One of the things that I am always tinkering away at is how to monitor student progress in class. I am but one in a sea of young learners and regrettably, I am not always able to pick up misconceptions or uncertainty from students during class. They are of course detected during checking and marking of work, but I am eager to refine this process.
Courtesy of Alice Keeler I tried using Google Slides during lessons. My students have access to laptop trolleys, and during this lesson, we were lucky enough to be in a 1:1 environment. My class were researching biomes, and I wanted to be sure that all were finding sources that were accessible to them. So many resources online are geared towards older students, and it is vital for me that I know my Year 5s are able to understand what they are finding.
I created a Google Slide doc with a single slide stating a question. I then altered the Master Slides and custom built a slide for the students to fill out. There was space for their name, as well as for an answer to the question on the cover slide – ‘What is one interesting thing you have learned during this session’.
I shared the document through Edmodo, and within two minutes all students had submitted a response and I had been able to review them. I immediately turned my attention to the students that either took a while to respond, or whose responses were a little ‘vague’.
The students then carried on with their task, seemingly renewed in their purpose by what was in their eyes a very minor distraction, and if truth be told, probably a useful little brain break for them.
This will now become a regular feature of my teaching practice.
As with Parts 1 and 2, this post constitutes my notes and reflections from a PD workshop, so don’t expect amazing prose!
The exhibition is like a puzzle where a lot of pieces need to fall into place to create an experience for the students. This is of course all within the context of the needs of the school and students and local curriculum. A key indicator is whether students are able to take action.
Our group investigation continued this morning and Jill and I have changed the current two rubrics (covering broad elements, one for the group and one for the individual) into 5 separate rubrics that cover a wider range of skills in more detail. We now have rubrics for Self Assessment, Written Report, Oral Presentation, Research Skills, and Personal Skills. While this is a drastic increase in the number of rubrics, we have made the assessment process for the exhibition as a whole much more transparent as the rubrics are less detailed in their own right, but when combined cover a broader range of achievements.
The oral and written rubrics were more or less replicated from oral and written rubrics that we have used through the year with the students already. This consistency (should) will help students fully understand what is expected of them in the exhibition. What we have discovered is that while the exhibition may seem a large undertaking, it is really just more of the same things that we are already doing. Through a regular unit, only certain aspects of student achievement are monitored and assessed, but with the exhibition nearly everything the students do is put under a microscope. So our thinking has been that we need to keep the day to day operations of the students as familiar as possible.
Watching all the other groups share their personal learning was very eye opening and inspiring. One group delved into the idea of Action, and the forms that it can take; others looked at developing calendars for the exhibition; one school created an exhibition website (Google Sites) from scratch and others like Jill and myself looked into assessment. This was a wonderful experience as I was immersed in a vibrant network of teacher learners, all experiencing relevant learning journeys. The workshop resource website will certainly be visited regularly by me in the future!
This was an eye opening example of action taken by a group of 11 year old girls in Tanzania and certainly puts things into perspective.
What are your feelings about the exhibition now?
I feel confident with it. Back to the day 1 analogy – I know what I don’t know, and that can really only be fixed with experience.
What have you gained from this process?
This workshop has been affirming. A lot of what I was unsure of, I had a hunch about and by and large, these hunches have turned out to be accurate.
How does an exhibition promote understanding?
It requires not only a deep level of learning, but also that learning needs to be made visible. These build each other up, too. The process of sharing learning is an extra step, part of the inquiry cycle, that requires learners to clarify their learning and in doing so, take it to a higher level.
How has your perspective changed?
Not a great deal. I am happy with my understanding of the exhibition as well as my place within the process.
Based on what you have learned about the exhibition, what will you do in the next
Five Days – go back to school next week and implement the new assessment rubrics with the students. These were not due to be distributed until now, so implementing them will be quite seamless.
Five Weeks – this will take me more or less up to the end of the exhibition. I don’t want to lose sight of observing the process by trying to do too much. This is only my first year as a facilitator, so I want to experience this first time for what it is – an opportunity to learn from Jill my Y5 colleague as well as from the systems that are in place around the exhibition.
