Disclaimer: This is very much a (selfish) reflective post- full of half baked ideas trying to flesh out meaning and a bit of frustration coupled with procrastination of my studies so be forewarned of some raw thought… (but I sure would appreciate your thoughts, candor, guidance and criticism).
I’ve been slowly working towards the research/action part of my thesis. My stuff is due up for approval to the School panel in July. I admit its hard. I’ve gone through many developments of my questions and refined it and confused myself, then had ‘aha’ moments only to be confused again and I’m told this is normal. If it is, its exhausting. Odd coming from an educator who preaches to my flock that learning is hard…don’t give up…do your best…and I’m at the point where I want to give up myself and reflect on is it worth it.
I say this for a few reasons. Is further education worth:
- my time
- my time takes from my family
- my time taken from my work
- my time it takes from fun
- my health
I bet you can see the theme here. Of course thats the nature of study or doing anything else worthwhile in life I guess. TIME. Higher education whereby you commit to study on your own in depth to make some significant contribution to the broader community. I so admire those that have done this successfully. I wonder often if I have what it takes to this. Its a real push. I love what I do, I love the opportunities I have at my new school. This helps a lot.
My study is essentially about the blockers and facilitators of ‘Global Mindedness’ in schools in Jakarta. It’s been hard to define what Global Mindedness means , Ive read a lot about what it is or should be but- placing this within a specific culture (s) and observing how it ‘is’ in a school community, curriculum. Its confusing. I’ve been at this for almost 4 years, my question, my wonderings.
So Ive come to a fork in the road so to speak and need to narrow down that question, methodology to drive me the rest of the way. I’ve read so much but have written very little. My advice to those pursuing EdD or especially PhD is to read a lot but write more. Keep good notes too. I really sucked at that. Lesson learned the hard way. I’d qualify to speak to a Grad class at a Uni about all the things you should NOT do when writing a thesis, even though I knew better.
So I’m left with a feeling of frustration. But I wont give up of course but I felt writing this post helps, (on a Friday night) to try to re-focus. This Friday night I go through my notes, resources to try to find my centre.
It started with an idea and a nudge. I am trying to figure out what to choose for my professional goal at my new school. I want it to be something useful and practical. Something that enhances my teaching practice. I thought hard about what I want to learn and where I need to grow professionally. I’m always interested in inquiry so that’s a start. We’ve recently had some PD on Structured Word Inquiry with Dr. Pete Bowers. This is rather new to me, and so is the spelling programme we are using here at my school so I thought what a better way to learn something new and get out of my comfort zone within a realm of interest.
So..Structured Word Inquiry from my current understanding essentially uses an approach of scientific inquiry to understand words. There is more to it than that but that’s where I start to understand it. I first had the notion that words are spelled the way they are BECAUSE that’s how they are spelled and pretty much taught along those lines (even though I think I knew better and didn’t really believe that). I gave little thought that words are spelled for a reason and because I am a good speller it didn’t really matter. I believed that words that didn’t fit neatly in the rules could simply be labelled irregular words and that was it. I now understand that these oddballs, once you dig a bit deeper are not irregular and that there are no exceptions. These exceptions are actually features that we can find in spelling time and time again.
After a week of discussion, practice, thinking and being challenged I came away with this.
Top 10 takeaways from my week with Pete:
- follow the trail to find more about interesting words and going through an investigation (hypothesis)
- tools to help me understand and find out spelling and meaning connections:
- http://www.etymonline.com/ to find origin of a word and historical development of its meaning- (etymology)
- http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/searcher/index.html WordSearcher to find ‘relatives’
- http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/matrix/index.html Mini Matrix Maker
- http://www.realspellers.org/ Just a great resource
- Word Sums – how I can use them in my class as a tool to understand (make sure learners understand what base, prefix and suffix mean)
- spell out graphemes with kids so they encounter them and explicitly expose them to spelling: ‘wh + at’, kn + igh+t
- use spelling mistakes as a gift for investigation – and know where to look for evidence (etymologyonline.com)
- identify related words to understand other words and make connections ie: real, really, unreal, realise …
- words are understood in: meaning (first), built, relatives and pronunciation (last)
- implant a word you may investigate in class into a sentence/meaningful discussion for context
- identifying relationships between words helps us gain a deeper understanding of the word and spelling which also generates a large exposure to words in context to deepen vocabulary
- The JOY of understanding!!
