NJ Trip Reflection

This is the first time I am the overall in charge of overseas trip. I am actually quite nervous and stressful over this as I seldom travel and I am not good in taking care of people.  Stress pile up after Lunar New Year and yes, I started having sleepless nights over this.  And I even had to delayed my birthday celebration because of this. This is the 2nd time in my life that I cannot celebrate my birthday in peace. The first time occurred in the year that I received my A level results as the results was only out after my birthday .

Well, I survive the overseas learning journey and all my students come back healthy and safe.  I basically feel that I did quite an okay job as the overall in charge.  I have done adequate preparation. To be precise, I over-prepare like purchasing extra moisturizer/food/fever pad with my money. I ensure that my teachers focus on taking good care of the kids while I focus primarily on the other aspects (like ensuring appropriate hotel accommodating  and communicating with the parents).   I have done lots of prep work before the tour and ensure that both the parents and  the students I can be the point of contact. I will not shy away from handling sticky situations and quick to respond to the overly cold weather (getting the local guide to buy lip balms and heat warmers) 

Of course, this would not be possible if not for the other teachers in the trip. They pointed out my blind spots and surface possible issues based on past experience (e.g., getting the souvenirs required not at the last minute so as to have ample time for packing)

I am glad that the NJ LJ is over. It is indeed a good experience for me and I am really happy that I manage to do a decent job!

 

Quizlet Live – The star of the week!

The star of this week lesson is Quizlet live. Quizlet allows students to work and learn together so that they are able to answer the questions correctly [Link] Basically, Quizlet Live make use of gamification mechanics (e.g., instant feedback and competition) to arouse interest and encourage learner engagement.    Learner engagement might also be enhanced as students can now facilitate their demonstration of learning with the use of technology openly and publicly to their classmates.

This game is particular suitable if you want  your students to remember facts. Essentially, I am trying to introduce the ‘fun’ element in factual fluency.  For P5 Science, I use Quizlet Live to recall scientific facts that they are learning now (e.g, water cycle & human reproductive system). As for my 5-Fifteen rascals,  they use Quizlet to practice their conversion between decimals and fractions.

The kids are truly engaged as they try to recall the facts and help their team mats. My 5-1 kids even make use of their science word cards as they try to figure out the science facts At the end of the game, the fact that is always ‘missed’ (e.g., most students are getting that fact wrong) would be shown. I will use that to clarify students’ alternative conception.

What about the challenge? Just like Kahoot, kids just want to win and they would be ‘blindly’ clicking away.  Moreover, some kids really cannot afford to lose and tend to be over-dramatic when they lose.

So, moving forward, I need to think of ways to address these two issues.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Thanks to the recommendation from my frenemy, read the book The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster  . 

Despite being a children’s fantasy adventure story book, I enjoy reading the book.  Milo, the protagonist , of the book , visited different places like Dictionopolis, Silent Valley, Expectations and Mountain of Ignorance with Tock and Humbug. During the journey , they met with interesting characters such as Dr Dischord, Ryhmn and Reason and Wordsnatcher.   By just looking at the names, one can draw parallel between the place & characters  in the story and reality.  This is a  fantasy-reality story book and suitable for readers of all ages!

Lots of insights can be gleaned from the book. These serve as  constant remainder to myself that I shall not forget these common sense insights in our daily lives. I will just highlight the two insights that particularly strikes me:

  • Jumping to Conclusion

Milo and company jumped to the Island of Conclusion  and the island was petty crowded. This is a very apt analogy as we have a tendency to  jump to conclusion. I confess  I  jump to conclusion as I have some assumption which might blind my judgement. I guess this is something I need to constantly remind myself not to let my prior experience or assumption  cloud my judgement

  • It is a matter of how you look at things

In the book, Milo met a same man who called himself the Giant, the Midget, the Fat Man and the Thin Man. Why is that possible? It is all matter of perspective. A man much smaller than the Giant will see him as giant. But, if a man is much larger than the Midget, he will see him as Midget.

This is a very simple yet profound logic. There are always two or more sides of a story.  So, one should not jump to conclusion by just hearing one side of the story. Sometimes, the one-side is just your side of story. Have we tried listening to to other sides of story? In a leadership position, I need to have a complete view of the picture before coming to any conclusion.

But easier to be said, as sometimes, I know that I  blinded by my own emotions/feelings. Now, the challenge to myself : How can I make myself free from biases?

I guess why these two insights particularly stuck a chord with me as currently, I am dealing with certain sticky issue.  I need to constantly interrogate myself: Am I jumping to conclusion? Am I being fair by not considering the other perspective? I do admit initially, I tend to jump to conclusion and am blinded by my prior biases/assumption. But, I still stand by what I say. Whatever I choose to say are defensible claims  based on observable evidence.

