Spoken Word Poetry as a Year 9 Project Based Learning task

Tomorrow, I start a new job. In it, I will be leading the direction of technology use in classrooms across three campuses. It’s a big job, and one that means I no longer will be teaching my own class. While I welcome the opportunity to think in a big picture capacity and support teachers and students across a very large school, I am going to miss the vitality of the classroom and the close relationships you form with a class over the course of a year. Hopefully people will welcome me into their classrooms, because I think you need doses of classroom reality to keep you grounded.

I’ve had to leave my wonderful class who are taking the elective I created called ‘Language of our Times’. This term begins with the Project Based Learning Spoken Word Poetry task that I have loved teaching. I’ve been meaning to write about it over the past two years so thought now was a good opportunity to share my experiences with it. It also might help teachers at my new school see that I am a classroom teacher too, even if they’ve never seen me teach a class. :)

Spoken Word Poetry task: Year 9

Driving question:  How can language move people?

Your task is to work in groups and create a Spoken Word Poetry piece (also known as Slam Poetry) that will be performed in class and then performed for a public audience during our celebration of Book Week in August.Your Spoken Word Poetry piece must use language effectively to convey meaning, and must capture the attention of your audience. The focus for the piece will be decided via negotiation with the members of your group. Group performance, your individual contribution, effective language choices, and high level collaboration efforts toward a common goal will form the basis of your assessment.

Student Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to, read, analyze and write poetry;
  • Recognize, discuss and employ the poetic techniques employed in poems;
  • Analyze the techniques used by performance artists; and
  • Perform their own poems.

Reference explaining Spoken Word poetry: http://www.nelson-atkins.org/images/PDF/Calendar/PoetrySlam_SpokenWord.pdf

“What is spoken word poetry?

Spoken word poetry is poetry that is written on a page but performed for an audience. Because it is performed, this poetry tends to demonstrate a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, free association, rhymes, rich poetic phrases, word play and slang. It is more aggressive and “in your face” than more traditional forms of poetry.”(follow the link above for more detail explaining what to keep in mind when writing a Spoken Word poem)

Relevant Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors addressed in this task:

Interacting with others

Listen to spoken texts constructed for different purposes, for example to entertain and to persuade, and analyse how language features of these textsposition listeners to respond in particular ways(ACELY1740)Use interaction skills to present and discuss an idea and to influence and engage an audience by selecting persuasive language, varying voice tone, pitch, and pace, and using elements such as music and sound effects (ACELY1811)Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements for aesthetic and playful purposes(ACELY1741)

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Explore and explain the combinations of language and visual choices that authors make to present information, opinions and perspectives in different texts (ACELY1745)

Creating texts

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features (ACELY1746)

Text structure and organisation

Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects(ACELA1553)

Language variation and change

Investigate how evaluation can be expressed directly and indirectly using devices, for example allusion, evocative vocabulary and metaphor(ACELA1552)

We had a hook lesson with Poet, Alicia Sometimes, late term two because that is when she had been booked to come to the school. I had discussed PBL with the students and we went through the ‘main course’ elements when we started with the task.

A “Main Course” project:

  • is intended to teach significant content.
  • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication.
  • requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new.
  • is organized around an open-ended Driving Question.
  • creates a need to know essential content and skills.
  • allows some degree of student voice and choice.
  • includes processes for revision and reflection.
  • involves a public audience.

At the start of the task I introduced the students to the rubric we used for assessment  so that they were aware of what was being assessed before they began and understand what to work towards. It was also made clear that although they were working in groups, they would be individually assessed based on what they demonstrated throughout the duration of the task. We used the collaboration rubric from the Buck Institute of Education and I added a component for reflection  because I wanted the students to value the importance of reflecting on their learning. (now part of Gold Standard PBL) I used a scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry competition Judge’s Guide to assess the Spoken Word performance element of the task.

The first year I made the groupings without consulting students. Last year, I asked students who they would like to work with as some had begun a poem when workshopping with Alicia Sometimes and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow that some had attained. Some groups formed naturally from this process but I did place students in other groups.

