Thursday, April 21, 2016

When there is a problem, ask a question!

The main focus question we ask at the beginning of the week not only inspires new thinking about how to be a learner but secretly resolves issues you are faced with in the classroom. The questions are directed from your observations as a teacher, facilitator and mentor for your students. These questions are key competencies which develop reflective thinking about how to be the best learner.

Listed below are examples of how teacher concerns or reflections from their planning becomes a focus question to unpack with the class for the following week.

It is imperative that this stays displayed at all times for parents and learners to refer to often.

We also encourage putting the child's name by every idea shared so you can see you is actively participating and contributing and of course, who you need to follow up with.

Issue - No one is visiting the writing table

Question - How could we make the writing table more exciting?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom

Twisting pens
Paper with lines
Pink and blue paper
Felt tip pens
Writing booklets
More ipads

Other questions you may ask;
How has writing changed over time?
How do people tell their stories?
How did people share their ideas before pens and paper?


Issue - Planning that will engage for next term

Question - What Action Stations would you like for next term?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom

  • Sticking things
  • Making things with boxes
  • Cutting things out
  • Paper planes
  • Brainbox
  • Colouring
  • Puppet show
Other questions you may ask;
What makes a great learning station?
What kind of station would help us learn from each other more?
We haven't done much learning around the environment. What would a great learning station look like to help us learn more about it? 

When you know your students you will be able to assess if they are now focused on learning or playing. You will also be able to identify who is not engaging and current interests.


Issue - Children not focusing on learning

Question - What do you want to get better at?

  • Blowing up balloons (speech therapy with lip action) 
  • IXL (maths) 
  • Reading Eggs (reading app)
  • Doing my reading 
  • Doing experiments
  • Measuring at the science table
  • Using my eyes to find things
  • Addition facts 
  • Writing stories 
Other questions you may ask;
- How do you know which station to go to?
- How long should I spend at a station?
- What is a learning goal?

The children are then invited to consider what station they would need to choose to get better at their goals.
The ideas shared here will scaffold and inspire others


Issue - Setting expectations of learning not playing

Question - What is learning?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom

  • Looking at books
  • Learning by looking
  • Growing
  • Trying new things
  • Using your body
  • Sharing
  • Checking what you are doing
  • Learning is our work 
Other questions you may ask;
How do you know you are learning?
What is thinking?
What is collaborating?


Issue - Children don't have language to talk about their feelings when learning

Question - What words can I use to explain how I am feeling?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom

  • curious
  • hot
  • fine
  • brave
  • good
  • happy
  • excited
  • tired
  • proud 

These should be built on and scaffolded throughout the week in everything we do. A word incline is also fun to do with the students, displayed within the environment. This helps with measuring the intensity of the feeling. Bottom of ladder or the top. 

Issue - No one reading during reading time before Action stations starts

Question - How can we develop our reading skills?

Student Voice captured in new entrant classroom
  • Read your own reading books twice or even more
  • Practise reading lots
  • Writing gives me ideas for reading
  • Practise your words every night
  • Read to the full stops
  • Read
  • Look at the pictures and sound out the words. 
Other questions you may ask;
What makes a great reader?
What kind of things can we read?
What makes a great book to read? 

Provides the teacher with a great insight to next teaching step, pre test, post test, scaffolding language for all to hear and learn from. 


Issue - Some students left working on their own or social learning and collaboration not progressing

Question - How can you help other learners?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom
  • Show them how to tidy up
  • Listen to them
  • I show them what to do 
  • I ask if they are alright 
  • Talking with them 
Other questions you may ask;
How can I learn from others?
Why should I work with others?
Why is it important to tell someone my thinking? 


Issue - Children not recognising real learning, persistence or perseverance

Question - What does tricky learning look like?

Student voice captured in new entrant classroom
  • You might have to get help
  • Practicing what I need to get better at, even at home
  • Making things happen
  • Follow the steps to work it out
  • It makes you feel happy
  • It's trying something new
  • Trying things again and again
  • You can't give up 

Other questions you may ask;
How do you know you are learning?
What makes learning hard?

How does the students reflections shape your next weeks planning?

The power of student voice is incredible to provide insight to current thinking, skills, knowledge and social emotional foundations.

