Sunday, September 22, 2013

Accountable Talk - My Cousera Course

It's Saudi National Weekend. I'm using this weekend to catch up on reading and immerse myself in some professional development goodness. I love learning...learning excites me and invigorates me.

I'm currently in Week Two of my Coursera course - Accountable Talk. This week we are looking at the Growth Mindset and the Fixed Mindset. Part of the resources available to us is the video below:

I'm a fan of Carol Dweck and have read her book "Mindset".

Three ways to instill a growth mindset in ourselves and those around us:
1. Recognise that the growth mindset is not only beneficial but is also proven by science.
2. Learn and teach others about how to develop our abilities. When we understand how to develop our abilities we take conviction that we are in control of them.
3. Listen for your fixed mindset voice and reply in a growth mindset voice. If you hear "I can't do it?" - Reply with "Yet".

Useful readings:

Quotes of interest:

As Nobel laureate Herbert Simon wisely stated, the meaning of “knowing” has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it (Simon, 1996). More than ever, the sheer magnitude of human knowledge renders its coverage by education an impossibility; rather, the goal of education is better conceived as helping students develop the intellectual tools and learning strategies needed to acquire the knowledge that allows people to think productively about history, science and technology, social phenomena, mathematics, and the arts. Fundamental understanding about subjects, including how to frame and ask meaningful questions about various subject areas, contributes to individuals’ more basic understanding of principles of learning that can assist them in becoming self-sustaining, lifelong learners. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.5)
Teachers must draw out and work with the preexisting un derstandings that their students bring with them. The use of frequent formative assessment helps make students’ thinking visible to themselves, their peers, and their teacher. This provides feedback that can guide modification and refinement in thinking. Given the goal of learning with understanding, assessments must tap understanding rather than merely the ability to repeat facts or perform isolated skills. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.20)

Providing children with practice at telling or “reading” stories is an impetus to the growth of language skills and is related to early independent reading; seeBox 4.6. For many years some parents and scholars have known about the importance of early reading, through picture book “reading” that is connected to personal experiences. Recently, the efficacy of this process has been scientifically validated—it has been shown to work (see National Research Council, 1998). (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.105)

Story telling is a powerful way to organize lived and listened-to experiences, and it provides an entry into the ability to construe narrative from text. By the time children are 3 or 4, they are beginning narrators; they can tell many kinds of stories, including relating autobiographical events, retelling fiction, and recalling stories they have heard. The everyday experiences of children foster this story telling. Children like to talk and learn about familiar activities, scripts or schemes, the “going to bed” script or the “going to McDonald’s” script (Nelson, 1986; Mandler, 1996). Children like to listen to and retell personal experiences. These reminiscences are stepping stones to more mature narratives. As they get older, children increase their levels of participation by adding elements to the story and taking on greater pieces of the authorial responsibility. By 3 years of age, children in families in which joint story telling is common can take over the leadership role in constructing personal narratives. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.108)

....research studies show clear evidence that when teachers engage students in a
certain kind of academic talk, they learn better than when teachers do not engage them in this kind of talk. What we know from these and other similar studies, is that the changes captured in these results are retained over time and often extend beyond the subject area in which the students engaged in the academically productive talk. In fact, some of these results are quite startling. One of the exciting things about these studies, and some of the other research that exists, is that the findings cross diverse sets of students. It is very easy to think about having rigorous discussions with advanced placement high school students. But we see in the research that all students can benefit from this instructional practice: students who don't speak English at home, students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and even very young students. All students can engage in academically productive talk and see the benefits. (Research that informed our thinking, p.4)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kia kaha Team NZ!

Thank you to Manaiakalani for the link.

Teaching is a wonderful thing...

I've been thinking lots about teaching lately, and what makes a good teacher. I wrote a little bit about this in an earlier post. I've come across two other blog posts that have made statements that really resonate with me, the first of these is:

I’m grateful  to work at a school where learning (rather than ‘good teaching’) is valued… - Jina Belnick
Being a good teacher is not just about well prepared lessons…
I am grateful that I now understand that being a teacher is no longer just about a well prepared lesson. For me it has become an understanding of what engaged learners look like; what the curriculum and all its interwoven components require – and how we need to listen to every child to help them to get to know themselves as learners. 
- Jina Belnick (Original post here).
The second of these is:

[teachers] manage to listen and respect children's choices while at the same time creating an atmosphere where children are challenged and feel safe to try new things. - Anna Golden (Original post here).
I love reading blog posts that make you nod and smile and think YES! Teaching is a wonderful thing...

Friday, September 6, 2013

International Mindedness - First thoughts

I've set two professional goals for the 2013/2014 academic year. One of my goals is to gain a deeper understanding of 'international mindedness' and provoke my teaching and student's learning of 'international mindedness' through the use of digital technology.

So what does 'international mindedness' mean?

On my first day at TKS the school was in the middle of celebrating International Week. I walked into a school with a range of flags, various greetings, world maps and different cultures embracing the walls. I saw evidence of shared food, shared stories and shared experiences. Was this 'international mindedness'? I'm not sure, I think this is one aspect of being international aware but surely the notion of 'international mindedness' runs deeper than this?  We talk about honoring diversity and celebrating differences in New Zealand. We see this as an ongoing and integral part of our curriculum. But is this 'international mindedness'? I'm still not sure, I'd really like to get my head around what International Mindedness means and how I can facilitate this learning for students in my class.

