So, we are making progress on our classroom set up for 2015!
We got a few of the furniture items on the kid's wishlist, though not their longed for bar height table and stools. We've been doing pretty well with a longer, lower table that the kids love. Bean bags, knee boards and mini couches are also being widely used in the zone. It is nice to have a mix of soft and hard furnishings.
We now have an Interactive White Board in one zone and a portable tv on a height adjustable trolley has just arrived. We had much debate about creating a "focal point" in the classroom and whether we wanted to do this. So, we have kind of compromised with having the IWB create a focal point in one zone and having the portable tv which we can move anywhere to create different learning areas as required.
Our stuff is still in boxes and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of teacher storage. Bag storage is still to arrive. But we are DEFINITELY getting there! The kids overwhelmingly prefer this space to their old spaces and relievers coming in have commented how great it is.
In terms of Collaborative Teaching, it is definitely a great space to work in. We are really enjoying it and loving the "rooms within rooms" feel that we have. Hoping by the end of term we are all unpacked and a little more organised, but definite progress!!
It was great to pay a visit to Halswell School, Canterbury this week. They invited our staff to come by for a visit. It is looking amazing and soon all areas of the school will be ready for use. It was lovely to wander through and chat with their teachers. They too are experimenting, trialling and learning unique ways to use their new learning centres. Check out a few pics below! Thanks for having us, Halswell!!
As the school year draws to a close, my co-teacher for 2014 and I sat down and talked through the highlights and next steps of a year teaching collaboratively.
The unique and different ways that every teacher works. Being a teacher team is a little bit like a marriage - you have to listen to each other, compromise and learn from each other.
The students on the whole saw us both as their teachers. However, they still gravitated towards their homebase teacher with any pastoral care issues.
Relationships with parents developed well throughout the year and parents would come and see either of us.
So, now after a great 2014, we are getting divorced! Our teaching partnership is dissolved due to class makeup for 2015 and both of us are headed into new co-teaching arrangements with awesome people.But I know we will both take ideas from each other to our new partnerships! Which leads to this:
How long should teachers be in collaborative partnerships? If we were staying together, there are many things we would refine and improve, but how long is too long? What are the best ways of grouping teachers into teaching teams?
Still these twice yearly written reports are limiting innovative teaching practice. Check out this blog post for ideas that would work out WAY better! http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/instant-communication-and-twice-yearly-report-cards/#comment-19122
One of the biggest challenges with collaborative teaching, is maintaining your teacher knowledge of the students you are responsible for, but might not necessarily be teaching. This term, our team began experimenting with Google Docs to see if this might help us. We had used Google Docs many times, especially for planning and in our power of 2's, but not assessment in our power of 6.
We chose one subject area to begin with - Maths. For this term, there were two maths topics to be taught - Time and Fractions, Proportions and Ratios. We had decided to trial teaching the Time topic for two days per week and the Fractions topic for three days per week. In the past, we have tended to teach in blocks, eg. Time for two weeks, then Fractions for eight weeks.
After some initial assessement, we sorted the students into 6 groups for Time instruction and 6 groups for Fraction instruction. This set up meant smaller classes for students working below the Maths standards and also the allocation of teacher aide resources to those classes. It took a week for the students to remember which was their Mon/ Tue class and which was their Wed/ Thu/ Fri class, but after Week 2, we were ok. In some cases, the students had two different teachers throughout the week.
So, we taught the classes! Then we began thinking about how we could collate the assessment information so that it would be able to be used by homebase teachers to write reports.
We created a google doc with tabs for each homebase. Student lists were copied from the LMS straight into the doc. We used the following headings for each topic: Can Do,Next Steps and Comment. The fractions part also had a column for a " working at" stage, as this data needed to be entered into our LMS.
So this meant that once each teacher had looked at their formative and summative assessment, instead of compiling on the old "class list", they just had to jump on the google doc and fill out.
So, how did it go? The whole idea was that when homebase teachers were writing reports, they would be able to use this information to complete what the students were able to do and their next steps. On the whole, it worked quite well. When we reflected as a team we found:
Some of the comments were WAY too long. Needed to be refined.
Teachers needed to make sure they followed the prompt. Eg Student is able to......, so that their comment made sense in the report.
Bullet point type needed to be consistent.
Teachers did not include enough information in the comment section.
Our school font is Calibri, and this is not a font in google. Annoying!!
