Friday, December 29, 2006
1.My computer programmer son just changed my operating system to Linux - Ubuntu (something he's been wanting me to do for ages) and so now I'm using the Epiphany browser. It's not too bad, but I feel like a geek. Haven't worked out how to listen to podcasts yet though. (It says I need a plugin; never mind, I'll work it out).
2.I have five children and three of them are going overseas in the next six months (working holiday, study and volunteer work). It's all a bit scary. Emily is going to Ireland and the UK for a working holiday. She has just finished her postgraduate course in Information Management but will probably work in whatever field she can find work. Felicity will be working in a hospital in Bolivia for six weeks. She has nearly graduated as a nurse. Lachlan is hoping to study overseas. He just finished Year 12 and did very well.
3.Like Graham I went to boarding school for part of my secondary education.
4.Got so tired after school ended for the year on the 15th December that I couldn't blog, couldn't even think for a while (still recovering).
5.I will be going to China in April for a conference. So that's four of us applying for passports all around the same time. My conference is part of the professional development required of teachers who are teaching in the International Baccalaureate Program. We are just starting in 2007 with year 7 and I will be teaching English. It will be fantastic to go to China to visit the Guangdong Country Garden School, and to meet others who are teaching this worthwhile program.
I would like to tag Nancy McKeand, Judy O'Connell (when she gets back from holidays) Paul Allison, Bob Sprankle, the Reflective teacher and Doug Johnson
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Saturday, December 02, 2006
You may have been as surprised as I was myself when I realised that my pedagogy placed me firmly within the ‘loony fringe’- a term used by the editors of The Australian for those who do not share their view that anything other than the ‘universal’ Western canon should be taught in English classrooms. You may also be able to appreciate the somewhat disconcerting experience of learning that the ideas I was engaging students with were “serious ideology” (as opposed to frivolous ideology, I can only assume). You might have experienced the dismay that I did when I read that by encouraging my students to engage thoughtfully and critically with texts, I was apparently denying them the opportunity to experience the “simple joys of reading".She has included her students' voices on their learning and her presentation slides as well in a fantastic post. Go on over and have a read.
But there is still a lot to learn. I need to insist that students link to what they’re writing about to prevent people like Derek from having to take risks
like this one
From Keshia's Quill (love the blogname)
- One. SPAM IS EVIL!!! (Sorry…too much sugar for breakfast.)
- Two. I learned a lot about the environment thanks to my fellow blogger Derek. (He wrote some real detailed stuff)
- Three. I found out just how easy it is to communiate with someone from another country or maybe on the other side of the world. Are you guys in Canada enjoying your…umm…is it Autumn up there?
And Derek's comment
Hey!! Thanks for mentioning me in your blog (Well, I hope you are talking about me, otherwise this would be humiliating ). SPAM IS EVIL!! I remember when I got a whole lot of spam. Luckily, I have my comments sent to moderation. Also, “Bad Behaviour” blocks some spam. I agree that you can learn lots from blogging...
Blogging isn't the answer to the world's most serious problem (whoever thought it would be?!)... but it is a tool for learning…. and I cannot now imagine learning or teaching without using blogs.
I love the questions that Clarence is asking of his students right now and am looking forward to reading their answers. The workshop was well written up by the organiser Joseph Papaleo here.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Through a chance link in my in-box I have discovered a new (new to me) author who writes about readingand learning: Frank Smith, whose latest book Unspeakable Acts, Unnatural Practices 'helps teachers understand the nature of thinking, learning, and reading'.
Gary Stager writes about him: "Instead of talking about what teachers should teach and what students should learn, Smith argues that we should talk about experiences that they should be mutually engaged in, involving reading, writing, imagining, creating, calculating, constructing, producing and performing."
