Monday 10 August 2015

Things I must reflect on.

The journey so far has been a bumpy one.  Right from the beginning our success in ALL has been hindered by difficulties.  With a late start and constant battles for release, and meetings it has all been rather difficult to make this years efforts a success.  We have pretty much been running around chasing our tails since it began.  We missed the opportunity to have a parents meeting which was one of our main objectives due to the lack of meetings prior to the initiative starting.  Now today we have lost 2 of our team due to their misunderstandings of the project.  I feel I have failed them and the project.

I have found the 2nd year of the project a lot more difficult than the first year.  In the first year I was able to focus entirely on my inquiry with ALL. This year my focus has been divided between my difficult class, our Maths inquiry (which has been a huge undertaking for me - I have really struggled with this and it has really hurt my confidence in teaching maths) and the ALL inquiry.

I have tried to achieve my inquiry in ALL by working with my class in groups. The generally love to write and I have been very impressed with their keen attitudes and their progress.  For our objective of keeping the families informed I have had regular contact with parents via email and during the 3 way conferences.

I have completed 3 marked samples of work for each student so far this year.  However, the results have been very confusing and disappointing.  In areas where we have been focusing the students have mostly done well, but in other areas their marks have gone down as they have been unable to keep their marks and have gone down.  I am wondering if some of my more relaxed ways of testing - as we were trying to mark samples of work the students complete independently so as to not have too many test situations have benefitted my special needs students more than my main stream students who perhaps need a more structured test situation to give their best work.

Sunday 26 July 2015

What's working for me?

It has been an amazing start to the term in P2.  After 2 terms we are finally able to work independently, which means I am able to work with small groups using the rotation idea I had always planned to use.

Writing in P2 this term looks like:

Spelling Programme - I have introduced a spelling programme to my homework each week that will work on the essential spelling lists and target words that students use in their writing.  As vocab is one of my goals this term we are also introducing a word of the day.

Sentence Structure - During the "Teacher Time" Rotation.  Students work in small groups with me on Sentence structure.  We have begun following the Sheena Cameron Writing Book as a guide and will also chuck other useful resources and activities in to complement those ideas that I have found from other teachers and through  my own research.

Other rotations - Handwriting is a rotation, Independent writing, Practise of skills learnt with the teacher, Blogging, StoryBird and Literacy Shed are a few options we are using.

Current Events - I have added a group activity for students to report for our class Current Events book on a recent event in the news.  They need to present it to a set criteria.

Fun - Class challenges like, Group shared stories, the dictionary game and boggle are a few games I have introduced to help students enjoy their writing and learn new vocab and skills as they go.

An extra little goal I have set for myself is to try to present everything to my class in a digital way.  I send my students a plan each week for the rotations that tells them what to do etc.

  I also am trialing digital modelling books.  I am loving them!  A tidy, instant way to record students work and present new ideas to them.

I am really enjoying working with the smaller groups, rather than the whole class all at once as I was forced to do in the last two terms due to my students being unable to work independently.

This term is exciting!  I look forward to seeing my students progress this term.

Thursday 9 July 2015

What do you do - when a parent doesn't seem to believe in their child's ability.

A few times this term, I have felt like I have had to stand up for a child to one or both of their parents.  It seems like they fail to see any progress the child has made over the year so far, it is all about their child not being where they believe they should be.  Parents questioning their child learning abilities and getting them tested, as there must be something wrong.  I find this incredibly sad.  In my opinion the children I know who have parents like this are actually in need of a huge boost of confidence and in giving them that at school, I am fighting a battle with what they face at home.

One child who is in my group for ALL has made amazing progress since the beginning of the year.  On the first day when I asked him to independently write about his holiday, he cried.  It was just too hard for him.  He couldn't think of ideas, and anything he came up with wasn't good enough.  His Mum actually came in that day knowing that this would have occurred.  I reasurred her that I have some ideas for building his confidence etc.  She said he has always been terrible at writing and other teachers have tried but he never improves.  I personally believe he has improved- massively!  He can sit down everyday and confidently write.  He writes independently and co-operatively.  He uses paragraphs, he describes things in details.  However, Mum is still not happy.  She met with me a month ago to say she is going to have him tested and wanted to hear how I thought he was doing.  I told her how much progress he had made and showed her his writing.  She absolutely picked it to bits.  "Why would he use a capital letter there!"  "Oh my goodness, look how he spelt that!"  I was gutted for him.  Instead of seeing the bigger picture, she picked his work to pieces.  Why?  I can tell you, there is no way I am giving up on this child.  I am so proud of him and I tell him all the time.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Term 2 Assessment

I was really disappointed when I marked my students Term 2 assessment.  I was so proud that their levels had improved in areas we had been working on, but then in areas that had not been our focus some of them went down!
So overall most of the marks have either stayed the same or have gone down and it is just heart breaking to see.  When I spoke to other teachers, they had noticed the same pattern.

