Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Mixing it up

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 ūüôā

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.

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.

 

Elementary!

Following my last post (soapbox more than sharing sorry) I realised something. Aside from the very real pressures preventing teachers from using digital technology effectively, have we been blinded by science? What if we all take a big step back, right back to the NZC, then maybe forward a bit to our curriculum area’s learning objectives and then inch forward slightly to our department’s goals. Is it possible to start from the purpose of the lesson and THEN consider the place of digital learning tools?

Here’s an example. My Year 9s are going to close view Ang Lee’s stunning film Life of Pi this term. Close viewing a visual text (being a critical media consumer) is a core skill in English. We want students to be able to infer meaning from a visual text, to consider how the director uses a range of film techniques for a specific purpose, to analyse how those big ideas are incorporated in the text and reflect on the importance of those ideas in their lives, their community and the world.

To attain those objectives we generally:
1. Watch a film and review key scenes
2. Explicitly teach a range of film techniques
3. Discuss and analyse ideas in the film
4. Discuss and analyse the director’s purpose
5. Relate techniques to purpose
6. Reflect on the film’s messages for individuals and for society

So, you watch the film, you do term:definition matches and you write an essay that demonstrates you can apply knowledge and express ideas.

How could digital technology enhance that process?

1. Close view – Use the best TV you can with best sound system available. Use pause and slow mo.

2. Techniques Рtake screen grabs using a snipping tool, print image to A3, get students in groups to label the techniques or use phones/ipads to go out and replicate a few scenes to help embed techniques and effects. Make the key literacy terms interactive and competitive Рtry quizlet, Kahoot, Edmodo.While it might take 30 minutes to make your quiz, if you make it generic, you can reuse.

3. Ideas – upload background notes on your LMS. Then give the students opportunities to work through a range of tasks (character analysis, themes analysis, narrative techniques) online, in any order they choose, over a week.
4.Director’s purpose – check: has your DVD got interviews with director at end? Are they on YouTube or the film’s official website? These can be viewed as a class or online with headphones as a close listening activity. I’m going to use an interview with Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi) on RadioNZ as an extension activity.

5 and 6. To consolidate their knowledge (moving from Bloom’s understand and apply to analyse, evaluate and create) students choose their groups (student choice) and complete an assignment requiring them to collaborate and create.

If you go right back to Bloom’s Taxonomy (or Solo or whichever theory resonates), it’s a matter of starting with basics then working up to the higher order thinking by creating opportunities to independently analyse and avalute. I’ll use One Note on 365 because that’s the platform my school uses. It took me about two hours to set up a shared content library, individual student folders and a collaboration space (the basic tenants of One Note). The aim is to use Office Mix (an add on to powerpoint enabling students to add audio, quizzes and drawings) to create a presentation they will then present to class providing an opportunity for some public speaking as well.

If we start with the big picture, consider core skills, learning objectives and key competencies and plan from there, then digital technology simply becomes a means of getting there – while also allowing students to develop digital literacy skills.

Of course it takes time to learn how to use One Note, Office Mix and Quizlet but it also takes time to create paper handouts and worksheets. My advice for the over or underwhelmed is pick one class or one unit of work. Start with a big bit of paper, mind map the big picture goals/objectives/competencies then consider possible steps. For me, taking time to make sure the folders I create for students in our class notebook match those in the content library and are in a logical order is vital to ensure students can navigate their folders easily. So forethought and curbing a tendency to add extra folders after I’ve set up the directory under the guise of “extras” are crucial.

And as for the essay? My students will still write essays this year (a core skill as that is how they will be assessed for externals in NCEA) via written text studies so will practice that skill again before exams. Risky strategy possibly but if they can see the assignment through, hopefully they will have gained greater insight into the text and thus have more to write about.

Like many schools, mine is heading down the path of offering our students more opportunities to use digital technology. I trained relatively recently and, in what now seems ironically like a blessing, spent the first four years of my teaching career in four different schools. This meant I’ve had to spend ¬†lots of time teaching myself how to use a range of platforms, systems and programmes. From wiki first then to moodle followed by ultranet and now Microsoft 365. And those are just the LMSs I’ve encountered. I also spent a year teaching and learning with an iPad class.¬†Necessity is indeed the mother of invention although it’s not a path I’d recommend.

