18 November 2015

They might have guns, but we have flowers - Angel Le

French father and son have the most precious conversation in interview about Paris attacks. I feel better too now, thanks!
A father and son have the most precious conversation during an interview by french media at the scene of the Bataclan attacks. I saw that it hadn't been subtitled in english yet, so I made a quick edit to show the rest of the world how freakin awesome some of our citizens are. They're my heros. I feel better too now! (Courtesy of Le Petit Journal) #paris #bataclan #parisattacksOriginal Segment: http://bit.ly/1Lix9L2Original Video (french): https://www.facebook.com/PetitJournalYannBarthes/videos/1013093998733798/
Posted by Jerome Isaac Rousseau on Monday, 16 November 2015

17 November 2015


In 2010, I went to my very first Tedx event in Auckland and learned about what I termed back then as "Korero through pictures". Korero means to talk (in Te Reo Maori, NZ's native language). You can read my thoughts here. Five years on I am seeing the notion of "sketchnotes" showing up in my Twitter Feed. This reminds me of a time back in 1998 when I was studying to be a teacher at Auckland College of Education and the lectures suggested reading up on note-taking back then I remember getting a book written by Tony Buzan on Mind Maps. So the new concept of sketchnotes is not so new after all but my twitter feed has prompted me to re-look at this method of taking notes.

Here is a video that I found (short enough for my attention span) that I watched to get an idea of "sketchnotes". I am about to walk into my next Post Graduate Diploma of Education (Literacy) paper this week and am hoping to have a handle on sketch notes by the end of the semester. Keep posted for updates. If you have any examples of sketch notes in education please feel free to share.

14 November 2015


The best in the world, started the way we all should. #KeepSportsFun #RugbyIsFUN #LetKidsBeKids
Posted by Atavus on Friday, 6 November 2015

13 November 2015

Two Billion Miles...

I have been inspired by The Read-Aloud Handbook by Tim Trelease and have started reading a chapter from The Clay Marble to my 10 year-old, 12 year-old and 14 year-old each night. In this story it discusses the journey of Cambodian refugees (among other relevant topics of discussion). I asked the kids to do some 'research' when they got home from school. My son came home and shared the Two Billion Miles website with me.  This website provided our family a great opportunity to discuss the heart-wrenching journeys many refugees take.  Let me know your thoughts on the website in the comments section below.

A key to conscious leadership...are you ready for coaching?

This video was sent to me by one of our School Counselors, and is timely as I start the explore the notion of "coaching readiness".  What are your thoughts on "coaching readiness"?

01 November 2015

Did you know?...2014 Remix...#shifthappens

We are living in a world of constant change...how do we best support our children to prepare for a world that is unknown to us?

I have reflected on my transition from a New Zealand Curriculum to the IB Curriculum here and in other places on my blog. I have had 4 of my own children participate in both curriculums. The IB Learner Profile, PYP Attitudes, Approaches to Learning, ACTION, Inquiry, learning about learning… the more and more I come to understand the IB, the more and more I believe it's making a difference.

What are your thoughts on this blog? Is the IB equipping children for their world?

30 October 2015

Tuesday Treats - Creating space for dialogue?

How do you create space for dialogue in your busy day?

I have been thinking about the difference between Dialogue and Discussion, there is a difference. So what is it? This article "The difference between debate, discussion and dialogue" sums up the difference beautifully.
Debate is combative and seeks to be victorious; it wants to express itself and say it is better than you. Discussion can be described as debate trying to play nice. Much like debate, it is interested in advocating its view points and challenging those of others.Dialogue, on the other hand, seeks to find a shared connection. It is not concerned with winning or losing, rather it aspires to listen more deeply, understand more fully, and build a collective point of view. When the diversity of personality and opinion present moments of conflict and tension, dialogue steps in and mediates the conversation back to a renewed sense of connection.Read more: The difference between debate, discussion and dialogue 
In my new role as Pedagogical Coordinator (yes that is quite a title) I have been exploring ways to create space for teachers to come together to dialogue. Teachers are very busy human beings, there is no doubt about that, so I created an afternoon where we could come together, enjoy a treat (usually something that is gluten-free, egg-free, dairy free like this), coffee and a shared purpose. I jpicked articles based on teachers professional inquiries and invited people to join (see image below). So far we have enjoyed two Tuesday Treats afternoons using the Final Word strategy.  I have yet to seek feedback on the usefulness of the strategy or the afternoons, but I am hoping to facilitate slow-think time for busy teachers.

