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Friday, 31 October 2014

Modern Learning Pedagogies - Learning Pathway

Today, we were challenged to produce a DLO (Digital Learning Object) that showed a learning pathway - from planning to student outcome.

This is my finished product - enjoy:

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Linking Digital Pedagogies and Bilingual Pedagogies

This was a presentation that I presented as a Toolkit session within the Manaiakalani cluster.  Toolkits are FREE teacher lead Professional Development sessions, which other teachers from around the cluster can sign up to and attend.  We share the expertise and the love and get to network twice a term (Week 2 and Week 6 of every term).  Two - three sessions are offered on each Toolkit day (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) of that week.  Teacher sign up via google forms.

My presentation was inspired by a personal challenge and journey I was going through - as I complete my Graduate Diploma of TESSOL and strengthen my practice as a teacher in a digital immersion classroom within the Manaiakalani cluster.  How do I take, of what I know is best practice from each of these strands of my life and put them together?  This is what I came up with.  This is definitely to be continued, and I would love any feedback and supporting materials that you have.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Professional Development: Visual Arts

Today, I was lucky enough to be approached by our specialist art teacher Maryanne Manuyag who had a block of time available and asked if Room 8 would like to fill it - of course!  What a fantastic opportunity for some free professional learning development!

The students were creating their art pieces which would go towards the school's calendar art fundraising efforts.  They were creating 'Zentangles,' which is an artwork based on circles and patterns, which is apparently quite therapeutic - perhaps for the students, not so much the teachers!

Key learning for me and my pedagogies included:

  • Models
    • Of what the art will look like once it is complete.  We often see this as stifling to the students' own originality, however, it is hard to explain something as abstract as an image - could you imagine holding up a blank piece of paper and saying "Imagine, this is going to go here, and this is going to go here..."  The students would probably switch right off!  However, with an end goal in mind, students can begin to process ideas, time management and get motivated.
  • Step by step Instructions
    • I really liked the way Maryanne broke the art (not literally!) into steps.  She gathered the students in a circle so they could all see her model the task and then she sent them away with a given time to complete that step, before coming back for the next step.  This meant that by the end of the lesson 95% of the class handed in a completed piece of art, and they all looked stunning!
  • Purpose and Audience
    • Not really something I often think about when teaching art, but this was set up in a similar way to Writing.  "We are going to create a Zentangle so that (purpose), we can create calendars, diaries or giftcards with our artworks on them, and then maybe we can gift those lovely things to our families (audience), friends or special visitors for Christmas, birthdays or other special events."  This statement made students take the tasks seriously and put in a lot of effort into making them beautiful.  Just as you would when setting purpose and audience in Writing, and finding that students were more engaged because they felt that the reason for writing was authentic.  
  • Preparation
    • Maryanne was so organised, and for something like Art - you cannot 'wing' it.  The exemplar models were prepared, the equipment was prepared, practice paper was ready if students needed it - working spaces were set out.  It meant that students could get on with the art and not waste time organising the working environment.  
  • Copying VS. Inspiration
    • This was a great way of encouraging the collaborative classroom environment and was stamped out at the very beginning of the lesson.  "If you are inspired by certain things people do, that's great...but if you are 'inspired' by every single thing and you use every single thing, then you are not thinking for yourself."  I really liked the term 'inspired' instead of copy and 'thinking for yourself' as a way of saying don't copy in a more meaningful way.
I asked Maryanne about her thoughts when teaching art at this level (Year 7/8) and we discussed some great ideas:

  • Art at this stage is about the process, the different mediums, technique, balance and what looks good
    • Students who have not had these experiences may find that when they go to college - Art is a bit harder because they don't know as many ways to achieve a certain idea - to make it a visual reality.  Giving students a variety of experiences means they may be able to communicate their ideas by making informed decisions and can then truly begin to play with art and show their originality. 
  • Extending concentration time
    • We often have 'art block' which can be an hour and a half to two hours long - usually so that students can get a finished product at the end.  How often do we do this with other learning areas?  Art is a great way to practice extended concentration.  I noticed that Maryanne eventually played music but that she turned it off again as students were getting distracted - taking away that idea of 'art as the cruisey subject' and encouraging students to focus and take it seriously - like at any other time of the day.

It was such a fun morning overall and the artwork looked AMAZING.  Thanks to Maryanne for inviting us in, and I thoroughly encourage other teachers - if you have a specialist in your school, rather than rush off to finish the paper work, stay in the class and learn alongside the students every so often :)

Here are some photos from our time in the art room today! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

The aims of a 21st Century Teacher

Lately, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a teacher in the 21st Century, in terms of what is necessary to teach in order to realistically prepare students for the future.

This term, our inquiry study is based on technology.  We have called it 'Technology Challenge' and I found myself one afternoon last week, ranting on about the need for students to be able to think, problem solve, collaborate and innovate.  I discussed what it means to have restricted resources and funding, and what people are doing despite the odds, and what kinds of brilliant minds those people must have.

Our aims as teachers are wide and varied - but all centre around the belief that we are contributing to better life outcomes for our students.  Critical thinking and skills in technology are two key focuses of this particular blog post.

This way of thinking would not have been possible without the experiences I have had within the Manaiakalani project, and meeting other professionals who have challenged my way of thinking and who still challenge me to further my thinking today.  However, they're not alone....  attending the OMGTech Rangers Day with three students from Tamaki Primary on Saturday allowed me to meet with others who believe in the importance of promoting creative, critical thinkers and designers.  Gather is another group that aims to connect young people, teachers and technology.

So why is this stuff so important?

"These Days," university graduates are not guaranteed to get jobs.  We live in a world where Whatsapp - a company less that five years old, is worth 19 billion and shared between only 55 employers.  Compared to established companies, some with more than 100,000 employers.

And where 'top jobs' are those based in 'engineering' - a job that survives on the creative, inventive and critical thinking of the engineers.  

It is important to reflect on your aims as a teacher, and then align those aims with the real world.  What is actually necessary for these students?  My key aim is to have every student in my class, in 20 years time say "We learned everything about that at school."  instead of "We didn't learn about any of that at school."  Perhaps we might have the CEO of the next 100% Waste free device company.

