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Being open minded is key for learning new skills, self-reflection and professional growth as a teacher in 2018.

The MIEE 2018 (inaugural?!) Hui held in the April school holidays offered a smorgasbord of opportunities for teachers keen to develop their digital technology kete, extend their ability to use a range of tools available via Microsoft apps and programmes and connect with other educators.

The problem with a smorgasbord is it is sometimes difficult to know what to choose. We were truly spoiled for choice.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if Lynette Barker’s Creativity with Literacy sharing session would be to my palette. Me a South Island based secondary teacher of English and Media Studies in a large coeducational state secondary school. Lynette a teacher Librarian in a Catholic primary school across the Tasman.

Time to ditch the diet.

Not only did Lynette present us with an exciting menu of ideas, she backed this up with examples, resources and honest answers to our questions. The added bonus is that following the hui, Lynette has continued to share resources via the twittersphere.

Her ideas help bridge the gap between written text and digital technology with activities that seamlessly integrate both and, were clearly linked to learning objectives.

Some of those ideas were:

  1. Telling a story with music  – using MS lens and PPT, scan pages from a text and then invite students to match the words with music. Lynette used Red Fox.
  2. Reversioning a story – using MS Lens and OneNote with a free pdf of a children’s illustrated book (available here – http://mybirthdaybunny.com ), students use a stylus to “graffiti” the original version of My Birthday Bunny with their own version.
  3. Augmented reality – use MS Paint 3d to add moving images to a story. Take a  pic of object, import to Paint 3d then animate via power point. (@ibpossum has had hour of fun with this 😉 )
  4. Comprehension and creativity – Lynette used Using Cups Held Out byJudith L Roth. Read to kids then gave them cup. Students  were asked to tell how they could show support to others OR whatever they took from story via photography. Their photos were then collated using Movie Maker.
  5. Vocabulary extension, development of  connotative and emotive language via blogging- using Piranaha’s Don’t Eat Bananas, students were invited to finish sentences from the story with their own words.  Using Last Tree in the City, students were asked to supply 10 words they associated with this story about environmental damage to word banks. They then did the same with A Forest, a story featuring a contrasting message.
  6. Catering for students with special educational needs –  Lynette set up a series of activities on One Note pages which were code protected. The student, working with a teacher aide, had to complete each activity to get a code to “unlock” the next task.

Like any meaningful PD, the proof is in the pudding. My goal is to develop and deliver a workshop for our teacher aides and share some of these ideas alongside those gleaned from Crispin Lockwood’s Immersion Session MS Learning Tools for Differentiation. The aim is to broaden the range of literary related activities offered to engage students with special learning needs and ESOL students.

And of course there are plenty of ways to adapt Lynette’s ideas for a secondary learning environment.

“Cups” could be used in Junior Media Studies to teach the Rule of Thirds as well as camera shot types and angles, Red Fox could be used to apply visual and verbal matching techniques for Media Studies and English students while the vocab extension activities would work alongside a short story/novel study or as a starter for Creative Writing.

 

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It’s one of the biggest challenges for educators everywhere. How to encourage resilience and a positive attitude towards learning in an era of instant gratification and digital distractions.

One of the core philosophies of New Zealand Teaching and Learning Curriculum is we must strive to create life long learners.

As teachers and parents, and as a society, we see value in raising resilient young people.

But there can be a disconnect marrying that philosophy alongside an assessment driven educational system that anticipates most learners will move at similar speeds through a range of learning levels.

At primary school, pupils have eight years to move from Level Zero through to Three. At secondary school, there are five years to progress from Levels Four to Eight. So the expectation is students move up a level each year.  That’s quite a jump.

While we recognised long ago the need to differentiate teaching styles for a range of learners, the system dictates a more rigid, linear progression through various skills and learning stands as “evidence” of learning.

Which makes it difficult to encourage growth mindsets in young people. According to Dr Carol S Dweck’s, research if students believe they are capable of improvement, they are more likely to be motivated towards attaining a goal. Alongside that, learners must accept that they may have to work harder in some areas, that it might take them longer to get there than others but that is part of process.

Source: https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/

We all want our kids to be resilient – at home and in life. But they can’t do that if they zone out the minute things don’t come easily, if they’re not prepared to make an effort or if they get stuck in a rut thinking they simply “can’t do” something.

