Digital teaching tips & tricks, ideas, examples, and general thoughts and reflections. Follow my Inquiry.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Why a reading inquiry?

This year I have decided to inquire into reading.
Image result for readingThere are many reasons why I have chosen to inquire into reading this year, and I will do my best to explain my thinking throughout this blog post. However, the biggest reason for my decision to focus on reading has got to be passion.

I have discovered that I am really passionate about kids reading books. By books, I mean real books. Not PM books. Not school journals. Not some badly written story based on a movie or comic book hero with a cool cover. But real-life chapter books. Books written by wonderful and inspiring authors. Books that make kids excited to read the next page. Books that kids want to tell their friends about. Books they want to tell the world about.

I have my 2018 class to thank for this newly realised passion. I had made the decision last year, at the beginning of the year in my new role of Team Leader, that I was going to shake things up a little bit and change our Team's morning routine. The existing routine had been to engage in silent reading for the first 20 minutes of the day. I decided that I wanted our kids to start the day with Mihi and Waiata to match the assembly structure, and a more similar structure to the rest of the school. This meant that the silent reading was to be slotted somewhere else in the day. However being ILE's, this proved to be difficult thing to synchronise and in result didn't happen.
Later on in the year I was reading Roald Dahl's Matilda to the class and realised how much my class were enjoying the book - Please read more about this here. They were absolutely enthralled with the story, and couldn't wait for me to read more each day. I felt absolutely inspired by this and made it my sub-mission (or sub-inquiry) to explore this. By the end of the year there was absolute Roald Dahl fandom in my class. Many of the kids having read 3 or 4 of his books. You can read more about this here and here. On top of the Roald Dahl obsession (that I was heavily encouraging) there was the exploration of other authors and books all the time. Silent reading, in a classroom that wasn't silent wasn't something I had previously thought possible. However, if the love of reading is there, it will happen.

Anecdotally I have a tonne of evidence to support my hunch that this was improving students reading outcomes. But, I also have the running record results of my target group I had focussed on that supports this as well. 

I had been following this group in particular for maths, and happened to notice a large gain in almost all of their reading results as well.

I want to know now, was this the chapter book reading that contributed to this? Was it the regular reading instruction? Or a combination? What ever it was, it was an inspiring result. Something I would gladly try to recreate again.

This year we have began doing school-wide professional development into reading instruction. This has come as a result to seeing patterns and trends throughout the school, and in fact the larger Manaiakalani community of declining reading results. This has been recognised not only by our Pt England Staff, but that of the Woolf Fisher Research centre who analyse our results and feedback to us.
Independent reading is an important part of an effective literacy programme, and therefore inquiring into it feels like a necessary part of this "push" into reading instruction. I know that other classes in my team, and likely other area's of the school could also use some help with this. Therefore if my inquiry can be useful to other teachers, and ultimately benefit our learners. Then this very much feels like the right thing to do.

Image result for 8.5There seems to be a common level that our kids get stuck on. Our team of Year 5 & 6 learners seem to find it really hard to move past the reading age of 8.5 (PM Levels 23-24). At least, every year we seem to have a large number of kids at this level - a higher proportion than any other level. Once they move on from these two PM levels, there is a much more even spread. It's almost like their is a bottle neck situation, that once they are past there is more freedom to improve.
I want to look into this, as I again have a large group across the team at this level, higher than any other level. I don't know why, but I believe that it is a problem we can solve!

2019 Inquiry

2019 Inquiry: How can the encouragement and promotion of independent chapter book reading contribute to student reading outcomes?

The Manaiakalani Community of Learning is working together on the task of inquiring into our 6 achievement challenges.

In 2019 for my inquiry I have selected the following CoL achievement challenge
#3. Lift the achievement in Reading for all students, with a particular focus on boys and Māori students (both genders) years 1-13

I will be labelling my posts as I update my inquiry throughout the year to make the content easy to access with the labels #2019 Inquiry, #Love of Reading, and #Silent Reading


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

2018 Inquiry: Impact story



What happened for the learners?
My learners had to get used to a completely new way of learning maths.
They learnt to carefully read, talk about, argue, listen to others, and communicate their ideas about a problem
...before attempting to solve it.
They learnt to attempt new problems in groups of 3-4, and insist that their group work together and share their thinking
...before finally agreeing on a solution (or an attempt at a solution)
They learnt to share their ideas and explain their thinking back to a much larger group (15-20 learners)
...before listening to those of another group (or vice versa)
And they had to learn to be able to do all of this before I (the teacher) would offer them much in the way of support with the problem.
Before considering anything else, I think that this alone is a huge thing to have happened for my learners, and I couldn't be more proud of the way they have taken these lessons on.
There are other changes to their maths learning that I will briefly list:

