Goal 11: Feel the Weight of Your Impact

Goal 11 is going to be a shorter entry. We are asked to work out how many students we have taught in order to feel the weight of our impact. I worked out that over 7 years of teaching I have taught approximately 180 students. I have also taught quite a few students twice, but I haven’t compensated for this in the total number as I like to think I have have had twice the impact 😉

This task has made me realise that over such a short time I have had the opportunity to work with a large number of students. I  am thankful for all the experiences these students have given me and I hope that I have made a difference to their lives.

I am looking forward to beginning the school year and getting to know my next 25 students. I hope we can have a fabulous year together with lots of great learning and reflecting.

 

Goal 10: Spread Your Knowledge

Goal 10 is about sharing information and resources about a topic.

I have decided that for Goal 10, I will share the tools that I use for storing all my online resources and how I keep on top of the constant flow of ideas that come from my wonderful PLN.

Bookmarking:

The two main bookmarking tools that I use are Diigo and Pinterest.

Diigo

I like that I can save all my links in the one place with Diigo and that I can share these links with others. I use the Diigo extension in Firefox and Chrome to save links as I am browsing the Web. It took a long time to find an RSS Reader app that would allow me to save links directly to Diigo, (most had lots of other options of where to save the links) but now that I have found Mr Reader there is no going back! I get most of my bookmarks from ideas that I read in blogs I am following so having the feature of sending bookmarks straight to Diigo through Mr Reader is important.

The most powerful feature of Diigo is the social element. I haven’t used this as much as I would have liked to but I have joined some groups and I share my bookmarks using Enhanced Linkrolls. The Enhanced Linkrolls enable me to embed a list of links sorted by tags, into my classes website, this allows my students to gain quick access to links for a particular topic. I am hoping to explore the social elements of Diigo more this year.

Pinterest

I love Pinterest. I like the way it displays links as images. This is great for me as I am a visual learner. I tend to use Pinterest as a stand alone service. I haven’t got into the habit of saving links to Pinterest that I find in other services or while searching the Web. I would use Diigo as my go to bookmarking service when searching. I use Pinterest as a place to go to find resources and then I save them from there by ‘repinning’ links I like. There are many great teachers on Pinterest that you can follow so that as they ‘pin’ ideas you can see what is being pinned in your homepage. You can have as many boards as you like in Pinterest, I use these to sort my links into categories.

Here is an image of my “boards” section of Pinterest. I have other boards that don’t fit onto the screenshot.

You can follow me on Pinterest by searching for Aimee Gale in ‘pinners’ or by clicking on the following button:

Follow Me on Pinterest

Read Later:

Instapaper

I use Instapaper to save anything that I want to read later. Diigo does have a read later feature but I prefer to use Instapaper. I can use Instapaper from services such as Twitter and Mr Reader (RSS reader) as well as using it as an extension in most web browsers. If I find a link on Twitter that I think might be worthwhile having a closer look at later on I will just click the send to Instapaper button. This option is available on most Twitter clients, I use Tweetbot and Hootsuite. When I log in to my Instapaper account, my links are all there waiting for me to explore.

 

I think having tools such as Diigo, Pinterest and Instapaper help to keep me organised. I feel like I have control over the constant stream of information that I am receiving. I can search for teaching ideas and keep them all sorted in a way where I know that I can find it all again.

Goal 9: Teaching Ourselves and Them to Overcome

Goal 9 asks us to share a lesson or idea that has helped students to overcome negativitiy.

Reflection Rocks

Reflection rocks are something that I first saw on Laura Candler’s Blog. I found the post by chance at a time when a number of my students were feeling very negative about themselves. I knew that I needed to help my students feel positive and these rocks seemed like a great place to start. I found the website where you can purchase happy thought rocks: We Originals, but I wasn’t sure if they could ship them internationally.

I decided to try and make my own reflection rocks. I collected some rocks from the backyard and bought the paint I would need. It did take a little bit of time but I was really happy with the results.

