Friday, May 24, 2013

What stops ignition in the learning process?

When learning is at its best the learners are willing to work, change and add value to themselves or others. So I love it when I can establish a great question for a class to focus on answering. The expectations are clarified up front with the students understanding the assessment rubric. And then comes Steps 2 – 9.

Step 2: Break the question down using think/pair/share to develop what becomes a subset of questions.

Step 3: Based on student interest allow each to choose which question they are most interested in researching.

Step 4: Knowing the strengths of each student in each group assign a role for each within their group for which they are accountable, e.g. the ideas person, the organiser, the thinker and the speaker. Say four students per group, (three or five can work).

Step 5: Assist each group to time line their project to completion. 

Step 6: Through the process each member is encouraged by the teacher to notice, value and learn what the other group members are able to do.

Step 7: Pause for a session and have some renewal by viewing where the other groups are at. It promotes further ideas across the class and prepares the groups to think about their forthcoming presentation.

Step 8: Presentations from each expert tribe. They present with the audience in mind and so are encouraged to include 'chunking' and the other strategies the teacher has made a part of the learning culture.

Step 9: Growth  :-)
“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Assessing and reporting: the bigger picture.

Pedagogy is created when teachers stand in a relationship of concern for their students. Dahlberg (1997) comments: Pedagogy is only generated if you stand in healthy relationship with your co-discussers or in confrontation with the present.

The period of assessing and reporting is as much about creating pedagogy as it is about communicating student achievement. The process involves the use of material as an opportunity to reflect rigorously, methodically and democratically in relationship with others.

It is a time to:

o reflect on educational practice as teacher researchers;

o acknowledge and value students’ thinking;

o present the evidence of how teaching has added to the knowledge and skills of students;

o pause as the teacher, to slow down, and think about how you plan and facilitate learning;

o guide students in meta-cognition; using student work to launch further thinking about their own work;

o build community as reporting gets the attention of parents and provides a shared point of reference for dialogue and involves parents in the ‘school part’ of the learning process;

o involve reciprocal trust by practising confidentiality as we communicate to the student and parents;

It is also a time for teachers to be appreciated and for teachers to appreciate the human dignity of their work as both ministry and profession. 

“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Supporting students who have frequent behavioural difficulties.

“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2

Students who have frequent behavioural difficulties, e.g. mood swings, problems maintaining relationships, can in general be supported by:

o keeping the routine predictable;

o keeping the seating / grouping arrangements supportive at an interpersonal level;

o shadowing the students inconspicuously, and articulating authentic encouraging comments, phrases and giving a smile at the right time;

o developing mutually understood signals for when a student should stop a behaviour or needs help (look for early patterns in the data showing such and such a behaviour usually escalates so the student can be supported in bridling their emotion). This is especially applicable to preventing aggressive students from hurting others, the benefit stabilises everyone’s sense of security;

o remembering the teacher is helping the student to build character. The student requires modelling and authentic comments that they can attribute to the teacher as caring about them as well as feedback from someone they esteem: and yes that’s the teacher;

o reflecting on the base needs of students to belong and learn, as well as to exercise their own personal power. Such provision should be embedded in the pedagogy;

o providing a space and a ‘calming box’ or calming activities with sensory materials and if possible soothing music;

o timetabling creative art as it helps students who have internal barriers to work through issues. The provision of regular art lessons, creative writing, playing music or even listening appreciatively to music will over a period of time help students to have the life skills to moderate their emotions - allowing regulated expression of their inner connections;

o allowing the withdrawn student to watch safely from a distance, part of a successful re-entry can be established by the student getting time to observe the modeling other students are providing;

o creating a couple of soft cozy options for quiet reading, think about the interior decorating details: given what we have make something possible;

o reading ‘angry’ books and discussing the issues individually and with the group. In reciprocal reading groups make sure you as the teacher are a part of the discussions when sections concerning anger are being discussed;

