Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to
water, nurture and grow it.... so we ca
n live on the fruit of our learning
and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Anzac Biscuit Man & Other Classic Kiwi Tales - the book that just keeps on giving.

One of my most favourite books to use in the classroom, as the teacher and as a reliever, is The Anzac Biscuit Man and Other Classic Kiwi Tales by Peter Millett.

There are a number of ways I have used this book over the years it has been in my posession.
  • I have simply read the stories to classes - occasionally this has even resulted in applause from a class in appreciation of good expressive reading.
  • I have focused on the rich language within the book to teach alliteration, idioms, colloquial language, onomatopoeia and all sorts.
  • I have used the stories to focus in on virtues and life lessons.
  • I have used the stories to enable the students to be creative.
And that last point is what I am going to focus on in this post, because I've used this book twice in the same class in recent weeks while relieving and the children have lapped it up and I've been professionally satisfied.

So the class I was with is a fairly confident group of Year 7/8s in a semi-rural school on the edge of Hamilton, whose student are actually pretty urban.  These students are articulate, used to using ICT and are keen to express their creativity.  I've enjoyed these students immensely each day I have been with them.

On the first day I took this book in and gave them the choice out of these stories:
  • The Three Woolly Coats Fluff
  • The Hare and the Tuatara
  • Pigs in Sheds
  • The Little Blue Swamp Hen
  • The Anzac Biscuit Man
  • The Dodgy Duckling
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, here are the stories Peter Millett was re-imagining or, as I like to call it, Kiwi-ifying:
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Hare and the Tortoise
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • The Little Red Hen
  • The Gingerbread Man
  • The Ugly Duckling
The children choose the The Dodgy Duckling on the first day and I gave them the following options:
  • do a mini-research project on kiwi and negotiate how you want to present it (e.g. poster, PowerPoint, etc).
  • Kiwi-ify another classic tale or nursery rhyme
  • what does it mean to be a "kiwi"?
A lot of the students choose to research and present information on kiwi.  Some choose to do this as a poster; some choose to do this as a digital presentation.  Some choose to work independently and some choose to work in twos or threes.

One group choose to combine the idea of the kiwi and the ducks with their learning about the Treaty of Waitangi and the Land Wars and created a mini-movie of a land war between ducks and kiwi.

When the group who were at an intersports for swimming came back, they were employed in the movie group or by others to help finish their projects or completed outstanding work.  But one girl decided to Kiwi-ify the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle and publish and illustrate it.

Alas, I did not take pictures of their work that day.  I am kicking myself now.

Yesterday, the students choose the story The Anzac Biscuit Man.  We then brainstormed some possible activities inspired by the story, as seen in the picture below:

The red pictures on the right were used to decide which story we would read.  But as you can see we brainstormed:
  • play - direct or alternate version
  • movie/movie trailer
  • puppet show
  • comic strip
  • story map (including a battle ship type map)
  • movie poster
  • research recipe and present as either a page in a flash as recipe book or a step by step guide
  • song/rap/spoken work
Later on a student came up with another option: the packaging of the Anzac Biscuit Man biscuits (see picture below).

Immediately I saw students making decisions on their choice of activity, who they would work with and how they were going to get on with the task.  There was a high level of enthusiasm and a willingness to help out other groups when required as "subcontractors".

The group who had made the movie on the ducks and kiwi having a land war the week before bunched together to make a sequel.  Another group of boys wrote a script and decided to make a direct version of The Anzac Biscuit Man as a movie.  A group of girls decided to make a live play and asked to hire students from another class to help them out as actors.  One girl decided to make her's as a movie trailer.  She hired other students as actors but did the technical side herself.

One pair decided to make a movie poster, with one doing the technical work on the computer, while the other person did the drawings.  Another pair made a comic strip based on Anzac Biscuit Men breaking out of an oven to take revenge on frogs.  One boy came up with the idea of the Anzac Biscuit Man combined with The Flash to make a new super hero and merchanising biscuits.

I loved that the students came up with ways of making masks for their characters:



I loved how they were using their creativity to write scripts:

I loved that they were using their creativity to create a comic strip:

I loved that they were using their skills in multimedia to combine a drawn picture with a poster made on the computer:

Sadly I neglected to take a copy of their finished product.  But they took a photo of their characters with the iPad, got it on the laptop, using the Snipping Tool they cut around the picture and inserted it in their poster they made on the laptop.

