Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Blogging with my class - I am stuck!

I know via twitter that lots of primary classes use blogs to help improve literacy and engagement with their classes. I thought that I would try the same with a year 9 group I have.

Firstly I checked with a member of senior management whether it would be OK. He said that I should teach the students not to use their full names, not to post images that included their faces, and to make sure comments didn't reveal where students would be at a future time. All of these rules seem to make a lot of sense to me.

I started a edublogs.org blog. There is advice on their page on how to set up the blog and educate the students how to use it. I have taken their advice and I only allow students to comment on the posts that I make. So far. After the students have learned to contribute quality comments they are allowed to write their own posts. Then it is possible to allow students to have their own blog, which is something I am not keen on.

I am still at the point where I write the blog posts and the students comment. The class seem to enjoy this, but I am struggling to get them to do more than write very simple comments and they don't respond to each other. I wonder if my issue is that I am not giving them enough time to complete the work. However, even groups who finish first don't automatically read and reply to others. I would like to see this happen.

It goes back to the classic issue of getting students to look back over their own work and act on the comments that the teacher makes. I have always struggled with this when we seem to move through topics and themes at a high rate, particularly when you might have one 2.5 hour per week.

I am pleased that I am managing to consistently use the blog with the students, once per week for half an hour.

My Year 9 blog can be found at http://missrogerson.edublogs.org

Monday, 7 November 2011

Teaching Outside the Classroom: the corridor as a learning space

I have taken my classes outside the classroom four times so far this year to do science experiments or observe something that would help them link the abstract with an application. This is a much bigger number than in the past, but I still really don't like it.

Taking students out of the classroom is a good way to attract the attention of management. Some teachers love that, they thrive on a public "well done". I am not so confident in attracting the attention of management when I go outside; I worry about the negative and it makes me tense.

Will the students stay in the area I want them to. Will they bring their worksheets with them? Will the class behave as expected in the classroom, or more like they do at break and lunch? Will my group disturb the learning of other groups? How do I ensure they are doing and learning something when I don't have the same number of the behaviour management techniques available to me?

As stated, I have taken the students out of the classroom to learn four times this year:

The first to find the focal length of a lens. There are no plain walls in my classroom to project the image onto. We didn't go far, just into the corridor outside my room. We did disturb the next class, but everyone did the task and everyone came back when I asked.

The second to the dark room to observe Tonic Water under UV light. Instead of that the group ended up getting told off for poking each other, screaming and turning the light on and off. They were impressed that their school uniforms were glowing. Whether any member of the group will remember that UV can make some objects fluoresce, I am not confident.

The third time was the most risky. I took a group to reception to have a look at how the automatic door won't open if you stand still. Reception, where the head's office is and important people like the chair of governors come through. Fortunately the receptionist and the visitor thought the antics of the group were hilarious: obviously a group of 16 students were unable to stand still and the constant flow of other people through the doors meant that we had to have quite a few attempts to prove my point. Definitely worth it though, I will be doing that activity every time I have to teach the Doppler Effect from now on.

The most recent reason to venture outside the classroom was to measure the speed of the students walking down the corridor. How hard can it be to measure the corridor, mark points at 10 and 20 metres and then time yourself walking that distance? I discovered it can be very hard. The poor assistant head, who's office we were working outside of never complained, but he cannot have got any work done. I let the group take as long as they needed to get the results. I would have been easy for me to do it myself and give them data. I did have to do a lot of managing if their experiments though.

In the new ofsted framework will they see me taking the students out to make real measurements as risk taking and like it, or will they see off task students struggling and misbehaving and see a poor lesson? Should I worry about what others think or just do what I think is best for my groups? The students have requested we go out and measure the corridor again, so they seem to like it.

I don't think that I am brave enough to take my groups outside the classroom to a location with no walls yet though.

Location:Rudgleigh Ave, United Kingdom

Saturday, 5 November 2011

An Educational Philosophy?

On Tuesday 1st November I was set the challenge by @jwputt of writing my educational philosophy during the #addcym discussion on twitter.

In the past, when writing job applications I have split the personal statement/supporting letter into sections with sub-titles. One of those sections was entitled "philosophy". I would write:
I believe that learning is an invaluable skill for anyone to have. I actively encourage students to enquire about their subject matter; striving to make my classroom to be an atmosphere of “how?” and “why?”
I have worked tirelessly to promote a learning environment where students take responsibility for their own learning. This improved attitude has shown itself in the respect students' show to their class work and homework. I have used high expectations so that the students in my classes have a strong impression of what is expected of them both academically and behaviourally.
A major challenge obstructing achievement at the school I currently work at is low-self esteem. In order to combat this I make the students in my class feel valued and positively encouraged through the use of praise and impressing my unwavering belief in what the children can achieve.
In order to effectively learn, students require a solid foundation in numeracy, literacy and ICT. I plan lessons to involve opportunities to develop and build on these skills. The learning of key words is a main focus my teaching. I use ICT regularly within my teaching to help the students appreciate the applications of ICT beyond playing games.

I don't think that I ever considered why I taught science specifically, or the particular importance of my subject when I chose to become a teacher; I wanted to work with young people and not work in a profit motivated organisation. However, my main motivators have changed during my career: most recently I read James Williams' book called "How Science Works" and it changed my slant on teaching from seeing it only about helping young people but also recognising the importance of learning about science specifically. In between I have been inspired by learning to learn and teaching thinking skills and they skill colour what I do.

My current educational philosophy is to help young people understand the world around them. To do that I believe they should find things out for themselves, and experience the nature of scientific exploration. Teaching young people about the nature of what science is seem to me to be vital in an increasingly technological world. Solving the problems that humans have created for themselves is going to take people who can understand the science behind claims being made and their validity as well as people who have thinking skills necessary to solve problems in creative ways.

At the back of my mind when planning my lessons is how what I am doing helps my students understand the nature of science a little bit more. By doing this I hope I can build into them a natural curiosity that will help in more contexts than purely science.

What I learn from this reflection is that as I continue to teach my ideas and opinions grow and evolve. My next practical task is to understand STEM: how can maths, science and technology really work together to effectively, and more to the point, do they need to?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad