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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.