Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Screencastify! (Leading digital learning)

After Anne's visit a few weeks ago, and my reflection that I wasn't using as many digital tools as I used to, I really wanted to start introducing more digital tools to my students. After all I am an MDTA in a 1:1 environment, I should be using digital tools..

I really wanted to expand the DLO options for my students, and as I knew that other Manaiakalani schools use Screencastify, I wanted to use it as well. I asked our Manaiakalani facilitator to unblock this Chrome extension and it took a few weeks to get it all sorted, but its here!

I introduced it first to my own class. 

Click here to read my blog post about it on my class blog.
It was fairly easy to introduce, the students understood it very quickly and were able to use it confidently pretty much straight away. Awesome! 
They were so excited to have something they had never had before - using Google Docs/Drawings etc can get a bit tedious if that is all you are doing..
(Click link above to watch my students first attempts at screencastify)

Today I went to my neighbouring class (Room 8 ) and showed them how to download it, set it up and use it as well. It went great! 
Read their class blog post here.
(Photo credit: Ottilie Morrison).

I repeated the lesson again a third time for room 6, my other neighbouring class who are year 4 students. They got it straight away as well. It is such an easy to use tool!

What I really loved was seeing this comment from yet another teacher in my school...
(Comment was posted onto my class blog post)

Miss Kyla teaches year 7&8s at my school and I was so flattered that she was even looking at my class blog, let alone using it for her own teaching. She told me later on that she had showed her class my blog post, they had watched the students screencastifys and then they had copied what my students had done.

Originally I wanted to use screencastify so the students had more options to use when they created DLOs and so I had another way to collect evidence of their learning. 
However it turned into a big thing that now everyone is using (and all the kids are so excited to use it!!). 

I am proud that I was able to plant this seed and hopefully in the future I can help lead digital learning in the same way (or better!). 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Spiral of Inquiry (Term 1, Week 7)

Last week and this week our class has been looking at Statistics. 
Because of this, we can't use as much materials as we have when we were learning about place value and decimals. It's more practically inclined.

Last week as a break from their maths, I gave the students a basic facts test that is broken down by stages. I gave my lower students the stage 4 test (addition + subtraction to 10) and they all did great, so I gave them stage 5 (the national standard for year 5 students at the beginning of the year). Here they began to fall apart. 

I quickly realised that two of the boys didn't have the skill, knowledge and/or confidence to count backwards from a given number (up to 20), or subtract from 20. They were fine with 10, but 20 they couldn't do.

Today I pulled these two boys out for some materials maths. I got out the trusty popsicle sticks and we practised subtracting from 10. They understood this already and were confident in doing their takeaways, so I challenged them to not use their hands (i.e. imaging). I would ask them subtraction questions and they would answer without touching the popsicle sticks (I could see them counting in their heads though..). 

They quickly memorised their groupings to 10 (5+5, 3+7, 8+2, 1+9, 4+6 and vice versa) and were able to answer quickly. 

Next we moved onto doing the same thing, but up to 20. This was a bit harder for them and took a lot more practice before they felt confident. 

I asked them to lay their 20 popsicle sticks out in 2 rows of 10. This helped them to understand that 20-12 isn't so scary, you first -10 then -2, leaving you with 8. Both boys slowly caught onto this and were able to show how they were thinking using the popsicle sticks. Again we practised our groupings to 20 (12+8, 13+7, 15+5, etc). They struggled a little here so we got the sticks back out and practised a few more times. 

Here he is showing 20-6, by taking 6 sticks from one group of 10 and he is left with 4 ones in one row and 10 in the other row.

Here Lopi covers 3 sticks, showing 20-17. He got the point where he didn't need to physically take away the sticks, but could imagine them removed and give me the answer anyway.

As a cool down, I asked them 'what comes before' or 'what comes after' whatever number I thought of. They were amazing with numbers to 20, as it was fresh in their mind, and good until 100, then one boy fell apart and wouldn't answer anything above 100. This lack of confidence showed me he was quite insecure about his number knowledge in large numbers which is something I can address another time.

Then we practising skip counting, which is another thing I know they are not confident in doing. 
We used the popsicle sticks to count in groups of 2 and we also wrote it down.

