Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Student Opportunities To Respond

Recently in our RTLB sessions, we have been discussing OTRs: students opportunities to respond. OTRs are strategies teachers use in the classroom, to seek or prompt responses from students. Student responses provide opportunities for the teacher to gauge student understanding, and give specific feedback and feedforward.

We were provided with a short article (currently in draft from PB4L and about to be published) breaking down classroom engagement, specifically OTRs. The key points I took away from the reading are;

Students are engaged in activities that are new and exciting, and as a result difficult behaviour is likely to reduce. I am pleased, therefore, one of my goals this year is to learn about, and try to implement a variety of digital tools.

"Frequently, problem behaviours result from a mismatch between the environment and an individual's skills, strengths, or preferences (p. 23)" So, for instance, some of my students have low literacy skills/levels, which may be the cause of behavioural issues - a genuine lack of understanding. This relates back to a previous post about the importance of considering literacy strategies throughout teaching (irrespective of the subject).

Evidence has shown an increased student reading ability from the use of OTRs. Again, referencing the importance of literacy. See our literacy coordinator's blog here.

During our RTLB session today, we broke down some of the verbal and non-verbal responses used in our classes recently. Check out our ideas in the pictures above.

Verbal and non-verbal strategies were also discussed in depth in the reading, and provided me with some ideas to implement into the future. For example, we have mini-whiteboards in the department, which could be used in small groups to share ideas/opinions in class. Or, the use of response cards such as a traffic light system (red, orange and green cards to demonstrate understanding). A couple of tips the reading suggests when using response cards, is that there is a lively pace, specific feedback and a short time between questions.

Finally, I shared with the group some of the OTRs I use, or am learning about, that utilise technology (see Drawing with the links here). This was a great opportunity to share what I have picked up throughout the past 18 months on my MDTA journey! I am yet to try Nearpod and Mentimeter, and will be using Chelsea's blogposts (Nearpod, Mentimeter), to guide me. The others I have used in my practice and are continuing to develop.

I am looking forward to trying some of the OTR strategies I have learnt about in our RTLB sessions. One I am incredibly interested to learn about is peer teaching, as I think this could be very powerful in the classroom. I have discussed with Cheryl, our PCT facilitator the possibility of having a PCT session about peer teaching, and cannot wait to give it a go!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Teaching - The Realities

On Monday night, Mal Bish and I had the opportunity to share our experiences as Beginning Teachers to student HPE teachers. Hayden Viles follows us on Twitter and #NZBTchat, the chat we moderate. He tutors AUT student teachers, and wanted us to share some of the realities of being a BT - the questions unanswered at university. 

We felt so privileged to have this opportunity and to give back to the community! So we really gave everything we could think of, in the one hour time slot we were given. Although the presentation was not interactive at all, we felt successful walking away, as we were able to share many things we wish we knew about before getting our first jobs, 'tricks of the trade' Hayden suggested.

These are our presentation points, and we have also shared detailed descriptions and examples of the key points (i.e. our planning) with the student teachers.

Hayden gave us great feedback/feedforward in preparation for our PENZ conference presentation in two weeks time. Our presentation will be focused on our BT journey, as well as the affordance of Twitter for educators. Please see the main feedback points Hayden gave us in prep for our presentation in the infographic I created alongside.

Overall, we feel blessed to have this opportunity. We were encouraged to really reflect on our first 18 months of teaching and what we have struggled with. We wished we had of had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with 'real' BTs while we were at uni, as some of our lecturers had been out of teaching for a while. Finally, this presentation opportunity reinforced the power of Twitter, because we hadn't met Hayden until we showed up today! Please see Mal's blog reflection of our presentation!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Sporadically Seeking Student Voice

Today, as I was walking between periods, one of my students (Y10) randomly gave me some praise on my teaching. I had just finished teaching her and as I walked past her she said to me; 

"Miss, thanks for encouraging us to be our best. I like how you don't get angry quickly if someone is off task, and you try hard to get them to do their work. I feel like you really care about us". 

Obviously, this made me feel awesome! But realised I haven't randomly asked for student voice for a while, so endeavoured to get some throughout the day. As I'd had one Y10 give me positive feedback (who I teach for Health and PE), I asked two other students from the other year levels I teach. I asked the question - "What do you like about being in my class, or about my teaching?"