This is just a starting point for me...what are your aims as a 21st Century teacher?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Making Connections between Bilingualism and Digital Immersion

I am completing my last paper as part of my Post-Graduate Diploma of TESSOL with John McCaffery at Auckland University.

Currently, we are learning about Translanguaging and as I listen and process, I can't help but make connections to my beliefs about the Learn, Create, Share ethos of Manaiakalani and my own pedagogical practice.

"Translanguaging is a theorised bilingual immersion pedagogical teaching strategy for promoting rapid academic, literacy language, and identify development in two languages and literacies." 

"It involves teaching students to use alternating languages for receptive or productive uses."

(McCaffery, 2014. RRS PhD work)

There are two current interpretations of translanguaging; translanguaging as a way of learning, from a student view, and translanguaging as a way of teaching, from a pedagogical approach.  For the purpose of this blog post, I will be commenting on the pedagogical teacher approach.  

The key idea is that teachers strategically draw from students TLR (total language resources) and effectively plan for the use of both languages in order get students to cognitively process concepts and ideas in both languages.

Firstly, I return to the 'ice berg model.'  

This model aims to illustrate the idea that bilingual students do not operate in one language alone.  That bilingual students draw from both languages when processing new learning.

Translanguaging - is a pedagogical approach, in which teachers strategically plan for students to translanguage by providing input opportunities in one language and output opportunities in another.  It is not learning a concept in one language and then RElearning it again - the same concept - in the second language.  Rather, it is LEARNING a concept in one language, and USING that learning to CREATE another product.

I started thinking about the term 'digital native' coined by Marc Prensky in 2001.  Interestingly, I believe in a similar pedagogy within my digital immersion classroom, or maybe, my digitally bilingual classroom.  What we do, in Manaiakalani is kind of like the translanguaging of digital literacies.

For students to translanguage, teachers need to provide opportunities for students to LEARN in one language and then CREATE in another.  Similarly, in a Manaiakalani classroom, we encourage students to LEARN and CREATE using their digital literacies.

In both contexts, what teachers are encouraging students to do, is to cognitively engage with a given task, and draw upon all prior knowledge to process new learning and ideas.  It involves teaching students to use alternating languages/devices for receptive or productive uses.  In both contexts, it aims to promote rapid academic literacy language in two literacies.

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • Teachers are prioritising learning time - in prior posts, I discuss the importance of this, especially in regards to priority learners such as Pasifika and Maori learners.  Why would you spend time teaching it in one language, and then repeating it again in a second language?  Likewise, why would you teach a concept in one medium (google doc) and ask students to regurgitate the same learning a second time (copy and paste information into a google presentation).  Translanguaging allows for students to build on concepts to create a new product, rather than repeat learning that they already have.
  • The 'cognitive stuff' goes on under the line of the ice berg - translanguaging is moving through a cognitive process.

It is exciting to see the connections between the two key professional learning areas in my life, as I can see ways forward for myself and for programmes that I am involved with.  Next steps I am thinking about at this time include:
  1. How can we include heritage languages in the whanau engagement programmes as part of Manaiakalani?
  2. How are digital tools being used for translanguaging in bilingual units in our cluster?
I would like to investigate these questions further throughout my last term of school and as part of my learning in my last paper!  

I don't know if this post made much sense, as it is the coming together of two major ways of thinking in my mind - sorry!  Hopefully things will become clearer as time goes on...follow my journey!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Literacy Learning in the Holidays

Inspired by Kiri Kirkpatrick from Panmure Bridge School, who is a part of the  Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers Academy  that presented at the Manaiakalani Hui in August, I created this Google Presentation that I embedded into our class site for students to complete in the Term 3 holidays.

These holidays will be the first time that our Year 7 and 8 students are allowed to take their netbooks home.  Fortunately, they were also given two books today as part of the Duffy Programme.

The aim of this is to:

  • Provide something for students who are bored in their holidays.
  • Hopefully maintain a level of thinking so the return back is not such a shock!
  • See the level of Learn, Create, Share maintained in the holiday break.
  • Keep students reading!

I will be interested to see:

  • Which students choose to take part in these activities.
  • If this will have an impact on their attitudes towards, and outcomes of, assessments starting in the first week back!
  • What types of texts students are reading for enjoyment.
  • What I can change/improve from this time around, for the longer holidays coming up at the end  of the year.
What strategies have you tried to keep students learning throughout their holidays?  

ASD Strategies in Practice - Update

Earlier this week, I wrote about the two sessions of professional development on ASD and bullet pointed the general characteristics, common issues, and tips for teachers.

I also mentioned that I had one student in mind that I would try some of these tips with.  Although this student does not sit on the spectrum at all, he struggles with being easily distracted and distracting others during learning time.  This is not reflected by his great achievement levels and the great conversations I have with him.  He often shares ideas that are original and thoughtful, but I just wanted to improve his general attention to his learning task and his task completion rate as well as limit his level of distraction for others.

So, following some of the tips and tricks from our session and from the Sue Larkey website, I introduced this student to the Goo Timer.  The goo timer, similar to the one pictured below is a ten minute timer.  We made the deal that he would focus for 10 minutes (the time it takes for the goo to go from the top to the bottom) and then would be allowed a 2 minute break.

At first, he wanted to stare at the goo - fair enough, it does look pretty cool - after a minute of staring, I told him to get on with it.  He remained focused for the next 9 minutes.  When it was break time, I said "You have two minutes."
"To do what, Miss?"
"Whatever you like - this is your break time."
He walked around the class a bit awkwardly, smiling at his friends and staring out the windows.
"Right, two minutes up!  Come back!"  I called.  He returned and I told him, he could turn the timer over himself.  Again, 10 minutes of full focus - he finished his first task.

During this time, also, another student who is known for his charming ways, approached us and asked if he could join us with the timer.  I said yes and he was excited to get his work and bring it over to where we were sitting.  VERY EXCITING MOMENT FOR A TEACHER, AM I RIGHT?!

At the next two minute break, they asked "Miss, can we play cards?"
"You can do whatever you like, but can you play a whole game in two minutes?"
"We can, Miss! Please?"
"Go for it."

