Sunday, 25 August 2019

Tweaking #1: Phonetically sounding out words/terms

A tweak in my practice:  Phonetically sounding out words/terms.
From my first intervention lesson #1, I read my reflections about sounding out the words and phonetically sighting and sounding the words to deliberately use all throughout the last two lessons I'd taught my year 9's.

I noticed that I never used to think about doing this in the past because when I have taught, I would assume that kids knew the words and knew how to sound the words out and sound them out fluently.  I was also conscious of the lack of time that we have in a lesson and have felt the pressure of getting everything done.  Now, I am trying to think carefully about the words themselves, about the varied learning needs of my kids and how they would need to know how to pronounce the words carefully.

I find myself staying on words/phrases for a lot longer instead of rushing it to the definition.  I give them the time to 'sit' on the word, look at the word, and just process it in their brains.  We clap it out for the syllables, they say it aloud to the class and also to each other.  I've noticed the first time I did this, kids were not receptive but the more times we did this, the more they got used to it, the more it seemed to become normal.

When I discussed this with Jannie and Mele, our ESOL specialist, they said there was important research that supported the number of times a student needs to hear and practice a word 5-16 times before they can properly understand a word.  

For further monitoring, I am thinking that I would like to voice record students sounding out a word and watching me practicing and verbalising the words so that the sound could resonate with them.  I am also think of putting those voice recordings plus movie recordings online to build a rewindable learning library.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Intervention #2: Increasing the number of Iterations for learning

In a previous blog, I discussed my inquiry with Jannie who shared one of the effective ways to support my learners in understanding their learning.

"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are) consolidating and creating iterations of their learning" (Blogpost, 10th August, 2019)

Research that supports these principles within my specific learning area of Social Studies, can be found in the Best Evidence Synthesis (BESs) report, commissioned by the Ministry of Education.  It was found that 'students need sufficient, related opportunities to revisit learning through a variety of activities that will embed that learning in their memories'.  (p12, Sinnema and Aitken, 2008)

I used these principles when I planned my lesson for my year 9's recently.  To put this into practice, I allowed for more time for learning and the context we were learning about was to understand what parliament does.  

When reflecting on my previous lesson, I used the ideas of slowing down the learning by focusing on key words and concepts, to guide my lesson.  To crank my lesson up slightly, I used lots of different images and simple definitions to support new words and concepts.

Lesson structure:
1.  Pretest and post test:  I created a pre and post test that asks students to connect a word/phrase related to parliament, an image to support the word and a definition or example of that word.

2.  Powerpoint presentation:  I created a powerpoint that had limited wording, an emphasis on key points and big images and pictures.
3.  Video:  On the powerpoint, there is a short video discussing what I will be talking about on my powerpoint. 

4.  Mix and match exercise:  I cut up the words/phrases related to parliament, the image that supported the words and a definition or example of that word and asked students to match them together by turning the cards upside down and playing 'go fish'.  

5.  Kahoot!: I created a quick spot quiz on Parliament in kahoot.

6.  Blog post:  I wanted to get kids to write a blogpost on their learning. 

7.  Survey:  I created a survey that asked 4 questions: 
  • Did you enjoy today's lesson on Parliament?
  • What part did you enjoy the most?
  • Is there anything else that Ms Apelu can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
  • Is there anything else that YOU can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
Actual lesson:
I made the kids do the pre and post test on paper and supplied their pens and pencils for ease of collection.  I asked for devices to be off and to focus on my explaining the powerpoint.  I emphasised the key words and sounded out words that students may not understand.  I tried to use phonetically sound out key words and write the words on the board.  I made the students say it out loud, clap out the syllables and turn to a partner and say the words to each other.

When we moved into doing the mix and match exercise students seem excited to do the activity.  Unfortunately my instructions weren't clear so some students lay all the words out and tried to put them in groups, others did 3 columns and other played 'go fish' (I know for next time to model what I want them to do and have it on the ppt).  Although lots of kids were doing different activities with the same words, I felt there was lots of mixing and matching going on and that students were mostly engaged.  The first student who got the answers matched up correctly was asked to go around and check other students.

