John Hattie’s 100 days- on the couch

Today we read an article about John Hattie’s first 100 days as chair for AITSL.  John discussed what makes a quality teacher and the need for excellence across each system from teachers and leaders. I agree that we need to promote excellence across each level of staffing so that there is a maximum impact on each child’s learning outcomes. However each staff member, in my opinion, needs to have a common agreement and consensus as to what promotes excellent learning and how we as a staff will achieve those outcomes.

At each school that I have worked at there always are a variety of staff with different teaching styles and therefore different ways of challenging their students. I have always felt that the children will learn more in a school that appreciates the teachers different teaching styles.

Each teacher, leader and child will have different learning styles and teaching styles so that while it is important to be consistent across a school community it is also important to embrace each other’s differences.

 

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Reflections

What I have found out….

Will developing our provocations help children become more engaged and motivated in their own learning?

The action research question that our level focussed on was on how provocations link into formal learning opportunities. I focussed mainly on literacy and mathematics as I see these areas as my main teaching focus. I found that I needed to use the provocations in both the tuning in part of our investigation and the reflection for the children to gain an insight into how to use that particular provocation works and how it would assist the students with their learning.

My grade often needed me to repeat the use of a provocation before they would independently use it themselves. I researched with my team different ways of presenting the provocations on pinterest and google. I also spoke to other teachers who use developmental play in a junior level and what I found consistently was that the children need a lot of exposure and repetition before they will independently use the provocation.

The books I researched and articles that I read all tended to say that we wanted to move away from simple play and move the children into an investigation where they are learning important skills. I agreed that this was important in my classroom too and I found that the provocations were integral to making this happen for the children.

I began to use a task sheet to assist the children focus on a learning intention and it allowed each child to identify their learning intention for that investigation and the learning tool that they would use. For my students who struggle with literacy the task sheet gave them a clear focus for that day and was definitely beneficial for them as they were now a lot more accountable for their learning.

The children in my grade who are more independent with their literacy skills used the task sheet to allow them to analyse how often they were going to a particular area and some of them were surprised at how often they were visiting the same area. The task sheet also benefitted them because they were able to clearly identify the learning that they wanted to achieve for that investigation.

Overall when I used the task sheet I found that the students were more focussed on their learning and wanted to get to their investigation area more quickly to do their own learning and they were voluntarily using the provocations that were available without my prompting.

What do you see as the next steps…..

I would like to use the task sheet to assist some of my students identify and articulate their learning. I feel it was a big step forward for my children who struggle with literacy once the task sheet was introduced. These children began learning on a much deeper level. I also want to use the provocations box that I have more frequently and link them into the fortnightly planning.

I will also encourage the children to use their investigation time to take on longer tasks that involve them researching and discovering more about a topic. I would prefer that they investigated a topic of their own interest. The students are far more likely to use their literacy and maths skills without my prompting and therefore learn a lot more and therefore find learning interesting rather than just something that they do at school.

Our level has also discussed how many investigations are adequate for our students and because of our different focuses we are unsure of weather it should be three per week or three and four per fortnight.

 

 

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Success Criteria

This week I focussed more on the success criteria of a ‘good’ provocation. I used the definition that our mentor, Jan, gave us to guide me.

‘I like to think of provocations as something that a teacher uses to spark

questions, interests, ideas, theories, discussion and debate. Provocations

should engage and extend children’s thinking. In Early childhood Education

the term is used to describe materials, media, questions, resources and

even the teacher!( so pretty much anything you add to your learning spaces)

Provocations are intentional, deliberate and thoughtful.’

 

I came up with this criteria for a provocation to be effective as a learning tool.

.the provocation is placed in a location in the room that is relevant

.the provocation is linked to a learning intention from the formal curriculum

.the provocation extends the thinking about the investigation focus or the learning task

.all children are aware of the provocation and its use in their learning

This morning we all looked in each other’s rooms and discussed how to make our existing provocations more relevant to our fortnightly statement of intent and formal curriculum. I will place more literacy based provocations around my areas as I have been focussing more on Mathematics. I aim to provide opportunities for the children to use these provocations in their formal curriculum and I want to allow more time when I am tuning in to show how to use each provocation and its use.

