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.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Inquiry 2015 Reflection

As part of our school wide inquiry into our practice, this afternoon I presented my final reflection for the year.  This slide show and movie show some of the progress made this year.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Reading ... from planning to completion

Earlier this term I was asked to present to teachers in the cluster that may be moving to 1:1 iPads next year.  During this presentation I briefly described how I planned my reading lessons and what they looked like in the classroom.  Following this session I've created a screen cast of the process I follow in reading in my classroom.

MDTA Graduation

Last Thursday marked the end of a remarkable journey with the graduation event for the 2014/2105 MDTA's.  Just over two years ago, I applied to the first ever Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy (MDTA) and was accepted into the unique program.  It was an opportunity to be paired with a mentor teacher, team teach in my first year of teaching and undertake an exceptional program of learning and study to assist me at being proficient at teaching in a digital world.

The two years since being accepted have been an incredible journey, with some of the many highlights being:

  • attending and presenting at conferences (GAFE, U-Learn, BYOD)
  • study towards an honours degree alongside my mentor teacher
  • piloting 1:1 iPads in a junior classroom alongside my mentor teacher
  • weekly digital learning sessions with the inspiring Dorothy Burt
  • two movies submitted to the Manaiakalani Film Festival with both making the evening showcase screening
  • working with nine other amazing MDTA beginning teachers
As with any journey, it's been hard work and there were roadblocks to navigate.  One of the unique features of the MDTA program was having Anne Sinclair from the University of Auckland to support us in our journey, and at times keep us sane when the going was tough.  Not only that, Anne visited us in our classrooms and provided valuable feedback on what we could work on to become the best teachers we could be.

Thursday's amazing event reminded me of all that we have achieved in the last two years, which wouldn't have been possible without the vision of Dorothy and the support of the University of Auckland, Manaiakalani Trust and sponsor Google.  I've had an amazing introduction to teaching at an incredibly supportive school and am extremely proud to have been part of the inaugural MDTA.  Thank you for the opportunity!


Monday, 23 November 2015

Fun with Shapes

As my learners get more confident with using their iPads and the tools of Explain Everything, I try to introduce different ideas or ways of doing things to ensure they are constantly practicing and trying new things.  One such example last week was the use of shapes (identified during JAM testing as something we need to work on further for many learners) in creating images.   This idea came from the wonderful Ms George, relates directly to our term inquiry topic and many other Year 1 classes were also teaching this skill.

Using the Apple TV to model we talked as a whole class about the shapes we could use and how we could duplicate and manipulate these to create our images.  We started by drawing a giraffe and many of the learners were able to create some great shape images.

Aye Myat
The intention is to continue expanding on this during this week's independent reading activity by having learners create an image based on their reading book but incorporating the use of shape.  The scaffolded verbal instructions which I have been using this year will assist them with this.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Film Festival 2015: A Whole New World

Once again its time for the annual Manaiakalani Film Festival  and once again I've contributed a class movie.  As with last year I experienced some challenges but I wanted to ensure:

  • All learners in the classroom were included in the movie
  • The 'message' of the movie was applicable for my five year old learners
  • The learners had a chance to experience being "real actors" - yes that mean't dressing up and doing things again and again - the same as real actors have to do!
If you viewed my movie last year, you'll know that I used the green room quite a bit and had success with green screening - the learners were fascinated with being in this room and what was achieved as a result of using the green screen.  So again this year I have used green screen, but decided to challenge myself and try new things - the results may be obvious in the movie.  

Learning from lessons of last year, I used a voice over (again, voiced by my learners) rather than trying to incorporate speech into the movie - I discovered with five year olds it was too hard to have lines recited correctly at the same time the rest of the cast were quiet and doing the right thing.

My movie features in the evening showcase (something I'm quite proud of) and I look forward to seeing the results on the big screen.  More than that, I look forward to the reactions of my learners as they see themselves on the big screen - that experience is after all, what its all about!

Room 19 presents .... "A Whole New World"

Scaffolding individual learning ... using QR codes

Once again I've used QR codes as a way of learners having some choice in their learning.  Our team wide inquiry topic is "What animals need to survive?", which was supported by our trip to the zoo in week 3.

