Sunday, 22 December 2013

#LoveReading #LoveBooks

I have a distinct advantage when it comes to reading, my name regardless of spelling, conjures up questions about reading. Especially when people have known me long enough to start name jokes. There's never been anything witty, amusing or even original but they occur often enough.

"You're name is Reid and you like to read, hahahaha, make sure you spell your name right".

I don't remember learning to read, or even having my parents read to me, but my brothers and I were surrounded by books at home.  Grandma was a particularly avid reader and as a former school teacher must have had a positive influence on my attitude to reading, going to her house was always fun and every time we would pore over her collection of Asterix titles. One set of cousins had the full Munch Bunch and Sesame Street collections, while at my Nana's I always looked forward to buying more Commando comics from the dairy.  By the time I'd finished primary school the Hardy Boys, Willard Price adventures, amongst countless other series, had all been read, enjoyed and put aside for the next enthusiastic reader. Like many high school bored me with the never-ending list of activities to prove that had read and knew the book! I can tell you some of the book choices I loved: The Outsiders, Z for Zachariah, and Owen Marshall's Fat Boy (an amazing short story). I was one of those kids reading ahead so I didn't know where the rest of the class was up to, even worse some teachers would say that you couldn't take the book home.

"Its not fair on the others, everyone needs to be at the same place".

The real joys of high school reading were in discovering the harsh realities of war through countless World War II biographies and adventures of Colditz Castle, the Victoria Cross, El Alamein, Tobruk, Cassino. Sports, music & political biographies were churned through as well as all sorts of spy novels. However, I have to confess I never read classics like Lord of the Rings or the The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

After university I even spent about 3 years working in bookstores, during which time I introduced myself to Harry Potter, Frodo, Neil Gaiman and even some contemporary literature. I now consider myself a very well rounded reader (excuse the pun for those who know me well).

Becoming a teacher has presented its own challenges for reading, already I've developed a tidy collection of picture books for use in the classroom, some like "I need a new bum" are purely for entertainment. The picture book section at the Sylvia Ashton-Warner was a constant place for relaxing during training. But I was also exposed to many great books and some cool things for learning to read, my favourite being reciprocal reading and a title called The Mozart Question.

Reid = reading, #lovebooks #lovereading

After two years I'm proud of the reading time in my class, kids have nearly always made progress, although a few have still not been able to achieve National Standards. I have a healthy programme during the year that includes independent reading, KiwiKidsNews, reciprocal reading, blogging, Starfall. One highlight of this year undoubtedly was when the class burst into song during shared reading of Alice in New York, fabulous interactive book that we never finished. We've also had several engaging bodies of work to celebrate our enjoyment of books, especially the The Day the Crayons Quit and Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.

Alice is indicative of a few problems in my class though, we didn't finish it because some of my boys were getting bored with the plot and for others it was just too long. So why were they down there? Did I naively believe that by forcing them to sit still and listen that they would enjoy the book and come to #lovereading. One group of boys regularly asked to continue with this shared reading activity, they would load it up on the smart board and take turns at reading. This mixed ability group would help each other with the vocal, making meaning of the text and occasionally would turn to me to clarify something, but this highlights problems too. This was working for them, but not others.

Providing books for the whole class, shared reading at a class level and plenty of time for reading isn't going to create lifelong readers, it's tantamount to a shotgun marketing approach.

In hindsight I haven't modelled being a reader very well. I read aloud often but not as regularly as possible and one of the first things to go in any day has been my SSR time. Compounding this I often do marking or tidying during reading time and in the interest of keeping the class happy will allow some to sit there and draw, am I subconsciously saying to the class that if they've got something better to do than reading then that's ok? This doesn't promote the importance of reading, Donalyn Miller attributes her success at creating readers to her status in the classroom as a reader. I need to do better!

Picture these three little scenarios that happened towards the end of this year and think about how it would affect your budding readers.

Boy 1: Was always trying to find books to read but had a low reading age, the books he would independently select were too difficult and would result in him being back at the class library very quickly trying to choose another book. But he was crestfallen when in trying to help him select an appropriate book I told him that particular books were too difficult or well above his reading level. 

Boy 2:  Told me that he knows how to read enough and the only thing he likes reading is the comics about the Incredible Hulk.

Boy 3: Was that child who would rather draw than read, but late in the year I discovered his fascination with World War II.

I'm in the business of creating readers and all three of these children were not being led towards being  lifelong readers. I buy a lot of books for my classroom with my own money,  but these holidays I'm on the lookout for books that will rectify these problems. Books by Jim Eldridge are top of the list, along with Commando comics and a couple of books I remember loving as a boy. I also need a pile of  superhero comics. However, many of new class were excited just at seeing the existing book collection.

Most importantly, I need to become more like the person who is reading at home at school. The Book Whisperer had a huge impact on me, not because of some big revelation within the text. Simply for the fact that I came to understand that I was asking children to commit to being lifelong readers without ever really showing them my commitment to reading. As a teacher I have established great book resources, valuable connections with book people through Twitter and blogging but I need to take that passion to another level.

I look forward to undertaking the 40 book challenge with my class next year.

Monday, 16 December 2013

New class = new learning

We've reached the inevitable end of another school year and although I have accomplished many things this year, my teacherbrain has been in overdrive thinking about next year. Today I got to start implementing these ideas when we had Meet the Teacher, particularly some ideas revolving around getting to know your class.

In trundled 25 of my 30 children full of wonder, intrigue, apprehension and no doubt some worries. 

My first two attempts (in previous years) at this were about laying down expectations, the culture of the class and getting to know some names. This year I wanted to lay the foundations for getting to know them but first I outlined several of my passions (ICT, reading, art & sport). They reciprocated through a post it note - 25 little jewels that tell me something they wanted to share about their likes.

What a treasure trove! 

Nearly half of this class love Minecraft, I have been quite curious about integrating Minecraft in the
classroom but this year I only had 2-3 kids who were avid participants. The first question my new class asked me as I expressed delight at this finding, "Could you please set up a Minecraft server for the classroom?".  In order to leverage this passion, I have to up skill but what an exciting prospect. Writing, reading, art, maths & reading will all be able to piggyback on this finding.

Lego also featured among the likes, similar to Minecraft there are 1000s of ways that a teacher can utilise this.

