School Certificate Revision Tool

The other night I sent an SOS out to my Twitter PLN for new ways to help students revise for the School Certificate English exam. The response was wonderful, as usual 🙂 The suggestions included:

@Madiganda I allowed my students to build their own revision resources using a choice between things like Xtranormal, Prezi, Notebook quiz

@Madiganda they loved building Xtranormal videos the best n published on Edmodo for all

@Madiganda  go animate goanimate.com and Muvizumuvizu.com are awesome tools too

@Madiganda for study why not use FuaxFlash, BrainFlips or Falshcard exchange, Use Bubbl.us or creately for Mindmaps 🙂

@Madiganda I used the IWB software to make ‘Jeopardy’ for SC Revision. SO engaging!

@madiganda great idea. you could somehow wrap Class Dojo classdojo.com/tour.html into some study games rewards?

@Madiganda also used Primarypad to do revision questions in small groups, this worked well

@madiganda niiice. I believe that collaboration in digital study is a must. 🙂 also use Nota notaland.com or lino-it etc

Boy, did that give me a lot to think about and play with! LOVE the possibilities of ClassDojo for recording and rewarding student behaviour etc (but will leave this for another post) and went back to the various flash card creators to see what could be done with these. I chose Brainflips in the end and here is my “deck” revising the terms they will need to know for the exams. That is where I will start and then I will investigate the other tools and ideas in the next week. Then end result will hopefully be well prepared and engaged students!

http://www.brainflips.com/embed/z9jPgLMn

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HSC Revision – Helping them across the line

Last week we (MId North Coast English Teachers) ran two successful Revision Days, funded from our Stage 6 English SNP, for Advanced English students. Our focus was not on the content of each of the modules but what to do with that knowledge in order to blitz the exams.

Using our own experience as markers, our wonderful PLNs (a special thanks to @BiancaH80) and other presentations sourced through SlideShare and other places we put together 50 minute presentations on each Module plus the Belonging essay in the hope of revitalising Yr 12 and firing them up for the last run to the HSC. So often after the Trials they drop focus and we hoped that this day would excite them, give them some direction as well as a fresh perspective on what they need to do.

What was a clear theme across all the presentations was the need for a clear thesis, making sure that you answer the question rather than regurgitating your prepared essay and that there are a real and definable shifts in expectations across the modules. Module A must focus on concepts and changing contexts, Module B the text itself and personal valuing and Module C the text itself and purpose. Knowing what they have to do is half the battle. Now they just need to go back to their notes, find their details and write, write and write!

We had so many students attend that we needed to repeat it over two days and the feedback has been very positive so we will definitely being something similar again in 2012. We are also developing a creative writing day for our next batch of Year 12s as this is an area that we have identified that could be improved across our region.

I have included 3 of the 4 presentations for those that might be interested in them. I know we are all looking for that extra clue to how best to advise the students and hope these might help achieve that goal!

Belonging Lecture 2011

Module A – Texts in Time

Module B Presentation

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Stressful musings from a teacher of Year 12

Are you feeling behind with your current Yr 12 class? Does it feel like you are having more and more trouble getting through the course?

This year I know I am certainly well behind schedule and won’t be finished with Module B: Hamlet before the Trials begin in a few weeks. And, because of that, students probably won’t get the in class revision they need to adequately prepare for the Trials. Aaargh!!!

When trying to analyse why this is the case it is clear that it is due to a variety of factors – multiple excursions taking students out of my class, the students not wanting to do extra in their own time, the huge expectations on what students should know in each module.

This has got me highly stressed, and a lot more stressed than most of my students who are happy to cruise along, and feeling quite helpless and vulnerable. How can I make up for lost time? What elements can I /should I focus on in the time I have left? How can I get the students to kick into high gear? Don’t they realize how important all this is?!

Interestingly, one of my soon to retire teachers made a comment the other day when dropping off a cake while visiting in her “trial retirement phase”. She said that it is in only the last 5 or 10 years that she felt the pressure in regards to Year 12. Before then, all the focus was on the students and their results were down to their efforts and their skills. The question was “How did the students go?” These days more emphasis is put on the teacher – how they taught the course, how their class performed compared to state etc. The question is now “How did YOU go?”

Newspaper wrap-ups of the HSC and league tables etc certainly don’t help. The growing push for value adding and the growing focus on data is also adding to the pressure for teachers of Year 12. So much of our success (personal as well as professional) is coming down to those results that land at school in the last week of Term Four.

