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

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Teacher Inquiry: 12welth and Final post for the year

Here is my presentation I gave to my colleagues concluding my inquiry on Follow up Maths activities this year. On reflection I believe my class was a happier, more engaged, more collaborative working space.
Although I was not as happy with my data as I was hoping for, the data does not reflect all the learning that DID take place and only the overall standing against the national standard. The attitude that my students had in the classroom, particularly when working on their follow up activities, and using the strategies they learned during group times, was really nice to see.
I also mentioned another inquiry that I worked on this year as part of my Honours Degree at the University of Auckland.

Friday, 27 November 2015

How students access their learning on our site

We have had a lot of interest in our class site this year. Lots of people have asked how the students navigate and access their learning and what this looks like.

I've recorded a short screencast to show a little bit of how the site works and how a student would use the site.

*To clarify the point about the "Teacher notes" this is mostly my reflections and notes for taking the guided reading lesson. Otherwise all the planning can be found in the task descriptions on the site.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Multiple sound layers in iMovie *purple version

Film Festival time!
Lot's of us from Manaiakalani Schools are currently filming and editing our movies for the 2015 Manaiakalani Film Festival, and I thought I'd share this easy tip I recently learned in iMovie.

Now I'm actually guilty of always bagging on iMovie for how restrictive it is when using sound... I now take back everything i've ever said, because it turns out I just never learnt to use it properly. Yet some of the people I have complained to (who I consider to be semi-experts in iMovie) have never shown me this tip, so I thought it might be worth sharing.

In the past when I've used iMovie I've found it difficult to layer sound. Particularly when trying to use background foley, music, and other sound effects. My problem was I was only using the "Music" area of the timeline. It's the obvious location to drop your sound, however it restricts you to only one sound clip at a time, and means you can't layer other clips such as sound effects.
There is a way around this however, where you attach the sound clip to a specific video clip. This will allow you to layer as many sound clips of sound as you like, and give you a lot more control.
Here's a short screencast to show you what I am talking about.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Teacher Inquiry: e11even

Bit of an update...

Last post I said my focus would be on trying new things, and I thought I would share the two new follow up tasks I have done so far.

Whats my number - Link
This task was copied adapted from Lisa Stickland's programme that I really liked.  Basically the students pick a decimal number of their choice, and show it in a various number of ways throughout the presentation.  It's not a problem solving task, but it's helping my students become more familiar with decimals.

Can I afford it - Link
This task is more cognitively challenging than the 'what's my number' task. It requires the students to figure out how many items they can buy, based on how much money they have to spend.  What's really cool is that it allows students who want to challenge themselves, a little bit more freedom to do so.  This task worked well, however it required a lot more scaffolding than I expected. It will likely be adapted further as I get more feedback from the kids.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Teacher inquiry: No. 10

One of the greatest parts of inquiring into our own practice this year, is having the chance to share and hear from our colleagues,

What I've discovered after our latest inquiry meeting is that it's very easy to get lost in your own little teaching bubble.

...And its been brought to my attention that for a long time now, I've been concerned with 'perfecting' ONE type of follow-up activity with my class, and haven't even really considered the option of trying other ones.

Now as I write this it sounds absolutely ridiculous! hahaha. 

Although I have multiple other tasks my students do as part of their maths follow up, the 'problem solving task' that has featured heavily on this blog has been the only real 'HOT' task that I have been working on.  Reflecting now, I think that because the task is able to be adapted easily to what ever we are doing during our group lessons, perhaps I haven't noticed that its the same style of task again, and again, and again.  However I'm suddenly horrified that perhaps my learners surely have noticed, and how BORING is that!?

So I have a new goal in my inquiry at this point;

TERM 3 = Trying some new things.

To start me off I was very lucky to hear from Lisa (another teacher in the school), who has shared some of her examples.  They are awesome! I can't wait to adapt them to what my own class is doing, and at the level of my kids.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Teacher Inquiry: Post Number Nine

It's term 3 now and over the holidays I was reflecting on my maths follow up,

is it really higher order thinking? it higher order thinking at all?

A simple google search will tell you that,

"Higher-order thinking, known as higher order thinking skills (HOTS), is a concept of education reform based on learning taxonomies (such as Bloom's Taxonomy). The idea is that some types of learning require more cognitive processing than others, but also have more generalised benefits." 
 - Wikipedia

Some of what my learners do is not higher order at all, some of it is even basic wrote learning (such as their timetables), but I think these sorts of tasks have their place in a maths follow up routine. Basic fact learning is vital to the students progress, and lower order rapid recall tasks' are one of the best ways to improve this.

