At the start of a new school year, I remember being excited about showing my Year 5 students our new class website. I showed my students all the different components of the website and with great enthusiasm asked, “What do you think?” I was not expecting the rather honest response that I received. “Well Ms. Mac, it is kinda boring.” After accepting the initial shock, there were a few different ways I could approach it, but I felt it was best to ask the students for some feedback and suggestions.
Immediately, a flurry of ideas came bursting out of the mouths of students as we generated a list of possible ‘updates’ to our class site. From there, they started breaking off into teams to work on different aspects of the site from creating page banners to redesigning the resource buttons to creating an introduction video to the individuals in our class. The website came alive the moment the students began designing it to reflect who they were as a community.
The next day, the students wanted to brainstorm jobs they could have in the classroom and instantly the role of ‘techsperts’ was established. This role would be for two students each month who would provide support and be the first person of contact for students to seek out with their questions when it came to technology. No longer were students asking me ‘How do I….’, which allowed me to support other students in need. Together, the students would problem solve their technological issues, brainstorm creative ways to display their findings and provide constructive feedback to improve each other’s digital work. Digital peer coaching empowered the students to use their knowledge to help others while consolidating their own understanding of the knowledge and skills.
Students also wanted to make sure their parents knew what was going on in their class each week, but from their eyes and not just the teacher’s. To solve this problem, they created weekly slideshows called the 5EM Files that were embedded in the website, with each student having a slide to design in whatever way they wanted and to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions about the week. Every week, students created these slides without any support from me as the teacher, but yet the quality and enthusiasm for creating and sharing grew with each passing week.
As the year progressed, the students continued to push the boundaries of expectations by using technology as a means to express themselves and support each other. This happened daily in classes with students creating individual inquiry presentations to share, digital posters to advocate for a cause, developing their class assembly featuring a fully green-screened newscast with commercials and even students teaching lessons to the class. Technology was never the main learning intention, but through technology the students were empowered to show who they were and share their knowledge and abilities.
Role of the Teacher
In these moments, it was evident that I could not be the teacher I once was and needed to change the role I played in the class community to support the facilitation of learning and creating. As students worked, I moved around the room asking questions, acting as a soundboard and giving small suggestions where necessary. No longer was there one teacher, but a room full of learners and educators who were willing to share and build upon each other’s ideas. The biggest change in my role was to not say no when students had an idea, but rather ask them how they were going to do it and support them in the process from planning to executing.
The Importance of Student Voice
When students are given choices and have an opinion that matters, they are invested and engaged with what they are learning. By allowing my students to take the lead, through the use of technology, they began taking ownership and constructing an environment that was conducive to the collective community. Every student knows more about something than the teacher. Often, it is just a matter of tapping into the community of experts that will allow these students to shine. It has also been shown that encouraging student voice influences academic achievement. The use of technology helps students find the right medium to showcase their knowledge and share with others.
Developing student leaders with technology will not happen overnight. Rather, it is about developing a culture of collaboration and community in the classroom. Start by asking students what it is they want to do and what their opinions are about technology use and then, most importantly, actually listen.
Students are full of great ideas, so even just allowing them to explore the possibility of one idea might be the spark that brings out the digital leaders in a classroom. This could be as simple as asking them what resources they want to use to publish their writing or if an expert with website design would support another student who is just starting out.
By providing students opportunities for agency in their classroom, they will develop a multitude of transdisciplinary skills. Students may collaborate online through Google Docs or Padlets or design innovative projects requiring organisation, time management and problem solving. They often develop critical research skills as they navigate the digital world through the curation resources and notetaking. They might demonstrate their communication skills through developing a public service announcement video and publishing on YouTube or writing a blog together. These skills can be explored both digitally and by interacting with others in a learning space. Allowing them to explore which way works best for them will lead students towards a path of staying motivated to create and being curious.
Extending the Opportunities
As I transitioned to an education technology coach role and out of the classroom this year, it was important that I still found ways to support student leadership beyond the classroom setting. I had seen so much growth in the students’ technology skills as well as immense personal growth through encouraging them to take the lead that I wanted to find suitable avenues to continue to support them.
After talking to some students, a digital media team was developed in the primary school. While I had some ideas of things the students may want to do, I first asked them what they wanted this group to become. The students decided to create weekly webcasts featuring the news for the week, special features and upcoming events that they would plan, film and edit. The key to the success of this group was ensuring all students had a role that was valued and roles that they could rotate through so everyone could try every aspect of the team if they wanted to. From anchor to editor, videographer to director, everyone was valued in this inclusive community. They also filmed each primary school assembly to share with the parent community on the school website. Throughout the year, other projects have taken form, such as creating posters for school events, banners for exhibitions and photo slideshows that are played on screens around campus. When guest educators visited the school from overseas, it was powerful to give students the opportunity to share how technology impacts their educational experience. Their words from experience were far more meaningful than mine, as these students are the ones using the digital resources and tools every day to promote and explore their inquiries, learning from their mistakes, growing and ideating.
Technology continues to be an amazing tool for supporting student needs and bringing out the best in students. Student leaders can demonstrate confidence in developing who they are within a community and as individuals. With a little support from a teacher to encourage the exploration of innovative ideas, students can flourish as incredible student leaders.
*Originally published on Education Technology Solutions at :https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2016/08/making-students-voices-heard-leadership-digital-age/
Classroom management focuses on creating a positive classroom culture where students can learn. A number of factors play into this such as discipline, building trust, routine, learning spaces, and transitions. Classroom management can make the different between a good teacher and a great teacher.
There are 5 elements of classroom management as outlined in Chai, Lim, & Pek (2005). that teachers need to consider when integrating technology into lessons.
1. Supporting activities for ICT tools
Learning technology tools to complete an activity adds another level of complexity to the learning for students even when technology is a great way to engage students. When I am teaching a class where I am introducing students to a new technology, I model how to go about doing it and then allow them the opportunity to try. This is aligned with Hudson & Notman's paper (2001) that suggests teachers should model a few technology skills to begin the lesson. Often I also give students time to explore a tool first and allow them to inquire into what the technology tool can do. Then we share what we've learnt and ask questions about things we still can not figure out.
2. Role of the teacher
Teachers are no longer the only source of information with ICT and a class of students. Thus, teachers become the facilitators of learning(Chan, Lim & Pek, 2005, p.410). I always make sure I can see the students' screens easily and walking around to monitor students' online behaviours. Visual timers and sound cues help to cut down on transition times in order to make the learning the focus and not the time getting ready for learning. I also ensure my materials are ready prior to the start of the lesson in order to have a lesson that can flow from one part to the next.
3. Role of student helpers
In my class, I have always had student helpers. The students in my class generate the jobs at the beginning of the year that we feel are needed to help the class run. Each week I would move the helping hands so that everyone had each job at some point in the year to make it fair. The students take their roles very seriously which helps students get on with the learning.
4. Technical support for teachers
The best technical support in my classroom always came from my students. Each week I had two students designated as the techsperts. There role was to help other students and myself solve any technical issues they were having. This meant the students would go to the techsperts before coming to me for support, creating a culture of collaboration and community of support. If necessary, we could also call on the tech department for support.
5. Establishment of rules and procedures
It is important to set the tone of the classroom from the beginning of the year. Each year, the students create their essential agreements together and sign them stating they will abide by them. Having students come up with the essential agreements mean they have more ownership over the class and more responsibility to follow them.
For ICT, we have our acceptable use policy that we also use and abide by. Students read it with their parents and return it to school signed. Online safety is important and students understand that if they are unable to follow the agreement, they may not be able to use technology in their learning experiences. These agreements are reviewed and reflected on regularly throughout the year.
Chai, C., Lim, C., & Pek, M. (2005). Classroom management issues in information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated learning environments: back to the basics. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 14(4), 391-414.
Hudson, R. & Notman, H. (2001). Challenges of ICT resourced classes and helpful routines: Lessons from teaching practice. Computer Education, 99, p. 24-26.
Collaborative learning has many benefits in an educational setting such as developing social skills, a deeper understanding of knowledge and soft skills (Chai & Tan, 2010). However, like with any learning approach, there are challenges for both teachers and students. For teachers to effectively facilitate collaborative learning, they must be willing to loosen the structure of the classroom. The teacher cannot be in control of groupings, specific group roles and learning expectations, rather, it is important that the students in the group feel like they have ownership in the learning process as a group and agency (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p.8). One way for both teachers and students to deal with this issue is for teachers to begin with cooperative learning and gradually work towards collaborative learning through scaffolding.
For students, a number of issues often present themselves during collaborative learning. Often students feel there is an unequal workload in the group with some people taking leadership roles and other students slacking. During the cooperative learning, teachers should model how to divide group tasks, model ideal group roles and how to reflect as a group throughout the process for the next steps. Teachers can also support students in how to give critical feedback in a positive way. If these strategies are developed during cooperative learning, they will carry over into collaborative learning as strategies to be used by the students.
Often students get off task during collaborative learning tasks (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p. 7). As the teacher, I will go around monitoring the different group and have conversations about what they have done, where they are at, and where they are going. I don't provide too much feedback, rather, ask questions that make them think to guide them moving forward. Often groups will have a timekeeper and someone to monitor task behaviour which also helps the group move forward productively.
With collaborative learning, conflict is enviable to arise at some point. Perhaps there are different perspectives of where to go next, someone isn't pulling their weight or things have been forgotten at home and therefore productivity is at a standstill. These are excellent opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving skills. For me, I always try to get the students to talk through their problems first. We spend a lot of time near the beginning of the year stressing how to express how you are feeling with ' I statements' instead of pointing blame. If students still struggle after a period of time, I support them by mediating the situation but mostly letting them talk. It is important that the students work through the situation together so that they feel they have autonomy in the resolution process.
It is important for the teacher to facilitate a positive collaborative community from the beginning of the year and cultivate this type of culture. From there, teachers can facilitate cooperative learning and through a gradual release of responsibility and scaffolding, shift the ownership of learning to the students in collaborative learning.
Chai, C. S., and Tan S. C. (2009). Professional Development of Teachers for Computer‐Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) through Knowledge Building. Teacher College Records, 111(5), 1296‐1327.
Sing, C.C., Wei-Ying, L., Hyo-Jeong, S. & Mun C. H. (2011). Advancing collaborative learning with ICT: conception, cases and design. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/advancing%20collaborative%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf
I have to say this was one of the most unsuspected and unplanned learning engagement I have done with my students, but was definitely was one of the most fun ones. Last week, my students were watching a few videos about buildings, structures and environmental factors architects needed to consider when planning and building in various locations around the world. One of the videos featured Hurricane Sandy and showed the effects it had on various buildings. One of my kiddos asked, “What makes a building ‘hurricane proof’? What makes a building not get destroyed in a hurricane?” Of course, when a student has an inquiry, we usually go about investigating so this was just another one of those days. At that point it was made known, the hurricane would be here in 3 days.
First the students broke into teams of 5. I am still amazed at how well my 9-year-olds can make groups. Ever since our design thinking and inventions unit at the start of the year, they see the value in creating diverse groups. WIthout teacher support, they make sure there is varying abilities, boys and girls, and unique perspectives. They choose not to work with their best friends and understand that by making these decisions they can make the best teams that can solve any problems.
Once the teams were established, they started to do their research. They brainstormed questions that would be necessary for the investigation such as what happens during a hurricane, what materials are best for structures in hurricanes, etc. and documented them in a shared Google Doc. From there, they began their research. Each student in the group was responsible for different questions as well as keeping a list of references they used to solve their answers. Some groups even colour coded who did what to help them self-monitor if they were each contributing equally to the gathering of research notes.
From there, they pulled the keywords out from their research that would need to be included in their design before creating blueprints that they drew by hand. One group even drew their building from 5 perspectives so they could have a well thought out plan. When they had finished their sketch, they had to meet with me briefly to explain some of their design decisions in the sketch. I was amazed by the thought and detail they went into for their structures. One group thought about being inspired by the Gherkin with a rounded building so the wind would curve around it, Another group had the building on stilts in case there was flooding. The final group created a basement for safety with reinforced walls in the basement with lining to prevent water from seeping in. There were inclined planes for water to run away from the building, multiple exits for if there was something blocking it and a variety of different materials used that they felt would be best to minimize damage.
Then they got to the building process. The students were allowed to use any materials they wanted to construct their buildings. We used recycled materials primarily as well as other resources that were found around the classroom. I loved watching them as they talked through their disagreements in designs, working collaboratively and inclusive of all group members.
