lforner


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the professional development category.

Tis the Season of Assessment…

It’s about this time in the term when you start to feel a bit like the honeymoon is over; the kids start to tire of your puns, the first assessments are due and the workload piles up.

This week, I’ve been marking Year 12 Advanced speeches for Module A and it dawned on me that when students hand in assessment tasks, that’s when I do my most effective teaching. That’s when I truly take stock of what students have actually learnt and where the holes are that I haven’t filled. It’s when I get the chance to provide feedback that they are guaranteed to read and consider important. It’s when I get to congratulate students on what they’ve done well. It’s when I can plan where I will take the students next. Not that I don’t do all these things during the teaching of the unit, but the formal assessments provide a more explicit avenue for me to reflect upon these aspects of my practice.

With this new appreciation of the integral role of assessment in MY learning, I’ve approached assessment in a new way this week: with excitement! And I’ve even infected some of my students with the same attitude; one of my Year 9 students has been diligently working away on her assessment task, which is an original poem, visiting her elders in the community to research the impact of the Stolen Generation on Indigenous people in our town. Obviously, she is aware of the valuable opportunities assessments provide too!

 

 

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More than just a New Year’s resolution

This year will mark a four year anniversary that I’m not overly proud of. In 2012, I headed out to my first teaching position, optimistic and ready to spread the word about the power of technology and the importance of developing a wide PLN to support best practice. And a year in, I fell off the wagon completely. As I enter my fifth year in the classroom, I’ve realised that it isn’t just about my teaching, or the learning of the students in my class, or even in my school. It isn’t about my faculty, or even the staff at my school. I have cut myself off from so many valuable resources, so much valuable input and so much support, and it hasn’t been until I’ve come up for air, so to speak, that I’ve been able to realise that a great deal of the inspiration I took with me out to my first teaching post was the feeling of contributing meaningfully to a community.

This year, I’m not just making it my New Year’s resolution to reconnect with my PLN, be active on Twitter and blog regularly, I’m also including it as a goal in my PDP. I want to rekindle the fire I once felt when issues surrounding the education industry were discussed and reclaim my own thirst for knowledge. One of my passions, in particular, was the support of Pre-Service Teachers, and I think that with the additional experience I’ve now had, I can offer them far more practical guidance and help.


Change is upon us!

With the NSW version of the Australian Curriculum to be implemented from 2014 in my KLA (English) for years 7 and 9, our faculty is planning how these changes can be incorporated into our planning for next year.

Our Head Teacher suggested that one of the most pressing things is to conduct planning with primary school teachers, particularly Stage 3, in order to map out how the new outcomes will shape the content we teach.

I have been pondering how this discussion might be best facilitated recently, and have wondered how other English faculties and primary school teachers have been preparing for this change.

I have thought about drafting a matrix like this and filling it out using backwards mapping: i.e. what do we want students to know by the “endpoint”? And working from there around the concepts that we teach in different aspects of English (which will fit into the different strands in the new syllabus).

Concept Desired End Point Stage 6 Stage 5 Stage 4 Stage 3 Stage 2
Description

Syllabus outcome

Syllabus content

Suggested texts

Learning across curric

For example, if we take the concept of figurative language, we may have a desired end point of wanting students to understand the way comparisons affect the qualities and characteristics given to a person, object etc and be able to identify these qualities in common and explain the effect of the given figurative device. If we assume that the end of stage 6 is our end point, by working backwards, we see that this is what we must teach them in stage 6. So what must we teach in Stage 5? Perhaps the identification of these devices and an explanation of their definitions and the effect. Which devices are expected knowledge in stage 5? What kinds of texts would be appropriate for teaching these concepts? And the questions go on and on.

This may be a slightly simplistic view of how the new syllabus can be planned and programmed for, however I think that it is a good start to see what teachers consider THEIR role as a primary school teachers of English and high school teachers of English.

What I find especially daunting is the fact that some of the new Stage 3 outcomes resemble outcomes we are now teaching at the end of Stage 4 and into Stage 5. Now while this doesn’t sound like a dramatic leap when it’s phrased like that, the fact is, that the burden will now be put on primary school teachers to teach these extremely complex aspects of English, when previously it would have fallen to those of us who don’t need to be trained in millions of different KLAs like primary teachers.

I think that without working backwards, which is what most competent teachers do anyway in their everyday planning, we cannot possibly meet the demands of the new syllabus, which is that learning is supposed to be viewed as a CONTINUUM.

Please, any helpful advice would be appreciated! As I said, we are in our planning stage and would love to have input!


