Friday, February 27, 2009

The Challenge of Planning and Programming

This year I haven't found the planning/programming side of things so easy. Having moved from Year 1 to Year 4 I've found myself struggling to modify my teaching strategies, plan for new learning, and read/research all at once. It has been a challenge, but I think I seem to be getting there now.

Writing a teaching program is quite a complex task requiring a number of higher-order thinking skills. Teachers need to:
  • Analyse the guiding materials eg. National Statements, State Frameworks, School Curriculum.
  • Design a format for the program that will make it a useful working document as well as meeting the needs of supervisors.
  • Evaluate resources to use for teaching the content and providing learning experiences for students.
  • Create lessons and activities that will engage students and meet the outcomes.
  • Predict student needs and difficulties in order to differentiate tasks.
  • Devise assessment tasks to determine whether student outcomes were achieved.
  • Compile succinct instructions to explain lessons effectively but using very few words.
These tasks require careful concentration and uninterrupted time. Trying to do this in a normal teaching day - lunch time or after school - is a challenge in itself! I find it best to do the programming at home or somewhere at school where my students won't be popping in.

When confronting programming, these are generally the steps I take:
  1. Check out the unit of work - jot down any ideas that immediately come to mind
  2. Grab some resources - flick through books, search online and find relevant lessons and activities that will help students to learn the material and meet the outcomes
  3. Get creative - search more widely, think about people resources, movies, games, simulations etc that will engage students and provide for new learning opportunities.
  4. Data input - start up a table in a word processing document and put in the required outcomes. Start structuring and ordering the ideas to progress learning of these concepts. (In my mind, this is the hardest part of the process).
Rarely do I have my program written up completely before I begin the teaching. Rarely do I teach exactly to the program. My program guides me, but if I find better ways to engage my students and achieve the required outcomes along the way, I see no problem with making these changes.

What do you consider to be the challenges of programming? What strategies do you use? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday Fun - 27/2/09

Fun This Week
This week we had minimal interruptions to normal teaching time. It was nice to have things running to schedule, but was by no means boring!

Alligator in the Classroom!
We have been encouraging students to take charge of their learning, exercise their brains and share their knowledge. One student was a great example of that this week. On the weekend she purchased a cracking egg toy with an 'alligator' inside. When put into water the alligator starts to grow and begins cracking out of its shell. She brought it into school to share the experience with us. Everyone is very excited to check it out in the morning to see how much it has grown.

We looked at different strategies for working out the five times tables. We talked about how it's easy to count by fives to work out the lower tables eg. 3 x 5. For the bigger numbers we tried multiplying by 10 and then halving the answer. For example: 8 x 5 becomes 8 x 10 (80) halved (40). I found that this is a good strategy in theory, but students need to be confident with doubling and halving larger numbers first.
We also worked with data collection and graphing this week. We explored different types of surveys and the types of information they are able to gather. We looked at how Venn diagrams can be used to collect and sort information. This first diagram shows student preferences when asked "Do you like going on the internet and/or playing computer games?"

This second diagram shows student preferences when asked "Do you like chocolate, strawberry, and/or plain milk?" Readers' Theatre
While some of our students were doing Fife and Drum lessons, the others did Readers' Theatre. Students read and performed "Spider Woman and the Gift of the Loom" from a resource book full of Readers' Theatre plays. We will be doing one each week in the hopes of improving student reading fluency and expression. I would like to see students performing radio plays at some stage, and would also like for students to write some scripts of their own.

We focused on 'respect' this week in our FRIENDS values program. We looked at examples of respect/disrespect in both a comic and a picture book ("Zen Ties" by John M. Muth). Students thought about why respect is important and wrote about how they show respect to others. We also performed roleplays where students responded to scenarios assertively, but not agressively.
We have been busy registering our students for SuperClubsPlus and some have been able to get on already and have a play. It's amazing to see how much they've been able to do at home without teacher instruction. They seem to be loving it so far and one student commented that it brings students together who wouldn't ordinarily talk at school.
On Friday we had a session with SCP in the computer lab. One of the year 5 students who really knows her way around SuperClubs came to talk to the group about what she's learned with it. She really inspired them and was a great support to them as they got started.

House Meetings
Our Swimming Carnival is only a couple of weeks away so students met in their house teams to elect house captains. The air was buzzing with excitement. It's always great to see how things like this bring students together and build school spirit.