They jumped up and went and got a pack of cards.  They finished a game of last card in two minutes!

When returning to the next 10 minute block, they said:
"Miss, this is fun.  It's making learning easier for me."
"Yeah, this helps me with distraction."
"Can we do this always, Miss?"

Heart. Melted.

Later, when on patrols duty, the two students approached me as they were crossing the pedestrian, telling me of how they told Mr Wong about their new timer.  I was blown away by one of the students who said, "Miss, __ told Mr Wong that we had to do this, but I said, no - we WANT to do this."  (Sigh!)

So, what can work for students with ASD can also benefit other students!  Give it a go.  Today, the last day of term, they are still using the timer between clean up tasks.  I hope this lasts a while!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Professional Development: Autistic Spectrum Disorder

This term, we, as a staff, participated in two professional learning development sessions based on ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).  These were two very interesting sessions that outlined general characteristics of and issues for students living with ASD as well as suggesting possible strategies for teachers to try with students who sit on this spectrum.

General Characteristics that stuck with me were:

  • Special interests:  obsessive, develop fascinations with a topic and want to find out everything about that topic.  
  • Routines:  respond well to routines and dislike change.
  • Has trouble working out what other people are thinking:  unable to make social judgements e.g. reading facial expressions or subtle social cues.
  • May struggle to see the big picture.
  • May struggle organising themselves e.g. getting books, pencils etc. ready for the school day.
  • May have physical issues such as holding pens, handwriting, sports and balance.
  • May be difficult to express feelings about an issue.
  • First language is visual and students with ASD are often very good at visual memory and have exceptional long term memory.
Issues for students living with ASD:
  • May be suffering with high anxiety levels, which make learning very difficult.  This anxiety can be triggered by environmental factors around them e.g. the classroom being too noisy.
  • Perfection:  the fear of making mistakes can be immobilising for students.
  • Hard to deal with changes in routine - which are inevitable in schools.
  • Hard to communicate anxiety and feelings with others using words so will often act out in socially inappropriate ways e.g. screaming, kicking, etc.
Tips for Teachers:
  • Prepare students for change the best you can.  For example, if you know you will be off site for a meeting, let the child know well in advance so that you can work together to prepare that student for a day that will be different.
  • Transitions:  between lessons, give count downs and stick to those times.  
  • Establish a place that students can go to when situations get "too much" for students, e.g. when feeling anxious or threatened in the playground or when there is a large number of stimuli that is too overwhelming e.g. too noisy in assembly, smell of bodies after P.E.
  • Assess the behaviour, and ask yourself - whose problem is it?  Is it really a problem?  Does the child understand what you are asking?  Doe they have opportunities for making choices and requesting breaks?  Do you respect the child's refusals and protests where possible (i.e. pick you battles!)
  • Due to the perfectionist nature of some students, limit choices e.g. "Can you please write for me about either a dolphin or a shark."
  • Remain calm in melt down situations.  
  • Allow for sensory breaks.
  • Use visual aides wherever possible e.g. visual timetable.
  • Understand that some students believe you already know how they are feeling, so make it clear that you would like to understand more and share what you are thinking with them.
  • Visit for other helpful tips.
Personal lightbulb moments and learning:
  • Tantrums are not the same as melt downs.  Tantrums are attempts at manipulative acts to gain a specific outcome.  Melt downs are a response from the survival part of the brain to release anxiety and find safety and a sense of calm.
  • If you know one person with ASD, you know ONE person with ASD - what works with one child, may not work with the next.
  • "Don't let ASD cause you to lose sight of the whole child.  Self-esteem is crucial" - Ellen Notbohm.
  • Try to avoid the 'other side' of the mountain.  Meaning, you can try strategies for prevention of a melt down, but once a child is in the 'melt down' stage, it is too late.  Then it becomes an issue of keeping them and others safe.
I have one particular student who I would like to try some of these strategies with, although probably at the mild end of the spectrum, this student is often seen as being a distraction or a behavioural issue in the classroom.  In particular the tips found on this page from the Sue Larkey website, I believe might work as the student I have in mind is a 'hummer and rocker.'  

What experiences have you had with students that live with ASD and what strategies have you tried?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Story Writing with an English Language Learner

Today, I was back in the classroom as the classroom teacher.  I love Wednesdays because I get to reconnect with the students throughout the day and spend more time involved in their learning face to face.

One particular student I spent some time with was Rahmond.  He arrived in Term 2 from Samoa and could read, write and speak Samoan, but had no understanding of English (and why should he? He came from Samoa!)

I asked two of my Samoan speaking students to help with translations in his first few weeks and then began to create a programme designed for him with the help of our New Entrants teacher.  She ran a JAM assessment and Running Record assessment, in which he achieved Stage 3 for Add/Sub and Level 1 (Magenta) for reading.

Today, we wrote a story together in English!

First, I used sequence stories as a resource and photocopied and cut out the pictures and mixed them up.  Then I asked Rahmond which picture was number one, number two, number three etc.

After that, I asked Rahmond to tell me what was happening in each picture.  I then recast his sentence back to him and encouraged Rahmond to write his own sentences down.  One exciting thing I noticed was the way he initiated conversations such as:

"Miss, do you know what the Samoan word for that is?" (Pointing to the campfire).
"I think I do... is it afi?"
(Little while later...)
"Miss...what is the English word for that?" (Pointing again, to the campfire).

After that, I let him colour in the pictures, while I wrote the final sentences on our 'good copy.'

I then took photos of his pictures and through iMovie, put a short film together using his pictures and a voice over recording of Rahmond reading his story.  He told his story to three teachers today and two other students.  Repetition without boring!

This reaffirmed for me, the importance of scaffolding and giving students multiple opportunities to process an idea in different forms.  Through sequencing pictures, Rahmond was able to show his comprehension of the story, then telling, then writing and then reading - and reading again, Rahmond was able to learn, create, and now share!

Here is our final product!  Lelei tele, Rahmond!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Metacognitive Thinking: Student Illustration

I have a particularly prolific blogger in my class this year.  He is a student who achieves high levels across the curriculum and his blog is very enjoyable to follow - beyond the role of a teacher.  He shows deep and thoughtful reflection towards his learning and likes to share his thinking through his blog.