Playtime with Friction Simulation

I have started on the topic Force this week. One of the alternative concepts that students have is that there is only frictional force between objects only the object when the object is moving.  So, I decide to spend sometime addressing this. This is how the lesson enactment using iPadslooks like:

(1) Activating Prior Knowledge

This question is posted to the kids : I am applying a force to a box. Is there any frictional force between the box and the floor?

Mentimeter is used to collect their responses. Surprisingly, most of them are aware that the frictional force exists

(2) Encouraging Learners Engagement

Get them to go to play with Friction Simulation  in pairs.  There is a need to spend some time explaining terms like “Sum of forces”. They are able to see for themselves that Frictional Force does exist even if the object is not moving

As the students play with the simulation, they post some interesting questions based on their observation.

(1) Why is the object still moving even if the sum of forces is zero?

(2) Why is the object not moving even if I have applied the maximum force?

By using their questions, I use that to reinforce the concept of forces.

(3) Concluding Lesson

I conclude the lessons by letting them do some PSLE Science MCQ related to friction. Again, I use Metimeter to poll their response. Most are able to get it right.

Personally, I feel quite happy with myself over this lesson.  The kids explore and ‘experience’ force.   This is definitely a technology-enabled lesson as without technology, all these won’t be possible.

 

My Maths class this week

This week. it is like a roller coaster ride with my maths class. The week started off badly as they were unfocused for the first 2 days.  Particularly on Monday, I  really feel lousy after coming out of the class. They do not seem to be listening at all and are all restless.  After all these years, I feel that one of my weakness is in maintaining discipline in class. I have a tendency to be very “lenient” with them. Guess this is something that I need to work on.

But, things turns out for slightly better for the last 3 days.  Why? I set expectations and routines for them and become more firm with them. I talk to the few disruptive ones and tell them to be mindful of their behaviour.  They are still not perfect in class but they are slowly improving. I think I will drop a call to their parents and praise them for the improvement.

What really marks a good end to the week is seeing that making efforts to do their mini-tests! I can see their intense look and determined to do it.  One of my boy (he happens to be one of the disruptive ones) who scored zero in the first test  manage to get close to 10 marks for the same test. That really makes my day.

To others, the mini-test is easy. But for my class,  I need to celebrate small success.  Yes, there are lots of gaps to covered but I will shoulder on as I continue to creatively balance between the dept’s demands and the students’ needs.

I am determined that there should not by any more “U” grades coming from my class! Last year , I was petty upset with myself as I do not manage to get all my students to go beyond U grade. I will not let history repeats itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Tze : The Art Of War

I an trying to read this book. Yes, I use the word “trying” as this is definitely not a easy book to read. This is the English Translation and sometimes, the sentence sounds weird.  It is still reading in progress but  one particular one particular tactic strikes me the most

“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our hands, but the opportunity of defeating enemy is provided by the enemy himself”

“昔之善戰者,先為不可勝,以待敵之可勝,不可勝在己,可勝在敵”

In essence, one can’t prevent one from defeat but this does not mean you will defeat your enemy. Rather, the enemy’s downfall is due to his own weakness/doing.

So, to defense is to attack !  As one awaits the chance to wait for the enemy to make mistake!

 

The use of Maths Learning Log/Textbook

 

 

This is the 2nd year that the school is not using any WB.  Students can no longer to their WB for revision . But, rather need to learn from the Maths Learning Log/Textbook.  I adopt a more systematic use of Maths Learning log/TB and even explicitly tell the students how to use that to review their exam.  This is based on my assessment of the learners’ profiles  as they might need explicit teaching of study skills.

Here are the things I have done:

1)  Writing of page and title

2) Better organisation of study note by starting each topic on a new page

3) In Maths log book, make sure that the question appears on the book. Why? Help to reduce unnecessary cognitive load (no need to refer to TB for question).  My kids are not that strong in their Maths and there is a need to make sure the cognitive resources  are freed up so that they can focus on the essential maths concepts.

4) Word problems  – I will type out the word problems for them and get them to paste on their learning log. Again,  this is to reduce cognitive load for them. The joke with my friends is that I am going to be a professional cutter (many thanks to the maths department , of course!) as I aim to prefect my skill of cutting papers in equal pieces!

 

So far so good. Some kids really make efforts in making neat notes. I praise them and even paste their work on the class notice board.

Lessons with my loveable 51s!

This year, I have the chance to teach the academically challenging 5/1. So far, I am loving them as all of them are really eager to learn!  Here are things I have done so far during lesson enactment so as to best engage them.

(1) Pacing and Maintaining momentum

Slow is the word of the day for this class. I always start off by reiterating of what has been previously taught  in the previous lessons.  I am glad the now they are able to articulate words like condensation and evaporation. My next challenge is to get them to remember what the process means!

