Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quality Teaching Model

I spent the best part of today learning about the Quality Teaching Model and how to utilize it in my school, classroom and practice. We began the day by discussing words we think of to describe "quality teaching". Words and phrases I came up with (after group discussion) were: meaningful, inspiring, engaging, catering for needs (and not rehashing material students already know), providing tools for lifelong learning, and stretching students' brains.

We learnt the history behind the Quality Teaching Model, beginning with it's roots in the work on authentic teaching and assessment by Fred Newmann. Fred Newmann was involved in research in Chicago where they looked at cognitive activity of adults who worked successfully in a variety of occupations.

From this research they determined three broad criteria for authentic work:

  • Construction of Knowledge

  • Disciplined Inquiry

  • Value Beyond School

See here for more information on this research.

From what I understand, QLD kicked off the research and application of this in Australia. NSW then conducted a study on the Systematic Implications of Pedagogy and Achievement (SIPA) and introduced the Quality Teaching Model. The ACT has now adopted the Quality Teaching Model as well.

This model involves pedagogy that:

  • promotes high levels of intellectual quality

  • promotes a quality learning environment

  • develops and makes explicit to students the significance of their work

Each of these dimensions are broken down into 6 elements which teachers can include in their programming, teaching and assessment.

After learning about the research and examining an example lesson, we teachers discussed the benefits we could see with using the Quality Teaching Model and any concerns we had about it's implementation. We felt that it would be a useful tool for teachers to use to reflect upon their practice and engage in professional dialogue with other teachers. It gives some direction for planning and programming and helps teachers to consider best practice. Some concerns that people had were with the use of the coding system - we don't particularly want people assessing our teaching using the coding, particularly if this will impact upon our pay (which is not the case at this stage).

My first thoughts for implementing this are to:

  • find a way to use the model in everyday routines - spelling, classroom management, maths mentals etc.

  • create authentic tasks to assess student learning

  • refer to the model when planning Integrated Inquiry units

It will be interesting to see how things progress with this new model. As was pointed out at the session today, it's not really 'new' material, it's just setting things out in a way that's more accessible. If you've had any experience with the Quality Teaching Model or authentic teaching and assessment, please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Update: Just in from my PLN, the Queensland model that paved the way in Australia is the Productive Pedagogies Model. You can find out more here.

6/9/09 This link will take you to an overview of the dimensions and elements of the Quality Teaching Model.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Explore Voice Thread
Now I'm going to admit straight up that I am brand new to this. I have heard about other people using Voice Thread, but have only just begun to dabble with it myself and am yet to explore it with my students. The reason I am writing about it today is that I can see such great potential for it and already have plans for what I will do with it this year.
Voice Thread allows you to take one or more images and upload them in a sequence and then record written, audio or video comments. They have special subscriptions for classes and schools. I'm going to test out the Free K-12 Educators one first and if I find my students wanting to dig into it more themselves I will consider a class subscription.
Initially I am going to use Voice Thread with my Year 4 students to create discussion around newspaper articles. I am going to scan in a newspaper article each day (fingers crossed!) and upload it to Voice Thread. Then I will invite my students to comment on the article using deBono's six thinking hats. I have created identities for the different hats, so students can comment from these different identities. See my example below (please be kind - I put it together quickly and it's for your benefit only!)

I'm yet to determine what we will do with the Voice Threads when they're finished. I'll probably post them on our class blog (still being created) and/or school website or "My Classes" page. They are very easy to embed (as seen above) and you can choose whether or not you want people to be able to add comments to the thread.

Sharon Betts provides a great explanation of Voice Thread in her session at the K12 Online Conference. This is really worth watching as she gives some great examples for how it can be used with students of different ages. Sharon also walks you through the steps for getting started with Voice Thread.

Teacher Tube also has some videos to demonstrate how to use Voice Thread. Here's a good one where kids walk you through the steps. This would be particularly good for students to use as a tutorial.

How have you used Voice Thread? What possible uses can you see for it?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What's the Deal with Australia Day?

We all have a bit of a laugh when we see this ad on television, but there is an element of confusion, and even a little embarrassment when it comes to Australia Day.
The 26th January 1788 marked the arrival of The First Fleet of British convicts to the shores of Australia and the beginning of European settlement. Prior to this day, Australian Indigenous people lived in 250 communities or nations each with their own language. For many Indigenous Australians, Australia Day is more rightly described as "Invasion Day". Australia has had a less than admirable history in terms of the treatment of Australian indigenous peoples. On the 12th February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Indigenous Australians on behalf of the Federal Government.

So what has Australia Day come to represent?

Australia Day is a public holiday in Australia. Around the country many new Australians are welcomed in at Citizenship Ceremonies. Notable Australians are recognised for their efforts and achievements with Australian of the Year awards. Special events are held in the capital cities including fireworks, concerts, fun runs/walks, and parades. For full details and a cool video about what Australia Day is about go to the official Australia Day website. And of course, as mentioned in the ad, it's a day for watching the cricket or tennis!

