Tuesday, 22 May 2018

High Expectations Teaching - Christine Ruby-Davies

Are high expectations important? Educators who hold high expectations of their learners support their self-efficacy and belief. Whilst pushing their students to engage with challenging material, they are not only supporting higher achievement outcomes, but they are demonstrating their belief in their learners, which in turn supports the students belief in themselves.

Image result for no one rises to low expectations

High expectations teachers hold the whole class accountable; they do not only hold high expectations of the 'extension' or 'accelerate' learners. These views are expressed both explicitly and implicitly through all areas of teaching. This could be through their teaching statements, feedback, questioning/responding, behaviour management and learning content. It is estimated that a quarter of teachers can be identified as high expectation teachers, while between 1/6 and 1/8 of teachers hold low expectations of their learners.

Traits of high expectations teachers

  • High expectation teachers tend to use flexible or mixed ability grouping as opposed to ability grouping. This illustrated their expectation for the students to develop their ability throughout the year. 
  • They set clear goals with their students and provided them feedback to support them to meet these goals. 
  • They cultivated a class community where the students support each other. 
  •  Their  learners have choices regarding their learning learning and take responsibility for their learning.
Rubie-Davies identifies the top three traits as being flexible grouping, establishing a positive class climate and goal setting. 

My Takeaways
  • Keep flexible grouping and changing the groups within my class
  • Send notes home or call home when students have performed really well
  • Continue to set goals with learners and provide feedback based on these goals (this has been a focus over the past month and it has been going very well).
  • Keep checking that the students have a clear understanding of the learning intention and success criteria
  • Encourage the students to evaluate their progress based on their own goals.

Monday, 21 May 2018

MIT Day 2

We, the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers, met once again at KPMG today to discuss our inquiries and collaborate to extend our thinking. My inquiry is focussed on addressing the issue of decelerated achievement in literacy for students in year 7 and 8 who attend Manaiakalani Schools.

After discussing this issue with my fellow MITs and other experienced educators, I realised that the students face the same issues in both reading and writing. They struggle to use the language of learning (nouns, verbs, topic sentences etc.), to interpret and use academic vocabulary and to consider their audience. I realised that by explicitly connecting reading and writing I would be able to address these concepts in greater depth.

I went back to the research that I had previously found on connecting reading and writing and realised how effective this would be. The students become more aware of how their actions affect their audience (when they experience the techniques authors have used through their reading lessons) and they develop a clearer understanding of what these techniques are and why they are important.

I have spent the first part of this year going over the structure of writing with my students. We have focussed on the idea that an audience will become disengaged if they are confused about what they are reading. However, using subtitles, topic sentences, one idea per paragraph etc. can guide a reader through a text. We spent time analysing different exemplars that illustrated the use of these features and considered them in both our reading and writing lessons. I have been impressed with my students progress so far in this area; the vast majority of the class know the structure of a non-fiction texts and paragraph structure. They are also using different types of sentences in their writing.

My next step will be to take this analysis further and to look at the deeper features of a text. As the students have learnt the basics of text analysis now they should feel more comfortable to do this and I am really looking forward to these lessons.

What I must now consider is what to focus on for my tool. I have a growing folder of focus texts that other educators could use for analysis, which I could easily turn into a website or resource, but I am not sure this is the direction that I should go in.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Plan for what's in front of you; James Hopkins

Are we using the opportunity to teach rich conceptual understandings or are we simply teaching factual information? James Hopkins challenges educators to teach the 'why' and cater it to the 'who', as opposed to focussing simply on the 'what', or teaching a series of facts.

For example, many educators 'cover' the Treaty of Waitangi, by encouraging students to learn the main facts of the event, as opposed to looking at it through a conceptual lense and posing deeper questions, such as how it is relevant in 2018, who benefited etc.

But we are still concerned with curriculum coverage, of covering content. When we plan we focus on our curriculum achievement objectives, but rarely do we visit the key competencies or values when we flick through the curriculum document. James asked us to highlight a piece of our planning indicating where we were teaching content, behaviour and skills. As a group, we noted the large amount of 'content' in our planning, as opposed to behaviour or skills. I found that my weekly planning incorporated far more 'skill' and 'behaviour' than our overviews, which I expected. This illustrates that we start with the curriculum and content, the 'what'.

James compared this to our 'Learn, Create, Share' cycle, as we understand that we can start at any stage of this, sometimes we create to learn, or start by sharing our prior knowledge. When we plan are we considering our school values or the key competencies? Do we plan to start at create or share? Do we plan for our learners, their experiences, their culture, their worlds? Are we deliberate enough when we make these plans? 

Overall, it was a very thought provoking and inspiring session that I will carry with me as I complete my planning next term.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Keynote 2: Once Upon Our Time

 Lindsay Wesner's keynote was about storytelling. She began with her own story, one not to disimilar to my own; a little girl who grew up with very little access to technology and who was greatly challenged when she was asked to use it a school. However, Lindsay began her teaching career at the blackboard using worksheets and exercise books. At the time this was the norm, she was respected by her colleagues and her students experienced success. Then she found herself lost in a 1:1 Macbook class.