I was also pleased to hear that some of the kids love to read, most importantly, they saw the book collection in my room and oohed & ahhed. One child's enthusiasm was especially important. I'll need to work hard to keep her engaged before she becomes enraged so hearing that she loves reading was a small victory. I've been reading Donalyn Miller's "The Book Whisperer" lately, so have been reflecting constantly on my reading programme and wonder if she became an underground reader in her previous class. Another year means a fresh start.

Lots of other things were divulged in the PostIts, none of it is earth shattering but I now have 25 of my class each showing me a way to personalise or differentiate their learning. I've got a class that includes children who like play dough, chess, art, role playing games, spiders, swimming and many others.

Next year I'll have a new class and the learning journey will continue, when my new class returned to their old rooms I was the one left full of wonder, intrigue, apprehension and worry.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My 2013 school report

"He has a cool teaching personality"

My class receive their final reports at the end of week 8, no doubt there will be anxiety, nerves, pride and hopefully a little humility when facing their caregivers with these treasure troves of information.
Compiled on Notability

It hardly seemed fair that I would send these home without giving my students a reasonable opportunity to comment on my progress this year. I asked them if they thought this would be fun and although they were surprised they were definitely excited. Admittedly, I was definitely a little worried that some might get carried away!

Socrative was my method of delivery vehicle, as its easy to use and I knew that the report produced would be user friendly.

I'm impressed by their honesty and feel very humble at the love they have shown for our classroom. But it was reassuring to see that they also offered some constructive criticism that is quite reasonable (Te Reo, talking/fidgeting).

The criticism actually highlighted a couple of things which I will definitely take on board. It was quite a fun process and I've enjoyed the chance to let the kids have a go, we need to show them that we can take constructive criticism as we certainly dish a fair bit out as teachers.  Along the way I've also had a little play with some Notability and Sketches.  Notability gets some huge wraps from many reviewers but it doesn't have a "Save to Photo Library" option, a basic for many Apps, however its easy to take a screen shot but that's just not the same is it!

I'm aware that there are many formal tools that schools implement to give students a chance to provide feedback for their teachers, I'd love to hear from some of you who do this as I think it would be beneficial to do this again next year.
Compiled on Sketches

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Writing inquiry - digital platforms

As the end of 2012 and my first year of teaching came to a close I was dissatisfied with my writing programme, I'd had some success but was faced with a lot of reluctant writers, a mixture of poor-great writing lessons and many more questions than answers. Compounding matters I'd attended a Learning Network PRT session about the use of ICT. Walking away from that session I believed that using Twitter, student/class blogs and other online tools may play a significant role in moving my writing programme forward.

My goals were as follows:
Provide an audience for my budding writers. (Twitter, blogging, quad blogging)
Engage the children through online learning tools or Apps. (Collaborative writing tasks, blogging, digital publishing).

As I write the class blog has currently generated almost 16,000 page views, hundreds of comments, countless posts and Quadblogging forms a regular part of our reading and writing programme. Meanwhile, several students have made pleasing progress with their own blogs. The class twitter account is constantly used, has over 100 followers and is a consistent attendee on Kidsedchatnz. But this is not the success I want to celebrate here, even if there is plenty of improvement to be made in the kids work or my writing programme.

By delving into the digital world headfirst there have been many benefits but these three are worth sharing:
  • A class blog and twitter feed can provide connection with the class when children are away, I love that some of my class will write posts just to stay in touch. 
  • As students have arrived or left room 1 the class blog and Twitter have provided a connection with previous schools and old friends. This helps with the settling in period and has also provided a sense of understanding amongst the students as they get to know each other. New students may class blog and twitter feed can provide connection with the class when children are away, I love that some of my class will write posts just to stay in touch. 
  • The online tools and apps have provided a way to manufacture children into leadership positions as they become class experts. It is easy to provide a website or tablet to a child so that they can be the first in the class to experience a tool. This puts them in a role they may not normally experience helping some of my children to build their confidence and has added to their motivation in class.
  • I had hoped that the blog may also assist in promoting Te Reo. Our school has employed a Te Reo specialist but I wanted my students to receive more than this, especially my Maori children and hoped that they may use the blog and even twitter to communicate in Te Reo. When I first suggested this I was given a half hearted reply. But in the last few days two student blogs have started and they both want to promote their Te Reo Tajae's blog Pare's blog Their blogs even have the ability to complement teacher resources, as they are intent on promoting their language in ways that are authentic and therefore real to other students.
  • Blogging and Twitter have both provided a constant supply of examples where my class are meeting the Key Competencies. They need to: work hard to communicate meaningfully with other people; manage themselves and their blog efficiently and effectively; use language, text & symbols; many have chosen participate and contribute by promoting their own cultures and interests to other people.
Many of my HNS colleagues are intrigued by blogging and twitter, hopefully this might inspire a few to make the calculated shift into blogging, twitter and other online learning platforms.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Getting to know your students

Term 4 is rapidly drawing to a conclusion and nestled amongst all the testing and report writing is the realisation that I have to be thinking about next year. Our year group has a deadline of week 6 for their reports to management (I'm making great progress!) but in various teams we're meeting to decide on important aspects of next year. As a BT I just want to get this one finished, but I'm so excited about 2014 and continuing my own learning.

All the inputs I use to get to know a student.
My latest wonderings have surrounded getting to know my kids, how I might best do this, surprise at the things I'm learning about them still and the desire to rewind so I could use these facts to better teach them.

Why have I been thinking about this?

  1. A week or so ago we organised our classes for next year (I'll explain this process shortly) and hence I'm curious about my next bunch. 
  2. This week I've seen one of my more reluctant kids wow me with his enthusiasm & engagement. 
  3. I have been surprised by the ongoing release of details from students about their lives. 
  4. Ongoing discussion about my kids going to other classes and the kids coming towards mine.
At the start of the year we hand out an introductory report, about week 5, it includes a section for parents to help us get to know their kids. Around the same time our school hosts an event for parents to meet the teacher. All of this is designed to help build that relationship with the whanau and learn more about the child.
The teacher involvement in class allocation is intriguing, everyone has their views based on teaching styles, curriculum strengths/weaknesses, passions, personality etc. Clearly there is a need to take each teachers opinions onboard when considering your approach to teaching a child the next year but without a doubt, I am different to you (whoever you are). Which brings me to the point that I still need to get to know each child based on my 'Almost Clean Slate' approach.

