This little clip may be useful to show late primary early secondary students as the pose “meaty” questions to research. The clip uses a thick and thin classification. Have a look and tell me what you think.
My headline is in lots of ways misleading for there is no one right way to learn to spell efficiently in English.
In the 60′s and 70′s we made students learn to spell lists of words through repetition or drill with lots of rules thrown in and then in the Donald Graves ”Process Writing Era” of the 80′s and early 90′s we moved to what was seen as a more liberal view of spelling where we encouraged children to have a go at words and then got them to learn of few of their errors.
This of course is a massive over generalisation and certainly Donald Graves did not just advocate the “have a go” principle but teachers were often left in the confused state of trying to value everything in the end and students were often left with no clear system in their mind to follow.
Now I think we understand that we learn best when we can make prior connections to our own understandings and get challenged to think and find patterns and anomalies. How does this work for spelling?
Well we have trialled a “Words their Way” approach to spelling and more recently vocabulary over the last few years whereby students engage in a variety of sound, pattern and meaning activities, sorting pictures and words. The approach caters for differentiated learning in the classroom, where children are grouped according to their diagnosed need and use hands on tasks.
This approach is combined with the visual memorization strategy of Look Say Cover Write Check where children choose some of their patterned words from Words their Way combined with a few words from their edited section of their writing (we focus on the 200 most commonly used words first) or from the tier 2 word list work generated in classrooms.
This combined approach when workshopped with students at least twice a week has shown amazing results. We track the progress of our students who have been known to learn at twice the previous rate or more (we used Hattie’s effect size work work to determine improvement rates).
The picture is of two teachers participating in a professional learning workshop after school on the approach.
I share this information to hopefully support teachers in this improvement work. For further information please contact me.
Sometimes you get a surprise and this was true for me recently when I visited a display of young students passion projects. I think I see a little of our Australian Cricket Captain, Michael Clarke’s style at the stumps in this display. It’s great to see the student’s engagement in the projects.
This year the teachers, led by one of our experienced educators Michele Martin, have added at this junior level a toolkit of thinking assets the students got to use in their passion project.
A group of students proudly displayed their toolkits and read some of their thinking assets to me.
All this reminds me of the work around student voice – allowing students to voice and then have the timetabled time to investigate their passions. It also has the double benefit, when done at the start of year, for teachers to get to know their students a little better. All in all s successful learning task.
Yesterday we held parent teacher interviews in the afternoon and while I was walking around on yard duty I spotted these boys sitting under some playground equipment connected to our wireless network via their i phones or newly leased laptops from school.
What intrigued me was that it was 20 minutes after the bell to go home on a hot 35 degrees day yet here they were still here connected still working on something. I started a conversation and found out that some just wanted to finish something, others were busy searching the web but the universal theme was that the new student laptops were great and when were the others going to get access to our trial lease program.
For me the picture stood out as young people engaged not only with each other in a common activity of using technology but strongly connected to the school.
Last night I was shown a clip of Australia’s number 1 cyber bully, Tristan Barker. This story featured heavily in the New Zealand press where he is currently living with his father.
I suppose what brought this to home was that I coached this young person in a Saturday afternoon basketball competition at Sandringham Stadium. He, along with a few others including my son, played for 2 seasons and while I can recall Tristan showing a certain bravado and “look at me” attitude nothing prepared me for the shock of this episode.
So what you may ask. Well I’m paid as a Principal to know young people – and yet didn’t see this as his coach. So what must parents think when they are confronted with this about their child? I would hope horror although by one story I saw this didn’t seem to be the case with Tristan’s dad.
What can we learn …. I would hope that nothing replaces parent conversations (not lectures) with their young ones and nothing replaces the parent support of constant internet supervision in the home.
There are times when I feel that society (expectations of its institutions e.g courts and schools) goes too far in support of the rights of the individual verses the rights of the community but here clearly is one example where the community is saying enough is enough. My feelings go to the victims of the cyber bullying before we as a community (in this case the police) make that call. I know as I have been called in my local community as a Principal to make a similar stand like that of the police in this case. It’s not easy to face people (victims) knowing that you have to build a case but that’s the process the community expects – just in case we get it wrong. Yes we are fallible.
What’s your call?
Over the past month we have conducted weekly walkthroughs to gather data on elements of our school culture.
