Monthly Archives: October 2010

Instructional Rounds: My 4th Round with a twist… My Reflection!

My TPL partner and I recently participated in our 4th Instructional Round with a twist!

Our school was selected for a Round by our local Principal’s Network. This was this group’s first Instructional Round, and the outcome of this experience would direct this group’s professional direction as a network for 2011. The success of Rounds will also eventually lead to teachers being involved in Rounds.

I believe when this happens, classroom practice will improve exponentially. But everything has to start from somewhere!

Preparing our staff for an Instructional Round was crucial. Explaining the purpose, process and unique protocols of the strategy was vital. Teacher’s need to willingly ‘open their classrooms’ and to do this they need to know that this is not about individual teacher assessment, but about whole school improvement.

To prepare our staff we presented Rounds at a staff meeting. Our slideshow is uploaded here for you to view. The background certainly wasn’t dark when projected. We also created two videos to introduce the process. These are available for use by becoming a member  of the Instructional Rounds – e5 Instructional Model – Best Practice ‘ning’.  Our staff were involved in writing the ‘problem of practice’ and asked, what data they wanted collected on their behalf?

At the end of our presentation staff were asked to reflect, and if they would rather not be included in this Round to inform our principal. We have Casual Relief Teachers working in our school and it would be fully understandable if they had chosen not to be part of this Round. The feedback we received was that not one teacher indicated they didn’t want to be involved. In fact, there was an incredible supportive collegiate feeling in our school. Everyone wanted in!

I think my TPL partner, and my passion for Rounds certainly helped.  We made it clear that we were going to be in our classrooms and that we wouldn’t expect anyone to do what we weren’t prepared to do ourselves.

Rounds Experience Reflection.

How did this work?

I had three groups of five principals visit my classroom between 9am and 11am. When the Round classroom observations were finished we joined this group of 30 principals, Regional Network Leaders and our Assistant Regional Director for the Rounds’ Observation Debrief. The groups were structured in a way that we did not review data collected by principals who observed in our classrooms.

Our staff will be debriefed as part of the process soon, and I believe my school will greatly benefit from the data collected.

One staff member gave me the following feedback: She thought being part of the Round was great because it really made her reflect and I shared this feedback with the group.

I understand exactly what she’s saying because I’ve been reflecting too. I hope that others also see me as a reflective practitioner’ and learner. Probably my biggest ‘hope’ as an educator!

Cheers Nina

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Writing for a purpose: Make it authentic! My 5&6 year olds write every day and love it!

Having an authentic need to write each day is important, and verbalizing this to my students is critical. I want my students  not only to love writing, but to realise that writing is a way we can record events, our learning and express ourselves. We spend a lot of time discussing why a book was written and the author’s intent / purpose.

This week the children have written a journal recount in their personal diaries, a congratulations letter to a family in our grade, factual statements / information as part of our inquiry and a Learner Profile statement. Having varied reasons to write means that my student’s writing diet has variety and purpose.

A journal recount is important, but it’s ‘thinker’s writing’ that I’m looking closely at. ‘Thinker’s writing’ is when my students use all that they have learnt to write in a different format. I’ve been focussing on Information Texts and factual statements. Today we read a big book about spiders to support our inquiry into living and non-living. They were asked to write five pieces of factual information that they learnt from the text. I’ve included samples of their work in this post.

The above piece of writing is a journal entry from a student this week. This is independent writing. When looking beyond the mixed capital and lower case letters, this is an impressive piece of writing. This child has correctly used an apostrophe of ownership, exclamation marks and the correct ‘too’. His attempt at spelling celebrating is wonderful. It’s so exciting to see each student’s writing development. My students are in the final term of their first year of school and they are wonderful readers as well.

Cheers Nina


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Back to Teaching & Learning: Unpacking the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program Learner Profiles with 5 & 6 Year Olds- ‘Open-minded’

The International Baccalaureate Learner Profile

Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, Reflective

Focus: Open-minded

“They understand and appreciate their own culture and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals, groups and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.” IB

Recently I teamed with our PYP coordinator to unpack the Learner Profile  Open-minded with my Prep students (5&6 Year Olds). My students are wonderful thinkers as a result of the IB – PYP program.  They will challenge ideas and seek clarification as our coordinator found out. They ‘dig deep’ and are not satisfied with superficial answers…and I love this!

Understanding what open- minded means is not easy. To ‘kick off’ the children’s thinking, we asked each child to say what they thought open-minded was – gathering their prior knowledge. What next?

To introduce our Learner Profile we use picture story books. We selected a number of books specifically about ‘imagination’ – opening the mind. The children loved these books and were starting to inquire further. One child shared his thoughts about a closed mind. Now we were really starting to get somewhere! Not giving answers is a key. The children need to form their understanding after a lot of discussion, thinking and questioning.

After each story the children form a ‘talking circle’ to share their thoughts. This is ‘formative assessment’ and helps guide our planning. Each child explains their ideas. New questions are asked as they continue to deepen their understanding.

