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 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!

 

Digital Leaders, Uncategorized

Coding Week

Coding week in the Lower School was a big success! The purpose of this week was to spark an interest in computer programming across the school. To kick off the celebrations our student Digital Leaders ran an assembly to spread the excitement. One of our Digital Leaders dressed up as a robot and his peers created an algorithm for him to follow. Two competitions were also launched for Lower and Upper Primary. Students had to use problem solving skills to identify what would happen when the algorithms were run.

Throughout the week, each class completed an Hour of Code. Students were introduced to key coding terminology such as algorithm (step by step instructions to solve a problem) and debug (find and fix mistakes in a computer program).  As they wrote, ran and debugged algorithms, students were encouraged to use the computing vocabulary with their peers. It was wonderful to hear some of our youngest students talk about how computers work.

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Practicing coding is an excellent opportunity for students to work collaboratively and use problem solving skills. When students were paired together on a device, we found that rich discussion followed as they shared strategies and clarified steps whilst adding them to the algorithm. Students also developed their spatial awareness skills as they determined which way they should turn their character to reach the target.

Overall it was a successful week and feedback from staff and students was positive. We look forward to including more coding into the curriculum and exploring more resources.