Finally, it was hurricane day. I walked into class still unsure of how it was going to play out and no real plan on how to make it happen but sometimes creativity strikes and you roll with it. We had a video with sound effects on the projector as a visual and hurricane sirens as a warning for the members of the community. It was time to see if these buildings would hold. Every student played a role in creating the hurricane. Some students were the storm chasers who used iPods to video document what was happening and finding different angles to capture the storm. Other students were the fierce winds with large sheets of cardboard or boards used to create the wind. Finally, we had students who were the rainstorm who would toss water at the buildings. Hurricane Mac was intense. As the hurricane progressed, debris (in the form of pencil crayons) began to be thrown about and hitting the buildings.
When the storm had passed, we looked at our buildings to see how they had stood up against the storm. Luckily they were all pretty much intact. We had a lot of discussion about why some were better than others, how some materials had been more durable than others, etc. First the teams debriefed individually and then they shared with the whole class. To wrap it up, the students created a written report about the experience from beginning to end including all of their reflections, photographs and experiences.
It was the absolute best way to begin our Monday morning (even with the bit of mess we created). The experience brought about so many questions and inquiries. The students worked collaboratively to investigate and create an experience that was memorable. I honestly think they are still shocked of how we did the simulation in the end. But the smiles on their faces was completely worth every second.
Sometimes teaching can’t be all planned out. Sometimes you just have to jump into the storm, get a little bit messy and be ready for whatever is thrown your way.
We have had a lot of success in my classroom with students constructing their own learning by creating online courses, doing each other's courses, assessing each other through the courses and also assessing themselves. Giving the students this much ownership in their own learning was really empowering for them and allowed them to explore their understanding of the topics in ways that made the most sense to them.
We were wrapping up the online courses one day and the students were completing their self-reflection. A few students had already finished and were working on some independent inquiries of their own off in one corner of the room. As sauntered over to see what they were doing, which then became about a half hour discussion with us on the floor and more students joining as they finished to brainstorm ideas for our next unit about buildings and structures.
All it takes is a simple question. What would you like to do?
From there, we started to brainstorm different ideas for how we might build, hands-on activities and online programmes. I had one student who had been learning SketchUp quite a bit at home in his personal time and offers to lead some lessons about how to use it. By the following day, I had a full Google presentation sent to me with the lessons he had prepared.
My students even created what they thought would be a good summative task. They wanted to have to build a structure or building given a specific region with certain conditions they would have to adapt for. As they built, they wanted the opportunity to show their thinking and document the process. Finally, they wanted to share their building and provide a rationale for each of the components of their structure. This was essentially what I was planning on having them do themselves at the end of the unit but one thing changed that I wouldn’t have been able to give them - Student Ownership.
The students were empowered to create a summative that was their own, something they wanted to do. They are more likely to be engaged in this assessment and produce quality work because it was something they created. What I have learnt this year is that when I allow my students to guide our classroom, they always lead me down the path that will extend their learning most.
I used to want to always set my students up for success. If a graphic organiser or two was needed to push them in the right direction, I would. If they needed to review, review, review, we would. If we needed specific tools to do an activity successfully one way, I had what we needed ready. It's not that I've stopped supporting them where they need it but now it's what they want, when they need it and how they want it.
What my students like to remind me every day, they (collectively) outsmart me any day of the week. So when I give them a task without a lot of parameters, they find a way to make it happen. Just like they did when they took over my class site or took it upon themselves to build class lessons or how they built their courses or support each other through their obstacles.
Today was no other. First thing on a Monday morning I told my students they needed to figure out a way to brainstorm different building materials for buildings and structures around the world. They could sort, write, create this brainstorm however they wanted but I was not going to be involved and they had to do it as a whole group activity. More than anything, it was a way for them to come together as a class to start the week but of course, they didn't know that.
We have worked really hard as a class to develop our abilities to work as a team, create diverse teams and try out different roles. We have talked about not always working with your friends, highlighting each other's strengths and supporting each others' areas of growth. We've talked about planning, process and final products. Most importantly we've talked about how their voice as students matter.
So today when I said go. I had one student tell me they needed time to discuss and brainstorm a strategy before they could begin. I asked how long they needed and got a response for 2 minutes. They discussed as a class of 15 different strategies to achieve the results building on each others' ideas. At the end of the 2 minutes, they had lined themselves up in numbered order, markers in hand and asking for 15 minutes to complete the task. In succession, they each wrote one idea on the paper and also shouted it out so others could hear before the next person took their turn. Fairness was a top priority for them and each student had 3 turns. In the last 2-3 minutes, they then asked for any other additional ideas that had not already been shared.