Secondary teachers are often accused of lagging behind their primary teaching colleagues when it comes to adapting 21st century learning tools. But what I’ve observed over the past six years is that many are often totally overwhelmed by HOW to incorporate digital technologies in their daily teaching practices which is not the same as being somehow philosophically opposed to the idea. They don’t always have access to hardware in their classrooms in which to seamlessly integrate those devices into their lessons, there is next to no tech support and scant opportunities for PD. It’s a lot to ask of people who already work long hours, many of whom have families young and old of their own to support outside of school.

It’s no wonder many are left feeling overwhelmed (or worse underwhelmed) by decrees to use digital technology, more, now. The pressure caused by such demands should be addressed – surely as part of the current emphasis on teacher wellbeing because if we are stressed and overwhelmed than it stands to reason that our students, with less resilience and coping strategies, are even more so.

Solutions could include teacher release days to ensure staff have opportunities to investigate and explore what works for them, dedicated tech support staff in schools to take the onus of teachers with IT interests and ensuring those offering workshops (often suppliers of software) are up to date with issues faced by individual schools when it comes to adapting technology – wifi access, hardware access, financial constraints, infrastructure needs such as access to powerpoints etc. in short, funding and expertise.

Not everyone teaches in MLEs where devices are freely available to students 100% of the time. Not all of our students have access to the internet at home and no, they don’t all have smart phones (surely that’s a piecemeal solution anyway?). ¬†Instead of pointing fingers at classroom teachers and putting so many under so much pressure, bigger issues around access to hardware, software, support and PD must be the focus.

Every day I see teachers achieving remarkable feats through dedication, intelligence, effort, talent and sometimes, sheer bloody mindedness. There are young innovators ¬†and wise old(er) heads and every one of them has something of value to offer pedagogically speaking. But even the most passionate educator is no magician.¬†If we are truly serious about giving students opportunities to become connected, collaborative, creative lifelong learners, than we have to ensure their teachers are afforded the same opportunities. If we don’t, the current inefficiencies, stresses and tensions will continue to fester resulting in burnout and more missed opportunities.

A day late sorry but as I missed February and March EduBlogNZ challenge, thought I’d sneak in a quick post on @kaiakowilson’s Love-Hate Resources.¬†Mine is not so much a resource as an assessment. ¬†At our school, Year 10s complete units of work on creative writing this term which culminates in an assessment where they describe a character. The hate part of this process for me is repeating the assessment task, the love part is adding to the unit of work to refine, improve and differentiate activities for each cohort. While this helps to¬†enhance the learning process for the students it also keeps things interesting for me.

The first resource/activity I have used is the Describe that Face from the good folks at Read Write Think. I use magazine pictures, paste them to coloured paper then randomly assign. Students write descriptions in their writing journals then, the next day, I put all the faces on the board, take in their writing and read aloud as the students match the words to the face. Lots of laughs. If they find it hard to start, we use the preface that the person has just entered the classroom as a guest speaker. How would they enter the room? What would they do first? What would they talk about? Why? How would they sound? ¬†In a similar fashion, a former associate teacher put me on to Whose Shoes where you give each student a picture of a pair of shoes and they describe the person wearing them – it’s a bit harder then Describe that Face as it requires a bit more imagination but is also fun.

Another tried and trusted skill builder is this strong verbs activity which helps students improve the ways they describe character movement. This is great for classes who need to move around lots as you can ask individual students to act out ways of walking/talking before attempting written work.

Last year, I came across this fantastic powerpoint that really encapsulates teaching Show Don’t Tell. I modified it to include descriptions of people and then bolstered with starters from pinterest where students write down more colourful/vivid/interesting alternatives to dull words such as said, went, good, bad etc. As a starter I get them to write down 3-5 synonyms in their writing journals then put them into sentences. The writing board I’ve compiled also great synonyms, hooks, conclusions, structural tips and heaps of prompts – visual and written.

And this year, I have added The Literacy Shed to the mix, see previous post. This has really enabled me to differentiate core skills for my class which has several students who find writing a real struggle.

Finally, modelling. I’m a great believer in showing students what we need/want them to do. Often with seniors, I’ll write my own trigger narrative (or whatever the task is) and go through the process with them. With juniors, I’ve described a grandparents and shared. I used a photo as a starter and encourage them to do the same with the assessment to assist with brainstorming.

