A Weekly Reflection Tool for Student-led Learning

This term, I have been trying to give my students more voice in our classroom learning environment with regards to the way we go about things and the tools we use to demonstrate our learning. I think this has stemmed from the Personalised Learning approach we have taken as a whole school this year, and my efforts to embed the purposeful engagement of the approach in every facet of my practice.

In a recent post I discussed the Morning Meeting that we share every day and the positive impact it has on our daily program. In this post I'd like to share a ten-minute, Friday afternoon tool that is promoting reflective thinking, goal setting and student voice with positive results in our classroom.


I look at the last hour of the week as a valuable time for reflection, sharing and wellbeing, rather than an excuse to stop learning and run to the games cupboard. I find it interesting that in Australia we spend so much time focusing on getting our students to school, on time, then only to not value every minute of the day that they are in the classroom.

A Reflection, a Goal and a Wish

During the last hour on a Friday, students relax and choose their working space in the classroom. They then discuss and choose two relevant sentence starters that they finish in their learning diaries.

Their learning diaries are accessible in the classroom whenever they need them to set goals or reflect.

Once they have finished their reflection and goal setting (and received instant feedback via a quick conference) they take a post-it note and write a 'wish' for the following week – this might include an area that they wish to learn more about, an iPad app they would like to use or a Writer's Workshop they think would benefit their project.


Not only does this feedback help me with purposeful, targeted planning for the next week, (usually an hour on Sunday afternoon gives me time to organise my thoughts!), but the students know that their opinions count and they can see this in the following week's learning.

I hope this reflective tool encourages some valuable learning time and reflection in your Friday afternoon classrooms and has a positive effect in your daily program!

Cheers,

 

Teddy.

 

What reflective tools do you use in your classroom?

What other strategies do you have to promote student voice?

How do you give students some ownership of what they are producing in the classroom?


I'd love to hear your suggestions, thoughts, comments and reflections in the space below.

 

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Professional Teaching Portfolios, What Should They Look Like?

I use Keynote on the iOS platform and navigate my digital portfolio using my iPhone as a remote.

As a second-year graduate teacher, it is around this time of year that I see a lot of activity on my social networks related to final teaching rounds and preparation for new graduates who will be seeking a job the following year. Lately I’ve become hung up on the obsession that some universities have with the creation of a huge portfolio that graduates are encouraged to take to each interview they successfully apply for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the creation of a document that promotes reflection upon successful completion of a Bachelor’s (or similar) Degree in Education, and I’ll list some of those reasons below. However, I also think that there are some other things to stop and consider before potentially spending hours on a static document that will rapidly pass its use by date.

Firstly, here’s what I like about the concept of a professional portfolio:

  • As I mentioned, by curating a portfolio, new graduates can spend valuable time reflecting on the pedagogy and experience that their degree has delivered;
  • Becoming fluent with terms associated with professional practice allows candidates to practice responses to questions if they are lucky enough to be short-listed for an interview;
  • There is a huge sense of pride and achievement associated with constructing a document that reflects what you have done, what you are capable of and where your true passions lie.

Now, the parts that I’m hung up on:

  • As with any aspect of teaching and learning: practice, knowledge and curriculum are constantly changing. Too many portfolios seem to be static documents which leave little room for updating. Anything representing your professional capacity as an educator should be open to change.
  • They are bulky and difficult to navigate.
  • The general consensus among the interviewing panel members (in my experience) is that they rarely have time to look through a portfolio.

I’m not against the idea of collating professional knowledge and experience, the very opposite! In fact, visual arts teachers rely very heavily on hard copy portfolios of work for obvious reasons. However, I am just trying to encourage people to think about how they go about it.

