Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 ... a year in review!

Usually at this time I just "think" about the highlights of my year and I've never had a blog before and therefore a vessel to review them via.  That all changed this year as embraced social media, in particular blogging and twitter and have enjoyed being able to share my successes, thoughts, attempts and meanderings.

I've grown so much as a teacher this year and look forward to extending that growth into my own classroom next year and at the same time completing my Honours degree - I have one summer school paper and a research project which I'm awaiting ethics approval for - once again, "watch this space" on that one!!

As we move into 2015, I feel I've accomplished plenty in my first year of teaching, and received an opportunity that very few beginning teachers have had - the support of a mentor teacher to assist in my transition to the classroom - the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy (MDTA) made this possible and this unique opportunity has made for an amazing year!

So, without further ado, here are just some of my highlights as I think back and review 2014!

  • The 19 unique individuals who will forever be the very first class I had the pleasure of teaching!
  • Sharing my knowledge with the school and cluster with HTML toolkits
  • Sharing my experiences on my blog (and the Auckland University Top of the Class blog)
  • Getting to know the wonderful staff at Pt England School who make coming to work every day such fun
  • Piloting the iPad 1:1 in the junior classroom - it was a challenge that I embraced and enjoyed, despite the hurdles and occasional bumps along the way - opportunities for learning and growth, each and every one of them!
  • Explain Everything - wow, what an app!  We've used it in SO many different ways and I know I will continue to do so in the future
  • The Manaiakalani Film Festival - wow - what an experience, can't wait to do it again next year.
  • The MDTA weekly sessions which gave us opportunities to debrief and talk about our weeks  and more importantly, explore new tools to assist us to be at home in a digital world
  • and last, because it means the most:  Michelle George, my mentor teacher - you are amazing!!  I will never be able to thank you enough for your support and encouragement this year - I'm a better teacher because of this experience - you shared a class with me and were supportive no matter what, always allowing me to try new things, while providing expertise and experience that you were so happy to share, each and every day.   
I'm sure I've missed things, but the wonderful thing about my blog is the history - I can look over the experiences of the year at any time in the future!  I can't believe I've been teaching a year - its been exciting, enthralling, exhausting, eventful, exhilarating and emotional - I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else!   

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Farewell Class 20 .... hello Room 19!

Well it has arrived, the last day of teaching for my very first year!  I'm not looking forward to farewelling my first class, but I do so knowing that I can watch them move up the school and that they have a unique place in my heart as my very first class!  2014 has been an amazing year - I've grown so much as a teacher and had the expert guidance of Michelle to support me on my journey. We have made some amazing discoveries throughout the year as a 1:1 iPad pilot class and I look forward to continuing the journey into next year.

And so I look towards 2015, and another first - my own class!  While my teaching space remains the same, I will be teaching Room 19, again a Year 0/1 class which will grow throughout Term 1 as new learners arrive at Pt England School.  Already I have begun work on my Google Site in preparation for a new year and I can't wait to meet the unique individuals that will call Room 19 their classroom for 2015.

My journey continues, as will this blog, as I definitely plan to continue blogging about my professional journey, this time supported by my very own class blog!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Provisioning iPads ... the learning continues

I love learning new things!  Prior to starting this year I didn't know terribly much about iOS or Apple products, having spent 10+ years working with Windows!  That all changed this year.

Earlier this year when we set up the iPads for our initial pilot class, we spend many hours moving apps around on the iPad screen (on every device) and entering passwords in order for the apps to arrive on each device (at the time I remember thinking "surely there is a better way")  - we wanted to avoid this pain as we move to provisioning iPads for all our junior classes in 2015, but we have a need to have the iPads all look exactly the same, with apps in the appropriate folders (eg maths apps in a maths folder).

Pt England School have chosen to use Meraki for our MDM (Mobile Device Management) - with the initial setup of each device handled by Apple Configurator, which automatically enrols it with Meraki.  While we are still ironing out a few minor issues, I think this combination is extremely easy to use and has made provisioning so much easier - and all our devices look exactly the same (complete with a great lock screen picture of Pt England!)