Thats why yet again I turn to my problem solving presentations.

Students are expected to complete one of these a week.  This means they can do it all in one sitting, or they can take their time and do it over a few sessions.  I have seen some success with this, and the students seem to engage with it quite well.
However, I'm still not convinced I am hitting the mark at the "HOT" level, and so I have taken it back to the drawing board.

After hearing Latini (another teacher in the school) present about her inquiry, and hear that she does similar tasks but in Google Draw with her Year 7/8 class.  It got me thinking, perhaps I have my students working in the wrong tool.

With Google Presentations I was asking the students to solve the problems in their book and photograph their working. This works well, but I was thinking of the possibilities that Google Draw creates.  With the potential to portray their working and thinking using text boxes and shapes, I think it gives the students more of a creative experience; "How can I show what I am trying to say", "what would this look like".
This first attempt, doesn't look overly pretty but I think it's still a good start. I was interested to see how the kids took to it.

The instructions on the left give further explanation of what to do. But for the most part it is similar enough to the presentations that the students would need little scaffolding.

The students are asked to read and understand the problem.

Convert the word problem into equation form.

Solve the problem.

And rewrite the equation with the answer.

One student completely understood the task, and got it almost 100% how I wanted it to work. Heres a link to the post she did on her blog.

You can see she has used the drawing tools to create a number line.

She has also explained what she did at the bottom as part of her blog post.

Im really excited about this new idea, and want to see how it pans out.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Teacher Inquiry: Only a little L8

End of Term 2 - I'm now 2 terms into my inquiry, and have just presented to a group of teachers in my school an update on where I am on my journey.

Reflecting on where I am now, I've had to remember that my inquiry is on "Developing independent tasks that require higher order thinking to increase cognitive engagement in maths", and not simply creating a maths problem-solving presentation (which has been quite a large focus in my inquiry thus far).

One thing I realised/ noticed was the with the big focus I was putting onto these presentations, my learners stopped caring about the rest of their follow-up activities.  My learners stopped caring about their Maths whizz and their xtramath.  While my inquiry idea stemmed from moving away from just relying on programmes like these, I did not intend to get rid of or replace them entirely.

Because of this I've decided to put the focus back onto these programmes (while still keeping my presentations).  I have done this in a multiple of ways and have explained in detail in a previous blog post. But since these changes I've now seen my learners dedicated to both their mathswhizz and xtramath programmes, as well as getting their problem solving presentations on their blog.

Next term, I intend to adapt my maths presentations further again. While keeping an eye on how their other activities are going. I need to be careful that I don't substitute basic facts learning for problem solving practice, rather run them alongside each other.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Teacher Inquiry: Lucky number Sleven 7

Not Higher Order Thinking Follow up
....Or at least not really HOT Maths follow up.

My inquiry is around what kind of higher order thinking maths follow up tasks are possible in the classroom. However, I've found sometimes you need a back up that really does keep the students busy, and engaged.

This 8-bit Art fits into our Team inquiry unit and the students have really been enjoying it. I have been using it as an incentive for students to do if they finish their other follow up tasks.
Thought I would share it, and some of the results.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Teacher Inquiry: 6

Super Group
I'm experimenting with combining two of my maths groups together into one giant super group. The idea behind this is to give me more time with my groups when problem solving.
With a bigger group there is more time to unpack the problem. There is more time to hear students thinking, and to help students understand each others thinking. There is also more students to share their thinking, so therefore a bigger pool of ideas.
This is possible because of the way we run our modern learning environment, where most of my maths class are working at about the same ability level.
The challenges of this is I then have a much larger group to manage while on the mat. It also tends to mean I have that group on the mat for much longer than normal, which can run the risk of losing student interest.

Not exclusively Super group
Although these students know they are one big group, they still are split into normal smaller size groups as well. This is because I don't necessarily exclusively take super group sessions and will sometimes switch back to the normal size groups. It also means I have the option to dictate what specific follow up activity I want the two groups within the super group doing. That way I don't have to have half my class doing the same follow up activity at the same time If I don't want to.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Teacher inquiry: The Lost Post 5th post

Lost post indeed...
"Do as I say not as I do" I guess.
If I blogged even a 10th as much as I expect from my students, I would be doing a lot better at this.

