The first meeting of the Canterbury PLG for teachers interested in Modern Learning Environments and Collaborative Teaching, was held at Clearview Primary. There was a great turn out - in fact we had to cut off registrations, as we had reached well over one hundred people coming.
It kicked off with a presentation from James Petronelli, Clearview's principal. This was followed by presentations from myself and our Associate Principal, Angela Scott. We were fortunate to have Chris Bradbeer as a speaker also. He came down from Auckland, where he is Associate Principal at Stonefields School. Chris shared with us how the Auckland PLG got started and the kind of events they have held.
People then had the opportunity for small group discussion. We really wanted to get a feel for the needs of Canterbury schools. People identified opportunities, challenges, ways they could help other schools and support that they need.
We finished off with a tour of the spaces at Clearview Primary, which promoted much dialogue and discussion. Keep an eye out on the PLG blog for another event in Term 4.
So the term has whizzed by - not quite sure where the weeks went! Of course, it feels like I have never been away! The kids are loving the new classroom set up, and it has been great to see them start to "own" the space. They make great use of the bean bags, floor pillows and cushions. The old bar stools that were destined for the dump, and the number 1 favourite. There is often competition to see who will get to sit in those!
We were also fortunate to get a low white board table to sit in the learning studio. This is really popular with the kids too. I'm planning to develop a resource box, with activity cards for the students to choose independent activities that they can complete on the table. Eg. word families, ways of making different numbers, sentence starters.
We are team teaching Maths among three teachers. What we are trialling is this:
We have 3 homebases and a long learning studio area. 1 teacher has groups in HB10. This is also the SILENT ZONE. Any student can choose to work in here, but they must be on their own and silent. It has been really interesting to see who chooses to work here - one day there were 20 students making this choice.
The second teacher has groups in the learning studio outside HB10. We have a whiteboard station set up here.
HB 11 is a space for practice activities and computer tasks. Students working on these can also choose to work in the learning studio. HB12 is Maths Games Zone. The interactive white board is loaded with games, there is chalk outside and there are maths games to play and reinforce learning. This room is buzzing and often quite noisy - but that's the purpose. The teacher who is not working with groups that day is the roving teacher. They are available to help students, check practice activities, monitor students and supervise the general area. Guess which is the hardest job?
We have just introduced a teacher aide two days a week, to release the roving teacher to work with a targeted group of students. This is also working well. Parent help is available several days a week also.
When you are teaching, you are focused on your group and there are hardly ever outside distractions.
When you are planning, because you are only planning for one or two maths stages, the quality really improves. We have all agreed that we have got to know a math stage in depth and that the quality of our lessons, ict integration and follow up activities has improved.
Students who are not with a teacher have someone to go to when they are stuck. Games are purposeful because there is someone to monitor those children who are using those activities.
Students are working through maths progressions for their numeracy stage.
The space that we have can be a little tricky to use, but I feel like this "power of 3" math is going really well. There are still a few kids whose self management needs work, but as I keep reminding myself, that's also the case in your own classroom.
During a class circle time with my kids, we came across a couple of potential problems that needed solving. Firstly, lots of children reported others taking computers and saving them for friends who were still in their maths group. Many also said that when choosing a space, someone else would tell them that they couldn't have that space as they were "saving" it. We had a hui to discuss these issues and reiterate that no-one owns a space in the block. During the circle time, the kids noted several positives such as meeting students from other homebases, developing key people that they worked well with and not being distracted or interrupted in group time.
I personally cannot believe how much learning has happened in the term. I would estimate that I got through almost twice the Math Key Ideas that I would usually get through. The progress has been amazing and I have been super impressed with the students. We're still working through new ideas, finding solutions and refining, but I'm really enjoying this way of teaching!
So this week sees the first get together of a Canterbury Professional Learning Group for MLE and collaborative teaching environments. A few of us at Clearview Primary were inspired by the Auckland PLG and decided to set up our own! The response was overwhelming and we had to cut off registrations at around 100 people. Shows the demand there is for professional development in this area. We are going to kick off the first meeting with sharing our Clearview journey, having some time for discussion, planning for future PLG events and a tour of our awesome school.
We really want it to be about teachers talking with teachers - sharing ideas, challenges and opportunities! If you missed out this time, keep an eye on the PLG blog for future events. Looking forward to seeing lots of people on Thursday!
Some of the best learning experiences I have had this year, have involved getting out and about and visiting schools, talking with teachers and principals and seeing what other people are up to. When you are a classroom teacher, it is all too easy to get stuck in your own environment and not know what is going on, even in your own school.
Fortunately the internet provides a window into the outside world. There are hundreds of educational blogs, tweets and facebook posts that give you instant professional development. But seeing something for yourself is the ultimate!
I love this blog post from The Third Teacher + about the value of field trips. They are inviting people to share their field trip experiences and have these tips for making the most of a visit to a learning environment.
I love these suggestions, especially the ask and absorb questions. I was trying to think what is my favourite place in my school, and apart from the coffee machine in the staffroom, I think it is probably the learning studio area. This always seems to be a hive of activity, a place where students interactions are taking place and I love the hum of "busyness".
So why not try and take a field trip yourself? Stop hiding in an office on your classroom release day doing paper work. Plan and make time, even for a field trip in your own school. The inspiration, ideas and even validation of your own practice will be way better than getting that data entered!
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.