Using You Tube clips which are age appropriate for my learners, I've created an inquiry topic board and once again used QR codes so learners are able to have some choice about which animals they are exploring.

The first time I unpacked this as a class last week the learners were very excited.  We watched one clip (all clips are around 2 minutes long) and then had a rich discussion around what we had seen in the video clip and what they learnt.  Learners then had some time to go away and learn about animals of their choice.  Initially I buddied children together (mixed ability groupings) so that learners were able to discuss their animal with a critical friend and then bring the information they had learnt back to a whole class sharing session to round out the lesson.

In order to minimise the noise in the classroom, some learners were able to work outside.

Although I've used QR codes with my class throughout the year, this was to link to Tiny Tap activities I'd created and this was the first time they had some choice in the inquiry area.  The learners were extremely engaged and keen to explore and share.

I'm now being constantly asked when we can have another lesson with the QR Codes!  It's great that the learners are able to turn this enthusiasm into learning and I look forward to sharing some of that on my blog over the coming weeks!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Rich Discussions ... gifting oral language

Today we had another great session with Dr Jannie van Hees, focusing on oral language and the need for rich discussions, particularly with our learners who often enter school without the benefit of rich experiences.

This constraint, often bought about through not enough mileage in multiple contexts can inhibit their learning.  As Jannie reminded us today, we need to provide experiences which are engaging for our learners and expand on their existing bank of oral language through gifting.

Some main points that I took away from today's session include:

  • All children have a need for language encounters
  • Focus on retell - lots & lots - vary the text being used
  • Stories are more likely to end up with language acquisition than songs - recycling is extremely important
  • To be great writers, learners need to be more fluent in what they can say - if you don't push for fullness, demonstrate, model, the oral language won't improve
  • An inhibitor to discussion (and writing) can be what is known by the learner about the topic & what they can bring to the text
  • Our learners need us to "bombard" them with oral language and rich pickings
  • Language is only a tool for making meaning

So, with the above in mind, what can I do differently in the classroom to enhance the oral language for my learners?  

  • Use pictures and have a conversation about it - share ideas orally - we have to make it noticeable and retrievable - need to trigger their knowns 
  • As the teacher, I need to make it noticeable - repeat it - highlight it - reword it and most of all repeat it
In our digital environment I have the opportunity to make this very rewindable for the learners - by using the iPad to record our conversation as well as creating opportunities for the learners to revisit the ideas we had.   With this in mind, my intention is to use our Inquiry topic (around the zoo animals) as a starting point to trigger these conversations.  Using this sequence of pictures (one per day) will hopefully enable the learners to relate (as we have just been to the zoo) to the animal, recycle the language because the same animal is featuring while also enabling me to gift vocabulary throughout the week.

In order to make the information retrievable, we'll create a small book to document their ideas - using Book Creator, which allows for audio as well as the written, learners will be able to revisit the ideas we've discussed as a whole class.  I'm excited to increase the rich discussions in the classroom and see how this increased rich oral language assists my learners with their writing - as always, watch this space!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sharing with Manaiakalani

I really enjoyed presenting to teachers from the Manaiakalani cluster this afternoon at a Professional Development session aimed at "Gearing Up" for teaching with 1:1 iPads next year.  Using iPads 1:1 has giving me an amazing start to my first two years of teaching and I love going to work each day.  I'm looking forward to continually sharing throughout the term at many more of these great sessions and hopefully inspiring and assisting other teachers as they transition.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Collaboration ... helping solve each others' problems :)

Today was our first inquiry meeting for Term 4 and provided an opportunity for us all to take a "teaching problem" to the meeting and seek advice and suggestions from others.  In my session today there was a vast array of different problems which we brainstormed about and came up with suggestions for.  So, without further ado, the problem I took to todays session was:

My learners are struggling to remember blends (letter combinations which make a sound eg ch or st) are holding learners back in reading & writing.  What sort of independent activities can I create on the iPad to assist learners with practicing these.
Some of the ideas that were contributed from the group include:

