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.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Burst and bubbles Evening

A yet another fantastic evening about how our inquiries have made a difference to our students. I am so proud of being a CoL teacher this year. My inquiry this year is on writing.
My question was -

Does talking about topics and noticing Language chunks in reading help students to recycle their learning into writing?

My inquiry was not just about my students but about me as well. I believe that I have learnt more than what my students would have. I shared my inquiry with my learners and told them that We all were in the same boat and needed to reach the shores without drowning. We had stir our boat sometime gently and sometimes really vigourously.

Now heading towards the end of the my inquiry I can say with pride that out of the 5 boys in my target group - 1 has moved 4 sub levels and the other three have moved 3 sub levels and fifth one has moved 2 sub levels.
Not only did their writing improve but their reading improved as well. Their comprehension levels went up more than one to one and half year.  Their vocabulary bank increased and now they can use better words both in their oral and written language. They use complex sentences to describe and explain their ideas. 
The best bit was that the rest of the rests in the class had improved too. On assessing them I found that every child had make some progress and no one was at the same level as at the beginning of the year. 
The evidence for this is highlighted on my blog. - these are in the form of my reflections, class blog and Google Class On Air Episodes and day to day observations.

What did I do to make this happen?

Changing my classroom climate was a key to my inquiry. I had to change myself to be a good listener as well. What I had noticed was that these children were - intelligent students but were bored of writing and did not know how to be successful at writing. This would have been also because these students had not experienced success in writing in their previous years of schooling.

what I would like to say to the teachers here is - read as much as possible to your children.
discuss new language in text , show them how to notice new words and language chunks, and give them lots of opportunities to recycle their new words. Talk to them using new words. And last but not the least, make a big deal about little achievements and celebrate these. Intrinsically motivate your students.

What next ...

I will continue to do what me and my students have continued to do this year right from day one next year.
I would like to thank Jannie, Rebecca, Aaron, Russell, Dorothy, Anne Sinclaire, Pat Sneddon and many more mentors and facilitators whom I would have missed on this occassion.
Most of all I would like to thank my students without whom this learning journey was impossible.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

My Reflections on my Inquiry - Phase 5 Monitoring and evaluating Impact - Part 2

As I had focused on vocabulary for the purpose of my inquiry, I needed to monitor if vocabulary of my students had improved. I did this through Kids Vocabprofile, a tool that can help assess vocabulary knowledge. The analyses of writing shows that students have learnt lots of new words and can use these in their writing in a meaningful way. There is a clear indication that student's vocabulary bank has increased.

Analysis of vocabulary using vocabprofile

Student Name :  D

Target student 1 - Time 1

8 topic specific words used.

Target student 1, Time 2

28 topic related words used.

Target student 1, Time 3

74 topic related words used


Student Name: O
Target student 2 
Time 1
The solar system has planets. Mars is the hottest planet.

2 words

Time 2

The sun lies at the centre of the solar system where it is by far the largest object.
It holds 99.8 of the mass of the solar system. The sun and it’s atmosphere are divided into
several layers. The sun’s light is made out of rainbow colours.

17 words

Time 3
Earth is the third planet in the Solar System. It is the most unique planet out of all the
other planets.People can live on Earth and there is water and oxygen that can grow plants.
It is called the goldilocks planet and is the perfect planet for human beings to survive.
Earth has one moon. There are lots of other heavenly bodies in the solar system like
the moons and shooting stars. There are some planets that are not discovered.
We cannot live on other planets because there is no oxygen and no water. Other planets
are too cold or too hot.

18 words

Student Name: X
Target Student 3
Time 1
What do you know about the solar system.

Solar system is a clelltion ( collection) of planets and smaller objects all travelling around the
senstrel ( central) star the sun. it is big and heavy that it’s gravity pulls the whole solar system
to orbit around the sun. Solar means something to do with the sun. the solar system is colletion
of 8 planets more than hundred moons.

11 words

Time 2
Space is everywhere. In space it is pitch black alos space has millions of galaxy in spaces too.
Space has no oxygen so that’s why astronauts wear space suits and helmets with an oxygen tank.
Space never ends so it is infinite. Scientists are unaware of the possibilities in space.