Things that challenged my thinking
- that spelling is NOT irregular and there are NO exceptions
- false word sums are okay- it shows thinking which can lead to discovery (mistakes are good)!
- going through a scientific word investigation (an inquiry led teachable moment as opposed to a teacher led inquiry moment) the teacher does not know the answer, you find it together with the learners
- maybe I don’t know a lot about spelling (I think I’m a pretty decent speller but I really don’t know why- so why am I , and why aren’t others?)
- that spelling can be inquiry as opposed to something that is memorised (and not boring).
My thinking so far
So I thought that I needed to give this whole structure word inquiry thing a go so my first starting point is that I need to try myself to understand it so this is what I am thinking:
- I need to understand this whole thing before I think about teaching it to others. This is the starting point. I first came up with my own hypotheses: I wondered why people get confused between know and no and the whole silent K – OR is the K really silent? I tried to say and spell it. I asked myself what the word know meant and found some contexts in which it is situated. I think that K is not silent, we use ‘kn’. I also wanted to test if the word know was a base.
- I pulled up a word searcher search using the word know and came with with these words (see below)
- I Investigated a word on my own so I chose know made some word sums and plugged it into a morpheme chart and made a hypotheses is that I can make a word un+know + s → unknows (I tested it and I could not use it) then I came up with a matrix for know using mini matrix maker and came up with this (see below)
- I found out that know is a base and kn is not a prefix because ‘ow’ has no meaning so know must be the base word. From the base word I see that I can make a whole host of connected words from the base using prefixes and suffixes. I also found out a whole host of other words in the word family with the base word know
The Plan (So far…I think) and where to Next? To take this into the classroom, I may use the word Responsibility to unpack and investigate the meaning because we have been talking about this lately. So, I envision it unfolding like this…
- Taking the word Responsibility which comes up time and time again as a reference to our class agreements- tie into a meaningful context as a starting point.
- Inquire into the word responsible– plant some ‘strategic prompts’ in real world contexts, discussions, powerful images, a story. Maybe make a Word Bag or a Word Web from the word Responsible to identify word families that share both meaning and spelling. Start with meaning. Tap out the words of some of the words in the word family and spell out loud to make the phonemes/graphemes correspondence less abstract and more concrete.
- Be scientists and create a hypothesis about the word from pre selected evidence. What does the word responsible mean?
- Guided testing: Create a morpheme chart (a morpheme is the smallest unit that can construct meaning) to build on as we explore the base word responsible and see what learners already know. Collect data and unlock prior knowledge.
- Introduce the matrix and teach how to use it-the rules.
- Teach some structure as they arise and get learners to spell the words out loud as a class: know + able –> (which means ‘as written as’) knowable
- Build a matrix with a class using the mini matrix maker from our morphine chart
- After word sums and matrix developed, introduce simple prefix flowchart to run our words through.
- Evaluate. Students either accept or reject their hypotheses as we continue to build our morpheme charts and matrix. Ask students if they can use the word in a way that makes sense.
- Practice the words and patterns
NB: So at this stage it is more teacher led inquiry- because I’m still trying to figure out how this works. If it does then I can be a bit of a risk taker and use words learners come up with and make it more learner led.
Hopefully we will go through this process together as a class and then have learners try their own and start thinking like a spelling scientist, making a hypothesis and proving/disproving them.
Further investigation: So I’m left with these to ponder and push my thinking further…
- How much do I really know about spelling?
- How does my knowledge (and misunderstanding of words) affect my instruction?
- How can we ignore the spoken word and written word? Like why is the G silent in sign BUT has a hard G in signal?
- How much does knowing the root of a word help us spell? Or is it just something interesting to note to understand the history? (I think that is should but I need to test my hypotheses).
