Friday, 31 August 2012

A Little Freedom and Responsibility

Our students grade 3-5 have always started the year with 6 weeks of keyboarding for 30 minutes every day in the computer lab. We have used Mavis Beacon which is installed there.

But this year grade 5 students have their own macbooks in the classroom so we have been looking for a keyboarding programme that is online, so that we don't have to load a programme onto 60 macbooks and also so that keyboarding can become part of Home Learning.

I asked the question on twitter as I know there are loads of 1:1 schools out there. They must surely be doing Keyboarding lessons? But all I got were replies of, "Let us know when you find some!"

Then my tech colleague came up with something useful - Tripwire Magazine,  that had 10 online programmes. My first thought was, "Fantastic!" My second was, "When am I going to have time to check each one of these!" I didn't recognise any. And then I thought, well maybe the students can check them out. So I emailed the link and we had a discussion about how we should go about it.

I asked, "How will you know if a programme is right for you?"
After I got a few answers like, "It will have lessons," and "It will teach you," in a variety of different ways I asked what else do we want? I got all kinds of strange answers before someone said, "FUN!"

So then I said, "There are 10 here to choose from. How will you decide which is best?" We talked a bit about that. I introduced the word "criteria." Then realising what the task involved they started to give suggestions like:
It should have lessons suitable for everyone.
There will be different levels.
It should show a keyboard.
It will have games.
It will have easy instructions.
It will be fun.
It will tell me how I'm doing.

Excellent! And so it turned out to be. Giving the freedom to study different programmes and the responsibility of making a choice that would be good for them and their peers was definitely the way to go.

After some time trying different programmes, I asked them to write their thoughts in a blog post. (And added a 2 minute lesson on how to insert a hyperlink.)

And this is where I can see who has really looked for specific features...

Sample comments: 

Good Keyboarding stuff
Today I visited some websites for keyboarding and these were the ones that I thought were good and not so good:

On one of the websites called  you can pick the level ,there is a keyboard and it will tell you what speed your at, But it does not have games. That is why I think This one is good.

Another good website is Sense-Lang It is all free and has great games but the games do not have a keyboard. The Lessons are really good because you can pick you lessons and it has a keyboard. You can also do a test. I think this one is also really good.

Another one I'd like to tell you about is Rapid typing. It also has great games and it also does not have a keyboard and the test does not have a keyboard either. The Lessons you have to download so I don't think this is very good.

Today at school we had to do some keyboarding on our laptops. So I went on SenseLang. On type race you had to race against other people online and you could also play by your self but it wasn't fun. You could also race against your friends!!!!!! So there was a long sentence  and every time you raced there will be a new sentence. You would have to type the word that was highlighted on the sentence. If you get the word correct you would gain speed and if you do a word wrong you would lose speed.

When I was typing today, I found a good site called rapid typing. And it has games, tests and lots of other stuff. I  played the game word mountain and it had lots of levels like easy, hard,etc....
And people that are begginers for typing, and who are experts fro typing can also enjoy it.I think I will recommend this to my cousin when she is older.

I thought these sights were really good for learning to type but at the same time you can have fun with your friends. My favorite site was called Sense-Lang in this site you can play typing racing games and you can play Olympic racing its really fun. At the end of each and every game it tells you how much words per minute you type my high score was 41. I'm glad you found these fun and interesting sites Mrs.Buckley i think when my brother is a bit older i will show him these sites to teach him.

Photos are my own.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Wandering and Wondering

One of the challenges of starting a brand new unit after the overseas orders have been done is lack of resources. Our library has not had time to order new items for August and currently there are 12 books about the brain or books with chapters about the brain.....  hardly enough for 3 classes of 20 students! Middle School library has lent us another 14 books. Still....

When we check our list on the wall (generated by a small group brainstorming activity) there are other avenues. 

We  will make use of other teachers and we might have a group of high school students interested in seeing how they can help but they are at least an hour away. Realistically - most of the information that's readily available is from the Internet. I used to use iKeepBookmarks to use with students but now finding LiveBinders ideal for our purposes.

Students were emailed this LiveBinder: Learning and the Brain

The first page reminds students of our focus. They also get a reminder of what they should be doing while browsing. 

Gathering websites which have already been pre-chosen, means that students:
1. aren't spending a lot of time surfing the net,
2. aren't having to evaluate the usefulness of sites like they would if they were using a search engine,
3. aren't reading material that has no relevance.
4. aren't reading material that is beyond the "just-right" of a good (but not necessarily the best) reader.

Having said that, these are important skills. This is a short unit and it is the start of the year. (See post "So many Starts!" ) We'll spend longer teaching those skills later. But we will talk about the sites given and their usefulness and why they were chosen.

Students are asked to note anything they find particularly interesting. They are asked to make note of wonderings and questions that they have as they are browsing.  I can see that they are not used to jotting down questions. 

 Oh dear!

