Category Archives: GTS
Graduating Standard 2.d
“Graduating teachers know how to select curriculum content appropriate to the learners and the learning context.”
With my English exam upon me I have decided to take a risk. One of the things I know that is coming up in the exam is that I will need to design a series of lessons designed to meet the learning needs of a group of students from Teaching Experience. The lessons need to build on each other and demonstrate the interconnected nature of English teaching by including some aspects of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and presenting.
However rather than go the traditional route of using books, pencils and paper I’ve challenged myself to design the lessons using only digital technology. There is perhaps a risk in doing something a bit different in exam when the safe route would suffice but I’m hoping that as long as my instructional techniques are sound, I should be fine.
First I need to have knowledge of my learners. I know that that my learners a creative lot who enjoy drama and acting. They are level 5 and, according to their test results, are all having trouble with identifying figurative language in texts.
When thinking about figurative language my mind immediately turns to advertising. Why couldn’t part of the lesson be to design an advertisement for their school? They know their product, and being in the business of deciding on a secondary school, the students know the context well.
Lesson 1 – learning about advertisements.
WALT – identify words that mean something else in safety briefing. (language features)
discuss the who will watch the safety briefing and why they will watch it. (purposes and audience)
In recent years Air NZ has employed a lot of viral marketing (the advertising tends to be a bit tongue and cheek and at times push the boundaries of what is acceptable in a primary classroom). However they take a boring safety video that anybody who has flown (and these students have) will have seen numerous times and turn it into this:
The safety briefing uses a lot figurative language in the advertisement ‘before we kick off’ ’consider yourself dropped’ ‘crouch, touch and brace’ alludes to the language of rugby. Why has AirNZ decided to use this language in their safety message? Why are the passengers referred to as the team? Using instructions like prompting, questioning and, if needed, explaining I would be using this advertisement as a model for students to help develop their own advertisement.
Which brings me onto:
Lesson 2 writing the script.
WALT – write a 30 second advertisement for a selected audience
- select language that will engage with the audience
I would use a scaffold a guided writing session with my students to help develop their script. Who is our audience? What is our purpose? What are some examples of figurative language we could use in our advertisement to engage with our audience? What are some special features of our school?
WALT – produce our advertisement.
give meaningful feedback and feed forward to students on their advertisement.
Out of all the lessons this would be the one where I would be a lot less visible and let the students get on with their learning. However I would be there to give feedback and assistance if needed. At the end of the session students would show their advertisement for peer feedback and feedforward. If I was to build on this idea further I would look at ways for the students to distribute their advertisement and what other media and audiences they could incorporate to develop a media campaign.
Phew. Tt’s a bit out there in terms of content however I’ve got some old favourites like Noel Streatfeild and Quentin Blake in there to balance out my more outlandish ideas.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 7.c
Graduating Teachers work co-operatively with those who share responsibility for the learning and wellbeing of learners.
I’ve been wondering about whether to make this post, firstly because it breaks vow not to blog about specific incidents but more importantly I’m blogging about work on the internet.
However I am in need of advice, namely how to ask for advice.
One of the issues that came out of my Teaching Experience is that I need to be more proactive about asking for advice and guidance on my teaching. So I’m putting this out here, how do you ask for advice from colleagues?
As a bit of a backgrounder most of my working life thus far has been spent in Asian workplaces, or more specifically Korean and Japanese workplaces with two very old-school (read Confucian) bosses. Teaching Experience was my first time working in a western environment and more importantly the first time in over 8 years that I’ve been a workplace were the language and culture are the same as my own.
Obviously there are some bonuses to this experience. Firstly I can adapt to challenging situations. Secondly I am very good at cultivating professional relationships outside of the organisations I work in (this blog and twitter are obviously part of relationship building I’m doing to become a teacher) to help develop professional skills. Finally the only time I would call in sick for work is if I had lost a limb and even then I’d probably drop by and let the boss send me home rather than making the dreaded phone call (far better to have the boss send me home).