- How do I better understand when to say e+ e or say double e? This confuses me a bit
In the end, I’m left with thinking wow I’ve learned a lot. At the same time Im thinking wow, I have way more wonderings than I went in with before this week! A lot of things to investigate and understand myself and inquire into with my Grade 3 learners over the year. Stay tuned for Part ‘Dua’.
Reflecting on many professional learning opportunities I have been afforded at my new school this year, I’ve tried to put what I’ve learned (or was reminded of) into practice. Luckily I have had a lot of PD in the first few months and lots to think about. Loads of takeaways and wonderings.
Summing it all up, it was about collaboration but also about taking away what you personally would use in the class for our situation for your learners at that particular time. Learning is like that, we learn what we need when we need it. It is a matter of ‘just in time’ and not ‘just in case’.
Like many learnings, we join as a group. Its practical. Sometimes its generic, or specific but to realise that you as an educator need to takeaway stuff you can use on Monday morning is something to think about. Having attended many PD sessions over the years I think about what can I contribute to the session before I even go into it. Perhaps we think too much about what we might get OUT of a workshop? We are concerned about feedback to peers, admin. When I ran a Flipped Classroom IB workshop last month I thought, wow how powerful would it be for learners to really think about what they want from what I am offering. Of course this helps me tailor the workshop to their needs. I don’t want to drone on about stuff they already know right? I want to challenge them. Challenge me (just because Im leading the workshop doesn’t make me an expert- we are all practitioners). Challenge themselves. That’s where the learning starts. So I go thinking about the whole sending someone on PD thing. How are they preparing themselves for the experience? What questions should they be asking – if they can? Ive not gone to many workshops where content is front loaded so participants can have more thinking time when they get there. Thats important, for me anyhow. Thinking time. Connection time.
So we collaborate but really what we want is an individualist insight. So many times we hear .. ‘but in my school..’ and thats right every school is different. Classes and teachers are different. We come to workshops with a lot of knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and spend time sharing. I wonder if we there was a pre workshop component to gather our individualism so we can then collaborate and help each other. Before the official event. It can be generic like a Google + site for example. Connecting. Yes..but I don’t have the time to that stuff, Im busy! This pre workshop stuff should be an essential piece.
If we all had a heads up of our individual needs, couldn’t we get our collective heads together and help each other? Before we even step foot in the venue? We are all same but we are all different.
I don’t know, think it would work?
Leave it to my grade 3 class to ask questions to lead us into an inquiry. They often do that. Kids do that.
Their inquiry was: ‘Why do we have so many different ways to get the same answer when doing multiplication’?
We’ve got lattice, partial products, box method…etc.. like too many right? It was a great inquiry. I wondered the same thing myself. I mean I know ‘why’ but.. why?? When I grew up I remember one way to get the answer. Because the answer was important. Now its about process. I get that too. But still… why not 1 way?
So I posed this question one evening to my go to (my) Maths Guru, Bruce Ferrington @ in Canberra, Australia who has an awesome blog on math I might add. He was about to go on holidays so Im glad I pushed him right to the brink of his school days to answer my question. So me being the persistent pestering inquirer I fired off these tweets one evening trying to come to grips with an answer myself:
Why are there so many different math strategies that exist today that (didn’t)? exist when I grew up?
And more importantly why do we need the different strategies – a Devil’s advocate question…sorry but I wonder why.
Sometimes we teach 5 different ways to get to the same answer (lattice, partial products etc..) Why? – again Devil’s advocate) But I am serious. Does having multiple ways of learning math confuse learners? Or open minds?
So what was very cool is that Bruce took the time to not only to answer our personal inquiry but to involve his own learners well. We got some great responses back and Bruce actually wrote a post here about this whole mini inquiry into my (our) initial question! I shared it with my kids and they were pretty stoked. Maybe not so much the ‘math answer’ but that someone on the globe actually cared enough to respond to our wondering. That was way cool and they kids have talked about it. I meant something to them. (I didn’t tell them, this was unplanned so it was a pleasant unexpected surprise).