I have no doubt we will tweak our systems even further but a few tips that have definitely worked for us:

  • spend time getting your backup looking exactly as you want it to - additional time here will see you reap the benefits as the iPads will all look exactly as you want them to look
  • think carefully about how you are going to tag your devices within Meraki - you are able to use these tags to send apps, webclips and restrictions to groups of devices (you can use multiple tags if you want to identify iPads in different groups)
  • use webclips (within Meraki) to put a link on iPads (we use this to have a link to our class sites)
  • use a powered USB hub to plug in more devices at a time - provisioning via Apple Configurator will occur over all the devices plugged in
I found this guide by Meraki extremely helpful and user friendly.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blogging with 5 year olds

As we countdown to the end of the school year, my class have received their own blogs as preparation for moving to Year 2 next year!

The blogs were created with a few days of the term left, so I decided to take advantage of this and have the learners do a post using the Blogger app on their iPads.   This was a scaffolded lesson and we started by thinking about what we have particularly enjoyed about having iPads to help us with learning this year and unpacked some of the required vocabulary.  Learners created their own stories in their writing books and then used this to create their blog post, together with a photo of themselves taken with the iPad.

The class used the Blogger app for the first time and we went through each step as a whole class, with me demonstrating on the Apple TV and the learners then completing each step.  The Blogger app is really user friendly and I only had two children that tried to rush ahead and published too early - as I am an administrator for all the learners in my classroom I was able to quickly fix this.

I've also added some additional posts to my learners blog, celebrating the learning we have completed this year, as this will become part of their history at Pt England School.

A selection of my learners blogs are available here (linking to their very first individual blog post):

(NB:  These learners are currently Year 1 and will be Year 2 in 2015)

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Google Educator ...

As part of our final MDTA PLG we had the opportunity to start working towards our Google Educator exams.  I managed to pass two during this session and have completed the final three needed this weekend!

Completing the required study before sitting these exams reinforced much of the knowledge I already had but also introduced features I hadn't previously explored before in the Google product range.  Here are some of my "new" favourites:

  • Gmail Task list - I really like how you can link a task to an email you have received - rather than clogging up my inbox with unfinished tasks, I'm adding the task to my task list which automatically associates it with the email  - I like dealing with my emails immediately and having a relatively clear inbox - the task list is allowing me to achieve that even more than before
  • Creating custom calendars and embedding them into a Google Site - my class site links to a weekly calendar which I created this year using a Google Sheet and update weekly - now I realise I'm double handling.  Next year I will create a new calendar for my class and simply embed this into my Class Site - this will ensure its constantly updated and also shows parents and whanau upcoming events.
  • Google Chrome Themes - I had known these existed but haven't explored them.  Much like my computer desktop, I like an occasional change and by picking a new Google theme it gives my browser a fresh "new" look - maybe a new theme for 2015!
At Pt England School we use Google!  I use the Google range of products both at school and privately and its through the continued use that I have got better and better - I'm constantly exploring the apps and extensions available to see what could help me in my professional (and personal) online world!  Its now official however, I'm a Google Educator!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Our last MDTA PLG session

Its with a touch of sadness that I blog about our very last official Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy (MDTA) PLG session.  We've met every Wednesday since our first session back on the 20th of January when we walked around the area covered by the Manaiakalani Schools and up Mt Wellington.

During the sessions, Dorothy has covered such a huge range of digital tools including:

Google Sites
Google Docs & Sheets
Garage Band
Word Art
Screen Recordings
Hapara Teacher Dashboard
Google Analytics

While we will continue meeting informally next year to share our experiences as we move into our own classrooms, it won't be quite the same as our intensive sessions each week.  Its been a privilege to share this journey with my nine fellow MDTAs and I look forward to following their teaching journey into 2015.  

A special mention and thanks to Dorothy Burt for planning our sessions and sharing her knowledge in such an engaging and creative way every week, which in turn showcased the principles and philosophy of Manaiakalani: Learn - Create - Share!

I have created a Showcase of my MDTA year here

My First Year in Review

As part of our final weeks of our MDTA PLG we were asked to create a video as a summary of our year.  I found it difficult to condense what I wanted to share into just five minutes and when I look back over my year am amazed at what I've packed into such a relatively short time.

