Powerful Learning with iPads – iMovie Book Trailers in Grade 3

As I look back over the past six months, one teaching and learning experience stands out as a true highlight – the Year 3 iMovie Book Trailer Project, which was developed and brought to life by the amazing students of Year 3B, and their wonderful teacher. 

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The Process

This project was run in Term 3, 2014 as a team-teaching project over six weeks, with roughly 90 minutes (2 lessons) each week. Neither the classroom teacher or I had ever done anything quite like this before, so it was very much a collaborative learning experience – and not just for the students!

Students worked in small group “book clubs”, choosing their favourite book from the Australian Children’s Book Awards Shortlist for 2014. They worked to identify the main events of the story, holding detailed discussions about the book as they set about creating visual storyboards.

Photo 12-09-2014 2 34 56 am

When we started this project, we weren’t sure if we’d have students’ filming scenes from the books, or using Creative Commons/Public Domain images off the Internet. We eventually decided to go with the (somewhat) easier option – filming. Prior to formally filming book trailer scenes, we gave students time to simply play with the iPad camera, Photos, and iMovie app, discovering how they all worked. The stage was set for one of the most intense, but rewarding teaching experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

On filming day, I knew we were in ‘trouble’ when I discovered a group of students setting up with piles of cardboard boxes in the library – before school had even started! Students brought in costumes and props, and set to work filming their scenes. This proved to be a fascinating process for us as teachers, as we noticed some groups found it much easier to work with each-other than others. We tried to maintain a hands-off, over the shoulder approach, and let the students work through the creative process relatively independently; however, we did have to step in with one group on several occasions.  We weren’t overly sure how many lessons we’d need, and eventually spent about three (very intensive) hours in total.

The Results

Our students blew us away with their passion, creativity, and sheer enthusiasm; and the videos they produced were of exceptionally high quality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask for parental permission to share them on my personal blog, and I ran out of time to put them on the school website! Next year, that won’t be such an issue, as student publishing will be one of our major whole-school ICT focus areas.

Reflections

As this was very much a collaborative ICT integration project, I asked my partner teacher to share her thoughts on our teaching and learning process –

It was a pleasure to work with Michael on this Book Trailer project. His excitement was shared by the children and myself. I came to the table with little experience so he was involving me in the learning process along with the children. With his guidance the main elements were discussed as a whole and then the children were encouraged to play and experiment. Other Book Trailers were critiqued by the children, the children became confident critics and through the process the children developed an eye and an understanding for what was required to produce a powerful and successful Trailer.

The children were supported with their learning at all times by Michael as he moved with ease from one group’s individual need to another. Michael allowed the children to be creative and encouraged them to solve problem themselves learning from each other. The parents were impressed with their children’s enthusiasm for the Book Trailer project. Some children asked to have a permission note for their parents, to allow them to come to school early so they could get started on their filming. The project was then able to be viewed by all parents during Open Night. It was a huge success where we got to how learning became fun and effortless for all involved.

The children came into this project with no experience with this type of technology or using iPads in a collaborative project. The children chose to be in a group that they had a common interest, the interest was their favourite book from the Book Week nominations. As a result group sizes were varied along with a variation in literacy ability. This could have been very challenging for most teachers but through this project I believe we got the most from all our children. They are looking forward to the next project with Michael.

My Thoughts

As I look back at this project, I am immensely proud of what we achieved in a relatively short space of time. I was blessed to work with a gifted, enthusiastic classroom teacher who was prepared to take risks, letting the students take the lead in their learning. We were able to forge a close working relationship, building on our respective strengths and expertise to enable our students to create something special. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do together next year!

A Little Adventure in Teaching ICT

Grade 1 Kidpix "Imaginary Creature"

Well, some of those visiting the blog over the past few weeks may have noticed a subtle change to the title of this blog. It is hard to believe, but I’m four weeks into a temporary ICT Teaching & Integration role at a wonderful girls’ school in Perth, Western Australia. 

It has been a busy time, in which I’ve been exploring digital citizenship with my students, helping prepare our new iPads for rollout (next week I hope!), and working with colleagues to set up collaborative iPad project plans.

