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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Final MIT Update for 2015!

This is my first ever 'thinglink' that I got to use to bring together my 2015 Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher journey.  Feel free to have a click through!  

Thank you to the Spark Foundation and the Manaiakalani Education Trust for giving me this opportunity.

Now...back to report writing!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Home School Partnership - Learn Create Share in Maths

We have a home school partnership meeting tonight.  It is about 'The way we learn...'  Some are still skeptical about the use of technology in classrooms.  This video summarises a series of lessons that we went through for Maths.  It highlights the fact that students are not robots sitting behind their desks all day long.  They are not losing a sense of collaboration or creativity.  It highlights, that at the end of the day, it is still about best teacher practice and effective pedagogies.

Friday, 16 October 2015

But what about their spelling?

So often I am asked as I speak about working in a digital immersion environment:  What about their spelling?  Spelling is getting worse, because of spell check!

I understand this concern...but...I don't agree with it.

Here are my most current spelling results from this year.  This was from the Schonell Spelling Assessment, which gives a raw score out of 100 and then converts that to a spelling age.  ALL students in my class have improved in spelling this year (I haven't included students names and read across the rows and we didn't test students in Term 3).  Some, have improved as much as TWO spelling years in one year.  I am so happy as a teacher and think my students are all rock stars.

So how did this happen?  I have some hypothesis about this.  Firstly, I do not give 10 random words each week that students take home to practice, and I do not test students on Fridays.  I think this is because I remember the anxiety I had and the fake ticks and signatures I would put into my mini notebook - you know the ones!  What I do, do and what I think may have contributed to this is...

  • Have 'spelling' time every day for at least 15 minutes this occurs after teacher read, but before Writing time.
  • Give students spelling words that are related to the topic (if appropriate) and ensure these words will occur at other times in the week e.g. inquiry, reading, writing and maths time.
  • Students are exposed to far more text in a digital immersion classroom and are constantly reading, viewing, listening - and creating, writing, speaking and sharing.  They are posting to blogs and responding to blog posts from friends.  This is alongside given texts such as journals or posters from around the room.
  • Text rich environment - lots of words on our walls!
  • Word study during reading tumble times (when they're not with me or completing follow up tasks) including:  Chunky Challenge, Word Webs, Magic Boxes.
  • Spelling practice time is self managed where students can choose from a range of tasks and they generally have fun - no pressure and no anxiety over 'spelling time.'  
I know that Standardised testing has its friends and enemies, but it is affirming to know that your hard work makes a difference sometimes!  It's not about ego - it's about knowing that my students are ending the year in a better position they started the year in.  In decile 1a teaching environments - seeing these shifts in achievement are gifts better than any bottle of wine or voucher or mug.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Reflection on my Numeracy PLD for 2015

I decided to present my reflection as a Google Presentation.  Not sure why, I just felt inspired!  Thank you to Lucie and Sue who have truly transformed the way I teach and think about the teaching and learning of Maths in my classroom.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Scratching Skills

It has been two weeks since my first and last post about Scratch in the classroom.  It has taken that long to complete and be ready to share our first games.  It was a very challenging but rewarding experience - for myself and the students!  I was amazed at how much learning occurred all through the fun of creating and online game.

I was amazed at the engagement level...which was especially helpful in the raining Term 3 wet lunch times.  Students were on Scratch before school and during other lessons (which was bitter sweet for me!).  They understood that this was a task, that would not only contribute to writing tasks later on (we are studying practicing peaceful play, which includes online games and behaviour), but was also a task to help us develop our growth mind sets and perseverance.

As mentioned, it was so interesting to note those students who were used to getting things right straight away and those that had a good recall of knowledge, get frustrated and 'bored' with this task.  Whereas other students who haven't said 'boo' to me all year, were suddenly by my side asking questions about how to make their sprite move and how to make their game 'go to the next level' when their sprite had reached the end of the maze.

It is widely noted by teachers who teach coding, how this type of programme can support learning in maths.  It certainly did for us, as I found myself running a whole class lesson on angles.  Without a single protractor - students understood that to make their sprite turn downwards, they would need to program their sprite to turn 180 degrees, and that to turn left, would be -0 degrees, which is also known as 270 degrees.  These are students, you have to realise, that were currently working very hard to shift from Stage 4 to Stage 5 in numeracy!  We also talked about X and Y axis and that when our audience started our games, we would want our sprite to start at co-ordinates --X and __Y.  We talked about multiplying or dividing commands, so that music would play longer, or so that our sprite would move as far as we needed it to.  And so much more.

