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, 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.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Understanding fractions

Last week I attended the Maths Lead Teacher's meeting. It was run by both Sue and Ann. It was very informative, challenging and packed with activities that we can do with our students in class. 

One of the activities that I liked was an activity on fractions. We were given twenty blocks each and an A4 coloured paper. Then Ann started giving us problems to solve...

She gave us problems that were somewhat like..
If 4 is a quarter, show me a whole; if 9 is one and a half, show me  three and a half and so on.  I must admit that some of the problems were grappling. We did this individually at the PLD but for the purpose of my class I paired by students.  I gave them enough wait time to think about the problems. Check out the use of equipment and visual representations of their problem solving.

First the students could not understand what they were asked. But I had decided that I would not give them hints and so kept encouraging them to understand the language of maths in the question and then try to solve it. I gave them enough wait time.  Finally one child shared his understanding. It was an correct answer. I asked him to share his working with the rest of the class on the board. This was an Aha!! moment for the others. They all solved their problems in their pairs and then took the initiative to help out those who did not get it.  It was a very rewarding lesson and all students enjoyed doing it. The activity definitely made the understanding of fractions clearer and easier.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Maths- Connections and Communication

Maths is a connected subject, but some students think of it as disconnected and isolated  from other subjects. Such students who believe that maths is a set of formulas that have to be remembered is associated mainly with low achievement. 

We use talk moves all the time in class. It allows us to communicate about the topic that we are learning. Since I have started using talk moves, I have noticed that my students are making more meaning of this subject and are becoming enthusiastically engaged in their learning of Maths. 

Today I gave simple multiplicative problems to my students. They had to solve the problems mentally and also explain how they had come to a conclusion. I noticed that some of the students could work out the correct answer but were not able to explain their thinking. One of the girls is very new to New Zealand and can speak only Samoan. There were others who felt intimidated and not so confident sharing their ideas in a large group.  

I wanted to honour these students who had solved the problem but were not able to explain their thinking. So I gave them time to think about mathematics. I put them into groups and gave them an opportunity to think and talk about what worked and what went wrong.

Students felt more comfortable in smaller groups and they could find a way to connect or ask questions about the parts that may be confusing or difficult to follow. 

During sharing time, almost all students in this group could contribute a little to explain their working. I was elated to see that each student who never contributed could gather courage to say something little. Though they were not very explicit but I think it was a huge effort on their part.
 Yes! I thought, 'Little steps at a time can make a difference'. 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Creating and Sharing - Other than blogging

Last Term myself  Ashely decided to do something for Science as we were feeling science hungry.
We decided to do a mini unit on plants. At the same time we also wanted to look at other ways of sharing and creating apart from posting our learning on the blog.

We made folders where children had interactive things like posters and booklets that they could talk to when they are sharing their learning at home.

Surprisingly, we got a huge response as children came back next week and talked about how their parents and family responded to what they had done at school. Some parents took the time to extend their kids learning further.
One student came back and said " I know how leaves breathe"
and  the other mentioned " plants are very useful because they give us everything, like even clothes"
To hear such things from our students was just amazing... This is exactly what we want... We want the parents to be actively participating in their child's learning.
Just a thought to myself...
Do all parents visit their kid's blogs? Do parents need a portal for their kids to look into their learning everyday? I would really want more participation from our Parents and at the same time I am feeling like doing a bit of science again this Term.

Finding Fractions of a Region - Language of Maths

After doing two weeks of fractions in my class I felt that most students in the class would be comfortable halving and quartering fractions of a region. So I decided to work with my students who are achieving low in Maths.

To my surprise, none of the five students could show me the different ways we could share a cake into quarters. I felt very disappointed.

The question that I gave them was this:

I also gave them a square piece of paper that they could experiment to work out quarters. But somehow it did not seem to work. None of students seemed confident to ask questions or talk about their thinking.

As I started to explain the problem I realised that my students did not have the language to participate in a discussion. So I stopped teaching to the plan and decided to expose my students to the language that was required to participate in a discussion. I used think boards so that each child could record their understanding.

