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?