Sunday, 4 March 2018

Teaching Inquiry 2018 - Talk Moves

I had originally intended to use this inquiry opportunity to examine how I could better teach my students the fundamentals for writing. This was based on my personal reflection that in 2018 I needed to improve how I taught this subject area.

However, after listening to the presentation by Woolf Fisher researchers at Tamaki College, I needed to change my plan. The 2017 results for students achievement across schools in the Manaiakalani cluster clearly showed that Maths was a bigger concern than Writing.

This realisation prompted me to check the data for my Maths class for this year. Based on National Standards benchmarks, only 2 students had achieved 'at' by the end of 2017, the remaining 27 students were sitting at either 'below' or 'well below'.

I wanted to focus on the band of students who are noted as 'below' in Maths. WIth the right intervention, there is a better chance of achieving upaward shift in 'below' learners than those who are 'well below'.  I then identified a group who I can best describe as being in Maths learning limbo - by this I mean that while they show capability in Maths they are stuck and not progressing because  I have not been able to move them to the up to the next level.  

Within this group I have identified six priority learners - all Year 8 students who achieved Stage 6 at the end of 2017. NB: Ideally they should have been hitting Stage 7. 

My hunch is that the progress of this group of Maths learners is being held back because they struggle to understand and then correctly apply higher level strategies. 

Building on Maths PD last year with Jo Knox,  PES is rolling out the DMIC (Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities) approach of teaching maths across the entire school i.e. from Year 1 to Year 8. Based on comprehensive research in the US around complex maths instruction, Prof. Bobbi Hunter of Massey University has developed a pedagogy that aims to deepen students understanding of maths - working in mixed ability groups to collectively solve maths problems.

The challenge will be to find out how to best to use the DMIC pedagogy to build confidence in priority learners so they are more likely to take risks to grapple with more complex problems - the payoff being they will develop their maths thinking and problem solving skills and progress to more complex maths work.

The DMIC teaching approach uses maths problems rooted in the real world problems in cultural contexts that are relevant and engaging for students and related to 'big' maths ideas.

For my inquiry then, as an initial starting point, I would like to investigate how the use of TALK MOVES can support my priority students to improve their understanding and make use of higher level Maths concepts.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Fractions and Decimals with Jo Knox


Today Team 5 had the opportunity to watch Jo Knox in action with two different Maths groups (one at Stage 6 and one at Stage 7). The aim was to see her teach students to convert fractions into decimals.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTING Jo asked a series of quick questions to gauge the groups understanding of fractions and decimals based on examples from the Numeracy  Development Project (NPD) resources or ‘Pink books’.

MATERIALS - Decipipes are a really effective tool to help support students to understand the basics of fractions and decimals. They are also easy for students to manipulate, able to break/build up both representations of both fraction and decimal numbers. 

STRATEGY MODEL Start students off using materials then progressing to Imaging and then Materials as students show greater fluency in their use of a given strategy - see NPD Book 3 p5 

 - Number equations were recorded 
in a modelling book in plain view of all students. A handy reference point for the teacher to guide students in their thinking and to record in themselves (see next note).
STUDENT THINKING - Jo regularly asked students to explain their answers. The focus was on how they got an answer, helped to highlight can be more than one ‘correct’ solution; extended this to give specific roles to members of the group - split group into three - one group explained their answer, while a second group modelled the answer using materials (decipipes) and a third group recorded answer in modelling book - this approach ensure all students were fully engaged!

PLENARY - at the end of each group’s session, Jo asked the students to reflect on what they had learned and together they co-constructed the WALT for the lesson in kid’s language - she feels that sharing the WALT at start of lesson isl ike giving away the punchline of a joke upfront

Example 1: WALT Convert fractions and decimals by turning them into tenths, hundredths and thousandths

Example 2: WALT by add numbers by taking one off one number and adding to another to make a whole number

So many golden nuggets from this session! I would like to try out co-constructing WALTs with my students - it will be interesting to see if what I had planned to teach matches up with what students feel they have learnt.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Inquiry Update: Rich Learning Activities

In Term 3, my priority students changed and I revamped my inquiry focus question to investigate the extent to which the format of maths problems will influence the problem solving abilities of my target students.

My latest hunch was that the format of the questions I gave to the students was impacting on their ability to be successful in problem solving.

A PD session with Jo Knox highlighted the benefits of using open ended, rich learning tasks (like the 'Giant's Hand' activity to the right) as a way to engage and challenge students. She explained a resource bank is available on the nzmaths site. 
I chose rich learning activities that matched the term topic of Geometry & Measurement. To explore the concept of perimeter further, I chose the Parking Cars task for my priority group. Students needed to work out a new car park layout for a specific number of vehicles.

First we unpacked the problem in our group session and clarified key details e.g the dimensions of the parking lot and the required car spaces. I was explicit in telling them that there may be more than one possible result. Despite some initial hesitation to this 'new' kind of problem after the discussion, the students were all super keen to head off and be the first to work out a possible solution. Working with a buddy or on their own, some made a screencastify recording to explain their 'solution'.
Samples of student work are below:

Click here for Junior's full blog post

Click here for Kerstein's full blog post

The open ended and real-life nature of the rich tasks totally engaged the students and without any prompting from me. They willingly took longer to work through different options and were less focused on finding the 'right' answer. Their end solutions highlighted how students had interpreted (or misinterpreted) a problem and so provided me with a useful starting point for a discussion to find out more about their thinking process.

