Tuesday, 17 April 2018

ERO Report: Teaching Strategies that work - Mathematics

I'm currently catching up on some professional reading and today's topic was Maths. Reading the Education Review Office (ERO) report on teaching strategies that work in Mathematics was challenging at times. This report " features strategies and approaches that we observed in 40 primary schools selected from across New Zealand. These schools came from a database of 129 schools, all with rolls of 200 or more, in which the proportion of students in the upper primary years (Years 5 to 8) achieving at or above the national standard had increased. In each case achievement levels were also above average for the decile."

The strategy that stood out most to me was: abandon ability groupings. As a primary teacher for over 10 years, this was pretty much all I'd ever done in Maths! If you'd asked me prior to today, I would have assumed that this was hands down the best approach, too. Having embraced the Numeracy Project and all it entails, maths groups seemed a given.

However, my reading today would suggest that this is not the best approach because grouping by ‘ability’, whether in-class or across classes, disadvantages students. This was a key finding of Mathematics in Years 4 to 8: Developing a responsive curriculum (February 2013). Students in the 'lower' group are often denied access to the whole curriculum and had negative perceptions about their mathematical ability reinforced. Streaming children into different classes for mathematics
also separates mathematics from the rest of the curriculum.

By abandoning ability grouping, ERO investigators found that teachers discovered "children in mixed-ability groups had greater understanding of their learning, were better able to recognise achievement and progress, and knew what they had to do to improve. Many of those who had previously been in ‘bottom’ groups talked to us about how their confidence in and enjoyment of mathematics had increased since working in flexible, mixed-ability groups."

Even better than that is that "teachers saw that mixed-ability grouping practices also had benefits for more able mathematicians, who, when working with peers, had to think deeply about alternative solutions." Talk about win-win!

It's not obvious in the report, but I can also see how principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) would really apply to these mixed ability groups. I LOVED the example given of one lesson using the flexible-groupings approach:

The teacher then introduced the day’s activities and asked the children to select the difficulty level and decide whether they would work on them independently or in a group. To cater for a range of capabilities the teacher had prepared ‘packs’ at three different levels of difficulty, ready for the children to download to their digital devices.
  1. The teacher explained that the first pack was quite challenging and then used her device to provide a preview of the contents. The problem solving activities in the last section were the most challenging, she pointed out.
  2. In previewing the second pack the teacher explained that it was easier than the first but also had some potentially challenging problem solving at the end.
  3. The third pack was for children who still felt they needed help with telling the time. It contained no difficult problems.

Think about it: I'd normally prepare three different groups' work - why not give the kids some control over their learning? The students had also been explicitly taught how to help someone else when they were stuck, which I see as a key part of this strategy. Interestingly none of the students selected the third pack in this lesson.

It's certainly made me think about what I would do differently the next time I was in charge of a class - what about you?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Assistive Tech: Common FREE Apps for Learning

I'm often asked which apps I'd recommend for putting on a new device. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used ones. Most of these would suit a primary classroom or students at the emergent end of the NZ Curriculum.

App & Link Summary
Virtual Manipulatives You can use this app to help children compare and contrast fraction by regions.
Attainment's Show Me Math Free Show Me Math Free links computation with actual objects by showing a brief animated movie for each math problem. For example, 3 + 6 = 9 is illustrated with a group of 3 ants joining six others. This instructional process helps students visualise math. 
Teaching Number Lines Pretty straightforward: forward and backward counting.
Count Sort A very basic set of activities for children just beginning to learn about numbers. 
10 Frame Fill Provides children practice with recognizing additive "10 Families" (e.g., 1 and 9, 2 and 8, etc.).
Maths With Springbird HD Practice various aspects of maths including addition, subtraction, number sets, shapes and coin counting.
Math Slide: Addition & Subtraction A multiplayer game helping children to learn and recall addition and subtraction number facts. 
Math Slide: Tens & Ones
This is a lovely collaborative app played with between two and four players each taking turns. Take a look at others by the same developer as well.

