Sunday, 22 May 2016

40book challenge post -

Sunday 22 May 2016 - Ko te Ratapu rua teakau ma rua o Haratua rua manu tekau ma ono.

Dear Team12,
Wow, it seems like this term is flying. I am reading up a storm as per normal! This term I have finished 4 books - all over 300 pages - so I guess that is 8 books in the book challenge world.

I just finished reading  Thegirl with 7 names by Hyeonseo Lee. Mike Hosking recommended it on TV and I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle.  It is an autobiography written by a North Korean defector. It opened my eyes to the world of communist North Korea. It made me feel really lucky to live in New Zealand. It is a heart wrenching story - and an epic adventure.
I also finished reading A Waltz for Matilda by JackieFrench. It is the first in a series set in outback Australia. It is another epic story that is set the late 1800's and early 1900's. Matilda is a young girl who is really brave. Drought, farming, inventions and hard work life that again made me really feel for the character and make me feel lucky to be living in the 2000's. 

One other book that I have 'read' was Robert Muchamore's the Recruit - it’s the first of the Cherub books. It is an interesting story - action packed, spies, adventures, struggles and maybe even a hint of love. I would recommend this for both boys and girls as the lead character is a 12year old boy, but there are strong female characters too. It was funny at times - making me laugh out loud.  I read this via audio book while I was out walking. I think audio books are underrated - no one is too old to listen to a good story - and seeing as I don't have anyone to read to me I might as well listen along. It also makes good use of my time. I suggest you download an audio book onto your phone or iPod to listen to when you walk to school - maximising reading time!

I am still deciding what to read next - I am thinking maybe finishing Rat Burger by David Walliams or starting the 13th Story Treehouse. I have a couple of autobiographies to read as well including biography of the actor who plays Raj on Big Bang Theory.
I am looking for new suggestions - please add them to this doc for me..

Till next time,
Miss M

For the Love of Reading

Wednesday 4th of May 2016 - Ko Te Raapa tenei ra wha o Haratua.

Dear Team12,

Wow I can't believe it's been 13 weeks since we started the 40 book challenge. It's time to reflect and think about our progress and the things we would keep doing, start doing and stop doing with the 40book challenge.
So far I have 27 books (but with the over 225pages that’s 42!!!)
I am pretty amazed - I knew I read a lot, but I didn't think I would have had time to read quite so much!

My favourites would have to be The One and Only Ivan, Loot, Freak the Mighty, Cinder and The Phantom of Terawhiti (you'll get to hear this one as it is part of the #NZReadAloud this term!) I think the reasons that I liked these books is because the characters were personable and the writing was descriptive - I could imagine myself in the setting of the novel.

My least favourite has been Lord of the Flies -which is a classic and I abandoned it was SO boring because I didn't click with the characters and the writing style was very dry. There wasn't much information for my imagination to grab hold of and create pictures.

So what would I keep doing?
I would keep reading each night in bed - its my relax time and I have had success with the number of books I have been reading.

What should I stop doing?
I think I want to change up the genres - they were really hard for me to achieve and I am a good reader. Grownup picturebooks - there are too many maybe we should include graphic novels in this genre. Also There are too many classics - and we didn't really understand what a classic is - so we need to set a time limit on the publishing. E.g if it was published before 1990? Or maybe 1985?
Maybe add a new genre?

What should I start doing?
I need to start talking about books more in class -I think ALL students should have to share a book at least once a term. Sell it to the class in an interesting way - be it a video or a quick chat.
I also want to start using Edmodo more for the 40book challenge - its an under utilised resourse.

I think I need to also start writing to the class regularly - so they can see me writing and how the writing processes works for someone else.

Thanks team for your efforts with the 40book challenge - I was surprised when I went to the town library in the holidays and the Librarian there told me that parents from BOHALLY had been in and talking about the challenge. Super stoked! It was a feel good moment for me!

Till next time,
Miss M

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Why I keep on going..

Teaching can be tough - especially when you are sick. I've been really struggling for the last month or so. I've not been sleeping, and to top it off for the last three weeks I have been really sick with a virus. Awesome - just what you want when you have 29 year 8 students in your care 5 days a week. It's been a tough few weeks - and I've not been enjoying being sick, and trying to teach. BUT then Friday happened. 

It is all worth the effort when I have one of those days that reconfirms why I do what I do.  Friday was just that, one of those days. Usually when I do the roll I use it as an opportunity to discuss different things, this gives all 29 students in my class a chance to have their say.

I have been trying to make sure we keep on top of our Growth Mindset learning, and took Friday's roll as a way to discuss learning pits and I asked my students to identify what was their biggest learning pit. Writing and Maths topped Ruma Tahi's list. Being that we stream maths at BIS, I took the opportunity to put a focus on writing. 

When I attended #EducampHB I met some passionate and enthusiastic teachers from Russell Street School - they talked about #Poutama and differentiation in a way that I had not contemplated before. Basically the question they put to us was -Why have 29 narratives, or 29 paintings all looking the same?  There is a better way to do things. 

