Tuesday, 23 October 2012

School Wide Halloween Learning Activity

Every now and them I try something like this out. Sometimes I think it is not often enough and other times I worry that teachers have so much to do in their classrooms that they do not want my 10 minutes activities. However, from feedback that I get they like to have these activities to do with their students at different times of the year.

Here is the activity that I have just posted for the school to work on: School Wide Pumpkin Activity

Some of the reasons that I think that they are important to do are:

  1. There are always curriculum connections that apply to each grade level.
  2. They build community within the school.
  3. It gets teachers talking about what they are going in their classrooms.
  4. The kids get excited and love to tell me about their learning experience around the task.
  5. It gets continues to get me involved in what learning is happening in the classrooms in the school.
If any other administrators do similar things I would love to hear about it and find out what your experiences are with these type of tasks. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Reflecting on School Use of Technology

Getting more and more technology into the classrooms to help compliment student learning has been a goal of mine for quite some time. We are steadily acquiring the technology here at St. Rita Catholic School so we can offer a student experience that takes advantage to the reality that students learn in.

In our Learning Commons and classrooms students have access to:

  • 30 iPads
  • a cart of 25 netbooks
  • 20 iPods
  • 11/13 classrooms are outfitted with a SmartBoard as is our library
  • each teacher had a laptop 
We are looking at BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) activities here in our Junior grades and there has even been some collaboration of Junior and Primary students using the iPods.

Here is the St. Rita BYOD Policy for the 2012-2013 school year.

It never fails to amaze me just how much our students know about these devices. Not tapping into this knowledge to help our students meet their learning goals would seem like a waste.

I think it is important that we pause and reflect where we are at this moment. We are very fortunate to have so many great things here at our school. Taking a look at where we are and where we can move next is going to be a very important stage for us. Before use any more school funds to purchase more technology we are going to take a close look at how we use technology here at St. Rita and how we can use it to meet our students needs and to increase student achievement.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Flipping the Monthly Staff Meeting

I have been hearing a lot about flipping classrooms over the past year or so and more recently I have come across schools that are flipping their staff/faculty meetings.

The more I thought about it the more it seemed to make more and more sense to me. Here is why:
  • We are always looking for more time to get together to talk about the real issues in our school. These issues include assessment and evaluation, rich learning tasks and looking at student work as a team. It has been quite difficult to get teachers released to have the time to talk about these things. Flipping a staff meeting allows for teachers to read through all of the information items at their leisure so we can spend the time talking about the issues we want to. 
  • Staff members do not want to sit and listen to be for an hour talking about things that could have just as easily been sent in a email.
  • The flipped meeting will archive everything that is important that our staff members need to know about. If they forget something, need something or just want to reference something that was discussed, it is all in one place
So what I have decided to do it use a blog to 'flip' my meeting. In a perfect world I would have started this at the August Staff Meeting but for now the October one will have to do.

The first meeting is this afternoon and I am going to try it out. In the future I will be sending it out at least a few days in advance so everyone can take a look before the meeting takes place.

Any feedback would be most welcome. Especially from anyone who has already tried this in their schools!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Role of Homework in an Elementary School

I have never been a big fan of homework even though I admit I have assigned homework in the past that I would never dream of sending home now. Why? I am not sure if it is because I am now more informed about how students learn and how they or motivated to learn. Or, is it because I have my own children and I can see the other side of the fence.

The big question surrounding homework for me is: What is the purpose of the work?

Should work come home with students on a regular basis? Absolutely. What we have to look at is what type of work goes home with our students. Is it busy work that is given just for the sake of giving students homework. Or is it an extension of the learning process in the class meant to allow students to follow their own curiosity and make their own investigations and conclusions?

In Ontario we have a document entitled: "GROWING SUCCESS: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools".

The document takes an extensive look at assessment and evaluation and how they are used to improve student learning.

One of the sections of the document that really stood out for me was:

"To ensure equity of all students, assignments for evaluation and tests or exams are to be completed, whenever possible, under the supervision of a teacher. Assignments must not include ongoing homework that students do to consolidate their knowledge and skills or to prepare for the next class."

This section stood out to me for the following reasons:

  • It puts all students on an even playing field so to speak.
  • Every child's reality is different at home and they are not being penalized because of who helps them or who does not.
So what are the reasons that I am rethinking homework in an elementary school?

  1. Homework is often has the wrong focus: If homework is being sent home in order to get all aspects of the curriculum covered, there is a problem. Homework should go home that promotes learning and that spark students interest.
  2. School is a job: Our students spend 6 hours plus a day at school. Some of our students do not even get picked up from childcare until almost 6 o'clock. Let's think about ourselves. When you get home do you want to do and hour plus of homework? Our students should be able to focus on their studies at school in a positive environment that makes going to 'work' fun. No one wants to bring work home.
  3. Let a kid be a kid:  Kids need to run around and be active. When they get home they should have the opportunity to go outside and play and participate in extra-curricular activities without worrying about doing their hour of homework each night.
  4. Reality: Some of our kids go home to an empty house. Mom and Dad may work late. Maybe it is a single family home where the parent takes a night shift and your student is responsible to take care of her/his siblings. Often we have no idea what is happening in the homes of our students.
  5. The majority of homework is ....... well boring: More often than not homework mirrors what has gone on in the classroom during the school day. If we are going to assign after hours work, why not make it interesting and offer different learning opportunities.
When we do assign homework I would like to see the homework do the following:
  • motivate students to investigate
  • give the students choice of what they can do for homework
  • have the students document what they have done at home
  • have open ended homework assignments that act as a springboard to discover something new and exciting
I would really be interested in seeing what kind of effect this would have on a learning environment at school. Not for one second do I think that it would be perfect. Of course there would be obstacles and things that need tweaked. However, I am sure that there would be students at school that are less stressed out, chronicled details of out of school discoveries and students who have more control over their learning while meeting classroom expectations.

I think I will start the ball rolling here. I'll let you know how the journey progresses.