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A timely post as NZ teachers take a break. But how many will be catching up on marking? Lots I bet! Some great ideas here about quality feedback. Extremely pertinent as the powers that be continue to demand evidence of learning progress and sadly link that to professional competency.

The Learning Profession

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The conflation of marking and feedback has led to a pernicious culture in schools that equates lots of written marking in books with high quality feedback.The irony is, of course, that the evidence on written marking is thin (read the EEF’s review on the evidence of written marking: ‘A marked improvement’) and sometimes great feedback isnigh on impossibleto evidence.

It’s difficult to pick the best metaphor to describe the profusion of marking and consequent impact on teacher wellbeing but I’m going to go with this (and excuse the hyperbole – I’m an English teacher): teachers are drowning in a sea of marking. At the start of term we dip ourtoes into the sea of marking (got to test the temperature)and before we know it ourfeet have been pulled out from under us by an undercurrent we didn’t see coming. Midway through the term we’ve lost sight of land and…

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Sway My Way

As our school heads down the path of being a 365 learning environment, I’m starting to expand the range of learning tools I’m integrating into lessons. It also helps that my department has improved access to computers this year so suddenly, digital learning becomes more achievable!

Sway is a Microsoft app that enables teachers to create audio visual presentations for students, parents and colleagues. The best place to start is with a Microsoft in Education tutorial. The Teachers Academy site provides dozens of online tutorials which talk you through the various features of a range of Microsoft apps as well as providing some great professional learning opportunities  and subject-specific resources.

Having used Office Mix, Sway is quite similar but, from my way of thinking, more aesthetically exciting. It’s a fantastic way to flip or tilt learning by providing students with key concepts while catering for a variety for learning styles and then providing opportunities for students to consolidate their learning through quizzes or other activities. You can embed tweets, stack pictures, embed video and podcasts.

My first attempt is pretty basic and is based on the novel The Outsiders by SE Hinton for a Year 10 class. I’ll use it at the end of the year as a revision tool.

I used a template and then customized it through the design tab by selecting a colour scheme and font I thought would work best for my class. The next step is insering title slides followed by text slides to break the presentation up into sections. You can then insert pictures selecting from Sway’s recommendations or uploading your own. In the same way other media such as YouTube videos can be inserted. The navigation bar sits at the left of the screen with the work space in the middle. You can easily flick between the two or expand various sections and hide others.

Progress can be previewed at any stage to check and tweak the layout. You can also select remix from the top tool bar and let Sway work its magic on your presentation by applying it’s own design and layout.

My first Sway features a mix of content, set activities and extension activities. Like Office Mix, there are examples on the Sway website of other presentations. I recommend browsing in case there is one that could work for your class – or perhaps for a relief lesson if you need one at short notice.

Your finished presentation is saved on the Sway website and stored on the cloud. From there, it’s just a matter of projecting and playing or sharing the link in a Class Notebook (you can embed directly there) and letting students work through at their own speed – just make sure they have headphones first!

 

Here’s an aspirational speech from an 11 year old! Her speech emulates the TED talks style of presentation with lots of gestures, intonation and rhetorical questions. I often use video of young TED presenters as exemplars but I have never seen a student pick up on the presentation style as explicitly as Florence in her Gender Stereotypes speech.

As the epitome of public speaking, the ideas trust TED also provides a wealth of useful resources, such as the tips presentation below from Chris Anderson the person charged with helping speakers polish their performances. Get students to note five tips as they watch/listen then share with a partner then do a whole class mindmap on board. It’s a great way to reinforce key features they need to be aware of when writing and presenting their ideas.

 

There’s also a really great article here on presentation literacy featuring famous (and infamous) TED presenters who have conquered fears of public speaking to own the the big red dot!

Oh and if you’re keen on a really great gender stereotypes related TED Talk, show students the following presentation by media expert and proud Dad Christopher Bell. I’ve shown my Level 2 literacy class this year as a starter and then ecnouraged them to find a TED Talk they could respond too. It proved quite motivational for a class of book-phobic teens and they chose on a range of topics from running to transgender discrimination.

 

 

 

 

Probably the most dreaded activity for many students is oral presentations. Our school guidance counsellors have told me they get lots of visits from extremely anxious students around this time.

Providing supportive environments, a back up stool for shaky legs, making preparatory tasks fun, viewing inspirational speeches for motivation all help but for a core group of learners, none of this really works. You could argue that speeches are just one of those evil necessities (like going to the dentist) but where’s the engagement in that?!

And while we might be able to jolly our juniors along, for the Level 2 alternative English students I teach, opt out rates are high. Four credits up for grabs but if you’re terrified of public speaking and chasing reading and writing credits, it’s a no brainer.

I think for those students, a better selling point might be developing more relevant, accessible tasks. Broad topics like “adaptation”, “choices”, “courage” are simply not doing it for them.

