IB-PYP: Maps – Gathering prior knowledge: Show me the way to your home from school. What did I learn? I should have known more about this student!

Nina's Arena-Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

We’re learning about maps so I asked my students to show their way home from school. They could choose how they would show their journey. One of my students started drawing…. What did I learn? I know that how we ask children to show what they know is incredibly important and when gathering prior knowledge we can’t assume what a child knows. One of my very quiet 7 year old students started drawing their map.

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Kids and Graham Morgan Senior 014

Can I find the way to my student’s home? YES How did this student know what they know? Would I have discovered what I now know about this student and their thinking if I’d presented my initial question a different way? QUESTIONS!

Cheers Nina

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Part 6: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing Mark for his Year 11-VCE (Victoria-Australia) Philosophy Exam.

Mark is in Year 10, Victoria, Australia which he will complete in a few weeks. It’s common for students to start their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in Year 10 by completing one or two Year 11 subjects. Students completing a VCE Year 11 subject are exposed to the rigor and examination process involved. Mark has completed Year 11 Philosophy which he intends to study as a Year 12 subject in Year 11, which commences in late January in Australia. Year 12 subjects receive a ranking grade.

Using Be A Better Writer (BABW) by Steve Peha has provided Mark with the tools and explanations to focus on the critical issues in his writing.

Our focus has been on Chapter 8: Creating a Logical Answer to an Essay Question using the What-Why-How? strategy, Chapter 7: Better Sentences and Chapter 8: Better Punctuation.

For example Steve’s chapter Better Punctuation takes the writer through:

Do Rules Rule?be-a-better-writer-2

Practical Punctuation

When Sentences Go Wrong

The Muddle in the Middle

The Importance of Capitalization

Grouping Related Ideas into Paragraphs

Punctuating Dialog

Unruly Rules

So Who Really Rules the Rules?

mark-criteriaMark and I reviewed the rubric for a Philosophy essay, particularly the language section. What does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean?

We reviewed the genre structure required. Structures assist Mark to keep his responses logical. Initial structure.jpgUsing Steve’s What-Why-How? strategy has helped Mark to look closely at the question and answer the actual question. When students don’t read the question carefully and continue to write an essay on a different topic, there is a problem. The What-Why-How? helps to eliminate this.

Criteria – Rubric

Students should be able to review and assess their writing when provided with a rubric. Rubrics require unpacking with students so they understand what each standard means. So what does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean? Mark and I have unpacked this to include vocabulary choice, sentence structure, spelling and grammar. We reviewed the expectations linked to each of these.

mark-key-vocab

Mark has limited time before his exam. Having key vocabulary spelt correctly is important. Mark has key vocabulary he must learn to spell written on sticky notes stuck on the walls in his home. His job is to revise, revise, revise and remove when he can confidently spell each words. Mark and I discussed the spelling rules we have reviewed. We’ve only looked at the basics to date. Rules don’t always work when spelling, but at this stage its better than relying on sight alone.

Steve’s chapter Better Sentences takes the writer through:

Sentence Sensemark-sentence

Start Different, Stay Different

Short, Medium and Long

The Secret of Well-Structured Sentences

The Sound of Music

Listen Up

Every Writer Serves a Sentence

Mark’s sentence above has ‘better’ structure. He is able to combine what he has learnt with the actual writing task at the time of writing. This is critical, particularly in an examination situations.

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Above is a section from Mark’s practice essay completed as part of his exam preparation. This is a first draft. Mark and I discussed his letter formation and his use of capital letters. Overall, improvement is evident. Mark is now thinking whilst writing, re-reading quickly and making corrections as he writes. He is also writing using structure and a ‘better’ sense of grammar.

Cheers Nina

P.S Mark has completed his exam! He felt confident and pleased with his efforts. Mark’s goal this year is to achieve a satisfactory. His subject knowledge appears to be good and he really enjoys Philosophy. As I will be continuing to work with Mark into the future, I will be using BABW to plan his next level of learning.

 

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Christmas and a Goat….

Nina's Arena-Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

My students live in a beautiful part of the world and they know it! They are an amazing group of young learners and today they demonstrated this. Each year I give my students a little gift, but this year one of my colleagues and I decided that maybe we could do something else. Instead of buying each student a gift we bought them a goat.
Today was our last day together, so we sat our students down and explained that they would not be getting a gift from us this year but we had bought them something else.
When we told them we’d bought them a goat they were excited. We explained that our goat would be given to a disadvantaged village in the world. They asked interesting questions and were thrilled. The goat is called Jayda after the two grades and each child was given a copy of the email to share with their families.

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Part 5: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing an English essay for an English test using Steve Peha’s BABW!

be-a-better-writer-2Mark’s focus for our session was preparing for his Year 10 English test. He knew this test would entail writing an essay. Mark would be writing an essay on Scott Anderson’s Triage.

Mark explained the main themes contained in book and how the plot and characters are intertwined within the main themes.

Firstly, Mark and I reviewed what we had covered in our previous sessions about structure, grammar and spelling. Reviewing prior learning is important and provided us with another opportunity to discuss and correct misconceptions.

babw-5We have also been reviewing sentence structure. Chapter Seven focuses on Better Sentences and commences with the 10 things you need to know about sentences.

Sentence Sense is explained, followed by a checklist for Better Sentences with further explanations and examples following.

 Mark and I wrote our own essay topic based on the text to practice. Writing a practice essay would give Mark an opportunity to complete an essay on the book.

babw-5-2

Guilt is one of the themes in Scott Anderson’s Triage. Discuss

We reviewed Steve Peha’s What? Why? How? organisation tool which Mark has used previously. This tool provides a framework for Mark to ensure a logical response to an essay question. Mark proceeded to write a logical answer to the question. He used quotations to support his arguments, paragraphs and was reading back and thinking about his spelling whilst writing. After writing his first draft (copy below) Mark reviewed his draft and wrote a corrected copy.