After remembering, repeating and discussing the question a number of times, the students had the words to explain their understanding.

Tomorrow I will be giving an different problem on quarters to the same group of students and hopefully they will understand and be able to solve the problem.

Today instead of giving another problem to the same group, I made them experts and they had to share their learning in a group.  All the students explained and demonstrated the different ways they could share a cake in quarters. They did it beautifully and that was because they had the language to explain their thinking. It built their confidence and left them motivated towards their learning.

In future I will make sure that each child in the class has the words to explain their thinking. It becomes all the more important when most of my students have english as their second language.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


I had a great day yesterday. I was full of energy even when I reached home after school. I could help my daughter get the tools that she needed and also help her with her engineering project, run around the chores at the same time and still feel fresh and energised. Surely I had a great day at school and this was because I had enjoyed modelling a writing lesson for Ottilie who is a beginningTeacher at our school.

Ottilie was finding it hard to move some of her students in writing. They did not use powerful words for impact and this was the reason they did not score well.
At the end of the lesson I could motivate enough to make a difference to three of her students who are not at the Standard. There was one students in the group who was particularly too shy to participate. She barely lifted her head up to answer simple questions about her writing. She was not very enthusiastic about being in a group as she had very low self esteem.

I knew instantly, I needed to make them believe that they could be successful like all the other students in the group. For the purpose of modelling we chose mixed ability students so that students could learn of each other. so I buddied up my low achieving students with some students who were average in Writing.
We talked about sharing and helping each other in the group and said that their learning was not complete if they had not explained their work to a buddy or had not helped another student to be successful in the tasks that they were working on.

So I set them on a group worthy task where they had to write all powerful words for the word 'big'. At this point I noticed that the higher ability students immediately started talking to the lower ability students. The low ability students felt cherished when they saw their work being valued. They all participated eagerly and contributed to the discussions.

Later they used the powerful words to write descriptions about the sky tower.

They wrote their descriptions about other pictures using powerful words and felt successful.
To built up their confidence further, Ottilie today used them as an expert group to write a narrative about the picture that we had worked on. Ottilie said that all the students in our expert group helped the class out to use powerful words, and most importantly, the ones who had low confidence, were today, teaching other children in the class to use powerful words in their writing!

Intrinsically motivated! I would say.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Learning Pit

I have been feeling so bad that I have not posted for the last two months. There have been piles and piles of things to post but I have not done this in spite of several reminders that I have written to myself on pieces of paper here and there. Life at school has been full of activity and it is always a feeling of accomplishment after blogging about it. I guess, today I am feeling so guilty that I need to put this out to the world so that there are no more excuses left for me for not blogging.

So I will start with what happened today...

We had a staff meeting with Sue Pine on Maths.
Now let me first tell you that everything in Maths has changed from what we used to do three or four years ago. Now we have this new approach where we are required to teach Maths through problem solving. To add to this there are other new things like talk moves and number talks that encourage students to collaboratively solve Maths questions. Teachers need to plan for  Maths lessons in such a way that they strike a balance between all these things for students to accelerate in Maths. As this approach is new, some of the teachers are finding it hard to adapt to the new style and felt the need to revert to the old ways where Maths was mainly  procedural.

After listening to our frustrations, Sue described this as a learning pit and she said that good learners go in a pit and it is okay to go in a pit.  When we are in the pit, we feel frustrated, angry and confused. We want to quit because we do not understand. We feel lost and distracted and sometimes can become very chatty and moan about our failures.


 when we are in the pit, we try harder.  We working together and with each others' support we try to get out of the pit. We ask ourselves questions, find different ways to solve our problems, consider and consult our situation with others, understand what mistakes we made and what opportunities we let go, what better ways we could have attempted to solve the problem. This rigorous exercise helps us to refine our ways and we come out successful and accomplished.
So my learning for the day is that we should not be afraid of failures as because these are the building blocks to our success.