Teacher Staffroom: Planning for 2024

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Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action in education. I'm Dominique Russell.

As staff and students around Australia settle into the 2024 school year, we’ve been busy at Teacher sharing content to help you with your planning. In this episode, I’m going to bring you up to speed with a selection of these stories. And, like all episodes of Teacher Staffroom, I’ll also be posing some questions throughout the podcast, so feel free to pause the audio as you go, gather some colleagues, and discuss together how these stories might be relevant to your school context. Let's jump in.

If you’ve been a Teacher reader for a little while, you might be familiar with an article we publish at the beginning of the new year that looks at some of the significant events, celebrations and themes for the upcoming year that you can use in your lesson planning.

In the article, we break down these events by term and also give you the relevant links to further information and resources. For instance, in term 1, International Women’s Day is coming up on 8 March, and the organisers have shared a bunch of school resources for 2024, so if you’d like the link for those, head to our website, teachermagazine.com and look for either the transcript of this podcast episode or the full article titled Teacher resources: Key events to help plan your lessons in 2024 to find the links for the resources.

Other events covered in the article include National Reconciliation Week, The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge, The Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and more. In the article, we also asked you to let us know if we missed out on any events, and one reader, Jenny, got in touch to let us know about National Water Week which runs in term 4 from the 21-27 October, so be sure to add that to your list as well.

One of our first podcast episodes for 2024 also looked at planning for the start of the year, but we focused more on setting up your classrooms and establishing relationships with new students and their families in this episode. To do this, we were delighted to enlist the expertise of some of our 2023 Teacher Awards winners.

The entire panel were really generous with the advice they gave, so it’s definitely an episode you don’t want to miss. Here, though, I thought I’d share an activity from Todd Zadow, who was named winner of the Cultivating an Inclusive and Positive Culture Category in the Teacher Awards last year. Before I share the clip from Todd, I should also mention that the Teacher Awards will be returning in 2024. The Awards recognise work from the last 12 months, so it’s not too early to start thinking about your nomination. Visit teachermagazine.com/teacherawards to browse the categories. Here’s Todd:

So in addition to getting to know your students, maybe your students getting to know you a little bit, also set clear expectations and boundaries for your class. And one way that I often do this is basically like a brainstorming activity. The students will have some idea of what appropriate behaviour is already, so just brainstorm on the board a bit of a contract, some norms that we can all agree on and that is a contract that you can always refer back to then. You can even take a photo of it and down the track, maybe in term 2 or term 3, when they've gotten a bit more confident and maybe a bit more rowdy, you can always refer them back to that original contract that you created and that they all agreed to as a class.

So, that quote there brings me to a question for you to reflect on. As a teacher or school leader, what are your own tips for starting off the school year? What are some of the routines, boundaries or practices you try to implement early on to ensure you have a successful year?

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As a classroom teacher, a focus for the beginning of the school year might be understanding your students’ spelling and vocabulary capabilities. For instance, understanding the words they are confident in spelling and using could help inform your planning for future vocabulary lessons.

The Oxford University Press Children’s Word of the Year is one indication of this, and also of the issues children are facing. Each year, the research team analyse thousands of short stories written by students in primary and secondary school, to declare the word of the year. For 2023, the word is ‘cost’. The usage of the word was up over 33% from previous years, and researchers also noted an increase in usage of the words: dollars, money, bills and price. Here’s what Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Queensland, Dr Damon Thomas, had to say about the 2023 word of the year:

With many families experiencing added financial stress in 2023 and into 2024, it makes perfect sense that children would be more aware of issues related to affordability, and that navigating these stresses would be reflected in the stories they write.

That brings me to another question for you. With your colleagues, consider some key themes to emerge from your own students’ writing last year. How can you use this information to inform your planning for 2024?

Another topic we’ve been looking at for the beginning of the year is ICT Literacy, specifically in relation to the latest NAP-ICT Literacy assessment. For the most recent instalment in our Expert Q&A series, we enlisted the expertise of Dr Tim Friedman and Dr Kristy Osborne from ACER to unpack what teachers can learn from the latest NAP-ICT.

The article is filled with fascinating insights – including an explanation of the newly expanded definition of ICT Literacy, and specific classroom activity suggestions for supporting students in developing ICT skills – so, I really recommend you read the full Q&A on our website. Now though, I’d like to highlight what Tim and Kristy had to say about the what the national report on the latest NAP-ICT told us about the skills of year 6 students. Here’s what they said:

At the national level in 2022, 55% of year 6 students reached the proficient standard, which is similar to 2017 when 53% achieved the standard. Students who achieve the standard can create basic search queries, choose appropriate information sources, and interpret data from digital sources to answer specific questions. They can identify errors in simple digital forms, organise information logically, edit and format using standard software commands, and understand basic digital technology concepts. They can also connect components of a simple digital system. So, we know that just under half of students in year 6 cannot perform many of these basic skills.

So, that point there brings me to a question for you to think about. If you’re a primary teacher, do you devote time to teaching the ‘basics’ of ICT students need to attain the proficient standard for year 6 – such as choosing appropriate information sources, and editing and formatting using basic software commands?

And finally, we know from our annual reader survey last year that many of you are interested in finding out more about Artificial Intelligence this year. Specifically, some readers let us know they’d like to understand how AI could be used to assist with managing workload. If that’s you, you’ll definitely want to read our latest Teacher’s Bookshelf, where we share an exclusive extract from the new book by Leon Furze, Practical AI Strategies: Engaging with Generative AI in Education which delves into how teachers can use Generative AI (or GenAI) to assist with lesson planning. Here’s how Leon introduces the section:

Using GenAI to assist with lesson planning, the creation of resources, and the development of scope and sequence is almost certainly where you will get the most use out of the technology. We know that planning is incredibly important for creating structured, meaningful courses that address students’ needs. Unfortunately, after administration, face-to-face time, meetings, extracurricular duties and other interruptions, we often find that planning gets pushed aside and left to occasional staff days.

Now, on the student side of AI, you might find some inspiration from a new reader submission we published, from Jo Rea at Scotch College in Adelaide. In the article, she shares the 3-year process she underwent to develop an AI ethical inquiry unit for her year 5 students. She takes readers through the unit from start to finish in the article, and includes some helpful visual and website resources, too.

In the article, Jo says: 'I will continue to tweak my program and find suitable activities to suit the digital environment that our students are in.' So, here’s one final question to reflect on for this episode. How often do you update your planning and resources when it comes to teaching fast-developing topics such as AI?

That's all for this episode. You’re now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. Links to all the content and the resources I’ve mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast available over at our website, teachermagazine.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast channel wherever you get your podcasts from, so you can be notified of any new episodes as soon as they land.

Are you currently subscribed to the weekly Teacher bulletin? It’s a free weekly wrap of our latest content straight to your inbox. Join our community by clicking on the sign-up button at our website, teachermagazine.com.