Saturday, June 29, 2013

I'm still here!

This term has been absolutely crazy, and this is the first chance I've really had to quickly catch my breath. A lot of what has happened has been hush hush, so not only has it been difficult to find time to write, but a lot has also been unwritable until now. So this is a quick post to catch you up.

Pre-service Teacher
I have had an excellent pre-service teacher with me, and she has been doing a lot of the teaching, particularly toward the end of her prac. The class did some really great work with her, and I had an opportunity to observe students and collect more data for report writing than I ordinarily could. As I have been doing less teaching, I have also been creating fewer classroom resources for TPT, but hopefully that will change a bit in the weeks to come.

This is the big one!
As you all know, I have been raving for years about the wonderful school that I am part of, and this year has been a particularly good one, with a great teaching partner/team and students. I couldn't be happier. But as I've explained to my students, sometimes you have to make a decision with your head, not just your heart. As someone who doesn't like change, particularly when things are going well, it's been very hard for me to make the jump.

Mobility is built into my school system such that teachers need to move to another school after a given amount of time, and this can be negotiated out to a maximum of ten years. I have already completed a number of years (and bits of years) at my current school, and thus wouldn't be able to see my son go through the school while I teach there. This is important to me as a matter of convenience and also connection to my son and his schooling. Given that, over the past couple of years I've been working towards a position in another school I'd love to work in, and it all came together for me this term. This new school is in the private sector, so I have had to resign from my current position, which is a really scary thought to me after 11 years!

The process took up a good part of the term with interviews and a demo lesson, and all the other bits that need to be pulled together. I've also been trying to familiarise myself with the new setting and have been using my "at home day" to visit the school and get to know the students/parents/staff. It's been an effort to juggle two work settings and home as well, but we've managed somehow.

It's not an ideal time of year for a class shift in Australia, but at the same time, everything has slipped into place for both class groups and both are having a successful transition/hand-over.
As I am now going full time, I have had to find additional care for my little guy, which has been a bit of a stress. As mum's know, it's hard to concentrate on doing a good job if you are worried about your child, and there are a lot of guilty feelings tied in with it. On the bright side, it is looking like my little guy may be able to join the preschool at my new school next year, thus making child care much easier.

So that's mainly what has been going on in the background this term, and what has eaten up any time I might ordinarily have had for blogging. The next couple of months will be hectic too, as I adapt to the new setting and write reports for these students, but hopefully I will have time to blog as well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

iDoceo and Reports

I have been using the iDoceo App this year and have written about it before. While using it, I have been wondering how useful it will be for report writing. Throughout the semester I added student grades, work samples, comments, and video/audio recordings. In hindsight (as always) it would have been great to start putting together the actual written comments, however I still feel much more prepared given the information I've collected. Another aspect I haven't really got working for me yet is exporting the data to other forms and saving time on data re-entry. At this point it is quicker for me to re-enter the data than to fiddle around with the files.

What I've found useful:

Icons - I have used the coloured emoticons to represent how well students achieved different aspects in a piece of work. In the subtitle for the column I wrote the aspects that students were marked on. This helps for given specific feedback about the tasks.

Date - I like to include the date on each entry so that I can see when the information was last updated. This is particularly helpful with reading levels, so that I can ensure levels have been tested recently before allocating a grade.

Colour coding and stars - I use colour coding to mark in a fashion similar to grades. The colour coding is easy to see at a quick glance and makes it clear which areas students excel in and/or struggle with. This helps with formulating subject specific comments. I also use the star icon to mark students who received a perfect score on an assessment. In the future I would like to use the in-built function for colour coding rather than having to do it all manually - but as yet I have not had the time to fiddle with this.

Annotations - Audio recordings and video recordings have been great for grading on speaking skills, counting sequences and group work. Photographs of work samples have made it easier to mark work from home and also review student work without carting home large piles of books.

Yes/No Editor - This is great for a quick check of a skill at any given point in time. I have used it to monitor on-task listening behaviour.

A-E Grades - I used this editor to grade artworks produced by students to use to come to an overall grade.

I continue to find iDoceo to be a valuable classroom tool, and have been pleased with the level of usefulness for reporting. Obviously, it is only as useful as the data you input, but there is also something to be said for having it all in one location on an iPad, which is so portable, and backed up to Dropbox.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about THRASS

Recently I was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to attend a parent workshop about the THRASS tools for teaching reading and spelling. While vaguely familiar with similar tools and aware of the THRASS chart, I had never really heard it all explained before. Anyone who has worked closely with me over the past few years has had to hear of my frustration with teaching spelling. I've been determined to find something that actually works and that provides a strong framework on which to pin learning.

THRASS stands for Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills. As far as I can tell, THRASS is not a teaching program, but more a philosophy and approach to teaching. Resources support the use of the THRASS chart and cater for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. 

In simple teacher terms, the chart displays 120 spelling choices to represent the 44 phonemes that make up the English language. Each phoneme is accompanied by the word (with phoneme in bold) and the equivalent picture. Once students are familiar with the chart, it can be used to help students to spell individual words and consider other words containing the same spelling choice. 

What I like about this:

  • It provides a structure to the sounds in the English language, and covers all 44 phonemes.
  • It provides classroom resources for students to refer to for support when spelling.
  • It allows for a common language and understanding around the types of phonemes - graph, digraph, trigraph, quadgraph.
  • It doesn't dumb down - children learn the correct metalanguage.
  • It can be used over a range of grades, and is flexible enough for differentiation within the class as well.

As I have only been to the parent workshop so far, there is a limit to my understanding of what it looks like in action in the classroom.

When I think about how I see it working, I imagine:

  • Exploring different spelling choices that students can see within a text they are reading. Eg. How many trigraphs can you find on this page? How many different spelling choices can we find for the phoneme ...?
  • Using the THRASS chart to approach the spelling of unknown words during writing tasks, and then using these moments to teach mini-lessons on similar patterns.
  • Encouraging students to test out spelling choices in a have-a-go book to determine which looks most right.

Though my current understanding is quite limited, I find that this approach appeals to me due to it's systematic nature. It just makes sense. I look forward to reading more and exploring THRASS further.