UPDATE: 2009 Australian of the Year, Professor Mick Dodson, has requested a national debate about a change of date for Australia Day. Read more here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Australian School Year - Explanation and Comparison

The Australian school year ties in with the calendar year. The year is broken into 4 terms (3 longer ones in Tasmania) of approximately 10 weeks, with about 2 weeks break between terms. The school year ends in December, just before Christmas. We enjoy our summer holiday at this time - usually about 5 or 6 weeks (depending on school or system agreements). This totals about 200 days (minus a few for public holidays). The school system in New Zealand is very similar.

As I taught a year in the USA, I have experience of that school year structure as well. I'd have to say that I'm biased toward Australia's structure, possibly because it's what I have always known.

  • I like that it coincides with the calendar year - so feels 'tidy'.

  • I like that the end of the year falls around Christmas time - it adds to the celebratory feel.

  • I like that we teach for 10 weeks and then have two weeks off - this helps to break the year up into tidy segments and provides time for rejuvenation.

When I taught in a private school in the USA I felt like I was constantly working. I had a break for Christmas and Spring Break but these breaks didn't coincide with the school terms. I found it really strange to finish one term on a Friday and start a new term the following Monday. Because of the nature of my visa, I didn't get to enjoy the long summer break that is the bonus of teaching in the USA. I arrived 10 days before my start date and left 10 days after my finish date. My experience of teaching in the USA required a lot of adaptation and I don't think I quite achieved it in the year I had. I think I just generally like how 'tidy' the Australian system is in terms of organisation and rejuvenation.

What do you see as the pros and cons of these school year structures?
What is the school year structure like in your country (other than Australia, New Zealand, USA)?

A Fresh Start #1

At the beginning of a new school year I like to get in before the official start date in order to familiarise myself with my new surroundings. I stand in my new classroom, take photos, imagine different parts of the school day, play with the desk arrangement and try to get a sense of how things are going to work.

Some things I consider are:
  • placement of whiteboards
  • location of student computers
  • wall space and bulletin boards
  • floor space for gathering, dance and drama activities
  • placement of teacher desk
  • available resources
  • storage space
  • nooks and crannies

Here are some photos of my new classroom (without captions because Blogger doesn't play fair with images!):

Easy Labelling

This is just a quick, simple tip that I found out a few years ago and think every primary school teacher should know.

When sticking name labels on trays, desks, bag hooks etc use contact as an under layer and then stick the name label on top. This makes it much easier to change labels for the new year as the label peels off the contact more easily than other surfaces. Alternatively you can peel the whole label off and start with fresh contact as well.

When making wall charts for birthdays, homework, readers, class jobs, etc cover the chart in clear contact and write on the chart with a dry-erase or whiteboard marker. Then you will be able to reuse the same chart year after year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This week's tip - Using a Webcam
I am heading into the new school year with a webcam in my possession. As I now have an in-built webcam on my laptop I can begin using my old webcam at school. So, I've started thinking about how I can make the most use of it in order to enhance learning.

What is it that a webcam can do that my other tools can't? It can record video to stream and it can be used to record/project onto an interactive whiteboard. I have a few ideas here to get you started, but I will post more ideas as I explore the webcam more.

Document Camera
Kay Lera outlines how you can make a document camera in minutes by attaching a webcam to a flexible lamp stand. This would be really handy for 'projecting' a children's picture book onto the interactive whiteboard to make the text and illustrations bigger for students to see and read. It's also quicker than scanning the pages with a scanner. If you record the reading students could return to the file later to reread the book on their own or in a small group. Another great use for this document camera would be to demonstrate art and craft techniques. When I've taught origami I've struggled to demonstrate so that all students can see from their desks. Using a document camera to 'project' onto the interactive whiteboard would solve this problem.

Stream Video From Your Class
Mr. C has a webcam in his classroom and computer lab that stream continuously on his class blog . Visitors to the site can check out what is happening throughout the day. I'm not sure that I'm so excited about this idea for myself, but it would be a nice way to include parents in special events. This blog also makes great use of video for a number of purposes so be sure to check it out to get inspiration. To hear more about the background of this project you can visit Dean Shareski's blog to hear an interview with William Chamberlain (Mr. C).

Video Conferencing
Brian Crosby shares ideas for video conferencing with a webcam at the K12 Online Conference. He uses Skype to connect his class for video conferences with other schools. He also used video conferencing when one of his students became ill and was unable to attend school for an extended period of time.

School Trip Updates
Lorna Constantini and Matt Montagne also suggest using a webcam to stream nightly updates from a school trip to keep parents informed and involved while students are away from home. The video of this example is at about the 12 minute mark on this videocast.

How have you used a webcam in your classroom? What tips can you share with us? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Challenges of Teaching

Given the title of this blog, I often have visitors who come looking for a list or explanation of the challenges of teaching. While I do talk about the challenges that I face as a teacher, I'd like to present something a little more accessible for people who arrive here via those searches!