The children were read Imagine A Place by Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by Rob Gonsalves.  Reading a book once is not enough. We often read a book many times discussing the main idea, author’s intent, new vocabulary and carefully looking at the illustrations. We are mindful that these are young children building knowledge,  structuring and re-structuring their understanding, building new knowledge on existing knowledge.

We decided to make our own wonderful book. The children were given an opening phrase – Imagine a place… to scaffold their drawing and writing. They were asked to draw the picture they had of their amazing place in their imagination first. Opening their mind to all the possibilities! They then wrote about their picture starting with the phrase, Imagine a place….  I’ve included photos of my student’s writing and pictures below.

We also read a wonderful story about a young boy Ben who helps save whales beached in Western Australia. They discussed why Ben was open – minded and his actions that displayed this Learner Profile. My students are also being introduced to the attitudes and use these in context. Other Learner Profiles are discussed in relation to all stories. We constantly talk about the Learner Profile but focus deeply on one each week. This strategy is working for this group of children.

We read other stories during the week identifying the Learner Profiles and looking for characters that were open-minded.  It was great to team up with another teacher to un-pack this Learner Profile. We are also learners here!

Cheers Nina


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A Reflection: Instructional Rounds – It’s Important!

Thanks for the emails and sharing a few of your experiences with me. I’ve been asked to share a reflection here, and I have reflected! Yesterday when presenting a short talk to a group of principals, I had an attack of nerves. Something that I hadn’t experienced for a long time. I worked through it and ‘got going’, but was perplexed as to why and then? After talking to my sister who does a lot of speaking, she informed me that some people would rather die than speak publicly. Comforting – not really!

She then said, ‘was the stuff you were talking about important to you’. Yes! That was it… Instructional Rounds is important. The Instructional Rounds ning is important.

Why? My motivation is that classroom teachers will be involved in Instructional Rounds. Having been involved as a classroom teacher has been a steep learning curve and probably the best professional development I’ve had, and by that I mean, it has had a direct impact on my teaching. 

Yesterday, I shared with a group of principals that the by-product of Instructional Rounds  for me is, that it has given me the observation skills to be my own non-judgemental critical friend. As a result, my teaching practice has changed and improved significantly. . . and this will continue. 

For me it has also been around the following: If a student did everything I asked them to, what would they know? Good question!

Cheers Nina

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Reflecting on a Teacher’s Week – Instructional Rounds & Me!

Today I joined a large group of principals being introduced to Instructional Rounds. I’ve been fortunate to have already completed this training once before. It amazes me how when being presented the same information by a different presenter, your understanding deepens. As I can only take in a certain amount of information in one day before it goes to ‘spam’, completing this training was good for me. As I’m a constructivist, the quote from Piaget below is very applicable. I certainly was structuring and re-structuring my knowledge all day.

”I am a constructivist. Knowledge is not ready made. Each of us is continually creating our own knowledge. We are continually organizing what we know, structuring and re-structuring our knowledge.” Piaget

As I write here to reflect on my learning, I’ll share what I’ve learnt this week. I learnt how to use ‘Windows Movie Maker’ properly, deepened my understanding of content planning for literacy by working with a team  and attended Instructional Rounds training.

At the end of a very long day, my Teacher Professional Leave partner and I delivered a short talk on tools available for ‘network’ sharing. I was quite nervous at the beginning – one of my demons I thought I’d rid myself of came back. It was very nice of a couple of people to say they didn’t notice, but I know they did!  However, it may be nice for anyone who visits this space and has had the same experience, that you are not alone. I guess it’s like riding that horse, I’ll have to get back on and do it again or ….maybe not!

I’ve uploaded the video we created for schools to use when introducing Instructional Rounds to their staff. This is our very first video and we’re pretty pleased with our product. Not perfect, but a milestone no less!

One very pleasing outcome of today is that the Instructional Rounds ning will be upgraded. This will enable new members to join. We have 19 educators waiting to be accepted and others who visited and realised the membership was full. Anybody reading this who would like to join, keep visiting.

Cheers Nina

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Extending Writing: Using a Recount Exemplar with 5&6 Year Olds.

Using a recount exemplar as a scaffold has enabled my students to start developing control of their writing. My students have been extending their writing to include more detail. Our journals are a record of each student’s personal history. They understand that when they read their writing back in years to come they will want to remember as much as they can about the things they did. This also relates to an earlier inquiry into personal histories. All children, at every stage of writing development are benefitting from using a structure to support their writing.

Before writing their journals, the children focus on the exemplar to remind them of the main parts of a recount. We also discuss punctuation and spelling strategies.  


Orientation: When? Who? Where?

Sequence of events: What happened?

Personal Comment

A large number of my students are now extending their writing. They are excited by their ability to record events. These students are 5 & 6 year olds, and I’m amazed by what they are capable of. It’s interesting to see their use of punctuation developing in the examples below. Using commas, capital letters, full stops, spaces between words and time words is evident.



Cheers Nina

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