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.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The 6 C's in Education

At U learn Conference this year, I have been very inspired by the 6 C's. 

Here is a brief description of what 6 C's stand for and how they are so important in education. This write up is also a reflection on how I will be developing my plans so that I create a space for all the C's into my lessons.

Thinking Critically- This is done the best when students have a variety of media to inform themselves about the topic. It allows students to analyse and filter the information and eventually form their own opinion based on the facts and information received. They weigh the positive and negative affects of the information.  It also allows students to think if the information is valid or is it biased. They make connections with their experiences and understand the topic deeply.

How can I plan to make this happen in my class?

Working Collaboratively - When students work collaboratively, they communicate to make an optimum outcome. In the process, everyone's ideas are valued.

 How can I maximise the success by making communication effective in my class? What are the most effective means of communication when working collaboratively? 

Communicating Clearly -  This means that students and Teachers need to communicate meaningfully. This will happen if communication is effective and engaging to the classroom audience. 

 How can I make communication purposeful and effective for my students? How can I encourage engagement within the students? Do my students need to develop their communication skills? 

Embrace Culture - Students become more engaged in their learning if teachers encourage and appreciate the cultures of their students.

How can I become more responsive to the culture of the community I teach? How can I include the members of the community to become a part of my classroom culture?

Develop Creativity - Creativity allows students to express their learning and share it with others. Just learning would not be of any value if students are not able to apply their new learning in a purposeful way. When students apply their knowledge to create something, they gain deeper understanding, their knowledge expands, possibilities of innovations arise, imagination happens and their is a sense of completeness to the learning.

 How can I bring more creativity into the topics I teach?

Utilise Connectivity - This allows students to share their learning with the wider community. It is important because it allows students to have authentic audience to get constructive feedback.

How can I use Technology to connect at the local and global platform about my learning?

Reflection -  On reflection I feel the need to plan my lessons very carefully keeping in mind the 6 Cs. Though I already plan under the umbrella of  'Learn, Create, share',  but sometimes the essence and richness of the learning experiences can get lost if emphasis and care is not devoted to the 6 C's.  For this to happens effectively, I need to set up norms in the beginning of the year where students will learn how to communicate and collaborate so that we get more engagement through richer discussions. I will need them to learn to embrace each others cultures and value each other's ideas  and communicate respectfully so that the outcome of each lesson is acceptable and workable for the community. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Multimodal Literacy - Manaiakalani Leaders PLG

Last week I attended the Manaiakalani Lead Teacher's PLG.  Dr. Aaron Wilson is one of the researchers at the University of Auckland and he was sharing his views about the importance of multimodal reading. It is different to reading a story in a journal over the week. Multimodal texts show the interrelationship between reading and writing and develop deeper understanding of the texts by making meaning of different modes of communication. 

We talked about
  • Why it is important to talk about the text and how it benefits children's learning?
  • What are some of the key indicators of quality talk about texts?
We shared our ideas on a padlet. Click on the link below to view the ideas.

Share your ideas - Padlet

Aaron emphasised and we all agreed that IRE ( Initiation, response and evaluation) way of teaching can be useful if it helps the teacher to check understanding of students. But it has it's limitations. It is one sided as it is teacher centred. Students do not get involved into deeper understanding of the topic as they do not get a chance to explore about the topic.

Texts should be talked about and students should be given opportunities to share their opinions about the ideas in the text. This would enhance deeper understanding of the text. Ideas in the text develop into rich discussions between the teacher and the students and within groups as everyone questions, agrees and disagrees. Most discussions are supported by reasons and so everyone contributes to the learning.

Teachers need to very careful about the level of the students and multimodal reading can become very disengaging if texts are not chosen strategically. Click the link below to see what Aaron had to say about what makes rich talks harder and easier.

What factors make rich talk about text in classrooms harder and easier

Aaron has been working with teachers at Tamaki College and showed us how there was a change between the teacher and student utterances as teachers shifted form IRE to more meaningful and authentic discussions.

Observations in the beginning of the year

Observations - mid year

Observations towards the End of the year

Aaron discussed that it could be valuable to re- negotiate the norms in the class about talk. I personally believe that it is very important to keep visiting the norms in the class as they develop a culture where everyone feels supported and comfortable to participate in discussions.