I was continually heartened by the majority of the groups’ application to this task. I tried to focus them at the start of a lesson by asking each group to briefly provide feedback to the whole group about where they were at and what they think they need to build on for that lesson. At the end of a lesson (when time hadn’t got away from us!) we refocused by watching a YouTube video of a spoken word poem to continually provide exemplars of effective performance.

Braemar College-Comp from Australian Poetry on Vimeo.

The LMS we used had a sharing space where the students  posted examples they had found of Spoken Word Poetry to share with the class. I also included information about Poetic techniques within this space and we explored this as a group to give them some grounding to assist with the development of their poems.

Each group used their Google Drive account and were working on a shared document to collaboratively write the poem. I asked them to identify who had written each part by colour coding the lines for individual contributions and indicating when the group achieved consensus with some lines. That worked well and they honestly provided indicators of individual’s contributions. I always find it interesting when you give the students a lot of agency with their work – my experience has seen students honestly reflect and acknowledge when they are pulling their weight, and when they aren’t. They are self assessing all the time. For some, this is impetus to do better not just for the teacher, but for their own self worth.

The rehearsal stage was always interesting. The scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry Guide measures physical presence, voice and articulation and dramatic appropriateness. The students were exposed to many examples of group performances (some seen above) that demonstrated how they could incorporate movement into their poems for effect. They practiced tirelessly to coordinate movement and time delivery of their poems and those who really worked at this performed pieces that quite literally left me and many in the class almost speechless. Other groups were not so polished with some group members not being able to stay ‘in character’ or able to commit all of their lines to memory. They were Year 9 students – I wasn’t expecting miracles because to pull off spoken word poetry well is very difficult indeed.  However, over the two years when I taught this unit there were groups who did pull off a miracle, and that was satisfying for me, but more importantly, it was personally satisfying for them.

Working within the Project Based Learning model was eye opening for me as a teacher. I saw students work way beyond the capacity of what test scores predicted as their achievement level. They were invested in their groups, saw the value of shared purpose and some exhibited leadership capabilities I had never seen evident in more traditional learning tasks. More than once students told me how proud they were of what they were doing and this was clear when they publicly performed their pieces at our Book Week performance days. In the second year, we invited parents to come along and those who came were blown away by what their children had managed to achieve.

A moment stood out last year when sometime after we had finished the unit, an English teacher came to see me one morning to let me know that a student in her regular English class had written a remarkable poem that incorporated an extended metaphor, repetition and other poetic techniques that she did not think were in the range of this student’s ability. When she quizzed her as to where this inspiration emanated from, the student explained that in our Language of our Times elective we had studied Spoken Word poetry and that was where she had learnt these techniques. What did I love about this? Being able to talk to this student and ask to view her poem as I had heard how wonderful it was. I could almost feel her pride in herself envelope me at that moment.

You guessed it, those are the moments to savour, and the moments I will miss.  :)

Looking forward…

On January 1st this year I wrote a post entitled ‘Looking Back…‘. In it, I speculated on what 2015 would bring.

Fast forward to today, and I’m about to head into a staff briefing where I will be farewelled from Toorak College.

At the start of Term 3, I will begin a new job at Wesley College in Melbourne, where I will take on the position of Head of Digital Learning and Practice.

Did I even contemplate on January 1st this year that this was the course I would find myself on?

Not for one minute.

But it’s happening, and I need to find a way to extricate myself from a place that has made such a significant impact on my life. It feels like a bit of a ‘To Sir with Love’ moment, because how do you thank a school community that has helped you realise your potential and enabled you to become something you never thought you would be?

In 2005, I was working at Monterey Secondary College, a school that also had a significant impact on my life and gave me such good grounding as a teacher. It was a school I loved and the memories I have of it are dear to me. But in 2005, I was teaching a Year 8 class that was making me question my ability as a teacher. I was a parent of young children, I was stressed and I was contemplating leaving the profession and doing something completely different. I saw an ad in the local paper for a part time Teacher Librarian position at Toorak College and it sat on my kitchen bench for over a week before I decided to apply. I felt traitorous to the public education system because I’d been such a strong advocate for free education for all, but I needed change – I needed to reclaim myself and my place in a profession that mattered to me.

