Sunday, 5 August 2018

Engagement with Real Learning

Like all classrooms, we strive to ensure that our kids are engaged with cognitive learning as often as possible. The trouble lies in "What engages their brains best?" and "How do we even know?"
Too often I see kids sat behind screens looking engaged in what they've been set, yet in actual fact they are simply engaged in deception - How can I look busy and thoughtful while actively practicing avoidance? This is a skill that our kids develop early. I am lucky in teaching the younger ones, that this skill is not yet fully developed and is quite easy to spot.
Despite this, keeping kids actively engaged in meaningful learning is a complex task.

I've written many times about the importance of Key Competencies to actively drive academic learning. When teaching through key competencies, activities and experiences can't help but become engaging, fun and active. Collaboration, respect, self management, thinking, creating, critiquing and communicating - vital skills to hang the three Rs on.

I don't believe that children should be sitting anywhere ever for too long - our classroom designs now allow for more spaces, flexible spaces and different spaces. With multiple teachers in a space we now have the possibility to have a variety of activities and opportunities to suit all kinds of learning. We need to harness these possibilities and not just have kids sitting at tables, behind screens for the majority of their day.

Now that we are over halfway through the year, the 80 children in our space are a well oiled family. We've spent 20weeks establishing our whanau and the kids are all ready to fly with their learning and have some fun doing so.
We're encouraging our kids to branch out with their creations and learning. We're having statues built, Sketchnotes created, dances danced, paintings painted, Lego towers constructed, discussions shared, movies filmed and songs sung.  The children can't help but be cognitively engaged when the process and outcome involves laughter, sharing and showcasing their talents.

School is fun - just as it should be. They are kids after all.

Movie Making with the Full 80

We have three teachers in our space. Three very different teachers. Three teachers whose skills and personalities compliment and support each other in a classroom.
We each take different learning areas and share our expertise not just with the kids, but each other - what a great opportunity for constant PD. My strength lies in teaching kids through creative measures, developing key competencies - keeping school fun yet also about the learning.

So we've taken our theme for the term - Move Ya Body - quite literally and have had the kids make a dance movie a week.  80 kids all at once - dancing, filming, arguing, laughing - it's buckets of fun!
It's easy and if the class has a well established kaupapa of whanau, it's painless as well. - Let the kids do it!

We use Video Star as our MTV iOS App of choice. It is so easy because the app syncs the music to your filming and the kids can't help but get it right.
The kids access the music clip from our shared Google Drive folder via our class site.
They film in friendship groups - with the class kaupapa of "No one is left out".
They share the completed product back to the same Google Drive folder.
The movie is then ready to embed in their blog by again accessing it via the class site.

The technology and workflow is fairly simple to manage if the account is signed in on the iPads and the kids are familiar with using the class site and their blog. The real learning lies in in those powerful KCs. Working with others, sharing, self and group management, thinking and creating.
For the groups where those KCs function well - the outcome, the movie produced, is always of a higher standard than those groups where the KCs fell down.

As a whole class of 80, we view every movie and critique the movies - identifying the good points and discussing, respectfully, what went wrong. This is such a powerful process that the whole class owns and respects. With well established cultural norms there are no putdowns or negative moments, as all the kids know that we are in it for the learning.

A couple of our favourite examples are here and here.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Computational Thinking

The new digital technologies curriculum is not simply about screens and being digital. One of the strands - computational thinking, can be tackled in a very analogue fashion.
We've decided as a school that Scratch will be our coding "mother tongue". It is cross platform and simple enough even for our New Entrants. (and their teachers)
In DaBlock this term, a group of 30 year 4s and 1 year 3 are learning all about coding using Scratch.

We started the session signing into our classroom group and creating some simple avatars. We then began looking at the blocks and using them to control the cat sprite using our mouse and arrow keys. Some students even went ahead to learn about costumes and costume changes. Great self directed learning.

The next step was to introduce angles and turns. None of the students had heard about angles, degrees or knew much difference between left or right. A quick whiteboard lesson introducing the missing pieces and a quick game of Simon Says involving angle turns and degree turns, quickly filled in some missing gaps.
We then took chalk outside to draw their own circles and label the degrees, where the children then played their own Simon Says games with their friends.

