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  1. Tall Poppy Syndrome

    February 9, 2014 by Mrs Hurley

    How can a school encourage and foster a sharing culture properly? Can it even be done properly? Will there always be those couple of ‘old school’ teachers in there, ready to chop down any “new” ideas?

    I was asked recently to present something short at a staff meeting after my AP had walked into my room and saw my kids doing Teach/OK as part of us working on Whole Brain Teaching this year. She was really excited about it and, to be honest, so was I because my kids have been fantastic with it so far!

    So, I enthusiastically brought along my ideas to staff meeting. I was shoved to the end of staff meeting as more pressing admin matters needed to be discussed. I get it. Anyway, I was told I had 30 seconds to present as the meeting was almost overtime.

    I gave my hurried explanation and despite my time restrictions, I feel as though I was still able to convey my enthusiasm about Whole Brain Teaching and what it can do for students.

    I was then spoken about behind my back in the staff room because I’m not the only one who uses WBT in the classroom. Nor did I ever claim to be.

    The point is, this happens far too often. I’m asked to share something (whether I already do it or I’ve learned it on a PD day), I’m really enthusiastic about it, I try to ramp it up to whoever I’m sharing with and I get shut down. Or, at least, no one shares my enthusiasm.

    I went to a Handwriting and Spelling PD because I really had no idea how to run a spelling program. I came back with many ideas, shared them with a teacher and was told “Oh yeah, that’s been around for ages!”

    How can we encourage a sharing culture in schools? What things are essential for new teachers to know? How can they get this information so that 3 years later, they’re not still looking for it?


  2. First Days Back!

    February 2, 2014 by Mrs Hurley

    Students at my school started back on Thursday, after I had already been at school for 2 days. Staff spent the first 2 days doing team exercises and team planning for the term. We also looked at our whole school unit “Myself as a Learner”.

    My teaching partner and I have started a shared blog together. I actually went to primary school with Kate and it was a complete coincidence that we’ve ended up in the same workplace, working in the rooms next to each other this year. Please head over to our shared blog to see our room reveals! We’ve both put in a lot of effort for our new classrooms but Kate’s just blows me away.

    I’m also starting Whole Brain Teaching this year. I will endevour to post more about it once it’s up and running in its’ entirety. If you are not familiar with Whole Brain Teaching, the idea is that when students are using all of their brain to learn, they have no room to daydream or become distracted.

    So far, I have introduced; Class/Yes, Classroom Rules, Teach/OK and The Scoreboard.

    Normally, I would make the class rules with the students so that they have ownership over them etc. etc. but I wanted to try Whole Brain Teaching as prescribed before I made any alterations. The kids are aware of this and also of the reasoning behind each of the classroom rules. I explained briefly but we’ll go into it more when we look at the brain during our whole school unit.

    I did, however, change one classroom rule. The 5 rules are:

    #1 Follow Directions Quickly
    #2 Raise your hand for permission to speak
    #3 Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat
    #4 Make smart choices
    #5 Keep your dear teacher happy

    If you haven’t picked up which rule I changed, it’s number 5. Mostly because it sounded really American and a little wanky to me. I changed it to “Respect yourself, respect others & respect your school”, which is a variation I have come across somewhere on the internet during my research.

    Anyway, more about WBT later down the track…

    So far, I am really enjoying my kids. I think they’re a little overwhelmed by me but one thing I LOVE about teaching a younger year level is that THEY THINK I’M FUNNY!!

    How did your first days in your classroom go? Are you trying anything new this year? Have you ever done Whole Brain Teaching before?


  3. Goals for 2014

    January 10, 2014 by Mrs Hurley

    Inspired by Stefanie over at Miss Galvin Learns, I have decided to set some goals for 2014. (see her original post here) I have really started looking forward to the coming year with my new younger kiddies.

    My passion for teaching has been reignited for a number of reasons for this coming year, which I won’t go into for fear of getting too personal. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll be getting some idea of why.

    Like Stefanie, I will spread out my goals over a number of posts (hopefully not too many!) so I can explore in further detail.

    So, without further ado, I present:

    goals2014

     

    Goal Number One: Be more consistent with feedback and assessment

    This is something that I’ve never been fantastic with. Usually, I just cannot be bothered writing comments in individual books (this may also be due to the fact that I have team-taught for the past 2 years). It takes a long time, right? It’s hard to think of individual comments when my stomach is rumbling because I’m late to the staff room for lunch! Verbal feedback I can do – I’m also a very fast talker so it takes even less time for me! – and I do regularly. It’s easier for me to tell my students where they need to improve or what they’ve done well in a task than it is to hand write comments.