Gathering student voice to inform planning is by far on e of the most powerful things you can do for engagement, accelerating learning, empowering self confidence and collaborative learning experiences.

Top tips 

  • The students suggestions guide the activities available in planning
  • student voice in suggestions, interests, focus, new learning introduced or ignitors for new teaching coming up 
  • I ask the students for their ideas
  • Through my observations I find activities to meet needs in learning, skill, thinking, dialogue. 

How are Action stations meeting the individual needs of your students?

Planning for diverse needs and interests is always challenging. In many cases you are exposing students to new experiences and thinking through careful planning and design. 

These are a few tips to follow to ensure you are meeting the needs of your students. 

  • Planning carefully with the students in mind
  • Reflecting on PMI at the end of the week on planning
  • Math goals for maths and reinforcing learning through inquiry with equipment  taught at math time
  • Challenge Board to get shared language happening and peer support, addresses hot spots in spelling and maths
  • Reflection time is a powerful place to do this and carry out an expectation
  • Focus question at start of week must address learning to learn and scaffold the learning throughout the week.
  • Buddies for those who need it or work with a friend for a bit
  • Ensuring they know what they want to get better at and they can verbalise it clearly and confidently 

High alert for the children who cannot self manage - student is taken to Action Stations Board asked to hand over their name tag as they cannot make choices for their learning, name tag is put up high on the board. This is for a very short time and student is kept with teacher during targeted teaching groups. They must make a good choice for their learning before going back to stations. 

How do you keep your room tidy?

Ahhh the age old question!!

It is really important children value what is available to them in their learning space. I often talk about showing others who visit how much we love our learning space. Values teaching is great here. 

Top tips
- make time to teach how to clean up. Sadly this is not taught to many of our students at home.
- allow time for the students to clean up and own the mess
- have discussions about respect and what it looks like at school and at home
- play the clean up song (of your choice) Must be on the mat as the song ends not during the song. 
- have high expectations that it will be done, otherwise you will be spending hours at the end of everyday cleaning up others mess
- When it becomes a real issue reflect on your stations - do they have too much on them, stop action stations. Some words you may need to share could be....
"I'm sorry, you have been given so many chances to show respect for our learning spaces. Have a look around. Is this ok?  Tomorrow we are won't be having Action Stations until we have cleaned up. Who can write a message for the cleaners to let them know they don't need to clean up your mess tonight?"

How many activities work best at each station?

Always refer to your planning sheet to support the implementation of diverse needs in your class. Remembering learning happens in many different ways - multisensory, kinesthetic, social, emotional 

Quiet space 
- options to learn spelling, handwriting, 
- options to write stories 
- options to make and do through literacy
- exposure to a variety of genre - poetry, picture books, sequencing cards to tell a story, instructional. 
- challenge board to develop shared learning and dialogue

Number Space
- equipment for learning to be nurtured in math goals
- options to read and write numbers
- large numbers
- challenge board to develop shared learning and dialogue

One activity at other stations with exemplar or model of what the finshed product could look like
- equipment to scaffold the thinking and learning - ie architects board and rulers at lego station, Van Gogh starry night at art attach

Less is more! 
The setting out must be clear and easy to understand. 
Too much and being overcrowded will create a mess to clean up everyday and children will bypass the learning you are trying to implement and scaffold through the environment. 

How does your class solve the problem of only three people at a station?

  • Discussing strategies with and alongside the children
  • Some children are learning powerful negotiation strategies to get what they want rather than just screaming and demanding
  • we talk about how its important to wait our turn
  • No children are allowed to stand at the board and wait for a space
  • Lots of checking in done by the students
  • Only putting out equipment for three people has been helpful 

While this strategy might sound annoying it provides a place for observation of children's behaviours when they don't get their own way, don't understand turn taking, develop naturally a way to negotiate in a powerful way. Great as a writing motivator!!

What are you recording when you write up student reflections?

One or many of the following.

- skills learned
- oral language
- self confidence development
- sequencing of thinking and processes
- concerns about welfare, progress or thinking
- ways to scaffold new thinking and learning at a station
- progress made in language as a learner
- quote cool phrases to share with family
- interests identified during Action Stations
- new learning identified by student at a station
- things to follow up on

What do you notice when you hear your students reflect on their learning and thinking processes??