Now the problem with standardized tests is that it's based on the mistake that we can simply scale up the education of children like you would scale up making carburetors. And we can't, because human beings are very different from motorcars, and they have feelings about what they do and motivations in doing it, or not.
Last week, students across Australia in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine were required to sit the annual NAPLAN testing. NAPLAN is ostensibly inflicted upon students to assess their growth over the eighteen months since their previous NAPLAN (or to serve as a benchmark if it is the student’s first NAPLAN). This testing process has a significant number of flaws and causes stress, anxiety and frustration, amongst students and parents, but also amongst some teachers. This year was my first involvement with NAPLAN, as while I am teaching a combined Year Five and Six class this year, last year I was employed in an RFF capacity and had only been in that role for a few weeks when NAPLAN arrived, and thus felt only a minimal impact as a result.
I remember sitting the Basic Skills Test in Year Five sometime in the early 1990s (though I have no recollection of sitting it in Year Three), and my recollections of it was that it was a low-key test, where my parents received a booklet which talked about grade-level expectations, and indicated where my results across the various tests sat in relation to my peers at my school, and then either across the state or across the country, I cannot recall which. My teacher, Mr. Davies, who is one of the reasons I entered the teaching profession simply told us that we had to sit this test to assess our progress and to just give it our best effort. Mr. Davies was a fantastic teacher, and as far as we knew, the test had little importance beyond what it told him about our results. We sat the test, I rushed through it as I always did (and still do) with multiple choice tests, and then went outside and read a book while I waited for my classmates to finish. Mum and Dad received the results sometime later, we chatted about them, Mum asked if I rushed through the test (cue the head hang, “Yes Mum, sorry, I just wanted to read my book”) and life moved on.
I do not doubt that there was more to it than that, however, from my perspective at that time, as a ten-year-old boy, was that it was just something we had to do, but not something that was particularly important. Things have changed, however, and not for the good. My students seemed to do ok. I had two or three students who were a little anxious, but otherwise, they did not seem overly concerned. There were, however, students across the Central Coast, from conversations with other teachers, who could not cope and actually made themselves sick, including one student in Year Three. Additionally, there were students who would ordinarily write a high-quality narrative, with excellent character development, a complex plot twist, and a clever resolution, who simply froze because of how little time they were given.
I do not know what approach other teachers took in the lead up to NAPLAN, whether much preparation was in class, or set at home; nor do I know how much preparation my students’ put in outside of school, of their own volition (or at the behest of their parents). Personally, I sat down on Monday afternoon to talk to them about it for the first time (I had studiously avoided mentioning NAPLAN) at any point prior to that), and the reaction was immediate. Some students I could tell were worried about it, some were ambivalent, and some were annoyed that they had to complete them due to the time they took out of class. My Year Six students were ecstatic, as they would be spending the time undertaking Peer Support Training with another teacher and myself.
I talked to them about NAPLAN for a little while, telling them about my own experience with the Basic Skills Test, and then made it very clear that as far as I was not worried about their NAPLAN results, as long as they put in their best effort. I reminded them of the formative testing in literacy and numeracy that we had completed at the beginning of the year, and that we would be completing those assessments at the end of this term and again at the end of Term Four, and that I was focused on the growth they showed across the three iterations of those tests. I reminded them that NAPLAN did not know or care whether they had slept well the previous night, or had eaten breakfast or not, or are more athletically inclined, or anything else, other than the results that they put on their paper and submitted for NAPLAN.
We talked about the way they get feedback on their learning outputs in class, through the marking systems we use, or through one to one conversation during class time and that I do not get to see what they write and so cannot give them feedback, or know how they went, other than the number which is given for each test result. I could see some of the tension leaving some of my students, and my Year Six students were helpful as well, talking about their experiences and that it was not as hard or as stressful as they thought it would be.
I have a great group of students.
Whether or not we like NAPLAN, it is here, and it is here to stay, though I do not doubt it will evolve over time into something else (such as the move to digital completion which has been discussed for some time). There is a body of research about the impact that it has across the education sector and in the current education environment, where we continually here about the fourth-grade slump and the drop in results across PISA and TIMMS, short-sighted politicians are looking for a quick fix that will get them votes at the next election. There is talk about planning for the future, but I sincerely doubt that it actually means anything, given the way that politicians lie in order to get the support they need.
Students across the country have teachers who know and understand that NAPLAN is relatively meaningless, a single snapshot in time which takes twelve weeks to develop, and where the original negative (student submissions) are not available for checking. NAPLAN is a broken and flawed tool which causes stress and anxiety in students and teachers and from anecdotal reports, some parents far above what it provides in return. I await the result of this year’s NAPLAN test for my students, which will mean little as the text-type for the writing test was a different text-type to what they were required to write when they were in Year Three, making the data comparison invalid from every point of view I can think of.
