Monday, 9 April 2018

Inquiry and Passion Inspired Writing

After adapting my CSI (Communication, STEM and Inquiry) based literacy learning I have continued to work on the reading and writing link with my 5 year olds. The primary objective has been to build positive relationships where students feel comfortable to try new things and also to have fun! From there the learning, confidence and engagement has increased hugely. I have also focussed on getting students to inquire into their passion areas and then incorporate  their reading and writing through this.

It has wonderful to see the language used after experiments and exposure to different books. Talking about interest areas has really enhanced the language used in writing. Students have also engaged in their peers inquiry in different ways. One of the girls really connected to another students interest in volcanoes. She knew a lot about Taupo and Tongariro and its volcanic history as well as Maori legends about the area. She incorporated that thinking into the mini science experiments about lava and explosions as well. From there we recorded her thoughts orally on Seesaw. Bringing the story telling to the fore front and placing value on her knowledge and heritage.

Having mini STEM challenges based on picture books tied into an interest area has also been a great way to get discussion going and improve writing. This is an option for students to choose after they have read a seen or new text with me.

The collaboration between peers has been wonderful to see. It is really motivational for others to connect to an area you feel passionately about.

Also, students are taking more risks and trying to add language into their sentences that don't consist of simple sight words is wonderful to see! Having a provocation is a fantastic way to let students imaginations take off. I loved how students incorporated learning from their volcano inquiry into their dinosaur provocation!

I am looking forward to continuing with the interest/passion based inquiry for students next term. It is so important to have everyday reading and writing. The mix of structured learning and the oppourtunity to explore through Science, STEM and Inquiry lend a good balance and give a broad scope for literacy learning.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Transition to School - A Gifted Perspective

At the Connect.Ed. Conference I was lucky to go to a Hook, Line and Sinker 'Taster' Session about transition to school with Carola Sampson. This was both a professional and personal interest as my son will be transitioning to school towards the end of the year. The specific focus was for gifted younger students making this move.
Some of the key takeaways were that both ECE teachers and Primary teachers need to have a strong understanding of Te Whariki and The New Zealand Curriculum. Below are the links between the two in regards to assessment.

It is important that parents share the portfolio through Educa or the paper version and that teachers are open to the importance of this assessment document.  This leads to teachers having access to "reveal previous learning, skills, abilities and progress learning through linking to previously documented learning experiences and episodes at ece and other learning environments." 
(Carola Sampson)

Below are some of the key transition strategies as described by Sally Peters (2010)

It is important to note that although the transition is in some ways a relatively short time, gifted students need to be monitored so we can see their trajectory over a much longer period of time to make sure they continue to be happy in their new school.

 Implementing Transition Booklets so students can take photos of their new school and have input to share how their teacher can help or what they need to do for themselves if they are hungry, tired etc. Having a kindergarten teacher visit the school and the school teacher/s visit the kindy environment are important factors in making that connection for gifted students. 

As valuable a tool as a portfolio is sometimes students don't reveal their true selves in the kindergarten setting so parents may not feel this best represents their childs' abilities or the way they learn.  They may 'adapt' their behaviour to fit in and try to make friends and may not reveal any talents.  Or perhaps teachers don't have an understanding of gifted students. Abilities may be very apparent at home or with someone the student sees as holding that particular area of interest as passionately as they do. Therefore it is vital that parents are advocates to share about their children with ECE and Primary teachers.

So 'knowledge is power' when it comes to giftedness and the links between Te Whariki and The New Zealand Curriculum. The Portfolio should be used as a primary transition tool and parents, whanau and students need to have their voices heard in this process.

Supporting Gifted Learners

Listening to the gifted students speak at the Connect.Ed. Conference with clarity about what helps their learning, what are blockers and how they cope with the daily expectations of themselves and of others was inspirational and tinged with a little sadness. Most were young teenagers and had spent many years searching for other kids who 'think like me' for friendships, for acceptance and just a space to be themselves. Instead most had found bullying, stress, frustration, anxiety and an unrealistic expectation of what giftedness means. But for many they had their own passions that they held high to light their way, to help them find a place to be themselves even if it was without someone with whom to share it with.

The tinge of sadness came from the fact that many suffered from anxiety and high levels of stress due to their teachers not understanding them as individuals. To me, as a teacher the relationships that we make with our students are key. They come first and then the learning and feeling of mana whenua (belonging) come alongside this. They also need to see our own passions and we need to let them know about who we are, our families and our interests so they can connect with us.

The day after the conference I found this poster that had a number of points that these gifted students raised. I think professional development for teachers is essential so that they have a non biased view of gifted students. Unfortunately many teachers only gain this knowledge if they themselves have a gifted child or perhaps a gifted member of their family.