The Challenge of Behaviour Management - This is possibly one of the most significant challenges I faced as a beginning teacher. I still find it a constant challenge as I get to know the intricacies of each child and work towards bringing out their best. Here are some posts on behaviour management.

The Challenge of Planning and Programming
- This is one of my favourite parts of teaching. I love creating new learning experiences and nutting out a plan. I like having some things planned out to the letter and having other things that are fluid and generally flexible. There are many factors to consider when programming a unit of work and it helps to start out with some sort of template to guide your planning. You can see examples of some of my programs here.

The Challenge of Assessment - This challenge relates to the planning and programming phase, but takes it a step further. Teachers are constantly storing away information about the children they teach in order to improve learning opportunities for their classes. When it comes time for report writing assessment helps teachers to give a more accurate overview of student performance and helps to determine grades with a greater level of objectiveness. The challenge is in selecting assessment tools which allow students to best present what they know and teachers to best access this data. Click here for a more detailed post about assessment.

The Challenge of Communication with Parents -Children learn so much more effectively when there is effective communication between school and home. In past years I have used Newsletters, My Classes, blogging and email to update parents about what is happening in the classroom. It also helps to involve the school community in special activities and invite parents to assist with reading or other roles in the class. The beginning of a school year is a particularly good time to start building this relationship. For more details on communicating with parents check out Link4Learning.

The Challenge of Differentiation - Classes are made up of students with differing interests, abilities, skills and knowledge. For this reason, one-size-DOES-NOT-fit-all. Teachers face the challenge of meeting the variety of needs they are confronted with. I try to do this through the lessons I prepare and consider this in planning and programming. For examples, look at some of the things we have been doing in class in our Friday Fun posts.

The Challenge of Technology - This varies from teacher to teacher, school to school. In some schools the challenge is learning how to use the technologies available. In others it may be learning how to teach using minimal technologies. Whatever the situation, teachers ask themselves "What are the tools I can be using to most effectively teach my students what they need to know?" Every Tuesday I share Tech Tips that you can try out in your classroom.

The Challenge of Teaming - The job of teaching can be made easier through cooperation and collaboration amongst teachers. So much can be learnt from considering the perspectives of others and building on ideas together. Effective teaming leads to better results for both students and teachers. The challenges are in establishing an effective team and working towards its continued success through regular productive interaction. Read more here.

Please leave your comments about the challenges you face as a teacher.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good Teachers - Highschool

I'm not going to go through all my highschool teachers one-by-one like I did with my primary school teachers, but I would like to mention the things I really appreciated about some of my better highschool teachers.
  • they provided choice for assignments - particularly in English
  • they took an interest in students as people (but weren't trying to suck up)
  • they knew their content area well and could relate it to real life
  • they provided opportunities for students to work together on projects
  • they selected interesting excursions (field trips) that were relevant to class content
  • they valued and responded to student questions
  • they managed student behaviours well
  • they allowed elements of creative expression

What qualities do you feel are important for highschool teachers to develop?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Teaching "Transport"

I'm not teaching transport anytime soon, but I recently gave some tips to someone who is. So, rather than help just one person, I've decided to share the tips here as well, just in case someone is searching for ideas.

These activities are designed with primary school aged kids in mind (K-6) and generally take a Science/Technology slant.
  • If your students are in grade 3 or up, you could consider linking it in with a bike safety unit.
  • Have students explore science/technology concepts through tasks -
    build a boat using only paper that will carry a 5c piece from one side of sink to other
    explore flight and discuss the forces that keep a plane in flight
    make those little paper helicopter things
  • More science/technology projects can be found here.
  • This book looks helpful.
  • Create a timeline that shows how people built on one another's ideas to make technological advances with transport. How did these changes better meet people's needs? What impact did they have on society?
  • For Teachers in Australia: On the 30th March 2009 at 10am the ABC is running a 15 minute program on Boats in a series called "Take on Technology" for Lower Primary.
    On the 1st April at 10.55am the ABC is running a 5 minute spot on Charles Kingsford Smith in a series called "Australians" designed for Upper Primary. The ABC is running a whole series about transport on For The Juniors at 10am (15 min slots) on following dates. (Second date is the repeat)
    29 Apr 30 Apr Land
    6 May 7 May Water
    13 May 14 May Air
  • The website "How Stuff Works" has great explanations of how things work! Here's one on bicycles to get you started:
  • The website "How everyday things are made" is absolutely brilliant, but I haven't had much of a chance to use it yet. Amongst other things, they explain how airplanes, motorcycles and cars are made.
  • Look at different transport around the world and how this meets particular needs - motorcycles in Vietnam, subways in big cities etc. For thousands of images of transport in a slideshow you can go to Just be warned, not all pictures are vehicles as it's based on a search of the word "transport". If you click on "Show info" in top right hand corner, you will find what the photographer has said about the picture.
  • You can also find videos on YouTube or TeacherTube that relate to transport. It might be fun to take a pretend ride in a helicopter by watching a video taken from a helicopter. These videos are very easy to download now using kickyoutube. Instructions are here:
  • You could look into who would visit your school - fire brigade, waste management, subway conductors etc. Or consider visiting a transit museum.
  • See if you can set up a tinkering station where students can tinker with bicycle parts, old toy cars, steering wheels or whatever you can get your hands on.
  • Buy or borrow "Cut-away" books that allow you to see cut away diagrams of inside different types of transport. Here is one on The Titanic.
  • Think about environmental aspects of different forms of transport.
  • Students design their own form of transport to meet particular needs (could design without making) perhaps use the SCAMPER framework to help them think through how they can improve existing models.
  • Lego makes great technology kits that help children discover about gears, pulleys etc. These may be costly to get set up, but may be worthwhile if your school is looking to enhance their technology resources.
  • Fantastic Contraptions is a popular physics game that might tie in. (I don't really get it - was never good at physics!)
  • Billy cart building and racing. Toward the end of the unit, see if you can get some parent helpers on board. Look online and find plans and examples of billy carts. Discuss the merits of different types. Design and build one or more billy carts and test them out.
  • UPDATE 30/3/09 Check out the Merriam Webster Visual Dictionary Online to interact with some great labeled diagrams of transport related items.