    This is where it pays to work smarter, not harder. Easier said than done, right?

    I plan to use Google Apps for Education as much as possible during the year. I love the comment function – I can leave feedback for students AS they work on something. Eventually, we will probably use Google Sites for student digital portfolios – perhaps to even showcase their Genius Hour projects – and so being able to leave feedback at my own time, wherever I may be. And also, typing is much easier than handwriting!

    As far as assessment goes, I’m hoping to create some easy to fill in forms using the Kustom Note app so that I can fill in little details and send those forms straight to my Evernote folder for each individual student. (If you haven’t downloaded this app, get onto it! Have a play around and download some free templates.) Otherwise, I have the option of using checklists within Evernote for whole class assessment. With the help of my iPad, I’m going to aim to have some sort of anecdotal notes on each student at least once a week. I’ve heard that this will make report writing time a breeze!

    Big ambitions, hey? I know I have the best intentions of being organised this year and usually it falls by the wayside. I’ll be the first to admit that my head was not really in the game last year and my efforts were being concentrated elsewhere.

    THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT! I WILL BE ORGANISED. I WILL PROVIDE TIMELY AND RELEVANT FEEDBACK. I WILL ASSESS ONGOING-ly. (Ongoingly? As I go? I like my made up word better!)

    What are your goals for 2014? How do you provide feedback? How do you assess your students ongoingly?


  4. Time for a change

    December 7, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    It’s official!

    I have been told that next year I will be moving year levels from a 5/6 classroom to a 3/4 class!

    How do I feel about that?

    Well, I actually don’t know. I have mixed emotions about it.

    I am excited because I have had an exhausting year with a bad combination of students in my class (see “It’s been a great year“) and I think having younger students, it will be easier to set clear expectations without challenges.

    I am disappointed because I’ve spent a large chunk of this year gathering ideas to use in my 1:1 classroom. The 3/4s are not 1:1 – they have a trolley of netbooks and tablets (Samsung… which I know nothing about and much prefer Apple) which have 6 netbooks available all the time and if I wanted to do any 1:1 activities, I would have to negotiate to borrow from the other 6 classrooms. I don’t yet know how it’s going to work but I need to be flexible and adapt.

    Also, I don’t know much about AUSVELS Level 3 and 4. I don’t know much about the curriculum below Year 5 and 6 – but I do know what I wish my kids were able to do when they come into 5/6.

    So many ideas are running around my head at the moment – things I need to set up, checklists, blogs ARGH.

     Have you moved year levels or subjects this year? How are you feeling about moving or staying the same position? Any tips or ideas for teaching 3/4s for me?!


  5. “It’s been a great year”

    December 7, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    … But has it really?

    I’m hearing this said a lot lately, as members of my PLN begin wrapping up their year and reflecting on how their year has gone.

    When I look back on this year, I feel exhausted.

    Has it been a great year for me? It has certainly been a challenging year. I don’t mean in the “my knowledge is being challenged and it’s fantastic” kind of way either. It has genuinely been a tough year for me.

    While I don’t want to sound like I am whinging or making excuses for myself, I will try to explain why…

    1. Firstly,  there are two boys in my class who have completely worn me down. I have spent every lesson repeating myself and reminding them that they are not to sit with each other or talk with each other as the combination of both of them together is lethal.

    2. As the year draws to an end, as in any primary school, year 6s are becoming restless and ready to move on. I have one Year 6 boy who packed up shop 4 weeks ago and hasn’t done anything since. He refuses to complete tasks or follow any instructions – despite the fact that he is already going in to secondary school behind in his learning, which is even more frustrating.

    3. As far as the ‘norm’ goes, I have spent a number of days out of the classroom this year, taking advantage of external professional learning opportunities. That being said, I have also participated in programs where I am required to “work” after school and into the night. Now, I wouldn’t change my decision to participate in any of these professional development days at all – in fact, they have been the best ones I have attended in my whole career – but days out of the classroom (particularly when they are one day a week in sequential weeks) can really make you feel out of whack.

    There are other contributing factors which are a little personal so I won’t list them.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this year. I certainly love this time of year because of how busy it is and with all the extra activities we get to do, such as the swimming carnival and Year 6 Graduation. I am definitely looking forward to a change next year…

     


  6. My Journey

    November 5, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    Recently, I have been extremely lucky to participate in a program run by the Department of Education and Early Childhood entitled ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’

    The following is a post that I wrote, taken from the collaborative group blog.

