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In years 9 and 10 we have certain integrated subjects, so HSIE and English are grouped under Social Studies (SST). All the kids have one on one laptops and have to work in groups on projects that run for 5 weeks. A typical SST project will combine HSIE and English content and have a driving question. For eg: How are different voices key to our understanding of war?

So in the classroom we have team teachers and in SST there is one HSIE and one English expert.

I can’t say enough about why team teaching is great but I’ll keep it down to 5 reasons:

1. Synergy
‘Two heads are surely better than one’. The dynamics of my English classroom have been synergised from all the links to history and geography that my team teacher makes with the text. Texts that I would normally have to pour over for hours are now presented with great expertise from my team teacher. We were doing a unit on ‘Slaughterhouse five’ which is so much richer because of my colleagues input about the war in that time and surely the analysis of history is also enhanced from the imagery and empathy that a good novel can bring.

2. Varied teaching caters for varied learning
Normally it is a herculean task to get around all the kids in the class and try to cater to all the learners who are verbal, visual, kinesthetic, special needs and the list goes on. But the power of two is such that not only can we reach all these different learners but our different teaching styles make for great variety in activities and learning.

3. Creating and managing tailored resources

Once we get to know our classes its easy to realise that our time and tested tutorial we filmed two years ago may not suit this groups need so with a team teacher its just easier to collaborate and share resources that make for learning designed to our students’ needs. The extra presence in the classroom is also very handy for management issues or to spot the kid whose fired the spitball.

4. Modelling the method
I am a big fan of modelling responses, writing and anything that the kids are expected to produce. It helps the kids with structure and understanding. So I found it only natural that if we expect them to learn in groups, collaborate, communicate, think-pair-share then we have to do it too. Team teaching models that so brilliantly.

5. He aint heavy he’s my brother
Finally, its great to have a friend in the classroom who can collaborate and share the pain on those difficult days and the joy on those great days!

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I finally bit the bullet. At our first staff department meeting for the year I made a presentation called ”The Road not Travelled”. In meetings in the past there is a lot of process talk (assessment schedules, procedures, scopes, weighting grids etc) which we all know and have been working through for many years. Rather than revisit these again, we looked at a video ‘The Machine is Us/ing’ which is rather dated now as to when it was made but the message is still incredibly relevant and new information to many.

Now as we teach a significant part of our course through PBL and have technology centered classrooms we have to think about how to teach for authentic learning. The amazing range of web 2.0 tools and all other resources via youtube, slideshare etc need to be used in effective contexts and students creation of these should also be towards authenic learning.

The question of course is – What is authentic learning? and I have posed this as a challenge for our department this year to continuously try and answer and hopefully generate a lot of professional dialogue.

The meeting itself did generate good dialogue. The team is at at that stage where we see kids handling the technology but not very aware of their context, content or analysing the waterfall of information and its sources. So we agreed that as a team we now need to see how we make learning with technology a meaningful experience.

Why literature matters?

Wordle: Literature

This is a really interesting slideshow explaining the how students struggle to search online and how they can improve their strategies

Qwiki

Just three words. OMG

Some more words. What a great new tool to introduce topics!!

Othello Qwiki

Creating problems in problem based learning is one element of our classroom but I believe the next level for me is to be able to effectively integrate web 2.0 tools in the process. (This is where my nocturnal reading of blogs kicks in overdrive!)

I am currently working on a study of Othello for Year 11 and want to make the learning in this unit more authentic by creating real life links. After many attempts at the drawing board including targetting focus areas such as ‘the outsider’ ‘racism’ ‘the role of women’ and ‘society and status’ am learning more towards ‘love’.
I want to explore how the idea of ‘love’ and perceptions of ‘love’ set in motion the events in Othello. This could then lead to examining ideas about ‘love’ over time and how or even if they have evolved and representations of ‘love’s various implications’. Hopefully the discussion will become layered complex and evolve.

So need to finalise a few good problems for the unit and use web 2.0 in the learning process. hmmm…

Wordilicious

In three words: Stephen Fry’s Chronicles.

I suppose that’s a bit of cheat with an apostrophe in the title. Oh well! I have a chameleon like quality to sound like what I am reading. Hence if my blogspeak is fairly flippant and foppish with dulcet English tones its because I have chameleoned to Stephen Fry. I can’t help it. He’s horribly contagious. Despite being grilled about my spontaneous drifting towards elitist and pretentious English sensibilities I have been secretly devouring every syllable and polysyllable that flourishes in his writing. Its like the sound of marbles rolling in a velvet pouch with auditory and sensual qualities. All his talk of Cambridge and Oxford plus my own memories of my day tour to Oxford left me daydreaming about me possibly studying there someday.

As I continue to read I begin to feel more absurd about being an Oxbridge scholar wondering how I could ever fit in. In our travels to New Zealand I sort of got my answer. ‘Anything is possible’ said the artist Alan Waters. I hadn’t a clue who the man was till I saw him in person and he is such a delight. In a complete irony he was totally devoid of pomp, or ego or cosmetic quirks though there are heaps in his art. He was the humble artist who just wants to make people think. I was very overwhelmed meeting him. He represented a lot of what I believe is important in education. A sense of purpose, humour, wit, vigour and humility. Most importantly a desire to make people think.
So I’ve been thinking that my dream of going to study at Oxbridge is only as far as my mind believes it is. I could be a scholar and even a scholar without the prudishness or attitude that the sun alone shines from my..
‘Anything is possible’

With the artist in his home gallery

Alan Waters’ Art

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