The class really enjoyed the kahoot as they got to challenge each other - the boys were the most excited but the girls got the better results.  I noticed we had run out of time towards the end of the lesson and didn't get a chance to start the blog.  Just before the bell, students were asked to complete the survey and the post-test. (I will report on the results in my next few posts)

Quick reflections:  
I was pretty exhausted by the end of the lesson, mostly because I think I stood at the front and had to encourage the talking and rephrasing and modelling of the language.  There were so many components to the lesson that I had to keep track of the time, of the activity and monitor the behaviour of the students especially in the last 30 minutes.  Overall I think the lesson went well and judging by the quick survey answers, I can use their feedback to modify my next lessons.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Monitoring #5: Student feedback on our lesson on key concepts

Today I sat down with a focus group of students who are in 9PKr to show them the lesson I taught on key government concepts and to ask for their feedback on their thoughts of the lesson.  I also wanted to know if there were any other ways that I could support them in their learning.
I choose two boys and two girls from the class with mid to high levels of ability.  I did this because I thought they wouldn't be shy to share their ideas and because they seemed engaged during the lessons.  I have coded them as:  T2 and T3 = Male, M2 and A2 = Female.  Here is a snippet of our conversations.

Did you enjoy the lesson? 

M2:  Yes it was cool
A2: That was one of the funnest days because we actually worked as a class and everyone participated.
T3: We got to talk about words that we didn’t know and practice them heaps

Is there anything I could do to help you talk about your learning more?

T3: Make it a challenge and put us in groups. And whoever gets the answer right, gets a prize.  Us boys like challenges.
M2: Give us more things where we can move around and have to talk to each other.
A2: Yea like maybe do things where we don’t have to talk to the same people

Should we mix up the groups?

A2: Yes cause we’re always in the same groups

Anything else?

A2: Oh miss, can we try debating once in a while because we did it in Health and it was fun.  It we can hear from everyone even the quiet students.

Tell me more about that?

A2: We had boys against girls and it was fun.  We had to really about what to say because
T3: Have us in groups of 4 or how we had the U shape like when Ms Jannie was here cause it made everyone on the same level and we all had to contribute.

Reflections:  As they watched, I could see they were interested more in what they were doing during the lesson rather than what I was doing.   I think one of the things that I have learnt from showing them the lesson was that as they got to see what they were doing and how they were responding, they became a bit embarrased and they were surprised to see themselves behave the way they did.  From time to time a few of the kids called out, made comments that could be heard on the video or distracted others from their learning.  Although this was not how I intended to use the video, it was interesting for me to see their reactions and I feel that this could be a useful tool to do from time to time to keep students in check.

Next steps:  I enjoyed listening to the students' feedback and found that by giving them a voice, I could hear how they wanted the lessons to go.  I want to use some of their ideas in our next lessons to support their learning more and find more opportunities to sit down with different students in class to ask for feedback as a focus group.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Monitoring #4: Discussing my theories of teaching with Dr Jannie.

Recently I had a discussion with Dr Jannie about my default theory of teaching to see if there was any feedback or advice she could give me about it.  I also wanted to talk about the lesson I did with 9PKr in a hope that she could offer some help with my next steps.  This formal discussion of where I believe my teaching theory is at, hopefully adds to the monitoring of my teaching actions.

I have a voice recording of our meeting and a transcript of some of the key points from our discussion below. (I like to record discussions I have with Dr Jannie because I want to make sure I don't miss any pearls of wisdom).  

I talked at length about the aspects of my template and in doing this, it helped me sound out my theory in a sort of logical way.  As Jannie listened, she was able to identify an aspect that was she felt was missing.

Talking their learning.    
"The thing I see missing from here (my template) is talking your learning... from your summary they should be able to say, so here it is...if you say we have a female Prime Minister and you have 10 points to elaborate that.  That’s not doing anything until you can powerfully talk to that ...Yes you have your notes in front of you but that you can look people in the eye and say that point that point and that point.  Firstly it might seem a little staccatoish but more as you practice it, we have more capabilities to pop in something to make it so that it’s a presentation of your learning"
"...One of the things in Taumaranui is that the kids regularly showcase their learning to each another, to a group of teachers, to their whanau".

"I don't think that it is the power breaker until they can talk to it....if they can look people in the face and say that, it's a very powerful thing to do"

Principles of learning
"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are)consolidating and creating iterations of their learning".

