July 25

Independently choosing Learning Teams from now on

If you have checked out our Collaboration page, then you know about how our teams work in my classes, if not, here is a quick summary.

That was a brief summary. Now for some change in practice.

To begin with I am in charge of how teams are constructed and I choose the combinations of students so there is a constant mix of gender and ability. I do this for the first two terms.

At the end of last term, each team member completed a personal reflection sheet on how they saw themselves with their organisation and team skills so far. They rated themselves either Never, Sometimes or Always, then shared their reflections with the team. The team discussed each member’s in turn and negotiated their placement with a T in the category.

On the first day back for term three, I asked the students what qualities/skills/behaviours they thought they would like to see in a team member. They came up with a comprehensive list.

I asked them to compare this list and to look back at their own checklist from the previous term.

Were there things they were super confident in? Were there some things they needed to work on or could put extra effort into? Were there some things they were struggling with? Did we have perfect students?

How could we support everyone to become the best they could be?

I was now in the process of handing over the negotiating of team members to them.

Criteria for selection

Not with someone from the previous team.

Select a member from the opposite gender that you can work with. Once you have a pair, find another to make a team.

Have three things that you will support each other with. How will you do that? Record this in your team books.

Reminder about the language of negotiation.

It was important to model the process of asking and negotiating. Being proactive as opposed to waiting. What happens when you don’t get the answer you thought you would? What could you do?

Once that was completed the students found their record books and team books and begun sorting out their new teams for weeks 1-5.

It was interesting to see them take control. They were a little hesitant at first, but as some modelled actively seeking out suitable team mates and sitting down to compare checklists, others soon followed. There were some students who forgot to bring their lists and couldn’t complete this stage, so by default, they became team members and could sit down to sort out their support strategies.

Teams could also select any table, should it still be available.

Once they had completed their recordings, they set about writing a common set of rules. We have been working on being clear in statements saying what, why and how we want things. They are really becoming good at this.

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Checkout this round of team rules. I love the variety and explicit nature of their expectations.

 

Once the rules have been negotiated and recorded, they proceed to the regular morning tool check. As it is the first one of the week, they also choose a focus for the week again being clear as to what, why and how.

These children have come a long way from their first attempts at this process and continue to build their skills in actively listening and engaging in collaborative team work. I was very proud of them on the first day back.

Your turn to think

How did you feel about selecting your own team this term?

What do you think about your new team?

How will you make sure you do what you said you would do?

Would you prefer Ellen to create teams? Why? Why not?

D you have any suggestions for teams or team work?

What type of team criteria would you like to see?

July 25

Spinning in Space

Last term we learnt about how the Moon,

 

the Sun

and Earth

spin and rotated in space. We also learnt that from all this spinning and rotating, the positions of the Sun and Earth played a big part in how we experienced day and night.

Relative sizes

It was important that we understand exactly how big these objects are. Now that is kind of tricky because we really can’t see Earth as we are standing on it, as for the Sun and Moon, well at a distance they can play tricks on your eyes.

We are fortunate in our Solar System to have the Moon and Sun exactly where they are because they actually look the same size. We know the Sun is huge, but it is 400 times further away than the Moon. The further something is away from us the smaller it looks. That is why when he Moon moves in front of the Sun we get a perfect eclipse.

Actually things in space are big, really, really big in fact somethings are so big our heads can’t get it at all. This is what we mean.

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Checking this idea out

We had a go at using a basketball to represent the Sun and a tennis ball to represent the Moon. In teams we worked together to move the Sun away until it appeared to our eyes to be the same same size as our Moon.

I had my eclipse glasses handy so we all had a couple of safe looks at the Sun. Although this mighty sphere was shining brightly, it looked indeed no bigger than a full Moon. Some children even saw the Sunspots.

Understanding shadows

How much fun is shadow tag! But there is a lot of science in shadows.

Why don’t shadows stay put?

On a sunny morning, we went outside and traced around each other’s shadow.

Then we played some shadow tag. That was challenge, they never stayed put!

Back in the classroom we discussed and recorded what we thought we knew about shadows.

Time to return outside to checkout our shadows….oh no!  They had moved. We needed to trace them again.

We noticed that all the shadows that we could see had moved from the base. To start with, they were facing west, later on, they were moving Easterly. That was odd. Why did this happen? Ah, the Sun moved. Of course, that was it!  Or was it?