I got the job, and in doing so, I unwrapped the gift that was Toorak College.

This gift unveiled opportunity, growth and insight. It helped me realise that the skills I’d developed in the public system were founded in good practice and could be applied in different contexts. The gift revealed new colleagues, new friends, and professional development opportunities that I’d not been able to explore in my previous job. I embraced all it offered and ran, hurtling into the unknown and discovering a significant part of my life’s purpose in the process.

The gift introduced me to classes of students hungry for knowledge. This is perhaps the richest part of the gift – the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with students and the deep satisfaction I have had working in classrooms where we have shared learning moments that are etched in my memory. The gift enabled me to travel with students to destinations like China, Italy, Laos, Borneo, the Kimberley region and on OEG trips to the Murray River and various camp destinations. My happiest moments have been in classrooms and on trips where we have immersed ourselves wholeheartedly into whatever presented itself to us, and we have laughed and learnt alongside one another.

The gift has seen me through the best of times and the worst of times. It was in the worst of times that the gift unveiled true friends, and I am forever indebted to Megan Davies, Lee-Anne Marsh and Mae-Louise McGuinness who held out lifelines that helped me work through challenges that have also been growth opportunities.

The gift has taught me an enormous amount about leadership and what it takes to bring people with you. I am grateful to Noel Thomas, former Principal, who didn’t stall me in my evolution as a teacher who shares their practice publicly. Allowing me to write this blog and being transparent about my place of work was a very generous gift indeed. Current Principal, Helen Carmody, has also been instrumental in my growth and has taught me so much about what it means to lead an organisation through change processes. If I can be half the leader Helen is, I will be doing my next job well.

Like all gifts, you can choose to put them on the shelf and glance at them, or you can make them part of the fabric of your life. Toorak College has been a rich tapestry in my life. I am grateful for the gift it has been and the experiences I have had as a result of gracing its walkways. I am grateful for the people in it who have helped shape my life. I will hold it dear and use what it has taught me in the next stage of my career. I will reflect on it, glance back, learn from it and relive fond memories. I’m proud of what I have brought to it – I am leaving it with gifts that I think will help it grow.

A new gift awaits. There is an excitement surrounding it, and some apprehensiveness too. What will it unveil? What will it teach me? What impact can I make on it? It will reveal itself, in time. I welcome it into my life, and hope that I can be a gift to it.

Google Apps for Education Canberra Summit 2015

Screenshot 2015-03-30 22.13.10

I returned last night after spending the weekend in Canberra, attending the Ed Tech teams GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit at Gungahlin College. It was a wonderful weekend. The people who present are knowledgeable and so keen to share what they know, freely making their resources available and allowing teachers new to Google Apps to encounter the sharing nature of the community that surrounds GAFE.

The truly interesting part of this weekend was discovering that the ACT Government Education and Training Directorate (the body who runs public education) have provided all public schools with access to Google Apps for Education. In fact, they have provided what they are calling a ‘Digital Backpack’ for schools that includes access to Office 365 as well as other browser based digital offerings. It’s a very progressive move – I was very impressed with the thinking that has gone into this and the opportunities it is presenting to children in the ACT Government system of Education.

I tweet a lot at conferences like this – it’s my form of notetaking, with the benefit that I’m sharing these notes with the people following me on Twitter. I’ve collated them into a Storify – click this link if you’d like to see inside my head over the last two days!

I presented about deploying Google Apps in your school. Toorak College has been a Google Apps school for over a year now and the experience has been transformative for many of us. Slides are below if you want to take a look.

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the weekend work – it was well worth the trip!

Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2015

Screenshot 2015-03-16 19.32.29

Last week I was fortunate to attend the Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit that was located on the Gold Coast – a very nice location for a very serious conference! The conference focus was about, yes, you guessed it, Data Centres, and the decisions businesses are making when it comes to hosting their infrastructure in the ‘cloud’. The reality of any ‘cloud’ service is that these are bricks and mortar data centres, located in physical locations both in Australia and overseas. For an organisation, you are making decisions to have infrastructure hosted elsewhere and your employees/students will be pulling data down from these data centres to your physical location. Think Google Apps for Education. Similar concept, but that is software as a service (SAAS) whereas infrastructure hosted in a data centre is infrastructure as a service (IAAS).

I do feel a need to point out that I was one of five female attendees (I was counting, and it wasn’t difficult to spot the women in the room). C’mon girls – we need your presence at IT conferences, and as participants rather than as organisers of the event. There were quite a few pretty young things handing out materials, but I did almost cheer when I saw Australia Post’s general manager for service integration and operations Claire Bourke enter the room. She delivered a presentation about Australia Post’s switch to active-active data centres using the Melbourne Next DC facility and Fujitsu’s Noble Park facility. If you’re interested, you can read about their motivation for this transition here. 

There were only two schools present. Toorak College, and St. Luke’s Anglican School in Bundaberg, ably represented by Mitch Miller, their IT Manager who has done some groundbreaking work in his school to move infrastructure to Amazon Web Services. The school’s approach has been the subject of an Amazon Web Services case study and I’d encourage IT Managers in schools to take a read.

You can access my Storify of all of my tweets from the conference here. 

Some highlights for me (other than Mitch’s presentation, which was specific to school environments, but more than applicable to business operations too).

Mark Thiele’s presentation about the impact of the Internet of Things on the Data Centre. Mark made some really salient points about the need to seek out talent for IT in your organisation to enable innovation to flourish. His article about Innovation vs Cost Center in relation to IT is a must read for anyone heading up IT, as is another written by Mark exploring the ‘IT Hero and Firefighter Mentality‘ that can pervade organisations. Really worthwhile reads that give you much to contemplate and work with.

Chris Taylor, CTO at Qantas, delivered a fantastic presentation that I wasn’t permitted to tweet. However, their cloud strategy has been explored in an IT News article that is well worth reading. I did take notes, and I think there are aspects of it that I can share as a lot of it is spelled out in the IT News article. Chris stated, “Cloud is the best thing to happen to IT systems”.  Some great points he made regarding a shift to utilising the benefits of the computational processing power of cloud services were:

Innovation and agility

Simplification

Speed to value and business outcomes

Cultural transformation

Speed is life – to get speed you need to take complexity out

Respect your customers – they want better service

Fail fast. Cloud allows you to do this

Test – learn -pivot – redo

Glenn Gore is Senior Manager, Technology Solutions at Amazon Web Services and he ran a workshop outlining AWS and their security, something I was keen to explore. This was very interesting, especially considering this was an ‘I am the only woman in this room’ session, and the fact that Glenn asked participants to say who they were and why they were there. I was ever so slightly intimidated as I realised I was surrounded by CIOs from major corporations and Government agencies, and I had to say that I was from an Independent Girl’s School in Victoria! Nonetheless, I was not deterred and asked quite a few questions. Some key takeaways from Glenn’s session (for me, anyway):

There is cooperation between tier one telcos to try and combat attacks that are becoming more frequent.

People are moving to encryption of data when it rests in data centres (and as it travels there). Key management becomes critical – rolling keys updating every hour etc to secure the management layer you are responsible for when storing in what is considered the ‘public cloud’.

AWS will encrypt on a vendor’s behalf if you want that.

Businesses/corporations should be using 2 factor authentication to secure data.

AWS use real time security frameworks – they use algorithms that flag when patterns of activity change allowing them to identify suspicious activity. They often flag sites and check with owners of data to see if there may be reasons for changes in activity level.

AWS have a shared responsibility model – AWS manages infrastructure. Hacks are happening at apps level. No attacks coming through infrastructure level. Here’s some info from their security page:

Because you’re building systems on top of the AWS cloud infrastructure, the security responsibilities will be shared: AWS has secured the underlying infrastructure and you must secure anything you put on the infrastructure or connect to the infrastructure. The amount of security configuration work you have to do varies depending on how sensitive your data is and which services you select.

