Wednesday, 6 December 2017

End of year Inquiry Summary

Here is my inquiry summary. This year, my inquiry has revolved around finding common teaching and learning approaches which are important for a number of students in year 5.

- Thinking multiplicatively (learning and understanding times tables).
- Giving students lots of opportunities to reason mathematically.
- Mathematical vocabulary - gifting this to students and exploring it as a new language (just like we do with coding).
- Reflecting on their learning - getting students to realise when they didn't get something right and encouraging them to ask the 'why' and make changes.

Noting these common approaches has resulted in a strengthened understanding of the pedagogy, deeper thinking around how to teach students in effective ways, and exploring different tasks and approaches to engage students and strengthen connections between prior knowledge and new understandings.

I look forward to beginning the 2018 school year with this new knowledge to effectively support students in their mathematical development.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Music and fractions

Music lends itself nicely to learning about fractions. In fact, rhythm and beat is all about fractions! Therefore, I decided to teach fractions through music.

- Lesson Link
- The task

It took a while for some students to grasp the concept of this, however when they did, they were able to make strong connections between music and fractions. Many students were really motivated with this problem solving task and persevered until they correctly answered task 1 and 2. 

I think the turning point for students grasping understanding of this was when we played a clapping game and students realised that the total always had to be the same length of time. That is, 1 semibreve had to last the same length of time as 4 crotchets.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Beginning of Term 4 Inquiry Update

Being a 9 week term, end of year (summative) assessments begin for students from week 3, which is next week! I have been thinking a lot about how I can be preparing students for these upcoming assessments. In addition to the next steps, set out in my last inquiry blog post, it is going to be essential to prepare these students for the assessments. To do this, I am continuing to encourage students to demonstrate mathematical reasoning through screencasts and through collaborative problem solving. I will be encouraging students to practice their times tables with their classmates as much as possible throughout the next week. This will be through times tables flash cards, Salute, and through times tables grids (including a permanent one which is now on the class whiteboard). I am also going to spend this week before testing begins, giving students learning experiences which go back to place value (and into decimals for students who are ready for this). In groups, we will go through specific questions which students have, and we will go through some practice questions to discuss how best to approach them. 

It is important that students are feeling confident to share their reasoning as they go into testing, so that they have the best chance of demonstrating their developing knowledge which they have shown throughout the year. 

When assessing these students, it is going to be really important to triangulate data, rather than just make judgements from one or two assessments. This is clearly explained through this diagram by the Ministry of Education. I need to be using a range of data from throughout the year, rather than just through formal testing.

Possible assessment through observations:
- Group work
- Collaborative problem solving (presentations on blog)
- Screencasts
- Maths books

Formal assessments (other than EOY assessments):
- Maths-whizz data
- Xtramath data

Learning conversations are going to be really important too (MoE, 2011). This was really important in creating mid-year OTJs, when I felt that other assessments types were not giving me enough information. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Student voice through google forms

I have found that student voice is a great way for me to learn what additional support a student requires, how they want to learn, as well as a way a student can give me feedback on the effectiveness of my teaching for them. I have used student voice in a number of ways through literacy and maths. In maths, I have used a google form so students can let me know when they need support on a particular area of maths. We can then conference 1 on 1, or in small focus groups to develop understanding and confidence in that area. I can keep track of this additional student support on a google sheet.

The maths form:

In writing, I have created a similar form. This form allows students to be metacognitive about what area of writing they need most support. As is suggested as a strategy in teaching of maths, from this, I can then create flexible focus groups to support multiple learners at once, in an area which is purposeful for them (Chapin, O'Connor, & Anderson, 2009).

The writing form:

More recently, at the end of term 3, I created a form for students to share their ideas about how they enjoy to learn.

Chapin, S.H., O'Connor, C., & Anderson, N.C. (2009). Classroom discussions: Using math talk to help students learn. California, USA: Math Solutions

Thursday, 28 September 2017

End of term 3 Inquiry Reflection

In this post, you can see my reflection for the term, as well as thoughts about where to next, leading up to end of year assessments. The writing in pink shows the changes I have made to class teaching/ learning, to support these students.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Speed Writing

I have been wondering how to get students managing their time better, to get the most out of writing lessons. I tend to break a writing lesson up into segments so students come and go from the mat throughout the session. However, there are some students who do not appear to write much in these times. By the end of the week, some students may have only written 3-4 sentences, when I know they are capable of writing a lot more than this. Other students are a lot more motivated to be writing for enjoyment and to inform an audience.