  • Start off with shorter blends or ones most frequently used first
  • Use sound bites that learners can press & hear what the blend/word is
  • Chunk the blend and the remaining part of the word and have pictures so learners can put the whole word together (include sound bites)
  • Break up words and re-create (with pictures and cues)
  • Flash card type activity - beat the clock - repetitive
  • Work on blend families eg play/plays/playing/played which also will work on word endings
  • Use song - link to You Tube clips focusing on that blend

With these great ideas in mind, tonight I have created an Explain Everything project as a starting point focusing on the "st", "gr" and "ch" blends.  Each project has a short video clip (song) about the blend and then activities using the above ideas.  Some screen shots from the first project are included below.  As always, the plan is to test this first project before creating others - watch this space.

Title Slide - used as a visual on my reading rotation board
create "gr" words
create "st" words

Putting it all together - match the picture with the beginning sound

Monday, 19 October 2015

Proud to be part of the inaugural MDTA ...

Nearly two years ago I started my teaching career and was honoured to win one of ten positions in the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy (MDTA).  This unique opportunity saw me team teach with Michelle George last year and pilot the use of iPads in a New Entrants classroom.  This year, with continued support from Michelle, my own class again using iPads and I continually seek to challenge my pedagogy in order to accelerate the learning for my students.  It's been an amazing journey, a challenge at times, a huge learning curve and immensely satisfying.  I've enjoyed documenting my learning journey on my blog, and look forward to continuing to do so into 2016.

Earlier this month the Evaluation of the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy was published.  Both the summary and the full report is available to read here.

The selection process for the next round of MDTA is currently underway and I look forward to welcoming them into the Manaiakalani Cluster and hope they enjoy the experiences and learning journey as much as I have. 

ULearn Magic ... Day 2 and 3

Day 2 began with another thought provoking Keynote delivered by Ann Lieberman entitled "What do we know about Teaching Leadership, and what's to gain?"  Ann told us that "we are great storytellers in teaching" and her story described the National Writing project she was involved in (in the United States).  Ann described teaching leadership as:
  • A way of organising learning
  • A way of understanding connections between knowledge and practice
  • A way of learning skills and abilities to nurture a community among peers
  • A way of negotiating the tensions between privacy and community
For me this keynote highlighted the 'community of sharing' practices which already occur in the Manaiakalani Cluster through toolkits, the MIT (Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher programme) and the natural sharing that occurs in each school.  I found it particularly interesting that Ann unpacked the conflicts that naturally occur with change with her focus on it not becoming destructive to the change process.

My second session today was Karen Boyes' "Enhancing Thoughtful Classroom Dialogue".  This was a packed session and I could see why when Karen started sharing her ideas based around six main themes:

  • Classroom environment
  • Teacher technique
  • Listening skills
  • The Power of Language
  • Thinking
  • Questioning 
I came away from Karen's session with pages of notes and a head brimming with ideas to try in the classroom to encourage discussion in an environment which turns the fear of talking into fun.  This quote which Karen used was particularly inspiring:

"Children who laugh more ... learn more."  - Dr David Sousa

After lunch I attended Paula Jamieson's 1:1 iPads with New Entrants, looking for ideas that I could use to enhance what we are already using in Room 19.  While not specifically looking for any apps (I still firmly believe that just the use of Explain Everything is working really well), its always good to listen to how others are using apps and how I could possibly adapt these.  Paula delivered her address using a Multi Touch Book which immediately had me intrigued.  She is in the process of creating several books, all of which are available from the iTunes store.

I particularly liked the way that Paula referred to camera angles with her class - snails view, possum view, birds view etc and intend to create visuals to support this with next years class.  As Paula stated, having learners know how to take really good photos to document their learning early on, sets them up for success throughout their learning journey.

After a great "On the High Seas" ULearn dinner it was back for the final day of learning.  Today's first session for me was the joint presentation by the "Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers (MIT)" allowing a small peak into the great innovations they've been developing this year.  The inquiries of all the MIT teachers can be explored here.