One student who showed particular interest and focus throughout these two weeks (and who is still yet to finish because every backdrop needed to be perfect), was a young girl who seriously spent the first 3 days getting her welcome screen right, only to trash the whole thing because she changed the style of her game!  She searched youtube tutorials and we sat side by side programming her game to 'be like Mario.'  Her backdrop designs were slightly more detailed than others and her commands were a lot more complex.  She came to me with sketches of ideas for online games at home - on paper, and we talked about how that, if she got really good with Scratch, she might one day program her own game.  It was really cool for me to see her get so involved in this task.

I don't think that now our two weeks are over - or that next term, we aren't studying games, that I won't make Scratch a regular task in my classroom.  I will try and find ways to continue using it in my class.  It is really addictive!  To see your work, truly become something new.

Here are a couple of student examples to try!  And here is a link to the 'Gamer Space' on our class site!


Monday, 31 August 2015

I started from scratch...

As part of our Practicing Peaceful Play, we have been designing and sharing games.  Up until this week, we have been making offline, face to face games.  This week, I wanted to venture into online gaming.  Of course, before I can teach it to the students, I had to have some idea of the process...What better way to bring in my learning from OMGTech!

I really look forward to seeing what the students come up with over the next two weeks.  Already I can see those who get frustrated easily and those who persevere to find and fix their programming instructions.  One thing that is common - they are all very engaged.

This is my very first complete game.  I created it all on Scratch - a free online game creating website!  Can you make it through the Monkey Maze?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Creating Maths Games for Writing Part 2

Today, I gave students the challenge of writing the instructions for their games they had created.  I asked them to complete this google presentation as a group:

Students were encouraged to anticipate what they thought other students playing their game might argue about and to put rules in place that would make their games enjoyable and flow well.  They were also encouraged to take photos to support their written instructions.

Again, I saw positive collaboration and cooperation between students and a great level of engagement.  I think, this is due to:
  • The games having a purpose - to help Room 9 get to Stage 6!
  • The games will be shared with the class - the students need to be able to teach each other their games!
  • The best games will be added to our class tumble - to be played during class time in the future.
  • They are proud of their games and WANT to share their games with others.
  • Their games are fun!
I will be sharing the games they play on this blog - in case you would like to give them a trial!  I have to say - some of them are actually very good!  

It takes me back to Robyn Anderson's presentation from the Manaiakalani Hui - teachers voice is never student voice - likewise - games we think are fun, might not actually be fun, and the best people to engage students - are students!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

MIT Update 11 - The Manaiakalani Hui 2015

Wow, so a lot of my work so far had lead me up to last Friday, where I spoke at the Panmure Yacht Club for the 2015 Manaiakalani Hui.

I had never been so nervous in my entire life.  I was shaking and hyperventilating.  Usually I am really comfortable in public speaking situations - but I realised it was because I was in a roomful of peers that I respect greatly and who I actually knew and whose opinions of my practice mattered to me hugely.

So in front of my nearest and dearest peers... I presented my inquiry up to date.  You can watch it here!


Next steps for me to work on before ULearn include:

  • Shortening my speaking time!  I took up 20 minutes at the hui, when I was meant to only speak for 10!  I have identified slides in my presentation that I can take out, and will work with peers to try and refine my explanations.  
  • Collect some whanau voice from the parents of my target group.
  • Continue to build on the existing resource bank of examples I have.
  • Continue to build expertise about this subject through professional readings and talking to others who are experts in this field.  I'd like to meet with Rae Si'ilata again before ULearn, to go through what I think is best practice VS. what she believes is best practice!
  • Collect data (this will happen at the end of the year!) on students to see if there has been academic shifts/accelerated shifts in their learning.
Overall, I was glad to share what I've been working on this year with others.  I still believe in my inquiry and still believe it is valuable and can contribute towards raising the literacy achievement of bilingual students in my class.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Creating Maths Games for Writing Part 1

This term, our inquiry topic is called 'Practicing Peaceful Play' in which our hopes as teachers, is that students discover how games develop our school values and hauora. Over the first half of the term, we've been learning about different types of games (online, offline, outdoor, indoor, grass, court, water, 2 player, single player, teams, equipment, no equipment etc etc.).