Next steps:  
  • I added Jannie's suggestion to look at how kids can 'talk their learning' to my template diagram.  It is one of the things that I think will help accelerate my students' learning and my job is to figure how to teach it to well, so that it will support my kids learning.
  • I want to find research that supports Jannies' discussion around the principles of learning and I want to understand the term 'iterations' better.
  • Dr Jannie talked about how well kids can talk their learning and I expressed an interest during our meeting to see how they do it in Taumaranui school that encourages this type of learning for students.  I have been offered the opportunity to travel down to Taumaranui High School and am looking forward to going, to see how the students engage in talking their learning.  I am excited to learn how to teach it more effectively to my students and will hopefully be able to apply some of the strategies I learn in my teaching.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Monitoring #3: Choosing an area of focus in my teaching

Quizzing the kids by slowing down my questioning
This short video observation is one I am examining more closely to monitor my questioning of my students.  It comes after 1 hour of learning the concepts and their meanings and thorough discussions around examples of them.  I’ve chosen to highlight this part of my teaching practice, as normally, my default teaching would have shared a document and asked students to write down their answers and share it with me.  For my deliberate teaching, I’ve chosen to use verbal prompts to encourage students the opportunity to verbalise their learning in a comfortable classroom environment.  
  • Holding the suspense of students by not rushing the questions.
  • Not worrying too much about kids who call out things that isn’t the answer.
  • Being aware that kids may miss out and acknowledge them.
  • Most of the kids were engaged when I slowed down the quiz
  • For the boys, I wanted it to be a bit more challenging and so I put a small time challenge on it.  They ended up trying to beat their own times and their friends.
Work ons:  
Perhaps have the students lead the words and ask each other the same way.  I can model more.  Not have me talk the whole time.  I said ‘shhh too many times’.  I also say ‘o.k’ and ‘right’ a lot as well.

Observations and next time actions.
When scoping the room, I’m aware that Marco is not looking my way, but he put himself at the front, which was unusual, he is usually hiding at the back.  I have noticed that he wanted to take part in the group challenges so for next time, I will encourage and invite some group challenges.  
I am also aware that girls at the back like Ana had her hand up and that I ensure that they aren’t ignored by attention being on the boys.  I might give them a different challenge because they are high ability students.

What I learnt about myself doing this:
I would normally rush tasks and when I have asked questions in the past, I would usually have asked students I know would answer the question.  This time, I purposely used wait time a little bit more and dragged out the questions because I wanted kids to think about the question and if they were picked, they could be ready.  I think this helped build their confidence more and kept them a bit more engaged for the next question.  

I enjoyed this process and even though it may have seemed like we didn’t get much done, or any writing or reading, I felt happy with the outcomes.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Monitoring #2: A Colleagues observation of my teaching

In my on-going discussions with my department about my inquiry, I described to a colleague how well I thought my lesson went with my year 9’s, in learning the 7 concepts we need to know in our new Government unit.  I explained in my lesson, I had to focus on just getting the concepts learnt repeatedly and that this was a change in my teaching that taught me how to be more patient with my kids.  She wanted to see what this looked like so I offered to take one of her year 9 classes through the same lesson, for the first period in a double. 

My reflections:
The class was 9PDv and I taught exactly the same lesson that I’d taught the day before with 9PKr.  As it was just the first period of a double, their teacher continued to support their learning of the concepts during the next period.  I felt they are responded really well to the lesson because they seemed engaged and did not shy away too much from giving it a go.  I have not taught them before and it was refreshing to have different faces in front of me and different dynamics in a classroom.  

Staff feedback:
The feedback from my colleague was that she enjoyed seeing how I engaged the students in slowing the learning and forcing them to use their brains to learn.  She was surprised to see some of the loud boistrous boys standing up and giving the challenges a go.  She liked the way the kids stay focussed on the tasks and it gave her encouragement to try the model that I’d shown her.  She also shared it was one of the rare times that they’d been fully engaged.

A student teacher who’d also observed the lesson said ‘in both my practicuums, it was best teaching that had the kids so engaged that I’d seen so far, no offence’. (I was abit taken aback by this comment but felt humbled as well)

Student feedback through blogs:
Before the end of their double period, my colleague asked her class to blog about what they’d learnt during the lesson.  I enjoyed reading the blogposts below and felt positive and glad that they’d learnt what we’d set out to achieve.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Monitoring #1: Results of my pretest and posttest

As part of the lesson I did with 9PKr, I gave them a pre-test and a post-test on the 7 key concepts that we'd learnt in the double period.  I decided to make it a mix and match exercise.
Here are the comparative results:
The students either stayed were they were with results or made positive gains in the tests.  I found that the boys especially made the biggest gain in their results and it was pleasing to see this in the tests.  I think it may be a combination of slowing the pace of the lesson to focus primarily on the concepts but also the opportunity kids had to test themselves individually, in pairs and in groups to ensure they got the learning.  I hope also to examine whether it was my teaching approach that impacted on this shift in my next blogs.

