Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Happy birthday to me! It's my two year blogaversary today. In that two years I have learned, I have gained.... it's hard to know where to start. I am a very different person because of blogging. I have met some wonderful, intersting and passionate people that I never would have met otherwise, some even face to face. I have taken risks and beamed with excitement. I have been deeply impressed by what my students have produced in their learnings with blogging. I have thought about questions that I didn't even know were questions. I have become involved with Twitter, a sphere all of its own. I have practiced writing and thinking a whole lot more than I would have done if I hadn't blogged. I have renewed my passion for learning and teaching and the future of education. I have lost a lot of sleep, but enjoyed it immensely. I have talked to people at all hours of the day and night. I particularly remember talking to Lani on Skype about one of my students' blog entries. Talk about cooperative teaching. I have felt the walls recede a bit from my classroom. I have loved it and I thank you all for making this journey so great. And the birthday cake is for all of you. (picture credit: http://karenswhimsy.com/birthday-greetings.shtm)
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The other is a podcast of an episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers where some of the teachers interview first s student in Lee Babar's class Grade 8 class, and then a Year 12 student from Jason Hando's class in Australia. It was fantastic to hear two such thoughtful student voices share with us what we need to know, and so great that it was able to be published and available for all of us.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
My three classes who blog are Year 7 (about 12 years old), Year 9 (about 14-15 years old) and Year 11 (about 16-17 years old – second last year of high school.) I don’t mind waiting till you’re back at school if you are in the northern hemisphere, or even making plans for 2008 if we can’t do it this year. I am an English teacher and we blog in English. I would love to collaborate on writing or literature type projects. Please contact me or leave a comment.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Speaking of reading, I had a great moment in Year 9 today when a student who had told me at the start of the independent novel assignment that she would not be able to do it as there was never any books she liked and she had never read a “chapter book”, was reading Being Bindy avidly. She said, “I found one, I finally found a book I like.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
And then today in my year 11 Literature class the students worked on a discussion forum for the first time that I had set up about a poem of John Donne’s called "The Anniversary". Of the 21 students 12 participated in the discussion. This is probably not what I will be satisfied with. I would like them all to have something to say in this kind of forum. The students who did participate were those with more confidence in talking about the subject matter, so as we build our knowledge of John Donne the conversations will become more productive too, I think. I was glad about their honesty and it was a good way to gauge their thinking. The vocally quiet students were able to get their thoughts expressed and responded to in a way that might not have been possible in a verbal discussion. I just loved lines like these:
“at least this one made more sense then the flea. still pretty confusing though. does anyone else understand it properly?”
“its about love and that it can last for eternity and that these two people have pledged themselves to each other for a long time for ever even and that even in death their love will go on”
“i like it. I think even though they are talking about him loving her forever it has an undertone to it that is incredibly sad. sometimes his poems are hard to understand though.”
“I find that when I read Donne's poetry I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about but after reading it through and analysing it in class its much easier to understand. I really liked this poem and appreciate it much more, i love how deep his language is.”
“the poem had sweet parts about being together for eternity but the whole coffin idea gave me the creeps if i was his lover i would be out of there talking about death a bit scary.”
It will be good to talk to the students about their experience of this kind of forum and to find out why the non participants didn't get involved.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
And in my classroom also there have been changes. Hearing from the students what their point of view is on some of the issues I intend to bring up for discussion, phrasing the learning in terms of a guiding question tjhat we all will find out the answer to. It's not just me who knows the answer now and there is no 'trying to guess what's in my mind'. The need to have the students take ownership of their learning by them having an investment into it is paramount. For Year 7 in their study of Millie and the Night Heron by Catherine Bateson, the investment is already there for some of the students as they love the novel and its themes. One of those students who has ADHD and Oppositional Defiaant Disorder had read the novel in the holidays and came into class the first day with half a page of typed reflection on the novel which had not been required. I'm so proud of her.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Later on in the morning the Year 7 English teachers went off to plan a unit through the lenses of the Areas of Interaction which form the framework of the MYP curriculum, which we then shared with the rest of the group. The five areas of interaction go across all discipline areas and make planning integrated units so much easier. This term we are studying Millie and the Night Heron by Catherine Bateson. It is a great novel to use in studying all sorts of themes such as family, identity, change, friendships and a whole heap of other topics. There was a place for reflective learning activities as the main character Millie, who is 11 going 12, has to complete a school project and learns lots from her experience including the dangers of leaving things till the last minute. With the focus on creativity in the novel it is easy to look at the novel through the lens of Homo Faber, and the environment is dealt with through the school project as well, which is about her local area. And so on. There will be lots of opportunities to work with teachers of other subjects to make links among all the learning done by the students throughout this term. It was quite inspiring, imagining the students’ responses to this novel and, I hope, their eagerness to have a go at lots of the activities and experiences. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Practical Teaching Strategies
There is work to be done before, during and after reading to aid comprehension. One way of “stirring up” this background knowledge is the agree / disagree charts. This also helps with engagement. Simply write out some statements that are either true or not but that can be verified by reading the text. Before they read the text student tick either agree or disagree.