But there are some downsides, my style of communicating and dealing with co-workers has become mired in eastern ways of doing things.
But how is eastern communication different? One example I often give is from my first summer of teaching in a public school in Korea. It was so hot that on occasion I would wear a sleeveless top. It wasn’t a spaghetti strap top and would have been fine in 99% of New Zealand workplaces. However in the 35 degree + heat and humidity one of my co-workers kept asking if I was cold. It took a few days for the penny to drop that she wasn’t asking if I was cold, she was asking me to cover up my arms in a way that didn’t cause offence to either me or her. Group harmony was seen as being more important than getting the message across. Vague (at least to western sensibilities) comments would be made and then it was the listener’s job to unravel the context to find the actual meaning.
As a result of these sort of interactions, I’ve adopted a bit more of an indirect style of communication when dealing with people who are senior than I. For instance instead of saying: ‘I’m having trouble with time management in class what do you think I should do?’ I will say ‘this week I am working on managing my time in class’ and then let the context of a student asking a teacher do the talking. It’s a way for me to raise an issue without having to say ‘I’m struggling’ but more importantly it gives the person I’m asking a way of not being put on the spot or saying something that could cause friction or signal incompetence. To the westerners this sort of behaviour is known as ‘saving face’ and something to be discouraged. But in group-orientated societies having good instincts or an ability to read or sense the mood or non-verbal atmosphere and respond to it is a highly valued quality.
Perhaps the the downside of this experience is that I while I’m happy to ask equals and the internet for help on job matters, I’ve gotten into the habit waiting for the senior person to give guidance rather than force a discussion. From my viewpoint it’s up to the senior to give guidance when they need to and me as a junior to implement their suggestions. However I can now see how me being respectful of a senior’s time and feelings could be perceived as lacking initiative in seeking out guidance on my teaching. It’s definitely something to work on during my next Teaching Experience. I am no longer the lone ranger within an organisation and need to start using people’s expertise a bit better in the future hopefully this will enable me to work smarter rather than harder.
Nevertheless unpacking my problem has also been a fascinating exercise in how culture shapes behaviour.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 5.c
“Graduating teachers know how to communicate assessment information appropriately to learners, their parents/caregivers and staff.”
This week was my first week of real teaching. The week flew by and I have a lot to post on and not much time to write so I thought I would that I would use this week’s topic to reflect on student assessment.
In general most people think of student assessment as the traditional pencil and paper tests, and these do have their place. In order to plan for my current teaching unit I relied on the data from the students’ asTTLe tests to group students for instruction and work out what it is that I would be teaching them. Having met the students only a few times, I would have been lost without this data. Pencil and paper tests can also be useful for gauging student progress over the long-term because they are replicable and generally seen as being reliable.
But data is only a snapshot. When doing the grouping, my associate teacher jiggled a few of the group assignments students showing that the overall teacher judgement is still important. Human judgement obviously has a subjective aspect to it, but it does control for some variables that a test doesn’t have: knowledge of the learners.
The aspect of assessment I found useful was videoing learning as it was happening. During one of the lessons last week I wandered around with my video camera filming students and asking questions about the material. This data was just as interesting as the seeing them work through grasping the maths in the task to grasping the concept that I wanted to teach. It was a teaching moment eureka moment. But as I was making up my video, I noticed several students still had a misconception that needed to be addressed in a future teaching step. This type of authentic assessment was a gold mine of information. Obviously using video isn’t replicable and takes a huge amount of time to produce when editing down the footage (in comparison to making and grading tests) however I’m hoping the students will get a kick out of seeing their video and gain some insights into their learning.
If I was to make it better, I’d assign a student as a roving reporter and use their data to make up the video.
But my point was that student assessment has different purposes and can take many different forms, a teacher uses a variety of these assessments to inform their practice.
New Zealand Graduating Standard 4.b
Graduating teachers use and sequence a range of learning experiences to influence and promote learner achievement.
Before I started out on my teaching experience, I mused on the idea that as a teacher I must Learn the art of stepping back well today I started putting into practice.