Even our younger students are fixated these day on senior assessment terms.” Is that Achieved?”  “How do I get Excellence?” While it is good to be focused on a goal, they are increasingly fixed on the end point rather than the process. Even worse, I believe, is having students with high expectations drop subjects because to them “getting an achieved is the same as not achieved” which they feel is unacceptable.

What those learners fail to recognise is that they have been exposed to new ways of thinking, developed fresh skills and broadened their general knowledge by dipping their toes into unfamiliar territory. And who knows what they might have “achieved’ if they had developed those skills for longer?

If we are to create lifelong learners, we need to create a love of learning. That starts at home and is developed in classrooms where we recognise everyone works at their own speed, regardless of the assessment system in place. We do our best to help all our students experience success however that looks for them. The problem is when the measurement systems expect success to look the same.

Another issue working against growth mindsets is attitudes towards learning. I’ve noticed international students come to class prepared, seek and use feedback, put in extra effort, proactively manage their learning and have clear learning goals. They come from countries, cultures and families that value education. They know where they want to go and respect their educators. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

My students look puzzled when I write “not yet achieved” on a test or an essay. What does it mean? Will Mum and Dad be okay with it? What it means is they have not quite attained the magic line in the sand (actually we do have marking criteria, even in the humanities 😉 ) but I know how hard they tired, I know what they produced in May is an improvement on what they wrote in February and that with some effort, they should get “there” by the end of the year.

I want them to love learning and I want them to believe they can improve.

Hopefully they take those messages home so that families can nurture their self-belief, encourage a desire for self-improvement and emphasise the need for effort. After all, learning is a journey not a destination

Flipping Malala

When searching for resources to use alongside Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala next term, there seemed to be a gap in resources for the age group I will use the text with – Year 10s working at Level 4-6 of the NZC. Lots for younger readers and some very high brow analyses that would extend them but nothing that was a perfect fit in terms of learning objectives.

Using the resources available via the Global Women’s Institute as a starting point, I designed a unit of work encompassing memoir as a literary genre, the importance of education as well as a collaborative research and writing project culminating in a presentation on social justice using Microsoft Stream, one of the audio-visual presentation apps available via the Office 365 suite of products.

The overall objectives of this specific unit of work are to enable students to:

  • Discuss the importance of education and gender equity; appreciating educational opportunites
  • Form and express opinions and emotions around Malala’s journey; developing empathy
  • Explore the effectiveness of memoir as a literary genre; developing critical literacy skills

As I began mapping out lessons for the four week unit, there were obvious opportunities to link our analysis with other core skill areas in the Junior English programme by using the text as a springboard for other tasks.

  • Impromptu speaking – using issues encompassed in I Am Malala as debating topics for the impromptu speech unit; watching Malala’s speech to UN and identifying oral presentation features.
  • Personal reading – recommendations based around other memoirs students can use for AS 1.10 Personal Reading

And of course there were clear links to other curriculum areas such as Social Studies where students studied apartheid in Term One. This provides further opportunities to utilise prior learning when choosing a topic for their end of unit presentation (see below).

Overall the lessons tick all the key competencies:

  • Thinking – about the importance of education and the value we place on it; gender equity
  • Relating to Others – when interviewing a Syrian student at our school about what being a Muslim means to him
  • Using language symbols and texts – when completing reflective writing activities and an essay
  • Managing Self – when creating a Stream presentation in and out of class to meet a deadline
  • Participating and contributing – to class discussions and debates on education, gender diversity, fundamentalism and other issues raised in the novel

Via Class Notebook students can access glossaries, pre-reading tasks, extension reading  and viewing opportunities, language activities, a recommended reading list, debate topics and the Stream assignment. Flipping the learning is a bonus as we head into Term 2. when, alongside the usual interruptions to timetabled classes, our classroom is undergoing a refit meaning we will be homeless for several weeks and working from other rooms. Planning ahead in this way will take some pressure off during this disruptive time – as long as we have access to computers in our allocated temporary room!

If you’re still with me, here are the lessons as the students will see them on Class Notebook (minus the video and pictures to breakup text!):

What is a memoir? 

In choosing to narrate the brutal attempt on her life, Malala Yousafzai chose the literary form known as MEMOIR. A memoir is designed to capture a certain moment in time.

