Sunday, February 24, 2019

Developing creativity and imagination in your class/school




Education Readings

Editorial

The new term is underway and hopefully teachers now have some time for some reflective reading? Establishing a new class is a challenging experience and, under pressure, it is easy to fall back to doing what has always been expected. It was John Dewey
Still worth a read
who wrote that you don’t learn from experience but rather by reflecting on experience.  Asking what things went well and what might need to change- and if change is required,where to find the relevant information are important questions? This is where our readings might be of use.

This set of readings focus on the importance of creativity and the development of every student gifts and talents. Now that National Standards have gone we think it is an important issue.

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

How Do You Discover and Develop Talent in Your School?

‘Today companies are realizing that they need to develop employees talent … to  attract, retain and build talent. So what does this mean for schools? Surely our first task in schools should be to identify what each one of our students can do. What talents do they have?  There’s increasing evidence that suggests that if students show a preference, passion or natural aptitude for a certain area, then ultimately, despite what “school” might think, there’s a very good chance that it will be those areas that will provide them with their best career and life choices.’



The 5 stages of the creative process

‘Many teachers talk about creativity but what does being creative mean? I don’t believe there is any one way to be ‘creative’. There aren’t five stages you need to go through to be creative.  I do think there’s some value in understanding what is considered ‘the five stages of the creative process, I’m just not sure I believe them…’

4 Ways to Develop Creativity in Students
Creativity is a valuable skill, and there are common strategies teachers can use to help students develop it Creativity is the most difficult thinking skill to acquire, and also the most sought-after. We value it in our music, entertainment, technology, and other aspects of our existence.  This article suggests ideas for teachers to use to encourage creativity.

School Kills Creativity?
Think! Figuring out that schools kill your creativity actually stimulates your inner self to be more creative. A short and creative read. Take a look.

The need to place creativity central to all learning -reflecting on the consequences of three decades of standardised teaching.
There is now a strong sense that creativity should be nurtured in classroom settings yet there is little understanding how effective and creative teachers function.  After three decades of standardised education, since the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools, now is the time to place the focus on creativity.’

Creativity can’t be left to chance – it must be taught
Innovation often isn’t about acquiring new knowledge, but by seeing the knowledge you already have from fresh perspectives; or even through conflict and argument. Sometimes, innovation occurs through a lone genius with incredible insight, but not often. It’s collaboration that usually gets the job done.’

Observation Skills May be Key Ingredient to Creativity
The benefits of mindfulness, or being fully conscious and aware of one’s actions and surroundings, have been well documented. Studies show that only certain mindfulness traits are linked to increased creativity.  Studies would suggest, they should focus on sharpening powers of observation’


Building a Positive Staff Culture Takes Work
Culture is always at play in a school’s success or failure, whether members of that culture realize it or not.  If leaders want more collaboration, they must allot time to build trust and mutual respect.’

Are We Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?

‘What has been gained through the introduction of modern information technology into our classrooms – and what has been lost? Blended learning has the potential to transform the way teachers teach and students learn—if we take advantage of all that it offers. While blended learning brings with it the promise of innovation, there is the peril that it will perpetuate and replicate existing practices with newer, more expensive tools.


Nurturing Habits of Mind
Many New Zealand teachers are aware of the work of Art Costa and Bena Kallick and their wrings about ‘habits of mind’ – these dispositions have much in common with the New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies. Take the time to read the introduction to their new book. A ‘habit of mind’ means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems to help student find the answers which are not immediately known.

Some good advice for school principals – what teachers want you to know
‘It’s because I talk to teachers every week I see how many of them are struggling. Some are engaged in a healthy struggle, the “good stress” of working at a challenging job. If we think of teacher stress as a continuum, I would put these teachers at the healthy end. At the other end, the struggle has a different character, a kind of desperation that goes beyond “good stress.” After listening to thousands of teachers tell their stories, I have reached the conclusion that there is one deciding factor that determines whether the teachers in any given school will lean toward positive and productive or desperate and crushed: That element is the principal.’