A New Meme - 5 Things That Make My School Unique

I really enjoyed doing the "7 things" meme and reading everyone else's responses, so I decided to get the ball rolling with an educational meme about schools. I have found that each school I have worked in has a unique culture. Some of the things that create this culture are big, some are small and some you'd barely notice. Through this meme I thought we could reflect on those things that make our schools unique.

The general format for a meme is to 1) mention the person who tagged you 2) write your response 3) tag someone else. I want this meme to be flexible, so there is only one rule: "If the shoe doesn't fit, change the shoe". If you want to change the number of things, change it. If you want to change the wording, change it. If you don't want to tag anyone, don't. Take it and make it your own. (Feel free to pass this paragraph along)
Here are the 5 things that make my school unique:

1. Last year we got a brand new gymnasium for assemblies, PE lessons and any other purpose we dream up. The principal arranged for a fitness instructor to run sessions for teachers one afternoon a week at a minimal cost to teachers.

2. In the colder months we have a soup day once a week. Teachers who want to participate go on a roster and bring in a soup to share with the staff. Nothing beats hot, homemade soup on those cold wintery days.

3. Our Building Services Officer goes above and beyond normal janitorial tasks. If you want something special made - a display bookshelf for the library, tinkering station for kinder, or a presentation stand for the unveiling of a plaque - he will do it for nothing more than a "please" and "thank you". He drives a mini and is known to make the sound "mee-meep" as he walks past a classroom. The kids respond with a chorus of "mee-meeps" before getting back on with their work.

4. Our classrooms have very few walls. If you were to walk through my school you would see that it is VERY open plan. Some people worry about the noise level and high distractability, but I've been amazed by how well the students have adapted. It's a great set-up for teachers as it encourages teachers to team teach and allows for flexible groupings of students for differentiation.

5. We have a VERY dedicated staff. The teachers at my school give 110% and then still manage to give a little bit more when something special arises. Because everyone is learning, collaborating and challenging themselves, there are more programs and diverse opportunities for students as well. It's a very dynamic learning environment.

Now, because I want to give the meme a good chance to get started, I'm going to tag 10 people, but I hope that you don't all copy me! As I said earlier, do what fits for you. I tag:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Take Note of the Beauty Around You

With all the buzz and hype of Web 2.0 - developing a PLN, connecting online, and finding open education resources - I sometimes find that I haven't managed to leave the house all day. I've been so busy doing 'stuff' online that I couldn't tell you whether there was a gentle breeze blowing, or whether the roses are blooming, or the colours in the sunset. Tonight I took my dog for a walk. I looked at the ants crawling up the bark on the trees. I noticed the sun setting over the mountain ranges. And it really is beautiful. So my tech tip this week is to take note of the beauty around you. Capture it, if you can, and share it.

Someone who does this particularly well is Tony Farley. Tony has created some marvellous videos of Beautiful Places in High Definition. The images are breathtaking and the narrative well thought out. Tony gives a description of the place and its history. He then gives you a moment of silence to experience the place for yourself. Tony finishes up with a poem carefully matched to the place he is visiting. Watching these videos is the next best thing to visiting the places in person. The quality of the filming is a visual delight. To view these for yourself, you can watch them streamed from the website or subscribe and download them through iTunes.

I plan to introduce these films to my students early in the school year. I will then get them thinking and talking about local nature areas within walking distance of the school. We will travel to these places, record the area through video, still photos and audio recordings. Students may choose to respond further through researching the area, and recording their thoughts or reflections in poetry. The images and narrative can then be combined through Photostory 3 or Movie Maker. To take it even further, I will help my students to develop a wikispace to share their reflections with others. We can open it up to other people in our school community who also enjoy this local natural environment.