 

(2) Encouraging Learning Enagagement

Playing, playing and more playing! I get them to write down the facts on cards and get them to play “card games” with one another. I do not state how to play, they then come up with their own rules (like matching or “snapping”).  I ask them to bring the cards home to learn.  Some of them did and can remember some of the facts.  It is not the majority but at least it is a start

I am also using Quizlet  for the kids to revise the science facts. Of course, kids love playing with the game.  I realize that my kids are not very exposed to technology (e.g., they do not know how to create tabs in Google Chrome) . So the more, I need them to use iPads and computers often.  For the initial stages, it might be slow but it is worth it.

 

 

Playing at Playeum

For the last 2 Friday, I was out to “play” at Playem .

‘Play” actually means:

P : :Personal Journey

L : Learn

A: Authentic

Y : Young

My reflection ?

I guess this experience just reinforce what I am actually doing all along. It makes me more motivated and energized to do things in a “PLAY” manner.  The purpose of this LJ is meant to make us to see the bigger purpose as to what we are doing. It is not just getting ready for book check, school exams and doing the sometime meaningless admin work. It is more than that. We are there for our students and doing what we can for them within our means. This can be challenging at times due to the absurdity and ridiculous demands dictated by others or the inconsiderate act of others (e.g., last minute demand)

But no matter what, I will shoulder on and do what I can within the boundary creatively for my students.  I am a teacher and will always be one. Such ‘motherhood’ statements come from my heart and I make the stand with conviction. After all, I say/write what I mean, and I mean what I say/write.  Well, guess that is me being authentic and am not just into saying falsehood. Sometimes, I marvel at others who can utter things they do not mean convincingly. This is something I simply can’t and will not do.

So, with the play experience, I will continue to be ‘playful’ in my personal journey in teaching. The use of the word ‘continue’ is deliberate as I have been very ‘playful’. I am playful and yes, can get on people’s nerves at times .

This is my personal journey and there is only 1 rule to guide my learning journey, ‘Students First’. This rule appeals to the authentic me and that is what makes me energized in my work. I can proudly say that I love my students whoever they are and will continue to help/nag at them despite making me angry. By being authentic does not mean being self-centred. I have to be authentic to myself and know my own “windows of references”. I need to know myself well and be aware of my both implicit and explicit assumptions. This will help me being open and authentic to others. This is definitely something that I will need to work on.  I do not claim to be very open, but I am working towards it.

Of course, I must continue to be learning and re-learning. I am a learner and must always stay as one. I am never an expert on anything and will continue to learn things. That is why I will be reading at least 1 book (fiction or non-fiction) monthly and will blog reflections (2 posting per week). I am very proud of myself that I am now crazy over reading these days. I am also ‘forcing’ myself to read a range of books from children’s story books to management books to philosophy.

I must forever stay young so that I dare and have the courage to explore without the fear of failure and express myself freely.  I should not be afraid to express myself even at the expense of antagonizing others. This is something I will  and must do if I need to. I have to make sure that I can defend what I say or express with argument based on my No 1 rule (‘Students first’).  I should not shy away from disagreement as I must (I repeat, I must) and have the moral courage to state categorically what is just not right. See something, say something. When it is time to speak, I will, and I shall speak even if it means that I might be ‘killed’ somewhat. Well, for me, it is students, students and students. If I can’t have the courage to speak up, the I will fail my students and that is a big “No No” for me.

Assessment and Feedback with technology

I survive the first week of school!  And as the very kiasu me, I have started my teaching.  I am teaching students of two extreme ends (yes, again!) but I enjoy the challenge.  This year, I wish to spend more time using data for assessment and feedback (one of the four teaching process in the pedagogical practices in STP).

Last year, I did but I personally felt that is done at a rather superficial area.  There were perhaps too many gaps that I tried to cover all in the end , I covered nothing!  This year, I need to be more strategic. Take a look at the data and focus the fundamental weak gaps I need to close (especially for my weaker kids). There are lots of holes to cover but I will need to choose the biggest hole to tackle first. After all, time and resources are finite.

So, for my academically-challenged  students, I need to start covering their fundamental weakness in maths (e.g., place values) in the start of the year.

To start off this year, I have made use of Kahoot and  Mental Sums to have a sensing of their weakness.  Kahoot, again, has proven, to be a hit with the students. They simply enjoy it.  But , enjoyment is just not enough. They need to learn from their mistakes.

So, in using Kahoot, I check for their understanding and provide feedback(teaching process) based on their weakness. Looking at the results, there are two major weakness that I need to address .  The students are not able to :

(1) identify the tenthts

(2) convert fraction like 2/5 to decimal

So,  on the next day, I focus on these two basic concepts and give them another Kahoot quiz.  There is improvement in results definitely. For next week, I will still constantly review these 2 concepts while I embark on algebra!