Tuesday, 23 January 2018

10 tips & advice for beginning teachers

I do not claim to be an expert teacher, not at all.. However, I am no longer a beginning teacher! Woo!

The first two years of your teaching career are a whirlwind, in the best possible way. 

Setting up your first classroom can be terrifying; experienced teachers might puzzle at that and think it overdramatic, but I think it definitely can be. What do I put on the walls? How do I arrange the desks? Where is the laminator? Is this worth keeping? Should I buy this thing? Do I still need mat space? What are my schools expectations for my walls? How much coffee can one person drink in a day before they go crazy? How can I subtly ask for help with xyz, without making myself look like I don't know anything? What's a PROBE? What am I supposed to do with that kid? What do I do if I need to pee during class-time? Whats the system for morning teas? Am I doing this all wrong? Is everyone here secretly judging me for having motivation 'hang in there baby' posters by my desk?

There are so many things you don't know, and even more that you don't know that you don't know. It can be vey daunting to ask for help and ask (what seems to you) stupid questions to people who seem to have their lives sorted perfectly.

From someone who has just finished these testing first two years, and in no particular order,
Here are 10 tips I would offer to 1st year teachers.

  1. Don't buy all the things. Setting up your first class can be expensivvveeee. There are so many things you think you need. You probably don't need to buy your own laminator - but if you want one anyway, Kmart ones work great! You don't need to go to Spotlight and get fancy fabric for your walls. Buy flat sheets and use them instead, or don't use wall fabric. You don't need to buy cushions for all 30 of your lovelies to sit on; they will survive sitting on the carpet. If after a few weeks or months, you still feel you need a particular item, then sure, buy it. Just don't buy everything you think you might need all at once. Take time to think about it.
  2. Go to the staff room whenever you can. This one seems obvious. Why would I not take a lunch break? There is 101 things for teachers to be doing, and they never go away. Physically going to the staff room to eat your lunch and talk to a few colleagues can be great for your mental health (and social life). Take that 20 minute break from marking spelling tests. You deserve it.
  3. Don't obsess over your furniture layout or walls. I remember rearranging my kids desks about 5 times, trying to get them in the perfect place. Ready for it? There is no perfect place. Last year my desks moved around the room on a daily basis depending on what we were doing and what size groups the kids needed/wanted to be in. Don't worry about the desks. For both desks and walls, these should change throughout the year to reflect the learning you are doing. Not having them perfect for the first day of school is okay. They will and should change throughout the year anyway. 
  4. Ask questions. As a BT surrounded by confident experienced teachers, sometimes you can feel like an idiot. You have so many questions that nobody else seems to be thinking. ASK THEM ANYWAY. Whats a PROBE? When do you stop doing JAM and start doing GLOSS? What if I have really low kids, which do I do? What is the percentage for a pass on a running record again? What do my STAR scores actually mean? How do I scan this document? How I do double-sided photocopy? Do we have a photocopy budget? Why do I have do ...? How do I...? What if...? Whatever it is, ask it. You will not be judged and nobody will think you're stupid. Now that I am starting to be asked questions instead of being the one asking them, I actually really like it. As you get more confident and experienced, you do things on auto-pilot, like driving a car. You forget why you do certain things, and it's good for you to be asked why you are doing it that way because it makes you reflect on your own practice. 
  5. Ask for help. Same thing really here, but with the extra added layer of protecting your mental health. Feeling overwhelmed during testing week? Ask for help. Ask other teachers to show you how they set up for theirs, how they get through a whole class in one week. They might have small things that they do to make the whole thing more efficient. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to ask for help. Teachers can be very supportive and they might even offer to take your class for an hour of PE so you can finish off that last GLOSS. 
  6. Find your marigolds. Just read this.  (This is also helped by those visits to the staff room, where you actually get to know your colleagues).
  7. Understand that there are two ways to laminate things, and yes it does make a difference. Okay so, there are two way so laminate things. print, laminate, cut OR print, cut, laminate, cut. The difference is that the first process doesn't necessarily completely seal around each bit of paper, because you might cut around it and one part might open up, but, you have to cut each thing twice... Anything you want to keep and reuse for years and years (assuming you want it to stay in perfect condition)? Do the print, cut, laminate cut option. This way, each piece of paper is individually sealed and less likely to be ripped open/water damaged etc. In my humble opinion they also look better (see picture below for an example).
  8. Do things as you go. You don't need to plan for Term 3 when you are halfway through Term 1. Take things one week (or maybe two) at a time. On this note, keep on top of your BT folder. Don't leave things for the holidays, document observations, professional development etc. as you do them. 
  9. Spend a bit of time getting to know what resources your school has. There are a lot of things that aren't obvious things for people to point out to you in your first tour of your new school. Regardless of what year level you teach, familiarise yourself with the colour wheel books and school journals. Know how they work, where they are, and how to put them back correctly. Is there any cooking stuff for the kids to use, and where is it kept? What PE equipment do we have? Where are the road patrol signs and jackets kept? Where is the extra photocopy paper and printer ink kept? Is there an art room; is the stuff in there a free-for all or not? Is there any science equipment and where is it kept? What hours is the caretaker here? Can I just call them to fix something or is there a system for booking them in? Do we have a ladder? These seem like really mundane things to know, but once you know them, things are easier. 
  10. Be nice to the office lady, librarian, cleaners and caretakers. These people have a huge role to play in schools, and having them be your friend is important. 
Random other advice...
  • Use this website to download letters for your walls. In Word, you can rearrange the letters to spell out whatever you want. Then cut, print, cut, staple. Reuse forever and ever and ever.
  • Get a TWINKL account. It costs money, but it is so worth it. There is an endless amount of stuff you can download and use off this site. I have found it particularly helpful for display stuff, for example -
  • Don't know what to put on your walls? Start with the basics. Your teacher corner will require the NZC posters and some key competencies. I found this in my cupboard left behind by the previous teacher, but having this around was helpful (especially for report writing). If your school runs PB4L or SOLO, that should be somewhere as well.