I am extremely grateful for the warm welcome I have received at my new school, and now, as I start to settle into my role, I feel like I’m on an exciting little adventure into the wonderful world of teaching and learning with ICT for the remainder of 2014.

Here’s to an interesting journey, wherever it may lead.

 Netiquette Activity

 

 

Finishing up the #WLPSict Journey – For Now

On Wednesday (March 27), I completed my four week stint as the #WLPSict integrator.

I left with mixed emotions … sadness at leaving a position which I loved, but also with a great sense of personal vindication. I left knowing that I’d done my best, and that I’d done it well.

The last week gave me the time to finish what I’d started, wrapping up some projects that I’d been preparing students’ for, as well as laying the seeds for ongoing ICT projects which will continue when I’m gone.

Here’s my final #WLPSict wrap for Week 4 …

World Water Day 2013 (Year 2, and some Year 7s)

I’ve already blogged about this here, so I won’t go into too much more detail – except to say that with comments from 10 countries, and 1000+ hits in a week, I’m proud to say that the third anniversary of my ‘first’ global project was a wonderful success. Well done kids! 🙂

Completing the Asia Google Docs Inquiry (Year 5/6)

I spent my last lesson with the Yr 5/6’s helping students finish their Asia presentations, incorporating the information so kindly shared by students and staff at a variety of international schools throughout Asia. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I was unable to obtain copies of the presentations to share online, as I couldn’t work out where the students had saved them! 🙁

If I’d had more time, I’d have used Google Presentations … which would have allowed students to actually collaborate on their presentations AND easily share them online! (I’ll get off my Google Soapbox now …)

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and students at the following schools for the wonderful support for this experimental project:

PuppetPals with Year 3N

I was really pleased with the progress Year 3N (Year 2F, and Year 3C) made with their use of the PuppetPalsHD iPad app.

We used our last lesson in Year 3N to create group PuppetPalsHD presentations on Jungle creatures, tying in with the class theme. With the help of their wonderful classroom teacher, students had planned these presentations, and the final results weren’t too bad. I was able to put a few on the school YouTube channel, and I’ve shared them below.

This little project bore witness to one of the most infuriating moments of my #WLPSict tenure … stay tuned for my upcoming reflections (rant) on (trying to) teach about Creative Commons images.

WordFoto with Year 3C

The Year 3C teacher has exciting plans for using the WordFoto app with her class, and to my great surprise (and pleasure) actually borrowed an iPad, and showed her class how to use it (outside of our ICT time) – a significant leap forward!

So I spent my last lesson with Year 3C roaming the school grounds with a box of iPads and iPods, letting students have a play with the app, and Dropboxing the results. The brief was to create WordFoto partner portraits & school landscapes, so the only one I’m really comfortable sharing is the one they did of me 🙂

 

Year 4 – Getting Excited about Animoto

In my last week, I introduced the Year 4 students to Animoto. While with hindsight I wouldn’t use a ‘whole-school’ account again, I was really pleased to see how popular (and useful) this tool actually is. The Animoto for Education account wasn’t as fully featured as I’d expected; however, it does allow for the creation of student accounts – In fact, I’ll be recommending WLPS teachers to create their own class accounts in future.

Here’s a student created example – using images they took on a recent class excursion to “Sculptures by the Sea”, at Cottlesloe Beach, WA.

And thus ends my stint at #WLPS … for now at least. This is one of remarkably few schools where I have truly felt ‘at home’, and the first where I’ve been able to really share my passion for all things ICT and global education. I hope that this #WLPSict journey marks the beginning of a fruitful long-term relationship over the years to come. Time will tell.

#WLPSict – Weeks 2 & 3


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Saad Faruque

While the past two weeks have passed by in a blur, I can honestly say that I look forward to my #WLPSict teaching days. I’m starting to build meaningful relationships with the teachers I’m working with, and my students eagerly anticipate my arrival in their classes.

It’s been tough knowing that my initial four weeks are nearly over, yet I’m starting to see some of the rewards of my paced, collaborative approach.