Agree / disagree Chart
Name of text: e.g. The World of Matter Agree Disagree
1. Most solids have a fixed shape that will not change easily
2. Icecream is a solid
This chart is about making predictions. Students will want to know if they are correct and read differently as a consequence.
Another strategy is the K/W/L chart: what I know, what I want to know and what I have learned. He suggests doing it as a whole class once to teach the procedure and then in future as a group activity. He reminds us that it may take some three or four experiences with the procedure to have the students doing it effectively
David also talked about using literature to engage students in the content areas in subjects such as humanities, science, health and technology as well as English, the Arts, and Languages other than English, to elicit what he called “felt thoughts”. He recommended that teachers read to students so they get an ear for the language. There were a number of books he recommended; picture books and novels as well as teacher references that are listed at the end of this post.
Later David mentioned some spelling strategies we could be teaching our students.
He mentioned 5 main ones:
1. Visual pattern development and visual memory activities such as Look Cover Write Check
2. Morphemic knowledge: knowing the meaning patterns such a s sign, significant, signal, signature, tw = 2 as in two, twin, twice, twelve, twenty, between, twilight
3. Sound strategy
4. Linking strategies: using words you know to help spell words you don't know
5. Referencing: ask someone, look it up, use a spell check (this also needs to be taught)
Explanations of various strategies can be found here.
Some other sayings of David Hornsby
- Content is a stepping stone into learning
- To be a good teacher one needs good professional knowledge, lots of commonsense, buckets of humour and a sense of calm
- You don’t get taller by being measured
- Activate your prior knowledge
References / books mentioned
Readers and Writers with a Difference by Curt Dudley-Marling and Lynn K. Rhodes
The reading bug and how to catch it by Paul Jennings
Classroom Connections by Kath Murdoch
Novels / picture books
The witch of blackbird pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Refugees by David Miller
The Burnt stick by Anthony Hill
Waiting for May by J. Stoeke
Little Brother by Allan Baillie
Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
Journey to Eureka by Kerry Greenwood.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
And yet I see this form of communication as an essential skill in order to be a person of influence and agency in our society. In order to express our opinion or persuade anyone we need to take into account the reader or listener’s views, where they are at, to think of images and metaphors or “frames” that would appeal to them, to think of what aspects of our readers or listeners can be appealed to: their better nature, their sense of justice, or even an appeal to self interest. The thing is that students are doing, and being exposed to, this kind of communication all the time. And yet it still seems to them to be something weird, strange, unfamiliar. So it is my job to the show them that it isn’t.
Of course communicating in writing is different from speech. It is the fact of an unseen (adult) audience that makes it so weird. If they could imagine a person representing their audience it would no doubt be more real to these 17 – 18 year olds. And thus I will start this term with the “statement of intention” which is a mandatory part of this assessment. The students need to articulate for whom they have written, what might be their concerns and how they have been addressed, where their audience might have read the piece, which newspaper, magazine, or the like has published their piece. I have corrected and thoroughly annotated a practice piece the students wrote just before the holidays, and now I would like them to write a statement of intention for their piece incorporating a prompt such as “a serious concern is…”, or “If only they would…” or “The problem is…”.
Having looked at the annotations and thought seriously about audience and purpose, they will either write how they would improve the piece or rewrite it. The problem with some of the students is that they chose a topic they didn’t really feel concern about, not realising that if they were bored writing it, then a reader would hardly be any more engaged. And of course there are the few that didn’t manage to hand in the writing on the last day. Their job on the first day back will be to write me a piece persuading me as to why they didn’t need to write a practice piece or why I should forgive them for not doing it. They need to think about the best way to approach their audience, whether to use humour or logical reasoning or maybe sincerity and then we will discuss this at a lunchtime meeting in class.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
What a great holiday it’s been for me. There was all the content coming out of NECC just in time for me to enjoy at my leisure, and then the WOW conversation with lots of lovely educators on Edtech Talk.com and today meeting Julie Lindsay for the first time. We met at Knox City and had a coffee and talked and laughed and shared reminiscences. It felt as though I had known her for years. Due to the presence of Julie’s Generation Millennial daughter it even occurred to me to take photos and a short recording of our time together late in the conversation. Still working out how to get the sound off my phone onto my computer, (my millennial son is away for a few days) but here are the photos for a start. As it is time for me to start thinking about next year I picked Julie’s brains about starting a collaborative wiki project and other interesting things that I need to think about. It is a sort of plan to create something of use, something students will be proud of in a collaborative way in one of my classes. Julie suggested the Global Educators Ning started by Lucy Gray as a way of getting in touch with other educators willing to collaborate on such a project as well as other ways of course. Lots of ideas that are still milling around in my brain which will no doubt find their way onto this blog in time.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Another great aspect of the conversation this morning was the request to mention something we are doing that is in some way “over the top” Vicki’s words. It was great to hear about Jason Hando’s “skyping with an expert” lessons, when instead of researching in encyclopedias or on the internet the students had a chance to ask questions using skype of people who were experts in the area being studied. What a great idea. I can’t wait to relisten to the conversation when it is podcast to hear all these ideas again. Judy was speaking about the students who were studying a novel to make MySpace pages for each of the characters, another great idea. One of my Literature students did do that for Offred the main character in A Handmaid’s Tale. It would have been great to do that with three or more characters, to get the general ideas out of the way and dig deeper in differentiating among the characters. I will be starting the term off with more ideas and enthusiasm and I know that many students love the challenge of learning this way. My learning community in Year 7 English continues to blog during the holidays. Cassidy is on a trip around parts of Australia and is blogging the journey. Students are writing poetry and commenting on each others blogs and they are communicating with me via instant messaging (msn) on the novel they are reading in the holidays. Next term I will set up official “office hours” so that students can ask questions at the time they are doing their homework a few evenings a week, while I’m listening to podcasts. I have already offered to do this in a general way but it is mostly the year 7s who have taken up the offer and one year 12 student. I have not found it onerous and in fact I have learned a lot doing this and have enjoyed it. The subject of our conversation is always school related, and is brief and to the point – just-in-time learning in fact. During the conversation this morning there was news of a ning that has been set up by Steve Hargadon and Julie Lindsay called Edubloggerworld “International network for educational bloggers and friends. A meeting place, as well as a coordinating location for live face-to-face and virtual events”.
