Thursday, 6 September 2018

Taming Your Tabs

Session 2  (Digital Fluency Intensive)

Today started with organising my book marks. 

At the end I felt like I do after spring cleaning my house......awesome.

I got rid of old bookmarks, replacing them with ones I open everyday. I also got rid of the names and just left the icons, this enabled me to have many more bookmarks open. 

I am very excited about Toby. This Chrome extension allows me to organise my browser tabs and access them quickly anywhere and create and store sessions to make collections of tabs to access. As I work in a shared space with 52 students we have 12 Reading groups. I organised them all under 1 tab so when it comes to my weekly planning I will have only 1 tab open not multiple. 

We did quite a bit of learning around gmail. Now anyone who knows me understands that reading my emails is one of pet peeves. I have organised my emails and have decided to archive weekly the ones I have not already deleted. There were many other tricks but I am not interested in spending too much time in this area. Get in, read the important ones and get out. 

One Tab was another great Chrome extension that I was introduced to today. You can use One Tab to close all tabs that are open in the window then create a list of the tabs that you can revisit all at once.


Dorothy spoke to us about the power of rewindable learning. As a year 3 teacher and also having spent many years teaching Year 2 and New Entrance, it reminded me how important this was. Inserting voice recordings in students activities on their i-pads allows them to be independent learners. If they are unable to read the question or remember what to do next they simply push a button and can hear my voice giving them the next instruction.  

I had a great idea for 2 of my students using rewindable Learning. These 2 girls are 8 and have a reading age of 11. (level 30) They are both very tech savvy. Next week I am going to give them a book at level 9-10 (blue) and get them to make a digital activity using voice recordings. It will be interesting to see what they think is important for the students reading this book to learn. 

It was another great day and lots to think to think about.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Digital Fluency Intensive

          Manaiakalani Digital Fluency Intensive


First Session:

We started the session learning about the origins of Manaiakalani. After working at Point England School for seven years and hearing this story many times I still find it inspiring.

I have been working in a 1:1 digital environment for 5 years  but I still discovered many new tricks I could use both in my classroom and in my personal life. Google Keep was an amazing new tool. I have already talked to the teacher I work alongside in a shared space about using Google Keep to help us keep a list of our 52 students and who has blogged their work.

I got more familiar with Google Docs and how to make a presentation look aesthetically pleasing. Below is a link to a lesson we did last week. 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

I learnt how to use the Explore button instead of opening numerous tabs. 

I got familiar with the Add Ons, however my favourite new tool I will be implementing in my classroom immediately with some students is the voice typing tool. I have several Year 3 students who have some wonderful ideas but they struggle to write these down. Using this tool I can get a true idea of what they are thinking and it will allow them to write a narrative using their imagination to the fullest.


It was great to meet some new teachers to share ideas with and discuss what they are doing in their classrooms. 

Looking forward to session 2.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Students Choice Always A Winner

To develop creativity in the classroom you must first embrace creativity as part of learning.

For students to truly grow and progress, there has to be a point when intrinsic motivation comes into balance with extrinsic motivation. In the early stages of learning an art form, students engage with the activity because it's fun (intrinsic motivation). However, this motivation will allow them to progress only so far, and then their development begins to slow or even stop. At this point, lean on extrinsic motivation to continue your students growth. s

So after my last disastrous attempt at doing some fun art I thought it would throw it back at the students and see what they wanted to do. I thought this would motivate them into tackling the project with pride, and enthusiasm. It worked. The girls created an absolute fairyland and the boys created a Transformers wall.


Rainbow tree with mushroom people. Fairies who lived in the tree and unicorns who watched over them all keeping them safe from the evil with who lived in a forest of feathers.


Giant flower garden where the bumblebees and birds and snails and caterpillars lived with flower fairies.



A bombed out city where a group of Transformers live to fight crime and save the Universe from evil Megatron



 Stone castle where the Transformers live to hide from the bad aliens who are coming to invade Earth.

Giving the students ownership of what they wanted to create was awesome. There was so much positivity in the room. Students were talking about what else they could add to the murals. It was these discussions that I had been waiting to hear. The boys decided they need bugs like cockroaches to invade their city to make it creepier.



The girls decided they needed an evil witch who lived in a forest of feathers  and they wanted to make a cage to put a little girl in because the witch ate little girls. Their imaginations were running with all sorts of cool visions and I let them have free rein.





 Even though they did colour in the Transformers and fairies and not make them on their own, there was plenty of other creative designs the students came up with on their own. It was great seeing all the boys work together to create a wall they were so proud of. One can make an argument that communication may be the single most important aspect of existence. Our world is built through communication. Students learn a multitude of communication skills by working collaboratively with others.