This could have very easily been me; I learnt basic IT skills at high school, but I would have struggled in a 1:1 classroom had it not been for the professional development I gained from the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy. It was great to hear Lindsay's story as it reminded me of how far I have come and how fortunate I am to be capable of presenting at such an event so early in my career. It also reminded me to slow down when presenting and to be considerate of those who are at the start of their journey with technology and education.

Lindsay described the discomfort she experienced as she adapted to the 1:1 classroom.  She tried one new thing each week to develop her understanding of technology and to make the change more manageable. Then she asked us to consider whether we are still taking risks and trying new things, or whether we have become complacent with where we are now; just as she was at her blackboard. This was a good reminder that we cannot stop learning and adapting our practice, we must continue our stories and question where we will reach our climax.

While time and the curriculum can be viewed as constraints, the real constraint is our mindsets. As educators we must find the time to be innovative, to challenge our current practice and to be committed to constantly adapting our practice. We cannot become complacent.

She then asked how often we ask our students to tell their stories. This again caused me to reflect on my practice, as I am a firm believer in sharing my stories with the children and I have attempted to solicit my students. However, I don't believe I am doing nearly enough of this, or in enough depth. Hearing some of the things that Lindsay has done with her students in the past inspired me to push further with this and to give more of a platform to my students to share their stories.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Session 1: Digital Tools for Student Voice

As someone who regularly sends out Google Forms to elicit student voice (generally regarding student engagement and learning), I was eager to attend Jan Marie Kellow's session 'Digital Tools for Student Voice'.

This session started by looking at the use of some of my favourite tools; Google Forms (which I use heavily), Answer Garden (which I tend to use to gather prior knowledge) or Padlet (which I use as a sharing tool).


We then looked at the use of Google Slides - which could be used similarly to Padlet, but with each child creating their own slide to respond to the prompt or question. While I do use Collaborative Google Slides, I had not thought of doing this before. At the same time, I use Google Draw pretty often, but I had not thought of using a collaborative draw in a similar manner to AnswerGarden. I quite like this idea as the students could easily save it to their drives and reflect on it in the future.

Some other ideas that I enjoyed were using My Maps as part of an introduction - identifying important places to the child and linking MyMaps to a Google Form. We also looked at Flipgrid - it is similar to Padlet in it's layout but it requires the student to record a short video response instead of text. Another free to use version of this is called 'Recap', which I am quite interested in investigating further.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Unconference: Hangarau Matihiko

This afternoon I elected to investigate Hangarau Matihiko or the Digital Curriculum. I went in feeling quite comfortable designing and developing digital outcomes, but feeling like I need some support to incorporate computational thinking into my teaching. I was also curious to see how this might look in Māori medium schools and what the reo behind this might be.

I was really excited to learn some kupu hou that involved technology - things like Netflix (Haoata), Google (Kūkara) and Meme (atakata). I thought that these would be wonderful to incorporate in my classroom as we so often use these kupu. It was really interesting to learn how these new words are created and approved.

We looked at some Māori contexts that could be used to teach computational thinking or te whakaaro rorohiko, such as placing mattresses in the Marae, setting a table, making Kai, flax weaving. The more relevant we can make that computational thinking, the more engaging it can be. It is all about identifying patterns and using algorithms. For more support, we looked at getting a Digital Passport, a site which takes you through the new digital curriculum.

We ended the session with an awesome vocab game called papaki, which was a bit like snap but with te reo. It was pretty fun and I can imagine my children would really enjoy it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ignite: My Takeaways

The first presenter,  Dorothy Burt lead a thought provoking session regarding educational policy. She asked us to reflect upon New Zealand's history in Education. She took us back 60 years to look at the hands on approach that educators such as Elwyn Richardson used. This was a time of creativity, where students loved learning and were provided with rich learning experiences.

She linked the lack of creativity and tactile experiences in today's curriculum to the recent announcement by the Ministry that they would once again review educational policy. She asked teachers to find time to create learning experiences that require creativity during the holidays.

Anthony Speranza sought to give us hope that it is possible to change our teaching. He spoke of asking his students what they thought a good learner was. This idea had been presented to me at PD before and it had previously challenged my thinking. This year I made sure to begin by explicitly discussing the difference between learning and behaviour and I continued the conversation throughout the term. Anthony noted that teachers need to model the behaviours that we hope to see in our learners. We need to take risks and model a growth mindset if that is what we expect our learners to hold. I will continue to enact these behaviours in the classroom and I will keep the dialogue open.

Dot Apelu then took us through her inquiry regarding writing and blogging. It was pretty cool to get more of an insight into the college and the way that they are continuing to use blogger. She created some wonderful authentic experiences for her learners to engage them and she saw great acceleration because of this. I also realised what a fabulous person she would be to connect with in the future and I will definitely be following her blog.