    ********

    In less than a month, the ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’ program will come to a close. Of course, this doesn’t mean our learning will stop, nor that I will no longer communicate with my wonderful group.

    I thought I’d take the time to reflect on where I’ve come from and what I’ve changed as a result of being a participant in this program.

    I am a very impatient person, which can be a bad thing in terms of progress, but a good thing in terms of gaining knowledge. I have been teaching for 3 years now and I won’t ever be happy with my teaching skills. Which is also a good thing because it means that I am constantly striving to improve my skills and knowledge to benefit my students.

    I began this program expecting to be taught some whiz-bang exciting ways to integrate technology and make learning better for my students. Was this naive of me? Probably. Lack of confidence in my own skills possibly lead me to that expectation.

    In the beginning (or BTL21C – Before TL21C)
    Here is a list of stuff I’d “done” or trialled – successfully or not – in my own classroom or for my own professional learning:

    • 2011: Ultranet – mostly for activities found on FUSE. Couldn’t work out the calendars or anything the students were supposed to be doing.
      Vokis, Wikis (not very successful – still learning)
    • 2012: Introduction of 1:1 Netbook program at school. Introduced Edmodo, Studyladder, online interactive learning tasks. Still no way to share learning.
      Microsoft Sharepoint – for shared planning documents (Syncs between computers – still only 1 person can have document open at a time)
    • 2013: Global 2 Class Blog (http://froleisland.global2.vic.edu.au)
      Personal Global 2 blog (http://hellokaddy.global2.vic.edu.au)
      Quadblogging
      Joined Twitter – currently still building PLN and sharing
      Class Twitter Account
      Mystery Skypes
      Guest speakers via Skype (Teacher in Japan while we were studying Asia)
      Monster Global Project – worked with a class in New Zealand on our descriptive writing
      Sporadic use of Evernote for anecdotal evidence on students
      Attending TeachMeets – which I wouldn’t know about if not for Twitter!

    Just from looking at that list, I really like that it gets bigger each year. Not only with the activities listed but also my understanding and successful implementation.

    As a result of joining TL21C, here is what I’ve learnt:

    • Google+ Community
    • Google Hangouts – within the classroom and for personal use (Education Book Club, Planning with TL21C Group)
    • Importance of building PLN – continuing to do this every day
    • Google Docs – encouraging collaboration with students
    • Google Apps for Education – Have sought permission from leadership team and am in the process of setting up and organising for whole school implementation. I still can’t believe that they’re actually letting me be in charge of this!

    I still have many goals for technology integration in the classroom (such as Minecraft) but I’m also the type of person who bites off more than they can chew so I think I’ll focus on GAfE implementation for now.

     

    What have you trialled in your own classroom? Have you set up Google Apps for Education with your own school (or have some knowledge about it)? Please share your own experiences!


  7. Holistic Writing

    November 2, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    Recently, I have been lucky enough to attend a 2 day Professional Development opportunity run by Ann Angelopolous about her writing model.

    Teaching writing is something that I’ve never been great at. Yes, in my placements at uni I was exposed to a number of different programs, but in all of my placements I’d never been given the chance to actually come up with a writing program. Nor did I ask! I didn’t know any better and it’s not something I really thought about. Kids could just write, couldn’t they? All my job was, was to teach them the different genres, wasn’t it?

    It became very apparent when I started teaching my own class and this year particularly, that no, kids could not ‘just write’.

    What has really sold me on the writing model is clear progress shown by students in such a short amount of time. Ann’s most reluctant writers, who would write 2 sentences in an hour in barely legible handwriting could now write 2 pages of quality writing that followed a correct structure in the most beautiful handwriting! Don’t get me wrong, I know that handwriting isn’t everything but when I still have 11 and 12 year old’s in my class who have to read their writing to me because it’s scribble on the page (and even they struggle!) then handwriting becomes important.

     

    How are these reluctant writers achieving so much in such little time? Well, a combination of different reasons but here are the reasons why I think:

    1. All writing from the beginning of the year is broken down to sentence level and explicitly taught. Simple, compound and complex sentences are explored.

    2. Writing devices are explicitly taught. Students know what the difference between a simile and metaphor is and can tell you what Power of Three is AND use them all in their writing.

    3. Students write every day and have achievable goals – For example, today we are all writing the orientation of our piece. Achievable for all!

