Weekly Reflection: Students as teachers

Throughout this year I have been using small group workshops to teach content.  Today, a held a large addition and subtraction of decimals strategy workshop.  I had my teacher opted in students and a number of students that wanted to work on decimals in maths.  A student confidently used the strategy and met her own success criteria thus finishing her work.

She returned to the group, “I’m finished!”.

The group had moved off and a few students decided that they needed further scaffold to progress to the next step.  My extra speedy learner piped up,

“Can I teach those girls how to do it?” she asked.

“Yeah, can she teach us?” they chorused.

WOW, – of course you can.  The girls moved off and proceeded to run their own workshop.

I checked in with the learners later and performed a short formative assessment task.  One of the students confidently exclaimed that yes I can solve those problems and yes they are so easy.  She then demonstrated using the SC to solve the problem.

Snapshots such as these reinforce the learning and teaching capacity of our learners as educators.  This was one of the best workshops so far.


Weekly Reflection: Standing up for Education

Last week at our week 4 staff meeting, the staff at my school voted on the Governments IES model for education.  It was awesome to break down the IES and what it means for teachers, schools, learners and our community as a staff and to really make sense of the options.  

The point that hits home for me is that the governments IES model seems to move the money further from the places where it can have the most effect.  It can be used to improve health care for learners, extra teacher aides to work directly with learners and teachers, to support learners with high needs, the list of possible ways to support achievement in schools for all learners.  

I can see how collaboration could be possible if teachers are supporting each other across schools but this is not the only way to support learners to progress.  I look forward to hearing how the rest of the country voted in regards to the governments educational policies.  

Weekly reflection: whole class, small group, 1:1, buddy

I have noticed, right throughout my teaching career, as lean as it is but relevant nonetheless, that many students are not particularly engaged during whole class instruction.  We complete a 7-10 minute, yes, I have a student timer that times me each time, hotspot at the start of our Daily 5.  I work hard to maintain engage and enthusiasm during these short 10 minute sessions.  I ask students questions, I give lots of positive feedback for student comments, I complete a quick model session and set them free.  What I noticed, particularly last term, lack of engagement and boredom.  Hence the strict chunking and timing regime we have.  But, in comparison, what a startling difference during small groups.

One child that will not speak in front of the class is transformed into a wonderful source of knowledge and he absolutely extrudes confidence during reading groups.  I can barely keep him quiet!  He wanted to answer every question and he demonstrated to me and his peers his in-depth understanding of the text, his ability to re-read to find information, and to use his prior knowledge….the list can go on.  Another student was ignited during a small group reading activity by the ingredient of competition from another peer.  She went from a docile, quiet and uninterested participant to an enthusiastic and ambitious learner.

 Student A started the session with answers such as, ‘I don’t know’ and lots of shoulder shrugging.  Enter stage left, student B that was enthusiastic and motivated and wanted to share her knowledge and attempted to answer questions.  At this point, I distinctly recall student A watching her peer share and engage with the text.  She looked back at me, and noticed by enthusiasm and encouragement as I praised her for showing me her comprehension skills.  At this point, she started to engage with the text and the group and was actively competing to share her ideas.

In a whole class session, both of these students would not have transformed their learning.  I would not have observed their skill and knowledge in a whole class session.

During term 1, I increased the amount of small group teaching.  I completed a student survey today and one of the questions in the survey was, ‘How do you like to work during writing?  shade all the choices that sound like you

Whole class         small group       buddy     on my own      1:1 with the teacher


What did they choose?

Over 80% of the class selected small group.  One student selected whole class teaching.  This question was asked for reading and writing.  The results were similar.  About 40 % of students selected buddy and a small number selected on my own.  Many students selected more than 1 choice.

What does it mean?

That I am right increasing the amount of small group time in all areas.  The Daily 5 and CAFE approach is great for this as well.  There is a place for whole class but the preferred way of most students in my class is small group and opportunities to work with buddies and individually.

What about me?

I love to work with small groups and observe the knowledge and skills that learners have.  I am enthused to see learners transform into confident and ambition beings that amaze me and their peers.  I relish in the learning conversations I have with my learners and the interactions learners have with each other.