Our class treaty is all about class norms and has worked well for me and my students. It is not just a poster that hangs on the walls. It is very much a living document that is referred by students and teachers regularly so that our class remains a healthy place to discuss, ask, inquire, justify, agreeing and disagreeing. This is what our class treaty looks like-

I have not changed this treaty for the last two years because it works for me. What changed is just the koru patterns.
To involve students in discussions we also practice talk moves. Both me and my co- teacher Ashley use talk moves in all areas of the curriculum.

In the end Aaron left us with some question to ponder over?
  • Are we on board with a shared focus on deep and wide learning using text sets and talk about text approaches?
  • How many times should we engage students in multimodal literacy?
In my opinion, this is a great way to develop critical thinking amongst students. I have tried this in my class and the results were very satisfying for me as well as for the students. They felt like they had a voice and that their ideas and opinions were valued. 

The topic of my multimodal literacy was Theme parks. Please view the presentation below to check what year 3 and 4 students did for their reading last week.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Teaching Writing in my Class

I had my literacy observation recently and one of the  criteria is to record our lesson and then analyse the  lesson with a critical buddy. My critical buddy is Paula Were who does PLD for Writing at our school.

My goals from my last observation were-

Specific development of vocabulary eg clines
Continue building power words
Seeking the very best choice to avoid ‘over blown’ language

I not only wanted to achieve the above goals as a teacher but also wanted my students to to achieve their goals to become better writers. The group that I am teaching is  mixed ability group and their goals are to write interesting stories in order to create impact on their audience. To achieve this goal they have the following Success Criteria-

  • Use detail for ideas
  • Use correct punctuations
  • Use Powerful words and similes
  • Use dialogue
  • use emotive language

Connections with Reading and writing
To start the lesson I made connections to the text that they had read the previous day.
I drew their attention to the new words and phrases they had read in text. I made sure that they understood the meanings of all the new vocabulary so that it becomes easy for them to use these in their writing.

Global Connections
The picture prompt that I used was that of a roller coaster. This was because I wanted to make connections with the recent incident that happened at Dream world.

Specific development of vocabulary
Most of my students use simple words in their writing or else they may use overblown words that really do not make much sense. To help them use specific vocabulary I made clines.

Making connections with culture
After explaining the word cline I asked my students if they could make any cultural connections to the roller coaster. It is important that we acknowledge and cherish what our students bring with them. In this case the students said that the roller coaster looked like a Taniwha, an eel, a huge wave or a whale, a dragon's tail and a tunnel.

I reminded students several times about their goals and gave them hints on how they could transfer the new words learnt to their writing.  Here is what they produced in about 5 minutes.

Revisiting Learning intentions and success criteia
To sum up students read their stories to each other and checked to see if their friends had met the success criteria. Next, students checked if they had achieved their goals. They checked this with their buddies and then ticked against the success criteria if they had achieved them.

Follow up task
A follow up task was to ask students to highlight detail, powerful words, dialogue and emotive words in a text on roller coasters. This was a winding off activity that would help them to remember their goals. Here is the text that was given.

To sum up students read their stories to each other and checked to see if their friends had met the success criteria. Next, students checked if they had achieved their goals. They checked this with their buddies and then ticked against the success criteria if they had achieved them.

Reflection and feedback - The feedback that I got from my critical friend was very good. To sum up she said that the connections with the reading and writing, culture and student goals were very elegantly done.

Link to my plan for the above lesson

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Values in the classroom

We at Tamaki have five values. They are Whanaungatanga, Manakitanga, Rangimarie, Tukumarie and Ako. These are very important to us as they reflect who we are. They provide a vehicle to talk about student behaviour and learning. It is important that students connect to the values and so were carefully chosen in consultation with the community.

Until two years ago we had four school values and decided to add 'Ako' as our fifth value. This was done because Students could make connections to the values only when they were outside in the playgrounds. We wanted our students to live and breathe these values everywhere, in the classroom..., in the playgrounds... at all times... and hence there was an addition of another value 'Ako'. So our values evolved over time.

Our school values are culturally responsive. These values are held very closely by our demographically dominant Maori and Pacific families. They were purposely chosen to be in Te Reo so that our community could make connections with our values.

It is important that we teachers in the school are role models of our values. Last term we had one of the schools who needed to evacuate because they had found asbestos in their building and it needed to be fixed before kids could be let into the building. Our principal welcomed this school and we all looked after our guests. Our principal demonstrated our school values.

