On teachers’ work: Open the door & inspire others

Prompt number 14 in the #edublogsclub: Write a post that includes a “giveaway,” whether that is a lesson, a PDF, or something else. 

Open the doors & inspire others

This has to be one of my favourite things to do; share ideas and strategies to improve learning. As educators, we are not very good at boasting. I found this to be one of the greatest challenges when I left full time teaching to take up consulting.

In my adventures so far there have been good and bad experiences. I have written a number of posts about them and reflect often on how we can make a difference. I work hard as I know many of my colleagues do. We do, however, need more sharing in schools. Out in the cyber world, there are a myriad of websites and links to wonderful ideas and strategies for use in the classroom or for the professional learning of teachers. These are great, but I think the greatest of impacts come from colleagues who teach at the same school or neighbouring schools who open their classroom doors and invite others in to see, hear, experience and learn from each other. It’s time.

So, in the spirit of sharing or as the prompt suggests – ‘giveaway’, here are a few posts I’ve written about teaching and learning that may provoke further ideas and dare I say it – inspire you to try something different. If they do please let me know via the comment box below!

Reading from the outside in – A post about getting students hooked into reading

Playing the Picasso hook – Using visual imagery to provoke learning

Ma & Pa Kettle and other mathematical dilemmas – A post encouraging critical thinking in Maths

Teaching strategies that work for boys  – no explanation required

I wish my teacher knew, and other great reflections – a post about learning my students

Thanks for reading 🙂

The pendulum

Prompt 13 in #edublogsclub challenge is the pendulum.

Over the last 30 years as an educator, I’ve seen many changes. That my friends, as you have heard before, is the only constant in education – CHANGE.

In the prompt, there is talk about learning styles -the fact that for many, many years we were told that this was the way to go – teach to the learning styles of students. Well, research now suggests that this isn’t the case and that in fact teaching to learning styles has not increased student achievement.

Now what?

I remember when I first read about it, I was devastated. But then I realised that what they were negating was not in fact what we first thought -or at least not what I first thought. You see I’ve been doing a lot of work in this area for many, many years and developed a program about learning styles that my colleagues and I implemented in schools.

The whole idea of research that debunked learning styles mainly talks about pigeon-holing students into one way of learning and allowing them to think that if teaching is delivered in this way they will learn. That was never the objective of my program. Rather, the idea was that students could learn to learn using their preference but then they would need to be challenged to explore different ways of learning, depending on the situation. This point was never fully understood with those in management positions. This was a most frustrating predicament, even the students with whom we were working understood the concept:

“I think overall learning styles is really helpful because you know how you prefer to learn and it really helps. I don’t think there is anything negative about learning styles because some people may have lots of trouble at school and maybe that is only because of the way they learn. I have learnt how to adapt to different ways of learning. It has really helped me.” (Yr 7 student)

via GIPHY

Everyone learns in different ways. This is a given. For me, it’s still about getting to know your students, only I challenge educators to go one step further: Learn them.

So, while in education, things are constantly changing, as educators we still need to think about how, what and why we teach but more importantly WHO we teach. Learning them is a requirement in my book, no matter which way the pendulum swings.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Ma & Pa Kettle and other mathematical dilemmas

This week’s #edublogsclub prompt 12 asks us to embed something into a post.

No problems!

One of my favourite videos that I use in many of my workshops to do with differentiation and non-funded special needs is Ma & Pa Kettle’s most convincing lesson in mathematics.

The problem: How many times does 5 go into 25?

I bet you said 5 …

Can you think of any other numbers that can be manipulated to do the same?

No?

How about

13×7=?

Watch the video below. Costello (Albert and Costello fame) is pretty convincing…

Why are they so convincing?

I’ve used the Ma & Pa video in the past and asked students to convince me otherwise.

I would also imagine an open ended problem solving session where students explore the possibility that there may be other numbers for which we can present a similar argument.

How could you use these videos in your classes?

