Welcome to the Articles Page. The following articles include: Effective Feedback, Make the Walls Teach, Classroom Climate, Starting the Year Strong and Teaching Principal - How hard can it be. Just scroll down!
Effective Feedback - Keeping it Simple
by Jodie Davey
There has been a lot written about feedback, particularly over the past couple of years. I'm keen to keep it simple!
One of the most powerful strategies to increase student outcomes that we as teachers have control over is Feedback. There are many resources available if you would like to explore this area further. www.aitsl.edu.au is a great place to start.
Let's explore the most effective feedback strategies we can use at various stages of the learning journey.
It’s important to remember that we are talking about both feedback to the student and feedback to the teacher.
Feedback for Stages of Learning:
At the beginning of the learning journey students need to receive feedback that clearly helps them to understand the goals of the lesson or unit and what success will look like. Quite simply the Learning Intentions and Success Criteria. Your learning intentions should be challenging and clear for your students and must convey what students will know, understand and be able to do by the end of the learning period. Your feedback to students in this phase should help them understand these learning goals and success criteria above all else. You can use WALT and WILF, Rubrics, Bump it up Walls and WAGOLLs…..just to name a few!
While you are teaching the unit students should receive feedback that continually guides them towards the success criteria you have set. This feedback might come from you directly, but can also be from peers, from themselves or from scaffolds you have established in your room. The feedback you receive from your students that helps you understand how they are tracking is critical throughout the learning to help guide your planning.
The final phase is to provide specific feedback to guide students towards achieving success – this may come in the form of marking drafts, individual conferencing and individual feedback from yourself, peers and the student themselves.
If you’re looking for ideas of visual stimulus – Pinterest is a great place to start.
Also remember that Praise is not feedback. “Good girl, You’re smart” type of comments can do more damage than good – remember that feedback should be focused on effort, result and process to help students self-regulate and take ownership of their learning.
Sam works well and achieves a good result – feedback like “you’re smart” doesn’t acknowledge effort, process, resilience etc, so although it’s positive, Sam will take the feedback personally and believe he achieved a good result because he is smart – not because he put effort in. When Sam doesn’t achieve well, he is then also more likely to take it personally and consider himself ‘dumb’, rather than ‘if I try harder I can do it”. Further articles around Growth and Fixed Mindsets are readily available.
Make the Walls Teach
by Jodie Davey
WHAT DO THE WALLS OF YOUR CLASSROOM SAY?
As you walk around your school, visit classrooms and other learning spaces, pass by notice boards or office areas, what messages do you see?
What are you walls saying to visitors and students?
Are they engaging and informative? Are they over powering and distracting? Are they helpful and useful? Are they out dated and old?
Are there tools displayed to aid learning or are they blank, empty and drab? Are your students proud of their room? Is it owned by them?
This is not just a ‘primary school’ thing….think about it…..Even though you are all amazing, engaging teachers, there actually may still be times, believe it or not, when some of your students will wander off and stare at the wall….so when they do, what do they see?
MAKE THE WALLS TEACH
Your walls are an opportunity to engage, inform, comfort, prepare and inspire. Take the challenge and see the difference.
Consider these tips:
1. Displays in classrooms should have a purpose – not just be there to look pretty! Too much is distracting, too little is not stimulating…. find the balance.
2. Do you display scaffolds to support learning? If not, you should…if so, are they easily accessible for your students to read and learn from. They need to be at eye level for the students. Perhaps include cushions, beanbags or tables / chairs in front of them to encourage students to access them for learning.
3. Consider including inspirational quotes around the room to motivate your students.
4. Ensure student work is celebrated – this doesn’t mean every piece of art work from every student should be displayed!
5. Does your physical set up align with your beliefs about student learning and your purpose in the classroom? Eg: if you value collaboration then the room needs to foster this, and the skills of collaboration need to be taught and practised – individual separate seating will not.
6. Is there a safe place for students to calm down? Consider somewhere students can go if they need to self-regulate – I don’t mean a time out area after the event! Somewhere that will help prevent meltdowns.
