Tag Archives: Fellowship Program

IB-PYP Inquiry: Relationships with each other affect how we feel and behave. Visible Thinking – Using Thinking Tools and more…

I’ve been exploring making thinking visible in all curriculum areas. Thinking tools and questioning are being taught and added to a collection of tools the children can choose from to develop perspective, vocabulary and an understanding of their world.

One of the tools I’ve been exploring with my students is Point of View. This tool can be used for all curriculum areas, whether exploring a character from a book, developing a character for a narrative, or to solve and explore a general problem. When children put themselves in the position of others, their empathy and understanding of a problem, situation or character deepens. Our inquiry for the first 8 weeks of the year has been about relationships.

Central Idea: The relationships we have with each other affect how we feel and behave.

What lines of inquiry will define the scope of the inquiry into the central idea?

  • Self Awareness (LP Attributes, Attitudes, Skills, Mission Statement, Essential Agreement, School Pledge)
  • How we develop relationships (What is  relationship? What relationships do you have in your life? What makes it a relationship?
  • Roles and behaviours within relationships (Scenarios, Role playing, Photos of LP Attributes, Essential Agreement)
  • How relationships affect us (Good, Bod, Reflections task board/Think board- develop their own)

What teacher questions/provocations will drive these inquiries?

How do we develop and maintain healthy relationships?

What makes a supportive relationship?

What/why do actions help to build healthy relationships?

My students have been exploring the relationships they have in their world.

Example: Point of View: Friendship and why we need to have more than one best friend. My role is to record my student’s ideas and not mine, but I think they covered all bases! 🙂

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Brainstorm: A good friend…

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The Point of View has been a fantastic tool to help sort friendship and playground issues which is part of building healthy relationships. Young children can be egocentric and developing their understanding that there can be other views has led to a very inclusive group of young learners.

The children have also used Point of View to understand the behaviours of a book character and to develop their own characters and plots when writing.

Cheers Nina

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The Studio Teacher Fellowship Program – WNY Education Associates: What have I been learning?

In 2014, I was given the opportunity to complete a Fellowship project under the guidance of Angela Stockman. I’m currently writing a paper summarizing what I’ve learnt. Initially my project started with a simple question:

What are the key ‘bump up’ indicators which should be on a student continuum?

Sounds simple! Well, that’s an understatement… I decided to start by looking at the continuums we have in place at my school, which are based on Fountas and Pinnell. How could I make these usable for my young writers? Then I started asking my young writers…

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Photo: This student was in their second year of schooling in Australia (Year 1). The student is in control of all aspects of their writing from the beginning. I presented the topic for this piece of writing but that’s it. I’m teaching this student again this year and many others, and I’m wondering what their writing will be like at the end of this year.

My project changed many times after exploring current research, speaking to other educators and most importantly my students. How could I nail down a topic or could I?  The very action of looking at my student’s writing and speaking to individual students about what helps them to be the best learners and writers has guided my project. My paper will finish with a list of recommendations largely created by six, seven and eight year old students and I’ll share those here.

Cheers Nina


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Writers Notebook: A powerful tool which documents if ‘what has been taught’ has been embedded and is being used consciously by students.

This year we introduced Writers Notebook across my school. My students and I absolutely love our notebooks. We have a tool/skill workbook where  student’s record / practice grammar, word-work and genre study. Their notebooks have a collection of their writing, thinking tools, planning and ideas. Some pieces are finished, others are not. There are plans, drawings, ideas, narratives, reports etc.

I chose a scrapbook and lined paper because the smaller exercise books didn’t allow for the drawings etc. Upon reflection the lined paper has meant quite a bit of sticking pages into a book but my students have managed this well. For next year our team has looked at a range of books more suitable for a notebook. I also stick books together so the children can look back and reflect on their journey as a writer. And they do!

This week I read a book by Terry Denton. The text in the book is made to look like the meaning. What was interesting was that a number of my students decided to ‘have a go’ at this in their own writing. They always have choice in their notebook. I’ve uploaded some photos of their attempt to make the words look like their meaning. These children are 6,7 & 8 year olds.

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These notebooks are powerful as documentation of learning as they show the transfer from a taught skill/ genre to a student’s writing where they draw upon what they know. I’m hoping this makes sense. The scaffolds are around the room but the students need to direct themselves and their use. The notebooks clearly show me where learning has been embedded into conscious use.

If you have writers notebooks or something similar, I’d love to know how your students use theirs and if you use their notebooks for assessment purposes.  