Recognising Ruma Tahi identified their own learning needs to be focused on Writing, I decided to use the inspiration I had been given by the #Poutama boys and let my kids lead the way with the text type. We had a discussion and the students came up with this list of ways they would write about our current concept of Sustainability.  They decided they wanted to start small with only 10 minutes of writing after morning tea. 10mins ticked by...a few minutes of sharing, then Ruma Tahi blew my mind....they asked for more writing time! A class of students willing to dive into their learning pit, struggle and find their own success, it's what I got into this teaching business for. 

CHOICE and acknowledging where the learning needs to happen is what really motivates students

My day didn't end there - we went on to have an spectacular Science session (ooh alliteration) where we made models to represent different types of rock 

Yes we made Fudge - BUT it was the grandparents and parents that came to the lesson to help out that made it a truly different type of session. It was incredible to see my students interact with their grandparents and parents, and to hear them explaining about the types of rocks we had been learning about, and how the rock cycle works without any prompting from me. 

To top it off the discussion and feedback after the lesson from my students was outstanding. They told me it was a great lesson because it wasn't just science, or cooking, but also maths! Their only complaint was that we should have made more fudge. I can't thank the Science Learning Hub enough for the session lesson plans! 

An experienced teacher and someone I admire posted this photo on my Facebook page this week - Just when I really needed it.
  I need to remember I am there to make a difference to "My Kids" so that they become life long lovers of learning! 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Facing the fear and doing it anyway.

I have spent a huge portion of these holidays thinking about how I am going to fit everything in this term. We have a full on timetable as part of the normal term - chuck in Marlborough Mako's taking Rugby sessions with students, Stage Challenge, our girls self defense program, Arts rotations and Technology sessions I am left without much time with my students. 

Last term my students made baby steps towards planning their own timetable. With a little inspiration from Kerri Thompson and Learning my Way  my students had a check list of tasks to complete as part of their literacy and inquiry project. They completed Must Do, Should Do and Can do tasks. Self management never looked so good! This was a great step in the right direction students were engaged and driven to achieve their goals but it still had me thinking about the level of student interest in what we were doing.  

When I think of learning experiences I have had and had the most success with it was when I was learning about something I was interested in. Case in point - I made my first patchwork quilt these holidays - I learnt a lot along the way. It wasn't easy there were failures but I had something to hold in my hands when I was done. I felt proud of myself and a lot of others commented on my hard work. Ever the teacher, I wondered - How can I do this with my class? 

My personal inquiry when I was at teachers college was about Authentic Learning experiences outside of the classroom - and if they were worth the effort of teachers. I proved to myself & the teachers of the classes I was following that visiting the museum, art gallery or local attraction really led to meaningful learning experiences for the students. They all learnt more when they were learning away from the 'normal' classroom experience. 

I feel strongly about letting students learn about something they are passionate about. I didn't run a genius hour, passion project program last term because of my fear of the timetable. This term I am serious about focusing on personalized learning for my students. Face the Fear and do it anyway was my motto my first year teaching. I wonder what happened between then and now. Why am I risk adverse? What happened along the way that stopped me from trying new things? I have become a grownup teacher - moved on from the teenage rebellion I had when I was a PRT?

This term I need to remember this is what I am passionate about - authentic, hands on, learning experiences for my students. I want school to be a place they are happy to come to, and be a place where students feel safe enough to take risks with their own learning. I want to let students explore their ideas and passions so they can solve problems & make a difference to the world around them. 

Thus Maker Space LabARTory was born. This is my version of Genius Hour, passion project. My students will have their own project they will research and present to the class. The name came from conversations with Kimberly Baars @MissesArtech and from a flyer my Mum gave me from an Art School in Melbourne.  It got me thinking about what I could offer my students to inspire them to be creative, innovative and forward thinkers. The aim of our Maker Space LabARTory is that they will make something, or teach others something. It can be based in Science, the Arts or in Technology... what that something is is completely up to my students. They are limited only by their imaginations & our ability to locate or source materials. I intend to help find my students mentors using the Twitterverse. They will share their journey on Blogs which are also a new addition to our tool belt this term. 

I am a little scared, but I am more excited. Heck - Face the Fear and do it anyway. I aim to be a google type teacher - chuck my ideas out there and if they don't work we will modify and edit along the way. Nothing worse than an Apple type teacher - saving everything until it is perfect before sending out my iLesson to be consumed. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Some weeks you just have to focus on the happy. A wise piece of advice I got this week from @GeoMouldey

So here are my GREAT things that happened this week!

1. I got an Easter present from my secret buddy. My first EVER Lindt Bunny. Our school has a secret buddy society and all the staff have someone they have to be 'nice' to for the year. Secret Buddy's are reveled at the end of the year function. It feels good to give, and it's exciting to receive!

2. I graduated to the next level of teaching P4C - small steps.  We got a new resource at school and I ran my first Philosophy session from it. "Philosophical and ethical inquiry for students in the middle years and beyond." by Chesters et al. I had a great discussion with my Y8 students using Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind as stimulus for thinking. My students had some awesome ideas about what Dylan meant by "The answers are blowing in the wind." 