Another suggestion (for those who cannot work with local natural environments) is to encourage students to connect Creative Commons pictures to poetry written by others or to create poems of their own to go with the images. I have done this with Kindergarten in the past - writing haiku poems about images from cut-up nature calendars. I've also done it with Year 3 by running a slideshow of images for students to select from and write a poem about.

I guess my main message this week is not to ignore the beautiful world we live in but rather to cherish and absorb it.

Beautiful Places - A Sample

Here is a sample of Tony Farley's work. You can see more at:

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Immersion defined as concentration: complete attention; intense mental effort

Immersion is the state of consciousness where an immersant's awareness of physical self is diminished or lost by being surrounded in an engrossing total environment; often artificial.

How do we engage students?

How do we create an engrossing environment?

How do we gage students' immersion in learning? Do we allow for individual differences in expression?

Credit to the New York Times who originally posted this video at:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Good Teachers - Primary School

Today I am going to share a tribute to the teachers I had in Primary School and share the impact they had on me as a learner and now as a teacher.

Kindergarten - Mrs Sykes
My kindergarten teacher introduced me to the world of school and offered me the opportunities I needed to grow. My mum had been teaching me to read at home, and Mrs Sykes let me read Dr Seuss books to the class. She also realised my potential with spelling and allowed me to go to Year 1 in the mornings so that I could do spelling lessons with them.
As a result, I try to give my students opportunities to show their extra learning to the class and provide opportunities for student extension.

Year 1 - Mrs Slater
I loved Mrs Slater. She could play the piano like no one else I knew, and I loved the way she played Gobbolino the Witches Cat. I remember the day Mrs Slater paired me up to work with a little girl with no hair who had leukemia. After that day, we became the best of friends. When Mrs Slater left the school to have her babies I was very disappointed to say the least!
I try to include music throughout the year as it is one way that we can bond as a class. I also mix my kids up often so that they have a chance to work with different class members.

Year 2 and Year 3- Miss Boyle
Miss Boyle had a great sense of humour. When she sneezed she made a huge production of it and the whole class would roll backwards to pretend she'd blown us away. On April Fools Day she came to school and pretended she had no voice! She read poetry and jokes to us every day. She introduced us to poems such as The Triantiwontigongolope and Extremely Naughty Children (which we performed for the school concert). She had a great system for teaching handwriting, where you went at your own pace, but couldn't move on until you got it right (I had trouble with writing fs!) She got us writing and publishing our own books with cardboard covers and all - I was so proud of my first book and wanted to become a writer! Miss Boyle also gave us opportunities to be creative, teach each other and explore our own interests. She gave us some Free Time Days which we had to plan in advance - we could even do cooking if we wanted to!
As a teacher, I try to give my students choices when it comes to special activities. I'm nowhere near as funny as Miss Boyle, but I do try to infuse poetry into the year in one way or another.

Year 4 - Mr Nethercott
I've mentioned Mr Nethercott before. He is the teacher who opened up the world of computers to me. He was on the cutting edge of technology and offered these opportunities to us as we learnt. That year we did research projects on dinosaurs and were able to use computer resources to help us find the information. It was a lot of fun. He also introduced me to the idea of class meetings, where students get to have their say and share their ideas.
I try to introduce my students to computers and provide opportunities for them to explore and become familiar with new technologies. I use class meetings or circle time to allow students to have a voice.

Year 5 - Mr Davies
Mr Davies liked to be called Sir Davies. I used to love his spelling lessons because he would give a whole story behind the words and explain the vocabulary. We learnt about words like phosphorescence and haemorrhage. (You don't know how proud I am that I spelt those right without spell check!) Each night we practiced spelling and times tables and had our parents sign off on them. I loved the challenge of learning these things off by heart. Sir Davies also gave us a lot of choice in the tasks we completed for our Sea and Space units of work.
I share relevant stories from my own experiences with my class. I try to extend kids' vocabulary and spelling according to their needs.

Year 6 - Mrs Burns
Mrs Burns liked to be thought of as the Dragon Lady. On the first day she yelled at me for bending down to pick up my pen lid! (I think it was that whole 'Don't smile before Easter' logic.) At the end of the year she wrote each of us a poem about ourselves. Mine has been locked into my brain ever since and I reflect on it from time to time when needing encouragement. Mrs Burns was big on poetry and presentation. I enjoyed this year as I tried to make my work look beautiful and had opportunities to have a go writing poems of my own. I particularly enjoyed our unit of work on convicts where we each chose a convict name and history and adopted that character. We kept a diary in character as we learnt about the experiences of the convicts as they travelled to Australia and started their lives in this new country.
I try to write encouraging notes to my students and give them a personalised Christmas card at the end of they year. I try to find ways to really engage students in the unit of work, like the imaginary journey we took for our unit 'Are We There Yet?'

As you can see, my teachers have had a huge impact on me both as learner and now as teacher. I was surprised by just how much they continue to influence me today. I also realised how important each teacher's unique style was - if I'd only had the one teacher all the way through, I wouldn't have benefited from the variety of talents and interests each one had to offer.