Time to get serious with a scientific investigation.

I gave each team member an investigation planner, together they discussed and recorded their plan. This is a summary of our discussion, once planning had ceased.

Luckily for us the day was one of the last sunny days before the cloudy days of winter settled in.

We went out every hour on the hour, as best we could, throughout the day, sharing jobs to complete the investigation. To make it a fair test, we needed to place the cardboard in exactly the same place, have the same equipment and record the shadow line carefully. Teams worked collaboratively to complete their observations.

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The following day, in our teams, we analysed the information together.

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We had some interesting data that we were able to place in a table and record graphically such as this example. We know that tables are useful to sort out information and graphs show us data that we can see clearly.

We discussed our observations and concluded that as the Sun moved across the sky from East to West, the shadows moved in the opposite direction. Our proof was the marks we recorded on our cardboard posters. We found out that the shadows were longest when the Sun was lower in the sky and shorter when it was high in the sky. Our proof was the measurements we took each hour. Our claim based on our data was that the Sun’s movements caused all this. So the Sun did move!

But

We knew better though. Earth is really the object that moved, not the Sun, that object stays in the centre of our Solar System  and rotates. It is the rotation of the Earth that caused the Sun to appear to move in the sky, which then caused the shadows to lengthen and shorten.

You see we’d also been learning about the spinning and revolution of Earth. There was a lot to remember. Everything spins in space. You can get dizzy trying to remember everything.

We found this clip to be a great reminder.

We learnt a great deal about our neighbours in space and how they affected our life. At the end of the unit, I asked the students to design a scientific poster that explained how we get day and night. Here are a few.

 

Here are some things to think about.

What did you enjoy most about the science unit? Can you remember an impressive fact?

What didn’t you like?

Are there things you still are curious about and have more questions?

How did you feel about giving your oral presentation?

What do you think of space and the things beyond Earth?

What impressed you?

June 23

Making wonderful music in one lesson.

We had just the best day today. We performed a music concert for a small crowd. How good was that.

 

Earlier today, classes were booked into a music workshop with Jon Madin. This is him. To learn more about what he does, go to his website ( where I snuck this image) http://www.marimbamusic.com.au

Jon is a  very talented musician and brought a wide variety of instruments for us to play. He told us he made these wacky instruments himself which impressed us. They were bizarre indeed. There were items that were familiar, but were a strange mix of  objects we might use for different things, such as echo cellos, musical bikes, drums and musical boxes. Although they didn’t look like classical instruments, they sounded amazing especially when we all played together.

We started out learning how play three patterns on the marimbas.

The melody seemed familiar and when Jon started to sing with his guitar, we recognised The Hokey Pokey. That was fun, at the concert we had Sarah, Matthew and Sophie leading the audience in the dance too. They were very enthusatic models.

After becoming quite good at that tune, we moved over to where the echo cellos were situated. Jon demonstrated how to get the cello to rest on our left shoulders and how play using the bow. It was quite strange holding our right arm and only moving from the elbow.

We played a tune called Mama don’t allow. Which was quite interesting because she didn’t allow it, but we played it anyway. We had four students to help with the music boxes too.

Jon was teaching a few classes different songs throughout the day and then at the end of the day we were all invited to play for an audience. He asked some parents to help with some percussion and made the teachers learn a song to perform.

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We had a ball. It was a delightful concert with classes showcasing their newly developed skills. Today Witungga Hall, tomorrow Festival theatre! We highly recommend Jon and his wacky instruments.

What did you enjoy most in the workshop?

Which instrument do you believe sounded beautiful? Why?

What type of music do you prefer to listen to?

Do you play a musical instrument? Would you like to? Which one, why?

 

June 12

Camp Illawonga 2017

We were busy packing on the weekend. There was a lot to bring to school!

Mickey courtesy of Tumblr

Week six had finally arrived. The day we had been waiting for since we started in grade three.

We were going …. Camping!

Yay.

Most of Mrs Woolford’s year 3/4 class would be joining our excited campers. We left our families for three days and two nights. Would they survive without us? They would just have to be brave. But it was okay if some parents needed extra hugs good-bye.

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We had a long two hour journey to get to Camp Illawonga in Swan Reach, which would be our new home for the next few days. Thankfully the coach had comfortable seats and seatbelts.