Five Units – This workshop has served as a further PYP educational experience so I am hoping to inject a greater level of PYP language into my operations and teaching. Particularly, I would like to use Form and Function as base concepts that will inform students in creating their lines of inquiry independently.
Five Years – I’ve never really thought this far ahead, but likely not a Y5 teacher running the exhibition. Nothing against the exhibition or Y5, but six years is a bit too long to be in the same position in a school. That being said, my experience as an exhibition teacher will help build the culture of the exhibition at my school further.
As with Part 1, this post is a record of my notes and reflections from the PYP Exhibition Workshop.
What does the ‘right’ theme look like? This was hard for me to answer because I’ve not had experience with a variety of themes, and we generally do the same theme every year at my school. Discussion amongst the group led us towards the idea that any theme can be ‘right’ as long as it has an appropriate Central Idea that lends itself to students engaging with the topic or issue. The presence of the Australian Curriculum determining content was also a big discussion point – it becomes a fine balancing act. In the end the rightness or wrongness of the theme is a misnomer, because it’s more than just a ‘How the World Works’ unit. The concepts, content, attitudes etc all need to be arranged so that there is a ‘right fit’ for the school, and specifically the students undertaking the exhibition. Choosing the theme needs to be done whilst thinking about the students – what do they need to learn? What do they need as learners?
Again, a common theme from this workshop is emerging: So much of the exhibition depends on contextual issues specific to a school and it’s learners.
Doug took us through the way his school in Japan approach the Central Idea. A theme is chosen at the beginning of the year, and throughout the year, students bring in media stories concerning the theme (in this case, Sharing the Planet). With this constant exposure to the issue, come time for the exhibition, students were in a position to come up with phrases and ideas about the theme that went well beyond the obvious. Students were able to restate the theme in their own words and effectively explain it to audiences of different ages. This constant exposure to making connections within the theme led to students having a broad understanding of the theme and thus an ability to see how a Central Idea could apply to different issues. A good Central Idea in this theme could apply equally well to pollution, or conservation, or recycling.
This form of front loading the concepts as opposed to the content set the students up to be very autonomous in their research. In terms of how this works with our school, where the content is usually prescribed because of the Australian Curriculum is unclear. It is something that I certainly want to explore for the coming years.
Looking at how students unpack the theme, a process of brainstorming and rewording was used by students to establish their own interpretations of it. This produced possible issues that could be used by different groups. Examples are shown in these videos below.
Unpacking the theme at Seisen IS
Consulting with younger students:
Groups developing their lines of inquiry needed to begin by looking at the Form and Function concepts. The need was to understand what something was and how it worked before looking at other perspectives – they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they needed to find this out. This meant research was encyclopedia based and did not require the Internet. This allowed teachers to monitor how well the groups understood the issue before they jumped in without knowing the background. Once this was done, they knew what they didn’t know and this became their lines of inquiry.
Action was the concept that I was most unsure about coming into this workshop. Can it be personal? Does it need to be a product? Can it be an idea? Much discussion ensued on this topic, so below are snippets of notes combined together:
I personally liked the idea of Action being evidence of a transformative experience by the students as a result of the learning. It is students responding to the knowledge they have gained throughout the unit.
Action can be inaction but it needs to be based on understanding. If the students don’t understand the problem, they can’t identify the need that needs to be filled. When they have the knowledge and know what the problem is (form and function) they can then situate themselves to act on that.
If you are exhibiting the attitudes, that is action. If you are demonstrating tolerance, that is taking action. If they are cooperating, that is also taking action.
Student initiated action is part of a cycle where children are reflecting and choosing on their own action –>
Choose – Act – Reflect.
Head Heart Hand – understanding it, feel it and then do something about it.
The different types of action – this slide summarises different types of action.
It doesn’t have to be student initiated – but as teachers we want to encourage this and provide support where it is needed. Designing the exhibition needs to be done so that it allows action to happen – it provides opportunities for student initiated action.
The real take away from this session was that the process is so much more important than the end product. Its the journey and not the destination, and as such ongoing assessment is vitally important. Student reflective journals, teacher anecdotal records as well as formal oral and written pieces must all contribute to final assessment for the exhibition. And again, its all up to the school to decide what works best.