15 words

Time 3
Topic - Caring for Planet Earth
Earth was created when a solar nebula explosion happened wich created the sun that also
created all the other planets and Earth. Earth is a goldilocks planet because it is neither too
hot nor too cold. It has the right temperature because it has two elements oxygen and water to survive.
Animals also other creatures are dying because people are cutting down trees, littering hunting
down animals because sometimes the rubbish goes on animals. Then they die, like seas turtles,
cows, bulls, penguins shark fish. Killer whales alos whales mostly sharks because they eat whatever
they can find. also some animals lives in trees. That’s how animal lives get harder for them.
But we still need wood to make things so always after cutting down trees plant a new one.
Nether litter and don’t hunt.

19 words

Student Name: J
Target student 4
Time 1
A solar system have 8 planets. Earth is unique because we have oxygen.

2 words
Time 2
Our Solar system has 8 planets and 1 sun and lots of moons. There are other heavenly bodies
known as shooting stars and meteors. There is a possibility of different planets and galaxies
beyond the milky way galaxy. There could be aliens and mermaids and other species that we
are unaware of.

Earth is the most suitable planet to live in. We cannot live in other planets because are too
cold or too hot. Some planets have no oxygen and no water. We cannot live on gaseous planets
because they would blow us up. Other planets have no seasons and have too long days and too
long nights. So Earth is the only planet you can live on.

13 words
Time 3
Our Solar system has eight planets and one sun and lots of moons. There are other heavenly bodies
known as shooting stars and meteors. There is a possibility of different planets and galaxies
beyond the milky way galaxy. There could be aliens and mermaids and other species that
we are unaware of. Earth is the most suitable planet to live in. We cannot live in other planets
because other planets are too cold or too hot. Some planets have no oxygen or no water.
We cannot live on gaseous planets because it would blow us up. Other planets have no seasons
and have days and nights that are too long. So Earth is the only planet you can live on.
Earth has one moon and the right temperature for life to survive. It has a number of species
and this is what makes it a beautiful planet.

24 words

Friday, 9 November 2018

My Reflections on my Inquiry - Phase 5 Monitoring and evaluating Impact - Part 1

This is the last phase of my inquiry and it is about Monitoring and evaluating.
These are the results on just one test and are not my OTJs.

Progress and shifts made by students.

Easttle results of Target student X ( Year 4 student)
Writing level 2A
Moved from 1P at the beginning of the year to 2 A at the End of the year.
Moved four sub levels in Writing

e- asTTle results of target student J ( Year 4 student)
Writing level 2A
Moved from 1P at the beginning of the year to 2 A at the End of the year.
Moved four sub levels in Writing

e- asTTle results of target student M ( Year 4 student)
Writing level 2A
Moved from 1P at the beginning of the year to 2 A at the End of the year.
Moved four sub levels in Writing

e- asTTle results of target student D ( Year 4 student)
Writing level 3B
Moved from 1A at the beginning of the year to 3B at the End of the year.
Moved four sub levels in Writing

e- asTTle results of target student O ( Year 4 student)
Writing level 2A
Moved from 1B at the beginning of the year to 1A at the End of the year.
Moved two sub levels in Writing

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

My reflections on my Inquiry - Phase 4 (Taking Action)

As said in my previous posts, I had decided to focus on three things for my Inquiry -

For this to happen, I had to change my pedagogy.

Firstly, I needed to change my class climate

Next, I needed to support learners to learn complex vocabulary.

This has benefitted my students hugely in growing their confidence and Writing capabilities.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

My Reflections on my Inquiry - Phase 3 - Collaborative sense making

As I was investigating into the learning of my students I wondered what my students were thinking about me and what do I think about my teaching and practice? Do the two align? Am I at the same page as that of my students?

For this I needed to collect some student voice to make sure that my students felt comfortable and all the efforts that I had put in building the class climate was benefiting them.

Survey done on the the 10th of May shows that 'Teaching and Learning communications' in class had improved and that students felt more comfortable asking questions than at the beginning of the year.