This chimes in with my beliefs, based on experience, that if we set up experiences where learning is more likely to happen rather than having students do what we want them to do because we want it (or it is in the syllabus), learning will happen. It is the setting up of the experiences that is so critical, that requires our creativity, energy and passion. It is important that we use all the ways we can to engage our students, and provide for them opportunities to construct their own learning, as well as modelling learning because the teacher also is one of the learners. This is very timely for me as we are writing up the curriculum for next year now so there is opportunity to refresh our thinking with writers such as Smith. I can't wait to read it.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Update: I forgot to say that I am probably intimidating to others who don't yet know, and also that it takes a special kind of person to talk about web 2.0 to people who don't know. Often these teachers feel annoyed by those who speak in a language they don't understand and as Ewan realises "explaining the hows and whys behind the social software movement in education without coming close to putting backs up or making people defensive" is hard. I know because I don't often succeed. It's good that others can.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
There is a side note to this. A few students couldn't get into the novel at all and none of my tricky little ideas worked for them. I have a principle that I want to students to read for pleasure so I took a risk. I offered these students an opportunity to choose a novel from the collection of Literature Circles books which means that we are not all reading the class novel. Fortunately, only one student questioned the fairness of this. (I definitely agree that there is a fairness issue here). I talked to her privately about my decision and the reasons for it. She was fine with it as long as those students assessment tasks were of comparable difficulty (which, one way or another, they will be).
I have been reading English writer, Claire Senior's book Getting the Buggers to read recently and so rather than forcing the issue I had decided to try an alternative, knowing that this may well be my last chance to give my reluctant readers at the tail end of Year 8 the experience that may get them hooked on reading for life. We are still going to have class novels next year in order to have a common discussion with the students of the issues and themes they will have all read and explored together, so creativity will have to be the order of the day to keep the whole class focused on the one book. This will be interspersed with wide reading and free voluntary reading as well. There are many helpful ideas in Claire Senior's book and I do recommend it, and isn't it a great title?
Monday, October 16, 2006
And speaking of podcasts, one that I have been enjoying recently is the Critical Literacy in Practice Podcast with Vivian Vasquez. Check it out.
Update: I remembered that I should also give credit to Joseph Papaleo as he had the idea of podcasts for revision. Podcast on Gattaca will be posted tonight
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Margaret Wheatley who wrote Leadership and the new science, looks at chaos theory and its relationship to leadership, schools as living systems and the idea of servant leadership.
Robert Starratt says: "During ordinary times, which are never ordinary, but especially during a period of school restructuring, educational administrators need to consider their responsibility to promote an ethical environment in their schools." This is something I am very interested in.
My position in the new leadership structure is that of Domain Leader for English looking at the scope and sequence for the students studying in this discipline from years 7 to 12. The main new focus of the restructure is to look at horizontal integration across each year level. I think the role of the domain leader is to bring the new understandings of learning for the digital age to the discipline of English, not just continue doing what an English coordinator has always done. We need to do it with the emphasis being on links across discipline areas for each year level as well as looking at communication and reflection skills that are needed to help our students be lifelong learners.
So there was a lot to think about as a result of the presentation. I think that blogging is definitely a way that teachers can reflect critically with others. I also found a video via Ubiquitous Thoughts that Scott Mcleod at Dangerously Irrelevant thinks should be required viewing for secondary educators, among others. The talented student, Consuela Molino, who made this video is talking about college teaching but it also applies to us in secondary education. One of the quotes from the video says it all, I think: "If your sole purpose is just to prepare them for the future, then you have to go outside and see what the future's going to be."
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Also yesterday I participated in a live conversation with Nancy White in Seattle on Blogs and Community: launching a new paradigm for online community, which was hosted by the Knowledge Tree. It was the first time I had participated in an Elluminate event and it was interesting, although because it was the first time, the technology takes the foreground and not the experience itself. I think you have to get more familiar with the technology to allow it to be a totally transparent tool. The recording of the event can be found here and the article and a podcast with Nancy White can be found here. One of the interesting facets of the discussion that the 22 participants became, in effect, a community for the time we were in the discussion which felt very unusual when I asked a question in the text chat thinking that someone else would answer and Nancy herself stopped and commented on my question. And I was trying to be unobtrusive. One of the best things about blogging that I have experienced is the sense of inclusion I have felt since I joined the edublogosphere. I am glad that, in the words of the cliche, "you learn something new everyday", and if you're lucky it can be two things.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I'm just reading Jeffrey Wilhelm's new book (with Michael Smith) called Going with the Flow: How to engage boys and girls in their Literacy Learning. It's full of good ideas for learning that is authentic, social and inquiry based. Just thought I'd share this excerpt:
Principles for making it Social
- Create a context of inquiry, whether for a lesson or a unit.