Following the presentation of my second session, the final Keynote was Pat Sneddon, chairman of the Manaiakalani Trust.  No matter how many times I hear Pat speak he's always totally inspiring and the entire audience was spellbound by his story.  For those unfamiliar with the Manaiakalani story, this video, created by some Pt England learners was shown during Pat's keynote.  This website also documents the Manaiakalani story.

Outta this World from Team 5 PES on Vimeo.

Edit:  Pat's full presentation is available to view here

Monday, 12 October 2015

A ULearn15 presenter

I was privileged to share at two ULearn sessions, the second co-presenting with Helen King.  Our hands on workshop was titled "Redefine the junior classroom with Explain Everything" and provided an opportunity for teachers to explore the great tools on offer using the app which is the backbone of the iPad use in my classroom.

Despite our session being scheduled at the venue furtherest from the Sky City, we had a great attendance and having two presenters enabled us to provide guidance as teachers explored the app.  We'd created a presentation to quickly scaffold the tools and give specific examples to some of the activities we've created in our classrooms.  Our presentation was supported by a Google Site (which includes our presentation) with resources for the session which is available publicly to be explored.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Three quarters of the hill climbed ....

I find term breaks an excellent time to reflect on my year to date, and in particular the term just gone.  The majority of this post was actually created last week - maybe not on paper, but in my mind!  I took some family time away from Auckland in the Waikato area, and while away decided to explore Wairere Falls (the tallest waterfall in the North Island).  This is relevant because my 'plan' was to walk to the viewing platform, a walk of around forty five minutes.  I 'prepared' for that but not to really go any further.  Over three hours later, I'd not only walked to the top of the waterfall (totally unprepared) but successfully made it back to the car!   So yes, I managed to push myself (and succeed) and felt really great about that, but I know I would have enjoyed the journey even more if I'd been prepared (water, a snack, a better camera ... ).  I can't help but see similarities in the classroom and to my learners - the more I'm prepared for, the better position I'm in to accelerate their learning!  The more I'm prepared, the better I'm able to turn each eventuality into a more robust, engaging learning experience for them.

As I reflect on Term 3 of my second year of teaching, I look back on the goals I had for this term and think about how far I've come with each of them:

  • Complete my research dissertation - so close - just some formatting and a little tweaking to go - this mountain has definitely been conquered and I can definitely say the effort has been worth it - its been inspiring to research the practice of other teachers and I know my own practice has improved as I embrace the ideas of others - #collaboration 
  • Transition to using Class Dojo for class management - I found this was not as effective with my learners this year as it was last year.  I feel the special needs learners I have in my class respond better to a more visual reward system of putting a sticker on their chart.  I think perhaps the ability for them to always see at any time their progress has more influence?  
  • Continue to innovate with the iPads - this term I've focused on the use of sound bites more than ever as a way of allowing my learners to repeat or re-listen to my instructions.  We still unpack the activity at the teaching table, but I find particularly on the bigger projects, learners will forget what an instruction is - the sound bites have definitely made a difference in the "what do I do on this slide Mrs Belt" visits to my teaching table!

  • My Inquiry Journey - as part of our ongoing school wide professional development I've really enjoyed continually exploring my practice and sharing this with a group of like-minded individuals from my school.  The end of term presentation feedback session was particularly inspiring and motivating and I found myself wanting to hear back from everyone (which of course time doesn't permit).  I'm looking forward to continuing this journey next term.
  • Sharing with others outside of Manaiakalani - I had two opportunities this term (the most recent being ULearn15) and I continue to be motivated by both blogging and these presentations - its great that others are interested in what I have to say and I hope what I share has value to other educators - I love my job and am so enthusiastic about working in a digital learning environment which embraces and allows innovation
  • Explain Everything reading projects - I have been particularly pleased with how engaged my learners have been with the additional reading Explain Everything activities this term and how they allow each learner to revisit their text on a second day.  I definitely feel this is more purposeful for learners on days when I'm unable to see them at the teaching table and plan to continue with this into Term 4
  • My research dissertation - this has been an inspiring journey and I've grown as a teacher as a result of observing and analysing the practice of others.  As I dot the final i's and cross the final t's before calling it complete I know at times completing it has been a hard road (particularly with balancing a family) but its definitely been a highlight of my year and I know its opened my eyes to even more possibilities.
  • My Manaiakalani Film Festival movie - I can't say any more, but watch this space in mid November!
  • The amazing team of teachers I work with - to be in such a collaborative, caring and sharing environment makes even the hardest challenges seem easier.  I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by experienced teachers who are happy to share ideas and resources so willingly. Having this amazing resource to ask advice of has made my journey so much easier and I'm extremely thankful for their willingness and collaborative nature!

