Monday, 21 March 2016

Purposeful engagement

After speaking with a colleague tonight about purposeful learning it got me thinking about my class and my teaching. As teachers we drum into ourselves that our teaching is purposeful to the students needs and that we have full engagement in learning but when you put the two together what does this mean.

I recently had a reliever do a well planned writing lesson with my students. I wanted them to be encouraged to use descriptive language and make the writing more interesting for the reader. I feel this is something I seem to be drumming into them all the time, yet the outcome is never that successful. Having a reliever is always nerve wrecking and again that word reared its head "purposeful". I wanted to make sure that what they were doing had a point and wasn't just something that was done to fill in time.

So where did I turn... uncle google! Now i'm not a teacher that is ashamed to say some of my best teaching power points come off google, What's that old saying... Work smarter not harder! So after carefully whittling down the best possible ones that fit the purpose of my learning intention I had my remaining few. Anyone would have been good enough to use for my class and anyone would have gotten a half decent piece of writing out of the majority of them. But this is where I stopped... teaching shouldn't just be about the purpose it should be about making the students WANT to do that purpose and to me this engagement is different to the purpose being meaningful. I mean I have students in my class that are into hunting and I can make the topic meaningful to them by making it about hunting but that in no way guarantees engagement.

That was when one particular power point caught my eye. It was based around taking a picture of an old bridge with a  river underneath and writing a description about it. What I loved about it was that it showed two types of writing for the same picture, a basic simple non descriptive piece and then a wonderful paragraph that hooked the reader in and was full of juicy similes, adjectives and adverbs. It had its purpose to show the students how something could be so much better by simply changing a few words or a sentences. So once it had worked through how to do this I wanted to keep the students engaged even more by giving them a variety of interesting pictures that had all sorts of possible descriptions that could go with it.... and their it was possibilities! It wasn't about giving the students free range to keep them engaged but giving them different directions in which they could choose to take their own writing, but that the choices weren't limitless. It thought maybe a lot of editing on behalf of my reliever had happened but when I read the students work I was surprised to find only minimal spelling and punctuation mistakes which showed me they had wanted to and tried hard to produce fantastic description.  Man did I get some of the best pieces of writing. I have shared below one of my not so confident/able writers piece of work. Proud Teacher here......

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Funding schools based on student achievement

Well this is a post I never thought I would have to write. New Zealand's' current education minister has been quoted in the press as saying "We're very much at the beginning of this process so no decisions at all have been made as to which variables and in what way they'll be used but will student achievement and learning be one of them? Absolutely." (Moir, Stuff 2015) Really? I would love to know other peoples opinions on this because its something that absolutely infuriates me! I completely understand the need to have a way of deciding how schools are allocated funding. Our current system is based highly on the socioeconomic status of the community. And I'm the first to say that their are both positives and negatives to this. In a way it makes sense, the base principle behind it being that areas with a more well-off community doesn't need as much funding as those in poorer areas, because families with more money can support their child's school more. However this isn't always the case, especially in regards to farming areas where land value is high but incomes in local families are low.

My worry is that by making the change to funding based on student achievement you will create more segregation between the lower and higher income families, as well as the opportunity for "selective testing and marking" by school's to ensure they get the funding they need. I guess either way you look at it, it's never fair. Does a school with a majority of students who start with no basic schooling skills deserve to be judged for achievement against a school where most students start as "above standard"? 

The other thing that I start to question is.... is it fair to judge when the full resources are not there to help? It's like saying to skydiver 'you're going to be judged on your landing but we won't give you a parachute.' hmmm not a nice outcome..


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Changing the communication between whanau and school

So I'm on a role with all these ideas coming into my head about what I could post about next and funnily enough its an event at school that brings this post to the forefront on mind. Communication between home and school is always such a big thing. We talk about keep the lines of communication open with our parents so that we have that support for the student in their learning and behaviour. Its not the standard meet the parent evenings at the beginning of the year or three way conferences/parent interviews that I'm looking at its those times in between. When that student in your class has done something well, hasn't been themselves, or the parents have have contacted you worried about their behaviour or learning. When I was as school I guess in a way I was lucky, my Mum worked their so I'm guessing that my teachers would grab her for a chat about me.  (although I probably should check that one, I remember being a star pupil, however it could have been my imagination :P ) But students who's parents weren't easily accessed (from what I can remember) were called up on the phone at night, or asked to come in for a parent meeting. As time has progressed and I've become a teacher myself I've had these same techniques I'd guess you'd call them passed to me.