7. Ensure your classroom is orderly and well organised. Chaotic spaces can contribute to chaotic behaviour.
8. Do you love being in your classroom? If you find the space stimulating, rewarding, comfortable and safe, chances are, so do your students.
by Jodie Davey
The climate your classroom has is one of if not the most significant factor in the success of each and every lesson you teach. The good news is you can develop the climate you want but following a few simple guidelines. Yes, every classroom is different of course with different students from varying backgrounds with unique needs….and every teacher’s style is unique as it should be. But I hope these simple steps will support you as you create the classroom climate you desire.
1. Relationships: it’s probably no surprise that this is at the top of the list but it can’t be stressed enough just how important effective, positive relationships with your students are. Take an interest in them, treat them respectfully and ensure they feel important in your presence. If they respect you they are more likely to make positive behaviour choices. Work hard to establish these relationships with every student – some will be easier than others so work hard at this.
2. Negotiate the rules and responsibilities with your students. Open discussions about the classroom that is good for you and them is critical. You can use a range of strategies for this (Y chart, PMI etc), as long as there’s discussion and involvement by all. Students need to own the rules and clearly understand their responsibilities (and yours) so ensure they are visible and referred to regularly.
3. Wanting your students to like you is normal, but it’s more important that they respect you, so ensure that you are firm and fair. Be consistent with ensuring your students adhere to the class rules remembering that what you ignore, you condone.
4. Engaging your students is critical and obviously there are many things a teacher needs to do to ensure their students are engaged and on task. Ensure your students feel they are in an environment safe to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with them – a little entertainment goes a long way!
5. Maintain a lively pace and actively and purposefully move around the classroom. Marzano calls this with-it-ness. Be involved in the classroom at all times, monitoring students, watching for engagement – give students feedback on this and redirecting students who find themselves off task. Be actively involved. What happens in the classroom – good and bad – is up to you.
6. Transitions are critical times throughout the day. This is where it can all come undone if they are not handled well. You want to ensure they are smooth and routines are known by all. Clearly define the beginning and end of your lessons, giving students the opportunity to clear their mind in between – a stretch, a game, a walk, a fun quiz…..there are lots of options to help students reflect on one lesson and refresh ready for the next.
I hope you are all loving the profession you chose…the good days – celebrate, the not so good, reflect….but never give up. You are making a difference in the lives of others every day and what better gift is there than that?
Start the Year Strong
by Jodie Davey
Welcome to the new school year everyone. I hope you all had a fabulous break and are excited and ready for the challenges ahead. You may be in a new school, or a new year level or a new curriculum area, or you may have a year of consistency to consolidate last year’s work – whatever your situation, one of the beauties of teaching is that every year is different. Every year will bring you new successes and new challenges so embrace them and learn from them. Here a just a few tips to remember as the year kicks off.
1. Don’t be Overwhelmed: The year usually starts at a hectic pace as your Leadership team attempt to squeeze as much as possible into the first student-free days of the year. There may be Professional Development, Faculty and Year Level meetings, planning time, compliance meetings etc. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Try to stay calm, make lists, use the time management quadrants we looked at last year if that helps and create your goals for the year. Don’t expect yourself to be brilliant at everything!!
2. Relationships: We can easily get caught up in all the ‘stuff’ to do and forget the most important part of our profession – RELATIONSHIPS! With colleagues, students and parents. As you meet new students, give them a clean slate. Try not to take preconceived opinions about them into day 1. Remember it’s the Walnuts who say, “Oh you’ve got Jonny this year, you poor thing!” Don’t listen to this talk…. they’re walnuts. Your attitude is “I can’t wait to have Jonny this year as I believe in him and will support him to find success.” Some students may have made some poor choices in the past but deserve to start the year without this hanging over them. Work hard to show them that you care and believe in them. Ultimately that’s all any student wants. If the Marigold / Walnut concept is foreign to you this short video will help.
3. Give Them Time: Some students are awesome at falling straight back into routines. They have all their stationery needs, they have their diary filled out and are super organised. For others this takes time. They may have had no routines over the holidays, they may not have read since the end of last year, they may be tired from late nights. We can’t control what happens in the home, just be mindful that some students will take longer to get into routine and need more support with this from you, so cut them some slack. Rather than getting mad at them, show them you will be there to help them get organised.
