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.