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.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

COA - Teaching Pepeha

This week I taught my class learnt to say their Pepeha. The lesson was deliberately chosen as a reading activity to link with the topic studies. Through this lesson students are encouraged to critically think about place  they belong and what connection they have with the natural landmarks around the community.

I used a matching word activity to help my students  learn the Maori words that they needed to say their Pepeha.

View the complete lesson on by clicking here

My Reflections

What went well.

Lesson Content :- Students had to learn to write their Pepeha and then rehearse saying it confidently and clearly. They understood what natural landmarks are and what significance they have in people’s lives.
Lesson Pacing :- The pace of the lesson was good as they had already learnt a bit about pepeha. However understanding the connection between the land and the people was a bit difficult for students.
Lesson Delivery :- This session was a part of the whole lesson where students learnt about the iwi, hapu, waka, mounga and moana ( extended family, close family, their canoe, their mountain and their sea). In this lesson students had to identify the natural landmarks around the community they lived in and why they were important to them and I was able to help them understand it.
Student Understanding :- Students could talk about the natural landmarks and their significance really well. I was very impressed the way they had picked up on the maori words to explain their understanding. The side activity ( Matching activity) helped students to learn maori words quickly and easily.
Student Outcomes :- Students understood the significance of a pepeha and could include the elements required in a pepeha.They rehearsed and could narrate their pepeha meaningfully.

What still needs work.
Student Outcomes :- My students need a lot more time to orally say out things that they need to write. Having to work with them individually over and over again to make them understand the difference between formal and informal occasions was like a signal to me that children need to use the vocabulary a number of times in meaningful contexts before they are ready to write. I will continue to allow more time to my students to have a go at using new vocabulary.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

From Speaking to Writing in the Classroom.

Teaching Writing...

For ages we have been trying to improve writing of our students. I have a good bunch of students in my class who are not able to string sentences together and this is what I have noticed about them.

1. Not knowing the purpose of writing
Not knowing why we write? When I asked my students why is it important to write? They said - To make sure that writing makes sense...etc. This is not the purpose. The purpose could be something like - to convey something that others might not know or to tell the story that is in our mind.
What can I do?
Clarify with my students why it is important to learn to write. They need to understand that writing is a skill that is necessary to lead a quality life. Just like being able to read and calculate problems is important for our daily lives, writing is too. I will try and create a passion for writing by hooking them on to something interesting, making it fun and not make it a tedious task.
2. Dearth of words to tell their story.

Children who do not share their ideas in class is not because they do not want to, or do not have any experiences to share. Most of the time they do not have the words to narrate their story. So they are often misjudged as the ones who do not know much.

What Can I do?
To start with, I will encourage them to talk even if they are speaking in grammatically incorrect sentences.  I will praise them till they are confident to share what they have to say. I will not choose to correct them in the beginning, as they might feel judged and then withdraw.
I will also make sure that my program has space for concrete experiences that help make language comprehendible and not miss on the important role of teacher - student talk to support children's learning and language development.

3. Not having recycled new words in meaningful contexts.

 If they have learnt new words in the past, then they most probably did not have enough opportunities to use those words several times till it was ingrained in their language so much so that it came out fluently when they choose to speak in different contexts.

What Can I do?
As a teacher of these students I will be making deliberate attempts to create opportunities for them to use their new words in meaningful contexts till they gain automaticity through practice and repetition. This means having to talk about things and situations in meaningful contexts. I will introduce new language when students have gained some key concepts through small group work, so that new language is readily comprehendible. If I choose to teach them new language straight away, it might become an overload.

 So for the next few weeks I will be building on their existing understanding of language and to link old learning with new.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Raising Achievement in Writing

We have been trying to raise the achievement of our students in writing for ages.  We have our WALTs and we look thoroughly into our e- asTTle results, we analyse them and choose our goals for the year and teach our children the whole thing all over again. But has it made any difference?
After years of slogging we still are trying very hard to make a difference to the writing of our students.
This is why I choose to have writing as my objective for this year. I want to try and see what could I do differently so that it shows results.
At Manaiakalani  CoL introduction meeting, Jannie Van Hees was the guest speaker. I was very much impressed by what she said. All that she said was not what I have heard for the first time. I have known this for ages, since I did my TESOL diploma. I have done it over the years and feel that I integrate my topics well into each curriculum area. So what is it that I may have missed and have not yet ingrained into my practice?
This weekend I will be going through my two very favourite books by Pauline Gibbons.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

COA - Lesson 1- Providing Comfortable Learning Environment

In my last blog I had set some goals for myself the first one was to ' provide a comfortable learning environment for my students.'
I had noticed that students in my class did not speak and were very shy to share their ideas in front of the class or within groups. I have very few fluent speakers of English Language and most of the students have English as their second language.
Proficiency in spoken language is essential for language development. It is very important that students are immersed in Language at all times in the class. 
In my class most students are receptors of language and not really the users of language, where they involve themselves in interactions with peers or adults.