I want to thank the women of web 2.0 and my Aussie colleagues Graham, Judy, and Jason for the opportunity to chat this morning. I am also hoping to meet Julie Lindsay f2f tomorrow and will write about that too then.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Just chatting to Graham on Skype now about the reaction to his post on “the Olympics effect”. He pointed me to the Tim Holt post on who’s coming to the banquet? In Australia, if I didn’t have the international community of support I would feel a bit out of it and very alone. It is hard to get support for web 2.0 tools in my local area, whether it is due to perceived lack of time, or fear of change. And as far as that’s concerned Will Richardson has an interesting post with lots of reaction when he came back from some "down time".
At school, the efforts to integrate technology into the educational experiences for reasons of efficiency or engagement (different reasons for different stakeholders) are being taken up very slowly, and a glitch in our email server is making it difficult to introduce new teachers to blogging as it is not very easy at the moment (but well worth the effort it takes in my opinion). The kind of conversation that is going on these days in the edublogosphere has not changed or moved forward very much in the nearly two years that I have been blogging, except now there are more tools than ever. There are even more ways to get connected, and blogs are starting to become a bit passé among the students (who would rather be on Myspace.) I too have been spending more time on Twitter and Facebook recently and less time reading blogs. But the discipline of regular writing, and the reflection that comes with planning and crafting a longer post is still very important. For me it is the combination of reflection and community that makes blogging such a worthwhile activity and why I plan to incorporate the method into to my teaching in different ways. As a head of English (we are called Domain Leaders at my school) I do have some say in how the curriculum is drafted and I did ensure that blogs were in there in the English curriculum. But very few teachers are using them. One teacher started just before the end of term and I was so excited to see that. I do try to encourage others to dip their toes into this community which I am finding so supportive, but it’s still seen as work by so many and an intrusion into their leisure time. I recently found that I was 80% addicted to blogging here and maybe that what it is. My addiction.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Technology use is incorporated into the learning: “Apple Computers Australia is a key strategic partner that is supporting the learning of students through the provision of technical and professional development elements. Students will be using the Apple environment to complete much of the online work that is a hallmark of the school. Podcasting, iMovie, iPhoto, iChat, iLife,GarageBand... all these applications and many more are at the core of manner in which students present their work at Coburg Senior.” Each student is required to have a ipod provided by the school. “The learning commons provide large open space learning areas where students and staff work together on learning tasks without being limited by classroom walls and a teacher centred "factory of learning" physical environment common in school architecture over many years.” The students will be assessed in some of their classes using blogs, podcasts and digital portfolios. I had a look at, and liked, the LMS they are using which is Studywiz. It looks clean and simple. The school of the future?
This topic reminds me of my dismal failure with regard to the students in Year 12 English producing podcasts for learning which was an idea I had for this year. The students would have been very pleased to listen to podcasts produced by “experts” or “professionals” (students’ own words) but would not spend the time making their own. In vain did I tell them that their learning would be richer and deeper if they were involved in the production; in the stresses of Year 12 they felt they couldn’t afford the time. Oh well, I’m planning to have a go at podcasting with my Year 7s for whom learning has not yet become a source of stress (mostly). One of my Year 7s just emailed me a poem she has written asking for my feedback. I’m impressed.
After a period of slackness as regards blogging I am planning to write a blog post every day reflecting on my practice as a teacher in preparation for the VITTA workshop at Ivanhoe Grammar. One of the workshops I will be presenting is called “blogging as reflective practice.” I plan to write about one or other of my classes, what the aims of the class were, what happened and my learning from it. I want to get the Year 11's blogging about writing from the Context of the ideas coming out of Gattaca. They are in the first year of the new English Study Design of which the main change is the writing the students do is based on their study of texts. I would also like those students to be conversing with Lillian's classes as well. So let's see how it all goes.