They both left feeling good about themselves (important! maths self-efficacy is always so low..)  and knowing they COULD do it. I want to work them again so they don't forget the subtraction strategy they were practising today. They also need to practice skip counting, and improve their number knowledge of large numbers (100-1000).

Friday, 10 March 2017

Anne's observation (Term 1, Week 6)

This morning I had my observation with Anne, the MDTA supervisor. I am so used to be observed now that I kind of forgot she was there (which is a good thing promise, it means I'm not scared!). 

Firstly we had our discussion about the journal articles we had read that week, and then we moved onto our activity which was sorting out our rubbish. I had asked the cleaner of our school not to throw out the rubbish from the upstairs classes (year 4-8) on Thursday afternoon, so that my class could sort it out on Friday morning. She even gave me a box of gloves!

We sorted it out, discussed, gave ideas for how to fix the problem of having too much rubbish etc, and the students did their create lesson. In my opinion it was an okay lesson - nothing amazing. 

Here is Anne's feedback. 

And here are some snippets which I particularly liked.

"You continually made connections - referring to a picture and probing and digging deeply into the text and pictures."

" The discussion was very lively and was full of energy, which you then ledvinto the core of the lesson, which was about rubbish in our school."

"Good to see the consistency you have with the learners and their behaviour."

"You have a good understanding of individuals in the class and keep on top of their behaviour and needs. After the experiment the discussion garnered all the ideas of what you could do to disseminate their ideas to the whole school to create more awareness of how to improve our environment and keep our school clean.  Good to give them choice about what they were going to do to advertise their cause. They self selected in groups or pairs or individuals and chose the idea from the board. Great to see them getting on with the task so enthusiastically and  excitedly. Putting the pressure on them with a time limit also good to keep the pace up and get them going.  "

During lunchtime, Anne came back and we had our discussion about how my year was going, especially since I am in my own class. It was a great opportunity to reflect on what I thought I had done well, things I had identified for myself as things to continue working on etc. Details about these can be read in the document linked above.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Taking a tool-kit by myself!

This afternoon I took a toolkit (a Professional Development session) about blogging. If you read my blog you know that I love blogging, and am pretty passionate about it.

The description for the toolkit was -

Blogging Life-hacks!
Tips & tricks to make your blogging life easier for all of your professional, class and student blogs. Best suited for those who already have some knowledge about how to use Blogger, but want to use this platform more effectively and efficiently.

Click here to view this resource.

Here is some feedback I received from those who attended - 

"The toolkit today was very successful. Your approach and character made people feel interested and relaxed. I felt very comfortable raising questions or making comments and it was obvious that others in the room felt the same. I loved how you had categorised the blogging tips into three sections. The truth is each blog has different expectations and things that make them separate so it was awesome to see it broken down so succinctly. There was lots of stuff I didn't know (and I wasn't even there for the whole session!) - the cross column, page views and even the different effective gadgets.  Congratulations Ashley on a really successful toolkit. You are a natural speaker, leader and teacher." - Ottilie

"Thank you for presenting this toolkit so well.  It was a friendly atmosphere.  Thanks for preparing the slideshows simple and easy to follow.  It was helpful to have three different blogging options presented separately.  As a beginner, lots of information are new and useful to me.  What you highlighted about Labels was good to keep in mind to be watchful not to create too many unnecessary ones. You are a great teacher." - Laadan

My reflection on the toolkit -
I think for my first toolkit (on my own) I did well to control my nerves and try to stay focused. I found it a bit awkward to try and get peoples attention to continue with the presentation when they were practising something I had taught, but I was always aware of the time and didn't want to give too much play around time, otherwise it would turn into a 2 hour session. I also felt awkward about having to sit so far away from everyone, but this was because the projector chord that my laptop needed was there, so I had no choice. I can't wait for when our school gets TVs and I can Airplay from my laptop to a large screen, while sitting anywhere in the class.
I felt very supported because my teacher-friends and mentor came to the session to support me, but were also engaged with the content and asked thought-provoking questions that added richly to the discussion. I'm glad they came! There were 2 teachers from a different Manaiakalani school who it seemed to not know a lot about blogger so they learnt a lot as well.
I definitely want to take another tool-kit in the future, to continue challenging myself with public speaking and developing my leadership skills.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Critical Buddies feedback

Today we shared our video and got critical feedback. 