Modern classrooms won’t fix education – something to think about
‘Teachers in a traditional classroom setting can still use collaborative and flexible processes, utilise the physical space to maximise learning time, and employ technology to enrich the learning experience of students. . So, why the need for a makeover? Are we just equating ‘modern’ with new and effective, and ‘traditional’ with old and ineffective, in the hope that the new will overcome the old.’

Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners
‘With the rise in ‘learning’ through screens this is worth thinking about. Is virtual reality excluding experiences in the real world?’





Earlier postings by Bruce on the creativity/talent theme
 
Schools for talent development
‘Something is rotten in the state of education. Shouldn’t an education system be about helping every learner develop their particular talents, passions and dreams? Shouldn’t teachers see their role as developing an individual learning pathway for every learner one based on their passions, interests, dreams or talents?

Asterix theory of talent development
‘Children do not see themselves as apprentice adults but rather they
try to be as good as they can be whatever their age. What they want to do is to find a niche within their group of peers, conforming to expectations on one hand, while at the same time differentiating themselves on the other. Developing this balance is a continuing universal challenge for us all.’

Friday, February 15, 2019

Time to place creativity central to learning



Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Editorial
The new term is underway we wonder how many schools, now that the National Standards have gone, have begun the vital transformation to place the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum centre stage and, as part of this shift, have re-imagined literacy and numeracy as ‘foundation skills’ vital to enable student inquiry and creativity? As one commentator wryly said about past practice ‘the
Guy Claxton - 'Learnacy'
evil twins literacy and numeracy have gobbled up the whole curriculum’. The future is about developing students’ gifts and talents in tandem with the learning dispositions to be lifelong learners. As Sir Ken Robinson has said ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’ and this is echoed by educator Guy Claxton who says ‘learnacy is more important than literacy and numeracy’. Are schools listening?

Bruce Hammonds and I collect article to share to encourage a creative approach to education. Take a quick look - some might appeal to you. Please feel free to share with anyone you might think interested.


Stop Calling Them Soft Skills; they’re Essential Skills
‘We need to call them what they really are: essential skills; skills that are absolutely necessary to
thrive in the modern world. We need to change things up. And I think that starts with us stop calling communication, collaboration, critical thinking, work ethic, and confidence “soft skills.” How about instead, they’re called “essential skills.” Because they are essential, arguably more essential than your ability to memorize facts and equations.’

What Makes a Good School Culture?
Most principals have an instinctive awareness that organizational culture is a key element of school success. They might say their school has a “good culture” when teachers are expressing a shared vision and students are succeeding — or that they need to “work on school culture” when several teachers resign or student discipline rates rise.But like many organizational leaders, principals may get stymied when they actually try to describe the elements that create a positive culture.

What will education in Australia look like in 2019?
The start of a new school year is a time of excitement and curiosity as new students, parents and
teachers wonder what they can expect from the classroom. More broadly, there are a lot of questions about what's in store for the education sector as new teaching methods emerge and ever-present technological disruption and innovation continues.’

Big Picture Learning
Big Picture Learning was established in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. BPL co-founders Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor merged their thirty years of experience as teachers and principals and their distinct national reputations to launch this new innovation in education. With an intention to demonstrate that schooling and education can and should be radically changed, Big Picture Learning was born.

Teacher Tom’s School
‘I strive for Woodland Park to be a place where children are as free as possible to create, explore, study, and play with as little adult judgement as possible. I am not there to critique their work or to teach them tricks, but rather to be the resident expert on safety, schedules, and courtesy, while providing the time and space for children to ask and answer their own questions about their world.’

Tomorrows Schools Review proposals will make schools better, says John O'Neill
‘Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address systemic barriers to student success. The Independent Taskforce to Review Tomorrow's Schools recently published its report, "Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together – Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini". We believe that its more than 30 recommendations will transform our schooling system, and that we will be stronger together as a consequence.’

