As we near the end of Term 3 its time to pause and take a moment to reflect and share the importance of giving students the opportunities to voice what they have discovered about themselves as “learners”. At my school this year instead of the traditional parent teacher interviews, we explored and implemented student led conferences.
There were lots of questions and hard thinking about what that might look like across all stages of learning………and for me, especially ES1. The first step was to match the 6 pillars, with the stage outcomes and learning tasks that the students had worked on during Semester One of this year. Then an integral part was having picture cues that allowed the students to stop and reflect how they were progressing with their overall efforts and learning.
It was important to use student friendly language such as “I can” statements that enabled the students to firstly reflect and then evaluate how they felt they had achieved within that outcome/pillar. They then had to prove that their choice of faces were correct by providing evidence either through their actions, verbal responses and their recorded work (assessment tasks as well as KLA work books). After completing the self-evaluation sheets each child had 3 strengths and 1 area to work on highlighted and ready to be presented to their parents during their student led conference.
Parents attended an information night prior to booking in for the student led conferences so that they understood the process, what to expect and how best to support their child during the conference……..a new beginning for families!
The students viewed a video that showed what happened at a Kindergarten student led conference and then practiced so that they knew what to do both with actions as well as words. We added picture cues as reminders.
Picture cues for the students to refer back to during the student led conference
What did I discover? These conferences empowered my ES1 students in a way that I had never imagined possible! The students were able to articulate what the faces meant and explain the task they were reflecting on and then share their evidence. Even those students who are quiet participants in the classroom took control of the conference and proudly shared with their parents about their strengths and what they wanted to work on.
So if you ask me do I have leaders in ES1 the simple answer is YES! Students need a voice and in student led conferences they have a unique opportunity to share what they are good at and highlight what they know is something to work on.
As we know ‘play’ is serious learning for children so it makes sense then to make important connections between playing and oral communication skills. The Early Stage 1 English syllabus enables this through the following outcome statements:
- Communicate through speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing and representing
- Think in ways that are imaginative, creative, interpretive and critical
- Express themselves and their relationships with others and their world
So what does that look like in my classroom?
Developmental play in ES1-
Communicating, problem solving, thinking critically and creatively while working collaboratively!
There are 5 activities planned for developmental play every day and the students choose a different activity each day that allows them to build on their communication skills of speaking and listening. Each teacher has a focus group of students to work with on a daily basis to enable them to develop and consolidate their oral language. Other students who are good role models for speaking and use of vocabulary are included within these activities. The planned activities are based on the individual needs of the students within the class and are rotated on a fortnightly basis. In this way students can improve and consolidate their learning opportunities and use of oral language from the first week. There are times that we change elements within the activity to challenge the students and extend their critical thinking and their ability to work collaboratively. There are 10-12 minutes provided to complete the activities and at times the students will negotiate for more time so that they can test out their creations or complete their task…..all part of the learning journey. We also reflect on our learning and make connections to our 6 school pillars of learning.
These 6 pillars of learning link directly with the Across Curriculum Documents of the Australian Curriculum. We have also embedded them into our developmental play program to show how they link to all our learning and syllabus documents.
Programming format for developmental play.
One of the activity and sign in sheets for developmental play.
Every day we are working on our speaking and listening skills……..
Every day we are learning the value of play and how it connects to assist us with being creative and critical thinkers, to communicate and work collaboratively, manage ourselves and relate to others!
We are all life long learners and play is part of that journey……….where is your journey taking you to?
Today we began Term 2 with a staff development day and reflecting on our ourselves as professional learners. Sometimes it is too easy to focus solely on our students and forget that we also need nurturing and opportunities for enhancing our love of learning.
So what did I learn?
The importance of identifying student’s strengths and areas of need across our 6 pillars of learning (based on Learning across the Curriculum) , English and Mathematics. These strengths and needs will drive our professional discussions and planning within the Early Stage 1 program. Next, in conjunction with my grade buddy, we then created our very own professional learning plan to enable us to meet these needs. We began by setting a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) for each area and then developed strategies to best assist our students to move forward with their learning. We considered what professional knowledge we needed to develop, how we needed to change our professional practice and/or what can we professionally engage in? (PK, PP & PE – NESA). Lastly, we developed success criteria to enable us to see what the student learning would look like and provided a time line to evaluate and reflect on how all the learning was progressing- student and professional.
The last part was choosing one SMART goal and unpacking it from an individual perspective which will be added to our literacy learning/data wall. This makes the learning far more visible and allows that direct link between student learning and my own professional learning.
Where to next?
My focus for student learning is to extend their writing skills – “Students to work independently to record sounds they hear in words and use keywords to provide more detail to their story.” So for me professionally, I will be investigating ways to best support the student’s learning through articles, websites and texts such as “The Writing Book” by Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsey.
Time to explore and learn……..
Taking a leap of faith entails trust……..in my case “trusting” in myself, the people I work with and the students in my class who rely on me to provide the guidance, stimulation and opportunities that will enable them to be the best learners in a next generation school. This blog will be a way of showing my professional and personal growth as a life long learner in 2017 and beyond!
The beginning is always the students, getting to know them as individuals and finding out their interests, strengths and areas of need. Once we have the data then we can begin to build a framework that will best support their learning within the classroom setting. My immediate learning is focusing on literacy and how best to group students so as to meet their needs for reading and viewing, writing and representing, speaking and listening. All three aspects of the curriculum are of equal importance and therefore will be discussed and shared within this blog.
Today I’m reflecting on writing and representing and how diverse that looks in Kindergarten. From those students who are still learning how to draw recognisable pictures to tell a story and other students who are learning to write compound sentences based on what they have drawn. We need to remember that making marks on paper is the first step to experimenting with print and over time with lots of opportunities to practise, students become more confident authors and illustrators. As a source for learning is the book “What’s Next for this Beginning Writer?” which gives ideas, information to enable meaningful and purposeful modelled and shared writing lessons. I have enjoyed reading the first chapter of this book and would recommend it as a tool for learning for other teachers as well.
This week in Kindergarten we have been focussing on improving our drawings to ensure they tell the whole story which will engage the reader. We have even counted how many parts of the picture we would need to make the story more interesting. After our writing time we are learning to ‘check in’ with a partner for some peer feedback and go back over our success criteria. Our star, star, wish concept for feedback is still a work in progress but there are definitely changes happening with students being able to prove how they have been successful with their story writing.
What resources do you find the most useful when planning effective modelled and shared writing lessons?
Writing and reflecting an ongoing cycle!