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Archive for the ‘Students as Teachers’ Category

A year ago I posted a unit of work around the memoir I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzi and Patricia McCormick. This was designed for an able class of 15 year olds with a focus on flipped learning to promote deeper thinking of concepts featured in the book.

The unit was designed to end with a collaborative social justice project where students could focus on a social justice crusader of their choice, make a Sway and present it to the class.

But schools being schools, interruptions to the timetable meant we never made it to the self-directed task at the end.

This year, I was determined to squeeze it in and am utterly convinced of the benefits of collaborative learning. The current issue of Teen Breathe Magazine cites collaborative learning as a great self motivator and with lots of sickness last term and general end of term malaise setting in, I found the assignment really worthwhile.

Students encouraged and supported each other, shared ideas and learned from each other.  I took a hands off approach until presentation day simply helping as needed and encouraging students to share trouble shooting successes and design tips which I projected onto the whiteboard. The entire unit plus links to Sway tutorials were accessible via a page in their Class Notebook. Students could work on their Sways concurrently via sharing a link and from home.

While many opted to focus on Malala (totally okay as we all get tired at the end of term!) other individuals also featured. There are three ways they could set up their Sway:

  • Use a template from the Sway homepage
  • Create a word document with sub-headings and upload
  • Start from scratch via storyline function
  • Start from topic – banned this option as the work is done for them!

I was impressed with their ability to quickly work out the creative aspects of Sway such as image stacking and inserting video. As presenting skills is part of the junior English course, there were discussions around suitable colour and font choice so they were tapping into prior knowledge of visual and verbal features from earlier in the year when they made film posters.

Looking ahead to NCEA, there are achievement standards in various subjects that require students to make and submit visual presentations. Many default to PowerPoint but this group will hopefully consider Sway as an option.

As well as encouraging critical thinking, providing opportunities to develop digital literacy and, to collaborate and create, the presentation was attended by their Social Studies teacher allowing for great cross curricular chat too.

Social Justice Assignment

Here’s a selection of 10TA’s Social Justice Sways:

Georgie and Julia – Greta Thunberg

Tane and Logan – Malala Yousafzi

Lily and Shyah – Malala Yousafzi

Billy and Hamish – Martin Luther King (link coming!)

 

 

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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:

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With our seniors heading into practice exams next week, there’s been the usual flurry of emails this weekend from students in various stages of panic. While I am more than happy to give feedback to students who have come to class, contributed, met milestones and generally brought something to the learning table, it’s a little harder to know how to help those with questions like”Can you help with dystopia? I’m really confused.”

Like I said, difficult to know where to begin.

We’ve a got a few months yet ’til externals so I hope their questions will become a little more refined in the near future! In the meantime, I’ve had a go at summarising an Achievement Standard via a web based presentation tool called mysimpleshow. This allows you to explain topics using a range of templates to create a short video. You supply the script (there’s a word count limit per slide so it tests your skills in brevity). The programme then matches your words with visuals which you can keep, delete or replace and even reads the script for you. If you don’t like the male American script readers, you can record your own. Each step is navigated via a set of tabs at the top of the page logically labelled: Summarise, Visualise, Add Audio, Finalise.

I’ve used similar tools in the past – ShowMe is a great one to use on iPad. I’ve used it for Slide the Corner,  The Whale Rider and Level 2 ConnectionsOfficeMix will do similar for Microsoft people. These programmes enable you to project directly off the site or if you’re worried about WiFi connectivity, you can download and save your presentation. Another plus for time-poor teachers is these sites feature collections of presentations made by others so you might find what you need ready to use! (A bit like SlideShare).

Curation sites such as ScoopIt, which I love for students looking to elevate their thinking and make independent reflections on the text, are also helpful at this time of the year. It’s also handy for saving all the sites you bookmark for a topic in a more visually appealing space.

Mysimpleshow combines text, visual and audio elements catering for a range of learners. You can elect to turn subtitles on or off – I put them on – and choose the speed of the speaker. I view it as a starting point to get students focused on key concepts. For my subject area at least, students will always have to engage with material, develop their knowledge and then synthesise and express their ideas via a well structured written response but as we all know, starting if often the hardest bit!

Next time I teach these topics, before writing a practice essay, I’ll get students to hone their thoughts by creating their own  Simple Show – flipping the learning should enable them to reflect on the content in a meaningful way AND ensure they create their own revision resource for later in the year.  I’d call that a win:win.

 

 

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Back in May, I shared my plans for a Year 9 film analysis assignment using Microsoft 365’s Notebook and Office Mix. The last week of term was probably never the best time to execute this ambitious plan but nothing ventured nothing gained!

