Friday, July 31, 2009

Cough, splutter

Just as I want to write more, I get a dull cold (no swine flu, though it's in our school now) which leaves me sleepy and dopey (and sneezy) in my non-working time. Hopefully the weekend will be kind and I'll be back with a vengence. Mostly because I want to talk about our reader's workshop and our amazing experiences with the graphic novel The Arrival.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Where are we going with this

Back at school two weeks and during that time I've been thinking about where I should be taking this blog. My main goal is to blog more regularly - four times a week seems do-able and more regular. What do I want to blog? Well that took more thought.

  1. Ideas. They're my stengths, and I love talking about them (just ask Mr. D)
  2. Success and 'where I could do better' reflections
  3. Book reviews - one of the great things out of readers workshop has been the cool books I've discovered.
I'm sure there'll be more things that'll bubble up, but I think that will keep me busy for now.

Photo from

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A good return

So, back to school today. I spent some time on the holidays rearranging my classroom, so it was cool to watch the kids reactions when they came in the door. General consensus is that they love the extra space, and the library is definately easier to use.

Overall, it was a great return to the classroom. Quite a few students mentioned that the day just flew by, and they weren't kidding. There were lots of outside lessons - phys ed, Chinese, religious ed- today, but the other lessons worked well too.

For maths, we're beginning a bit of investigating maths related to our bodies. Today we were revising measurement and changing millimetres into centimetres and metres (thank goodness we don't have to work with inches and feet in Australia :) ). The students worked in pairs to measure their height, arm length, leg length, hand span and foot length in centimetres. After they recorded them in a table, they then worked out the millimetres and metres. Then they used this to make their own word problems. What impressed me was the way some of the students worked to create multi-step problems without any prompting.

Then this afternoon we began our Reader's Workshop. The students like the ideas, but I need to work a little on the read and respond part - maybe some more guidance through small group lessons and one on one conferences. The small group I worked with today were marvellous with The Arrival, they were really beginning to tell the story. I tried to use questioning which would allow them to unravel the story, rather than telling them 'you're right' or 'you're wrong'. At first they thought the man was just going to work, then on a business trip and then they realised he was going away for much longer. Then the group worked on some questions, wrote a little, and used complex instructions to make paper cranes (I had different instructions when I learned, and I wasn't as impressed with some of these. I'll keep looking for better ones).

Before we knew it, 3pm was around and it was time to go home. Good day though.

A literacy Guru?

Yesterday was our training day for this term with the students returning today. Most of the training was pretty ordinary, mostly about reporting and children with ASD. But during the staff meeting the Principal called for literacy and numeracy 'gurus' to be trained. Nominations were called for and I was landed with the literacy role.

There is very little information (like none) on this, but since it's a government program, I am a little concerned. Readers and writers workshop are not the 'done thing' here, although there was a lot of work done on both in the early eighties. Instead there's a bit of a muddle in literacy in Queensland. Some people are right into functional grammar, others get right into text mapping or the four resources model of literacy. But when it comes to actually teaching the material, there's no overall philosophies coming from the government.

So how will I take my rather different way of teaching English (well different in our school, anyway) and whatever I'm trained to do, and use this to help others in our school? If I'm taught one thing, am I required to use it in my classroom? I really want to know what this position entails, basically.

Today's lessons - revisiting mm, cm, dm and m while measuring ourselves; beginning our reader's workshop with small groups looking at The Arrival.

Picture from

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back to School

So, I've taken a bit of a break over the two weeks of school holidays. I've read, played computer games, read some more, gone shopping, slept in, taken my ballet classes and generally had a great time. But, alas, it is time to return to school.

I'm both excited and a little nervous about the coming term. Basically, I'm making the biggest change in my teaching since I began three and a half years ago. Fed up with the size of my classroom and filled with an urging to 'do things better' I've reconfigured my classroom, making it less centralised. Basically, this means that the attention has been drawn away from the blackboard. Instead there are small groups of seats, some individual learning areas, even a couple of desks set up to enable cooperative computer work.

My moving the attention away from the blackboard, I've been able to move my desk to a better place, where I have access to the power for my computer. In my old set up, it would have been at the front of the room, which I didn't like, but now it's just part of the room.

Other changes include extending the classroom library, creating a bigger sitting space, and giving better visual of the door (too many polite visitors wait near the door and we couldn't see them).

Of course this change means I have to change the approach to teaching. No longer can I bring all attention to the blackboard. I have already allowed for this in reading and writing with readers and writers workshop, but I'll need to continue to think about this when working in maths and other subjects.

This change also meant I needed to think about how to use this blog. The best way I can see is bringing it along on the ride with me - focusing on some successful lessons, reflecting on where things could work better.

What changes do you make when you come back from holidays?

Photo from