Y9 girl (Health): "You give real life examples of your own".

Y11 boy (PE): "Going around checking everyone and if they need help and asking questions if they need help".

I then asked three students (one from each year level), "What is something you would like me to change in my teaching?" the responses;

Y9 boy (Health): "More fun activities, and more talking about the videos".

Y10 boy (Health and PE): "Less instructions, tell us what to do, but don't carry on and talk".

Y11 girl (PE): "Not worry about the naughty people and worry about the people who want to learn".

So, reflecting on this feedback/feedforward some small things I can change are the length of instructions of given (make them short and sweet), the time spent managing behaviour (focus more on the students who are keen to learn), and increase the amount of reviews and discussions of activities in classes (so they make more sense and students feel they are doing something).

At the end of the term I will be asking for student voice about the teaching in learning in their Health/PE class in Term 2, and am looking forward to their responses to see how I can improve further!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Prioritising our Priority Learners

Every second Tuesday we meet in Professional Learning Groups for full staff professional development. Our focus this term is based around our priority learners. These students are identified by the amount of credits they are yet to achieve. Tamaki College expect students to achieve a minimum of 20 credits towards their NCEA each term, so if students did not achieve 20+ credits during Term 1, they were identified as priority learners.

Within our PLG, we were asked to identify two priority learners, which we could help to 'get over the line'. As a group we brainstormed some plans of action or interventions we could put in place in order to help these learners. The ideas we discussed were:

  • Speak to previous teachers
  • Observe student in different subject (a subject where he/she has had some success)
  • Look to previous years results
  • Use a ViTaL/checkpoint approach
  • Move away from TKI instructions/education speak. Easy to understand success criteria
  • Whānau - might be siblings rather than just parents
  • Keep big picture clear as well as current assessment

Moving forward, we described the specific interventions we were going to put into place for our two priority learners, our plan of action. As the Doc includes many names about students and some personal information, see the two interventions I had planned in the screenshot to the right.

At the next PLG meeting, we reflected on what we had carried out as part of our intervention. Please see my previous post about observing one of my priority learners. I attempted to have one on one discussions with my other priority learner, however his attendance has been considerably low this term. You can see my PLG's overall reflections from our interventions in this Google Doc

Today we explored and broke down the 'Current Graduate Profile' of a student graduating from Tamaki College, alongside the Digital Age Learner Standards. This ignited many interesting conversations, which are summarised in the below Google Doc table.

After this discussion, we chose one of the graduate qualities and explained how/what we could do over the last few weeks of term to support our priority learner to develop the quality. See below my aim for my learner. I am already starting to see a increased motivation, he is asking more questions, and he is tracking well to achieve 10 credits in PE by the middle of next term! I am enjoying this learning process, and can't wait to hear how my colleagues are tracking with their learners.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Tackling New Vocabulary Strategies

Marc Milford is the Literacy Co-Ordinator (see his blog here) at Tamaki College, and yesterday presented some key strategies for teachers to help increase student's decoding skills of new words for our PCT meeting. We started by brainstorming the strategies we use, even as adults, to attack words we come across which we are unfamiliar of (see right). Marc quickly explained that students do not have these strategies, unless they are taught them, like we were. Therefore, even if we aren't English teachers, we need to be thinking about the texts we ask students to read, and how we are 'attacking' unfamiliar words with students.

See below Marc's presentation notes - we discussed some of the key problems/difficulties students have when attempting to make sense of a text and/or learn new words. One of the most common responses to new words I have seen in class, is giving up. Many of our students would rather give up, than try to break the word down, or to read around the word. As a result, their reading does not progress and they continue to struggle. Therefore, the mindset of a student towards their reading and vocabulary is incredibly important, as well as the strategies they are taught to attack words.

Throughout our discussion, I was thinking about how behind many of our students are, and the real need to accelerate our learners. Last year we spoke about the importance of talking, to be exposed to new words, that talking really does matter. Decile 1 students hear about 30 million less spoken words than their peers from other schools. Hence, the need to increase their vocabulary through reading, writing and discussions. The more students read, the more exposed they are to words, the more they recognise words and the more they put these words into practice. Our job is to help with this process.