Reflection - Though we have a very robust selection of values for our school I want to see these being lived and thrived in all corners. I would like to see the values being the vehicle to talk around achievement and behaviour. I want to see these values being walked in our school. So I started the Term by revisiting school values and the task for the students was to brainstorm what they meant by these values.
I felt quiet proud of them when some students said that they used it all the time in school as well as at home.

To take this a little further I framed three questions for my students:
  • Did you get a chance to use your school values today? What were they?
  • How did you use your school values during learning time today?
  • How did you use your school values in the playground today?
I asked them to reflect on these questions during the day. At the end of the day, they had heaps to share. Have a look...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Karen Spencer - Beyond the Echo Chambers

Karen was the last of the key note speakers at the ULearn conference 2016. She was the one who most inspired me as I could connect to my real teaching world. She started by challenging us to think about 
so what now? what will we do when we go back to school in about 72 hours from then?

She then started to give us idea about how to go about when we are in our work spaces.

These ideas were very well summed up through a sketch at the conference 

  • Praxis - this is the weaving of the research and ideas into practice. She illustrated this with the image of basket weaving where everything is twined and intertwined to turn into a beautiful basket. Teaching is the same...
  • Professional Development - We as educators should always strive to be better educators. Improving our skills in teaching should be a continuous process because 'Professional learning is not an extra thing on the plate, it is the plate'
  • To keep up with the changing world of education - it is important that teachers stay networked. This will allow them to stay connected and share ideas with each other. It is not just to stay at the receiving end but to challenge ourselves to participate in more complex conversations. Then Karen talked about holding ourselves and take the time to consider what is the most urgent need of our learners.

  • Find the urgency - Every school has a curriculum that has a vision. This vision reflects our learners and the vision has some kind of outcome. Any new changes should drive this outcome. Students and teachers should live this vision so much that 'it can be seen dripping of the walls of the school'. If change is not planned strategically keeping the needs of our learners in mind then sometimes it can lead to dillusions and create more stumbling blocks in the way to achieve the vision.
  • See the story behind the data 
  • Data is not just the picture of numbers... data tells us the stories of our learners...When we question ourselves deeply about the data then we can hear deeper stories and understand what is going on in the lives of our children and so need to look at planning in a way that will help these students make shifts.
We should acknowledge that everyone is different and each person views different things in data and in their learner's stories. We should embrace these different points of view and and learn from them. we should challenge our biases so that we do not end up in an echo chamber. She illustrates this very nicely using John Cussack's role 'keep the fear out of the set'.

It is great to know about the new ideologies and the strategies that bring change, but we need not to be impulsive. We need to refrain ourselves from quick solutions as they can prove to be dangerous. We should spend some time to pay attention to most important current needs of our students and then address these needs. She said that we needed to plan carefully and 'hold our ideas lightly' rather than jumping to make a change.

Karen reminded us that we in New Zealand were very fortunate to have a curriculum that allowed us to be flexible. Our NZ curriculum is very good that we need not look further!

In the end she summarises by sharing a quote ' Education does not change the world. Education changes people and people change the world'. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Celebrating Eid - Knowing our learner

We always celebrate all language weeks at our school. We are a school that cherishes and values all cultures and ethnicities. It is so much in grained into the system that I take pride when visitors at our school say that there is a great feel about coming into our school.

We have a Afghani family at our school. We had searched high and low and had not found any afghani language week. So we (Ashley my co-teacher and myself) started to look for Afghani festivals that we could celebrate. I met my students' mum at patrols and quickly grabbed the opportunity to and ask about festivals they celebrate. She said that Eid was round the corner and that it is a huge celebration in their culture. I quickly took the notes and asked her to give me a recepie of a traditional dish.
Next day Mojtaba (our student) came with a recipe. I must say that this was a big effort on the part of Mojtaba's mum because she does not know English very well. So I had this recipe, though not in correct English but made perfect sense as everything was written in steps. I was so delighted to get the recipe and more so being able to bring this mum in who is otherwise so shy to communicate with us.
Finally we started with the celebrations. We invited Mojtaba's little brothers to celebrate with us. Ashley found a song on Eid and we all learnt the song. We made Greeting cards on Eid with a moon and a star on it. Ashley had baked cookies in the shape of star and we all took turns to decorate them.
I made the traditional dish 'sevaiyaan' and we went to each class to say 'Eid Mubarak'

It was great way to build bonds and to know about our Afghani learner. Our afghani students were delighted. Their faces were glowing and they were not tired talking about their festival.

