Saturday, January 20, 2018

Beginning a new school year.....

Beginning Teaching - some practical advice to start the year

Teaching is one profession where there is no shallow end.
 From day one you are presented with up to thirty plus young individuals for you to shape into a learning community; and every class community will be different. Even experienced teachers have
No shallow end for new teachers.
second thoughts about starting a new class .
This blog shares some ideas to select from..

Teachers need to negotiate with their students as much as possible to ensure empowerment or a sense of ownership and then to hold students to completing what they have agreed to do to develop a sense of responsibility.

First read this  excellent advice to make a shiny happy classroom!
Another link for new teachers
The challenge for teachers is to think up ways to tap into their students innate sense of curiosity. of curiosity. Educationalist Jerome Bruner has written that teaching is ‘the canny art of intellectual temptation.Thankfully students are easily trapped by their innate
curiosity if what is put in front of them appeals
The whole purpose of education is to help every learner develop a powerful learning identity, a strong sense of self,  a feeling of being a valued and worthwhile person. This involves the teacher really listening to their students’ questions, ideas and concerns. With such a vision in mind teachers can slowly, as students develop skill, pass greater responsibility to their students.
First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance. Dress well!
Develop a class treaty

Teachers will be planning their first few days now. Wondering about routines to establish and behaviours they want to establish.

 One good idea is to undertake a mini unit around the Treaty of Waitangi and use this as an opportunity to develop a class treaty outlining behaviors required of both students and the teacher.

An idea some teachers use is a letter to parents about your goals for the year - but if this is done it needs to be done with input from your team leader or principal. At least have something prepared to introduce yourself to your class . Students will be very curious to learn about their new teacher.
Catching an eel

Another  idea is to share with your class one of your holiday experiences and then get them to do the same.  They could 'mind-map' or list all the neat things they did and pick one to expand on. This activity will give you an idea of their writing and handwriting skills

If you do the above them students could add a drawing - one again get them to focus on exciting event.
Crossing the wire bridge

Learning to observe is an important and overlooked skill. You could bring in a simple leaf for the class to draw. This is an ideal means to encourage the class to work carefully - many children spoil work by rushing.

With the weather so great do some nature walks.

The first few days are a good time to assess your new classes attitudes towards areas of learning. Prepare a list of learning areas of aspects of learning and get  individual class members to indicate their attitudes towards items with a 1 to 5 scale - from 1 love it to 5 dislike it.. This would best be drawn up by all teachers. The results will give you an idea of areas you need to change for various individuals. Be interesting to use the same survey at the end of the year.  Do the survey with your class as if you were their age - and tell them how you have improved your attitudes since then - or areas you still want to improve.

If you know about the mindset research of Carol Dweck you could add to your survey  add : 

Well worth the read
1 Do you think were are born as smart as you are ever going to be ( 'brains' or sports ability) and there are some things you just can't do ? Or 

2 Do you think you can get better at anything if you try hard and practice? 

The first is a 'fixed mindset'.Low ability students get their lack of ability affirmed at school ( through ability grouping, national testing or streaming) and high achievers ( often girls) do not risk their status by new areas of learning becoming risk averse. Those with a 'growth mindset' just have a go at anything believing in effort and focused practice and see not succeeding as a challenge.This 'growth mindset' underpins the New Zealand Curriculum; ' have a go kids' 

An idea to work on is to  ensure your class appreciate your stance as a teacher - what you stand for as a teacher.
What are your strengths

Discuss with your class how they think they learn. Discuss with your class what they have learnt recently and how they went about it.

Take the opportunity to find out the range of talents class members bring to the class - and share the ideas about Multiple Intelligence of Howard Gardner.

A study based on sport
Personalizing learning is the ideal but the best way to get to the individual is by using group work. Most teachers use group work as part of their literacy and numeracy programmes but group work also works well for study ( inquiry) work as well.

(A link to some advice on classroom management )

Plan out a study unit to introduce to the class to introduce an inquiry approach to learning . The Treaty of Waitangi might be
Great mini study
one. Two good mini unit to make use of might be a study based on cicadas or a flax bush in flower.  Develop a model of inquiry teaching to make use of during the year.

The units above, or any idea you have chosen, will provide ideas to introduce as part of your language programme - and, if appropriate, maths as well.

Whatever is chosen it is worth helping students present their ideas well - and to encourage them to show gradual improvement  as the year unfolds. Encourage them to improve on their 'personal best' in all they do.
Teach simple layout skills

At first students may have little skill in presenting their work well but with time they will gain skill through your teaching ( if you think this is important) and as work is completed display it well. With time create a powerful learning environment.