- Ask a significant question or pose a real problem.
- Connect the question/problem to the material, to student lives and to the world.
- Pose questions or problems that must be addressed from a number of perspectives.
- Foster debate; consider, read, and discuss these multiple points of view.
- Create situations in which students can read, write, talk, role-play, and make things together that address various facets of the question or problem.
- Provide time for exploration.
I try to do these things in my classroom already, as so many of us do, but it is good to be reminded. Even though it is not even the start of Term 4 (still another week of holidays!) there is a need to prepare for next year and the new curriculum opportunities that arise for us then, especially at our school where so many changes will be happening in 2007.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
It is now holidays for which I am grateful, but I wanted to mention also the last class of the term on Friday, which happened to be my Recreating the Writer blogging class. For anyone who does not see the point of classroom blogging, I wish they had been there in that classroom. The students were totally engaged on their blogs, some of them publishing poems or stories they had written in the last couple of weeks. The only sounds except for typing noises were, "How do you make a hyperlink again?" "How do you upload a file?" and the help from other students that was forthcoming. And then, "Ooh, look, I've got a comment from Brazil," or "I've left you a comment," speaking to a friend across the room. This continued till the very end of the class and I had to remind them that the bell would begoing in a few minutes. It is very satisfying and enjoyable to be in a room where creativity, thoughtfulness and communication were so evident. So good on you, David Crystal for recognising the significance of blogs.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
While there is ample evidence that diverting attention to spelling when writing "disrupts the planning process" of writing, there is an alternative to those who propose spending more time on direct spelling instruction:
Advise writers to delay focusing on correct spelling until their ideas are firmly in place, while, at the same time, building up spelling competence through massive reading.
A number of studies show that good writers delay editing concerns until the final draft, and "premature editing" has been shown to be a predictor of the frequency of writing blocks.
Sounds about right to me. At the same time there are strategies that we can teach students to self correct and at our school we are looking to have David Hornsby come to work with us on a whole school approach to teaching these strategies.
Krashen's final piece of advice: "let spelling develop naturally through massive reading in the early years, and provide older writers with some guidance in the use of spell-checkers and spelling dictionaries, as well as advising them to delay spelling concerns until the final draft."
I think this is something the movers and shakers of the Aussie group, the Literacy Educators Coalition have been saying as well.
Announcing the first annual “K12 Online 2006" convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, October 23-27 and October 30 - November 3 with the theme “Unleashing the Potential.” A call for proposals is below.
There will be four “conference strands”– two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in podcast or screencast format and released via the conference blog (URL: TBA) and archived for posterity.
THE FOUR STRANDS ARE:
Strand A: A Week In The Classroom These presentations will focus on the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes. They will also show how teachers plan for using these tools in the delivery of their curricular objectives.
Strand B: Basic/Advanced Training (one of each per day) Basic training is “how to” information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers who have already started using Web 2.0 tools in their classes and are looking for: (a) advanced technology training (eg. how to write your own blog template or hack existing ones), (b) new tools they can make use of in their classes, (c) teaching ideas on how to mash tools together to create “something new,” (d) a pedagogical understanding of how technologies such as weblogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking sites, RSS feeds and others can deepen learning and increase student achievement, or (e) use of assessment tools to measure the effectiveness of Read/Write Web technologies in their personal practice and with their students.
Strand A: Personal Professional Development Tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs); how to create opportunities to bring these technologies to the larger school community; how to effectively incorporate the tools into your personal or professional practice; or how to create a supportive, reflective virtual professional community around school-based goals.
Strand B: Overcoming Obstacles Tips, ideas and resources on how to deal with issues like: lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, and other IT concerns while trying to focus on best practice in the use of Web 2.0 tools.
