Learning Stories

Towards the end of last year I mused over the nature of teacher reporting to parents.

My thesis (ooohhh, fancy word!) was based around the extremely stagnant nature of reports. That is, because we are only reporting to parents every half year, most of the time what we are putting in our reports is already out of date. Often by many months.

My post was inspired by this tweet from Miss D:

My post was also inspired by my son’s kindergarten and their regular posts on his Educa profile. Anyone with preschool children at an early childhood centre using Educa will know how fabulous it is when you read another story on how your child is learning on their own and with others.

Anyone who has seen Point England School in Auckland knows how well their students use blogging to record their learning. I was first shown these at a professional learning day back in the Easter holidays. As soon as I saw Blogger I started musing.

After musing on this for a few months and deciding on going down the Google Apps / Hapara route, I’ve also decided to begin using Blogger to report to parents in a similar way as my son’s kindy reported on his learning (he’s now at school so his next report is his 4-week one… I think…?).

Blogger allows parents, or anyone for that matter (brothers, sisters, grand-parents, overseas relatives etc), to sign up to follow the blog. Every time there is a post, they get an email alert. Alternatively people can subscribe via their RSS reader.

What’s in a learning story?

How I’ve structured my learning stories is very similar to how my son’s former kindy did.

  1. Outline what was observed.
  2. Point out what learning was happening.
  3. Suggest next steps for my teaching.
  4. Link the learning back to our school curriculum.

I am in my very early stages of this form of reporting to parents; it’s only been going this week! I do, however, feel rather enthused by the whole thing. What it’s done is made me really hunt out the authentic learning moments my students are having.

I’ll share today’s learning story with you to see what you think.

So far that’s four stories I’ve done this week involving eight of my twenty three students. We’ll see how this pans out.

I’m picking I’ll still have to churn out 23 old-fashioned reports come November…

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Ako: I am a learner, I am a teacher

Since many, many of the wondering EdChatters I look up to have been writing screes this month on a daily basis, I thought it timely I put finger to key and tap out a few words.

If you are unfamiliar with the Māori concept of ako it means both learning and teaching. We have developed this as part of our school curriculum and it sits alongside key competencies related to learning.

I have decided to explore ako more explicitly with my students this year for a number of reasons. Firstly, they need to realise that I don’t know everything and that, in fact, as a group we are all in it together on our journey of discovery (watch this space for pictures of microbes from the irrigation race – very soon).

Secondly, they are all teachers, whether they like it or not. When I surveyed them yesterday about ako – that they were teachers and learners – none really put up their hand. However, when I asked in the context of, “Have you ever taught anyone to do anything?” hands shot up all over the place. Every single kid in the class had taught someone to do something. Ride a bike, tie shoe laces, log on to Code.org (fairly recent); the list was extensive.

Thirdly, and possibly selfishly, I am thinking about my inquiry this year. I intend to do a bit of research this year into how children with different needs are catered for in the modern, flexible learning environment (yes… I too am aware of the jargony nature of that sentence). Essentially my concern is those students who have particular learning needs could easily get lost in the modern, noisy classroom as students go about their messy inquiry missions.

The idea developed over the course of last year as I watched how students worked with each other in those vertical learning groups of mixed abilities. Kids are very good at explaining and helping out other kids who don’t know how to do something. I saw this as an opportunity and wanted to look into it futher.

So today we talked about some concepts that our curriculum has related to ako: manaakitanga (caring for others), kotahitanga (togetherness) and rangatiratanga (leadership or self-determination). Here’s our brainstorm (sorry – it’s a bit reflecty):

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You can see on the left I’ve written: “How can we use pictures to show this?”

You know, in your head, when you’re teaching is awesome – around about the time you’re planning it? I really did think we’d talk about these concepts and voila, I’d have pictures of mighty kauri thrusting forth from Papatūānuku with ako being the strong trunk….

Well… there were many blank faces. However, I did send them away and let them go for it. Some kids did really well, but on the whole I think it was mostly a struggle. Reflecting afterwards I put it down to a lack of effective scaffolding on my part and too many new words all at once.

But hey, on the bright side, those words are now in our class vernacular. They are fabulous concepts – key competencies in te reo. I will now build on these shaky foundations and perhaps, one day this year, a mighty kauri will triumph.

This wasn’t a failure. It was a beginning.

Akohoia tahi tatou – together we learn.

Mr B.