Tag Archives: school

Failure equals Success

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Ok, so the School Holidays are over again for another Term. I always start the term bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, keen as to get into my classroom.
And then…

BAM

School hits me in the face.

Really??

Really??

We started with this great workshop and discussion at Staff Development Day on middle schooling pedagogy. Middle School is those awkward years from Year 6 to Year 9, when a lot is happening developmentally and socially, but learning and engagement is not first always first on their agenda?! We were discussing some effective strategies to support our students to achieve success and learn to love learning. Some great ideas were popping up: more community involvement, more acknowledgement of achievement, more PBL. I was excited to be having this discussion with my colleagues.

Great ideas happening

Great ideas happening

So, I then added to the discussion, and suggested that one problem is the pressure with assessments… Especially at this time of year. Reporting. Because when all a students teachers are writing reports, they need results. These results are collated from assessment tasks… So for Year 7, at the beginning of Term 2, they will probably have at least 10 assessment tasks due to align with all their subjects. This was clearly not a popular statement, and was told I should organise myself better and that reporting was our obligation as a teacher.
So wait…. I never said I didn’t want to report- I love giving kids feedback…. But the question I had was the why are we pressuring kids with so many assessments (often due at the same time) just for the sake of a mark on the report?


 

Then something wonderful happens in my own classroom…

I have my GATS students finishing a project where they were divided into 4 groups. They were randomly chosen groups and allocated 4 real world projects to achieve by the end of Term 1. Now, some groups finished…. and some didn’t. One group organised a very successful popcorn stall where they raised awareness and money for the Black Dog Institute. Throughout the project (especially at the beginning), I explained how hard it was to work collaboratively, and that you really need to identify your ‘leader’ at the beginning. I said you would always have a ‘slack ass’ that you would need to constantly tell what to do, and I also told them not everyone was equal and jobs needed to be allocated if you hoped to be successful. I saod you needed a goal and a plan as to what to achieve in every lesson. I gave students some great goal setting and project management sheets that I adapted from BIE.

As the project progressed, I watched as some groups fumbled and as the term ended, some had even lost their direction completely.

At the beginning of this project, I told them that many groups would failThis is the GATS class, so they looked at me horrified – these are high achieving kids who would rarely ‘fail’! As predicted, some groups just couldn’t get it together to finish the project.

I smiled at them.

This is what I wanted. I wanted them to learn from their mistakes.

At the end of this project, the only thing I really care about, is the self-reflection that the students submit to Edmodo. I asked a few questions of them and told them their group members weren’t reading it, so you should be honest.

These are the questions:

1. What was the criteria to achieve success? 
2. What have you learnt from this task? Describe the purpose of the organization/theme that your project was based upon.
3. Do you think that you have made other people aware of the ideas and issues that are explored by your organization/theme? Explain why/why not.
4. We always learn from mistakes and failures. Show how failure, mistakes and accidents have led to the discovery of worthwhile things. 
5. If you were to do it again, how would you do it differently? Evaluate solutions and answers in terms of their consequences and implications
6. Describe your role in the group. Were you a team player? Did you achieve the learning goals you set for yourself?

So how does this link to my frustration at the beginning of this post… and the title of FAILURE equal SUCCESS?

I think sometimes we are so consumed by a system that grades and assesses students for numerical outcomes that we forget that learning can be about making mistakes. It is not always about getting 100% everytime. I get frustrated that I can see the benefit of less grading and classifying and wonder why it can’t always be this way. But I also know realistically, that is how the school system works – that is what the HSC is after all. It is much easier to control this model of examination equalling success. So many people have become accustomed to associating a number with the amount of knowledge a student has about a subject. I don’t think 76/100 tells me anything about the students I teach. I love talking to my students about their successes and failures and asking what they enjoyed or hated about a unit of work.

So, I leave you with some of my students insightful self reflection statements. Because these made me smile, gave me goosebumps and a little tear in my eye… Cause I realised what I believe in does work, and it DOES make a difference. 

* I liked when everyone just got the job done and we worked as a team. When we did, we had great out comes. The task was definitely challenging, but I really learnt how to try and communicate with others and how important planning is to working as a team. I actually think that by not getting a complete finished product, we all learnt that teamwork is really important and makes a big change to how things turn out.Overall I thought this project was fun and interesting, but it certainly had its up and downs!