I do all sorts of things to get to know my kids. Lots of different activities, plenty of time invested, a little bit of myself is shared and I listen. But it's way too early to think I am doing this vital part of our role to the level that it deserves. I believe I'm doing a good job I just want to do better and I know that there is no replacement for time invested in these relationships.

I'm hatching a plan that involves several strategies, as follows:
  • A short adventure learning activity early in term 1.
  • Google form on the class blog over the holidays for parents & students.
  • A family tree activity for class display.
  • Multiple intelligences type activity.
I love sharing my passions with my students, I believe I'm easy to get along with and relatively personable. But that doesn't make it easy to get to know students, not the important bits that assists you when teaching them anyway! Yet it's one of the most crucial aspects of being a teacher. 

Your views, suggestions (especially for professional reading) or comments for getting to know your class are all valued, here or through twitter. 

I'm off to learn more about my kids.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Twitter, PD and Kidsedchatnz

Lots of people have advocated for the use of Twitter in education, here is another piece and it is well worth noting the great supporting article for Kidsedchatnz.

Education review article

Friday, 25 October 2013

6 weeks & counting

My PRT time is rapidly drawing to a close, as we complete final testing and write reports I'm also trying to round out my requirements to meet my registration. I've just sent my form away but am pushing to fit all sorts of PD into a busy schedule, both school-wide and individual stuff. I'm starting to feel less like a BT these days and certainly not the one who started February 2012.

Ian, my MT, helps greatly, today after completing his own work he came and sat in on a science class. He shared a resource with me to advance the lesson and talked candidly about how to improve the lesson as well as follow the lesson up. he's done a good job, I'm no carbon copy but I was pleased, when told by someone else, my interests are rubbing off on him too.

Planning for the rest of the term is going well: lots of hands on science, we're using the pool for more than just PE, my maths has moved outside the classroom and we have a couple of great trips scheduled.

Next week I'm off to a course at the mighty learning network! have a writing observation and am doing 3-4 observations. The writing is all as part of my role as literacy leader but serve duel purpose for a BT obviously. The learning network course crept up on me and highlights my principal's realisation that I can't read a calendar.

To try and help with my final assessments I booked a reliever for Monday so I could take a release day. I gave the form to the boss, she accepted it gladly. About 10 minutes later, she plonks the form down in front of me and suggests that I pay for the reliever seen it would be double time - Labour Day!

I guess I'm still learning but I think I have found an app to organise my life better, furthermore I'm sure someone on twitter will tell me what day it is!

Enjoy your weekend, all 3 days of it! I will.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Adventure learning - 1st attempt

This term I introduced my class to Adventure Learning. Our school was going to have our senior show and I knew my students would need a project to keep them on task while they were being pulled this way and that for their many commitments.

I had several great people to discuss my plans with, including both in-school support and some Tweeps (thanks especially to @simone015). But there were still mistakes to be made, lessons to learn and reflections to be had.

Last week our school presented the show and this week several students have presented their topics to the class. I'm certainly not going to have a 100% completion rate, I didn't expect to however I would have liked to see more projects being finished and shared with the class. Part of this bound to be my input, some kids deserved more scaffolding with self directed learning. They would have been better working in small groups with some hand-holding from their teacher, I was confident that they would get there but its been difficult trying to balance a severely constrained timetable, letting them explore their passion and trying not to take over (especially with some projects which were uber-cool!). 

  • Next time: a mix of individual, pair & group projects is required to balance interests & learning needs.
Expectations of quality are difficult to moderate. I've been pleased with what I have seen but thought I might have my socks blown off, this hasn't happened. However, the class is on their 1st attempt at such a project and I haven't modelled an Adventure Learning project to them. Success is hard to measure when you have no experience with this type of project.

  • Next time: I'm doing an Adventure Learning project too, maybe I'll even include some students with higher learning needs.

A handful of kids have moved swiftly to beginning another Adventure Learning project. Clearly they have become motivated learners, or at least found a suitable outlet for their motivations. The computer time before school has been graduated from games and blogging, to blogging and adventure learning. These two developments are both positive but I now need to integrate this energy across our timetable.

  • Next term: I need to provide opportunities for children to pursue learning in their own interests in more curriculum areas (I guess I'm looking at personalising learning more successfully).
It has been a positive move for classroom management too, it hardly takes a rocket scientist to understand that pursuing your own interests increases engagement and motivation. Some of my more difficult students have been more productive this term.

  • Next term: Can I continue this in other areas of curriculum?

I've loved the questioning, discussion and engagement that Adventure Learning has introduced to my classroom. I won't give it an A+ on its first attempt but do believe that it has demonstrated enough positives to warrant another attempt next term.

Now I just have to work out what my project will be for next term...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Engaging in PD, making it count.

Last Thursday I attended a course on Blended Learning provided by TTS. I'd headed down hoping to learn more about planning and designing better integration of my BYOD devices, desktops and the school iPads. But I also got some first hand experience with the Socrative tool, I'd heard a lot about this but just never translated this into classroom use.

My problem with using Socrative before Thursday was I thought it was reasonably similar to using Google Forms, which I do use. Further, I couldn't imagine that I would be able to use Socrative effectively when I don't teach in a 1:1 classroom.

The facilitator demonstrated Socrative throughout the morning (albeit in a 1:1environment), so problem 1 was solved. Socrative can be used with far less set up, it took me 2-3 minutes today to train up my 2 of my BYOD students to help as class experts and with a very quick introduction we had the class all using this today.

However, immediately prior to this class is lunchtime. I was chatting with our DP and we were discussing meetings for the week, including a planning and curriculum mapping meeting. I suggested Socrative, gave him a quick run down (based on my limited knowledge) as the bell rang and headed back to class.

My plan for my afternoon lesson involved using a Thinglink image of the Painted Apple Moth to discuss a variety of issues that surrounded this pest and how it was eradicated. Using Socrative this became much more effective and the students loved the more interactive element.

I can't create a 1:1 environment, we have 3 desktops, 2 BYOD devices today plus my phone to use with 25 students in class today. Nothing like jumping in the deep end! With some creative questioning, smart use of peer/share activities and rotation of students using the desktops we made good use of Socrative on our 1st attempt. The class told me that they enjoyed its use in the class and it added a different element of voice even if one response was a tad over the top:

 T: How do you think they eradicated the Painted Apple Moth?
 S: They could shoot it with a Tomohawk Cruise Missile.

