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.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Reflections and tweaks in my Practice - CoL

What have I learnt from my initial efforts?

My End of Term Data shows that

  • All Year 4 students are all on track to reach the curriculum level at the end of the year for Reading and Writing
  • All Year 4 students had made considerable shifts in writing. ( Shift of One whole year in the first two terms)
  • Year 5 students had made some shifts but not as much as I had predicted in Writing.
  • Why is this so?
The data was very encouraging but also reflected some grey areas that pushed me harder to reflect on my practice. What was happening in the world of my year 5 students?

  • All my target students were year 4 students whom I visited more often that others. this was because initially, at the beginning of the year I had realised that most of my year 4 students were very low in literacy. So I had chosen them to be my target students. But I taught the same thing to everyone in class.
Theory says that what works for your target students will work for others in class.

But as Rebecca explained...is now making sense to me.

Another glaring reflection!

Topic specific vocabulary size increased for all my students.

This is because I laid a lot of emphasis on subject vocabulary.
But children need other kind of vocabulary too...

How can I now hurry up and refine my planning and teaching?
What changes will I make?

  • In Term 3 my whole class will be a target for writing - I cannot afford to leave anyone behind!
  • Hit on vocabulary in all curriculum areas - Reading, writing and Maths. Now that students understand the importance of learning new words and use these in their everyday repertoire, It would be easy to target vocabulary in all curriculum areas. This will also increase the intensity of teaching of vocabulary. I reckon it will be very engaging for students because they have already got into the habit of noticing new words and phrase in texts.
  • Make space in weekly plans to revisit all new words and use them in different contexts to recycle them. (So that there is more input)
  • Make sure this gets transferred into writing.
  • Talk to the students about what has happened and why we need to make this change.
Reflection - What I was doing was good and has shown improvement. I need to make sure that I take all my students in stride, share their data with them, explain where they are and what they need to do to reach their goals and change my planning a bit so that I provide that space and time which my students need so compellingly to make the shifts happen. After all language acquisition is all about
 " Planning Preparing and providing"

Thursday, 2 August 2018

T3 Wk 1 - My most exciting teaching moment this week

Remember what my students said after collaboratively working so hard on developing a shared book about Easter. They said "The book we write will never get printed. It will just stay in class for us to read. We write it and we read it."
To make them understand that the book will still be important, I had to borrow a fabric book that never got printed but was of great use for three generations in a family.

Click here to read my previous post

Later in the term we wrote another book about Matariki. While learning about Matariki, we came to a provocation. " Matariki should be a public holiday in New Zealand".
During the course of our study, we wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying that we strongly voted for Matariki to be a public holiday.

Here is the letter that we sent to Jacinda Arden.

Hon. Prime Minister,

We in Room 6 are learning about Matariki, the Maori New Year. Through our surveys we have realised that many people do not know about Matariki and a lot of young Maori children do not know much about it.

Can we make Matariki a public holiday because Aotearoa is a Maori land and all people living in New Zealand should know about it.
During Matariki, we have to have whanau time. We could make bonfires, pay respect to mother Earth, remember our ancestors and wish good fortune to everyone. We fly kites and make special kai (food) to honour the cluster of seven stars. It is also the time to harvest our crops.
This takes a lot of time and so we would appreciate if the New Moon Day in the month of June is recognised as a public holiday.
Matariki should also be celebrated in the city so that people from other cultures, who live in New Zealand, can learn about Matariki. It should be recognised as an important New Zealand festival.

We have attached a report of two surveys as evidence to support our ideas.

Kind Regards

Room 6
Tamaki Primary school.

My class as usual forgot about it during the holidays. I was hoping and waiting and praying to receive a reply so that my students could have an experience of real audience for their writing. If I do not receive a reply, my student's belief that no one cares about what they write in class would get firmer.

During the holidays we did receive a response to our email. It read as follows...

My students jumped out of joy to receive this letter.
I took this opportunity to draw my student's attention to how writing can attract audience and why learning to write was an important skill. My students are so motivated to write now. They check their work several times to make sure their writing makes sense. They are intrinsically motivated to write for a variety of audience. They consult and craft their writing again and again to insert better words and sentences that will leave an impact on their readers. They make sure that they write in detail so that their audience do not miss on information. 
What else do I need? I am just enjoying the bliss of the moment!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Shifts at the end of Term 2

I have a year 4 and 5 class. My target students for writing for the first two terms were all my year 4 writers. I can very proudly announce that all my year 4 students are performing AT or ABOVE the Curriculum level in writing.

From this term onwards, I would be focussing more on my year 5 students. These is a group of 9 students who are at Beginning Level 2 or below. These students have made shifts but not considerable shifts so as to be AT the expected level.
The Data shows that I need to change my target students for writing from Term 3 onwards.

