Delving into Inquiry

As term one is rapidly coming to a close I have had the opportunity to reflect on what has been a whirlwind of term 1. This term during staff meetings we delved into an inquiry unit ourselves asking:

How can we best serve the needs of students with more than one teacher in the space?

The inquiry was choice driven and could have been individual or grouped but as a stage we knew we had the same question that we had been battling for the first 5 weeks of the term.

How can we best track our students across the stage as a team?

Step 1: Referring to Research

Our first step was to look at what research could tell us which proved somewhat difficult. We tried to liken our situation to job sharing where teachers would need to share information about multiple students but we fell short when we realised this would generally only be 20-30 students not close to 100. We wanted to minimise our workload while ensuring that a hand over of each student was comprehensive and maintainable. Through our research we came up with the following options:

  • a data tracking wall
  • spreadsheets
  • visual displays
  • data to be collected regularly to be used often (because what’s the point of data if it isn’t used?!

Step 2: Goals and Structures

Putting structures and goals in place. We decided as a cohort on some tracking strategies just starting with literacy. We would as a team, use a tracking sheet in a google document which everyone would collaborate using a colour coded system. Our goal: to provide all teachers with a ‘snapshot’ of every child in the stage for when a student moves or when we need information for parent meetings.

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Reading Performa

This is the basic concept for our reading tracking that our learning coach, Belinda Geelan, created. We have detailed information about their running record so it becomes more than merely a percentage. Our focus has shifted on how we can improve individual elements for individual students with our goal to always hit students at their point of need.

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Writing Performa

Our writing performa is a lot more basic allowing teachers to track whatever their focus is for their specific group of students however all students are still on the same document and we are colour coded with the same colours we use for reading but also in our program.

Step 3: Observation and Feedback

feedback-1825508_1920We were provided time to observe others in their pursuit of answering their inquiry question but also to be observed in ours. For myself this was perhaps the most beneficial step. When you are in your world of stage 1 you struggle to get clarity on what could work best. Having the chance to visit stage 4 gave me outlook on how things could be done differently.

Our feedback:

Although our inquiry question was hard to observe in the classroom our observers came back with some interesting wonderings:

  • Who sees this document?
  • How does it transfer to 2 or 4 teachers?
  • How often?
  • How do you know?
  • What are the teacher time requirements for teaching across a team of 4?
  • How is literacy managed across all groupings?

Step 5: The Where to Next? directory-1273088_1920.jpgWe will continue to inquire into how we can best meet the needs of our students so that student need is targeted and responsive. Our observers wonderings will help drive the next steps to ensure we are best answering “how can we best track students across a stage as a team?”

Do you have a way to track students? I’d love to hear it! Share this link and tag @angelaryall93

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Into the Deep

Woke up this morning.

I suddenly realized

We’re all in this together

 

I started smiling

Cause you were smiling.

And we’re all in this together.

– Ben Lee

 

In my second year of teaching I took a leap, out of the comfort that I had somewhat become accustomed to (as much as you can in a year and a half!) and let go of what I thought I’d learnt about teaching.

 

“ St Luke’s is a Catholic learning community establishing the ‘new normal’ for preschool to post school learning within an extended school day, 6am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. In a place where Learning = Infinite Possibilities, St Luke’s provides each student with inquiry experiences which are relevant to their real world.  By providing a flexible and diverse curriculum, learning experiences will progressively be self-directed and increasingly personalised.

 

Within a safe and secure environment, literacy, numeracy and faith formation are viewed as strong foundations to assist young people identify and solve problems. With each person taking responsibility for their own learning, all learners participate actively in a changing world where they are called to:

 

  • WITNESS by living the Good News as revealed through the Gospel of St Luke
  • MANAGE self
  • RELATE with others
  • COMMUNICATE and COLLABORATE with peers and experts
  • THINK CREATIVELY and CRITICALLY through deep and rigorous reflection

 

I’ve joined the St Luke’s Marsden Park community as a Stage One teacher. While teaching is still at the core, the learning journey of our students looks vastly different. In any given day students move throughout our learning space to a range of teachers to suit their various needs, work collaboratively in groups or deciding to work independently. The key being student choice. Very early on we knew that the key to student choice was going to be knowing our students and how they learn.

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Wrapping your head around something new isn’t going to happen in 6 weeks and I definitely do not have my feet firmly on the ground yet. Our focus for our first few weeks had to be getting to know our students. Knowing our students means understanding what they like, how they learn and what drives them within the classroom. We put assessments in the passenger seat and we set out to learn 45 names (90 across the stage), what their passions were and a catch a glimpse of how they learn. What is the best way to do that quickly and efficiently? I knew I had to get in their “quality world” very early on and on the first day that started with questions. “What school were you at last year?” “What do you do for fun on the weekends?” “It’s interesting how you always lie on the floor to learn, do you think that helps you learn best?” With every question I was getting into their quality world just a little bit more. How do you get to know your students? 

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From there we could then begin to know them as learners and the data could drive what we had already come to know about each child. The data was no longer our starting point it was a mid point along our learning journey. We reflected on the data and what we knew to then group students based on needs. The groupings are not set in concrete, they are flexible, just like our space. If a student moves up two levels in reading then we can adapt to that on any given day. The beauty of having such a flexible learning space is that (hopefully!) the students have never seen it as a physical divide but more a space for all of stage one to move freely across based on their needs at any given moment in time.
On our first day together as a staff Ben Lee’s ‘We’re All in This Together’  was played. There was something about that moment that has stuck with me. I’ve always loved thinking of a cohort as a “team.” I’m not there yet with knowing everything about every child – but I’m on my way. I greet each child with their name and a smile and I’m getting to know their learning traits. I’ve started the year with getting to know my students and I’m looking forward to a year where “we’re all in this together.” (cheesy, I know!)