This focus isn’t all bad – as professionals we need to revise and review our practices and implement improvements. But, the push for good marks at all costs has come at the expense of other equally important elements of teaching and learning. And it certainly has meant that teachers are feeling the pressure far more than they did when I first started teaching.

How do you feel about the situation? Have you also noticed the shift in focus articulated by my teacher? How are you balancing the focus on data analysis with the other essential roles of being an educator?

Any advice for a stressed out teacher would be appreciated! And now I better go back and check my email to hopefully find a tonne of emails from my Yr 12s asking me to give them feedback on their Hamlet assessment task which is due on Wednesday. While it will mean a huge workload, I will certainly feel more secure that we are on track for success later in the year.

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Cool Tools for (English) Teachers

On Monday I am hosting the Mid North Coast English Teachers Combined Staff Development Day at my school. It promises to be a great day.

Prue Greene from CLIC is our keynote speaker as well as running workshops on the Australian Curriculum and Creative Writing using ICT tools. As well, Bianca Hewes (@BiancaH80 on Twitter) is attending as a guest to enthuse English teachers on the use of Edmodo, Diginarratives and Project Based Learning in the English classroom. Bianca coming to present at our conference is even more amazing when you know that she only arrived back in the country today after several weeks traversing America after attending the ISTE2011. Both are inspirational and I am looking forward to working with them.

As well, local English teachers have put their hands up to run workshops on a wide variety of topics including Accelerated Literacy, Smart Notebook, New Ideas for Assessment, Creative Writing in Stage 4, Assessing Year 10 and Raising the Bar in Stage 5. It has been fantastic to see so many teachers willing to share their ideas with their colleagues.

The first workshop I will be presenting is on “Cool Tools to Use in the English Classroom”. I have had a great deal of fun researching and and trialling a new range of web tools and websites this year and thought it only right that I share them with everyone else. To present them I used two old favourites – Prezi and Glogster. The final results are posted below. Update! @CarleleeB has generously shared her resources as well so check out the links to her great resources as well below the Prezi. Thanks, Carla!

The second workshop is on “Deconstructing Shakespeare” and will be the focus of my next post which hopefully will be finished this weekend.

If you are part of DEC, I hope you have a stimulating and exciting Staff Development Day and don’t forget to thank the people who have given up their holiday time to prepare the workshops and activities that you will partake in. It is a labour of love but a “thank you” is always appreciated!

Glogster – Cool Tools for English Teachers

Prezi – Cool Tools for English Teachers, Part 2

Carla’s Symbaloo for English

Carla’s LiveBinder

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From little things …

I have the pleasure of teaching the Year 8 Extension English class. While they aren’t all truly truly talented English students, they are enthusiastic and willing learners that brighten up my day.

This term we have been studying poetry, particularly Australian protest poetry from the likes of Oodergeroo and Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody. They embraced every poem, pondered every concern and hope, and were perceptive beyond their years with their analysis. Their sympathy of, and empathy for, those that are marginalised in society makes me proud and hopeful for the future.

Last week we worked at creating their protest projects. Moving between their classroom and the computer lab next door the students set about writing their own protest poem/s and making a movie out of one of the poems we studied.

Their poems were great. They protested about a myriad of issues and topics including the media, advertising, treatment of the disabled and refugees, destruction of the environment, whaling and even protest poems as homework. They used a variety of techniques to convey their ideas and experimented with form and structure by mimicking the structures of the poems we had studied.. Finally, they performed them for the class and fhey spoke with passion and flair.

And how were their movies? Pretty impressive. They reflected their understanding of both the poem and the issue through their choice of images, music, colour, font etc. The result was some pretty impressive social commentary.

To say I was proud of them would be an understatement. They cheered and praised each others’ work, discussed the importance of the chosen issues and expressed their love of poetry.

This is what we go into teaching for – to pass on our own love of learning and to help guide the future in a positive way. My Year 8 class symbolise the wonderful power of embracing every opportunity to build skills and understanding. I know I started the weekend with the warm glow that comes from a successful unit and lesson and I am pretty sure many of them did too.

I will ask their permission to share some of their poetry and films with you. As well, I have entered their poems in the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition and will upload them to the school’s website.

Hopefully their concerns will resonate with others and encourage a change in the way we treat others in our society. As Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody said, “From little things, big things grow”.

When was the last time you felt that way with one of your classes? Was it from how they embraced the topic, in what they created or in how you taught it? I would love to hear of your own experiences, if you are willing to share.

