Saturday, 17 August 2013

Fleeting (or Floating?) Resources

Unlike many teachers I LOVE planning. I love posing a question and trying to create a framework through which my class can work toward answering it, or at least demonstrate some understanding of the importance of it. I love the challenge, the creativity, the myriad new things I learn... I love it all.

(Of course, we all know that the best laid plans often go astray and that's OK. In fact often it's more than OK, it's fantastic, because it means the students have taken charge of their learning and are taking it where they need to go.) 

Anyway, back to what I was saying... I love planning. I'm regularly amazed at the brilliant resources we have at our fingertips these days.  Check out these great history sites I have discovered recently in my planning of a unit about the voyage and arrival of the First Fleet (For my non-Australian readers: the First Fleet refers to both the actual ships of the first fleet sent by England to Australia in order to transport convicts, and the stories associated with that era/series of events.):
  • Convict Records of Australia: this site gives access to the British Convict Transportation Register with sections about the crimes committed, the individual ships, a timeline, a search function AND best of all tables of data about the convicts that double as a maths resource. 
  • Convicts to Australia, A Guide to Researching Your Convict Ancestors: this site hosts a plethora of interesting links (to First Fleet and convict related information) and quirky little stories. If you don't happen to have any convict ancestors (or any of which you are aware) this site has a fun little app that allows you to create your own. Here's mine...
  • First Fleet Arrives 1788: this is an interesting YouTube clip that addresses the arrival of the First Fleet from a more Indigenous perspective. 
  • Sydney Living Museums: this organisation aims to educate Sydneysiders about history from an insider's perspective, and along the way have put together a fantastic web resource as well. I particularly enjoyed 'A day in the life of a convict'.
  • State Library of NSW First Fleet: this page is a wealth of information but the highlight for me is the animation of the First Fleet's journey on a world map. We watched this as a class, pausing at various points to add to our own maps and discuss why the First Fleet may have stopped at various places. We started the discussion by marking on a world map the various ways we thought the voyage might have gone and compared those predictions with reality. LOVE this animation.
  • My Place for Teachers: as you would expect this is linked closely with the television series. Some good information though.
  • First Fleet Provisions: this site gives a detailed provisions list. Fascinating!
  • First Fleet Convict Dataset: this is a very comprehensive and searchable dataset of the convicts on the First Fleet. Again, awesome cross curricular potential.
  • The First Australians: a brilliant treatment of the First Fleet's arrival from an Indigenous perspective. 
So many more to mention but these are a great start. I have more on my Pinterest 'Classroom Coolness: History' board. I'd love to hear about others. What's your favourite First Fleet resource?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...

Standard 2.2 Content selection and organisation
Standard 2.4 Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to promote reconciliation  between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
Standard 34 Select and use resources

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sharing time...

l'm pretty sure that all of my early school reports said something along the lines of 'does not share her toys well'. I've changed my ways considerably in the interim BUT there are times when even I question my sharing abilities.  More precisely I, sometimes, question whether I have the courage it takes to share.  Perhaps I'm not brave enough to share possible weaknesses?

It doesn't take a particularly skillful psychic to see where this post is going when you consider that, as I've previously mentioned, I'm currently sharing a class. It's a minefield of possible stressors but not necessarily in the way you might imagine. 

I have no issue with sharing the responsibility for this class with my co-teacher. In fact that's quite welcome. I have no issue sharing space with her either. (She's neat, tidy and quite organised: what more could I ask for?) Or even ideas. I LOVE that side of sharing. What's a little scary for me is that I'm constantly sharing my teaching practice in a way that I've never done before. Everything lesson I teach, every activity I design, every piece of work I set is right there on display! Open to be judged and interpreted and... Argh!

I guess it's a good kind of scary though. It's the kind that drives learning and development. So... a'learning I will go. Here are my learning goals (in just numeracy and literacy) for the rest of this term.

  • I want to learn ways to use our available technology to support my numeracy learning program (this is linked to my inquiry question for my staff PLC)
  • I want to learn how to better include reflection in our maths (and other) lessons (we follow Ann Baker's Natural Maths pedagogy so this is particularly important)
  • I want to learn how to create high quality assessment tasks (this is a focus for our staff, and I'm really enjoying the challenge)
  • I want to research ways to help our lower achievers develop better basic number sense (it saddens me to see the depths of the struggle for some of them).
  • I want to learn more about teaching explicit strategies during guided reading (I'm still finding my feet with guided reading so am very keen to learn more)
  • I want to learn how to better enable to children to use the resources available to them when creating their own written work (there are LOADS of resources available, I want to work out ways of better encouraging the students to independently use them rather than ask the adults)
  • I want to learn how to use Edublogs WELL (we've set up a class blog and the children are all very excited so I'm keen to leverage this tool to support strong learning outcomes)
  • I want to research ways to make proofreading an automatic part of our writing process (they're grade 3/4... they're learning to proofread but I want to find tools to help them do it more independently and spontaneously).
Clearly I can identify about three gazillion more things I need to learn in these (and other) areas BUT these are my goals for this term. I'll check back in during the holidays with my progress. In the meantime, I'm keen to hear tips and advice on how to cope with my stress about sharing...

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 6.1 Identify and plan professional learning needs
Standard 6.2 Engage in professional  learning and improve practice
Standard 6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice
Standard 6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning

Thursday, 8 August 2013

It's War!