For example, digital portfolios have many advantages:

  • If you do a great job, they also show your capacity as an ICT educator – a highly sought quality in teachers;
  • There are a number of amazing, innovative publishing alternatives (Prezi is a must see!);
  • It is inclusive of engaging, digital media (such as photographs andvideos) that have a huge potential to showcase your various talents;
  • It can be showcased from a variety of different platforms; including iPad, projectors, laptops, Skype and much more;
  • It is a live document that can easily be shared, edited and updated for every purpose – this is my most valued aspect.

I hope this post proves useful to those currently updating their professional resources, and I welcome any comments or thoughts in the space below.

Cheers,

Teddy.


An #EdTech Question: Windows 8 or Apple Tablets?

Hi everyone,

I am appealing to all EdTech people on this one!

I was chatting with a university friend on Saturday about becoming a 1:1 tablet school, providing a networked system of tablets for the majority of students to use.

She is lucky enough to have the dilemma between installing a Windows 8 network of tablets vs. the iOS on Apple iPad. We spent a while weighing up the obvious pros and cons between the two, and I agreed that I’d put it to my PLN for some further ideas and discussion to help direct her school’s final decision.

Here are some of the main points of our discussion:

  • Apple is already immersed in our staff/students’ lives via iPhones/personal iPads etc.
  • The iPad is very flexible in terms of charging and syncing.
  • School networks seem to have more flexibility with Windows OS.
  • It is a huge investment to go 1:1 tablet/student ratio. Will tablets replace netbooks? Have they already done so?
  • What is the lifespan of the current tablet computers. Is it a worthwhile investment?

Please help out by adding any comments/suggestions/links below to help get this discussion started. It is a discussion that is very likely to take place in many schools as we see Windows (perhaps?) begin to close the gap on Apple’s dominant market share in education and elsewhere.

I look forward to reading and sharing your comments!

Cheers,

Teddy.

Which system do you use in your school?

What do you see as any obvious pros/cons of choosing either system for a school network set-up?

Have you seen this discussion taking place elsewhere? Or even had it at your school? Please share your ideas in the comments space below.


5 Classroom Techniques That Work

Keep Calm and Carry On!
As I have developed my practice during my two graduate years, I have experimented with a number of techniques that help build student voice, wellbeing and confidence into our daily classroom routine. Some things have worked, some haven’t, some have turned out to require more investment than the return which they provide.

Every teacher can make and modify different things to work for them and their grade. Here are 5 ideas that help our classroom (and myself) remain a calm and organised learning environment each day.

1. Student Sign-in Board

Recently I have been very conscious of the interactive white board (IWB) being a shared student-teacher resource that we all feel equal ownership towards. I understand that the interactive student student sign-in isn’t a new concept; however, with wellbeing issues raised in my class on a daily basis, I have used the board slightly differently. Depending on where they place themselves on the board, students can also indicate to others how they are feeling. This allows me to make some time to catch up with that student in the morning to settle any barriers that may have otherwise interrupted the day’s learning. Please email me if you would like my template, I’m happy to share.

2. Starter of the Day (8:50-9:00)

This involves each student starting the morning by using their ‘Starter books’ to finish a sentence on the board, for example, ‘Something that I do to help others is…’. Once again, I link the daily sentence starter to a wellbeing theme. This encourages students to think positively about choices they make and how they affect themselves and others. It also ensures that students are settled and practicing writing as soon as they have signed in. Other positives are:

  • It provides a ten minute ‘buffer’ during which I can address any serious wellbeing issues should they arise,
  • I give students instant feedback on their sentences and spelling,
  • Students practice independent reading as soon as they are finished receiving feedback from their starter,
  • It provides a relevant starting point for our morning meeting discussion.

3. Morning Meeting (9:00-9:10)

The ‘Daily Speaker’ runs the meeting and says good morning to everyone. I then spend a couple of minutes explaining the day’s structure and content. Students then close their eyes and are directed by the speaker to:

‘Close your eyes. Think of one thing that you did really well yesterday and one thing you’d like to do well in today’.