  • Half class groups
  • Mixed ability grouping
  • Flexible groups (i.e. changed regularly)
  • 40-60 minutes lessons
  • Only 2 formal maths lessons a week

Achievement?
To be fair to the inquiry I think student achievement has to be talked about in two different areas. Maths achievement and Dialogic capabilities.

Maths achievement - The ultimate goal of the inquiry. 
Short answer: achievement gain = yes, accelerated shift = no.
I had a target group in mind for this inquiry. 7 learners working around the same level (Late Lv 2/ Early Lv 3). Their results were mixed. These mixed results matched the rest of my class as well.

Dialogic capabilities - What was originally supposed to be the vehicle for achievement.
At the beginning of the inquiry I never thought of dialogic capabilities or skills as something that needed to be achieved, instead I thought of them as the necessary tool or vehicle that would drive the maths achievement. In most regards this holds true, however what I didn't anticipate was the amount of learning that would need to happen (dialogic learning), in order to use it as the tool for maths achievement. As stated above this learning was massive, and although was not something that I formally recorded or captured, that changes in the class behaviour and practice is very noticeable. Does this mean that every kid became capable of these skills, unfortunately no. In fact it became more and more noticeable which leaners continued to stay quiet and allow others to speak. 
Short answer: Dialogic increase = BIG YES, Whole class: no

What evidence do I have of this happening?
As stated above I had a target group in mind for this inquiry. See their PAT results below
As you can see the results are positive, however mixed. What you might find interesting to know is that the learners from this group who had the most growth, also showed more development in their Dialogic capabilities. This pattern was reflected across the rest of the class, however there were many outliers that did not fit to this correlation. i.e Some of my least talkative learners still had big gains in their maths learning. So although there appears to be some evidence that good mathematical discourse and critical discussion can lead to gains in mathematical understanding and achievement, perhaps the learners who listen and reflect on the discourse internally can gain understanding just as well. 
I also noted that there appeared to be a similar pattern of achievement from these learners in their literacy. How and if this inquiry is connected, or whether the literacy gain helped to lift the maths is yet to be determined...
Dialogic capabilities
Unfortunately this was not recorded or captured throughout the inquiry. Having seen the achievement gains in this area I wish that I had, although I'm not entirely sure what this would have looked like. Perhaps a simple audio or video recording that could have acted as a comparison could have sufficed.

Language acquisition
The acquisition and use of precise mathematical language was an intended part of this inquiry and again unfortunately was not captured well. I battled with the best way to have achieved this but kept getting stuck. For example a pre and post vocab test would have been simple when starting a new unit. But it ran the risk of teaching to a test, rather than allowing the vocab to be learned authentically and needs based as part of their mathematical reasoning. However, anecdotally I believe that the student-talk IS helping the acquisition of language among the students. At least you can hear them questioning and correcting each others language throughout the lessons. This was most noticeable when working with decimals “wait you mean tenths, not hundredths” “its not 5 its 5 tenths” etc. I also believe that the discourse that the students engaged in greatly impacted their understanding in our geometry unit, where the students argued over whether they needed to solve the perimeter, area, or volume etc.

What did I do to make this happen?

Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities (DMIC), is a complete overhaul of our mathematical teaching practice. It involves spending more time allowing learners to attempt problems collaboratively without teacher support, to share their thinking, and listen to each other's ideas. It involves the teacher listening to the students and identifying misconceptions that can be addressed at the end of the lesson. 
This meant that in my practice I needed to adopt the use of the talk moves in maths discussions, and allow the students time to wrestle with the problems on their own. Identifying and predicting misunderstandings and misconceptions during the planning process. Then later responding to students needs during the “connect phase” of the lesson.
Instead of being grouped by level or ability, the learning groups are of mixed ability allowing students to learn from each other, and not have their learning capped by their groups achievement “level”. Lessons last 40mins to an hour, rather than 20 to 30 mins.
Instead of taking 2-3 maths groups per day, I only take 1 a day instead because of the time constraints. 