I recognise that some days I'll have several more BYOD devices in the room, boosted by school iPads and during ICT week every child would have a laptop. All of these circumstances make including Socrative even more favourable. The instant feedback was fantastic but it also gave me another management tool, data to base decisions on rather than just feel and allowed everyone a voice.

After school, I visited the DP, here he is setting up a quiz to use at our staff meeting on Wednesday. So we quickly trialled his quiz.

Engaging in PD isn't about just attending, instead taking valuable advice or resources and putting this into action is the important element of PD in any profession. Sharing your new knowledge with others in your organisation is also a vital component of PD and with any luck you'll watch as your peers act on your enthusiasm and new found knowledge.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Reflections for the week

I got back to class after assembly today absolutely exhausted, I've hardly done any classroom teaching this week and it had me feeling a little flat. Personally, I needed some fun and my kids had been in the hall for most of the week rehearsing their show. We had lots to reflect on.

The plan was to do reflections of our week so as a class we put this together, I've done the editing & sharing at home as we reached the end of the day. Class Blog reflections

To create this we've used ToonCamera for the photography NZ$2.59. This is a tasty little app that is easy to share with many of your favourite options, it doesn't share direct to Blogger or Wordpress but with options for Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook it is easy to move an image straight there. There are many different grains/styles you can use for the images and you can switch between photo/video effortlessly.

I imported the images straight up to Strip Design and once there have added stickers and text bubbles. I've then saved the images back into the photo library and uploaded them straight away using the Blogger app.
All in all, this was a fun way to get the kids to share their thoughts on the week.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can AppSmash or layer your work using different Apps to create your reflections for the week. Or you could just have every student write them down...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

21st century motivation, praise & room 1

I'm a learner, a thinker and I have a can do attitude. I teach because I like the idea of facilitating others to find their passion for learning, either in a specific subject area or generally.  The concept that I wasn't doing the right thing by my year 5 & 6 students in terms of praise/motivation in the 21st century has given me much to think about recently. Fortunately, my PLN have come to the party by tweeting or emailing links for professional reading.

Among the readings have been these gems:

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement

Debunking the genius myth

How not to talk to your kids

Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?

They have certainly given me food for thought and have enabled me to evaluate what I'm doing in my classroom, why I'm doing it and whether it is working for my students.

This debate is typically about motivation, are kids doing tasks because they are intrinsically motivated and believe there is value in the process and outcome of the task. Or do they do complete them because someone is going to reward them with something (extrinsic motivation). Praise is also an intriguing topic that is worthy of further study (another time, another place!). NB: I haven't studied these areas and I'm not entering into academic debate with you.

What do I do?
I confess I do use Class Dojo. My class told me at the end of term 1 that they wanted hard work to be recognised individually, we negotiated a reward of 15 minutes of free time for the winner of each fortnight. I don't use negative points, its not the correct forum for discipline. I've also introduced categories for the NZC Key Competencies and PB4L, this works well in my classroom and the students typically don't cash in their 15 minutes. We're in our second term of using Class Dojo and the kids are recommending others get points, particularly for my favourite category "Thinking & Learning".

I'm not into bribing my students to get things done, I'll offer them the odd choice, e.g. "this afternoon we can either do Art or Language, it really depends on how much you get completed, the quality of the completed work and your behaviour while doing it. Your choice".

I love giving students a high five or pat on the back. Such gestures typically aren't accompanied with an explanation as they're spur of the moment when the student does something that deserves it.

As a class we talk about our choices and future, I hope for good things for all of my students and dare them to be brilliant. We love Kid President and I'm forever challenging these kids to follow their dreams.

My students demonstrate a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Some will engage with every task and illustrate a high degree of intrinsic motivation, however, others are clearly in a 'whats in it for me' mindset. I've been working hard all year to evaluate what works for each member of my class, some I still haven't figure out and continue to confound me. For others, I find that what worked yesterday doesn't work tomorrow so I'm just trying to get the combination right!

Where to next:
Reflecting on these thoughts has been enlightening for me. But I'm pragmatic and passionate about my teaching, so if you want to provoke/further my thinking feel free to drop me an email/tweet/comment. I'm a BT and happy to learn.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Engagement, ICT & Social Media

One of my boys finds it difficult to write & read at National Standard level, I'm working my butt off to help him and its not for lack of motivation on his behalf. All year he has loved being able to interact with the ICT tools available to him, he'll tweet, blog & comment his way through a day. However, his work is generally facilitated by myself or  children in the class.

Today, he comes to me during Art (not his favourite subject at any time) and asked if he could go on the class blog to read, of course I allow him. Shortly after, he asks if he can show me something because he wants to do this for our class blog. I was looking at a St George School blog and a post announcing their Class Dojo points winner. We went into the Blogger dashboard to look at putting a Class Dojo icon & some text together to announce our points winner, but we didn't achieve the result either of us were after. So I suggested a Voki, the result below is pretty good.

I told him that he ought to tweet what he'd just done, he was quickly on the twitter account and contemplating what he'd do for a hashtag (i.e., planning - text features, audience, ideas). He quickly put together a tweet, asked me whether 'Just' was a j or g then spelled the rest and spelled fortnight without a second though. Now this isn't all his work, when writing 'voki' I told him to put the @ sign which of course gave us their @officialvoki handle, we did the same for @classdojo. "Can I copy the blog address?" and I'm beaming with pride. I gave him the hashtag but still...

Straight after lunch he asked if he could jump on Twitter again and sent a 2nd tweet without any help.

I accept these aren't full Level 3 texts, but walking is considered a safe way to learn to run. He's engaged, finding a way to communicate, interact and is having fun while he's at it.  The difficult part is moving him from here to somewhere nearer to where him Mum and I would love him to be. Clearly, using ICT is a large factor in this planning. I have a plan to use Storify to curate a text, we'll be able to work on sequencing, planning, & many other surface & deeper features.

I'm sharing because I have had a victory and I know that there will be many accidents in this learning journey but we're both having some fun on the way.

Interestingly, after lunch he gave me a note to say thank you, the writing & handwriting was all rather sketchy, demonstrating that for some the computer is a better tool for learning to write. Maybe he should have tweeted ;-)

What does BT stand for?

This conversation from late in the afternoon on Monday has puzzled me since I started teaching last year. When I was on practicum my status as a student teacher was abundantly clear to children in the class and even though teachers will refer to their student teachers as the teacher, the respect isn't always forthcoming. Some kids try their damnedest to manipulate student teachers and I enjoyed my own share of this game when on practicum. I determined before finishing my Grad.Dip that I would not let on my experience level to my own classes, but does this really matter?