Prior to conducting a walkthrough we asked staff what they thought the protocols surrounding walkthrough should be. To build and keep up trust we have followed these staff listed protocols. These protocols are attached : walkthrough
In February we set out a goal of building personal relationships between teachers and students and students and their peers so that we can have supportive classroom learning environments. The walkthrough collected data on displayed artefacts about relational learning in classrooms and then asked randomly selected students some questions about the effect of this work. All of this data was then presented at the next staff meeting as one source of feedback for teachers to reflect upon.
Subsequent walkthroughs have noted increased work on this goal.
For me the big differences this year in using the walkthrough strategy has been the clear tabulation of data (which is something I owe the work around Data Wise), asking students about the effects of the work (again clear data tables) and the celebrations of the work through photos collected on the walkthrough. We are now also collecting student quotes which adds a nice “human” touch to the data as well.
The overall effect has been very positive. What I’m interested in is feedback from other principals, school leaders or teachers using walkthroughs.
The French President is the latest in a growing line to suggest a ban on homework. In a recent BBC article he was cited as saying homework is not fair as it advantages the wealthy parents who have time to support their students.
Before I make a comment I think some useful research on this topic are worth noting:
- Hattie, a noted researcher now at Melbourne University, is quoted as saying that “homework” has a low effect size (0.29) on student achievement (0.4 effect size is starting to significant) . It’s worth reading his research in his book “Visible Learning”. A worthwhile blog post on this comes from headguruteacher who notes that in early school years (most of primary school) is has an even lower effect on student achievement (0.15) however this is reversed in the senior high school years with a high effect (0.64).
- Marzano and Pickering wrote about the research on homework and made several points worth noting: its low effect in primary schools (similar to Hattie) and that homework should not be set as a matter of policy rather when it’s beneficial to the learning.
So the research on the effect of homework is messy at best (depends upon year level, relevance and other factors) and contradictory at some points. I think there is a middle line for arguing some homework in primary school set for the right purpose can be beneficial to student learning.
Sometimes it’s easier to say what’s not helpful in setting for homework: e.g. introducing new concepts or ideas, when its not possible to complete the work, when a person’s other interests e.g. Music, Sport are negatively affected and when it’s not connected to their learning in class.
It seems to me that useful tasks for homework include: preparing for significant learning tasks at school (e.g. collecting data through surveys or interviews), additional practice opportunities in English re spelling – not rote learning but memorising words with certain patterns to learn rules or generalisations and of course reading. The tasks should be short, achievable and connected to the classroom work so that a teachers feedback makes sense.
It’s when there is a policy of setting an hours homework per night that teachers feel obligated to fill the time with common tasks or sheets to complete the expectation. This is when there can be a negative effect to homework.
Of course there is also the unwritten or unspoken issue of homework for many parents being tbe only regular view of a child’s progress at school. One of the things I think we have to get better about is providing opportunities for parent to view a child’s progress at school other than homework and technology can be a real asset here – but that’s the start of a new post.
So in summary homework can be useful but any policy for or against has the potential to negatively effect learning so lets trust teachers to set meaningful manageable tasks.
I got this clip on the best and the worst of recruitment videos and thought if I made a clip about recruitment at school what might it contain (the challenge and reward of the ahh moment in teaching, the support of colleagues, the mentoring and coaching of staff). What might yours contain?
Towards the end of 2012 I took a large part of the New Years leadership team to hear Michael Fullan speak on the use of technology in his change theory for schools. He has published a new book called Stratosphere (integrating technology, pedagogy, change knowledge).
He challenged us to raise life chances for all which creates more equal societies. He briefly put the business case for this making sense. This is consistent with the work of Dr George Otero who we are working with on buildings relationships as the basis for learning.
Michael introduced the idea of “motion leadership” – savvy with change theory – promoting action skinny plans that turned the core things for the better. He emphasised that learning is the work (not the driver of change) and that we must piggy back off the high social capital (often present in schools) and use things like (e.g. Job descriptions) to back it up. This might cause a rethink on our production of our job descriptions manual during the January holidays (previous practice) to one completed during February as teachers and all staff connect to the processes and actions to raise life chances for all students.
Michael saw technology as the accelerator of pedagogy (using the example of technology improving boys writing by up to 80%.
He concluded that good data is diagnostic presented well and not overwhelming enabling teachers to put the faces of students on the data. This is consistent with the Data Wise process we are using at Elsternwick Primary.