* Yes I did enjoy it. I found it challenging working in a group and I learnt a lot of group skills and a lot about filming. It was also good at the start of last term when I was new and we were all new, I got to know some of the other people in my class because it was grouped randomly.

* Not everyone was motivated the same amount. If each person in the group was motivated to the same level, we wouldn’t have been distracted as easily and we might have better achieved our goals. The different level of motivation of the group members contributed to what I considered as disappointing outcome.

* What did you learn? I learnt a lot trying to achieve a project as part of a group. I learned that planning in this situation is very important. I used to think that planning was not needed all the time, but now I think you should always plan, although sometimes you need more planning than others. The most important things I learn were:
1. Planning is one of the biggest building blocks of group work and you will fail without it. 
2. Everybody needs to be motivated so they don’t get distracted.
3. You have to listen to everybody and be prepared to compromise your ideas to make everybody happy and to get the best ideas.
4. Sometimes despite your best efforts you will be disappointed.
 
Was there a time that you have made a mistake or failed but learnt so much from it?

 

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Let them eat Cake!

At this time of year, when all things at school are winding down, it is important to still keep our students engaged. I think sometimes this is a challenge – but I love it!

We have this great unit of work for Year 8, that we always want to spend more time on, but run out of room in the year to fit it in in-depth. I have a bank of resources and ideas that I really want to use and get the kids involved in, but time is always my enemy.

But what this does mean, is that I can teach it at the end of the year, with no worries about deadlines for assessments. I can just teach it for the enjoyment of the content. Which is great, because the topic is

Food Glorious Food

Starting with the Amazing videos of Heston Blumenthal to demonstrate the design process

Please explain you say?

Idea -> Proposal -> Research -> Experimentation -> Evaluation -> Re-design ->Presentation to User/Audience

This unit of work focuses on food as subject matter historically and in popular culture.

Another great resource is this series called Eating Art

When I tell the kids about this topic, they get really excited. And this year, I had a boy bring in a cake for the class to use as their source image.

Let them eat Cake!

Let them eat Cake!

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We then do a series of drawings, much like a stop frame animation…. of the cake disappearing. One bite at a time. All students have to draw the whole slice of cake first, and I tell them that if one person takes a bite before they have drawn it, then no-one gets the cake. They all have to put their hands up and tell me when their drawing is finished for me to approve them to have a bite and move onto the next drawing.

It is AMAZING how quiet the class was! They were silently drawing and LOVING IT! Their drawings we really good and some of the more challenging kids who don’t usually love art, were even into it.

I don’t often bribe my kids… but this was a great way to get them involved and keep them engaged!


Noob, Master or Wizard

Differentiation is a focus this year, not only at my school, but also in the region. This has meant that there is a massive push to make a range of strategies more explicit in our programs and units of work.

So, what is Differentiation?

It involves the use of teaching, learning and assessment strategies that are fair and flexible, provide an appropriate level of challenge, and engage students in learning in meaningful ways. Differentiated programming recognises an interrelationship between teaching, learning and assessment that informs future teaching and learning.

http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/differentiated-programming/

Being unique and different isn't all that bad

Being unique and different isn’t all that bad


The concept began as a strategy to enable Gifted and Talented learners to be challenged in mainstream classrooms. The realisation is all students learn in different ways and when provided with a range of ways to problem solve, a choice of product outcomes and the opportunity to work at a pace that suits them, students will achieve better and more to their potential. No longer is the “one size fits all” solution adequate in the 21st Century classroom.

There are a few suggested strategies that can be used. These include:

  • Differentiating the process or activities
  • Differentiating the product outcome or assessment
  • Differentiating the content and materials
  • Differentiate the environment

All the above can be further explained when you examine the following models:

How does this translate in the classroom?

I feel confident from teaching the GATS class that I am able to accomplish these ideas when programming and implementing a unit of work. But when we sat down to discuss it as a faculty, there was a need to have it more explicit and each concept defined and used clearly by each teacher. (Now there is irony – teach in a differentiated way, but don’t program like it! HAHA!) There was also a push from above for each faculty to focus on one strategy to become experts at it – the Art department scored Extended Brainstorming. The more that I thought about it and read about differentiation, the more clear it was to me, that in Art we are really lucky. While we teach students a skill in using materials, the concept development and inevitable outcome, is always differentiated. Students are always working at their own pace and some extend their artmaking when they feel confident, while others are more complacent.