 This second half of the term, I really want to encourage students to begin creating their own games. Today I set a challenge for my class. I said that our need is that we need to get to Stage 6 by the end of the year. The only way to achieve that is if we do these things (pointed out our 'Striving for Stage 6' display, which is becoming more a part of our dialogue in Maths time in Room 9. One student pointed out that it was Writing time, not Maths time - but I said all would be revealed.

I asked students to pick one of these focuses from the display, and to work together to create a game that might help students to practice or learn this knowledge. The students thought it was exciting to be asked to make a game - I put very little rules in place. All I said was that it needed to have a purpose, and that students needed to be able to teach the game to someone else.

It was very interesting to me, to observe the students who found it exciting to have this opportunity and who, at first used some of the resources I had laid out (maths equipment),  but then thought they could do a better job coming up with their own rhyme/beat game to play.  I also observed students using traditional maths equipment, but coming up with fun and original games I had not seen before.  For example, one group chose the fake money and you were paid $10 for every 10x table question answered correctly, $5 for every 5x table, $3 for 3x table and $2 for 2x table questions.  Students were excitedly coming up to me telling me how much they'd earned.

Other students used traditional equipment and made up traditional games such as flash card type games.  That made me wonder if I had constrained their creative thinking by putting the equipment out.  But, I thought, at least those who found it challenging, had something to go on - maybe next time, they would use it differently, or add a little spice to their game.

Overall, I was so happy with the level of fun and engagement and teamwork during the lesson.  Students will be writing procedures for their games tomorrow (I get it now!  Writing!).  Then they will be practicing each others' games and voting on which game should be added to our maths tumble (if they're all awesome, we'll add them all!).

I did see just how important this type of learning is.  Early childhood teachers might just shake their heads and say, "We do that every day!"  This free flowing developmental play is so important for critical and creative thinking and I would definitely try this approach out again as this term continues.

I have given homework to my class also:  to make up a game at home and to come to school on Friday, ready to share.  I am really interested to see what they come up with, because I know as a child, I had the best fun with my siblings and cousins at home creating games.

Some students missed the netbooks and wanted to create online games - I think I will definitely give that a go too, but this was a really nice place to start our more creative part of the inquiry.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

MIT Update 10 - Example Lesson

This is a quick post about another example of translanguaging I have tried.  The setting was Reading.  Students needed to read a Tongan text and make connections to the text to infer what was happening in the pictures.

Students were required to complete a Venn diagram to compare after school life in New Zealand to that of rural Tonga.  We noticed some things that were similar and some things that were very different and the reasons behind these statements.  The Venn diagram was completed in English.

I have asked students to complete two more tasks related to this text, one being writing an imaginative recount in the shoes of one of these students.  I hope that when completing this, they use some of the key tongan language phrases that we learned/discussed while reading this today.

This text was very simple and prompted a lot of discussion.  I did not need any prior translating of the text before teaching, so this could be an ideal text for any teacher wanting to begin this journey, or a teacher who has a student new from Tonga and who needs support from texts written in their first language.

Friday, 31 July 2015

What is school?

Lately, I've been pondering this great shift in education and life and my life and the lives of my students, and structures and organisations and goals and the future....  I get a bit like this from time to time...

It started with a conversation with a student in my class.  He is currently 10 years old, with the reading age of 6.5years.  He is a kind hearted and generous soul who has a very caring family.  On culture day, he wore a korowai his mum handmade for him and a tiki necklace his aunty made for him.

He is also obsessed with tamoko and tattoo.  Like, literally draws all up his arm.

I thought to myself - what is my purpose in life?  In his life?  To help students learn - but to learn what?

I said to this boy, "When I am an old nanny and I've learned te reo, I want to come find you and I want you to do my tamoko.  Promise?"  The look in his eyes was (cliche teacher moment) happiness.  I felt that he'd probably been used to being told he is underachieving and leaving the room to work with teacher aides.

What is our purpose?  Is it solely to get students to certain levels?

If I can help students become positive, contributing citizens... I will be happy.

If this boy, leaves school with a reading age of 10 or 12, but gets himself a tatooing kit, puts together a portfolio of drawings and gets an apprenticeship in a tattoo parlour and makes $300 per tattoo (per hour) and travels the world to tattoo conventions and blesses people with the taonga of tamoko...I'll be happy.

This doesn't mean I will stop teaching him how to read.