It is moments like these that truly make teaching the best job in the world.

My own challenge is to explore - what makes Willy such a reflective learner who shows great metacognitive skills?  How can I encourage others in my class to think like him?  How can I engage other students into blogging as a form of personal learning?  Thank you Willy for challenging me to take my thinking about teaching further!

I will let Willy take it from here...

Hello, Blog!

This is my first Movenote presentation I ever made. It shares my feelings and thoughts towards blogging. The video and the presentation are separated into different parts, so try to keep up with the presentation with the video. I hope that made sense.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Wonderful Waitangi - Our Nation's Children Prize Trip

In Week 7 of Term 3, I had the great pleasure of accompanying 17 amazing Tamaki Year 7 and 8 students and 3 other members of staff to the great Bay of Islands.

This was our prize as the Our Nation's Children upper North Island winners.  This trip was sponsored by Westpac Bank and was organised by the Waitangi National Trust and Waitangi Grounds and it was the trip of a lifetime.

It started in Term 1, where I was encouraged by senior management and other community leaders to enter into the Our Nation's Children Film Competition.  An initiative to get every child in New Zealand up to Waitangi by 2020.  I worked with a reading group made up of 4 students from Aireen's class and 6 students from Room 8.  This group was an extension group of talented readers and writers.

Over the course of Term 1, these students questioned, researched, interviewed labour MP Carol Beaumont, story boarded, recorded and edited their film which centred around the three P's of the treaty; Partnership, Participation and Protection.

Here is the complete film:

In Term 2, we received an email to say that we had won a prize worth $10,000.00 which covered:  food, accommodation, transport, activities, tour guides and instructors - AMAZING.

So, on Monday of Week 7, Term 3, we piled into the vans and headed up to Waitangi!  The trip was so valuable - not only for our students but for the teachers as well.  I was so proud of the students and would like to deeply acknowledge Westpac for their sponsorship of such an amazing initiative, those that worked so hard to ensure that every minute of our day was organised and filled with excitement and for the staff and parents that came along to help with supervision.  Read the Westpac Article here.

My personal highlights were:
  • Seeing students develop as leaders and mature students of Tamaki Primary
  • Getting into the Waka and actually paddling in the same waters that my own waka Ngatokimatawhaorua paddles through each Waitangi Day.
  • Hearing about the history of Northland - from multiple perspectives.
  • Staying at the amazing Copthorne Resort - Wow.
  • Having my partner and baby experience this with me!
  • Having great staff experience this with me!
  • Hearing students reflect on their own highlights and seeing just how special this experience was to them.
To see more of our experience, watch the video below (12 minutes of amazing highlights!)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Teaching as Inquiry: Create Challenge

Today we were challenged to create a DLO that illustrated a current teaching as inquiry focus.

Here is my Prezi presentation which I used for the first time today.  I had a lot of fun!  Enjoy...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Collaboration: sharing is not enough - a response to Rebbecca Sweeney

Ok, so please don't report me for offensive matter, but the first word that came to my mind after reading Rebbecca Sweeney's Colllaboration:  sharing is not enough post was:  Circlejerk.  Please do not look this up, as there are two VERY different definitions - one being NSFW, but trust in my provided definition:
@War Against Normal coined this, the 'Period of Froth' in which we come together, to share, to collaborate, to discuss, to inspire.  We feel great!  However, just like the froth at the top of our beer or coke soon subsides, so too does our motivation and we soon return to how things once were.  

What we need, to sustain learn and change and improvement and academic progress, is to move beyond the comfortable level of sharing.  We need to step outside the box - or in this case, the circle.  We need to continually challenge, reflect, inquire, respond, react, debate, question - all those good things we ask our students to do. 

Rebbecca challenges us to collaborate, not to tick a box next to 'PLD 2014', but to seriously engage with each other and better ourselves as we continue to form an evolving education system that is being recreated and reformed before our very eyes.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Engaging Students into Writing

 This week, I have been trying to model the writing process as part of my aims and goals as a mentor teacher.  The focus of these sessions have been behaviour management and student engagement.
The inspiration for this writing focus came to me through facebook.  The Coconet page shared the animated version of Sina and the Tuna.  If you are an educator you should definitely check this site out, regardless of if you have a high percentage of Pasifika learners in your school or not.  The resources are both informative and highly entertaining (See:  Baby Oil - The Potion of Doom)

Lesson One:  WALT Plan a legend.

I used the Sina and the Tuna video to motivate discussion about legends.  Students had to identify the structure of a legend - at Tamaki Primary, we use the T.O.P.S acronym, which our Year 7s and 8s are very familiar with now.  T - meaning Title, O - meaning Orientation, P - meaning problem and S - meaning Solution.

At Tamaki Primary, we use the story map - or 'backwards S' to plan our narrative stories.  The first thing we did, was to plot Sina and the Tuna on its own story map to show how the story fit, and how the story achieved according to our TOPS model.

Students were then paired up and asked to agree on a favourite sea creature (our current inquiry topic is the sea), and something about that creature that made them special, e.g. a turtle and its shell, a shark and its sharp teeth, the fish and its scales etc.

They were then challenged to work in pairs to come up with a legend about how that creature came to have that special feature.  Students worked in pairs using big paper and felt tip pens to create their story maps.  We created a class Success Criteria for this task.  We agreed that successful story maps had to include:

  • TOPS
  • Pictures
  • Key words
  • Sentence starters
Lesson Two:  WALT verbalise our legend story.

I started this lesson, using inspiration from a colleague of mine - Aireen Ah Kui, who posted about this very writing process on her own professional blog.  It's always good to use examples/models of work, and even better if they are from students at the same school.  This really engaged the students in my class because they saw their friends learning and following this process, and so were motivated to work just as hard.

