Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Teaching Experience time 'Writing'

My management of 'writing time' has been the same for all of my teaching career. Every time I show teachers how I do it, they think it is a brand new idea, but teachers have been doing similar things for nearly 30 years. I was fortunate to have started my teaching life in a wonderful South Auckland School with an inspiring Principal and an incredible management team. Staff PD was taken by 'experts' on the staff and what I learned at those sessions have carried me through my life of teaching. In later schools I taught at I gained many more strategies that lead me to fine tune my teaching practice. The management procedures I am going to write about I have used with New Entrant to Intermediate, Decile One to ten children.
As I have said many times, Management is the key to successful, productive teaching and learning. Children should know at any one time what they should be doing 'now' and 'next'. I spend a lot of time in teachers' classes, and one of the things I see frequently is children coming up to the teacher saying 'I have finished this, what do I do next?' Here are some of the management strategies and the teaching processes I follow to stop this from happening.
I present the students with a slideshow about the writing genre. There are examples of drafting and publishing, the process is broken down in stages, and there are links to website games.
Step One:
Every day we look at the slideshow but we will concentrate on one aspect. I usually write a class drafting example at the same time, reworking and editing everyday.
Here is the Explanation example I used with these children
Here is a link to a Recount Example.
Step Two:
Modelling of Writing. Here are some examples of how to do this.
  • in the school where I was demonstrating I used an Inspiration framework that I have designed
  • this framework is worked on everyday until it is ready to be published as a class presentation

other examples are
  • Using a notebook page in an IWB or mimo, insert a lined page template and write an example to be edited
  • use the coloured pen editing tools, highlighting and line tools for editing
  • no IWB but have projector; then use Word/Pages, type in the story, editing as you go
  • KidPix: use the pen tool to write the story, change the colours for editing purposes

Step Three:
The Self Managing Taskboard
I have used this taskboard since the early nineties. When we start a writing topic everybody begins at the drafting section. Students then move themselves from drafting to proofreading. They follow all of the proof reading steps ( read aloud, peer proof read etc). Move to Conferencing.

Step Four:

I like to give students plenty of choices when drafting. This encourages some of the reluctant writers as there are some new and different ways of drafting.

Step Five

While waiting to conference with the teacher students can 'do' the Conferencing choices. These cater for student's different learning styles, interests and intelligences. It also means that they always have something to do while they are waiting for me to conference with them.Part of managing themselves students record their conferencing choices onto a tracking file

Step Six
After the student has conferenced with me we discuss which would be the best way to publish their work. Once their work is published they then start a new draft and work through the cycle again. Here is a slideshow with some examples of ways to publish your writing.

Finally here is the Individual Explanation Assessment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaching Experience time 'Maths'

The next few blog posts are going to concentrate on single curriculum areas and how I developed the management and organisation of the teaching and learning time.

Maths was an interesting one, I decided I wanted to teach a particular strand rather than 'Number' so I chose Measurement concentrating on Perimeter, Area and Volume. I wanted the children to become self managing and responsible about their learning so the unit I developed revolved around this idea. You can see the unit by Ctrl clicking (or Command click) on this link. Several years ago I had previously developed a statistics unit where everyday I would start off with whole class teaching session of around 5-10 minutes where I would demonstrate how to create the different types of graphs (laptop connected to a TV set). Students would then work independently through the large number of tasks while I targeted the children who needed help. This worked really well! I had no projector or IWB at this time. So my new challenge was how could I use the mimio to its full potential. And that is when I came up with the idea of the workshops. I created three different workshops; Perimeter, Area and Volume. I designed them so that the students could run it themselves using the mimio.
The daily session would start off with the Class Activity (One slide per day, the example below shows an example of 3 days with answers). If students got any of the problems wrong on the page then they had to attend the Workshop. Students could also choose to be present at the workshop if they wished. I overheard some children saying that they wanted to go to the workshop even though they got the class activity all correct. On observation it was apparent that they enjoyed the collegial working atmosphere.