My next focus with my group now we have mastered paragraphs is to focus on sentence structure and introduce a little vocab through a new routine of "Word of the Day".  I have found a website which introduces students to a new word each day and gives a definition, an example and synonyms.

I am going to ask students to write this out as their handwriting practice each day when they come in from fitness.  I will also challenge them to use the word correctly in a sentence during the day.  If they can, they will get house points.  My class love a challenge.

In our LCN cluster group we have all decided to focus on Sentence Structure as it is an area we have all noticed is lacking in students  from year 1 through to year 13.  I have begun collecting resources for next term and once I have tried various strategies in my class I will report back to the group on my findings.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Week 5 ALL

Report writing and continuing our paragraph focus.

This week I introduced students to report writing as procedural writing is our focus this term.  I started by reading a report on an animal to the students and asking them to take notes as I read.  ( The objective of this was to teach them to take notes in their own words for when they are researching.)

After this exercise we discussed the report and the notes we had taken.  If I was to do this lesson again, I would now print out a copy of the report so they could highlight parts and take notes on the document, labels etc.

In the next lesson I told the students that they would be writing their own report on an African Animal.  They were really excited by this.  I introduced a rubric to them.  (planning web) and asked them to research their animal and fill in the blanks with as much information as possible for an introduction, 3 paragraphs (looks like, habitat, food) and then a conclusion and some interesting facts.

The students loved this part, some actually spent too much time researching I think.  The important thing for the students was to remember to write all their information in their own words.  (some found this difficult - cutting and pasting was very tempting).

Each day we worked on a different paragraph.  I was away for a few days with stage challenge so missed out on the process a bit as relievers had to take some lessons.  Therefore the process wasn't scaffolded as much as I would have liked unfortunately and I lost where some students were up to so by the end of the week my students were at very different stages with their reports.

I am also trying a few new ideas at the beginning of writing sessions to keep on top of some of the things students mentioned in their student voice.  I have started up a short sharp handwriting session once or twice a week where the focus is on quality not quantity.  I give feed back regularly to students on this.  I also have started up a phonics based spelling program once or twice a week as well.  I will build on this as time goes on.  I am also trying to add once a week a typing practise day where students use typing web to practise their typing skills as I have read recently that if NCEA exams are going to be made digital soon, students without good typing skills may be disadvantaged when writing their essays etc.

So many things - So little time!

ALL week 3 and 4

Dream Giver Continued....

Week 3.

Students continued to write their own Dream Giver story.  I was surprised how many students enjoyed this task.  No one disliked it.  I am not sure whether it was the way it was introduced with a video clip and so it make it easy for them to visualise, or if they liked the way the writing process was scaffolded as a class each lesson.  Whatever it was, it worked and I will have to do it more!  Might have to do a reflection on this unit so students can tell me what it was they enjoyed.

As they had already made a plan and worked through the first few paragraphs together, students this week are just finishing off their stories and checking their paragraphs.

Week 4.

Students were expected to be at editing stage now and if they are not they just have to stop where they are and start the editing process as I would like to do this as a class also.  I introduced my self and pair editing rubric to the class.  We went through it together and I explained how I would like them to use it.  Then each student independently edited their story using the rubric and then once finished they asked a friend to edit for them also.

Only once every box was ticked were they allowed to send me their published copy.

I found this process good, i love the editing rubric, but asking students to stop writing stories they were really passionate about back fired I think.  I needed to give them more time to finish these.  I am just aware of the ACCELERATED part of the course.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Week 2 ALL in P2

This week has been a WONDERFUL week of writing in P2.  My students are engaged and excited and it is rubbing off on me.  I love seeing the students feeling good about their writing.  So many wanted to share their first paragraphs today.

We watched the DREAM CATCHER from the fantasy shed in  This is such an amazing resource!

After watching the video I told the students that they were going to write a story about the dream catcher coming in to their bedroom, to give them a dream.  However, he trips on something in their room and the egg falls on their favourite book or game.  They have to tell me the story so that it forms a picture in the mind of their reader.  We are going to break down the writing process into small chunks.

Day 1.  The brainstorm/Mind map.  Some students also drew their scene or made a cartoon strip of their story too.

Day 2.  Paragraph 1 - Setting the scene.  Most students did this really well.  A few wrote the whole story in their first paragraph so I spent time with them to fluff out their setting.

Day 3.  Paragraph 3 - The Dream Giver, What do they look like.  How did they get inside?

I am modelling the writing process by writing my own story on the board with the students.
It has been great to see students using a thesauras to look for 'better' words.

My favourite part of this week was when one of my students (who really struggles with writing and finding ideas) said "Mrs Hay! I have the most exciting idea for my story!"