Again, the students constructed a success criteria to guide their verbalising.  We agreed that successful verbalisation of a storymap had to be:
  • Clear 
  • Succinct
  • Flow from start to finish
  • Both buddies needed to know the story - not just one buddy
  • Both buddies needed to contribute
  • Use the pictures and key words to guide the story
  • Proudly presented - don't hide the story map and don't mumble
Students were so engaged practicing with their buddies because they knew "Both buddies needed to know the story."  Then, when asked to pair up with another group, they were proud and LOUD.  The noise level didn't bother me though, because I could see that students were engaged!

We reflected on our lesson at the end, and I posed the question:  "How does verbalising a plan, help in writing?"  And received thoughtful responses such as:  "It helps me to get a head start in my writing."  "It will help me to start my writing tomorrow because I will know what to do."  "I won't be struggling tomorrow for writing because I can just get started straight away."  "It helped me to organise my story better because some of my work didn't make sense."

Lesson Three:  WALT craft our legend story

As the students predicted - these planning and verbalising sessions helped to get the students writing quickly and with focus today.  No one said "I don't know what to do."  Or, "I don't know what to write about."  

We watched Sina and the Tuna one more time, and created a class Success Criteria about what good legends have.  We agreed that we would aim to include:
  • Powerful and purposeful language
  • TOPS
  • Dialogue between characters to move the plot along
  • Correct punctuation
  • Interesting sentence starters
  • Use the same tense (past tense) - (To which I overheard "Yesss...I'm good at past tense!")
  • Paragraphs with one main idea
One student said "Use the word village instead of town and that was amazing for me, because that was an amazing shift in thinking about writing that this student made - in that statement, he had shown that he was considering the purpose, audience, voice and tone of his writing - SUCCESS.

Students were then encouraged to get started on their legend crafts.  Which were to be done, as the planning and verbalising had been done, in pairs.  

I walked around the room initially to work with specific writers who needed extra support, then I was able to give feedback and feedforward through the teacher dashboard.

What Next?

My vision of next steps will include:
  • Specific teaching of language features to enhance the writing e.g. similes, metaphors, personification etc.
  • Publishing and sharing - both online and classroom display.
  • Recording and sharing 'audio book' collection of their stories
  • Reflecting and evaluating their writing using the TPS Writing Rubric and updating our learning logs.
What I noticed through this process:
  • I noticed engaged writers
  • I noticed that 'those boys' who are sometimes seen by others as disengaged, being active participants - reading their storymaps using expresseion and being applauded by their group members, contributing to our plenary discussions thoughtfully, asking "Miss, is this OK?"
  • I noticed that students were smiling and looking forward to writing their legends.
  • I noticed that I didn't have to growl much at all during writing time.
  • I noticed that I had support to fall back on when giving feedforward (they created the success criteria, so I used their language and they understood what I meant).

I have been a very happy teacher going home this week.

UPDATE - here are some example stories that were the outcome of this process!

Click here to read Iziah's and Tanisslous' Legend

Click here to read Mavis' and Mehi's Legend

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Reading Log: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's third novel – her first, Purple Hibiscus, which was the first that I read from Adichie, was longlisted for the Booker prize and her second, Half a Yellow Sun, which I am yet to read, won the Orange prize.  This book spoke to me on so many levels.  The love story intertwined with commentary about race relations in the USA.  So many moments, I was like, "Boom!"  And wish I could memorise so much to quote in arguments later on in life.  I also liked the fact that the main character let her love interest pluck hairs from her chin and only wore black underwear because she finds the 'pretty' kind irrelevant.  So good.

I really recommend this book - I would recommend reading Adichie's shopping list.  Seriously.  Big fan.   

Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - also available as an audio book on itunes.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Mentor Diaries

Today, I turned a corner in my own learning of what it means to be a mentor teacher.  This is my first year in such a role.  Prior, I had only had experience as an associate teacher or facilitator.  Both of which were for shorter amounts of time and both of which, I felt, had less at stake for the other person, than for the MDTA teacher I am currently responsible for 'mentoring.'

Like students, I want the best for this teacher.  I want them to feel inspired, to love learning, and above all else, LOVE teaching - as much as I do.  When I thought I wasn't being very successful at this, I began to feel quite down about it.  As I would, if there were a challenge student in my class.  I thought about it constantly, talked about it with my friends, bored my partner to death about it...but it grated me.  How could I get what I wanted from this?  

Like students, adults are all different.  They bring their own backgrounds to the classroom, own experiences, own habits, own baggage...  In a classroom, an experienced teacher is able to understand and notice these things about particular students or groups of students and therefore, adjust their approach to those students to engage them, extend their thinking, motivate them, support them and help them to learn.  Adults are the same.  However, as a mentor, I had not transferred my learning as a teacher of children to my mentoring adults.

I was expecting that the learning would occur as it does for me.  That the best approach to take, was the approach that worked best for me.  Through experiencing for myself and reflective questioning and goal setting.  However, that wasn't working.  Rather than reflect on my own mentoring, I would blame.   Blame the teacher, blame the programme, blame studies, blame family, blame the students, blame the weather.  

So when another colleague of mine tried a more upfront, no fuss approach - and it being received in a truly transforming way, I realised, my approach was not right for this 'student.'  That I have to adjust my approach.  That for some adults, this is a better way to address their learning needs.  Just like it is for students sometimes.

It's someone who teaches for a living, that I was struggling to find how I could help in this situation.  I think I have higher expectations of adults - but really, it's not about kids, adults, teens, elderly...we are all LEARNERS.  

I think I turned a corner today.  We are life long learners who need different approaches.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Professional Highlight: Illustrating Student Engagement with Manaiakalani

Here is the completed and published research that I worked with Rebecca Sweeney to illustrate.  Please watch and let me know your thoughts!  Confession:  I hate watching myself so haven't viewed this, but I'm sure I didn't sound too crazy that day!  Thank you to Rebecca for her guidance and editing skills.  Thanks to Manaiakalani for giving me this opportunity.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reading Log: The Magicians Elephant by Kate Di Camillo

This was a beautifully written book that was recommended to me by two colleagues of mine.  The pace, matter of fact description and dark humour made this book a pleasure to read.  I would definitely read this to students aged 7+ as part of 'teacher read' time.  I am inspired to read more by Kate Di Camillo if this is the standard of which she writes!