Rediscovering Our Nature Instinct
The most powerful parts of “The Nature Instinct” are its many examples of how to correct our present-day nature deficit. By undertaking the exercises he describes — using Orion to tell direction and time, creating maps from the wind, or identifying trees by their sounds — the book “gently” hammers our brains “into a new pattern of thought,”

Everyone Can Learn Mathematics to High Levels: The Evidence from Neuroscience that Should Change our Teaching
Very important article by Jo Boaler:
‘For it is only when we combine positive growth messages with a multi-dimensional approach to teaching, learning, and thinking, that we will liberate our students from fixed ideas, and from math anxiety, and set them free to learn and enjoy mathematics.

#3quotes from Vygotsky
Steve Wheeler:
Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky is revered as a notable pioneer of research into learning and cognitive development. Although his writings were suppressed in the West for several decades, they eventually emerged in the 70s, representative of a progressive view of constructivism, in which the social was seen as a major influence on learning.’

Extra arts education boosts students’ writing scores — and their compassion, big new study finds
It’s just the latest study to find that giving students more access to the arts offers measurable benefits. And adding time for dance, theater, or visual arts isn’t at odds with traditional measures of academic success, according to the research — which amounts to one of the largest gold-standard studies on arts education ever conducted.'

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Advice from David Perkins to make learning Whole – how to integrate skills into inquiry.
‘The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving ( teachers problems ) and not enough problem finding - or figuring out often 'messy' open ended investigations. 'Playing the whole game' is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. Student are withdrawn individually or in groups to be given necessary help to return to the game of learning..’

Importance of observational drawing
Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness
in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.’

Interactive teaching- the Learning in Science Project (LISP)
If we really believe students 'construct' their own 'meanings' from any experience then teachers need to value the 'prior ideas' , questions and theories their students have. Only then can they set about to challenge and help students change what they know and can do. Some of the best research in this process was completed in NZ in the 80s by researchers at Waikato University but has been, more or less, ignored by those in authority since.’
Organising the school day for 21st Century Teaching - the Craft of Teaching
‘Ideally classroom organisation should be based on helping students achieve in depth quality learning across the curriculum amplifying or uncovering, every student’s unique gifts and talents to ensure they have the skills to become lifelong learners.A close look at the daily classroom organisation/timetable is a sure way to get an idea of what is seen as important by the teacher – or the school.’

Valuing the individual differences and talents of all learner




Friday, February 08, 2019

Out with the National Standards and in with creativity! Creativity rules !!


Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Editorial

Now that the National Standards emphasis on literacy and numeracy, and the onerous associated assessment and
documentation are no longer required, it’s time for a new emphasis - a return to a creative holistic and personalised approach to education.  With this in mind Bruce Hammonds and I search out readings to encourage teachers to develop activity based programmes that are premised on developing the gifts and talents of all students- programmes that as much as possible integrate literacy and numeracy as and when required.


Time to re-read John Holt’ book ‘How  Children Learn’ again

John Holt - a brilliant writer
Here, summed up, are John Holt’s great insights about children’s learning. If Holt were alive today he might be optimistic because even though the percentage who understand that children learn best when allowed to control their own learning remains small, that percentage is growing.’

Social Studies were once a feature of earlier integrated learning. .
The below article may be useful.
‘The basic idea is that students ask or are given compelling questions and then investigate those questions, evaluate and find evidence to answer them, and communicate their answer. An inquiry model is outlined and related to project based learning.’

 Advice for beginning teachers. 'Surround yourself with good people'.
‘By finding the positive, supportive, energetic teachers in your school and sticking close to them, you can improve your job satisfaction more than with any other strategy.’

Every Kid Can Do Amazing Things – an important read
‘I’m not talking about the child genius, who can spell, read and write before he goes to school and gets all the school accolades that make her, and importantly her parents, proud as punch. We see enough of them to know that school knows how to respond to their talent. I’m talking about thother kids. The vast majority.’

Debating the Best Way to Teach a Child to Read - not phonics!
‘We are not supportive of systematic phonic based teaching we believe It’s all about meaningful contexts.Phonic enthusiasts blatantly disregards hundreds of studies that show the merits of a rich, comprehensive literacy approach that includes phonics but not to the exclusion of authentic, experiential reading (and writing) experiences that will ensure that every child becomes a successful reader inside and outside of school.’

