Thursday, November 25, 2010

My 11th reflection – Summing up

My 11th reflection – Summing up
25 November 2010

The agenda for the night:
1)      Lesson study
2)      Professional learning
- opportunities within lesson lesson
3)      Concluding the course
Dr Yeap summed up on the importance aspects of lesson study – where before planning a lesson – we identify the research theme for the lesson. The teachers involve will work together to discuss how to carry out the lessons so as to ensure students’ learning take place in the classroom. We need to bear in mind the importance of collaboration and to focus on students’ learning outcomes. We were reminded of Vygotsky’s theory on ZPD.
By engaging lesson study, teacher are able to share ideas in teaching and learning, new teachers and the more experienced ones can learn from one another and in this way, pedagogical knowledge can be further enhanced. Besides identifying the research team, teachers should also identify the school’s objectives, identify the individual teacher to carry out the lesson, choose a unit plan, plan the lesson and enact it. We should also identify the key tasks and anticipate pupils’ responses. The key characteristic of the lesson study is that it is a ‘live’ lesson and the other teachers who are observing the lesson should focus on 1 or 2 pupils in order to give a detailed description of the pupils learnt during the lesson. It improves the teachers’ observation skills and interaction with the pupils and among teachers during the lesson is not encouraged so as not to distract the pupils when they are learning. The pupils are not grouped according to ability. We got to see an example of lesson study by Fuchun Primary where the pupils in groups tried to find the longest distance between two points on a circle. They had to learn through collaboration and make use of the resources such as recording sheets, 4 circles, strings and rulers. They had to measure the circumference and diameter of the circle and see how they are related. We learnt that through the post lesson discussion, the teachers learnt about the nature of the students engagement, the catalyst and obstacles faced by the students, which they had jotted down in their notes. They talked about the Mathematics content- the relationship between diameter and circumference. I have learnt teachers are the engineers of who design the process and the lesson study is like a testing of the processes. The key points of the lesson study are the facilitation and the detailed observation of the pupils’ learning. Some things like engagement of pupils is difficult to measure so the best way is to look at the pupils  and from observation, we will know whether the pupils are meaningfully engaged in the lesson. The 4 key questions which should bear in mind are :-
1)What you want to students to learn?
2)How do you know when they have learnt it?
3)What do we do when they have not learnt it?
4) What do we do when they already know it?
To sum up, Dr Yeap asked about the rationale for teaching Mathematics in school. It is
to provide positive experiences for pupils so that there is enjoyment and excitement when they learn Mathematics. It is a vehicle for the development and improvement of intellectual thinking and we use it in our daily life. We revised on the different initiatives like TLLM, PETALS PERI, Assessment modes and Professional development.
I have to say that it has been a meaningfully learning journey and I have learnt a lot and enjoyed Dr Yeap’s lessons. Thank you Dr Yeap,  for those wonderful, inspiring and informative lessons.J

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My 10th reflection – Initiatives in Professional Development

My 10th reflection

17th November 2010

The agenda for the night:
1)      PLC – Professional Learning Community
2)      Lesson Study
3)      Polygons
4)      Research Lesson
5)      Sample test item

We read an informative article on PLC where Dr Yeap initiated the discussion on the importance and the rationale for conducting PLC among teachers. PLC is one of the tools for action and research studies, pre-post tests, it is for intervention and an instrument to get data. Learning Circle, which I am sure, many of us are involved in our schools, is also a tool to find new and innovative ways to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It helps gather best practices and enhance teachers’ professional knowledge for sharing and improve students learning outcomes. Dr Yeap also pointed out the use of cooperative learning when we work in groups, where each member becomes an expert in an area and then shares the knowledge with the other group members. In this way, every member benefits in the learning through the sharing.  In Lesson study, teachers are provided with the teaching support for the pupils based on their learning styles and strategies. Teachers will be able to identify the learning gaps and find solutions for the learning difficulties. Teachers ask critical questions and planned their research lessons to help their pupils.
They get together to interact on solving their classroom pedagogical approaches and try to find solutions. It provides the teachers the opportunity to understand the students’ needs and their teaching strategies to teach in a better way. I feel that this is great way improve in their teaching so that they can help their pupils learn more effectively.
Through the lesson on polygons, we were instructed to find the total sums of the angles in a polygons- Dr Yeap took some of the students answers and discussed them with the class. In this activity, teachers are able to anticipate pupils’ responses and get pupils to give reasons for their solutions and assess their understanding of the lesson. This activity ties in with the PETALs and TLLM approaches, where teachers use different modes of assessment, pupils learn more using hands-on, visualization, application, looking back, making deduction and they learn to reason and relate.
We also took a look at the other research lessons that were carried in other countries like Hong Kong and China. In Hong Kong, the theory of variation is being whereas in China, the children focus more on precision by practicing, for the purpose of competition. We watched a video on public research study where the teacher used the interactive white board to teach angles and reading the story –The greedy triangle by Marilyn Burns. She also used authentic items such as a soccer ball to show the 5- sided pentagon shapes on it. IT was used like the interactive whiteboard and notebooks for the pupils to enhance her teaching and learning. I find that I have learnt more about lesson study and how it is conducted by observing this lesson and I will apply the strategies in the my classroom and share them with the other teachers in my school.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My 9th Reflection – Initiatives in Assessment