As a result of the needs of the first group of students, I trialled something new. After talking to students about the topic for writing, I gave them two minutes to write down as much as they could remember from what had been talked about on the topic. Interestingly, I had at least two sentences from every student who took part! In some cases, this was more then I would get in a whole writing session. Some students saw the activity as a competition to write as much as they could down. Others found it useful to be given a personal goal within a smaller time frame. Several students were quite amazed when they came to the realisation that they had written so much in such a short time frame. They were even more amazed when they compared this to the amount they had previously been writing during a whole lesson. Taking part in this speed reading activity helped them to realise just how capable they were at writing. As a result of this, I will give some students tighter time limits and goals in writing and clearer expectations of what I expect in each of these smaller time frames. I will see how this goes!

On another occasion, to motivate students in writing, several students created a screencast while they shared their ideas for a writing task with themselves or a friend. These students then went away with headphones to listen to what they said, and change their spoken words into sentences. This meant that when the students came back to work with me, they had ideas written down, which we could then work with to create a quality piece of writing. We were also able to work with these sentences to discuss important parts of speech/ grammar which were missed.

I plan to continue both of these ideas for writing into term 4.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The value of finishing things off

When it came to planning for writing this week, I came across a bit of a dilemma! Being towards the end of a very busy term, I felt I was lacking in inspiration for new and engaging ideas. In my long-term plan, I had thoughtfully left a gap for writing in week 8, thinking that this would become clear to future 'me' as the term advanced.

In the days leading up to the still non-existent lesson, I stopped and thought about where the children in my class were at in their writing. To help me with this, I began exploring the Blog log, a spreadsheet where the students provide links to their shared learning tasks. I was shocked to see the lack of completed tasks! I knew very well that many of the students had been working very hard this term, so why did it look like nothing had been done?! It could mean one of several things:

1. Students had completed the learning, but the link had just not been added to blog log. 
2. Students had partially completed many tasks, but none were completed enough to have been shared on their blogs. 
3. Tasks had not been completed.

I noticed a common theme with these three possibilities. They all required students to be given time to stop and reflect on their learning. At this reflection, I realised there was no point in creating a new task for students. I put myself in my students shoes, and imagined the following things going through their heads as the term continued, and new tasks kept getting added onto their 'to do' list:

* "What is the point in finishing anything? I'm just going to be given something new tomorrow."
* "I never get anything finished, anyway."
* "I really want to get this task finished, but I just don't have the time. And then we just get something new to work on! How am I supposed to get anything finished?!"

By doing this, I realised that I was the one who needed to change. I needed to be giving these students more time to complete their learning tasks, while spending additional time with those students who were needing more support. 

So the next day, I created a simple writing task, which was to focus on the editing and publishing (sharing) of learning. The lesson began by focusing students back onto the blog log. Students were then given an initial 15 minutes to add any links to the Blog Log which they had not yet done. After this, they were to go to any tasks they had partially completed to aim to get them completed and onto their blogs. Meanwhile, I was working with individual students who needed additional support. 

What a success!! Students who I had seen slowly getting less and less motivated to complete learning tasks, were suddenly much more positive and were showing more engagement in the tasks. Every time they posted to their blog, they seemed to get a new burst of energy to get another task completed.

On this day alone, before morning tea, I received around 35 notifications for new blog posts from my literacy class. This demonstrates that there was a lot of learning which had been sitting in drives, unshared. Judging from the fact that students were given about an hour to work on this, these students had completed a lot of work, however I just hadn't given them enough opportunities to finish them off to a published standard.

Reflecting on this scenario, I realised that the students in my class are definitely intrinsically motivated. As soon as they were given more opportunities to complete their learning, they did it, with no other incentive than the satisfaction of completing a task and being able to share it on their blog. As explained above, this intrinsic motivation appeared to add to a positive cycle, where every time some learning was completed, students became more motivated to complete something else.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Maths PD - Term 3

This week, we had some great maths PD with Jo Knox. She left us with some great ideas for teaching our learners from Year 5 through to Year 8. One idea she shared with us stuck with me and I trialled it with my class today. Below, I have explained the task:

Using arm motions, we represented a range of different fractions: 1 whole, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8. Here are some picture representations I have created to demonstrate these different arm motions:

The students were extremely quick at picking up these 4 arm motions, and it did not take long for them to gain confidence in understanding relationships between them. After the students were able to quickly form the arm motions, they were told to get into groups of 3 or 4. I then called out fractions which they had to create using these four arm motions. This was a great way to see which students could understand these fractions and the connections between each other. This was a great way for the students to develop their understanding that half of a quarter was 1 eighth. This really showed when the students created 1 and 3/8, with only three students. It was really positive to see that many of the groups managed to solve the problem by creating 1 whole, 1/4, and 1/8. They could also confidently explain that 1//4 was the same as 2/8 by using these representations of fractions.