One of my year 8 classes was given a print out of their asTTLe pre-test for the unit that we are studying. This print out includes a list of strengths, achieved, not achieved and gaps in their knowledge over different Achievement Objectives in the New Zealand curriculum for that learning area. I then gave them a list activities from books and text books which support learning in those areas and placed the students in groups according to their test results. Finally I put up a sign-up sheet on the board where groups could sign up for mini-lessons with me on topics of their choosing.
From there I left it to the students
What happened next?
Well if you walked into my classroom you would have seen some groups working together on a topic, some students working individually. There were also students who elected to come up on a topic I had set to get the class started on the unit.
But what was amazing is that when I looked at the sign-up at the end of the lessons the students came up pretty much with what I would have planned form them anyway. The groups had allocated their time rather effectively with groups who need more assistance booked in for more lessons than the ones who were more confident in this part of the curriculum. The students had also self-selected the lessons I would have planned for them (I had done a shadow plan of the unit).
But why go through this process if we came to the same results?
Because the students needed to take ownership of their learning. Rather than me telling me what to learn and when, they’ve made the decisions. They’ve taken into account their personal timetables and learning networks to come up with a learning programme that suits their needs.
Oh and in case you are wondering, this plan was implemented not for English nor Social Studies but for Math.
My thanks to my Associate Teacher and Josh Stumpenhorst for the inspiration to implement this programme.
I’ll keep you updated on this class in the next few weeks.
Inspired by both a tweet on twitters #nqttips and Ashley Azzopardi’s blog (which any student teacher reading this should follow), I’ve decided to start building an e-portfolio in order to show how I meet the Teacher’s Council’s Graduating Teacher Standards.
Obviously some of my old posts are now part of this portfolio. But nevertheless I feel the need to give props to my inspiration and hope that this might prompt other student teachers to blog on their experience.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 3. a:
“Graduating teachers have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.”
Officially I spent Friday night planning for my upcoming weeks of teaching. Unofficially I (along with 2 billion others) tuned in to watch William and Kate say I do. But aside from gasping at the pretty dresses, what does this have to do with education?
The minute the first hymn piped up, I travelled back in time to my own primary school.
Guide me, O thou great Redeemer. We sung this hymn at school. Most of us mumbled, or at the very least had little idea of what it was we were actually singing about. But twenty (!) something years on, the years were immediately erased upon hearing it. Likewise, apparently the lyrics of Jerusalem are now on my brain after singing it regularly through weekly school church services.
Now chances are you can guess that by the religious overtones and dorky uniform, I did not attend a state primary school but a private one. But the royal wedding did make me pause and reflect on how context influences education.
As a child I had no idea why I was singing songs about not sleeping until Jerusalem was built in England’s green and pleasant land, it was just something we did when we went to church service. Now to its credit, my school was open to the idea about the possibility of there being more than one faith. We went off to a Jewish school and synagogue to learn about Judaism and a mosque to learn about Islam, something that put the school ahead of its time.
However there was one rather large elephant in the closet, the country outside of the school walls wasn’t England. Nevertheless I studied French rather than Te Reo Maori and as a child I could tell you the names of the Kings and Queens of England but wouldn’t be able to name the Prime Ministers of New Zealand (even since World War II) until I went to university. I was probably the last gasp of New Zealand school children who learned more about England than about New Zealand thanks in small part to the Maori renaissance.
What is knowledge and who gets to decide?
If you are part of a dominant societal group, chances are you haven’t given that question much thought. The people you study at school probably look like you, the names are easily recognizable (not to mention pronounceable) and the works we study are undoubtedly familiar. However if you happen to be part of another group the education system seems a little more foreign and at times irrelevant. That is until you happen to be watching a royal wedding…
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 6.c
“Graduating teachers build effective relationships with their learners.”
What’s in a name?
Well if you are teacher a lot more than what’s on your birth certificate.
