Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Beat the Goalie Game on Scratch - Reflection

First the students were shown the game (Beat the Goalie) on Scratch without the lines of code. They were asked to think about how they would go about recreating the game to replicate the original. Students had to think about how to create the lines of code to recreate the game so that it looked the same and had the same instructions. Because they were already experienced with using the Scratch programme they were automatically able to create 2 sprites and a background quite quickly.

Each student had access to an imac. By working individually rather than in groups I could clearly see who could manage with this task independently and who struggled. Instructions and hints to possible lines of code to be used was shared with the students, but most seemed to be able to go ahead and create the code (or at least experiment) without the instructions.

By the end of the session, two thirds of the class managed to get to the end of game within an hour. Zoe (from OMGTech) challenged them further to create a two player game. Instead of random movement of the goalie (or a stationary one), code was needed to control the goalie instead using the arrow keys. Just over half the class were able to achieve this independently.

This was a really good task to test the skills of the students. It is not a task that I would start with early in the year with students who are new to coding. This task tested the skills that had been learnt over the last two terms. It was reassuring to see that most of the students had the skills to achieve level 4 of the new digital curriculum.

Beat the Goalie Game snippets from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Reflection about Fake News Inquiry Enactment

Fake News Inquiry Enactment 1-oz-silver-kraken-round-obv.jpg
Search for the Kraken on the internet.   
    • Decide: Is the Kraken real, imaginary, or something in between?
    • How do you know?
    • Why might it be important to be able to figure this sort of thing out?

This was another opportunity to practice the Paideia method leading up to our seminar. Students were instructed to search for the ‘Kraken’ and decide whether it was real or not. Students took sides and interestingly enough there were a couple of groups who thought it was either real, fake, and/or something in between.
The process of making a decision based on evidence or lack of evidence found on the internet (or from personal general knowledge) was encouraged. Through discussion, students were asked to justify their positions based on their findings. There were interesting and plausible answers for and against the existence of the Kraken.
Students questioned the reliability of the internet and the lack of concrete evidence. Others made comparisons to dinosaur fossils and the possibility that the Kraken may have existed as a type of ancient species. Regardless of their positions, the students continued to practice how to listen to others, build on the ideas of others and argue their point of view backed by evidence.

Paideia Practice The Kraken July 2017 snippets from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Back in da Day Reflection

The production was performed on Tuesday the 27th of June. We had our final dress rehearsal on the Saturday just before the production. A third of the students couldn’t make it (6 out of 18) which made things a little difficult, but we had a good run through of the show including the backdrops and sound. Anne Sinclair and I took care of the cast, while Mr Jacobsen took care of the sound, microphones and headsets.

I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be ready for the Tuesday show as several students still didn’t know their lines and were reading off the scripts. We tried again to practice on Monday during our lunchtime. There were still a few hiccups and I was feeling quite nervous. Mr Somerville was on hand to provide support. Then on the Tuesday morning, we found out that three students were absent. Luckily three students filled in for the absent students. One student had covered someone else’s part on Saturday, another learnt his lines the day before and one even took over someone’s part an hour before the show.

Showtime. We had one last run through during lunchtime but it was still a little nerve wracking thinking about the issues that we had. Soon 2:00pm went by and the hall started to fill up with teachers, parents and classes.

During the show I watched from the back of the hall as I was filming it, so I could see the whole production in action. It took about half an hour and by the end of the show I was so relieved as the students had put on an incredible performance considering the lack of time to practice and learn lines, the absent actors, and other dramas along the way.

I couldn’t even pick out my highlight as I loved every bit of it. We had students who were so shy but had stepped up, learnt their lines and shone. The actors and dancers were amazing. The students had actually put in an incredible amount of work to produce the show to the level that they had.

Mr Burt congratulated the students for their awesome performance. I think by this stage I was too emotional to speak. I was so proud of all of the Year 5 & 6 Extension group who had just performed. But I was especially proud of the fact that the whole school had come along to support us. As I looked out into the crowd I could see a sea of red and black. There were parents sitting proudly in the back rows. Teachers were smiling. I was literally holding back tears thinking how lucky I was to be part of an amazing school. Not only were the students given the opportunity to shine and perform in front of their peers, but the whole school was there to support us. That’s what made it all worth it.