  • Behaviour management continues to be a challenge in the classroom, and just when I think I have made progress, more curve balls come along to tip the scales again.  Thanks to some great ideas from teachers in my team I have some great new ideas to implement in Term 4 (star of the day, whole class reward) as a way to motivate some special learners in my class and assist me in managing their special behaviours.
  • Time - it was interesting that during yesterday's ULearn Keynote "time" featured as the one thing most teachers wanted more of!  Without the additional pressure of my Research Dissertation next term I'm hoping to have a little more 'downtime' and more time to spend creating and innovating (and some exercise too!)

Term Four is a busy term (I remember that from last year) but I still have some goals which are amazingly close to completion:

  • Implement the ideas from colleagues for behaviour management with my learners to ensure a more settled learning environment and make the most of this term for accelerating learning
  • Complete the requirements to become a Fully Registered Teacher
  • Complete my Honours degree 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

ULearn15 ... an opportunity to share

I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my learning journey to date with conference participants at ULearn15.  After being inspired earlier in the day with the opening Keynote and breakout sessions, I was glad of the time and effort I'd put into my own presentation.  I still find it amazing that I get so much enjoyment out of sharing with others, and despite not being a fan of public speaking in the past have embraced the Learn, Create, SHARE mantel of Manaiakalani and continue to get immense satisfaction through sharing my journey.

Slides from my presentation are included here (note that my presentation was a Keynote, so some links will not autoload, and fonts may appear slightly differently):

ULearn15 .... innovate, collaborate, educate

I'm excited to be attending and presenting at ULearn15 at the Sky City Conference Centre in Auckland.  As a second year BT this is a great opportunity to collaborate, connect, learn and share from other exciting innovative teachers from around New Zealand and the world.

Even before the event started this morning I reconnected with other amazing educators that I'd met throughout my first eighteen months of teaching.  Following a powerful welcome, the first Keynote was the inspiring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap for the Future of Education.  I always really enjoy listening to speakers that engage the audience from the outset and encourage us with thought provoking comments and activities.

Grant's first activity was to share via Twitter one word that would sum up your classroom for the remainder of the year.  Using the hashtag #onewordk12 some of the most frequently tweeted words definitely appeared on my list!

Grant shared stories from his visits to schools around the US and shared how schools are moving away from a more contained, controlled and predictable system, becoming more:
  • creative (student owned, knowledge creators)
  • adaptive (collaborative)
  • permeable (partnerships with the community, online, blended, regional, global)
  • dynamic  (messy, noisy, tailored, eg take it apart Tuesday)
He provided a timely reminder about some of the biggest barriers to change:
  • Fear and inertia­ - change cannot happen without taking risks 
  • Anchors ­ - attaching us to ‘time, space and subject’ ­and "holding us to a world that no longer exists"
  • Silos - ­ standing in the way of connectivity

"We are not guides on the side, teachers are smack bang in the middle of everything"
"Learning in the future is about being connected"

Many of the messages and ideas delivered in today's Keynote address appear in his TEDx address:

My second session today enabled me to sign up and explore the Pond.  While I'd heard of it before, as is often the case, I'd yet to find the time to explore and this session provided that opportunity as well as to hear ways that it can be used to share and explore resources and ideas that are contributed by like-minded educators.  For those new to Pond, I'd encourage you to explore the "Starter Pack" once you've created your account - it gives you a short overview and unpacks the 'buckets' and 'ripples'!  I have more exploring and this session certainly inspired me to dig deeper in the future.