I feel I have grown as a teacher and am definitely looking forward to the challenge of my own class next year.  I will definitely enjoy my last few weeks with Class 20 of 2014, and look forward to being able to watch these lovely young learners grow as they move into 2015 and beyond.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Finding a way ... thinking outside the square!

Learners in Class 20 have been really enthusiastic about using ScratchJr since we had Class 12 visit and show us how it works (and they've created some AMAZING animations!)

Today we created animations from our school-wide athletics day using ScratchJr, as a way of showing which events we enjoyed the most!

We shared many of the examples to the Apple TV and peers really enjoyed seeing what others had created!  One of my learners really wanted to share his great animations with his Dad - can you please put it on the blog Mrs Belt?  Great that they use our class blog and understand they can use this to show their whanau what we've been doing in class!   But .... there is currently no function for sharing to either our blog or as a video file to the learners Google Accounts (although the ScratchJr website says this feature is "coming" - we can't wait!)  How to explain that one to a five year old that was so proud of what he'd created and really wanted to share?

I wondered if I could find a way?  Thinking outside the square tonight,  I was delighted to make this post on our class blog!  I used a screen casting program to airplay the screen of the learners iPad to my MacBook and then used Quicktime to take a screen recording of the animation - yes, its not ideal and a little more time consuming than just pushing an embed button, but its enabled me to capture this learners animation and share it on our blog as well as share an example of the animations that are being created by my learners!

NB:  There is no sound on this animation

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Once Upon a Time .... my Film Festival movie journey

Once Upon a Time .... As part of our MDTA learning journey we had to contribute a movie to the Manaiakalani Film Festival! We had many sessions throughout the year on using iMovie and I definitely can tell that I've been on a major learning journey! Prior to beginning this year, I'd never made a movie before, and today I see my movie on the big screen - not once, but three times (including the evening session!!)

Once Upon a Time .... There were challenges!! I wanted to use the costumes as my learners really enjoy "dressing up" - show me a five year old that doesn't! I decided to use the Green Screen and create a fairy tale land - a tall order indeed! Finding backdrops that suited my needs was hard, and I have learnt from this experience that pre-deciding on the backgrounds in advance makes it much easier! You can film to the background rather than try and fit a background to your filming!

Once Upon a Time .... Sound was an issue! Again, I made many discoveries that I will use in future films to ensure I have high quality audio to work with - I had to try and rerecord my audio and match it up to my actors which took a significant amount of time! 

Once Upon a Time .... We have a movie! I can't wait to see the reactions from the learners when they view it (for the very first time - no previews were given to them!) on the big screen later today. The filming experience, from scripting, to costumes, to editing was an amazing learning journey and I'm actually excited to do it all over again next year. Its an experience which I believe my learners will benefit from being a part of (even though it is more teacher directed at my level) and they will be able to look back on in later years with pride.

Once Upon a Time ....

Monday, 10 November 2014

Reflecting on Writing

Today was our last session with Dr Jannie van Hees for the year, as part of our school wide professional development on increasing dialogic conversations and improving writing.  As we reflected on the learning to date this year as a whole staff, Jannie asked us to pay close attention to the choices that a learner needs to make in text construction, these being:

TOPIC  - what are we writing about?
PURPOSE - why are we writing about this?
AUDIENCE - who is the intended audience of our writing?

I think this is an important take-away message and while many of my learners are at the beginning stage of learning to write, it is never too early to ensure they are aware of these three important factors as they make a difference in what we are crafting!  

As with all our Jannie sessions, they are informative and thought provoking and make me think about my practice and how I can improve or change things to better scaffold and assist my learners.  Some of the most important ideas that I took away from today are:

  • Think and planning before writing and during writing matters!  Explicit attention to this is important - this might look different in my class than say a Year 5/6 class, but that doesn't deter from its importance!
  • Can my learners identify the topic, purpose and audience?  Have we made it clear so they know what they are writing about, why they are writing about it and who will read it?  
  • If time is limited, discuss rather than actually "do" the writing. Professional writers plan all the time - they think about, plan and imagine, sometimes for hours, days or weeks before they do the actual writing. Modelling and doing this as a whole class helps to set up my learners for working independently and scaffolds them into their own planning.
  • What does co-editing do? How might this look? There is an assumption with co-editing that there is an informed mediator (someone with more knowledge to scaffold and assist the learner). Co-editing is extremely important as without it, how can we lift the level of the learner. In a busy classroom it can be easy to overlook the importance of this activity.
  • Is it written like talk? In a junior classroom, often the learner will write in the same way they talk as this is the start of their writing journey. However, we have the opportunity to model writing to the whole class and need to think about this aspect when we do.