Rowan of Rin
I will write a separate post about "Rowan of Rin" over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This week's tip: Jing's the Thing

I've been meaning to learn how to capture a computer tutorial for quite some time, but thought it would be tricky so kept putting it off. Podcasting took me a while to get the hang of, so I figured I'd need to set aside some decent time to learn how to create a screencast. NOT SO! With Jing it is one of the easiest things you can do online.

Getting Started
Go to Jing and choose your system for download. It should start downloading immediately. Accept the terms of condition and install the program. It will also ask you to create an account with Jing online. This is as simple as providing your email address, username and a password. After this, I'd really recommend spending a couple of minutes at the Getting Started page. Usually I'm a 'trial and error' sort of person, but this time I took about 6 minutes to watch a couple of videos and actually knew what to do for a change! The whole process only took about 15 minutes!

Using Jing to Enhance Teaching
When I mentioned Jing to my tweeps (Twitter friends) some wrote back very excited about how they use Jing for teaching. @blenna uses it to create lesson plans. @crtwojtera uses it to capture wordles for her class blog. I used it to create a tutorial for students to use with our My Classes page. It's simple and easy to use and you have a number of options for how you save and/or share the file.

I plan to use Jing to create explanations for computer activities so that students can access them from home and continue their learning or explain it to their parents. I'm big on bridging the gap between home and school and providing students access to resources outside of school hours.

At the moment I'm still playing with Jing and getting used to recording myself as I do things on the computer. Check out my welcome post if you want to see a recent example.

How are you using Jing to address the challenges you face? How can you see it being implemented in the classroom? Please leave your ideas in the comments.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Welcome to this blog. I'm glad you've come along for a visit. I hope that it's useful to you and that you can find the answers to your questions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. You can email me at

If you're here looking specifically for the challenges of teaching, this is the post for you: The Challenges of Teaching

I created a little introductory video for you. (It's one of my firsts, so please excuse my nervousness). You may find it useful if blogging is new to you. It's a quick explanation of aspects of this site.

Thanks for popping by and feel free to leave your comments.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Literacy Unit - Rowan of Rin

This week we began a novel study on the book Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda. This is an adventure story that usually appeals to boys aged 9-12 and can be that motivator that hooks them into reading. Emily Rodda is brilliant at crafting stories that appeal to reluctant readers. Another of hers that I love is Finders Keepers.
I'm going to keep a record here of the activities we do with each chapter. I have been using the Four Roles of the Reader to develop these activities. Feel free to use and/or modify these ideas with your students.

For the complete Rowan of Rin unit (in reverse order!) click here.

Chapters 1 and 2 - Summary
In these chapters we meet the characters and find out that the village Rin is in trouble. The stream from the mountain has stopped running and the bukshah have no water. The bukshah provide dairy, wool and transport to the people of Rin. Without the bukshah, Rin will die. The town meets to develop a plan. It is decided that someone needs to go up the mountain to find out what is blocking the stream. Strong Jonn, Marlie and Rowan consult Sheba (the village's Wise Woman) to get advice about the best way to approach the mountain. Sheba tells them a riddle that they don't understand and throws a stick at Rowan.


Code Breaker
  • Work on developing reading fluency with the first three paragraphs.
  • Highlight nouns in this passage. Convert singular nouns to plural eg. morning - mornings
Text Participant
  • Create a diary entry from the viewpoint of Rowan
  • Create a newspaper article about the first chapter. Edit and publish. Insert text into this newspaper generator to create a newspaper clipping.
  • Create a cause and effect diagram for the first chapter. (We used Kidspiration.)

Text User
  • Discuss features of a first chapter in a Narrative. It needs to create interest and capture the reader. It introduces the problem that the characters need to solve. (To aid discussion we watched snippets from The Simpsons episode 8 of 18, where Homer gets hooked into a "Harry Potter" parody).
Text Analyst
  • Take a closer look at ideas about witches and debate whether Sheba is a witch or just a crabby old woman. We used the following PowerPoint slideshow to guide the discussion. Students had 2 minutes to individually brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe witches. We then made a class list on the PowerPoint presentation. After discussion about where these ideas came from, we read the scene with Sheba and considered her witchiness. Students discussed their opinion and then we did "Lay it on the Line". Students who thought Sheba was a witch stood at one end of the line. Students who thought she was just a crabby old woman stood at the opposite end. Students who thought something in the middle lined up accordingly. We then got a couple of spokespeople to share the logic behind their thinking. There were some really well formed arguments based on examples from the text.
2014 Update: Having just taught this section of the book again, I added a Padlet page for students to share their thoughts about whether or not Sheba is a witch. Feel free to have students contribute responsibly.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday Fun - 20/2/09