The reading data shows that all children in the class are working AT or ABOVE the curriculum level.
Very exciting!!!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Increasing vocabulary size

The whole term I have been incorporating lots of things in my class room to develop vocabulary bank of my students. These ideas have been shared by Dr. Jannie Van Hees. Not that I was not aware of these earlier but I have made a conscious effort to include these teaching items into my daily plans. Discussing these with Jannie and learning how to plan in depth for my lessons has helped in increasing the receptive and productive vocabulary size of my students.  This has also made me more aware of where my students are and where they need to be. Now, with practice, I critically reflect on my daily plans and continuously make an effort to improve them. The questions that I always asked to myself were -

" Am I engaging the students in a very productive meaningful way? What new learning would I want my students to go home tonight with? Are my students building on what they learnt the previous day? Was there anything that struck to me that I could change while teaching and did I organise and prepare to make that change happen as quickly as possible so no time is wasted? Have I planned  rich tasks that will help my students to use new words in their reading writing or oral discussion time? "

  • Plan for tasks that focus on rich conversations in the classroom. provide multiple opportunities where students can try out the new words learnt during reading, inquiry or writing time. I did this by asking them a simple question - " What is a better word or a phrase for.....?". I also did this by making a vocabulary book which students could refer to when writing or looking for a better word.
  • Create an extensive reading environment where students had books on related topics. For example - If we were learning about planets, then I had heaps of books on planets. I made time to read these to the students, referred to new words, had these words on the word wall and in their personal vocabulary book, revisited these words continuously on a daily basis and encouraged students to use these words in their oral and written language. The reading programme also provided time to listen to texts and read for themselves. I deliberately chose school journals that had the audio for the texts available online and if not then used the speech option on their chrome books. This also included, shared reading, guided reading, reading to and listening to teacher selected digital texts. 
  • Discuss meanings of new words - We did this by acting them out and describing and discussing in what situations they would fit best. This stretched their word knowledge and gave them a chance to say out loud in what contexts they could use the new words.
  • Use Paul Nations first 2000 words for spelling programme. These are available on the net. This helped my students to become fluent writers without wasting much time on looking for spelling of words.
  • Choose carefully selected topics for writing. I planned for topics that would provide children to use the words they had learnt recently in their writings. Before writing we would discuss at length on the context and form oral paragraphs for our ideas. During these discussions I would feed in new words that we had previously learnt during reading or inquiry time. 
  •  Make a big deal about the smallest achievements noticed in the classroom so everyone gets motivated to learn new words.
By planning in such ways I have noticed that now students are increasingly able to read independently and many more words are available to them to when they are speaking and writing.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


For the last two weeks we in Room 6 have been learning about Matariki. It was a great experience as students got very creative when sharing their ideas. They did role plays, made books and posters. I gave them a real experience of celebrating Matariki in class where they got involved in weaving, dancing, cooking, singing, planting and kite making. We had to read books and view lots of videos to understand the true spirit of celebrating Matariki. We surveyed people and Maori students from our school to find out more about Matariki. In the end we came to the conclusion that Matariki was kind of a dying festival where not many Maori celebrate it any more. We were concerned and so wrote to the Prime Minister. Below are a few recordings of the lesson.
You can view the lessons and the lesson plans by clicking here and Here

I was very pleased with the outcome of the lesson. Children had real audience and a real reason to work on. They were very eager to survey the members of the public and students in school to find out if people living in New Zealand were aware of the Maori New Year. They were a bit upset with their findings. They found out that a large percentage of people did not know much about Matariki and a lot of Maori people did not celebrate Matariki. After the debate they questioned themselves and their classmates and came to the decision that they needed to do something to revive the festival. They came up with different ideas and also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and requested to declare Matariki a public holiday. I was very happy at the end of the lesson as it provided lots of opportunities to talk and write about the topic. I was particularly impressed on how some students in the debating group could talk at length to convey their ideas clearly and how some children were very prompt to defend their opinion. There was lot of critical thinking, argumentation and language learning in real context! 

Friday, 15 June 2018

T2 Wk 7 - My most exciting teaching moment of the week

For the last couple of weeks we have been learning about Matariki. While studying about Matariki, we came upon a provocation " Matariki should be a public holiday in New Zealand". I took this opportunity to teach 'argument' to my students. I was greatly impressed by the the way students spoke for and against the argument. I can notice the change...
These students used to struggle sharing their ideas at the beginning of the year and now they are participating in a discussion. I was throughly pleased to see the shift. Three of the students in the teams are target students. Watching the video below just makes me feel proud.

A perfect example of what Dr. Jannie Van Hees shared with us at a CoL meeting.

For students to become capable in Language, They need to first understand and then be able to express themselves.

You can watch the debate on Class on Air 

Dr. Jannie highlighted on four focusses to achieve language in abundance.

By exposing students to a number of texts - digital and non digital I feel I have provided a space for language to flourish.

Having a provocation allowed students to talk about the Matariki from a different perspective.

I provided opportunities for students to delve deeper into the attitudes, believes and responses of public through data collection and then writing to the Prime Minister about their concerns.

All this required a very through planning which led the students to take one successful step each time.

I feel I have touched on all the four focusses that Dr. Jannie talked about to achieve language in abundance.

Next Step - Do I need to adjust something in my practice? What will I do so that children are forever engaged in their writing?  How can I plan effectively and have the three P's - Planning, Preparing, Providing, happening all the time in my lessons. There is a lot for me to ponder...

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

T3 WK 5 - My not so exciting teaching moment this week

Jannie has suggested that I do dictation at least three days a week with my students. This was suggested because my students take too long to write their stories. This week I tried to do dictation with them but it kind of did not work very well. Students were copying of each other and did not truely understand how it works.
I will need to revisit this more often and will have to have a chat with them about why we are doing this.
I threw in too many newly learnt words as well in my passage for dictation. This threw them as well.
We will start afresh again next week.
So long keep preparing them for the next week.