Students then pass around a teddy bear (Melbourne Football Club colors – very important!) and the person holding the bear is invited to share their daily goal. Students know that if they don’t get a chance today, it is likely that they will tomorrow or the next day. I am happy to share some of our morning meeting resources via email.

4. Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

 My very favourite reflective tool. Students can go thumbs up/sideways/down to show how they are feeling about something. It can be a quick assessment at the beginning or end of a topic, or even right after lunchtime to ensure any issues have been resolved. See this blog post from Sarah (@Bearzo_21) for some great reflective ideas.

 5. Keep Calm and Carry On!

I tend to have a number of anxious people in the room at any one time, for a number of different reasons. Losing my cool only ever exacerbates the situation, or breaks down hard-fought relationships. My motto this term (the students laughed when I shared it with them!) is to simply keep calm and carry on. It is so important to demonstrate the exact behaviours we want our students to demonstrate – how else can they learn?

These are just 5 things that are now embedded in our daily classroom routine. I know there are many other easy-to-implement techniques out there, and I’d love to hear what works in your classroom. Please share using the comment space below.

Cheers,

Teddy.


Free Reading Strategies Bookmark template

Hi everyone,

I have taken some time to edit and share a resource that I have modified and use in the classroom on a daily basis. A big thank you to my colleague, Catherine Barnes, for introducing me to this one last year in my graduate year!

I often begin my guided reading sessions/reading workshops/running records by asking my students to verbalise the strategies that will be most important when we read together. I also send home a spare with my home readers. This bookmark is a great way of encouraging each student to always ‘bring their strategies with them’, and includes prompts to help them recall important reading skills. I add a visual to one side of the bookmark and have the word prompts on the opposite side in the corresponding rectangle.

You can download the Reading Strategies bookmark template here.

Please feel free to edit the template to suit your classroom practice and find a style that suits you and your students. All I ask is that you retain the copyright watermark to enable OpenEdToolbox to keep sharing resources with educators worldwide.

Cheers,

Teddy.

What quick, easy strategies could you share for recalling and using reading strategies?

Do you have any quick tips or great tuning in ideas to share?


Maths Lesson Ideas – Smarties!

I always try and include some extra fun lessons in the last week of term that revise a range of topics students are familiar with. In addition, it is always extra special to be able to introduce some new concepts at the same time. I got the idea for this lesson from the Black Douglas Mathematics Centre, an incredibly rich resource closely linked to Maths 300, but it is free! If you haven’t had the opportunity to look at these resources as a school, please take the time to do so. They are just packed with open-ended, purposefully engaging lessons with a focus on problem solving throughout.

I taught this lesson in the last week of Term 3, and found myself wishing we had the time to investigate more!

Smarties! Introducing Negative Numbers.

Needs:

  • 600g pick n’ mix smarties
  • paper bags with random selection of approx. 30 smarties per pair of students
  • 10x10mm grid paper (enlarged to A3)
  • calculators

Lesson content:

Our Learning Intention was based on using our number skills to experiment with negative numbers (which my students weren’t familiar with previously), but the learning experience included so much more, including: data-collection, chance, graphing, number patterns  and calculator use. Our Success Criteria was to effectively show addition and subtraction using negative numbers on a number line.

I went to my local supermarket and bought 600g of pick n’ mix smarties, which was enough for around 30 smarties per pair in a class of 24 students. I also gave each pair a 10x10mm sheet of grid paper, enlarged to A3, to assist them with the graphing of their random selection of smarties.

The rules of the game were as follows:

  1. Each pair was to count their smarties and each player record this number in their own scrapbooks as their starting score.
  2. All of the smarties are placed back into the paper bag.
  3. Students take smarties out one by one, each student guessing which colour will come out next.
  4. A correct guess scores +2 points
  5. Incorrect guess scores -2 points

The students kept a record of the addition and subtraction in their scrapbooks:

Prior to this, I encouraged each group to build a simple column graph to refer to during the game – I had little input, simply observing and taking some anecdotal notes about graphing skills, axis labelling etc. Some of the graphing was interesting!