As long as we can assess against the schedule – is it appropriate for the audience, does it contain conventions suitable for the type of presentation, is it crafted and controlled, are a range of speaking techniques used in the delivery – alternatives to persuasive formal speeches need to be offered.

  1. Small group seminars – a seminar is more interactive than a formal speech. It should contain some visuals, some direct engagement with the audience and be informative. With Level One students, I’ve used this activity and linked it to career planning. We started by completing the career quest survey online, whittled the job options down to three then one, carried out research and developed a seminar on a specific career/industry. There are clear links here to with the Vocational Standards on offer.
  2. How To presentations -Instructional clips are popular. From making loom bands to using a green screen, it’s likely that students have consulted YouTube at some stage so this is a genre they’re familiar with. Due to the lower levels of crafting involved, this is probably better suited to junior students. Here’s some links to clips some American students have created and presented on Smart Phone apps which range from 30 secs to two minutes. Students need to produce story boards, scripts and practise their delivery. Here’s the backgrounder with rationale explained in detail.
  3. Mihimihi – This is an introductory speech that shares whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. A mihi is presented in Te Reo. A few years ago, a junior student who was struggling to write a persuasive speech nailed this. He began presenting his mihi as per the conventions and then proceeded to unpack the relevance of each reference point to his identity. I still have the scrawly, hand written transcript.  A Level One student also chose this option and invited her whanau to school for the presentation. Again, it one of the best pieces of work she completed all year. Engaging, crafted and delivered with pride.This may just provide the deeper connection some students seek and also help them to draw strength from their whanau and whakapapa thus overcoming nerves.

Here’s a clip on making a visual mihi too:

There’s a few alternatives. I’d be keen to know what other people have tried as well.

Funny sometimes how the classes you lose the most sleep over end up being the most rewarding. Last holidays I tried to devise a new approach to teaching formal writing with a class of 28 mixed ability Year 10 learners which features an ORS student, 2 ESOL students and 8 SENCO tagged learners with a variety of learning challenges.

As a group BOY formative testing showed they struggled to unpack ideas in reading, and without an idea, it’s hard to form opinions and without opinions it’s difficult to be persuasive – you get the drift!

I recalled that at the end of Term 2, the entire Year 10 cohort had workshops with guest speakers from Police and other agencies about cyberbullying. It struck me I should start with something they had discussed recently and were likely to have an opinion on. In an aha moment, I came across two FREE DVD teaching resources on the NetSafe website complete with downloadable worksheets. Perfect – these guys love visual starters. So the seed was sown.

My objective was to help students progress their formal writing skills by developing ideas around a class wide topic – the perils of cyberbullying. As well as watching the DVDs, I provided opportunities to develop ideas and conduct research together to ensure they ALL had facts to back up their opinions while at the same time exposing them to a heap of valuable online resources. The lesson outline was a mixture of core skills and ideas development that went something like this:

Lesson 1 – SEXY para revision via reflective writing in journal based on TVNZ reporters sharing their experiences: Do celebrities deserve the same rights to privacy online?, formal vs informal language, paragraphing using BBC Skillwise site.

Lesson 2 – SEXY para revision based on Sexting clip: Why is sexting dangerous?, Tone – rewrite a bogus school report, Research Skills discuss ACC (authenticity, credibility, currency) show tree octopus and the “True” Martin Luther King website, show students how to conduct keyword searches, show students how domain names give clues to authenticity, research trash and treasure hunt – find 3 facts about cyberbullying in New Zealand

Lesson 3 – Watch Tagged, write own definitions for bullying and cyberbullying, check actual definitions, friend request worksheet from Tagged, Role of bystander – write a SEXY para in journal: Why don’t people stop bullying when they see it?

Lesson 4 –  SEXY para The dangers of stereotyping via YouTube Clip Other People’s Shoes. Class discussion Why do people follow the Queen Bee? Watch Tagged webcam character interviews, complete timelines, profiles and what’s the status worksheets/activities.

Lesson 5 – Watch Let’s Fight it Together, answer focus questions in groups, devise solutions as mind map, watch character interviews on DVD, blow up character questions to A3 complete in groups, share. Hand in journals for feedback on this week’s reflective paras. (Give feedback on SEXY structure and explanation of ideas)

Lessons 6 – Complete THINK worksheet and discuss as class, revise language features via Pimp My Writing ppt, write two pimped sentences in journals. Issue task: We need to get tougher on cyber bullying.

Lesson 7 – Complete research worksheet in pairs in class using websites supplied.

Lesson 8 – Spelling rules starter, draft intro and BP1: What is cyber bullying and how big is the problem in NZ?

Lessons 9 – Spelling rules, Draft BP 2: What are the effects of cyber bullying? and BP 3: What is being done to stop cyber bullying?