My 9th  Reflection
10th November 2010

The agenda for the night:
1)      performance assessment
2)      rubrics
3)      a look at international assessment
4)      formative assessment

We had our outdoor activity that night where we tried to measure the height of the pillar using the measuring tools Dr Yeap had prepared for us. It was enjoyable as we thought of and discussed the different ways of measuring the height. Some of us tried measuring the height using the measuring tape – a direct method of measurement.Others measured the length of the tiles on the steps and walls and multiplied them eg – 46 x 15 cm = 690cm to get the answers. There were those used estimations and properties of triangles to get the height. It was when we had the hands-on activities. In the classroom, we discussed the different ways and some of us were pleased to get the answers right. Dr Yeap showed examples of performance task where we, as teachers could assess our pupils’ ability by observing the way they perform the tasks or finding the solutions to the problems. We were told to list down our answers on which methods made sense to us, which did not, and which methods that I could have thought of myself. It was a good way to reflect on the measurement activity.
 He emphasized the importance of assessing the skills and competencies that have been taught to the pupils. When using rubrics, it should be made simple, straightforward (with the core competencies spelt out clearly) with not too many categories in them. Students should be encouraged to reflect on their completed tasks where they get to explain the process on how they have come up with their answers so that they can develop their thinking and reasoning skills. Getting pupils to do their work in their exercise books or portfolios would be a good way of for teachers to know in greater detail of the performance of each child as we have a collection of the pupils’ work with us. I have learnt that we could get pupils to learn Mathematics in  a fun and engaging by choosing the right activities which are suitable to their ability, relate to everyday life and the right assessment tools to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.
Dr Yeap ended the class with a quote from Albert Einstein “Anything that is measurable is not important, Anything that is not measurable is important” which left me thinking about it as I left the classroom that night.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My 8th Reflection – Assessment

My 8th Reflection

27th October 2010

The agenda for the night:-
1)      Assessment (an interactive lecture)
2)      Area is five activity
3)      Framework- workbook task ,word problems

Dr Yeap gave us to the opportunity to talk about what we know of assessment and the different modes of assessments.I learnt that in order to promote critical and creative thinking skills and nurture problem-solving and independent learning abilities in students, we should adopt different modes of assessment. The summative and formative assessments are important in the learning and teaching process. Through PERI recommendation, assessment should be effectively used to support the holistic development of the pupils.
In the lower primary, the focus should be on building pupils’ confidence and desire to learn, placing more emphasis on skills and non-academic areas. The usual pen and paper test or written examination should be balanced with the use of alternative modes of assessments. I feel that a range of assessment modes and bit-sized forms of assessments should be used so that we could get richer feedback on pupils’ performance, check on pupils’ understanding mastery of concepts and plan better lessons. As teachers, we could also use these to communicate with parents on the progress of our pupils.
When coming up with alternative assessments such as project work, portfolio, show and tell, we should be aware of the learning outcomes, the cognitive and affective aspects of learning so that we could get a better feedback for pupils’ abilities. Through self reflection and journal entry, pupils could also reflect on what their have learnt, their feelings and ways for improvement.
With the use of rubrics, teachers would get a better understanding of levels of attainment for the skills the pupils are at. The pupils would get the feedback from teachers and the pupils’ feedback are also shown to the parents and in this way, the pupil, teacher and parent are clear about the pupil’s strengths and areas for improvement.
The area is 5 activity was a fun and engaging way to learn about area. We used rubber band, grid papers and geoboards to come up with figures with 5 units square. The class came up with several different ways of forming the figures and it was a good activity for pupils learn about area and perimeter. This activity generated a lot of thinking, n exploring ways for finding solutions to the problems, which is how an effective Math lesson should be.
With the activities on using workbook , Dr Yeap showed exampled of how some questions could low in validity when assessing pupils’ understanding and mastery of concepts. He encouraged us to read about Lev Vygotsky’s ZPD- zone of proximal development. According to the theory,  ‘the gap between performance and the potential level, that is the zone of proximal development’ – and that “ children are assisted to move beyond what they have shown they can do in everyday activities by having their learning scaffolded, using cultural tools,..." It is good to know as teachers that we provide children with experiences which are their ZPD, which encouraged and advanced their individual learning.
Dr Yeap also explained to us the 6 ways on why some pupils find solving Math problems difficult to do.
1)      difficulty in reading, cannot read and/or understand the problems
2)      able to read but cannot understand the meaning of the questions
3)      lack of knowledge of heuristics/ problem solving strategies
4)      lack of knowledge on transformation – story to pictures
5)      lack of computational skills
6)      not able to use computation to find solutions
With the information, I am more aware of and focused on my pupils’ weaknesses and limitations this would help me in coming up with appropriate strategies to help them in solving Math problems. 
I am glad to say that I have learnt a lot from Dr Yeap.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My 7th reflection – finding solutions

