Sunday, 11 October 2015

Flamboyant Flamingos

I left ULearn 15 on Friday afternoon challenging myself to succinctly summarise an intense week of learning and connecting.

How do you do that and where do you start?

Flamingos are clearly the key starting point.

A flamboyance of flamingos may number in their thousands. Despite the large numbers, they are more often than not observed to be engaged in the same behaviours at the same time. Patterns of behaviour and movement can be established that clearly indicate a synchronicity of thought and the desire to work towards a common goal.

A flamboyance of teachers may also number in their thousands. Despite their large numbers, they too are often seen engaging in the same behaviours at the same time. Patterns of behaviour indicate a synchronicity of thought and a sharing of ideas to work towards a common goal.

Primarily social animals, both flamingos and teachers spend most of their day involved in group tasks. Supporting the herd, leading the parade or proudly sharing the brightness of their feathers.

The strongest groups share responsibility, work to their strengths and allow all members to grow and flourish in a rich and loving community. The goal of these social groupings is to provide manaakitanga for all members and to ensure strength for the future.

In the words of the MAGICAL Anne Kenneally;

Pouwhirinaki creates clarity from chaos, guides reflection and helps the collective to flourish.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

New Term, New(ish) Ideas

With one term to go before summer holidays, I have 9.5weeks to give my all to 30 small people.

However, we have only 4 weeks until they are tested using Benchmarked/Standardised tests.

I don't see this testing as a bad thing - it certainly isn't fun for a 7 or 8 year old to have to sit still and quiet for 30minutes when they are used to collaborative, interactive learning, but the data gained from independent standardised tests is a very useful triangulation point for ascertaining an accurate OTJ.

Alongside the intricate knowledge we hold about our learners on a daily basis, hard data can play an important role in solidifying or challenging your thoughts around how a student is achieving. It can also play a role in reminding you how far a student has come.

In February our year 3 students were tested using STAR, PAT Maths, PM Reading Benchmark, GLoSS and E-Asttle Writing.  Throughout the year I have conducted further PM Benchmarks and GLoSS Tests as well as informal E-Asttle Writing assessments. This data collection triangulated with observations of scaffolded and independent in class activities, means that I can keep on top of OTJ throughout the year and tailor learning more accurately to the students.

At the end of term 3 I used PM Benchmark tests to work out where accelerated progress had been made in reading and if I could discover any patterns in results that would help the kids for term 4.

Anecdotally, I could establish that all children were making great progress. They were enjoying reading, becoming more critical around their thinking, working creatively and mastering some of those crazy nuances of the English language. Through the testing I was able to work out gaps, strengths and areas of progress.

To the end of term 3 I set the benchmark for achievement at 0.8years. So any improvement above the benchmark of 0.8years would indicate accelerated progress.
Of the 4 children who have made "minimal" benchmark progress, only one is of concern.  
The other 3 have made progress not made before in their 2years of schooling. They have progressed in Key Competencies, in enjoyment of reading and in the ability to employ some strategies to decoding. Not to mention, they have quadrupled their sight word knowledge. Unfortunately National Standards won't show that progress, but a conversation with whanau and visible learning through blogs and GAFE can share the successes clearly.

As for writing, "My Boys" began the year with an absolute aversion to independently writing their own ideas. They enjoyed copying over a teacher's writing, they enjoyed sharing ideas, they also enjoyed recording ideas orally. Crafting a sentence either written or oral, was something they avoided at all costs. 

After 3 terms of building confidence around writing, writing about contexts the boys chose, as well as slowly, slowly removing the scaffolds they have enjoyed - we now have 4 boys who are successful in writing about their experiences and on occasion choose to write. Not just choose to write, but choose to write when they could be playing with Lego, cars or yo-yos. 

Term 4, I will remove the next scaffold of listening to complete sentences before recording their own. The plan is to have recorded generic sentence starters available to recount personal and shared experiences. The expectation is that the boys will write a complete complex sentence, illustrate it and post it on their blog at each writing session.

After the first week of term, we will reflect together as a group on what story starters they've enjoyed using and what they may like to use the following week. We will also talk about the sorts of experiences they may like to write about.

By offering more openness, it leaves the boys room to interpret the motivation or experience as they wish and to take more risks with vocabulary and sentence structure.

Reading - with Books

I filmed this movie early in term 3 and has been sitting in a draft post since. I feel today is the day to post as I am sitting in @librarypaula's #ulearn15 presentation about the future of libraries.

I heard on the news this morning that a large UK book store is discontinuing sales of Kindles. Now I'm not sure that's because digital books are failing - in my opinion it's probably the existence of another device when our phones can do it all.
However, there is nothing quite like kids and real books!

I was fortunate to receive 30 or so brand new non-fiction books about snakes, dinosaurs, sharks, insects, space - all sorts of high interest topics.
As I laid them out on the floor, 25 pairs of eyes widened, 25 smiles grew increasingly more grinnier!

The engagement with "real books" was more powerful than anything this class has experienced with digital devices. They "love" their iPads, they "love" their digital books, but my word, they absolutely gobble up these beautiful books.

There's nothing quite like the power of tangible books to collaborate, share, discuss and enjoy.