Coaching strategies: Final-Word Strategy

Final Word Strategy
  1. Everyone reads the article individually and highlights sentences, phrases that they find interesting. 
  2. Person 1 reads one of their highlighted sections without comment
  3. Each other person in the group comments in round-robin order about that section without interruption or comment or cross-talk from the others
  4. Person 1 who named the item in (2) then paraphrases the trends and key ideas then has the ‘final word’ by sharing their thinking about the item.
  5. The pattern repeats until all team members have read out one of their highlighted sections and had it commented on by the rest of the group.

02 October 2015

Where are you a local?

While I am not an expert in the International Schooling scene (yet), this video resonates with me. I spent most of my life in South Auckland, New Zealand. Anyone from New Zealand will understand that this is quite a different city to Dunedin, New Zealand. My family and I are currently living in a small gated community in Saudi Arabia. Our community is not really a true reflection of the 'real' Saudi Arabia and it takes some actual effort to get amongst the true essence of being a local here.

However, this video prompts me to think about the children at our international/community school. Taiye Selasi urges us to think beyond - where are you from to "where are you a local?". Many of the children in our school have affiliations with 2-3 places - how many places do you think they will be locals in by the time they are 18 years old? This certainly is food for thought....

Where are you a local?

11 April 2015

What they said...Part 2

In my attempt to create a centralised place for all of the interesting links I find on my cyber travels I have started a What they said... series. What they said Part 1 can be found here. This series will give me an opportunity to think and reflect on some of the interesting articles I come across.

Risk in childhood

The age of bubble-wrap, cotton-wool, that's dangerous childhood is upon us. This article suggest five ways we can gift children more risk in their play. I use the term gift (not the author) because in this day in age of less tree climbing, more soft fall and plastic contraptions it truly is a gift to have a childhood that allows risk. Lauren Knight suggests the following:

* Teach your child to use real tools
* Back off at the playground
* Allow for some freedom
* Climb trees
* Allow for open-ended play.

During my Nature Kindergarten experience at Play and Learn in New Zealand, my long time friend and mentor (also long time boss) Jan would say "the biggest risk is not risk at all". Children learn through experience, they learn to manoeuvre, adapt, think, wait, push, dig deep through lived experiences. What kind of adults will we have should they experience no risk or grit in their childhood?

Leading for growth

I have a new lens when cyber walking. in August 2015 I will assume a new role as Pedagogical Co-ordinator in K2 at TKS. This position is partly about supporting teachers with curriculum and professional practices. So may posts have caught my eye and challenged me to think about the opportunity I have to support, mentor and learn from my colleges. This post caught my attention, actually the whole article did - rather than post the whole article here (because it is so good I really want to do that) I will highlight the sentences that resonate with me.

Great leaders don’t spend time trying to change people. They spend their energy creating the conditions in which people want to change.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman  
“It’s unreasonable to ask a professional to change much more than 10% a year, but it’s unprofessional to change by much less than 10% a year.” - Steven Leinwand

Following on from the what good leaders do came this post from Edna @ WhatEdSaid. A brilliant summary of her experience with coaching and her takeaways (see below).

Edna writes ...
I’ve already learned..
  • to talk less
  • to listen more
  • to craft purposeful questions
  • the value of collaborative reflection
  • to see things through the eyes of the teacher being coached
  • that teachers’ goals shift and grow as they see evidence of change in themselves and their learners
  • the value of protected time for teachers to reflect and talk about their practice
  • that positive relationships contribute to effective coaching
  • that effective coaching builds positive relationships
  • that teachers’ observations of their own practice are even more powerful than observations by others
  • that some teachers are happy to share the process of their growth, not just with other teachers, but with their students too
  • that, even in the early stages, coaching can make a dramatic difference to teaching and learning
  • that instigating change requires trying something different
  • that self-directed learning is the most powerful kind there is
  • the power of using data (about yourself as well as your learners) to inform teaching and learning…

The items that resonate with me the most are 'talk less, listen more' I have been trying this with my class at the moment and I'm really looking forward to this next year. The other item is the notion of 'relationship', these are fundamental to any partnership and I really want to prioritise this in my work next year.

04 April 2015

What I am learning from Louisa Moats...