3. I found clipboards for $2 each and decorated them to put on my classroom wall to make a display for "Great Writing" - I always want to display students work - but have found it hard - looking forward to putting the display together and getting some student's everyday work on the wall! 

4. My class got out of the classroom and we went on our first field trip of the year. We visit the local Museum and dressed up in WW1 uniforms to learn more about ANZACs and the war. There was some great learning, and loads of things to be hand on with. It did mean almost 90mins of walking for my class - but it was a great day, and we enjoyed being outside together. (Loads of complaining - and 'Are we there yet!") I feel lucky to live in a small town where we can get out and WALK to the museum. Looking forward to next weeks visit to the local War Memorial. 

5. We stream maths at BIS - and I have one of the lower classes. This week they successfully added & subtracted DECIMALS! I have never seen kids so excited about maths. This term I taught written form instead of the Numeracy project - and my students have had success after success. They feel confident about maths - something these guys probably never had had. When they solved addition problems for 7 digit numbers there were high fives all round. 

6. #TWIMA - I introduced this to my class a week or so ago. We did 100 dreams in 10mins - I have never seen so many smiles in a classroom. EVERY single student left with a smile, and went on to try and make their dreams come true.  When we got the email on Friday morning Room 1 were so excited that their writing would be in a book & that there was a possibility to create music to go along with it really made some of the class really excited. 

The more I wrote - the more I realised that my week wasn't as bad as I thought it had been.

What were your happy moments this week?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

After 8 years at school

This year I am teaching year 8. You would think my students had school kinda under control by now. After 7 years & 8 weeks at school you would think they know the general rules & expectations of how a classroom runs and can work independently to complete work to an acceptable standard. Alas - I am beginning to think I have set my own expectations of my students way too high.

I am trying to allow my students to be independent self managing learners. However I am finding that I am backtracking, explaining, re-explaining and using wait time over and over again. Small things bug me - like not following instructions and calling out. I know why these small things happen - it's because I talk to much, or I give too many instructions at once -this is something I need to work on. It's the bigger things that have been learnt over 7 years at school that I am struggling to fix.

I want students to have choices and decide for themselves what tasks they should be doing, to be able to come to work shops when they need, and work collaboratively with each other. Instead I am getting 101 questions. What should I be doing? What do you think? Is this right? Does this look okay to you? What should I do next? What are we doing next period? What do you want me to do? Just tell me what to do! These questions are from ALL level of students - low level to my GATE students.

For 7 years of their lives they have been told what to do, where to sit and what is happening next. Given the freedom of choice they are lost.

By the end of Year 8 I would love my students to be critical, creative, caring and reflective thinkers. I would also like them to be able to manage themselves to complete a cycle of inquiry and produce something they are proud of. I want school to be somewhere they want to be and are excited about the things we are learning about. I want things to be authentic, hands on, filled with creativity and FUN.

I have high expectations of my students. I believe they are all capable of these things - whether high learning needs students who are not expected to pass level 1 of the curriculum or my GATE students who need extending beyond their years.

How I am going to do this is going to be a journey. It'll either break me or make me as a teacher and as a person. Step one on this journey is establishing a joint understanding of what managing self really means. Back to the drawing board for my class, and back to square one for me.

What do you want students be capable by the end of Year 8?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

What do I have to share?

Last year I didn't apply for Google Academy because I didn't think I had anything to say or share.
Then my principal said my next step was to share my journey as a teacher, and the authentic learning experiences that happen in my class - he said he was looking forward to seeing me present at conferences. Again I was lost - what do I have to say or share that others want to hear? Or haven't heard before! 

I take risks as a teacher - and am always willing to try new things out - I'm not afraid that it might go wrong - there is always a backup plan, or something else to do if it doesn't work out. I try to make my lessons interesting for all students. I try to teach students to take risks, as learning is not about being successful the first time, its about the journey you take to get there. Yet I am not always willing to take risks in front of my peers. 

Educamp seems to be the baby step I need to share my ideas with my peers. Its one thing talking to the like minded teachers at school - its a whole other thing sharing with a captivated audience at a conference.  The purpose of EduCampNZ is to learn and contribute. I am definately not afraid of learning, or contributing. Educamps are an unconference, The sharing of ideas that are tried and tested in the classroom - shared with people who want to learn more, or find out more about the tool or way of doing things. Its informal social gathering of teachers who are wanting to learn and contribute ideas. 

I really like this idea of meeting people face to face to discuss, and share ideas. I was a little jealous of all the great Twitter people I follow heading off to #educamprotovegas
One tweet lead to a meeting with the great @Allanahk  and @nickitempero. Educamp Marlborough was born!  

I am really excited to hear from others - and potentially share my own learning experiences. Those who I have told about Educamp (non twitter peeps - who I am slowly working on converting) are really keen to come along. Not long now until Marlborough & the top of the South educators get to share, contribute, and learn from each other. 

Save the Date:
Saturday 23 May 2015
Keep an eye on this space:

What do you want to learn more about? 

What would you contribute?