My first presentation at ULearn15 was during the afternoon session so I took the opportunity to explore the Trade Exhibitions and MakerSpace room prior to my presentation (you can never have too many pens!).  Following my presentation I enjoyed hearing from teachers at Oratia District School as they shared how they collaborate with their planning in MLEs and the ways they encourage self directed learning from their students.

I've had an amazing day one to this inspiring conference and look forward to the sessions I'm booked for tomorrow and the thought provoking ideas they will share.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Capturing the learning from other apps ... with Explain Everything

We've been using the 100s board to practice our skip counting (in 10s and 2s) during maths time.  Often this will be an independent task and I want to capture what progress they are making.  Last week I introduced my top maths group to screen shots on their iPads.  We then imported the photos they had taken into Explain Everything - up to this point they had been taking photos from within Explain Everything so this was a new way of using their tools.

They took to the concept very quickly and they were able to complete the task and then record on their Explain Everything project to show their learning.  This gave me visibility of what they were doing and I could quickly ascertain that one learner was stumbling in the "teens" even with the visual in front of her.  Another learner was confident with the counting however "sixty" and "eighty" crept in rather than "sixteen" and "eighteen".

Monday, 14 September 2015

Term 3 Inquiry Presentation

The year is flying by and once again its time to present to a group of colleagues on my inquiry progress.  I like to mix up my presentations and use alternative ways to present as a way of keeping my skills with different software current as well as giving me different tools to utilise.

And so we start typing .... another Explain Everything tool is introduced!

As often occurs, another professional conversation with a colleague had me thinking about another use for Explain Everything.  She is having learners use the keyboard and typing onto the iPad, particularly for those learners who struggle with writing.  To date, my learners haven't used this tool but I do think its a great first step into publishing their own writing via Blogger, which I hope to achieve by the end of the year.

To this end, I am introducing a new slide to the Reading Activity project this week.  I do try to introduce a new one each week and have a bank of 15 slides now that I can pick and choose from for different learners or groups.  This also helps with variety and engagement with this activity.  The new slide asks learners to copy/transcribe the words from one page of their book.  To scaffold this for my learners I've created some laminated keyboard cards which shows the letters in lower case.  I remember from last year that many learners struggled to find the letters on the Upper Case keyboard.  One of the updates I'm most looking forward to is the introduction of the lower case keyboard for the iPad as this will negate this scaffolding.

As with any new activity I will introduce this to the learners as a whole class first on the Apple TV so they can see how to change the size of the text box and how to put a space between words.  I fully expect to take this activity further and over the coming weeks learners will have the opportunity to type some of there responses as well as handwrite others - I think the combination will give them an opportunity to practice both their skills.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

10,000 + ... wow!

I've been a little quiet on the blogging front over the last couple of weeks, even by "my" standards!  Its been a busy few weeks with most of my non-contact time going on my dissertation and contribution to the Manaiakalani Film Festival - the event itself is still over a month away, but our entries are needed by the end of this term in order to allow time for the behind the scenes work to be completed!  That said, I have a number of posts in my 'head' which I'm hoping to have posted over the next few days.

Tomorrow we have our termly staff presentations on our inquiry journey and I've been putting my presentation together this afternoon - yes the blog post is already scheduled!  I frequently use my blog as a way of looking back at what I've been doing over the term and in doing so today I noticed this number:
WOW!  I love blogging (thank you Dorothy Burt for getting me hooked!!) and for me its a way of reflecting on my journey - the things that go well and also things I need to try to do differently.  As a Beginning Teacher it also allows me to look back and see what I did this time last year and what worked well so I'm able to repeat it.  Its extremely motivating to hear from others that have found something of interest on my blog and taken the time to comment or email me directly.  Having said that I read blogs from all over the world and they constantly inspire me, but I often don't take the time to leave a comment so I can only hope that my 'click' on their blog, or frequent return visit is as motivating for them as it is for me!

