WALT, WALA, TIB & WILF – How do YOU use learning intentions? 

A teacher’s take on using WALTs effectively across the whole week…

I wrote some time ago about the use of the learning intention acronyms WALT, WALA, WILF and TIB: Meet WALT, WILF, WALA & TIB.

Currently teaching Level One, truth-be-told, WALT/WALA is just about all they can handle. TIB is generally put across verbally or in making explicit links to prior or future learning, and WILF – the success criteria – usually takes the form of a very simple rubric or checklist, or again verbally. But, the question I want to pose is…

For how long do you display and refer to your learning intentions?

This came up during a recent observation session of myself by a leading teacher at my school. She noticed that I do the following…

I begin each week with a clean slate, so-to-speak. Each lesson, I will write up the new WALT (under its subject heading such as Reading, Spelling, Mathematics etc), and discuss the WALT along with any new vocabulary that it might feature, before starting the whole class tuning in. That WALT stays on my board all week! At the start of each lesson, I’ll add a new WALT and sometimes, if for example we are doing a unit or sequence of lessons, it might stay the same. The result by the week’s end is a nice collection of 3-4 WALTs for each key curriculum area!

This struck the observing teacher as odd, even pointless. To me, it makes sense to leave recent WALTs up. Learning is a continuum. Concepts and skills are transferable. New lessons relate to past and future learning. I feel as though my technique clearly shows the students this, rather then having them falsely believe that each lesson stands in isolation.

The other benefit is – and I haven’t written about this before – my school has a heavily student-centered developmental curriculum. Some may say ‘play-based’ but I think there might be some negative connotations around that term and it paints a misrepresentation of what exactly goes on. As such, as students navigate their Investigations I and they can refer to our week’s learning intentions and make wonderful, genuine connections between their experiences and what naysayers would call the ‘real learning’. Put simply, having a broader range of WALTs to refer back to, opens up more opportunities for meaningful connections.

That’s my opinion anyway…

So what do you do in your classroom?

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

Click to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1, Tips 1–5.

No. 6. “Know Your Child’s ‘Down time’”
Here, Andrew Fuller isn’t referring to that relaxing ‘down time’ we have when we’re surrounded by candles, having a bath with a glass of vino. He’s talking of the time at which you don’t learn new information as well as you do at other times. “As a rough guide, think of the time they go to sleep, then think of the time they usually wake up, calculate the midpoint of their sleep, add twelve hours and around that time is their “down time”. For example, if your child sleeps from 9.30 pm to 7 am, the midpoint of their sleep is 2.00 am. Adding twelve hours takes us to 2.00 pm”. 2.00 pm therefore, is the time at which that child’s brain is in ‘downtime’, switching off and least likely to be primed for quality learning. This is the perfect time to engage in hands on activities, play, relaxation, crafts, sport and other activities that are less taxing on the ‘academic’ parts of the brain.

No. 7 “Eat a good breakfast”
“If your Mum ever said have fish or eggs for breakfast because it’s brain food, she was right! As long as it’s medically safe to do so, a breakfast that is high in protein (think cheese, milk, bacon, eggs) and lower in carbohydrates (think cereal, orange juice and toast) promotes concentration and learning. Also encourage your child to drink lots of water- the brain runs on it! Students who don’t eat breakfast are not only more likely to gain weight; they will also have to work harder than others to do well at school.” Ew, fish for breakfast. I think parents can exercise common sense here. Obviously, Coco Pops every day for breakfast – although delish! – are not the best choice. Or worse, no breakfast at all. Give your child the right fuel!

No. 7 “Use Music”
“There is a growing evidence to suggest that playing instrumental music softly in the background enhances learning.” Avoid music that’s likely to be distracting, such as pop songs that they’ll want to just sing along to, instead of knuckling in to their homework!

No. 8 “Use aromas”
“Most people have had the experience of smelling a particular aroma and having a series of memories flood back. Partly this is because your olfactory nerve is directly linked to the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain where memories are integrated. The aromas most often associated with improvements in concentration and memory are lemon, basil and rosemary.”

