Monday, 17 December 2018

Inquiry 2018: End of Year DMiC Reflection.

We were told at the beginning of our DMiC journey that we would need to be patient to see the results of introducing a new type of collaborative problem solving based maths programme.  As teachers we often want to "fix" a problem immediately.  We teach and then assess and expect what we have taught to have been absorbed and the problem is now "fixed".

Our mentors were so right to tell us not to expect results immediately.  Not only were the children learning a whole new way of participating in a maths lesson but so were we as teachers learning new "talk moves", how to write engaging questions, how to scaffold but not lead discussions, teach the norms and know how to ask open ended questions and to try and engage all learners when some did not wish to be engaged or did not have the necessary maths knowledge to help their group even with simple counting on materials.

By the end of Term 2, I was already seeing a change in the maths thinking of some children.  They were beginning to ask "rote" questions and they were prepared to be patient and work with a small group, following group norms and having some good discussions.  Not every maths lesson was successful but I could see that there were more successful lessons than unsuccessful.  Some children were able to give an answer to a problem but they found it hard to make their reasoning "visible" to others.  Explanations were often a simple "because..." with no real logical answer.  A sort of "I know so why don't you not know as well."

Terms 3 and 4 still left me trying to engage my reluctant learners and worrying how these children would gain number knowledge.  The mentors said that children would gradually become more engaged and that they would "learn on the job" and this is exactly what did happen.  When I used the JAM test at the end of term 4 I was pleasantly surprised to formally assess their knowledge.  I had seen children extend their number knowledge, quickly count in 2s and 5s and share things equally when solving problems but to be able to look back at previous results and see just how much progress was made was satisfying.

A snap shot of  priority learners to show their increase in Add/sub and number Id. 
The participation of children in the discussions showed a marked improvement through out the year with some children becoming very proficient at explaining their ideas in a clear and logical way and needing just a small amount of support to do so after all they too have been learning how to use language to hold a mathematical discussion.  There was far more "green" on the Term 4 data as well as some "grey" whereas there was far more "red" with a small splattering of "brown" in term 1.

Term 1 and 2 participation

Term 3 and 4 Participation

For those children who can use the norms and listen to other children's reasoning (not arguments) then persuade others that there might be another way of looking at the problem it is great to see the progress they have made.  In a recent problem I had a picture of a pattern built using Duplo blocks.    The challenge was to guess how many blocks were used without counting the blocks one by one.  I thought they might be able to find two solutions but they surprised in finding seven solutions before we ran out of time.  These included being able to see that some of the solutions were repeated addition, groups of 10, symmetry of groups, multiplication (groups of) and the commutative law.  Given time to work collaboratively through this problem they were able to see different possibilities and share their thinking to help others see another possibility. The debriefing at the end also helped others see the possibilities.

All this also shows the development of the children's language.  They try to give logical explanations and use mathematical terminology to be more precise in their descriptions of what they have found not just give a vague wave of the hand over a drawing.  They are encourage to ask questions (although many are still what I call "rote" questions because they find difficulty in framing a question and building their reasoning skills).  The norms of having a discussion with one person talking and the other group members listening and giving others time to think, has flowed through to other areas of classroom discussions.  I will certainly be introducing the norms early on in maths next year to get DMiC maths off to a flying start as well as using it in class discussions in other areas to show that this is the way we have a discussion.

Using the maths wall as a warm up each day has helped children learn shapes and to think about why I have grouped certain shapes together.  It is no longer enough to say a vague "because..." but they are trying to explain their thinking using every day language such as "four corners" or "one long side".  Fractions, before and after, subitizing of numbers, tens and ones, counting in 2s, 5s and tens all help show maths and the language it uses is all part of our life and is not something too difficult and to be avoided at all costs.

It is exciting to come to the end of the first year and to realise how the expectation that everyone contributes  and encourages others in DMiC maths has helped in the acquisition of language.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Inquiry Term 4 2018

For my Term 4 Inquiry topic I am taking a slight deviation, but still related to, the acquisition of language.  I want to identify and address the "road blocks to writing" that some of my students are experiencing and to try to help them overcome their difficulties, using technology.

I have several students who have had more than a year at school, have reading skill levels ranging from Level 5 to Level 11 and yet they still struggle to write a basic sentence independently.  They write a list of random words during independent writing time.  It is a simple "retrieve and write process" whereby they are not thinking about the topic, the organisation or planning of the text or the audience but only to fill a page with words that will look good and when asked to read it to me, they can tell an elaborate story that has no relation to any of the words or to the topic or they fall silent.

During supported writing, it is a huge effort to write a basic sentence.  They can draw a picture depicting what would happen in the story and with a great deal of support they can tell you an idea, usually a single word, but it is the putting of this one idea into a sentence when things seem to come unstuck.  Little attention is given to the fact that it might or might not be relevant to the topic and they don't understand that one word does not make a sentence.  When a child is having to pay close attention to remembering what they want to say it seems to interfere with the what they want to communicate in their writing.