During my first 18 months of teaching I have referred to other classes (from practicums), my other careers, experiences and hobbies to inform, motivate, encourage and educate the class. Only once, last year, did a student ask me about this outright "We're your first class aren't we Mr Walker?", which I confirmed.

Respect is a funny subject. We teach children to be respectful of others, themselves, the environment and staff. I'm not sure what I fear, or what other BTs tell their classes. I'd love to know other people's experiences from recently registered teachers.

I don't think my class would actually care that I'm a BT, I've just about completed my 2 years and printed the forms out this morning that I will gladly send off over the term break.  I have made many connections with experienced, expert and exciting teachers, facilitators and leaders throughout my time on my induction period and completed much professional development. Hopefully, I've inspired many of the staff I work with to try something new also, because everyday I'm trying to do a better job for the people that matter most, my kids.

Being a BT has meant that I have been able to continue the thing I love most, being a learner.  Next  year I'll continue to be a learner, I just won't have the title...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Praise in the 21st century

We teach in a time where praise of our students is acknowledge as uber important, but I found myself reflecting recently on the types of praise I use in the classroom and whether I was effective in this element.

2 scenarios were front of mind:

  1. I had been commenting on blog posts of my class.
  2. Had decided not to send a "postcard from your teacher" praising a boy for good start to the 1st 2 weeks of term because he'd ruined with some terrible behaviour on 1 day.

So, my thoughts:
What praise is the most effective? What praise do kids like receiving? 
I was impressed by Kauri's question, were we talking about 10 000 page views or comments, I inferred that he valued people commenting on blog posts.
Sara's excitement at being "favourited" on Twitter.
Had I done the right thing not sending the postcard?
I wonder how much praise I give in the classroom? How much is noticed by the students?

What forms of praise do I use?
Many of the traditional forms (located in the poster), but ones that are specific to our school include sending a "Postcard from your teacher" praising students for the positive behaviours for learning and writing children into the "Honours Book" for assembly. I also use the Class Dojo programme in my room, students are given points for positive behaviours only and the winner for 2 weeks gets a 15 minute free choice to be used in class.

The class loves ICT tools and they love the connection with other students/teachers, like me they feel good when they get page views, comments, retweets and favourites etc 

I want to identify how much praise I give out in a day.
What praise do the students like the most, clearly it will be different for each child.

I will share results here. I'd love to know what praise your children find the most effective or ideas you're happy to share. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


My class are in the midst of ICT week and have been creating posters about biosecurity risks. As they finish these posters I have been moving them to creating a ThingLink image. Rather than explain what this is, take a look at Sara's example:

Sara was the first of my class to have venture onto this during the week and quickly became the class expert, both modelling what they could do as well as trouble shooting for a few students.

Previously, I had used a Thinglink image to show them some work earlier in the year, this introduced the concept and aroused some curiosity. But the following steps were used to help the children create their own.

  1. The first person who finished the poster got to be first to create on Thinglink, I would demonstrate only once to an individual and allow them to become the expert. As each child finished they were first directed to Sara's work to see what she was doing.
  2. I got the class to sign in using their class twitter account to avoid further password confusion.
  3. Allow them to find an image to use as the main image.
  4. Explore the internet to find images, information and video to embed as tags.
  5. Share to class blog/individual blog using an embed code.

I recommend that you use this tool in your class, it could be a great way to have children explore and share their understanding of many subjects especially the sciences. But I'd love to take an illustration or piece of text from a reading book and have the children use this to share their understanding. As a tool it is useful for allowing students to share their voice and it also comes as an App for the iPad/iPhone.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Adventure learning begins

Our school is doing a show in term 3 so planning for this term has revolved around flexibility, the music teacher and reduced time. Having seen the success so many were having with Adventure Learning/GoogleTime/Passion Projects I thought that the timing was right for something different.

Reading blogs, tweets confirmed that the beginning of the project would be crucial, I needed the children's buy-in or this would be wasted effort.  I was pointed in the direction of the Geniushour website and found this to be a valuable source of info for a newby, the key advice being start with suspense, passion and the rules.

Before the term started I posted a little slideshow on the class blog, had the rules ready to go and wrote all over the windows of the classroom. The key message was "Anything". When the class came back to school some had seen the post, others were confused  and wanted to know what this was all about... Why was the word "Anything" all over the window?

Slide show suspense from reidhns1

During week 1 we also watched several Kid President videos which got the class really excited and we started to share some passions and possible topics using Padlet.

The kids are now working in their own time and during class on their projects. But it hasn't been without problem:

  1. Problem: Some can't come up with a project. Solution: 1 on 1 with teacher, talking with members of class. Tweeted suggestion: talk to them about some real hands-on stuff. This worked, 1 is now looking at house design & building, the other helicopters
  2. Problem: Timeline/Expected completion date/ teacher expectation. Solution: Short of saying "is this what you want to share/learn?" I'm not sure about this. Guess I'll find out as we go. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Engaging literacy lessons

I have my share of reluctant writers so am always looking for ways to engage them, particularly in writing activities. 

My latest attempt was using an Oliver Jeffers new release "The Day the Crayons Quit". Duncan, the main character, receives resignation letters from all of his crayons. Each page contains one letter, plenty of artwork and lots of inspiration for children's writing. It was hard to choose my favourite but who can't love the idea of a crayon complaining that it was naked...

Day 1: 

I read the book to the class to gauge engagement with the book. There was plenty of laughter and a lots of conversation about which crayon letter was their personal favourite. 

Day 2: 
Quick recall of the story from the class and I read my favourite couple of letters.
We brainstormed some of the words that we thought were repeated too often. I was searching for something to run a synonym based lesson. Amongst many words we settled on Dear (as in the beginning of a letter), Quit, Reason and Friend.
Everyone then used whatever they could to find synonyms for these 4 words & record them on a word wheel.
Shared all the words with the class. Totally impressed by words such as abdicate, discharge, associate and acquaintance.
The class then set out to create their own resignation letter to themselves, the kids have written a number of letters & the aim of the lesson was the investigation of synonyms so not much emphasis was put on the structure. I gave them a piece of A3 newsprint and let them choose their own crayon.
In 20 minutes even my most reluctant writers had produced a draft letter, with original ideas, interesting vocab and a smile on their face. SUCCESS. 