When I looked at the survey deeply, I found that I needed to change my delivery a bit more.
The question asked in the Survey were-

  • Mrs. S tells students exactly how to do better.
  • Mrs. S knows when students don't understand and slows down.
  • It is easy to ask Mrs. S for help.
  • Mrs. S makes things easier to understand.
  • Mrs. S asks students for help on how to improve her teaching.
  • Mrs. S answers questions very well.
The survey showed that my students

  • Wanted me to slow down as they sometimes missed on information.
  • They found it hard to ask me questions about their learning.

So these became my teaching goals because I was a very important factor in developing the classroom culture of my class.

Here is a link to my post on how I had worked to change my class culture.
Survey was done after three weeks. The survey showed that there was work that still needed to be done.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

My reflections on my Inquiry - Phase 2 ( Gathering evidences)

What evidences did I have to base my Inquiry on?

Writing levels of students in previous years

I began to investigate and see how my students had performed in their previous years of schooling.

The data of the previous schooling years showed that students had not moved in the previous years of schooling.

Reading comprehension

Evidences show that these students were able to decode well but their comprehension level was too low.

When I further investigated, I found that most students failed on vocabulary and inferential questions.

Student Survey 
I did a survey on students to find out why they did not like writing?

Three students were aware of them being low achievers in Writing.
Two students did not think that they had to work more to be successful in writing.
All five students did not like to write as it was hard.

My Reflections
I needed to motivate and encourage these students for engagement. For this the whole class climate needed to change because it was not just these boys who did not find writing interesting but overall the class response showed little interest in the subject.

If I focused on Vocabulary, how could this help in improving Writing of my target students?

So I roughly framed my Inquiry question.

Does talking about topics and noticing Language chunks in reading help students to recycle their learning into writing?

Thursday, 18 October 2018

My reflections on my inquiry - Phase 1 (Noticing)

What did I notice at the beginning of the year?

Students were continuously achieving low in writing in their previous years of schooling. This was partly because students did not believe in themselves. They had very low self esteem and had continuously been told to work hard in writing but perhaps not shown how they could be successful.
Statements like " I am bad at Writing" said D. " I don't like Writing" said M. " Writing is boring" said X, were enough evidences for me to know that these children were not motivated enough to write because they found it difficult. The question for me was to see how I could change their views on writing and encourage them, and even more, get them intrinsically motivated by realising that they were well capable of becoming good writers.

What did I needed to change in my class?

Class Climate
"We all can do this" had to become the mantra of the class. Everyone including the low achievers and the high achievers were truely seen as people who can achieve. I believed in them and was a bit annoyed at how children can be labelled as low achievers so easily.

Mixed ability grouping
All students got opportunity to work with each other. This fostered more congruent classroom community in which students developed relationships with a range of peers and learned of each other. Activities were not differentiated and emphasis was on engagement and learning.

More Positive ( warm Relationships) classroom climate
It was okay to make mistakes. Students felt comfortable making mistakes, asking questions and support one another with their learning. Teacher scaffolding played a vital role. Opportunities were provided for students to learn through their mistakes. This was also done through lots of group work.

A climate that provided Intrinsic motivation
The psychosocial climate in the classroom also depends on the way teacher communicates with the students. I had to create this psychosocial environment that provided challenging learning experiences and clear goals. Students were expected to respond with high intrinsic motivation and a determination to be successful in their learning.  It was a climate that emphasised on cooperation rather than competition. I had high expectations for every student and all students were well aware of this.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Sharing my Inquiry at Staff Meeting

This week I did a staff meeting on my inquiry. My Inquiry is about writing and how I have focussed on vocabulary to raise the writing levels of my students. The feedback that I got from the inquiry was very positive. Here is the presentation that I shared with the staff.

The highlights were -

  • How can I set my students for success every time.
  • Why vocabulary is so important for children to learn.
  • How can I design rich tasks for students to recycle new vocabulary.
  • How I track my students progress. 

COA - Lesson 10

This lesson was a follow up from the previous lesson on Manaiakalani Google class on Air. In this lesson children have come up with ideas on how to lift people's spirits in an event of a natural disaster.

My reflection - 
It was a good lesson as students could think outside the square. They came up with some very original ideas like - making something from debris, singing songs together and playing music to calm themselves. It was great to listen to one of the students who came up with an idea of staying together as it symbolises strength. When I further questioned on how they could show this through Art, they had several ideas to share like - painting people together, families together and a bunch of flowers. I am very excited about how students can now easily relate to Art and try to represent their ideas through Art.

