Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Today is the first day of Term 2, so although I'm a bit late for Anzac Day (25 April), we will be looking into the significance of Anzac Day this afternoon. Anzac Day is held on the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in Gallipoli in 1915. On this day we remember all those who have died in military service for our country. This day is also recognised in New Zealand. For more information about Anzac Day traditions, visit the Australian War Memorial page. The resources I share today come thanks to Kerrie Smith of You Are Never Alone.
Their Spirit, Our History
This is a downloadable PDF file with information, activities and instructions for how to run your own Anzac Day ceremony. I am going to use this as an introduction to our discussion today and also for follow up activities.
Gallipoli: The First Day - 3D Interactive Site
This site takes you step by step through the events of 25 April 1915 as the Anzacs landed in Gallipoli. There are diary entries you can read/hear, images and other things to click on. I was really impressed with the quality of this site, so I'm hoping I can get us into the computer lab this afternoon, and that the computers will be up to the task of running the program! Otherwise, I will be recommending students check it out at home with their parents.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I'm on holidays at the moment and so have had the luxury of time for reflection. While I painted the window frames and walked the dog I listened to some podcasts and pondered my current teaching practices when it comes to the integration of technology.
A lot of people in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) seem to be doing this at the moment, and I think a recurring theme is: Yes, we have a lot of cool tools, but WHY are we using them? How are we improving student learning outcomes through their use? Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't be using ICT, I'm just saying we should be able to give a reason for why.
Here is an overview of the resources and what that helped me to think through.
It's Elementary #33 - Interactive Whiteboards
This podcast helped me to realise that in my classroom most of the Smart Board touches are actually mine. I use the Smart Board predominantly as a teaching tool and don't give my students enough time to interact with it. I'd like to think of some new ways to ensure that my students are touching it more throughout the day.
One thing that urks me about interactive whiteboards is that only one person can be manipulating it at a time - be that me or one of the students. When we use it for games, we have to pass the keyboard around the classroom, and the other kids get bored. I try to beat this by getting the rest of the class to write the answer with their finger on the carpet, but by the end everyone has had enough! Maybe we need to rotate through groups while the other students are doing book work or other activities.
On the positive side, I also realised that my students learn a lot through my use of the Smart Board as a tool throughout the normal school day. I teach basic computer skills through modeling as I use it and troubleshoot. I would be lost without it at this point because I use it for so much of my teaching. I use it to show pictures, use graphic organisers, search for information online, brainstorm, show videos, present written instructions, do quizzes, play games, display a scanned worksheet for explanation, and with my 'document camera' to model Maths concepts.
Using Technology for Higher-Level Thinking - Am I?
This blog post, by J. Mendel made me think some more about how I am using technology to develop higher-level thinking. One of the many jobs on my "Things to Do List" is to develop a resource that demonstrates how technology can be tied with the Quality Teaching Model. I'm just not sure when I'll have time to get to this!
The videos students created for our Rowan of Rin unit really challenged student thinking. They collaborated with others to search through the text to determine how their characters may have been feeling at different points in the story. They then conducted video interviews (news broadcast style) to present this information. By the end of the unit, students were creating their own questions for characters to respond to, and were throwing in some dramatic flair! The part of this project that I'm disappointed with is that I'm sitting in my own home editing the videos with fade in/fade out, text slides etc all without the input of students. Next time I want to find a way for them to take part in the whole production.
The Technology Specialist as Teacher Leader (from K12 Online 2007)
In this podcast Patrick Ledesma talks about the right way to get people on board with ICT. He talks about getting the infrastructure working well, making the links to the curriculum etc and THEN having fun with it. He warns us not to just be seen as Tech Geeks enjoying all the fun toys!
Holding a Mirror to our Professional Practice (from K12 Online 2007)
In this podcast Derek Wenmoth talks about the value of reflecting on our practices. He shares a tool that was developed to help teachers to self-reflect on how they are using ICT in the classroom.
I tested out the Educational Positioning System for ICT and found it quite useful. While it only gives back the information you give to it, the process aids your reflection and the information comes back to you as a visual representation in the form of a map. It helps you to clarify your philosophy and you can easily see your areas of strength and weakness.
From using this tool, I realised that an area for my own further development is using ICT to explore student creativity. I'm thinking now of new ways to allow students to access technology to get creative.