There has been a lot of updates in our follow up's for maths this term.

The list on the right is instructions students see for maths time on our Class site.

This is what the students are expected to be doing when they are not with the teacher.

Times tables Practice
We are having a huge push in basic facts at the moment so Students are doing a lot of work on their times tables.
They are expected to do 20 times table questions every day. Handwritten in their maths books. The students are then given access to the answers doc on a Friday, and mark their own.  This has been copied from another teacher in the class, and so far has been working really well. Students seem to enjoy using their pencil and paper, and wrote learning times tables is really starting to show in their problem solving.

Xtra Math and Maths Whizz
Im trying my hardest to use less of these during the follow up times, to help stop them becoming stale. But at the same time upping the importance of this.

I am doing this by checking each day that students have completed Xtra Math properly, and from what I can tell, have done their best.

I have also introduced new expectations for Maths Whizz, where students are required to make a certain level of progress.  This is instead of a time requirement, so that emphasis is put into how hard they a trying on maths whizz, rather than simply clocking up the minutes.

Problem Solving Practice
These presentations have been going really well. They are a good follow up, as far as thinking and reapplying learning they done with the teacher. However, it is proving hard to make sure student's have understood the problem and answered it correctly before posting on their blogs. For this reason many students have been posting incorrect solutions on their blogs.

I'm still debating with myself how important this is, does it really matter if they get it wrong? It's still a very good record of their learning.
I could ask students to just store the presentations in their google drives rather than share them on their blogs. However, I fear this might devalue the presentations and cause students to lose interest.
I could introduce a 'marking' time with the students in their groups. However I don't want to waste that valuable teacher time on marking.
I've considered developing an answer/ solution copy for the students to check against. However I think students would jump to this, without attempting to solve the problem first.

I have also found that for some of my students, the amount of text in the problems was too daunting. These are my student's who's literacy level was restricting their ability to engage with the problems. I have developed simpler presentations, and am hoping this will scaffold them into more complicated problems in the future.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Teacher Inquiry: Post number 4

At the end of Term-1 we shared our inquiry with our colleagues in a short presentation.

I chose to share my learning as a presentation that showed the evolution of the problem solving activity I have been working on. I thought this was a good way to show how my thinking changed throughout the term, and how my learning changed the way I designed the follow up task.

Here's the slides from my presentation.

It was really great to get feedback and ideas from other experienced teachers about what was possible to do as follow up maths activities in a digital learning environment.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

GAFE Summit

Had a great time at GAFE summit this year in Auckland! Saw some great sessions and learned heaps!

Was my first time presenting this year too, had a blast. Thank you to everyone that came to mine and Karen's sessions, and thanks to all the feedback we received.

Met some great people, and made some great connections.

Here's the presentations we gave, feel free to email or tweet me any questions you have about the slides or our sessions.

Here is our Visible Learning slides from our first session.

...and here is the HTML slides from our second session.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Teacher Inquiry: The third post

Between gloss testing and camp its been a very busy couple of weeks.

I had high hopes for my presentation follow-ups but in hindsight I should have seen their short comings early on.

Getting students to create their own problems
- Seemed like a great idea because
would require higher order thinking to create problems that they could answer. 
- However in reality, students created any problem (often impossible to answer, or that would be too complex for them to answer) and would revert to an easier strategy that did not fit the problem. i.e. using addition for a subtraction question.

Explaining their solution/ strategy on a presentation
- Much harder than I anticipated for the kids to do.
- Students would normally solve these on paper then talk about them in our groups.  Being able to explain their thinking in writing is a skill we hadn't learned together yet, therefore I should of perhaps anticipated this would be difficult.

What next?
- From reflecting on my failed presentations I have started thinking of various plans I could do to using iPads and explain everything. However due to the time restrictions of testing and camp I haven't been able to put them into practice yet.
- However one adaption that worked well to my presentations, was to get students to solve problems in their books, and then screenshot their working. Then students would attempt to explain their solution in writing underneath. This worked much better and more than half of the class was able to do this correctly.  Of course I would like this task to work for everybody, so its still not perfect by any means. One thing I realised that was quite important was to give the students a question that was very similar to the one they had worked on as a group, therefore the unpacking of the question wasn't too difficult.

Here's an example of how the presentation task can be a success.

There is still lots of room for improvement but I think it's beginning to get there.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Teacher inquiry #secondblogpost

What a busy start to the year we have had already!
We have been to see the River Talks display, had Nigel Latter filming in our class, and now we have testing...

