Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Inquiry - Basic Facts

Last term, a colleague of mine, Charlotte Gaston, created a Google Form on which the students completed a basic facts test online, on their iPads. She had set it up so that the students answers were then submitted to a Google Spreadsheet.

Seeing as I had begun my inquiry at the beginning of the year on how to improve students' basic facts knowledge, I was excited to give this a go. On the weekend I finally got around to setting this all up!

I created a Google Form with questions I had found from a resource (basic facts tests for different stages) on Hikutaia's School Website. One of the Google Form tests was based on the Stage 2-3 test and the second form was based on the Stage 4 test.

Each question was assigned a "short answer" answer option and 1 point (This way when it was self-marked through Google Sheets we could quickly see how many each student got correct).
The only question that was set as required was the "What is your name?" question - this was so students who did not complete the questions in the 5 minutes could still submit their test. The name question was required so that students had to write their name to submit.





Next, I assigned a Google Sheet to the form - I made sure that the Google Sheet was different for the Stage 2-3 test and Stage 4 test.


Above you can see Room 27's first attempt at the basic facts test. Overall the students really enjoyed the challenge and were quick to grasp onto what they had to do to answer the questions. I will make sure to continue scaffolding this over the week, so next week students will be able to jump straight on each day after morning tea for their daily basics fact quiz.

At the moment we have said that if students get 20/20 three times in a row they are able to move onto the next level. Will keep you updated on how this goes!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Coding - A very exciting find!

Over the weekend, as I journeyed through a path of links from twitter I ended up on a very exciting site called  j2code !



It was full of not only coding activities for older students, but from Year 1 up!

I immediately trialled the first activity - it involves you flying a rocket to each of the planets by directing it either left, right, forwards or backwards. As you click each command, it lists what you have requested the rocket to do in a box on the left hand side. You can then push play to see if you were able to reach each planet with your commands.




I am very excited to have a go using this site in class...it appears to be working on the iPads. I just am still trying to find a quick way to screen record students work on the iPads without having to connect their devices to the class iMacs or my MacBook. If you know of how to do this I would love to hear!

Happy Coding!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Term 2 Inquiry - How can we make a kite that will fly?



This term our team has been inquiring into "How can we make a kite that will fly?" At the start of the term I introduced the topic of Matariki and how the making of kites are an important part of this celebration (many believed that the kites were able to spiritually connect with the Gods and were a method of communication).
I then gave the students a kite template which we made and then flew one afternoon. Although we were struck with a windless day the students came up with many other creative ways to enjoy their kites as you can see in our PENN video below.


Although the children had a great amount of fun creating their kite from the template, I also wanted the students to use the design process of technology to build their own.

In the first lesson, I introduced the students to all the materials they were going to be able to access: material, paper, straws, popsicle sticks, string, crepe paper, pegs, sellotape, masking tape and cupcake liners. The class was then given an hour to design as many kites as they wanted and to choose and label the materials they were going to use.

Last Friday they were then given the entire day to finalise their design and use their imagination to create their kites. At first, many of the students were slightly surprised with the freedom asking, "Are you not going to help us?" I replied with a simple, "No this is your time to show me what you can create on your own!" and left it at that. (Although I must admit it was a lot harder to just step back and watch than I thought!)

Initially, I was tempted to jump in when I saw students cut A3 sized sheets of paper, which would have been a great size for a kite, down into teeny tiny diamonds, but I decided that I needed to let it go and I am very grateful that I did step back because...

The students learnt all on their own! Without me jumping in students were testing their kites coming back and realising that they were too small, had a string that was far too short or had piled so much on that even running at top speed the kite would not lift from the ground.

Looking back on this lesson I think I potentially learnt the biggest lesson of all... It is okay to sometimes just let go! I know from experience that I have learnt the most from some of my biggest mistakes I have made in my life and I now realise we must let our students do the same sometimes.

Friday, 9 June 2017

A few tips and Apple tricks!

At our staff meeting Dorothy Burt had asked some of the staff to share any Apple Tips and Tricks they knew, so that this knowledge could be brought to the rest of the school (teachers at our school all work on MacBooks and iMacs). I must say I am always up for learning a time-saving/life-changing hack, so was very excited to see what others had to share!

Here are some of the new ones I learnt to hopefully make your life on an Apple easier - enjoy!

This first one I found when Googling around for a new tip to share. It saved me a lot of time for report writing - I had the report writer in one screen and my class data in the other.

The following tricks are all from my lovely colleagues at Pt England School - thank you all!









Thursday, 25 May 2017

Developing in Digital Worlds - Online PLG

This term I am taking part in an online professional learning group called Developing in Digital Worlds. The focus of this group is on "Argumentation" and the importance of developing ideas and skills around argumentation in the classroom. The sessions are lead by Naomi Rosedale, Stuart McNaughton and Cynthia Greenleaf. Sessions are going to be fortnightly and conducted through Google Hangouts.