CONVENORS and KEYNOTES: For organization purposes, each strand is overseen by a conference convenor who will assist and coordinate presenters in their strand. The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who has distinguished his/herself and is knowledgeable in the context of each topic. This year’s convenors and keynote presenters are:
A Week In The Classroom
Convenor: Darren Kuropatwa and Keynote: Bud Hunt
Bud Hunt teaches high school language arts and journalism at Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Colorado. He is a teacher-consultant with and the Tech Liaison for the Colorado State University Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, a group working to improve the teaching of writing in schools via regular and meaningful professional development. Bud is also the co-editor of the New Voices column of English Journal, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. A consumer of copious amounts of New Media, Bud blogs and podcasts about his practice and larger educational issues at http://www.budtheteacher.com.
Convenor: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Keynote: TBA
Personal Professional Development
Convenor: Will Richardson and Keynote: Ewan McIntosh
Ewan McIntosh is an educational technologist and teacher of French and German. Based in the Edinburgh area of Scotland he frequently works around the UK and Europe, leading student and teacher workshops and conferences. He is an experienced workshop facilitator in the area of Web 2.0 technologies in education across stages and curricular areas. Ewan blogs at http://edu.blogs.com
Convener: TBA and Keynote: Anne Davis
Anne is known for seeing the educational possibilities in the use ofweblogs with students in classrooms, having implemented wonderful ideasand weblog projects with students and teachers in K-12 classrooms and atthe university level. She currently works at Georgia State University inthe Instructional Technology Center in the College of Education as anInformation Systems Training Specialist. Her weblog, EduBlog Insightsis a co-winner of the Best Teacher Blog in the second international Edublog Awards, a web based event thatrecognizes the many diverse and imaginative ways in which weblogs arebeing used within education.
CALL FOR PROPOSALS: We’d like to invite you to submit a proposal to present at the conference. If you have something you’d like to share with the community, both people who are new to blogs and/or experienced bloggers please email the appropriate conference convenor above with your ideas. The deadline to submit a proposal (just the proposal, not the finished product) is September 30, 2006. One of us will contact you to finalize the date of your presentation. Your presentation may be delivered in any web-based medium (including but not limited to…podcasts, PowerPoint files, blogs, websites, wikis, screencasts, etc.) and must be emailed to your assigned conference convenor one week before it goes live, (see above strands) so that it can be uploaded to the server.
The conference organizers are:Darren Kuropatwa
Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for “child safe” blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years. Darren’s professional blog is called A Difference ( http://adifference.blogspot.com).
Sheryl is a technology/education consultant for the National Education Association (NEA), the Center for Teaching Quality, SRI International, the Virginia Community College System, the Virginia Department of Education, the Miami-Dade Public Schools, and the Alabama Best Practices Center. She has had several journal articles and book chapters published, been featured on public broadcasting television and radio shows, and is a regular presenter at local, state, and national conferences speaking on topics of homelessness, teacher leadership, virtual community building, and 21st Century learning initiatives. Sheryl blogs at 21st Century Collaborative ( http://21stcenturylearning.typepad.com/blog/).
Will Richardson is known internationally for his work with educators and students to understand and implement instructional technologies and, more specifically, the tools of the Read/Write Web into their schools, classrooms and communities. A public school educator for twenty two years, Will’s own Weblog ( Weblogg-ed.com) is a primary resource for the creation and implementation of Weblog technologies on the K-12 level and is a leading voice for school reform in the context of the fundamental changes these new technologies are bringing to all aspects of life. Will is the critically acclaimed author of the best-selling book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms (March 2006, Corwin Press).
If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:
Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we’d really like people to do that ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs). Please tag all related posts with k12online06.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Before we even got to the venue in South Melbourne, as we were waiting for the tram, Jacquie (fellow colleague and friend) and I had a serendipitous moment. We got talking to a woman who was obviously waiting for the same tram as we were. It turned out that she was speaking at the festival about her own novels. She was Fleur Beale, author of over a dozen novels and fellow teacher. It was lovely to talk to her and later I bought two of the novels I am not Esther and A Respectable Girl. I loved every moment of the day although I am a bit of a stress bucket when taking large groups on public transport. The girls were well behaved and I think they enjoyed it as well. We'll probably get to read what they think on their blogs in the days to come.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
“Between 1983 and 2003, the average percentile rank of those entering teacher education fell from 74 to 61, while the average rank of new teachers fell from 70 to 62.”How and Why has Teacher Quality Changed in Australia? is a study by Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan that has received considerable publicity in the shock-jock media and when I asked my writing workshop class to reflect on their blogs about teaching and learning (in a similar way to the Year 8 English class I asked the same questions of yesterday) I found that Kate had reflected on this report.