Here is what Bruce’s Grade 2 kids thought:
So now my new wondering (and Bruce I don’t expect a blogpost but Id love some guidance one day ) ;) …Im helping my daughter in Grade 7. She has some tricky pre Algebra stuff. I was a consumer maths guy (in the old days that was the remedial class I guess). I did really well with real life maths stuff. It made sense. Im struggling to help my daughter with some seemingly very abstract math concept and trying even harder to connect these concepts to the real world.
Theres got to be a way I guess..otherwise why would they exist right? Im wondering how many middle school parents out there are a bit dumbfounded as to how to help their kids with homework.
(Homework being a totally separate blogpost all together).
One a side note- how cool is it to have the global connections to tap into when Im stumped, or my students are stumped or have an inquiry and to be able to click a few keys to get help.
I never knew how crucial a learning space was on a personal level until I moved form a house to a 3 bedroom apartment. I love how @whatedsaid describes learning spaces. Check out @ too, he has some good stuff on learning spaces.
Now I like my new habitat. we are above a mall, top restos below. A gym. Pool. 20 minutes form school. Paradise really. But I havent established a ‘space’ to learn. Maybe my space doesn’t need to be at home I guess.. but traditionally it has been and thats where I feel comfortable. I had a time to learn as well while studying ..yes I teach and Im a student at the same time. So Ive had to be flexible as learners are I guess and study,read, think after my kids go to bed. The problem is that Im pretty tired by that time too so thats not optimal.
I got thinking more about my Grade 3’s learning spaces. I asked them one day, what helps you learn? Are there any spaces in the classroom – or outside the classroom you like to learn? This was a great question (I think) as it make them think. It ended up being a bit of an inquiry where we all went out and found a place that we could learn out best in. And it depended on what we wanted to learn. Do we need quiet, collaboration, movement, stability? We sort of thought the learning space needs to fit our needs and vice versa which was pretty cool because this whole idea was pretty much a think aloud about our learning space. A few weeks ago we talked about changing our learning space,….meh..and we did but het we still have 4 walls and thats the reality but we made it our 4 walls. We more or less personalised it, we didn’t change it so much.
But it got kids thinking, can we go outside to work? The library ? What about under the shady Pattimura tree at the heart of our campus? Being mindful of supervision I said yep (sometimes) if we can. However this ‘restriction’ doesn’t have to be. At lunch, snack go to your learning space where you feel comfortable, and kids do. I see kids in the library curled up with a good book. Hanging out in spaces they feel good with. We’ve got an awesome library and library staff. I love our library. Its a learning space I can relate to and obviously the learners can as well as its almost always full with kids. Im not a librarian but that must be some success criteria- that people love to come and hang out.
So Im looking for ideas. How do you determine your learning spaces? What works for you? Id love to know what you all think, experience.
I surveyed my Grade 3s last week. I wanted to find out what they liked and didn’t like doing in class, after al we have been together for about 2 moths now. Feedback is important right? I gave them the day to think about it- with a few reminders that this reflection was their ‘exit slip’ for the day and we also spent some time on why this question was important and more importantly why I wanted their honest opinion. To make things interesting for them and so they can learn better. And to be quite frank, kids are brutally honest, maybe which is why I like working and learning from them.
So I discovered a lot of things last week about my teaching, reflected on how I can ‘teach’ for a better word, through a more inquiry based lens but I realised I needed to know more about my learners. I got to peek into the learners brains and find out a little bit more about them and what they are passionate about. We have something I call ‘Choice Time’ We have an agreement about what is good use of choice time, how we interact with each other.
During Choice Time in Grade 3 we:
- talk, share and discuss
- create, build and craft
- are respectful, responsible and open-minded
So what did my Grade 3s enjoy the most? Well, Choice Time of course. It no surprise that we all want to learn more when we are interested in something. It was the overwhelming response and a frank one. So I’ve been ‘re-inspired’ reading Sir Ken Robinson new book: Creative Schools. I also watched this Sir Ken Robinson Interview the other night that was pretty inspirational.