And one last one, more for fun, Kerrie Smith wrote Are You a Digital Collaborator? about recent research into Internet Typology and the use of mobile devices. There is a quiz you can take to determine where you fit into the mobile technology typology. (Wow, lots of 'ology' words!) This is more about your personal use of ICT than your classroom use of it, but I found it interesting all the same.
If you liked these, here are some more Tech Tips.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Last week I realised that there are great resources at my fingertips that I haven't checked out for quite some time. These resources should be that first point of call for Australian teachers, but I've fallen into the trap of going to Google first. Many of the resources on these sites contain Australia-specific material, however there are still many projects and resources that people outside of Australia will be interested in exploring.
Edna has recently had an upgrade and is now more useful than ever. The people at edna.edu.au do all the searching for you, so that you can find the good stuff quickly. And, if you find something they're missing, you're encouraged to let them know so that they can add it to their collection. I became reaquainted with it at last week's mini conference, so you can watch this quick video to find out how to access the resources you need.
Edna have a special section allocated to global education. These resources support the integration of a global perspective across the curriculum. Here you can get articles with facts and background information on topics relating to global issues. One of the highlights (as far as I'm concerned) is the Teaching Tools section where you can access case studies, projects, quizes, activities and learning quests.
Liked these? Check out more Tech Tips.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 to 13
Activities after reading the book
Students consider the things they learnt about crafting a narrative and apply these to writing their own adventure narrative where the characters face their fears. The photo below came from my Smart Board lesson for this activity.
Tying up the loose ends
We reviewed the last chapter to consider how Emily Rodda tied together all the loose ends. We considered which information was necessary early in the story to make the ending believable. We discussed the imagery used to provide a sense of desperation during the climax. We also discussed Emily Rodda's use of stars to break up the chapter and provide details about other characters elsewhere in the story. This lesson was a really important session that helped students to focus more on the importance of story endings.
This was an idea that I found in another book. Students created a 'one-pager' about Rowan of Rin. There were a number of ideas provided about what the 'one-pager' could be, but it needed to be a page about the book, with some added colour. Many students created a new cover for the book. Some chose to write about their feelings about Rowan's character development, and still others illustrated a scene from the book.
This was the first chance I had to play with our new Snowball Microphone. I set the microphone up on a stool so that six students could gather around it. Together we created a basic outline for a book chat with sentence starters and key topics to discuss. While other students were working silently on their 'one-pager's, I selected a group at a time to conduct their book chat. It worked really well and we even had time to listen to a couple at the end.
My Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed doing this unit of work with my students and would feel confident doing it again with a new group. Students learnt a lot from their involvement with this novel and the language stretched some of them more than the books that they prefer to read in their free time. It was an engaging text that proved useful for teaching a number of reading and writing skills. I hope you find it useful too.
Here is the complete Rowan of Rin unit.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Image: Going out on a limb by Penny Ryder
On Wednesday I presented for an Edna Mini-Conference. Edna stands for 'Education Network Australia'. They search for, review and provide a number of online educational resources of particular interest to Australian teachers.
During the day, Pru Mitchell, Cecily Wright and Concetta Gotlieb shared about the services Edna offers and discussed some of the resources and tools that we might want to use in our classrooms. It was a particularly informative conference and I left with a lot of ideas bouncing around my mind.
I was quite nervous about presenting, so luckily was able to do my part early and then enjoy learning for the rest of the day. I presented on Building Bridges between home and school using email, blogging, podcasting and other online learning environments for students.
After that, I attended a session on Global Education resources (see Tech Tips Tuesday next week for more information). I then attended a session on e-portfolios, followed by a session on web conferencing.
I'm not sold on e-portfolios yet - I'd like to see more information about their effectiveness. I would love to be able to use an e-portfolio myself, to strengthen my position in a job interview, however employers don't seem to be looking for this.
One thing I really like about e-portfolios is the focus on students being the ones to select and reflect on the items contained in it. I would like to find a way to make this task truly student self-directed and self-managed. Maybe I could create a class folder of photographs that students could use to create their e-portfolio in the form of a PhotoStory. This doesn't strictly fit the description of an e-portfolio, but may be a valuable reflection tool all the same.