Here is my feedback -


The rich maths vocabulary that you used.

More use of maths vocabulary during my own lessons when I teach maths e.g. imaging.
Sitting with the students at same level

‘Prove it” - having students in charge of explaining it and reasoning it themselves is a great way to confirm learning.

The way you relate the lesson to prior knoweldge (magic number)
Having students sitting like that is great as a way of seeing who is following along and understanding

Great having students explain it in their own words

Using the language: Imaging - so great - it helps the students know the expected strategies and how they can use them.

Really cool that students can articulate to you about imaging and materials.

Having students write their own understanding and strategies is awesome - great autonomy and opportunity to explain their understanding.

Could have more interaction between the students

They could write out questions for other maths groups - this could give them the opportunity to feel like experts and show ‘ako’. Even though they are the lower students it gives them esteem and will help remind other students.  
The autonomy you give the students is amazing.

How you had them all showing their understanding ‘in their own way’

Using language such as imaging and materials is awesome - helps the students to know where they are in their learning and great for student voice.
Students showing and proving using the material

Students understanding of tenths and hundredths is good.

Students understand what one whole looks like as material

Like the way students could explain their understanding

Adding numbers is leading the students into tidy numbers. - Stage 6 addition facts can be taught easily to these students as they have the knowledge for it.

Students could be buddied up to explain and teach when someone did not get
. It would not have been possible to understand the concept of decimals without material. But I am impressed the way you are trying to wean them out of material to imaging.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Interlead - PD (TOD)

Today we have a teacher only day at school and we are learning about a programme called Interlead, which we will be using for our appraisal process throughout the school.

peda=child, gogy=lead

The method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education.

Teaching children is not the same as teaching adults. Appraisal has become a thing that is 'done to' teachers, where they are tested and treated like children. Interlead fosters a 'done with', high trust model by using the andragogy thinking model.

Bring a learning mindset!

Next we were asked to reflect on the appraisals we have been a part of. As this is my first teaching job, I only have one set of appraisals to draw from (i.e. from last year). This then made me reflect on my previous job, and the appraisals that happened there. As I wasn't very high up on the ladder, I didn't have a formal appraisal. What I did have, in hindsight, was even better. My immediate boss always aware of what I was doing and my capabilities, but when he felt I was ready he always offered me new challenges and new ways to take on small responsibilities. This along-side guidance is far better in my opinion than a once-a-year check-in where the manager is still in the position of power, essentially handing out judgements. 
Image result for michael fullan professional capital

Teaching practice  professional practice

 Michael Fullan, the worlds leading education thinker, encourages that educators need to be constantly changing to be good educators.

HC = human capital.
SC = social capital - challenging and supportive each other to be better. 
DC =  Decision-making Capital.

PC = f(HC, SC, DC)
E.g. PC = 1x1x0   is still 0
If you have two, but not the third, you have no PC. You must have all three.

The PTC's are not a check-list, they should be used to back-map what you are already doing. PTC/Evidence should not be an extra thing.

Reflection on the day - 
I loved talking about learning theory and research this morning, and how Tony tried to get us to change our mindset towards appraisal. 
The system itself is well-designed, however I do feel that I will be doubling up a little bit because I currently document in this way on my blog already. I will end up copying from my blog and pasting it into InterLEAD.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Surprising moments

This week there have been a few surprising moments which have just made my heart soar.

On Monday I introduced the idea of subtracting decimals as a whole class, as everybody had seemed to get adding decimals. It wasn't great - there was too many kids and it just was too much. So on Tuesday, I began my maths lesson by saying 'whoever didn't get subtracting yesterday come with me and we can work on it', and without hesitation a bunch of about 10 kids came to the mat with me. 

There was absolutely no sense of embarrassment or shame about not understanding the learning yesterday, and I was honestly surprised. I expected to have to go and get specific students who I knew didn't get it and make them come and practice, but they just came themselves (and it was the same kids I would have picked anyway!). The first part of our mini-lesson was talking about which parts we did get (i.e. mostly subtracting tenths from tenths) and what we didn't get (i.e. when there isn't enough hundredths and we had to exchange).