We will definitely continue to use google docs and try out some different ideas. Overall, not too bad for our first time as a power of 6. Our assessment data certainly indicated some excellent progress and the teachers felt like the quality of lessons was improved. We also felt that individual needs were well catered for.
The fabulous team at Clarkville school were our hosts for the first MLE PLG for 2014. I was excited to return to Clarkville after my visit during my sabbatical term, to see how they were going on their journey using Modern Learning Practices. (Original blog post.)
Pene and her teaching team relayed their story so far:
Bells, homework, desks, students only learning in class, students as learners of facts, curriculum coverage.
Choice - students are self regulated learners, there is a high trust environment.
Connectedness - between the school, the community, the students and the teachers.
Culture - a culture that is focused on learning.
Consultation - student consultation team that provides authentic student voice, community in action (CIA) groups and workshops, relationships with early childhood providers and high schools, to develop transitions for students.
Authentic learning opportunities.
The development of a professional learning community.
Critical friends - seeking feedback from professionals such as Christian Long. ( Christian Long blog post)
A dynamic, responsive curriculum.
Student think tank.
All teachers teach all kids.
Clear data shift.
Enablers of a school wide culture shift:
A strong strategic plan owned by everyone.
Principal/ Board support.
Teaching as Inquiry.
Clear appointments process.
After this excellent introduction, some of the Clarkville students lead tours around the school. Teachers were able to spend time in each area of the school, talking with the students and teachers and seeing student work and learning environments. It was exciting to hear that some of the classrooms are going to be renovated and linked together, to enable collaborative teaching in a more open environment. The teachers and students are really excited for this next step to happen.
There were almost 100 registrations to attend this PLG and all around I could hear teachers discussing what they saw, chatting together and being inspired by new ideas. A huge thanks to the Clarkville staff and students for sharing their vision, hard work and innovations.
So 2014 has started with a bang! Here at Clearview, we made the committment to teach collaboratively, right from Day 1 of the new school year. It has been interesting for me, as I have been released from my classroom for the first 6 weeks, to implement some ICT initiatives and provide support for teachers. This has meant the opportunity to spend time in all parts of the school and to see first hand how teachers and students are working together.
As part of our PD discussions last year, we decided that it was important that students and parents felt right from the start of the year, that there was more than one teacher involved in their education. In our 2013 "Meet the teacher" session, we had students meet altogether with the teachers who were to be part of their 2014 "power team." We made sure that on Day 1 of our 2014 school year, there were opportunities for students to all be together to get to know each other and their teachers.
Last year when creating our new classes, rather than create them in a traditional way with each homebase getting assigned students, we created clusters of students, then separated them into homebases for management reasons. For example, in my team we created 3 clusters of 45 students. We looked across those 45 children for behavioural issues and diverse learners as you would normally. It did mean however, that we didn't need to worry if a student was "on their own" in a homebase at a particular level, as there would be others in their power class that they could be grouped with.
We have also experimented with furniture and setup in different ways. In my team, classes are mostly working in power teams of 2 teachers and 45 kids. One room may be set up as a large open space, while another room may be set up as "rooms within rooms" for the children to work in. Different teachers are making use of the learning studio space in unique ways. Some using it as a watering hole space, others using it as a teaching space, others as a working space. Most often it is a mix of all three.
We are developing ownership of the space, by making sure students have a presence in all spaces. One room might display art and inquiry work for all students. Another room might have maths and writing displays for all students. In our newsletters, we have made parents feel welcome to visit all teachers and all learning spaces that their children are involved with.
As I have moved around our school, I have definitely noticed that the environment feels very welcoming and collaborative. It is very busy, but when you stand back and watch, you see students using all of our spaces, interacting with each other and a high level of engagement.
I am about to head into my classroom for the remainder of the year, so exciting times ahead.
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!
I thought it would be interesting to talk to some of the Provisionally Registered Teachers working at my school, to hear their first hand experiences about working in a MLE. Even though it is a while ago now,(!) I can still remember my first teaching position and the excitement of finally having a class to call my own! The hours of setting up and all those resources finally going up on the wall. My very own teacher desk and one desktop computer in the corner with a printer that had Microsoft Works, Dangerous Creatures and Encarta!!
I wondered how it would feel to not have that experience. To go from teacher's college straight into a shared learning space. To find out I interviewed Jacinta, Caitlin and Jason, provisionally registered teachers at Clearview Primary. They all began teaching at Clearview Primary in 2013. Jacinta and Jason had previously been student teachers in our stage 1 space when they were being operated as single cell classrooms.