If you have been following my blog you will know that I am studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Literacy Education. I am currently in the midst of a Foundations to Literacy paper. My thoughts on literacy in the Early Years can be found here.

Our first text that has been assigned is Speech to Print: Language Essential for teachers. A member from the class posted links to videos of the author in our forum. There are a plethora of great videos  available from Reading Rockets website and Louisa Moats Youtube channel that highlight Dr. Moats key ideas. Take a look at the highlight quotes for me below.

The most common confusion is that if the alphabet is taught that is phonemic awareness or if just rhyming and alliteration is taught that is enough phonemic awareness...until we spend time making sure that children are attaching the letters to these speech sounds to words the phonics instruction doesn't work well.
Most people will confuse the idea of a letter with the idea of a sound because we have 26 letters and 40-46 speech sounds...
The large majority of poor readers at the upper grades never got phonics or phonemic awareness instruction. Intervention programs that put a strong emphasis on these basic underlying skills in the beginning are more effective than programs that just emphasise vocabulary and comprehension.

Tim Brown on Creativity and Play

Forbidden Education

31 March 2015

What they said....Part 1

I am an avid reader of blogs, facebook feeds and twitter feeds. I have had so many awesome things come through my inbox and feeds recently it's time I start chewing these over, digesting them and thinking about the ever important question in my life "So what?".

This post from Solid Ground talks about traditional reports and argues that we may not need them anymore - especially with the  technology advancements in technology. A blog? a website? even a printed out record of in school learning provide a better picture of a child's learning more than any report can. It comes down to being brave enough to make that change I think...

Why play-based learning? by Early Childhood Australia

All really good points and perhaps the following definition offers us a clearer guideline.

Defining ‘play’While there is no one definition of play, there are a number of agreed characteristics that describe play. Play can be described as:
  • pleasurable-play is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. Play sometimes includes frustrations, challenges and fears; however enjoyment is a key feature
  • symbolic-play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if?’ quality. The play has meaning to the player that is often not evident to the educator
  • active-play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or the environment
  • voluntary-play is freely chosen. However, players can also be invited or prompted to play
  • process oriented-play is a means unto itself and players may not have an end or goal in sight
  • self motivating-play is considered its own reward to the player (Shipley, 2008)

Play is NOT organised activities...

Great easy read and perhaps something that should be sent to any new teacher starting a new school (regardless of the amount of years experience they have). In my new role as Pedagogical Leader next year I hope to work on ensuring new teachers are supported in their role. This article will hopefully keep me grounded.

Here are the key points from the article:

1. This will get better. 
2. Always work from the heart. 
3. They will remember this about you. 
4. Be open to surprises. 
5. Find a coach. 
6. And if you can't find a coach . . . 

Investigate their questions and build on what their interests are:

Thinking Big Extending Emergent Curriculum Projects

Long, extended periods of play is one of the greatest gifts I can give children....

Emergent Curriculum, Reggio, and Inquiry: Coming to Terms with Terms

Diane Kashin gives a comprehensive rundown of the common phrases: emergent curriculum, project based approach, play based learning and inquiry learning. Perhaps the most profound question in this article is:

"What is the image of the child?" and "how do I understand learning?" Your image of the child influences the day to day interactions and opportunities your children are afforded.  

19 March 2015

Reading and Writing in the Early Years and Research Fads

I keep saying this over and over again (in my head mostly) but I love my VLN (virtual learning network) and my RLN (real-life learning network)! Today I came across this tweet:

“@vango: Ditch the 4G and find your outdoor adventure #outdoors #camping http://t.co/FMgYMU5a4e”

I forwarded this to a few colleagues as we had just had a discussion about the role of technology in children's lives. One colleague sent a link to the article: A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World has forgotten about Children and Learning. 

So many things about this article resonated with me. I recently enrolled in a PostGraduate Diploma of Literacy Education. I am intrigued about the huge pressure placed on children in their very early years of life to read and write. Frankly, I don't think they need to formally read and write til at least 6 years old but more often than not early childhood teachers feel the pressure to introduce reading and writing to children early. I am an advocate for play and for childhood and am on a journey to understand what the research says about language/literacy learning.