So in answer to the questions that prompted the challenge: Hate the assessment, love the myriad of modified resources that help us to get there. I have complete freedom over the how we get there and base sequences of lessons on the students in front of me. The process is always reflective. This year more than considering what worked well last year, I’ve had to focus more on how to differentiate tasks to develop required skills. In terms of how would I replace the “resource” (assessment), I would like to see the Year 10s choose between setting or character and the Year 9s focus on narrative. At the moment, Year 9s assessment is a setting description, Year 10 character. We discuss options at department meetings and have changed the way we assess speaking for our junior students recently so changing the writing assessment is not impossible. I suppose at the end of the day, it’s about feeding back to HoDs – and being prepared to make changes rather than repeat the same tasks every year.

I had a great conversation recently with a primary school teacher friend who’s also a literacy specialist/enthusiast/guru. What quickly became clear through our lengthy couch meanderings was that a lot of the challenges students face at secondary school are not due to lack of effort and energy expended by our primary colleagues earlier on.

Primary teachers have amazing depth of knowledge when it comes to breaking down concepts for students, modelling skills and providing awesome opportunities for them to develop their writing. Here’s an activity my 9 year-old son did at his school last week using James K Baxter’s My Town poem as a starter. And here’s Harrison’s poem:

The town

The town was usual enough; it had

A dairy,a bridge,a creek,a sky

Over it, and even a school that I never went to.

Me, my brother and Dad

Did what boys

Do best, made huts, biked

To the park, dodged the creepy old man

Who lived in our neighbourhood.

We jumped off the bridge,bought lollies

And chomped them down, scootered

To the beach

Doing nothing important.

By Harrison

Inspired by James K Baxter

Why then are so many of our students struggling with basic literary skills at secondary school? Are they simply reaching a plateau and stalling? Is the stagnation in written skills directly related to a drop off in reading? Is their inability to delay gratification a hand brake on truly engaging with the writing process? Did video kill the radio star?!

Among the many awesome suggestions my friend shared was¬†The Literacy Shed website. I was drawn to the visual tasks available in the music videos “shed” and the animation “shed.” (Sheds being section on the site). A quick skim of suggested tasks yielded heaps of great ideas that we could use around novel studies, literary responses and tasks to inspire creative writing. There are also several sheds related to genre which could be helpful for secondary teachers.

While some of the content targets a younger age group, over the past three weeks I’ve been using clips and ideas from the music video and animation sheds as part of a unit on creative writing with my Year 10s. This group of learners is loosely referred to as “low to middle ability” but really, they are low – Level 1-4 of NZC currently based on beginning of year samples around writing, spelling age and reading. This prompted a complete rethink of several tasks I had planned to do with them.

The Literacy Shed has enabled me to implement differentiation in a meaningful way. For clips¬† used, I have tapped into some of the suggestions on the website then developed them further for a Year 10 audience. I felt it was also important to tell the students that I don’t expect all of them to complete all the tasks – they are quite open with where they are at currently and a quick word in their ear is all that is needed to get everyone underway.

We start each lesson with our writing journals and a clear learning objective which is on the board and stated verbally. This has ranged from “Today we are going to look at good ways of describing how people feel” to using words with clear connotations etc. We watch the clip once and I ask 4-5 focus oral questions to ensure we all know WHAT happened. This in itself can be an hilarious exchange of ideas …
I then project a series of journal tasks ranging from straight forward identifying to retelling to describing to more sophisticated skills such as point of view writing or dialogue or continuing a narrative. My big objective is to prepare them for a creative writing assessment in Term 2 where their task is to describe a character independently. By the end of this term they will have been exposed to:

  • Adjectives and adverbs
  • Strong verbs and neutral verbs
  • Synonyms and antonyms
  • Connotative language
  • Emotive language
  • Characterisation
  • Show Don’t tell

This leaves me the first few weeks of Term 2 to work on sentence structure, sentence starters and types as well as some basic punctuation. I also need to get them concentrating on their writing independently for longer periods of time, a big challenge for kids with such a large range of learning needs. Even if they are making small gains in their learning progressions, they are certainly all coming to class with their journals, ready to go and feeling as if they have achieved something. And hopefully, they are gaining some enjoyment out of the process.