A new assessment structure was shared by Doug, the SOLO Taxonomy. It’s not something I’m going to implement immediately, but I always like looking at things differently.
Our final task for the day was an individual investigation. We were all given the opportunity to break into school or interest groups and develop understanding or resources in our chosen areas. Jill and I liked the idea of adding an Oral Presentation component to the exhibition evening so started investigating that. This led us to the realisation that we would need to completely rejig our assessment rubrics – much more substantial than a scheduling change! This will carry on to tomorrow so I’ll post that then.
So I’m back at Prince Alfred College in the last week of the mid year break, doing my second PYP Workshop for the year. The Exhibition Category 2 workshop is giving me and my colleague Jill some formal training on how the exhibition fits into the PYP and ultimately, year 5 at St Andrew’s School. This post is intended to act as a record of my notes and take aways from the course.
Beginning the day I felt confident and exited about the exhibition. Despite not facilitating it before, I am familiar enough with it through observing it at the school over the past three years. As a mentor to exhibition students and a colleague to facilitators, I feel an association with the exhibition that gives me sufficient knowledge to know that there is still a lot I don’t know. Our workshop leader Doug shared this little gem with us to illustrate the concept
So what do I know I know and know I don’t know? I’m the red marker in the corner
So while I’m truly a novice at this, I’m a confident one!
IB standards and practices
The structure of this workshop has developed through examining aspects of the PYP itself and viewing the Exhibition in light of them. First up was the IB Standards and Practices. Looking at these through the lens of the Exhibition showed us that the Exhibition incorporates all the standards and practices, and that all the standards and practices are necessary in order for the Exhibition to run smoothly. A conclusion was drawn that the Exhibition acts like somewhat of an assessment for the school. If the school runs the PYP successfully, then the students will be able to successfully complete the Exhibition. This is obviously a very broad statement, but is one that reflects the links between the two ideas.
These guidelines refer to Organising the Exhibition, the Roles of various parties in the school, Collaboration of students, Staging the Exhibition and the use of ICT. The key word here is guidelines. A misconception I had about the Exhibition is that there were a lot of rules and ‘have tos’ surrounding it. The only thing in the standards and practices is that it happens in the final year, and that resources need to be allocated to it. Everything else is at the discretion of the school. That is, whatever works best for the school, given its context. So things like level of teacher guidance, method of grouping students, the time of the year it is held etc are all at the discretion of the school.
My big take away came from the Exhibition handbook, in the form of the following table, which outlines the manner in which the exhibition unit differs from regular units.
Exhibition Guidelines, p8
Curriculum for the future – reading comprehension, information search and retrieval, mechanism to believe. This ending from Sugata Mitra resonates with me. Information literacy is paramount for children. Without knowing future contexts of society, this core, stripped down skill will be needed by today’s children and will be shaped by them as necessary.
What does this mean for the children currently undertaking the exhibition? Students searching for and finding information independently and then organising that information in their own way is core to the process of the exhibition. Also the role of the teacher in the exhibition matched the idea of the teacher facilitating higher levels of learning, not focussing on discreet skills. I question though, the ability of students at this age being self motivated enough to persist with research without significant scaffolding by a teacher. In high school perhaps students will have a desire to become discerning with information, but in primary school, students still need to be guided through the process. So, the role of the teacher in the exhibition really seems to be one of supporting the students as necessary, givingq them the best chance of success as possible.
The PYP has 5 essential organising elements – knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action. Discussion of how these relate to the exhibition brought up a burning question for me: How do we as a school treat the 5 elements equally?
When dovetailing the PYP and the Australian Curriculum, we fit content into the transmissible nary themes ( knowledge) then apply the concepts and then the skills and attitudes get ‘tacked on’ where they fit in. Ideally, skills and attitudes should be just as important as the concepts and the transdisciplinary themes. Our workshop leader remarked that it would be appropriate to let the students decide what concepts skills and attitudes they wanted to use in their exhibition. I agree with this as it would allow true autonomy over learning, as long as the students are equipped with the ability and knowledge of these to apply them appropriately. This speaks again to the school working towards the exhibition f rom reception. A year 2 teacher should be teaching confidence and thinking with the aim that the student will need to be fully versed in these skill and attitude by the time they get to the exhibition on year 5. Again, the exhibition truly is an assessment of how well the PYP works at a school.