It just means that we'll talk about tattooing and I will let him draw when he finishes his work early and I will keep reminding him of his promise to me when I'm an old kuia.

Then our senior manager played this video at a staff meeting:

To be a child's champion is to help them build a positive vision of their future self.  Unfortunately for some of our students, we don't have much time to do this because a negative future self has been so engrained in their mind sets.  

What is school?  Why are we here?  What will the future hold?  

My friend currently withdrew her child from traditional schooling and has decided to homeschool her child.  The straw that broke the horses back was her son coming home describing how his teacher told him off for writing differently to others in the class.  Instead of drawing the picture at the top of the page, then writing on the lines, he liked to write a sentence or so, then draw a little picture next to his words to illustrate what happened and then write some more and then draw another little picture etc.  The teacher said that that is not how it's done.  

Really?  Is that what the most important thing is for us as teachers?  How a child sets up their book?  Never mind the data that repeatedly describes boys as underachieving in writing.  This child is 6.  This attitude would have probably shaped his approach to writing for the remaining years in this system.  Luckily for him, not any more.

To be honest - I couldn't be more happy for her or my friend or her child.  A completely child centred approach.  With him, genuinely leading the way with his interests.  As a teacher, I think my friend was unsure how I'd react, but I said, "If we could give every child that kind of programme that you will be able to give your son, we would.  But we can't."  ...can we?

Back to my tattoo obsessed student... I think I'm going to invite some of my tattoo artist friends, or, wouldn't it be cool to get a tattoo in front of the student?  The artist could talk about hygiene protocols, the steps for accurate drawing, the tikanga of tamoko and meanings behind symbols...the students could ask them about the career pathway and take photos and respond to the experience in writing.

This is one student...but I have 22.  So how can we provide this type of schooling for our students?

I feel that there is going to be a big shift in teaching and learning over the next 10 years - or at least I hope so.  I think our students deserve the best and they deserve a champion who will help them discover and follow their passions.  Teaching is about relationships.  What relationships are we building, promoting, modelling, inspiring in our students?

You know what this post needs now....

Watch and Learn...

As part of our coaching/mentoring/leadership expectations, syndicate leaders are expected to observe team members and co-construct learning goals with them.  These goals then help to inform lessons for the syndicate leader to model in future.

This morning I observed a colleague for Maths and Reading.  I love these opportunities, but it is always important to remember that anyone can pick apart someone else's lesson.  Especially, as we know, no lesson is ever 100% perfect.

So when giving feedback and feedforward, I always try to think of the practitioner and learners holistically.  What is the background of the teacher?  What is the background of the students?  What time of day is it?  What day of the week is it?  How long have they been learning about a certain concept?  etc etc...

Another thing I like to keep in mind is that we are trying to encourage staff that have a growth mindset.  That means, growing staff who feel safe to take risks in their teaching and to take on feedback as a means of strengthening their practice, not condemning it.  Of course we need to be honest, but we don't need to destroy souls!  Teachers are humans!

One really cool thing I saw today, was the way a teacher introduced creating questions.  This was the first lesson in a series that would go into research skills.  This teacher asked students to record their prior knowledge about a favourite sport (our current inquiry is based around games).  From these bullet points, the teacher encouraged them to use question starters to extend their prior knowledge through questioning.

Teacher:  "We know there are world cups, but what don't we know?"
Students:  "WHEN was the first world cup?  Where did the first world cup take place?  Who has won the most world cups?  How do countries enter the world cup?  Why do we have world cups?"

It was such a simple, yet effective strategy and one that I am definitely going to try out in my own class!

Another cool thing I saw today, was the explicit teaching of a google search.  The teacher literally said:

"The blue writing is the link to the site.
The green writing is the URL.
The grey/black writing is the synopsis -what is a synopsis?  A synopsis is a little description about what you will see on the site.  Let's read some of these synopsis.  Do we need to click on that link?  No?  Why?  The information is irrelevant to our research."

Again, so simple but SO effective!  The students were using language like "Mr, that's not a good site because the synopsis said..."  Or "Mr, that's why you have to check more than one site if you don't believe the information."

Observations are great opportunities for learning.  Not only for the teacher being observed, but the teacher observing.  I am lucky to be in this position to be given the opportunities to observe and learn from others in a school that values and encourages a growth mindset and growing teachers to be the best they can be.

Thank you to Steffan Minton for allowing me to come into your class this morning and giving me another technique for teaching questioning and researching!