Even though their reading books do not consist of one word sentences they are unable to model a simple basic sentence or see the importance of planning in writing.  When helped to generate a simple sentence they have often forgotten what their sentence was by the time they have written the first word down.  Perhaps using technology will help to overcome this road block.

Modelling and planning a sentence orally places less demands on a child.  A sentence can be spoken and remodelled with a minimum of effort compared to attempting to write it down so after modelling and planning a sentence orally, I will get these children to record their story on their iPad.  This will then be abled to be listened to as many times as is needed as a temporary aid to help them write when they are unable to do so without such support.  Even if the writing is not completed in one session, it will enable the student to complete the task successfully at a future time.  Perhaps by taking off this pressure by being able to listen again to what they planned to write, this may encourage a more positive "I can" attitude towards their writing.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Inquiry :End of Term 3 2018

Language acquisition and practising language skills still continues to be a focus this term.  Participation in formal class discussions remains at a similar level as at the beginning of the term with some more confident children able to participate fully offering ideas, using a range of language from gifted words to informal language and using conventions of turn taking, looking at the speaker and asking questions.  But it is the few children who continue to find it difficult to participate in formal class discussions choosing to opt out and remain silent during discussions that are a concern.

Most of this group of children, mainly girls, talk readily in a more informal setting.  They are able to chat with their friends offering support and ideas but are still find sharing with a larger group over whelming.  I have been observing who they work best with, what they offer in a group situation and putting a more confident child to report back to the class in their group so that their ideas are at least heard and shared.

We have just begun our assessment task for Move Ya Body.  It includes being able to work in a small group to share ideas, to decide how to present information to the class by way of a series of pictures, a play or a movie, and to preform or present this information to the class.  The children were enthusiastic about having a choice of how and what they can share.  It will be interesting to see the choices they make.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Inquiry 2018: Not Maths But Using Language

I have been thinking about how I motivate my students to write and felt it was time to try something new.  The children practise writing stories most days with a variety of motivation but I felt there needed to be more noticing of things like language used, attempted spelling using alphabet sound knowledge and even using punctuation and gaps between words.

To begin, I let the children choose what they would like to take a photo of.  This meant that they had to remember how to take a photo by going into a blank page in EE and using the camera to take a photo, crop it and then lock it up the top of the page.

The next step was to think of two sentences to write about their chosen picture.  They were able to factually record something or use their imagination and predict what might be going to happen in the picture.  The children were very engaged on the task, so much so that chatter all but ceased as they worked away to think of a sentence and write it down. They wanted to get that part of the task over so that they could begin to type and see what their story looked like all neatly typed.

Not all of the children had previously used typing so I took groups and showed them how to type.  Again this required concentration to find the correct letters, put spaces between words, use capital letters and full stops and lock the text under the picture.  When they finished I put their work up on the Apple TV which spurred those still typing to finish the task.  They were very proud of the new skills they had learnt as well as the stories they had produced.  They enjoyed having an audience for their work and reading it out to others.

It was an exciting exercise that engaged the children and got them not only using language but also their digital skills.  They were able to learn new skills, create a story digitally and share it with their class mates.

Tupou chose to write about a sealion.
Alexandra wrote about a puppy in a reader.
Maggie liked the story about Ben and his teddy.

Chevelle wrote about Little Bear riding Monkey's big bike

Monday, 20 August 2018

Inquiry Term 3 2018 - Is language being acquired during Maths?

One always hopes that by this time of the year shift would be noticeable in language acquisition and maths skills.  The children have had two terms to get use to DMiC maths norms and to begin to find "their voice" in solving simple maths problems.

While seeing the children day by day you often don't see the small changes that they are making.  It is not until a Maths mentor comments on these changes that you also see them.  The fact that they sit in a U shape so that everyone can see each other for class discussions shows that they understand the need to look at people when they are talking and not just at Maths time.

A small group of children are beginning to get better at putting their thoughts together and not just offering up one word answers.  They are attempting to explain what they did in a logical sequence - "First we did...", "Then we ...".  They still need guidance with prompts or specific questions to help them become more organised but it is progress.

I am surprised at the "Wow" moments that have occurred.  A child who previously had difficulty joining the group will say "I want to count!" and will be engaged at least for that part of the discussion.  On another occasion a child suddenly starts to skip count when previously they were unable to.  When asked why she counted in twos, she was able to say, "It is quicker like that."

The child discovery about order not affecting the outcome led to a long discussion.  They wrote out the sum and discovered it "was the same but different."  They painstakingly looked at each digit and its position discussing in not very mathematical language "That's there but there is that..." and in the end the two boys who were leading the discussion said, "The answer is the same so it must be the same."  I was amazed at the interaction so asked would it work for another sum?  This hooked more children into the discussion and we found it worked for other sums.

So how do I measure this engagement?  Using the rubric that was devised in collaboration with two colleagues one can see a small amount of progress.  Child 1 will engage in conversations by talking and listening but as yet she is not adding much to the group discussions.