One of the principles of TESSOL is the to Know your learners - their language background, their language proficiency, their experiential background. 

 Visit this website  for more ideas on how to build a cultural village in your classroom.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Tongan Language Week Celebrations @TPS

We celebrated Tongan language week at school today. A good percentage of our students are Tongan. Miss Aireen and her crew were busy making all preparations for the cultural show. A big Thank you to Miss Aireen for making every assembly a brilliant success.

Mrs. Tafea and her team of parents had spent all night preparing for the dresses and food for the Tongan language week celebration. It was great to hear students making speeches in Tongan. Our Principal Mrs. Kelly briefed us at the end of the assembly. Her message was to cherish our mother tongues as they are the greatest gift our parents give us!

Student have been preparing for their items for the last few weeks. A huge thank you to Mrs. Tafea for all her input. You are such a valuable member of our school.

It was a great celebration full of colour and vibrance! I enjoyed every bit of it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Engaging students in writing

This week has been a very busy with swimming. I feel that I there is not much time to teach all areas of the curriculum. We have to juggle between Reading, Writing and Maths. I felt that I was lagging specially in writing.

This term we have been concentrating on acceleration and with PLD in place I would say that we have achieved heaps. But still there is a room for improvement and some of our students in our class are not at the National standard. I am particularly concerned about them.

So today while everyone was at swimming, I sat down with the non swimmers of my class and did some writing.
Goal of our students is to write in detail and to use describing words.

I used this short film to help them write about the setting of the story.

I showed them only the first 15 seconds of the movie . Then we talked about the time of the day in the movie, the clouds, the grass, the daises, the twittering of the birds and the flowing stream. I made sure that all students answered in complete sentences and also used some describing words in their sentences.
On close observation I found that students shirked from using powerful words because they got stuck on the spelling of the words. So they tried to avoid writing describing words in their story even if they knew it.
I told my students not to worry about the spelling at all. I assured them that even if they wrote a wrong spelling they would get better marks in their test for using powerful words. After much encouragement, I found my students writing their stories. They would ask me spellings of words that they got stuck on and I supported them quickly.
I was particularly impressed with one student's writing who is definitely our focus student. Thank you to Wikitoria ( student in my class) for brightening up my day. It is not a perfect piece of writing but has tried to use specific vocabulary for impact and it is her independent work. Here is what she wrote...

At the send of the writing session I gave my students some spelling words to learn. These were a list of words that they were not able to spell correctly. Then I helped them to learn their spelling words. At the end of the lesson all the students were very motivated to write.

Reflection - Over the last few weeks of the term, I will be using short snippets of films to engage my student into descriptive writing. I will also make a deliberate effort to support my students to learn their spelling words everyday.

Science Week - Collaborative teaching

What is the power of two in class? Anne Sinclaire often refers to this and I saw this happening beautifully in my class when Ashley decided she wanted to do something in Science. I agreed as I like to do things in science and I also wanted ashley to lead this lesson as she is approaching more towards the end of her collaborative teaching. It also reminds me of what we were asked at the beginning of the year before we had MDTA's in our class.

What is the one most important thing you need to establish at the beginning of the MDTA programme?

  • Building relationships with the students
  • Establishing the MDTA teacher as a teacher who is in equal partnership with the mentor teacher and not in a student teacher type role.
  • Mentor teacher letting go of control and trusting the MDTA teacher with classroom responsibilities and listening to their ideas.

So this week we learnt about the functions of different parts of the body.

This term we have have been learning about how to keep ourselves safe and one of the extensions into the safety inquiry was to make sure that we keep our bodies and the organs of our body safe too.

First we learnt about the functions of the parts of the body. We talked in detail how drugs, smoking and junk food could harm the organs of our body and how we could not be able to learn and be strong individuals.
It was great to see how all children were interested to find out about the organs. Some of the facts like the liver produces acid and that there are 206 bones in our body and that our heart works non- stop till we live etc amazed our kids.

Then Paula Were our literacy PLD lady introduced us to an app. It is known as Anatomy 4D. It is an amazing app and our kids were awed by it.