These paragraphs stood out to me:

In the modern world, unless you learn to read by age 4, you are no longer free to learn in this way. Now your learning process will be scientifically planned, controlled, monitored and measured by highly trained “experts” operating according to the best available “data.” If your learning style doesn’t fit this year’s theory, you will be humiliated, remediated, scrutinized, stigmatized, tested, and ultimately diagnosed and labelled as having a mild defect in your brain. 

How did you learn to use a computer? Did a friend help you? Did you read the manual? Did you just sit down and start playing around with it? Did you do a little bit of all of those things? Do you even remember? You just learned it, right?
So, now what? What can we do to ensure we are providing optimal learning environment for young children and what really is important to know at 4 years old?

17 March 2015

Cognitive Neuroscience approach to literacy in Mwandama, Malawi #CIES2015

Why good leaders make you feel safe

Next year I assume the role of Pedagogical Leader of K2. I've been reflecting on the role of a leader and wondering what makes a good one. This video provided me with some great food for thought.

16 March 2015

4MWT - March 2015

4-minute walk through (4MWT)

Teachers observing other classrooms in action in small groups followed by a guided conversation to promote personal reflection and inquiry.
Finding “gems” for you to use in your own classroom practice and using observations as a starting point for reflection and inquiry.

This morning my Collaborative Pod (4 teachers) enjoyed a 4minute walk through on of our colleagues classroom. This year TKS are focussing on professional practice and an open-door culture. Below are my reflections based on the 4MWT.

"So what's some of the learning you're having right now in thinking about the walkthrough and reflecting on data?"
The classroom was set up with lots of inviting learning engagements for children. As our current Unit of Inquiry is "How the World Works" there was a station looking at floating and sinking, a tape and tubes area and block play area set up as well. There was an indoor/outdoor flow with chilren accessing curriculum areas inside and outside.

When walking the walls I noticed the Units of Inquiry clearly displayed with photos and stories about learning that has been happening within the unit.

"So what might you want to apply in terms of your thinking around this walkthrough to your own practice?"
I was inspired by the tubes and tape area and have adopted this in my own classroom. Children have really enjoyed using push/pull/force/motion as part of their hands-on approach to learning about "How the World Works".

04 March 2015

Concept-Based learning

Update: This video and Chris Frosts thoughts can be found on his comprehensive blog here. Well worth a look and touches on thoughts I have had since coming to an IB School.

24 February 2015

4MWT - February 2014

4 minute walk throughs (4MWT)

Teachers observing other classrooms in action in small groups followed by a guided conversation to promote personal reflection and inquiry.
Finding “gems” for you to use in your own classroom practice and using observations as a starting point for reflection and inquiry.

This morning my Collaborative Pod (4 teachers) enjoyed a 4minute walk through our colleagues classroom. This year TKS are focussing on professional practice and an open-door culture. I absolutely love visiting other classrooms but have rarely prioritized this. Below are my reflections based on the 4MWT.

"So what's some of the learning you're having right now in thinking about the walkthrough and reflecting on data?"
It really is quite amazing how a 4-minute walkthrough can offer so much new learning. The particular person we visited always inspires me anyway so it was a refreshing visit.

* Visual Arts - I was inspired by the beautiful artwork on display in the room. I could see that most of this was inspired by great books.
* Literacy - There was a lot of evidence of literacy throughout the classroom e.g. Poems, songs, stories created by children.
* Indoor/Outdoor flow - just affirms for me that this is a great way for children to explore play-based learning in context. We saw a group outside the classroom playing with water and mixing with chalk. They were calm and thoroughly engaged.
* Challenges - In one area the teacher had set up little challenges for children i.e. Challenge: How tall can you build?
* Natural resource - Saudi Arabia is considered a country with endless sweeping desert land. This teacher has made every effort to offer all sorts of beautiful natural resources for children to use in their play.

"So what might you want to apply in terms of your thinking around this walkthrough to your own practice?"
Use stories to provoke/inspire Visual Arts in young children.

13 February 2015

Literacy Learning Update #3

What’s happened? ( successes & breakthroughs)

Reading aloud to children - Our class goal to read at least three books a day to children is going reasonably well. Some days we manage to read at least 5 and then other days we read only two books. My Assistant teacher and I are always thinking about the possibilities for reading stories to our class. She reads 2-3 Arabic language stories to our class a week and we have seen a remarkable difference in our Arabic language speakers attention during story time. While it may seem common sense that reading Arabic language stories to Arabic Native speakers is a great idea, up until now I haven't formalized this as a routine in our classroom. Thankfully we have now and we have been enjoying hearing our non-Arabic speakers playing with the Arabic language. 

