I am a class teacher for Year Four and five students and a team leader for the middle school. My class and I are a part of the Manaiakalani Google ClassOnAir.


Friday, 18 May 2018

The News Board

In the beginning of the term I bought a big white board from the warehouse and placed it in the corner of my room for students to write what they wanted to share with the class. I modelled for them by sharing my story. It was exciting! everyone wanted to read what I had to say. All I was trying to achieve was to have them write for real audience. Slowly students started taking turns to write any story they wanted to share.
With time, the white board has become very popular. Everyone wants to say something! The focus is still on using clever chunks and delightful words, new vocabulary, phrases and the effort is on how we can write ideas in a better way so that our audience gets lots of information about our news.
When there is news item on the board, students look for describing words and circle them using with another coloured pen. It has turned into a kind of a competition. They have created their own rule to decide which story is the best. The rule is - the story with most describing words is the best. I don't know how this works and I sometimes feel that I need to shift their focus from just describing words to other aspects of good writing too, but I do not want to kill the enthusiasm by having too many technical details.
The part that excites me the most is when students feedback each other and suggest words that could be used to make the story sound better. This involves a lot of editing and crafting. It is also helping in developing a culture where children are readily beginning to provide feedback to their peers on our writing topics. The most challenging subject is beginning to become fun in my class.








Monday, 14 May 2018

The Book is still there

This was a follow up conversation that my students had with me after we made a book on Easter.
Just to remind, my big idea was to let students understand the purpose of writing. We had all agreed that writing is an important skill as it helps us communicate our ideas with the rest of the world. So now our big book on Easter was not published and it seemed no good to the students as it would never reach people out in the world.

To pull them out of this notion, I shared a fabric book with them. This was a book made by a mother who is now a great grandmother. She created this book for her children when she was a young mother and it has since been passed on in the family to her grand children and great grand children. The book teaches simple skills like learning numbers, shapes, alphabet and tying shoelaces and is still in use. Here is a picture of the fabric book!


A little peek into the book would take you through some of it's contents.




This was such a great example of explaining my students that a book really does not need to be published to be called a book. The book is still there...

Thanks to Jannie for sharing the book

Click the link below to have a look at what one of my students has said after looking at a fabric book.







Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Noticing what makes good writing

 Lately, I have been focusing on two teaching aspects.
  • Direct students to notice clever chunks and words in texts. 
  • Use these clever chunks to narrate their stories.
It is important for students to notice how texts are crafted for impact. My students read texts but did not notice the new words and vocabulary in texts. They asked for it's meaning but did not really use the new words in multiple contexts. I wanted them to use these words and phrases over and over again so that they become a part of their repertoire. Also, my children needed to understand why we need to learn to write. When asked this question, they completely missed the point and said things like - "To make sure that our story makes sense".  
This is not the reason why we write stories... Writing is a skill that helps us to share our stories with the wider world, much wider than we can share through verbal communications.

Jannie Van Hees our CoL facilitator,  gave me this beautiful idea of how to make students notice the use newly words and phrases in text and then create an opportunity for them to recycle these words.
For this I used the Easter story because when I enquired what students knew about Easter, I found out that not many knew why we had Easter. Out of the whole class only 3 students had gone to the church and had some story to share. Two students had easter chocolate eggs and others had chocolate in some form or the other. I felt a bit disappointed that most children had not celebrated Easter in it's true spirit. This led me to talk to them about Easter and know the true purpose behind it. We needed to have our audience and we chose our younger siblings, who did not know the story of Easter.

I used this read aloud video from you tube to introduce the story.




I then printed out each page and distributed parts of texts for student to read. Their task was for them to identify clever chunks (Phrases) in the part of the text they got to read. I modelled this for them.
We also talked in detail about why clever chunks were important part in writing. At this stage children were just having a go at finding chunks and sometimes they would give me a difficult word - for e.g. 'astonished'. I made a separate list of these words to go on the wall as I wanted them to use new words as well. We then we made a list of all the new words.





Next I cut the text and gave away parts of the text to all the children in the class. They had to order the story in a sequence. I did not help them at all with this task. Students read and re- read to find the right place to fit their text in and this gave them opportunity to read their and other's texts a number of times. The activity definitely provided space for them to gain fluency in reading. Even the slow monotonous readers could read some pages fluently. Exciting!!!
Here is a picture of children arranging text in sequence. It took a long time, but it was worth it. 



Next students wrote parts of the story in heterogenous groups and collated it to make a big book for younger students to read.

Reflections
I enjoyed  the lesson and the children were motivated and engaged. I could maintain a good balance as the lesson was spread over three days. Children did not feel bored of repetition and the tasks were not tedious at all. They were just right (in the Zone of proximal Development). The most important aspect was vocabulary and I was thrilled to see that they recycled it and used it in their writings. They could also hold a sequence of their ideas in their head to make a simple paragraph. I am glad I was able to scaffold the story in a metacognitive way to make children understand why we write.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Col Meeting 3

What school level practice made a difference to the children that will make them employment ready?
PISA report shows that New Zealand is moving one point down each year. What challenge we have as teachers?