I was so proud of my students as they shared their weaknesses so openly. They also demonstrated strong metacognitive skill as they thought about their own learning and what they did/didn't understand.

We went through the lesson and by the end they had understood what they didn't yesterday, and then moved onto even harder stuff. They were stoaked, and so was I. 

It made me think, how did I create such an awesome classroom culture in 5 weeks? Like, how? What did I do that worked so I can keep doing it? 

Another surprising moment was when not one, but multiple students, while working on an independent follow up after being with me using materials, asked to keep using the materials (in those words as well - yay for them using teacher-speak). 

As a teacher, I know that using materials is a building block towards being able to do the maths in your head. I always try to use 'teacher-speak' with my students, such as 'using materials' and 'imaging'. When these students came and asked me to use materials because they couldn't image yet, I was so happy. They knew they could do it by themselves (i.e. rather than asking me to do it) and knew what they needed in order to achieve it. I said absolutely! 

And there they sat, with a bag of decimats, using them when they reached a question they couldn't yet do in their head.
If they still didn't get it, they would call me over, and I would lay out the decimats without actually explaining it, and just the visual cue was enough for them to click and say 'ooohhh'. 

These two moments that happened this week made so happy and proud. 
Somehow, I'm not sure how, I have created a class that is self-aware, honest, not afraid of making mistakes and admitting they don't know, independent, who have a growth mindset and would rather get a tool to help them achieve their goal by themselves, rather than asking the teacher directly to explain it. They want to learn, and want to do it themselves. They are active participants in their own learning. 

I love my class.

Spiral of Inquiry update

This week we have been learning how to subtract decimals, including tenths-tenths, tenths-hundredths, whole numbers-decimals.

Monday - whole class materials introduction.
Tuesday - practice for those who didn't get it (they volunteered to come down if they thought they didn't get it!)
Wednesday - whole class decimals (writing Q on board, students answer in book and explain their thinking aloud)
Thursday - basic facts tests in stages
Friday - filming with target students/small group

Overall, the whole class found it much harder to subtract decimals than they found it to add them, even though they are using the same rules (exchanging through 10, etc). I didn't quite expect that, considering how quickly they understood the place value of decimals and how to add decimals.

I do think because we have been doing it for three weeks already, they are a bit bored of decimals and want a change in their maths (hence why I did basic facts on Thursday). 

The target students, as with everyone else, struggled with subtraction. All of the target students were in the volunteer 'I don't get it' group on Tuesday. I take this as a win, because at least they are self-aware and recognised they didn't understand it, and by coming down for a second session, were able to demonstrate to me that they WANTED to learn it.

I have videoed a session with three of the target students (the others being away today, argh!).
These three do the most speaking in the video, as they are the target students. The other two students did answer and fully participate, I just edited out their parts as the focus was the target students.

I would love to see what you think of my quick run-through of how I run my decimals lessons.
(There are obviously chunks missing/edited out, or times when I show one example of a particular thing (e.g. addition on whiteboards) when in reality we did 5, just to make the video shorter).

Here is the observation run sheet (plan) for this lesson.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Whanau Conferences (Term 1, 2017)

This afternoon we had whanau conferences. This event is designed for parents and teachers to meet, and share the next learning steps for students. 

As this is the first year I am in my own class, it was my first time doing this event by myself... It went great! I had almost 80% of my students turn up with some kind of family member (parent, sibling, aunt, nana, etc). 

Over the past week or so, we have been preparing student goal sheets to share with the parents. 
For example, Viliami and Grace

My class also prepared bookmarks (e.g. Syraiah-Lee,  Amon) which included QR codes linked to their learning blogs. I showed the whanau member how to access their childs blog using these codes, and they seemed to be excited about an easier way to view their blog. 

I made a concious effort to keep the goals simple and achievement. Yes, there is some 'teachery talk' on the goal sheets, but after reading each sheet through with the student, I would summarise their goals in everyday words so whanau members could understand.

Most of my students had learning their times tables as a goal for maths, and using more specific vocabulary in writing, among other goals. The whanau members understood how the spelling homework I have set supports this writing goal, and could see evidence in the classroom of how we are working towards it together as well.