Later in the day, while teaching a maths group, I asked students what 1/4 of 1000 was. The students accurately responded with '250.' I followed this by asking the same students what 1/8 of 1000 was. Students were confused, until I linked them back to this above task. As soon as they made the connection back to 1/8 being half of 1/4, the students could accurately give me the answer, '125.' After seeing how engaged students were in this task, and how much they took away from this experience, I am interested in finding more of these types of interactive, engaging maths tasks. 

NOTE: This is an activity I learned through a maths PD session. It is not an activity created/designed by me.

Start of term 3 Inquiry Update

Here is my updated inquiry into maths for this year. Click on the links to explore some of the NZ resources available to us, which will help me in this inquiry.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Team collaboration

Last year, we decided to run a Team 4 Inquiry Immersion Day for an Inquiry topic, The day consisted of the six teachers in our team pairing up and taking a rotation of three different activities throughout the day. The five classes were mixed up to create a three-way rotation. It was a great day, which resulted in lots of discussions and excitement for the rest of the term for the students. It was evident that lots of learning happened.

Yesterday, we held another Team 4 Inquiry Immersion Day. Our Inquiry topic for this term is 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (Planet Earth and Beyond). Team 4 students are learning about resources required for life, how planet Earth has these necessary resources, and what we would need to search for if we were to move to a new planet. During our Immersion Day, students took part in three different rotations:

1. Space food
2. A normal daily routine on the ISS, as well as what it means for a planet to orbit a sun.
3. Exercises for Space.

They then completed a series of tasks to share their learning on their blogs. Here is the task for the rotation which Kelsey Parrant and myself led:

We wanted our students to be able to complete a quick but meaningful task (in the short time provided) which would remind them of their learning from the lesson with us. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Changing my ways

As teachers, we are constantly inquiring into our practice to discover the best way of teaching the learners who are sitting in front of us. Sometimes, this may require us to step outside of our comfort zones to try new techniques and ideas, and also this may require us to change our ways.

I am a person who likes routine. As a teacher, it is important to follow routines but also be prepared to be flexible. Things can change at any time, and we have to be prepared to adapt our routines appropriately.

As a teacher, I have learned that it is not possible to ever have everything 'completed.' There is always something further down the list to be working on. I have had to learn how to prioritise tasks and to some extent, alter my mindset for this to happen. The main priorities for me as a teacher are the children who turn up to school every day to learn. I need to be organised and prepared for the children who come through the classroom doors at 8:30am every morning. This includes being prepared, refreshed, and organised in myself.

Therefore, the word which stands out most to me from this term of teaching is 'priorities.' I need to be constantly thinking about in what order my priorities fall at a particular moment in time.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Beginning of term 2 Inquiry Update

This term, I hope find out about the characteristics of mathematical thinking which my students are displaying. I hope to do this through using screencasts. At the end of last term, I was able to listen back to some really interesting screencasts which my students had created. Through these screencasts, I was able to clearly see gaps in student knowledge when it came to explaining their mathematical thinking. I was drawn to the fact that a lot of this information I was able to gather from the screencasts would not have been possible (or would have been much more difficult) when just looking at students' written responses to mathematical problems.

This term, I hope to use screencasts as another dimension for students to share their mathematical reasoning, and as an assessment tool to student learning. This may look like:

- Creating a rubric which students fill out after completing each screencast, in regards to their mathematical thinking/ explanations.
- Using screencasts to explain what they have already done to solve a mathematical problem.
- Using screencasts while they solve a mathematical problem.
- Exploring language used by students in their oral mathematical explanation.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Holiday blogging

On the last day of term 1, most students went home for a break from school. So did we! However, a number of students in team 4 continued to share visible learning online throughout the two weeks of the holidays.

I have seen the great results of the holiday blogging programme, run by Rachel Williamson at the University of Auckland. However, these holidays were different. Other than a number of creative tasks suggested by one of the year 6 teachers, there was no organised blogging programme, and no one tasked with the job of ensuring students were receiving comments on their blogs. This meant that any student who blogged was motivating themselves to create and share the blog posts.

Another thing which we noticed was that not only were these students writing quality blog posts which were interesting, creative, and informative, they were also leaving quality comments on other students' blogs and replying to quality comments left on their blogs, creating an online discussion about their DLO.

