Learning Journey

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On the couch with Professor John Hattie

Today our team read and discussed an article on the AITSL about John Hattie’s views on his first 100 day of chairman of AITSL.

He discussed some of the major challenges facing teachers in the coming year is: Initial Teacher Education, School Leadership and Practising teachers.  Hattie said that, “Teachers must be supported to implement practices that have been shown to improve teaching – evaluating their impact, seeking feedback about their practices, working together, and engaging in effective professional learning.”  I agree with Hattie as all those practises help improve teacher practice.

Another comment that Hattie made that I strongly agree with is, “Great schools are where each student is owned by all the teachers, and there are shared understandings about what progress and challenge is across the school.” I believe in a shared understanding of students, so that students feel comfortable and supported by all teachers within the school and therefore are more motivated and engaged in their learning.

Hattie discussed if something is not working within the school, it is important to all try our best, but if our best is not working we must change our methods and not criticise children, parents, time, systems and resources.



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Today I gave my children a survey about doing their creative project during Investigation time. 91% of children said that they did their project during Investigation time and 96% of children said they would love to do another project, and they would be happy to do in Investigation time. The children who did not want to do another project were children with very poor self esteem and processing skills.

In the survey I asked the children why they chose to do their project in Investigation time and some of the reasons were :

* “I wanted my project to be good for when I showed the preps.”

*” I wanted to start my power point.”

*” I just wanted to do as I really liked what I was learning about.”

*” I wanted to find out more information.”

In the survey I asked the children what their favourite part of making their project was and there was lots of different reasons:

” I liked doing the paper mache.”

“I like making a power point.”

“I love finding facts.”

“I like drawing pictures.”

“I like making models.”

“I like making films.”

All the elements that the children enjoyed are elements of the Investigation areas. It is fantastic to see the children so excited and accountable about their learning. I have had many parents come in the afternoon because the children are so proud of their work they want to show their parents. I even had one child who is getting up very early in the morning to keep going with her paper mache. The provocation of the project did encourage and motivate the majority of children to become very accountable of their own learning, especially the grade 2 students and the capable grade 1 students. While doing their projects the children learnt about the structure of a report, searching for information, finding the main idea, putting information into your own words, writing a report, proof reading their writing using Lane Clark tools, creating power points, posters, booklets, films,  contents pages, glossaries, blurbs, making models, paper mache, working in teams, and sharing their work orally with the class. The simple provocation of the project, rubric and the ‘so what’ encouraged children to use the provocations placed in the areas to help them achieve their final goal.

Where to next?

I really loved using what I learnt at Yong Zhao and Lane Clark PD to create the provocation of a project that enabled children to learn a variety of skills for a purpose. It was fantastic as the majority of children created something that was “good” and was not something they made quickly during Investigation time. Also by many of the children choosing to do their project in Investigation time, this allowed as easy flow into writing and reading.

At the beginning of PARTS we were focusing on provocations, but a lot of research showed that a provocation is a great learning tool, but it does not matter if all children are using them. Throughout the project I was constantly changing the provocations to suit their interests. For examples books on the topics they were researching,  images of paper mache models, power points, websites and origami instructions.  I still had the provocations our team was using in the areas, but depending on where the children were at in their projects, I then added more provocations.

I feel a bit torn, as I do see the value in normal Investigations, but I loved seeing how passionate the children became about their projects. I am interesting in trying giving the children a project for two weeks; on different things such as maths, literacy, RE, and Inquiry that link to their interests, and then they would have one week off where they could investigate like they normally do. I would like to trial this next term as the quality of work, enthusiasm and interest the children had for their projects was amazing to see. Here are some photos of the children doing their projects during Investigations:

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Project Based Investigations

The children have been continuing doing their literacy projects. On Monday in Investigations 17 children out of 26 chose to continue their project. The children have been using the rubric to help guide them in making choices about their project. It was wonderful to see in Investigations some children were using paper mache to make models, some were in collage making things,  others were writing their drafts and others were creating booklets, power points and posters. The quality of work the children is doing has improved and even one child made the comment that they could see the things they are making as it is so much better than one they normally make.