Dr Jannie suggested I show the results to the students because the more times we can showcase their cleverness the better.   I want to give them the test again at a later date to see if they can remember the terms more easier.  I also want to vary the way I monitor them by changing the tests for example I might try an emoji system asking how well they know words like the one in the image below.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Intervention #1: Focus Lesson on key concepts

Evidence for a need to 'shift' my teaching.
Last term, I taught a unit on our community with a focus on significant places in our community.   At the end of the unit, students had to complete an assessment essay to show their learning from the unit and the many of the students answers were basic or did not reach an achieved.

When reflecting on why the kids essays were below standard, I wondered whether my teaching was part of the reason for these failures.  I don't think my teaching style had changed much as I have taught the unit many times in the past.  Although I used a number of strategies to support my learners, they were more for the scaffolding of reading and writing for the learners rather then looking at ways I could support my learners in my teaching approach.

This term, I want to implement strategies that I'd used at the beginning of the year whereby I purposefully and deliberately took away time spent on the context of a topic and used it to slow down the focus in a lesson to learn key concepts properly.  I also want to look at talking more about the learning too rather then trying to focus on having the kids write something down to show their learning.  Recently, I taught a lesson with these aspects in mind.
The Context
My year 9 Social Studies class are starting a new unit on understanding the Government and how decisions can impact on people and places.  There are a lot of different concepts that are complicated and challenging to understand and I wanted to use a technique that Jannie had taught me earlier this year to slow down the learning on new concepts and to discuss knowledge around the concepts.

Planning and preparing for the lesson.
The lesson time was a double period, 2x 50 minutes and it was after morning tea and before lunch.  To prepare for the lesson, I created a slide that had the concepts and their definitions on it.  I also wanted to test whether there was a shift in their learning, so I created a pre test and a post test that was mix and match exercise to measure if there was a shift in learning for the students (I will talk about the results in my next blog).   

Collecting evidence
I want to collect evidence to support how my change in teaching practice helped my learners to learn and understand key concepts in a more verbal and oral way.

  • Pre and post tests - I created a snap 'quiz' where students were provided with the 7 key concepts and had mix and match the correct definitions with the words.  
  • Videoing myself - I want to watch the video to see how I teach in this style.  I have video evidence of me teaching in my default style of teaching (the old me) and I want to see 
  • My observations of students - I want to observe the engagement of the students through the lesson and make mental notes of who is making a genuine effort as compared to previous lessons.  
  • Student verbal feedback - I will catch up with students at the end of the lesson to talk about how they felt about the lesson.
The Lesson
As the students entered the classroom, I handed them the pre-test and a pen and said we will be discussing our learning today through 'talanoa' (discussions) and to leave their devices in their bags.  The students were given 5 minutes to complete the pre-test at the start.  I collected the papers in, then I asked them to draw their attention to the presentation. 

I started by reminding them about the brain being like a muscle and that when they energise their brain through learning new things, they are making them 'smarter'.  I also reminded them that we will be verbalising our lesson through 'talanoa' learning and that I hoped they will become confident speakers by the end of the year.

I asked them to read the instructions and we went through each one carefully for understanding.  I then put the slide with the 7 key concepts up for 2 minutes, where they individually had to say the words, then 2 - 3 minutes to a partner, then a group.  I then called for volunteers to stand up in front of the class and say the concepts fluently without stopping.  I modelled to them how I wanted them to say the words, with good posture and in a confident manner.

At the end of the lesson, I did a quiz exercise which involved asking students to tell me answers to the concepts, to further learn the concepts and to get them to say out loud the answers.  I then handed the post-test questions to students who completed them before the bell went.  I have recorded parts of the lesson below.
My initials observations of the students as I taught them, was that they were engaged and motivated to give the learning a go.  I felt I had minimal behavioural issues and students were willing to try the concepts and learning out, and for the most part seemed happy.   I think this was because I was confident in my approach, I took time to allow students to try things out and gave them different ways for them to try out the learning.
Feedback from a student is that she felt it was a fun lesson and enjoyed the interaction with her classmates.

Next steps:
  • I will collate the data from the pre and post test.
  • I will watch the video of my teaching and analyse what I see
  • I will try and collect feedback from students about the lesson.

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