What was your experience with NAPLAN this year? How did you, your students and your students’ parents cope? Do you prepare your students with pre-testing or give them a speech similar to what I gave to my students? Is your school one in which NAPLAN is a highly important test, or is it largely disregarded? I would appreciate hearing about your experiences with NAPLAN and the strategies you employ in your context to survive the infliction of NAPLAN each year. As always, thank you for reading.
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.”
– Attributed to Jamais Cascio
What strategies do you employ to weather the storm that is the beginning of the school year and the mental chaos and stress that it generates? What advice would you give to pre-service teachers or new graduates to set them up to get through the chaos of term one mentally intact?
I have been finding this term mentally and physically stressful, draining and tiring, despite my contract being for three days as opposed to the four days of last year.That said, last year, I was tasked solely with teaching digital literacy skills in an RFF capacity, a role that I think, as I was reflecting last night whilst talking to Mrs. C21st, I took too lightly, as the skills I was teaching are skills that I think I could perform in my sleep whilst standing on my head, and so allowed some bad habits to creep in, in regards to planning for specific lessons.
This year, I am finding that there is so much more to do than what I was aware of from my ITE and even from last year. There are whole facets of teaching that do not get touched upon in, well, not the ITE program which I completed. The actually planning and programming from a scope and sequence that has been prescribed by the school, the administration required on a daily basis including everything from marking, checking books, interacting with parents, staff meetings, committee meetings, extra-curricular activities such as sports teams and debating, reassuring the student who’s struggling to feel comfortable socially that they do have friends, giving your banana to the kid who has no lunch, buying a water filter because the water in the taps tastes bad and on top of everything else, changing numeracy scope and sequences halfway through the term (though when the one that was being used made no sense, I actually do not mind that one, as frustrating as it is), having to prepare Individual Education Plans for any student who requires an adjustment for their learning.
In addition, this is also the start of the football (soccer) preseason, which brings its own time requirements, especially given that I am refereeing with a branch that is an hour away. Pre-season seminars, courses to upgrade my Referee Assessor (coach) qualifications, pre-season trial games, an FFA Cup match, training, fitness tests and other meetings have seen me spend about four or five hours just travelling each week, on top of the actual time at the event.
Then there is the chaos that comes about from Mrs C21st now being pregnant, which though things have been relatively smooth so far, with more nausea than actually being sick, it has brought its own challenges, especially in regards to food and working out what smells set her nausea off. Thus far, it has not been as bad as it could be, with the smell of red meat cooking, chia seeds, and some yoghurts being the main things that set her off, and our (her) consumption of white peaches necessitating the purchase of a fresh bag of six peaches every two to three days.
At the end of my first day of my first practicum back in 2012, in a Year Six class, I was hooked, I had the buzz, the rush of adrenalin that comes when a student has an a-ha! moment and gets it, and I thought to myself that, yes, I was in the right profession. I would be lying if I denied having wondered about the truth of that thought in the last week. Recently, I asked for feedback about pursuing a permanent posting, and Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) commented that I should continue to pursue a permanent posting, as being granted that would also see me gain access to significant additional funding for mentoring and guidance in planning and programming and early professional development opportunities.
I think it is fantastic that new, permanently-employed teachers have access to that resource to help gain their footing, and I do remember hearing one my friends from university who was permanently appointed straight out of university, talk about that and how she would be struggling even more than she was, without the time that it gave her to get her head around all of the tasks that were never mentioned during our ITE.
As far as I am aware (and if I am wrong, please correct me!), as a temporary or casual teacher, I do not have access to this assistance. Whilst I understand, from a practicality and management point of view why casual teachers do not have access to it (which school manages it etc), I think it is as important that temporary and casual teacher’s gain access to it in some format, even if only on a pro-rata basis. I am contracted, for the year, at .6. Why should I not be able to access .6 of the full amount in order to gain some guidance, mentoring and assistance in wrapping my head around everything? Why could a casual teacher with a good working relationship, whether with a particular school or a particular teacher, not nominate that teacher/school to be their mentor, and some sort of agreement is negotiated to provide the assistance to the new teacher?
There has to be a way for this to be better, and more equitably managed. There seems to be a regular discourse about the shortage of teachers and the rates of new teachers that are leaving the profession within their first five years being abominably high. Why can we not seem to come up with a way to put in place, for those new graduates who want it, access to assistance that is currently restricted to one small portion of the workforce?