To all 1st years teachers, good luck! I hope my 10c of advice will get you thinking, if not be actually helpful. You will never forget your first year. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Writing Inquiry (T4 2017)

This slide deck is my writing inquiry for Term 4 2017. Although I had previously been compiling reflections and evidence through my blog, I had to change as our school had to send our inquiries to ERO and they wanted everyone to do it the same way.

Each week we documented, reflected upon and had evidence for what we did.

BOY 2016
MOY 2016
MOY 2017
EOY 2017
 Comment on success
 Joshua needs support to stay on topic and task, but when focused, can write an story appropriate to the task. 
Well below
No shift. Stanley is at school maybe 1-2 days a week. When he is here, because he wasn't here the day before, he doesn't know what is going on. He struggles to do work independently because he doesn't have solid routines of being in the classroom.
No data
No data
No data
No data
Well Below
 When he is focused, Reign can write a 1 page story that makes sense. He has a lot of techniques built into him from previous schools that are weird and hinder him from focusing on his writing. I think he would benefit next year from having visual aids/checklists to help him remember what he needs to put into each story.
New stu
 Ariki can write confidently independently. He has only been at school for about 4 days in the whole of term 4, so BL3 is an OTJ. He takes on board feedback and can reread his work to check it makes sense and knows how he can improve it.
No data
No data
No data
No data
Well Below (ESOL)
Paula came to school and couldn't speak, write or read in English. For him to achieve L1 is a huge deal. He can now write independently.
Well Below
 Lopiseni hates writing. Maybe one out of every 5 writing sessions he will actually do any work. For him, I think he needs to work on confidence more than actual skill. He has skills, just refuses to use them.
Saia has made the biggest confidence shift out of all these kids. He can write 2-3 pages independently, brainstorm his ideas, reread his own work and check it. He has learnt new literacy skills and I can see he is trying to use them in his writing. 

Although only 3 students are 'at' for National Standards, I think they have all made progress towards achieving their goals, which were;
Write more than 5 sentences independently.
Use full stops, capital letters correctly without reminders.
Use speech marks and paragraphs correctly with limited support.
Remember to elaborate and give detail without T reminder.
Gain confidence - be able to write without 1:1 T support.

Things I think made the most difference to students
- Teaching them how to edit and make changes to their writing
- Getting them to talk about their ideas first, then write independently, then check with a buddy.

Things students think made the most difference to their learning
- specifically showing how to use dialogue (Stanley)
- writing the words for me to copy and telling me the spelling (Paula - ESOL)
- teaching us new words in reading, then we can use them in writing (Ariki)
- buddy marking to make a story better - teaches us to look for mistakes in our own writing so we can fix our mistakes in our own writing (all)
- kids WANT to try little groups where they have different skills to focus on instead of whole class writing (all)
- kids WANT to do spelling next year to learn new words and how to spell them (all)

Things I think I could do better next time
- using visual aids for checklists or brainstorms
- having writing groups every week. A lot of the time we did whole class stuff, and I would pull these students down as a group. Maybe having set groups would have made more of a difference.