The objectives of this group can be seen here:


The opportunity to take part in this professional learning group could not have come at a much better time. I have only recently reflected on how I often see students both in and out of the class have a very "my side" bias and how the conversation of "thinking about others feelings and how you would feel if you had been standing in their shoes" has reappeared quite regularly the last few weeks.

After the first session, I realised how I haven't been explicitly planning lessons to teach students this skill. I had placed the expectation to students that they would always be conscious of the ideas and feelings of others, however had never demonstrated what steps they had to take, vocabulary that could be used and what this would look like.

A few nights of ideas wizzing through my brain and I came up with the following idea. I would pose students with the scenario that we would be receiving a class pet. There would be three options: Tim the Tiger (who no longer fitted in his cage and needed a new home), Elijah the Elephant (he has been living in Africa but is now on his way in a ship and needs a new home) and Bella the Puppy (she has lost her mum and needs to be taken care of).

The lesson began with us talking about what a good listener is - does not talk over others, listens carefully by thinking about what the other person has said, may ask questions about what they have heard to find out more. We also discussed that in the activity everyone might have different ideas and we are allowed to change our minds as we hear what others think.

Next I told the class we were getting a pet!

As you could imagine with a class of 25 six and seven year olds, the excitement erupted (only one student did not seem convinced that this was really going to happen...I let the other students believe that this could be a very real scenario as I did not want to dampen the mood!)

After I flipped over the images of the three possible pets and what their story was I let the students bubble with excitement, sharing with their friends about the pet they wanted. I then asked the students to sit in a group by the pet they think the class should choose.

Next I posed the following questions to the students (questions and responses can be seen in the slides below), giving each group time to discuss and then also time to share their opinion with the class.




I was blown away by the thought that had been put into some of the responses (especially concerns over Elijah damaging the iPads with water!). The students had really thought hard about what each option would mean for the class. Some students had even started to realise that maybe their pet was not such a good option when other groups pointed out concerns such as tigers getting aggressive or elephants being huge!

I could definitely not fault students on engagement and participation (some of my quietest students spoke up for the first time with many great ideas!) I did notice that students were still very stuck on their own opinion and would fight to get their choice regardless of others suggestions. Some students were not very focused when others were speaking, more so waiting eagerly to share their own thoughts. This will be an area I will need to look into more for the next activity.

Would definitely recommend having a go at argumentation in your class, as I learnt so much about my own teaching and the students in the process. Let me know how the activity goes in your class or any other suggestions you may have!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Being responsible for keeping our home (NZ) beautiful!

Our school theme this year:


Throughout last term we discussed what responsibility meant and how we could be responsible and contribute to ensuring our environment stayed clean. It was great to see students immediately engage and suggest: Picking up rubbish, telling others to put their rubbish in the bin, asking Mr Burt if we can have a day off school to clean up the local creek and helping Mum and Dad with tidying at home.

As the weeks have passed I have been moved to see how much students took the many conversations and lessons on board. Most days I have spotted students from class picking up rubbish at morning tea and lunch, showing great concerns on how they had seen local birds picking up rubbish which they were worried it would eat, and making sure they contributed to Room 27 being a tidy and responsible class.

A very tidy kiwi  from our class who was snapped by a duty teacher at lunchtime cleaning our school:

It was all these moments that made me realise the great impact we all have on our future generations. The lessons we share, the words we speak, the actions we take all contribute to how the growing young minds view, perceive and act in our world.

Teaching our wonderful future generation on the small but very significant steps they can personally take for the environment will inspire those around to create positive change.

Our lesson on what happens when we pollute our creeks:



A collaborative piece by piece effort from Room 27 of the rainbow fish:




Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Using the affordances of technology to support learners!

This term I have been working on how to support learners who are still learning to build a sentence. I wanted to have an activity that these students could work on while I am working with the students who are learning to edit and enhance their stories.

I decided to use Explain Everything and with the app I built an activity where the students were given the first sentence of a narrative story "Once upon a time there was a ........." They then had to choose whether their character in the story was going to be a "little princess" or a "big dragon". Students would drag this word into the space and then write the sentence into their story book. The advantage of Explain Everything was that the students could also listen to each word as I had recorded a soundbite and attached it to each word. On the next day the students would complete a similar slide in which they could then write about the setting. 

As the students gain confidence, the words could be muddled on the slide and they could drag and organise the sentence on their own. Below you can see how the activity looked:


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Using film to guide a writing lesson - an example!





This year I have started using the Literacy Shed to guide some of the writing lessons in class. This week we began writing narrative stories. In order to get the students thinking about narratives and to generate some vocabulary and ideas, we started by watching the video The Clocktower.

The video is about a little girl who works in a clocktower where she has the job of dancing around and around to turn the clock. One day she ventures outside and everything stops as she is no longer dancing and keeping time moving.

