Saturday, November 15, 2014

Week Six

The final week of my placement and the final week of my three year degree has drawn to a close. Overall this past placement has been an enjoyable and successful experience but I am still so pleased to be finished and be able to prepare for my very own class next year. This placement has taught me many things and challenged my philosophy of teaching further. When considering the seventh Graduating Teacher Standard my goal for this placement was to further my philosophy, therefore have a solid foundation for when I begin teaching my own class. Even though there has been a number of differences in teaching style between my AT and myself, this placement has definitely sharpened my philosophy.
One of the biggest differences I experienced in this class/school from my past placements was the lack of technology. Throughout the past few weeks I was able to implement a couple of digital aspects into the class which I felt went really well and brought about engaged rich learning. During this placement I did not want to just rule out any positive aspects of being in a non-digital class but rather reflect on the matter with a balanced view. Over the weeks I think I have been able to do this but as I did preconceive my view for digital technology in class has only become stronger. A couple major positives which I observed in this non-digital classroom is the lack of distractions and the richness of hands-on activities. Everyday we completed hands-on activities which could be done in a digital classroom but would sometimes not be. Not necessarily because they could be completed digitally but rather because digital devices offer so many more different teaching/learning opportunities. And this is where I think a key understanding needs to be established. Digital learning most often will offer more ways to teach a concept quicker than older standard ways. But, sometimes I think the older practical ways need to be used even though they might be slower because they teach other key concepts at the same time. Whilst saying this there are many areas which I observed during this placement that would be completely transformed if digital technologies were implemented. For example Mathematics is a subject that I observed as being sometimes more about writing ability and often either ahead or behind of an individuals learning pathway. And this is where I think digital technology can and should transform learning. Learning should be efficient, engaging and give students opportunity to learn at their own personal level rather than being restricted by others around them.

In conclusion this placement has given me an understanding of what a well managed classroom can operate like while also challenging me to further refine my own teaching style. I am excited for the opportunity I will have next year where I will get to teach in a 1:1 device class and continually seek to transform learning with the aid of digital devices. But at the same time I want to remember this placement and continue to question my digital teaching and compare the learning to that which I have experienced here over the past six weeks.

Week Five

When considering the Graduating Teacher Standards standard five needs to be considered and put into action everyday. My personal goal for this placement is to systematically record learning daily and reflect on information to improve learning.

During this week I put extra effort into re-examining my maths lessons and small group sessions. Each day I gave students a set of problems to solve of which for the two bottom groups were printouts because they take too long to simply copy down the problems. During my sessions with individual groups I recorded down what students gained the understanding and who needed further time. This recording significantly influenced my planning because at the end of each day I reassessed my planning for the next day and made changes accordingly. Although this detailed recorded required significant time and effort I found that my small group sessions were more focused and students gained the concepts a lot faster than the previous week. Even still five weeks into the practicum I am still finding it difficult to pin down exactly what each student already knows and needs to learn next. Only this week have I felt like I have been able to present teaching to each group that is accurate to their learning needs. By recording their learning and revisiting planning daily I think I have been able to get to this point of understanding.

Week Four

Standard four of the Graduating Teacher Standards states how teachers must create a high quality teaching and learning environment. My personal goal for this placement in regards to this standard is to create a high expectation environment for all learners.
During this week I had a strong focus on creating rich reading and mathematics sessions. For the past few weeks I didn’t have rotation rubrics operating very well. Each day I would provide students with an activity to do and meet with only a couple groups. But this week I set up my own rotation rubrics' on a Google Doc and displayed it on the projector during the lessons. In reading I had 5 groups so set up a rotation of 5 steps. Within these 5 rotations I included a number of things such as Big Books, Library Corner, Literacy Games, Worksheet activity and teacher small group. This rotation rubric worked really well because it focused the whole lesson and kept students interested because they only stayed on one activity for a short period of time. This rotation setup also meant I could give students better and higher quality follow up activities because the students weren’t overtaken by worksheets. Some key points that I learnt from this setup was the importance of having shorter rotations, varied activities and richer follow up activities.
Another aspect that I introduced into my classroom this week to create a rich learning environment was a computer programme called XtraMath. It is a basic facts programme that enables each student to complete an individual programme for only 5 min per day. I set it up so that students take turns on the two class desktops each day. This is a very rich programme because it allows students to learn exactly at the right level and also keeps them engaged and focused on completing their learning.
It has also be very exciting to discuss this computer programme with a number of other teachers and see their excitement for its potential in their own classroom. For teachers who aren't within an already digital school I have observed that it is hard to become aware of such programmes and their benefits. The teachers who I discussed this programme with had never heard of such a programme but were totally impressed by it and that fact that it is free to use.

Overall this week I have been able to create a richer learning environment which has resulting in better student focus and learning behaviour. It showed me how important it is to ensure that in all lessons and activities learning is rich and focused.