Our level also discussed using a child who incidentally used a provocation during investigation time as a ‘freeby’. This will be a positive reinforcement and an incentive for using a provocation. The children will also have a reason to discuss individual provocations and their possible uses.

I think that by directly linking the provocation to formal learning, I will be giving more children the opportunity to identify a purpose or understand their learning. I also believe that identifying the provocations to students who struggle with their learning will give those children more opportunities to extend their thinking and learning.

 

 

 

 

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Investigating our Provocations

This week I continued with the task sheet. Our grade has definitely benefited from structuring their learning intentions for investigation time more formally. Most of my students are now using the words ‘learning tool’ when they are investigating and in their formal learning. I was also pleased to see some of the children who have learning difficulties were voluntarily choosing to use a dictionary and word chart during their writing rotations.

Our team also linked in VELS to our provocations and published this on Google docs. We carefully looked at the vels requirements for our curriculum for the next fortnight and examined how we could place the relevant provocations into the areas.  The provocations are to directly link in with vels. I hope this makes the provocations a lot more purposeful and meaningful to each child’s learning and will observe any changes between now and our next parts session.

I also emailed the Principal at St Paul the Apostle North and reminded her about our upcoming visit and was informed that we can not visit for a few weeks as they have their concert. I will try and organise a visit to their school for early next term.

 

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Investigation task sheet with learning intentions

This week I began using my investigations task sheet with my grade.  I looked closely at the task sheet that Eastwood Primary school uses and modified theirs to meet the needs of our school. I already have noticed that most of the children are thinking more seriously about which investigation area that they are going to choose and what their learning focus will be. Some of the students who struggle with literacy have had difficulty thinking of a learning intention so I have had to give them extra assistance when completing the sheet.

I believe that the task sheet makes each student more accountable and It is also allowing me to have a deeper understanding of each child’s interests and from what they are leaving out I am more able to infer what they may need to learn or understand next so that they feel comfortable enough to use a new provocation or area. I have also seen some of the students deliberately use rulers and word charts during this week’s investigation time as they wrote that they would use these learning tools on their task sheet. The challenge for me is to motivate all the students and not just some of them, to use learning tools without being prompted.

Some of the students are still going to the same areas and are clearly finding it a challenge to have a different learning focus each investigation. I believe the task sheet may encourage these students to realise that they do need to use a variety of investigation areas to make the most of their learning. This will take time and I also believe it is important for those children to have ownership over where they investigate.

Yong Zhao visited our school during the week and afterwards I read an exerpt from one of his books:

Catching Up Or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization

By Yong Zhao

In this part of the book he refers to his education in China and how it relies heavily on standardised testing.

“China wants what America is keen to throw away- an education that respects individual talents, supports divergent thinking and tolerates deviation…”

I think Australia is also headed for much more of the standardised testing and that play based learning is allowing our children to use their own strengths and talents and not worry about whether they are right or wrong, they have an opportunity to learn at their own pace and level of understanding without having to worry about how they will perform on an assessment task. Yong Zhoa made me realise that the play based learning that we offer the students is important and we as teachers have a responsibility to present it properly to our students.

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Parts continued

This week I began contacting other schools about the way they use their investigation time. I contacted the principal at St Paul the Apostle North and asked if our team could come and visit their junior team as they use the KWLA as well. I am interested to find out how those teachers observe their children’s developmental play and how they plan their statement of intent. I believe observing a child’s developmental play gives the teacher an insight into the individual child’s strengths, interests and behaviour. Hopefully we will be able to organise a time soon to visit.

Our team also discussed our investigation timetable with Christine and decided to use a three weekly cycle with 3 investigations per week. This is because we felt that the two week cycle with 7 investigations was impacting negatively on our Literacy blocks. We also felt that we could deliver an investigation that was far more effective in terms of modelling to the children how to use the provocations and how to adequately reflect upon the learning from their investigations. I feel that  I will be able to target the children in my grade on a more individual basis if there are less focus students per day as I will be able to observe their skills and identify the children’s personal needs.

I also contacted a teacher from Eastwood and inquired about how they plan for their developmental play. I found out that her foundation children plan their itime the week before they begin their investigations. The children are required to set three goals for the following week. They must state which area they are going to and what their focus is on and their teacher ticks off their check list at the end of the week.

I thought that this approach would make all our children a lot more accountable for the time they use during investigations and will allow each of them to have a choice about where they will investigate and what they will learn. I also believe that some of our students will become a lot more engaged with their learning as they will believe their investigation time will have more of a purpose.

I think our team is moving towards using  our developmental play time for our students’ needs rather than focussing on the requirements of the KWLA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Researching Provocations

Today our team focussed on researching the definition and aims of a provocation. Jan our mentor from Early life suggested that a provocation is more that just an object, it is any item that can extend the child’s thinking and therefore can be the teachers themselves. Our team was able to come up with our own definition. A provocation in our view is a tool that is intentionally placed in a learning space by the teacher to engage and extend the child’s thinking.

I then read an excerpt from a book titled “Play based Learning in the Primary School” by Mary Biggs and Alice Hansen. The authors discussed the challenge that teachers face when they are providing a curriculum that includes play based learning. Many teachers are concerned (according to their research) about the play in play based learning and want to make the learning from the investigation time an experience that is challenging and encourages high achievement.

I think that this is why provocations are so important. The provocations need to be thought provoking enough for all children to develop their thinking skills. This is where I find the free play element of the WLA is a challenge for the children who are academically low. These children do not independently seek out the provocations that I have or other children have discussed during formal teaching time are the children who perceive investigation time as a time to ‘play’ rather than investigate.

In contrast to this are the children who are able to and want to seek out the tools that we have been using during our lessons. I feel that these children are benefitting more from their investigation time in terms of learning and therefore I would like to ensure that all children are in fact investigating and being given a chance to deepen their learning. The question is how do I ensure this when each child is allowed to independently choose their area of investigation and focus for that day?

I also wonder is the use of provocations enough to give each child a chance to deepen their learining? I think I need to ensure that during our tuning in time and reflection time I am using my questioning skills carefully so that I am enabling each child to think more deeply about the learning intention that they chose for their investigation. I want to use this time to allow each child to have an opportunity to see how to use the relevant provocations meaningfully. For example I could explicitly model how to use a ruler to measure for those children who do not seem to remember how at the time when it would be relevant to their investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Setting up our provocations term 3

Today our level looked at a new staff member’s areas and took time to add provocations that are relevant to our planning documents for the next fortnight. This week we have been learning about fractions in mathematics so we added fraction blocks to the maths area and a fraction cake in the doll house area. Our level is also learning about addition and subtraction in weeks three and four so we made sure that there were relevant words and number problems, counters and calculators. This experience allowed us all discuss and agree what quality provocations are and where they are best placed to enable the children’s learning.

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Parts continued- term 3

Today our level looked through the books that Jan our mentor recommended  for us purchase. These books discuss developmentally appropriate behaviour and will assist us when completing our statement of intent.

We also discussed our investigation areas and  how to set them up so that these areas are more inviting. I have changed the construction areas place so that it is now larger and reduced the size of my gardening area. I felt that the construction area was well used last semester and a larger space will give more ample time to the children who will want to investigate in that area.

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parts continued – video

Today our level watched a dvd on creating an engaging learning environment. The video was about how to set up our environment so that they enable the students have an environment that is engaging. Kathy Walker showed a variety of investigation areas at Sandringham primary school, including construction and sensory. She made the point that provocations need to be a springboard into engaging the students into the investigation area. The areas need to be visually inviting so that the students can not wait to investigate that area. The provocations were mainly words on walls. Kathy identified lots of natural such as gum nuts, cones, feathers as items that allow students to have a sensory experience but I was not sure if they are classified as provocations.

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