24 August 2013

Choose a job you love.....

Teacher Tom has delivered yet another inspiring post influenced by the Sand Dancer. Halfway across the world Teacher Tom (originally from Seattle, Washington) spotted the Sand Dancer on a beach in Christchurch. Sadly, it wasn't until I read this blog post did I learn of the Sand Dancer. Theneaeo TT shared got me thinking as I prepare for a new year of teaching a new group of children and prompted me to remember the following quote:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 
― Confucius

As my mind swirls with all the wonderful experiences I want to offer the children this year. I am mindful of the challenge of learning a new curriculum (PYP) and the implementation of PMP - Performance Management Programme (refer to this post). I am determined to teach with this quote as my focus and not be bogged down by performance pay. I'm going to teach, learn and explore with joy.

23 August 2013

25 Classroom Hacks

Well isn't that ironic! I just posted a link to 99 Life Hacks to make your life easier.  With a few of my favorite hacks from the list. I alluded to the fact that I would really like to compile a list of classroom hacks. Not even an hour later and I come across a website with 25 Classroom Hacks.  Here are a few of my favorites from this list below:

Remind101 App
You can text families without exchanging numbers. I definitely would like to try this, as one of my goals this year is to really engage families in my classroom curriculum. Easy communication is a great start. NOT AVAILABLE IN SAUDI ARABIA OR NEW ZEALAND YET BUT POSTING HERE BECAUSE IM HOPEFUL ONE DAY IT WILL BE.

Printing with Post-Its

A reading fair

I'm not sure how it will work with my 4-5 year olds. But I'm really excited about the idea of bringing books to life this year - out of the book and into all sorts of other curriculum areas. Original ideas sourced from MommyCracked.

Mission 31

Last month I blogged about signing up for Skype in the Classroom. Since then I have received a number of emails from various people offering their services to my class. **Cue excitement** I've been contacted by an author, a retired teacher and a scientist.  I've signed the classroom up for Mystery Skype as well where classrooms ask each other questions and from the answers children guess where in the world the other class is.

This morning I received another email from Skype in the Classroom.

Exploring Oceans: dive into a sea of knowledge with Skype this November
Skype in the classroom has partnered with Fabien Cousteau's Mission 31 to bring sea turtles, sharks and ships into your classroom via Skype. We've revealed the first batch of free Skype lessons with special marine experts on our site, with more to come very soon. Click here to book your ocean-themed lesson for November.

I am incredibly excited about these Skype lessons. TKS is located right on the Red Sea with opportunities to go snorkeling on a regular basis and children have access to the beach and marina life. We can easily organise excursions to the beach as a classroom trip. And I can already see links with our Unit of Inquiry - "Communication". When we look at the PYP document and think about the importance of the curriculum being - 'engaging, relevant, significant and challenging' I am looking forward to linking the relevance of Mission 31 to our school community.

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier...

So the "99 Life Hacks to make your life easier" web page has been flying around for sometime now. Here a few of my favorite hacks. This year I'm going to try and develop a list of classroom hacks....do you have any images of tips and tricks in the classroom?

17 August 2013

Is it Authentic?

On a recent trip to the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah my family and I accidentally found a New Zealand Natural Ice Cream parlor. I say accidentally because we found this shop on the bottom floor of the Mall next to shops we never knew existed. When you are living overseas you really appreciate the simple things that remind you of home and we were very excited about our find.  Initially, we were slightly skeptical because we've tasted food that can be purchased from home and it didn't taste quite like we are used to.

My first thought:

Is it authentic? Dictionary.com suggests that authentic means not false or copied; genuine; real.

Yes it was! The ice-cream tasted exactly like the type we would get in New Zealand. There's something quite unique about New Zealand ice-cream especially in comparison to ice-cream in Saudi Arabia (and other countries). New Zealand ice-cream tastes full and creamy and the texture is smooth. This experience got me thinking about authenticity in the classroom. I've been reading up on the PYP Program of Inquiry, the curriculum approach I will be using in my role as Kindergarten Teacher at TKS.

I've come across a number of quotes that have jumped out at me, resonated with my personal philosophy of teaching and very close to what I hold dear in my teaching practice. The most challenging thing I have had to get used to in my new International Teaching context is the break up of the day. The children have single-subject classes. They have two sessions a week outside out my classroom and attend another class such as Arabic, Islamic Studies, Physical Education, Performing Arts, Library and possibly Art.  How wonderful to have a teacher who is passionate about Performing Arts working with your class and sharing with them the important aspects of their subject. The only thing I find difficult about this type of programme is the number of times I have to 'stop or interrupt' the child's play and the 'managing' of transitions.