I could have led that discussion. I could've facilitated who was able to share their ideas and in what order. I could've asked them to write their ideas on a post-it or just raise their hand to share. But I didn't have to. It was fascinating to step back and watch them work.
It was certainly not the way I would've done it but what I've come to find is that they will figure it out. Whether I'm there or not, they will find a way to get through the challenge - independently or collectively. Sometimes you need to just trust your students, let there be tension, friction, moments of chaos and blurred lines. The clouds will clear and what you are left with is a result that was created by the students, that they are invested in and they can walk away from knowing they had a part in constructing their own learning.
Documenting one class' approach to creating online courses for students by students...
Things had been going well in the research phase of our online courses with the kids really getting into taking notes and using lots of good sources of information. Today we began working on putting the content online and today was the first day I felt we were going nowhere. In an hour and a half of working on it, I began to doubt this idea of students creating their own online course. I doubted my kids but in reality, I was doubting myself.
With all that my students had done this year in terms of student voice, I thought this was the next step and when I wasn't seeing their research translate onto their sites today, I didn't think it was going to work. I thought this wasn't the right approach and my students might not even be fully understanding the content. The question of 'Do I just abandon this project?' kept playing over and over and over in my head. It was heartbreaking to think this idea might not be working the way 'I' want it to.
Before I headed off to my dodgeball CCA today, I had a brief conversation with my teammate who followed up with an email full of support and suggestions of how I could reroute if I had to. Still then, I wasn't sure to jump ship or stay on course and plough ahead.
It had been a frustrating afternoon, to say the least. But when I sat down at my computer tonight to look through a bit of the student's work, something kind of changed. I read through a few of my students' weekly emails to me. Every single email mentioned the project and how much fun they were having. They were thrilled to be building a site and working as a team. Every slide on the weekly reflection presentation to parents had a comment about how excited they were about the project or that they wanted to do more of it or how much they were learning or how much fun they were having.
Maybe it's not quite going the way I had expected. Maybe it won't really work out in the end. Maybe I can change it up a bit and figure out a slightly different approach. But does it matter if they don't learn every single fact about ecosystems in the next 4 weeks? Maybe not. Today I had students searching for images that had permission to be reused and modified instead of just any pictures. I had students helping students and trying new strategies for presenting their work. I had students wanting to find out information about things that interested them within a broader topic and paraphrasing notes. Those are skills that will last beyond the unit and end of the day.
When it comes down to it, it's not all about the content, maybe all that really matters is that my students are excited to be there and they are having fun.
This year my focus has really been about student voice. In everything that I do in my classroom, I really want it to be about what the students want, not what I want. Because of this mentality, I have seen increased engagement and quality of work produced. When they choose how they do their work, they want to do better. It has fully changed our classroom dynamic for the better.
The end of our last unit was hard for me. It was our How We Organise Ourselves unit about food systems. The whole of Year 5 was going to have a celebration of learning through a food market where students created a food dish using what they had learnt throughout our unit to make informed decisions and create a recipe with a rationale.
I always share with my students the idea that I was thinking of and then ask "What do you think?" Normally, this turns into a major brainstorming session and what we are left with in the end is always better than I could come up with on my own. Needless to say, when the idea of the FoodFest was introduced to my students, this happened again.
However, the challenge that arose later was that we weren't just creating a market of my class' work and food, but rather all of Year 5 and therefore there had to be a consensus across all of the teachers to allow for consistency. Thus, I had to be flexible and go with the majority on some things even when I knew my students had a different vision.
While I understand that as a teacher you have to say no sometimes to your students, it is hard to say no when you are in agreement with them. So many of the details my students wanted to included in the setup of the food market such as including money, food rating on the spot, a different classroom setup and more, were not included in the final celebration.
The students still had a great morning celebrating with their parents, but in my mind, it wasn't the best celebration we had done to date. Why? Because the students hadn't had enough say in the final product and decisions were made that did not include them.
The funniest part was when the teachers joined together and reflected on the event and how we could change it, every single suggestion of improvement was identical to what my class had originally suggested, which of course was frustrating because I knew I could trust my students to have done it their way if we had of let them.
