Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mentoring University Students

This term I have a university student with me for her Professional Experience. She is completing two of her pracs back to back and will be finished her degree on completion. We have just completed the first prac and now head into the final prac. This is not the first time I have had a student, but I have been very aware of my style this time. I thought I would share a few of the things that have made it work for me.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes
I clearly remember how difficult it was to start out a new prac - particularly those first few lessons, when you are trying to juggle behaviour management, effective communication, interesting lesson, monitoring students, and keeping an eye on the time. That's not to mention the nervousness you feel to have all those little eyes watching and judging AND your mentor teacher watching and judging! Of course, when you finish the lesson, all you can think about is all the things you either did wrong, or forgot to do!

As a mentor teacher, it is important to appreciate the difficulty of that juggle and to be supportive and encouraging. Of course the student is not going to get it all right the first time. They haven't been in a classroom practising every day. That's why they're here! Notice the things they are doing well, and pick just one thing to work on at a time.

Encourage Reflection
Even as experienced teachers, we don't always perfect a lesson the first time we try something new. The reflective process is very important for improvement, and for acknowledging the things that have and have not worked.

I admit that I have a tendency to share what I have thought of a lesson, before asking my student what he/she thinks. This is a no-no as it may prevent the student from reflecting and sharing their own thoughts! If you allow the student to share their thoughts first, you can gain a greater understanding of the things they feel they are struggling with and help them to work through those issues first. This year I have been trying a "Professional Conversations" format provided by the University. This has a list of questions for both mentors and students.

Plan Their Learning Experiences
As the student is there to learn, it is important to plan the experiences that will help them to demonstrate the skills they are required to practise. I go through the report format with my student and we discuss possibilities for meeting the requirements. I also encourage the student to look at what they will be asked at interview so that we can include those aspects as well.
We try to include:

  • a variety of curriculum areas
  • a sequence of lessons, including assessment of the concepts
  • extra curricular activities
  • meetings
  • article for the newsletter/or other parent communication
  • visits with other specialist teachers in the school
  • integration of ICT
  • differentiation 
  • transitions between activities
  • behaviour management strategies/resolving conflict
  • duties
  • team planning, assessment and moderation 
  • grading/reporting

How about you?
If you've mentored university students, what things do you find are helpful for making a successful learning experience for them? Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

National Library Of Australia - Digital Collection

This year is Canberra's centenary and there have been many events celebrating the life of Canberra during this time, with more still to come. For Canberra's birthday at school, I was asked to put together a 5 minute silent 'movie' showing footage and photos of significant events and the building of Canberra into what it is today. 

I can't share it here due to copyright restrictions, but it was enjoyable to put together and explore the images available through the National Archives and the National Library of Australia. I used iMovie to edit the clips and create the movie.

I have been back to the National Library of Australia's site this week looking for resources to use for another lesson I am designing, and again the results have been very pleasing. I am fascinated by the images of Lake Burley Griffin in its construction phase, and struck by the concept of such a complex task to make something that looks like a natural environment. I remember being just as amazed (if not more) when I first learned of the planning and design that went into Central Park in New York City. It is interesting to look back at our history and do so with articles from the past. The digital collection includes: pictures, maps, manuscripts, books & serials, printed music and oral history.

So, today I want to encourage you to check out the resources available at the National Library of Australia either through their website, or through their app, particularly when teaching a unit about Australia's history.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Comparing and Measuring Mass

In recent weeks we have been focusing on mass during class maths lessons. Given the success of our comparing and ordering capacity lessons, I decided to create a similar sequence of lessons for comparing and measuring mass using balance scales.

The first lesson was a cooperative task whereby students worked in groups of four to select items, compare them, measure their mass in a uniform unit and record their results in both written and video form. Students enjoyed this hands on approach and worked effectively in their teams. We then had a sharing time for students to select a video to show the class.

The second lesson was a rich task for assessment purposes. Students were required to select items for Little Red Riding Hood to take in her basket to her grandmother's house. They needed to choose five or more items weighing a total of less than one kilogram. While the task went well, it got pretty hectic when I tried to have everyone doing the assessment task at the same time and recording their measurements as well. I got students to finish off one at a time at stations and that was much more sane, so that's what I would recommend for anyone trying to do this. I would also recommend students only video recording an explanation of their results when they have completed the measurement rather than the whole process.