All students buy a set of exercise books to begin the year. Some schools I know have reinvented these books as portfolios as they ought to show qualitative improvement (the Japanese call this continual small improvement 'kaizen'). The first days of school is the time to introduce students to this expectation. It is a good idea to
Simple powerful display
introduce them to simple graphic presentation ideas
. It is also a good idea to aim, by Easter, for all books to show improvement.In the schools that have developed their books as portfolios all books are sent home before parent interviews for their comments and later to discuss during interviews.

This last link provides a summary of the ideas presented above.

I appreciate that the ideas presented  above reflect my own teaching beliefs and as such  my advice is to take only ideas that make sense to you. I see the classroom as a community of young scientists and artists exploring ideas they want to learn more about - with an emphasis on the immediate environment. My emphasis is on inquiry learning with literary and numeracy as much as is possible seen as 'foundation skills'. I am not sure many school have the same emphasis.

Developing this learning community is the real challenge for any teacher. Good schools will provide structures,
organisations and curriculum guidance to assist but it always worth having ideas up your sleeve.

First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance.

It is worth keeping in mind that the New Zealand Curriculum has its vision for all students to be 'confident life long learners', for them to have the necessary key competencies to do so - to be 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'.
Advice for new teachers!

Have fun during your first week

A link to some quotes about learning to reflect on.

Good advice is regularly visit other classrooms to see what they are doing. They will be pleased to assist you and you will soon find teachers with experience and ideas to help - you need to 'seek, use and create your own knowledge' as it says in the NZ Curriculum.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A couple of activities to begin the school year - the Treaty of Waitangi and holiday fun

1 What was the best thing you did in the holidays?

It is a cliché about school that the first task teachers give their students is to write an essay about ‘What you did in the holidays’!
Few teachers today would think of doing such a thing. This is a shame because their students have just returned from having a range of experiences that they were fully involved in and that will remain with them for their lives.
We are the stories we tell about ourselves. Stories contribute to our identity and sense of self. What did you do in your holidays we ask others and most of us are happy to tell our stories to those who ask.
The best thing was...
The trouble comes when we are asked to write out such stories.
With clever teaching this needn’t be the case.
A simple process.
A simple process that many teachers have found useful is to ask their students to share orally in small groups what they got up to and /or to make list or ‘mind map’ of all the sorts of adventures they had. This works best if the teachers model one or two incidents from their own holiday experiences to illustrate that all that is required is a small memorable incident. Model your story: what happened, what you saw, how you felt and talk as if you were there. Make sure they understand what you want is a quality story – a lot about a little not a little about a lot.
After the students have the opportunity to share a few ideas get the students to choose one that would make great idea to share. Get them to imagine that they were back in the experience and
then to write what they were thinking at the time, what they saw and felt and what other said. The best writing is if what they write is much as if they talk. Encourage them to start with a powerful first sentence that attracts the reader and also to invent a heading for their story that doesn’t give the game away! After writing a draft they could share in small groups.
Over the next few days students could write out finished copies. Some may be able to use the word processor. Reluctant students, or very young children, might need their thoughts scribed by the teacher; the teacher asking questions and writing responses.
If an illustration is to be added the children need to understand the need to give such a drawing a real focus on the important aspect of their story. They might be able to import a digital photograph of the incident.
The work needs to be valued by the teachers . Perhaps a display of writing could be arranged with a suitable heading ‘Our holiday adventures.’
Value kids ' ideas
This writing for its own sake – to tell a personal story but as well such writing could well be the basis of real literacy – reading their own stories; being their own authors but most of all valuing their own sense of voice and identity.

This is all about helping students see the power of writing!

2 A lesson around Waitangi Day.

A wise teacher should take advantage of important events in New Zealand history such as the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
As the celebration comes early in the year it is a good opportunity to introduce the students to how they will be expected to learn in the class; how to work together to develop critical thinking; how
The Treaty
to value their own ideas; how to deepen their understandings and how to apply lessons learnt to their own class.