4. Find Your Marigolds: You may or may not be part of the school’s mentoring program – depending on how long you have been teaching and how your school works. It’s important more than ever that you seek to find your Marigolds – whether on site or off site. Surround yourself with those who will bring the best out in you – who you will continue to learn and grow from and who will keep you positive when you need it most.
Remember teaching is a privilege. Have a great start to the year.
Teaching Principal - How hard can it be?
by Jodie Davey
A school of 14 students, a teacher and teaching principal – a breeze you would think, right? OH how wrong you can be and how wrong I was.
I was recently invited to spend a week in Imanpa (approximately 270kms south west of Alice Springs and approximately 200kms east of Uluru.) Principal Steve and I met in Darwin as he attended a couple of Powerful Partnerships Workshops and asked me if I would be willing to come to his school and work with a group of other remote teaching principals. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to work with these educational leaders and learn a little more about their context.
So, I travel to Imanpa, was invited into the home for a week and worked with incredible leaders who had travelled from Alice Springs, Haasts Bluff and Amoongana.
As the week progressed, I witnessed a snapshot of this so called ‘easy gig!’ These incredible Teaching Principals literally run the school – they are the full-time teacher, the administrator, the receptionist, the gardener, the cleaner, the first-aid officer……you get the picture.
One morning as we arrived at school and students began drifting in, Steve noticed the dogs had snuck in through a hole in the fence overnight (oh yeah, they’re the fence fixer too), so after picking up the strewn rubbish, he loads the bins into the school bus (yes, drives this too) and heads out to the dump to empty the remaining rubbish before class.
Meanwhile, his wife, Carolyn runs around the school, unlocking toilet blocks, checking for rubbish and graffiti, blower vaccing (my word) the verandas, disinfecting the classrooms, wiping down chairs and tables with pino-clean, turning on air conditioners, firing up computers, distributing play equipment, checking for snakes and consoling any children who present with issues from the night before.
All this and school hasn’t actually started yet! They then teach all day – no non-contact / release time, no breaks at recess and lunch as they are responsible for the safety of these students ALL day. Meanwhile, Steve’s Principal hat attracts 40+ emails….and why aren’t they read yet? Oh yeah, he’s had a bit on!
The students smile and wave as they leave for the afternoon. They have all experienced belonging, pride, acceptance, learning and joy in the 5 hours they were a part of Imanpa School. Steve and Carolyn start the jobs that in many schools, others do. Let’s face it, every teacher knows how tired they are at the end of a teaching day. “There’s no tired like teacher tired right!” But for these two incredible educators, their devotion for these students and their school shines as they ‘pack up’ the school for the day and begin the ‘admin’ work that all schools are required to do.
They order supplies, respond to emails, manage budgets, write ASIPs (Annual School Improvement Plans), tidy and organise learning spaces, organise assessments and communicate with any number of support services, designed to help students (unfortunately the paperwork takes longer than you could imagine due to the many complexities present here in the bush). Making you often question whether it is worth it!! (no disrespect to support service centres – but we really need to reduce the hoops!).
The transient nature of this community like many others, sees students visit family any number of times throughout the year. This movement brings new students to the school gate on a regular basis. These small schools open their doors, welcome new students in, provide a uniform and create a sense of belonging for the visitors. Quick observations to determine prior understanding and activities are developed to support this child’s learning – despite moving from school to school. (The paperwork involved…well that’s another story! But they do it regardless).
I have been privileged to be involved in education for 27 years, in a variety of roles and have met some incredibly talented, passionate teachers and leaders in my time. I have to say, never have I met a group of educational leaders with such courage, strength and dedication.
Despite all the complexities of life in the bush (of which I have merely touched the surface), these leaders still remember to make the learning environments fun, still communicate and support each other hundreds of kilometres away (unfortunately I’ve seen schools where we don’t support our colleague in the next room!), still manage to complete all the necessary ‘admin’ work and take such pride in every aspect of the school. Nothing is ‘someone else’s job’ – there is no one else.
Hat’s off to Teaching Principals, Teachers and Teacher Aides in remote schools. Keep doing great things - you are making a difference.
Special thanks to Carolyn and Steve for welcoming me to Imanpa. Thanks to the incredible leaders I speak of – Jenny, Cherie and Kandi, for all you do. Thank you for joining in the learning Rob.