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, 14 August 2015

Collaborative Expertise

This weekend I was reading the latest paper by John Hattie. I enjoyed reading it because it insists on collaborative expertise. I am a fan of collaborative practice. After all, teachers are teacher's greatest resources. Hattie has suggested eight ways to minimise variability in Teacher expertise within schools. As I was reading his paper, a lot of questions came to my mind like: Which assessments can measure impact? Are we wasting time doing assessments that actually do not provide greater insight into progress a student has made? How can we be more collaborative and stop labelling teachers and students? How can we set conditions for collaborative practice? Is student progress fixed to teacher or are there other variables that could be contributing to progress? Are we too obsessed by the word 'Achievement'? etc.
I have summarised what Hattie says in a presentation below.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bringing Cultures into the Classroom

I am originally from India and have settled in New Zealand for the past 14 years. When I look back at my childhood I remember going to school and a whole saga of fond memories float in front of my eyes . We started our day with prayer and it was in my language, Hindi. I talked to my friends and it was in Hindi. During Morning Tea and lunch times the playground was full of chitter chatter and everyone spoke in hindi.  I sang songs in hindi and my mother taught me Hindi poems. My grandmother was monolingual and so she would read me stories and narrate myths and legends from our culture in my language. I enjoyed every bit of my childhood and cherish it even today. When I look back I am filled with gratitude for all the people who helped me and supported me in making my childhood a happy one.

When I became a mother and had little kids I made a conscious effort to teach my children their mother tongue as they were very young when they left India. I was not very successful with the younger one but my older daughter is bilingual. The younger one can speak in hindi but does not know to read and write the language. I am still in pursuit of teaching her and she knows that some Hindi lessons are in line for her during her vacations.

Today when I look at the students in my class, I find them a bit detached from their roots. The onus of making students aware about their cultures has shifted from home to school. I feel that they are missing a great deal about their cultures, about knowing who they are and where they belong? I want to see them sing songs in their language and talk freely to each other in their language, “Just the way I was brought up”. I encourage this a lot in my class and students who are fluent help others to communicate in their mother tongue.

I am very fortunate to have two team members in my team who are fluent in Te Reo and Tongan. Salena Kahika is very skilled at Te Reo and has taken to teaching Te Reo in our syndicate. Students enjoy learning Te Reo and maori songs of her and I feel very enthused and delighted to be able to provide an opportunity through our planned Te Reo Maori lessons that Salena loves to take for our students.
"Thank you Salena for Teaching Te Reo to our students"

Luti Tafea is a fluent in Tongan and when I go into her classroom to observe her I find her talking to her students in Tongan. Students respect this and take her commands instantly.
Luti makes a deliberate effort to bring languages into her day to day teaching. She is also in charge of the Tongan dance that she does every year for Performing Arts. Through her we have been able to bring the wider Tongan community closer to us and it was very evident when Tongan mothers got together to sew clothes for all Tongan participants for our Fiafia Night. I was amazed how they sewed, cooked, made head gears and other accessories in a couple of days. I could see how they loved to be acknowledged for their culture and how they thanked Luti for teaching their children about their culture.
“Thank you Luti for making our Pacifika parents feel welcomed.”

I think I am doing my bit, where as a Team Leader I am providing opportunities and opening avenues for my team members and most importantly our students to bring their culture into the classroom!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Student Reflections

We have been learning to reflect on our learning in Room 5. It needs a bit of teaching to show students how to be reflective. I know that reflective process does not come all by itself. I have myself learnt to be a reflective teacher over the years. My students were learning and solving problems in class but I needed to take their learning further, by making them think metacognitively about the strategies they were using to solve problems. I wanted them to know and discover and identify for themselves, ‘where to next’ in their learning. As I have said earlier, one has to get trained to become reflective so I started by asking some simple questions of my students, for example:
What were you learning and why?
   What were the tricky bits and why?
   What new did I learn today?
   What helped the learning to happen?
   Who needs more help and what needs to be re-taught?

I had to convince my students that all learning is difficult and it is all good to share your experience of learning with others. It is an opportunity to discuss how one solved the problem and to learn from others the strategies they have used to solve the same problem.
“Metacognition is what people know or think about their own thought processes and is the individual monitoring of one’s own thoughts.” (Hacker & Dunlosky, 2003)
In the beginning students were very hesitant and became conscious as they talked about their thinking process. It was difficult for some of them to put it into words because of limited English. For such students I developed some sentence starters that they could use to share their strategies. Slowly, the more confident ones set examples for others and more and more students started to participate. As students started sharing their thinking process, it made me aware of the strategies that my students were using to solve problems. Students benefitted from listening to each other as they got ideas from each other. Reflection for students worked for my students to consolidate their learning, to recap on the ‘why’ of the learning, to give students opportunities to discuss strategies for learning, and possible ‘tricky’ bits and to establish a ‘where to from here’. I would not say that at this stage I have all my students participate in the reflective process. It is just the beginning…
Being Reflective.png
adapted from: www.minedu.govt.nz

Student prompt cards for identifying where they are at with their learning.

1. I really need help.
2. I understand bits and pieces.
3. I get it and can work by myself.
4. I can do my work and can help someone else if needed.