Feel free to share your ideas below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

7 boys, a mum & 28 pre-service teachers: A narrative of challenges

This post also addresses prompt number 6 in the #edublogsclub challenge – Challenging situations.

Once upon a time….

No, sorry…

This semester sees me working with 2nd-year pre-service teachers. The unit is the same as the one from 2016 and once again we get to go out to a school in Week 3 and ‘teach’ a couple of Year 7 students on campus. This is usually done during our tutorial time, however, this year proved to be a little challenging in that our tutorial time is 4-6 pm!! Um, schools don’t usually have students ready to go at that time – but alas – the time slot couldn’t be changed regardless of how important this ‘teach’ visit is to my students’ first assignment, (that’s another story!).

Anyhow, let’s not get side-tracked. I wanted to share once again the wonderful adventure we had that afternoon and how we managed to pull it off considering we went from 28 Year 7 boys willing to participate, all the way down to 6. With pizza and choc mud cake on the menu, the boys signed up to remain after school and participate in the activity. Until…

The bribe

They realised it was actually parent/teacher/student (P/T/S) interview evening and they finished school at 2 pm! The numbers dwindled down to 10 boys, and with only a couple of days before the activity, we went to Plan B – there is always a Plan B!

The hour we had with the students would need to be split into two. We have 10 boys participating in two sessions. This would be okay, as the teaching was only for 30 minutes, so my own pre-service teachers would be prepared and it would not impact on their lesson plan. Emails were sent to all and preparations made. I would pick up the food and make my way to the school, arriving in time to feed the students and set up the space. A half dozen of my students, who didn’t have a class before the tutorial would meet me to help with preparations. And then the phone rang…

It’s the day of the activity.

“Hi Jo. How are you going?”

It’s my contact from the school.

The conversation goes something like this….’Everything is okay. We are all set to go except we are now holding the activity in the library and not in the performing arts centre (where I told my students to meet me). No problem we’ll send the boys down to direct them. See you later in the afternoon.’

All good.

And then the phone rang…again…

“Hi Jo. How are you going?”

It’s my contact from the school.

“I’ve got some bad news.”

We are now down to 6 students.

Time for Plan C. Hang on. I don’t really have a Plan C. I have 11 groups (28 students in 2s and 3s) and 6 students. Each group except for 2 are expecting to be teaching 2 Year 7s for 30 mins. I get in my car to pick up the food and head on over to the school. Plan C, if I had one, won’t work, at least not without disppointing my students.

Later, at the school, I’m so happy to see my students who have arrived early as promised. We make our way to the library space, Plan C still isn’t coming.

“Hi Miss!” exclaim 2 little Year 7 boys awaiting our arrival.

I already feel better.

“Here boys, have some pizza. Now while we set up why not go find a friend to join us?”

“Ok,” they reply enthusiastically.

They soon return with another student willing to join in. That’s 7. Is Plan C on it’s way?

Slowly my other pre-service teachers begin to arrive while a few get caught in traffic and message to say they are running late. No problem. Plan C is slowly appearing. We have 3 groups already here and we’re 30 mins early – let’s start the first session and instead of 2 rotations we’ll do 3, plenty of time till 5 pm! H-E-L-L-O … Plan C!

And so the sessions begin.

In no time at all we have paper planes flying, gold coins appearing and science experiments taking shapes.

Planes, coins & science

My pre-service students keep arriving and another student arrives after finishing with P/T/S interviews in tow with mum and dad ready to join in the learning. “Please join us, mum and dad, you’re most welcome!” Mum is keen. So now we have 7 boys (yes I know that should be 8 but one has to leave to attend the interviews so really it’s still 7). The boys grab another piece of pizza and make their way to join another group ready to go again. In this session we’re doing kinetics, working probability and travelling to the land of ancient Egypt. There is also evidence of more science experiments to do with chocolate. I also spot one young man exploring through a paper telescope – I can’t wait to read about that one!

I spy…

Ancient emoji?

