Saturday, 25 April 2015

The ‘Genius Hour’

So here we are well into the school year and about to kick off with the 'Genius Hour, a time given during the school day to allow students the opportunity to engage with the curriculum and learn about topics that personally interest them. Students are naturally curious about the world around them and the Genius Hour fosters this childish wonder and love of learning. It is an opportunity to engage with content at a personal level with passion and purpose. 

The 'Genius Hour' outcomes are to develop a passion for learning through self-manifested and self-directed learning opportunities. Students in the junior primary years need support to develop and refine their research skills, primarily accessing appropriate information and then sorting it out efficiently. I have therefore divided the learning into five segments or steps to help guide learning.

The learning journey is what it is all about!


    1. Wondering - Students should begin to wonder about the topic being studied. What interests them? What would they like to find out? Students then formulate a question after thoughtful discussion. 

   2.  Finding Out – Students make sense of ideas important to them. This is where research begins and students record interesting facts. Encourage students to record their findings – in a notebook, ipad, journal (No worksheets). Refine the finding out to a particular area of interest. 

    3. Reflecting – During the reflection stage, students should be encouraged to ask the question, ‘What is it that interests me the most? At this stage students should reflect and refine learning to analyse findings, evaluate information gathered, make decisions about where the learning is taking them and engage in problem solving processes.

   4.  Designing – How would the student like to present their learning? Students create a product that demonstrates their learning.

    5. Presenting – At the presentation stage, students have the opportunity to show case their learning journey and present the final product to the class.


 An Overview



Wondering 
Complete a ‘What I know now, What I want to know’ chart. What do I already know about this topic, what do I really want to know?


Finding Out
Begin answering the big question and recording interesting facts for the specific area/topic being explored. 


Reflecting
Reflect and refine ideas gathered;
      Analyse and Evaluate… What will work? What do I do next?, How will my product look? What do I want others to know?
      Problem Solve… What are the problems?, How do I solve them?
      Make Decisions… What do I do now? What will I create?


Designing
Begin creating a product that demonstrates the students learning. i.e an ebook, podcast, poster etc.


Presenting
Present Learning to peers


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Get on your way!


Yesterday I gave this to each of my students ... a little goodbye for the end of the year and a great reminder to not let the mountains of life stand in the way of moving forward. 

Yesterday we laughed and cried as we ended a year of incredible growth, not only academically but also personally and spiritually. We have embraced challenge and stepped out of our comfort zones with courage and determination. The seeds of purpose and destiny are flourishing well and I wish all of my students the very best for the season ahead.

As teachers we are often focused on shaping young minds, but I have always found that my heart is shaped in return. 

As my students gathered for one last group hug, I was reminded of the power of who we are as living, breathing humanity. Amidst the tight wrangle of bodies embracing (and giggling) each other, I realised that it is not what we say that has the most sway, but how we make others feel that impacts for the long haul. I pray that every student holds hope tightly in their hands and ends this year not only with a mind full to the brim, but also with a heart full of empowering and loving memories.  

I wish you all a Merry Christmas for the wonderful season ahead.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Life Lessons ~


As a teacher you have to be good at seeing into the future. 
You have to trust that all that you sow into the life of a child in the year that they are in your classroom will really make a difference, you hope it will any way! 

You have to see that child as the sum of all their ability right now but you also need to see them with all of their potential to come. Most of the time we don't see big changes or lasting impact in the year that we have them. 

Change is slow - and growth is hard to see!

In one year we see small changes - increased reading levels, better recall of facts, friendships grow deeper and self esteem blossoms brighter. Sometimes I have the privilege of hearing my students stories, and I am flawed. Their lives are so busy. They face countless hurdles and struggle with big issues. 

I have to remind myself to pause and listen, to really listen to their hearts. There is something about that tender heart reaching out and that precious soul pouring forth. I keep reminding myself that lessons don't always look the same or sound the same. Sometimes the really important lessons happen without any planning at all, right there on the carpet. Its those moments, the life lessons - the ones that I have not prepared for, that seem to make all the difference. 

In the flurry and hurry you might never know the full impact you have on your students, but never underestimate your ability to make someone else's life better - even if you never know it!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A good teacher ~


The teacher life is lived pouring oneself out for the love of others, sometimes it is endless ... this emptying of a heart and soul. It goes on and on, especially when you are bent on achieving that next goal, implementing the next best thing or embracing best practice. There are days, endless days when the light within flickers and ideas grow dim. Energy wanes and creativity is spent ... and then I am reminded that it is this consuming energy that lights the path for the ones trailing the flickering light. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Big heart, little minds ~


Little minds is what it is all about, the filling and moulding of open vessels. 

I have heard a lot lately about the importance of brain compatible learning and more recently the need for 'brain breaks' ... there is an abundance of new research and ideas on fostering the brain compatible classroom. A brain compatible classroom is one where educators realise (as if we didn't already!) that the brain IS the no. 1. organ for learning and we should not allow it to shut down. (Hasn't that been the goal of teachers for centuries!) Truly, it really does provide an interesting topic of discussion (or debate) in the school staffroom. 