As Jannie completed her session, she reminded us that writing is a complex act!  In order to maximise writing lessons for my learners, I need to constantly reflect on my teaching pedagogy and practice, with the assistance of professional development and discussions with others!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Learning from older peers

Today we had Year 3/4 learners come to our classroom to share what they'd been learning and teach our students how to use the ScratchJr app.  It was great to see the absolute engagement of both my learners and their older 'teachers' for 90 minutes this morning.

The Year 3/4 learners were very adept at using the app and were confident and articulate in sharing their knowledge with my 5 year olds.  I buddied two of my learners with one 'expert' and circulated the groups to listen to the conversations and observe the modelling which was occurring.  The older students were able to scaffold the activity and support their younger peers to ensure they all completed an amazing animation!  It was great to hear and see the older learners demonstrating and then watching and guiding as the younger learners tried things out with patience and a supportive attitude!

We concluded the lesson using our Apple TV where learners were able to showcase what they had created as a result of today's learning.  The older learners were also keen to share which gave us some great ideas for using the app in the future.

For me, this session reinforced the importance of removing the traditional teacher/learner barriers and thinking outside the square about how to convey knowledge.  Sure, I could have taught my learners how to use this app quite successfully, but the success of the peer teaching goes deeper than that.  The Year 3/4 students had to scaffold their approach to suit my younger learners, which they did with amazing success.  They were able to reinforce their own learning through teaching others and see others create as a result of this teaching.  Ultimately, the Learn-Create-Share framework which is the backbone of our school philosophy was highlighted today, not through blogging or something visual, but through sharing their knowledge with others in the school, which in turn enables them to Create to demonstrate their own Learning - and so the cycle continues!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

GEG NZ Presentation

It was a pleasure (and yes slightly nerve-wracking) to join my mentor Michelle George in presenting at tonight's GEG NZ hangout on air, showcasing the 1:1 iPad pilot we're undertaking in our Year 1 classroom.

I've had an amazing year to date and the privilege to work with such a great teacher and mentor on this incredible journey.

Check out our presentation here or watch the recording of the hangout:

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

UDL ... thinking about how I learn

As part of our MDTA session today, we explored the educational framework of Universal Design for Learning.

We were presented with multiple means of researching this topic and it was extremely interesting to hear from my fellow MDTA learners as to how they approached the learning - we all went about it differently, despite beginning presented with a scaffolded framework of information.  I've always thought I was a kinesthetic learner, in that I feel I learn best with a hands on 'doing' approach.  Today however, I opted for a more lecture style presentation, which was a combination of auditory and visual, rather than the more kinesthetic approach, which supports many learning theories that we learn through a combination of all three approaches.

During my research I found a number of visual representations which I found particularly connected to my developing understanding of UDL.

As part of our session we shared examples of UDL that we have incorporated into our teaching practice this year.  I found it extremely valuable to do this as a means of reflecting on my practice, and relating the opportunities I've given my learners to this framework, as well as hearing examples from other MDTAs.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Exploring Scratch

As part of our MDTA immersion day, we explored the Maker Space movement.  I chose to investigate Scratch and created a small animation as I learnt how it works.  Scratch is an exciting way for learners to "create", an integral part of the Manaiakalani "Learn, Create, Share" framework.

My simple animation took less than thirty minutes to create, and I'm sure I will be using this great Maker Space tool in the future.