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So How Did It All Go?

For those of you that read the last two posts, you will be aware that the focus for this Staff Development Day was looking at the generational divide. How were our messages received? Did staff enjoy the day or did they see it as a waste of time?

The whole school attended the  first session on Generation Y and the Paradigm Shift. I have to say that the presentation was really well received and Lynda (my co-presenter) and I were happy with staff’s engagement with the topic.

They loved splitting up into their generations to brainstorm what their collective values were and much of what they presented was spot on with what the research listed as their key characteristics. They made really good observations on how these differences would translate in the classroom and you could see the internal ticking over of what they could be (should be) doing differently to better engage Gen Y in the classroom.

Unfortunately, due to the engagement of staff, we didn’t get to finish everything we had planned to present. I was only able to briefly touch on Mark Treadwell’s new paradigm shift (see presentation in earlier post) but again this was explored by some teachers later in the day. The key message though was achieved – ICT, multimedia and conceptual learning are the ways of the future and we need to embrace the change so as to provide the best possible education for current and future student cohorts.

The comments at morning tea were really positive but it was also interesting to note that, true to their generation, they still though their values etc  were the best (correct) ones! We might not have changed everything but we certainly got them talking and thinking and that has to be a good thing.

In my later session, Engaging Students of Today, the discussions continued as we looked at practical ways to engage and connect with Gen Y and Z. The main ones I focused on were building relationships, telling stories to connect their learning to the real world, and stepping back to be facilitators of learning and regular positive feedback. (see presentation in earlier post)

There was some lively discussion and some were looking dubious about focusing on relationship building at the expense of content and information. However, they acknowledged the need to try new things to better engage their students – after all that was why they had chosen my session.

My challenge to them for the term was to:

* Find out something new about as many students as possible and take an active interest in their lives outside of the classroom

* Actively plan where they can place stories into their units of work

* Think about the concepts they want them to achieve and the questions they will ned to pose to head them in the right direction

* Regularly, and appropriately praise the students

Teachers stopped and talked to me, and the other presenters, about how much they enjoyed the day (even if they didn’t get much individual planning time) and how relevant they though the sessions were. The discussions continued on over the rest of the week which was fantastic to observe and, as I wandered some of the corridors, I could actually hear teachers engaging their students with some of the suggestions we had made. The students and their teachers were engaged, laughing and focused. Nice.

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The New Learning Paradigm

The other focus area for tomorrow’s Staff Development Day flows on from our exploration of Gen Y and looks at how this generation (and the ones that will follow) learn best.

Again, initial inspiration came from the North Coast Quality Teaching Conference via Mark Treadwell’s keynote address on the new Learning Paradigm. Mark Treadwell’s work can be found here.

Interestingly,  today I was encouraged to read Anne Knock‘s open letter to the Minister of Education via twitter today which urges the education system to change to meet the needs of this new paradigm. You can find this letter here.

The thrust of Mark’s address was that the time for reading and writing to be the key source for learning has had its day and in its place there is a new paradigm – multimedia formats and conceptual learning. Mark talked about how quickly we can learn a concept eg driving a car compared to learning the mechanics of reading and writing. As well, once we have learnt a concept it become automatic “like riding a bike’ whereas reading and writing has to be continually practiced and revised.

Of course, we still need reading and writing but it is how it is used that needs to change. Instead of merely for the learning of facts, it should be to highlight achieving a concept and be presented within a multimedia format. This is, after all, the medium that Geny Y and beyond will be most familiar, and comfortable, with. It also puts the focus on the end product rather than the process of getting there (see my notes on Gen Y to see why this is important).

This new method means teachers need to be facilitators and mentors rather than the fonts of all knowledge and many Baby Boomer teachers, especially, will find this shift challenging (as they already are). Teachers need to actively encourage students to collaborate, communicate and create. They need to step back and let them find their own ways to achieve the ultimate goals of greater understanding, appreciation and knowledge.

The DER is step one in achieving the shift but it is only going to be fully successful if teachers (and the systems they are in) embrace the laptops, web 2.0 tools and collaboration as well as concept learning as the new paradigm.

There are pockets of change happening in mine and every school but I am not confident that we represent the majority of teachers at this time. It will happen and one of the ways to encourage it is through presenting this new research at Staff Development Days.

Some how I think my staff will be more keen on the Gen Y session than this one….

Anyway, here’s the presentation I will be doing on the Paradigm Shift.

The Paradigm Shift

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