Once the kids were back inside with their Chromebooks, Scratch angle turns made sense and heaps of quick knowledge learning could be applied to some fun animations.

Friday, 9 March 2018

A Small Snippet

When all is going smoothy in The Block - this is a small snippet of what it can look like.

This is a short clip from the first day that we had almost all kids on devices and the morning hummed along nicely indeed. The beginnings of creating real learning in our space. Come back and visit in July and we'll have all sorts of fun craziness going on.

Finally Having Time

Week 6 of 2018 and finally we have found the time to do an activity that supports all kinds of valuable key competency learning. (my favourite kind)

Week 6 also means that we are needing to keep promoting our school values and culture to ensure routines stay strong and everyone is happy. As part of our school wide culture, we make sure to highlight the positive aspects of behaviour. This week, we, as a class, needed to focus on - Do The Right Thing.

The task was set up to encourage working together, problem solving, happiness and the promotion of "Do The Right Thing"

We started by talking about what the right things are to ensure a happy day for all. There were loads more ideas than the photo might indicate - all the usual answers were shared.

The children chose their own groups and for the most part no one was left out. But two boys opted to wander around watching rather than take part. They were most definitely engaged with the idea but lacked the key competencies to involve themselves.

The kids downloaded a short 20 second snippet of Redhead Kingpin's - Do The Right Thing, from our shared Google Drive folder. The next step was to open the song in Video Star (a fun, simple to use music video app). Each group filmed themselves doing lots of different things in and around our classroom to encourage positivity.

The filming did not take long and each group shared their work with a teacher. Before starting we had not discussed shots or any sort of movie making skills, simply, the learning was not about that. So a few groups needed to re shoot as there were a few shots of the ground or fingers in the way.

ALL groups worked together and all bar two groups completed the task.

During our group reflection I asked which groups had had issues and then which of those groups had had a friendly korero and sorted out the problem - every group said yes.  Key competencies in action in a powerful way.

The movies are cute but certainly lacking in production value - however I couldn't be prouder of the way the kids worked together, solved problems, shared their understanding and had fun doing so. Even our friendly reliever is excited to come back and try movie making again.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Boxall Profile Post Data

The Boxall Profile 

Post data has now been gathered on DaBoyz using the Boxall Profile. The above slides show the movement of each student and the class average for each of the 10 areas.
Student 3 is not present in Term 4 and so data was not gathered on him - therefore he is missing from the term 4 graphs.
The y-axis scale differs for each graph and between tests. I could have created the term 1 graphs again, but at this time of year I have nor the time nor energy.

The results show improvements in every area in terms of the class average. Some individuals have gone backwards and others have made significant gain. Some boys still continue to have problems in certain areas, despite significant gain.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Accelerated Achievement

As much as I have spent the year focusing on teaching Key Competencies and social skills, there's still that monkey on your back to have each and every child make accelerated progress. For Manaiakalani that means 1.5x the expected.

This year I had no expectation that academic gain would be substantial, I was looking at gains in Key Competencies and emotional security. The way that I taught these skills didn't follow the usual pattern of a classroom, in fact very little academic expectation was placed upon the boys. We worked on routines, discussion, cultural identity and regulating emotional responses to varied experiences.

The graphs below show just one snapshot from PAT tests. As much as I am extremely proud of some of the test results produced by the boys, these graphs are a tiny piece of a much much larger puzzle.

While most of the boys have made the expected academic gains or even 2-3x the expected gain in one year, I don't believe that this has anything to do with quality academic teaching.

The reason for the academic gains made by the boys come from a feeling of belonging and the comfort to take risks and feel confident about their abilities. In reducing the anxious responses and ramping up the positive, the boys have had the opportunity to learn from everyday simple activities.

Suddenly, sitting down to lunch, waiting your turn, using your manners or following the rules of a game, become massive learning opportunities.

By being who they are, acknowledging where they come from and feeling secure and safe, the boys have achieved as themselves and are growing into confident, connected, lifelong learners.

But in reality, the learner who has actually learnt most in the room has been the teacher.