Hopefully with a new 30 year vision for Education coming soon we will see more emphasis for both ends of the learning spectrum to be acknowledged and teachers to gain professional development to help gifted students to reach their potential in a non stressful or anxiety inducing learning environment.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Following Student Passions

This term I have tried to follow student interests and passions to encourage them to engage in their learning and give them more choice about the direction we take. I have a number of reluctant readers and writers, many of whom have come with  low self esteem.  To combat this I decided to adapt my CSI planning (Communication, STEM and Inquiry) to allow for more focus on individual Inquiry for students who wanted to do this. Passion areas such as The Titanic, Thunderbirds, Volcanoes, Cars, Jungle Animals and Dinosaurs. Where ever possible I would incorporate mini Science experiments, such as floating and sinking for The Titanic. Or questions such as: Why do volcanoes explode?

This has lead to a real enthusiasm from students and the ability to take their passions into an inquiry of their own making.  Often others have been just as engaged in another students passion areas. I also had an over arching theme such as Toys so that students could explore and tell me more about what they were into.

I have  added a variety of readers of different levels, library books and toys. This has encouraged students to talk, role play and  discuss what they can see even if the text is too difficult to read.

Making books for students to write, read, record on Seesaw and then take home has been really motivational for many students as well.

Having the balance between structured reading of seen and new texts along with sight word and phonics where necessary has also been key to students building confidence in their own abilities.

I'm looking forward to tweaking what I am doing for the learners next term to improve what I have started this term.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Loving Learning

Yesterday we had our first TOD of 2018. We discussed our Vision for learning and what that means for our students. It is exciting to think about the possibilities and freedom to get back to teaching and learning alongside our akonga. After reflection I jotted down some ideas that I felt were important for our future focussed learners and educators.

Nga Mihi

Sunday, 26 November 2017

ESOL- Adventures in Coding

This term I have incorporated aspects of coding into my ESOL students learning. I drive their learning through what I call CSI- (Communication, STEM and Inquiry.)  Our Key Competency Focus has been: Relating to Others and our Group Goal has been: Confidently Sharing our Ideas.

I have linked Coding into Communication and Inquiry using these two areas:



For Sequence we started with using coloured pieces of paper and laying them in a pattern on the floor. Students then needed to work together to come up with instructions for each one. It generated lots of conversation and thinking about each verbal instruction carefully.

We also applied it to following a recipe so it would link to out baking/cooking inquiry as well.

We looked at how recipes break instructions down to tiny commands. They needed to be done in the right order or the baking wouldn't turn out. These ideas would have to be clear and detailed. They would use specific language and measurements. So students could start to see that these step by step instructions can be a form of coding.

Next we looked at Decomposition. Using Linda Liukas' book "Hello Ruby, Adventures in Coding," has been a really practical guide to approaching these concepts with younger students. First we took geometrical shapes and used them to make an object or thing.

We then broke down the parts to see the different shapes it was made from. Afterwards we looked at drawings from the book to see which part might be missing or which part wouldn't be used. Several students were really quick to identify those parts. It was interesting to note that these activities clearly showed those who could instantly see as compared to those who took more time. The two who are exceptional at co operating and working together in a team picked up these patterns the quickest.

Today we looked at this book which I got out from our local library. I wanted students to focus on the three key areas of coding as outlined in this book: 
1. Try, try, try again. 2. Being Creative. 3. Better together.

I gave my students sets of "transformable blocks car sets.' They had both possible instructions available and I had purposely removed or mixed parts to see what students would do when they encountered this challenge. I organised them to work in pairs and we started. It was really interesting to see who would keep trying, and work together in a creative way. Two of the three groups managed to co operate to get their task completed in a way they were both happy with. One group struggled and focussed too much on taking turns rather than sharing ideas and working as a team. This barrier would be one common with those not used to the 3 core areas we focused on. Most were happy to tinker and problem solve creatively but the group that set rules and stuck just to the 'status quo' were unsuccessfully in completing the task in the given time.

 I had another group who worked together with Lego to build a small house with a garage. Even though these students are quieter, they were just as successful in achieving their goal. They just needed prompting to share ideas over the course of the activity. 

I have enjoyed learning about coding alongside my ESOL students this term. Although we have just started to 'scratch the surface' of what coding is,  it is a journey that I am looking forward to continuing. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Agency- Voice, Choice and Ownership

Recently I saw that The IBO has announced that the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) will  be enhancing their programme by adding the concept of agency. Having taught PYP at an International school in Dubai in the past I was interested in this addition and how they will prepare to develop this.

Currently I am teaching in New Zealand where many schools and teachers have been researching and incorporating agency or student agency through the New Zealand Curriculum Framework for some time.

As it is a long weekend my family have been enjoying gardening and being outside. Mr 4 and I noticed the new koru growing in our garden. The design of the new PYP Graphic reminded me of the koru and so I added the core agency concepts onto a photo we took.

I like the symbolism that comes with the koru. The idea of new growth, perpetual movement, and strength. A koru unfurls to become a new part of a plant that grows and changes over time. Also, the visual link between agency and this special taonga really appeals to me as a teacher and learner. 

I look forward to seeing how adding agency into The PYP will change  the links between The Learner, Learning and Teaching and The Learning Community.