Fun this week:

On Wednesday we had a travelling performance group, "Bushwahzee", visit the school. They worked throughout the school day to coordinate a range of dance moves with our classes. Then, in the evening, families came back to the school to see the performance. This year's theme was "Beach Party" so the kids came dressed up in board shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Some even wore grass skirts! It made for a really enjoyable evening and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun. Things like this are great for bringing the community together, raising morale and building a sense of unity.

I had a mix of good and bad news this week. The good news was that everything is just about ready for us to run with SuperClubsPlus. The bad news is that my state's Department of Education doesn't support student blogging, so it seems unlikely that we will be able to have a class blog in the near future. We will still be able to communicate with families through My Classes, The School Website, and my blog; and we'll be able to explore a safe Web2.0 through kid-friendly SuperClubsPlus. This week I introduced students to SCP and sent home the registration forms. Once I get these back we can get registered and get moving.

Voice Thread Challenge
I tried to implement my newspaper idea using Voice Thread this week, but I kept coming up against obstacles. When I signed up for Voice Thread, it seemed that I could use it free as a teacher, but since then I have been receiving messages to say I need to pay money. I could cancel out of those pop-ups, but then I kept having issues with the running of Voice Thread. It kept jumping to the save/embed page and for some reason our voices weren't recorded. On top of all that, I've been told that my state's Department of Education doesn't like us using anything that publishes student work on third-party websites. So...after all of that, I have decided to use the Smart Board software or maybe PowerPoint to achieve these outcomes instead! If I use PowerPoint, I should still be able to share the final product with families through school websites.

Friends Book
As part of our unit of work on the FRIENDS values, we put together a book about all the people in our grade. Students chose a name out of a hat and thought of three or more positive things about that person. After they decorated the page, we bound them all together and read the book. It's a great resource to get to know the kids better and made for a great team-bonding activity.

This week my maths group was focusing on 10 times tables and place value. I finally got around to setting up a Smart Board Notebook with all the pages I like to use in a Year 4 Maths lesson. I have a timer, hundred chart, place value chart, calculator, piggy bank and coins, number line, website links and other activities to promote Mathematical thinking. I also tried out my webcam/document scanner for a dice activity. Below is a video demonstration of this activity. (My first demo video - feedback is more than welcome!)

One place value game the class particularly enjoyed is called Wipeout. Students typed 21 469 into their calculators. Then they had to 'wipe out' the numbers using subtraction. For example, to wipe out the 4, they have to subtract 400. As students become more familiar with this activity they can play it together in pairs, or even individually.

Williamstown High School Band
On Friday afternoon we had a visit from the Williamstown High School Band (from Victoria) who played a number of great songs and introduced their instruments to us. Our children were enthralled and bobbed along to the music. I always love to watch the way students respond to music - it really adds to the atmosphere and has a positive effect on mood.

Rowan of Rin
We began reading Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and completed a number of activities related to the book. I will publish these in a separate post over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Using Technology for Thinking and Planning.
According to the new curriculum framework in my state, students need to be provided with opportunities to recognise ICT as a creative tool for recording their planning, thinking and learning. This is one area of ICT that I seem to have neglected so far in my teaching. Because of this, it is an area that I have been looking into a little more in recent weeks.

I have been using Kidspiration with my class to create graphic organisers to structure our thinking. Last week we used it to brainstorm writing ideas for a book we read as a class. This week we used it to create a cause and effect diagram based on the beginning chapter of Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda. I am still becoming familiar with this program for myself, so my students are getting to see me problem solve out loud. (Hopefully they are learning from this!) Something I really like about Kidspiration is its flexibility. You create the mind map to suit the information you're trying to map. While it might be nice to have a straight-forward, sequential cause and effect diagram, it may not really suit the situation. Sometimes an idea will have multiple off-shoots that may reconnect further on (as we found with Rowan of Rin). Kidspiration allows for non-conventional thinking and planning.
Unfortunately, Kidspiration is not free and the price gets pretty hefty with multiple licences. The same goes for its older sibling, Inspiration. Recently Webspiration was added to the family for use with online thinking and planning. Webspiration is in its beta phase and is currently being offered free.