I placed the finished reflection rocks into a special box and they are now kept on our class prayer table.

We use them for morning prayer and part of meditation. Each student takes a rock and holds onto it during meditation. They silently tell the rocks some good thoughts and the idea is that each good though the rocks are told helps keep them smiling. It is a lovely way to start the day and the students love sharing some of their good thoughts with the class.

 

Goal 8: Share an Activity

Well after quite  a long break I have decided to resume the 30 Goals Challenge. After some reflection I decided that the 30 Goals Challenge allowed me to reflect on my teaching and although it takes some time to complete the tasks and prepare posts I feel as though I gained a lot from the tasks I have completed so far.

So here goes…

Goal number 8 asks  me to share an activity that I believed worked well with learners. The idea is to create a community of collaborators. This could be within the school setting or online. I think this is a very valuable goal.

For me sharing successes and things that haven’t worked so well is an integral part of teaching. Within the school setting sharing lessons helps to lighten the load but more importantly promotes collaboration and helps to build a team. I believe that schools that are the most successful have strong teams of teachers who work together to plan and have a shared understanding of all students in the level. At times this can be challenging.

Some questions to ponder include:

  • Are all teachers on the same page?
  • Do the teachers value each others opinions?
  • Is time provided to support collaboration?

If the answer is yes to these then I think successful teams can be developed and sharing of ideas will develop naturally.

Teachers can also look outside their school for places to collaborate with other teachers and get ideas. There are many websites and blogs where teachers share lesson ideas that have worked well for them. One of my favourites at the moment is Runde’s Room. This site is run by Jen who has a 5/6 class. I really love the maths reflections that she uses and the way they are explained on the site. I have even bought things from her Teachers Pay Teachers site and I have found the products very useful.

Teach Meets are a fantastic place to find enthusiastic teachers who just by their presence at the meet show their commitment to sharing ideas. The idea behind teach meets is for teachers to gather and listen to each other share things that have worked well for them. Presentations can be 7 or 2 minutes so you get a taste of the idea and can then explore it further later on. Often there is a “teach eat” afterwards allowing for further connections to be made. I have developed some friendships with educators all around Victoria from the Melbourne teach meets that began last year. The next Melbourne teach meet is next weekend on Saturday 17th November and is being held at the Gould League in Moorabbin. Visit the Teach Meet Melbourne Wiki or follow #TMMelb on Twitter for more information.

Twitter is another great place to find teachers to collaborate with. By developing a personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter you have an instant network of people to share ideas with as well as take support from. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a question, posed it on Twitter and had the answer in a matter of minutes. Twitter chats is another way to not only share ideas and learn from others but also grow your PLN. Two of my favourite twitter chats are #ozprimschchat and #globalclassroom. The #ozprimschchat runs at 8:45pm (edst) on Thursdays and the times for the #globalclassroom chats can be found here.

Mini Inquiry Project

The lesson that I have decided to share is my mini inquiry project that my students have been working on independently as part of their reading contracts. They check in with me for one to one interviews so I can see how they are going and offer support. I wanted to give my students an opportunity to investigate something that interested them. I was thinking about how when I want to learn something it is usually because I want to, not because I am told to and I wanted to give my students the skills they need to do their own research and find their own answers. I often have students emailing me in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings asking if we could please learn more about a particular topic. I thought this could be a way to nourish their enthusiasm for learning.

Here is the contract that I used. My students just worked through each of the steps. They haven’t presented their learning yet but are almost there. They have been extremely motivated during this task and even those students who usually try to avoid reading tasks have been caught up in the excitement of choosing their own topic.

Download a MS Word version here:
Mini Inquiry Project

November #globalclassroom chat

This month I was asked by Michael Graffin (@mgraffin) to provide the topic for the global classroom chat that takes place on Twitter. The chat is held at different times to cater for a worldwide audience. To take part all you need to do is be on twitter at the appropriate time and follow the #globalclassroom hashtag. Remember to include the hashtag if you want to comment throughout the chat.