...It's been a struggle to get any sort of routine's going with my Maths class so far, with all the interruptions to our normal programme.  However we are now settling into how we do our problem solving as a big group discussion very well, and are already seeing some great thinking, and are having some really great discussions.

My networking using social media flopped a little bit, with Twitter not receiving any notice at all, and my Google+ post only receiving 2 comments (One being a pity comment from a colleague/ friend).

However despite the majority of the responses being only crickets, the responses I did get were actually very useful, and have already helped to inform my practice.  On the advice from my Google+ notifications my students are completing follow-up problem solving activities and sharing them on their blogs. At the moment these tasks are quite simple but are getting more complex each time. Last week they merely had to explain their answer, with their solution explained as well. Now this week they are expected to do the same, but also to create their own question.

I have also networked with other teachers in my school, and have started getting some ideas towards getting students to create their own instructional video resource bank, using iPads and explain everything. The idea is that somehow students will be able to access each others "how-to" videos easily, and from there teach themselves new strategies.

So, towards my inquiry we are getting slowly.

Slow and steady wins the race after all.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Teacher Inquiry

This year at Pt England we are all beginning inquiries into our own teaching practice.  I have chosen to look at follow up maths activities, or "Developing independent tasks that require higher order thinking to increase cognitive engagement in maths" ...for short.

I have chose this idea because it is something I feel I could do much better from last year. I want to know what are some activities kids can be doing that are cognitively engaging when they aren't working with the teacher. Also, how can I facilitate this in the classroom without impairing my precious group teaching time.
Some possible steps I have outlined include:

  1. Networking online to find out what is being done for higher order thinking tasks.
  1. Visit other classrooms/schools to observe the impact different learning tasks have on student learning and engagement in maths.
  1. Use Khan academy model for students to create rewindable learning videos.
  1. Develop learning  activities that focus on problem solving and creating.
  1. Make students’ learning more visible (what they have learnt).

Thursday, 5 February 2015

How to make buttons for your site

Making buttons can seem daunting, but it's really not.  It's easy enough to make decent looking buttons using just your  Google apps.

Google Draw
You have likely been using these types of basic drawing tools since your old Microsoft Word days, and Google Draw tools are just the same, if not easier!

The Cropping-mask tool is especially useful, particularly if you are using images off the net for your button (free to use).  The mask tool allows you to crop an image into any autoshape, which can give your button the look you want (Square images are boring!). 

However do keep in mind the age old advice

"Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should "
 - Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park 

Here's a quick screencast to show you how easy it is, any questions just leave them below and I'll do my best to answer them.


  • Don't forget to save your image as .PNG this way the background will stay transparent, rather than having a white background.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Commonwealth Games Topic Site

Last year one of our integrated thematic term units was called 'Game On!', based around the Commonwealth Games, which was on at the time.

This is a Google site I made for our learners, and in particular for my literacy groups.  The site was linked to our main Class site, and students were encouraged, and given time to explore the site at their own pace and to their own interest.   Site here

 It mostly contained a small amounts of information for each country, but also had some history on the games, and information about the different events.

The actual purpose of the site however was not to teach the students about the Commonwealth Games (an added bonus), but to provide an engaging space where students could explore different parts of the world.   We found our students to have a limited understanding and exposure to different cultures around the world. Therefore we focused our literacy inquiry around different cultures around the world, and this site acted as good base to refer back to.  Particularly when it came to even locating the country!

Because Countries and there Continents was a key part of the learning for the site, I attempted to make the globe as interesting as possible.

I came up with the idea of making the globe an interactive map, where by clicking continental shape, the site would link to a new page.

Interactive Map
This was done in Google Draw, where I drew invisible shapes around the continents, and attached hyperlinks to each shape, which would then take you to the relevant pages on the site.  By embedding it into the site as a 'Google Drawing' instead of an 'image' meant that the hyperlinks still worked once they were live on the site

I also wanted the students to feel like they had contributed to the site themselves.  So in pairs, students created multi-choice questionnaires for each of the countries on the site, and shared the answers on their blog.

End of year Reflection

As a wrap up for our first year in the MDTA programme we recorded a reflection video at the end of last year.  We reflected on our experiences and learning within the programme, as well as our own unique situation's in our own schools.


Here is my reflection video, as well as a link above to a google site I made, summing up some of my learning this year in the MDTA programme as well.