Highlight of the Week: Collaboration in Whole Class Teaching

Some days in teaching are simply better than others.  Today was one of those days.  I finished feeling positive and satisfied that the students had a valuable and fun day of learning.  This is because of the fantastic collaboration I witnessed in my students.

Students had to work in groups with the fraction materials to create improper fractions and then move the fractions around to show how they change into mixed fractions.  I heard positive conversations such as "It's tenths, so ten tenths are in the whole so we have 2 wholes because there are 20 tenths."  And, "16 eighths is like 8 times two, so that is like 2 wholes."  And, "24 divided by 6 is four so that means there will be 4 wholes." etc.  Below are photos taken throughout the activity.  This was a whole class lesson, but students were put into groups that were mixed ability, in hopes that some peers could explain the concepts better than the teacher to those who were struggling with their understanding.  It also meant that students who were confident were able to act as 'expert others' and boosted and consolidated their own understanding.  I had about 8 groups of 4 that rotated around the differing fractions shapes.

Cyber Smarts:
As a class we read through this page about managing a positive digital footprint.  In 5 groups of 6, students took ownership of one bullet point and had to construct a paragraph, using that bullet point as their topic sentence.  Students had 10 minutes to construct their paragraph and then we shared back as 'paragraphs' rather than 'groups.'  I enjoyed watching students sharing ideas and using structures we had discussed in other areas of learning e.g. the S.E.E structure for paragraphs that we had discussed in Writing.  I enjoyed students listening to each other as we worked our way through the paragraphs and students were entertained by the fact that I was the introduction and conclusion of our class explanation.  Here are some photos from the activity:

Today 'worked' because students were given opportunities to work together and the behaviour was managed in a way that the collaboration taking place was helpful and positive and valuable.  I love days like these - they remind me of why I love teaching so much!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Reading Log: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Image from

This book was another audio book I had the pleasure of listening to on my way to and from work, and I loved it.  I first heard of this book on Facebook.  I follow Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Page and they posted this book and claimed that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus was turned away twice by publishers.  The first time, they said that African writers were not the 'it' thing, and 'if only she had been an indian writer.'  The second, the suggestion was made for her to change the setting to America instead of Nigeria.  I am ever grateful that she decided to ignore both things and continue to work to get this masterpiece published!!!

It was beautifully written.  So well, that it makes me embarrassed to write about it, because nothing I compare it to, or nothing I describe could ever capture it.  Let's just say, that I was looking forward to my hours sitting in traffic, thanks to this book.  

I would love to do a study of this book, if I were perhaps a high school teacher.  It had such depth of characters, the pace was just right, the writing was fluid and beautiful.  

What I also loved was that it was set in Nigeria, and the Nigerian culture, food, language was peppered throughout the story seamlessly.  

I definitely recommend this book to anyone simply looking for something good to read.  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reading Log: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I was at a pub quiz in the holidays.   One of our questions was "Who wrote the book that this movie is based on?"  The scene played on the projected scene was familiar to me and my partner who I'd dragged along to see the movie with - a scene from 'The Fault in our Stars.'  "Yes!"  I said.  I had read the book, but for the life of me, I could not remember the full name of the author.  John Gordon?  John Gordy?

The author, is John Green (apologies, Mr Green).  And I have to admit, that I didn't actually physically read this book.  I listened to the audio book.

The quizmaster was a high school teacher.  The quizmaster said that each year, they ask students to complete a reading log, and that every girl in each of his classes this year, had read The Fault in our Stars.

I can totally relate, like, totally.

I loved the audio book.  The reader was a young female who read in a perfect pace and with the perfect intonations and expression.  The book was funny, and sad - in a good way.  I definitely recommend this book to any young person - or old person (14+).

I also thought the movie was loyal to the book and well done!  My reluctant partner left saying "That was way more bearable than Twilight."

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Reading Log: Checkers by John Marsden

I wish this book was longer, with more in depth sub plots, particularly about the father's relationship with his boss or between the father and the wife.  I also wish each character in the Psychiatric Ward had their own novella as I was really interested in the background stories of each of them.   I enjoyed the story, but felt that we were just skimming on the surface of the characters in the story.  This is an easy read, suitable for anyone 13 and older.  

Reading Log: How to be a Boy (collection of short stories)

At the end of last term, I decided to set myself the goal of reading more.  I used to be an avid reader, but as life went on, became "Too busy to read anymore."  I did however, have plenty of time to check facebook and instagram hourly.  So these holidays, I gave myself the goal of reducing time spent on my phone, and increasing time spent reading.  Between mothering and catching up with friends and family, I managed to make a start on my goal.  Here is the first book I read:

I chose this book, because I am a new mother of a baby boy.  It is a collection of short stories, all written to highlight how challenging it is to grow up as a boy.  The stories both engaged me and horrified me and I turned to my partner stating that our son would be home schooled.  It would be a great book for young men aged 12+, especially those exploring what it means to be a boy/man.  

Monday, 21 July 2014

'Learn/Create/Share' Saves the Day!

On the last week of the term, we had our Arts block.  However, our music teacher was not able to come in and we were short on staff.  Usually I am either on release during this time, or I support the Kapa Haka group.  This time, I was asked to take music!  Panic - I love music and have participated throughout my life in things such as musicals and choirs, and I play the guitar and piano (VERY basic skills) but I had never TAUGHT music!

So, I walk into the music room (for basically the first time in my life here at Tamaki Primary) with 2 minutes to spare before the children arrived into the classroom.  I glance around and spot the 'Rhythm Family' and am transported back in time to a lesson I observed casually in practicum days in the past.

Then... Learn, Create, Share came to mind.

I decided then, that we would LEARN some of the rhythm family.  That I would then get students to collaborate in groups/pairs to CREATE their own compositions using body percussion (phew!  No need to get the scary instruments out!), and then we would SHARE our compositions.

I had so much fun and the lesson went so smoothly!  Students were proud to share their compositions and felt very fancy when I declared they were all composers of music now.

Without the Learn, Create, Share ethos that I has now become so embedded in my practice, I think I would have been in an even bigger panic.  It was so cool to see how this cycle really can relate to all learning areas.   