Steffan also has a blog, so to read more about his teaching and learning journey, you can click here.

Monday, 20 July 2015

MIT Update 9 - Kia Hapiripiri Te Reo (Making Language Sticky)

These holidays, I went to the Core Edventure looking at language acquisition of Maori through a digital space.

This fit in with my inquiry of English language acquisition and first language maintenance through a digital space.

The entire day was delivered in Te Reo.  This was both overwhelming for me, but also, energising!  I found out first hand, what it was to be a second language learner in an education setting.

Props to the pedagogy of the presenters, as there was no time throughout the day that I felt like I was stupid, or that I could not contribute.  Perhaps this was because I was confident in my prior knowledge and was confident enough in my first language to apply conceptual understandings, to unlock visual clues and clues given through body language.

I'm torn, because this blog post could be very long if I were to write every single highlight down... but I don't want to undersell the event.  I want my words to be a balance of informative and thankful...  I have thought about this and have narrowed it down (VERY difficult) to some key learnings...

Cyber Smarts and Tikanga Maori

One key learning was the idea of building values that we learn on the Marae and embedding those beliefs into our behaviour online.  This aligns with our Manaiakalani Smart Values, but also, our general ideals that we try and teach our young ones about - that online behaviour should be the same as offline behaviour:  respectful, something you would be proud of, kind and keep you connected to others in a positive way.  Just like on a our marae or in our families.  The facilitator gave an example from one of my blogs, which I was pretty chuffed about!  Here were some of those examples.

This is definitely something I will try to continue to do in my classroom.  Making the links clear between offline and online behaviour, supported by our own school values and/or the values within tikanga Maori.

Learn, Create, Share

I realised that the facilitators also followed this same pedagogical approach.  This allowed for plenty of talk, collaboration, creation, creativity, fun and engagement.  It also meant we were accountable for our learning.

I experienced being in a group, having little idea of what was being discussed!  I threw myself into the deep end and set myself the task of 'scribe' so I could feel like I was contributing in some way!  Here are some photos from this experience!

 this task we had to take a big idea and write a song/poem/role play explaining the key ideas.
In another task we had to create a song about a letter in the alphabet and then create a DLO to share the song.  Lastly we worked in a collaborative google presentation to identify and describe apps that afford rewindable learning.

It was affirming to see that this way of teaching and learning supported language acquisition.

Building Mana

Because I am also interested in building up our students' sense of belonging and identity...  I was introduced to some online tools to do this too!  These are just five from the day that I noted down, and that I found memorable!

Link Here

Just as important as the English 'High Frequency Words' equivalent. This list gives those learning Te Reo Maori a good base to start from.

Link Here

A cohesive list of 21st century language vocabulary in English and Te Reo Maori. Words we can start using TODAY!

Link Here

Building a sense of turanga waewae and belonging can all start here! I loved finding my tiny little Marae!


A website with access to resources, research, news and external suggested language learning links!


An English Medium site, that could be used for language development e.g. I am going to use this this term to learn and describe parts of the body (tinana).  Very fun and something memorable from my day.

Overall, I found this a very valuable day and I had so much learning!  I can't wait to start implementing some of these ideas in to my classroom teaching!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

MIT Update 8 - This is the WHAT

The hardest thing about this inquiry for me has been explaining it in a way that makes sense to myself and others.

This reflective video might help to simplify what I am doing in the classroom.  Hopefully this will look do-able and spark ideas for your own lessons aimed at weaving together the bilingual space with the digital space.

The basis of my inquiry can be summarised in this graphic:

Click here for full google presentation

And this latest video might help to put this slide into context...

If you have been following my inquiry, I hope this post is helpful for you in understanding what it looks like in the classroom - backed up by all my Tame Iti obsession and talk which is the reasoning of why I am trying to do it.

Next week I am attending the Edventure held at Unitec about the acquisition of Te Reo Maori in a digital space.  I am really looking forward to that, and will definitely blog about my key learnings.

Friday, 26 June 2015

MIT Update 7 - Mana: The power of knowing who you are

If there was a way for me to articulate the kaupapa of my inquiry at its deepest level, it would be this TEDx talk, presented by one of my favourite New Zealanders, Tame Iti. 

This quote in particular, sums up my ideologies and aspirations in teaching:

"At home, I learned about my tipuna, ancestors, mountain, the river - why these things are important to the mana of Tuhoe. school...I learnt 'Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon.'"

