Monday, 15 December 2014

Term One Integrated Unit

As part of our planning days, we created an integrated unit to help support our vision for learning and teaching.  Our goal is to empower the children to be part of the decision making process as they created their learning spaces and established a culture of learning.

Our integrated unit for Term One is called ‘Our People, Our Place, Our Story. The Big Idea for our unit is ‘belonging’.

Our Deep Understanding:

People and places have a story. Stories give us a sense of identity.
As curious learners we can explore our stories.
Our story is unfolding...Together we have a responsibility for creating our next chapter.

Throughout our integrated unit, the children will explore the following significant questions:

  • What is a story? 
  • What are we curious about? 
  • What is my story? 
  • What is our story? (Class, School, Community, Planet Earth) 
  • How can I learn about stories that matter to me? 
  • How can we share our stories with others? 
  • What impact do stories have on us? 
  • What can we learn from others’ stories?

In 2015 we have a school-wide focus on the teaching of science. We are required to teach science for at least three weeks each term.  As a Syndicate, we decided to integrate our science objectives (Nature of Science and Planet Earth and Beyond) into our unit instead of teaching a stand-alone science unit. The unit we have written flows from personal stories, to developing a class story, to exploring school and community stories and then to stories of the land.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Our Vision for 2015

After reflecting on our visit to Russell Street School we began to develop our own vision for learning and teaching in the Senior Syndicate in 2015.  Ally Sewell from Massey University helped develop the following question to lead our conversation: How do we want children to experience learning and teaching in the Senior Syndicate at College Street?

During this conversation, it was important for teachers to consider how we could make some changes without throwing out what we know works.  At College Street, our understanding and application of effective teaching practice across the curriculum is a school-wide strength. Many of these practices we want to maintain however there are some things we can do differently!  In the case of the teachers involved in the pilot, we needed to consider how might we be able to change things for learning in an environment that has two teachers and 60 children.

Teachers worked in groups to develop their ideas.  When our ideas were combined, the following statements were developed:

Our Vision for Learning and Teaching in 2015

  • A community of learners where children are at the centre of decision making.
  • A community of teachers where passions and strengths are valued and utilised.
  • Teachers and learners who strive for excellence across the curriculum.
  • Positive, collaborative relationships.
  • Critical and creative thinkers who engage in authentic learning and problem-solving.
  • Self-aware learners who drive their own learning. (Valuing student voice, giving children choice and flexibility over their learning, developing agency.)
  • Effective use of digital technologies as a learning tool.
  • Engaged, creative, motivated, happy learners!
These statements are very closely aligned with our school vision ‘Excellence Through Inspired Participation’ and what we already believe about learning and teaching at College Street.

When the Senior Syndicate teachers arrived in the boardroom for planning day they 
immediately noticed some changes to the environment.  Clive put a leaner and bean bags in the 
room and displayed a range of quotes and children’s artworks.  The board room looked amazing!  
We were trying to model for our teachers some of the things that we would like 
them to consider in 2015.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Visit to Russell Street School

At the end of 2014 we had our Senior Syndicate Planning Days. As part of these two days we visited Russell Street School. Prior to our visit, we met with Elly Warnock (Leader of Poutama at Russell Street School) to provide her with some background information and share our plans at this stage. Elly shared a presentation with our teachers about the journey of Poutama and she explained how they had developed the children’s understanding and application of agency. Following this our teachers visited this space and were able to talk with the children and teachers in Poutama.

After our visit we completed the thinking routine ‘See-Think-Wonder’. Below is a summary:

During our visit we observed students learning individually, in pairs and in small groups in a large flexible environment. Within the building, there was a range of different spaces for the children to learn. We noticed that the teachers were not immediately visible. The children were self aware, they understood which peers and spaces best suited their learning. The children were engaged in learning conversations with their peers and teachers. The children could share their learning with others, including visiting adults. Children shared the way they documented their learning journey on a blog. Teachers were passionate about what they were doing and were happy to share with us.  We were particularly interested in the children explaining their co-constructed wall display that showed the how they worked towards agency.

Some of our wonderings:

  • How long did it take to develop this level of student agency? 
  • Could our children manage themselves in a space like this? 
  • Will it be easier as two classes instead of four? 
  • What does teacher planning look like? 
  • How would children with learning issues cope in that environment? 
  • Are they having any issues tracking children? 
  • Should we start in whanau classes? 
  • Can working in whanau classes first help with transitioning kids to managing self? 
  • How are children accountable throughout the day? 
  • What will this look like in a single cell classroom? 
Elly was honest about their journey and our teachers understood that these changes didn't happen overnight! She said we needed a ‘license not to be perfect’. Most importantly, our teachers understood that what they saw and learnt was about pedagogy not the environment.

Our visit to Russell Street School was an inspiring start to our day and provided a valuable starting point for many rich conversations to come. Click the image above to check out Poutama's blog.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

An Educated Guess

In November 2014, a presentation about the future of learning and teaching for children in the Senior Syndicate at College Street Normal School was shared and discussed by the Senior Leadership Team. After several conversations with members of the Leadership Team, it was agreed that we would establish a 'Future Focused Education Pilot'. As a result, four Senior Syndicate teachers and classes would move to two of our double classroom spaces. Our 2015-2017 Strategic Plan and 2015 Annual Plan were developed and included objectives that linked to providing our learners with a future focused education. We deliberately chose not to use the term 'MLE-Modern Learning Environment' because we wanted the focus to be on pedagogy not the building. It is important to note that this journey did not begin at the end of 2014. At College Street Normal School we have been striving to develop life-long learners who have the knowledge, dispositions, skills and values to live successfully in our ever-changing world for many years. Please read the 'Background' page of this blog for more information. Our blog posts will document our journey as we continue to strive to provide our learners with a future focussed education.