Cheers Nina


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I wanted to respond to a comment but it became too long. Thanks Helen! It gave me another opportunity to reflect on where I’m heading. Continuums! The big ‘UM’…

Fellowship Project: Angela Stockman WYN Education Associates


Background thinking!

I have to choose my words carefully here because assessment is vital, but not when the assessment overrides teaching. I’m seeing teachers sitting at tables individually assessing students for long periods of time during what I think should be ‘on the feet’, small group and whole class instruction time. The assessment looks impressive, but is it really? Is the assessment driving learning or is it all about where the student is?

Assessment drives teaching (absolutely) but is everything we are assessing necessary? I know it’s not! However, having said this, what are the crucial ‘clicks’ which move a student from one stage to the next? I have ideas and hunches but I need to validate these using the grounded research methodology which I’m learning about now.

I do feel that when we educators discover something new we can overuse it and in doing so take away the power of the tool and overwhelm ourselves in the classroom.

As you would understand current research on the Six Shifts in Teaching and Learning recognises there are key shifts (clicks) in student learning are directly influenced by the curriculum. These shifts are vital for teaching and need to be transparent to all stakeholders. This is where my thinking began.

We know a strong focus on improving instruction has a direct impact upon student achievement. Yes!

Professional development and quality teaching and learning will lift whole school data at all levels and individual student achievement. Yes!

Reflective teacher practices include the need for me to be aware of weaknesses in my teaching and I need to reflect and work with others to target specific areas which will improve instruction. Yes!

My reflective practices have made me aware of my current practice and areas for improvement. I know what I don’t know! Therefore, I need to plan opportunities to gain understanding of specific best practices and the ‘clicks’ which drive are ‘for learning’ and ‘as learning’. We know that teachers who intervene at the level of the individual student and develop processes and structures to enhance learning opportunities will improve student learning. Yes!

Best practice:

  1. builds knowledge through content
  2. will be grounded in evidence
  3. provides regular practice
  4. will focus where the Standards focus
  5. has coherence
  6. has rigor

Having said all this are continuums:-

  • for learning – providing feedback to inform the next stage of learning?
  • of learning – providing information about what students have learnt?
  • as learning – providing opportunities to support future learning?

How can I improve the continuums I am using so their use has a direct and improved impact on student learning? 

Cheers Nina


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Continuums! Continuums! One big ‘UM’! Making learning visible to all stakeholders…



This year I’ve started a Fellowship program organized by the Western New York (WNY) Education Associates (Angela Stockman) using grounded theory methodology. I’ve been playing around with a number of ideas and have now come up with my study. It’s not articulated well but what I’m doing is broadly outlined below.


We’re big on continuums for everything and this is great, but the challenge is to make these continuums child friendly and all learning visible to teachers, parents and most importantly the students. The problem is (my opinion) that the continuums we have are huge and perhaps contain benchmark statements which have become padding rather than essential. At my school our continuums are built on Fountas and Pinnell which is a great resource.

What I’m looking at through my students’ writing is the ‘WHAT’. What has actually moved their writing forward? I’m thinking of a hurdles race here where each hurdle or challenge is essential while other factors are not. This analogy sounds a bit different but I know from my students’ writing that there are core learning outcomes, but you don’t know what you don’t know!

My challenge is to develop criterion  to assess and ask my students what the ‘click’ was and from this create and trial a streamlined continuum which is fully understood by all stakeholders. The answer is embedded in their writing and I think I’ll use how I teach writing genres to scaffold the process. My students write well and I’ve been asked how I teach writing, and given that we plan in teams and I use our team planning documents I must be doing something differently. So, if I am doing something differently, what is it? I need to discover what it is and make this visible to all.

Cheers Nina


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Fellowship Program: Western New York – Angela Stockman

I’m very excited to take on a fellowship program under the guidence of Angela Stockman. Victorian teachers have a new Performance Development Plan as part of our teacher review process. My study / project has to be relevant, challenging, inspire me, and provide an opportunity for me to improve my teaching, and share my learning with colleagues.

September: Idea Development for Action Research Project
October: Organizing Your Process and Work Using Grounded Theory Methodology
November-February: Investigation and Inquiry Work, Data Collection, Analyses, and Hypotheses
March-May: Preparing to Publish Your Work
June: Publication and Celebration

Cheers Nina

Next Post: My Writer’s Workshop program and my Writer’s Tool Program.


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