The message teachers need to give is that in all learning students need to follow up their own questions, to learn how to make use of whatever resources are available and, as a result of their efforts, to gain a deeper understanding.
Such a study could begin before the day and conclude the days following.
The first thing is to ask the students what important New Zealand event is happening over the
weekend. Some students will be aware of the Treaty
When the Treaty is in their minds the next thing is to ask them what they know about the Treaty.
This can be done individually, in small groups (that could report their combined ideas back to the class) or done as a whole class discussion (with the teacher writing up their thoughts).
From such activities the teacher can then help the class write up all their 'prior' knowledge, misunderstandings included. Older students could write out their own 'prior' ideas - when such ideas are read by the teacher the range of understandings will be apparent.
At this stage teachers need to introduce some resource material for the students to study - most schools have facsimile copies of the Treaty to display and there is a range of pictorial and written resources that can be studied as part of the literacy programme as guided reading. A map of Northland would valuable to introduce focusing on the Bay of Islands. A chronological time line of events might be drawn up to clarify the happening before and during the signing. This is the time for some old fashioned teaching about the facts about the Treaty.

During the afternoon inquiry time the information gained from resources available can be used for students to answer key questions. Early in the year it is possibly best for teachers to help students define a small range of 'thinking' questions. Question should encourage comparisons and ask for students' opinions and feelings and not just be copied out as is often the case. It is a good idea to encourage students to list the resources they have made use of.
A range of outcomes could be negotiated with and developed by the students.
The teacher might take the opportunity for the class to develop a set of class rules and this could be written out on a suitable piece of paper to look like the original Treaty.
Students could study some of the main characters in and observers to the signing of the Treaty and write accounts from different peoples' perspectives - how such people might be feeling about the Treaty. Students would need to call on the knowledge gained during literacy time.
Junior teachers could write a 'big book' by scribing students’ thoughts about the Treaty.
Older students could complete a study chart, or booklet, following guidelines from the teacher.
The whole scene of signing the Treaty could be acted out with students dressed in suitable clothing (which will involve considerable research). Students could compose some thought poems about the happenings of the day. Perhaps they could compose diary entry for the day -as no doubt people would have done (those who could write that is).
Each student could choose an element of the signing that appeals to draw and later enlarge to paint or crayon. Once again this requires visual research and assistance from teachers to ensure the painting has some dramatic focus. In such times artists would have recorded the events by drawing - students could consider how such event would be recorded today.
To conclude the study parents might be invited to look at the work at the end of a school day or students ideas gained written out and sent home.
At the very least students could copy into their study books their prior thoughts and what they now know with suitable illustrations.
An event such as the signing of the Treaty provides an opportunity to bring history alive for the students as well as introducing ideas about how they will be expected to learn in the class

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'A World of Difference' :the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher - Bill Guild

 Bill's booklet. It is important for creative teachers to share their ideas

Bill exploring a wasp nest
A world of difference.

In 2003 Bill Guild attended the Frankley Road  150th Jubilee a school he had been principal of for 28 years from 1959 to 1986. An accomplished photographer Bill complied a book A World of Difference of the experiences and creativity of the students he taught to share with past students attending.. Later an edited booklet was shared widely with teachers throughout New Zealand who knew of the quality of teaching he was well known for.

Maybe its time to share his ideas again?

A little bit of history.
Historical photo of Frankley School
Bill was a key figure of a group of Taranaki teachers that had gained reputation for the  creative programmes they were implementing. My previous blog celebrated another such teacher John Cunningham and I thought it a good ideas to focus on Bill - who by the way turns 91 this year and is as enthusiastic about creativity as he ever was and a whiz on his Apple computer!.

Bill had been involved with the Related Arts courses run  by the Art Advisers of the time, courses which encouraged teachers to move away from fragmented timetables of the 50s  to  develop integrated programmes that have been under threat by the previous governments National Standards  and their obsession with assessment and accountability.
The cover shows one of Bill's students carefully observing a wasp nest
influences were the English primary schools which at the time were recognised for their child centred approach and the American Open Education movement. Bill , along with other teachers,  was inspired by the work of New Zealand pioneer creative teacher from the 50s Elwyn Richardson whose book In the Early World became our bible.
Recently republished by the NZCER

In 1976 Bill was invited to share his ideas a World Art Education Conference held in Adelaide. Bill's work was also a feature of the then Education Departments Art in Schools book. His contribution to education was also recognised by the NZEI.

The ideas that Bill developed 1970- 1986  may be useful for today's teachers and they return their focus to developing students creativity and  imagination.

In Bill's own words:

When Bill retired he gave me notes of talks he had given and his philosophy  aligns well with the spirit of the , all but currently sidelined, 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

The raku kiln -art and science

The teacher's role

'To me the teachers' role is vastly different. No longer the font of all knowledge but rather a counsellor, adviser, partner, guide, questioner, prompter and confidant.'