When I walk into my classes, I’m starting to see classroom teachers taking the initiative … actively preparing their students for their ICT time. For example, our Year 3 teachers have encouraged their students to develop story plans for their PuppetPals animations; and have been excitedly brainstorming ways to integrate the app into their Jungle theme.

I’ve learnt a few technical & management lessons the hard way (particularly in the Year 4 class), and have struggled somewhat working with the Year 1 students … but I feel that I’m getting there, slowly.

 

Weeks 2 & 3 looked something like this …

Years 1-3

I’ve introduced an ICT rotations scheme to ease management issues, and ensure easier access to mobile devices. I now take a cart of laptops, and as many iPad 1 & 2s as I can get my hands on (they are in hot demand!). Half the class does Mathletics / Reading Eggs, while I work with the students using the iPads. This has had the side benefit of allowing teachers to ask questions about how to manage their students’ tasks, and monitor their performance.

The Year 1 students in particular will benefit from this long term, for as indicated by one of the teachers, a number of ESL students were unable to keep up with the whole-class activities.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Ευτυχία (Jim is Nice)

Two of the Year 2 classes are researching old fashioned toys and games, with a view to creating iMovies and an assembly item. One of the Year 2 teachers is an early adopter of iPads and ICT, and she basically plans the lessons, with my input as needed.

The Year 3s, and the other Year 2 class are continuing to work on PuppetPals. This past week, I introduced these students to the Character and Background import options in the Puppet Pals Directors’ Pass.

I have also showed them how to import / export photos via Dropbox, as we are using iPad 1s (without cameras) and iPad 2s. I have been warned that the use of Dropbox can put pressure on the school’s internet upload/download limits, but I think these skills are too important to ignore. I’ll see how we go 🙂

Next week, the Year 3s will be creating Jungle poetry / information reports using PuppetPals; importing custom backgrounds and characters that they have created in Art. This will be the culmination of several weeks work, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final results. It seems that taking things slowly has paid dividends … 

Year 4

The technical problems I was having with a whole class Google Doc continued in Week 2 … I won’t be doing that again anytime soon. It seems too many users accessing a document from the same network is a big no-no. I did actually fix the problem last week, but the class had moved on to other things. Fair enough.

In Week 3, we introduced students to WordFoto, and dropboxed their creations – with the intention of printing them off next week. I am hoping to introduce this class to Aurasma, an augmented reality app, next week … not sure yet! I don’t want to overload the teacher…

Years 4/5

Sadly, I’ve only had two opportunities to work with the Year 4/5 class  … due to the Swimming Carnival, and their upcoming class excursion next week. We spent our second session completing their “Sculptures by the Sea” presentations, and exploring options for a future animation project.

These students deserve a special #WLPSict mention for being on the receiving end of Mr Graffin’s rant on effective presentation design in Week 1 … fluorescent colours and overblown animations were NOT on my wish list! lol.

Years 5/6

Last week was the first time my Year 5/6 class had their full allocation of ICT time, after missing out on most of the past two sessions due to catch up science lessons with the Year 6/7 class. We are making progress!

My students have all entered their questions into our Asia Inquiry Google Doc, and we’ve received responses from students and teachers in Cambodia, Nepal, India, Japan and Thailand! The challenge to connect with Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam is still ongoing! So if you happen to know someone in these countries, could you please send them a link? Thanks 🙂

The students are currently working on their project presentations, choosing to present their research using Pages, PowerPoint, or Comic Life.

While my students are very new to ‘learning with the world, not just about it’, I’m actually pretty happy with our attempt to connect with Asia. Yes, we’re barely scratching the surface, but its a positive start. And I’m working in a school environment which is open to these connections … and that’s more than I’d hoped for.

Year 6/7


cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by totallyradshow


While we missed last week’s session due to the Swimming Carnival, almost all our students are ready to film their green-screen movies. Did I mention that the green screen kit ARRIVED!!??? (Very excited!).

We’ve spent a total of two lessons on planning and experimentation, and students’ scripts and sound effects are practically ready to go. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve been dragged in as a character in one group’s movie … Not sure if I’ll be able to wiggle out of that one! We’ll be filming and editing over the coming week.