If the project does not load above as it is an unauthenticated script, please use this link: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/30767218/

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Maths with Explain Everything

After completing JAM tests with our learners just prior to the holidays, Michelle and I decided that two of our groups needed to work on "Adding on from the largest number".  Having time to play for this learning I decided to create some Explain Everything projects to scaffold this learning.  After spending time at the teaching table using equipment to model the concept, we moved onto my first Explain Everything project.  This project, made up of 25 slides with an equation on each, was highly scaffolded at the beginning, leading to just the equation towards the final slides.  In the first slides, the largest number was circled and dots were placed under the smaller number, allowing the learners to count the dots, starting from the circled larger number.

As the learners worked through the slides, they had to identify the largest number and circle this, before completing the equation.  Later, they had to place the dots under the smaller number to assist them in their addition.  

One of the features of using Explain Everything is that learners are able to revisit this project.  After completing it on Thursday at the teaching table, I was able to watch what learners were doing and provide further assistance as required.  The next step will be for these learners to complete the project independently, and record as they are working so we can review and check the understanding of all learners and see what they are able to achieve independently.

This video of the completed slides shows the end result of one learners work.  There is no voice with this recording as this movie was created as just a summation of all slides the first time the learner completed it.  Learners will now record, with voice, when the work with this project.  We have a master copy of the project and this will enable learners to revisit it as many times as necessary to assist in reinforcing the concept.

Once learners have mastered this project, I have created a new project, again working with adding on from the largest number, this time scaffolded with a numberline.

Once again, the power of Explain Everything, combined with Teacher Dashboard to share the project to each individual learners iPads, has helped make this lesson so successful.  Learners will upload the project to their Google Drive when they complete it independently, so we are able to view these via Teacher Dashboard and check their understanding.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Classroom Displays

I was motivated by this post by Craig Kemp to take another look at the displays in our classroom as we head into Term 4.  We have a 1:1 digital learning environment in Class 20, and I do see differences in our wall displays than in other classes.  Having said that, we also have the ability to make our displays 'interactive' through the use of QR codes and by providing visual 'how to' instructions that our learners can use as a reference point.

Every term we create a topic wall display - this display includes rich vocabulary that we aim to unpack over the term as well as a pictures which relate directly to our topic.  In Term 4 this topic is 'Art Attack', which we are combining with a trip to the river.  Following the success of QR codes last term, we are again using these to assist the learners in exploring our topic.

Some aspects of the remaining walls in our classroom are driven by the needs of our learners.  For example, they need to have high frequency words on the wall which they can easily locate and use in their writing.  They also benefit by having numbers 1 - 20 displayed to assist with their maths.  But there is also room to include information that will assist them with their digital device.  While we haven't added to this display too much after Term 1, it is still available as a reference point for learners if they forget how to access Explain Everything projects or file the projects in the relevant folders.

I also believe its important for learners to see their completed work on the walls - sharing it with other learners and visitors to the classroom.  These work samples were created using KidPix and usually shared via the class blog.  They have been printed and displayed on the wall enabling learners to share with others.

Wall space for displays in any classroom is limited, particularly when you have a whole wall of windows as we do.  However making use of hanging displays (particularly when working with five year olds so height is not an issue) is one way of creating more display room.  We have numerous examples of stories that we have created as a whole class on display around the classroom.  As referred to in a recent Jannie van Hees professional development session, this enables learners to revisit the stories they had a part in creating.  

As with anything, there is always room for improvement or things that could be tried to see if they are more effective.  Currently our rotation board space is not being well used as we generally have done away with a reading rotation and tend to base our reading lessons around a limited set of options in combination with Explain Everything projects and time on KidsPix.  Over the holidays I've changed how this display space is being used and incorporated some ownership of activities for learners around their Explain Everything reading activities.  Often learners do not finish their activities in one session and these carry over to the next day.  By utilising some of this board learners that have not completed their activity can add their picture to this display at the end of the session giving us a visual reference of who has work to complete the next day.

I've also redesigned the space to allow the display of more topic specific words which will assist learners with their writing.  The before and after of this space appear below - time to see how it works with the commencement of Term 4.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sound Explosion ... learning from the experts!

After completing our Manaiakalani Film Festival movie last term, today we had the opportunity to visit an expert in the field of editing sound!