So to make sure nothing is missed? Elements need to be spread evenly over the other 5 units to ensure students are able to select the ones that suit their inquiry, whilst ensuring everything is covered throughout the course of the year. This is one I’ll put on the shelf for now…
Staff Meeting tonight had us extending the staff focus of deliberate planning into effective lesson design. We have been emphasising planning and reporting by achievement standards within the Australian Curriculum; Starting with these standards and working backwards towards individual learning experiences.
A ‘golden pickup’ I have developed is the idea of giving students a learning intention before every lesson. This has helped me focus my teaching to align with all our careful planning, as well as given the students an increased sense of context and purpose for their learning.
Tonight Rebecca and Jade took us through a sharing session based on PD they had attended titled “Effective Lesson Design in English & Maths”. Now this presentation is not mine to share but my big takeaways are listed below. And these are in note form, based on the notes I took during the session – I think this is an authentic way to share my ideas at this stage. When they evolve into something new of my own I will share accordingly but for now, I’ll keep them in the form of inspiration from another:
Learning intentions must be explicitly clear for all students in the room. Intentions must be visible.
Learning intentions are not descriptions of an activity. They are directly linked to achievement standards.
There should be no secrets in the learning process –> this means success criteria must also be clear and explicit.
Success criteria tell kids “You can succeed at this and this is how you do it”. What does it look like to achieve the learning intention?
Along with WALT statements (We Are Learning To) and WILF statements (What I’m Looking For) you also need to address TIB (This Is Because) which links WALT and WILF to the students personal contexts.
To help with students engaging with WALT and WILF statements, these can be present on task sheets and blank work sheets. That way teachers can easily indicate how students have performed against them.
Students should be able to state learning intentions and success criteria. This is easier if displayed as above.
Don’t use the term differentiate. Say ‘make it accessible’.
There was also some discussion about the notion of Prime Time in student engagement levels through the course of a lesson. It peaks in the first ten minutes before hitting downtime after 20 and then a second, lower, peak at the half hour mark.
This led to some great staff discussion about all of the above. Most year levels shared some insights from the session and related it to what they were doing in their classes. In Y5 we shared our ‘Position’ class interventions, which I’ll detail once report season is over!
So again, school and kids have bumped my blogging down the ladder of priorities, as they should. Reports, birthdays and life in general have been in the front seat, but also has been a new tool that I have been taking for a spin in the classroom. Showbie is an app that I have been familiar with for a long time, and was even part of our workflow solutions this year as we introduced the 1:1 iPad program. It didn’t stay long in the forefront of our day to day working, but this term I have used it again, to great success.
I have been able to guide my students through the writing of historical fiction this term, satisfying the MYP subjects of Design, Individuals and Societies and Language and Literature, as well as the Australian Curriculum content outcomes for History (different perspectives). I have been teaching this in discreet chunks, lesson by lesson eg Step 1 was to find an Australian historical event. Step 2, think of a unique perspective Step 3, outline key historical tidbits etc. This is all well and good but because of constant student absences due to music and other co-curricular considerations, students often miss these discreet teachable moments.
With Showbie, I am able to record instructional materials and individually monitor the progress of individual students throughout the task. I can digitally annotate their works in progress and provide verbal feedback too. Once I turned off the email notifications (which came thick and fast everytime one of the 50 Year 6s updated their work, which was often) I found the app incredible in its capacity to allow me oversight of the students work. I still conference with the students 1:1, but this digital record of their progress is valuable and something I will integrate into my digital toolkit moving forward.
As part of our 1:1 iPad program, our Year 6 team are constantly reviewing the best practices for running our learning environments. Today I have come up with the term DAFA (Digital Anecdotal Formative Assessments). I got the idea from Andy Peartree (@anderspearz) who was using the app Explain Everything in his Maths group. I saw the students using the app to demonstrate their learning. They were engaged with the process and the Maths itself was not being compromised.
I decided to adopt the practice myself, but thought that I could formalise it to provide me with legitimate formative assessment. My maths class has just finished looking at converting fractions, to varying levels of success. I created a task on Edmodo asking my students to create an Explain Everything showing their understanding. I was able to quickly see who really understood the process without the need to troll through all their workbooks to establish their competence.