At Play and Learn (where I worked for ten years) we really valued offering a programme that limited the interruptions to children's play sessions. Children were encouraged to engage in experiences that they were interested in, they had the choice to be inside or outside when they chose (even in the rain as long as they were dressed appropriately), they were encouraged to self-regulate their eating and sleeping habits. They ate when they were hungry and slept when they were tired (often monitored by adults by way of suggestion e.g. you look like you could use some energy, perhaps you should eat something) . Children were asked to take responsibility of their learning areas so when they had finished they were asked to tidy up. Teachers facilitated learning alongside them and observed children's interactions, very much like the quote below encourages us to do. In essence, the days were not formally structured - we did not stop for mat-time, lunch time or any other times.
"analyse the interactions within a group, discover the student's strengths and difficulties, and reflect on the effectiveness of the practices used to implement the programme of inquiry and other classroom experiences" - excerpt from Making the PYP Happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, p.47.
As I prepare for my new class and a new timetable of classes I have the notion of 'uninterrupted play' in mind. How can I make the most of opportunities to 'observe and discover children's strengths and difficulties' and how can I use these observations to inform my practice and curriculum. How can I ensure that my programme is authentic and conducive to their interests - not what I think their interests are? Here's to an interesting year ahead.

Ashton Kutchers' Speech

As mentioned in previous posts I'm a huge fan of storytelling. Ashton Kutcher's recent acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards is a good example of the power of storytelling. Ashton shared with the crowd and over 2 million viewers on YouTube (number of views on 16th August 2013, this video has gone viral) three simple rules to live by.

1. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work (Kutcher shared a story about working hard all is life and being grateful).
2. Be sexy - he related this to being smart, being thoughtful and being generous. He encouraged viewers to look past marketing, advertisements and what people/media were telling us 'sexy' was.
3. Build a life - don't just live it.

This speech for me is right up there with Ken Robinsons creativity speech, it moved me as a mother, as an educator, as a community member, as a wife. Yes!! Forget the stereotypes, forget what people say you should do and build your own life. This resonated with me in so many ways (I have discussed my thinking about building your own life before in another post).

My husband and I sat down with our four children and dissected and discussed what this meant for them. Our younger children hadn't quite picked up on the messages and giggled when the word 'sexy' was used. But we used this as an opportunity to explain to them the importance of hard work, goal setting and dreaming big. 

It's a beautiful day and I can't see it...

I'm a softie when it comes to emotional, inspirational, thought provoking movies. I enjoy videos with strong messages and  The video below is a classic example of a video that moves me.

The message that is shared at the end of the movie is:

Change your words, change your world

Take a look and see for yourself.

09 August 2013

Reflection before the year starts.

I'm using this blog to record my thoughts, musings and wonderings as I journey through teaching. We have just over a week before starting back at school and I have a raft ideas swirling through my head, things I want to try, explore and figure out through the year. 

Long ago when I was studying towards my Masters of Education I explored the notion of hypertext and hypermedia - a new literacy/digital literacy. Have you ever gone on to a website, clicked on something that caught your eye and found yourself moments later on a page you never actually intended on reading but find yourself there anyway? That's what happened to me, I came across the Education Review Office website and found a National Report Summary looking at the Priorities for Children’s Learning in Early Childhood Services (May 2013). As this is written for the New Zealand educational context there is reference to Te Whariki (New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum). What intrigued me about this brief summary was questions they posed for for early childhood centres to use in reflecting on their priorities for learning.  While my teaching journey has bought me to the other side of the world, the points they have made in this summary apply to my wonderings as I prepare for a new set of children and set goals for myself for the year.

Priorities for children’s learning -  (Copied from ero.govt.nz)

When we are looking at identified priorities for learning, obviously as TKS are an IB School (International Baccalaureate) our focus will be on implementing the PYP (Primary Years programme) and ensuring this is at the root of all decisions made in the classroom. I would like to ensure that my small team of three look at what our identified priorities for learning are for our classroom based on children's personalities, strengths and interests and taking into consideration the aspirations of their families.
  • To what extent is our self review ongoing and responsive to identified priorities for learning?

    I'm very keen to look at implementing Action Research as a form of self review in my classroom this year. I will have a Student Teacher and a Teaching Assistant so I'm looking forward to getting three different perspectives in our class and looking at evidence-based practice. I would like reviewing and reflection to be an integral part of our practice.

  • To what extent are our identified priorities for learning evident in our curriculum design and implementation?

    This leads on from the last point. How will I design the curriculum? Are our practices and implementation of this curriculum aligned with our priorities for learning?