The overarching question that I settled on is:

How can we support students to inquire into global issues that help develop empathy and compassion?

You can read more about the chat and find the dates that suit your timezone on the Global Classroom Project blog.

Claco – A Tool For Organising Resources

I recently discovered the website Claco which is a site that allows you to make binders that can store websites, embed code and files that you upload. You can also create folders within the binders to help sort out the resources. The site is still in Beta and you need an invitation to join but you can request an invitation and it only takes a few days to come through.

I have only created one binder so far, a collection of the resources I will use for our upcoming Inquiry unit on “How does where we live impact on our lifestyles?” I am using Claco to store everything I will need for the unit. I have broken the binder up into folders that match the parts of Inquiry. For example I have a Tuning In folder where I have put PowerPoint presentations about the visit from the students from Balgo WA that are coming to see us on Monday and photos of people and places from around the world to spark discussion. I’ve also created a folder for Finding and Sorting Out where I have started to gather resources that we will use for that part of the Inquiry. I will continue to add folders for each part of the Inquiry and hope to gather lots of resources for each folder.


The thing that I like the most about Claco is that I can upload my own files. This means that as we go through the unit and I create documents or presentations that we will be using I can store them in the same place as I will store the websites we will use. The ability to create and store a unit of work really appeals to me.

Hopefully as the term goes on I will begin to create other binders for different units of work. I am looking forward to sharing my binder with the other teachers in the level and testing out the power of Claco for sharing and collaboration.

Opening Minds by Peter Johnston

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About a month ago, while browsing through Twitter I came across the hashtag #cyberpd and a tweet by Laura Komos that encouraged people to read the book Opening Minds by Peter Johnston and join a group that was going to discuss the book in July. I decided that I would jump straight in and ordered the book. Well, the book took a long time to get to Australia and I have only recently received my copy. Even though I started behind everyone else I am still hoping to be able to keep up.

Here are the most important things that I have taken away from chapters 1-3:

Chapter One is called “Choosing Words, Choosing Worlds”. I think this sums up the first point nicely. The words we choose to use in our classrooms help to create and define the classroom worlds for our students and ourselves (page 1). It is important to remember that we as teachers have a huge role to play in shaping our classroom worlds. I loved on page 1 when Peter Johnston described a time when one of his nieces said “I need a bigger world”. This made me think, what are we doing to create a bigger world for our students?

I have been involved in a conference called PLNLEAD which looks at how to lead in a networked world. As a result most of what I am reading and learning about at the moment comes back to creating sustainable local and global connections for my class and how to encourage others to expand their “worlds” and make connections.

I think it is important to reflect on the words we use and how we can challenge our students to move forward and not stand still. The example in Chapter Two that talked about the word ‘yet’ made me think about how something as small as the word yet can make such a difference. If we challenge students to think of the areas they need to work on as areas they haven’t yet mastered instead of areas they will never understand we give students the power to influence their own learning. Just a simple shift in mindset can result in a student believing in themselves and in turn achieving what they thought they couldn’t.

In Chapter Two, Peter Johnston mentions two types of students. Those who adopt a fixed-learning frame and those who adopt a dynamic learning frame. Students who adopt the fixed-learning frame think of themselves as never being good at something or already being smart at something. Those with a dynamic-learning frame consider that if they work hard they will be able to achieve anything. We need to encourage our student to adopt a dynamic-learning frame so they can learn as much as they can and expand their “worlds”.

Chapter Three discusses the need for students to see that they are on a learning journey and to recognise how far they have come. Students who view themselves as dynamic learners realise the importance of learning from mistakes and are not afraid to get things wrong. I think it is so important for teachers to encourage students to take risks and to have a go in the safe environment of the classroom. Page 32 talks about asking the questions “What are you thinking?” and “How did you do that?” These two questions open up many possibilities for teachers to encourage students to see the power of their learning.