Then we started to make a model showing the internal organs of our body. This was hard work! and my lovely Ashley (MTDA) became a little stressful!
There was heaps of laminating, cutting, gluing and stapling. Besides some students lost some of the organs that were needed to complete the model. So Both me and Ashley were found saying things like " Where is your heart?" " Did you cut your kidney?" " What happened to the intestine?" " Have you got your lungs?" etc. Usually it became very quiet hilarious.

Finally Ashley made a movie on the functions of parts of the body.

The whole experience was very rewarding both for the kids and their teachers.

One of the outcomes that was a highlight for me was that Ashley led the lesson and the two of us helped the students make their models of bodies. All this would not have happened if the the power of the two was missing.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Manaikalani school leader's PLG - Accelerating Reading

Today I went to the Manaiakalani school leaders PLG.
One of the sessions was by Aaron Wilson on how to accelerate Reading among students.
Some of the ideas that will help were-

  • Reading should make meaning. Students should understand how writers construct text to achieve particular purposes and audiences. Reading strategies are not a goal but a vehicle to achieve meaning from texts. 
  • Very commonly,  teach students how to describe characters but we need to move on further from this. Students should be taught to deliberately make an effort to analyse relationship between characters and conflict of characters. This will help them to be better readers and writers.
  • Analysing patterns of figurative speech like metaphors, similes and how a writer creates mood through emotive language will enhance the understanding of language.
  • Choice of the text - Teachers should use engaging texts to get an enjoyable effort from the students.
  • Students should get a number of opportunities to read. They should get repeated opportunities to learn to read and read to learn.
  • Teachers need to provide opportunities that will allow students to critically analyse texts they read.  A critically literate person is able to examine the power relationships inherent in language use, to recognise that language is not neutral.
  • Vocabulary is another barrier in comprehending texts.  Building vocabulary is important, so students should have rich exposure to language. They should be aware of connotations of words. They should understand that emotive language is designed to provoke an emotional response. 
  • When reading texts Teachers should draw students' attention to the sensory details and this will help in understanding the text better.
  • Use your clines also helps students to comprehend texts better.
  • Use of conjunctions will also allow students to have richer language.
  • Students should ask questions and share their ideas to clarify their meaning about the text. Talk allows students to peek into the thinking of other students understanding and misunderstandings. Talking about the subject of study supports language development. It supports deeper reasoning and encourages  people to reason with evidence. Therefore it is important for teachers to provide platforms to discuss open ended questions and this will also prevent IRE ( Initiation, Response and Evaluation).
  • Teachers need to scaffold students so they learn but too much scaffolding makes them dependent on the teacher. Therefore teachers need to have a balance in their delivery where they refrain from too much support. Instead, opportunities should be provided for students to take ownership of their learning. A quality scaffolding is that fades overtime and increases student responsibility.
  • Teachers need to design rich tasks for quality learning to happen.

I have tried to summarise the points through this google drawing...

Reflection: Aaron's talk was very informative. It has encouraged me to use small units to plan for reading in my class. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Being Culturally Responsive

One of the focus for the term for both myself and Ashley was to become more culturally responsive this year. I would like to record these as a reflection for myself to see what major lessons we have covered this term to integrate cultural aspect into our teaching.
The first one that comes to mind is

Asking students to make posters about their culture. This was done as a writing task and students. We asked students to tell us about themselves. It was great to see them become experts and talk about themselves. It was also good for us to know what our kids brought with them to the classroom. 
 It was a great activity as all students could make connection with one another and become friends. We even had Samoan, Tongan and other groups that started to talk in their languages. This was awesome because then they sat in their groups and talked about the island they had come from and the different things that they enjoyed doing when they visited their home country.

Reflection- It boosted their self confidence and they cherished the fact their culture was valued in the class. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Recording and Reflecting

Lots of times Ashley and myself get involved in professional talks about Manaiakalani. This time we were talking about 'class on air'. It is a great way of sharing teaching ideas with the rest of the world.
So we decided to film each other and put our lessons on the blog.

It has been a boon to have two teachers in a class and recording each other was not a problem at all. We do not have great tools like the 360 degree camera and microphone to get the best quality, but we are so motivated that we are determined to record our lessons. 
My lesson was a short lesson on Number Talks. My question to students was " what do you know about 1/4 ( a quarter)? 
 This is my first attempt, so please be kind when leaving comments.

Reflection - After watching the video I realised that one students was dominant in the group. I should have encouraged other students to participate in the discussion as well. I should be incorporating more use Talk Moves.