Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Noble Teaching Profession

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Yesterday we began our Staff Meeting with a report back from our NZEI Rep on how negotiations with the MOE were progressing. One can certainly see how this is all a political ball game as the responses by the MOE were mostly no comment or no response to many of the claims. The counter claims are mostly “claw backs”.It made me feel undervalued and disrespected as a teacher.

I find it strange that as we strive to make our students responsible for their own learning and encourage them to manage their learning and to create learning environments that enhance their learning, we as teachers are being treated more and more like children used to be treated – needing to have things structured for us and having our autonomy taken away from us. I really feel that the MOE needs to live by the Key Competencies of our Curriculum.

At the moment between the Christchurch debacle and now negotiations with NZEI the MOE seems to be falling well below any National Standards that would be in place for dealing successfully with the noble teaching profession!

Term 4: Week 2

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Thanks to a wonderfully relaxing public holiday celebrating Labour Day in New Zealand, we started the second week of the term with me teaching the class on the Tuesday (I am normally released on Mondays to facilitate ICT in the school) so we were straight into the Student Planner routine. The first words that greeted me as the students entered my room (after “Hello Mrs Henkin,” of course as they are a very friendly and well mannered bunch) were, “We are doing Student Planner, aren’t we?” Others had gone straight to the computers and began working on the tasks that were assigned last week and were to continue this week.

In Week 2 I changed the reflection from self reflection to peer reflection. This meant that after each task or piece of work was completed, the student had to show it to a buddy who would read it and write a reflection on it. So we began by discussing what this reflection needed to look like and sound like. I was most impressed with how well the students understood the purpose of reflection and realised that they knew what sort of things to write – I put this down to my model of teacher feed forward comments. They knew to find successful parts to comment on and then how to find areas to work on according to success indicators. But knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. In reading their reflections at the end of the week (I always plan to collect in the Student Planners at the end of each week to look at them), I realised that some students had taken their role as buddy assessor very seriously and quite honestly could step into the shoes of a teacher right now as they have a very sound understanding of Assessment for Learning practices, while others didn’t do a very good job at all. I suspect that some of this was due to things being rather rushed this week and so as the week progressed the reflections got shorter and so less useful but these reflections will be a topic on the agenda for our initial meeting next week.

Yes we did have a very busy week which did not leave much “free” time on the Student Planner Timetable to fit tasks into. We had our first free swimming lessons on Wednesday that should have meant a 15 minute trip there, half hour lesson and a 15 minute trip back, but due to a mix up we landed waiting for over half an hour for the bus to collect us at the end of the lesson – what a waste of time! Then we had a wonderful lesson by Kelly Sports on Thursday  to improve our fitness and athletic skills and I had thought that was our athletics for the day. This was a misunderstanding and so we still had our Year 5/6 Athletics Sports Rotation in the afternoon after lunch. We also had our GALA on Saturday and so many of the students were asked to help set up stalls during the day on Friday. But despite all this a few students said they had completed the Student Planner tasks pretty soon after lunch on Friday and they put this down to good planning and prioritizing of tasks and due to the fact that they had worked really hard during class time as well as taking some work home. They seem to be so motivated by the Student Planner that they are self directing their learning to the point that they are setting short homework sessions for some tasks and they say that having the Student Planner on the Class Ultranet page really helps.

As part of the tasks this week, I asked the students to enter a post on our blog on our Class Ultranet page. I was most impressed by the mature comments and reflections they made on the discussion topic of what they felt about the Student Planner system. All of them like the Student Planner and want it to continue being used. Most of them commented that they enjoyed knowing what they had to do and liked being given the freedom to choose when they could work on tasks and also liked being able to decide how to complete tasks. Many admitted that they were still focusing on some tasks for too long and then not completing others. Even those who had completed all tasks commented on how they noticed this about some students and suggested that these students may need need more definite guidance from someone to stop this from happening. I have taken note of this and so will be stepping into that role next week, possibly having daily conferences with these students to monitor their progress. Other students thanked me for setting up the system as they felt it was teaching them to be more focused and was great preparation for Intermediate School next year.

I am thrilled with the learning environment this system encourages. There is a wonderful sense of shared ownership in the class. Students are constantly checking in with others as to how their learning is going and then giving advice on how to complete tasks better. Some students obviously prefer to work independently and there are at least three students who put their heads down at the start of each session and just keep working till the bell goes, but even for these students the buddy reflection part means that they are getting feedback on their learning. Students say that this system helps with the availability of computers in the classroom as the tasks are varied enough that one can get on with something else if a computer is not available.

So although it has been a rather hectic and busy week – but then again when is it not in the Senior school, the Student Planner has worked well. Our focus for next week needs to be support put in place for those not completing tasks due to poor planning as well as giving greater guidance to students rushing through tasks and not completing them to the best of their ability. But then again with more tasks for assessment data for the end of year Portfolio as well as swimming on Wednesday and Mass on Thursday morning for All Saints Day, it’s going to be tough finding time for Student Planner tasks. This is a pity as I have so many great things I want the students to do with narratives. Oh well, I’ll just have to prioritize, won’t I!

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Wow – the first week of Term 4 has come to an end and what a great week it has been!

I was so impressed with the mature way my students handled the Conference time they had with me. They came to me with their Students Planners and shared what task they felt they had done particularly well and identified areas they felt they needed help with. Some felt very confident about what they were doing and so felt they did not need any support but others were very reflective about the help they needed and this will help me plan the teaching sessions for next week. Some students had got so carried away with some tasks that they had not always complete the daily XtraMath task and so we talked about the importance of prioritising tasks like these.

All the students have responded well to the Storybird writing activity. Some have become so engrossed in it that they have continued to work on it at home. I got an email from one student in the evening asking me to collaborate with him on his story to make sure it was good before he published it. I asked the students to collaborate with each other to check their stories and help each other with the editing process and then I insisted on seeing the stories before they were published. It was great to hear the discussion as students corrected errors and gave advice on how the stories could be edited to make more sense or to be more interesting and descriptive. Some students are now working on Parts 2 and even 3 as they created new problems and solutions for their characters. So our Storybird library is slowly growing but we will continue with this task next week and then we will be able to share them with our Buddy class of Year 2s. I was a little concerned with the number of stories that seemed to have Zombies in them but the students reassured me by saying that good was conquering evil and so “it was all good” but I think next time I will discuss setting a theme of sorts to steer away from bloodthirsty outcomes.

Some of the students were not able to complete all the tasks but they were eager to take them home to complete over the weekend! I have taken all the Student Planners in so that I can read over their reflections and I will be looking at their books to see the work they have completed. Next week I plan to get the students to have a buddy write the reflection for each task as they complete it. I have also set up a reflection blog on our class Ultranet page so the students can reflect on tho new learning process of the Student Planner and look forward to reading those reflections.

Throughout the week I had many children groan as the Morning Tea and Lunch bells rung. I was interested to read Emma Winder’s no bells idea – but I don’t think we are quite ready for that yet and also I think it is important that we also prioritise rest and relaxation into our day. I know that some students would just keep working all the time if those bells didn’t force them to go outside to eat and play and that would not be good.

So all in all it has been a great week and I look forward to the next one – a four day week!

Term 4 Week 1 Comes to a Close

Student Planner Initiated

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Well I have launched what I have called the Student Planner and the kids are seeming to love it. There has always been a happy, busy buzz in my room as students engage with tasks they need to complete, but there seems to be an air of excitement in the room now. They are thrilled with the choices they have and are fully focused on producing quality work.

I started the morning after an inspirational prayer session led by my talented students. I am always amazed at how well the students run these. The 2 RE monitors use my laptop to access the words of the songs and then use the music in iTunes and show it on the data projector. These RE monitors have drawn up a roster for students to work in pairs to lead the prayer sessions. Often these students will ask the RE monitors to play reflections from You tube and any responses are quickly typed up to be shown on the data projector. All of this the children came up with by themselves as we used to use a CD player for the music, data projector for the words and the whiteboard for the responses.

Then we discussed what the children thought they needed to be able to do to be successful in life. This is what they came up with:

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Then I introduced the Student Planner to them. They were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get started.

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I was expecting the students to rush to claim the 5 desktops and 5 laptops available in the room. But after about 10 minutes of general chatting things settled down and then there was deathly silence as most of the students copied down their spelling words from the lists on the data projector (this is what we always did first thing on a Tuesday) while a few got the School Journals from their group reading boxes and prepared to read to a buddy. I was amazed at how the students settled to different spelling tasks. In one group, one student used a laptop to type each of the spelling words out 3 times (“I’m doing a computerized Look, Cover, Write, Check,” she informed me) , another one was doing the same thing in handwriting, another was writing dictionary definitions for the words and another was using the words to write sentences. A student in another group was creating a narrative from the words.

Eventually students began to move to the online tasks of XtraMath and then began to use Storybird. Others began to do the reading comprehension task and asked if they could use colour paper and cardboard to do a reading response for a wall display. I was able to walk around and assist students and give some one-on-one support.

This morning most of the students sat down at their desks as soon as they were allowed in the class at 8:30 a.m. and began to work on the Student Planner. School only starts at 8:45 a.m. with prayers and most times many of them keep playing outside till this time. I have had to remind them that they need to take their Morning and Lunch breaks as that is what the Student Planner says.

Tomorrow I am going to set up a Conference Roster to meet with each student so they can show me what they are most proud of having achieved and one thing they feel they need support with. On the first day we reflected on how we thought the day had gone using a thumbs up or thumbs down and everyone showed a thumbs up. One student said, “If we do really well with this Student Planner can we do it ALL YEAR?” and another asked if we were going to share this great idea with all the classes in the school. But it is early days still and there are many different trials we need to put the system through.

Term 4 Week 1

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Term 4 Week 1

I have spent most of the weekend reflecting on what I learnt at ULearn 2012. I think the Keynotes were what influenced me the most. Kevin Honeycutt’s advice to not wait until one was good at something to give things a go led me to start this blog and also to become a member of the world of Twitter. I also spent a lot of time looking at Emma Winder’s blog, http://my-learning.me/ and reflected on my philosophy of teaching as this underpins what we do as a teacher (comments by Glenn Capelli).

I have always encouraged my students to take ownership of their learning and have endeavoured to create the type of learning environment in which they feel empowered to do so. I know I am successful in creating this type of environment as relievers often comment on how organised my students are and how they are in control of their own learning and are so engaged in the tasks set for them.

I create a learning environment in which students take shared ownership with me of making our classroom “work”. Every student has a responsibility that changes each term so they experience a variety of leadership roles and roles of service. I tell the children that if I were to disappear in a puff of smoke, the class should still keep running. I merely facilitate the learning process – I provide learning opportunities, resources and support but I cannot learn for them. As the saying goes, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” So they have to take ownership of the learning process and manage their time effectively to make the most of the learning opportunities available to them.

I know my students thrive in this environment. I am very proud of how skilled my students have become at managing their learning and using the variety of tools (including ICT) available in the classroom to support their learning. In my class the students are allowed to do whatever makes them learn best. So if they need to go outside to read written drafts aloud to help them edit – they do so, if they find sitting on the floor on a cushion is best – they do so, if they need to find a quiet place to create a podcast – they go off and do so etc. With the high level of trust I make them aware of that I have in them, it is very seldom that students are off task when they are not in my sight. They have my back and I have theirs as they know that if they let me down, they will not be allowed the autonomy they experience at the moment. It’s a win-win situation as with students managing their own learning, I have the time to support those who need my assistance.

But next term I have decided to take this one step further. I have modified some of Emma’s ideas and added them to mine and am going to give my students their own weekly planner. I have provided them with the tasks for the whole week and will allow them to choose when and how they wish to complete them. I am very excited to share this with them on Tuesday as I am released every Monday in my role as ICT Lead Teacher. I have every confidence that my students will thrive on this adaptation to how we usually do things – each new task we start gets recorded on a task board and they complete them at their own pace. This new method will give them even greater choice and require them to develop their time management skills even further.

Roll on Term 4!

Hello world!

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My name is Helen Henkin and I am presently a Year5/6 Classroom teacher and the ICT Lead Teacher at a lovely Catholic Primary School in Auckland. I have spent most of my teaching career in Catholic schools and am passionate about my vocation as a teacher and about providing quality Catholic education for my students.

In trying to decide on an appropriate name for my blog I reflected on who I am and what my philosophy is as a teacher. I decided that the name I chose expressed two of my passions – teaching and scrapbooking. As a scrapbooker, one selects the best and most appropriate paper and embellishments to enhance the focal point of one’s scrapbook page – the photo. And that is exactly what I do as a teacher. My photos are the students I teach and I search through my bag of teaching tools to select the best and most appropriate tools to enhance the learning experiences and to suit the needs of each student.

My life is made as colourful as the pages in my many scrapbook albums by the wonderful and unique personalities that spend time with me in the classroom. I am blessed to spend my days earning a living doing something that I love and that I consider to be a truly worthy and awesome career.

I have often considered creating a blog but was not sure anyone would be interested in reading what I had to say. After spending an inspiring three days at ULearn 2012 (an ICT Conference) I decided to take the advice of one of the Keynote speakers, Kevin Honeycutt, and not wait till I was good enough but just to give it a go!