11 June 2014

Documentation - Transforming our Perspective

Following on from my post yesterday here is a video entitled "Documentation: Transforming our Perspective".

Documentation: Transforming Our Perspective from Melissa Rivard on Vimeo.

My takeaways from this video are:

* Share, review, exhibit documentation.
* It's always a work in progress
* Documentation is complex.
* Good documentation should modify your image of the child.
* Documentation should be co-created with families.
* Documentation is not just important at the end of the process, rather during the process.
* Challenge the theory and reconceptualise practice.
* Compare ideas and exchange perspectives.

09 June 2014

IB PYP - Reflection on Assessment in the Early Years workshop.

TKS is an IB School. The program we deliver is the Primary Years Program. This year I was determined to get my head around the IB PYP curriculum and become more familiar with the jargon, systems, assessments and ways of doing. I completed three workshops this year and as always had a few takeaways that I could take back to my classroom. I must say though, I feel absolutely privileged to have started my teaching career and study in NZ. We are pretty awesome when it comes to Education on a Global scale. I have found, due to the strong grounding in Te Whariki and the easy access to high quality PD I am confident when it comes to transferring these skills internationally.

The first workshop I participated in online was the "Assessment in the Early Years". This was interesting and vital for me to get an idea of the framework of PYP, get my head around the jargon and become familiar with the systems, planning and assessment.

Here are my takeaways:
* Use video and audio to help with assessments.
* Check in with Sample Planners like the exemplar here to give you ideas for bubble planner, especially if you are new to PYP.
* What is the purpose of assessment? - get this right as a school/class/teacher so there is a clear goal in mind.
* Unpack what is useful to know, in this case I was inspired to assess/document children displaying the Learner Profile and the PYP attitudes.
* Listen to children/be fully present.
* I introduced the "Notice, Recognise, Respond" concept to the group, a strategy that I learned in NZ from workshops on learning stories. Use stickies to document what you 'notice' about children's learning, recognise the threads of interest and learning and respond to these.
* Each week my teaching team (Teaching assistant and Student teacher) would sit and reflect on every child in our classroom, we would think about how they were for the week, things that we noticed or needed to work on. We would then use this information to plan for the coming weeks.

I got some very positive feedback from participants, this one though was very affirming:

08 June 2014

15 Books that make you a better teacher...

Perhaps the most common factor for all "amazing" teachers is that they never, ever stop learning. Great teachers are addicted to learning, they love learning new things and sharpening their craft.

I recently stumbled on Antwuan Sargent's list "15 Books that make you a better teacher...". There are a couple that I have read before but so many I haven't. I'm a teacher addicted to learning so am looking forward to getting my head into these over the summer vacation. Keep an eye out for reviews. Are there books you know of that are not in this list?

Children reflecting on their learning...

Early in the year I decided to create a book that documented learning for children in my classroom. Each week we would print photos of learning experiences that we participated in and glue them in to our book. I would write a little piece about what we were doing or ask children to describe what they were doing in the pictures. As the year went on I encouraged children to take leadership of this process - choosing the pictures, pasting and in some cases the writing. At the end of each week I would ask the students "What their favorite learning was?" or "What did you enjoy learning this week?" With over half of my class learning the English Language these were generally rephrased in a variety of ways.

There have been times at the end of the week where time was not on our side, so I simply asked them the following week and used images to provoke their thinking. I would usually sit with students when they were eating their snack so the questioning felt more like a conversation rather than an inquisition.

Things I learned from this process:

* What you think is significant learning may not be significant for your learners. Like visiting an awesome Visualisation Lab where you flew over the local mosque and looked at archaeological sites in Egypt in 3D - we actually did this!). That same week we introduced new baby dolls into the role play area. And guess which topped the list of reflections - not the Visualisation Lab! 
* Reflecting on your week of learning can be time consuming but it is so rewarding. The mismatch in our understanding of what children identified as learning and what was actually happening for them really did impact on our planning and our own reflections as teachers. It didn't deter us from what we thought would be a good experience for them e.g. trip to the Garden Centre or the local mosque but really made us stop and listen to the threads of learning that students picked up.
* "We're all growed up now" - In the last week of school I sat with students and flicked through the pages of our reflection journal - we noticed that children had left and joined our classroom, we noticed teachers had also left and joined our classroom (including student teachers), we noticed our different hairstyles and that we were all "growed up now".
* The reflection journal is also a "record of your teaching".  I flicked through the pages of this book so many times through the year and asked myself questions like "What things have I offered children this week?" "Are there gaps in the curriculum? e.g. Science", "what was my purpose or intention behind this experience?", "What did I notice?" and "Was there genuine and authentic joy?" 

I'm keen to try this again next year and want to take the questioning a bit deeper - perhaps adding questions like "How do you know you learned this?". I also realised that by asking children at the end of the week I was opening myself up for children to recall what had happened that day - and while I know PE was a favourite subject for most of my students, the fact that they also had this on a Thursday (the last day of our working week here) meant that this subject popped up time and time again in their 'favourite learning'.

Do you have any ideas on how I can improve this process for next year's class? I would love to hear your thoughts.