It was also lovely to receive a gift of flowers and home-grown tomatoes from one of my students parents. 

This event was a great way to make connections with parents of my new students, and build on the existing relationships I have with my year 5's (who I had last year as year 4's). 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Softball Tournament (Term 1, 2017)

 Today was the Tamaki cluster softball tournament, and my first sports tournament ever. I never played sports as a child, and this hasn't changed as I went into adulthood.

However, I wanted to make a conscious effort to go out of my comfort zone (read my goals for 2017 here). So I volunteered to coach the year 5 and 6 softball teams.

This has meant that for three weeks, I have had a softball training almost every lunchtime. This has been hard on me personally as I haven't been eating lunch properly and taking that break, making me more tired for the afternoon block of learning and also messes with my eating schedule.

I am glad I did sign up for it, as I have learnt a lot about the game of softball and of course have gotten to know my kids better as well.

My focus for the year 5 team was for them to learn how to play. I purposely made them rotate often through the various 'roles' in the team, even during the competition. I wanted them to build confidence in themselves and their physical ability, and the focus was about getting better, not being the best. This rotation was a focus for the year 6's as well, rather than them having 'set' roles in the team. This definitely did happen - every single child got better, wether at batting or catching
or pitching.

The next sport is cricket (starting next week!) and I am looking forward to learning more about the sport (ala, I know nothing..) and continuing to build strong relationships with my students through this extra activity.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Spiral of Inquiry update (week 3)

This week I began introducing decimals to my class using the resource decimats. 

Before we began, we recapped the most important point from last weeks place value - the magic number of 10. I tried to get across that in maths, especially in place value, everything always comes back to the magic number 10. Most of the kids did get this point and it was evident later who did and didn't.
I explained that in the same way, the magic number 10 still exists in decimals. What you exchange it for is just different.

I used these resources a couple times last year (click here), however this week I did it with my whole class instead of a select group, before moving onto groups.

Decimats are a resource which show visually how decimals are smaller than one whole, and visually show that ten tenths fit into one whole, 100 hundredths fit into one whole, and how hundredths are smaller than tenths. 

I did find the decimats was useful for the students to quickly understand tenths and hundredths, however progress slowed when I began asking them to add or subtract decimal numbers and they had to exchange hundredths for tenths, or tenths for one whole. 

I have also tried to get the kids to explain their mathematical thinking using maths words - like exchange - instead of 'I swapped this for this'. I remind them almost every 30 seconds to call each piece of paper they are talking about by its mathematical name - tenths, hundredths.

Reflection for next weeks learning - 
All my students, both those in the target group and those who aren't, need more practice exchanging in decimals. They are getting better at explaining what they have done and why, and using maths language like exchange, but even this still needs some work. 

They still need to use the materials to deepen this understanding, I don't feel they are ready for imaging (doing it in their head) just yet.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Wide & Deep - Critical Literacy

This week, the second week of school for the year, I began with full reading and maths programmes and groups. I wanted to hit the ground running, getting the kids into the habit of doing hard work and having to think hard everyday. 

It is a Manaiakalani recommendation that teachers include more critical literacy in their programmes. (Read University of Auckland research about Manaiakalani where these are further explained - here) as they found that is what contributed to the huge learning shift in classrooms they studied.

This recommendation includes;
Promoting engagement in reading, comprehension and higher order thinking.  
Promoting instruction for depth of understanding and independence. 
Providing in-task support for thinking about reading. 
Increasing the challenge and expectations in assigned texts and tasks. 
Making connections. 

These are the things I aimed to include in my programme this week, and on an on-going basic as well.

In class this week, we were studying one aspect of Hauora for our inquiry topic. I chose to focus on emotional well-being. 

We brainstormed different feelings we knew...

We made clines to show how some emotions are related to each other, but might be less or more severe than others. We used our prior knowledge (the brainstorm we made, above) and then added to them with help from here
(This became a huge vocabulary building task, which was awesome!)

We chose emotions (in groups) and acted our scenarios of what that looked like/caused it/felt like etc.

Each reading group had 1 story at their appropriate curriculum level to read and work on, an online article to support the ideas in the follow up work, and then they read a second story above their level. So each student read at least 3 stories, with the theme of emotions, at different levels of complexity, within one week.

