I am a class teacher for Year Four and five students and a team leader for the middle school. My class and I are a part of the Manaiakalani Google ClassOnAir.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Observations: A tool to reflect on own teaching.

This week I had the opportunity to observe Teachers around my school for their practice. It was an enriching experience and I looked at how observation can differ in purpose.
There are different purposes of observation. To name a few could be:
  •        To Evaluate Teaching- This is when a supervisor comes to a class and evaluates how effective the teacher was in the delivery of her lessons.
  •        Learning to Teach- This observation is done by teachers who are inexperienced and are learning to pick up the tricks of the trade.
  •         Learning to observe – This is when an observer visits classrooms to learn to collect, analyse and interpret descriptions of teaching.
  •        The Fourth purpose is to collect data for research purposes.
  •        The fifth purpose is when a teacher observes to become more self aware of her own practice.

I have participated in all types of observations during my career. I have been modeling for PRT’s (Provisionally Registered Teachers) and peers in my team and school. I have collected data for presentations and other purposes. But the one that I enjoy the most is when I am learning to observe to explore my practice. To do this, I take permission before I step into anyone’s classroom or they may invite me to their class for a great lesson that they have planned for. It is totally nonjudgmental and as I watch, I start reflecting on my own teaching. During the process I become more aware of my practice. It is to construct and re-construct my knowledge of teaching and critically evaluate my teaching attitudes, beliefs and classroom practice. I totally believe in this nonjudgmental way of observation because the more we observe, the more confident we become to make our own informed teaching decisions. Such observations help me explore my communication with the students. What do I ‘miss’ and what do I ‘hit’. There are always some ‘hits’ and some ‘misses’. The idea is to work on what is ‘missed’ to enhance my practice.

Different people observe different things. One may focus on the non-verbal behavior of students, another would observe the questioning techniques and yet another could focus on how students worked in a group. As our observations are so selective, it is a good idea to always make a decision about an aspect that will be observed. This way we can give a descriptive feedback to teachers on the aspect that was observed. It also helps us to be more systematic in our observations.

Nonjudgmental descriptive observation of other teachers is a way to explore our own teaching. It is a great tool to reflect and capture what we do and what we can subtly add into our delivery of lessons so that our lessons become more effective and clear for our students.

Archana Sharma

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Digital environment and Student engagement

These days there is a big buzz about digital classrooms and it’s benefits. I teach in a year 3-4 class and belong to the Manaikalani Cluster of schools. I do not have a full net book class but we do have
5 i-pads and 5 netbooks along with a couple of computers. My class is a base for students where they learn their basic skills to be able to work in a complete digital environment when they become year 5 students.

As I have challenging students in my class my total focus was to engage every students in deep learning to be successful. Having the digital tools and learning how to use these tools was new for me. I set off by making a class website. This is where I do all my planning. Each day we start our day by visiting the class website that I project on the classroom T.V. screen. All groups look at what they have done and what they need to do to complete all the tasks assigned to them for the week. Slowly I noticed that my students started to visit the class website themselves to guide their learning. It was very encouraging to hear some of my students say to each other “ Don’t go to Miss if you have finished your writing, go to the site to see what you have to do next”.  Now this I think,  is the first step to be a self- driven, self- motivated learner.

Experiencing the change with net books and blogs was immense. Though we do not have one on one net books for everyone in class, I have been able to make learning possible at home and in weekends by making my class website accessible to everyone, anywhere. Some students who do not have computers, visit the local library to keep up to date with their learning.

I feel engaged and self motivated in my search for innovative ways to teach my students through a presentation or a screen recording. And I can do this in the comforts of my home. It has also cut hugely on continuous delivery of lesson by the real teacher in class. A group of students visit the class site to find what they have to do next. While this group is engaged in their learning, I have the time to do group conference with other students who need more of my attention. I also feel that to some extent, I have been able to engage families as they can now see what their children are learning at school.