I was really pleased with the students' positive response to the 'rich' task and would like to use them with all the groups. The challenge will be to find tasks that are appropriate - not too hard or not too easy - and linked to the given maths topic being reviewed.

As Term 4 kicks off, the next hunch I would like to explore is how modelling books can be used to effectively scaffold my priority students in problem solving strategies.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Google Exam - Success at last!

Google Exam Post Script: After a disappointing first effort, I was keen to take another shot at the Level 1 Google Exam.

I lined up a test date with others from the course on the second week of the holidays but unfortunately, a slight hiccup with the retake process from Google foiled my retake  plans! Not to be defeated, I finally resat the test on the last weekend of the holidays - no pressure.
Well, I am pleased to say the wait was worth it - I passed! This success has really made me appreciate just how much I learnt on the DFI course last term - again a huge thank you to Dorothy, Gerhard and Matt! Hmmm, is it time to think about Level 2? Watch this space...

Friday, 22 September 2017

Final Digital Fluency Intensive - Week 9 - Opportunities Galore!

Today marks the end of our 9 week Digital Fluency Intensive (DFI). Alongside a great bunch of educators, I've enjoyed meeting up once a week to learn more about the Manaiakalani pedagogy and have the time to upskill myself in different GOOGLE apps. It has made my life easier both inside and outside of the classroom. A huge thank you to Dorothy, Gerhard, Matt and all the guest speakers!

Thankfully for all of us, the learning doesn't stop here because there lots of other opportunities available to teachers in Manaiakalani to help keep our practise sharp including TOOLKITs,  the Manaiakalani GOOGLE + Community, the EdTech Summit  and being part of Class On Air.

To end up this last session, 11 of us sat the GOOGLE Certified Educator Level 1 exam. 3 hours, 20 multi-choice questions and 11 scenarios later, we needed 80% to pass. Unfortunately a few of us didn't quite make the cut (I got 78%!) but despite the disappointing result we are determined to give it another go in the holidays. We all want to ace it and have a GOOGLE badge to show for our efforts!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Digital Fluency Intensive 8: Empowerment, New GOOGLE Sites

Hard to believe that we are already at Week 8 of the DFI sessions - so much learning has taken place!  Today James Hopkins from CORE EDUCATION shared his thoughts on EMPOWERMENT in the Manaiakalani pedagogy: if learning is not VISIBLE, CONNECTED and UBIQUITOUS, students will not be able to take charge of and progress in their learning.
He also shared with us how to use moderation mode in Padlet - a great way to avoid any curly comments from students being made public to the whole class!

Next up Gerhard guided us through a session on the NEW GOOGLE Sites. It is much quicker to create a site in this new version, using a range of preset options. However you are limited in how you can customise your site so despite all the time saving shortcuts NEW sites offers, I think I would prefer have more control over how my site/pages will look and 'work' . The original GOOGLE sites has my vote! I got to try out the NEW sites by creating a landing page for all the different sites and blogs that we have been working on for the past few weeks. It also includes links to the individual class/team sites for each of the other DFI participants. Click here or the image below to view the site page in full.

Next week, our DFI group will take the  GOOGLE EDUCATOR LEVEL 1 exam - let's see how much we really know!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Digital Fluency Intensive 7: CONNECT, more on GOOGLE sites

Being CONNECTED is another key element of the Manaiakalani kaupapa and links back to last week's kaupapa word - connections are only possible if teaching and learning is visible.

As educators, we can build connections face to face but also through social media platforms such as Twitter and Google + communities 
to stay in the loop and to upskill ourselves. Within Manaiakalani, we can join colleagues for toolkit sessions and get online technical support from Tania Coutts.

Blogs are probably the most common ways to create and maintain online connections between students, teachers and whanau. Programmes such as Tuhi mai, tuhi atu and Quad blogging have been successful at linking students who are at different schools or parts of the country.

My biggest insight for this session was to think critically around how to use sites to make connections AND lead learning. We all were challenged to take an honest look at our own sites - is the content relevant? is the layout visually appealing and engaging? is it functional and accessible for students, whanau, and teaching colleagues?

A few of us were asked to share our learning sites and got feedback from other DFIers on their impressions and possible 'next steps' for improvements. I shared the landing page for the site I use every day with Year 7 & 8 students at Pt England School. I am one of five teachers who use this learning site designed by one of our team, Rob Wiseman.

Feedback for the landing page of was really positive from the others:
- the overall page has a simple, clean layout with lots of white space
- all the A+ (key) content can be seen in one go (no extra scrolling)
- includes student artwork - the lower part of the page has teacher photos (not emojis) and name details making it easy for whanau to find the right person

Possible improvements were to link the names of teacher to their class and/or professional blogs and to get rid of page labels at the top of each page

I enjoyed having part of the session to get help to tweak my literacy and maths groups pages. Updating the page settings to remove extra text from the top of each page turned out to be quite straightforward and definitely improved the 'look' of each page.

However, the real game changer was fixing the 'term' headings. Putting them in a logical sequence, only showing the current term in white font and linking each one correctly to previous term's site pages has given much needed functionality to each page - a big THANK YOU to our trainers!



Looking forward to week 8 and finding out more about NEW Google Sites.