I'm still trying to work up the courage to do some more with web conferencing too. Skype is not currently accessible at school, but there's really nothing stopping me from exploring it further with other teachers at home. Maybe I could 'sit in the chatroom' for an episode of Ed Tech Talk these holidays. I think I'm ready to step outside my comfort zone again!
As you can see, the Edna Mini-Conference was quite inspiring and motivating. I really enjoyed the opportunities to network with other local teachers across educational sectors. It was great to see how Edna is being used in such diverse ways and to meet needs of learners of all ages. It was particularly fun to meet one of my tweeps (Twitter people) who I had only 'chatted' with previously. Thanks Edna for a great day!
If you would like to read about other Professional Development I have attended, click here.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Toward the end of term we gave students 2 hours to plan, write and edit an adventure story. We tried to give an appropriate amount of guidance without overwhelming students with too many details. It was eye-opening to see the resulting stories. We used a rubric to help us evaluate the skills that students were using and the literary devices of which they were aware. While I was very proud of my students for their efforts, I could see a lot of aspects that I'd like to work on further.
Story writing is not just a case of orientation, complication and resolution. There are so many additional features to take into consideration. Students need to create stories that contain depth of content and describe a believable universe. Timing needs to be considered so that stories have a captivating beginning, appropriate plot development and a satisfying ending that leaves the reader both content but wanting more. On top of all of this, characterisation, dialogue, vocabulary and description need to be considered. Prior to this year, I wasn't aware of how much there is to teach about narrative writing!
I am trying to prepare my students with the skills they will need when participating in our national testing next year. Apparently, they will be expected to write their whole story (with appropriate features) in 30 minutes with an additional 5 minutes planning and 5 minutes editing! How many adults can write a logical, well structured imaginative piece of writing in just 3o minutes?
My intern and I are trying to think up a useful acronym to help students to remember the significant features when planning and writing a narrative. Students need something easy and memorable to take with them as a guide. I want to give them the best tools for success that I can discover.
Here are some useful tools that I've found:
Writing Fun by Jenny Eather
The Six Traits of Effective Writing
Step by Step Instructions for Creating a Fictional Narrative
Exam Prep: Tips for Narrative Writing
Do you have any other tips or tools useful for teaching writing? Do you know of any great short stories or resources for helping students to create short stories in a short period of time?
Click here for more teaching challenges.
Jonno organized a brilliant art activity for us - designing and decorating dragons with collage tails. Students used coloured oil pastels to colour the head and then alternated scaly strips in two colours for the body/tail. They looked really effective when they were finished. They represented a creative end to our unit on Rowan of Rin.
Cross Country Carnival
On Thursday, students in all grades did some running for our Cross Country Carnival on the school grounds. In Australian schools we have three major whole school sporting events each year: the swimming carnival, the athletics carnival and the cross country carnival. (Do these occur in other countries?)
At various quiet points throughout the carnival, one of the more experienced and enthusiastic teachers led students in high energy dances to keep them entertained.
I have been surprised this year to find how many students look for ways to avoid running in the cross country. Quite a few of my students experienced performance anxiety or complained of some form of illness. I wonder what can be done to prevent this occurrence next year. This year I ran the race with one of my ten year old girls. It was nice to share the experience together, and together we felt the sense of achievement at the end.
When I was a child, I had a hernia one year, and asthma another year. I think for myself, it was mostly an issue of laziness and an unwillingness to persist with a run for such a length of time. I didn't see the value in pushing through difficulties. This is something that I think I've learnt as an adult.
Never Give Up Attitude
This week we focused on the FRIENDS value: "Never Give Up Attitude". In Circle Time, groups created graphs about the difficult situations that students have had to face in life. The following lesson, students learnt about the story of Floppy Cat and considered situations in their own lives where they persisted through difficult circumstances. You can find out more about the story of Floppy Cat in the following videos.
As far as I was concerned, our three-way interviews were very successful. I was impressed to see how well students summed up their own capabilities and work habits. Most could explain how they were coping with the work and took ownership of their plans for next term. They shared any concerns they were having, and together we talked through solutions. I really like this form of interview as it represents a real team approach to learning and includes the subject of the discussion!
I even found that students were honest enough with their parents to own up to misbehaviour in class. It was much easier for me to have the student break the news, rather than having to 'dob' on them to their parents.