I have uploaded the lessons to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The packet includes:
Instructions and recommendations for use
Cooperative task and worksheets (including version without video cameras)
Rich task for assessment with worksheets and rubric

I'm really enjoying creating these measurement tasks with rich tasks relating to fairy tales. I wonder what I'll do when I get to length and area!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Clapping Pattern

This is a video of a clapping pattern our students are learning to perform at our upcoming assembly. I am posting it so that families can access it if their children are having trouble learning it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Tech isn't all that makes us tick

I know this is an obvious statement, but there are times in our lives when it is particularly evident that tech isn't (or at least, shouldn't be) all that makes us tick!

At the end of last year there was a blast of news stories about Generation Y and their phones. The premise was that smart phones have become so ingrained in their daily routines, that they become anxious without them - as if part of them is missing. As a Gen Y myself, I'd have to agree. If I forget my phone, I'm not just forgetting my 'phone'. I use my smart phone constantly throughout the day to check email, use the internet, take photos/videos/notes, check spelling/facts, and as a GPS, calculator, calendar, clock/timer, shopping list - just to mention the most evident ones that come to mind! A smart phone makes life easier, but would I be completely lost without it? Not yet - I still have other options that are just not quite as convenient. Also, to be completely honest, there are a lot of times when I use my phone when I actually don't need to.

The past week has been a pretty messy one in my life - nothing devastating - but just enough to leave me feeling pretty run down. As I've tried to manage the juggle of teacher, mentor, mother, wife, blogger, TpT seller and basic human being, I've been trying to find extra minutes for my day, and realised that there are some precious moments of time that have been wasted by obsessive phone checking. So my tech tip this week is about trying to get a better balance.

Cutting back on the unnecessary
I'm sure we all have our distractions which we find ourselves checking an unreasonable amount of times during the day - be that Tweets, Facebook, email, txt messages, TpT product sales/downloads, website visits, apps for sale, friends, followers, ratings or any number of other distractions. A simple way to get some more time back into your day is to cut back on the number of checks you do. You might actually get a nice surprise to realise that the obsessive checking is unnecessary and can be counter productive. The continual urge to check might even go away!

  • Try to avoid carrying your phone on your person at all times. Have a location that is accessible, but not too accessible. 
  • Wear a watch rather than relying on a phone for your time piece.

Changing things up
Sometimes I become so preoccupied with my gadgets, or plans for things I'll do next time I sit down at the computer, that I don't make the most of the other events in the day. Don't forget to enjoy the other goodies life has to offer. Toddlers are great at dragging you away from your technology! They want to experience the world and make sense of all that takes place around them. They build, do puzzles, get messy with paint, climb rocks, take nature walks, search for treasures (geocaching), ride trains, swim and splash, and get all gooey while they cook! Take a lesson from their book and get away from the tech a little.

  • Get outside
  • Explore other hobbies/interests/games
  • Be in the moment
  • Visit friends and family in person!

And when the Tech isn't there!
Every now and then we forget how much we rely on our IT and then something goes wrong - and boy do we know it! We wonder how we used to survive when we didn't have the internet at our fingertips 24/7. Or how we used to teach before electronic whiteboards, photocopiers, printers, teacher computers, laptops... BUT WE DID! And we can when things are undergoing maintenance or roll over. It doesn't even mean that we go back to teaching pencil and paper in books - but rather that we teach through living and experiences. It's important to maintain balance in our teaching so that a) we don't lose our ability to teach effectively without IT and b) our students don't lose the ability to learn effectively without IT.

  • Enjoy the mini-holidays from IT when they arise - rather than grumbling at how your lesson has been ruined. 
  • Teach resilience when the technology doesn't work and help students to find other ways to learn effectively
  • Don't get tricked into using IT just for the sake of it. Could your students learn more through a hands-on activity rather than reading about it or watching someone else do it online?