take with them if needed, to make conscious decisions about where they would like to work and with who and to acknowledge and share our learning spaces.  A little ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ if I had my own desk.  A final note – I also have a bucket 😉

Finally, I was inspired my the work and experiences of Anne Kenneally and if I was to flip my classroom layout at the start of the year I would definitely apply her approach of doing this collaboratively.  I decided to add a feature of this approach into the class on Day 3.  As a whole class, we discussed how we wanted our class to be, what it should look like and what we might like to add.  It was cool to hear the contributions of the class and their reasons for their choices.  As a class we decided we needed a ‘man cave’ which we renamed a ‘class cave’ and more cushions.  Hence the addition of a beach tent.  Depending on who is seating in it; it is a ‘man cave’ or the ‘cave’.

I am confident our space will change and as the term and year progresses. I am going to hold a World Cafe, as the term progresses, to find out how our learning space is working and what changes the students require to meet their needs.

Weekly reflection: categories – what are these?

Categories.  Yes, it is clear I am new to blogging.  I have just discovered the ‘uncategorised’ category.  But, after using the ever helpful word press help section and this great article, I now have a better understanding of what these are and how I can use them.  I love the idea of the categories being the table of content and the tabs being the index.  I am sure I will use this to explain my reasoning to my learners.  

What does this mean for my teaching?

Well, it is clear I need to show my learners how to use these in their own blogs.  They are great to organise content – I can envision my learner’s blogs being some what like their bursting 1B5’s of yesteryear – full of awesome ‘stuff’ that must be categorised so I can make sense of it, the world can make sense of it and THEY can make sense of it.  More importantly, to make the sharing of their artefacts (all that good stuff) accessible, the content must be easily and clearly organised.  So, something else to consider as I start to develop a template for their student blogs/portfolios.

I have seen some really creative and organised student blogs and would love to hear from any teachers with tips about what has worked well in their own student blogs/portfolios.


Weekly Reflection: word press

I have spent  a few hours undertaking a small (while quite big actually!) bit of self directed professional development: Blogging and my own e portfolio.  First, the blogging.  After endless article and blog post reading devouring the intellectually informed opinions of more savvy ICT users; I have decided to create my own wordpress site to document my journey as a Provisonally Registered Teacher.  Welcome to the creative world of Blogging.

Second, e portfolio: similarly these two go hand and hand and part of my journey as a new teacher is embracing the encompassing push of ICT in the education sphere.   Continue reading