 

AWS does not publicly display roadmaps and dates -this is part of their security profile. They don’t care about delays to their roadmap because security is the main priority.

AWS security engineering team- develop their own patents to deal with protecting their infrastructure

Duty of care – will note suspicious traffic vectors and send out calls to check.

AWS will Scan for open ports.

You as the user of the system, have to protect your encryption keys and access to systems – don’t lose sight of this.

AWS are the first cloud provider to meet IRAP in Australia. Now this impressed me. Here’s what that means:

Amazon Web Services was audited by an independent assessor from the Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP). The assessment examined the security controls of Amazon’s people, process and technology to ensure that they met the needs of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)Information Security Manual (ISM).

One of my questions to Glenn was, “Who do you see as your closest competitor”, because, quite frankly, after all of my reading I can’t see anyone who gets close to what AWS can do in terms of understanding data centre cloud storage and the security necessary to run it. Here’s where they sit in Gartner’s magic quadrant:

Screenshot 2015-03-16 22.48.53

Glenn’s answer: he sees their competitors as the people thinking they can build their own data centres and protect it adequately. I think he was referring to people with the mindset that is fearful of the ‘public cloud’ who have limited understanding of the security offerings a company like AWS can provide. (If anyone reads this who was in the room and who thinks I misinterpreted this, feel free to correct me).

All in all, a really worthwhile event for a woman from an Independent School in Melbourne to attend. ;)

Here’s a few links to information regarding security and AWS for those of you interested in reading a bit more.

http://www.asd.gov.au/infosec/irap/irap_assessments.htm

http://aws.amazon.com/compliance/aws-irap-information-security-registered-assessors-program-australia/

http://d0.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/compliance/AWS_Australian_Signals_Directorate_Cloud_Computing_Security_Considerations_Oct14.pdf

http://d0.awsstatic.com/whitepapers/compliance/Using_AWS_in_the_context_of_Australian_Privacy_Considerations.pdf

http://aws.amazon.com/compliance/

 

 

School’s out Friday

Over the past few years our Toorak College School Prefects have been presenting at School Assembly about adherence to uniform requirements. This year’s presentation was a stand out. You’ve gotta love it when the Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl (Tilly and Sarah) take some creative licence to Iggy Azelea’s ‘Fancy’ and deliver a message about school uniform that had every students’ attention. It had mine too. I love it when I see these girls demonstrate their talent and creativity in such an entertaining fashion. I love it even more that the school has posted it on our YouTube channel and it’s had over 1400 views to date. Watch and share it around. :)

Highlight of my week: Having Rolfe Kolbe from Newington College visit me on Wednesday at school so we could finally meet face to face and chew the fat. You were a breath of fresh air Rolfe; talking to a like mind always injects me with the energy I need to forge on.

Second highlight of my week: A group of students from my class who performed their Spoken Word poem today.

Blew. my. mind.

Hoping to film these next week when all groups share them publicly at the Book Week Poetry Slam event we are holding at school and then share them here.  The commitment to the task the groups are demonstrating has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.

Lowlight of the week: Being sick with a shocking head cold Monday and Tuesday.

Second lowlight of the week: Hearing news of the rumbling Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland that remains poised to erupt according to news sources. If it does, it’s likely that air travel to Europe will be off limits. Given that my family and I are due to board a plane to Europe a week or so from now, I’m feeling pretty edgy about this.

Ah well, you take life as it comes. What will be, will be. I do know that tomorrow will be 21 glorious degrees here in Melbourne. Blue skies and warm rays always make me smile. Have a great weekend. May the sun shine on you. :)

Powerful Learning – Conference at Toorak College July 21st/22nd

On the 21st and 22nd of July, Toorak College will be hosting ‘Powerful Learning‘ a conference that promises to be an exciting two days packed with a plethora of speakers with great ideas to share. We love to see you check out the program and consider registering for what will be a terrific professional development opportunity.

Screenshot 2014-07-07 14.37.20

Professor Guy Claxton will be opening and closing the conference, talking about Building Learning Power: What it means to create powerful learners.