As an addition to Marc's presentation and our discussion today, he provided us with the reading "8 Cs and a G" written by Dorothy Brown. Brown discusses her 9 strategies for teachers to support student vocabulary development, see my notes/thoughts about the reading here. I have reflected on the reading and today's session, and thought about how I could implement some of these strategies into my classes. I realised I am already doing many of them, but in different ways! See additional examples for English Language Leaners on TKI here.

Possible strategies moving forward:
- Use of clines for the affects of a drug on the body (short through to long term)
- Use of clines for responses to exercise (acute through to chronic)
- Collocations and clusters can be used to create webs/brainstorms of similar words to the new word, and to link the new word with common words. Could also weave in SOLO hexagons.
- Use of a thesaurus to teach students how synonyms can support with new vocabulary
- I need more 'creativity' - so providing students with multiple ways to learn/revise/apply their knowledge more often, such as Drawings, Slides, videos or essays.

A quote which I loved from the reading I keep pondering is "if the guess was wrong, still an effort was made and that in itself is better than being passive in the learning process" (p. 111). So, as teachers, irrespective of our subject, we need to help with decoding, breaking down and attacking new words to support's student vocabulary!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Detecting Positive Pedagogies

Aside from one visit to Albany Senior High School last year, I hadn't observed any other teachers teaching. I felt because I was co-teaching, I was essentially observing another teacher's practice all the time, and did not spend free periods visiting other teachers. Until recently, I did not think again about observing another teacher. I now feel I have wasted ample opportunities to do so, and in turn better my practice! I have completed two observations this term and reflected on them, taking away different things from each class. 

I first went and observed a student in Science. This student is one of my priority students (students who have been identified as achieving below the expected number of credits). I chose to observe him in Science, because he had achieved credits in this subject, however I was struggling to motivate him to get engaged to complete his tasks in PE, let alone start assessments.

I was surprised by what I observed. Even though from the teacher's perspective he appeared to be daydreaming and off task, he was reading through additional material on the teacher's Science site, while listening to her instructions. When asked to complete his tasks, he did so promptly, especially when the instructions weren't complicated. If there were multiple steps to a task, his engagement reduced. 

I also observed the student asked for help one on one with the teacher, but not in front of his peers. When I asked what he found difficult about learning in Science, he said he is really judgmental of himself, so would rather not write anything, than write something and be wrong. The student suggested to me that he did not have a lack of motivation, but a lack of confidence in himself, and a fear of being wrong. This opened up a great discussion with the student about the importance of challenge, and in order to learn, there will be some hurdles to get over.

After this observation and conversation with the student, I have tried to have more one on one conversations with him, include more group activities (as he expressed this helps his learning and confidence), and give the student words of encouragement/praise when he attempts something new. I am starting to see a positive change in the student's mood and greater engagement in tasks in class! Fingers crossed in turn this will affect his achievement in PE.

Without the recognition of the student as a priority learner, and observing him in Science, I feel this student would still be slouching in his seat at the back of the room looking sad and unenthused about his tasks. So, I am excited to see how he progresses!

Following on from this observation, Cheryl (my PCT facilitator) suggested we complete a observation of an experienced teacher and then discuss our findings from the observation as our fortnightly PCT meeting. I have been having behaviour management difficulties with one of my Year 10 classes, so decided it was best to visit this class in another subject to see what strategies the teacher used. Some of my observations include; the importance of simple instructions, having revision activities, don't try to talk over students (or you will repeat yourself), break down words students may not be familiar with (see more about this in this post), and provide students with opportunities to peer teach.

Moving forward, the final point is what I am going to focus on - attempting to provide opportunities for students to share their knowledge and understanding with their peers. I hope by encouraging students who are more comfortable and confident to 'teach' their peers who are struggling, this supports all students learning. I also think this may help put some content/tasks into jargon which may make more sense for the students!

After these two observations, I have realised the benefit of observing teachers, students, classes, subjects different from my own. I would like to complete an observation of a beginning teacher (any subject), and an experienced teacher in my department next. I found the infographic on this site, which will help me with future observations!