Assemblies and Visitors
Again this week we made good use of our school hall for assemblies and visitors. On Tuesday we had some players from the Western Bulldogs AFL team who came to talk to our students about their experiences with sport.
On Thursday we had a special FRIENDS assembly to acknowledge the work we have done on our FRIENDS values this term. Two students from each class received awards for following the FRIENDS values. We were also told that each class is going to be working on a name for each of the FRIENDS mascots.
After lunch on Thursday we had yet another assembly to find out the results of the cross country carnival and inform students who progressed to the next stage of competition.
Friday Fun will be taking a break until term starts up again. See you again next term!
Want more Friday Fun? Click here.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Gripes and Brags
In The Last Zebra the Professor encourages people to keep children's safety in mind by keeping them close. He offers suggestions on how he has succeeded with this with his own children at Professor of Protection.
Gerald Aungst shares ideas for Keeping Kids Focused at Quisitivity.org. He encourages teachers to accept that doodling assists with concentration during teacher-led discussions and points to research that suggests this may be a coping strategy for gifted students.
At My English Pages, Mohammed Rhalmi presents Teach with love and logic- Breaking the ice! He gives suggestions on how teachers can create a positive, caring environment for students. His 'ice breaking tips' are sensible ideas to help teachers to develope mutual respect with their students.
Dana, a homeschooling mum, presents What my daughter has learned through blogging posted at Principled Discovery. She shares about her daughter's learning successes with starting up a blog and creating a science e-zine with multiple contributors.
Innovate - Beyond the Slate
Remember the ant farm of yesteryear? C Merrick presents Gel Ant Farm - A Space Age Habitat For Ants posted at Gel Ant Farms. If you've ever considered becoming a myrmecologist, or want to provide that opportunity to your students, be sure to check out these gel ant farms!
This month at Keeping Kids First, Kelly Hines challenges us to openly explore new learning with our students. Rather than simply go by the book, she encourages us to venture Off the Beaten Path and create learning experiences that are highly memorable to students.
While most of the content of this carnival is focused on K-6 education, Fiona Lohrenz shares some Ideas For Day Care Activities And Games posted at Child Care Only. These ideas are great for developing skills in the early years and engaging children's curiosity.
In these times of great economic crisis, we are all sadly searching for ways to save money and prepare students to act responsibly with finances. Debbie Ducker presents Your Children and Grandchildren Must Learn to Save Money posted at Ducker Promotion Ezine, saying, "Teach your children how to save money at an early age and you will save them a lifetime of heartache."
Meaghan Montrose presents some simple ideas on using flash cards in Effective Learning Strategies and Study Skills- Part 2 | posted at Tutorfi.com.
In the News
How are you a teacher-feminist? Have you noticed the impact of gender, race, and other social schemata in your classroom? Educatorblog presents Ways of the Teacher-Feminist: Text, schema, and stereotypes, oh my! posted at An (aspiring) Educator's Blog. Take the time to read and reflect on this article and consider its impact for your own teaching philosophy and pedagogy.
Chris Mauger has taken a closer look at the development of healthy self-esteem. In Kids and Self-Esteem: Avoiding a Culture of Proud Failures posted at Maugeritaville he encourages us to provide opportunities to try and try again. Chris sees the value in helping students to achieve success for themselves rather than stepping in to do it for them.
Brain StrainThis month's brain strain is The Iowa series - Wrap-up posted at Dangerously Irrelevant. It's actually not a hard read this month, and contains lots of great diagrams and videos to present information visually. Scott McLeod provides a brilliantly informative resource discussing the future of education. He introduces five 'levers' to move schools forward and help students thrive and survive in this digital age. This is a resource I would confidently recommend to anyone interested in bringing about change in our schools and making them sustainable in an uncertain future.
Look No Further
Sarah Scrafford presents a helpful resource in 100 Free Online Books Everyone Should Read posted at Best Colleges Online. Here you can link to many of the classics including favourites like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Treasure Island". Her 50 Awesome Open Courseware Classes on Space & Astronomy posted at Rated Colleges may help you to touch-up on your own knowledge as you prepare to teach students about space. (I know I'll be checking it out!)