Child two is normally a fairly quiet observer but the mentor was able to draw her into conversations which I hoped would help her see that she was a valued member of the group.  After some absences she continued to try to a be group member by counting and agreeing with how they were trying solve a problem.

Child 3 is beginning to see what group work is all about but he still relies on others to do the real talking and thinking.  He will occasionally be drawn into watch what the others are doing but he is not taking part in group discussions or adding any comments.

It is this engagement and small steps for some children that show progress.  I do not have all my class fully engaged with the problem solving.  There are some who still have not engaged fully in group discussions.  Others who won't work with someone as they prefer to be the dominant partner.  Discussions still need modelling for some eager beavers who want to show they know the answer and don't want to give "wait time" to others.  Language might not be the precise language one would hope for but there is language being used instead of a shoulder shrug and some children are prepared to try to offer an explanation.

We were told not to expect things to happen over night and how right the tutors were.  Be patient and observe the small steps by looking back at the beginning of the journey.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Digital Fluency Intensive: Day 9

The Manaiakalani kaupapa and pedagogy link this week was ubiquitous learning. Ubiquitous learning is so important in extending the time of learning for our children.

Prior to the digital age learning occurred only between the hours that a school was open.  That meant that the children only had a teacher in front of them for 6 hours a day (not including lunchtime), 5 days a week and for up to 200 days a year.  With technology, learning time is extended to be 24 hours a day.  This is not to say that a child sits in front of a screen for 24 hours a day but it means that they can organise their lives better.  If they wish to attend a church meeting or rugby training and do their home learning at another time it is not an either,  or situation.  They can choose when they do their work because their work will remain on their site, it is rewindable and accessible at any time or anywhere.

Most children arrive at school having heard at least 30 million words.  Our children arrive at school up to 2 years behind those who have had a more privileged up bringing.  They need to run to catch up those lost two years but in the meantime the more privilege children do not stand still which makes the gap even wider.  Manaiakalani children are expected to make one and a half years progress if they have a hope of catching up and closing the gap.

Being able to learn any time, anywhere, any pace empowers our students to continue to learn and not be part of the summer drop when school is out.  Children are encouraged to take part in the Summer Learning Journey to blog and receive comments on their posting.  Research by Woolf  Fisher has shown that by blogging twice a week this will maintain their progress and by blogging three times a week this will actually increase their progress.

This shows that technology is not just a tool but is a super power enabling gadget.

It was then time for some to sit the Google exam while others of us worked on various aspects of the programme we wanted to revisit.  Being able to do the Apple Teacher exam was another alternative offered.

This has been a great journey of learning and putting myself in my learners shoes and I have been grateful for having this opportunity to learn so much digitally.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Digital Fluency Intensive: Day 8

The Manaiakalani kaupapa and pedagogy link this week was cybersmart. 

Even when Manaiakalani was in its early stages of development, cybersmart was an important part of the digital learning.  In the real world teachers are responsible for children's care and well being so this same care should taken in the digital world where a device can take children anywhere in the world.  

We need to be able to say to our parents that we have a positive programme to make children cybersmart which will begin in Year 1 with smart learners and smart relationships and continue to be intensionally delivered weekly through out their children's schooling.  It uses positive language and teaches children to navigate and be responsible.  A smart person is a positive and empowered person.

Manaiakalani has put together eleven categories that children, teachers and parents need to know.  These range from smart learners and smart relationships through to smart footprints.

The Harpara Teacher Dash Board was devised by Jan Zawadzki and because it was created by a New Zealander with Manaiakalani in mind it aligns well with visibile, ubiquitous, connected and empowered learning.   It helps keep learners focused and organised on line and provides the teacher with visibility into what learners are working on, thus allowing quick feedback.  Work does need to be saved in the correct folders so that visibility is not challenged.  Blogs and comments can also be kept track of without having to actually visit the blog.

We found out what it is like to use the devices that our learners use.  We used the Digital Dig that is designed for learners to become familiar with using a chrome book by doing tasks such as taking screen shots, using the webcam and finding keyboard short cuts.  It was interesting putting ourselves in our learners shoes.

Khismira took us through how we use our iPad sites for our year one learners to access their learning.  At the beginning of the year we teach the children the kawa of care and introduce the skills they need to complete tasks such as taking a photo, copy and paste, duplicate and locking items down.  They very quickly learn these skills and use them to complete activities in Explain Everything.  We were all able to try out our skills on an iPad.

Screen castifying was a skill we looked at.  This could be useful in making tutorials for students to learn new skills.  Listening to yourself talking through a process shows how much practise you need to become a fluent speaker to get the precise instructions across without "umms" and pauses.  It is something I need to practise!  We had to prepare and castify using one of applications that we have found useful.  I chose Goggle Keep which I have found very useful in keeping organised.

Here is a quick video tutorial on how you can use Google Keep.