Year 5 & 6 Extension mini-Production: Back in da Day

On Tuesday the 27th June, the Year 5 & 6 Extension group performed their mini-production called ‘Back in da Day’ in front of the whole school. The students collaborated to put this production together. They were placed into 5 main groups: Script writers, Costume and Makeup designers, Background and set designers, Light and sound, Actors and Dancers. Of course the jobs of some of these groups overlapped during the term.

The theme was based on this term’s school wide theme around technology. This was incorporated into the script quite cleverly by the students. The story is set in the current day where a group of children spend quite a bit of time on electronic devices and games. The children grumble about how the adults in their lives seem to hold them back from their game time. Bethan (Year 6) performs a solo that she wrote about the unfairness of it all. Then they stumble upon a mysterious device that transports/teleports them into another time period.

In the Pacific Setting, the students discover that they are no longer at home and struggle to communicate with the locals. A pacific style dance item is performed. Later the students are teleported again, this time to a time in the 1960s. A brief movie plays which shows snapshots of images and icons from the 60s. They children discover that they have been transported to the family home in the 60s and they meet their grandmother when she was a child.


During the 60s item the dancers perform to ‘Chubby Checker - Let’s do the Twist’ song. Then Zaeeda (Year 5) performs her solo that she wrote. The children are then transported into the future. Here they see things that they have never seen before. They meet a human who owns an advanced personal robot and find out what life is like in the future. Then a futuristic dance item is performed, followed by a solo item from Marika (Year 5) who wrote her own song.

Finally the children are transported back to the present and realise that there is more to life than just playing on their electronic devices. Quality time with friends and family is important even though technology can help with their learning.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Talk Science and Talk moves - relation to Paideia method

Talk Science

This article is about academically productive talk and how to achieve it in a classroom setting. Although the focus in on improving discussion and thinking around science concepts, it can apply to any subject.

I read this article because it completely compliments and supports the Paideia method that we have been using with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group this year.

(From the article)
Four necessary and foundational goals that underpin academically productive discussions:
  1. Help individual students share, expand and clarify their own thoughts.
  2. Help students listen carefully to one another.
  3. Help students deepen their reasoning.
  4. Help students engage with others reasoning.
Too often in a classroom, discussion about a subject is only at a surface level and deep thinking about concepts and ideas by students is never reached. The teacher usually asks a question with a single right answer and calls on a student to respond. The teacher indicates whether the answer is correct and then moves onto another question. This approach does not encourage students to take risks or develop critical thinking skills.

Academically productive talk is about students being fully engaged in a discussion, sharing ideas, listening to others, and taking risks. It is also about conversation being focused and coherent, based around a given idea or issue.  

Well established ground rules are needed for talk. I feel that this was accomplished during term 1 when the Year 5 & 6 Extension students were constantly reminded about what a Paideia style discussion looked and sounded like. They were given plenty of opportunities to practice thinking and talking about an issue or topic.

The end of term Paideia seminar consolidated their learning and understanding of the Paideia method and about the issue of pollution. The students reflected on the seminar and talked about the areas that needed improvement. Some of the reflections mentioned that a couple of students had dominated the conversations and that they needed to be more inclusive of others by taking turns and encouraging others to participate more.

More importantly the students realised that they needed to build on other students arguments and points of view. They tended to have lots of individual disconnected ideas which is talked about in the article. We looked at ways in which they could connect their combined ideas by listening thoughtfully, building/piggy-backing on ideas, clarifying etc.

By the middle of Term 2 (just recently) the students were able to show that they could build on arguments and use effective language in their discussions e.g. ‘ Can you clarify...’, ‘I agree with ___ because…’, I’d like to piggyback on ____ idea because…’  and so on.