We are continually discussing the books that we think have hooked children in. Here are a few that have got our class hooked and because we've read them so much we've been able to play with the idea of speech marks, exclamation marks and rhyming. We've developed a great relationship with our school librarian who has been vital in keeping us stocked with great books in our classroom. Steven L. Layne (Igniting a passion for reading) writes about the importance of having a strong relationship with your librarian and that they are key to moving children from aliterate to literate.

Engaging and motivating boys in literacy learning engagements
Over the past two weeks we've made many attempts to hook boys into literacy activities. Focussing on aspects of specific aspects of  my practice (action research) has allowed me to go deeper into particular areas. In my attempt to engage boys in storytelling I printed a few 'popular culture' images from the Internet - Frozen and Ninja Turtle characters. Together as a group we wrote our own story, taking turns to add to each page. This went incredibly well for all learners in the classroom and we have chosen to read this story to children frequently through the week. For our next learning engagements I will probably do this in small groups and come up with some other ways to get ALL learners hooked in.


Hedges, H. (2011). Rethinking Sponge Bob and Ninja Turtles: Popular Culture as Funds of Knowledge for Curriculum Co-Construction. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(1), 25-29. 

Vera, D. (2011). Using Popular Culture Print to Increase Emergent Literacy Skills in One High-Poverty Urban School District. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(3), 307-330. 

Perceptual Motor Program
Many years ago I organised a workshop facilitated by Robyn Cox (Get Ready for School) and another one a year later by Louise Dempsey. I am also an avid reader of Gill Connells Moving Smart blog. All of these wonderful ladies have dedicated their life's work to advocating for the importance of movement. This week my Collaborative pod have started to implement some of the Perceptual Motor Program stations into our weekly routine using this "Perceptual Motor activities for Children" resource written by Jill Johnstone and Molly Ramon. You can see examples of our stations here. Our hope is that we can concentrate on the physical skills that will support children in their cognitive learning.

What’s not happening? ( challenges & frustrations )
Setting up literacy learning engagements up outside of the classroom can be difficult - especially on days where there is a huge amount of dust, or it is stifling hot or the wind moves everything. I have set up an engagement every day and now feeling like I am running out of ideas. With so much going on in my day I am struggling to get ahead of planning the outdoor learning environments. Perhaps its time to take a look at Pinterest for some inspiration.

What am I going to do to influence those things which aren’t happening? ( next actions )

Over the next 2 weeks, I will:

(1) Try creating individual books for popular culture story writing e.g. ninja turtle stories.
(2) Have a look at Pinterest for some outdoor literacy learning engagements.
(3) Find Ninja turtle/Transformer story books in the library.

Perceptual Motor Program

It's common knowledge that physical activity is good for health, well-being and academic learning. So often we get caught up with the doing of literacy that we forget about the pre-literacy. In the pre-writing phase children are required to have strong arm, gross-motor and fine-motor movements. it all helps with well-rounded children.

This week my Collaborative Pod (small team) are looking at Perceptual Motor Programme. This week we've started with 4 activities. Watch this space for my reflections....

27 January 2015

Music and Literacy

If you've been following my blog you'll know I'm in a Literacy frame of mind. I'm studying towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Literacy Education. My eyes, ears and heart tune in when there is a whisper of literacy. I am fortunate to be a part of this fantastic collaborative group on Facebook - NZ Teachers (Primary). Somebody posed a simple question a few days ago: 
Any recommendations for popular songs the whole school can sing?  thanks!
Within a few hours a collaborative Google Slide was created with 30+ slides of great songs to sing - on each slide a link to a Youtube video with lyrics (Technology never ceases to amaze me).

In my classroom, we spend 10-15 minutes every morning enjoying "Morning Moves" with another classroom. A series of songs that get children up and moving and singing. You can find a sample of a typical morning moves session here.