Dr. Jannie Van Hees talked about Language in abundance - There is an astounding capacity for children to learn, while they may be disadvantaged but that should not hold them back. Language is the elevated tool that allows us to make meaning to life. This rightly suggests that language is the tool that we as teachers should be focussing on. 
What is it about getting children to talk.
We need to have rich pickings in the way we speak and write. Bring much richer concepts and ideas.  to heighten the language acquisition positions of children.

We teachers are very good at extracting and asking students what they know about their ideas, but are we also giving enough so children can produce cutting edge information? One of our jobs is also to lift and feed students so we can make them cognitive thinkers who can talk about their learning
I need as a learner to receive -  extracting children's ideas. but from a cognitive point of view - connect new learning. we have to make available potential learning to happen. our job is also gifting and feeding children.


What will I put my lens on?

1. Optimising learning and interactional conditions

2. Elaborative style pedagogical responses.

3. Scaffolding learners to become effective Conversationalists.

4. Plan, Prepare and providing

Flourishing learning potential these are the things that Jannie mentioned -
Attention to and noticing, effortful and purposeful engagement and interaction, engage in participation, triggering from known to the new, streching learner's current language, multiple encounters, context relevant, facilitating through engaging mediating tools, high expectations
(Teaching in Goldilock's zone) 

One of Jannie's ideas was to make a poster and talk about the given items to the students.
The poster/ rules will be -
  • Focus and notice
  • Put in effort
  • Take part fully
  • Push yourself to the edge
  • Dig deep for what you already know
  • Learn from others - Notice and focus
  • You share and others gain from you
  • Think and talk, think and read
  • Wandering and asking opens up possibilities to know
Aaron from Auckland University talked about how we should keep a good record of our sightings, experiences shifts and student voice. Teachers who do inquiry need to keep a regular documentation of the changes that show how children are improving in the area of inquiry. 


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Developing Mathematical Inquiry Community (DMIC)

Today we had a PLD on Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities.

Why we need to develop mathematical inquiry communities?

Only 26% of Maori students and 11% of the Pasifika students are achieving at Curriculum standards at year 8. Yet a high proportion of teachers indicated they felt confident in their teaching and that they are able to engage and meet the needs of their students.
Set our mindset out of the closed stages.

Exploring and challenging our beliefs, values, pedagogy and practices. 
Our beliefs about our students can affect our
  • Perception of students status
  • expectations of students
  • teaching practices and decisions
  • learning opportunities we provide
Does streaming in schools help?
Hattie says " we have more streaming than any other country in the world", we also have on e of the widest gaps between those who do well in our schools and those who do worst. The Pisa results worldwide suggest countries that stream less do better overall.
Streaming predetermines children's performance, removing challanges they might have faced in a class of mixed ability, foreclosing the possibility they might be a late improver, permanently lowering, or raising, their confidence in themselves.
Nothing boosts a child's confidence, or lowers it, more than educational comparisons with their peers.

What is DMIC?
  • Culturally responsive teaching and learning
  • Inquiry learning
  • Developing rich mathematical reasoning ad thinking
  • Proficient use of mathematical practices
  • Social groupings and group worthy problematic activity.
  • High ecpectations
  • co- constructing teaching and learning.
What are mathematical practices?
They are the specific things that successful mathematic leaners do? These could be-
  • Unpacking the problem?
  • Applying the strategies to solve problems that may not necessarily be a maths problem.
  • Making connections with their everyday life
  • Being able to articulate what they understand.
  • Using mathematical language
  • Making a claim
  • Developing a mathematical explanation
  • Justifying thinking
  • constructing arguments
  • Generalisiing a mathematica idea
  • Representing mathematical thinking using pictures, material and numbers.

Friday, 6 April 2018

My Inquiry at the End of Term 1

At the end of term one, as I was sifting through my inquiry, I made notes of the major changes/ inputs that I have made this term to improve writing of my students. So what  have been the major focuses-

1. Vocabulary - I introduced new vocabulary every time we wrote. This was very carefully built on the existing knowledge of the children so it they could hold on to their new learning. This vocabulary is carefully chosen so that it is on the edge which will enhance their language potential.

2. Moving away from WALTs - I no longer talk about WALTs and Success criteria as these push children to focus only on one aspect of Writing. Instead I have started using a check list that guides students to make sure that they have followed the norms of writing.

3. Supporting children to use newly learnt words in various contexts - I do this by reminding, reiterating and encouraging them to use new words in their oral and written language.

4. Oral Paragraphs - Encouraging children to talk about things, situations and topic in detail. this has helped in moving them away from single word or a simple sentence descriptions to meatly, juices detailed explanations and descriptions. This has also helped in developing paragraph capability where they are required to express well developed ideas.

5. A clear understanding of topics that drives the expression of language - I develop field knowledge and talk about the real purpose of writing and who the audience would be. This encourages children to write in detail about a given topic.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Manaiakalani Google Class on Air - Episode 4

Some of my students give me one word answers and it is really hard for anyone to understand them. This is mainly because they do not have the words to explain what they want to say. I wanted them to be really aware of this shortfall so they realise how important it is for them to learn new words everyday and to also to use these words in different contexts till it is part of their repertoire.



At the end of the lesson, children did realise that they needed to use specific words to say tell their story.