I have not had one of those days since my last article on that topic, however, I have not particularly enjoyed my teaching lately as I am too busy stressing about getting through everything I have ben told I need to get through. I suspect that my desire to complete my referee qualification upgrade this season will fall by the wayside as it will be the first casualty of the year due to the amount of time that refereeing sucks up.
On the plus side, other than a few nights, (including tonight, but Mrs. C21st is out at a training night), I have done well in not doing work at home when Mrs. C21st has been at home as well. That said, I have been getting to school at around 0630, and have often only left earlier than 1800 due to appointments.
I had a bit of a stress-out last night. I had lost Saturday as I was refereeing an FFA Cup (the assessor was happy, I got a result in regular time, ran just under fifteen kilometres according to my GPS unit, and took just under sixteen thousand steps) and then spent the remainder of the day completing paperwork and reports and going through my post-match recovery program. Sunday we spent in Sydney seeing some family and friends we had not seen in a few months, and it was dinner time when we arrived home. I ended up getting a little bit of planning done for what I need to do, and was in bed at 2030, and then here this morning at 0615, with a fresher, cooler head.
Today did actually go well. I get through everything I wanted to, except for three activities, and only half of my reading groups.But I think that, despite what I wrote earlier about taking work home, that I will take the night for myself to relax, go for a light run (I have a fitness test tomorrow afternoon) and then an early night.
I do have faith that I will make it through this term, we are, after all, halfway through. I do remember feeling like this when I first started working in one of my previous occupations, and asking my manager at the time what I was doing wrong that I was not getting through my workload each day, and stressing out about it. I do not know what changed, but it did and suddenly one day, I was the one helping others get through their workload. I believe I will get there, and that at the moment I am somewhere in transitory phase between consciously incompetent and consciously competent.
That said, I would love to hear strategies, whether mental or physical, that you use to get through this chaotic time of year. As always, thank you for reading.
“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”
– Attributed to David Warlick
This latest video takes you through the process of setting up Google Classroom on an iPad. Remember to watch, pause and rewind as much as you need to.
“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
– Attributed to Nancy Kassebaum
The next few videos in the FTPL series will cover some skills that we have already looked at on the computer from the point of view of using them on the iPad. We begin with setting up Google Drive on your iPad.
“It is important to remember that educational software, like textbooks, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers, leadership, and parental involvement.”
– Attributed to Keith Krueger
Good morning everyone, it is an early post today, getting in before I head off to school in order to get the latest FTPL video up for everyone, as I did not get it the video recorded until last night, well after I would normally post it. Next week will see a return to your regular programming, with the FTPL video returning to Monday afternoons, and the new series of articles reviewing of Invent to Learn, continuing in its (soon to be) regular time slot of Tuesday afternoons.
In this video in the FTPL series, we continue looking at how we can utilise GDocs in the classroom, specifically, how to use the live-feedback feature. Please ensure you have watched Video Five in the series before watching this video.
As always, I would appreciate any feedback or questions in the comments.
Click here to see the full list of videos in the FTPL series.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
― Attributed to Neil Gaiman
Last week I published two articles (here and here) talking about how I planned to explicitly introduce students to the internet, and address misconceptions to ensure that they were all on the same page when it came to understanding the fundamentals of using the internet. I recently delivered the first lesson in the unit to a Year Four class and it went somewhere between poorly and average and was a good way of reminding me that I am not as good or as experienced as I sometimes think that I think I am due to how comfortable and settled I am in the school.
I still firmly believe that the Google Search Engine Lesson Plans (GSELP) are valuable resources, but I think that I need to find a way of resetting my expectations as I move between classes. Being the RFF teacher is a difficult position, moving from class to class and age group to age group, I still get caught out on a semi-regular basis expecting too much of younger students, having just had Stage Three, or, as happened today, going from having Kindergarten to Year Four and adjusting my expectation back up, but adjusting them too far and still expecting too much.
Looking at it now, I structured the lesson poorly and I am fortunate that the students in this class are, on the whole very polite with only a few overly exuberant students. I had the students work through a series of questions to get an understanding of their preconceptions about the internet, writing them down, and then used a class discussion to bring it together, which showed some interesting thoughts from students:
After completing the Padlet, I then went through the presentation that had been put together, after getting students to stand up and stretch and move around. I think that I had effectively lost them by this point and It was not until we got to the Kahoot that I had put together as a summative learning that they perked back up and re-engaged, but it demonstrated that they had not understood what we had discussed, as many of their answers were incorrect.. I have more Stage Two classes tomorrow (as I write this) and I will deliver the lesson very differently to those classes. Just because I am the teacher does not mean I get it right all the time. I just need to be sure that I learn the lesson and get it right the next time.