Maths Inquiry (T4 2017)

This slide deck is my maths inquiry for Term 4 2017. Although I had previously been compiling reflections and evidence through my blog, I had to change as our school had to send our inquiries to ERO and they wanted everyone to do it the same way.

Each week we documented, reflected upon and had evidence for what we did.

BOY 2016
MOY 2016
EOY 2016
BOY 2017
EOY 2017
Huge progress. She has achieved all the goals set in this inquiry and more. Her confidence has grown hugely and she is more aware of what she can and can't do.
Again, Stanley has not made progress this year because he is never at school. The one or two days he does attend school, he doesn't know what is happening because he hasn't been here in so long. The learning he misses in week 1 is built upon in week 2 (and so on), so he is always behind.
 Lopiseni has made progress. He has learnt to use place value partioning to solve add/sub problems. He can skip count. He has memorised some 2 and 5 times tables. He has low confidence and often refuses to participate in learning.
 Same as Syraiah-Lee - huge progress! Saia's confidence and willingness to participate in maths is completely different. He has felt success, and he likes it. He has achieved all the goals set for him.
 Viliami's confidence has grown in Maths. He can use place value partitioning (most of the time) to solve add/sub problems. Although he is still well-below, he has made shifts this year whereas last year he didn't. A win is a win.

I believe all the students have made progress towards, or have achieved their goals, which were;
- Transfer skip counting knowledge to be able to use times tables.

- Memorise 2, 5 and 10 times tables.
- Learn to skip count in 3s, 4s and 6.s
- Use PV knowledge to solve problems. (PV partitioning)
- Be able to identify how many 1s, 10s, 100s and 1000s in a number.

Things I think made the most difference to students
- Maths clinics. Ottilie and I did clinics where students could sign up to attend the one they wanted. It helped us both to cater more to the needs of the students. Instead of both classes having a range of stages 4-7, we could have one class of stages 4-5 and the other of 6-7. We could do more targeted teaching at their level. This also helped them feel successful as they weren't always being outdone by the stage 6-7 kids.
- Having a focus on learning and memorising times tables.

Things students think made the most difference to their learning
- Learning times tables - buddies, bracelets, having it on the wall, practicing skip counting together, I tested them on times tables etc. In small group as well, where they were all at the same level.
- Kids liked being able to choose their own learning (cross-grouping).
- Saia knew that his next step was to learn division facts.

Things I think I could do better next time
- Maths groups instead of whole class. I definitely want to do cross-grouping again, it makes things a million times easier.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Writing PD - Jude Parkes

"Teaching approaches to motivate and engage writers" - Years 1-8

Gift the vocab.

Different types of writing
  • Modelled writing
  • Shared writing
  • Guided writing
  • interactive writing
  • language experience
  • Innovations on text
  • skill focused mini-lessons
  • collaborative writing
  • joint construction of text
  • paired writing
  • peer writing
  • writing prjoects
  • independent writing
  • quick writes

To think about...
What is the writing process at TPS? Is there a common language across the school?
What is the point of having 'planning' if you aren't modelling it? If you don't model it, they won't do it. That is a disservice to the students.
Do they have personal goals? Have I asked them what they find hard/tricky in writing? What have I done to support them with that?
Do students know and understand the purpose of writing?
Do they know and understand when they are writing across curriculum (writing during inquiry?).
Am I giving feedback, feedforward or both?

Repetition with variety.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Staff meeting - 'Enriching our literacy programme'

This afternoon we had the best staff meeting that I have probably ever been to. Instead of dealing with issues, or 3 hours of PD after a long hard day, we just shared one aspect of our literacy practice with our colleagues. We are lucky at TPS in that we have a few teachers who are TESSOL trained, so we had the opportunity to learn a few insider tricks.

We collated our resources on this doc (some links may not be publicly viewable).

My colleague Ottilie took amazing notes about what/how each person presented which can be read here.

At the end of the meeting I asked our SMT if we can do this again but for maths this time. It is so powerful to be able to see what other staff members have tried and tested and found to be successful.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Shift 2017 (test scores)

I have finished my testing now, and so can analyse my students learning shifts to see how much they have learnt throughout the year. Of course, test scores do not always accurately depict a child's learning, nor does it define them. However, as a teacher, test scores are a reflection on my teaching ability (wether it is formally acknowledged or not) and hence teachers should look at them closely.

At Manaiakalani schools, students start at 5 with the average abilities of a 3 year old.. and spend the rest of their lives trying to catch up. Because of this, our students cannot make 1 years progress in 1 year and be okay. In order to catch up, they must make more than 1 years progress in 1 year (accelerated shift). This is how I have analysed my data. 
Are my kids catching up? Or are they staying behind?