I am aiming to not only grow the digital skills of the students, but build their mana.  Their sense of self.  So that no matter where they go in the world, they can stand tall, knowing who they are and where they come from.  

Please watch this - I've watched it a million times and am so obsessed by everything this bilingual human says.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

MIT Update 6 - Exciting News!

Just a boast-post because I'm so excited!  I have just registered to attend the Core Education's:  Ako e - Te whakamahi taputapu hangarau hei hāpai i te ako o tō tātou reo‘Using technologies to support Te Reo Māori’  Edventure!

They describe the event as:

Ka āta tirohia e tātou ētahi rautaki me ētahi tūmahi mā ngā kaiako e ako ana i ngā kura Māori, waihoki, ngā kaiako e ako ana i ngā kura auraki me ērā e kaingākau ana ki te reo Māori. Ko ēnei taputapu hangarau he taonga, ehara i te taniwha, koirā ō tātou tūpuna i tere mau ai ki te pene me te pepa. Me mau tātou o tēnei wā nei ki te rorohiko, ki te iPapa tae atu ki te waea pūkoro. Tēnā kia tirohia e tātou ētahi rawa matihiko, ētahi taputapu hangarau e hāpai ana i te ako o tō tātou reo.

This wānanga is designed to support teachers who are working in immersion Māori kura or settings and will also benefit those who teach in English medium and have a passion for te reo. Many teachers are already capable with different devices, but let’s look at what technology is out there to support te reo Māori language development.

I am really excited because:
  1. I have been wondering about this very thing, in this inquiry - what technology can do to support language acquisition for bilingual learners.
  2. It's great to see more and more people are thinking about this issue as much as I am!  And probably long before I started!  
  3. I am looking forward to meeting interesting people who can help me on this journey.
Thanks to Core Education for putting this on and for your future focussed thinking.  

I can't wait to share my learning from this event with you!

Interested in registering?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

MIT Update 5 - Finlayson Park Primary School

Today, I had the absolute honour of sharing my inquiry with the staff at Finlayson Park Primary School.  Here is how they describe themselves on their school site:

I was greeted in many different languages as I walked through the staffroom and was made to feel very welcome as I set up my laptop with help from staff!

I opened by showing this video, created by my partner and his family - the first V48 hour film to be entered in a language other than English.


This is the ultimate for me when I think about what I would like students in my classroom to be successful in.  That is, successful in the English Medium (two cousins have masters, one has a degree in Philosophy and Anthropology etc.) but, they are not only bilingual speaking, but, bi-literate and able to write a script in their first language and create a movie in their first language.

This is what I hope for students in my classroom, through my inquiry.

As I knew this school had extremely strong practice with bilingual learners, my presentation was aimed more at bringing in digital pedagogies to strengthen this practice.  I briefly looked through my class site and showed the process of Learn, Create, Share with my target Reading group, with links to bilingual practices.

I was overwhelmed with the response I received from staff.  Teachers approached me with tears in their eyes, and warm hugs.  One teacher of woodwork talked with me about how he asks students to gift their 'creates' to family members, and we talked about how this comes from having deeper cultural understanding.  Another teacher was excited that she was not alone in having such enthusiasm for digital teaching and learning.  Many teachers expressed how they appreciated that I was a 'real' teacher, who literally had to be back in a classroom an hour later.  I was given an empathetic ear, when telling them about how sometimes when I talk about 'this sort of stuff,' eyes glaze over.

I was described as passionate about my inquiry.  Which I am!  But I have to thank them, as much as they were thanking me.  I felt emotional about their reactions and felt re-energized and motivated,  I felt that: yes! I am on the right track and that, although this is BIG - it's something that people would like to have more information about and continue to talk about.  For the benefit of our learners, who, are "Blessed with Bilingual Brains."

I am very fortunate to have a principal who was happy for me to share about my inquiry with another school and arrive to my next appointment later than usual!  The more I talk about it, the clearer it becomes, so I am also very thankful to the Principal of Finlayson Park Primary School - Shirley Maihi (QSM) for saying yes to Olivia, who heard me speak during her TESSOL class in the holidays, and agreeing to have me in at one of their staff meetings.

On a personal note:  Thank you to Finlayson Park Primary teachers... you made me feel so welcome and I honestly felt very inspired by you all when I left.  Thank you all and good luck on the digital journey!

