Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Developing in Digital Worlds

The Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland, led by Dr Stuart McNaughton, is currently carrying out research to find out how we teach 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, self-regulation and collaborative reasoning, using digital technologies. As part of this research, Room 9 @ Pt England were observed by a member of the Woolf Fisher team yesterday. My focus during this observation was the teaching of prosocial skills in a digital world by integrating Cybersmart learning and the key competency of relating to others.

As a hook to engage the learners in a fun and positive way, I chose a movie created by Room 18 @ Pt England for this year's Manaiakalani Film Festival, Make Kindness Go Viral!  My lesson plan involved learners using positive words and their manners to find a buddy so that they were able to interact and take turns in a conversation as they brainstormed ideas and relevant vocabulary.

Following our Think, Pair, Share brainstorm for the whole class, each student accessed the digital resources by making a personal copy of this DLO.

Overall, this Cybersmart lesson was highly effective in promoting positive social skills and relationships between the students, while making deliberate and specific connections to the positive communications they create when crafting quality blog comments as part of the Cybersmart programme. It was also fantastic to listen to and read the rich language that was selected to create these comments.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Concluding Teaching As Inquiry 2017

During 2017 I have been inquiring into how I can make use of small group teaching and learning to accelerate shift in Mathematics. To meet this focus, teaching and learning of Maths in Room 9 this year has been predominantly achieved through 33 students being organised into four levelled groups (which have been reorganised during the year based on ongoing assessment).

My initial target group was selected from amongst those learners who were Well Below National Standard based on assessment data from the end of Year 4.  Mid-year data determined that nine students were working towards the National Standard expected at the end of Year 5 while 24 students were working Well Below the National Standard expected at the end of Year 5.  Based on this data and following discussions with colleagues, my target group was changed to focus on those nine students who were working towards National Standard. However, one learner left Pt England early in Term 4; there is no comparative data for one learner who arrived at Pt England during Term 1.

  • During the year there has been a strong focus on number knowledge and basic facts through daily online Maths activities (Xtra Maths and Maths Whizz) and teacher-created resources to support number knowledge acquisition, both digital and physical resources.  The rationale is a bit like the chicken and egg scenario: what came first?  How can learners move from  skip-counting or repeated addition to using times table knowledge to solve multiplication problems if they don’t know their times tables?  It is tricky for learners to make that shift from Stage 4 to E5 (which they are expected to achieve after being at school for three years) until multiplicative thinking is used.  Students are expected to be working at Stage E6 of the Numeracy Project by the end of Year 5.  Some learners don’t see the need to learn their times tables and, consequently develop their multiplicative thinking, as they see themselves as managing quite happily with skip-counting.
  • From my observations and data, these target students know a greater range of times tables with confidence and are beginning to use this knowledge to solve problems.
  • Outside my target group, some students find it difficult to work and learn independently to complete follow-up tasks.
  • Literacy is a barrier to learning Maths for some: some learners need support to complete independent follow-up tasks.  Literacy is also a barrier to completing PAT standardised Maths testing: students can pick out the numerals/numbers but don’t necessarily understand the problem to know how they should manipulate the numbers.
  • The Key Competencies of Managing Self and Relating to Others play a major part in teaching and learning. It is challenging for a group to function cohesively if learners are still learning to manage themselves to listen, respond appropriately and take turns when sharing ideas and materials.

There are some small positives to be taken from my inquiry:

  • Two of my target group of seven are at the National Standard expected at the end of Year 5.
  • The difference in PAT scale score from the beginning of 2017 to year-end 2017 is consistent with the progress made in Maths based on GLOSS data.

  • Some small shifts of accelerated achievement across the three domains are evident from GLOSS assessment data.

  • A teaching-learning balance between number knowledge and strategy was achieved during the year.
  • All of the target group have improved their times table number knowledge significantly and are beginning to make connections between times tables and problem-solving.

Having looked closely at the data as we conclude the year, I feel disappointed that more steps were not climbed towards the top of the hill. I have been reminded that learning is not a consistent upward trend towards the top of the hill: students learn and consolidate understandings at their own pace and in their own way; life events and attitude to learning impact achievement. I am beginning to wonder if Maths succumbs to a summer drop-off as can happen in reading.  I believe there is much more to explore and inquire into in order to accelerate and sustain achievement in Maths and I am looking forward to inquiring into this further as part of the Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher initiative during 2018.

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Incredible Years

During Terms 3 and 4 I was lucky enough to attend the Ministry of Education funded Incredible Teachers programme. This professional development is offered over six days and provides teachers with opportunities to explore Dr Carolyn Webster-Stratton's strategies and techniques to nurture children's social, emotional and academic competence based on her extensive research.

While building positive relationships with both students and whānau, and modelling empathy and appropriate and acceptable social skills would seem a normal part of a teacher's toolbox, the tools recommended to manage student misbehaviours were enlightening: planned and purposeful ignoring; redirecting; natural and logical consequences; incentives to strengthen positive behaviour; the development of individual behaviour plans. The key seems to be how we decide to respond to what we notice: making praise and encouragement the driver or catalyst for growing positive behaviour.

Since starting the programme, I am consciously using more proximity praise and non-contingent praise, while I am becoming more comfortable talking away to myself by articulating my thinking as descriptive commenting. By being gifted this time to reflect on how I behave and manage things, both large and small, I have already reaped some small benefits for the whole of Room 9 by choosing to ignore some serial interrupters for longer than was usual!