Monday - 1st Year Focus Teachers (Early Years Group)
In the morning session the early years group looked at why our partnership has the focus on executive function. The conversation was around how the ELL project is using maths is the vehicle for building executive functions, but improved maths outcomes is not the only destination.
We looked at some of the charts and tables from the Dunedin Study which followed a group of about 1000 people born in the same year from the year of their birth, right through to their mid-thirties, and looked at all the different aspects of their life such as health, wealth, relationships, careers, incarceration, etc and found a strong relationship between strong inhibitory control and stronger life outcomes. We also looked at an article from Adele Diamond regarding the impact of executive functions on all aspect of our lives. So although we are looking at how to improve mathematics learning, we are probably more accurately looking and developing their dispositions towards learning in every subject area and looking at how we can develop problem solving and reasoning skills both in school and beyond it.
We then had a conversation in small groups reflecting on their growth as a result of the ELL project. They were asked to reflect on three questions which were
People shared a lot about their journey with the project to this point but there were a few key threads that came out of it.
These responses really spoke to the need of the focus teachers to develop their on executive function as they are implementing a greater focus on developing them with their class.
We then moved into a discussion of what would happen in the lesson, as an introduction to this they were shown the video below that comes from the Adventures of You series of videos. This is a video that was going to also be shared with the children during the lesson.
After watching the video there was some discussion as to whether the development of executive function follows the same process in the video where different executive functions are at different levels. The executive functions are not in different levels as stated in this video, they are a set of intertwined skills that all impact on each other, however it was also mentioned that inhibitory control is normally the first step. It is very difficult to focus on your working memory or on thinking flexibly if your are not yet focused enough on the task by using good inhibitory control, it is also hard to think flexibly if you cannot keep enough in your working memory. So by developing one executive function we are also impacting on the other two. It was explained that the lesson would start with children thinking about how their brain works then then working on a small maths task at the end of the lesson. During the lesson the teacher were asked to look for evidence of:
In the lesson with the children we showed them the video and then asked them to think about all of the different things in their head that their brain controls. They were asked to use a post it note to write down all of the things that is stored in their brains, with one thing per post it note. They then put these on a piece of brown paper to see how how "full" their brains are. The images below show some of their work on this.
They were then ask to think to try and think about something that is not there yet and there were a number of children who went and checked the paper to see if they could come up with something that was not there.
We sat around the paper and they were asked "How does all of that fit into your brain?" Some children said that when you talk about an idea or write it down, it lets an idea out of your brain so you have space for new ideas. This stems from their believe that your brain only has a finite capacity to store information, they feel once your head is full you cannot learn anything new. One girl in particular had a particularly insightful idea on this and said that all the little parts or ideas join together to make bigger ideas. This was a very strong articulation of how learning works and was used to build on the task they would be doing next.
The next task was to give the children an appreciation of the extent of the connections occurring in the brain. Deb scrunched a piece of paper into a ball that would fit in their head, acting like it is a substitute brain she then unscrunched it and we took lines with a texta following the creases left in the paper, with each line representing an idea or thing we have learned, we showed how the ideas cross over or connect to each other and also showed, as per the images below, just how many connections there are between ideas. They used this as an idea to think about what they do when they learn new things
Following this Deb unveiled a brain shaped jelly she had made out of coconut milk and talk to children about how the creases in the paper look like the creases in the brain. Children had an opportunity to taste the jelly if they wanted too.
Tuesday - 2nd Year Focus Teachers
In the morning session the 2nd year group looked the video on maths anxiety blow and then had a deeper look at maths anxiety which was defined to be;
We looked at the difference between stress and anxiety. Stress being defined as being caused by an existing stress causing factor or stressor whereas anxiety is stress that continues even after the stressor is gone. For example if someone was scared of spiders, then while they see a spider, it is likely to cause them stress, but once the spider is gone, so would be the stress. Anxiety is different in that the person would still feel the same when the spider is gone, it continues to play on their mind.