Tomorrow will be introductory video first, then a slow work through of the questions one at a time, with students identifying their own pre-conceptions and then class discussion and explanation of the meaning before moving onto the subsequent question. I feel that this approach will be more effective and result in the students understanding the concepts more than my students did today.
“The Internet: transforming society and shaping the future through chat. “
– Attributed to Dave Barry
Yesterday I wrote an article about how I had begun to explicitly teach my Stage Two students about the internet, some of the terminology they will hear, how to get the most out of doing searches and some other fundamental skills. Whilst doing some research for the unit of learning I am beginning with my Stage Three students last night, I stumbled across a resource that will make teaching my Stage Two students about the internet a great deal easier than it otherwise might be.
Google has a series of Basic Search Education Lesson Plans broken into three modules, each with three lessons as seen in the image below:
This series of lessons is nicely constructed and affords the opportunity to discuss some ideas that I had not even considered, including the very first part of lesson one; asking the students what a browser is. Whilst, yes, there is the presumption that all students are digital natives, and it is true in so far as they are born into a world where digital devices and technology are largely ubiquitous, in regards to their level of familiarity and ability with those same devices, there is a vast array of ability and comfort levels. It is not just those of the older generations who hold some fears of technology.
Having spent some time reviewing the lessons, I think they are a very good fit for my students and a good starting point and will be using them, in conjunction with formative and summative assessment to check for my students’ pre-knowledge and misconceptions using a Kahoot quiz that I have generated based on the lesson.
This is one of the things that I love about teaching now, as opposed to teaching twenty years ago; the internet makes the process of finding resources more efficient, and allows me to draw from a more diverse range of activities than my colleagues in decades past have had access to.
“Art is the overflow of emotion into action.”
– Attributed to Brian Raif
As my regular readers would be aware, I have been utilising a short burst of creative writing, called quick writing to provide my students a more engaging way of practicing their typing skills. The students have been overwhelmingly enjoying the time. I have been trying to find a way to make it a more rigorous learning opportunity and to encourage them to improve their creative writing as well as their typing.
I had begun to provide four images as options, to allow for those students who did not connect with the initial image that was provided, and this has helped a number of students engage with the process and enable them to write more than they had previously, and those students whom are more advanced writers have an opportunity to extend themselves, through the challenge of connecting two or more of the images. What I have been noticing with the writing that students have been doing is that although they are writing at length, their output is quite surface-level, with very little detail enabling the reader to visualise the scene they are writing about.
The engagement of the students has created a situation where I have been able to sit and join them in completing some creative writing, something which I have not done in a great while, and have missed. Yesterday I listened to a few of the students read their writing out, as I have been doing, and decided to model to them what I meant when I have been asking them to provide more detail in their writing, and read out a few paragraphs of what I had written.
Having done so, I asked the class if they could visualise the scene in their heads, and then we had a discussion about the use of language to paint a picture for the reader, and how the use of language can play a role in determining the interest level of the reader. The challenge was then put back onto the students to revise their writing, to use their language to paint a picture of the scene and the characters they were describing.
For a number of them, it was a light bulb moment, and they immediately dove back into their writing to improve it, and I hope that this segue will pay off in the long run with higher quality writing. The other challenge I laid down for them was to remove the boring words, such as said with more interesting vocabulary, and we had a brief discussion about how to find more interesting vocabulary.
Thank you for reading, as always, and I would like to hear from anyone about how you have encouraged students to make their writing more interesting and more visual, while removing the boring words.
“The copyright bargain: a balance between protection for the artist and rights for the consumer.”
– Attributed to Robin Gross
Copyright is a confusing and complicated area of law for adults. This is especially so given that copyright laws have not kept up with the proliferation of digital media and the realisation of many that music and movies had been, for many years, incredibly overpriced (which is a separate conversation in itself). However, copyright is still an important concept to understand, particularly with the burgeoning use of tablets in the educational context, and the increasing of access to the internet for children.
Having completed the introductory unit focusing on fundamental computer skills with my Stage Three students last week, I am now looking to begin teaching copyright concepts to those students. In preparation, I spent some time examining the content on the CyberSmart for Kids website, and felt that it was very superficial and did not deal with the concept with any genuine effectiveness. I looked elsewhere, and could not find any Australian content that I felt was effective at dealing with the concepts and implications of copyright for students.
I ventured overseas, and after much much searching, have found and am using the iKeepSafe content to deliver these concepts. Today was the first lesson, and even with some good quality resources to back up the delivery, it was a complicated lesson.
I would very much like to hear from anyone who has treated this concept with the students, and how you explained and differentiated copyright, fair use, creative commons, public domain etc. in such a way that students were able to engage and understand the concept.