o modelling coping strategies. Highly emotional students are usually dealing with many issues or a major one (at home, at school or on the bus) and are becoming aggressive at a point when they are overwhelmed;

o being sure to give the quiet students in class as much attention as the extroverted and the aggressive student, it’s fair and serves as an ongoing learning experience for the attention seekers;

o remembering the ABC in student data gathering, sometimes it can be useful to respectfully name and communicate the identified feeling to the student so they might begin to understand and learn other options;

o planning decisions based on behavioural data (who/where/when/what) and the behavioural analysis (ABC):
A antecedent (what happened in the minute before or the day before)
B the behaviour (the exact behaviour, e.g. not ‘defiant’ but he told the teacher to “ >>>” or refused to do the work because … )
C consequences refer to the events that immediately follow the occurrence of the student’s challenging behaviour. Examples of consequences include the attention paid by an adult in response to the behaviour, as well as the activities and objects the student either escapes or has access to as the result of the behaviour, i.e. look for patterns.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Supporting students in gaining wisdom, (part 3).

Romans 10: 14 - 15
“How are they to call on him (Jesus) if they have not come to believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?”

The Vatican II document: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states in verse 18: “With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example.”

The meaning of students actively and consciously participating in the liturgical proclamation of The Word may in fact be different to what we think it should be. It is not about having a part to do in a class liturgy or in the Mass. The ‘part to do’ is rather simple, it means The Word is proclaimed in such a manner that:
  1. it supports the students to hear what is being shared;
  2. it is accessible to them, and so it is comprehensible;
  3. as students go from the proclamation they live their life and activate their faith, having been nurtured and uplifted by hearing The Word. In fact, by faith, they go out and recreate this world with God.
In the daily lives of many primary students the scriptures, which are meant to inform and support their faith, remain somewhat inaccessible. Written in adult language the passages are often too challenging to be comprehended if shared without preparation.

Psychology has done a lot to guide people through adversity and recently is researching and explaining the positive side of living, what type of thinking and behaviour adds value to a person’s happiness. The texts of Christianity embrace the source of all life through Christ and record wisdom as passed on by a people encountering life with God. Helping students to access wisdom whether it is by ‘Godly Play’, lectio divina, praxis, a class dramatisation, a film clip or a shortened excerpt of the scripture reading is a way to support students participate actively and consciously in living their lives to the fullest.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Supporting students in their gaining of wisdom, (part 2).

“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2
Recently I noticed a kindergarten child at a Mass. He was praying in response to the priest’s lead to pray quietly. He didn’t kneel with everyone as they did; he remained seated turning his forehead to rest on the back of the seating and bringing his knees up close to his head. You couldn’t possibly correct his posture though as he had his eyes closed and an intense squint on his face - he was in prayer – he was ‘in contact’.

The method of group lectio divina is a strategy that can help guide authentic prayer experiences in a classroom. It seems to work best in a group of four to eight. It is well placed as one activity in rooms where there are rotations of groups and it fits the movements of Groome's praxis approach, e.g. Activity #1 lectio divina (with the teacher as leader); #2 opportunity for students to write a simple response; #3 embed the insights with small group dramatisation or another form creative expression; #4 a talking and listening activity about how this ‘slice of wisdom’ can be applied in daily life; #5 shared celebration. Teachers can simplify these movements: #1 stop; #2 reflect; #3 comprehend; #4 connect.

To prepare for lectio divina is much like anything corporate, it requires leadership to model explicitly, followed by supportive and co-operative experiences until participants are in the ‘zone’ and gain a personal understanding of the moment. 

The strategy for lectio divina:

è The first reading is actually read twice for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, it is taken in, and gently recited and pondered for a moment in silence. After the silence each student shares that word or phrase which touched the heart.

è The second reading is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders a word that has touched the heart, and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. In other words, how is Christ the Word touching our own experience of life? How are others in the group seeing or hearing Christ reach out to them through the text? After the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”

è The third reading is for the purpose of Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or become today / this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time; and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right. N.B. Anyone may “pass” at any time.