Ben Sinclair works at Images & Sound in Auckland and we were welcomed into one of the sound studios today while he demonstrated some of the techniques he uses to create a soundtrack of television/movie quality.  

"The soundtrack can influence the mood of the entire movie"

Ben demonstrating some of the sound effects he is able to add

Some of the take away messages from today's session for me were:

  • Include an ambient backtrack such as traffic noise to fill 'holes' in your sound
  • Film pieces of ambience (eg in the school playground) to use as a backtrack for your movie
  • Add sound effects such as footprints, bird noise or rustling of leaves to make your movie appear more authentic
  • Capture just the music and effects, removing the voice from your soundtrack to enable voice overs in a different language
  • When recording voice, have the microphone above the actor/actress pointing downwards towards their mouth to remove the 'ppppp' effect - use of a filter can also assist with this
  • Aim for a 75% voice level in order to balance out your sound so no one speaker sounds much louder than the rest
  • Never underestimate the importance of getting good vocal sounds when filming - the better the quality of the original track the more you are able to do with it in the editing phase

We also had the opportunity to experience the sound proof recording room - despite being right next to a motorway with cars rushing by, all you could hear was a slight hum of the air conditioner.

Inside the recording studio

We were also lucky enough to be shown two of the visual editing studios, where colours and effects can be added and manipulated as part of the editing process.  Once again, the importance of capturing raw footage of the best quality was emphasised to enable these editing experts the best chance of making the final cut look the best it can be.

Yes!  That is my movie that Ben is listening too - oh for more editing time!

I'm definitely inspired to explore further following the tips and ideas I picked up today ... I wonder if I can convince Michelle to again let me lose on this terms PENN movie??  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Art Attack!

As I head into my last term of team teaching with Michelle George I want to draw on the successes I’ve had with our learners over the past three terms and the growth I’ve experienced as a Beginning Teacher.

I continually feel lucky to be part of the MDTA (Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy) programme and know that I’ve experienced a different (and probably more supported) pathway than a usual BT.   I’ve been well scaffolded and had a great role model into the pedagogies of Pt England School and also had support in developing my own personal teaching style.   Having this level of support helped me try things that I may not have, and also allowed me to be involved in a 1:1 pilot class with iPads in my very first year of teaching – for someone with such a passion for digital learning environments, this has been an amazing challenge and allowed me to grow even further.

Last term I created a site for our Integrated Learning topic – Game On.  The learners accessed the site pages through the use of QR codes, which proved to be extremely popular and successful.  It gave the learners an opportunity to take control of their own learning and make decisions on what they wanted to learn about within a modeled and supported learning environment.

The beauty of using a Google Site was that I was able to add to it throughout the term.  This was highlighted during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony – the learners were hooked and wanted to explore independently and were able to choose to do this with the additional page.   As we explored and used the site throughout the term I also made modifications and took note of things that could be improved, or weren’t as successful. 

As we begin our last term, the Integrated Learning topic is “Art Attack” – focusing on The Arts curriculum area and based around a trip we have in week 2 to the local river.  Initially I thought this topic would be a challenge to create a “Site” for – let alone integrate with QR codes (the learners all asked for QR codes again this term)!  However, the wealth of available material on You Tube around art has made it relatively easy for me to create several pages that learners can explore, giving them ideas on different types of art and ways to create it.   The viewing of these clips will help enhance their vocabulary with topic specific words, which will feed into their writing.  Once again we have a rich topic wall with vocabulary, images and QR codes for learners to refer to and explore throughout the term. 

It’s been great to be able to go to some of the resources I created during my teacher training (never throw anything away) as both displays and inspirations for the term.   Art is not a curriculum area I have strength in, but I look forward to undertaking this learning challenge and to sharing the results of our Art Attack later this term!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Term three review .... three quarters complete!

With the school year three quarters over, I'm again taking the opportunity to reflect on my amazing year to date and my personal growth as a teacher!

My Provisional Teacher goals for this term were around behaviour management and taking a lead on our Integrated Learning topic - both were a challenge but also an opportunity to test things and further my learning.