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Visible Learning - Student Lead Learning

This week, we evaluated our Writing Data.  We do this after every e-asTTle assessment, as part of instructional group time.  I do this for three reasons:
  1. Students can see where they are at and can identify where they would like to go next.
  2. It makes my hours spent planning much easier - because it is the students telling me what they would like to learn.
  3. It gives the students a sense of purpose for our lessons, as I put the responsibility back on students i.e don't blame me, you chose to learn this! 
Sharing the Data with the students:

This is my first step.  This is an example of how students have annotated their own data using Google Draw and a screen shot of their e-asTTle learning pathway:

This helps students to get familiar with reading the pathway and finding what is relevant for them to know and what isn't.  We have added other things to our annotations as we have discussed the pathways in our instructional groups.

Writing S-M-A-R-T-E-R Goals:

From annotating this data, we then start crafting our SMARTER goals in our Learning Logs.  SMARTER stands for:

S = specific
M = measurable
A = ambitious
R = realistic
T = time frame
E = evaluate
R = reevaluate

This was a framework for writing goals that was introduced to our staff by Kate Birch as part of our Professional Learning Development.  It has been a great framework to use with students to get beyond the "I want to get better at maths."  "To get better at maths, I need to try harder." sorts of goals.

A Learning Log is simply a Google Presentation that students update by 'adding a new slide' with new goals, or reflections about their current learning.  Here is an example below:

Hopefully you will be able to recognise more depth in the way students think about their learning.

Putting Goals into Action

As the classroom teacher, I record all goals on our class site as 'group goals.'  Each writing session, I focus my feedback specific to that student's goal and sometimes, students might reflect on their progress by updating their Learning Log.

It focuses my teaching because I can see what the students need/would find helpful.  It saves me time from coming up with numerous WALTs as each child knows their own 'WALT.'

How do you encourage self directed learning in your class and achieve student lead learning?  I'd love to hear back about the strategies and pedagogies that you use!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Inquiry in Room 8

This week, we were asked by our leadership team to consider: "How has 'create' been reflected in my reading/maths or inquiry programme this week?"

As I have been participating in the creation of resources with Rebecca Sweeney as you may have seen mentioned in other posts, I chose to reflect on the 'creates' that students in my class are currently completing and the process leading up to these 'creates' in relation to Inquiry.

This term, our Inquiry topic was called 'Discoveries.'  The key question/idea, being "How have discoveries impacted our lives?"  Rebecca made the first of many visits to Room 8, just as we were beginning to start creating our questions for inquiry.  This was in Week 6 of the Term.  Prior to this session, we had had 5 weeks of making connections and frontloading.  We had unpacked what the word 'discovery' means, the types of people that make discoveries (scientists and inventors) and what qualities of these people do we admire as learners in Room 8 (risk taking, curiosity, asking questions, determination, commitment...).

So, fast forward 6 weeks, and we were now ready to start asking our own questions about the world around us to investigate.  We used a KWL chart to help organise our thinking.  We spent a while recording all that we knew and had learnt in the weeks prior.  I modelled this initially and then students broke off into groups of three to complete their own (they had the choice of vivids and big paper or creating a table using GAFE).


Within the 'L' of their KWL charts (K= what we already Know, W = what we Want to learn and L = what we have Learned), students had written many different questions that covered many different topics.  Our next step was to make our questions more specific.  This is so that we could "Help Google to find the right information for us."  

After students had recrafted their questions so that they were more specific, we were ready to categorise our questions into common groups.  I created a Google Presentation, which all students had editing rights to.  On each slide, I put a suggested sub-heading and as we got going, students suggested other sub-headings of topics that were not yet included in the presentation.  In their groups, students worked together to put their questions on the right slides.

Once all questions were categorised, students were then able to choose the area of inquiry that interested them the most and that they would like to investigate further.  Here is a view of the Google Presentation:

This was great for classroom management too, as all group names and questions were in one place.

We were now finally organised and ready to begin our research.  Research skills are integrated across the curriculum so there were no formal lessons about going about this, but there was lots of reminding about the hows and whys throughout the research sessions.

Students are guided throughout this, and given a sense of purpose in two ways.  The first is the 'end of term product' which is a whole school science fair.  Students need to have something to contribute to the whole school event/celebration of learning.  The second, is the class Inquiry Rubric.  This rubric was co constructed by our class and is a way for students to assess their presentations:

So far, I have never seen such enthusiastic students who are so focussed in their 'creates.'  I believe it is because of these reasons:
  1. Scaffolding - questioning, information finding skills, front loading
  2. Purpose - Whole school science fair (the whole school is behind the learning)
  3. Ambitious and Achievable - Rubric outlining how to achieve
  4. Freedom/Creativity - to create something interesting to share their information
  5. Peer interactions - learning more through the create process with each other!
Here are photos of current creates taking place.  We are presenting to the class on Friday to select which presentations will be included in the whole school science fair.  I am SO excited to see what these students come up with!!!  I will update this post with videos from the presentation day so come back after Friday!  (Please excuse the no uniforms - it was Crazy Socks Mufti Day when these photos were taken!)



Here is a photo slideshow of the TPS Science Fair, in which two final groups from Room 8 participated:

Here is the 'Dinosaurs Group' class presentation (am still editing the other group presentations):

Professional Development: Maths with Lucie Cheeseman

Today,  I was fortunate enough to observe a model lesson presented by Lucie Cheeseman of Team Solutions .  In this lesson, Lucie worked with 8 year 7 and 8 students who are currently achieving at a Stage 4/E5 level.  The focus of the lesson was to order fractions visually using materials, including improper fractions like 5/3 and 7/4 , and explain what the numerator and denominator mean.
As an observer, I was focussed on the types of questions Lucie asked and the use of materials for scaffolding.  The former focus, being something that I am trying to develop across all curriculum areas myself.  The latter, being a goal of the MDTA teacher I mentor.  I wanted to see best practice so that I would know how to support him in the use of materials and scaffolding strategies in his instructional group lessons.