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Cheers Nina

NB. Mark has seen an Occupational Therapist to review his hands and handwriting. The review has highlighted a number of issues with Mark’s hands. Therapy should help enormously and improve his handwriting.

 

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Part 4: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing for Year 10 & Year 11 Exams Using Steve Peha’s What? Why? How? – Creating a Logical Answer to an Essay Question Technique/Strategy.

In Australia, students are nearing the end of their school year. Secondary students are sitting a range of examinations or tests over the coming weeks. Mark is in Year 10, but like many students he is doing one Year 11 subject.  This subject is part of our Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and preparing for these assessments can be challenging.

Mark and I are using Be a Better Writer (BABW) by Steve Peha as our guide. I love the fact that Steve’s book can be in the hands of the student and teacher. I call this being able to cross borders. Mark and I have been exploring techniques.

‘Techniques are simple activities that help you do complicated things faster and easier.’ Steve Peha

Our focus has been centred on Creating a Logical Answer to an Easy Question (BABWp8) to

What Why How.jpg

We’re using Steve’s What? Why? How? – simple! After reading the background information we reviewed Steve’s example. The example in BABW is about the American presidential system. This was not an issue for us because any example text could be substituted. 20161031_111539.jpg

Text Example BABW: A candidate may lose a presidential election even if he or she receives the most votes. How is this possible?

What? Why? How? is an organisation tool. It provides a framework for a logical response. After completing Steve’s example, Mark and I posed an essay question related to his course content.

Aristotle believes that beauty is in the form. How is this connected to Art?

Mark completed the What? Why? How? quickly which gave him an organisational structure for his response, something he was grappling with. What’s also very special is seeing Mark’s confidence grow!

Teachers want ‘a logical presentation of accurate information.’  Steve Peha

Finally, this technique/strategy has a hidden strength:

T0 complete this strategy you have to unpack, understand and answer the question!

Cheers Nina

 

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Part 3: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer

Unpacking the Year 10 and now Year 11 English curriculum in Australia is challenging and something I wish I’d done earlier in my career. Yes, we must know our primary curriculum and early secondary (to a point) but pulling apart these higher levels is interesting.

Angela Stockman has given me some excellent advice and even though I’ve been unpacking curriculum for many years, these standards are complex. Her advice is breaking the standards into learning targets that can be taught in one lesson and can be understood by teacher and student. This is essential to develop Learner Agency. Each standard has multiple targets and as my time with Mark is short, I need to maximise learning.  

be-a-better-writer-2Whilst putting this continuum together, I’ve been working with Mark on punctuation. Steve Peha recommended we do the Punctuation Inquiry activity in Be a Better Writer.

Punctuation Inquiry helps you learn how marks are used. Once you’ve read through a passage and figured out the punctuation, figure out why it’s there.’ Steve Peha

Steve uses a simple chart with three headings:

Example- Why It’s Used- Questions & Comments.

Mark and I focussed on capitalisation. We read through the example and discussed the use of capitals. He describes looking closely at a text as close reading. This is a quick activity and can be done daily on 75-100 words a day. What an excellent launch activity.

Next we looked at Punctuation Reading. The background Steve gives for this is that ‘most of us aren’t fully aware of punctuation when we read.’

We read the passage in Be a Better Writer and then we read the passage again with the punctuation noted in words e.g. new paragraph, indent, capital on a dark capital December night in 1776 comma…

This short paragraph contained 48 marks of punctuation, ten different types of punctuation and fifteen uses of punctuation which are explained in the book.

Steve states that this activity helps you ‘learn the names of the marks’ and ‘helps you develop a sense for how they’re used in published writing.’ Another great launch activity for the classroom.

Mark is reading Triage by Scott Anderson for English. He decided that writing a chapter summary would help him to analyse the text. Summarising the first chapter was excellent, because the first chapter sets the scene, introduces the characters and emotions and plot.

Mark wrote a well thought out paragraph. It was clearly presented, double line spaced and did not require rewriting! The punctuation was in place, placed for meaning and his spelling has greatly improved. I’ve called this his ‘awareness phase’.

I also love the dedication page in Be a Better Writer.

‘Use it to talk to your students about what matters most in writing. Use it to show them the writer you are so they’ll have a model for the writers they’ll become.’ Steve Peha

We break standards into learning targets that are kid friendly and teachable in a single lesson. They use kid language, and we put them on the board or on our anchor charts.We break standards into learning targets that are kid friendly and teachable in a single lesson. They use kid language, and we put them on the board or on our anchor charts.

Each standard has multiple targets, typically. We share them with kids.

It makes things far more meaningful.

 Cheers Nina

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Powerful video & text: How one action prevented a youth suicide – Why the IB- Learner Profile should be lived and breathed by students, teachers and the community!

Probably one of my most important posts! Education & the success of our education systems is far more than ‘As’ on a page… ‘just saying’

Nina's Arena-Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

A psychiatrist friend shared this video with a message on Facebook…

‘It is something everyone should read – especially school kids.’

I always watch or read anything Angela shares because I know her work. The video is confronting, but so is youth suicide.

The IB -PYP clearly mandates that the Learner Profile is embedded into the curriculum. It is unpacked from the very first day of school.

All schools have values they embrace but I wonder how well the values are embedded across the curriculum. It takes time to unpack the Learner Profile with students in a real and meaningful way. The Learner Profile has to be lived and ‘breathed’ by students. It’s not a wish list, its part of what embodies an IB teacher, student and IB school community.

An IB school also has to meet the standards of the IB to be endorsed as an IB school. There are…

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