I am incredibly proud of my maths shift data. 
My kids were mostly at NS to begin with, but I am proud that I have kept them there or boosted them up to 2 years above where they should be.
My class is interesting in that I have a group of very low students including ESOL students and students with high learning needs; sadly these students have made little progress. This made me really sad to see as they have been working so hard throughout the year to learn new skills and build knowledge, but some seem to have forgotten everything. Some, mainly student PP, is hindered  by his lack of English, which results in him not understanding what to do. These students will continue to work hard and hopefully the new programme 'Spring into maths' that our teacher aides will introduce will help them as well.
The rest of my class seem to have good accelerated progress. My target students, SP, ST and LF have made really good progress and are now 'at' or slightly 'below' NS for their age. The other target students, AW, VP and STT have not, as they all have missed A LOT of school. Again, this really saddens me because I know if they had been here, they would be learnt a heck of a lot more.

Most students made huge progress in reading. I think this is because they have transitioned from 'learning to read' (mainly years 1-4) to 'reading to learn' (year 5 up). They have the skills required to read fleuntly, decode, understand diagrams, comprehend, ask and answer questions etc. 
I think it also made a difference testing them non-fiction at the beginning of the year, then fiction in term 2, then a mixture of both in term 4. Our school has no rule around which you should use, so I decided based on the content of the texts. Some probes require a lot of world and/or content knowledge to understand whereas others the information is purely inside the text. 
For the whole of term 3, the class read non-fiction texts (online, journals) as I felt they were stronger in fiction than non-fiction. I think it made a difference as they are more confident with wordy, diagram covered texts than they were in terms 1 and 2. 

Spelling is a weird area. Some teachers explicitly teach it, some don't. We did have spelling (with spelling lists the kids took home and learnt) during terms 1 and 2. We stopped as the kids seemed to loose interest in it. I think this is reflected in their scores. The jumps aren't as big as in other learning areas, however their term 1 scores are significantly higher than their chronological age to begin with. The shift was calculated based on term 1-term 4 scores, not their chronological age; if it had been all but 2 students would be above.

This year my writing programme has been okay. I think writing is my weakest subject to teach out of reading, writing and maths. My marking of writing has been especially average. My kids jumped up heaps between terms 1 and 2, then went down in term 4 as my marking had to be stricter in term 4 (cluster moderation, syndicate moderation etc). This is something I need to work on moving forward. For their OTJ's, my class is very split. Heaps are 'at', and heaps are 'well below'. The well belows are made up of high needs students yes, but also some who just don't have the required skills. 
When I originally marked their term 4 writing samples, maybe 1/3 were above. After moderation, these got moved down to 'At's. Some belows got moved to well belows as well. Again, consistent marking of writing is something I need to work on.

My class have made HUGE jumps this year. Yes, I did have really high kids to begin with. But I have kept them high and kept pushing them. I am proud of what they have achieved, and know what I need to work on next year. 
To work on 
- marking of writing needs to be more consistent 
- continue a spelling programme throughout the year
- continue to teach a mixture of non-fiction and fiction for reading

Note: these are raw test scores. They do not necessarily reflect my OTJs of these students, which can be seen in the writing scores. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Maths Inquiry (T3 2017)

Maths target students
Priority students
Transfer skip counting knowledge to be able to use times tables.
Memorise 2, 5 and 10 times tables.
Learn to skip count in 3s, 4s and 6.s
Use PV knowledge to solve problems. (PV partitioning)
Be able to identify how many 1s, 10s, 100s and 1000s in a number.

We would say these forwards and backwards, altogether, in pairs.Towards the end of the week we did some simple word problems together, and the students had to write the times table that applied to it AND draw the array to help them remember.Word problems like...
Week 2I would ask them random times tables questions and they would have to answer. I would go around the circle first, saying 1x ? 2x, ? in order, so the students knew the answer (or could add on from the previous persons answer to feel success and build confidence.Towards the end of the week I gave the students a test.Kordell, Lopiseni and Syraiah-Lee didn't engage as much with this, as they found it hard to compete for who said it first. But they do know the answer...We also did Clinics on Friday and I wrote a blog post reflection on it.
Week 3We didn't get as much time to practice this week, as we had 2 different trips on 2 different days and Whanau Conferences. Ottilie (who has been teaching these kids for clinics wrote a reflection here).I taught them the hand trick for remembering your 9x tables which they all use and find helpful.