Memoirs are characterised by their ability to mesh private feelings with public issues and raw emotions. They are not the same as autobiographies which tend to cover a person’s entire life and where the story unfolds in linear fashion. Memoirs also differ from diaries as memoirs allow for more reflective narration of important social and historical events.

The three forms all use first person narration. This means we only get one person’s point of view. Memoirs might not seem to use as many language features as poems or novels but if you read carefully, there is plenty of emphasis on pace, tone and language choices in I Am Malala.

 

Pre-reading activity: 

What do you know about Malala already?

What would you like to know?

What are you unsure of?

Watch the trailer for the documentary about Malala’s Life, read the prologue and note five facts you learned about Pakistan and Malala:

He Named Me Malala Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Documentary HD

Glossary of words to learn: 

Social Justice – justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

Pashtun – a member of a Pashto-speaking people inhabiting southern Afghanistan and NW Pakistan.

Swati –from the Swat Valley region of Northern Pakistan (see map)

Fundamentalism – a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.

Code of Purdha – the term used primarily in South Asia, to describe in the South Asian context, the global religious and social practice of female seclusion that is associated with Muslim communities.

Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset.

Muslim –  a follower of the religion of Islam.

Islam – an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.

Quran – The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah). It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature

Taliban – a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country

Jihad – a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam

United Nations – an intergovernmental organization tasked to promote international cooperation and to create and maintain international order.

If you enjoy this style of writing visit the personal reading page in your Class Notebook for suggested texts for your personal reading responses.

Background reading: extra reading for those wishing to delve deeper –  

The Daily Show – Malala Yousafzai Extended Interview

New York Times articles about Malala

Class Dismissed: story about the 2009 documentary

FULL Amanpour Malala Interview

Language features activity: 

Language features and structural devices used which you need to be able to identify and explain are listed below. Your homework for the first week is to copy and paste this list into your NOVELS folder, write a definition for the term and find an example from the text. You can do this in groups and share the answers:

Foreshadow (page 9)

Memoir

Prologue

Epilogue

Allusion

Epigraph

Imagery

Simile

Metaphor

Symbolism

Maxim

Group assignment:

 

In pairs (plus one group of three), you will create, save and share a Sway presentation about a person noteworthy for their contribution to SOCIAL JUSTICE. 

Step 1 – Watch the Sway tutorial. More help can be found on the WELCOME page in this Class Notebook or by asking!

Step 2 –  Pick a person from the list below

  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Martin Luther King
  • Mahatma Ghandi
  • Sir Apirana Ngata
  • Dame Whinia Cooper

Step 3 – Set up your Stream (sign in using school account)

Step 4 – Share tasks. (Suggest one person is researching/sourcing images while other works on slide creation but make sure you share the roles).

Your Stream must contain the following content: 

  • A brief biography – who are they, why are they important?
  • A diary entry written in first person as if you WERE the person. Similar to Malana’s Life with the Taliban columns. Reword yours to suit your subject’s background and key events in their life e.g: Nelson Mandela – Life in Robben Island prison etc
  • A fully developed SEXY paragraph responding to the statement: The World is  better place because of X….
  • A slide with at least five key terms defined that are related to your subject/their issue e.g. apartheid, Nobel Prize, Treaty of Waitangi.
  • A slide with 6-8 questions you would ask your person in an interview for the school newsletter.
  • Final slide attributing your sources (hyperlinks)

To break up the text, embed visual images, relevant audio  and video throughout your presentation.

Due Date: TBA!

Introducing …. you

You know how certain songs trigger memories of special people, place and events? No matter where I am, as soon as I hear the opening chords to U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, I’m instantly transported to the lane outside Lancaster Park in Christchurch on a sweltering November afternoon in 1989.

It’s hot, my stomach’s in my throat, can’t stop smiling as my sister, my bestie, my boyfriend and various associates prepare to embark on a musical adventure. It was much more than out first concert sans parents. The concert and associated road trip came to represent the end of an era for us as we finished high school and headed out to The Real World.

Those were the days.

At the start of the school year, a lot of teachers spend a few lessons getting to know new students (and names) via a range of introductory tasks and activities. It’s a great way to find out about their learning preferences and styles, interests and personalities!