No. 9 “Monitor their use of video and computer games”
“Video games are incredibly popular and give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Boys particularly use video games in a social way. It is important to realise that the use of video and computer games is not completely passive. Too much playing of these games can be negative. These games can be so compelling they become addictive. While some games require quite intricate problem solving, the skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life. Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a story line. Some exposure to computer games is good. Too much, though, can be toxic. Sadly, there is no research that tells us what the right amount of time spent of computer games should be so you’ll need to think about the balance of your child’s life and their range of activities and interests.” Treat TV similarly.

No. 10. “Help them to build the essentials skills for success”
“Three of the skills needed for success at school (and in most areas of life) are concentration, memory and sequencing or getting things in the right order. The games that parents play with their children such as Snap, Uno, Concentration, Battleships, Monopoly, Chess, Jigsaw puzzles all play an incredibly important role in developing these skills of success. Computer versions of these games are not as effective in helping children develop these skills. To really help your child to succeed at school every so often switch off the TV, unplug the computer and pull out a game.”

No. 11. “Limit the amount of part-time work”
“Senior secondary students should not work more than ten hours a week at a part-time job. If they do so, there is clear evidence that their marks will suffer.”

Download the summary at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf, extracted from Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School”.

Also read this post I reblogged, about What NOT To Do If You Want Your Child To Succeed, based on the article The Overprotected Kid.

What other Handy Hints for improving learning at home do you know of? Please share them in the comments section below!

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

It’s Parenting 101. Limiting TV time, making sure your child gets plenty of sleep and helping them set up a designated learning space. Yes, it’s common sense. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

Image

It goes without saying that a school isn’t the only place learning occurs. You’ve previously heard my thoughts on why I’m not fond of homeworkand that I think kids should get more opportunities to play and just be kids, but alas, parents are always asking me what they can do, to help their child’s learning. It’s actually a question I love to hear as it demonstrates a parent’s understanding that learning is a partnership between home and school; child, family and teacher. Naturally, different children need extra help with different academic areas, but this list – based on Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School” – outlines the basics.

  1. Most Learning Doesn’t Happen At School!
    “Children spend only 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. Most of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing, and learning about life and it’s what they do with that time that is important.” Remember that you play a much great role in your child’s education than their teacher.
  2. The Learning Space – Getting Organised
    Work with your child to create a dedicated space where they can do homework, projects and read. As you know from their bedroom, kids have trouble keeping things neat and tidy! They’ll need help with this initially, but you can help them figure out ways of keeping their stationary in order, the workspace clear and clutter free.
  1. The Learning Space – Lighting
    “Natural or indirect lighting such as a desk lamp is best for learning. It is best for your child not to study under fluorescent lighting as it is related to raised cortisol levels in the blood stream (an indicator of anxiety and agitation). Cortisol also suppresses language functions.”
  1. Limit TV/ Computer/ iPad Time, Of course!
    Don’t make them go cold turkey. An hour and a half per day is plenty. That’s not to say they should be doing ‘homework’ for the rest of the time: Arts, crafts, playing outside, listening to and making music, socialising, relaxing, family time, the list goes on. Oh, and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from their ‘learning space’.
  2. Plenty Of Sleep!
    “A good nights sleep (at least 8 hours) is essential for optimal brain functioning at school. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep especially during dream (or REM) sleep. During the normal 8-9 hours of sleep, five dream (REM) cycles occur. Adolescents getting only 5-6 hours of sleep lose out on the last two REM cycles and thereby reduce the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information.Teenagers need as much sleep as children, partly because their brains are doing so much development. Always remember there is no such thing as a sleep bank. So just because you slept 10 hours one night doesn’t mean you can get away with only sleeping six hours the next night. Students who don’t get enough sleep have to work much harder to do well at school.”

 Follow https://teachling.wordpress.com/  to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2.

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Download the full summary of Andrew Fuller’s version at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf.