One such 'click' today (a referral from Innes Kennard - thanks Innes!) took me to an article by Kelly Walsh entitled "The State of the iPad in Education in 2015".  One particular comment made reminded me of the supportive collaborative environment I'm lucky enough to work in.   

"Of course, achieving results like these doesn’t happen magically. Just giving devices to students and hoping it makes a difference is not a plan at all and is likely to result in nothing more than a waste of school funds.
Successful implementation of any large technology initiative requires effective planning and well designed professional development. It’s really just that simple. 
Pt England School is innovative in so many ways and we are lucky to be provided with continue Professional Development opportunities that we can use to support our pedagogy and teaching practice. This supportive environment allows me to be continually innovative to ensure I plan engaging and personalised activities for my learners.

Finally - to all those viewers of my blog - thank you!  I hope you find something useful, something that helps in your practice or inspires you to try something new.   Your "clicks" have sure motivated me!

Monday, 31 August 2015

My 2015 inquiry ... revisit and review

As part of our ongoing inquiry into our practice, this afternoon we are meeting to discuss where we are at, and giving feedback and support to those in our group.  This term, I'm working with a new inquiry group.  My group, and links to their inquiry blogs are:

Russell  (Principal @ PES)
Ben  (Year 5 teacher)
Chrissie  (Year 2 teacher)
Sandy  (Creative Space teacher)
Willis (Maker Space teacher)

We have been given some focus questions to guide our discussion this afternoon and I've decided to unpack each question on my blog so I'm prepared for our session today.

One of the challenges/barriers my students have is……
Generally speaking learners' have less oral language than you would expect in a "typical" new entrants classroom. While there are many reasons for this, such as them not undergoing as many experiences in their pre-school lives, or speaking their mother language at home, it necessitates the need for us to gift rich vocabulary to the learners. This can be challenging to do in reading as so much time is spent on decoding, allowing little room for this necessary gifting.

To address this in my teaching I have tried…….
Following the professional development with Dr Rebecca Jesson, our team discussed the limitations we have in gifting vocabulary during our guided reading session. I was reminded of the need to 'read to' my learners, with the three texts being the optimum number each day. I've struggled with doing this up to now, due to the inability of my learners to sit still on my mat for even a minute, without calling out and interrupting the flow of the story. As detailed in an earlier post, I'm trialling a solution for this, and trying hard to achieve my target of "three books a day." This 'reading to' allows me opportunities to gift vocabulary, and I've also tried extending a text which the learners have been captivated by into a motivation for writing, allowing for further gifting of rich vocabulary as well as adding to the 'experiences' bank for each learner.

The impact of this so far has been …….
While only early days, I have achieved my target on 9 out of the 10 days tried, and the learners are actually asking "when" we will have story time each day. My star chair remains a huge motivator for learners who seemed unable to sit still in the past, so much so that I plan to extend it into all mat time sessions as an extrinsic motivator. To date, I've extended one of the books into a three day writing session and combined this with a fun out of class experience to support the learning. We unpacked some great vocabulary around the word "big" with a combination of gifted words and words that learners were able to share.

So .... where to next ??? …….
My next challenge is to find a way to continually use this exciting new vocabulary, particularly when learners are working independently. I plan to try and incorporate some of it into my Reading Activity projects, again scaffolding this carefully to ensure its used correctly in context as well as adds to the value of the activity.

Today's meeting this afternoon was great - we have an amazing group that covers different levels/areas throughout the school and its great to hear their challenges and what they are doing to make a difference in the lives of our tamariki in other areas and higher up the school. We were reminded (during our inquiry group and also earlier before we split into these smaller groups) that we are an innovative school and have 'broken new ground' on this journey into the whole school using 1:1 devices. I've been privileged to be part of the journey in the junior school and personally really enjoy the ability to continually try things so my learners get the best from me as a teacher. Having 1:1 devices makes learning more engaging, repetitive and visible in my classroom and my ongoing challenge is to continually ensure it is utilised to its fullest potential.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Counting in Tens with Explain Everything

We've been learning to count in tens in class, and will often do it as a whole class warm up.  I've been concerned that some learners are possibly saying "teen" instead of "ty" when skip counting.