This is not a new process by any means, and I must stress the role my colleagues Andy and Jade in beginning this process. However, by formalising DAFA as a formal part of our teaching strategy, we have actively used technology to enhance our teaching.
Marking gives me the blues. It gets me down. Assigning a number to a student is not an instinctive action for me. I realise the need and all the buzzwords – monitoring, feedback, reporting, stakeholders, progress etc. It is something I find hard to do though. I see the bright kids cruise through and get a good mark. I see others struggle to even ‘pass.’ For me, its an unfortunate side of the teaching profession.
I need to make a disclaimer here. My current school has a great attitude towards assessment. It’s all about the process as well as the product. Assessment needs to inform our teaching as well as provide feedback to students and parents. I’ve previously needed to give exams to Year 5’s so all is well on the attitude to assessment front, but it remains something that in a perfect world I would avoid.
This ranting is not for naught – my point here is that when it comes to assessment design, it is important to ensure there is a fair balance between formal curriculum outcomes that you need to report on as well as the more specific objectives that frame a task and give it context. For example, we have recently conducted an investigation into measurement, using the iconic Vitruvian Man illustration as a model. Being an IB school, we have defined rubrics that apply to all assessments. These relate to skills, processes as well as knowledge and reflection: What are the fractions? How can you convert these to ratios? What is the relationship between body parts? Do your answers make sense in the context of the problem? and so on.
On top of these, we apply ACARA outcomes. After all these formal requirements, its hard to fit in things like curiosity, attitude, perseverance, commitment etc into an already packed assessment. It is these things that I value in my students, but I find it difficult at times to measure their success in these terms when there is such a focus on the formal outcomes.
This is where anecdotal records come in. Constant observations, feedback and adjustments are all part of the regular teaching cycle. I’m certainly not on a soapbox here – formal assessment is necessary, but I find it important to keep sight of personal development over the formal meeting of prescribed benchmarks.
I have been using Google for a long time. What has impressed me about the company is its ability to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for many Internet services, beyond a search engine. The tool that I have explored using the most recently is Google Docs / Google Drive. I have employed other cloud storage tools (and still do to different extents) but Google Drive has emerged for me as the easiest to use. I will discuss here two ways that I have successfully integrated the use of Google Docs in my classroom.
1. By students as part of their learning.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Google Docs with students as part of their planning process. In short, this was a resounding success. Please read this post first to give context to what I’m talking about. The students surprised me in two ways as they used the doc; They didn’t get caught up in the novelty factor and they actively utilised the added features of the process to improve their work.
I’ll admit that a couple of kids jumped at the opportunity to record words that weren’t strictly related to the task, but generally the maturity was sound. It was wonderful to see the students not only filling out the table as they would previously have in their workbooks, but also that they built on each other’s ideas. This proved to me that the use of the tech was worthwhile – it led to an enhanced resource for the students to use as part of their learning process.
I have now extended the use of Google Docs in this task by giving
2. By me as part of communicating with parents.
We were lucky enough earlier this term to have a school visit from George Couros, EdTech and innovative learning extraordinaire. One of the many ideas that I took away from his visit was the use of Google Drive as a way of communicating with parents about a student’s progress. It is surprisingly simple;
I create a folder for a student in my Google Drive
I set the security to ‘private’ and invite the parents to share the folder via email (no gmail required)
I upload worksamples, audio and video from the children to the folder (which only the parents and I have access to)
After consultation with leadership and testing of the system with a ‘dummy’ student (I like to call him Little Johnny) I set up the folders and emailed the parents. Initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive;
“This is great. Google drive is a great system!”
“Sounds good, thanks for this!”
“Wow, we are so lucky to have you teaching our child”*
I have so far uploaded photos of the students working, video of them presenting to the class and the Essay documents I mentioned above. My intention is that these shared folders become part digital portfolio, part window into the classroom and part opportunity to share learning beyond the local classroom environment – parents working overseas and extended family for example.
So far so good, then. I am always looking for interesting ways to meaningfully integrate technology into my classroom, so please feel free to share ways that you have used Google Drive or any other technologies!