One of the ideas was to paint a tree of togetherness. Just as the leaves of the tree stick together, we should also stay together in times of disasters because together we can remain strong and can overcome all difficulties. The black colour represents hard times and the white represents strength.

Monday, 3 September 2018

COA Lesson 9

This term we have been learning about Natural disasters. In this lesson we have learnt about how people feel when they are in a natural disaster. Children have created a word mural to share what they see, hear, smell, feel and taste during such times.

The learning outcome for the lesson was - Understand how natural disasters affect the life of people and those around them.

Reflection - It was really great to see one of the groups plan to make a piece of Art to share people's emotions. This idea was liked so much by the class that they all pitched in to make a big mural with all sense words. They decided to paint a slip in the middle of the mural to show an earthquake.

Here is a word mural that we made.

Click here to watch the complete episode.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Reflections and tweaks in my Practice - CoL

What have I learnt from my initial efforts?

My End of Term Data shows that

  • All Year 4 students are all on track to reach the curriculum level at the end of the year for Reading and Writing
  • All Year 4 students had made considerable shifts in writing. ( Shift of One whole year in the first two terms)
  • Year 5 students had made some shifts but not as much as I had predicted in Writing.
  • Why is this so?
The data was very encouraging but also reflected some grey areas that pushed me harder to reflect on my practice. What was happening in the world of my year 5 students?

  • All my target students were year 4 students whom I visited more often that others. this was because initially, at the beginning of the year I had realised that most of my year 4 students were very low in literacy. So I had chosen them to be my target students. But I taught the same thing to everyone in class.
Theory says that what works for your target students will work for others in class.

But as Rebecca explained...is now making sense to me.

Another glaring reflection!

Topic specific vocabulary size increased for all my students.

This is because I laid a lot of emphasis on subject vocabulary.
But children need other kind of vocabulary too...

How can I now hurry up and refine my planning and teaching?
What changes will I make?

  • In Term 3 my whole class will be a target for writing - I cannot afford to leave anyone behind!
  • Hit on vocabulary in all curriculum areas - Reading, writing and Maths. Now that students understand the importance of learning new words and use these in their everyday repertoire, It would be easy to target vocabulary in all curriculum areas. This will also increase the intensity of teaching of vocabulary. I reckon it will be very engaging for students because they have already got into the habit of noticing new words and phrase in texts.
  • Make space in weekly plans to revisit all new words and use them in different contexts to recycle them. (So that there is more input)
  • Make sure this gets transferred into writing.
  • Talk to the students about what has happened and why we need to make this change.
Reflection - What I was doing was good and has shown improvement. I need to make sure that I take all my students in stride, share their data with them, explain where they are and what they need to do to reach their goals and change my planning a bit so that I provide that space and time which my students need so compellingly to make the shifts happen. After all language acquisition is all about
 " Planning Preparing and providing"

Thursday, 2 August 2018

T3 Wk 1 - My most exciting teaching moment this week

Remember what my students said after collaboratively working so hard on developing a shared book about Easter. They said "The book we write will never get printed. It will just stay in class for us to read. We write it and we read it."
To make them understand that the book will still be important, I had to borrow a fabric book that never got printed but was of great use for three generations in a family.

Click here to read my previous post

Later in the term we wrote another book about Matariki. While learning about Matariki, we came to a provocation. " Matariki should be a public holiday in New Zealand".
During the course of our study, we wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying that we strongly voted for Matariki to be a public holiday.

Here is the letter that we sent to Jacinda Arden.

Hon. Prime Minister,

We in Room 6 are learning about Matariki, the Maori New Year. Through our surveys we have realised that many people do not know about Matariki and a lot of young Maori children do not know much about it.

Can we make Matariki a public holiday because Aotearoa is a Maori land and all people living in New Zealand should know about it.
During Matariki, we have to have whanau time. We could make bonfires, pay respect to mother Earth, remember our ancestors and wish good fortune to everyone. We fly kites and make special kai (food) to honour the cluster of seven stars. It is also the time to harvest our crops.
This takes a lot of time and so we would appreciate if the New Moon Day in the month of June is recognised as a public holiday.
Matariki should also be celebrated in the city so that people from other cultures, who live in New Zealand, can learn about Matariki. It should be recognised as an important New Zealand festival.