For me, reflecting upon my classes, I thought perhaps I had let my Visual Design class down. Because I teach in such an open-ended manner, I feared that maybe they weren’t developing good enough Graphic Design skills, and some were not all confident with using Photoshop. I don’t like to set down in stone HOW to use the software, I figure that as they problem solve and decide on a visual concept, they are going to have to learn how to use the software, to make it do what they want.

In saying this, I decided to PRE-TEST their skills. I gave them a task that was open-ended, but the end product was like a test of their developing skills.

Here are some of their products.

There is such a range. But it really challenged them and gave them the chance to really showcase what they could or couldn’t do.

So, are you a NOOB, MASTER or WIZARD?

Once complete, I assigned the students the next design brief. However, I based it upon these previous submissions. I was going to tell them what to do, but let them choose. I let them choose from 3 possible project – each increasing in difficulty.

The NOOB task is for students that are developing their Photoshop skills.

The MASTER task is for students that are able to use Photoshop, but not always confident.

The WIZARD task is for the super dooper students who want a challenge and know what they are doing.

The feedback discussions we had about where they were placed in their ability was great, and now the are all doing something that they are enjoying and with enough challenge to learn new and develop their skills.

What are some things you have tried to differentiate in your classroom?


Connectedness

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connect |kəˈnekt| verb [ with obj. ] bring together 
or into contact so that a real or notional link is established

I like to be connected.

I confess that I am a social network addict and love to share aspects of my everyday life. My partner has rolled his eyes at me plenty of times, and asked if just this once, our meal could remain private. HAHA! (Sometimes I appease him, but I really do enjoy taking pics of my food – sorry!)

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It is increasingly easier to share your everyday comings and goings with the virtual world and it is rare to feel alone. Using Instagram, I feel a sense of community with many like minded people, also sharing photos of their daily lives. Twitter is where I share my teaching ideas and Facebook is a more personal space for me and my close friends.

In my own little world, I have noticed how this sense of connectedness makes me so happy. And how it has helped me to become a better teacher and a better friend. I have my own little ‘communities’ or ‘networks’ that provide me with constant laughs, challenges and ideas.

Besides my partner (who is amazing), my colleagues and my uni friends, there are 2 groups of people that I talk to everyday… and without those conversations, I think I would feel stifled.

CONNECTION #1

The Work Ladies

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Jude, Lorna and I at Lorna’s Wedding in Wales, July 2012.

After training on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have breakfast together. This gives us the chance to debrief and gather our thoughts. As friends and work colleagues, we can talk about anything: from assessment tasks to weekend adventures. Having such a great support network at school is seriously undervalued. I know not all teachers are lucky enough to have friends in their workplace, but I can tell you, without these ladies – some days at school would be more difficult.

CONNECTION #2

The Edmodo Ladies

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Me, Bianca and Monique

We met in the most random way. While we had already been connected on Twitter, we had never met in real life. Until Edmodo brought us together. All three of us were selected to present at EdmodoCon 2011 – an online Virtual Conference. In preparation for the conference, we thought it would be a good idea to meet up and discuss what we were going to present. The random thing was, we all lived a suburb away from eachother and were able to meet. (Edmodo had no idea about this – they just thought we were all from somewhere in Australia!!!!) This random meeting developed into great professional relationships… and awesome friendships. I think the highlight of this connection has been the EPIC group SMS that we have been sharing over the last month or so. These ladies are great to bounce teaching ideas off, have a laugh and reflect upon our day in the classroom.

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So….

With all these connections in my everyday world, I started to think about how important it was to replicate this dynamic into my classroom.

It is written clear as day in the Quality Teaching Framework document:

 ELEMENT

What does it look like in classrooms?

What does it look like in assessment tasks?

Connectedness

Lesson activities rely on the application of school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school. Tasks apply school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school.

While a traditional classroom exists in the one space… in-between the four walls that are prescribed to us by a school

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In the amazing 21st Century classroom, there are no boundaries as it can exist in an online space

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Modelling the way I connect using Social Networks, I have tried to develop this sense of collaboration in my classroom. Building up the students understanding of how to communicate and share with their peers as a community.

But I wanted to take this a step further. 

This year I was allocated 3 Year 8 classes.