At first I wasn't sure whether the students would engage with the many ideas that needed to be interpreted by thinking carefully about what was happening in the movie, but they loved it! We started each lesson by discussing what was happening and how the girl felt and then also would sing and act our sentences with descriptive vocabulary which could then be used in the story.
The students came up with some amazing stories so I thought I would share an example here:


The Clocktower - By Gabriella

Once upon a time there was a little girl that lived in a clocktower and the clocktower looked like a tornado. The little girl's name was Rozy and the little girl had a cog on the little girl's dress. The little girl had a shiny crown on her head and earrings on her ears. When she turned the world turned and the little girl was time. The little girl had to dance because it was her job and the little girl went outside because she wanted a balloon. She wanted to have a friend and I know she wanted her mum and dad.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Inquiry - How to teach and learn basic facts!




My inquiry has gone off on a slightly different part in that I am now focusing on the basic facts within the friends to 5 and 10 and family of facts. By using the family of facts students are starting to see the connection between addition and subtraction. Over the holidays, I am going to look into a way that I can establish a classroom routine where there are basic fact iPad activities that the students complete each day as a follow up or warm up activity. These activities will be designed at specific levels through which the students can progress through as they begin to retain the facts as knowledge. Watch this space!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Engaging kids in writing through film!





Last weekend, I was trying to think of ways to teach writing in a more engaging way that would motivate the whole class and different ability levels. I thought back to my placements and remembered how I was once shown The Literacy Shed (an online bank of short films). I had used this on a Year 4/5 placement, however I thought why not have a go with my Year 2's...it was a huge hit!

I started the lesson by showing the class the first part of the movie (I used the movie Taking Flight) three times. We then talked about what had happened and made a class storyboard with specific words beside each picture. Once we had a clear idea of the sequence of events and some good words we could use, the kids set off to retell the first part of the video. I worked with my beginning writers on the mat, constructing simple sentences and finding words on the butterfly cards while the more confident writers took off to have a go on their own. Walking around the class while the kids were busy writing, I was amazed at what they were coming up with! Once we had written the first part we then came back to discuss what we thought was going to happen next and then watched the last part of the movie.

It was amazing to see how the class were motivated by not knowing what would happen at the end and by the animation which included little speech. Collaborating as a class gave us the opportunity to explore how we had all interpreted the movie and seen things others may have missed. It created a bank of resources and ideas from which students could pick and choose what they would write about. I would definitely recommend The Literacy Shed to teachers of any year level. Each video includes so many great ideas on how they could be used in a writing session!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Inquiry 2017: How to make basic facts more basic (easier to learn)!


After analysing the maths data I received from students' JAM results in 2016, it was evident that basic facts would be an area that a majority of the students needed work on. Last year I struggled with teaching students basic facts as I knew that  many students were still grasping the basic idea of numbers and what they represent. Although in saying that we had begun teaching students basic addition with small numbers so technically teaching quick fire addition and subtraction facts is very similar. Over the next week, I plan to look into some literature and ask colleagues in the junior school how they approach basic facts in year 1 and 2, so that I can create an action plan for my teaching inquiry this year. Watch this space!

Figure 1: Student data from 2016 JAM:

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Round 2 - The year of 2017!

As I began the first few weeks of my second year of teaching, I was quickly awoken out of holiday mode and was back into the full swing of teaching a beautiful class of Year 2's. Moving from a shared space into my own class was definitely a challenge and I was quick to learn the "Dos" and "Do nots" for the start of the year.



Here are some of the main gems or lessons for next year taken from this year:

Do: Take the time on the first day to have fun with the kids - Although I made sure that we set clear expectations and started routines I also wanted to make sure that we took the time to really build relationships. Together we created "Mini-Mes" and shared something special about ourselves. This is definitely something I would do again in the future.

Don't: Feel pressured to get through everything. The first few days I often forgot to really scaffold what I wanted the class to do. I realised this when I briefly demonstrated how to write an "About Me" for their blogs with an example I wrote on the board (It was a few sentences about who I am and what I like to do). I then sent the students to write their own and many returned with an "About Me" saying their name was Miss Peck, they were a teacher..... I had obviously not made it clear enough that they were to write about themselves.

Do: Take the time to try again. After the not so successful "About Me" writing lesson I was unsure of whether or not to try again the following day or to leave it a few days. I finally decided that I would retry the next day and I am very glad I did, as after discussing and scaffolding the lesson it proved to be much more successful.

Don't: Dwell on not having it all sorted in week one. After my first few days, I felt overwhelmed with a to do list that seemed never ending and which grew larger rather than smaller. I decided to take a step back and dedicate a task for each day which I knew was manageable. After the first few weeks, I felt much better and had a clearer mind as to what I was trying to achieve.

Do: Realise you will always be learning. Often I feel the need to perfect everything and this year I know that I sometimes need to realise that not everything will work out to the perfectionist standard I set. Instead I will work to do my best, ask for help, and keep inquiring and learning.

Heres to another great year at Point England School!