  • To what extent is children’s progress towards meeting our identified priorities for learning evident in assessment?

    Progress - it seems to me that the best way to evidence progress is though the student portfolios. How do we keep a balance between over documentation, steer well away from documenting for the sake of it and documenting so that progress is evident?

  • To what extent does our assessment information show that we recognise and respond to the different cultures, ages and interests of children in our service, and lead to positive outcomes for them?

    The PYP document talks about ensuring that your curriculum is significant, challenging, engaging and relevant. This will be my biggest challenge with such a diverse group of learners from a range of cultural backgrounds. I'm looking forward to this challenge and would like to really unpack this terminology. What does significant, challenging, engaging and relevant mean for us at TKS in the context of our community and the wider city?

  • To what extent is children’s learning in relation to our identified priorities visible to parents, whānau, and children in our assessment?

    Making Learning Visible has been a passion of mine from very early on in my teaching career. Mostly because I have afforded and implemented strong values about the importance of 'learning through play'. I have had to really ensure that parents understood the value of playing in the sandpit, physical play and other 'non-structured' experiences provided.

    With todays pressures on younger children to perform academically it's even more important to ensure the play-based philosophy is made visible. I am not an advocate for hot housing or formal literacy activities - instead I enjoy 'noticing, recognising and responding' to children's interests so that their is depth to their learning and they are engaging in the experiences because they are curious and intrinsically motivated. I'm confident with making learning visible and look forward to sharing children's learning with families through our class website and email. 
    Although this year, I'd like to look deeper at parent engagement and explore meaningful ways for parents and families to contribute to assessments that make a difference to their child's learning.

Watch this space for more musings and my thought processes during what will be an exciting year of learning for us all.

08 August 2013

Storytelling through animation.

I've finally purchased a webcam that syncs with I Can Animate on my Macbook Pro. This has been a two year adventure. With the change of firewire ports and many if not all of the newest video cameras operating through USB and or SD cards, and the iSight cameras discontinued it has been somewhat difficult to find a reasonably priced camera that I can use with the newer Macbook Pro, that is robust enough to use with my 4 and 5 year olds in my classroom. I finally found and ordered one though (looks very much like an iSight camera and plugs into a USB port - hooray). So now that I have the camera organised for my new class in the next academic year, I'm looking forward to using this as a digital storytelling tool in my classroom.

Back in 2010 my own children and I explored animation using a raft of resources around the house, you can see the post here. In my role as ICT Facilitator working alongside Onehunga-Cuthbert Kindergarten we explored the notion of digital storytelling. (One of my many passions with reflections/blogposts here, here, here, here and here). Onehunga-Cuthbert Kindergarten were showcased on the New Zealand Ministry of Education Website spotlighting their work with animation and the power of this medium for storytelling - you can see Cassidy's digital story here.

As we are on Summer Vacation here is Saudi Arabia I gave the camera and computer to my own children once again to figure out how to use the tools. My youngest daughter was the first to give this a go, and created this mini-video:

After, the exploring side of the software and camera were sorted. The older children in our family decided to take it to another level:

I can't wait to use this process with the children in my class next academic year, it takes a whole lot of concentration and may take days or months to complete a project. I'm looking forward to exploring this longitudinal process with children. In today's society, we often expect/demand instant results - you can go and buy a meal and have it ready in 5 minutes. I'm going to be looking at extending projects with children over a number of days, weeks and months so that we can work past the expectation of instant gratification. Perhaps the long lost value of patience will rear it's head in our classroom.

Download the FREE Trial of Animate IT! and try this software for yourself.

03 August 2013

Like magic - the information comes to you.

If you are an avid reader of online websites or blogs you will have noticed the RSS image above lingering in various places. Early on in my role as ICT Facilitator for CORE Education (back in 2006) I learned about RSS and the revolutionary way it changed how we access information.

Lee Le Fever over at Commoncraft produced a simple video that shares how the power of RSS works, and ever since then I have let the personalised information come to me.

Watch the video here

Unfortunately the Reader he refers to in this video is no longer available (Google shut this down on July 1st, 2013) but there are a number of other RSS readers that you can use on your iPad, iPhone, iPod and Computer.

I have used Net News Wire for many years, and with the new BETA version will continue to use this app. I can access my RSS feeds using this app on my computer. There are a number of reasons why I prefer this app:

  • Clean interface.
  • No distractions while reading - pure content rather than loud advertisements or cutesy backgrounds (personal choice).
  • RSS Feeds can be organised into folders
  • Looks like my email browser and lets me know how many unread posts I have.
What are some of your must-read blogs that you can have delivered to you like magic?