The answers were more focused, specific and varied. Students were thinking more with little prompting to inspire conversations. The topic that was put to the students was about ‘fake news’. Some students were interested in using their background knowledge of the recent terrorist bombings to talk about the idea of ‘fake news’.  The students talked about the evidence that was needed. They understood that providing proof was important and they could give examples of what to look out for. They could identify some of the key indicators of ‘real news’ items e.g. footage, photos, interviews with witnesses, reliable sources etc.

The biggest difference from last term was that more students were confident enough to share their ideas. Last term there were at least 3-4 students who could speak confidently and most of the group tended to keep quiet. Now there are 3-4 students who still need to build their confidence while the rest of the group are confident to share their ideas freely.  

Monday, 15 May 2017

SPARK MIT Meeting #2

Today was our second SPARK MIT meeting at SPARK Headquarters. We talked about where we were all up to in terms of our inquiry focus. I talked about my inquiry focus which is all about improving critical thinking skills through the use of 'deep dialogical discussions' with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group. I also talked about the use of 'coding' with the Year 7 & 8 Extension group to extend their thinking skills.

When I reflect upon my experience during term one, I consider myself really lucky to have had the guidance, help and support from Anne Sinclair who has been like a mentor teacher. The Year 5 & 6 students were extremely lucky to have the attention of two teachers throughout the term to help guide them with their learning. Teaching students how to hold deep dialogic discussions was something new for me. By the end of the term I could see how most of them had developed their skills in speaking and holding a conversation with others based on a topic. With some prior knowledge and background research (including lots of scaffolding),  most of the students could talk about their position/stance about an issue (pollution) much more deeply. We gave them an opportunity to reflect on the Paideia Seminar that was held at the end of the term, and most students were able to recognise and reflect on the areas that they needed to work on.

In terms of coding with the Year 7 & 8 group I am also grateful for the help that I received from Zoe from OMGTech. I don't think we would have made as much progress with their games as we did if she hadn't been there for support, advice and guidance. It would have been a very stressful process to try and get the students games completed on Scratch (in time for the cluster exhibition) without her help. The students also learnt many new technical skills along the way. I felt that it was a huge learning curve for me as my knowledge about coding was quite limited earlier in the year.

During our meeting we also talked about the 'innovation' aspect of our inquiries. My innovation is around the use of a range of tools to collaborate with and capture evidence of student learning and collaboration. I have used padlets, shared docs, google slides, a survey (google form), movies (vignettes) and my site (Creative Space) to capture evidence of learning and collaboration. This forms part of a bigger question which was how to assess and measure learning with these students based on my inquiry. What evidence did I have? Monitoring and assessing some of the Key Competencies would also be important. Using surveys to capture evidence of student attitudes towards their learning was considered. I also needed to consider how to get the home class teacher (of the student) to take notice of what the extension kids are doing.

We also had the opportunity to meet with our SPARK buddy. Today I met with Tracy who is a lawyer at SPARK. Tracy has previously been a teacher so we had a very interesting conversation about my inquiry and how she could help support me this year.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Coding - Scratch Games shared at Te Oro

Our Manaiakalani group of schools in Auckland, NZ have been learning about how we can take care of our local environment. The theme was 'Te Taiao o Tamaki'. On Wednesday 12th of April our Manaiakalani Cluster of Schools held an exhibition at Te Oro to celebrate a term of learning about the environment. You can view highlights from the exhibition on this link

At Pt England school our theme for the year is 'Responsiblity'. In term one we have focused on 'Kaitiakitangi i nga wa katoa' which is about taking care of our environment and everything in it. The Year 7 & 8 Extension group used Scratch to create games about our local environment. 

This is the first time that many of our students have used Scratch. This was a great platform to learn how to code using blocks (lines of code) rather than text. The backgrounds are of our school, local reserve and beach. The exhibition at Te Oro was an opportunity for our Year 7 & 8 Extension students to share their learning this term. The 'Game Space' area was very popular with students at the exhibition. 

Link to the students games

Scratch Games at Te Oro - Manaiakalani Cluster Exhibition 2017 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.