Good Practice, Uncategorized

The Power of Writers’ Workshop

After being inspired by a fellow colleague, I decided to give Writers’ Workshop a try in our Year 4 classroom. Without a doubt, it has been my best my best decision yet! Within a matter of weeks we saw a transformation in our students. Those that had struggled with punctuation were now rereading and editing their writing; one student even took it upon herself to use paragraphs to organise her writing. Another took action and continued writing at home. Those that were struggling with handwriting, were now CHOOSING to hand write rather than use the computer. I simply couldn’t believe the dramatic change in our students. Their perceptions towards writing had changed.

So you might be wondering what exactly is Writers’ Workshop. It’s involves creating a inviting environment where students respect each others’ writing and offers us the opportunity to demonstrate the power that writing can have on our lives. By inviting students to write daily, we can help them discover how it can enrich our lives. As Charles Whitaker Ph.D. mentions it is basically a studio approach in which student writers are engaged in developing their craft and are guided by a mature writer—the teacher. In the writing workshop, students are involved frequently in the writing process, though in some cases  not all students necessarily are at the same place in that process. To find out more, read Best Practices in Teaching Writing.

To set up the Writers’ Workshop routine, I gave each student a new ring binder folder with the following divider sections inside:

  1. Current piece
  2. Previous writing
  3. Published pieces (sometimes we actually did the current piece and published all in one go on the Chromebook)
  4. Mini-lessons (any sheets/ activities/ examples you use in the mini-lesson)
  5. Resources (anything to help the children write more independently- word banks for EALs, etc.)
Our students were very excited to have this new binder. Once the routine was established, they took great pride in organising their writing and going back to improve previous pieces. The use of a ring binder also gave me the flexibility to differentiate even more for the students, giving shaded handwriting lines to those students who wanted to improve their handwriting.

Following the approach of my colleague, I often structured my Writers’ Workshop lessons in the following way:

  • 5 mins – Read (Texts that suit your writing genre)
  • 10 mins – Mini-Lesson (Craft- e.g. How to write a good recount, Skills- grammar, spelling and punctuation)
  • 15-20 mins – Writing
  • 5-10 mins – Share Session

Whilst the structure of the lesson doesn’t allow for a lot of writing time, it adds up over the week if you are doing Writers’ Workshop everyday. I found very quickly that it is important to allow students the opportunity to share their writing. We created a routine of having an ‘Author’s Chair’; we put a chair at the front of the class and invited our aspiring authors to sit and share their favourite writing. After reading their writing aloud, peers gave them positive and constructive feedback. It was wonderful to see the respect they gave to each other. Sharing their work was really essential for helping the students to value their own writing.

 

Google Certified Innovator, Uncategorized

Throwback to Google Certified Innovator Academy #LON17

Shockingly I found this GIF of a rather good looking bunch of educators in my draft blog post section and realised that I had not shared the wonderful experience of attending the Google Certified Innovator Academy!

Back in April 2017, I joined 35 other passionate educators from around the world to attend the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy in London. What a buzz it was to be in a room with so many innovative and dedicated educators. IMG_6645.JPGWe spent three days at the Google offices learning about Design Thinking and working on our own innovation projects. The days were broken up into workshops to build capacity and develop ideas, and project time to delve deep into your innovative idea.IMG_2354.JPGAfter the academy we have a year to develop and submit our innovative projects. Whilst my project has changed direction slightly from the beginning, I look forward to sharing my progress in April 2018. Watch this space!

 

Publication

My first published article

Very excited to share my first published article on pages 20-21 of Focus magazine May-June 2017. This magazine is aimed at expat professionals and families in London. My article is called ‘Technology helps children find their voice’.

To find out more about the Focus community for expats and professionals living in the UK please click here.

To read full article, please click here.

Google Certified Innovator

Becoming A Google Certified Innovator: The Excitement Builds

Finding out that I was accepted into the #LON17 Google Certified Innovator Program was simply exhilarating! We were notified via email and as soon as the word got out, we were posting like crazy, celebrating our glorious news.

It was a wonderful buzz connecting with 35 other like minded educators from around the world who had just received the same news; that we were going to be Innovators! Well, I really should revise that point, as many of us have already started innovating in education; now we have the opportunity to do so on a bigger scale with the support of Google.

Very swiftly our cohort began to make connections online, forming what is likely to be some lasting friendships. With such positivity and willingness to share, team mates posted words of encouragement and resources within the group. We also had some nifty designers who came up with #LON17 logos to inspire our team. Aren’t they great?!