Overall, the class of able, very self-managing learners completed comprehensive analysis of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi via shared pages in a class notebook. The notebook also supplied them with extra reading on the role of religion in the film and commentary on coming of age genre as well as podcasts of interviews with both Ang Lee and Yann Martel so plenty of extra activities for early finishers 🙂

I’ve uploaded half a dozen of the finished products to the Mix Gallery and on reflection, now the dust has settled, I’m pretty pleased with their efforts. We skipped an essay assessment (which we’ll complete next term) so the overall learning objective was for them to create a presentation that showcased their knowledge and understanding of the film, it’s messages and the effects of film-making techniques. (I’m hoping the hyperlinks work because you generally have to sign in to Microsoft to view stuff. If not try searching under Other – Life of Pi).

I briefed the students thoroughly before we embarked on the Office Mix creation about the need to help each other out, be patient when waiting for my assistance and encouraged them not to panic if technical issues prevented them from completing to the standard they wanted. This made a huge difference to how the next three lessons progressed as they proactively supported each other so was far less stressful than previous my experiences with other learners. In short, they are the exact right group of stuents to trial such learning opportunities.

I’ll summarise the pros and cons and you can judge for yourself if this was a worthwile use of two weeks of a jam packed term:

Pros:

  • all five key competencies were demonstrated by all students
  • students have a comprehensive set of class notes for revision later in year
  • range of learning needs and styles catered for
  • students worked at own speed
  • collaborative environment flourished – students became teachers as we trouble shot technical issues together
  • students had a chance to work in a team and create an interactive presentation that will also form part of study notes (and may be easier for some to keep track of!)
  • when I was away for a day, this assignment was ideal for relief

Cons:

  • some groups had issues working on the shared PowerPoint consecutively, especially when doing tasks for homework
  • some groups were unable to save their finished product to the school network (saving issues)
  • audio option was random – cut off while some students were talking. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the random cut offs – some recorded fins for over a minutes some cut off at 38 seconds?!
  • we used streams not surface pros so no access to stylus for annotating the plot graph although some tried free hand
  • I still have to teach them to write an essay!

Our next step will be to talk about creative commons. Only one group attributed their use of content from a secondary source. If this type of assignment becomes the preferred method to consolidate learning, it seems we need some school-wide education about the use of third party content.

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Setting up an entire new course is not without its challenges. One of the biggest issues getting our Level 2 Media Studies course up and running this year has been integrating technology into as many assessments as possible. Although we are not a 1:1 or BYOD school (yet), students have access to HP streams. I feel it is really important that if students sign up for a subject like Media Studies, they are offered a range of technologies as part of the learning process. As a teacher, this sometimes entails lots of trial and error getting to grips with various hardware/software/gear/platforms/programmes before guiding students through the process.

At the moment, the class are working on a standard that involves designing and planning a media product. Next term, they will use that planning to make the product. Their task is to produce dystopian film trailers of 2-3 minutes duration. Before they can do that, there are several checkpoints to get feedback from me/their peers on their planning documents.

To make it even more real, we were lucky enough to visit internationally-acclaimed television production company NHNZ this week where they heard first-hand the importance of sound planning in the moving image production process. They also got valuable careers advice and a tour of the production facility which left them gobsmacked!

Reading through online discussions between Media Studies teachers, it seems gathering evidence is one of the toughest aspects of successfully offering this standard. The TKI task we’re using suggested blogging. Although we are a Microsoft school, I opted not to use OneNote for this activity due to the ease of sharing with people (moderators) outside the organisation. Instead, students have set up WordPress sites and are slowly getting to grips with adding posts as well as uploading documents.

We used Office Forms to survey our target audience and they’ll insert links to responses (all wonderfully collated and summarised in graphic form) into their first post as proof they have considered target audience in their planning. This was pretty straightforward although having done a whole uni paper on survey methods and efficacy, I wish we’d had more teaching time around creating robust surveys before they sent them out! I suppose flaws in the wording of some questions can be part of the feedback process. Certainly a teachable moment about how people can manipulate questions to get desired responses …

The benefits of using WordPress for this assessment are:

  • posts are time coded providing evidence the assessment has taken place over a period of time (never long enough though!)
  • students can name pages to reflect the four stages of this assessment (concept, treatment, production schedule, pre-production activities)
  • visual learners can take pics of rough planning from their initial pitch and insert into a post
  • the class can comment on each others’ posts providing more evidence they are seeking and using feedback
  • their sites are public so easy to share outside school

It was a relief to be able to use a platform I was familiar with as having set up Taieri Hot Reads a couple of years ago and this site six years earlier, trouble shooting has been pretty simple plus I’d already developed a series of worksheets around signing up, commenting and posting. Like most things, the proof will be in the delivery. I’ll add some links soon as tomorrow is their first real checkpoint.

 

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Following on from my previous post about engaging senior students struggling to connect with English, I thought I’d share some start up activities developed over the past few years which now form a nice wee package of introductory lessons.