How about you?
  • Who was a teacher that had a significant impact on you as a learner or teacher?
  • What is something you do in your teaching that you were taught as a child?
  • In your opinion, what makes a good teacher?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The 1st Teaching K-6 Carnival

Welcome to the first Teaching K-6 Carnival. As we begin 2009, we are considering what this year will look like in our classrooms. Some of us will soon be meeting our new classes for the year, focusing on classroom management and getting off to a good start with our teaching programs. Others are past that phase and are now busy teaching their programs and finding the most effective ways of assessing students. This edition of the Teaching K-6 Carnival kicks off the new year with some great posts to motivate and challenge. I encourage you to visit the featured posts and leave your comments.

Innovate - Beyond the Slate

Tiger Lily shares her thoughts on Innovative Ideas for Integrating Technology posted at Teaching eVentures. She provides tips on how to teach using technology in innovative ways without breaking the budget. Her tips include classroom websites, blogs, podcasts, movie making, interactive e-books and digital storytelling.

Christina of Early Childhood Teacher posts about her experience with and use of Interactive Whiteboards in early childhood. She found a way to keep all her students engaged in the lesson through pairing the interactive whiteboard with individual student whiteboards.

Kelly Hines encourages us to consider Are Textbooks So Last Century? on her blog Keeping Kids First. She talks about the benefits of engaging students in their learning and drawing on multimedia resources to develop greater understanding of the topics being covered. She shares her argument for the use of laptops in the classroom in place of textbooks.

Jim McGuire at The Reading Workshop has a new way of grading where The More You Do, the Better the Grade. In Jim’s class students can improve their grades through regular reading at home, detailed online journal entries and by leaving comments on the class blog. He shares the rubrics he uses for grading this additional effort.

Rita Phillips would also like us to consider the ways we assess students and the support we provide. She shares three posts from Your Teacher Links. Teaching Test Taking Skills Doesn’t Mean You Are Teaching to the Test – tips on supporting students with preparation for classroom tests. Scissors and Glue and Glitter, Oh No! – tips and tools for providing students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning through projects. Teach Success Part II – tips on supporting students with note taking for research projects.

I share my article Tech Tips Tuesday - Making Good Use of Your Digital Camera which suggests a number of ways you can use a camera to enhance the learning and record progress throughout the year.

Brain Strain

Alvaro Fernandez of Sharp Brains wins the position of Brain Strain in this edition. He shares a review of The Overflowing Brain: Most Important Book of 2008. Included in this post is an article by the author Dr. Torkel Klingberg. It’s not a leisurely read, but gets you thinking more about the ways we require our brains to function in the information age. Make sure you read the comments at the bottom as Kenneth Cooper offers a different perspective that is also worth your time.

Look no further

Looking for textbooks? One Family’s Blog has a comprehensive list of Elementary School Guides, Workbooks and Assessment Resources , Elementary Public School Textbooks and Resources for Kids with Special Needs and Learning Disabilities.

Why not submit your post for the next carnival?

At this stage, editions of The Teaching K-6 Carnival will be posted monthly on the 7th. I will be collecting submissions throughout the month, looking in particular for posts that discuss and exemplify innovative teaching and the integration of technology in the K-6 classroom. I also invite a few "brain strains" to keep our minds alert and challenged. Please submit only articles of which you are the author and refrain from using this merely as a sales pitch.

If you have a relevant post that you would like to submit to the next edition of Teaching K-6 Carnival use our carnival submission form or the widget at the bottom of this page.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This week's tip: Make good use of your digital camera

I have an excellent camera that I keep with me to use throughout the school day and at home. It's a Kodak Easy Share DX7590 that I bought a few years ago, so I'm not sure what the equivalent is today. It has an automatic setting, but also allows for a range of manual options. It can also record short videos as .MOV files.

When I first began using my camera I tended to use it mostly for special occasions. I took the photos, but often that was where they stayed - as a file on a computer. This week, I'd like to share some suggestions for how you can get photos working for you in the classroom. This post is by no means definitive so please share your ideas in the comments.
Build a sense of community with photos of students

Early in the year I take photographs of my students and get them up around the room often as labels. When students see photos of themselves in their classroom they feel a sense of belonging. These photos come in handy for other purposes throughout the year. With young students I have created "Who am I?" classbooks where students write a few clues about themselves at the top of the page and glue their photo with a flap covering it at the bottom of the page. These pages are then compiled into a book. The same photo can also be used for the covers of "Star of the Week" books, a goal wall and portfolio cover pages.

Take photographs of students as they work and learn

Sometimes you notice new things about your students as you take photographs of them as they work. Looking through a frame helps you to zone in on that particular child and block out other distractions. These photographs can help you to reflect on how students are progressing with their development. They also provide visible evidence that can be shared with parents during discussions.

I particularly like to use the video function of my camera to capture students when they work cooperatively in groups. It is interesting to review these later to see how each person participates in the task. I'm often impressed by the sort of language I hear my students using as they work together to solve problems.