For the children who are not doing their projects, the majority them are not developmentally ready, but they are using the provocations in the areas. For example, one child used the cupcake holders to show multiplication. Another child made ‘oo’ words using beads, and other children were drawing flags from around the world.

The children’s projects are due next week, and the majority of the children are very excited and passionate about their topics. We had a level 3 student come and show the class their report about an animal. This inspired many students and again the quality of the work increased again. I will give the students a survey next week about their projects to find out about their attitude to their projects and which children enjoyed having the option to do in Investigation time.

I think by having the provocation of the project, it encouraged the children to be in control of the provocations. This morning our team worked together and went through each other’s rooms to add provocations. This was very helpful.

I am very excited to see what the children’s projects will look like next week, and it is very easy to see how excited they are to share their work with each other and the foundation children.

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Project Based Investigations

After our PD last week Christine spoke to me about incorporating aspects of project based learning into Investigations. I decided to trial this for 2 weeks. In Writing we are learning about the Report genre. I explained to the children they were able to write a report on any topic they liked, and they were able to present their information in any format.  They knew they were going to given time in their Writing block, as well as having the option of continuing their project in Investigations time.

The children were given a rubric to explain to them what they needed to include. I was a bit nervous to give 1/2 children a rubric, so I spoke to a teacher from another school, who had used it and found it very useful.  I created two rubrics to help differentiate the learning needs of different children. Children began in Writing time to research their topic. The children chose to research lots of different things, such as penguins, dogs, soccer and toilets.

The next day we has Investigations, and I gave the children the choice of continuing their project or investigating normally. 15 out 25 children chose to continue their projects.  Some children chose to continue to researching, others started writing and others were creating power points or 3D models. It was really good to see children going back to the rubric to make sure they were on task.

The children are very excited about their projects and as they are able to present it any format; some are making models, others power points and others are writing a script so they can film it. Once the children have finished their project they will present it to the class. I think the children are using the project and rubric as their provocation.

It will be interesting to see if tomorrow in Investigations how many children will choose to do their project.


Week 3

Today our team discussed some of the research we had found on WLA provocations. According to Kathy Walker (2013)  provocations help scaffold children’s learning. She states, “The way teachers set up the learning space, the invitation they provide through the use of provocations and materials, the questions and comments they make to support children’s reflection, the learning intentions revised during Tuning In, the summary of learning at Reflection and during the day and the engagement of children in group discussions and learning conversations are all aspects of effective scaffolding.”

Tanya emailed our mentor Jan, and her definition of a provocation was, “I like to think of provocations as something that a teacher uses to spark questions, interests, ideas, theories, discussion and debate. Provocations should engage and extend children¡¦s thinking. In Early childhood Education the term is used to describe materials, media, questions, resources and even the teacher!( so pretty much anything you add to your learning spaces) Provocations are intentional,deliberate and thoughtful.” Through our mentoring we have been shown that for children to interact with the provocations in the areas the area needs to look appealing so they want to go there and the provocations need to engage their attention.

According to Bernadette Duffy and Jo Trowsdale (2014) teachers need to use provocations to encourage children to play and learn, but resist the temptation to interfere. Walker (2014)  agrees when she  states that during Investigations teachers should never say ‘today we are doing’ or ‘today you could do’. Hopefully by the children using the provocations they will intrinsically be excited by their own learning and actively participate in their investigation.

This term and last I have felt by focusing on provocations I have seen approximately the top 20% of my students more engaged and focused on their investigation. A group of students after learning about maps used the school map and created their new and ideal school using 2-dimensional shapes. A group of students after learning about procedure writing wrote a procedure about building a car and then built it. But this excitement and engagement is not occurring in all of the students. These are the students who are still struggling to learn their basic skills, who struggle with numbers under 20 and who struggle with sight words, letter formation and sounds.  For example if they build a tower in construction, they do not have the understanding of measurement to extend their thinking in the task. I intervened, which I am unsure if I am meant to do, but the child is barely able to count to 10, so even with teacher assistance he or she still struggles. I tried to get the child to measure using hand spans, which goes well, but this required a lot of teacher assistance. I am unsure if this much teacher assistance is acceptable in WLA. I will ask at my next mentoring.