I remember being back in primary school where one of my teachers wistfully remarked that the students at a school he visited called their teachers ‘sir’ while in high school I called some of my teachers by their first names. My ex partner’s daughter went to a school where everyone, including the principal, was on a first name basis with their students. The school I am currently doing my placement at had a first-name policy many moons ago only to go back to having students call teachers Mr/Ms/Mrs Surname.
Most of the arguments for teacher sticking with using surnames end to focus on the idea of promoting authority. Using honourifics reminds everyone that the teacher is then senior and as a result gets a title, while the learner is subservient and is called by their forename. According to some supporters, teachers who let their students call them by their first name are responsible for the dumbing down of our education system and the destruction of society as we know it.
However there are some compelling arguments for teaching ditching the old tradition of Mr/Mrs. Firstly it is merely a reflection of a change in society at large for instance, my GP prefers that I call her by her first name and the only people that I would probably to refer to as Mr/Ms Lastname outside of school would be members of the older generation.*
There’s also an argument to be made for consistency. Most teachers in early childhood centres tend to be on a first name basis with their students and it seems a bit odd for a sudden shift towards honourifics once children reach school moreover it sends a rather strange message to students that teachers demand the use of honorifics but that courtesy is sometimes not extended to other members of the school staff such as caretakers and office workers. There’s also the whole Mrs/Ms/Miss debate which I will sidestep for this post (but reflexively flinch whenever I’m called Mrs or Miss). However the most compelling reason is that ditching honourifics helps teachers to create a bond with their students and a more inclusive classroom environment.
Although theoretically I’m drawn to the idea of being being known by my first name, I still find myself wanting to be known as Ms Lastname. However it is not an issue of respect. I’ve come to the conclusion that for me at least, using Ms Lastname has not been about gaining respect from my students. For me respect is something that teachers earn rather than gain through virtue of their position. In fact I would go as far to say that if the only way you can command respect is through your name, then you may not deserve as much respect as you believe. A name is not the only way to command respect, but it is one way to show respect. Saying please and thank you, listening to instructions and taking constructive criticism are far more important than a name.
For me it is an issue of privacy.
From the moment I enter the school gates I am no longer a person, I am a trainee teacher. I need to be ‘on’ at all times. I don’t swear, I seldom lose my temper. I will hear my name called hundreds of times a day. I give so much of myself to my students that when I come home at the end of the day all I want to do is skulk off to watch TV without interruption for a hour to stop being a student teacher and back to being me.
But who am I?
My parents have a pet name for me, my nickname is used by my friends, my full first name is what my co-workers tend to use while Ms Lastname is usually reserved for official correspondence and at the moment for students. Just about everyone will have several suits of identity which dictate how much of themselves they are willing to share with others.
For the moment, my first name is a part of my identity that I wish to keep private from students. Obviously if I was employed in a school where there was a first name policy, I’d be on a first name basis with my student but I’m not pushing to ditch them either.
*Though at my last workplace I referred to many of my co-workers and boss by honourifics.
If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read Classroom Management techniques Part 1.
7. A musical device
One of the teachers at my school has a small old-school bike horn which she plays when she wants the class’s attention. She uses it at the end of the countdown, but it could be used without. Obviously it adds to the noise, but the noise is distinctive so the kids know that when they hear it they are to stop what they are doing.
8. Dexterity Check
Teacher says “dexterity check” and the students clap five times twice, three times twice, say ‘whoop, whoop’ clap. Once they’ve finished, the students are only allowed to move their lungs and their hearts while the teacher says what she/he wants to say (in other words there is absolute silence). When the teacher has finished saying what he/she wants to say, she says ‘check dexterity.’ At that command the kids go backwards through the chant: clap, whoop, whoop, clap 3 times twice, clap five times twice. Feeling a bit confused? Here’s a guy teaching a group of students how to perform a dexterity check. Obviously this technique would be a bit too hard for youngest kids and some of the older kids (year 8 ) think they are too cool for it. There’s also the issue of time, the routine takes a day to set up and a lot longer to get But the class whose teacher used it thinks it is one of the better classroom management techniques out there.