I found some other more prescriptive online thinking tools at ReadWriteThink and printable PDF graphic organisers at Tools for Reading Writing & Thinking. For a huge list of other Web 2.0 Graphic Organiser Tools, see Cool Tools For Schools. I look forward to working my way through these tools in the next year.

And now to you. What have you found useful for helping students to "recognise ICT as a creative tool for recording their planning, thinking and learning"?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Fun - 14/2/09

Olympic Visitor
We had Beijing 1500m runner, Lisa Corrigan visit our school on Monday to talk to the students about her experiences as a runner and to promote the Kids' Marathon in April. She taught us some pre-run exercises and stretches. Fran, who is involved with our local marathon showed us an Olympic Torch from the Sydney Olympics when she was selected to be part of the torch relay. Then we all went out on the school oval to run a lap behind Lisa. A number of kids have taken applications for the Kids' Marathon, demonstrating an interest in participating in this event.

Come Back Gizmo
We have been reading Paul Jennings' Come Back Gizmo. We finished it on Monday afternoon and then did a related creative writing task on Tuesday. Together we created a mind map in Kidspiration to consider ideas for writing.

Jonathan and I split the group into a girls group and a boys group for cricket games. The girls played French Cricket with me and the boys played 3-wicket cricket with Jonathan.

We started our spelling groups this week. We used a Spelling Inventory to determine word families/patterns that students need to learn. Jonno worked out list words for each of these groups and activities for students to work on to practice their spelling further. I set up the list words in Spelling City for my early finishers to work with. This was recommended to us on Mr Hancock's Class Blog.

I am trying out Smart Kiddies for interactive whiteboard activities to supplement my lessons. So far it seems to be working well. Teachers can register for free and use the resources in the classroom. This week we used activities from the Place Value and Number Patterns sections. We also used Molecule Maths from Fiery Ideas to practise ordering numbers from lowest to highest. Early finishers then used these chains to practise adding.

In Australia we are going through the aftermath of some terrible fires. This week we looked at newspaper articles about the fires. We looked at keywords in these articles and sought out the who, what, when and where of the stories before writing a summary sentence. We looked at what came up when the text was inserted into Wordle.
We read a Daily Telegraph feature about newspapers, then watched a video about the process behind making a newspaper. Students then found an article in the paper and labelled the headline, picture, caption, first paragraph (including who, what, when and where), quotes, writer and photographer (if given). Early finishers then wrote a summary sentence about the article they chose.

The jump from Year 1 to Year 4 has been tricky for me in terms of attention gaining tools and transition activities. In the past I clapped rhythms to get students to stop work and look my way. I'm not sure if it's too babyish for Year 4s! I also sang with students during transition time to avoid chaos, but all my songs were for younger children.
This week I borrowed a Sing CD from the library and started teaching the kids some new songs. We are really enjoying the Shoo Fly/ Get that fly! Medley. I can't seem to get it out of my head!

Reflective Journals
On Fridays students write an entry in their reflective journals. They consider their challenges and successes during the week and write their plans for the next week. We are really encouraging our students to be more reflective and to take charge of their own learning and growth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

What in the World is Wordle?

It's free, online, and useful for helping students to identify the main ideas in a text and what has been omitted. It creates beautiful word clouds that act in some ways like a graph - a visual representation of information.

"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends." (quote taken from

This week I used Wordle after a class brainstorm on our ideal classroom, ideal teacher and ideal classmate. Students wrote their thoughts on post-it notes. I took these and typed the text into Wordle. Wordle then generated a word cloud that I could print out and display on the wall as a reminder for students about what they thought. It was interesting to see how highly 'sport' and 'computers' featured in these word clouds.

I'm planning to use a scanner to scan in newspaper articles during our unit on newspapers. I'll grab the text, pop it into Wordle and use it to help teach students about visually scanning a text and determining main ideas.

Here are some more ideas that you might find useful:

Speeches of US presidents
have been transformed into word clouds. This information gives a visual representation of issues that were pertinent at the time of the speech.