I actually went to my class the next day and had a discussion with my class about how their ideas really matter to me and I prefer when we do things their way. To which I got the response, "Of course Ms. Mac! When you tell us an idea, we just build and build and build on it until it's a super idea of awesomeness!" I couldn't agree more.
So as we begin our new unit, I have a very big focus on making sure my students do it in the way they ultimately think is best for them. And I have a sneaky suspicion they will remind me if I don't.
Public speaking - to some, one of the most feared things in the world of education. Whether it is being called upon unexpectedly or having to give an oral presentation in front of the class, it is often associated with anxiety, butterflies in the stomach, panic, uneasiness and, quite frankly. can be terrifying for anyone.
I still remember having to write speeches in grade 3 and present them in front of the class for the first time. What if you forgot what you were supposed to say? What if you had to read from your cue cards instead of doing it from memory? What if people didn't like what you had to say or even laughed at you? What if you didn't want to picture everyone in their underpants in order to calm down and relax?
The one thing I have to say is that it really does get better with practice. The next time I had to present I wrote a speech in Grade 6 about water. The night before the written part was due, I had all the facts together but just couldn't piece it together the right way. I remember sitting down with my mom and her helping me plan out an order that made sense, told a story and would flow. She helped me rearrange my plan to have it unfold as a normal day and all of the different places a person would interact with water. When I got up to do that speech, it was easy because we had plotted out a path that would make it easy to remember and not be stressful. Who would've thought I end up getting to represent my school at the public speaking contest in our city? But it didn't stop. The following two years I was able to represent my school again and again. Each time I gave a speech, it got easier and I became more confident sharing in front of an audience. I began to enjoy it more and it was almost like I was in another world when I stepped on the stage to speak. It also helped that I had my number one fan in the audience cheering me on, my mom.
Grade 9 came and the unexpected happened and my mom passed away to cancer. The public speaking project was something that had kind of become a tradition for us each year. I had to decide if I even wanted to present a speech that year, do the research as normal, and have to figure out some kind of plan that made sense all on my own, with no guidance. So that year I decided to speak about something that I was really passionate about and mattered to me...my mom. I did a speech about cancer, the impacts of it on families and even shared a poem I wrote about cancer the night my mother died. Perhaps it was a way for me to say goodbye, come to terms with what was changing in my life or just do something I had learnt to find comfort in. The lessons she had taught me and the steps we would do together to plan it out were so familiar and comforting even when alone. But after I had done my speech that year, a part of me didn't want to share anymore and the door closed to my voice being heard in many ways.
Fast forward to this year. Encouraged (or rather pushed a bit by others), it was time that I start letting my own voice be heard again. I first co-presented at the Singapore American School who hosted the EdTechTeam Singapore Summit featuring Google Apps for Education back in September. Even though I was terrified and was up all night worrying about it, changing slides and reviewing what I wanted to say, it was easy to talk about something else I had grown passionate about in the last year or so - the use of technology in the classroom.
I went back to my class after that presentation and shared the experience with my students. It was a big deal to me to present at such an amazing conference and I started to wonder how my students felt about public speaking themselves so I asked them for their thoughts. Most didn't like it. They said they never had and it was a scary thing to stand up in front of their peers. They said they felt really nervous when they had to present something, just like me.
So I decided that if my mom could get me to conquer my nerves when it came to public speaking, maybe there was hope I could do the same thing for my students. Presentations became a much more prominent thing in my classroom. First, it was just little things they had found and they shared more after an activity. Then it became students doing a bit of research on a topic before sharing. I was looking for small ways for my students to share their ideas in a safe environment where they wouldn't feel those nerves and fears kicking in.
Finally, the moment that made the biggest impact was when we held a mini exhibition for students to share their independent research projects. We first presented to each other, then to parents, administration and other students into our class to share with. After the event, I asked my students again about presenting and one of the biggest things was that they wanted to present more. It wasn't so scary when they were confident about what they were talking about. It wasn't so terrifying when they saw how proud their parents were of them and their work. It didn't create anxiety when they knew everyone was supporting each other and they had worked so hard that they knew their topic so well. To be honest, they didn't want to stop sharing either. I think we spent about 2 days presenting and my students just kept inviting more people to come - their buddy class, a Year 6, teachers they had last year, administration - they wanted to keep talking about the work they had done and their process of getting to this point.