Inspired by the aforementioned musical memory, I’ve developed a new introductory task for Year 10s called Playlist of My Life. The idea is to choose songs/artists that represent something about them and explain their choices. With the rise of Spotify etc I’m pretty sure they’ll know what a playlist is and hopefully, everyone can come up with half a dozen songs that mean something to them…

Here’s the lesson outline:

Teachers’ preamble for Your Life as a Playlist:

When you make a playlist, you can organise it by artist or genre or around a theme (chill out songs) or a time (Summer 2018).

(Discuss other ways to organise a playlist. Check they understand genre.)

Here’s an example of a playlist a teacher made on her blog summarising her teaching experiences. (Show)

And here’s one that came from the novel Playlist for the Dead . Each chapter is named after a song on a playlist a boy made for his friend. (Show link to blog post. Inform students novel is in school library. Deals with sensitive issue of youth suicide)

Students intructions

  • The task
    • Create a playlist of 6-10 songs that tell me something about you
  • Picking songs

Choose songs that remind you of people, places, events, memories or just because you really like the artist.

  • What to include
    • The song title and artist and a brief explanation of why you chose the song. For example: I chose History by One Direction because it was our team song in 2015 when I played Under 12 rugby for Taieri. We used to sing it on bus trips and knew all the words. The song reminds me of the players in my team. Some of us have played together since we were five. It was also the year we won our grade so it was pretty memorable.
    • For example: I chose Elastic Heart by Sia because I really like the lyrics. The song is about being strong but also being able to be caring at the same time. I think it’s a good song for girls because it’s powerful. To me it means we shouldn’t let people think we are weak just because we are girls.
  • Presenting your playlist:
    • On refill and hand in named OR
    • Word online and share with me OR
    • PPT online and share with me
  • Optional extras: If completing the task electronically, you might include links to videos or hyperlinks to information about the artist or to lyrics.
  • Due date: Thursday February 8th

This is your first task for the year so make sure it’s you best work. Remember you only get one shot to make a first impression!

If ever there was a digital tool designed to boost basic literacy that can be used across curriculum areas, is easy to use with multiple applications MS Learning Tools, featuring Immersive Reader and Read Aloud functions, is it!

To truly embed digital technology in our classrooms, we need to find generic tools that can used across curriculum areas that benefit core skills such as literacy and numeracy. Learning Tools offers assistive technology that meets both these goals. It is also a great option for time poor teachers keen to use more digital technology but lacking the time to investigate and trial options.

Learning Tools isn’t new but has recently been updated to make it more user friendly and available across a wider range of MS platforms. Learning Tools (which includes Immersive Reader and Read Aloud) can now be accessed via OneNote (desktop and online), Word (desktop and online), Outlook Office Lens and Windows 10 Creator.

The Immersive Reader function is potentially a game changer with the ability to vastly improve reading comprehension. Selecting Immersive Reader in the ribbon opens the text on a page in a new window and gives the student options to make visual changes for ease of readability as well as breaking down the text via three icons in the top right corner of the page.

Students can change the column width, page colour and text space.  This is great for dyslexic students who find it easier to read with sepia background and comic sans font and great for the teacher who doesn’t have to spend time preparing separate handouts.  The library icon gives students an option to break the text into parts of speech as well as showing the text broken down into syllables – so great for ESOL students.

Writing fluency and accuracy is also catered for via the Read Aloud function. Students could literally have text read aloud – their own writing or text scanned and saved electronically.  Updates mean that students now have a voice selection option through the setting gear icon so thaey can change the speed of the voice narrating the text as well as the gender. This could enable students to “hear” mistakes in their own writing and then correct syntactical and grammatical errors.

Here’s a link that includes a great introductory video of how to use Learning Tools in OneNote (note it makes reference to the dictate function which I have been unable to locate since updating to Office 2016).

And here’s a link to an explanation of updates that occurred late last year which might supersede some of the above but gives another good overview of what’s available.

And some FAQS. Scroll 2/3 down the page to find links showing how to access the different components of Learning Tools in various platforms. It’s a shame that the interface isn’t consistent across platforms but if you delve into View or Review in your task bar, you’ll find these tools!

 

Quite often in the teaching and learning process, we become focussed on the end result. I’m not a hug fan of assessment that simply “tests” a student’s ability to retain knowledge and thankfully, we are moving away from that towards providing students with more authentic opportunities to apply what they know. Surely, that is the real purpose of C21 learning?

Year 9 and 10 provide great opportunities to step away from “end of unit tests” and review students’ learning in a range of contexts.

While English students still need to know who to write a visual text essay, I’ve added a group based assignment that allows junior students to apply their knowledge of a visual text (film!) at the end of the unit of work. The finished product then becomes a revision resource containing engaging, multi-media material they can apply to essay writing.

It is fascinating to observe how the group dynamics unfold. With some classes, I’m needed more for communication support than technical help! It’s also a great task for developing resilience – one of me, many of you I’m fond of saying! Who else can you ask for help? Have you tried trouble shooting via the online prompts????!!!!

We used PowerPoint online and the Office Mix add in. I allowed the students to work in groups of 3-4 and provided a range of activities to include in their Power Point. These were designed to cater for a range of learning styles. There was an extension activity as well for those requring extra challenges. In 2016, a class of higher ability learners completed this task for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and last year, a mixed ability class worked together to complete presentations for Shane Acker’s fantastic film, 9.

Students can collaborate on their presentation and work on their slide at home. The steps to creating a collaborative PowerPoint are as follows:

  1. Choose the PowerPoint icon in the Microsoft splash (to access online version)
  2. Get one member to set up a basic presentation adding title pages and a presentation title so everyone is clear who is doing what
  3. Share with other groups members using the share function (make sure to assign edit rights)
  4. To open students either click the link sent to them in an email OR select share with me in their class notebook
  5. They can use the desktop version of PPT if they wish and changes made will still save into the online version

I allowed three class lessons and homework time to complete. Some of the slides required audio recordings so they had to leave the classroom and find a quiet space. Their instructions were to create a presentation that included:

  • Character trait analysis – matching characters to proverbs and explaining why a proverb applied to a character (more able students)
  • Setting analysis – sketch the setting and label key locations (great for visual learners)
  • Film techniques  – label and explain techniques used via a still shot/screen grab (analytical)
  • SEXY para – write a SEXY Para persuading me WHY Year 9 students should watch the film (writers)
  • *extension – explain why the film would fit the requirements of a coming of age film. Draw a Venn Diagram connecting 9 to other coming of age text(s) you have read or watched. Include links to those other texts on the page and an audio recording of your explanation.
  • Include a bibliography acknowledging third party sources

OfficeMix will soon be included as a feature in PowerPoint so it won’t need to be downloaded as an add on. As such the online repository for office mixes is migrating to Office Stream by May 1 this year. If you have a gallery of several mixes online, it would pay to ensure you migrate them over to Stream.

Here are links to three of 9TD’s presentations from last year…

9 An Overview

9 Character, Theme, Technique Analysis

9 An Overview

The film trailer for 9. It works on so many levels – environmental and historical links, philosophical questions re use of technology, rife with symbolism. Can’t recommend it enough for Year 9:

Pretty as a Picture

Who doesn’t love a good infographic? They’re a great way to summarise data in a form that appeals to a range of learners.

While watching a series of tutorials on helping students get more out of Office 2016, I discovered the People Graphs add in. As an English teacher, what stood out was the presenter’s description of the add in as enabling “story telling with data.” Now that, I get!

Firstly, make sure you’re working with data that can be logically transferred to visual representation. Think data that would work as a bar graph. You’ll also need to have that data saved in an Excel Spreadsheet. In Excel, go to the Insert button then select Store then choose Recommended. From there, find the People Graph add in.

Once installed, you’ll find People Graph option under the Insert button. The add in will instantly create chart in the spreadsheet which you can edit using two icons in the top right of the chart created. The icon on the left allows you to create the chart with your data so you can select the columns you want used, change the title etc while the gear icon allows you to change the layout – colour schemes, icons used etc. Just keep in mind the audience and the type of presentation you’ll be using the infographic in before getting too carried away!

The completed chart is a jpeg so simply save it to your clipboard by right clicking and saving the image generated wherever you want to use it -Word, Sway, Powerpoint or OneNote.

I’ve been surveyed several times by our Economics students and imagine People Charts would be great for them when analysing data collected. The visual nature of the add in would also be ideal for young learners to help them grasp how raw data can be transformed and applied.