Image sourced from here

What is education, anyway? Pt.2

Let’s face it, children are basically all the same and should be taught in the same, tried and tested, chalk and talk, fashion. Teachers in schools should focus purely on the 3R’s – Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic – and leave that creative ‘fluff’ for kids to pursue in their own time. Children should be viewed as empty vessels and a teacher’s role is to fill them with enough knowledge to pass the test. Some kids are just lazy, hyperactive or incapable of learning, so teachers should let them be whilst focussing on the other kids that can and want to learn. Wait… What? Was there actually a time when people thought this way about education? I do hope that the opinions above are not felt by any person on this earth. My opinions are much more aligned with those articulated in Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk, “How to escape education’s death valley” (2013). So let me quote some of the highlights…

Ken Robinson’s take on how we should be viewing education…

What’s wrong with the current model of education?
• “I will make you a bet, and I’m confident I will win the bet. If you’ve got two children or more, I bet you, they are completely different from each other, aren’t they?”
• However, “education… is based on, not diversity, but conformity”
• “[We assess] what kids can do, across a very narrow spectrum of achievement.”
• They say there’s an ‘ADHD epidemic’, but “If you sit kids down hour after hour, doing low grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.”
• “In place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance” in schools… and a “culture of standardization.”

How should we be viewing education? What needs to happen?
• “Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents; not just a small range of them.”
• As well as literacy, science and maths, “a real education has to give equal weight to the arts, the humanities, to physical education.”
• “The whole point of education is to get people to learn. If there’s no learning going on, there’s no education going on”
• The role of teachers is “to facilitate learning”… to “mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage”.

It seems pretty obvious when Robinson observes that education ‘happens’ in classrooms in schools, and that the people who ‘do’ education are the teachers and the students. “If you remove their discretion, it stops working”. Why then, is virtually every aspect of what goes on in education dictated by politicians, administrators, businesses and organisations, and even parents? It must be said that great teaching and learning happens in spite of the current model. “It’s like people are sailing into a head wind all the time.”

It’s all well and good to whine and moan about education and the fact that teachers are dictated to and that the current model of education is so outdated it is beyond ridiculous. But why don’t we stop the complaining and actually do something about it?

A veteran teacher, frustrated with the current state of affairs in schools, notes that “no one ever asks the teachers, those who are up to their necks in the trenches each day, or if they do, it is in a patronizing way and our suggestions are readily discarded. Decisions about classrooms should be made in classrooms. Teachers are the most qualified individuals to determine what is needed for their own students.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/31/i-would-love-to-teach-but/)

I wonder what education would ‘look like’ if we handed control to teachers and students?

Teachling

Student Reports: More Worthless Than a White Crayon

A teacher’s take on student reports… and why they are a waste of my time!

So, I’m here at my laptop (sitting on my bed with coffee and Oreos on my bedside table), hammering away at my keyboard at a million keystrokes-per-minute, trying to make a dent in my students’ end-of-year reports. I suspect all Australian teachers are busy doing much the same this weekend, and last weekend, and next weekend, and after school most nights for the next couple of weeks! I’m taking a quick break to punch out this post, wondering why the heck am I wasting soooooo much time on these worthless things?

Let me give just 3 reasons why they a waste of my time, and need I say more.

1) Student reports do not improve student learning

This one is obvious, is it not? Are there any parents out there who would actually say, “I get a report from my child’s teacher twice a year, and that piece of paper helps my child learn and achieve more!” Of course not, but let me cite some research just to come off more professional. If you haven’t heard of New Zealander (now living in Melbourne) John Hattie or heard of his work on “effect sizes” I urge you to look him up. Long story short, I don’t see reports anywhere on his list of factors which improve student learning outcomes. A few factors are sort of related, such as “Student Self-Reported Grades” which states that a student’s expectations of their own learning and the push for them to exceed those expectations improves their learning, “Formative Evaluation” which basically refers to the assessment used to inform teaching and learning, and “Feedback” information for teacher and more importantly the student, on where they’re going, how they’re going and where to next*. Note that this last factor does not mean feedback given to a parent about what their kid has done at school for the last six months!