So, the goal of every good teacher is now ensuring that the cerebral cortex (of every child in the classroom ... all 28 students)where the vital thinking and learning occurs, does not shut down in your classroom - Help, they are yawning already and its only nine o'clock! My whole day is spent making sure that brains are switched on and ready for learning!


Seriously though, I love this research and that it is a hot topic of educational forums. As we continue to develop brain based education and brain based best practices, we endeavour to continue to pave the way for sound pedagogical practice and do the best for our students ... and this is the very basis of good education and the heart of every great teacher. There is real merit to the science behind brain compatible learning and ensuring that our little peoples brains are fully engaged and utilising all of their potential and capacity. The principles are sound and based on a thoughtful framework for thinking introspectively about teaching methodology. 


Essentially;

The brain should be in relaxed alertness, so an environment of low stress but high challenge.
The brain should be immersed in carefully orchestrated complex and authentic experiences.
The brain should be actively processing and making meaning of these experiences.


And so, in my pursuit of educational soundness, I am now researching the nine elements of brain compatible science that influence learning to ensure that the little people in my care are extracting meaningful patterns (in sufficient time frames) and adequately processing incoming data (because to delay is to lose it - you snooze, you lose!) and are in a classroom devoid of distraction, clutter and over stimulation .... oh dear, better get to it then!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hope for tomorrow ~


I am often reminding my students to think carefully about their decisions as each decision has consequences - good and bad! This works particularly well with managing classroom behaviour.

In an effort to assist my students to make good choices in the classroom we have a behaviour chart that encourages students to work towards making great behaviour choices. This chart works really well as students are required to physically move their peg up or down the chart. Students have a specially marked peg with their name on it and they get to move their peg up or down the chart depending on the choices they make throughout the day or week. Demonstrating good choices and considerate behaviour allows students to move their peg up the chart while inappropriate or unthoughtful behaviour choices requires the student to move their peg down the chart.

At the beginning of the week every child begins on the read to learn card in the middle of the chart and if they have had to move it down, may move it back up to this card the next day so that each child has a fresh start every day - they learn from yesterday and try again next time. There is always hope for tomorrow. If the peg has moved upwards then students keep on moving their peg until the end of the week and do not need to go back to ready to learn each day. However if they fail to make good choices then their peg may get moved back. If students reach the top of the chart by the end of the week, an 'Outstanding Behaviour' note is sent home to parents to notify them of their child's efforts. Children may choose from various rewards for their effort. Notes are also sent home should a student find themselves at the bottom of the chart. It is not often that I need to send a note home for inappropriate behaviour and if it has happened it is very rare to have to do so again. Once is enough! Children love making great choices and encouragement to do so makes all the difference.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Visiting Rwanda ~


Last month I returned from Rwanda after two full weeks spent soaking up the incredible and life changing experiences with its beautiful people. I had the privilege of visiting a number of different schools and working with children so eager to participate in simple craft activities.

I worked with children so eager to use every day educational items like scissors. They snipped with purpose and determination. Such simple things brought pure delight. It is hard to believe that in this day and age, these every day items are not in every classroom around the world. 

It is hard to describe the feeling of watching children as old as ten and eleven so intent on a task that I would otherwise not even think about. The determination on their faces struck me, so engaged and precise in the most simple of activities. Each so focused, with their pursed lips, their steady gaze and careful snipping. The wonder of childhood opened up and filled the four walls of an empty classroom. A simple task became something entirely different. Triumph was palatable, evident in the beaming smiles and shining eyes. 


I stood there in that place and felt the weight of my role. 
The significance of it pressed me, 
reminding me why I chose this livelihood, 
why I love doing what I do. 
It brought me fresh perspective. 

There is something truly beautiful about opening up a world of possibilities to little people. 
Watching them achieve something that they didn't think they could do. 
Every day I have the opportunity to inspire learning about life and the world at large, 
to take children on a journey of discovery. 
This is a privilege.

As teachers we open up possibilities to young people every day. 
It is easy in the every day normality of life to forget the power in this. 
I was grateful to be reminded that what I do should not be taken for granted, 
that what I have to bring can't really be measured this year or next. 
The reality of teaching is something much deeper, 
it is an intangible impartation that can neither be measured 
or even known for years to come. 

Yes, results and data often and do measure progress and outcomes week by week, 
but the true measure of success is layered deep in the heart and soul.
It is buried deep within these little people and built slowly year after year. 
We teach facts and fiction, recite numbers, write stories 
and learn a hundred and one things each and every year. 

But there is so much learning that can never really be measured. 

Rwanda reminded me of that. 
How can we measure the wonder of childhood? 
Or the delight in simple tasks or the building of self esteem from one day to the next? 
What about feelings of success or a renewed belief in oneself? 
How can you measure any of that? 

As I stood there that day, I was reminded that sometimes our smallest successes will be the most important lessons we ever learn. 

Sometimes the smallest things actually turn out to be the biggest things.