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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, summarizing and synthesising of the information that is presented to us everyday.  We are able to consciously and unconsciously process information and draw our own conclusions about its validity, authenticity, accuracy and usefulness.  Critical thinkers don’t take all information presented to them for granted, and they often ask “Why?” a lot.

Regular reflective thinking gives students opportunities to practice and improve their critical thinking.  They can think about what they know, how they know, what they need to know, and what they can do to find out that information.

Critical thinkers are able to observe issues and problems from others points of view, are open minded and willing to consider new information and evidence.  After collecting a range of information from varied sources, critical thinkers are able to reconsider their position and are more flexible in negotiations.

Students that are confident critical thinkers are also able to infer meaning and information from texts; a high level comprehension skill by performing a synthesis of information from the book and from their own experiences and prior knowledge.

Working and learning in an inquiry method requires that students are able to employ critical thinking skills to enable them to understand different information sources, synthesize information from a variety of sources, and then develop further questions to progress their inquiry.

To be citizens of the 21st Century, students need robust critical thinking skills to enable them to make effective and efficient use of the information that is available to them.

Personalisation of Spelling

Developing a personalised learning program for Spelling requires preparation and resourcing as any personalised learning program does.  Selecting types of assessment and locating and collating resources that are meaningful and useful will help to create a solid foundation for students to work from.  The following paragraphs present a model that is used in classrooms that can be adapted and modified for use in your own context.


Assessment for Learning

Students need to know where their level of achievement is against expected standards, and what they have to be able to do to progress onto the next level.  Assessments should be aligned with the outcomes for your educational context so students are easily able to identify the path for progression.  Sometimes the teacher language in curriculum documents may need to be simplified to make it more accessible to students.

After completing assessment tasks, students need ready access to their data, as they become self trackers and self managers. 

In the school that I work in I have used On Demand Testing (ODT), Gap Testing and Online Assessment and Reporting System Progressive Achievement Tests (OARS PAT) with students.  Both ODT and OARS are online systems, while Gap is paper based.


Self Tracking

Students analyse the results of their assessment and identify areas of strength and weakness from their results.  Often the students can identify patterns in their results, which help them to determine which areas they need to work on more.  Students compare their results against the expected levels of achievement.  Initially students may want to keep their results private, but as they begin working closely with other students with similar needs, they become more confident and competitive within their ability cohort.


Goal Setting

Students take responsibility for their learning through the management and tracking of their data and by setting goals for their learning.  They follow the SAT framework, (Specific, Attainable, Timely) which is modified and simplified from the SMART goal setting framework.  These goals are set weekly at the beginning of the week, and can last for a single week or may be recycled or rolled over into the following week if the student reflects that they need to continue working.


Resources and Activities

An important part of the teacher’s responsibility is to provide appropriate resources for the students that provide a level of challenge and are matched to the students needs.  The resources selected should be suitable for the context and match their learning styles of the students.  For the most part these activities are completed independently with minimal supervision.  These activities are done at the beginning of a writing session so generally they need to be short activities to allow quick completion.  The teacher will have small groups created that have similar goals or spelling patterns/rules that are being worked on.  The relevant information should be recorded by the teacher during goal setting time to allow them time to analyse the goals and create groups.  Examining the abilities of students within the groups also provides the teacher an indication of the types of activities needed for the groups to work on.  Each day the teacher should work with a small group for a period of time to monitor and assess their progress on the tasks, work with them on explicit teaching activities.



At the conclusion of the week students should complete a short assessment task, either a buddy test of their spelling words with a partner, or a test of words that are similar to their own words.  After the assessment task is completed students should record their progress and reflect on their learning for spelling for the week.  The format for the reflection should be flexible but recorded in some way.

They should include in their reflection a description of what they did for the week, how they felt about their work and the learning that occurred or did not occur, how the learning will help them or could have helped them, what else they could have done (if anything), and a further plan of action.

Methods of Personalisation

In my current practice, I have come across many different perspectives of what personalised learning is, and the different ways it can be implemented according to your context.
Earlier this year I heard from Dan Buckley from Cambridge Education (http://www.camb-ed.net/pbyp/) and their method of personalisation. In formalising the approach at my school we borrowed a few key ideas, namely Personalisation by the Learner (PbL) and Personalisation for the Learner (PfL). This has helped us to distinguish between the different practices and identify them more clearly.
With PfL we use student achievement data from a range of sources to help us create ability based maths and writing convention groups.
PbL is used in spelling, interest based writing and inquiry for humanities and science. This has helped to boost engagement and connectedness for the students. When our students are happy and enjoying their work, the teaching team feel similarly enthused and motivated.