I am hoping to share students’ videos on the school blog / wiki, and invite warm and cool feedback from international viewers (via Google Docs). The idea is that students need to understand that they are creating work for an authentic, global audience – not just their teachers.

Notes – 

In Week 2, I had my first opportunity to meet the student ICT Angels, learning about their roles and responsibilities. They manage the charging of laptops & iPads (when they don’t forget!), and run the school blog. Having seen the blog, I’m looking forward to introducing the ICT Angels to some multimedia creation tools, such as Animoto, VoiceThread, PhotoPeach, etc. All in good time.

A key consideration, which I’ve noted for future reference, is the need to explicitly clarify when students are released for ICT Angel work, i.e. during silent reading time, and on Tuesday afternoons prior to Assembly. Also mentioned was the need for Angels to support teachers’ use of ICT, rather than doing the work for them.

The strict guidelines and rules for the ICT Angel program help to minimise the impact on students’ learning time; and the students’ know that they can be replaced if they don’t fulfill their responsibilities! The application process for these positions is EXTREMELY competitive at this school!

Other things on the agenda have included (finally) starting work on the #WLPSict Staff wiki, and starting to identify apps to remove from the school’s mobile devices. There are literally 120+ apps on the iPod Touches and iPads at the moment, and we need to sort out the mess before we start using Apple Configurator to manage our devices.

As far as I can tell, there’s one week to go. Here’s to a good one 🙂

#WLPSict – Week 1 Reflections

 

Last week was a big week, in more ways than one.

I completed my contribution to a major sideline project that I’ve been working on for months (details coming in a month or two), and I started work as a temporary ICT Support teacher at a school in Perth.

I’m working 3 days / week, for 4 weeks, and I’ve been given (mostly) free reign … in a school where the admin actively interested in the use of ICT to connect, communicate, and collaborate beyond classroom walls. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to apply my ICT knowledge and skills locally; and I am hopeful that I can make a positive difference with the teachers and students I’m working with.


cc licensed ( BY )  flickr photo shared by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

So Week 1 was spent something like this:

  • Meeting and getting to know staff (Yrs 1-7). I was relieved to see that this went rather well, and I’m looking forward to developing deeper relationships over the next few weeks
  • Creating and distributing an ICT survey – exploring staff skills, learning interests, and literacy priorities for the term
  • Deciding my ICT /literacy focus for each class
  • Working out school systems for ICT access, which includes iPod Touches, iPads, and MacBooks; and getting to know the ICT Angels (student ICT leaders).

Grades 1-3

As I hadn’t had a chance to talk to teachers prior to my first day, I decided to introduce teachers and students to Puppet Pals, a digital storytelling app. Teachers’ skills and confidence with ICT varies significantly;  however, I found virtually all of them to be very keen to learn and experiment. One of the Year 3 teachers is very skilled in the use of iPads, and gave me some great ideas for using PuppetPals – which I’ll take to my other classes this coming week.

At this time, I’m focussing on using iPads to support literacy – in particular storytelling, oral language, and writing. I’m also taking pains to encourage students to collaboratively problem solve how to use all the features of the app. My point is that there is no need for the teacher to be the expert in the app – so long as they know how to use it to support teaching and learning (i.e. focus on the pedagogy, not the tech).

The level of students’ excitement about Puppet Pals has to been seen to be believed – I was even stopped in the playground by a Year 2 student who’d downloaded the app on his iPod Touch, and was planning his story for next week 🙂

In one of the Year 2 classes, the classroom teacher was extremely surprised to see a little girl, who never talks in class, actively communicating with her partner, and contributing to the audio recording. And to top it off, we found two boys, who normally can’t work together in class, quietly problem-solving in the corner.

On a note for future, audio recording in class can be challenging – when there are lots of students working at once. I had expected this, but will plan for it more carefully when students practice recording more prepared stories later this week.