Memoirs of a First Year Teacher

I have finally completed my first year as a teacher!
And what a year it has been. The good thing is, I feel like I have been teaching all my life now and I feel completely comfortable. I have learnt to be more flexible as I’ve become more confident in my own ability and I’ve become more resilient, no longer taking all the bad days personally, but still able to cherish those special moments.
The biggest challenge for me came in first term when I had to readjust my expectations of both my students and myself. I quickly got a handle on this however, and with the help of my #staraday was able to see the progress I was making each day.
After that steep learning curve, I focused on my classroom management. Something I would recommend to first year teachers is the observation of the old “don’t smile til Easter” tip. Once my first class ran riot on my on my first day I came down hard on my other classes the next day. In fact, listening to myself I could have been mistaken for something from Jane Eyre.
In Term 3 I could relax slightly, having earned a certain amount of respect from the kids through consistency and having completed my first reports. But man, being consistent is tough! Outlining the rules at the beginning of every lesson with year 7 and 8 is the easiest part of it. Ensuring you see and respond to everything is exhausting. Dylan, stop swinging on your chair, Corie, turn around and do your work, Zac, get your book out. I made a rule early on that for every correction I made to a child’s behaviour, I had to praise someone who was doing the right thing so as to provide a model for the other student of the appropriate behaviour. Eventually, my corrections just became names, pointing or a long stare, short cuts which ensured my delivery of content or instructions was not interrupted.
I also enforced 5 minutes “thinking time” with year 7 each lesson, which was 5 minutes students had to work in complete silence to establish their concentration. Sometimes this was purely for my sanity as toward the end of third term they became extremely boisterous. It also gave me a chance to check student’s homework or progress on activities.
I will also, next year, use a roll for my junior classes to check who did not complete their homework. This year I wrote lists and kept students back to complete unfinished work, but it would have been handy to have an ongoing record so I could follow up with parents.
Playing weekend sport in my small town gave me an opportunity to meet some of the kids’ parents and get to know my students outside of the classroom. Amazingly, this lead to a complete turn around in my year 9 class. They became angelic overnight as though I had passed initiation.
Having just one class which lights up your day can make all the difference, and by the end of the year I was lucky enough to have 3 classes I will miss next year. I was almost in tears when I had to farewell my Year 9s! Seeing the growth in these kids from the beginning of the year until the end was something so rewarding; I was really pleased that the majority of the reports I wrote at the end of the year were very positive ones, even for those students who had caused me anguish at the beginning of the year.
Being the occasional speaker at my old high school presentation night was a great way to cap off the year; it allowed me to express the gratitude I felt for the teachers and system which made such an impression on me and it also allowed me to reflect upon why I have found teaching to be such a comfortable fit. One of my ex-teachers cried because he was so proud of me becoming a teacher, which was just a phenomenal compliment as he has been my idol for years.
I will progress up the ladder next year as we have another first year teacher coming into the staffroom next year, and so I am going to pass on all of this useful advice to her. I will make it known that the only way she will get through the year is by slogging through it as it is HARD work, talking about her hesitations and experiences and accepting that she doesn’t know it all, can’t POSSIBLY know it all, and that she needs help.
She is lucky though, she enters a faculty which shares knowledge, resources and a laugh, and are generally good at spotting when you are struggling.
And so, I can breathe a sigh of relief, having shed the label of “first year teacher” now.


Why I Blog

Recently, whilst writing the comment “Must practise writing analytical and creative responses” numerous times on reports, I realised that as an English teacher, it is also my professional responsibility to ensure I too am regularly writing. And I’m not talking about modeling paragraph structure in class or writing examples to show students. I’m referring to writing analytical and creative responses to a university standard.

Blogging is something which keeps me mentally stimulated and engaged in my teaching. I not only get the chance to write analytically and reflectively, but, as we always encourage kids to seek out, it is for an authentic audience which also places certain demands upon a writer.

I will often also engage in creative writing when I set my classes a task. For example, during writing journal time if the students are settled and confident in what they are doing, I will also complete the task. However, I feel that this is something I don’t do enough of, and it is a professional development opportunity I will definitely be seeking out in 2013.


Research in the classroom

Recently, I have been participating in research through a Melbourne university run by a colleague. It has been a valuable learning experience for both myself and my year 8 English class, who have been the participating class.

Run within our media, persuasion and rhetoric unit, students have been learning about the “zine” text type and analyzing the way elements of this text persuade their audience and shape meaning for their readers and viewers.

The kids have LOVED it. I have ensured that, like usual, the appropriate amount of scaffolding was provided, but the unit has allowed many of the students to show their more creative side.

The kids are, this week, pitching an idea to the rest of the class (who are members of a board) to persuade them to publish their own “zine” after watching the Gruen Transfer‘s “pitch” segment.

Most kids group work skills have improved out of sight, and many kids who struggle with other tasks have shone during the program.

Next week we have professional guest speakers in to talk about how professional publications persuade readers and viewers. We will then start our poetry unit, in which students will learn about different forms of poetry and apply this knowledge to publish poetry in their “zine”.


Languages conference: Day One

Thursday and Friday this week I was lucky enough to attend a conference for DEC new scheme languages teachers, held in Sydney (incidental holiday). Day one was a HUGE day. I left Deniliquin at 3 am for Albury, flew to Sydney, attended the conference, and then went and ate a LOT of different types of food in the afternoon (felt it was very fitting that I exposed myself to a range of different cultural cuisines!).

The best part of the first day was meeting so many other teachers-both new scheme (who could sympathize with some of the difficulties I am having) and more experienced teachers and head teachers, who were happy to provide me with advice, resources, and ideas about teaching languages. For me, this networking opportunity was particularly valuable. As those of you who read my blog frequently would know, I am the only languages teacher at my school. I have a very very supportive HT, however, she is an English teacher, and doesn’t have experience teaching LOTE. She tries her very best to assist wherever she can, but having other opportunities to gain leadership from LOTE head teachers is something I really appreciate.

I also managed to find other rural languages teachers to link up with via video conferencing and edmodo (and possibly an excursion….) in order to broaden my students’ knowledge of other cultures, and establish connections beyond Deni. As you can imagine, country kids can be slightly insular because they are so geographically (and culturally) isolated. But it is not only a concern for students, but also myself. Being able to chat to other teachers in Italian and in German was also helpful for me. I am constantly in fear that I will forget the fundamentals of my second languages through lack of practice. Establishing these connections (and there is even talk of us going to Europe to teach English over the summer holidays for professional development!) will allow me to practice and maintain my knowledge of both vocab and the cultural conventions, despite my opportunities in Deni in this regard being limited.

These connections will really help my kids to participate in more meaningful and authentic tasks (rather than exercises-a distinction which has been reinforced over the conference) meaning that kids can have an authentic audience for something like:
1. Introducing themselves in Italian
2. Recording and narrating a tour of the school or a place in town
3. Peer assessment of other students
4. Demonstrating their intercultural understanding

I have come away from Day One extremely excited!