At the very first Workshop on Perimeter, I lead for the first 5 minutes and then it was obvious that the children could take over themselves, I put one person in charge telling them to make sure that everybody has a turn recording using the mimio pen.
On page 8 of this slideshow is a link to the very excellent site on perimeter. This was a perfect activity for children to do collaboratively and individually as it gives them the answers and totals at the end. Without any prompting from me the students went back and redid the quizzes they got wrong!
While the students were working on the workshop I was able to move around the room talking to individuals or groups if they had created their own group. Sometimes you would find a group of 2 or 3 at the Wii. Quite often children would work in pairs, but there was also several that liked to work alone. It was interesting to note each day that most children liked to work in the same pattern, either in a social group or on their own. The same children also volunteered for the workshop (they liked playing teacher I think!)
Over half of the class were able to organise their time without my intervention, and most (particularly the girls) were able to keep up with the recording of what they were doing. A lot of the boys liked doing the fun stuff with computers, Wii, PSP and iTouch, so they needed a bit of a push in the direction of covering some of the book tasks.
This was a great way to teach as I was able to oversee the whole class and work with the students who needed it the most. There was a relaxed, calm feel about the class as everyone got on with what they needed to do. I think the students liked knowing what they were going to be doing as soon as they came into the room as they had done the planning and thinking about it.
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All of the maths websites were bookmarked on the Class Delicious site and all of the computers, Wii, PSP and iPod Touch internet browsers opened to the Class Delicious page as a Home page. With the Workshops being so visible due to them being projected on the screen with the students using the mimio, I was able to keep an eye on what the students were doing and if they needed any help.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unexpected Outcome - Music

When I was a full time teacher (my day job for the last 12 years has been working with teachers), music was a big part of my day. With guitar and ukulele I would travel. I would be that teacher leading the school or syndicate group assembly in song, or supporting the school 'Kapa Haka' group. I am responsible for introducing many generations of children to The Beatles, Chubby Checker, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater, The Beach Boys and many other classic bands. Back then I always found that music was important to children and they really enjoyed a sing-a-long. One of my most popular reading activity choices was our blown up music chart books where I had typed the songs and photocopied them up to A3 and made them into a book. Children would take those books outside with a metre ruler (for pointing) and sing their hearts out.

I haven't had the opportunity to sing like that with children for several years, and I did not build it into the two week teaching block I have just finished, but what did happen that I did not expect was how the students wanted to use the iPods. I knew they would be interested or curious especially if they haven't had much exposure to them before, but I was not prepared for their overwhelming interest in the music side of the iPod. They loved using them for the Audiobooks. The Belkin Rockstar 5 way splitter ($20) and headsets for $2.99 were a great addition to the reading programme. One group while they were working on their Stormbreaker activity listened to the Audiobook story on the iTouch (this was the students' choice as they had free reign over their decisions of what to do in Reading Choice time).

By the second day students were asking me if they could play music before school using the battery operated (or power) speaker system. So every morning they would set up the iPod touch on the speaker system and play music until the bell went, and then it was like automatic pilot, they would switch off the music and start their day's work.
On the third day I noticed one of the students had a particularly great singing voice, so I showed her the iKaraoke (NZ$110). We hooked it up to the speaker system and she was away, so every morning as well as the music we were serenaded by this young lady.

But one particular use I noticed that sneaked in was students listening to music while they worked. In this photo, the student has just removed the head set to talk to me but he had been working away quietly listening to music.

The most interesting factor I noticed were the type of children who voluntarily used the iPods for music were the most, for a better word, 'rambunctious' lot who had the loudest voices in the class and the 'ones' that you noticed the most in the class. But when they were listening to the iPods, there was a noticeable silence.
These students were on task, doing their work and not bothering anybody else. I had no problem with them listening to music as they worked as that is something I like to do.
It just goes to prove that old adage 'Music does soothe the savage beast [sic]!'

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Walking the Talk Day Seven

Volume session went well with most children doing well on the Class Activity.
Some had to stay back for the Volume workshop and they worked well in a peer teaching session.

Teachers that were visiting were impressed with how 'on task' the children were, and how engaged in their learning.

Later I got the 'Year 4' expert in Digital Lego to demonstrate to other students (and teachers in the room) how to use some shortcuts and tricks to create models using the projector and laptop.

Everyday I show a new example of how to publish in an interesting way. Today was 'Journal Page' which is where you have several pictures covering one page and text is placed on top. I will have some student examples of those tomorrow. Here is a Comic Slideshow example created by one student
and one created in Comic Life!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Walking the Talk Day Six

Another great day with some excellent students. Maths is an interesting challenge as the students are streamed throughout the school so you have students coming from year 4 to 6. This is a particularly good bunch, very articulate and clued up! So I have a large group of students moving into the classroom every morning. They understand the routines well (even when I change them at the last minute). The whole idea of the maths organisation was for the students to be 'self managing', which they are but only with the things they really want to do, so I have had to inject a little more teacher direction. Now when they come in they have to do the 'Class Activity'. Once that is completed, students come up and use the mimio pen to write the answers, explaining as they go how they got that answer. The rest of the class has to agree with the answer, if not there is more discussion. Anybody who gets any of the answers wrong have to stay for the 'Workshop'. The students run the workshop that I have prepared.