    4. Vocabulary is differentiated and a list is provided for all students – brainstormed by the students and added to by the teacher. Maybe there are particular words you’d like your students to include? Maybe you want to expand the vocabulary of your more able students? Providing a vocabulary list also helps with the spelling of words which takes the pressure off those less able students.

    5. And most importantly, you don’t teach Persuasive text for a whole term in preparation for NAPLAN!! The Writing Model is all about teaching kids to be storytellers and writersnot teaching them how to write particular genres.

     

    There are a couple of essentials for each writing lesson (unit?) See, instead of expecting kids to write something new every day, after the introduction and vocabulary brainstorm and all, you should have a complete writing piece about every week. Each writing piece should include;

    • Pre-writing strategy: What will you focus on this week? Practising similes and metaphors?
    • Supportive stimulus
    • Supportive plan: include your expectations for each section of the text. What needs to be in there? Approximately how many sentences?
    • Supportive text: Give examples! Write one yourself!
    • Supportive vocabulary
    • Share time throughout

     

    I’m really looking forward to implementing the strategies that I’ve been taught and I am looking forward to improving the writing quality of my students.

     

    What framework do you use for writing? How did you get taught to teach writing? How do you raise expectations of your students’ writing?

     


  8. Sat Chat: Blogging

    November 2, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    The following is a Storify that I created from the Twitter chat on Saturday, November 2 2013. The hashtag is #satchatoc and the chat occurs every Saturday morning at 10:30am AEDT. The topic for today’s chat was ‘blogging’ – something that I have become extremely interested in, in the past year.

    There were some great side conversations happening in the chat too! Thanks to everyone involved. Don’t forget to check out all blogs mentioned – some great learning from there. And those who have yet to start a professional blog, I know you’ll be inspired after today’s chat. Good luck!


  9. Being Connected

    October 3, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    I am feeling a little small and insignificant today. In my chatting with other educators at last night’s Teach Meet (Thanks @charte – had a great time!) I mentioned that I had only attended one other Teach Meet before. Thinking about it, I would never had heard of Teach Meet in the first place had I not joined Twitter a few months ago. I can’t actually remember when I joined, I think it was the Easter holidays this year. Does anyone know how I can find out? I’m curious.

    Anyway, it got me to thinking. I saw a lot of teachers last night who had given up their own time on their holidays to further their knowledge in Education. Although last night’s crowd was mostly younger (Margo said it, not me!) surely a lot of attendees would have kids and families at home? Yet they still make the time and effort to travel – some even from the country! – to listen to a bunch of other teachers talking and learning from their peers.

    Many teachers are constantly making the efforts to improve their teaching and to improve the education, knowledge and lives of the students that they teach. When I first joined Twitter, I couldn’t and still can’t believe the amount of teachers and educators on Twitter who are so willing to share and engage in meaningful conversations.

    Having a Twitter account is  like having your own school and who you follow is like choosing your staff. Your Twitter feed is like listening to conversations in the staffroom. I just love that you get to choose which ones to tune into and participate in!

    But what of teachers who aren’t on Twitter? Or connected in any other way? How important is it to be a connected educator? Tom Whitby has written extensively on the subject. One such post can be found here. He explains himself much better than I do, so I highly recommend you head over and have a read!

    How are you connected? What are the benefits for you personally? What are the benefits for your classroom?


  10. Hopelessness

    September 23, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    Over the past couple of weeks in particular, I have noticed the absolute time-wasting questions I am asked throughout the day. These usually happen after I have explained an activity but can be asked at any stage during the day. Here are just a couple of examples;

    • Which book do I stick it in?
    • The question says I have to write sentences/rearrange/do something extra – do I have to do it?
    • How long until lunch time?
    • Are we going to play a Maths game today?
    • I can’t find my pen/scissors/pencil case (OK, so this is not a question but the way it is said like it’s MY responsibility to immediately click my fingers and make these items appear is something I get A LOT!)

    I don’t want to spend my precious teaching time solving minor issues – I (try to) strongly encourage independence and I want my students to be the problem solvers, not me!

    I am so sick of my own name being said in a whiny voice. And I am trying my damn hardest to ignore/re-direct these questions but the kids just don’t seem to be getting the hint. I know I’m probably not handling it in the best way but what else can I do?

    Have you had these issues in your classroom before? How did you encourage independence and “thinking for yourself” without coming off as careless? Do you think these habits are formed at home because the kids are so used to parents doing everything for them? How do you then get them to “do it for themselves” at school (and hopefully continue to do so in their everyday lives?)


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