My 7th reflection

20 October 2010

 Another interesting night of solving Math problems and Dr Yeap got us to think about the PERI pedagogies – learning by inquiry, learning by interacting, learning by doing, learning in and of the real world, learning by reflecting.
The agenda is as follows:

1) Tiles Problem
2) Structure Problem
3) Circle Problem

I find that the tiles problem an interesting way to learn about area and perimeter. We were asked to find the number of tiles based on the given perimeter.  We also explored different ways to convert the circle into other shapes like a square, a triangle and a rectangle. We revised on the properties of the circle, how the diameter is related to the circumference as we tried to find ways of converting the area of the circle to other shapes. We tried different ways of finding the solutions. Dr Yeap allowed us to ask questions, communicate with our group members and we definitely learnt about looking for pattern structure, visualization, come up with different strategies,  through the hands-on session and by interacting with one another. Dr Yeap would get to explain the answers which we had come up with. Through reflection, we would know which strategies can be applied and which cannot. With the knowledge of the different ways by which pupils learn, we should bear that in mind when we plan lesson activities so as to provide opportunities for our pupils to develop their thinking and problem solving skills. Without thinking, there is no learning. Dr Yeap demonstrated the use of PERI pedagogies well in his lessons. Thank you Dr Yeap!

Friday, October 15, 2010

My 6th reflection – Current Initiatives

My 6th reflection -
15 October 2010

    I was glad to be back for Dr Yeap’s Math lessons for that day, knowing that I would  have a very engaging and interesting time learning about current initiatives and solving some Math sums with my other coursemates. Dr Yeap revised with us the PETAL framework which we, as teachers, should consider when planning our lessons.
I would make a point to look at my pedagogies, pupils’ experiences of learning, tone of environment in the classroom, the modes of assessment, the learning content and student-centred activities when I plan for my lessons. We were introduced to games
on addition and multiplication which I feel my pupils would enjoy playing too.
  Dr Yeap’s agenda for the night : -
1)      The salute game
2)      Card game – Magic Touch
3)      Take 1, Take 2
4)      Multiplication

We got to play the ‘salute’ game – on finding the product of 40 with our group members and I really had fun coming up with the number facts. It was like a drill and practice on multiplication and we could also use this game to teach number facts for example addition and subtraction. It was an interesting game to play and at the same time revise on the 4 operations of multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. I would definitely try out this game with my pupils when I get the chance in class.
The card game – Magic touch made everyone interested in finding how the cards were arranged and in groups, after several attempts, managed to find the way. I was thrilled and I learnt that we should use various strategies like trial and error, guess and check to find solutions to the problems. This game is suitable to teach spelling of number 1- 10 for the lower primary kids and I am sure they would be mesmerized when they see the ‘magic’. Dr Yeap emphasized that the metacognition- that is the brain’s ability to think and solve problem, the management of thinking is important and we should expose our pupils to such tasks to help them develop their thinking skills.
Playing the Take 1, Take 2 game – using the paper clips got think of strategies on how to win the game which we can use when we teach multiples of 3 or 4 and so on.
For the multiplication game, we learnt how to multiply sums in different ways and this game can be played when pupils have learnt their tables. I realized that the strategies we use to teach our pupils are important in helping them to understand and grasp the Math concepts. Dr Yeap reminded us the importance of teaching Mathematics – that it is ‘ a vehicle for the development and improvement of a person’s intellectual competence’, it is
to meet the demand of a competitive workforce  and  it is also for the enjoyment and excitement for the children where they can discover ideas and gain insights. I learnt that it is important to sharpen the thinking skills of the pupil and not to neglect the affective aspect too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My 5th reflection - Our video editing session

My 5th Reflection
5th October 2010

We made some arrangement to meet up again, this time at McDonald’s. Despite being busy with our work, we were able to correspond with one another through emails and smses.
After dinner, we discussed what we had done and shared our ideas on ways to make improvement to the slides which we had put up on the Ulead software.  
We looked through our video slides and read the initiatives and the philosophy again. We decided to make some changes to the text and highlight the important aspects of the initiatives and the philosophy. I truly hoped that we were on the right track. I definitely would like to thank my group members Anom and Rini for their hard work and contribution to this project. Thank you to our IT expert, Rini for putting up the slides together with nice pictures and inspirational background music. Through cooperative learning, not only did I learn more about the current initiatives, I got to know our team’s strengths and weaknesses. I am glad to say that as a group, we have bonded well. It was indeed an enriching learning experience.