Here are two students completed follow up for their first story - remember they are only 9 and 10 years old! I was blown away with their thinking about emotions. Year 5 student.  Year 6 student.

On Friday morning, after everything we had done about emotions this week. We had a discussion. I asked all the students to bring one of their stories with them. 

We went through each story, and one of the students volunteered to explain (to those who hadn't read it) what the story was about, who the characters were, what happened that made them emotional and what emotions they felt. It was way easier to get them talking in this way than I expected it to be - I thank myself for forcing them to speak in front of each other last week so they got over the fear! The students added onto what each other was saying quite a lot, which was amazing because it showed they had a good understanding of their 3 stories and could add more detail, or ask questions of each other, and that they felt comfortable enough as group members to respond to each other so casually and in a supportive way.

We compared the stories, the characters, the emotions they felt. We connected with what work we had done earlier in the week (which was already displayed in the class!). 

Then I asked them this question ..
Do you control your emotions, or do they control you? 

They pretty much all instantly said that they were in control of their emotions. I challenged them (after explaining that I wasn't disagreeing with them, I wanted them to defend their opinion or think from another point of view), by saying,
 what about when you get angry, and you lash out and punch someone or something, are you still in control of your emotions then? 
They sat for a bit.. I could tell they hadn't thought of it that way. Then one student (who gets angry often, ironically) said that when that happens, your emotions are in control of you. The rest of the class slowly started nodding and realising what I meant. 

We came to the agreement that sometimes we are in control of our emotions, and sometimes, they are in control of us. One student pointed out that when you get angry and do something, that's when your emotions are in control, and then afterwards you feel guilty, that's when you are in control again and you feel bad for what you did, but you also feel bad for loosing control. I was quite impressed with that!

I asked them who they thought was in control, when you wake up from a scary dream sweating and shaking and feeling nervous and paranoid. They all agreed that your emotions were in control of your body, even though you were sleeping. Being scared in the dream causes those physical reactions (we had also talked about physical reactions earlier in the week).

This led us on a tangent about emotions and dreams. I was in awe at how easily the students shared very personal stories, about dreams and/or experiences they had had and how it made them feel, including the death and funeral of family members, the still birth of cousins etc. Heavy stuff! 
What surprised me was it was mostly my new students, rather than the ones I taught last year and have again, that shared the most. I felt proud I had established such rapport with them so quickly so that they were comfortable to share these stories. I wanted to respect their vulnerability and reciprocate it, to let them know it was okay to share and we could trust each other, so I shared a personal story as well. My story was about how when my sister was in labour with my nephew, I woke up at a particular time after a dream that something went wrong with the birth and that my sister had to have an emergency C-section. The next morning when my sister rang to tell us the baby was born, it turned out she had her C-section at the exact minute I woke up. Freaky huh? This encouraged the kids to keep sharing and feel safe, and also led to another tangent of explaining what a C-section was (lol). 

The discussion was so powerful and I'm so delighted I decided to do it. 
The conversation was so rich, not only about the books we had read, the content of these stories (funerals, what a drought was, metaphorical drought when you ignore your emotions, how milk gets delivered, how petrol is stored at petrol stations, why weka birds walk funny, how kids can feel left out in adult conversations, where rain comes from, why you get big bags under your eyes when you are tired, etc etc etc.) but about emotions and our personal experiences. We connected our inquiry, reading and writing so seamlessly. 

I definitely want to keep trying to do these things - 
Promoting engagement in reading, comprehension and higher order thinking.  
Promoting instruction for depth of understanding and independence. 
Providing in-task support for thinking about reading. 
Increasing the challenge and expectations in assigned texts and tasks. 
Making connections.

However one thing I want to change is to make my follow up activities smaller, and have one for each story, rather than one big one for only one story. Also including more 'create' in the tasks now that the students know the Chromebook expectations. A third thing I want to do differently next week is getting the kids from group A to read aloud to group B, group B to read aloud to group C etc, rather than only to their own group. Some of my kids are very slow and hesitant readers and I think the mileage (and feedback from their peers) will help them improve.

Onwards and upwards!