And I loved how one girl used the movie trailer app on the iPad to map out her trailer and filmed it up:

At the end of the day, the students invited the neighbouring class (some of whom they had hired to help them out), the DP and the principal to watch the finished product.  The students who had gone to the swimming sports yesterday had a bit of jealousy and their teacher was thrilled they had had a creative day and was looking forward to viewing what they had achieved.

Personally I found it very satisfying professionally.  Yes, if they were my class, we would spend longer on story development and getting a better finished product.  But what I am finding is that what we do achieve in one day is a lot of problem solving (socially, creatively, technically), learning about managing our time, learning about working in a group situation, learning about supporting other people in their learning.  I'm just their to make sure they achieve something at the end of the day.

And I can not wait to go back and see what they can come up with in reponse to the next story!

This is a Storify of the tweets from yesterday:

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ULearn16: Keynote Speaker Two - John Couch

John Couch was the second Keynote Speaker at ULearn16.

This is the bio for John Couch from the ULearn Keynote Speaker information page:

John leads the Education business at Apple - his more than 40 years as a computer scientist and his advocacy for the use of technology in education has revolutionised learning in the classroom. At Apple, our dedication to learning has always been a part of our DNA.
Since joining Apple in 1978 as the Director of New Products, John went on to become Apple’s first Vice President of Software and Vice President and General Manager for the Lisa division, Apple’s first Graphics User Interface computer.
John has been heavily involved in the education market since 1985 and was Chairman of the Board at Santa Fe Christian School for 10 years. Under his leadership, the school’s annual losses were annulled and the student body grew from 150 to 1000.
John holds a Bachelor degree in computer science and a Masters degree in electrical engineering and computer science, both from the University of California at Berkeley where he was honoured in 2000 as a Distinguished Alumnus. He has also been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters and a “Leadership in Innovation Award” from Philadelphia University.

I am going to use photos from John's presentation to illustrate most of my reflection as I was distracted by connection issues and thinking about my previous breakout during this Keynote.

 Why does your school exist?  What is the purpose of your school?  What is the vision.

"Nana I can not spend the night with you until you have wifi."  That's how I feel about going to someone else's house!

"When I went to school collaboration was called cheating.  Every project I was asked to do was as an individual."

Any institution that is based on average is doomed to fail.

There is not enough time in the week for a teacher to find the right educational learning activity for every child.  We are expected to meet the child with learning that is in their flow - but that's impossible.

This is the Storify of tweets for John Couch's Keynote below.  I didn't tweet very much as I was having connection issues.

Monday, 20 February 2017

ULearn16: Breakout Two - I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine (Creative Commons)

This breakout was about Creative Commons.  I did not really know much about this, so I thought it was the right time to find out more.

This is the blurb that promoted the session:

Creative Commons (CC) and Open Education Resources (OER) have shifted from sitting on the edge of education to now being a mainstream way of sharing and building on our collective knowledge. But, still many of us just don't have the time to get our head around what's involved and how to bring CC to life in our schools. So we've bought CC NZ Education expert Elizabeth Hertitage and CORE Education's Knowledge Curator, Paula Eskett. Together we'll take you through the who, what, how and why so you leave with a CC plan for your school, and new ideas for gathering legally reusable resources.

Sadly Elizabeth was struck down with a severe throat infection and was unable to attend ULearn16.  Consequently Paula was presenting solo.  These are my notes from the session with a little reworking.  I hope they make sense and prompt you to investigate further if this is something you feel you and/or your school needs to look into.

Paula spoke about going to a breakout lead by Cable Green from Creative Commons during ULearn15 and having her eyes opened to Open Education Resources. 

Green impressed upon Paula that content which is made with public money has a responsibility to be open to the public.

Paula went to a Creative Commons conference in South Africa in March 2016 and came back to NZ fired up over CC and OER.

The WHY of this is all about the children we teach.  CC licences are clear, simple, free, legally robust and you keep your copyright  -  this is your pitch to the BOT to become a CC school, the legal stuff is all done for you.

Creative Commons is non-profit, has open copyright licenses and operates worldwide.  It's about the GIVING and the TAKING.