Term Three begins for my State tomorrow. I hope that with a new term I can bring a fresh mindset to my classroom and continue to help my students to value their learning journey as much as I value my own.

Continue reading

Goal 7: Make a Global Connection

This weeks goal is about making a global connection. Over the last year and a half I have been working on building global connections for both my class and myself professionally. I think making connections is a very important part of learning today. Students who make connections with others locally or on the other side of the world are gaining so much from the experience.

I believe there are many benefits for both students and teachers who make global connections.

Students…

  • learn about cultures from all around the world
  • have an audience for their work, which gives it a purpose
  • gain feedback on their work
  • feel the satisfaction of knowing their work is important enough to be viewed by so many people
  • begin to see that we are all connected no matter where we might be in the world
  • learn so much from the conversations that are started
  • develop communication skills

Teachers…

  • develop a personal learning network and learn from other teachers
  • share their ideas with others
  • receive feedback
  • see the students connect with people in such a positive way
  • use the connections to make lessons deeper
  • promote a learning community by supporting each other through commenting on class blogs

I know there are many more reasons and I would love you to add your ideas. Please leave a comment if you have any other reasons why making global connections are so beneficial.

 

I have already made quite a few global connections.
I use Twitter daily to connect with my personal learning network. A group of amazing educators or people involved in education who provide discussion and support in all areas of my teaching. My teaching has changed so much over the last year and half thanks to Twitter. I have tried so many new ideas, always with the knowledge that if I get stuck I can talk to my PLN. I also try to be part of some of the chats that happen on Twitter. One of the chats I try not to miss is the #D5chat that happens Saturdays 11am (Melbourne time). It is a chat based around the Daily 5 and CAFE literacy strategies.

I also use this blog to connect with anyone interested in reading my thoughts. It is a great place to reflect on my teaching, with the goal to always improve.

 

My students have also made lots of global connections. We have our own class blog which you can find at: Kids Speak . We use the blog to record the learning that we are doing in class. The comments that we receive from interested people make the blog worthwhile. The students receive feedback on their work and often the comments will lead to a dialogue where more learning occurs. If a comment is received from a person who is overseas my students are particularly excited.

To enhance the connections made through the blog I have signed my class up for Quad Blogging. It is a fantastic project where four schools take it in turns to be the focus blog for the week, while the other schools visit it and leave comments. I am hoping that my Quad this year will be as enthusiastic about the project as I am. You can find out more about Quad Blogging here: Quad Blogging .

My students also connect with the world through Skype. We have had a few Skype sessions now, including one to a person living in India and one to a school in the Northern Territory in Australia. Through Skype we have been able to learn a lot about other cultures and prove that the boundaries between us and the world really are getting smaller!

Another simple connection that we have made is a link to a school in Canada. Over the summer holidays I noticed a teacher in Canada was doing a unit on Australia and wanted to make a connection with someone in Australia. I volunteered to answer her classes questions and since then our classes have been emailing each other. It would be great to one day be able to Skype with that school too.

I hope to keep developing the connections that my class and I have made and hopefully sustain them. I think the connections that can be sustained and developed are the ones that are the most powerful.

Goal 6: Investigate and Instigate Questions

Sometimes things come along that perfectly fit with what you are doing. Goal 6 is one of those. My school is involved in a project called Performance and Development Culture. One aspect of this project looks at developing the school through improving professional learning. It encourages the use of individual or group learning plans that focus on a goal that teachers wish to work towards.

Today was a closure day for my school and one of the main focuses was on developing a group learning plan based around a goal that each level wanted to work on. My level (Grade 3/4, Age 8-9) decided to focus on developing our use of open ended questions in Maths. We have decided to use at least two open ended questions in our maths planning each week.