For the love of learning – stop writing learning intentions!
‘How often have you been told that writing the lesson's objectives on the board is best practice? Can
you think of even one reason why doing this might be a bad idea? Because the prevailing wind of conventional wisdom consistently blows in favour of content-bloated, prefabricated externally mandated standardized standards, it takes courage to pause and reflect.’

Project-based Learning: Are You Focused on the Project or the Learning?


‘I think it is important to highlight that if students aren’t motivated and inspired to solve authentic and meaningful problems, it’s not just them that misses out. It’s all of us.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, we have some very real and challenging problems that we continue to face in our world. Much of this is a result of a focus on short-term, extrinsic rewards to coax kids through low-level tasks and provide technology as games or rewards to motivate learners instead of designing authentic and personal learning experiences that draw on learner’s curiosity, passions, and interests.'

Just in case you missed our advice to begin the school year.
Teaching is one profession where there is no shallow end. From day one you are presented with up to thirty plus young individuals for you to shape into a learning community; and every class community will be different. Even experienced teachers have Here are some ideas to select from.'

Ken Robinson: Government “Standardization” Blocks Innovative Education Reform
There can be few NZ teacher who have not heard or read the ideas about creativity of Sir Ken Robinson – now it time to put them into action.
“I never blame teachers or schools… But there is this deadly culture of standardizing, that’s being pushed on them, politically. My core message here is that we have to personalize education, not standardize it. That all children are different, and we have to find their talents and cultivate them.” ~Ken Robinson

Quotes from  John Dewey
Steve Wheeler is publishing sets of quotes from significant educators - this week he features
John Dewey.
‘One of the most valued books in my personal library was first published over a hundred years ago, in 1916. It's by John Dewey and is called Democracy and Education. One of the first things I learnt from reading Dewey, is that we don't teach subjects, we teach people. Dewey opposed the mechanistic methods of education that were prevalent in his day, proposing (then) radical solutions. His thoughts about the nature of education extend to what cannot be taught, but is learnt by experience.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing talents - what role for school? Benjamin Bloom’s research
Benjamin Bloom
‘In the future schools will need to focus on developing the talents of all students rather than academic success for those students who are best suited to the current education.. An emphasis on a personalised talent based education would dramatically transform education and would result in less students leaving feeling failures, or worse still alienated, as at present.’

Howard Gardner’s book  ‘Five Minds for the Future’.
‘Howard Gardner is well known to many teachers but he is the first to worry that his ideas about multiple intelligences have not always been introduced in ways that he approves. In his 2006 book ‘Five Minds for the Future’ he introduces readers to the ‘five minds’ that will be vital in the 21st.

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938
Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey. That Dewey's ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education. 'Experience in Education' is Dewey's most concise statement of his ideas written after criticism his theories received. In this book Dewey argues that neither 'traditional ' nor 'progressive ' ideas are adequate and he outlines a deeper point of view building on the best 


Now is  the time for creative thinking

Monday, January 28, 2019

Activities to start the school year



Beginning the year in style

Teaching is one profession where there is no shallow end.
 From day one you are presented with up to thirty plus young individuals for you to shape into a learning community; and every class community will be different. Even experienced teachers have 
No shallow end for new teachers.
 second thoughts about starting a new class .
This blog shares some ideas to select from - select only what makes sense to yo
Develop a class treaty

Treaty of Waitangi

 One good idea is to undertake a mini unit around the Treaty of Waitangi and use this as an opportunity to develop a class treaty outlining behaviors required of both students and the teacher.

There is a new School Journal that provides an excellent reference

My goals for the year.