#LON17 theresa
Designed by Dr Theresa Hamm @DrTHamm
Untitled
Designed by Robert King @RobertIsaKing

Coming from a wide range of locations and backgrounds, our #LON17 cohort has wonderful ideas for innovation. I feel really blessed to be a part of this talented group of educators. Check out our introductions and visions on the Google for Education Certified Innovators site.

As newly recruited Google Innovators, we were sent a BreakoutEDU box with a collaborative problem to solve. It was quite exciting to receive this in the mail as this was my first experience with BreakoutEDU. Our boxes contained very basic clues which required a lot discussion and testing of theories to solve the mystery. Luckily there were some bright sparks in the group who cracked different parts of the code and led us to solving part one of our challenge.

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BreakoutEDU

Our next step in the puzzle is to fill our box with an item that represents ourselves and give clues for others to guess our lock code. This will very cleverly lead us to introducing ourselves and how we have come to be the educators that we are today. What a great way to foster collaboration!

With two weeks to go, we excitedly await to meet our team mates and coaches in person at the London Google Innovator Academy 19th – 21st April 2017. As the countdown begins, I better get my thinking cap on and decide what to put in my BreakoutEDU box!

Digital Leaders

Creating Yearbook Pages with Canva

Simple to use with amazing results. This is what I love about Canva! This web based graphic design tool allows you to easily use templates and frames to create appealing creative content. There are a wide variety of template sizes from A4 pages to sizes perfect for your social media page.

With its drag and drop features it is so easy to add content to your page. Upload some pics, drag and drop them in a frame and voilà! You have a masterpiece!

Last year was our first time creating a school yearbook. Many teachers did not know where to start. Once I showed them how easy it is to create with Canva, they were hooked! I’m looking forward to seeing more creations this year.

Our Digital Leaders yearbook pages from 2016

Good Practice, Online Safety

Safer Internet Day 2017

Each year I always look forward to the release of Safer Internet Day resources from the UK Safer Internet Center. For this annual event they provide activities to engage the students and promote discussions about online safety. This year the theme was:

Be the change: Unite for a better internet!

Our students and teachers loved taking pictures in our photo booth to convey different online safety messages. See some examples below:

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School Radio

Developing a school radio station

They say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and now I really feel the impact of those words. Developing Dwight Radio has been a long and rewarding journey; many hours were sacrificed but so many inspiring moments were gained. Seeing the enthusiasm and delight of the students as they walk into the radio booth never grows old.

I’ll never forget the moment when a child with very little English decided to follow his classmates up to the radio booth, just to see what all the fuss was about. He had no initial intentions of speaking but as the session progressed, we slowly encouraged him to join in. First he put on headphones to hear the others speak. Then we showed him how to control the mic faders. Before we knew it, he was recording himself on the radio! With pride and certainty, he introduced himself and his friends. I’m trying not to sound corny but it really was one of those moments that melted your heart.

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Our school radio journey started over 12 months ago when we purchased radio equipment from School Radio. This company provides ongoing support which has been wonderful for those moments when I have forgotten how to customise a certain feature or simply when I needed advice. Available on their website are teaching resources which focus on using the radio to support the curriculum. This was a big selling point for us as we wanted a radio station to showcase learning.

Once our radio booth was set up, it came time to play. After receiving training, many hours were spent familiarising myself with the features and planning how to organise radio content. Thankfully before purchasing the equipment, my Headteacher and I had visited Anson Primary School who have a well established and successful school radio station. They had given us advice on how to organise and develop a system of recording and curating radio content. With that advice in mind, I took time to plan this before training the masses.

To allow the most efficient use of the radio station, I began by training our Learning Support Assistants (LSAs). Their role is to support students which gives them a bit more flexibility when it comes to leaving the classroom. Whilst the teacher works with most of the class, LSAs are able to take small groups of children out to the radio booth.

My student Digital Leaders also became important ambassadors for promoting the radio. They quickly picked up the skills to use the radio independently and planned ways that we could encourage others to join in the fun.  They have recorded promotional videos for assemblies, created online safety messages and recorded stories for younger students.

After enough people were using the radio, we began creating termly radio shows. These shows included content from Kindergarten to Year 6 and showcased a range of creativity and learning. Check out our Dwight Radio page for our Autumn radio show.

We are now about to embark on weekly radio shows to further promote the radio. With the support of the Lower School ICT Committee we have planned ways to encourage involvement across the school with regular segments assigned to different areas and other exciting initiatives. Stay tuned to read more about our Dwight Radio updates.