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.

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.