Day 3
We published the letters, produced our own envelopes, created a letterbox for the school and finished the activity.

There are plenty of other literacy lessons that could be built around this book, maybe next time.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Quick review: 5 Apps

Pic Collage
Designed for creating montages and posters this can be used in a number of ways in the classroom. My class love using them as quick writes to demonstrate their learning after reading books, but we've used them to produce Wordwalls, drama explanations, funky text only posters while I loved the way some students made on-the-go posters while on field trips. Some cool features is the ability to search for images on the Internet, use photos on the tablets own library, use stickers (free & paid sets). Available for free on both Android & iPad.

Choose your characters, backgrounds, can throw in a few props. Record your audio, playback and share. What's not to love. Haven't used this a lot in my class but as a practice run used it with the junior school age nephews in the T2 holidays, together we had heaps of fun creating a zombie attack puppet show. A good tool for publishing all forms of writing but could also be used to break the monotony of teacher instructions.

An app where you can design your own character, background and then either your own recorded voice or typed text to produce a Gami. Kids love the easy manipulation to build their character but its the ability to make and share the audio aspect that is the real goldmine. Another tool that can be used for writing, reading as well as classroom management.

Explain Everything
A slide based tool for presenting information through your tablet. Allows for recording of audio while you create and you can also insert movies (yours or off the Internet). A little bit of effort is required to figure out all of the functions when first using but is worth persevering with as the finished outputs will show you.

Little Story Maker
I'm writing this without having used it in class myself, but had a play over the holidays based on many recommendations from other teachers. As the name suggests its for creating stories and allows you to illustrate, write, record audio and publish your own story. I am looking forward to using this in my class and believe many other teachers will be pleased with the results they get using this in their class.

*Its worth noting that if you are considering blogging in the classroom that neither Tellagami or Little Story Maker have an embed function as part of the app.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

The final 2 weeks of term provided some great highlights. I had bought this book (pictured) at the end of last year and put it away for a rainy day but an idea shared through twitter got it off the shelf earlier - it has an App...

Last Friday, I read this to my class and was amazed with the level of engagement. We had predictions coming left, right & centre and they were commenting about all sorts of language & plot features. The book also contains some beautiful artwork, ranging from full colour to black & white and everything in between as the mood of the main character changes. The class had picked up on this and were getting very excited as they progressed through the book.

Once we'd finished they were uber-excited about doing some work to demonstrate their learning and this resulted in the creation of several posters including posters, a PicCollage, many pieces of writing. It was awesome to see the kids so engaged with a book but the best was yet to come...

On the last day of term I planned to show the class the Imag-N-O-tron App, we knew that it was an interactive version of the book but weren't prepared for the awesomeness that occurred. First, we visited the book's website where we saw a sample of the short movie the book inspired and then read the real book again using an iPad/projector combo to show the pages on the smart board. The App features Augmented Reality images that blew the classes mind, I'm not going to describe these images here except to say the class applauded the app at the end of the book! 

Next step is to find more books & apps of this quality for the class and I recommend that you get the app & book for yours

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Favourite web resources

I presented one of my favourite apps to the staff at Henderson North School last night, Pic Collage is a fabulous tool that can be used in many ways. The first thing I was asked afterwards was if it was available just on the internet. It's not but I thought I could share my favourite web resources.

Padlet (formally Wall Wisher)

A great resource for use in planning or creating information. I love the way that it has become a virtual noteboard for me which makes my planning easier. In the classroom we use it for all sorts of things.

Primarily used for the recording and sharing of music. However, we are using Soundcloud for all sorts of things including doing spelling tests, recording class discussions, speeches, songs. The class also uses this as a source for music when making movies.

Shock, horror! Like a lot of teachers I'm using this to find great videos for education purposes. As a video hosting site it serves a purpose, my class and I both have channels for videos we're creating. It's also a great tool for working out how to do things with your computer such as learning how to use other computer tools, if you have a question about how to do something someone has probably filmed it for YouTube. 

Google isn't just for web searching, maps and images. Google Drive provides a magnificent assortment of tools in the Google Drive. As a class it provides a great alternative for word processing because the kids can access their work at home once they login. But its the ability to collaborate in real time that is a great advantage, several kids working on one document/presentation/etc results in engaging writing lessons and cool projects.  My class love the Google Form option and even surveyed their parents about  our class at the latest Student-Led Conferences.

How do I know about all these resources, all the apps I use and lots of the ideas for my classroom? It's not about telling everyone you're having a coffee, its about sharing information and collecting information. My class uses it to talk with other classrooms around the country and are becoming more aware of the world around them because of Twitter. It also helps that it gives me a tool to then talk about digital safety or cybersafety (whatever handle you want to use).

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Chicken or the egg?

I have a little tech guru in my class, he's been leading the way with individual blogs and is always there to answer questions or provide assistance when teachers and students have questions. He has also been eager to help others with movie making.  Late last week he came to me with this lightbulb:

He is a reluctant writer and I recognised a great opportunity to improve his literacy skills.

The journey began with a tweet to get some recommended resources and we searched online to see what was available.

This recommendation was spot on, Peter has been captivated since, is even earlier to school and has been proud of his achievements. I'm finding mini-lessons to improve his writing through his HTML journey and am learning a lot myself. I'm starting to form ideas around some  ideas to leverage this and can't wait to share them.

Personalisation is so much easier with devices and the proliferation of interactive web resources, I love using these resources for engaging reluctant learners and facilitating learning. I believe its a way to engage but I know others think its the reward for hard work.

So chicken or the egg?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Culture & school: Feeling embarrassed

I took 60+ year 6s to Henderson Intermediate today, clearly it was going to be a good opportunity for sighting some new ideas but it has really opened my eyes to some rapid & substantial PD I require.

As we entered HIS we were ushered into one of their halls where we received a beautiful Maori welcome, instantly, as the male teacher I felt a little unprepared and started racking my mind for all those things I was taught at Auckland Uni during teacher training *PANIC at empty mind*. The HIS children performed a stirring haka, waiata and their teacher was clearly fluent and well spoken in Te Reo. He also told us that it was an informal powhiri given that for many of our children their families have attended this school. Nonetheless I was totally out of my depth and I hated it!

I admit to being totally unprepared, but so were our children and when the speaker invited anyone to lead our school in responding, our Kapa Haka children weren't able to respond when put on the spot. But I'm not blaming them, they're children and I feel that I let them down. I can think of many excuses but none will ease my feelings including that my use of Te Reo in the classroom isn't as poor!

