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.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Moving forward ... reflecting on changes that worked

Recently I posted about the changes I was planning to incorporate into my writing program.  I was delighted with my first lesson following that post and wanted to immediately celebrate it's success with a blog post.  However, I was also mindful that sometimes something that is "new" can work as a single one-off lesson but then fail to fire after the newness wears off.  With this in mind, I have waited nearly two weeks (and many writing lessons) to reflect on how its working.

Brainstorming for writing in smaller groups has definitely paid off.  I'm able to pitch each brainstorm at the level of each group and am finding a definite increase in engagement.  Importantly, I'm able to capture the ideas at each level, gift appropriate vocabulary and deepen the ideas and discussion with each group.  Each brainstorm works slightly differently.  With my higher group, I use Padlet which I use my Chromecast to display on the TV.  Learners are also able to access the Padlet directly from their iPad as it is linked on our writing slide.   This group are learning to share their writing with a friend before conferencing with me.

Check out our Padlet of ideas on Shot Put and Valerie Adams
Check our our Padlet of ideas on Kayaking and Lisa Carrington

When I brainstorm with my middle writers, we use the whiteboard.  This group often require more prompting and we often discuss main ideas and sequencing before they begin their independent writing.  My final group of writers complete a dictation task while I'm brainstorming with my other groups.  They then come to the teaching table where we will brainstorm a few main ideas.  This group requires more support and often stay at my table so I can assist with their focus and sentence construction.

It is always great to receive feedback or ideas from others that I can incorporate into my practice as I continually try to innovate for the benefit of my learners.  This was definitely the case with writing recently and I have incorporated some of the great ideas I have received from colleagues into my practice.  Additionally, I received some great feedback from Innes Kennard - "Another suggestion from my peers yesterday was to spend more than one session on a piece of writing"!

This feedback struck a chord as many of my learners would say "How many sentences do I have to write", to which I would reply ... "At least <insert number here based on the learner asking>".  I now realise that by saying "at least", they were taking my number literally and if I said "At least three" they would consider three to be 'good enough' and wouldn't push themselves to write anymore.  I'm extending my writing topic to cover more than one lesson.  I do have a back up writing topic for those 'fast finishes' but I have found that allowing additional time allows me extra conferencing time to work with specific learners and extend them further, but also allows my learners time to make their writing even better.

As always, all my teaching decisions are based on trying to make the maximum impact on my learners, so I feel its only appropriate to end this post with some of the great writing that occurred recently.

"Valerie Adams does the shot put and she won the gold and silver  medal.   She won the gold medal in 2008 in London and won the silver medal in 2016 in Rio. One of her throws was disqualified because she stepped out of the circle. Valerie has big strong muscles to throw a long way." - Julia 

"In the shot put Valerie Adams won the Olympic silver medal.  She won 2 gold medals at earlier Olympic Games. In the shot put Valerie Adams was amazing at the shot put. In the shot put she hold a heavy ball. In the shot put she was amazing at throw the ball. In the shot put l like Valerie Adams because she is good at the Olympic Games." - Sivaenah

"Valerie Adams does  the shot put and she got a silver medal. Back in 2008 she won a gold medal and in 2012 in London she also won a gold medal. USA are  winners of the Rio gold medal. Valerie Adams drinks water before she starts her game.

When she get ready to throw she  stands in a  little circle. It is white so she can aim at the hole so she doesn't lose the ball. Valerie Adams  has strong muscles in her arms to make the shot put go far away. She sets a goal so her team can win. Valerie Adams has to learn from her coach before she starts. She has to throw the ball as far as she can with one hand. 

Valerie Adams got a score for New Zealand.  Valerie was a world champion last year. In  the Olympics, Valerie Adams has to use a heavy ball so it can go over 20 metres." - Bradley

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