Wednesday, 23 March 2022

A New Normal

 Teaching the past two years have been anything but normal, and this year is proving to be much of the same. I was challenged recently when I saw a social media post that showed a table of comparing a student's current school year with the last "normal" school year they attended. This made me stop and reflect about our Year 3/4 students. The year 4 students have not attended a "normal" school year since year 1 and the year 3 students have not attended a "normal" school year since they were in an ECE programme. This led me to question myself about what is normal. 

School for our year 3/4 students in a Covid world IS normal. They have never really attended school any other way. One of the things that is not normal is the norms that we generally would have used to compare student acheivement and classroom success in the past. Thinking of the things that we need to change in our teaching practice to help focus on where are students are now our staff used the analogy of a face mask. 

We have been asked to wear a mask at school from nose to chin, which presents many problems in a classroom setting. So, as we move from a Mask On to a Mask Off society, we explored what challenges we are now face with the goals that we have for our "new normal" classroom. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Thinking back on 2021....

As the 2022 school year approaches, we are very hopeful for the year ahead that it might be more like the "normal" we were used to before the pandemic began. 2021 left many "what if's" and "could have been's" in our teaching practice here in NZ mostly because of the number of days we spent in "Lockdown" due to the Covid pandemic. Thankfully, our team came together and rocked an amazing Distance Learning programme. We had a consistent group of students participating in our daily Google Meets (nearly 2/3 of the team) and online learning. 

We decided to separate our team of year 3/4 students into wider learning groups to help with the planning while at home and direct instruction that we offered to each subject area group during the week. Students were able to have a 30 minute session each day focusing on one subject area directed at their level of learning. We strongly believe that this is what helped our students maintain their excitement and enthusiasm for particiapting in our distance learning programe. 

Part of "fun" approach, was tapping into the wealth of expertise at our school and brining along four of our "Specials" teachers at school. Students were given the option to join one of four offered breakout sessions each Thursday instead of a subject area Google Meet. They had so much fun learning how to code, creating funky things with our Makerspace teacher, getting extra reading support and getting their groove on with our Sports Coordinator in her Jump Jam/Just Dance sessions. 

Each Friday, students met with their home class after our daily Team Assembly Meet. This was a great time to come together and check on the wellness of our students and play a game or two in a smaller setting. Student tasks for "Fun Friday" were always self-choice frorm a task grid and geared to things students could do at home possibly with their family. 

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Term 2 Reading Progress

We have been working very hard on our reading in Room 21. The graph below shows the progress of my focus group comprised of those reading at Orange, Tourquiose and Gold at the beginning of the school year. These students began the year working a year to a year and a half below where they should have been. It is so good to see that we are making progress with only Student F not showing an increase in reading age. However, Student F has made progress by moving up one level (across the same reading age) this term. Students B, D, and M have all made one year progress and students A, C, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, N and O have all made 0.5 years progress so far this year. 


Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Dripping with Knowledge

 We have been prompted in years past to have our walls "dripping" with knowledge including words that our students can refer to and use when completing their learning tasks. This year, I have tried very hard to cover my walls with words as we unpack them in class and it has been fun watching my students move their working location or crank their necks to see the words while working. Here are a few snapshots I took during our writing time one morning last week. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

Talanoa Ako: Reading Together

 I ahve been blessed to be a part of the Talanoa Ako program at Tamaki High School this year. During this ten week course, the team presented a number of different topics to students and parents to help them prepare for the best learning opportunities possible for the students in their home at any age level. 

I was asked to present one evening on the importance of "Reading Together" as a family. This session was presented during one of our online sessions, which means that I have video footage of my presentation. As a parent, and an educator, this was a great opportunity for me to explore various New Zealand learning at home websites  in order to prepare my presentation for this session. 

Friday, 12 March 2021

2021 Inquiry Focus

 This year, I have stepping back into a year 3/4 classroom and I have decided to take another look into reading with my students. However, the focus this time around is centered primarily on working with my students in the Orange, Tourquiose and Gold groups (Reading at a Year 2/3 level). 

In speaking with another year 4 teacher at our school during the first Covid Lockdown of 2021, we realised that we both noticed our children reading across these three levels often struggled to express opinions and ideas or deepen their thinking about a text. Generally, these students have basic decoding ability but respond to conversation with one word or short answers. They also do not choose to read without prompting. This led us to believe that the students are not engaging in a meaningful way with the range of literature required to increase comprehension to working at or above their chronological age. 

We were prompted by Rebecca’s presentation during the Manaiakalani Data Staff meeting at the beginning of the year to think about how to increase students' responsibility to think critically about what they have read. This led us to wonder how changing teacher scaffolding from supporting literal engagement with the text to supporting more open provoking questions would we be able to move the responsibility for processing the text at a deep level from the teacher to the student. We also wondered if providing more texts of high interest to the students and creating choice in this process would increase movitivation to read longer novel texts. Lastly, if we were to teach our students to use Google apps to create and share their thoughts, opinions and connections to texts in meaningful ways would that increase critical engagement with texts and support students to think deeper about what they are reading and why they are reading it. 

Ultimately we decided that our Inquiry goals for 2021 are:

1. To increase students comprehension of novel texts

2. To increase motivation to read novel texts

3. to increase discussion and critical thinking across text types

Friday, 5 March 2021

2021 Distance Teaching

Well, 2021 is officially upon us and we have already had two Covid related lockdowns in Auckland. During Week three of the term we were home for three days, and just went we thought things were getting back to a sense of normal, Auckland was placed under a Level 3 Lockdown once again.

This second time around made our team of teachers a little more confident with students being able to digitally learn from home since we had just received our Chromebooks (year 4s) and it appeared that many of our year 3 students were able to use a device at home during our first three day lockdown. So, the teachers of team 3 decided to take the advice from the Secretary for Eduation Iona Holsted who said, "it may be for many students that ensuring their teacher maintains a connection during this period is more important that going hard on learning." We decided that we would provide a different learning activity each day for students to take part in along with promoting the use of the various webtools that we were in the process of introducing during class: Sunshine Online, Epic Books, XtraMaths and Mathswhizz.

We were so excited when we hit a record 49 attendees during our Meet on Thursday. This is the maximum number of students that we can have on a Google Meet without having to purchase the new "premium" edition of Google apps for Education. This was a new dilema for us, as this maximum level of particpants was not part of the Google Meet platform during the 2020 school year. 

We are currently awaiting the Prime Minister's announcement at 4pm today to see whether or not Auckland will move back to Level 2 in time for us to start Week 6 back at school.

Our 49 person Google Meet Session