Once they had finished the mural they got to write a narrative with their mural been the setting of their story. We got some amazing writing full of descriptive language and stories that were exciting to read.

As long as I teach I will place a huge role in the importance of art in my classroom. However the Arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than math or science can.  So I can only do what I can in the given small amount of time I have to teach art. I will give them gifted vocabulary and I will continue to talk to them to try an generate discussions and hopefully over time they will get better at verbalising their thoughts and by the time they move to Year 4 they will be confident to share their ideas.




Monday, 26 March 2018

A Valuable Lesson!

 For very young children, making art—or just talking about it—provides opportunities to learn words for colours, shapes and actions. When toddlers are as young as a year old, parents can do simple activities such as crumpling up paper and calling it a “ball.” By elementary school, students can use descriptive words to discuss their own creations or to talk about what feelings are elicited when they see different styles of artwork.

For many young people talking about their art comes naturally. For others it is a struggle. For many of the students I am teaching this year, talking about their work, their feeelings' or their opinions can be quite challenging. I am going to follow a few students throughout the year and record them talking about their art and the process involved. I am hoping as they become more confident in sharing among their small group the discussions will become more detailed and richer language forthcoming. 

I am also hoping their conversations will encourage others in the class to share their thoughts and become involved in open classroom discussions. The 5 students I have chosen to be my leaders will eventually lead their own small groups in discussions. 

To set it off I planned an art lesson to paint Omaru Creek in water colours. We had been walking past Omaru Creek for two weeks on our way to swimming lessons. We would stop and talk about how dirty the creek was and what was causing this. We had many interesting discussions about the wild life living in Omaru Creek. I was hoping this would follow through to my art lesson. 

My lesson was a complete disaster. The students were not listening to my instructions,  talking the whole time and been incredibly silly with the paint. I could feel myself getting frustrated. I should have stopped the lesson right then but unfortunately I carried on and the lesson soon deteriorated into complete chaos. The whole point of this lesson was to get them talking and to introduce them to new rich language. For once they had finished their painting, their task was to write a narrative and Omaru Creek was to be the setting. 

I sat back at lunchtime and thought, what happened? How did it go so horribly wrong?
Then I thought of the grouping.  First mistake. I had all the top writers with me. I had done this on purpose as these students have a different writing plan to the others. These students are chatty and full of confidence and I thought this would generate amazing discussions. Second mistake. I had let them sit wherever they wanted. If I don't let students sit on the mat together because they talk too much, what on earth was I thinking letting them sit together to do art. 

Even if we accomplish nothing else in a school day, the least we can do is demonstrate a respectable level of self-control. Part of our job is to show students how to handle anger, stress, and conflict in a healthy and productive way. We can’t just tell them to do that. We have to show them. And yelling is definitely not showing them healthy, productive stress management.

So my art lesson turned into a self discovery of how I could have handled this situation better. I did eventually stop the lesson and the students packed up the paint and cleaned the tables in complete silence. 

I don't know if I will attempt to do this lesson again. I think it is marred now with negative energy. I love teaching art, it is my passion, so one bad lesson will not put me off. Instead I did learn a valuable lesson myself. It gave me time to reflect on my own practice. Was I expecting too much from them? Were my instructions not clear enough? Was I giving them enough time to follow one instruction before giving them another? 

What I do know is this. When a child puts their heart and soul into an art project—and spends hours working on it, cultivating it, and making it beautiful—they'll feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s complete. The arts are a great leveler, as we are all in the same boat, learning to create and succeed in new and unexpected ways. 





Saturday, 24 March 2018

Big Hoot's Little Hoot

Last year I had the pleasure of working with 4 Year 8 students in the Big Hoot's, Little Hoot fundraiser for Child Cancer. This experience cemented my belief that Art is an amazing way to encourage students to communicate with each other, where they otherwise would not.

To start we gathered together to talk about what this fundraiser meant to them. Cancer had affected each of them differently. Next we discussed what story we wanted our owl to tell. I gave them paper copies of the Owl so they could start designing what they wanted to paint on the Owl. They all had to make compromises and listen to each others ideas. There was the obvious joking around however they knew the enormity of the Charity we were supporting and I was really impressed with how mature they all became pretty quickly. I could see they were taking this project seriously. They wanted our Owl to tell a story of the students at Pt England School who are largely made up of Maori and Pacifika backgrounds.

We named our Owl Te Ahorangi which means 'enlightened one'.

The colours were chosen and the base coats began to go down.