Today I asked learners that were not working with me to take a photo of our 100s board in Explain Everything and skip count in tens.  We uploaded their work to their Google Drive and tonight I was able to watch all the movies quickly from my laptop and hear immediately which learners needed assistance.

Once again I love the power of the voice, and hearing what the learners are doing.  I plan to use this activity again tomorrow and have learners count to 20, again recording their voice.  This will enable me to determine if there are any learners that are mixing the "teen" and "ty" as they count through their teen numbers.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Enhancing the Literacy Experience

As part of our ongoing Professional Development we have been looking at reading with Dr Rebecca Jesson.  As mentioned in this previous blog post, my aim has been to ensure I'm reading to my learners 2 - 3 times a day.   An additional aim is to unpack some rich vocabulary with the learners and this often comes from our shared book experiences or from our whole class writing.  While ideally it would be great to embed this into guided reading sessions also, this can often inhibit the guided reading session which has a focus on decoding and allows minimal opportunities to gift new language which my learners need.

Last week after reading Bubble Trouble, we talked about the language in the book and what happened to the bubbles which the two friends in the story were competing to create.  This lead into our writing session and we wrote a story about bubbles being transparent - a word I gifted my learners.  Our whole class story for the day was:

"When we blow bubbles they are transparent because we can see through them."

I later added the word "transparent" to our growing vocabulary wall for learners to refer back to.

The learners were really engaged with book the book and the concept so I extended this into writing for a second day, with a plan to extend it into a third day and have the learners experience blowing bubbles and then free-write about the experience.  This idea came from something that occurs in a colleagues classroom, with a story/idea being built on over the week and vocabulary gifted to the learners that they are able to find and use in their own stories during the free writing session.  Our second day story was:

"The gigantic bubble floated away in the sky."

On the third day we went outside and had fun blowing bubbles.  It was really interesting to see the learners using some of the gifted vocabulary to describe what was happening to the bubbles.  Of course, what I was most interested in was what the learners would be able to write and what vocabulary they would choose to reuse.  A selection of the stories created include:

"The bubbles went up in the sky and I like bubbles."
"I like the bubbles.  The bubbles went up in the sky."
"We blow the small bubbles and we blow the big bubbles.  We blow the big bubbles and the bubbles float."

While it is only early days, for the first time I've attempted this I was really pleased to see how it progressed and how each day took the concepts and ideas a step further.  My next challenge is to find picture books to read to my learners which extend our inquiry topic so I'm able to combine my writing and inquiry curriculum areas as this will help cover more of the inquiry topic in my limited learning time.  I often find it is a struggle to incorporate all the ideas from our rich Professional Development into my programme and I'm sure this will occur more naturally as I move from being a beginning teacher into being more experienced.  I definitely enjoy the challenge of trying new things and love the sharing of ideas that comes about from our PD sessions, particularly at a team level as I find these even more applicable in my classroom.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sound bites for comprehension

As my learners move up through the reading levels I want them to be aware they are reading for a purpose and that they need to understand what they are reading.  One of the ways we do this are through comprehension questions which ask them about what they have read.

While I often ask follow up questions during my guided reading session, I am also keen to include comprehension questions in my follow up Explain Everything projects which the learners work on independently.  I have done this in the past but found that learners can sometimes be tripped up by having to "read the questions."  They understand the question if its given to them orally, but may not be able to read all the words used if they have to read it - and its not always possible to phrase it in a way that it uses words that I know they will be able to read and understand.

I've recently tried using sound bites to ask the comprehension questions as part of their project, which is proving extremely successful.  The learner is able to listen to the question and then find the answer in their book and write it onto the page.

An example of this, for the book "The Duck with a Broken Wing" (this is one of six slides in the project for one group of learners who are reading this book later this week):

I've found using soundbites so successful that I am beginning to add them to many of the pages I create.  This allows the learner to listen to the instructions again and prevents them having to return to my desk if they have forgotten what I said when I scaffolded the project.   In most cases the sound bite is exactly the same as the text on the page so the learners are able to listen and follow along with the words.