We tend to think of permissions when we think of CC - but we need to think about it as "universal access to research and education, full participation in culture".

Under a Creative Commons licence, when you share a Google Doc, a piece of music, data, photo.... you still own the copyright.  You will be setting the boundaries for how it can be used however.

This is a video to explain how Creative Commons can work in New Zealand:

Paula explained how Creative Commons is working in New Zealand through a project called Koha and getting children involved in creating as well.

An overview of the icons for copyright, sharing and use:

The Licences combine as follows below:

You can learn more about the licence elements and how you can combine them and get to the links in the above pictures, click here.

This is an overview of the icons for projects:  https://thenounproject.com/about/  It is essentially about having a visual language that can be understood all over the world regardless of the language an individual speaks.  This has been a global project, including students participating from New Zealand, and brought about under the CC umbrella.

These are the platforms we could be using as educators and learners:

When we put up any content, the metadata we put in behind it loads it up into multiple platforms.
The question was asked: How does this work in with The Pond?  www.pond.co.nz is like Pinterest for teachers.  Paula showed us examples within the Pond that have CC attributions. 
A participant brought up the website www.teachitprimary.co.uk as a sharing place for lesson plans and resources, asking why we don't have a website like this?  But isn't this what The Pond does?

Creative Commons has a blog and a sparkling new website to access content.

What many teachers do not realise is they don't own copyright to resources they produce in the course of their employment.  Any resource you make while in the employment of a school is owned by the BOT and if you leave the school, the BOT of that school retains the ownership.  Unfair considering that teachers make many of these resources at home out of school?  So how does this work for teachers who are fulltime teaching and making and selling resources or writing for a publishing company?  Most schools don't have clear IP policies on sharing and reuse. 

Teachers need to get their BOTs to create a Creative Commons policy to keep their teachers safe to share their creations with other teachers (a real strength in the New Zealand education system) and avoid unnecessary conflict.  Start the conversation with your senior management and the BOT by watching this video explaining how a school can develop a CC policy and the benefits:

You can go to the Creative Commons in Schools page to find out more about how your school can develop their CC policy and what it means for the school, teachers and students.

Paula talked about how the answers are in the room when it comes to creating new content.  Grant (another participant) talked about how we need to work together to create content of high quality on Creative Commons.

President Obama has committed to having all publicly funded research as open access for the public before the end of his term as president.  Joe Biden, the Vice President, spoke to the American Association for Cancer Research about how important that this research is not behind a paywall or kept hidden - that others can build onto it.

Cognitive Mapping
We had to do an activity:  What are the opportunities for your school/learners if Creative Commons licenses and OER thinking were embedded school wide?  This was my cognitive map:


Tips for a multi-level class

This post has been written to give some inspiration to teachers who are teaching three or more year levels within the same classroom.  It is intended that you pick up something that you can apply or reconfigure to suit your teaching style and the needs of your students.

I've taught in a three multi-level classes at small rural schools.  Small schools mean you have to have some flexibility in year levels and at times half way through the year you find that you need to have a move through and suddenly you have acquired a new year group in your class.

So I've had a Year 4/5 class become a Year 3/4/5 class, a Year 5-8 class become a Year 4-8 class and a Year 4-8 class become a Y3-8 class with some Year 2s thrown in for reading.  To boot, those classes have all contained students who were working well below their age group peers, some of whom were receiving support from RTLBs and teacher aides, some even going to Speld for extra support.  One class even had an ORS student with a full-time teacher aide.

Consequently, it can be quite daunting when you are not only faced with a multi-level class, but you have students working well below the level of your youngest year group.

So back when I had a Year 4/5 class with quite a number of students on IEPs, an RTLB helped me establish the Reading Tumble in my class.  We did this particularly for one student with dyslexic tendencies to have him more integrated into the learning programme and have him working with his peers rather than in isolation.  The premise was the Tumble groups were mixed ability and of mixed age so when I withdrew an ability group for reading, there would still be other students within the group working with and supporting the student with dyslexic tendencies, thus keeping his learning on track and him focused.