A gift card I received:  Living and breathing their bilingual philosophies.
With principal Shirley Maihi and some of her wonderful staff at Finlayson Park Primary School.

Friday, 15 May 2015

MIT Update 4 - What Will Success Look Like? (In a nutshell)

The biggest challenge to this inquiry so far has been:  How do I share my thinking so that others can actually understand it and see value in it?  It is such an emotive topic for me that I catch myself ranting, while eyes glaze over.

So it was really helpful to be challenged with this question today at our second MIT teachers gathering today at Spark Headquarters; What will success look like for you at the end of this inquiry?

For me, it boils down to three things:

  • Accelerated achievement outcomes for the students in my target group in literacy.
  • A collection of lessons and resources that any other monolingual teacher can pick up and use or adapt.
  • Students who are gaining fluency and confidence - and finding value in - speaking two (or more) languages.
So the next steps for me now are:
  • Planning, implementing and evaluating lessons.
  • Capturing videos of students and their whanau talking about their experiences this year and what success is to them, and if this approach is responsive to their needs.
I have a good basis for measuring accelerated shifts with data, including e-asttle learning pathways and running records.

I read an interesting article today, written by people who I have been fortunate to learn from during my TESSOL studies.   It stated:

"...that bilingual children have academic success when connections are made: 
  1. between literacies and children’s identities 
  2. between children’s first language (L1) and their second language (L2) 
  3. with children’s L1 & L2 basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) 
  4. between pedagogical practice and children’s prior knowledge, allowing children to voice their languages in class rather than hiding them 
  5. with use of collaborative empowerment models to voice parents’ aspirations and expectations 
  6. for genuine ‘shared vision’ partnerships between the powerful and powerless, instead of tokenism. (See Aukuso, 1999; Cummins, 1981, 1987,1996, 2000; Esera, 2001; Hunkin-Tuiletufuga, 2001; Lambert, 1977; May, 2001 & 2002; May, Hill and Tiakiwai, 2004; McCaffery, 2000; McCaffery & Fuatai, 2002; McCaffery, Tuafuti et al. 2003; McCaffery & Tagilau McFall-McCaffery, 2010; Spolsky, 1989; Tuafuti & McCaffery, 2005; and Tuafuti, 2000, & 2010). "
These six things are basically what I am trying to implement in my classroom (and beyond) through my inquiry with the support and time gifted to me through this Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers initiative and Spark.  If I can achieve these six things or at least start dialogues about them, and use them as a basis for resources to share across the cluster, AND achieve accelerated outcomes, my inquiry will be successful.  

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Music to Support Literacy

Last week's lightbulb moment, hit me during our Writing of our class pourquoi story (see part 1 and part 2).  It was then that I realised (again), less is more.  It seems to be a recurring theme in this blog, of those moments where I feel like, when I simplify my practice, I get more from the students.  An example of this is in my Maths posts, where I talk about offering one problem instead of ten.

So, this week I kept to the same class myth about Maungarei.  I have planned for my classroom release teacher, who is a specialist Art teacher to create landscape paintings with Maungarei as the main focus, and I decided to focus on bringing music into the mix.

We started by watching (and more importantly, listening) to Peter and the Wolf.  A classic story that helped to guide our discussion of music supporting meaning in text.  These were the two videos that we watched.  The students actually liked the second shadow puppet one more, in particular, watching other students around their age, creating the shadows, so you might want to skip straight to that one, and miss out the disney version.

Students were asked to briefly describe what they noticed about the music and how it made them feel.  They completed this Google Presentation as part of this task:

Today's lesson, we started in the Music Room of our school, but you could extend this further and make your own instruments first.  We are fortunate to have a music room in our school.  We started by recapping Peter and the Wolf instruments and sounds and what mood those sounds set, or how those sounds supported the meaning of the story.  I used these prompt cards which I bought off Teachers-Pay-Teachers for $4USD.

We then quickly story-boarded our own story into 7 key scenes, which helped when dividing students into small groups.  

So students were put into 7 groups of 3 (I know, what a dream class size!) and first had to think about the scene they were in charge of, the mood they needed to set, and some possible instruments that would help them achieve this.  I quickly modelled the basic sounds of each instrument for students to get a taste (we aren't professional musicians, so it was all shaking and banging for today!).  They students were sent off into their groups to create their 'music' to suit their scene.