Weekly reflection: the 40 Book Challenge

The 40 Book Challenge

During my planning for 2014, I discovered a bunch of chat about the 40 Book Challenge.  Donalyn Miller was the inspirational figure behind the book titled, ‘The Book Whisper’.  The book outlines Donalyn’s journey to inspire and motivate her students to read 40 books during the school year.

Spectacular! I was looking for a way to motivate and challenge my 2014 class to read – good readers need practice and I wanted my readers to develop a thorough understanding of the genre of texts that exist and to link this to their writing.  Plus, boys are naturally competitive and I really wanted to hook them into reading.

We started in week 5.  At first, the class was exasperated, ‘Miss Turner, 40 books that’s too much’ and ‘it takes me all term to read one book…’ it is not hard to imagine the retorts from year 6 and 7’s about why they couldn’t possibly read that many books.  However, after a discussion about what books, how many pages, who gets to choose the books and if books that were read before could count, I noticed a glint in the eyes of some of my readers as we ventured to the library.  Once we arrived, a small number of students ran up to me and asked, ‘what sort of book is this one?’ and ‘I only have this much to go so this one counts eh?’.  

A great thing happened a few weeks later as I reminded the class about the 40 Book Challenge and asked the class who would be the first person to complete a book.  A girl came into class and smiled triumphantly and exclaimed, ‘Miss Turner, I finished my book’.  The look of utter triumphant was plastered on her face.  She was the first to attach her sticked to our chart.  From that point on, more students were finishing books.  I set the challenge to my boys to be the first boy to complete a book.  One of my boys told me each day how many pages he had left until he finished his book as he was sure he would be the first boy to complete a book.  He was and has read two more books since then.  I marvel at how the added competition has ignited some of my boys to strive to out do each other.

At this point, I have noticed when we go to the library each week, I return less books and renew slightly more.  I place a big presence on making our reading count – record all night reading in your reading log – no matter what type of reading you do.  Choose books you want to and can read.  I have also noticed the students choosing books in their genre list and stepping outside of their reading comfort zone.  One young lady in my class noted that she needed to read a book of poetry and went to the library and actively looked for a poetry text.

A new development has occurred in that my class would like to set up a reward system for progressing through the challenge.  We are discussing this currently and I have decided to elect a 40 Book Challenge team to set the milestones and achievements.

So, what is my take so far on the 40 Book Challenge? Great and I have noticed a shift, if only slightly, in the attitude some of my readers have to reading and I see a persistence in some to complete books.  Likewise, my readers that love to read are being rewarded for reading.  Finally, all my readers are practising their skill at reading which must occur to develop reading progression and understanding.

The challenge continues and I am still slogging my way through my first book and shamelessly have yet to add my own star to the class chart.  80 books seemed so attainable at the time – note to self , ‘don’t choose books with 600 pages’.

Weekly reflection: Assessment & analysing Data

All educators across the country would have experienced the quick fire succession of student assessment in the first four to six weeks of school.  I marked 23 E Asttle writing tests, completed 23 GLOSS tests, 23 + Probe reading assessments, marked 23 STAR tests,  and administered 1 spelling  and PAT maths test.

Assessments are time consuming to administer and evaluate however the most invaluable feature of assessments are the identification of strengths, needs and the next learning steps.  Our school administers the PAT maths test and this assessment was a treasure chest of wealth about what mathematical knowledge my learners had and needed.  I have used this test to create specific learning intentions for my groups and individuals. Using this information, I quickly identified that one student needed to work on her number knowledge, specifically how many 10’s in a whole number.  She was completely flabbergasted when we started and now takes great delight in explaining to her peers how she worked out how many 10’s in said number.

The most interesting feature was that some of the information derived from the test , for example one student could not successfully solve an addition problem involving decimals and stumbled on this during the GLOSS test as well.  However, in some areas this did not ring true.  Thus, the importance of a variety of testing and overall teacher judgement.

So, as much as testing takes a lot of time to administer, mark and analyse, they really provide us and our learners with a springboard for learning.

Weekly Reflection: Sharing the role as teacher

The first day of school went by in a blur of new school uniforms & bags; fresh haircuts, smiling & enthusiastic faces; excited students; relieved parents; iPads; apps; no apps; iPads with faulty batteries; Tv’s; wireless; welcome powhiri; staff meetings; buckets; lollipops; gasps of amazement at our ‘new’ look classroom and ‘we have big bouncy balls to play with in class’ reactions … and much more.