*sigh*

I thought I was going to go mad if I taught the same thing three times in a week. I had to change the programme, not too much, but just enough, so that while it was more exciting for me, it would still cover the outcomes that the other teachers were covering.

I reflected upon the way I connected… and how it had opened up my eyes and has helped me everyday to understand my teaching practice more. Why not bring this into the classroom???

I reached out to my Professional Learning Network and asked if any teachers here or overseas would want to connect with my Year 8 classes who were studying the topic of ‘The Suburbs’.

Bingo! There was a teacher from Alabama who said yes… and from there my idea developed. Inspired by the blog/photography project 52 Suburbs, I wanted the students to not only look at their suburbs and their small worlds, but compare this to other students experiences.

What am I going to teach then?

I decided that I wanted my students to study the artists we would normally study, but instead of writing about them, they could make little videos that we could share with the class overseas. This will be particularly interesting, because the two key Practitioners are Reg Mombassa and Lin Onus. Mombassa is an Artist who uses many Australian icons in a humorous way. Onus uses his art to reflect upon his identity as an Anglo Saxon and Aboriginal living in a white community.

I also wanted them to make art to share with this new audience. While they are sharing images of their different communities using Edmodo, I thought about how cool it would be to be PenPals with these overseas students. Going back to old school letter writing to compare their lives on the other side of the globe. So, the students are going to design their own postcards and send them to this new connection overseas.

Exciting times ahead!!!

Check out the outline for the unit of work. I have used Bianca‘s PBL model to nut out the ideas that the students are going to explore.

How do you get your students to connect in the classroom?


Jumpstart!

As the Year draws to a close, it is hard to find motivation. Everything is winding down as the school year ends.

I believe that I am a dedicated teacher who is creative and passionate…. but I am feeling stifled at the moment! Perhaps I am on the verge of being bored even! (But the kids stop that from happening… ) This is not to say that I am not putting in as much effort to deliver exciting and engaging lessons, I just feel that I can do it really easily.

I have noticed that I am not one to be bored…. and always line myself up with a challenge to keep myself entertained. Usually this has been related to work:

  • Completing my Masters
  • Having my first Exhibition
  • Presenting at Conferences

But of late, I have been focusing on me. 

WARNING: Before you read on!! This is not a blog post about Exercise – bear with me!

At the beginning of the Year I started regular training sessions with the Master Trainer – Josh. I also decided to try and eat better by ordering Lite’n’Easy for my school meals. The thing was, I started to noticed some results! I started to lost weight and was quite excited.

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So, I increased the amount of training sessions that I was doing and even did some of my own… Motivated by some great Fitness Apps.

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The thing about group fitness training, was that we were also having a lot of fun and becoming really good friend….

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Stretching after training can often lead to fits of giggles!

This was all well and good… I was happy! But I needed to set myself a goal – my friends wedding in Wales. I want to drop a dress size and treat myself to a new dress for the occasion. To do this, I started to do one-on-one Personal Training sessions along with Kate. These were more high intensity and Josh worked us hard – knowing that we both had goals we wanted to achieve!

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I was so excited and loved that I could buy a size 12 dress!

Achievement unlocked!
Jude and I in Wales!

Jude and I in Wales!

Training continued, as it had been…. and I felt great. Then Josh told us about this great new eating program/lifestyle food plan/diet called Metabolic Jumpstart. 

The thing with me is, I don’t just half do things…. From the beginning of the year I had committed myself to changing my lifestyle. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

To date, I have lost 7cm from my waist and am now a size 10.

Achievement unlocked!

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By now, if you are still reading, you are probably wondering what this has to do with my teaching.

Well, for one, it has kept my motivated and has probably been the most exciting thing happening at the moment! (Perhaps sad, but true) I don’t want to think that I am someone who obsesses about weight or food, but it has certainly transformed my life.

I have therefore been deconstructing what it is about this years achievement that has kept me motivated? What is the key ingredient that is missing from my teaching practice? Is there something from this experience that I can take away and apply to a new context…???

(And yes, I have an over-active mind too!)

I thought about Jane McGonigal’s. I thought about her analysis that Reality is Broken and her definition of the four traits of a Game… and why these games make people happy….

  1. The GOAL is the specific outcome the players work to achieve
  2. The RULES place limitations on how players can achieve this goal
  3. The FEEDBACK system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal
  4. VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION requires that people playing the game know the goals, rules and accept the feedback
Now for the A-HA moment…

My training and weight loss journey has had these traits!!!! That is why I have had success!