The video below "Musika Malie" by Wellington College spread like wildfire on my newsfeed with friends from NZ, Australia and further afar re-sharing this inspiring video of a group of predominantly European students singing and dancing to a Samoan song to mark and celebrate Samoan Language week. If I speak and celebrate another language, does this mean I am Internationally Minded? Surely it's deeper than this too?

In my brief search to find out more I came across two very intersting articles written by Steven Mark.

These articles are perhaps the most valuable find so far on my journey to finding out more:

What's 'international' about an 'international school'? 

International mindedness is a frame of mind...

I'm looking forward to uncovering more gems like these as I search for understanding. Stay posted for more reflections.

Self-Leadership and the One-Minute Manager

Sometime ago a colleague mentioned research that suggested that our habits of reading have changed, that we find sitting for long periods of time reading difficult, information are so accessible that it is too easy to flick out of one book to the next based on your mood. I had this discussion with my colleague almost 5 years ago. David Amerland confirms this notion of thinking:
When we are swimming in words, have near-instant access to knowledge and books and can download entire libraries at the click of a button it is inevitable that reading, as an education or entertainment experience is going to change.
I am a self-professed digital reader, and I admit my reading habits have changed over the last ten years. Long ago, I could open a book and read from cover to cover in a single sitting (pre-children) of course. Now, I'm lucky if I can get through a chapter without flicking to another book, another activity or find something else that diverts my attention.

It's been a year since I downloaded the book "Self-Leadership and the One-Minute Manager" from Amazon onto my iPhone (Kindle App). I am pleased to announce I finally read it. What a great book! There were clearly some quotes that jumped out at me, and I wasn't too keen on the 'corny' storyline but some very powerful messages arose from this book. For those that are visual learners I have made the quotes that captured me into InstaQuotes. Have you read this book? What are you thoughts?

Cute is a Four-Letter Word

A must watch for all educators and families, here are

*Play is how children make meaning of the experience.
*Let joy be joy (ironically I wrote about this yesterday before even watching this video).
*A thoughtful teacher understands and respects arrive in the classroom with deep attachments - children at play see what they do as a real contribution for others.
*Genuine meaningful effort (by the child) is met with deep respect (by the teacher).
*Burst through the barriers of cute, the ABCs and 123s and speak to the meaningful experience.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Professional Goals for the Year

As part of the new PMP programme being implemented at our school we are required to set two professional goals for the year. Setting goals has been an ongoing part of my teaching practice for many years (see here). As I ponder what will be useful and achievable goals for the new academic year I am confronted with my lack of in-depth knowledge of the PYP (Primary Years Programme). Many years ago, on one of my numerous professional development courses a facilitator stated "good teaching, is good teaching, is good teaching". There are things I hold dear in my teaching craft, almost my mantras if you like that guide my daily interactions with children (and if I am honest I consider fundamental to being a 'good/great teacher'. These include:

* The children are the curriculum - While you might plan the most amazing lesson plan, you might have the most wonderful ideas, you may have the latest and greatest resources - at the crux of all teaching is the learner.  So, I value taking the lead from children. I value getting to know children. I value identifying strengths and interests. I value connecting with children and families and I value children.

*Akonga - This is a Maori term that encompasses the value of 'the teacher as a learner, the learner as a teacher and relates to my previous point. I see myself as a learner for life. I value learning from children and other teachers. Just today I asked a 4-year old to translate my English sentence into an the Arabic language. With ease she flicked between both languages and taught me how to say the Arabic words. The smile on her face showed me that she was excited that she was teaching me something. I am a learner for life.

*Nothing without joy - In my experience as a mother, a teacher, a facilitator, a manager and a nature kindergarten educator. Learning is most powerful when it is FUN, engaging, relevant, significant and challenging (PYP Handbook). I value joy, exhilaration, fun and all of the things that give you a positive feeling. As the above quote suggests, I also value childhood. We only get one childhood, the brain makes so many connections in the first few years of life that it is vital to children's development and ongoing health benefits that they experience JOY! When was the last time you felt truly joyful?

While there are numerous other aspects that make a 'good/great' teacher, these are the things that I see important values in my own teaching practice. So, now my challenge is to develop two professional goals for the year.

The PYP and Te Whariki: The New Zealand Early Childhood curriculum (in essence) have many similarities. I will save my thoughts on this for another post. Clearly there are things from each curriculum that are transferable, but what I feel I need to investigate further is the PYP Curriculum, the language and the jargon. This seems like a natural progression into a professional goal.

Professional Goal Number One:
* Develop a deeper understanding of the IB Primary Years Programme.

Possible actions:
* Work with and alongside colleagues who are well versed in the document.
* Compare and contrast Te Whariki and PYP.
* Attend PYP professional development courses.

Professional Goal Number Two:
* Use digital technologies to explore the notion of 'international mindedness'.

My experience with digital technologies in early childhood education has held me in good stead in my new working environment. There are numerous technologies available to us at TKS. I would like to combine my passion/interest in digital technologies with the IB placed importance on International Mindedness and take full advantage of today's technologies.

Possible actions:
* Interrogate my own understanding of International Mindedness
* Look at ways to use technologies to enhance this aspect of my class programme.

Keep posted to see how this journey unravels.