This Wordle was made using the text from the apology speech of the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2009.
Wordle: Prime Minister of Australia - Apology to Indigenous Australians

A number of teachers have been putting together ways to use Wordle in the classroom. You can find Tina Coffey's great ideas at Teaching with Technology. Tom Woodward at Bionic Teaching shares some great ideas for Looking at Poetry through Wordle.

This last one's just for fun - No prizes for guessing what I Wordled.
Wordle: Episodes of Simpsons

Friday, February 6, 2009

2nd Teaching K-6 Blog Carnival

Welcome to the February edition of the Teaching K-6 Blog Carnival. Those of us in Australia and New Zealand are back into the swing of teaching and have no-doubt been very busy setting up our classrooms, preparing teaching programs and establishing behaviour agreements with our students. In this edition we have some great examples of tools to be used in the classroom. There's plenty here to keep your mind active and stretch your skills and expertise as a teacher.
This month I was inundated by posts about free online open coursesware classes, so I've added a separate section for these at the bottom. There's quite a range of interesting courses, but I haven't explored each of these thoroughly - I'll leave that to your discretion.

Innovate - Beyond the Slate

HappyCampers presents LookyBook: Bibliovores Beware! posted at Reese's View Of The World. Find out about Looky Book and how you might use it in your classroom.

Gerald Aungst shares Gifted Thinker, Meager Writer posted at He describes how he uses Audacity to allow students to express their ideas in spoken word before converting to written text.

In Why Bother getting Connected? posted at Digital Learning, Justine Driver shares a discussion on the importance of embedding learning technologies in our teaching. She has embedded a simple but inspiring video: "A Vision of K-12 Students Today". She writes about her early journey with the integration of technology and includes some great resources that she developed as part of this journey. Justine also shares her Learn to Read resources that she has tried with great success in two schools. These are useful with 5-6yr olds, students for whom English is a second language and students with Special Needs.

Jim McGuire presents Free Writing Choice Friday posted at The Reading Workshop. He encourages students to think and plan for a free choice writing session on Fridays. Students are allowed to choose their genre and topic for writing and Jim is there to conference and support them.

Christina has been very busy integrating technology this month she shares three posts at Early Childhood Teacher. In Podcasting and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Christina describes what she has been doing with podcasting in her early childhood classroom. These ideas are great for connecting the language skills of reading, writing and speaking. In Google Maps she outlines an excellent lesson idea for using Google Maps to placemark the birthplaces of students in her class, thus making a geography lesson more relevant.

Laura Milligan presents 25 Safe, Fun & Educational Virtual Worlds for Toddlers, Kids, and Tweens posted at eLearning Gurus. (Please note that there are varying degrees of what constitutes 'safe'. If an adult can register, how safe can it really be? Please be mindful of this when introducing students to virtual worlds and test them for yourself.)

In the News

Kelly Hines provides a thought-provoking discussion about 21st Century Skills in Why the Fight? posted at Keeping Kids First. This topic has been hotly debated in the past month and this is Kelly's response to a Washington Post article. Kelly brings new light to this discussion and shares her own perspective -well worth checking out.

Brain Strain

Gerald Aungst gets us thinking this month with his posts on Creativity vs. Discipline and Finding the Ace in Every Child posted at He writes about finding the balance between discipline and creativity in our classrooms. He points out that some highly successful people were particularly unsuccessful in traditional classrooms. He challenges us to find ways to support all students and explore their individual talents.

Look No Further

Helen Eddy shares First issue of Early Childhood News for 2009 is on space posted at Helen Eddy's Blog. Given that 2009 is the "International Year of Astronomy" this post may provide you with some useful resources for exploring space further with your class. Here you will also find other resources about a variety of topics relevant to teaching in Early Childhood.

Thinking about taking an online course?

Kelly Sonora presents Top 50 Educational Policy Blogs posted at Online University Lowdown.

Patricia Turnerp presents 101 Killer Open Courseware Projects from Around the World: Ivy League and Beyond posted at The .Edu Toolbox.

Jessica Merritt presents 100 Weirdest Open Courseware Classes That Anyone Can Take posted at Online Best

Alissa Miller presents 101 Free Open Course Classes to Learn How to Build ANYTHING posted at Best Universities.

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.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page or on the widget at the bottom of this page.

Support this Carnival

If you enjoyed this edition of the carnival, you can support its continuation by sharing it with others. Link to us, add us to a tweet, stumble or digg us. Thanks!