Week One is important. You only get one chance to make a first impression. That first impression for any student is key but for young people who have already experienced consecutive years of Not Achieved (and however you dress that up, it’s never a great feeling), it is vital. Instead of weighing students down with course outlines and standards offered on day one, last year I decided to focus on The Future – for the world, for them as people, and for them as English students to encourage them to reflect on where they want to be and (hopefully) see some relevance in the days, weeks and months ahead because for Mr I Hate English and Ms I Never Read, by definition, this can be a very long year.

To start with, we watched a very cool compilation video summarising the highlights of 2014 via Upworthy. All they had to do was watch and see if they could yell out the event/person’s name before the subtitles. This year – and hey, it’s still early, the best one I’ve found so far is a summary via Facebook.

Fun Factor – check.

Taking it up a level we then close view The World in 2020 (I’ve also used Shift Happens in the past) and discuss ideas around changes in technology and education. Next I used a selection of articles from Mindfood on Future Trends which featured in December’s issue (and has been repeated this year). Students choose a topic that selects them (food, travel, technology) read one or more articles then answer a series of questions. The activity culminates with them pairing up with other students who read about the same topic, summarising and mind-mapping the predictions plus adding their own.

Big Picture – check.

Next I use a reflective piece of writing by a teacher simply titled Some Thoughts (on studying English) which a colleague shared with me years ago. I remind them (hopefully) about skimming and scanning as a close reading technique and then they read and answer questions.

Subject importance – check.

Now we’re up to about Day 3 so I get the students to complete the Careers Quest  (regardless of whether they have done it before or not) which involves answering questions about their likes, strengths etc. This data generates a list of career options as well as entry requirements for the industry, income, current employment climate and information they can use as the basis for a report writing or oral presentations later in the year. (Make sure they save their results so they can refer back later on – and write down password!)

Individual relevance – check.

At this point only, I give out the course outline and go over available standards and credits with them. It might feel as if I’ve created a false impression that the year is going to be all about YouTube and mind maps but what I’ve learned about these students is they already know they will find the standard required hard but what might motivate them to give things a go is if they can see some relevance and understand that we are working together to develop life skills.  Certainly beats writing letters about yourself ….

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The old adage of “one page ahead” is dangerous territory for any teacher to find themselves in. Our students justifiably expect that our knowledge of our chosen subject area is more extensive than their own. But the current train of thought in New Zealand that more academic qualifications (knowledge) equates to more effective teaching is a fallacy.

I trained with people with PhDs in their chosen subject areas some of whom struggled to share that knowledge effectively with their students. Some never made it to a classroom. Why? Because when it comes to teaching, pedagogical skills (often considered to be lower level thinking than knowledge) win over subject knowledge every time. So in this regard, the push towards more time in the classrooms for secondary teacher trainees, IF adequately resourced, is a positive move.

Teaching is not an exact science. It is both art and science, profession and vocation. It requires knowledge, pedagogical understanding, experience, empathy and stamina. Experts in their fields have a tendency to forget what it is like to struggle. Their ability to recall the difficulty in learning new concepts, at breaking down subject material into bite-sized chunks for students can in fact be a hindrance. This is vital in classrooms characterised with a range of learning needs from low literacy to ADHD combined with hormones, cell phones and an endless list of other potential barriers to learning in any classroom on any given day.

It is a well known fact that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. That most of students will have not only more than one job but more than one career during their working lives and that those with a wide range of transferrable skills are most likely to succeed in a future where the pace of change is exponential. Yes, shift truly happens.

On the other hand, in some instances, it might be okay to be not just one page ahead but actually on the same page as students. A focus on inquiry-based learning in New Zealand’s curriculum, which has become almost modus operandi in our primary schools, endorses this approach. Multiple pathways to accessing, processing and synthesising new information have made it acceptable to trek the learning path alongside our students – and that in itself can have benefits for student-teacher relationships. It allows students see us as human and therefore fallible too. This is especially the case with digital technology. (Who hasn’t used a 14-year-old as their ICT go to in a classroom?!)

At the end of the day, it is how we use and share our knowledge that has the potential to make a difference to students’ lives. Pedagogical content knowledge means being aware of different teaching strategies, being able to adapt and employ them, accepting that one size does not fit all and, like our students, not being afraid to try again if things don’t work out as we anticipated the first time around.

It’s a real shame that the decision makers in New Zealand seem so far removed from the daily realities of teaching. The current obsession with more bits of paper (proof of knowledge) highlights the gap between what the general public believe makes effective teachers and the diverse skill set teachers actually require to succeed.

When I chose to become a teacher five years ago, I had plenty of knowledge in my chosen subject areas backed up by 17 years industry experience.  What I didn’t have were the skills to share my knowledge (and experiences) with my students. After four years teaching and learning in four different schools, I’m getting there but the beauty of teaching is we can never know everything while our skills in student-centred learning environments, by definition, must be constantly developing. Surely this in itself makes us if not good role models than at least good ambassadors of the life long learning philosophy espoused in the New Zealand Curriculum?

 

shift

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