This time next year, I won't be feeling the same. Now where is that number & email for our school's Te Reo specialist?

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Last night we had a school disco and as I watched the kids I realised that as a group we'd had a productive week and a few victories.

Matariki lesson, ako, and Maori children
We watched a YouTube clip then had a look at some Te Reo. 3 Maori children pointed out that they knew this so were given the option of creating their own posters with Te Reo phrases they wanted the rest of the class to learn. After a few hijinks one of the boys has created a cool poster, including the phrase "That's a bit dodgy", all 3 have enjoyed the choice and the ability to lead the class. Naturally, its given me some more confidence about Te Reo/Tikanga in my classroom. 
Key resources: Korero Maori CartoonCam App and Pages

Rich Tasks for Maths
Two weeks ago we started an investigation in my maths class, the students need some scaffolding to come up with questions.  This week, a student who is trying hard came up with a cool topic: "How many people get frost bite this winter?" After all of the prompting & discussion I have great hope that this will be an excellent learning opportunity, I can't wait to see what they produce. 
Key resources: Met service

Preparation for Student-Led Conferences:
On Thursday, Room 1 had a chat about what we could do to celebrate our learning when the parents come to visit in week 7. They were full of great ideas but have settled on sharing their writing through a slideshow of writing pieces, showing the parents how to make a Tellagami, having their class blog on one of the desk tops and a collaborative artwork by the parents. As a class we also co-constructed a GoogleForm asking their parents about what they've seen. How can I not feel great about a class thinking like this?
Key resources: Class Blog Tellagami App

Thursday, 13 June 2013

ICT in teacher training

I sat in two meetings yesterday where there were vastly different attitudes to Twitter. In one it was seen as a valued tool in the classroom that can advance learning, in the other there was a bit more dissonance. This divide is something I've been contemplating lately as I push my own learning via my online PLN, my classroom through various online platforms and my own PD.

My pre-service was completed at Auckland Uni on the 1 year course and I was surprised that ICT hardly featured, we had some exposure to Moodle and Eportfolios but neither with our own teaching in mind. Fortunately, I was lucky to have a placement in 1 school where ICT was pushed and saw the use of Scratch and GIMP in a Y5/6 class. But why do teacher trainees have to rely on luck? Clearly, time is a factor when selecting teaching material for pre-service and I value all of the information provided. However, I'm not convinced that it adequately prepares the new teacher for a world where many teacher vacancies include ICT in their requirements.

Fastforward to now (PRT 18 months in), I am using Twitter for all sorts of information sharing, blogging with my class and as a teacher, regularly use my iPhone as a tool with the kids and collaborate with teachers in other schools with enthusiasm. This week I have provided support to a teacher looking to get on Twitter (@htauahns), have been asked by my Mentor Teacher to help with his ICT development and had another experienced teacher quip that she'll give Twitter a go when she has plenty of time for learning. So I think the dissonance is receding, I just have to keep on tweeting!

But what about those in pre-service now? We have some student teachers at the moment, I've shared ideas with them and explained several tools including Popplet, Explain Everything and modelled creating a classroom expert. I'm feeling even more optimistic after seeing that Auckland Uni is making progress in the ICT area for teacher training also.

Tweeps communicate both during formal PD settings and informally with ideas, strategies, feedback and resources. With the enthusiasm that abounds on Twitter maybe ICT doesn't require focus in teacher training, but it sure would have made my time far more engaging!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Shhh don't tell Mr Walker...

My mentor teacher came and taught a science lesson yesterday for me to observe, the first part was run of the mill discussion, questioning, sharing, hands on learning with rocks. I sat there recording how some of my students were going, his management of them and all the usual BT type stuff.

In the 2nd part of the lesson, there was a rock identifying challenge and I pulled out the iPad to record what the students were doing. The challenge was team based and my class are a competitive lot but I soon found just how competitive!

MT got the classes attention and told them he thought I should take part, I could hardly say no hence the teacher quickly became the student. Room 1 automatically became more competitive as they strived to beat my score, prevent me from seeing all the rocks, attempted to see my answers on the iPad and generally outdo me. Like any red-blooded male I wasn't going to back down...

I loved how they were telling each other off for showing me when all 12 rocks were, "Shhhh! Don't tell Mr Walker" was the catch cry for the 30 odd minutes we were doing the challenge.

When it came time to share our responses, they were really interested in how I scored, particularly when their team work had resulted in a correct answer. I didn't get them all right, but that was one of the reasons behind having my MT deliver this lesson. I earned some respect along the way and got a kick from their interest in my results.

Created on PicCollage

Learning with your students can be so rewarding, I am able to orchestrate this with ICT, Te Reo & Visual Art easily but find this can be difficult in other curriculum areas. If you have any suggestions...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Moment of victory for the BT

Another teacher popped into my room just after lunch today, she was requiring some help with Blogger but I was off to do some PD with the Literacy team and my class was off to play volleyball.

Some of you may remember my mentor told me that I needed to look at the sustainability of the class blogging. Well it looks like that is well in hand.

My colleague quickly told me she was interesting in loading some documents and looking at the views/hits on her blog. Step up one of my students who spent part of his volleyball time stepping my colleague through her issues. She was pleased with the help he'd given her and he got to see the value of his learning by teaching the teacher.

None of this could be possible without my student being given more freedom, my MT mentioning sustainability and a teacher who was willing to be taught. Thats worth celebrating!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Clone me

As a beginning teacher I'm still developing all my systems, both for classroom management and for planning. This week I used a tool that is going to help with both.

Week 2 ended with Room 1 running the assembly for Henderson North School, the class thought it would be cool to use a Voki for some of the assembly, I agreed.  After the kids had set up the voki for assembly, a child suggested "Mr Walker, you could use that for giving us instruction" and so I was set onto my "Clone Me" journey. I knew this can be done with Voki but simply haven't used it.

Week 3 saw Room 1 scheduled for ICT week and I was planning on creating movies using iMovies and one of my boys would be a class expert to support the children while I was busy. However, I also wanted him to have a task he could sink his teeth into and do some learning also. I was interested in him doing some screencasting, he thought this was a great idea and found the would give us the tools. My PLN on Twitter allowed me to check this though and as usual I got great support. After a bit of a play, Snagit was the chosen platform.

I made a video over the weekend so that I could see how it works. The class blog now has a Snagit clip explaining how to comment on a post for the parents.

