Saturday, 30 July 2016

Purposeful Doodling: The Art of Sketchnoting

What is it?

Sketchnoting is a way of recording information using images, diagrams, connectors and text.  An amazing sketchnoter to look at is Sylvia Duckworth. There are three important components of sketchnoting: text, images and structure. When using text, it is important to consider the hierarchy of your ideas and highlight the most important aspects.  This can be done through using a different font, size or boldness. It is said that pictures are worth a thousand words, and this is definitely believed by sketchnotes.  You can use images and symbols to visualise important and complex ideas. Lastly,  to help make the structure clear you should use containers and arrows.  These help organise the flow of your sketchnote. If you want to learn more, Dorothy's post about sketchnoting is where you need to go.

Why sketchnote?

Instead of me writing about the benefits, have a look at this sketchnote!
Photo by Tanmay Vora

Having a go at creating a sketchnote

Sylvia Duckworth's presentation helped me a lot when creating my sketchnote.  This presentation could also be adapted and used to help your students begin to sketchnote.

I found it fun but also infuriating at the same time.  As someone who thinks creatively but does not have nice handwriting or drawing skills, I found it hard to transfer my ideas onto paper.  Another challenge was figuring out where to start drawing/writing, as I wanted to space out my text and images evenly.  Sketchnoting takes a lot of time, but I found that as I was doing it, my understanding of what I was sketchnoting was reinforced.  I had to think carefully about how I could summarise and synthesize what I wanted to say, which helped my understanding and memory.

This is the third of my attempts at sketchnoting my thoughts on why learners should share their learning online:

My advice... 

Do a rough pencil sketch to map out the structure of your ideas (size and style of font, words/phrases, symbols etc) and then do your sketchnote free hand.  Using pencil is too tempting to erase your work, and you could also leave smudges and holes in your paper. 

Using sketchnotes in the classroom

I can see the benefits of sketchnoting, although it would need to be taught in some detail before trying to use it in the classroom.  You could use sketchnoting in reading as a way to summarize the story, or write character profiles.  You could use it as a way to show your understanding of a concept in social studies, or a strategy in mathematics.   Another way you could use sketchnotes is for your wall displays.  You could create sketchnote information posters, class treaties, class rules and quotes... the possibilities are endless.  

Monday, 25 July 2016

Six Month Reflection

It is hard to believe I am already halfway through my first year of teaching.  When I began in February I quickly realised that there was a lot for me to learn. University had left me feeling pretty under-prepared, as learning about something in a lecture room and actually putting it into practice are very different things.  This is one of the very reasons Manaiakalani created the MDTA, as it would better prepare beginning teachers for teaching in an innovative digital learning environment. I feel very privileged to be a part of the MDTA.  I have learnt so much from my mentor, post-graduate studies and digital immersion days.

Fast forward to July and I have come a long way from when I first day as a teacher in February. Here is a honest reflection of my first six months as a teacher.

Where have I come from?

  • I had a lack of content knowledge in mathematics and reading.  This came as quite a shock and had meant I spent much more time planning my LTPs as I had to get my head around the learning areas and what they entailed
  • For a while I lost my confidence in my teaching and my capabilities
  • I felt that as a BT I didn’t have anything to offer to my colleagues - what possibly could a BT know that an experienced teacher doesn’t?
  • I was always thoroughly planned, well in advance.
  • My lessons sought to use digital technologies to get my learners enthused about their learning
  • I didn’t have much of work/life balance.
  • I was also a massive worrier - What if this doesn’t work? How do I teach this? Am I actually helping my kids achieve? Am I making a difference?

Where am I now?

  • I have more confidence in myself, what I know, how I teach and what I can offer to my learners and colleagues
  • I feel I have more of a voice, and I know that I have a place in my school and that I can help contribute to the school.  
  • I know that I can make a difference and I am armed with so much knowledge about how to help engage learners.
  • I have the confidence to share my ideas with others.
  • I have seen the positives and negatives to a MLE.  It works for some learners, but not all.  
  • I have much better work/life balance - knowing how much work to do and where to draw the line.

Where to next?

  • Continue to find new ways to use technology to engage my learners and enhance my teaching,
  • Work more closely with my target learners.
  • Share my digital learning with my work colleagues on a more regular basis.
  • Find more ways to implement digital tools in my classroom.
  • Continue to build relationships with my learners and their whanau in my new school.
  • Reflect critically on my lessons and teaching on a more regular basis.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

MDTA 6 Month Reflection

And here it is!

 This is my reflection of my experiences as a BT in the MDTA so far. I had wanted to create a reflection which portrayed my personality and experiences honestly and accurately. I had decided to not use a script when filming, as I wanted it to appear genuine and more conversational rather than interview-like. However I had forgotten to mention a lot of things, so I had to film some more this weekend (which explains the change in camera angle and different background).  A big thanks to Juliana who helped me film.