The students amazed me with their creativity when they began playing the game. Nobody ate any, they were far too valuable! Instead, they rebuilt their graph to assist them with correct guessing.

We had a great discussion about which strategy/strategies we were using from our Mathematicians’ Toolbox (an invaluable tool from edgalaxy.com, which can be found and printed here)

As students waded into unfamiliar negative number territory, some were able to successfully apply prior knowledge. I stopped other students and encouraged them to use a calculator and a number line to support their calculations.

The discussion at the completion of the lesson was based on meeting our Success Criteria, but also somewhat disturbed by the munching of half-melted smarties (‘no thank-you, I don’t want one’). As I said, I wish we could have used this as a springboard for a follow-up lesson, but it was a great one to explore in the last week of term nonetheless.

Cheers,

Teddy.

I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions and reflections below:

What resources do you use to enhance your maths classroom?

Have you found any other open-ended resource banks like Maths300? 

What makes a great maths lesson? 


What I’m Reading – October.

I managed to keep the balance between school and personal reading over the holidays. Here are a few that I am enjoying at the moment.

Making Thinking Visible, How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, Jossey-Bass 2011)

After seeing a huge amount of discussion about this book between educators on Twitter, and having discussed it with a few members of my PLN, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. I have already found the content to be relevant to current practice, and the arguments to be concise and well explained. I love the analysis of the revised taxonomy early in the book. It is a must read for any teacher who wishes to expand their understanding of how our students apply their thinking and knowledge in everyday context.

What’s the Point of School? Rediscovering the Heart of Education (Guy Claxton, Oneworld Oxford 2008)

This was also recommended to me by a member of my PLN. Claxton is touted as one of the UK’s leading academics and thinkers on creativity, thinking and the brain. I’m not finding that this is necessarily a text that I can pick up/put down (as I like to do), and that is making it quite heavy going. This has lead to me being slightly out of touch with Claxton’s argument. Having said that, there are some interesting points raised that have made me reflect elsewhere in my studies and discussions with my PLN. Hopefully I get a chance to follow this up in more detail in a future post.

Inca-Kola, A Traveller’s Tale of Peru (Matthew Parris, Phoenix 1990)

I have been reading as many accounts of South American travel as I can in the lead up to my big trip next year, and this 90′s gem from journalist Matthew Parris was no exception. It is an extremely well-written, gripping, often humorous tale of his experiences in and around Peru in the late 80s. If you are planning on any travel yourself, a great idea is to read as much as you can before you go. It is exciting and incredibly informative, I have added so many travel plans since reading this book!

The Snowman (Jo Nesbo, Vintage Books 2010)

I’ve been a little bit sneaky here, because I’ve actually been too busy to start this one. However, I have read The Leopard (another of Nesbo’s thrillers) and I am convinced this book will be worth the wait. As the cover indicates, if you’re a fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy you will enjoy this series too. The dark, twisted plots aren’t for those with a weak stomach though!

Twitter has been a great tool for me so far in terms of receiving recommendations from other educators. However, it is difficult to keep a record of great texts to read that everyone can access. For this reason, please use the comment space to share what you are reading, and any other recommendations so that we can all comment and enjoy!

Cheers,

Teddy.


Building A Global Classroom, Ten Reasons All Teachers Should Tweet.

I’m writing this post because I want teachers to be able to show their colleagues just what they’re missing out on by not having access to the global classroom I have recently become a part of on Twitter. This is what I refer to as my Personal Learning Network, or ‘PLN’. In my mind, educators have expanded their networks for some time, within their own schools or at conferences. Twitter is now giving us instant access to educators globally, which has massive implications on many elements of our professional learning and practice.