9. c3 b4 me (see three before me)
This technique is used as a way to avoid getting 100 of the same questions and is a great for kids to manage themselves. Basically it encourages the kids to see three people/books/information sources before asking the teacher for help. For example in maths, we have a bunch of text books, a couple of computers at the back of the classroom etc. that students could check in with before asking the teacher. The students can also ask a neighbour for help.
I used this one when I was teaching in Korea. Basically I would say attention and the students would say it back until I was satisfied that all the students attention was focused on me. This technique was useful for me in a very large class (Think 40 students) where the kids didn’t speak english so I needed a one-word command that could grab the kids attention. Obviously it adds to the noise and excitement, but is effective in large crowds, especially large crowds of English Language Learners.
11. Alternative learning pathways
Avoid having kids off-task by letting them choose the task! At the start of the learning unit the kids are given a print out of pre-test results which show their strengths, gaps, achieved and not achieved areas of the curriculum. They also get a print out of activities from books etc. which will support the various learning objectives. The kids are then directed to highlight the areas that they need help with and find activities to support them. Based on my observation students value this sort of learning because they can choose their pathway (so they have control) and also they aren’t going over material they already know so aren’t bored. Lessons should regularly open with a ‘plenary’ where kids are asked what they have been learning about and at the end there is a closing plenary. The teacher will also pull aside groups in order to concentrate on problem areas. The students also need to see the teacher if they get more than two wrong on an exercise. I wouldn’t recommend this technique for under year 7 and even then there are some year 7s who have struggled with this sort of learning.
This list isn’t exhaustive and I obviously wouldn’t recommend trying to do too many of them at once, however I wouldn’t rely solely on one technique. My advice to trainee teachers would be to have two or three that you consistently use so the students don’t get too confused.
What techniques do you use to manage behaviour in your classroom?
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 5.b
Graduating teachers gather, analyse and use assessment information to improve learning and inform planning.
T’was the week before holidays and through the school… the students and teachers were counting the hours until… the holiday bell would sending them all flying… out of the gates with no sadness nor crying.
Term 1 is officially at an end which means not only am I more than halfway through my teaching experience but I am also officially on holiday. The students and teachers were really hanging out for the break (as this year the first and second term were extended to 11 weeks so that schools are on holiday for the Rugby World Cup in october) however my holiday is shaping up to be a typical teacher holiday: working on assignments for class and prepping for next term’s teaching because when I get back my Teaching Experience will kick into high gear: full control days.
Every practicum demands that teachers take on the planning and the teaching of a class for at least 5 days during their practicum. For the last few weeks most of my teaching experience has been observational but I’ve also taken form time and fitness with my associate teacher’s class and also taken a small group of year 7s for maths. I also had an impromptu full-class in another subject when the reliever said ‘here you take the reigns’ for my form class but in general I’ve been playing second fiddle to the ‘real teachers.’ However when I come back from holidays my solo part comes up I’m taking over responsibility for FOUR Classes for the next three weeks in probability so I can get my full control days in. I know my form class and a few members of the Year 7 class really well but there are two classes I’ve hardly seen since my first week so I feel like it’s going to be a huge learning curve getting to know the students.
Then there’s the question of what to teach these kids and how I’m going to teach them. Over the week, the associate teacher gave the students an AsTTle pre-test which I marked and entered into the system. The brilliance of the AsTTle tests is that highlight areas of a classes strength as well as gaps in their knowledge (each individual student also gets a printout which shows them where their strengths, achieved, gaps and yet to be achieved). The ability range of students is amazing, there’s some who were testing at 6A(!). So far I’ve used the tests to put the students into groups (although the Associate Teacher twigged them a bit using her judgement of student ability) and also pinpoint areas that I need to work on with each of the classes.