Friday Fun - 6/2/09

This week felt VERY long. The first week back always does. I'm finding myself feeling exhausted and there's so much still to do. Despite the exhaustion (and necessary testing) it has been a lot of fun as well.

Fun this week

Introduction to the Wonderful World of Blogging
I explained blogging to the year 4 students and showed them this blog. I talked to them about privacy issues for kids and explained that they will create an avatar and alternate identity for their internet presence. We used Build Your Wild Self to create the avatars and saved them to student files. Next session we will need to crop the pictures to get something that will be an appropriate size for a standard avatar. The kids loved this activity and also enjoyed creating a nickname to use.

Circle Time - The FRIENDS values
Some of the teachers in our school developed a great resource on the SMART Board complete with activities for teaching our values program. There is a junior program for students P-3 and a senior program for students 4-6. This week we had the introductory circle time where students played "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and thought about what they would do in different scenarios.

Starting Year 4 Worksheet
Johnno, my teaching partner, is great at finding useful resources for us on Primary Rescources. He found this worksheet for students to complete at the beginning of the school year. He modified it to suit our group. It's a useful introduction to our students and will make a good starter item for the portfolios.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Fresh Start #2

Our first day was a lot of fun and productive. My teaching partner and I designed the day around creating a sense of belonging in our unit and generating enthusiasm for the year ahead.
Our school has a big emphasis on team teaching. It is expected that the students in each level will share the teachers for that grade. Teachers should develop a relationship with all the students in their grade. Each teacher has a "home class" for the purpose of administration but teachers share the teaching - sometimes teaching the whole group, sometimes teaching differentiated groups based on student needs.
We spent the first half of the day as a big group and didn't tell students their classes until after recess. In this big group we had a couple of mixers so students could catch up on what they did during the summer holidays and get to know each other a little better. We went through a few administrative details: allergies, sick notes, late notes, toilets, drink bottles, lining up, emergency procedures etc.
Then we shared our vision for the students for the year. We told them about the Quality Teaching Model and the focus teachers will have on it this year. We then shared 6 Quality Learning Goals that we would like to see the students working on. We chose:
  • Take charge (of your learning and behaviour)
  • Get connected
  • Be creative
  • Stay active
  • Exercise your mind
  • Share your knowledge
We then asked students to work in small groups to brainstorm their ideal classroom, teacher and classmate. We ran out of time to take this further, but will revisit it again tomorrow to discuss plans for the year and a classroom agreement ('rules').
After recess we broke into our two home classes. Students had brought in all their stationery, so we spent some time labelling and sorting books. Then students made name labels for their tote-trays. This gave them some time to get organised and gain a sense of their "home class". While students worked I popped around and got a photo of every student to use for portfolios, art activities etc.
Before lunch the two classes met up again to consider options for a class name. Students voted and we are now known as "The Funky Fours".
In the afternoon students created a self-portrait in the style of Andy Warhol's Four Marilyns. We modelled our lesson on the work of students at Edleston Primary School in Crewe. It was a fun end to a great day.

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Education Podcasts

I'm starting with my new class today so I'm going for an easy Tech Tip this week. I actually started listening to podcasts before I even began blogging. I was amazed to see that I could download podcasts for free and enjoy Professional Development on the go - while running, driving to work, going for a bike ride, vacuuming the house, pulling weeds in the veggie patch etc. I still enjoy listening to these podcasts and find myself connecting with the people who produce them through Twitter and other online social media.

Here are some podcasts I recommend to get you started:

The Tech Teachers: Ray is a Physics teacher and Hollye is a Spanish teacher. In their show they talk about education and technology and where they overlap. It was through this show that I found out about Twitter, Flip video cameras and a range of apps for my iPhone. I love this show because it's informative, but also because it's fun to listen to Ray and Hollye as they interact. They do Christmas specials where they talk about some of the latest technology that you might like to buy as gifts.

Allanah Appleby's Showcase: This podcast is a great example of how podcasting can be used in the classroom. I'm still to explore this one more, as there are SO many episodes. Episodes are fairly short (generally under about 5 minutes) so can be listened to or viewed quite quickly.

Ed Tech Talk: There are a number of shows available from Ed Tech I enjoy listening to Ed Tech Weekly for useful links. (Episode 100 is a recap of the 100 best links). The Conversations Show gets you thinking more about education topics, particularly the future of education. And Parents as Partners helps you to consider ways to involve parents in the school community and gives you a greater sense of the issues pertinent to them.