“To be a good teacher I think that they would have to have: the right amount of knowledge about what they’re trying to teach, because yesterday on Today Tonight I found out that the standard of teacher knowledge has dropped significantly, which is appalling and now after less than a generation ago Australia was regarded as one of the smartest countries in the world, and now it is 11th in science and 14th in mathematics. This makes me incredibly angry, that we could have slipped so far when we have all these resources at our fingertips.”
There is a lot to discuss here about critical literacy which we will, of course, but it is interesting that the findings of the report are not, however, publicised to the same extent in any of these media.
“We believe that both the fall in average teacher pay, and the rise in pay differentials in non-teaching occupations are responsible for the decline in the academic aptitude of new teachers over the past two decades.”I don’t know how many current teachers would say that they were working for the salary; rather I think the ones that stay are there for less tangible benefits but benefits none the less. In looking at this class’s reflections there is the usual wish list for teachers that are fair and fun but also something I didn’t expect to be there as much, and that is a respct for the job that teachers are doing.There’s quite a lot of understanding expressed as well as humour:
“There isn’t just one type of good teacher, and I think that’s what makes a teacher good, they aren’t the same as all other teachers, and the experiences that you have in your classes with your maths teacher are different to those that you have with your R.E teacher. A good teacher is individual…and sometimes they give lollies…"Keep dreaming, Annie!
Monday, August 28, 2006
This is the blog entry I posted to the year 8 class blog this morning and I was interested in what the students posted as their reflections on this topic. Many students saw the questions as just one more thing they had to do and simply answered the questions in as few words as possible, but others were a bit more reflective:
Gracie wrote: "Teachers would have to have people skills, knowledge, caring, and helpfulness, anger management, compassionate and persistence. I think kids should become more respectful of there teachers because being a teacher is a very hard and tiring job." Right on, Gracie! Fun was mentioned in many posts as was listening: students wanted the teachers to listen to the students but also thought that students should listen to the teacher. Hannah writes concisely about what she thinks and mentions that teachers should not bring their home problems to class, in other words she expects professionalism. So do I. She also reflects that if students are wagging it would be a sign that the teacher should make their classes more interesting. Fran's post is well worth reading: reflecting on respect and expectations, she writes with passion. I would have to say she gets the blog post of the week for this class, this week.
I should also mention that the students did not have a lot of time to reflect on this one, and I think it would have been better if they had had more time. Some of the brevity of their answers may also be a reflection of the stress the students are under at this time of the year with so many assignments. But I still thought it was good to take some time out to reflect on why we are here.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
* examine the effects of these elements on the creator’s choice of structure and language
* engage in a creating process which includes planning reviewing and editing.
This is obviously a development of the old writing folio but integrated both with texts and with metalanguage and critical literacy. Because the range of texts that the students use is based on a context such as “Exploring and Presenting themes and ideas”, “Exploring technology and communication”, and “Exploring workplace communication”, some teachers I have heard have dismissed this new way of looking at text and composition with “it’s the old themes resurrected again”, but this is to overlook what is new, and the opportunities given by the study of critical literacy in the 21st century when so much of our literacy has to be media savvy literacy. And to complete the study the third are of study is “Using language to persuade” (AOS 3). In this area of study, students focus on the use of language to present a point of view. This too is much broader than the current study design and looks at sound effects, colour, association, symbols, gesture as well as what was studied in the past such as rhetorical language devices.