The Calculator A calculator.
My Script Calculator - Handwriting Calculator Perform mathematical operations naturally using your handwriting.
Bitsboard Bitsboard is ideal for learning languages, mastering vocabulary, learning to read, learning to speak, becoming the next spelling champion and more! 
Book Creator One Brilliant book creator, make your book and it sends it to iBooks and exports to video in the camera roll- now with embedded audio, video and freestyle handwriting features. My MUST HAVE NUMBER ONE MOST VERSATILE APP. Open-ended and cross-curriculum.

Link to full version ($7.49)
Write About This NZ Free Either select from pre-set writing prompts or take your own. Record a voice prompt to go with it and write your story. When you're done you can record your story and export it to your camera roll.  Here is my quick example

Link to full version ($5.99)
PicCollage Great app for combining photos into collages. Also, add text and export to camera roll or email. Here's a great tutorial on Pic Collage.

Look for the tutorial on how to use it and embed a photo on your blog here.

This kid-safe version has no social aspects.
ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard Draw and record your voice on your iPad at the same time- can add your photos upload and get a quick embed code. Really useful for making recordings of lessons to keep or share. It can upload to the web very easily if wanted so you can get the embed code for your blog or Google site. Open-ended and cross-curriculum.
Puppet Pals HD This is the free version and although you can get the extra functionality with in-app purchases, it is way better to get the whole app in one go ($7.49). One of my favourites. You use your characters to easily record movies, exports to the camera roll. Open ended and cross curriculum.

There is an iPod Touch/iPhone version as well.
Tellagami (free initially but to do anything much you have to complete in-app purchases)

Construct an avatar, upload a background or use one of theirs. Record your voice or type text. Export to Camera Roll or get the embed code. Here is my example. Here is a blog post I wrote on how Tellagami can work across all levels of the SAMR model.
Easy QR2 Really easy to use QR Code reader- very reliable. Make QR codes using the Chrome Extension Google URL Shortener and your iPad can quickly access websites- especially useful for little kids to access tricky to type web sites.
Popplet Lite The lite version only lets you create on mindmap at a time. There is a paid version for ($7.49) that lets you create multiple Popplets. I just take a screen grab of the lite version when it's finished with.
SeeSaw Practical and simple interface for your learners to create an online portfolio and share with whānau. Parents need the Parent version of the app. Also can send selected items as a public blog. Plenty of great support on their website.
Paper by Fifty Three Drawing/painting: Quite simple but elegant interface which makes it great for beginners.
Sock Puppets Record the puppets as they lip synch with your voice. Great for te reo.
Skoolbo Go Kiwi Kids! Excellent cross platform and web based tool for literacy and numeracy.
PhotoMath This app uses your iPad camera to view typed maths problems and it solves them, giving the steps to working out the answers.
Ready to Read Apps There is a growing series of Ready to Read Books in digital format. Some are supported with New Zealand Sign Language and Te Reo.
Victory at Point 209- Ngarimu Te Tohu Toa Perfect for reluctant readers and boys from the age of 10 years. This app is an adaptation of the graphic novel, Ngarimu Te Tohu Toa- the story of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu of 28th Māori and English.ori Battalion who was awarded the VC during World War Two. In Māori and English.
Spellosaurus You can enter your own words and record your own voice to the spelling words to learn them. An in app purchase lets you add individual students
NZSL Dictionary Brilliant app for learning how to sign. You search for a word and you get a pictorial representation of it- and then, if you are on line, you can view a video of someone signing the word.
MindMeister More detailed mind mapping. You can synch your maps with the on line version as well.
Classroom Reader By Booktrack Booktrack Classroom allows students to read with a movie-style soundtrack, or to create their own soundtrack for any story, essay or other text. Students can also create and publish their own Booktracks, reading them on the web or on mobile phones and tablets.
A series of animations promoting Te Reo. Made by the Ministry of Education.

Te Whata Raki
An interactive online Māori world with Whētu Marama as your guide. Explore the wharenui or whare and test your reo with a word matching game. Developed by Christchurch library
Excellent learning Te Reo app - constructed like a course. You need wifi for it to work. Easy to navigate. If you want to take the course with assessments and feedback you have to get a licence.
Maui and his First Journey The story of Māui, his birth and life - in Te Reo

Nicely put together book read in Te Reo and English with supporting material.