Zaeeda posted 41 blog posts over the holiday period. I enjoyed seeing her 'Daily Animal News' posts which she shared daily. On each of these blog posts, she would draw her own images of a chosen animal, write a narrative story about this animal, and then create a short comic strip. Zaeeda also shared some interesting holiday events with her blog viewers. 

Jahzara posted 25 blog posts over the holiday period. I was amazed with the creativity of Jahzara along with two of her friends from room's 6/7/8. These students created collaborative google presentations during the first week of the holiday. They each contributed to the presentations from afar. Like Zaeeda, Jahzara also shared some interesting holiday blog posts throughout the two weeks.

The students of team 4 made me extremely proud over the holidays. The energy and motivation evident from the students who blogged over the holidays was exciting and extremely positive. See our blog post about our holiday bloggers on our Room 10 class blog.

Friday, 7 April 2017

End of term 1 inquiry

This term, I have made some interesting and exciting discoveries through my inquiry. My overall focus for my inquiry into mathematics this year is how I can be encouraging improvements in mathematical reasoning/ explanations. I have started off by looking into ways I can give students the chance to explain their thinking through a number of modalities.

This presentation will provide my inquiry steps taken throughout term 1:

I will add links to some of the screencasts completed by students so far this year once they are on student blogs. The screencasts have proven to be a potentially valuable assessment tool to notice gaps or misconceptions in mathematical thinking and reasoning, and next steps for individual students. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Inquiry - Beginning of term 1

This year, for my inquiry I am looking into my teaching practice in mathematics. I am interested in looking into how I am currently teaching maths, and how I can be making changes to my practice to best benefit my learners. 

Throughout 2016, I became aware of the amazing opportunities digital technologies are able to provide to redefine teaching of mathematics. I also realised that many learners are able to confidently answer mathematical problems when given scaffolding in group situations, however cannot always provide the same explanations when working independently or solving problems without scaffolds.

Ideas to investigate this year during my inquiry could include looking into the power of multi-modal learning in mathematics (use of audio and visual, tactile experiences to explain thinking), ability to self reflect, and development of strategies to use when working independently. 

In terms of my practice, I could look into learning experiences I am providing to learners in class, how I am teaching strategies in group settings, and how I am supporting learners who are working independently (how I am teaching strategies which could be used independently).

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Overcoming the Challenge of Attributing Images

Whenever I have to use an image online which is not my own, many thoughts go through my head: How should I be using it? How should I be attributing the author? Am I giving the author enough credit?

If we struggle with this onerous, yet necessary task, we can only imagine how our learners must feel!

As part of teaching our learners to be cybersmart, it is important that we are modelling the best practice. After much pondering and reflection over the first part of the summer, I decided to create a poster which I would be able to use in my year 5 class. I needed some way of simplifying the process for the learners to help it become an automatic and painless process. A disadvantage of the attributions provided through is that they do not include working links to related pages for the photo. This can easily be fixed by adding them in yourself.

The poster which I created demonstrates a simple, step-by-step process, including decisions learners may have to make when using images online:

Monday, 16 January 2017

Digital Enhancement, Day 1

Today was the first day of our week long block course in digital enhancement through the University of Auckland. It was an interactive day where we looked deeply into a number of learning theories. We each had to prepare a 15 minute activity which focused on the major concepts of one of nine readings. My activity was based around the text, Evaluating the change in space in a technology-enabled Primary Years setting, by Terry Byers and Wesley Imms (2016). I found this text really interesting as it gave a number of theoretical explanations for the changes in physical classroom spaces which are seen in many schools today. I found it particularly interesting learning about the change from a one-spot focus in the class (where a teacher tends to teach from only one area of the classroom), to a classroom with no single focus (known as a "polycentric layout", p. 205).

The task which I created around this reading encouraged my colleagues to think about their classroom spaces from last year, and the classroom spaces they will be teaching in this year. They sketched out a floor plan of their classrooms and then discussed and planned what changes could be made to give their classrooms a realistic polycentric layout. We discussed how difficult it was to achieve this in older classroom spaces which were not purpose built and without purpose-built fittings. It definitely made us all think about our practice and whether we tend to teach from one 'comfortable' spot or whether we move around a lot during the day.

Here are the slides which display some of our more 'polycentric' classrooms:

I found it interesting that this reading gave purpose to these physical classroom changes, such as allowing for ubiquitous learning which encouraged creativity and collaboration while giving students agency. These are all goals and principles which are so important in our schools and which we constantly talk about on a day-to-day basis!


Byers, T. & Imms, W. (2016). Evaluating the change in space in a technology-enables primary years setting. In K. Fisher (Ed.), The Translational Design of Schools (pp. 199-220). Sense Publishers.