Our level from our research created a definition of provocations:

A provocation is a tool that is intentionally placed in a learning space to engage and extend the child’s learning.


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Week 5

This week I have been trying to use some of the ideas from the Walker Learning Fact Sheet about Scaffolding Children. This is the link to the fact sheet: http://walkerlearning.com.au/info/sites/default/files/Scaffolding%20Children%20in%20Their%20Learning.pdf

I attempted to follow their ideas about how to tune children into their Investigations effectively. I found by deepening my questions children were have a more engaged in their Investigations and were not just investigating on a surface level. This links into the PD we had yesterday about Solo Taxonomy, which is about how to deepen a child’s thinking so they are thinking critically about what they are learning. I found Sophie’s presentation really interesting, as by using Solo Taxonomy, the children were responsible for their own learning, and they determined how well their learning was going.

After her presentation I thought about the possibility of incorporating elements of Solo Taxonomy into Investigations, so the children are aware of whether they are  investigating on a surface level or whether they are investigating at a deeper level. Our level discussed how our children would have difficulty with the terminology, so we could just refer to it; as green, orange and red thinking. We think this will help children have more awareness of their thinking, and encourage them to investigate beyond the surface level. We are already doing this slightly, as the children we pick to be our freebies are children who are using deeper thinking. But by explicitly telling the children what they need to do to move from surface level thinking to deep thinking, hopefully more children that are developmentally ready choose this path.

By using Solo Taxonomy we could encourage children to use provocations that enable them to go from surface level to deep thinking.

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Week 4

This week our level has had a lot of discussion about WLA. We have been having issues all year trying to fit in everything we need to. According to ACARA we need to do 7 hours literacy and 5 hours maths. We are not formally doing this hours, but during the Investigations some children are doing literacy and maths. We spoke about how we felt that the majority of our children needed more explicit literacy teaching to enable them to develop skills, as that is what the majority of the children need. We decided instead of doing 4 investigations a week to do 3, to allow more time to do explicit literacy teaching. Before we made this decision I emailed a teacher from a school I knew who previously used WLA in their junior school. She explained that the school loved the approach, but they felt without an accredited teacher on staff, the approach would not be successful. They adapted the approach to less times a week, a slightly different structure and they only used the approach in Foundation.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Setting up areas

Today our level worked together to help Bec set up her areas and put provocations in her areas. We discussed our learning intentions for this week and next, and what provocations we could use in our areas. We explained to Bec what a provocation is and how we link it to our investigations and our daily learning.

This week has been valuable as were able to reset and redo our areas after the carpet was fixed. We were able to think about the layout of our room and where we could best put each area to allow for maximum room in the room and engagement for the students.

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Today Kaetlyn, Tanya and I browsed through the books for Developmental Profiles. We will use this books to help us in our PARTS project and when doing the Statement of Intent.

We discussed the layout of our rooms, and how we could change it to make our Investigation areas more engaging.

Next week we will start investigating. We will as a team discuss what provocations we could use to  link to our learning intentions.


Week 8 Update

Today we watched as a level the WLA professional development DVD.  The section we watched today was focused on setting up an environment. It was very interesting to hear how many provocations can be included in an area.

Kathy Walker stated the importance of the layout of the learning environment. That there would be cosy corners, the areas would be visually inviting and there would be lots of real objects within the area.

Also that the areas are neat and organised to encourage neat and organised investigations. Also she focused on how valuable sensory areas were. Sensory areas allow children to develop their oral language and writing skills. From watching this it has made me think of what sensory items I could use as provocations. For example; we are learning the structure of a narrative, and the visual tool we have used to learn the structure is a sandwich. Tomorrow I will work with a group of children to make a playdough sandwich and then label the layers to match the structure of a narrative.


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