I have worked in schools where the expectation of contact between school and home is through phone calls and parent meetings. Now don't get me wrong this great and its still the tried and true way of contacting my parents, however it  But this is where my issue comes to play... I am part of the "Y" generation. The generation who has grown up with more and more technology. So this is where my my questioning starts. This idea of not giving out my cellphone number to parents, not giving out my email for them to contact me, does this justification come from a generation where parents were home more so had more time to contact the school and teachers, where often one parent didn't work so that support and time for the student was more readily available? These days when both parents are often working long hours, even often shift work, is it better to be able to use the technology we have to keep the lines of communication open and make it easier for parents and Whanau to keep in touch rather than restrict them?

Research backs the idea that the more home/school communication that occurs;
"results in schools:
  • Improved test scores
  • Improved grades
  • More positive student attitudes
  • Fewer special education referrals
  • Lower dropout rates
  • Less high risk behavior
  • Higher staff morale
  • Enhanced relationships between school and community
  • Increased parental support for school's initiatives and programs
  • Increased donations of goods, materials and services to the school
  • Improved parental opinion of and regard for the school" (Rick Lavoie, date unknown)
 So my question is... Do we need to change the way around how we are communicating with our students family members? Is the old way of calling parents on the phone or simply seeing them at parent meetings enough anymore? In an age where both parents work in most families and time is precious are we restricting the lines of communication between us and them by not allowing emailing and texting? Or are we making ourselves too readily open to 24/7 communication by giving out those personal details?
During my flurry of research into this I found a really good article which had a lot of intereseting points, particularly about the benefits for students and how it creates more parental involvement.

School/home communication: using technology to enhance parental involvement

Something to think about........

Monday, 7 September 2015

Enriching learners through technology

My one constant pondering (among the many I seem to have as a teacher) is "how can I enrich my students learning when they are working independently?" When I'm with them during group time I know exactly what they are doing and whether or not that task is to hard or to simple, but its that time when they are away that i'm left wondering whether the tasks they are doing are really beneficial to their learning.

I have always been an advocate for incorporating technology into my students learning tasks. I based my Accelerated Literacy Learning around this exact idea as I wanted to see if these kinds of learning based tasks really do help to enhance the learning they are doing with me. Whilst I know that a computer program is never a substitute for 1:1 teaching time, I am also well aware that as a teacher it can be difficult to get that time during the week to give those students that extra learning time they need with you to help give them that task. Some studies to say that classroom based computer programs do not help to enhance students learning. In ways I can agree and disagree with both sides of that view, however evidence has told us that technology has been helping to enrich learners for years. Marshall cites that "viewing of Sesame Street was positively associate with subsequent performance in reading, mathematics, vocabulary, and school readiness.(Wright, Huston and Kotler, 2001)"(i)
 In fact the entire paper "Learning with Technology, evidence that technology can, and does, support learning" is a very interesting read.

So my question is..with so many computer based programs out there, which ones are acutally beneficial to enriching learning in the classroom?

Study Ladder has always been a tried and true one for me. I like the fact that as a teacher I can choose what it is my students are learning and I can also track how they are actually going. The extra added bonus is that it is free, which as a teacher is always a positive. I like the idea of being able to track my students and set the tasks as I believe this the best way for me to make sure the work they are doing is actually enriching and giving them the link and support they need to what they have been learning with me. There really is no point getting them to do tasks using technology if it has absolutely no benefit for the student.  There are others that I have used which have been fantastic but its the cost that always then prevents me from being able to use it. So then comes the whole wondering of how do I as a teacher get around that?

So my final question to you as the reader of this (hopefully not too confusing first) post... What ethnology / computer based learning are you using within your own class and how are you using it to enrich your students learning?