I've been reading an article entitled "Music and Literacy". This particular quote sums up what I think about the importance of music and movement in the EarlyYears:
The last two decades have seen an explosion of research concerning the effects of musical training on brain development: how it creates new neural networks, strengthens existing ones, and strengthens the synaptic connections. All the research supports the notion that early music training can be a critical component in the development of verbal, reading, comprehension, mathematical, and spatial-temporal reasoning skills in children, thus providing solid evidence for fully integrating music as a core component of early childhood education.
We prioritise music in our day by dedicating 10-15 minutes to Morning Moves. Knowing what we know about the importance of Music I wonder how else I can incorporate this into my daily programme. Any ideas greatly appreciated.

Telesco, P. J. (2010). "Music and Early Literacy." Forum on Public Policy Online 2010(5).

25 January 2015

King Abdullah's Vision...

On Friday morning we woke to the devastating news of King Abdullah's passing. Regardless of what people think of him beyond the shores of Saudi Arabia, he was a great man with a great vision for his people. Having acquired many Saudi friends, the pain and shock rippled through me and I was confronted with the reality of this significant but tragic event. 

My family and I have had the pleasure of working towards his vision for nearly two years and have enjoyed the fruits of what he wants to achieve for his people. We have a good life here and I have changed personally and professionally as a result of our time here.

I have made lifelong friends who are Saudi Muslims and I have been honored to learn about their life, their views, their values and their religion. 

See below to learn more about King Abdullah's Vision. 


Message from the King The Holy Quran states, "Say thou how would those who know would be equal to those who do not know?" This sound principle exalts the place of knowledge as the ultimate tool for enlightenment and exhorts all human beings to gain knowledge.

The Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) also said, "The most righteous of people is the one who brings the greater good to the community." Because of this, the most beneficial of all deeds is one that continues to bear fruit for generations to come. Waqf(endowment) has been an essential component in the building of Islamic civilization. 

Wishing to rekindle and spread the great and noble virtue of learning that has marked the Arab and Muslim worlds in earlier times, I am establishing King Abdullah University of Science and Technology on the Red Sea in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

As a new "House of Wisdom," the University shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and benefit all the peoples of the world in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Quran, which explains that God created mankind in order for us to come to know each other. 

It is my desire that this new University become one of the world's great institutions of research; that it educate and train future generations of scientists, engineers and technologists; and that it foster, on the basis of merit and excellence, collaboration and cooperation with other great research universities and the private sector. 

The University shall have all the resources that it needs to pursue these goals. A perpetual waqf (endowment) is being established and shall be managed for its benefit by an independent Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees shall embody wise and responsible governance in support of the spirit of creativity that the University represents. 

The coastal locale of the University is an area of great natural beauty and cultural significance. In its design, construction and operations the University will conserve natural resources and demonstrate by precept and example the value of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Since universities striving for excellence depend on an atmosphere of exploration and initiative, nurturing and protecting freedom of research, thought and discourse related to scholarly work will be among the primary objectives of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. 

Our intention is to create an enduring model for advanced education and scientific research. A complete residential and academic compound will permit the faculty, staff, students, associates and their families to enjoy a rich and broad range of educational programs and social amenities. In providing a strong foundation for all aspects of life and work in the University, we aim to ensure its success in promoting the economic development and social prosperity of the people of the Kingdom and of the world. 

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Original source here http://www.kaust.edu.sa/message_from_the_king.html


ABDULLAH: A King's Legacy from SACM on Vimeo.

20 January 2015

Literacy Learning Update #2

If you've been following my blog you will know that I am on a journey, one of many this year. You can read about my literacy journey here and take a glimpse into my classroom here.

So todays post is an update...

What's happened?
SUCCESSES/BREAKTHROUGHS - Evaluation of how and why?
There are ample opportunities to read, write and talk in my classroom. Children are encouraged to talk to each other all day every day - except for when I'm reading (although questioning is encouraged).  I'm not a teacher who asks children to be quiet while walking to single subject classes or while 'lining' up to head outside or morning moves. Talking in my opinion is a vital way of learning a language - we've got to use it! 

We sing and i make up funny rhymes when I am instructing children to do things. The classroom routines have been established so there is little guidance or direction from me - I mention to the children we have morning moves and they organise themselves to get to the shared space where morning moves is held. I say "let's do some journal writing" and they get their journal, pens, pencils etc. I do little to no explicit teaching of writing/reading or talking. Instead I provide lots of opportunities to engage with resources (emergent literacy) and make many attempts in a day to personally have conversations with children.

What's not happening?
I have come across a range of interesting ideas about literacy on Twitter, Blogs and Facebook. Perhaps the most profound that pops up time and time again is the importance and impact of reading on children's academic success. The image below has come through on my Twitter feed numerous times. 