Dr. Gerry White (Principal Research Fellow,  Teaching Learning and Transitions at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) ) will be keynoting about ‘The future of digital technologies in teaching and learning’.

Dr. Suzy Green will be keynoting about ‘Positive Education in Australia: creating flourishing students, staff and schools.’

Sarah Martin, Principal of Stonefield’s School in New Zealand, will be keynoting about ‘Accelerating Learning: What are the keys to success?’

Professor Mark Rose will be keynoting about Indigenous perspectives in education today.

Fay Jackson will be providing a closing keynote on day one entitled ‘Laughter, Tears and Honesty: Dealing with Mental Health the Best Way We Can. Oh and More Laughter’.

I’m also delivering a keynote. Once again, I’ve set myself a hard task. Here’s the abstract:

A vision for the future…maybe?
What might the teaching profession look like 15 years from now? How will technological changes and new forms of communication shape our schools and the way we teach? What could our classrooms look like and what might we need to think about to prepare for such a future?

Wish me luck on that one!

The full program can be downloaded here. 

There are other wonderful presenters in the workshop sessions including my friends Britt Gow, Glenn McMahon, John Pearce, Helen Stower and Kathryn Schravemade.

Hope to see you there!!

 

 

How do you react? Active Destructive, or Active Constructive?

Yesterday, Maria Roberto visited Toorak College to lead a day long session about Wellbeing and Positive Psychology. It was a great day – we were all immersed in the vast repertoire of knowledge Maria imparted, and from the feedback I was hearing, the majority of the staff who participated thought that it was time well spent. Spending a whole day focused on your Wellbeing seemed a bit of a luxury, but it was evident too that our Wellbeing as teachers reflects heavily on our ability to teach well. If you’re not in a good state, how can your teaching be at its prime?

There were many takeaways, but one segment of the day that really resounded with me was the discussion surrounding how we react to others. We participated in a role play and had to respond with either ‘active destructive’ or ‘active constructive’ statements to our partner who was effusively describing something that had inspired them from the day. When taking on the ‘active destructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, but…’ and when taking on the ‘active constructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, and…’.

active constructive responding   Google SearchSource: http://www.gostrengths.com/what-is-active-and-constructive-responding/

This exercise really got me thinking. Working in the area of Educational Technology, I’ve found myself in many discussions where the ‘yeah buts…’ dominate. When people are confronted with change, it’s sometimes easy to nullify the new idea with a series of ‘yeah buts…’ that reinforce the status quo. As many of you would know, it’s quite deflating when you’ve discovered something that you think has the potential to invigorate curriculum or change our workflows and all you meet is resistance. I’ve had to retreat at times and build my strength again in order to keep ploughing on at what I know can make a difference for the learning environments of the students we teach. It’s really helped that this year I’m now working as Director of ICT and eLearning at my school. I’ve been given ‘wings’, so to speak, and it makes an enormous difference to be able to present ideas that can gain some traction because you have some degree of positional power.

Over the last few years I’ve realised that I counter the ‘yeah buts…’ by immersing myself in teacher networks. When the doubters have been in the majority, it’s been to the networks where I have retreated to find the ideas and energy to continue. I’ve read numerous books that have helped me to retain a positive mindset, and one that had a lasting effect was Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. Her Leadership Manifesto is pinned on my wall at work, and I read it when I feel the need to gain strength to continue.

DaringGreatly LeadershipManifesto 8x10

 

You can download this from Brene’s website. Click here for the direct link, but do read Brene’s work and watch her TED talk for further inspiration.

Here’s another picture that hangs on my wall at work, a quote from David Jakes, turned into a pretty effective picture by my good friend Bill Ferriter. It rings true with the ‘active destructive’ and ‘active constructive’ discussions we had yesterday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 11.51.39 PM

 

Being conscious of our reactions matters, in all facets of our lives. Thinking positively, using optimistic language, smiling the Duchenne smile and using humour are all important if we are to remain healthy in both our working and home environments. My task – employ these daily. Maybe you should too.