Hi all my name is Kirstin Anderson-McGhie (aka Keamac) and I live and teach on Auckland's North Shore. I'm very excited to be able to join in with this project and am looking forward to interacting with, sharing with and being challenged by you all.
I currently teach 23 very enthusiastic and delightful Year 3 and 4 students. We have access to 3 HP laptops, 2 desktop PCs, 1 old Apple Mac, a mimio tablet (which communicates with my Tela laptop) & TV (as opposed to using a projector) and a digital camera. These are supplemented by the following digital items that are personally supplied by me - 1 Flip video, 2 Talking Tins, 1 Easi - speak and an old iPod shuffle.
We have a class blog -Room 16 Cyberkids - that is getting up and running gradually.
We also have a travel buddy blog for one of our class mascots, Rohi the Kea, she is currently completing a tour of New Zealand. Rohi's blog provides my class and the others involved with another way of engaging with reading, writing and visual language; using an authentic context with a purpose and a real audience.
Our class wiki can be found here and is currently used as a combination of digital task board, resource repository and space to collect support material relevant to our current Inquiry topic.
My own much neglected teacher blog can be found here. With my involvement in this project I think it might be time to dust the cobwebs off and start using it again.

Reflections for Week 4 to Week 6 Term 2

Changes to Our Writing Programme
We looked at the Narrative Power Point from Jacqui's Wiki Literacy & E-Learning and revisited aspects of it each day. I wanted the children to have a really clear idea about the key features of a narrative and how you might go about writing a narrative.
We also visited the Telescopic Text website - which I have used before. My reason for this was that my children tend to keep their writing quite simple and are not very good at adding further detail to enhance their writing. The children now all give the example "I made tea." when asked what a simple sentence is - not sure if this is a good or bad thing but at least they are starting to get the idea.
I set up my Writing Management board and this was a really useful tool for monitoring the various stages children were at, as well as providing a visual reminder for my class. It had the interesting effect of motivating them and keeping them on task as they knew where they were headed next and wanted to get there.
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Writing Task Board
Drafting was really interesting as this was the first time the children were ever given a choice of drafting formats. I had children choose to draft using word, draft using Jacqui's narrative template on Inspiration, draft using the Mimio Pad, draft on paper using coloured pens, draft on the white board and take a photo, draft orally using the Easi-speak and draft on coloured paper.
Of particular note was, that given the choice of drafting tools/resources, only one child chose to draft in his draft writing book. I will be interested to see what happens over time as the novelty factor wears off.
I was also incredibly excited with the impact of drafting choices for one young fellow in my class. He has behavioural and learning difficulties and ordinarily asking him to complete any written activity is teacher intensive, often results in conflict and if he does agree to write he simply dashes off a couple of sentences in a matter of minutes. He now asks to write daily - sometimes several times per day. He will remain engaged for up to an hour, writes several pages with interesting vocab and always insists on sharing his writing with the principal, DP, his parents and other staff. He has filled an entire A3 clear file with his writing - all completed on A3 sheets of coloured paper.
I only had a few options available for Conferencing choices as I figured I would introduce a few more each time. Plus, it gives me some time to get some options properly organised rather than throwing them out there only partially thought through. At this stage I went with tasks the children were already familiar with such as Spelling Tasks, unfinished work, library corner, photo of the day and Topic. It was great to know that the children were engaged in purposeful learning tasks whilst awaiting their turn at conferencing. It also meant there weren't queues waiting to see the teacher - something I've never been fond of.
I gave just a few publishing options at this stage - publish in word, publish in Inspiration (the children were enchanted when at the press of a button the whole lot transferred to Word), or publish by hand using publishing paper. I limited the options because by this stage my student teacher was on full control and I decided it would be easier to keep the options to just a few.
Thoughts on Classroom Spaces and Possible Next Steps
I've started thinking about learning spaces in my classroom. This is the final week of my student teacher's practicum and as the week progresses I will be gradually assuming full control of my class. It has actually been quite useful having the opportunity to sit back and observe my class and the classroom environment while she has been teaching. I've had time to see how some small changes I had implemented were working, as well as time to consider what and how I would like to change things.