I am thoroughly enjoying being in the MDTA and have learnt so many new things which I have been applying in my teaching.   I'm looking forward to continuing to learn how to use digital technologies to accelerate my learners and get them excited about learning.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

What I learnt at Tamaki College

Today the MDTA visited and observed each other's schools.  As an intermediate teacher, the wonder/concern of whether my learners will be prepared enough for college regularly plays in the back of my mind.  Therefore I thought observing a year nine english class would help answer my questions. I wanted to gain insight into what students do in year nine english, and to also see and hear first hand of the gaps the year nines have in their learning as they come into college.

Here are some of my thoughts...

Use of Kahoot!

Although I am familiar with Kahoot! and have used it and Socrative in my classroom, I have only used it as a form of summative assessment at the end of units. English teacher Vaughan Spurdle uses it in a variety of ways. Instead of merely playing the online quiz, Vaughan uses Kahoot! as a reference to further discuss and clarify their understandings. He makes the subsequent questions display time the maximum time and poses a question that asks whether the students understand what had been discussed.  Vaughan was constantly questioning his students and their responses, and guiding and supporting the learners in their understandings of punctuation. This was a really cool way to use Kahoot! that I hadn't thought of, so I will definitely be doing this in my classroom next .  He also spoke about using it at the beginning of a unit to identify prior knowledge and gaps in their learning.

Gaps in learners

Whilst in Vaughan's classroom I spoke to another teacher about the gaps that the learners come to college with.  The response I got was honest and quite worrying. A lot of students are coming into year nine English classes with little or no understanding of:

  • Structure of genres
  • Punctuation
  • Sentence types
  • Paragraphing  

This was alarming as these are the foundations of writing.  It really made me reflect on what I am doing in my classroom, and question whether I am doing enough to ensure my learners are understanding the basics of writing. 

Accelerated Reader

This is a program that has been recently implemented with year nine and ten learners at Tamaki College.  Learners choose a book, read it for 20 minutes each day, and take a quiz once they have completed the book. There is a wide selection of books, ranging from picture books to lengthy novels, and they are all levelled.  If a student gets more than 80% on their quiz, they are able to move up a level and read a more challenging text.  The Accelerated Reading programme has been very successful with the students. The kids now have a real interest and enthusiasm for learning.  Vaughan spoke about learners literally running to the library to get a new book after discovering they had moved up a level. Being able to move up levels has been really motivating for the learners who are both struggling and proficient readers.  The vast majority of learners are continuing to move up the levels, which indicates that the learners are becoming better readers and comprehenders.  Another point of difference of the program is the selection of books.  Instead of reading low interest texts, there is such a wide variety and they are books that teenagers typically enjoy reading anyway.  I saw the Harry Potter series, Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, graphic novels and many more high-interest texts.

Whilst I may not be able to implement this programme in my own class and school (it does come with a price tag), I can definitely take some aspects of it.  It is quite obvious that the learners love seeing themselves improve their reading and move onto more challenging texts.  If such a program is so highly motivational, perhaps I could create a similar program to run in my classroom. I could also use a range high interest texts like wide selection of texts within the Accelerated Reader program, as it is apparent that these texts actually hook the students in.

My visit to Tamaki College was very insightful and I am hoping that what I have learnt will enable me to better prepare my learners for college.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Maths: Playing With Patterns 2.0

This week I have been continuing to extend my learner's understanding of algebraic patterns and rules.  It has been so awesome watching my learners confidence grow as they became more familiar with the process of finding a rule for a pattern.  What I also noticed is the level of engagement and enthusiasm of my learners.  The kids were hooked in and loving the challenges, as I gradually provided less support and created more complex patterns.  Also, learners who were quick to find the rules were able to help explain and teach the other group members, which was great to see. 

I had continued to use materials when teaching my lessons, which I think contributed to the level of engagement and enthusiasm.  The learners were able to notice patterns as they recreated the patterns made out of post-it notes and felt pens.  I sat back and listened to the learners and noticed that as they were recreating the patterns they were discussing what they were noticing about the rules. I think that these discussions strengthened their understanding of algebraic patterns and rules.

At the end of my guided lesson on Tuesday my learners were tasked with the challenge of creating their own algebraic rules and patterns.  This allowed learners to use what they had learnt over the past two weeks and apply it in a new situation.  They had to think carefully when creating the patterns as they had to make sure that it would fit with their rules.

Next week I will extend my learners further, by teaching them level four algebra. I will continue to use hands-on methods of teaching as I have found that this is really effective with my learners.