Lesson 10 Draft conclusion (think about causes, effects, solutions) hand in for feedback, discuss feedback with students

Lesson 11 and 12 – craft, edit, publish, submit

During the five assessment sessions, our ORS student was working on his own presentation about cyber ullying using MySimpleShow which he presented on the last day of term – and it was awesome. He told his teacher aide what to type, they selected pics together and he presented it. The other students were gobsmacked!

As for those completing the essay assessment, their results showed some incremental improvements in terms of summative assessment but for me, the real results were less tangible and included:

  • addressing issues within the class between different clicks by using THINK
  • establishing who specifically their own “trusted” adults are
  • reaffirming the sanctity of their own bodies and how they most respect themselves
  • crossover with Health and PE. Students were getting double exposure of key concepts and ideas

Here are extracts from some of my favourite essays – regardless of where they sit on the curriculum scale, I’d like to think they learned a few valuable lessons during the process:

We definitely have to get tough on cyberbullying. The victims of cyberbullying are getting younger and younger. Cyberbullying is no game. It’s not something you do as a joke; it’s serious and pointless. Cyberbullying destroys people and makes them feel unimportant.

Cyberbullying is when someone uses social media or technology to bully and put someone else down. By using this method the bully can hide behind the screen instead of having to confront the victim face to face. My opinion is that if you have a problem with someone, you should sort it out then and there, face to face and not cower behind a screen and bully others without having the guts to say things to their face.

Cyberbullying is when people decide to bully other people online with technology and turn it against each other to make a horrible situation for the victim or victims. Cyberbullying gets worse at high school where 25% of students report they are constantly cyber bullied, 30% say they have sexted and 67% say they have been asked to sext. The most common type of cyber bullying is using cell phones because 80% of high school students use them.  Cyber bullying is most common with girls. An example of this is in the Tagged film when two girls start cyberbullying the victim as a “joke.” Clearly, cyberbullying is a vicious game that needs to be taken seriously.

The effects of cyberbullying are long term and potentially deadly. In Dunedin, a 14 year old girl received 150 threats to kill herself in three hours. In another incident, a 15 year old girl on tumblr was asked for tips and messages on how to kill herself. People who get cyberbullied fell depressed and can end up self-harming. Most of them can’t handle being cyberbullied. In my opinion, cyberbullying is pathetic and cowardly. The victims have a whole life ahead of them. They shouldn’t have to put up people bullying them. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

There are now multiple places for victims to get support such as websites like nobullying.com or helplines like 0800WHATSUP. There is also a programme called Sticks and Stones started by young people in Alexandra. These are all for people in need of someone to talk to and get help to prevent further problems around cyberbullying.

In conclusion, I think cyberbullying is a gutless way of putting someone down. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all. Cyberbullying ruins lives and you don’t want that sort of guilt on your hands.

My school has an extremely rich oral language programme. Junior classes are assessed on prepared reading, formal speaking and impromptu speaking over three terms. And no, they don’t exactly love it. Last year we opted to introduce debating to the Year 9 programme to spice things up a little. We generally do this right after or right before formal writing so have found it really helps with forming and justifying opinions.

My Year 9s have been under the pump somewhat so our debating unit is being condensed down to just two lessons, 1 prep session and 2 for assessing this year (too many interruption in an already short term). Given that impromptu speaking is a nightmare scenario for some and ,even those who profess to loving it (because they love arguing!) often have to be guided towards the nuances of structuring a logical argument!

The first introductory lesson was simply to introduce them to debating concepts, watching clips of our junior debaters at the Dunedin Schools Debating Competition while applying concepts (so using pause and asking – what is the moot? Are they affirmative or negative? What is the team line? What are their main points etc). I also love this downloadable powerpoint which uses building a house as a metaphor for debating.

I came across this awesome great TedTalk by Christopher Bell (see below) last week and used it for my second lesson which ran pretty much like this:

  1. Human continuum – do you think we have gender equality in NZ in 2016?
  2. Watch the talk – dot and jot 3 reasons Bell says girls need superheroes
  3. Four corners – I strong agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree that we have gender equality in NZ. Each group write down 6 bullet points justifying opinion, read out. Ask students to swap corners if they find themselves being convinced to update their opinion.
  4. Tag Team – groups of five, each person must speak. Aim is 1 minute each but you can tag others in if running out of ideas, can’t be tagged in until everyone has had a turn. Same topic as before and use the online bomb countdown timer to time their presentation which must make 5 minutes between them.

That pretty much takes an hour and has got them:

  1. forming opinions
  2. explaining opinions
  3. working as a team
  4. getting comfortable standing up and speaking in front of peers

Looking forward to next week when they get to prep a debate over an hour then present for the assessment.