Our level goal fits perfectly with Goal 6 of the 30 goals challenge as Goal 6 asks us to create a lesson that will inspire your students to explore a question that has no answer or has several answers. This is exactly what my level hopes to do through our use of open ended questions in Maths.

We know that our goal must be measurable and we want to ensure that our use of open ended questions positively impacts on student outcomes. We decided to create a pre and post test to assess the effect of using open ended questions. The test consists of a set of closed questions and a set of open ended questions both based around the same content. We are going to give the closed questions one day and the open questions the next day and see how the students went with both sets of questions.

For example:
Day One
Write a number that has a 5 in the hundreds place, a 3 in the tens place and a 7 in the ones place.

Day Two
Write as many numbers as you can that have an 8 in the hundreds place.

Next to each question we will also have a smiley face that the students can draw the mouth on to show how they felt about the question. They will also colour the smiley face either; green for feeling happy/confident, yellow for feeling okay/slightly unsure or red for feeling sad/worried about the question.

This will help us gather some data on how the students went with the open ended questions and how they felt about doing them. We are hoping that the second time we give the test we will see an increase in the students who are able to complete the open ended questions and also more students colouring the smiley face green.

I hope that this professional learning goal that my team has developed will improve my teaching. I will let you know how we go.

Goal 5: Feed Yourself Inspiration

Goal 5 is about feeding yourself inspiration. The idea is to gather quotes, songs, images and videos that can help inspire you to be a great educator. I have selected a few of the most influential quotes that I gathered. I could have listed hundreds more, but then I’d be here all year!

I created this short video with some of the inspiring quotes that I have found:

Dr Seuss’ stories have always been important to me. I believe almost any quote from Dr Seuss is inspirational!

The following story was posted on Twitter recently and it really resonated with me:

What Teachers Make

Adapted from a poem by Taylor Mali

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO of a large company, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” To stress his point he said to another guest, “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”
Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
“You want to know what I make?” She paused for a second, then began…
“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like an Order of Australia. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental… You want to know what I make?”
She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.
“I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in maths.
“I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to sing the National Anthem, because we live in Australia.
“Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.
Bonnie paused one last time and then continued, “Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.
“You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?”
THERE IS MUCH TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT: “Teachers make every other profession.”

The following is a prayer that I like to reflect on:

Lord, let me be just what they need.

If they need someone to trust, let me be trustworthy.

If they need sympathy, let me sympathise.

If they need love, (and they do need love), let me love, in full measure.

Let me not anger easily Lord, but let me be just.

Permit my justice to be tempered in your mercy.

When I stand before them, Lord, let me look strong and good and honest and loving.

And let me be as strong and good and honest and loving as I look to them.

Help me to counsel the anxious, crack the covering of the shy, temper the

rambunctious with a gentle attitude.

Permit me to teach only the truth.

Help me to inspire them so that learning will not cease at the classroom door.

Let the lessons they learn make their lives fruitful and happy.

And, Lord, let me bring them to You.

Teach them through me to love You.

Finally, permit me to learn the lessons they teach.

Amen.

(Author: Charman Kinzelman)

The story below highlights how one small action can make a huge difference:

Once upon a time there was a wise man

who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.

He had a habit of walking on the beach

before he began his work.

One day he was walking along the shore.

As he looked down the beach, he saw a

human figure moving like a dancer.

He smiled to himself to think of someone

who would dance to the day.

So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man

and he wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching

down to the shore, picking up something

and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

When he got closer he called out,

“Good morning! What are you doing?”

The young man paused, looked up and replied,

“Throwing starfish in the ocean.”

He then asked, “Why are you throwing starfish in the ocean.”

He answered, “The sun is up and the tide is going out.

And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But, young man, don’t you realize that the beach is vast

and there are starfish all along it.

You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely.

Then bent down, picked up another starfish

and threw it into the ocean, past the breaking waves

and said – “It made a difference to that one!”

By Loren Eisley