2) Student reports take a teacher’s time away from the things that matter

Consider the point above, now consider how much time teachers spend writing reports. Let’s conservatively say the average Primary School teacher spends an hour per child on their report, twice a year, with an average class size of 25. Now consider how those 50 hours could have been better spent planning teaching and developing brilliant learning experiences for their students, collecting resources, researching curriculum and pedagogy and so on. Just think of what a teacher could do to improve their pupils’ learning outcomes, if those 50 hours were returned to them!

 3) Student reports need to be so politically correct and full of jargon that parents can barely decipher what their child can actually do

 Aside from the fact that any good parent already knows their child – duh – and is very likely to know their child better than their teacher anyway – duh – I don’t believe that reports accurately convey information about a child’s learning. At my school, for example, we are not allowed to say that a child “can” do something or “is able to” to do something – what the? We can’t say that a child “needs to” improve in a certain area, rather we have to say that their “future learning may be to…”. We can’t make subjective comments or say anything about their personality or personal attributes. Comments now need to be objective, specific, measurable and data-backed. Boring. PC. Useless.

Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr>

 *Some of Hattie’s work:
Hattie, J. 2009. Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.
Hattie, J. 2003. Who says formative assessment matters: Formative and summative interpretations of assessment information.
Hattie, J. 2003. Distinguishing expert teachers from novice and experienced teachers: Teachers make a difference.

 

Don’t Teach Kids… Let Them Learn

A teacher’s take on “How Children Learn”…

So, I was leaving the supermarket yesterday, as was a 2’ish year old girl and her Dad. She was ecstatic about her brand new toy camera – a big, plastic, bright red and yellow thing with a little mirror where the lens should be, clicky-noise buttons and a little hole for the viewfinder. She was holding it backwards, staring and giggling at herself in the mirror, poking her finger in the viewfinder hole and pressing at the buttons. Within a minute, the magic seemed to disappear as her Dad took it off her to show her “how to do it properly” – “hold it this way, look through here, point it at me and push down the button… like a real one!”. I shuddered. He was a lovely, caring father, who’d just purchased a fun goodie for his little girl. He certainly meant well. But, I saw her look confused, trying to use her new toy “properly”. My question… What was wrong with how she was playing with it in the first place?

This situation reminded me of something I read long ago in John Holt’s “How Children Learn”…

“I had thought that he might like Cuisenaire rods, and I was curious to see what he might do with them. So, one day when I visited his parents, I took a box of rods with me. We opened it and showed him all the little colored sticks. He was enchanted. Like glass bears to primitive people, these hundreds of pieces of brightly colored wood looked to him like the most real wealth in the words. We emptied the box out on the rug, and for a while he just sat there, picking up handfuls of the rods and letting them run through his fingers, drunk with excitement and joy, looking for all the world like a proverbial miser with his money. I know now that I should have let him go on playing with the rods in his own way, getting his own kind of pleasure out of them, taking in information about them through his eyes and fingers, gradually exploring their possibilities. At the same time, I felt I had to start him off ‘learning’ something…”
(Holt, J. 1983. ‘How Children Learn’, Penguin Books, England. p128)

Well you can guess how that story ends. Much in the same way the little girl I saw stopped marvelling over her shiny new mystery box, and instead started clumsily trying to use her toy “properly”, the boy in Holt’s anecdote wasn’t interested in ‘being taught’. Do you feel good when someone explicitly demonstrates your inferiority? Would you say out loud, “You’re not good enough at this, but I’m better than you, so just let me show you how it’s done”? I doubt it, but our actions just might send that exact message.

What I take away from all this is, don’t teach kids… let them learn! Traditionally, teachers were keepers of the truth and fact, demonstraters of the right way, there to fill kids up with knowledge and skills. Perhaps teachers are better off being a partner in a child’s learning. Offer them guidance, set up experiences in which they can learn, apply and make connections. Make learning natural and relevant. What do you think?

– Teachling