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.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Manaiakalani Google Class on Air - Episode 4

Some of my students give me one word answers and it is really hard for anyone to understand them. This is mainly because they do not have the words to explain what they want to say. I wanted them to be really aware of this shortfall so they realise how important it is for them to learn new words everyday and to also to use these words in different contexts till it is part of their repertoire.

At the end of the lesson, children did realise that they needed to use specific words to say tell their story.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Manaiakalani Google Class On Air - Episode 3

View the complete lesson here


Lesson Content :- Students were very engaged and learnt new words quickly. They tried to use these words in their oral paragraphs and helped each other to use them when needed. More support is required as students need to continue to form oral paragraphs on a daily basis in order to learn and use new words. 
Lesson Pacing :- I have used oral paragraphs for the first time so the pacing was not great but will improve as we work more on them.
Lesson Delivery :- This session was a part of the whole lesson where students were learning to use specific words to orally tell their stories. Three students out of the group of five achieved this where as the other two still need support.
Student Understanding :- Students understood what was being asked to do. They were very motivated to write their stories using new words. Most students understood the purpose of the lesson. Their understanding will improve as I continue to plan for more such lessons on writing where deliberate opportunities are provided to create oral paragraphs.
Student Outcomes :- Students understood what was expected and were ready to give it a go. My students need a lot more time to orally say out things that they need to write. I also need to work on strategies to not make it tedious or maybe split the lesson into more comprehensible shorter lessons.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

CoL Meeting 2

The slide show below summarises what I think I need to do to move my inquiry forward.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Do Learning Intentions isolate the writing Process?

The more I delve into my inquiry, the more I feel that we need to change our approach on the way we teach writing. I feel we are stuck too much with the teaching of the conventions of writing rather than making it a joyous task where the students feel intrinsically motivated to write. 

Last week talking to Jannie Van Hees confirmed my notion. Jannie modelled for me in my class. It was great to watch her and notice her not using any learning intention but using talk and lots of talk  to develop vocabulary. She provided multiple opportunities for students to interact with one another in a non threatening, purposeful and enriching ways. The students dominated the talk and  then wrote some good meaningful sentences about the topic. They were motivated and engaged and they also learnt new words to convey their ideas.

Learning Intentions isolate the whole process of writing. We get stuck in teaching capital letters or full stops or inserting describing words or adding detail. It is more important for students to understand that there is a purpose for writing and that is conveying their ideas and their thoughts to people who do not know about the topic you are writing on.  It is a way of communication and it needs to be clear and meaningful, just like talking needs to be meaningful for the listener to understand. What I mean is that the focus should shift from just putting full stops in the correct places to creating a captivating piece of writing. Things like punctuation can be subtly taught and reminded of during the process of writing.

The other question that arises is... 

Do our students understand some of the learning intentions? For example - WALT write in detail? what does this mean to them? I explored a lot over this learning intention for the past few weeks and found out that my children actually do not know what they need to do when they have to write in detail. They started giving me recounts that were three pages long, as they thought that detail meant a long piece of writing. They were super boring to read as they lacked the purpose. There was no soul or depth to their writing. They were monotonous and reading and analysing them was painful. How come one after another, each sample was just a narration of sequence of activities that they had experienced? 

So the question that arose was 

What is it that we are not doing?

I feel we are not providing opportunities for the development of spoken forms of language as a bridge to more academic language. For this to happen we need to look at the quality of dialogue that children are engaged in. 

They need to be pushed to produce more comprehendible, coherent and grammatically improved discourses. And all this needs to be done without making it a tedious activity.

How will I do this?

I will be choosing interesting authentic topics for students to write everyday. I would be focussing a lot on language output. This would be done by extending them from the known to the new. My class would be a communicative class where students would be encouraged to process the language and deliver it in a more comprehendible way. I would be making more stronger links to reading, talking and writing.
In doing so, I know I will need to be more prepared by mindfully going through my teaching process before I actually teach my students. I will need to do this a number of times till it is kind of fossilised into my practice. It is work but it is exciting!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

COA - Teaching Pepeha

This week I taught my class to say their Pepeha. The lesson was deliberately chosen as a reading activity to link with the topic studies. Through this lesson students were encouraged to critically think about place they live in and what connection they have with the natural landmarks around the community.