 Wonderings for what next?
At this point in time I’m not sure that I can claim that the inquiry has led to accelerated student achievement in maths. However there has been a growth in student dialogic capabilities in maths. 
It does appear to be leading towards a growth in mathematical understanding, however I believe that because the dialogic learning needed to come first, that we won’t see the intended the results within this academic year. 
A truer test will be to follow these same students next year (assuming their Year 7 teacher will continue using the DMIC approach in the classroom next year), now that their foundation dialogic skills are already there. Because there are lots of indicators to show that this inquiry is on the right track, at least in line with my initial hypothesis. I’m hearing a lot less “is it a plus” and more questions like “what is it asking us to do” “how do we do that”. 
Another example has been the problem solving ability through dialogic conversations of the students in other curriculum areas. - I have been experimenting with students and different Digital coding applications. I have offered limited support and set challenges for the students to complete (in a similar fashion to their DMIC lessons). Throughout these lessons I have heard the same types of critical discourse and dialogic discussions, that the students use in their maths learning. They are solving complex problems and learning to do things far beyond the guidance I have given them. The students have been allowed to form their own groups and interestingly have followed the DMIC model and naturally formed mixed ability groups. The ‘expert’ students in the class tending to group themselves with less capable peers, rather than teaming up.
The student-talk I believe IS helping the acquisition of language among the students, at least you can hear them questioning and correcting each others language throughout the lessons. This was most noticeable when working with decimals “wait you mean tenths, not hundredths” “its not 5 its 5 tenths” etc. I also believe that the discourse that the students engaged in greatly impacted their understanding in our geometry unit, where the students argued over whether they needed to solve the perimeter, area, or volume.
This is the first time in my short career (5 years) that I have had to really “unlearn” something to change my practice. The DMIC pedagogy is so different to how I had previously been teaching maths that it took me a lot longer than I expected to become proficient at it (and I am still learning and not at the level I hoped to be). Because of this, my own learning journey affected that of the students, it felt like it wasn’t until term 3 that we really started to learn maths again, instead of learning DMIC.
This meant that I didn’t get to see the growth in language that I hoped to see in this inquiry. Yes I saw a growth in dialogic discussion and discourse skills from the students, however these skills were necessary in the first place for me to test my hypothesis. It feels like my work in this inquiry was about setting up the foundations for what I wanted to investigate, rather than actually investigating my theory.
Do I feel like my practice or professional learning has grown in this inquiry cycle - Absolutely yes. I have done lots of work around dialogic conversation before (mostly in literacy), however I have never attempted a complete overhaul of my practice in the way that I have for DMIC. My use of the talk moves, and my ability to set up and maintain group norms has grown. 
There is still a tonne of work that I need to improve in my practice in DMIC, for example; accurately pitching the problems at the right level, tracking all students (including the quiet ones), assessing the students, maintaining group norms, and time management.
There are also parts DMIC pedagogy that I am still yet to fully understand, most notably the mixed ability grouping. This is an area where myself and my team have become very frustrated and stuck in how to meet the needs of all the learners in the group.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Scratch w/ DMIC style groups

Student coding applications (such as Scratch) involve large amounts of problem solving by nature. This means that many of the skills and communication strategies that we have been learning as part of the DMIC approach can cross over.

A problem instead, is that I myself don't have the content knowledge required to help them out. Many of my learners have extended themselves to the same level of proficiency as my myself, or in some cases further than I can go. At first, I thought it this was a barrier that meant I wouldn't be able to do a lot of Scratch until I was up-skilled.

Instead, I have been trying to use aspects of the DMIC approach, and learning alongside my class as one big collaborative Inquiry community.

Our lessons are very exploratory, and can look like peers, groups, or even 'expert-students' running workshops for others students.

The beautiful thing about Scratch in particular, is that it has been designed by Educators to be used for this very purpose, and in this exact way. There is already functions within the programme that let kids make tutorials and search for student made "help sheets" and "tips and tricks" within itself.

Once a new skill has been found or cracked by one our 'experts', it isn't long before the skill is picked up by the other 'experts', and eventually it will filter down throughout the class. Sometimes it's not even an expert who is the first to crack something new.

Although our lessons are not strictly 'DMIC' nor do they contain all the aspects of a 'DMIC lesson', the kids are using the same skills to collaboratively tackle a problem. I hear the talk moves being used across the class, and statements like "can show me how to do make gravity again, I keep getting confused with the y and x axis" are all too common.