I tried my best to write down all of the questions Lucie asked to see if I could identify any patterns.  What I did notice, was that there were many closed questions in the beginning to middle part of the lesson.  Upon reflection, I think this is was for many justified reasons:

  1. This was the first time working with these students and so she needed to gauge their levels and level of number knowledge.
  2. She had to repeat key information and so by asking questions over and over again, she was able to consolidate key knowledge.
  3. Due to the urgent need to accelerate the learning of these students, Lucie had to prioritise how much time to spend on each area of learning.  So she may have made the decision to get 'surface knowledge' 'out of the way' so that she could get to the strategy learning and the deeper questions faster. 
  4. Lucie mentioned "Being a good mathematician means you’ve got to be right and you’ve got to be quick."  This means that we need to have quick number knowledge.  This may have been the reason behind such 'quizzing questions.'
Towards the mid-end part of the lesson, the questions became a bit more open ended.  Questions like:  Why do you think that?  Can you tell me why?  What if...?  Where did you get that answer from?  I think this may have been because...

  1. They were at a stage now, where they had the knowledge, and were now being extended to transfer that knowledge into problem solving and strategy learning.
  2. Lucie was trying to encourage students to make the connection between what they already know and what was being learnt.
This affirmed my practice, because I too, aim to prioritise learning time in such a way, that do not spend more than the necessary time on what students should already know.  Rather, I like to spend time on the extending of ideas and I try to aim for accelerated learning.  Meaning that students are making bigger leaps within a lesson, rather than lots of little steps over a series of lessons.

Questioning and cognitive engagement are a big focus for me, as part of Manaiakalani.  Through this observation, I was able to see how I might structure my lesson and the types of questions I might ask.  I saw how I might prioritise learning and my attention in order to achieve accelerated outcomes.

Scaffolding - Materials

I observed fantastic use of materials to help the students to visualise and to support their thinking.  Lucie used:
  • Pre-prepared circles cut out for the students to divide into fractions and to shade.
  • Pom-poms (or "lollies")
  • Lolly vending machines outlines for students to 'fill'
  • Post-it notes for writing of the abstract fraction symbols
  • Fraction 'flip cards' that displayed a range of fractions that were easy to flick through, rather than to draw them, or create them using the foam fraction pieces.  They were great for a quick fraction knowledge check!
Through the use of such materials, students were able to make connections between the continuous (shape or region) to the discrete (set or number) and the abstract symbol (e.g. 1/4).

From this discussion, I am motivated to head to the $2.00 store to get some more creative materials that will help to engage the learners in my class!

Scaffolding - Folding Back

There were two instances, where Lucie folded back.  In this case, one step back, two steps forward is a good thing.  The first instance was when students were no longer thinking about their responses - but calling them out - or, guessing.  Lucie stopped the lesson and encouraged students to think before they responded.  This helped the lesson to slow back down to a steady workable pace that all students could participate in.  By recapping what had been learnt so far, students returned to thinking through the process, rather than calling out random numbers.

The second instance, was when there was a noticeable difference in the two halves of the groups.  One half was calling out and contributing ideas at a rapid pace, the other half were mute.  To ensure that it was because of shy-ness, rather than lack of knowledge, Lucie folded back to work with halves.  Something that all group members were confident with.  She went on to say "You know halves, that's too easy, so now we are working on quarters."  We concluded from this that these students were able to use this strategy, they were just very shy to contribute ideas and because of that, were not able to process the new learning.

In our professional follow up discussion, we talked about the possible use of speaking frames to help structure speech.  I have these somewhere in my teacher cupboard/files and will get these back out!  The second strategy was to have a tangible ‘speaking tool’ to hold such as a koosh-ball or plastic microphone.

Light Bulb Moments

I had three lightbulb moments during this observation:

  1. ‘Creates’ in maths don’t need to be fancy. The simpler the creates the more depth you can add into the description and discussion.  
    1. As we continue to 'figure out' what Learn, Create, Share looks like in Maths, I am realising more and more, that it is perhaps the most simple creates that are better.  In maths, it is the thinking, articulating of that thinking and reasoning behind decisions that are the most important.  In the observation, Lucie instructed: "Here is your cake - you are going to show me three quarters on there (circle card cut outs) -you might need to fold, shade in…"  Students were 'creating' their own versions of what three quarters looked like to them.  They were also negotiating, decision making, thinking and problem solving.  Taking a photo of this with a written description along with it, is a much more valuable 'create' for students who are in need of accelerated learning, rather than spending a week creating a poster with a similar message.
  2. OTJs = do they apply the knowledge to problem solve and strategies - need explicit teaching on this.  
    1. One thing that Lucie mentioned in our follow up discussion was the fact that OTJs should not be based on number knowledge alone.  They need to be based on how well students transfer this learning to problem solving tasks and to new strategies.  This means we need to allow for more opportunities for students to show that they can.  This leads me to the third light bulb moment.
  3. Accelerated learning means that we need to provide rich tasks that integrate all strands together.
    1. Because we are aiming for accelerated learning, can we really justify spending two weeks or more on one strategy or even strand?  I believe that it is through rich tasks that help to integrate all number knowledge, strategies and strands, that students are given opportunity to transfer their number knowledge to real life problems, and give teachers opportunities or 'teachable moments' to extend thinking and introduce new concepts.  E.g. Miss Kyla wants to buy a bag.  It is $20 but there is a 30% off sale.  How much will Miss Kyla have to pay?  Through this task, students are required to do the following:
      1. Find a tenth of 20 = $2 (division, decimal, fraction knowledge)
      2. Multiply 2 by 3 to find 30% = $6 (mult/div knowledge)
      3. Take away 6 from 20 = $14 (add/sub - could use tidy numbers, number line etc).
    2. This has inspired me to think about how I might structure my maths lessons in the future.
    3. This also highlights the need for teachers to understand, with depth, the strand expectations, knowledge expectations and strategy expectation so that they can conduct formative assessment through these tasks for individual students.

It was such a great lesson overall.  As I missed a bit of PLD from Lucie last year due to Maternity Leave, I found this lesson motivating and affirming.  I am excited to deepen my knowledge about Maths as I have always felt that this was my personal area for development out of Reading, Writing and Maths.  Thank you Lucie Cheeseman for presenting a great lesson!