Map from Illawonga home page

The road trip was fabulous, but travelling made us hungry, so we stopped to stretch our legs, have a bite to eat and of course have a little playtime. Angaston was the perfect place.

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Another short ride, well sort of …… and we were soon settled into our dormitories at camp. Our class was on lunch duty so it was straight to work. Yum … Tacos.

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Mark, the Camp Leader, gave us a lot of information and instructions about being safe for our stay and expectations around the camp site. Soon it was back on another bus for a short ride. We were crossing the Murray River on the punt to visit The Murray Aquaculture Centre. This was an interesting place where we learnt about almond farming and yabbies.

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That was fun because we also had a challenge  to see which team would catch the most yabbies. Yabby catching sounded simple enough, but there were some tricks to learn…… patience.

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The girls were Yabby catching heroes, how did they do it!

The sun was going down, and it was getting cooler, but there was still so much to do… more duty groups for tea.

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After our delicious meal, we went into the gym for some outrageously exciting fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the still camera!… But trust us, we worked up an appetite for a yummy supper with twisting and jumping, turning and rolling, hanging and falling…… before it was time to hit the sack. We had a huge day planned so we needed our beauty sleep.

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Some of us slept soundly. Poor little Scarlett.

Up and at em, the next morning was quite eerie. A mysterious fog crept in, it threatened to hide the sun… but we found it.

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Lucky the Sun burnt off the fog by the time we were ready for our river cruise. We needed our floatation devices before we could walk down to the boat.

While we went on the cruise, the other groups went on a caving expedition and a Safari ride. We would all rotate activities throughout the camp. Once again, I left the still camera behind for the cruise… but I remembered it for the ride to the caves.

Those hard hats were fabulous protection, without them I think we would all be a little shorter!

After that adventure we had a short bushwalking to a HUGE river red gum. That tree was so big we just fit around it! We had enormous fun building Tepees with all the twigs and sticks lying around.

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Each time we visited the river, it meant a short but steep 400m walk down a gravel path… naturally we had to walk back up too. That was tiring, luckily Ellen makes us do fitness each week so it was a piece of cake.

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We needed to get back to camp quickly, as we had to get ready for an exciting adventure at Sunny Dale sheep farm.

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What a whip cracking great time we had. We really earned our tea that night. In fact some us sang after supper! Karaoke was so much fun, we have stars in the making. Stay tuned for the videos.

It was a perfect night for a camp fire.. but oh,we forgot to sing a Letter from Camp! Still the planets were smiling for us in the night sky. Then of course the marshmallows needed toasting… yum.

Time for bed, it was a big day indeed and it isn’t over, there’s more to come. To bed!

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Getting up wasn’t that easy, lots to pack and clean up before breakfast and be ready for our last activities. I missed the Safari ride, but I did managed to check out archery. We had some bullseyes. Bravo.

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All too soon we needed to pack the bus and say our goodbyes to Mark and the team. Camp was the best. Three cheers for Illawonga.

We reckon it was sad to leave, but we were glad to get back home to our loving families too. Thanks to our brave Dad, Shane Brow who gave up his time to help with the boys and group C.

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Dear Families,

Apart from a few sore tummies, there were no problems just loads of fun and learning. Thank you so much for allowing me to borrow your precious ones for those few days, we have some wonderful memories. Stay tuned for some great videos the kids will be working on. I might have a go too.

Warm regards, Ellen

April 23

Farewell Mr Potter

Sadly we have had to say goodbye to our beloved sports teacher Mr Trevor Potter. He has decided the time was right to retire.

Many years ago, not long after I began working at Grange, Trevor and I decided to team up together with our respective classes and created what we affectionately called The Eisenpot Unit. We had a great time establishing lots of collaborative practices, many routines and practices which I maintain today, had their beginnings in the Unit.

Now anyone who knows Trevor, knows he likes to talk, that was indeed the case way back then, so to curb his monologues, I would at times perk my own voice up and over do the patronising singsong, happy voice. This irritated him, but achieved our objective in stopping him, so we could get on with things. So when we were asked to send a video message to Trevor, I knew exactly what memorable thing we could do.

Check out our message.. There were no rehearsals, I just asked the kids to answer me based on my questions, and to respond in exactly the same way as I said them.

We had fun.

Trevor’s farewell message from Ellen Eisenkolb on Vimeo.

What would you like to say to Mr Potter?

How do you feel about Mr Potter leaving?

What will you miss most?