Archive | April, 2014

Something Different for the Holidays

28 Apr

A cool little website to look at over the break is Thunks

“A Thunk is a beguilingly simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start to look at the world in a whole new light.”

Here are some examples of questions?

  • Is there more future or past?
  • Is black a colour?
  • If I switch the lights off does the wall change colour?
  • If you are caught in a thunderstorm will you get wetter if you run to shelter or if you walk?

They are a great way to get students thinking, which is one of the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum, and could be used as “Do Nows” or plenaries. Once you’ve modeled a few thunks, the students will be able to write their own to share with the class.

The independent thinking website has lots of ideas about thunks, as well as other cool stuff. They even have their own YouTube channel.

It’s all about supporting and motivating students to think independently.

Student Speeches

13 Apr!/image/2246340152.JPG_gen/derivatives/landscape_260/2246340152.JPG

The NCEA speech format has changed so little from the time I went to school when we did it under the guise of School Cert or UE. Most schools have each child get up in front of their class and then the best speakers then are selected to stand in front of the school on speech night .
And the marking schedule. Teachers crouch around a video camera and moderate these speeches. Has the student used repetition, rhetorical questions, quotes and statistics? Check, cross, check, check. There are strict rules about time. Did you know it’s a NA if you don’t make time? Don’t overuse your cards. Hand gestures and the odd dramatic pause thrown in for good measure. Our girls are something else at this.
What makes a good speech?
Instead of having of going the usual route of having students sit through Martin Luther King Jr talking about having a dream, Kennedy going to the moon and Churchill fighting on the beaches then analyse each one for rhetorical devices I always look for something different.
I have an appreciation of oratory and these speeches are quite rightly iconic. However these men were leaders of nations and movements over 50 years ago their lives and their language is far removed from the young women sitting in classrooms in Taranaki.
What made these speeches good?
My students decided that speeches were good because the speaker was sharing a passion, an interest or telling a story. As a teacher the most memorable speeches were the ones when students shared something about themselves that we might not hear. My students agree.
I like to get students to do some peer marking. They are more insightful than you might think.
On speech night I was overwhelmed by the topics chosen: Death, Girls and Boys, Marketing, Alzheimer’s, being different, social media and Boys.
The speeches I wanted to hear were those that didn’t make the final. Those students who achieved by just doing it. Those students might not have been good enough to make Speech Night but there were so many kids who bought their best selves to speeches this year.
And that’s what any teacher should be aiming for.

Professional Reading:

I found this resource this week. An outstanding resource for on Pasika peoples:

10 things you need to know about Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa (dispelling some common myths about the Pacific)

Here are excellent resources to think about when referring to students feedback:

The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students
The Difference Between Praise and Feedback is from MindShift.
Tips for Giving Feedback is from Elena Aguilar.
How to Turn Praise into Acknowledgment is by Marvin Marshall.

The evolution of learning

6 Apr

This week our school implemented a new reporting and parent teacher interview system. It is a huge change that I will keep you informed on. Basically it is a move from the 5 minute speed dating system to 1 interview over twenty minutes where one teacher covers everything.

It got me thinking the world’s education systems are in the midst of change unlike any other time over the past century. We are in the greatest change since de la Salle introduced classroom teaching in France. It’s a historical moment where governments, teachers, parents and school communities are exploring visions of an education system that would embody increased flexibility (curricular and otherwise), innovation (technologies and pedagogy) and more individualized and self-directed approaches to student learning. Within this 21st-century parade of change, the notion of personalization in education is moving to the forefront.

Every day teachers enter classrooms to engage diverse minds across multiple activities and to support each student as he or she inquiries into problems. These same teachers, who hold a keen awareness of each of their student’s particular learning styles and passions, are also simultaneously contending with issues of poverty, lack of parental involvement (or conversely helicopter parents), large classes, familial and community influences, student effort and numerous digital and popular culture distractions that add to complexity of their professional practice.

We now have many deep cultural undertows that are worth supporting; primarily differentiation that recognizes the diversity and complexity in the classroom, and the taking up of emerging technologies to engage learning.

We are entering a digital age where students access the information they want—how they want it, when they want it and where they want it. This will have a profound effect on critical thinking as people are increasingly fed only the exact type of information and sources (individual blogs, new media and ethnically oriented online spaces) to which they digitally subscribe. The time where mobile devices were banned in classes is a distant memory.

Perhaps an immediate action that teachers can take is to embrace the wiki way of influencing meaning by visiting and contributing to or (re)shaping the definition of personalized learning. As educators and others search out the meaning of this term, you will then have put your personal stamp on the concept as you see it lived out in your own unique educational contexts. Ultimately, we need to individually and collectively define this term, and in doing so be empowered to share a vision of what knowledge and pedagogical approaches are of most worth in the 21st century.


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