And so I was really excited when my friend and fellow VATE council member Janet McCurry presented a unit of work and invited us to trial it. What is interesting about this unit is that, in her own words, Janet chooses “to see AOS 2 an integrating link between AOS 1 and AOS 3 i.e. between text response and analysis of the way the features of a text combine to construct meaning and to position the audience to take a particular point of view.” The unit starts with a study of the film text Gattaca, which is then followed by an examination of texts such as news items sourced on the Internet e.g. “Could genetic screening work?”, “The Human Ova Business” and cloning. In the last few weeks there has been a lot in the daily press about stem cell research and the debates in parliament over the ethics and desirability of therapeutic cloning. This has led to lots of interesting discussion and debate. The students are also required to (as Janet says) “write a commentary about their own texts commenting on the ways in its context, audience and purpose helped to shape it. This will mean that the student needs to have a vocabulary with which to describe linguistic structures and features, contextual considerations and available strategies. This vocabulary or metalanguage is relevant to all three AOS and can be developed throughout the study.” This segues beautifully into Area of Study 3, which is much enriched by the work that the students have done in analysing websites such as the League for Life in Manitoba, Repromed and XytexOvations. This was engaging work and integrated well into what some of the students were learning about in Biology.
Overall, I don’t think we did the unit full justice. Here was much that had to be left out due to lack of time as we juggled both the old and new study designs and next time I teach this unit I would like to use more of the resources that Janet put together. It’s given us a lot to think about, students and teachers alike.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
This brings me to the question of “blogging across the curriculum.” Yes, you heard that right. Not maths or literacy across the curriculum but blogging. And why not? In this interview via Will Richardson’s del.icio.us links we hear the author of Culture Convergence: where old and new media collide, Henry Jenkins, of MIT. In a review of the book we read, “Convergence Culture maps a new territory: where old and new media intersect, where grassroots and corporate media collide, where the power of the media producer and the power of the consumer interact in unpredictable ways. And in this interview we hear that “Media literacy is not a class, it's a curriculum.” Jenkins talks about the educational use of games among many other topics and the necessity of being ‘undisciplined’ rather than being trapped in the old discipline boundaries. He sees blogs as “interdisciplinary spaces” which embody a “learner’s total integration of knowledge.”
And here is an example of blogging, which shows just this. The student is one I have mentioned before. Her love of writing and learning is shown throughout her blog. I am so proud that she has called her blog My Year Eight English Experience even though it’s much broader than that. The discipline of English was just her jumping off point, but the learning she is engaged in is truly interdisciplinary. The student from Year 8 has been blogging on her own now, about her learning both in school and out of school and her post "Traumatised Women" is my choice for blog post of the week. Good on you, Zoe.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
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Saturday, August 12, 2006
The second blog just listed is the related(?) English Stories, which "has been created to provide a central collection of the public stories that are told about the subject English." The creator of this blog hopes "that fellow English teachers might find this blog to be a useful resource, and can use this blog as a place to share comments, insights and opinions on the subject English and its public representation, especially in the media."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I’ve spent a number of miserable minutes today reflecting on what went wrong with the year eights in class today. I have been so used to this class being engaged and collaborative, willingly sharing ideas and opinions without too much shouting over each other and getting distracted by too much unhelpful thinking. But today? I couldn’t believe it! I always spend time trying to design the lessons with the students in mind and I am very generous in the time I factor in to get something done. But this wasn’t enough for them today. Everything I said about the new undertaking was repeated in a tone of disbelief: another assignment?? five hundred words?? three different sources?? as if what I had said was totally unreasonable. Even though I had said that there was no limit as to how many student did which topic, they started insisting that a certain topic was theirs because they had chosen it first. There was a kind of dull belligerence mixed in with excited shouting and after a while I had had enough. I began to look disappointed and stern. These did not seem the same students as I had been used to. By the end of the lesson I had asked four students to stay behind to find out what was at the bottom of this, but as yet nothing is forthcoming. I did hear, however, that I wasn’t the only teacher to have found a change in the class. Was it something they ate? Is it just their age? I don’t know. But I do know this: that what I did today isn’t going to cut it anymore, we might have to go back to re-establishing some class norms about respect and courtesy, both for their classmates and for me. Looking back over this entry, reading it as if I was an observer, I wonder if it might be something about the way I introduced the new topic, a very interesting research based piece of writing on any disaster. They are to use their research skills together with their imagination and write an account of a disaster from the viewpoint of one of the participants. I have seen this work well in other years, and the quality of the writing has been quite high. I hope this can still work even after today’s debacle. I have them again tomorrow and they’re starting their research in the library so it could be good.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
But not me, not this year. After several years of implementing Literature Circles in various literature classrooms over the last three years and wrestling in my own way with the pedagogical implications of constructivism and the role of student talk in students making meaning from texts with each other, I just found myself doing this with the year 12s. I didn’t consciously think that that’s what I was doing; I didn’t call it that in my head, but when it came to giving the students experience in planning text response questions on the novel, it just naturally fell out that way.