From there, we began sharing our e-portfolios orally to the class more and talking about what makes a good presentation. My students would give each other feedback about glows and grows and set targets for the next time they were to present. I would actually not provide too much feedback for this but rather let my students help each other grow. Now, it's almost time for parents to come back to celebrate our next end of the unit and it's the students asking for the parents to come in so they can present to them not the teachers saying the parents are invited.
Through all of this, I've tried to continue to present as well each time sharing with my students my own glows and grows as I develop in this area as well. I think my students have a different level of respect when they know you are doing the same thing they are and experiencing similar feelings. Whether it is a small 5-minute presentation or a full hour session, I know presenting is helping me develop in new ways, just like my students. It's something I force myself to do, even though I'd be just as happy listening from the audience. I know as I continue to move forward in my international teaching career, the importance of sharing, leading training sessions and presenting will become more and more a part of what I do.
Public speaking may never come naturally to me - I hate being put on the spot in public, big crowds, being the centre of attention and being put in a position to be easily judged - I'm an introvert, to say the least. But it's easy to talk about things in my career that I am so passionate about - my school, what I do in my class and most of all my students. But just like my students, I'm learning to enjoy sharing more. I can only hope that in my quest to find my own confidence to share my voice again that maybe I've helped even just one student find theirs as well.
Most days I come to work with a plan of what’s to come. Yet somehow it never happens - in the best way possible. So many days my students railroad my plans with THEIRS - and it is quite frankly what I love most.
Take today for example. I sat down in my classroom around 11am with my students all ready to share our summative assessment task for our How We Organise Ourselves unit about Food Systems. Simply put, the task was to create a recipe using procedural writing for a cookbook and provide a detailed rationale for the meal and choices of ingredients based on what they know. They were to demonstrate their knowledge as a consumer and document the reasoning behind their choices. We had thought they could then make and share their recipes one day in class. A good idea that has simply inspired the 'want to get started NOW', when I hadn’t planned on it until early-mid next week.
I had only got out that we were going to create recipes when the ideas came spewing from their mouths. Of cours,e they wanted to invite their parents first and foremost. Ever since we first invited our parents to our end of unit celebration for our first unit, my students have found sharing their work with their parents to be one of their top priorities forthe following units. Many teachers struggle to build that connection to home but when students are proud of their hard work they want to share it with an audience that is meaningful - who better than their parents.
My class also likes to create an atmosphere and experience for their parents when they share their work. Then they decided they wanted to make food stalls where they would offer samples to their guests. The idea of a market was a highly popular idea. Each booth could have a name and a display of some sort about their meal. They want to create a class menu for their parents with a map of the food market so parents could easily decide what they wanted to try and where they could find it. At the booths, the displays could display videos of how to cooking shows or commercials, animations or other ways of demonstrating their understanding.
One of my favourite ideas was the idea of connecting it to our new math unit about data handling. We had ONLY started the unit the period before and already they were thinking that they could have parents complete a survey to show their rating of the dish on a 1-5 scale for overall appeal, I had a student even asking me how we could use technology to create graphs so when the survey was being done it could be updated in real time.Once they gathered their data, after the market they could graph their individual data and then compare their findings with the other dishes in the class to see how their dishes rated compared to others. There was also talk about using a survey to help them decide which dish they wanted to create to begin with. If they surveyed the type of dish people liked or the flavours that were most popular or the cuisine people liked most first, then they could use that data in deciding which meal they wanted to prepare for the market. I was surprised and amazed to hear these students creating their own transdisciplinary experiences and wanting to use math in a meaningful real life context.
One thing I have learned is to let them go with it because as a class, they just build upon each others’ ideas ata rapid pace. It’s definitely part of their learning during our design thinking studies in our inventions unit and they’ve just taken off with it. It was hard to not adding my own ideas, but making it all about them is what it NEEDS to be.
I can’t even count the number of times this happens any more whether it’s redesigning our class website, creating and leading their own lessons, planning an assembly and parent classroom experience, taking a small homework assignment and turning it into a full exhibition or changing any other lesson, assignment or summative task on the fly. They make it their own and they make it better than anything I would have planned on my own. They take their learning into their own hands and they make me a better teacher. But at the end of the day, they teach me more than I teach them and that, I can’t be more thankful for.