So foremost, I needed to create opportunities for my students who could interact without being scared of loosing their self esteem. I noticed that some of my students did not gather the courage to speak because they spoke in phrases, words or grammatically incorrect sentences. If I started to correct them and point out to their incorrect English, it would further diminish their esteem. So I decided to pick up a lesson where they would be forced to speak.

View the video below to see how I started the lesson.

After introducing myself,  I asked students to introduce themselves. They had to do this by sharing something about their culture. I put them into ethnic groups. Since they did not know much on the top of their head, we researched. Then I went to each group and inquired about about what they had researched.

' There is considerable evidence to suggest that a major factor in academic success of linguistic minority groups is the degree to which learning takes place in an interactive rather than a passive environment'. ( Skutnabb-Kangas & Cummins 1988).

By leaving the onus of talking about their culture to them,  the ball was in their court and they had to explain me about themselves. This forced them to talk- even if it was in broken English. One of the major outcomes was that everyone felt valued and the ice was broken. Children now engaged in meaningful context. It allowed them to think and formulate ideas. I encouraged them to speak in their own language when they wanted to clarify ideas. They became very enthused and excited when sharing food/ items from their culture. There was a sense of pride and they felt respected. They became more and more less conscious about not having specific words to explain their artefact and their confidence to share shot up immensely. I gave them lots of positive feedback and they were totally engaged in their learning.

Watch the video below to see them interact.

The next task was to write their introduction to share with the class. For my less able students, I provided sentence starters so support them with their writing.

My Reflection

The purpose of the Lesson

The purpose of this lesson was to encourage students to talk and share ideas.
Lesson content
I deliberately chose this lesson as I wanted to begin with something that they already knew and could talk about. The Task was to introduce themselves with a brief description about their country and an artefact from their culture.  This worked well as all students who had common experiences in terms of their culture supported one another to add detail to describe things from their culture. The sentence starters provided  helped them to write their introductions with greater ease. Me modelling and the video on their class site also gave them an idea of what was expected from the lesson. 

Mixed ability grouping
 I chose to pick one fluent speaker in the group. This allowed the others to listen to the vocabulary that they needed to explain similar ideas from their culture.

Lesson pacing
I gave lots of time to students to tell their stories about their culture.The main idea was to give them opportunity to express themselves.  They did this endlessly and the excitement grew every minute. They wanted to tell me everything about themselves.

Student Engagement and Confidence
Students were engaged throughout the lesson right from the word go. In my introduction video you will see that most students got hooked right from the beginning. They wanted to know more about me. This set the tone and we were at the initial stages of building relationships with each other.  The confidence level of students was raised immensely through this lesson. I believe I have build good rapport with my students and I hope they will discuss and ask question when they get stuck in future. The purpose of the lesson was accomplished amazingly. 

Student outcome 
Students first wrote their introduction and then introduced themselves to the class. They were scared in the beginning and asked if they could use read from the script  when speaking to the class.
I am very proud of my students who learnt a lot about explanation through this lesson. They used some specific vocabulary and heaps of describing words when talking about their artefact or food from their country. Even the ones who were not active participants, said something little.  The collaboration was huge when students discussed with each other to make things clearer for me to understand. They became more engaged as I encouraged them to use their own language to describe things. When describing their artefact/food students could feel the  attention and respect that they received from their audience and this became quiet contagious by the end of the lesson. As they spoke, they also shared some stories that they remembered when talking about an item, food or artefact. Both me and my students enjoyed this lesson.  This was the first step towards  building strong relationships with my students and also among students.

Next Steps
Since the goal this year for Manaiakalani CoLs is on language acquisition and my TESSOL study is a lot about how we can teach language to our ELL ( English Language Learners), I will be focussing more on oral language and plan for lessons that will be more creative, enjoyable and the ones that can connect students to their experiences. 
This lesson also gave me an insight into what limitations my students had in terms of language. They were every excited to tell me all about their culture but fell short of words except for one fluent speaker. It is now for me to plan to improve their vocabulary so they become confident when socialising and sharing their ideas. I also need to find ways to engage some of my shy students who were wanting to participate  but could not gather the courage to engage in the conversation. 

Click here to view more videos, lesson plan and student's work

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Planning for a Language for Learning

Manaiakalani Community of schools have identified ' Language Acquisition' as one of the major challenge for our children to achieve academically. My personal thought is that this has become a major concern for us as most students in our community are 'Second Language Learners'. I have two- thirds of my students who are Second Language Learners because they speak English as their second language.

Usually this is suggested as a disadvantage because people feel that in order to learn something, second language learners have to first learn the language and then learn about the topic of their study. It is however, just the opposite. There is evidence to suggest that competent bilinguals - those with good skills in two languages- have several advantages over monolinguals. The McGill University Psychologists Lambert and Peal (1962) have suggested that where there is good Literacy development in both languages, bilinguals on average score more than monolinguals in verbal and non- verbal tests of intelligence. Being a bilingual is a bonus. But most bilingual children are at a disadvantage in school because they have to learn in their second language which is mostly their weaker language.

I want to have a very supportive classroom environment for my students right from the beginning of this year. This would be where they can take risk in a stress free environment. This would be a non- threatening environment where students can participate without affecting their self-esteem.

So what will I do to make this happen...
1. Provide a comfortable learning environment
Students in my class will feel confident to 'have a go' without fear of failure. I would support them by encouraging them to share their ideas even if it is n broken English, have sentences or even words. I would respond positively as it is an important factor in enhancing the learner's self esteem and developing their confidence.

2. Planned integration of content and Language.
I will plan my lessons in a way that allows the use of new words learnt in other areas of the curriculum.

3. Plan for meaningful interactions through collaborative Practice and problem solving.
I will plan and motivate my students to engage on activities that will encourage them to use the language. I would make opportunities for students to not just be at the receiving end but give responsibilities for their own learning.

4. Modelling of Language
Children will not just hear language that is simple and comprehendible but also extends their use of language. This would also be provided by making plans where simple rules of English Language will be taught to the students on a weekly basis.

5. Frequent opportunities for Teacher and student Interactions.
There is high degree of quality interactions with the Teacher.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

My Inquiry 2018

“Recognising and spreading sophisticated pedagogical practice across our community so that students learn in better and more powerful ways...”

The Manaiakalani Community of Learning is working together on this task using the expertise existing in of our community of learning.

                              In 2018 for my inquiry I have selected the following CoL achievement challenge 

#2. Lift the achievement in boys writing.
I will be using the teaching as inquiry framework specifically co- constructed for Manaiakalani schools. This framework shares close similarities with other models that Teachers use in New Zealand. My school uses inter lead for appraisals and monitoring student learning and so I will be using this tool as well to support and inquire into my inquiry further.

I will be labelling my posts as I update my inquiry throughout the year to make the content easy to access.

LEvidence, LScan, LTrend, LHypothesise, LResearch, LReflect,
 CPlan, CTry, CInnovate, CImplement, CReflect,
SPublish, SCoteach, SModel, SGuide, SFback, SReflect

Label Key:

Learn - Gather Evidence
Create - Make a plan
Share - Publish
Learn - Scan
Create - Try new things
Share - Co-teach
Learn - Identify Trends
Create - Innovate
Share - Model
Learn - Hypothesise
Create - Implement
Share - Guide
Learn - Research
Create - Reflect
Share - Feedback
Learn - Reflect

Share - Reflect

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Noticing and investigating for effective internal evaluation

It is the beginning of the year and I am finding out where my students are in their Reading, Writing or Maths. I am on the noticing phase of the evaluation cycle given below.

Initial testing results in Maths showed

The graph above shows that more than 50% of students were below or well below in Maths. I also noticed that these students were the ones who were very disengaged during Maths times as well.
I had no clue why they did not like doing Maths and so I collected some student voice.
This was mainly based on their past experiences in their previous classes.

I asked them if they liked Maths and if no why? 
These were their reasons -

7 out 10 said that they did not like it
7 out of 10 said they find it hard.
It's always a catching up with their peers and it seemed that they knew very little.
They were kind of scared that they might not understand and get into trouble for that.
because they were shy to ask if you went wrong.

When I asked the similar question of my Stage E5 and 6 students they said that-

Maths was like a good challenge
When I go to the shops they could count the money to give to the shopkeeper.
because it's fun.

What does this mean for me as a teacher? because I need to tip the way the majority of students respond to Maths learning. So here is my plan-

  • Talk to the class and tell them that Maths is no ghost.
  • Tell them that anyone can do Maths
  • Support them and show them that I care when they get stuck.
  • Slow down when they do nor understand.
  • Celebrate when they accomplish.