I can (and do) advocate to families the importance of reading at home. However, I would like to take responsibility for this in my classroom too. My assistant teacher and I read on average 1-2 books a day (to the whole class, maybe more to individual children), sometimes I don't prioritise reading instead I tidy or arrange things in the classroom, or I play group games or when children are having a snack instead of reading to them I complete administrative tasks (emails and attendance). While these are all important, I'm starting to realise that most of these can be achieved in other ways or at a different time of the day.

So what's not happening? I am not prioritising reading aloud to children EVERYDAY.

The other thing that doesn't happen as much as I would like it to is the motivation of boys engaging in literacy-rich experiences. My class (boys) happily do the routine type activities - sign their name in, journal writing, identifying names etc. But generally they do not want to self-regulate reading and writing in the classroom.

So what's not happening? The boys in my class are not engaging in self-regulated literacy experiences or the boys in my class are not motivated to engage in emergent literacy opportunities.

What am I going to do to influence what is not happening? (Over the next one week I will)

Reading Aloud to Children
Based on what I now know about reading and the importance of reading TO children I am inspired to complete a February challenge. Every day I will find an opportunity to read 3 books to my class and record these on my calendar. This will keep me accountable and make me prioritise reading in our day. Of course some of these stories will be repeated depending on the interest of the class but my hope is that reading to children frequently will become a habit in our classroom. My awesome Assistant teacher will continue to contribute by reading in English and Arabic to our group of learners as well.

Motivating Boys
I read this article - Brilliant ideas for your writing area and was inspired to change a few things in my classroom. The article suggests that we get rid of writing areas and create writing provocations everywhere. As a result of reading this I set up a reading tent outside in the playground, I placed a mat, cushions and books and waited for an invitation to read to kids. On the first day of setting this area up in the outdoor area, one of my most active boys in the class sat and listened to 8 stories - yes 8. Fantastic result. Now I need to explore ways to have other children involve themselves and enjoy emergent reading and writing in all curriculum areas.

How many books do you read to your whole class in a day? Please comment below.

16 January 2015

Critical Feedback Appreciated - PYP Early Years Documentation

What's happened?
My last PYP reflections post prompted me to explore beyond my current educational setting and seek feedback on my inquiry cycle and PYP documentation. I have used our TKS Inquiry Cycle, and the my pre-, formative and summative assessments to write a story about our learning within the Transdisciplinary Theme of "How We Organize Ourselves". I have posted my request for critical feedback in a number of online spaces, and thankfully a few people were willing to help me out over the Winter Break.

Here is an example of my documentation write up resized to A3 for children and families to revisit their learning journey(over two months of experiences). I sent copies of these to my critical friends and received some great feedback from them:

Feedback 1: Documentation shows the process of research and the thinking processes of the children. I particularly love the conversation about the water pipe and the proposal for swings. I wonder what is so special about swings and would have loved to hear the children's perspectives on this. I am also interested in the other proposals and think it give insight in the children's ideas of what is needed (toy shop, candy store and store to buy strollers and the playground with swings). It shows that their ideas mostly come from what they think children need within their community.

Feedback 2: I have been looking at your documentation and think its good - who do you do this for? I liked the fact that you went off task so to speak and looked at swings and proposed to get some that's some nice action and i also like the construction idea of recreating the school. Role is always a great provocation too.

What’s not happening? ( challenges & frustrations )
Things to work on based on critical friend feedback:
* You can focus your reflection on certain essential elements (and Learner profile attributes) or just one or two.
* Extend and honour all ideas of the process i.e. toy shop.
* Include more of the children's perspective (listen more, talk less).
* Think about the audience.
* How open is the inquiry?

What am I going to do to influence those things which aren’t happening? (next actions)
After attending Traces of Learning: Documenting young children's learning workshop in Thailand with Fiona Zinn I was inspired to use more pedagogical documentation to make learning visible to children and their families. Part of me thinks that my teaching practices are made visible too. Formative assessment decisions are made every second of every day and by documenting these I am also reflecting on my teaching decisions. Although admittedly, I am very open to the fact that I fail in these decisions regularly.

My goal over the next few weeks will be to look at how I document the next UOI. How can I make children's ideas and inquiries more visible in my documentation?