A few more netbooks for Year 3 and 4 class would be my wish come true.
Working in a digital environment class has proved to be truly thriving, innovative and productive for my students.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Reading Together Programme

I have been conducting the Reading Together Programme for 3 years now at our school. It is a fantastic programme where parents are made aware of the importance of Reading to and Reading with their children in Early years of their schooling. The strategies are so simple that anyone can learn them easily.  Just having 15 minutes of quality time with a child daily can help children move up levels in Reading. The programme consists of 4 sessions. Each session emphasises on how to make Reading fun and interesting at home. Hearing from a teacher about how to make reading fun and not a tedious process, instantly releases the parents of the hype  that is usually created around children's education.

This Year was the most rewarding year.  I had 17 families on roll and all showed keen interest in the programme. All children whose parents took part in the programme have made shifts and Reading has become a regular routine in their homes. As we were mixing and mingling with parents, I heard my Principal Rhonda Kelly say to the parents, " Time is the best gift we can give our children". And I could not agree less. Thank you to all the parents who took part in the programme. Together we can make a difference for our children.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Assessment Capable Learners

We at Tamaki are learning to make SMART goals for our writing. This means that students understand what their goals are and know how to achieve them. This is a step taken by the teachers to show our students how they can be capable, confident learners and take responsibility of their learning.
The SMART Model was introduced to us by Kate Birch.

S – Specific
M- Measureable
A – Ambitious
R – Realistic
T – Timeframe
E – Evaluate
R- Re-evaluate

My goal as a Teacher of year 3-4 class is to review a system for establishing how SMART the goals are, with particular reference to ‘Measurability ‘ and ‘Time’. For example, how will the children know whether they have achieved the goal and are ready to set a new one?  To devise their goals, students visited their e-AsTTle Learning pathways and learnt to look at their individual report. Then each student identified their areas of gaps, achievements and strengths. After that they set their goals for themselves.

Students work on one goal and set a time frame to achieve it. I designed a tick system to keep track of what goal is to be achieved and by when. This system has worked well for me because it focuses my students to work on the goal mentioned in their 'Goal Sheet'. Each week when my students conference about their Writing, they visit their goal and discuss whether it is achieved or not. Once they have achieved their goal mentioned on the Writing Goal sheet, they re-evaluate their Writing to set the next goal for themselves. This system is improving the quality of writing in my class and it is great to see students self monitor and take ownership of their learning.

Writing Goal check sheet is displayed below.

Name __________

Writing Goals

1.What do I want to accomplish?
Write your Goal here.

2.When do I want to achieve my goal by?
Write how many weeks will you take to achieve this goal.

3. How am I progressing on my goal?
Put a tick in the column each time you achieve your goal.

4. How will I know when I have accomplished my goal?
I know that I have achieved my goal If I have 5 ticks in box 3.

Space for Teacher’s award.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Writing: Little steps at a time

This Term I have been focusing on writing. The main purpose of writing was to make my young Year 3-4 writers write interesting stories for their audience by using detail for their ideas.  All teachers understand how vital it is to scaffold lessons to get students working at the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky). Vygotsky (1978) suggests that  only "good" learning is learning that is ahead of actual development.  Teachers need to be aware that this idea does not ignore the notion that teaching should not be beyond the capacity of a learner. A teacher needs to be aware of her students' readiness to learn new things. For this to happen, a teacher needs to know her students well. New learning is to be build on what a student is currently able to do independently. So it is a challenge for the teacher to have high expectations of all her students and scaffold tasks carefully and judiciously for her them to be able to complete tasks successfully. Using this Vygotskian idea I challenged my young learners this week to write a Narrative and show evidence of the detail for the events in the story.

We have been learning about Traditional Maori tales and one of the tales that I had chosen for the purpose was ‘Tamure and The Taniwha’.

As most of my students are ESl learners, I began the task of scaffolding very carefully.
I read them the tale thrice at various times during the previous week, just to make sure all students know and understand the sequence of the events in the story.

I designed a graphic organizer for students to plan their stories. I showed my students how to use the organiser using 'think aloud' strategy. Students needed to list their ideas in the first row of the planning organiser. In the second row they had to list key words for their detail of the idea and in the third row I had provided them with a sentence starter to support them write their story.

When students understood what an idea is and how they were required to add detail to support their idea, it became easy for them to accomplish their goal. 

 Below is the work produced by a few students from the class.

I believe that careful planning and scaffolding of the lesson can produce desired results. Having a well designed planning organiser to challenge my students next learning step was very fruitful.