Grade 4

Students had been learning how to use Mac Pages to record their Science research; however, a string of technical problems led to an interesting experiment with a shared class Google Doc. It works, once students get over the shock at being able to watch each-other type (and deleting other people’s work – sigh). Normally, I’d have set up individual docs – but this was a last minute idea. We’ll see how we go.

Grade 5/6

Students are working on presentations about Asian countries. The teacher freely admits to not knowing much about ICT, but is happy to support my experimentation. After some discussion, the students and I decided that they would present their work using (their choice of) Pages (brochures), PowerPoint, or Comic Life.

We are also working on a Google Doc, where students are sharing 5 questions they’d like to ask someone in their focus Asian country. We should have that finished by next week, when I’ll tweet it out & request responses from my PLN throughout Asia. There are a few challenges (e.g. Laos, Myanmar), but we should (hopefully) be able to get answers for most countries.

Grade 6/7

Students are working on (movie) comic sketches about the Western Australian election, (reluctantly) learning how to write scripts, organise props and characters, etc. My chance remark that we might be able to experiment with green-screening in iMovie was so warmly received that the Deputy Principal (and ICT leader) ordered a green-screen kit off eBay later that afternoon!

After attending @paulfuller75’s presentation at the ECAWA conference in 2011, I can’t wait to get my hands on this kit! I’m going to have a LOT of fun 🙂  Next week, students will be exploring and experimenting with camera angles, and rehearsing their presentations.

 

Ongoing Projects

There are a few things which I’ll be working on – on and off during the next four weeks, and hopefully beyond –

  • Establishing a school ICT wiki for staff
  • Helping the student ICT Angels with the school blog, which I’d like to see become more iPad friendly & include more multimedia.
  • Working with three classroom teachers to help develop class blogs
  • Introduce as many teachers as I can to Google Docs and @edmodo, although more many this will be a long term goal.

We’ll see how we go.

 

Local Connections & Conversations (ECAWA 2011)

I recently spent a few days at the ECAWA State Conference 2011, hosted by my State’s ICT Association; attending a range of interesting presentations, and meeting so many amazing ICT teachers and leaders.


A few highlights:

  • Finally meeting Paul Fuller (@paulfuller75), the teacher who inspired me to follow my passion with Web 2.0 all those years ago
  • Tweeting up with a few local ‘Twitter people’ & a few who flew in from Victoria – @pcoutas, @hectpowles, @mrrobbo, @pchmb, @janelowe, amongst others
  • A chance meeting with the first Western Australian Global Classroom participant; an encounter which will hopefully lead to the creation of a ‘global geocaching’ project for Global Classroom 2011-12.
  • Meeting several members of the iEARN Australia team, an encounter which will have significant implications for #globalclassroom in the months to come
  • Learning about the incredible educational applications of mobile devices & iPads (I want one!)


Breaking out of the Isolation

For me, the greatest value of the ECAWA Conference was the opportunity to meet, talk and share with local ICT teachers and leaders. Teaching can be a very isolating profession, and when you specialise in technology and global projects, this sense of isolation can get to you.

While I connect and collaborate with a global network of educators through social media, I’ve long struggled to find local teachers who I can talk to, and work with.


So now, as I reflect on the local connections and conversations that began over those two days at ECAWA; I’m looking forward to a more active engagement with my local ICT community, exploring the opportunities and collaborations to come.

Am I a ‘Techie Teacher’?

I’m a young teacher with a passion for ICT and modest technical skills; and I’m starting to question how my ideas are influencing my classroom teaching practice. 

 

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by austinevan: http://flickr.com/photos/austinevan/2296270551/



 

I’m a teacher.

ICT and Web 2.0 are part of what I do

  • I see myself as a classroom teacher using ICT to extend my teaching practice beyond my classroom walls.
  • I want to teach my students how to share, learn and communicate with a global audience.
  • And I’m more than happy to share my ideas and expertise with interested colleagues.
  • But, does this make me a ‘techie teacher’?


I’m not a ‘natural’ with ICT

  • I enjoy using technology, but I’m not a ‘digital native’ … I’m primarily self-taught.
  • I’m a learner too, drawing upon the collective wisdom and experience of the teachers and ‘techies’ in my PLN.
  • I’m taking significant professional risks, often stepping out into uncharted territory; and
  • I’m learning from my mistakes.