Jacqui said here on this wiki, "If you have set up your spaces in the classroom there should be no front of the room, there should be no teacher desk, there should be no individual students desks." Currently I have not so much a front of the room, but definitely a central mat area where we meet regularly as a whole class. Despite having tables, the children in my class still have set areas, although I do encourage them to sit where they feel comfortable and many of them will take themselves down to the floor to work. There is no teacher desk because it is school policy - my desk is actually in an office that is completely separate from the classroom. I surveyed my class to find out their opinion of having a mat area. It was quite interesting.
For:
Because it's comfy
Because we need somewhere to sit while the teacher is teaching us.
Because we like sitting on the mat and it makes us happy.
I like having a mat space because we can sit differently.
We need a mat space because too many people talk to their mates at their tables.
All the people in the class can talk about stuff there.
The teacher can hear us if we talk or bicker.
Two people in our group love the mat.
Against:
Because we sit next to the same person every day.
Because we have a table anyway.
We don't really need a mat to sit on.
People sit to close to us.
The mat is too rough.
I don't like the mat.
We need to see what you are talking about and we can't see when someone is in front of us.
We have chairs.
I don't like the mat because we have to sit in one spot.
I don't like the mat because we bicker and fidget.
I don't like the mat because people have to huddle up and we don't have much room.
Interesting:
I think we need our own space because of talking.
We can move.
So I'm planning to remove the mat area entirely and reorganise the tables in my room to create some spaces. For years the placement of my tables, desks or other furniture has always been based on needing to leave enough space for a mat area. This has often resulted in furniture arrangements with which I have been less than happy.
I thought that I could use some of the kneelers that currently house our book boxes to create group spaces as they could be sat upon or at. I'd like to work towards some performance and participation spaces, such as an art table, a science table or a destruction and construction table. I'd like to look at getting some cushions or bean bags as well as these can be moved around.
I'm still thinking about a secret space and how I might go about that. There is a withdrawal room attached to my classroom where children like to go and shut the door on the classroom buzz. The down side is that I share it with the class next door, as well as there being odd times that itinerant teachers and teacher aides borrow the space to work with students, so I can't consistently guarantee the availability of this space.
Our classrooms also lead out to a shared awhina space. I need to make better use of this space and allow children to pop out there to work. The control freak in me wants to be able to see what they are up to at all times, something I will need to get over. Having said that, as it is a shared space there would have to be some ground rules so that other classes aren't disturbed by more enthusiastic members of my class.
I'm thinking of setting up some of the tables as paired or individual work spaces so that there is a designated area for kids to go if they want to work on their own or with a buddy.
I’m hoping to begin implementing some of these ideas this week so that things are in place for the following week when I have sole charge of my classroom once more.
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Current classroom layout from "back" of room.

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Taken from "front" of room (start of school year).

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From "front" towards entrance and withdrawal room.

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Looking towards other "back" corner. Those cupboards are where kids store their bags instead of having a cloak bay.




Initial Thoughts

I need to sit down and think through my action plan for the year. However, I've already jumped in by slowly and carefully re-organising my writing programme to reflect many of the ideas and suggestions on Jacqui's wikis (something I've wanted to do for the last couple of years). I figured it was best to change just one area and get that up and running successfully before bringing in the next curriculum change. Already I am seeing some fascinating, positive and quite exciting results which I shall reflect on later in the week.

I also need to think about the different spaces in my classroom and how these can be refined, improved and added to. I have some in place after a fashion but know I need to think these through some more. Already after reading the page on Classroom Space I've had a bit of a light bulb moment. It hadn't occurred to me that I didn't necessarily need a mat area. I do know that as a child I hated having to sit on the mat, so it makes perfect sense really that my students may not either. I've decided I'm going to ask them how they feel about having a mat area and go from there. I often organise my room around the "mat" so not having one may be quite liberating when it comes to arranging the spaces in my room.

In terms of my level of integration I'm probably sitting somewhere between Adaptation and Appropriation.