These photos and videos can be shared with the school community through a newsletter or added to the class blog or school website.

Take photographs of students as they play and share fun times with friends

I take lots of photos of the fun experiences we have throughout the year. These events often create positive emotions for students and the photos help students to relive these experiences. Collections of these photographs can be made into a Photo Story or Movie or viewed as a slideshow throughout the year. I received a digital photo frame for Christmas which I plan to use to play photos of the students throughout the day. (As a side note: Today I learnt how to pixelate faces with Gimp!)

Take photographs of student work to discuss as part of a lesson

Photographing is a great way of capturing the hands-on experiences of students during a Maths lesson. I took my class out to the playground to explore the concept of position - under, over, between, through etc. The students posed for photos in a position on the playground. I then printed them out straight away and we made labels to go with the images eg. "Hannah is between the bars".

Another time students worked in groups to make buildings out of 3D shape blocks. I took photos of the buildings and then put the images up on the interactive whiteboard for discussion. Students named the different 3D shapes that had been used. This allowed for everyone to have a good view of the buildings without the issues of students crowding the building or blocking someone's view.

As a spelling lesson, students worked in groups of three to make words with a common rime. As soon as a group had made a word they brought it to me and had their photo taken. They then went off to make another word. We then used the digital images to review the words and select spelling words for the week. (Faces are cropped her for privacy but were present in class activities).

Take photographs during excursions, special school events and cooking sessions

Photographs help to aid memory when students sit down to write. If you want students to write a recount of a special event photographs are a great visual aid to assist with ordering the events and including details. When writing a procedure they provide additional visual information which may be difficult to explain in words. These recounts could be made into a PowerPoint slideshow, Photostory or movie and shared with the school community online.

Capture moments of interest to share in class

If you have a camera with you when you're out and about (even as an application on your phone) you can be on the lookout for images that will interest your students. I have captured rainbows, dragonflies, cockatoos and hot air balloons to discuss with students in class. This is a great way of bringing science into the classroom without a lot of fuss. It also provides the opportunity to show how science relates to real world experiences.

Take photos for students to use in their artwork

Students can create multi-media artworks including photographs of themselves as the subject. I have seen classes where a photograph was taken and cut along the line of symmetry. Students then drew in the other side of their face.

Recently my students were creating an underwater scene of The Great Barrier Reef. One student asked if we could include a photograph of them pretending to swim as part of the collage. Students lay on the floor and posed for photos which were easily printed and included in the artwork.

Take photos of students with their parents at the school

When we have a learning journey at our school I keep out the camera to take photos of students with their parents as they demonstrate their learning. You can capture some really lovely moments during this time. These photos also remind students about their parents' interest in their learning.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Blogger Behind This Blog #3

7 Things You Really Don't Need To Know About Me

Lyn Tiernan tagged me with this meme. I'm actually very glad to have been tagged as I'm missing "my kids" and am struggling to think of interesting things to write! To make it interesting, I thought I'd make it a photo meme. (Thanks Lyn, I've had a fun afternoon going through ALL my photos - digital and printed!)

1. I like to paint. I'm no artist, by any means, but every now and then I get satisfaction from playing with paint. I like to paint in the abstract, but my hubby prefers paintings that look like the subject. Here's one I painted of my dog for my hubby's birthday. I love the texture of oil paints. I love how it stays all globby on the canvas. New York City brings out the artist in me more than anywhere else I've been.

2. I was in Times Square for New Years Eve 2006/7. I stood waiting for 10 hours for the ball to drop. Once you're 'in' you can't leave to buy food, drink or go to the toilet. We bought some Subway subs at 2pm to snack on during our wait. By 3pm they were all smooshed and sloppy from the crush of the crowd. Don't know that it was worth it, but not EVERYONE can say they've done it! All the paraphernalia I'm wearing was provided by the organisers and I bring it out for dress-up days at school!

3. We are a "fur kid family". My dog is like a child to me. We got him as a pup 7 years ago. He goes just about everywhere with us. He even moved to New York City with us when we lived there for a year. We've taught him all sorts of things so that our lives run more smoothly (and for fun too). He won't cross the road without our say so. We generally walk him off-lead, and when we want him to stay by our side we say "Stay close" and he does! He's also great company. When it's just him and me at home, I talk to him as though he understands English, and he responds at though he does. Here's a video of when I was teaching him how to swim. We used an old drink bottle and threw it out just a little further than he could stand. Eventually he got it!

4. When I was a kid I loved to climb. I particularly liked to climb the 'spider web' at a park in my city. I climbed rocks and trees and had no fear of heights. I remember the day my dad told me he thought I had gotten too old for climbing trees. I was probably about 14 at the time and had never thought a time would come when I couldn't climb trees. I understand that it's not socially acceptable any more, but it still burns within me. (I must admit, I did climb a tree at school this year because one of the kids from my class had got his teddy bear stuck up it!)