Students swapped from instrument to instrument to get the effect they wanted.  In 30 minutes, we had a simple soundtrack and audio book ready to share!  The students absolutely loved this learning experience.  Our next step is to put this soundtrack with the art that they create on Wednesday to make a mini movie.  The most important thing, is the repetition without boring.  They are not bored of this story yet, but have viewed it in five different settings.  They are reading, listening, viewing and creating, using this story over and over again and embedding their learning (we hope!).  

Please listen and enjoy our awesome creation.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Trialling Problem Based Maths in Room 9

This year, Tamaki Primary has ventured into problem based learning in Maths.  This is to address the needs of our learners, which is to be able to unpack, understand and solve written number problems.  Our students have good number knowledge (but definitely have number knowledge goals to continue with!), but when faced with written maths problems and the language of maths, are unequipped with strategies to solve them.  This is our job as educators, to enable students to have the skills to attack these problems.

We are currently working with Sue Pine and Lucie Cheeseman of Cognition, to develop problem based learning in our maths programme.  It is similar to Bobby Maths, I found out, when talking to a colleague at another school.

Initially, this process was daunting for me.  Bigger groups?  No explicit success criteria?  Fluid groups?  No page numbers and instructions?  How would I stay accountable?  What would that look like on a data analysis document?  Isn't that sad, that that is where my mind went to first?  Something to consider in itself...

I spent an hour with Sue in a planning session, where I identified a group I wanted to work with and then used her planning template to plan for this group.  Here is my plan that I developed from this session:

This was the problem I posed was the one in the photo below.  Based on this problem solving Level 2 task.  We adjusted it in our planning meeting, to meet the needs of the group as they were not really Level 1 students, but still required extra scaffolding, meaning we only wanted to focus on distance rather than calculating rests and times.

The question that was launched today
During the monitoring and sequencing, I was worried we would having nothing to guide our conversation, as students were tending to use similar strategies.  One student who I thought could go in a more challenging group, but who we decided should stay to help this group level up, had an interesting strategy and explained it in a way (in his own words) that helped the other students to realise that this was the more efficient strategy.  This highlighted the power of mixed ability grouping.

An example of student thinking
An example of student thinking
At the end of the lesson, students were able to identify that making a table instead of jumping up a number line was the most efficient strategy.  They also concluded that knowing your times-tables means you can quickly notice number patterns.  It was very exciting to see.  This lead into the second lesson, which was a lesson that was being observed by Sue and our SLT and other teachers!

Today I gathered in the same group and gave them a similar question.  We started with recapping our reflections from the day before.  Again, students were asked to work independently first, and then share their learning with a partner and then with the whole group.  The group sharing, carefully guided by my own observations of student strategies and the observations of Sue Pine.

This student identified the pattern at 3cm and was able to make connections to multiplication knowledge to calculate the rest.

This student noticed the pattern was increasing by 5cm at a time and was able to multiply 12 minutes by 5cm.

This student was still using a number line but could make connections to a written maths equation.

This student went from using a number line to skip counting in 5s and displaying this thinking using a table.

In the last part of the lesson - 'Connecting' Sue stepped in and lead the questioning.  This made me realise how closed many of my questions were.  I thought they were quite open, but when observing the way Sue lead the conversations, I realised that I still give answers to students too often, rather than leading them to realise their own answers.  In future, I am going to try and use the 'Talk Card' much more often.  The talk card is simply a book mark sized laminated card with teacher prompts on it such as "Can you tell me more...  Can someone tell me what so-and-so said... Can you rephrase what so-and-so said..."  Etc.  I will have this with me in lessons to help remind me to keep my teacher talk to a minimum and encourage more dialogic flow between the students.

A definite highlight was to see how far students had come in mathematical thinking in two lessons (two hours worth).  From jumping along a number line in twos, to making the connection to skip counting, to many coming up with an equation was really cool to see.  Some students still used a number line, but it was a fewer number than the day before, which was a positive thing to notice.  Many were trying to use a table which was identified as the most efficient strategy the lesson before, and a few were trying to notice the pattern earlier and use their times tables to calculate their final answer.  It made clear for me, the power of this approach to maths teaching, in particular, the connecting part at the end in which you bring everything together and then extend the mathematical thinking.

On a side note, it was nice as a 'syndicate leader' to be observed as often, we are the ones doing the observing.  I loved having the critical feedback and feedforward given and it was a great experience.