Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Touching Base

At our Syndicate meeting in Week Three, after nine days of school, teachers were asked to reflect on the vision we developed at our planning days in Term Four. Teachers identified the following strengths at this early stage:
  • The teachers and children are developing positive relationships.
  • The children have been making decisions about their learning spaces - Linked to 'The Block Classroom'.
  • In some classes the children are beginning to make decisions about their own learning.
  • Some classes are beginning to utilise Google docs for learning.
To develop our vision and support our changes in pedagogy we will need to engage in significant professional learning about future focussed learning and teaching. There are schools we can visit, websites and blogs we can follow and articles that we can read. Teachers were asked to read the ‘Future-Oriented Learning and Teaching' Curriculum Update. This update discusses key themes that will underpin future-oriented learning for young New Zealanders. (Ministry of Education, 2012)

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Thinking Matrix Co-construction

At College Street Normal School, children and teachers co-construct an integration matrix each term. This process allows our children to understand the learning journey, identify where they are at and identify their next learning steps. Our integration matrix breaks down the deep understanding on a continuum from novice to expert. The matrix is designed to help teachers differentiate learning by using the indicators to inform learning and teaching.

After each class visited the Curioseum, they co-constructed their thinking matrix indicators. While the children were at The Curioseum they were asked to 'think about their thinking’. Prior to co-constructing the indicators, the children discussed, reflected on and evaluated their thinking during their visit. As part of this discussion, the children identified that our focus Habit of Mind for Term One is Questioning and Problem Posing. The children then worked in small groups to write indicators for novice, apprentice, practitioner and expert. These ideas were used to develop the final matrix.  Each class developed a wall display and the children placed their icons on the display to show where they were at.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Curioseum

During the second week of school, each class visited 'The Curioseum -  A Museum of Curiosity'. This experience was our emotional hook for our thinking matrix co-construction. Our thinking matrix focus for Term One is 'Curiosity' and one of our significant questions is 'What are we curious about?'  The teachers gathered a range of different exhibits for our museum, including a range of items that we borrowed from Te Manawa.  We set the exhibition up in our art room.  Each child was given a ticket to enter the museum with their class.  While they were at the 'Curioseum' the children completed a ‘See, Think, Wonder’ thinking routine at several of the different stations. The children were highly engaged and loved being able to touch most of the items.  As a result, the children asked a wide range of questions.  The children were able to use their 'See, Think, Wonder' sheets as evidence for their initial assessment on their co-constructed thinking matrix.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Traditional Teaching Style Role Play

When the children in Room 10 and 11 arrived at school on Monday (day three of school), they noticed that their classroom had been set up with rows and rows of desks. When the bell rang, Katie arrived wearing a long kilt and and Clive was wearing an old grey suit. The children were seated in their allocated a desk and the day began. First the roll, followed by the National anthem, handwriting, dictionary skills, reciting Shakespeare, chanting basic facts and even marching on the quad and organised play groups at morning tea time.  Clive and Katie taught the whole block using a whole-class teacher-directed approach.  This meant the children worked independently, silently unless asked to speak and of course they were all doing the same thing at the same time. 

Clive and Katie wanted to roleplay a traditional teaching style with the children as an emotional hook prior to co-constructing their managing self literacy block with the children. The children had started to plan how they were going to arrange the furniture at the end of Week One but they had not considered what learning looking might look like and sound like in their space.

Following the role play, Katie and Clive unpacked this experience with the children. The children responded to a range of statements and questions as part of a chalk talk. For example: Who is responsible for making sure we learn? As a result of this experience and the follow-up conversations, the children were able to explain how they manage themselves during lunch times and in different ways at home. Clive and Katie co-constructed with the children what the literacy learning would look in their space.

The children all wrote a recount about this experience. It was clear to see from their writing that they did not enjoy learning this way!

“The teachers wanted to make the point that we could manage our own learning.”
Year Six child.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Block Classroom

We started the year with our own version of ‘The Block’ television show!  When the children arrived at school on the first day of Term One, they noticed signs saying 'The Block Classroom'. The furniture was stacked in the corners of the classrooms and the walls were empty. Our goal was to empower the children to be part of the decision making process as they created their learning spaces and established a culture of learning. This was to ensure the children felt a sense of ownership and belonging in their learning environment. The children completed application forms and watched 'Episode 1' of 'The Block Classroom'. Each class was then set the challenge of creating their learning space.

'The Block Classroom' was a huge success! It was the perfect motivation for the children to ‘build’ their own learning space and begin to establish a culture of learning. It allowed the children to have ownership of their learning community because they were empowered to make the decisions. They made decisions about which furniture to use and how to arrange it. In some classes the children decided not to have set desks or enough seats at desks/tables for every child. They created different zones, including quiet zones and spaces where could work uninterrupted. They decided what and where their learning displays should feature on the walls.  The children were involved in the organisation of resources and equipment.  The children named their learning spaces and designed class logos that reflected their learning community.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sixtus Lodge Presentation

We had a staff retreat at Sixtus Lodge for our Teacher Only Days at the beginning of 2016. We shared a presentation about the Future Focussed Education objectives in our Annual Plan. The presentation allowed us to share some initial ideas with the staff about what we would be exploring in 2015. At the start of the presentation, we acknowledged the things that we are already doing across the school to help prepare children for an ever-changing world. We also took this opportunity to explain that we have been exploring some of these ideas in the Senior Syndicate since 2010, before we knew anything about 'modern learning environments'.