5. When I was in preschool, my grandparents came to visit and brought with them a lamb that they found wandering by the side of the road. We adopted him and called him Woolly. I took him to preschool and was very chuffed to be like Mary from the old nursery rhyme! He kept jumping out of his box and running around to the amusement of everyone. I was sad the day we ran out of grass and had to take him to a farm where one day he would become someone's dinner!

6. This is what my bedroom looked like when I was a TEENAGER! Need I say more? Just so you understand how embarrassingly 'nice' I was:

Yes, that is a teddybear on my bed - given to me by my mum so that I wouldn't need to hug boys.

Yes, it is a frilly, white, anglaise bedspread with cute embroidered pillows.

No, I don't know WHY I had a grizzly bear poster!

And all those little pictures on the wall? Most of those are pictures of babies photographed by Anne Geddes. (I went through a whole "baby phase" where I also cut out the lists of births from the newspapers each week and collected baby names.) Other pictures are photos of friends and arty farty photos I took for my photography class.

7. Finally, no list about me would be complete without SOME mention of "the hair". This is probably the most radical my hair ever was. As you can see, I had a fringe!! YES, a fringe. The rest of my life my hair has been as long as I can put up with it - usually somewhere between mid-back and mid-butt. Its never been dyed, permed or anything else. When I need a cut I usually have it done in-house. I've been using Pantene for years and swear by it.

And now, to pass this meme on, I tag the following 7 people:
Lili11 at Be Beautiful
Carissa at Good and Crazy People (even though I know she hates these things!)
and Bec who will one day start a blog
Don't feel you have to play along. But be sure to let me know if you do.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I won an award!

I was very excited to discover I had received this award from Lili11, but with all the hustle and bustle of the last couple of weeks, I just haven't got around to doing anything with it yet. This is my very first blog award, so I find that pretty cool too. Thanks Lili11, I'm glad you like my blog. Lili11 has a whole stack of blogs that you can check out through her profile.

Rules for the Butterfly Award:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Put a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Pass this award on to 10 bloggers.
4. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
5. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

I'm a bit of a stickler for wording, but also like to challenge rules and authority from time to time, so I'm going to pass this on to ONE and ONLY ONE other blogger which I really feel fits the title of the "Coolest Blog I Know". This blog is one I really look forward to reading in Google Reader. It's an easy read, a lot of fun, usually funny and always (and I mean ALWAYS) puts me in a good mood. As far as I can tell, she's not trying to push a product or collect a bunch of followers. She's just cruisin' along writing a brilliant blog about her life and her little one. And let me tell you, it doesn't take much reading to fall in love with that little one. So what is this blog of which I speak?
Check out Rachel's blog at "Following in My Shoes"

CONGRATULATIONS Rachel and thanks for keeping me entertained through the coolest blog I've ever known.

The Year To Come - 2009

I am excited at the prospect of a new year and have already been busy thinking, dreaming and planning what 2009 will hold.

At school I will be teaching year 4 with a male teacher who I've worked well with in the past. Our Integrated Inquiry units will include the topics:

Personal Relationships - including a novel study of "Rowan of Rin" by Emily Rodda, nature conservation at a local ridge, and hopefully the development of a class blog. Through this unit students will learn about building and maintaining positive relationships; and roles and responsibilities within a community.

Australian History - including a focus on Aboriginal history prior to British colonisation and then the different challenges faced by settlers up until the time of federation. Through this unit I would like to see students developing timelines with Dipity and trying out video casts to explain Australian history.

Textiles and Design - looking at fabrics and their uses, exploring different techniques with textiles, and creating their own designs to suit a particular purpose. I would like to see children working in team project groups to liaise with others, determine needs and wants, and produce products to meet communicated needs eg. costumes for school dance performance, craft items for school fete and commemorative t-shirt for year co-hort.

The Solar System - including an understanding of apparent size/distance, gravitational pull, current information from space exploration and the causes of changes to the surface of the Earth or atmosphere. There are numerous interesting and useful websites to support this unit of work.

At school I will also be working on our Student Enrichment Policy - trying to link up, document and promote all the great things the school does to enrich student learning and growth. I am excited by this prospect because I really do feel the school does this so well.
I've also expressed an interest in helping the school find and purchase a class set of laptop computers. Given that we now have wireless internet access, I can't wait to get the students started on laptops!

In my 'computer world', I hope to connect more with my personal learning network - testing out my webcam and exploring "Flash Meetings". I want to do some more podcasting, for Link 4 Learning, but also consider its future direction. I've recently taken on a Blog Carnival, so hopefully will be able to maintain this throughout the year (the first edition will be out on Jan 7). I'm keen to get my Delicious accounts working for me even more than they are currently. And, I'm sure I'll be surprised by a number of other opportunities that will pop up.

On the home front, there will probably be renovations, and hopefully a 30th Birthday overseas trip for my husband. He wants to see the Northern Lights and also drive on the German Autobahn. With all of this, it will come down to how much we can save up and what we decide to prioritize! Speaking of prioritizing, I'd like to get back into my running - probably early morning, or home from work in the afternoons.

All in all, it's looking like a great year.