For the Year 7s I’ve decided I’m going to do a rotation-style class with each group moving on to a different mini-topic each lesson and rotating in for a small group lesson (starting with the lowest group, moving up to the highest ones). For one of the year 8s I’m giving them a range of activities of which correspond to the different Achievement Objectives of the AsTTLe test and the students then get to choose the activity based on their level and gaps. This class will also have small group teaching on a topic basis (basically I’m borrowing the Associate Teacher’s current set for this class). For the Associate Teacher’s class I’m taking student choice to the next level. Alongside giving students a range of independent activities, I’m giving the class a calendar and letting groups book-in for mini lessons on topics that they need work on. The idea is that the students are really able to take control of their learning, something the students have mentioned they’ve really valued this term in terms of choosing activities that benefit them. Being able to ‘book in’ for mini-lessons also means that students won’t miss out on important lessons due to being away on extra curricular activities and having to play catch-up. I’m also getting my high-achievers to work with a group as a ‘maths assistant’ so that they can benefit from peer tutoring rather than leaving them bored in class. How this works out in real life, I’m not so sure yet. But I figure now is the time to be experimenting and making mistakes when I am under the watchful eye of my associate teacher.
The bonus of teaching probability is that there are heaps of hands-on experiments to do which is something that the kids really value. I’m thinking part of my lesson is going to be having a coin toss olympics as I’ve got a whole bunch of foreign coins from my travels which would make an excellent experiment for teaching the students how to determine probability of long-run events, a problem area according to the tests. However the next two weeks I’ll be going through a whole bunch of resources and websites to give my students a range of meaningful activities to choose from when we get back next term. Like most new and student teachers, I find myself worried about how to fill the time when in reality I know that I’ll be wondering when the time went once I get back to school.
Nevertheless, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed… but I keep telling myself that I’ll be doing it by myself for real next year. Well not the four classes thing, but I’ll have responsiblity of a class FOR A YEAR over ALL the curriculum.
Graduating Teacher Standard 5.a
Graduating teachers systematically and critically engage with evidence to reflect on and refine their practice.
Every week or so I am supposed to have my teaching assessed by my associate teacher against the Graduating Teacher Standards. This process is part of making sure that I’m competent before I’m let loose on a class of kids (relatively) unsupervised.
My associate teacher has decided to let the students give some feedback into my assessment. Now I should preface my remarks by saying that this school is one that takes student voice seriously. There are regular surveys which gauge student feedback so I am operating in a context where student voice is valued. I should also say that this group of Year 8 (12 year old) students are a thoughtful and highly intelligent bunch who regularly give highly insightful feedback and feed-forward in class.
When I’ve mentioned to people that my students are helping to give I’ve had a few raised eyebrows in response, some of which have come from qualified teachers. I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with the process, kids can be frighteningly honest at times and you’d be surprised what they pick up.
The students know which subjects their teacher doesn’t like to teach because they notice the lack of time the teacher puts into the subjects.
The students know which teachers are marking time and which ones have passion for learning.
The students know that ‘fun’ doesn’t always mean learning but learning should be fun.
Maybe some teachers don’t want to hear at the kids have to say because they know that they won’t like what they hear. But really shouldn’t the kids be at the centre of teaching and learning? Hearing uncomfortable things now is far better than spending years clinging to bad practices. I have no compunction in saying right now I’m probably a bad teacher, I just don’t have the knowledge and experience to be awesome. But everyday I’m learning things from watching and doing, I feel like I’ve learned more in the last 3 weeks in school than I did in the past 2 months slogging away on the books. However I realize that this is an ongoing process and when I feel like I know everything there is to know then its time to retire.
But if teaching and learning should be an ongoing conversation, then surely teachers need to keep tweaking and updating their practice. While having knowledge of what makes effective practice from the ‘experts’ is important, you’ve got 30 or so (little) experts that could give you feedback on your teaching. But more than anything, the kids should be at the heart of any teacher’s practice. Not asking how you could do things differently or what things the learners enjoy seems at odds with that idea.
So to any practicing teacher out there who aren’t already, I encourage you to start asking questions about your practice, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear the answers.