The design on the front of Te Ahorangi became a Maori tribal piece of art. Even though all students were working on all parts of the Owl they each had a personal task that they had designed themselves and wanted to paint. As Isaac began to paint the front of the Owl he soon began to have doubts on how he had approached this.


What impressed me with Isaac was that after he had painted the outline of his design he asked the others what they thought. What followed was a deep discussion between all four artists on how he could make it better. Everyone had advise for him and it was done in a positive and caring way.  I could tell he was frustrated but he decided to paint over his design and start again. We bought some slim paint pencils and the process began again.







Chris took on the task of designing the moku which covered Te Ahorangi's head.




David and Danielle took on the task of painting the wings. The wings were bright and bold and full of life which is how they wanted to represent our Pacifika students. Danielle first played around on the white board to decide how she wanted to approach her painting.



Davids creation coming to life.


                                                           Danielle starting her design.



When I looked at the wings once they were finished a sense of enormous pride came over me. I knew from the looks on David and Danielle's faces they were feeling the exact same emotion.


As I am a year 3 teacher these 4 seniors had to paint inside my classroom when the weather was bad, and in doing so had to involve themselves with my students, who had many questions for them. They were patient and took the time to explain what they were doing and why they were doing it.


When they were waiting for paint to dry they took photos and blogged about this incredible journey they were on. They gave up their lunchtimes and arrived on time every day ready to get to work.



 The collaboration between all four students was wonderful to watch. They were not best mates before this experience but I would hope that after working together on this project they have a new found respect for each other. If they had a disagreement over colours, designs etc,  it was talked about calmly and with a great amount of maturity.


 Rangitoto was included to represent our magnificent Maunga standing proudly in our harbour.


This experience has been the highlight of my teaching career. I want to thank Isaac, David, Chris, and Danielle for allowing me to guide them along a path of exploration in Art. Here are the final photos.




This year I was thrilled to find out that Te Ahorangi was one of 3 Owls entered by 40 schools to be displayed in the city. I went with Danielle to the Auckland City Library to take a photo.



So in conclusion, art is all around us. In it's many forms it represents fantastic opportunities for discussion, focussed language work and skills based activities. It represents the Key Competencies which to me, is the base of all learning. Art breaks down boundaries of social status, religion and cultures. It gives students a voice where they may struggle otherwise. Art is individual beauty and  expression for everyone.






Monday, 29 January 2018

2018 Here We Come!

As a lover of art I went to see the Banksy art exhibition in Auckland. It was amazing and I got so many new and inspiring ideas to take back into my classroom. But one of them really stood out. It's one that any student of any age can understand and I am going to make it one of my great quotes this year.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Art Creates Equality

Over the holidays I have been putting my students art on their blogs for them. As I was doing this it dawned on me that the art I was looking at was so special and different for every student. I also recognised there was no right or wrong in their art. How can you judge a child's art? What makes one painting better than the other?

The art below is inspired by either sunrise or sunset on the ocean. The children used crayon and dye to create their paintings.We looked at many designs and I modelled a few for the children. The first is from a student who is sitting well above in all curriculum areas.


The next is from a student who is struggling in all academic areas....apart from art!



The next is from a student who is right where they should be according to National Standards. 



When I look at these paintings there is no top, middle and bottom. There is just beauty. This is why I firmly believe that artistic expression is so important for students. It lays the very foundation of creativity, to allow children to think outside the proverbial box.

If children have practice thinking creatively now, it will come naturally to them in their future careers. For young children drawing, painting or sculpting in class helps develop visual-spatial skills. I have seen it bring out perseverance in some students who were challenged and frustrated but I would not let them give up. Funnily enough I noticed the students who find the core curriculum subjects the easiest, were the ones who got the most frustrated. These students had their confidence tested, whilst the students who struggle daily with Reading or Writing managed to cope more calmly with the art assignment. I loved seeing their confidence shine through. The smiles on their faces. The look of pure joy when it came time to share their art and talk about it.

I understand that the art my Year 3 students are doing is modelled by myself first, so there are similarities that cannot be ignored. However, every student always manages to bring their own uniqueness to their work. Watching my students focus, some with tongues slipping out of their mouths, made me smile. To be able to focus is vital for learning in class as well as doing a job later in life.

As we do art in class I often play classical music. At first I got laughter and giggles from my students, as they tend to like rap and hip hop. But after awhile the music took over and a sense of calmness would wash over the classroom. I would explain that the music they are listening to is art in their ears. This would bring many laughs, but one day I hope my students look back with fondness on their time spent in my classroom and remember all the artistic expression I tried to introduce to them.