Caitlin commented that as she was used to having an associate teacher in the room, she had found it easy to work alongside other teachers.
Jason said it was great to get management tips and tricks from more experienced teachers.
The PRT's said there wasn't any preparation at Teacher's College for the possibility of teaching collaboratively or in a shared teaching space.
The PRT's felt the opportunity to work collaboratively with experienced teachers was a fantastic opportunity. They could observe colleagues, plan together and have support with making overall teacher judgements.
The PRT's felt they had a strong bond with the students in their home class. They said it was essential that at the start of the year you had the opportunity to develop relationships with that group of students. For Jacinta and Caitlin, they spend two afternoons a week with their home class, the rest of the time is spent teaching collaboratively. They both felt this was an important time to focus on pastoral care and relationships. Jason spends more time with his home class, as his team is currently developing their collaborative practices.
Jacinta had taught in a single cell classroom last year for three terms. She noted that working in a shared space, you can lose some flexibility. For example, in a single cell classroom, if her writing session was going particularly well, she could continue with it. However, timetable restrictions in a shared space and with workshops running to time, you are unable to do this.
Jason also felt that some flexibility was lost and it was often difficult to find time to fit in "bits and pieces", like buddy classes and when your class was on presenting assembly.
The PRT's found that developing collaborative practice takes time. There have been extra meetings as their team has constantly sought to reflect on and improve their practice. As one of the teaching spaces only opened this year, it has been challenging for all teachers involved to develop the systems needed.
How will Colleges of Education respond to the changes in teaching pedagogies? What changes will they need to make to prepare teachers for new environments and ways of working?
How can we ensure that "teachable moments" and flexiblity can still be allowed for in a collaborative open space?
What changes to Advice and Guidance programmes will schools need to make? For example, should a PRT teach collaboratively with their tutor teacher?
It was great to hear from our PRT's who are all having a highly successful year of teaching. In some ways, if working in a MLE is your first experience, you are at an advantage over those of us who are having to unlearn and relearn in order to transition to teaching in a MLE. I hope to catch up with our teachers in Term 4, to find out what other reflections they have on the year.
This week I visited Waimairi School, hosts of the well received "Think Forward" conference this year. Principal Mike Anderson spoke at the CEFPI conference (see previous blog post) about the challenges his school has faced as a result of the Canterbury Earthquake. Despite the disruption caused by the earthquakes, the school continues to move ahead, developing their learning environments and pedagogies.
Waimairi currently has Te Puna, a new entrant block with 5 teachers working collaboratively. This is the newest building on the campus. Two year 1/2 teachers are also team teaching in an adapted space.
Mike described the journey the school has undertaken over the past few years. A lot of initial work was undertaken examining the values and beliefs that underpin all aspects of school life. There was a lot of time spent developing the vision for teaching and learning at Waimairi. Mike believes that it is vital that all the staff (not just teachers, also support staff) are part of professional development, and that you need to spend money on the people in your school.
Discoveries at Waimairi:
The teachers who are teaching collaboratively are taking time to reflect and critique how the teaching and learning is developing. They are constantly refining their practice based on their observations and student needs. They are adapting their spaces and using furniture creatively.
A learning space was created for less than $800 with two existing classrooms. Walls were removed and a cloak room carpeted, to create a fantastic learning space.
Waimairi has worked with Angus McFarlane to create a culturally responsive environment. They are keeping this is mind as they develop their collaborative teaching programme.
As part of professional development, teachers are involved in a walk through model, where they have a critical friend. They visit other classrooms, then reflect on their own practice.
Inquiry learning drives the curriculum at Waimairi. Each term, students are involved in a process along with curriculum leaders and teachers, where the focus for the next term's inquiry is developed. This ensures student voice is heard in an authentic way. Community involvement is high, with sharing of high quality work, projects and performances.
Google docs are used by students to enable learning 24/7. Staff use hapara's teacher dashboard to organise their student's work. A focus is the development of purposeful, effective feedback.
Waimairi is part of a cluster and will be having some rebuilding and redevelopment in the future. They are the first cluster in Canterbury to be ready for the Master Planning stage.
Staff will visit Melbourne in the next school holidays, to gain inspiration and ideas for the future development of their school and cluster.
It was excellent to visit Waimairi and talk to Mike, staff members and students. A great teaching and learning environment and awesome opportunities ahead.
If you missed it, so worth checking out this story on Campbell Live this week. A great tour of Hingaia Peninsula School in Auckland and some experts weigh in on MLE development.
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.