We have attached a report of two surveys as evidence to support our ideas.

Kind Regards

Room 6
Tamaki Primary school.

My class as usual forgot about it during the holidays. I was hoping and waiting and praying to receive a reply so that my students could have an experience of real audience for their writing. If I do not receive a reply, my student's belief that no one cares about what they write in class would get firmer.

During the holidays we did receive a response to our email. It read as follows...

My students jumped out of joy to receive this letter.
I took this opportunity to draw my student's attention to how writing can attract audience and why learning to write was an important skill. My students are so motivated to write now. They check their work several times to make sure their writing makes sense. They are intrinsically motivated to write for a variety of audience. They consult and craft their writing again and again to insert better words and sentences that will leave an impact on their readers. They make sure that they write in detail so that their audience do not miss on information. 
What else do I need? I am just enjoying the bliss of the moment!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Shifts at the end of Term 2

I have a year 4 and 5 class. My target students for writing for the first two terms were all my year 4 writers. I can very proudly announce that all my year 4 students are performing AT or ABOVE the Curriculum level in writing.

From this term onwards, I would be focussing more on my year 5 students. These is a group of 9 students who are at Beginning Level 2 or below. These students have made shifts but not considerable shifts so as to be AT the expected level.
The Data shows that I need to change my target students for writing from Term 3 onwards.

The reading data shows that all children in the class are working AT or ABOVE the curriculum level.
Very exciting!!!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Increasing vocabulary size

The whole term I have been incorporating lots of things in my class room to develop vocabulary bank of my students. These ideas have been shared by Dr. Jannie Van Hees. Not that I was not aware of these earlier but I have made a conscious effort to include these teaching items into my daily plans. Discussing these with Jannie and learning how to plan in depth for my lessons has helped in increasing the receptive and productive vocabulary size of my students.  This has also made me more aware of where my students are and where they need to be. Now, with practice, I critically reflect on my daily plans and continuously make an effort to improve them. The questions that I always asked to myself were -

" Am I engaging the students in a very productive meaningful way? What new learning would I want my students to go home tonight with? Are my students building on what they learnt the previous day? Was there anything that struck to me that I could change while teaching and did I organise and prepare to make that change happen as quickly as possible so no time is wasted? Have I planned  rich tasks that will help my students to use new words in their reading writing or oral discussion time? "

  • Plan for tasks that focus on rich conversations in the classroom. provide multiple opportunities where students can try out the new words learnt during reading, inquiry or writing time. I did this by asking them a simple question - " What is a better word or a phrase for.....?". I also did this by making a vocabulary book which students could refer to when writing or looking for a better word.
  • Create an extensive reading environment where students had books on related topics. For example - If we were learning about planets, then I had heaps of books on planets. I made time to read these to the students, referred to new words, had these words on the word wall and in their personal vocabulary book, revisited these words continuously on a daily basis and encouraged students to use these words in their oral and written language. The reading programme also provided time to listen to texts and read for themselves. I deliberately chose school journals that had the audio for the texts available online and if not then used the speech option on their chrome books. This also included, shared reading, guided reading, reading to and listening to teacher selected digital texts. 
  • Discuss meanings of new words - We did this by acting them out and describing and discussing in what situations they would fit best. This stretched their word knowledge and gave them a chance to say out loud in what contexts they could use the new words.
  • Use Paul Nations first 2000 words for spelling programme. These are available on the net. This helped my students to become fluent writers without wasting much time on looking for spelling of words.
  • Choose carefully selected topics for writing. I planned for topics that would provide children to use the words they had learnt recently in their writings. Before writing we would discuss at length on the context and form oral paragraphs for our ideas. During these discussions I would feed in new words that we had previously learnt during reading or inquiry time. 
  •  Make a big deal about the smallest achievements noticed in the classroom so everyone gets motivated to learn new words.
By planning in such ways I have noticed that now students are increasingly able to read independently and many more words are available to them to when they are speaking and writing.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


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!