If you don’t have a Twitter account linking you to educators globally, here are ten very good reasons to go and get one:

Inspiration – My PLN inspires me to think critically, be reflective and actively improve my teaching and learning through communication and shared ideas. This is something that every teacher should be doing. Most of us are already; having a global PLN to support you makes it even easier.

Resources – Since starting to develop my PLN in late August, I have bookmarked a library of rich resources shared by other educators. These include Web 2.0 tools, lesson plans, other social media sites (such as Pinterest, Edmodo and many more shared in this previous post) but mostly just fantastic ideas that spark new ideas for learning that will suit my classroom. Using a tool like Delicious I can link my favourited tweets and bookmark interesting resources for easy future reading.

Learning – As mentioned elsewhere in this post, my Twitter feed constantly updates with teachers from all over the world sharing wonderful new ideas. This has encouraged me to actively seek opportunities for new learning. One example of this was my PLN’s positive response to Making Thinking Visible (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison) which I have since bought, and am now thoroughly enjoying!

Collaboration – In practice, teachers are encouraged to collaborate, share ideas, work together, debate, disagree and produce outcomes. This, of course, is the fundamental idea of the Twitter platform. It has been enriched further thorough use of hashtags such as #PLN, #Edchat, #Edtech and #OzPrimSchChat.

Politics – Social media has proved time and time again that it has a voice. Teachers too, can come together in this space and express an opinion. Although our AEU has some way to go with their social media campaign strategies (don’t get me started!), teachers have recently expressed their views in Australia using the hashtags in relation to federal funding with some success.

Easy – You can start setting up your PLN in three steps, here is an example of an easy way to start:

  1. Go to the Twitter home page and sign up here.
  2. Find my profile by searching for @TeddyMercer (or the colleague who encouraged you to read this!).
  3. Follow everyone I am/they are following and everyone who follows me/them.

Now all you need to do is introduce yourself, ask for shout outs, explain you’re new to Twitter and teachers around the world will do their best to show you the ropes. There are some more detailed guides at the bottom of this post and links to other resources elsewhere on my page.

Ideas – There are two sides to this: sharing ideas with others and those people giving you feedback as to how it went when they trialed it in their classroom is hugely rewarding. On the flip side, giving others feedback about how you used their ideas, and watching an idea from your PLN blossom in your classroom, is great too. There is an abundance of amazing ideas out there, it is just a case of selecting the ones that suit you.

Fun – Chatting with other teachers is great! I have had the opportunity to share knowledge with Pre-service teachers like Ashley Azzopardi (@AshleyAzzopardi), tech-wizards such as Hayden Jones (@elearnjones) and Daniel Edwards (@syded06) and professors and experienced teachers like Shaileigh Page (@DrShaileighPage), Mary Jones (@MJ0401Mary) and Ross Mannell (@RossMannell). Finding such a vast number of people who share a passion for teaching and learning has been one of the most successful aspects of developing my PLN.

Support – Teachers can also find support for their personal and professional wellbeing on Twitter. #TeacherWellbeingChat is held at 2030 central standard time every Sunday and run by the talented Louiza Hebhardt (@equilibriumctc). It is easy to join in the discussion using the hashtag, and gives teachers a chance to share their feelings with other professionals on a range of topics chosen each week.

Accessibility – Other teachers in my PLN don’t mind if I take a couple of days off! I can leave my Twitter account for a few days (we all have other things to do!) but everything will still be there when I log on a few days later. I also have access to my Twitter feed via my iPhone, iPad and laptop so it’s never that far away.

Please share this post with your colleagues if you’re still trying to convince them to join Twitter. After all, the more educators we can attract to our global PLN, the better it will be! I would really love to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions in the space below.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Other resources to encourage teachers to join Twitter’s global classroom can be found here:

What is a PLN and why do I need one?

DEECD release: ‘The Ten Stages of Twitter’ – Great reading!

Daniel Edwards (@syded06) has a great blog here.

Nathan Jones shares some excellent tools here.

Ashley Azzopardi’s blog is here.

 


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