It is a method easily adjusted to help students experience participation in liturgy that is both active and conscious as suggested by Vatican II in ‘Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Supporting students in their gaining of wisdom, (part 1).

Occasionally discourses can be problematic when the focus is on what students can expect to experience in a prayer assembly or liturgy of The Word if they are not Christian or if because of family decisions have not experienced liturgy as well as others.

Students tend to appreciate when teachers lend a hand to support their attempts to understand or practise a skill and acknowledge the achievements. Similarly students appreciate God when they come to know God as ‘spirit’ who is present in their lives, who knows and recognises each one. There are no limits to God’s precinct.

As teachers we understand when it comes to Religious Education it is often how we teach rather than what we teach which contributes to the nurturing of ‘faith’ in our students, however, there are some simple things we can check about class based practises. In the Catholic tradition teachers can:

o Use the sign of the cross as a prayer rather than an action to silence students talking.

o Effectively use silence in our classroom liturgy.

o Develop a small range of simple hymns and sacred songs (lyrics that are easy to recall) which are often used in class and can contribute to the students ability to recall God in their midst. Some songs can be chosen from the Mass, e.g. the Sanctus:
“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts. The heavens and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the lord. 
Hosanna in the highest.”

o A hymn with an uplifting tempo, (the class love to sing), can often support everyone get over Monday morning-i-tis.

o Develop shared sacred songs which are called upon at times of grief which will support the student community to lift their hearts and minds to God and bring comfort to one another.

o Thoughtfully utilise Groome’s praxis model in planning our unit and managing the roll out of lessons.

o Add value to student edification by permitting their learning responses to be completed across the range of ‘the learning pathways’ (integral learning), differentiating learning and building on the variety of student strengths. This requires the teacher having a very good understanding of the subject area and the strategies of both praxis and integral learning.

In liturgy the inter-relationship between student and God, and God and the assembly of people remains the purpose of the experience. It is critical at many layers within the child, e.g. when connecting with God many children secretly want to know: ‘Am I relating with God the right way?’ and in a social setting they want the opportunity to experience God relationally yet liturgy can often fall within an ‘instructional setting’.

A challenge to school discourses about liturgy involves exploring the cycles of thinking about alternatives and becoming aware of the gains in student formation which come as a result of changes in approaches. Approaches that allow God’s own Spirit to relate and allows the assembly to be open to God’s presence in the assembly of the people, the proclaiming of The Word and the sacraments of the Church.
“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flexible spaces: facilitating learning through room design

“Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm.” Isaiah 54:2

Some things to consider when organising learning spaces:

o carefully consider the cognitive stage of students, the skills being developed, the curriculum content and the teaching strategies employed;

o learning spaces aim to facilitate the gathering of students to communicate about a topic and focus on it. Spaces should be conducive to learning, working together in small group settings and supportive to learning, e.g. easy access to knowledge and time in the day to practise what the student is learning with someone they know and trust;

o display work created by and of interest to the students: it serves as a reminder to recall what has been learnt and prompts reflecting on what has been achieved. It also leads to ideas being expanded and interests being pursued;

o displays communicate to visiting teachers and parents and assist them to know what is happening in the learning lives of the class;

o spaces should accommodate different energy levels. Physical space and time should include places and time for quiet independent learning as well as the buzz of explaining and discussing;

o student materials, equipment and books should be stored in an orderly way which is easily accessed;

o the repetitive appearance of the same resource material promotes in-depth exploration, e.g. Maths equipment, reading books and “Godly Play” resources should be a regular part of group rotations in the respective learning area;

o some other materials are used periodically so as to expand the learning experiences. Reintroducing equipment from the students’ past e.g. MAB can also inspire fresh uses;

o allow students opportunities to explore ideas, to remember, to transform understanding, discuss thoughts, socially interact and imagine;

o as it is also the teachers main work space it should be welcoming to the teacher and inspiring even a place that you can enjoy being in.