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If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll be aware that secondary school teachers are seeking an improvement in teaching and learning conditions in New Zealand schools. One crucial thing we are looking for is support for the increasing number of students with behavioral and learning difficulties being placed in our classrooms with no additional resourcing.

I welcomed one such student to my Year 9 English class. He became student 29. The rap sheet was long but equally concerning was the learning levels and associated needs. So what’s a teacher to do?

I can’t ignore him because that could lead to outbursts that will impact everyone’s learning and potentially place us in danger. Philosophically, I believe that despite his negative attitude, student X is a human being who deserves a chance. There are reasons beyond his control leading to some of these challenges.

On the other hand, I simply don’t have time to make an individual learning programme for a student who is probably two or even three levels of the New Zealand Curriculum below where he needs to be.

When he joined us, we had just started a unit of work on formal writing.  I quickly realized I needed to find a way to adapt the tasks or things would go pear shaped very quickly. Of course I realise that’s our job but those outside education must consider the context. Our classes already cater for recent immigrants with no support who can arrive with zero English language skills, international students, children with dyslexia/dyspraxia (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), ORS funded students with intellectual disabilities (who have teacher aides but still take time to socially integrate into class activities) and the list goes on.

Day 1 – I started by setting him up with ClassNotebook and spending 15 minutes showing him how to naviagte the LMS. Because he was prone to losing his password and log in I popped it on a post note on the wall he faced with a laptop so that couldn’t be an issue.

Day 2 – The next day, we watched a documentary on boy racers, brainstormed ideas in support or against them and then students had to write persuasive paragraphs in their journals. I sat down with student X and got him to discuss his ideas, prompting him and encouraging him to use the S.E.X.Y structure of paragraph writing. We then crafted them into paragraph which I typed.

Day 3 -Language features – Student X picked a topic (tazers) and brainstormed three ideas about why Police shouldn’t use them. I typed up a paragraph for him. Then we went back through and I pointed out and colour coded formal writing features.

Day 4 – Picking a topic for our assessment and researching supporting points. Student X picked one and brainstormed ideas. He was then given time to find examples to support his ideas (research)

Day 5 -8 – Drafting an essay. Student X did this on ClassNotebook. I supplied feedback by making audio recordings to suggest ways to make paragraphs better or a smiley sticker if he had done well. He really struggled with editing and crafting – once it was written down, it was done as far as he was concerned. His short attention span meant he found it difficult to go over the same paragraphs more than once.

Overall this approach enabled me to build a more productive realtionship with student X. I set clear expectations that in English, he was expected to do the work like other students BUT I tried to make sure that work was pitched at his level, gave him choices, clear deadlines, heavily scaffolded the assessment task and gave him one on one time.

I’d like to report the story had a happy ending but issues outside the classroom meant he was removed for a spell. Hopefully when he comes back we can pick up where we left off using ClassNotebook to engage student X and progress his learning.

Below are screen shots (click on them for a clearer view) of the scaffolded tasks we worked through for formal writing:

Day 2student dictates a paragraph based on visual text and class brainstorm

Day 3 – language features and paragraph structure

Day 4 – pick topic, form opinion, brainstorm points, research

 

 

Days 5 – 8 Draft, craft and edit essay. Students gets feedback visually and as audio recording

Structure broken down – student chose previous topic rather than one from list

 

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