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