I have then used this model in a multi-level class to support the younger members of the class to learn routines and activities for reading and maths.  I've also used this model in inquiry and maths units.
I would recommend having a buddy system to teach the younger children how to do games and independent activities when you are first establishing the routines of the class and introducing new games to the students.  I teach the older children the new games first and then have them teach the younger students.  Sometimes, if the older student is a bit unsure I will start with that group until that older student has got their mojo. 

When you're doing reading or maths, have "vertical groups", groups with a mixture of ages and ability, so that when you pull out your ability groups for maths or reading, there are still some older children there to support the younger ones during their activities.

You can read about what sorts of activities the "vertical" Tumble groups do here and how it works.
Because you will have multiple levels in your learning, assessment is a very important tool to personalise learning.  My spelling programme personalises for each child and you can learn more about this here.  Handwriting is also something that will have to be targeted to the ability of each child.  I discuss how I do this in this post here.

Because I will end up with multiple worksheets for handwriting and other activities, I photocopy all the sheets I know I'll need for the term, then wrap a scrap paper around it and then write on it which group of children and which week to hand it out.  I then put all the sheets for one week in a cardboard wallet (like those to the left) for each week. 

There are some things I do whole class such as the Newsboard (see the post here), Poem of the Week (working on a post for this to publish later in the term) and Shared Big Book.  These are great for practicing reading fluently as you are doing repetitive reading daily, introducing and discussing new vocabulary, investigating punctuation, spelling patterns, editing skills, sentence structure and other literacy skills, developing critical thinking and questioning skills, oral language and responding to literature.

Singing is another good form of sneaky reading that the whole class can share in at once. 
Many maths warm ups can be done whole class... others you could split them into age or ability appropriate and set each group to do, after having the older students teach the younger ones using the buddy system.

PE, art, drama and dance was whole class - it just means you have to chunk it down a bit more with explicit teaching.  Sometimes you may leave the more able to it while you target those who need that little bit more teaching.  It is about setting those who can up to succeed and with additional challenges to work on while you mentor those who need it, then let them practice while you challenge those who are more able.  You have to be on your toes.

When it comes to inquiry or themed unit work, you are going to have to do some things whole class and then design some different activities and learning experiences for different groups within your class according to their abilities or needs or the need to challenge your able students.  I found by incorporating some of that into my Reading Tumble I was able to cover a fair chunk of content knowledge, new vocabulary knowledge and some general activities or response.

Don't be afraid to give your older students leadership roles, but don't expect the same older students to always be the teaching buddies for the very youngest.  As you progress through the year, let the next age group down take on some of the role of being the teaching buddy for some things.  Grow the leadership capabilities of even your youngest students by putting them in charge on occasions.

Personally I loved the challenge of having a multi-level classroom.  It enabled me to cover many aspects of teaching that I love and it challenged me to keep on my toes with a wider base of knowledge of available resources and how to use them as well as a variety of teaching techniques.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A collection of resources for learning about the Treaty of Waitangi

Flagpole at Waitangi circa 1957. *
The Treaty of Waitangi is our founding document as a country.  I'm proud to say that ancestors were involved in signing on the original day.  I strongly believe in our children being taught about how the Treaty was decided on, what happened on the day and the months after, and the continuing impacts and implications of the Treaty.

Every year I see teachers asking for resources and ideas for their Waitangi Day units.  This post aims to provide a starting point for teachers to grow their own knowledge about how the Treaty came about, its consequences and how the Treaty works in today's society.

Some helpful links for teacher resources and sources:

Mike King's 2009 series Lost in Translation is a wonderful resource for teachers to boost their own knowledge about the events leading to the Treaty being required, the events and people of the day and what happened following 6 February 1840.  This link to NZ On Screen takes you to where you can access all six episodes, which are well worth watching

What Really Happened - Waitangi is a dramatisation of the events of February 4-6 1840.  This NZ On Screen link will take you to the page with links to all parts of the docudrama.  This production is another really good way for teachers to boost their own knowledge and you may choose to use parts of it in your class (view first), but be aware it has an Adults Only rating.

The Waitangi Collection will take you to further NZ On Screen resources based on the Treaty of Waitangi the two programmes I mentioned above.  Other programmes include Nga Tohu: Signatures, James Belich's The New Zealand Wars and the 1977 epic historical drama The Governor.