And this is where my reality is broken, because the thing that I love the most – Teaching- is lacking in these things at the moment.

I am trying to set my own GOALS to unlock new achievements… but I feel like I have already done this. I have tried to share in my achievements with the people around me, but they are not all VOLUNTARY PARTICIPANTS.

It is hard to be goal orientated person with no goal…. I want more…. I am seeking it… but don’t know where to find it.

Teaching for me, needs a jumpstart!

If you have any ideas where I can find it… Please help: Apply within!

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The Wild Survival Kit

As part of a transition unit at school, we developed a cross-curricula Project Based Learning (PBL) unit of work with a driving question:

What kind of wild thing are you?

I have written about the art focus in an earlier post here, but to reiterate, it was great to have all the faculties work together for a common assessment goal. The great thing was that we also worked with the local primary school to embed language that was consistent with Stage 3 into Stage 4. So the students had to create 3 products and/or performances to demonstrate to a panel their understanding of the question. So, while they were working on this group goal, each class they went to for at least the first 4 weeks of term taught within their faculties an understanding of the WILD THINGin that subject. For examples, Maths was: Is your wild thing a thing of the past? Where the students used History and Mathematics to analyse different number systems. Geography used field work at the Zoo to analyse data about the environment around them. Technology produced animal ipod cases, footprint stamps and morphed digital animal beings.

I went and watched some of the presentations and it was really interesting to see how the students had synthesised these concepts and worked in groups to produce great examples of their Wild Self. It would be even better next year to have some Team Teaching going on to illustrate the links between subject areas more consistently.

I have the Gifted and Talented (GATS) class in Year 7 which we call the Academic Extension class. They have 3 periods in the class and it is not based upon a set syllabus. The curriculum is open to extend their learning and develop their creative thinking and problem solving skills.

So, I got to think of an exciting way to explore the concept of the WILD THINGS with this group and I developed the task:

Design a Survival Kit to aid you in the wild.

There were three parts:

A representation of the wild thing inside of you.We all have wild emotions and the desire to fit in. When Max runs away and ends up in the land of the Wild Things, he encounters lots of new friends but has very different relationships with each of them. Discover what makes you who special. 

A study of the wild. Max travels to a land very different from the one he knows. It is full of new creatures, new abilities, new friends, and it is a place where Max rules as king. Use your imagination to create a world where you would like to live.

“Let the wild rumpus start.” In Where The Wild Things Are, Max experiences many different emotions, from trying to figure out how he fits in with his family to trying to figure out how he fits in with the Wild Things. In addition, the Wild Things manifest many emotions as they struggle with some issues that Max faces and some of their own. Start a wild rumpus of your own.

As academic students who are selected via the selective schools exam, I wanted to use the text as a metaphor for fitting in and discovering your self. But I also wanted them to understand that it is not always easy and that they are special students who are different from others.

The students were definitely challenged. I didn’t really know what I wanted the outcome to look like and I certainly didn’t want to define the parameters. But I also didn’t just want a boring essay submission that was not creative and didn’t think outside of the box. I got the students to look at different learning styles and how there were many ways to present information based upon these. Things like videos, board games, a timeline, a play, a poem or a song could all illustrate your ideas.

I also banned large pieces of cardboard with collage and glitter!

I ended up having to explain myself quite a few times and did some really fun brainstorming sessions to develop their ideas:

The REAL wild and the METAPHORICAL wild

Then the ideas really started to flow….

Here are some student work samples that I have curated into one document:

We ended the Term with their Wild Place… and while technically the unit is over, I still want them to Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

So, this is what I have developed for that…

wildrumpus <——– click to open document

How I envisaged this was that a WILD RUMPUS was something in the community that the students had a part in. So I found real situations that could translate to classroom activities and goals for the students to achieve in groups. Inspired by @biancahewes I wanted a real audience and real project that the students could link to their world and their understanding of the Wild Thing inside them. I wanted a spark to ignite about the way they can become involved in their community and that they can have an impact.

I am going to use Edmodo in small groups, Class Dojo and Goalbook to facilitate their learning. Constant peer evaluation and the creation of a time management plan to make this all possible. I am going to break down the walls of the classroom and allow them to respond to this challenge however they feel fit.

I hope they get something out of this. I will keep you posted on what their outcomes are.