Week 4Throughout weeks 2-4, we had been doing maths clinics (between myself and Ottilie). All of these target students went to Ottilie for maths, and did clinics such as...

One gem moment was on Wednesday, while I was practising using play money with some of the students. Syraiah-Lee happened to be sitting next to me.
Week 6Week 7Sosaia this week got 100% on a times table challenge. Paula attempted the same challenge, but I think got overwhelmed by being given a worksheet and left to it. He could answer the times tables questions quickly and correctly when asked orally, but couldn't read/write it by himself. This is down to his English proficiency and unfamiliarity with worksheets and written English. Week 8

Week 1

We started off in the first week of school with our 2x, 5x and 10x times. I made up boards that had the times tables written out, as well as an array diagram for each one.
Every time we meet, we start off by skip counting..
2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22,24 (we stop there because you don't need to know beyond 12x tables)

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

There were 5 rows of houses and 3 houses in each row. How many houses were there altogether?

We practiced almost daily, and I could tell the kids were starting to know them instead of just reading them. Some even physically turned away or closed their eyes while saying them to prove they really know it.

They lined up by the door and we made it a little competition. I would call out a times table question (one they knew and had practiced) and whoever said the answer first got to take one step forward.
Viliami and Sosaia really took to this, and were the first to reach me at the other end of the corridor.

The target students sharing something/anything they learnt are at...
Syraiah-Lee - 25:00-28:00
Stanley - absent.
Lopiseni - did not participate.
Sosaia -22:00-25:00
Viliami - 19:00-22:00

This week I introduced 3x, 6x and 9x tables. We followed the same routine, and did 3', 6's and 9's in addition to practising 2's, 5's and 10's.
It was interesting to see other students want to come and join the group, as they could see that group were really learning their times tables quickly.
For example, when we started our 3 times tables, Merielle asked to join because although she knew she didn't know her 3's.

In week 4 I introduced 4 times tables. We tried to do 8's, but it was a bit much for them.

WAL strategies to remember our timestables

WAL how to solve multiplication word problems

These workshops were really awesome as it gave the target students a chance to practice their times tables yes, but also, and more importantly for me, to feel successful. That they finally got it, could do it by themselves, could answer the teachers questions and explain it to other people, that is what was awesome to see. They are so much more confident.

Week 5
This week was awkward for maths, as we had the PWC FLiP course (Financial Literacy in Primary Schools). This was an awesome programme and the students learnt a lot, however to keep up with the LTP/Overview, we had to do that for maths as well as introducing ratios. 

We were still able to practice the times tables we have learnt about. 

The two girls I was asking, were adding decimals (in the context of money) in their heads. Syraiah-Lee was looking at them sadly. I turned my little whiteboard to her and said to her 'you know place value don't you?'. She looked at me and said 'yeah I do' (looking confused), and I replied 'so you can do this like they can. Use place value). After looking at it for a second, she realised she could do it and then went on to add decimals, in her head, unhelped. She looked so surprised at herself that she could do the same thing that other students (who are known to be really smart) could do. 

Something that happened this week that I felt was a huge indicator of the progress these target students have made, occurred on Monday. Ottilie and I continued our student-sign up workshop thing.

On Monday morning, all my target students chose to go to my workshop instead of Miss Morrison's, even though they knew we were doing the same learning intention. Then they came to me in the afternoon as well (even though they have never done add/sub of fractions before). 

They all said things like
'Miss I want to try it even though its harder'
'Miss I think I can do it'
'Miss I want to try'

That, from kids who last term even would refuse to participate out of fear of getting it wrong. 
Their confidence has grown sooo much this term. 
They finally feel success. Learning their times tables has allowed them entry into that next step of maths, where they had previously been locked out of.

And you know what, they could add and subtract fractions. They did it. 

Syraiah-Lee and Stanley's absences is an on-going issue. They miss the first half of the week, where the 'teaching' happens, and then come on Thursday and Friday and don't know what to do for follow ups. This makes them feel confused and loose confidence, and even if I offer to go through it with them, they don't want to do it because they feel its extra help and that they are dumb (when in reality, they just missed the lesson). 

Week 8
This week to encourage the target students to keep practising their times tables, I made times tables bracelets and made them wear one a day of a times table they didn’t know. It worked surprisingly well, as the rest of the class wanted them as well and hence the target students didn’t feel so weird about wearing the bracelets. Almost overnight, Syraiah-Lee learnt her 4x tables and Paula learnt his 6x tables. I will continue using these bracelets.
Most of the target students have mastered their goals for this term and now need to practice and refine their skills. The bracelets work well as it is a constant in their face reminder of what they need to practice.