I suspect that they will have had experience of asking questions during Reader's Workshop but haven't realised that this is a way of thinking and learning which is not confined to reading. (there's another blog post)

As I gather these bits of information about they way I see students approach this unit, I start to think of which of the many inquiry skills I should focus on next.  Articulating your wonderings and generating questions seems to be a main one!

Photos are my own.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

What happens inside your head?

In the first few days of our learning to learn unit, we wanted to have students start to think about what they already knew. With just a short introduction we asked students to draw what they thought went on inside their heads when they were thinking, and add labels and notes where they wanted - whatever way they could best explain.

What a great Happy Place!

Listening to the discussions going on was every bit as important as seeing the many visual ways students showed their thoughts. 

Finding how few students had any real idea was eyeopening.

"This is my happy section. I'm putting musical notes."
"It does memories."
"I have so much storage space."
"I need to show emotions, feelings."
"This is the control centre."
"My thinking section has different stages."
"I basically just did the main three things, movement, emotion and thoughts!"

Photos are my own.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Reflecting right from the start

Inquiry teachers, PYP or any other variety, most likely have a unit planner that has a section at the end for an End of Unit reflection. We all know the importance of taking time to make note of ideas, changes, etc. so one has prior knowledge to review before any necessary revising/modifying next time the unit is studied.  I aim this year to make notes of any reflections as the unit unfolds, so I can bring them to my team PLC meeting for discussion.

We have barely started with our brand new "Learning to Learn" unit and I already have some thoughts based on our initial planning sessions some time ago and on what I have learned so far about my new class and their inquiry experience and competency.

Our new Learning to Learn unit for Grade 5 has this Enduring Understanding:

Understanding what influences our learning can help us make better learning choices.

Essential Questions:

How does my brain work?
What does my brain have to do with learning?
What can I do to get the best out of my brain?
What are my responsibilities as a learner?

In our planner, we hope that students would be inquiring into the ways in which learning is influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The initial plan, when we met as a team of eleven, (I wonder if that's too many perhaps) was that the inquiry would be focused primarily on an investigation of the brain – how it works and what impacts its functioning.  From there students would be able to transfer their new learning to their current situation. They would be better able to make choices that will support their learning and participate in an informed way, in setting up the classroom community as a learning environment.  They'd look into the needs of learners focusing on how to be successful in areas such as:  organization, responsibilities, peer-pressure, self-management (use of time, sleep, diet, exercise patterns), self-awareness, confidence, social/emotional development, learning styles, multiple intelligences, goal setting, and reflecting on learning.) 

Now that I have met my class, I think this is a huge task. We have 3 weeks, initially, to be followed with continuation throughout the year alongside our other units. (and that long list of time-consuming start up stuff....)

In a previous school, where students had grown up with the inquiry process from early childhood, I could have seen grade 5 students pick up this unit and run with it. My new class will need a lot of scaffolding to help them with inquiry which is a new way of learning. That means that maybe for the start of this year I might not see students' own thoughtful questions which will guide their inquiry. I might not see the deep investigating. I might not see a great deal of that all-important transfer... But, important to be on the lookout for all these things nonetheless.

This is where my own reflections are so important to my own learning. Taking note of how students are learning and what they need support in during this process will be invaluable, more so at this stage than checking off the bits of knowledge they collect about the brain... I need to remember and keep students mindful that this unit is about learning to learn and not just gathering "Fun Facts" about the brain!

More to come....

Thursday, 9 August 2012

So Many Starts!

Our sudents started the new school year yesterday. Two days so far to get to know each other.  Actually easier for the students than for me, as all my class had been in our three grade 4 classes so they knew each other a bit before starting grade 5. At the same time as the whole  extremely important social aspect of the start of school we have all the other starts:

Starting Everyday Maths.
Starting Reader's workshop.
Starting to use the classroom library.
Starting the year long reading assignment.
Starting Writer's workshop.
Starting Learning journals.
Starting Words Their Way spelling.
Starting Handwriting Without Tears.
Starting using macbooks.
Starting using Google mail.
Starting using Google docs.
Starting with blogs.

And all of the various routines... And I am sure I have missed some!

As well as all those, we have Building Learning Power which gives us great new way of helping our students learn. There's a new vocabulary to start using and getting students familiar with so that they can use it when talking about their learning.

And also the first of our new Units of Inquiry. Our first unit for all grades is Learning to Learn developed with the help of Kath Murdoch.  A short burst of a unit in itself for a few weeks, to be continued through out the year alongside the other four units. This is the one, if I am totally honest, that I am most interested in! Except for the student blogging... It's a close run thing!

And what are my students most interested in getting started with? Evenly divided between Inquiry Unit about what the Brain has to do with their learning ... and using their new macbooks!

It's hard to get the year started. It really is, especially when you are trying to not tell everyone what to do but have student choice and discussion about what they feel is important and what I feel is important and what the parents feel is important. Our first couple of days have been messy. That's OK. I expect the next few days to be messy too. We'll get there!

And after six days, we have a five day long weekend for Independence day and Idul Fitri!

By then I should be able to write about how we have managed with all our starts!