I also got inspired by watching Cain’s Arcade so I thought what a great provocation. It’s over 10 minutes long if you haven’t seen it, I played 3 minutes of it and then stopped to get some learner feedback and I had 20 heads look at me and say ‘Hey!! Let it play!’ They were that engaged. The power of kids connecting with kids (Thanks Kath for that reminder last week).
So we watched the whole video and they thought it was awesome. It created a lot of discussion. Now I didn’t really plan to do anything with Cain’s Arcade other than show them but we starting to have these discussions about making stuff and what happens when you make stuff (create). So I got a butchers paper and write down what I though captured their ideas: “What does it mean to create’? We then put down our own ideas, some asked if they could write more than one idea. We had that many. While they were doing this I whipped up a quick challenge/engagement/task do try during Choice Time. It looked like this and they eagerly accepted.
What happened was the learners had an opportunity to create, but more importantly explain the why and how and communicate and work with others if they chose to and oddly enough they didn’t only work with the best friends. The class was somewhat noisy, but a busy noise like bees in a hive. Now Ive done this before in different ways but what I never got students to do was to document. They were responsible for showing the process. They got out their iPads. Some made time-lapse videos, other took photos and put them in order in Slides, Book Creator or simply beamed them up on the screen and said some words.
The point was we were moving, sharing, creating, talking and learning. Maybe not about what was in the textbook that day or even within the inquiry unit but that’s ok. For me I felt I honoured their request to ‘build more stuff’. Sure I could have linked it in with Math, our Unit, Science…whatever and put a bunch of learning intentions or standards to it (and maybe I will, or maybe I wont) but it I felt at that moment that I really connected with the class, they connected with each other and their passions and I could see them so very engaged with each other. It was a very spontaneous inquiry into being creative and it was an authentic one.
I know why some teachers might find this a challenge . Time especially. (I do too, so I’m not saying I’m some expert or do this all day every day). Its messy, chaotic but I really saw learning and creativity at its best and that’s the kind of learning space I want to be in as a teacher and a learner.
Its kind of what Im doing now especially in a new school, new habitat meeting new creatures as I find my way around socially and professionally. So far, as I go through this unit together with my kids, there’s a lot to think about, reflect on. Yes learning is a life long process and not limited to a unit of study.
Some cool things that I can reflect on over the last month is getting to know the kids. Moving to a new school and city, it all goes back to the kids and relationships you develop with the kids. Together over the last month we’ve had ups and downs as we get to know and understand each other and the expectations for not only the learners but for me as well. These include creating an essential agreement together, hashing out our expectations for readers and writers workshops and our expectations about technology and how we use it. Its a collaborative process.
One big question that stuck with me right the start was how do we know what helps us learn and how can we use that to help us learn? We talked a lot about that. Obviously we all have different needs and wants and dreams. Now coming from a small school to a large school, there are more needs and thus more challenges. But we broke it down to what basic needs are similar and what basic needs are different. Then we discussed what needs we need to for learning, again similarities and differences. We then tried to map out ways we can be independent learners to put those needs into action. It was a mess at first. Just understanding the concept about learning, how we learn…took time (and is developing), and will continue to take time but finally came to an understanding and agreement. After creating our general class agreements we were able to dig deeper into our own personal learning. which then led to some goal setting (one goal not 10) and how we get there and more importantly what helps us get there. I set a goal with kids for myself as well.
So here we are, we have our agreements, our goals and some idea about what we need to help us learn. Now the action. So we are in the process of ‘restructuring’ the classroom habitat. Some need quite spaces, others need more time to finish. Other learners need me to be more visual when I give explanations while some asked for smaller group work to help them. Some said ‘leave me alone and let me have go by myself’. So I thought that was pretty cool. I got to know how they need to learn and more importantly they got to know how they needed to learn. Is it perfect? Did this work all the time? Nope. Did we have some lessons together that were a ‘hot mess’ YEP. But thats part of learning to learn for the kids and for me.