Below are a couple of sample “lessons” you are most welcome to use:

 David Guetta РTitanium

In your journal DESCRIBE the opening scene, use show not tell. Do a OR b OR c:

a) draw and label scene

b) create a word bank

c) write a paragraph

2.Discuss with a partner. At the end:

Who is to blame?

Why?

Is the boy acting in self-defence?

Can he control his powers?

3. In your journal, do one:

  • If you could have any superpower what would it and why?
  • You wake up one morning and find you have incredible physical strength. What would you do? How would your life change?
  • Draw, design and label your own superhero. What power, name and costume would they have?
  • Write a newspaper report of the events that happened in the video. Include interviews with the teacher, parents and police-officers.

¬†Don‚Äôt Go ‚Äď short animation

  1. Use adverbs to describe Pinky’s actions E.g: Danced vigorously
  1. Use adverbs to describe the cat’s actions E.g: Sprang menacingly
  1. Write a set of instructions as a list of bullet points on how to avoid being caught by a cat
  1. Retell the story from the cat’s point of view. Use strong verbs and adverbs to describe how events unfold….

I was minding my own business when suddenly, Pinky dashed in front of me…

Emile Sande ‚Äď Free

  1. Make an emotion graph to show how the boy is feeling at different points in the video
  2. Summarise by writing a sentence that explains how the boy was feeling at the start and at the end
  3. Create an adjective bank to describe the boy’s feelings
  4. Create your own similes and metaphors for the boy’s actions

Eg: He flies like a bird.                                           He is as free as a bird.

  1. Research 5 facts about Jokke Summer

Still thinking about reluctant readers, sometimes it seems the best way to grab the attention of C21 learners is to add a digital element to tasks/activities. This has worked well in the past for writing activities so I’ve started looking for ways to use the digital world to entice (or ensnare – tomato/tomatoe) my reluctant readers.

Philosophically, I’m in two minds. ¬†The debate that all reading is reading regardless of platform is almost passe but It seems a shame that students can’t simply pick up a book and engage with words on paper. Then again, I grew up in a different era with far less distractions so I’ll put that misgiving aside and focus on finding interactive sites and tools to bolster reading engagement.

One thing I hear a lot “I can’t find a good book.” Really?! (You pick your battles and that is not one worth fighting!) Is We offer recommended reading lists to our seniors and I talk about reading a lot in class, often bringing in books from home to create mini displays around themes we’re discussing or current issues. I also put best seller lists on the whiteboard and refer to those to encourage a reading culture while other staff review books on the school website. Last year, I set up a Pinterest page of good reads and promoted that in class. Simple to do and enables students to visually browse titles. (My juniors blog about their reading on Taieri HotReads but those texts aren’t generally sophisticated enough for Level One and Two).

A site worth checking out is Book Drum. The self-described companion site gives additional information on a range of titles so if, for instance, a student is reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, they can visit Book Drum for background information on the setting and events including maps, photos and a range of visual and audio materials. The Bookmarks Section has YouTube clips and interviews that help give context to the issues covered for titles featured.

These days you don’t need a special device or to download an app to read a book online. There are plenty of options for the digitally inclined to read online with texts easily accessible via the standard range of internet browsers.

A few years ago while teaching a media communication course, I discovered that our local public library has a range of magazine titles and newspapers from around the world which you can read FOR FREE online. All you need is a library card and a birth date to log in. Go to the homepage and under Digital Resources tab you’ll find a Newspaper Direct Press Display option (as well as a plethora of other great material ideal for research standards). There are a range of titles with articles suitable for Level One and Two. And did I mention, FREE!

The Dunedin Public Library website also includes¬†ebook and eaudiobook sections. At the eaudiobook section, you can borrow via one of two services. The ulverscroft option features a catalogue of 184 downloadable titles enabling users to listen to books being read. This service can also utilised via a free app for Apple users. You simply download the app and bang, you can access the titles. Brilliant. This should be treated as complimentary activity – it’s still essential in the spirit of the Achievement Standards for independent reading that students actually read a text but for a slower reader, I see potential in having the book in hand and listening at the same time as they are reading. ¬†The ebook section allows users to borrow and read books online, a familiar concept for a generation of people who have grown up around ereaders such as kindle.

At Read Any Book users can do just that, Ebook Friendly has done all the hard work for me listing the top 10 ebook sites (some titles free, others not) while TechSupportAlert lists a whooping 346 sites.