30 minutes later … A-N-D … TIME! Last cycle: the 7 boys and the mum rotate one last time. In this session I find more science experiments, this one has balloons and looks very interesting. In another corner, Japanese is being taught, while yet another group is deep into the medieval world and a third is working on area and perimeter – looks and feels nothing like when I went to school. Much laughter and engagement prevail and it looks like Plan C worked!

‘konnichiwa’

More pizza and mud cake, lots of thank yous and satisfaction prevails. We did it!

Time for reflection….

Reflecting on our teaching

Many thanks once again to De La Salle Malvern and especially their Year 7 coordinator who supported us all throughout this process, including entertaining the idea of having students stay after school to accommodate our tutorial time. Hopefully next year common sense will prevail and the tutorials will all be scheduled during the school day when students are actually in school!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Do more than ‘know your students’: Learn them

I’d like to propose a leveling up from ‘knowing’ your students to ‘learning your students’.

So how’s it different?

It is similar to holistic education where the student has the possibility to be developed in all aspects of humanism. It develops their physical, academic, spiritual, social and emotional being. In ‘learning’ students then, it becomes an ability to really know them beyond what they like to do, how they learn and what they got on their last test result. It’s about being open, allowing them to develop, take risks and all the while the teacher is watching, listening and learning. Only after this can one act accordingly. In learning students, one is compelled to take action.

What are the steps in such a proposal?

  1. When greeting them at the door go one step further beyond asking how they are going. Watch their body language, listen to the tone in their voice and distinguish if it was any different last time you asked. Then act.

    Watch, listen & learn

    Watch, listen & learn

  2. Reflect on the last class you taught. Who are the students that made an impact -that is- asked the questions, interacted with the teaching and learning, those you had to remind to get back on task. Now, picture those who did not. Why not? Have they interacted more effectively in previous classes? What was different this time? How can that change for next time without making them feel exposed? Now act.

    Classroom interactions

    Classroom interactions

  3. Do you know what your students like doing outside of class? Do you make efforts sometimes to include aspects of these things in the teaching and learning? Let me give you an example: You asked your class and this particular one has quite a few that enjoy sports -don’t roll your eyes – I’m not keen on it either but just bear with me. Keep in mind while you do plan that there are undoubtedly some students who do not like sport – but maybe they like games… what aspects of sport and games could be included in your class? I encourage you to think outside the box here, include ideas about skills- dependent on what year level they are: Might you include some healthy competition, or adding by goal points, even creating open-ended problems related to sport but reflective of the skills you require? Is there a story about sport/competition/achievement/training/teams you could use instead? Just because students like footy, doesn’t mean you have to ‘do’ and ‘talk’ footy. Perhaps you can cover their love of sport via other related means. Now act.

    talents

    Students’ talents

  4. Are you comfortable sharing something of yourself? Of course, I would expect that it be relative to the content matter being presented. This is a great way to reveal your own humanism and might move your students into telling some of their own narratives. Your role here is to model respect and trust when and if they do, to listen intently and thank them when they finish. Everyone needs to know they have a voice in your class when they want to use it and will be respected accordingly. One last point – the students don’t have to ‘talk’ their narratives, there are plenty of other ways to ‘show’ them. There might be an opportunity sometime during the semester to ask them to complete … ‘I wish my teacher knew …’ Now act.

    Lacking confidence

    Lacking confidence

  5. Stop teaching the content and start learning students. We are always talking about how we don’t have enough time…but time spent learning your students is much more valuable than always thinking you don’t have time because there’s so much content to get through. Content will happen, as will learning (which is the whole point of education) if we do more to ‘learn’ our students. Have open discussions about learning – discuss with them how they learn, talk about the brain and how clever it is and notice how, when, where and what students do in your class when you set learning tasks. I encourage you to change the language used – instead of asking them to get on with their work… try “let’s get on with our learning”. It just seems to be more inclusive and less burdensome somehow.

 

Matthys, 2016

Matthys, 2016

Now act. Let me know how it goes. Why not share your ideas below so others may also learn.

 

Thanks for reading 🙂