Overall, my biggest impression of the day was how ready to learn my students were and enthusiastic they were to start their 1:1 digital journey.  I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the cultural knowledge, yes – knowledge of the intricate workings of technological platforms such as iPads, that my learners bought to class.  An example of this was a Year 7 student that became the expert as she modelled to the class how to delete and organise the jumble of apps – home and school – that all students had.  I took a back seat and watched his young lady stand in front of her peers and model how to move and organise apps.  Without prompting from me, she peered at the screens of her ‘students’ iPads and offered reassurance and further assistance.  She confidently walked around the assembled group completing one to one guidance and answered other app/iPad related questions.  This snapshot resonated with me as I was reminded that learners are ready to learn but are also capable and ready to teach and share what they know.  I was further reminded of the importance to the learner of creating opportunities such as this as I overhead this exchange between said year 7 student and a student from another class,

“Guess what the teacher let me do?  I used my iPad and the Tv to teach the class how to delete apps and make folders and move apps .  It was neat….”

An important element of an effective learning environment is the sharing of knowledge and providing learners with opportunities to share.  Likewise, the shift from teacher driven instruction to a collaborative approach where the learners can be the ‘teacher’.  Finally, these experiences of student experts enable my learners to have their knowledge validated and accredited.  Go the student expert!  

Weekly Reflection: Google App: Loupe

Finally back on track with my Introduction to ChromeBooks for Education 101.  This activity gave me an opportunity to ‘try out’ some awesome Google Apps for Education.  For this module, I tried a Google app and completed a review of the app.  Here is my review of the Loupe App.

The Loupe App is an online picture collage maker.  The app allows you to upload images from a range of sources; Facebook, Google+, Dropbox, Drive, Flickr & your desktop.  This app has a few unique features.  You can use 100’s of images in your collage &, the most exciting feature for me, you can make a collage in a variety of shapes and in text.  A bunch of awesomeness!  There is a free version, with the ability to download a low resolution copy of your image with a Loupe Logo and a Pro version  (paid) with the ability to download higher resolution copies and logo free copies.  There are a range of built in shapes and the function to create your own shapes.

How could this be used in a classroom?

I could see this be used by learners to create visual images of evidence of learning; identity posters; & to add to online presentations.

Take it or leave it?

I would definitely provide this app to my learners.  It provides learners with another opportunity to create an example of their learning.  It is free and the images can be downloaded.  I look forward to using this app with my learners.

Below is my ‘try’ – takes a few minutes tops to create.


On to the next phases of the course!

Weekly Reflection: Google Chrome Books

My ICT team leader made the announcement that it is quite possible that we will start 2014 with 2 Google Chrome Books per class.  So, ever the adventurer, I was very happy to see the Chromebook Course 101 group and discussion on the VLN.  Of course, I have registered and just spent the last 20 minutes completing the first activity:

Visit the YouTube channel for the Chromebook Classroom. Select one video based upon your interest, watch the video, and then prepare a short summary of your thoughts on the video and how it might apply to your classroom.. Share the video and your summary at the next staff meeting or in the teacher lounge at your school. (NETS-Teacher Standards: 1d, 3a, 3c, 5d)

My youtube clip

My summary:

Socrative is a web based tool available on any device that has a web browser – ipad, ipod, tablet, PC, laptop etc – that allows educators to interact with, hold discussions and make assessments of their learners.  Educators are given a Room that learners can access and complete quizzes, surveys, and games in real time.  Teachers can view assessment data and observe student progress (responses to quizzes for example) as they happen.  Best part: a quiz can be turned into a game that students can watch as the responses come in.

In my class?

I can see potentially using this for weekly quizzes – gather data for a statistics modelling session or gaining student feedback on a lesson, book, topic study etc.  I am also keen to use this as part of my flexible learning programs – more on those later when I get to the how.

Click here to access the Socrative home page and to register or find out more.

Mission: Activity 1 — completed.

The Chromebook 101 is self paced and not all time consuming.  I must admit I was pretty mute on what Chromebooks are and how they work so I am looking forward to completing the course.  Outcome for me: to know more than I did when I started and I am happy to report I am well on the way to knowing a bit more about the Chromebook.  Activity 2 here I come!