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.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Matariki

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! 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Learning new words through Topic studies

This term we have been learning about space. I have made a very deliberate effort to choose texts and transcripts that have language which is cutting edge for the students ( neither too hard nor too easy). This means they come across lots of new words and phrases when reading listening or viewing texts. It has now become a regular practice for them to notice these new words and write them down for future references.
So each child has their own vocabulary book in which they write down all the new words learnt during reading or researching time. They use words from the vocabulary book when writing their stories. Till now we have had more than 100+ plus word in our book.
I have to make sure I provide more and more opportunities where students can use these words as many times as possible so they become a part of their everyday use.








Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Developing subject related vocabulary



At our CoLs meeting it was reiterated several times by Jannie, Anne and Aaron that 
We teachers are very good at extracting and asking students what they know about a topic, but do we also give enough so children can produce cutting edge information? One of our jobs is also to lift and feed students with information so we can make them cognitive thinkers who can talk about their learning.
I took this idea back to my class. This Term the topic of our study is space.
The most urgent need for my students was to stretch their language and this would require effortful, purposeful and engaging tasks.

I used a you tube video that not only had lots of information but challenging, purposeful language that would extend my student's vocabulary. We watched the video in parts and had a lot of discussion around new words and phrases. 
My students struggled to form complete sentences when they tried to use the new words to deliver information verbally. We practiced and finally we were able to frame good sentences.

I also used a transcript of the video as a reading text. 

Reflection
Students need to listen, speak read and write the new words a number of times before they can begin to use them in their spoken and written language. This requires very thoughtful planning, firstly to resource students and designing tasks that will provide an opportunity to use their new knowledge and vocabulary in different contexts.


Here are a few examples of writing produced by some of the students.

The sun is the biggest object in the solar system.It has
a massive magnetic field and extensive gravitational pull
which holds the Earth and the other planets to make our
solar system.It is many times wider than
Earth and the sun is the star that
is many times closer to us.The sun
can fit more than 1,0000 planets
in the sun.The sun is a burning ball
of gas mostly hydrogen and helium.
If the sun wasn’t here there would be
no light no heat, plants would not grow and the days would grow colder.

By Dyzon

The Sun is the biggest object in the Solar System.
It has a massive field and extensive Gravitational Pull which holds the Earth and the other Planets to make the  Solar Systems.
It is many times wider than Earth and the Sun is the star many time closer to us.
The Sun can fit more Then 100,00 Planet’s in the sun is a Burning ball of gas.
By - Fine







Sunday, 27 May 2018

Manaiakalani Class On Air lesson # 5

I teach in a school that is situated in low socio economic community. Some students who start school come with an oral language of a three year old. This creates a big gap between them and the students who come form affluent backgrounds. Language acquisition is one of the major concerns for our community. 
This year I have been exposing my students to texts that are abundant in language and have trained them to notice words and word groups that make a text captivating.  Students understand and learn meanings of these new words and then try and use the new words and word groups to tell the story in their own language. Through this lesson I have tried to show the process of how we do this in our class.




Click here to watch the complete episode on Manaiakalani Google Class on Air.

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.