“Form groups of three” I said, in the manner of a magician about to perform a trick. The students moved reluctantly. When they were in distinct groups, I gave out sheets of paper with six essay topics on the text and set each group to work on one of the topics. I also handed out a sheet of A3 paper per group. “Now let's make a plan for the topic as a group,” I said, “You need to come up with your contention as a group, the first sentence of your introduction and three or four reasons for your contention. Then write the topic sentences for your paragraphs and include some appropriate quotes.”
I went on, “You will be presenting your for your class next lesson.” I listened to the buzz of conversation. I heard Bertrande, Arnaud and Martin being referred to knowledgably. I heard references to the nature of the feudal society and its implications. The students were using vocabulary they had been exposed to in the course of reading and discussing the novel in class. And then I realised what I was trying to do in using this pedagogical strategy in the study of a literary text in a Year 12 class. All that I had learnt and reflected on in the last years was being honed in this class and the learning the students were doing was apparent. The intensity of the work they were doing on a Friday afternoon would not have been matched in individual work and, even worse, listening to a teacher up at the front of the room would have robbed them of the satisfaction of doing it themselves. Students learning, especially in Year 12 is inherently social, and this bit of learning is one I will not forget.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
Sunday, July 30, 2006
On Thursday, we had a student-free day where we were rewriting the curriculum for 2007 and incorporating, or should I say, foregrounding the concerns of VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards). In English we assume that teachers will consider links to other discipline areas (almost impossible not to do with Text study, when looking at backgrounds and themes of texts), interdisciplinary learning, especially the focus on thinking and reflection, ICTs and communication Design and Creativity, as well as the physical personal and social learning, all of which are in the new standards. English has always been good at that, I think. Another thing that we can keep in mind is that English teachers do have a “particular responsibility to develop literacy skills” and to “assist their students to transfer these skills across the curriculum,” as Karen Moni says in Only Connect, a very interesting new text about English Teaching, schooling and community that I have just started to read. I am not suggesting that we English teachers don’t have to participate in curriculum renewal; on the contrary it is essential that we do. But I feel that as English teachers we have a lot to offer in school wide curriculum renewal that is happening in Victoria at the moment.
On Friday I went to a workshop that was designed to help classroom teachers interpret that data from the AIM (Achievement Improvement Monitor) test, in order to make decisions on school improvement. It was led by Philip Holmes-Smith who has worked with Ken Rowe. I must admit that at first I didn’t like the AIM tests. I thought that having the students give up four hours of valuable learning time to just find out that they are average or worse below average was not beneficial. How is that helpful to the students’ self esteem? OK, it’s good for the above average students. But they, by definition, are in the minority. But after this workshop I can see that, if we examine the data carefully (recognising its limitations), we as English teachers can make decisions on how to improve the learning for our students in the classroom and look at what gaps there might be in our programs. And that has to be something positive. So on Tuesday and Wednesday our Year Sevens will be undergoing the Maths and English AIM tests, being tested on their knowledge and skills. If classroom teachers are to make use of this data, however, we must be given time to analyse and use the data (more that the introduction I had on Friday). If that doesn’t happen, the data may simply be used to critique teachers further when there is nothing we would like more than to be able to improve our teaching. Interrogating the data can also show what teachers are doing well, and that factors other that the teacher can also play a crucial role in how the students perform.
And just by the way, it's one year today since I started blogging. Happy birthday, blog.