Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Cross Grade Grouping

This year we have been in the unique position of implementing cross grade group learning opportunities with our Prep to Year 3 students. At the heart of our school focus lies the belief that by establishing a strong culture of connectedness, we lay the foundations for a compassionate community of purposeful and fully engaged learners. This approach is guided by the understanding that each of us have varying strengths, skill and passion to contribute to our learning community.

Cross grade groups allow students to work with other students of varying abilities, ages and interests. We have found this helpful with students of all ability levels and to be especially useful in developing cross grade friendships with our older students, and particularly valuable for improving the social skills of our younger students. Developing a collaborative school culture that focuses on care, cooperation and consideration requires considerable thought around how students learn best. Learning friendships are a vital element of any school community. Valuing the unique contribution of every learner ensures an embracive approach to learning. This is the journey that we are on.

Multi-level learning opportunities have allowed time for our students who might be struggling to work alongside more able peers in a powerful peer tutoring experience. A student with a strength in reading enjoys the chance to read aloud to a friend while enhancing their own fluency and automaticity. A struggling reader listens to the flow of words, perhaps learns new skills for decoding unfamiliar words (or implements taught strategies with assistance) with both students delving deeper into the comprehension of text through a final discussion at the end. Likewise a struggling reader with strengths in another area is valued for their contribution during the collaboration process at another time. A focus on each students strengths means that every student has something to offer the learning community from their unique perspective. We can all learn from each other, young and old alike. I have learnt a zillion interesting things about the age of the dinosaurs from a very passionate young soul.

The flip side of this is that when we acknowledge those areas that need strengthening, we give ourselves permission to find answers, question thinking, ask for help and allow true learning to take place. Learning should be identifiable by these specific characteristics. On a day to day basis, teachers are always taking into account each students differences in developmental levels and styles and catering for this within the classroom. Collaborating with other teachers and classes extends the parameters of the regular classroom, thus opening new frontiers for learning. This assists in developing wonderfully homogeneous learning contexts.

A collaboration of ability, skill and passion builds strength in every individual.

Monday, 31 August 2015

ipad training in India

What a privilege it was to work with these teachers and help them develop resource and ideas for use in their classrooms with only a single ipad in each class. Last year the ipads were donated to this particular school in Hyderabad through the fundraising efforts of teachers and students at our school on the Gold Coast, Australia. This year we took a team of staff over to train the teachers on the ipads, teach sewing to the young girls and build a much needed playground.

Fun on the new playground

We looked at a variety of different apps for use in the classroom and how teachers could use the ipad as a learning tool with only one ipad in each classroom. My favourite app at the moment is bookcreator. I love this apps ability to integrate learning across various platforms and to record a students learning journey in a meaningful and relevant way. Individual students can create their own ebook and the app allows for multiple users on the one ipad which is helpful when you are restricted with the number of ipads available in the classroom. 

I use this app with my grade two students to document our weekly maths lessons. Each student completes hands on activities before taking photos of their learning. Students then record their learning journey week to week throughout the term. This is a great way to see at a glance how each student is going and if they have mastered new content taught each week. This is a useful tool for ongoing formative assessment. 

Mathematics - Student page (below)

We also use this app for our inquiry based learning tasks (see screenshots below) and to publish our writing. Students can illustrate their work directly on the ipad with the app or they can draw their own illustrations on paper before uploading photographs of their work. 

Inquiry Based Learning Tasks - Student pages

I then save student work via google drive so we can print the ebooks at a later date. At the end of the year students will select their best work to be sent home.

You will love this app!

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

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. 

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?

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

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.