K12 Online Conference: I am always recommending this podcast in one form or another. It is not an ongoing podcast, but rather broadcasts a number of episodes by different creators during October. These episodes can then be accessed at a later date. I have enjoyed the sessions in both the 2007 and 2008 conferences and look forward to what 2009 has in store. This conference is a great introduction to a variety of technologies and their use in the classroom.

Kid Cast: This podcast is about how you can use podcasting in the classroom. Dan Schmitt goes through important considerations from a pedagogical standpoint and conducts a contest each year to find the best educational podcasts being produced. He has a particularly useful video episode where you see him outlining uses for podcasting in the classroom.

Not Your Average Teacher: These guys are beginning teachers who talk through some of the challenges they face.

Successful Teaching: Pat Hensley shares her expertise in these podcasts. I enjoyed listening to the episode on Getting Ready For The First Day as I got ready to face my new class!

SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast: Here's a great podcast for tips on using Smart Boards in the classroom.

Moving at the Speed of Creativity: I haven't tested this podcast yet. It looks good and I've downloaded a bunch, but am yet to listen to them. Let me know what you think if you beat me to them.

Link 4 Learning: Come on, you've got to let me add my own one in! This one is my podcast with tips for parents for getting to know their child's teacher and supporting their child with reading. I'm hoping to do a series on supporting children with Mathematics, but have been lacking the motivation!

All of these podcasts are available through iTunes, or you can enjoy them on their home websites by clicking on the links above. Let me know the other podcasts that you enjoy as I'm always on the lookout for more.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Professional Learning Teams

Last night my hubby and I watched an ad on TV introducing the new contestants in the Australian Biggest Loser - couples. We were pondering what sort of team would be more successful - married couple, mother/daughter, co-workers, teammates, sisters? While we probably won't watch the whole season, we will be interested to see what made the winning combo.

Discussion around teams has also featured at my work this week as we are preparing for a new school year. My school has a collaborative focus and every teacher works in a number of professional learning teams (PLTs) throughout the year.

Types of Teams

We have grade level teams where teachers plan, teach, assess and moderate together. These teams are meeting continually throughout the week, both formally and informally.

We have P-2 and 3-6 teams for administration, professional learning and growth. These teams meet every 1-2 weeks and consist of about 12 people.

We have committees that work on school focus areas for the year - this year these areas are Enrichment, Curriculum, Sustainability and The Arts. These teams work together on a range of projects including policy development, school curriculum, whole school events, writing applications for grants etc. Every staff member is expected to select one of these committees to contribute to. There are also committees that don't fit into the focus area for the year, and these people meet together to consider the school's needs in ICT, PE/Health, etc. Involvement in these committees is voluntary.

This year we are trialling a Budget committee. Each year level sends one member to talk through the spending interests of the teams for English, Maths and Integrated Inquiry.

And then, throughout the year, there are teams that get together to prepare for special school events.

Getting Started
As a whole school staff, we spent about an hour this week working out an agreement for how these groups will function this year. We used our School Values acronym to guide us.

I- inclusivity
E-everyone cooperates
N-never give up attitude
We then moved into our P-2 and 3-6 PLTs to discuss and vote on areas we would like to develop further in the next 6 months. This will form the basis of our school-based Professional Development during this time.
Later in the day we moved into our grade level teams to begin planning and programming using the school's Integrated Inquiry curriculum and the ideas from the Quality Teaching Model.

Benefits of Teaming

As you can see, we have a lot of teams and committees, which for an outsider can seem overwhelming. When joining our school, the principal makes it very clear that you need to be a team person. So what good comes from all of this teaming?
  • Teachers sharing ideas and learning from one another
  • Interest and involvement in projects
  • Everyone has a voice and can play a part
  • Many leadership opportunities
  • Talents of teachers are explored and used
  • Good ideas become great ideas through collaboration
  • Friendly and supportive environment
  • Improved opportunities and outcomes for students
  • Shared workload so everyone is able to achieve more

Final Thoughts

Teaming doesn't happen overnight. It takes commitment from everyone on staff. It takes a vision and goals toward this end. The physical layout of a school and it's classrooms plays a part in the success of teaming as well. Our open-plan classroom arrangement lends itself to team teaching where closed, single classrooms do not.