What I do is not “amazing”

  • ICT, Web 2.0, and global projects aren’t the exclusive realm of young, tech-savvy teachers.
  • Effective ICT integration is something that any teacher can do with the appropriate collegial support, mentoring, and training.
  • I’m learning how to encourage and support other teachers’ forays into ICT & global projects, and I believe this can only improve our students’ learning and engagement.  

 

I’m starting to define myself as a teacher, as a learner, as an inquirer.

And, I’m not alone …

“Connecting Globally” (@clivesir)

 Casting an eye over my Twitter feeds this morning, I was mightily pleased to see an old ‘PLN  friend’ and mentor back online. 

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Clive Elsmore, or @clivesir as I’ve come to know him, has spent the past few years working in India and Sri Lanka as a volunteer teacher, training local teachers in the use of ICT technologies and Web 2.0 tools like Skype. (He’s now back in the United Kingdom.)

As a very special member of my PLN, and someone with whom I have many educational interests in common, I wanted to take a moment to share @clivesir’s thoughts on how global connections impact on teaching and learning in today’s world.

I first ‘met’ Clive as a newbie tweep around 6 months ago, when he literally took me ‘under his wing’; teaching me the Twitter basics and introducing me to some of the most integral members of my Personal Learning Network or PLN.

While Clive modestly puts this down to the ‘power of social networking’, his encouragement, feedback, and entertaining conversations mean a lot to me; and were a consolation and support as we journeyed through some very exciting, and very difficult times in our respective professional lives.

Today, I’d like to share Clive’s video in which he describes his work and ‘global educational connections’ in his own words. It was my first chance to virtually ‘meet’ this amazing educator, and it provides an excellent outside perspective on my own efforts to form global connections around the world.

 

 

 

2010 – My Journey So Far

Well, 2010 has been an incredible year. It was a year in which I passed some significant milestones in my fledgling teaching career, and it was a year of immense, transformational change in my personal and professional life.

As my year draws to a close, I am finally starting to realise my aspiration to become a knowledgeable, connected, and reflective 21st Century educator.

Looking Back

I’ve learnt some valuable lessons this year –

  • Relief Teaching is a professionally and personally rewarding career option.
    • I have the freedom to experiment, develop a collegial network, collect resources, learn from my mistakes, and celebrate my successes.
    • I am now able to teach K-7, and work in a variety of Government, Independent, and Religious schools.
  • In my line of work, experience & a positive reputation mean a lot.
    • As I became a more experienced, and I hope, well-regarded relief (substitute) teacher, I noticed a dramatic increase in my work bookings over the course of the year.
    • This enabled me to actively experiment and improve my teaching practice, as I moved away from my relief ‘time-fillers’ to actually teaching and assessingstudents’ learning.
    • I am extremely grateful to those relief coordinators; (Hans, Deb, Sue, Jane, Cathy, amongst others), whose long-term support helped facilitate this empowering evolution in my teaching practice.
  • Writing merit-select job applications is an incredibly useful way to reflect upon and share your teaching practice with prospective employers.
    • On a personal note, I realised that while I can clearly articulate my practice through written mediums, such as my blog, I need to work on my ability to ‘sell’ myself in interview situations. Practice makes perfect, and I’ll have another go next year.
  • The Personal Learning Network (PLN) – Every teacher should have one
    • I believe the PLN is one of my greatest discoveries of my (short) career. I am an increasingly active member of the OzTeachers network, and have more recently realised the value of educational blogging and Twitter™ as professional learning tools.
    • My forays into this ‘connected’ world of global educators are still in their early days, and I will blog more extensively about this topic in 2011.

Image: ‘Arrival on my Way
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16230215@N08/4722297430

And Looking Forward …

While I don’t really know what 2011 will bring, I hope it will be a better, more productive year.

I enjoy my job. It is a wonderful feeling to walk into a school in the morning, and have students (and staff) greet you by name (or in my case, various derivations of it!). I hope I will have the opportunity to build upon the personal and professional relationships which I have worked so hard to foster during my relief travels in 2010.