School as a learning community.

'I believe that schools must be learning communities where students learn, with our assistance, the things they want to learn; when they want to learn them; how they want to learn them; and why they want to learn them; all through their own curiosity'.
A community of artists and scientists

'As a group we were disillusioned with the traditional pre-packaged approach ...largely adult conceived....including ability grouping. Attributes such as co-operation, understanding and sharing were largely given lip service. We believed that learning should stem from the natural but vital curiosity of children and it should centre around real experiences'.

Skill required to achieve quality work.

'Skills...such as focus, concentration, craftsmanship, introspection and independent inquiry need to be introduced.' 'Presentation and display skills need extra special attention and the creative areas given new emphasis.' We felt such independent self motivated learners would be more able to cope with the future with assurance and zest. People who are responsible for their own learning, able to make relevant choices, seem to be the kinds of people best suited to cope with future society.'
Interpreting a mountain spring

'To achieve work of high quality, which gives satisfaction and a feeling of personal success, there is a need to slow down the pace of work so the enjoyment is experienced as the work progresses and the finished piece reflects, not only thought, but pride of craftsmanship. Slowing down the working pace of children and allowing them time to reflect and saviour their discoveries and achievements.'

'The role of the teacher is to encourage and stimulate pupils to seek knowledge for themselves.'

An emphasis on displays to inspire students.
Display based on a colonial study

'Carefully arranged teacher displays', are a feature, and were based on, 'environmental, language, or maths topics'.'As the topic progresses the work of children is added to the display until it becomes an amalgam of both the children and the teachers efforts.' 'It is most important to acknowledge, in a meaningful way, the value of a piece of work.' 'These displays provide a window to the world revealing the work being done in literature, individual interests, the environmental and experiences shared by the class or as individuals.'

Making use of the immediate environment.

'There is an emphasis on the immediate environment. It is the teachers role to reveal the unknown in the familiar and to help children to discover the unnoticed world within their environment.' However, the interests of the children cover a wide range from fact to fantasy.' 'The school is a base from which to explore their environment.'
Crossing a 3 wire bridge on Mount Taranaki
An exciting experience but not possible today!
Great for language and art.
Providing student choice.

Gradually, with experience and growing confidence in their own abilities, children are given some choice within a very wide topic and finally many children may reach a stage they can be given a complete choice.'
Creating pottery involves a range of choices

'Questioning techniques must be suited to the needs of the learner ...and should be framed in a way as to stimulate greater powers of thought.' 'Plenty of time must be given the children to talk, discuss, disagree, argue, and revise opinions, all of this while refining and defining their solutions.'

The importance of observation
Students carefully observing a mounted pheasant

'Teaching observation is important. I believe we look at so much and see so little. Hence my belief that if we slow down our pace and allow ourselves the gift of observation.

'Without the input of looking future artistic or intellectual output is possible.' 'But drawings must go further than factual information, they are also able to convey feelings, impressions, and emotion. People who look harder, see more and understand more.' 'Drawing is a way of asking questions and drawing answers.'
Such careful observation is a real skill
The process provides opportunity for reflection and for questions to emerge
Observation is all about slowing the pace of work

Drawing involves the, 'outward eye, which is our observing eye, and an inward eye, which looks at feelings, memory, and imagination.' 'Observational drawing is not concerned with mere reproduction'... but result in, ' drawings which are uniquely yours.'
An environment that celebrates students' creativity
Totems the result of American Indian study

Importance of aesthetics

' A sense of design and beauty is an obvious need in our society and very little emphasis, and even scarcer recognition, has been placed on this area of visual education,'

Quality art from a bush study
Note the variety of interpretations

Importance of a task well done- 'personal best'

Research and observations from a mountain trip
Chart illustrates skill in visual design and observation,
'If a thing is worth doing it's worth going well' C K Chesterton
Along with my colleagues I have tried to develop classroom programmes where children are exposed to a variety of ideas and situations. We have tried to take into account the backgrounds and interests of the children as well as they ways in which they learn. All children need success and we feel that this best achieved by children having confidence in themselves to select their own tasks, and through the development of necessary skills and abilities, to complete them to a deep sense of satisfaction in a task well done.'
Art work arising from a colonial study - Hurworth Cottage

The 'new' NZ curriculum  (2007)m with the change to a more teacher friendly government, provides an opportunity for the beginning of new creative era of education
The finished result of an afternoon's observing at St Mary's church