An idea some teachers use is a letter to parents about your goals for the year - but if this is done it needs to be done with input from your team leader or principal. At least have something prepared to introduce yourself to your class . Students will be very curious to learn about their new teacher


Catching an eel
Best holiday experience - language activity

Another  idea is to share with your class one of your holiday experiences and then get them to do the same.  They could 'mind-map' or list all the neat things they did and pick one to expand on. This activity will give you an idea of their writing and handwriting skills

If you do the above them students could add a drawing - one again get them to focus on exciting event.
Crossing the wire bridge

Observational task - the power of drawing

Learning to observe is an important and overlooked skill. You could bring in a simple leaf for the class to draw. This is an ideal means to encourage the class to work carefully - many children spoil work by rushing.

Nature walk - take advantage of the good weather

With the weather so great do some nature walks.

What are your new classes attitudes towards areas of learning?

The first few days are a good time to assess your new classes attitudes towards areas of learning. Prepare a list of learning areas of aspects of learning and get  individual class members to indicate their attitudes towards items with a 1 to 5 scale - from 1 love it to 5 dislike it.. This would best be drawn up by all teachers. The results will give you an idea of areas you need to change for various individuals. Be interesting to use the same survey at the end of the year.  Do the survey with your class as if you were their age - and tell them how you have improved your attitudes since then - or areas you still want to improve.

Exploring your students; mindsets

If you know about the mindset research of Carol Dweck you could add to your survey  add : 

Well worth the read
1 Do you think were are born as smart as you are ever going to be ( 'brains' or sports ability) and there are some things you just can't do ? Or 

2 Do you think you can get better at anything if you try hard and practice? 

The first is a 'fixed mindset'.Low ability students get their lack of ability affirmed at school ( through ability grouping, national testing or streaming) and high achievers ( often girls) do not risk their status by new areas of learning becoming risk averse. Those with a 'growth mindset' just have a go at anything believing in effort and focused practice and see not succeeding as a challenge.This 'growth mindset' underpins the New Zealand Curriculum; ' have a go kids' 

Share your stance as a teacher with your class.

An idea to work on is to  ensure your class appreciate your stance as a teacher - what you stand for as a teacher.

How do children in your class think they learn?
What are your strengths

Discuss with your class how they think they learn. Discuss with your class what they have learnt recently and how they went about it.

What talent do individual bring to the class?

Take the opportunity to find out the range of talents class members bring to the class - and share the ideas about Multiple Intelligence of Howard Gardner.

Using group work in the class


A study based on sport
Personalizing learningis the ideal but the best way to get to the individual is by using group work. Most teachers use group work as part of their literacy and numeracy programmes but group work also works well for study ( inquiry) work as well.

(A link to some advice on classroom management )

Plan out a simple study unit.

Plan out a study unit to introduce to the class to introduce an inquiry approach to learning . TheTreaty of Waitangi might be 
Great mini study
one. Two good mini unit to make use of might be a study based on cicadas or aflax bush in flower. Develop a model of inquiry teaching to make use of during the year.

The units above, or any idea you have chosen, will provide ideas to introduce as part of your language programme - and, if appropriate, maths as well.

Few thought about presentation

Whatever is chosen it is worth helping students present their ideas well - and to encourage them to show gradual improvement  as the year unfolds. Encourage them to improve on their 'personal best' in all they do.
Teach simple layout skills

At first students may have little skill in presenting their work well but with time they will gain skill through your teaching ( if you think this is important) and as work is completed display it well. With time create a powerful learning environment.

All students buy a set of exercise books to begin the year. Some schools I know have reinvented these books as portfolios as they ought to show qualitative improvement (the Japanese call this continual small improvement 'kaizen'). The first days of school is the time to introduce students to this expectation. It is a good idea to 
Simple powerful display
introduce them to simple graphic presentation ideas. It is also a good idea to aim, by Easter, for all books to show improvement.In the schools that have developed their books as portfolios all books are sent home before parent interviews for their comments and later to discuss during interviews.

I appreciate that the ideas presented  above reflect my own teaching beliefs and as such  my advice is to take only ideas that make sense to youI see the classroom as a community of young scientists and artists exploring ideas they want to learn more about - with an emphasis on the immediate environment. 

Think about the 'message' your students will take home after the first day

First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance. Put a few good thoughts in their head in the last five minutes of the day!


Have fun during your first week