I will also be working towards several important professional learning goals, which I have decided to share here –

  1. To continue to build my instructional toolkit; learning how to apply teaching and learning strategies, and reflecting upon my performance.
  2. To further investigate, and hopefully experiment with, the practical implementations of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom.
  3. To build and contribute to my Personal Learning Network through my blog, Twitter interactions, and the “Blogs I Follow” via my RSS Reader.
  4. To revisit my First Steps™ informed literacy and numeracy planning approach, seeking feedback from experienced educators on my planned literacy block organisation model.
  5. To familiarise myself with the new Australian Curriculum, and rearrange my Curriculum Resource Bank (now containing over 4000 documents!) to reflect its’ structure and organisation
  6. To begin working towards my Accreditation to Teach Religious Education.

A New Year Begins …

Well, that’s it for A Relief Teacher’s Journey in 2010. I have quite a few posts in the pipeline, and I’ll be back to my regular blogging endeavours in January 2011.

I wish to thank all of my readers, around the world, for your readership & support over the past six months. A big thankyou goes to Veronica Chase (Substitutes FTW!) who made the first (and to date, only) comment on A Relief Teacher’s Journey. Also, thankyou to all my new Twitter™ followers – I look forward to talking to you next year.

I’ll be participating in the 2011 Edublogs™ Teacher Challenge, starting on Jan 10.

Happy New Year!

Image: ‘Happy New Year !!!

Forays into Upper Primary Science

As the Australian school year draws to a close, I have had the time to reflect upon and review my experiences teaching upper primary science during 2010.

March-May 2010 – Year 6/7 Science & Arts

Earlier this year, I replaced a science/arts teacher in a small independent Christian school in Perth’s southern suburbs. I taught Science and Art one day a week, working with a group of 20 students exhibiting a challenging range of literacy skills, learning difficulties and special needs. It proved to be a professionally rewarding relief assignment; one which required me informally plan, teach and assess students’ learning, rather than acting as a gloried (although well-paid) ‘babysitter’.

As a general rule, I tried to follow the absent teacher’s notes, in expectation of his imminent return. After discussing the situation with the regular classroom teacher; however, I increasingly drew upon my Curriculum Resource Bankand developing  ‘instructional toolkit’ to translate the teacher’s suggestions into more engaging learning activities.


A Professional Experiment – Modelling Concept Maps

On my first day, I was asked to complete a unit on the Human Body, implementing a (poorly written) blackline master test. In a personal first, I decided to model the use of a concept map to assist students’ test preparation. The results were rather surprising, as I detailed the next day in my reflective journal:

“After the recess break, students had to revise for a test on the human body. I experimented with modelling the use of a concept map as a revision tool; using different coloured markers to highlight the levels of detail.

I was surprised to find that the use of this strategy enabled one student, who finds writing very difficult [and has an undiagnosed learning difficulty], to share his significant knowledge of the topic.

He was later able to complete most of the test, despite taking twice as long as his peers.”

Flickr CC Image: ‘Science Activity – Ecosystems

Putting this in Context

Throughout the Graduate Teacher Professional Learning Program, an extremely valuable mentoring / support program for graduate teachers in Western Australia, our presenters have discussed how effective teachers have a toolkit of instructional strategies which they can use to support and assess student learning.

imageRather than using a strategy haphazardly, teachers can select a teaching strategy for a defined purpose, and use it to improve student learning outcomes. I believe this is an important aspect of ‘instructional intelligence’ (Bennett & Rolheiser, 2001), an area in which I have undergone significant professional growth over the past two years.

The seemingly trivial anecdote above marked the very first time I personally selected an instructional strategy with a clear learning purpose in mind (rather than following another teacher’s instructions).

Shortly afterwards, I recorded a professional learning goal to practice and evaluate my use of other instructional learning strategies in my relief teaching practice. As I will outline in my next post, I was extremely surprised and pleased with the results.

 

Reference

Bennet, B. & C. Rolheiser (2001). Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration. Toronto: Bookation