But the real test was for the children, would they respond to instructions using Snagit? My release day was on Wednesday, so l I scanned a language activity for use on the smart board, set it up and after a few takes (much to the amusement of those kids present) had a video already for later in the day. I was in the staffroom next door when my release teacher played the video and I could hear the response, I checked the class soon after. Most agreed this was a fun way to get instructions (even if I had missed something out).

I know how to clone myself, this is an important lesson for a BT, I have a tool that can create more 'time' for students and therefore learning. When my kids become more used to my SnagitMe I hope to create some videos that they can access themselves for mini lessons with ICT, writing, maths and reading. I just have to work out the best way for hosting them!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Comic strips for writing - Teaching as Inquiry

Interesting day today. I visited 6 of our classes to observe the inquiries each teacher is undergoing as part of our writing PD. Remember I'm a BT but am also serving as the Senior Literacy Leader to aid in my own development. I was also visited by the lady responsible for our PD, so some serious juggling took part there.

I've been looking at integrating ICT to help some of writers to accelerate/achieve their learning.  So what did I show her and how do I feel about that now?

Yesterday, a group of 10 started to create some comics, the excitement was palpable. Today, it was all I could do to get the writers to be quiet long enough to touch on a DAT. Is this an issue, not really I need to let them soar, they're engaged and the teachable moments will be utilised along the way.

At the moment, some of them are planning on creating clay/plasticine models of their characters for photos, others are busy drawing and writing and a couple have planned themselves silly - today they worked on their weapon arsenal (should I be worried?).  Some characters they've created thus far are inspired by Lego, video games and there's a battle brewing between burgers from two famous franchises.

We've been using the apps shown below.  I'm planning on the kids helping me select other apps we'll use to turn photos into cartoons, there is plenty to choose from but if there are any favourites out there I'd love to know. Any general advice for a grateful BT is most welcome also.


The moment of clarity that convinced me that I was doing the right thing was the enthusiasm the whole class is showing, I had students hanging around after school to discuss next steps and others who aren't involved are begging to be included. To say they're engaged is an understatement!

I can't wait to finish this unit with my group and share all their writing and they're just as excited.

Maybe the next step will be a collaborative effort with other schools...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sustainable ICT practices in the classroom

I'm a sucker for punishment! This is my 2nd year of being a BT and in my wisdom I decided that I was going to start a class blog and Twitter account (@rm1hns). I recognised that these were both effective tools for connecting the class with the rest of the world and providing an audience for their work (amongst many other benefits). But let's face it there's plenty of other things that a BT could be doing but you'll struggle to convince me to not take on too much.

I enjoyed the learning that I encountered getting these things going and the class have loved the excitement that this has brought to the classroom. However, I was doing a lot of the work and hence the late term 1 entrance of my ICT-challenged mentor teacher (he admits this himself and claims that he and computers are allergic to each other!!!). He'd listened to my advocacy of the blog and resulting student interest for most of the term but he had some wisdom (that's what he's for!), what was going to happen next year when my year 5s went into his or someone else's room where blogging wasn't occurring? Cue scream! He needs to learn to blog but most importantly my student's need to be taking more ownership, the latter is not rocket science but my own enthusiasm was going to provide my downfall.

My class need to be take more of an active role in the blog's production rather than just producing the work for it. Furthermore, they're better at it than me!

In the last week of term I introduced a handful of room 1 to the blogger dashboard and posting things. The following day, the class had been through two voki's (discussed here) I spent my holidays playing with iMotion, a timelapse photography app and spent a good deal of time puddling about to get the backing track onto the video and the result is visible here in the Tae Kwan Do video.

Compare this with one student's efforts, he got told that he could take a timelapse of Jump Jam and I showed him how. By the end of 1 block, he had a far better product all ready to go (bar the sharing). His video is below also, unfortunately we realised after that the backlighting is hopeless but next time... He has now assisted one other student to produce their own.

I'll be introducing their own blogs to them very soon, I can't wait to see what they teach me and facilitating their efforts will be invigorating and a challenge. I don't think there will be an issue with the sustainability of blogging, at least not with my students, but my mentor teacher...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Ownership, voice, the Student Teacher and the BT...

Today's plan for our ICT block was to introduce the class to Google Docs, while I would spend some time with a select group of motivated and responsible students scaffolding them towards being authors on the class blog. The best laid plans...

I had got the class logged into Google and they were happy exploring its collaborative nature. Some were enjoying writing stories together, whilst others were appreciating the chance to do free writing and investigate the platform. Class experts were dealing with the simple problems giving me more time for the blogging group, I thought I was doing a good job. Engaged, motivated and "free" choice, all ticked.

The blogging group got into the dashboard of blogger and we discussed creating a new post, they wrote a title, argued, recrafted, refined, started over and procrastinated their way to an agreement on a title. I'd lost them already, they switching off completely when I said that we should concentrate on a text only post and worry about images, video [and all the exciting stuff] later.

About this time, my principal entered to suggest that I invite the student teacher into my room to have a look at ICT. "Sure, that's a great idea! Tell her to come on over and spend the afternoon". Earlier in the day we'd had our first look at one of our quad-blogging buddies and on their front page they have a Voki welcoming readers. So right about now, I've got all the ingredients I planned on plus a few more, but what will be the outcome?

Cue, student teacher. We had a discussion about twitter [she's a non-user!], blogging and google docs. I asked the class to tell her why we use Twitter. Fantastic responses were elicited with no prompting, I imagined my mentor teacher, team leader, parents and ERO all handing out plaudits for the wonderful job I was doing.

Possibly sensing my moment of glory, the blogging team asked if they could create a Voki, so I let them. They instantly re-engaged, had created their avatar in next to no time and had a ball doing it. The teaching moment was assisting them to use HTML code to embed it on the blog Class Blog and Avatar.  So what if its not exactly what I'd planned , but they had expressed their creativity, learned and had fun. They had also taught me some valuable lessons on ownership of the blog and expressing their voice. We've negotiated that their Voki can stay up for 24 hours so they can show their buddies and family, after which we'll create one for the whole class. (I'm now thinking that it might become a changing feature).

I'm not sure what the student teacher thought, but later she was asking about teacher-led blogs and student voice. I love creating the class blog, it's definitely a large workload for a BT but they love seeing their work on it, I'm looking forward to the chaos, innovation and voice that I'm going to see as this journey continues.