I'm listening as I work with other students and jump in when I need to.

If I see that a child understands then I send them off to complete their other tasks.

In this example the child is using the 'Wii' to access games that have been saved to the 'Wii's' Favourites list.

There is the class Delicious page that their classroom teacher has set up and I have added to it. The students know that they can go into this to access the websites I think that have the appropriate games and quizzes for them.

Some of the students have started on their Google Sketch up and Lego Digital Design assessment tasks where they have to design a technological classroom annotated with measurements showing perimeter, area and volume.

More on Research Topic
I will post later on the research topic as there is so much to cover but here are some photos of students at the searching for information using keywords stage!
This group were thrilled as they found the answer to their question as to 'Why the Internet was invented?'
These two worked well together using the iPhone!
Some kids like to work on their own, this one is using the iTouch and listening to music at the same time!These two used the wireless internet feature on the Wii to find their information.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Walking the Talk Day Five

I haven't seen the children since Thursday last week (ran a course for teachers on the Friday!) I was interested to see if they could remember the routines, I was pleasantly surprised, everything ran as if I hadn't been away. This reinforces what I always say to teachers... if you have strong routines, high expectations, and well organised management (and a quiet voice) all students will respond well. It doesn't matter if they are decile one or ten, they still respond in the same way. I did this same 'teaching experience' in a decile one class a couple of years ago, and a couple of teachers that have visited so far have seen me 'in action' in both schools, using the same management techniques and children reacting in the same way.

Most of the students are using the mimio well and are quite capable of calibrating it. Surprisingly enough we do not have to calibrate that often (maybe 3 times a day) even though the projector sits on a table in the middle of the room. Students have become very adept at it.

Everyday for writing I demonstrate a different way of publishing. Today I modelled Comic Life for Publishing. Children have used it before so several of them worked at it confidently. Some are working on Photo Story 3 (free for Windows), publishing on their wikipage or typing it up in Word or Pages with Borders, titles and their Superhero graphics. Some have published using the Publish button in Inspiration. One child has made a Podcast 'with a little help from his friends', all of which we will add to his wikispace.
I only have 3 more days left so I'm going to show them my 'Comic Slideshow' idea in PowerPoint and upload to Slideshare and how to create an iMovie in 3'easy' steps!

Update on Research topic: I think they get what I mean about creating Research questions and keywords. We will be searching for information tomorrow!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Walking the Talk Day Four

Day started off well with children completing their before school 'Morning Task', selecting News headlines, This day in History and weather. All 3 children reported back to the class using the mimio to screen clip and then the pens to highlight important points.

We had an interesting afternoon working on our research skills. I took the class through the following slideshow and we tried out some of the activities. Interestingly enough, they had never heard of Christopher Columbus but they were able to discern from the information provided on the 2 different websites which was the real information and which was false!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Walking the talk: Day three

The children are settling into their routines well. The early morning task went well with the timetabled students screen clipping the news headline, weather and this day in history. It was great to see other children helping the students if they were not sure of what they were doing.
We used the screen clippings later in the morning as the children who had collected them reported back to the class. We used the News Headline to highlight what keywords are, as this is a focus of our Research Unit.

Maths went well with more of the children starting to get the hang of organising themselves. There are still some children that need to be directed back to their assessment sheets. A few more internet problems happened but it all was going well by morning tea.
Writing time went smoothly with students going straight to their tasks once we had the teaching point of the day, which was conjunctions. We looked at conjunction game altogether. I used the mimio pad and that was passed around as students took turns at answering the questions 'with a little help from their friends'.

Everyday I like to show an example of excellent publishing, whether it is something that a child has done or a piece I have put together.
Today I demonstrated how you can turn an Inspiration framework into a published piece of writing.

Here is the Explanation framework, this is a piece I use for modelling.
I showed the class how you use the 'Transfer' button to transfer the writing into Word.

It appears with the Framework as a graphic and the text only also appears so that they can edit their work. It was really that 'just in time' learning as they learned how to highlight text, turn bullets off and use the decrease indent button to align the text to the right of the page.

Next I presented a finished exemplar reiterating my expectations of a high quality finish to their publishing.
I was very pleased with some of the work that was done after this teaching session!.

The Reading programme went very well with all children on task and doing a variety of activities from adding to their Chapter Title Assignment, Listening to Audiobooks via iPod, cloze activities using the mimio...or just reading!

Students decided on their Research Question today after a lot of drawing out of the previous knowledge they had attained, but more on that another day!