365 Photo Challenge

Two whole months have gone by and I have managed to keep my New Year’s Resolution going and I have uploaded a photo every day to my WordPress Photo Blog. Admittedly I have stockpiled a few to use when school is all I get to think about in a day but I am quite pleased with myself. A big part of maintaining the interest is gaining inspiration from looking at other people’s photos and receiving feedback from people viewing my photos.

Here is a summary of two months worth of photos. Thanks team.

Jan/Feb 2010

National Standards Review

This morning I attended a talk by Lester Flockton at which we got to hear his take on how he sees National Standards in New Zealand. My view of them is filtered through doom tinted glasses so anything I might add can be taken from that point of view. These are my views and are to be taken in no way as a reflection on the views of staff or BoT at my school. My reflections are in italics. This is what I took from Lester’s talk. I don’t usually blog about contentious issues but I wanted to share what I heard from someone who knows more about it than most. Here is what I heard…

National Standards have their foundations in politics not education so how can you discuss them with reason or logic. It was a political decision to start the National Standards process.

We need to be strong to say what we think– will I actually post my notes as a blog post but people already know via Twitter what I think. Press had been asked to leave before the Principal’s meeting started so how different is my blog post from a post in a newspaper, apart from lack of readership of this blog. We have a culture of compliance in NZ- we need to THINK of implications for National Standards- its possible/probable impact on teaching and learning.

Here are some of the slides that Lester used in his presentation. To see them in a decent size hover over them and click fullscreen.

Pamphlets about National Standards were posted out to parents before Christmas. Interestingly no one in the room had received a pamphlet in the mail – they were posted and not given to teachers to hand out- no wonder! The pamphlets were filled with political rhetoric in talk back radio language like

  • 20% of students are failing (Lester says 10-15% of children are struggling for a variety of reasons). Every country has a large tail- to make a difference to those struggling kids there are needs to be a whole package of assistance that they need to become successful- a test without real resources to support the family/whanau is unlikely to be successful.
  • Identify struggling children early- like we don’t know already which children are struggling.
  • We need one national test to rule them all- thankfully but also fatefully National Standards don’t deliver one test to rule them all- each school/teacher puts their own slant on the standard.
  • National Standards are needed so children can be compared one school against another. Lester says that the Standards are already impacting with schools advertising for staff to raise standards. Schools should be collaborative not competitive.
  • Parents are tired of politically correct sugar coated reports. Plain language reporting- it was changed from plain English as by saying English it was not politically correct! LOL)

League tables- inevitable in the long run- John Hattie is going to be in working party to develop them. He says he wants to make them safe- only comparing like decile schools. Lester says NEMP data is much more dependable and reliable. Schools will be pitched against schools! Common data sources- you won’t find them with National Standards there really isn’t moderation between schools- league tables based on surface features- because they more easily measured. It will breed a whole new batch of data driven tests.

Revision of NAGs in November 2009- blue sheet. Lester handed out NAG revision handout. Now no need to assess AOs. Schools asked to report to MoE on demographic analysis and trends, weakness, and what they are intending to do about it.

If you have a good reporting process keep it but add on as an appendage to your normal reporting schedule in term one and term four. Bring data on from the end of the previous year- beware of children’s fading over the school holidays. Beware of last year’s teachers who are soft or too hard so you appear over hard with kids moving between average or below for example- if a child was assessed as average last year and you put them at below beware of the parental wrath– Beware teacher workload.

MoE timeline- BoTs report on trends and what schols intend to do to achieve those targets. There will be enormous variance across teachers and schools as on what is above/below standard. There needs to be ongoing moderation between teachers and across schools.

Looking carefully at the characteristics of the reading and writing standards- same word games as the Achievement Objectives- the characteristics of year five and six are the same- it will be up to teachers to make those judgments and actually put it in plain language.

The people who put the standards together weren’t teachers and were done behind closed doors without teacher practitioners being involved. Why trial something that is rubbish anyway? Overseas any improvement has come at the expense  of a balanced, broad curriculum. Is this what we want- to follow failed overseas systems?

Trending to a data driven system. Children are not data.

Learning is messy.

So there you go! What do you think. What have you got to add?

Virtual Coaching

Tonight a got an email from Jacelyn at Goldfields Primary School in Otago asking that I give her a hand with some hyperlinking on her blog as it had her perplexed. It seemed like a lot of typing to explain so I made a little video using http://showmewhatswrong.com/. It is just so free and easy that I thought I might have the kids in may class make little instructional videos as well later on. Videos that you make are deleted from their servers after seven days so if you want to keep it for longer you have to download it which is easy.Picture 2

Once I had made the video I downloaded it so I could upload it to Blogger. The video of course ended up being tiny in Blogger so I put it in my public Dropbox folder so that people could view it in a decent size. I have 5GB of storage in Dropbox so size doesn’t matter really. Here is the video tutorial in its hugeness.

While I was on a roll I made a new post on my Bling4yrblog blog on how to do it.

What a great way to share the learning.


Picture 3Tonight there was a write up in the Nelson Mail newspaper about a radical ‘new’ way of doing homework. Not so radical and not so new. I have been setting homework in this ‘new’ radical way for the last three years. I based it on a book by somebody and I can’t seem to lay my hands on it! Maybe someone can enlighten me. Before that I was the queen of the fill in the gaps, what is the capital city of… kinda girl. Not anymore. I even put a folder with year’s worth of homework in it on Trade Me and some poor sucker bought it for $10.

I teach Year Four (8 year olds). Nowadays we have a theme to the weekly homework that compliments something we are focussing on in class. After the theme has been chosen we brainstorm using Kidspiration. I save this as a pdf and children get a copy in their homework books. At the beginning of the year we start with very basic suggestions but get more interesting as the range of topics builds up. After we have done a bit of everything we dabble our way across the curriculum and key competencies.

Picture 4

A bit extreme but I have one one occasion podcasted the homework into the classroom when I was home with the flu! If you take a listen you will hear just how sad and crook I was!

Along with the focus brainstorm each child gets a grid with their homework activities for the week. It builds up over time so that each week has a range of academic, social and cultural segments with a section each week for home work- doing something to help the smooth functioning of home.

I give out the homework on a Friday and children return it on a Thursday for us to discuss, comment on and for me to write new words in their spelling notebooks for learning. This way gives the kids a whole week to work on it so if they get stuck in they could do it over the weekend and it leaves parents more able to contribute rather than rushing through the Monday-Friday thing with all the workday stresses.

If there is something on or homework doesn’t get done for a week life goes on but if children just don’t do or say they have left it at home they get a note that goes home to remind them to bring to school so I can help them with sections at lunchtime.

I have received great positive feedback from parents about my system and I would definitely never go back to the old system.

People via Twitter and the commenting have told me that the book is by Ian Lillico- you can find out more about him by following this link.

What do you do for homework in your class?