Purposeful Engagement: How Creative Thinking Can Inspire Learning

I could spend hours browsing the various talks on the TED website or app. Why? Because everyone who speaks at TED has a fascinating story to tell. I become completely immersed in topics that I’ve never been actively interested in, to name a few: Evolution, toasters and happy secrets.

The point I’m making is that once we have a genuine, relevant ‘hook’ by which we can purposefully engage our student audience, most of the work is done for us. The hard work lies in finding the ‘hook’.

I’m not suggesting that TED is the answer, or that we should tune students in to lessons by showing them these videos, but here is one which I was able to draw from this week when beginning a discussion on Asia and linking our Maths talk to real-life.

Which resources do you draw from to ‘hook in’ your students?

Do you have any examples of your favourite ‘hooks’?

What are your favourite TED talks? Share the best of them and your comments below!

 

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What Is Project-Based Learning?

Via What Is Project-Based Learning? – Edudemic.

The development of my practice over the past 12 months has included a strong focus on embedding Personalised Learning into all facets of my teaching and learning. It includes the Project-Based learning approach as an integral element of its success. We are drafting our school policy framework outlining our approach at the moment, and this video from The Buck Institute for Education outlines the key aspects of project-based learning and the drivers behind its success. Enjoy!

 

Do you use PBL in your school/practice? What are its successes/challenges?

Please share your comments and ideas in the space below.


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.

 


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?


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