Early this week our class declared war. Well, not really but it was fun pretending.  As part of a whole school 'Maths Games Day' we ran an 'Addition War' stall and decorated it with genuine army gear (for which I must thank my dear friend +Adrienne Kajewski). Aside from our stall looking awesome...

Our class ROCKED the day with awesome attitudes, about the event and more importantly about maths!

My co-teacher is, amongst other things, the school's maths co-ordinator so this event was her baby. She did a great job. The school gym was split in half with dividers and each half was set up with tables around the perimeter (oooh look at the maths language). In the days/weeks preceding Maths Day each class chose a maths game to learn and then teach the rest of the school.  (Our class tossed up between three games but the competitive nature of most of our kids - and both teachers if I'm completely honest - meant that War was always going to win.) Over the course of the day each class was rostered to visit the gym and learn the games. Each class also rotated through student 'experts' to man their stalls.

The range of games the classes presented was great. The 'expert' helpers from each class really stepped up and were wonderful ambassadors for their class. Our kids went to town with our 'theme' and presented to the stall with war painted faces. (Between you and me, the war paint was my strategy for quickly determining who had already had their turn as an 'expert'... I painted them just before their alloted time.)

Have you ever played Addition War?   It's simple really: 
Our 'take home' instruction slip
  • Remove jokers from a deck of cards and evenly distribute the remainder amongst players (the more players the more challenging the game). 
  • All players place their top card on the table face up.
  • All players compute the total of the cards' value (2-10 = face value, J-K = 10, A = 11) and call out the answer.
  • The first player to call out the correct answer wins those cards and places them to once side.
  • Play continues in this manner until player run out of cards.
  • The player with the most cards is the winner. 

This game is pretty easy to differentiate in both directions. For students who are struggling: reduce the number of players; remove specific cards (I'd start with the aces); provide scaffolding support (posters with rainbow facts etc.) for starters. For high fliers: instead of addition try multiplication; have each player place down two cards and add the resultant double digit numbers; have each player place down two cards and subtract the lowest resultant double digit number from the other. 

Disclaimer: our student teacher introduced this game to our class and taught them how to play.

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities;
Standard 2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area
Standard 2.5 Literacy and numeracy strategies
Standard 3.5 Use effective classroom communication
Standard 4.1 Support student participation

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What's for dinner? Hang around and my class will tell you.

The last couple of weeks have been an absolute roller coaster for me. I've started my new contract and LOVE my class. I think I've mentioned how excited I am to be working with my 'co-teacher', but I'm going to do it again: she's amazing! So much drive and energy! And just a never ending pit of knowledge. I'm like a pig at a trough sucking it all up. (Yep, there's an image you won't get rid of for a while. Sorry!)

We also have a pre-service teacher (student teacher) in the room for the first four weeks of term.  We're all comfortable in acknowledging that it hasn't all been smooth sailing so far but it has been a time of huge growth for us all and  we've definitely hit calmer waters now. It's been fascinating for me to reflect on how much my teaching practice has grown in the past year. 

One things I'm particularly enjoying is the fact that this classroom - in fact this whole school, - follows Ann Baker's maths pedagogy. (In fact today instead of a staff meeting we had a 90 minute professional development session linking her pedagogy to the new national curriculum. Gotta love a school that prioritises ongoing professional development!)

Our numeracy blocks typically follow her pattern of:
  • a mental routine
  • the main part of the lesson (such as strategy teaching or a problematised situation)
  • reflection.
Possibly the most powerful part of this, for me, is tackling problematised situations. In a nutshell we offer problems that have their basis in real life, in ways that the students can relate to, and are engaged by.  The students then use their own (or shared) strategies to find possible solutions. It's a fascinating process that allows the students to apply their understandings and offer reasoned options. 

We're currently working on a rather large situation that involves my class  working toward making recommendations about what I should feed my (six) children. I presented the problem:
I just recently got married, and there are now six children in my family. Yep. Six. They all like different foods. Dinnertime is an absolute nightmare. I don't know how to manage this situation. I wonder if you could help me figure it out?

And  threw it open to them. We're working on data at the moment so they very quickly established that I needed to ask 'a bunch of questions'.  They then provided me with 176 questions to take home to ask the boys. (Oh yes, all six kids are boys.)  There were many repeats and so I ended up with ten questions and related answers.

On presenting this data to the class I commented:
That's lovely but it's not overly helpful. It's a whole bunch of words and numbers on a page. I still need your help.

So now they're all analysing the data to make recommendations.  Each at their own level of understanding.

I've seen tallies, tables, graphs and a few things I can't quite name.

Some students are using information from one question to help shape their recommendations based on other questions. It's AMAZING.

 Now my challenge will be to keep coming up with awesome problematised situations. I realise they don't all have to be this grand,  in fact I'd prefer they weren't, but the challenge is on.  I'd be happy to hear your suggestions.

If you haven't read about, or heard of Ann Baker head over to her website and check her out. I've bought a few of her books and am finding them to be a wonderful resource.

And here's the new bit to my blog. I'm going to try to link my posts to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Feel free to ignore this part if you wish.

Standard 3.1 Establish challenging learning goals; 
Standard 3.2 Plan, structure and sequence learning programs; 
Standard 3.3 Use teaching strategies; 
Standard 4.1 Support student participation; 
Standard 6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice; 
Standard 6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning.