My first excursion

I have been on school excursions before. As a student, as a parent, but not as a teacher. Now that I have seen one being organised from behind the scenes I can fully appreciate the amount of work, effort, logistics and reporting that goes into arranging such an outing. I’ll be heading off on this excursion tomorrow, and I am a little bit excited.

Next week, I will be doing some make up days for my prac, so I will have the opportunity to lead the class through a reflection on tomorrow’s excursion. It is for their History studies, but I will be able to incorporate some language and writing skills as well. I came across another blog (https://multimodalme.wordpress.com/reflective-writing/) that was discussing the benefits of teaching students the art of reflection… “It encourages students to develop a range of skills in identifying features and analysis, plus critical evaluation.” and I wholeheartedly agree. Reflecting on something like an excursion is easier for students than reflecting on last weeks maths lesson, because it was out of the ordinary and a bit of fun that they will remember easier. This kind of reflection calls for remembering, analysing and evaluating which is tricky for 7 year olds, but they need to start somewhere.

This blogger used the 3D format for reflective writing that they found in an article in Metaphor, a journal of the English Teachers Association of New South Wales, Australia in 2007. The 3 D’s are Describe, Disclose and Decide, and this format encourages students to to cover the what, how and why of what they are reflecting about as well as evaluating their response.

subjective to objective

I think that I will give this format a go when I take my students through their reflections. You never know, if it is successful I might even adopt the format myself for my own lesson / teaching reflections.

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The SMART way

The classroom that I am in for this prac has a Smartboard. The same as an interactive whiteboard? I honestly haven’t had enough to do with either to know.

However, I have found a great resource for Smartboard tech.

http://exchange.smarttech.com/index.html#tab=0

This website is a plethora of downloadable resources for your Smartboard. From writing line templates to games, even lessons and homework!

I have made it my mission to work out how to use the Smartboard before my prac is over. My mentor teacher doesn’t use it…but I am determined to understand this piece of technology before I leave, so that the next time I am presented with one in a classroom, I don’t stare at it dumbfounded!

If anyone else has had more experience with a Smartboard, I would love to hear about it in the comments. Please share what you know!!

Embracing modern day research

I miss the set of encyclopedias that we had when I was a kid.

I miss their smell, their pictures, their wealth of knowledge (providing a nerd like me with hours of reading) and I also miss the way they pressed flowers perfectly.

However, the information contained in them would mostly be out of date by now. As humans are always discovering and always learning, new information is always being found. Or, if not new information, then different information. Clarification. Which means, that a new set of encyclopedias would need to be printed. Which used to happen, until someone discovered that the internet could save money and resources. And so, it was discovered that the internet could be a faster, cheaper way of keeping encyclopedia information up to date.

As I am guiding my Year 2 prac class through researching for an information report, my first thoughts went to the library. Books!!! But the new ‘ICT mode’ teacher in me also thought about up to date information on the internet. I am fortunate to be on prac at a higher socio-economic school, and every student has a chromebook. So I have been able to have the best of both worlds. Teaching students to use both books and the internet to research information. Not Google, though, as I don’t like to think of what students could potentially find! I used the on-line resource of the Encyclopedia Britannica. ‘Children-ified’ with 3 reading stages, pictures and videos. Amazing.

http://school.eb.com.au/levels/primary

So though I may mourn the loss of something that was special to me in my childhood, I can also embrace the new understanding of what it means to be a student in the twenty-first century.

Support Networks

First week of prac done!

Ok, so my prac is a funny situation. I’m actually on staff at this school as a Relief Teacher Aide, but I haven’t actually worked there yet (I have done a relief in the Kindy, but not the primary school). So I’m doing my best to get to know all the staff as I do hope to be working there more permanently one day. I’m sure the teachers are thinking, “Why is this prac student so chatty?”.

I realised, however, that these teachers are a new section in my support network. Just talking and listening to their conversations at lunch time is helping me. This school has a different culture than any other school I’ve been to. Their lunchroom conversation isn’t around who’s doing what, it’s either about the students or about enriching others’ lives. We were in a training session and the facilitator asked about motivation “What makes you get out of bed and come back to work every day?”. Every single teacher answered “The students”. Incredible. There is such a powerhouse of motivation, knowledge, experience and dedication here that I am inspired just by the environment.

I am feeling very fortunate that my support network has just been expanded to include these teachers. It confirms just how important support networks are, and how the right support network can make such a difference.

My mentor and the other Year 2 teacher were discussing the schedule for next week, and I was amazed by the amount of resources that they had in folders from previous lessons, and previous teaching. I see why teachers become hoarders!

Being able to tap into this experience and knowledge is amazing. I have been asking so many questions to help me with my assessments! Having a support network is important, but more importantly is actually using that network. Asking for help and advice can be difficult sometimes – fear of looking silly, fear of annoying someone – but the best way to learn is from experience, even if it is someone else’s!

So my advice to everyone is to build your support network! Get to know those with influence, let them get to know you. But then, make sure you use it!

First Day of Prac Teaching

I always forget how much I love prac!

I get so nervous and anxious, but once I get to know all the students’ names (usually by the end of day one) I feel so much better and can relax into the classroom. One advantage of being a mature age student and a mum is that I can relate easily to children and teachers, plus I am also quite extroverted so I have no problem introducing myself, getting to know everyone and asking questions.

My first lesson today was reading groups – my mentor is being very kind and letting me ease into it all! But I chose the guided reading books for each reading level group, and I made up questions and discussions about the books as we read, trying to encourage the students to be code breakers as well as text analysts (Freebody & Luke, 1990). I really enjoyed it and every single student was engaged.

The cohort of students in this class are almost ridiculously well behaved. There is easy 95%+ time on task. I have never seen a chaotic classroom where every student seems to be doing something different, yet where they are all on task. Mind blowing!!

So tonight I am planning my first actual teaching lesson. Information reports. I love Year 2, I get to ‘research’ YouTube clips about Minions.

Minion Image

My mentor is happy with what I have planned for the lesson as well as the ICTs that I have incorporated. I know it’s only almost the end of the first week, but I am feeling super confident about this prac, and I can’t wait to start teaching more!

 

Freebody, P. & Luke, A. (1990). Literacies programs: Debates and demands in cultural context. Prospect: An Australian Journal of TESOL, 5(3), 7-16.

Digital kids in digital classrooms

Epiphanies either make you feel really empowered about the amazing realisation you’ve just had, or they make you feel really confounded that it took you so long to work it out.

I have been wandering through other blogs looking for inspiration from other educators regarding ways to incorporate ICT into the classroom – hoping to be able to stuff a few tricks up my sleeve for my upcoming prac.

I found this blog from 2011 that blew me away. I was mainly amazed by the way the words she wrote are so relevant today, yet this was from 6 years ago! The comment about seeing toddlers in prams playing on iPhones before they can even talk stunned me. Have we been doing this to our kids for that long? That means that those toddlers are now 7 years old – just the right age to be in the Year 2 classroom that I will be doing my prac in. The epiphany hit me…I have to change the way that I think a teacher teaches, to the way that these students want to learn.

I can think ‘old school’ is the way to go until I’m blue in the face. That will not change the way these digital natives want their information fast and varied. These students will be be so adept at navigating their way around an iPad, I won’t be able to keep up!

But this does beg the question…they understand the what, but do they understand the how? Do they know why the app works when they tap it with their finger? Do they know what makes some apps ‘bigger’ than others and how that affects the storage space? Do they need to know? Do they care?

This opens up a can of worms to many aspects of the digital world. Should I use the metalanguage of digital natives differently in the classroom? Words like swipe, tap, open and screen…have these students learned the digital meanings of these words before they learn the traditional meanings? Should I use how to insert a picture into a Word document as the teaching for procedures? Should I use the analogy of computer storage to explain how the brain works and why revision helps you to learn?

I guess the answer is yes to all of the above. I have been thinking that incorporating ICTs into the classroom is going to be complicated and depend on resources, however I have literally just realised that it doesn’t have to been like that.

I have to stop thinking that the way I teach is the best way for them to learn and start realising that they way they learn is the best way for me to teach.

Yes, perspective is refreshing

Alright, so maybe I didn’t need to panic so much.

It turns out that I just had to think about it a bit. Now I can say that using a ‘Think About’ during a lesson can be helpful!!

I’ve spent some time that I didn’t really have to spend, however, I feel much better about the whole website thing now. Here’s my journey…

I searched Digital Artefact to gain some further insight and different perspectives on what this is exactly. From one of the sites I visited, I linked through to some examples of someone else’s artefacts. I found this really cool looking image / collage thing that said it was made using ThingLink. So I checked out that site, and I really recommend it.

https://www.thinglink.com/

It is really cool and looks like you can do heaps of stuff with it. However, I ended up finding a groovy looking video that I thought would be good imbedded in a website as an intro to the learning and instructions of how to navigate – in other words… a digital artefact…. and wanted to make one for myself. Turns out this video was made using Powtoon. So I ended up there and created the coolest video that just needs a bit of narration by me and, Voila!, pure digital magic!

So then I invested some full on hours making a website look the way I want it to (which is always so much more work than I realize), and even though I still have a ways to go with finding the right activities, videos and other stuff to link to the site to enhance the learning, it is really shaping up. I can’t see that I would ever use this kind of tool as a teacher, it just takes waaaayyyy to long to set up! However, I can see that something similar, on a smaller scale, would be beneficial to early finishers as it can still involve topical learning, rather than just a fill-in activity. Perhaps a website that can up updated with new links to new activities would be manageable.

Hmmmm, maybe that’s not such a bad idea after all.