Erika Collin has gone all out with tips for Twitter this month. Her 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Librarians on Twitter posted at Learn-gasm, and Top 100 Tools for the Twittering Teacher posted at Best Colleges Online will keep you twittering away all those spare moments.
Margaret Garcia presents 100 Best Web Tools and Tips to Organize Your Inbox posted at Radiology Technician Schools. Prior to reading this post, I never realised there was so much one can do with email. If email is getting the best of you, check out this post!
Why not submit your post for the next carnival?
The Teaching K-6 Carnival is posted monthly on the 7th. I am 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. For full details, please read my call for submissions.
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. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Support this Carnival
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Friday, April 3, 2009
This week was packed to the brim with exciting learning experiences.
Communication - Assessment Task
Students began this task last week. This week they finished preparing their presentations and presented them. Three groups chose PowerPoint presentations, two chose role plays and a talk, and others chose posters (with or without a talk). It was very interesting to see how students organised their ideas and cooperated in their teams. As this was the first time I've given my students this level of student direction with a task, I learnt a lot from the process. This time I gave explicit details about what the presentations needed to contain - in the way of a rubric - but I did not give students a tool to help them organise their information and plan their presentation. Fortunately a very experienced relief teacher was in the classroom with me at the time and was able to throw something together to give students more direction. This is something that I will remember for next time.
We got to play with angles again this week in our Maths lessons. Miss Eschauzier (an intern who will be with us for eight weeks) took small groups out to work on ordering acute angles and measuring them with a protractor. I worked with the rest of the class exploring angles with compass directions and clock faces. Yet again, students loved playing with angles and learning how to name them. Students also completed a test to determine areas of strength and areas for development from this term.
We finally started our ridge project this week. Doug and Jenny from the Park Care group, came to speak to students about our school's previous involvement with the ridge and start a project with this year's Year 4s. They showed us pictures of some of the plants to look for, and some of the weeds that we will be responsible for pulling out. It was really enjoyable to learn from people who are passionate about plants and maintaining the natural environment on the ridge.
Part-way through lunchtime, we walked up the ridge to see it all for ourselves. I chose a few people to be our photographers, and other students had the option of bringing notepaper and pencils to record information. The following slideshow is a collaborative effort from students and myself.
A few students discovered the magic of moss in a drought-stricken land. The following video shows their discovery.
When we returned to class students worked in self-chosen teams to "graffiti wall" all the things that they had seen and learnt. Each student had a different coloured texta. They worked simultaneously to record their ideas. Most of the groups filled a huge page in just 15 minutes!
Our project on the ridge will involve students in taking responsibility for the care of their local community through protection of the ridge. We hope that students will develop a greater understanding of and connection with nature in the local region.
Students performed for parents this week to celebrate their learning this term. Students from the Fife and Drum Band performed five songs and Readers' Theatre people performed four plays that we learnt throughout the term. I was really impressed by how well the students read and played. They looked really professional and seemed so confident. Parents were invited to stay for light refreshments, and many commented that they had enjoyed the performance.
This term students have had the flexibility to work with a Homework Matrix. We encouraged students to choose at least two activities during the term and do quality work in presenting these. Activities chosen relate to the Higher Order thinking strategies of Bloom's Taxonomy and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. Students have chosen a range of activities to explore and demonstrate their learning. One student created a video about friendship and welcoming a new neighbour. Another student created a lego animation of one of the scenes from Rowan of Rin. Please visit his blog and leave an encouraging comment.
People who support us
After exploring some introductory resources on "Support", students considered people who support them at home, school, and in the wider community. They used Kidspiration to create a diagram of these connections and wrote about how these people support them. Students got off to a great start and their mind-maps were very detailed. They will have the chance to finish them off at the start of next term. We hope to add these to the student portfolios. Once students have finished, I will check if someone is willing for me to share their diagram here.
Next week we will be having three-way interviews. These involve the student, parent and teacher coming together to discuss the student's progress. We prefer for students to do most of the talking in these interviews. Students have been reflecting on their development in their "reflective journals" since the beginning of the year. Each week they write about their challenges, successes and plans. They used these reflections and their recent maths test to decide what they will share and discuss in their three-way interview. I haven't done three-way interviews with students this age before, so I am keen to see the result.
Rowan of Rin
I will not be posting about Rowan of Rin this week, but instead will include a final Rowan of Rin entry next week.