My highlights of the Term:

  • An amazing school wide Commonwealth Games day to finish the term
  • Whole team trip to Lloyd Elsmore Park for our own Commonwealth Games events
  • Creating healthy snacks in class
  • Visiting the Life Education bus early in the term
  • Using the QR codes to explore the Commonwealth Integrated Learning site
  • Using Explain Everything to scaffold story writing by recording the story orally prior to writing
  • Amazing reading improvements which were highlighted through reading graph and running records
  • Trip to Samsung to explore the amazing technology they have on offer (and play with some tablets!) 
  • Implementation of the "monster madness" behaviour management within the class
  • More solo teaching time - although working with Michelle is amazing!
  • Pt England School staff and the MDTA team - they continually amaze me with their professionalism, collaborative nature and willingness to go the extra mile for our learners - I'm so proud to be part of these amazing teams of teaching professionals.
  • Creating a movie for the Manaiakalani Film Festival - but I can't say more - watch this space later in November!
My challenges of the Term:
  • Balancing family, work and study commitments continues to be a challenge, however with my last assignment for the year due just after these holidays, I'm looking forward to a temporary break from study.  That said, I'm excited about my proposed research topic for next year!
  • Effectiveness of the Integrated Learning topic site when related to the time it took to create - again an area for learning and once created the site exists forever, but I need to carefully plan and consider how much to include in future sites.  The engagement effect of the QR codes however continues to amaze - and I was constantly asked when taking down our display if we'd be using QR codes again next term!
  • Sickness - unfortunately working around five year olds, it can be a challenge to stay "healthy" and I definitely experienced this during the term.  While I managed to escape with just two days off during the term, I was definitely not at 100% for many more - here's hoping my immunity kicks in soon!
So, looking forward ....

As I enter into what could be my last term of "team teaching" with Michelle, I want to continue to explore and improve my own teaching practice and pedagogy.  Our school wide topic has an art focus - something which I admit is not a strength - so it will be a small step outside my comfort zone as I look at ways to inspire creativity in my learners.  With my study commitments complete for the year I expect to have a more controlled work/life balance and am looking forward to putting a little extra time into Explain Everything projects to extend the learners.

We have an extremely busy term ahead, with the Film Festival, a team trip, athletics day and prizegivings at the end of the year.  In combination with these great events is the end of year testing and I'm contributing to Toolkits and a Hangout session to highlight the piloting journey I've contributed to this year.  I constantly get told that Term Four is the busiest in the whole year, and I just can't wait to get it started!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Writing using the iPads

One curriculum area which we haven’t to date used the iPads extensively with is writing.  Our main rationale for this was the need for learners to learn how to write using the traditional pen and paper.

We did implement a few innovations using the iPad during the first two terms, including having a lined page on an Explain Everything template for learners’ to practice writing their name as well as a trace the letters of the alphabet project (to assist with correct letter formation).  However, for the most part we have focused on writing using books and pencils.

That has all changed in the last few weeks as Michelle identified a need for our learners’ to remember their stories in order to write them.  They have some amazing ideas, many of which have come about through the rich gifting of oral language we are doing in the classroom (drawing on school wide professional development we are receiving from Dr Jannie van Hees).  We have trialed using Explain Everything to record their stories orally and then have the learners use the playback function to assist in their writing.  This innovation has shown immediate results with some great stories being created and written by our learners.

This approach has highlighted that learners are able to locate high frequency words and sounds within a word, and record these into sentences but they struggle to retain sentences (or multiple sentences) in their head and sequence it for writing.  Through this recorded scaffolding they are experiencing success in their writing which in turn is engaging them in writing.

In combination with this, we are now allowing learners to type their stories directly onto the iPad on some occasions.  This has resulted in greater detail in the stories and learners are even more engaged in writing and keen to write all the time.  This was highlighted last week when many selected writing during a twenty-minute period of ‘free choice’ in the classroom. 

While it is early days, the results already from learners recording their stories orally first and then using this recording to write has been so effective that we plan on continuing it into next term.

Two samples of independent, unscaffolded writing from my learners:

An example of a recorded sentence which a learner has used to write their story:

This post appears as my fortnightly contribution to the University of Auckland's Top of the Class blog, of which I'm a regular contributor.