 

Angela

Are we there yet?!

Writing gets pushed to the side when you feel like you have a million and one tasks to complete and you feel like you’re paddling to keep your head above water. Who said swimming, or teaching for that matter, was easy?

This past term and a half have been a whirlwind. From assessments, reporting, teaching and a sprinkle of enjoyment thrown in, the life of a first year teacher is overwhelming.

Here’s some of the highlights from the last term;

  • We integrated beebots into our position unit! Woo! The kids engaged with this so well and really took on the vocabulary with their peers of position. I also found it a really practical unit, as we walked around the school, discussing which way the beebot should go now, the students grasped an understanding of left and right and how the beebots function. We used chalk to plan their paths on concrete and had challenging discussions when something didn’t go the way they thought it would.
  • We smashed our new geography unit! Can anyone say fieldwork? Nature maps, sound maps, park excursions and a trip to West Head. My colleague went above and beyond in the program and the execution meant all the students were engaged in an exciting program!
  • We have just started an integrated maths unit (whole number, A+S, length) and it is exciting! The children so far (see some twitter posts) are loving it and I’m excited to see where it goes. How far can you jump?

 

And here’s the three things I feel have got me this far;

  • I’ve learnt – through attending the apple learning academy, new scheme days and trying to read everything possible.
  • I struggled – and boy did it teach me a few things. When I’ve been close to melt down over the sheer workload of a teacher (who knew we didn’t just work 9-3?) I’ve taken a couple of steps back to look at how I can simply things. Getting marking done as I go, keeping things simple in repetition rather than focusing on always making it wow! and talking to teachers about different ways things can be done. I’ve learnt – possibly the most I ever have in my life.
  • I reflected – What has worked? What have I thrown our the window? Every single day I have reflected. Not because I feel I have to but because I feel that if I reflect every single day that’s one way I know at the end of the year I have down my best to teach my children the best I can.

Angela

Halfway There

What a whirlwind the first two terms of the year have been! Caught between the constant struggle of ‘have I done enough?’ and ‘it can wait until tomorrow’ has not become any easier in the 20 week of school I have now taught.

I’ve struggled a lot in the first two terms with the am I doing enough question. I don’t think this is a reflection on my ability and not necessarily even a sign of self doubt. Rather I believe it is an indication of the sheer work load teachers endure daily. In the first two terms of my teaching career I’ve not felt I’ve had a full week when I’ve stopped and said – yes this is teaching. I’ve had glimpses – yes. But a full week where I have stopped and enjoyed it… I’m still waiting for that.

#aussieED chat this week was based upon eduwins and edufails. Being almost at the half way point I thought I’d reflect on my journey so far.

#eduwin

The moment you step back and “smell the roses.” My cohort of students has come so far in various aspects of their learning. They are starting to perceive themselves as learners and take on small aspects of that responsibility. They’ve also come a huge way in understanding technology as a learning tool not as an entertainment tool and this is an exciting journey to be apart of.

On a professional note, I am proud of how I have developed as a teacher in the first two terms. I feel my behaviour management is getting stronger and I am more likely to take risks in how I am teaching. I feel supported in my team and this has a huge impact on how we take steps forward to have #eduwins.

#edufails

Sometimes I’m a little too much happiness and glitter and lack some perspective. You can’t move mountains overnight and I’ve definitely come to this realisation more than once over the course of the two terms. My other #edufail is taking children’s behaviour to heart and recognising that it is not a reflection on my own teaching ability. The management after the event is however so I’ve made a conscious effort to put more thought into the after.

So with almost two terms down – my wrap up is somewhat short and sweet. There’s been moments of bliss and moments of lows. But I’m stopping halfway up my mountain to look at the view before I keep preserving to get to the top.

 

Angela

5 things I learnt at EDUTECHAU 2017

Being a first year teacher at edutech this year was a little bit like being a child in a candy shop. Overwhelming, exciting and making you want to dance around like a dinosaur all at once! Not only are you trying to take on board everything possible, you are surrounded by outstanding educators you’ve only seen on twitter.

So here it is – my five things I learnt being a first year teacher at #edutechAU

#1 – Our World Is Changing

Okay, so not entirely new news but to what extent was a bit of an eye opener to me. The 5 year olds that started school in 2017 will start university in 2033 and will retire in 2082. How are we teaching for their future when we don’t know what their future holds?

 

#2 – To STEM or not to STEM?

It doesn’t really matter. A shock, I know!  But whether you are teaching from a PBL approach, STEM or inquiry approach that key point is that we are changing (or transforming) how we are doing things. Our curriculum is over crowded and somethings got to give.

 

#3 – But I’m not good at IT (Thanks @kmakly)

You will never understand technology better than the children you teach. Just stop. Let that sink in. No matter how much you try to keep up and learn there will always be a child that knows that little bit more about Minecraft or knows an app that can do something better. Does that mean we don’t try to keep up? Not at all! But it does mean we need to acknowledge this understanding and take a step back sometimes.

 

#4 – Consumption not creation

Our students are massive consumers of digital technologies. And while edutech didn’t give me all the solutions, I came to a greater understanding that I need to try harder with my students to make sure they are creators. How this will look? I’m not exactly sure – but I will aim to find out over the coming weeks, months and years.

 

#5 – It won’t happen overnight

Reality happens. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s nothing new. Multiple people told me over the two days that I needed to take just one thing away to try over the next few weeks. Some people even said to allow 5 years for change. While I’m not sure I agree with the latter, I am sure that small changes I make within my classroom tomorrow can make a difference to my students even if it doesn’t happen overnight.

 

After writing this post I realised that maybe I walked away from edutech with more questions than I did answers. But I know that the more I question myself daily the better my teaching will be.