Treaty 2U is a website targeted to schools.  It is mostly aimed at Year 7 up, but I have used aspects of it with Year 5 and 6 students.  There are six tabs at the top of the page and under each tab are links to more information.  The Cool Stuff tab links to an area which is also a CD-ROM which may be found in your school resource room along with a Teachers Resource book.  This resource is bilingual as well.

NZ History has a great Treaty of Waitangi start page for source information about the Treaty of Waitangi.  The information covers from pre-Treaty to the present day.  It has links to other websites including Treaty 2U and Archives New Zealand where you can view images of the original copies that were signed on the 6th February 1840 and the other copies that travelled around New Zealand during the following months to get the signatures of chiefs from many other hapu and iwi.  They also have a useful page to get teachers started with their Treaty of Waitangi unit with ideas and key questions.

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand also has great source material on the Treaty of Waitangi including pictures and videos.

Ako Aotearoa has an education kit aimed at the tertiary sector, but you may find something useful in there that you can adapt.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds website also has teaching units to download, and if you can get to Waitangi at any stage during the year, they do an education programme when you visit on site.

The Waitangi Tribunal also has a page of school resources.  It has links to the Treaty in English and Te Reo.  It also has links to claims made to the Tribunal.

If you are close to Wellington, you could arrange a class trip to Te Papa to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Christchurch City Library (I love this library's online presence) has a child friendly website, Kids' Treaty Zone, that is bilingual to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi.  From this page you can go to a link that recommends books about the Treaty and the history of New Zealand.  There is also a page of recommended links.

The Relieving Teacher website has a PDF resource to download from this link.  Just scroll to the end of the page (W is quite far down the alphabetical order list) to find the Waitangi contract.  The resources are free, but the Relieving Teacher appreciates a koha.

Here is a link to my Waitangi Pinterest board.  Many of these may be leading to resources that require payment.

Some things I've done in my class:

I set up a starter display in my class and provided some books about the Treaty to picque interest from the students.  Above I have a photo taken part way through the unit.  I ignited interest with a title, some photo resources I found in the school resource cupboard and a vocabulary expander. 

The vocabulary expander has key words about the topic.  During the topic the students choose a word and research it.  The box at the top is the word in question.  Underneath is the translation and/or definition of the word.  Beneath that is where the student uses the word in a sentence of their own in context.  In some versions of this I have a box where they can illustrate the word.  Sometimes I let them do this on the computer.  We put all of these into an A4 clearfile and it becomes a collective 'dictionary' for the topic.  I started this as statistically our children in New Zealand have a poor understanding of vocabulary.

I ask my students what they think Waitangi Day is about - a before snapshot.  I got them to do this in their topic books.  They leave the page opposite blank because they fill this page out at the end of the unit with what they now know. 

When I did this with a class one year, of Year 4-8 students, their start knowledge was there were arguments on a marae every year in February and something happened in 1840.  By the end of the unit they understood that there was a Treaty that had different meanings in English and Maori, the names of the key people involved, why the Treaty was brought about and the fact that it was not honoured and the New Zealand Wars and Treaty claims were just two of the consequences.

For my more able students I set them the task to research key people involved.  In the photo above of the display you can see two of the resulting projects.  When I did the unit these photos are from, the flag debate had been initiated, so I included that as a task and my class designed their own flags.

I also included mapping activities and other language activities like wordfinds.  But a lot of this unit was viewing clips from some of the websites above and discussing the issues and developing understanding.  So this was very much an oral unit.

Personally, I've only done the Treaty two times as a unit.  I felt it was a fairly sensitive topic and was wary of broaching it, particularly when I had mostly Year 3 and 4 aged classes.  But I did this with classes I had had for two years that were multi-leveled and I felt these groups of children were ready for the challenge.

Next time I do this unit I would bring in a drama aspect of getting them to write a script and act the signing out.  And I would look at the situations of other indigenous cultures with the impact of colonisation compared to what happened in New Zealand so that my students could truly appreciate how unique the Treaty of Waitangi was for the times.

Our Treaty is not perfect, and it hasn't been honoured to the best of the ability of the parties involved, but it is our founding doucment and we can try harder to honour it by educating our children on it.

Photo credits:
* Flagpole, Treaty of Waitangi, circa 1957, Waitangi, by Eric Lee-Johnson. Purchased 1997 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. © Te Papa. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (O.010958/01)