I used a matching word activity to help my students  learn the Maori words that they needed to say their Pepeha.

View the complete lesson on by clicking here

My Reflections

What went well.

Lesson Content :- Students had to learn to write their Pepeha and then rehearse saying it confidently and clearly. They understood what natural landmarks are and what significance they have in people’s lives.
Lesson Pacing :- The pace of the lesson was good as they had already learnt a bit about pepeha. However understanding the connection between the land and the people was a bit difficult for students.
Lesson Delivery :- This session was a part of the whole lesson where students learnt about the iwi, hapu, waka, mounga and moana ( extended family, close family, their canoe, their mountain and their sea). In this lesson students had to identify the natural landmarks around the community they lived in and why they were important to them and I was able to help them understand it.
Student Understanding :- Students could talk about the natural landmarks and their significance really well. I was very impressed the way they had picked up on the maori words to explain their understanding. The side activity ( Matching activity) helped students to learn maori words quickly and easily.
Student Outcomes :- Students understood the significance of a pepeha and could include the elements required in a pepeha.They rehearsed and could narrate their pepeha meaningfully.

What still needs work.
Student Outcomes :- My students need a lot more time to orally say out things that they need to write. Having to work with them individually over and over again to make them understand the difference between formal and informal occasions was like a signal to me that children need to use the vocabulary a number of times in meaningful contexts before they are ready to write. I will continue to allow more time to my students to have a go at using new vocabulary.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

How much support is good support?

Image result for cartoon of a child talking

This week I was teaching my target students to write on a topic and as usual, because these children are not great at forming correct sentences, I decided to give them sentence starters. Once we had our ideas in our mind, we tried to put them into sentences. I asked them to say them out loud using the sentence starters.
Each time they said the sentence aloud, they changed the beginning of the sentence. However they were very close to conveying the idea.

Can sentence starters sometimes act like crutches for children?

I feel they do. Sentence starters are perfect for children who have very limited English. By this I mean the ones who have not know simple structures to express themselves. Once the students begin to understand the semantic, syntactic and graphophonic systems, it is time to remove the crutches and let students give a go.

This is exactly what I noticed when teaching this group of students. Three of them in the group were wanting to get off the leash and discover, explore and experiment for themselves. They could not follow the beginnings of the sentence starters as they were now equipped with language that provided them more options to change the beginnings of the sentences. If they were asked to used the specific framework, they focussed more on remembering the words that they needed to say rather than  creating a sensible sentence to convey their ideas.

I am excited about it and can see the visible difference that has happened in the learning of my students.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

From Speaking to Writing in the Classroom.

Teaching Writing...

For ages we have been trying to improve writing of our students. I have a good bunch of students in my class who are not able to string sentences together and this is what I have noticed about them.

1. Not knowing the purpose of writing
Not knowing why we write? When I asked my students why is it important to write? They said - To make sure that writing makes sense...etc. This is not the purpose. The purpose could be something like - to convey something that others might not know or to tell the story that is in our mind.
What can I do?
Clarify with my students why it is important to learn to write. They need to understand that writing is a skill that is necessary to lead a quality life. Just like being able to read and calculate problems is important for our daily lives, writing is too. I will try and create a passion for writing by hooking them on to something interesting, making it fun and not make it a tedious task.
2. Dearth of words to tell their story.

Children who do not share their ideas in class is not because they do not want to, or do not have any experiences to share. Most of the time they do not have the words to narrate their story. So they are often misjudged as the ones who do not know much.

What Can I do?
To start with, I will encourage them to talk even if they are speaking in grammatically incorrect sentences.  I will praise them till they are confident to share what they have to say. I will not choose to correct them in the beginning, as they might feel judged and then withdraw.
I will also make sure that my program has space for concrete experiences that help make language comprehendible and not miss on the important role of teacher - student talk to support children's learning and language development.

3. Not having recycled new words in meaningful contexts.

 If they have learnt new words in the past, then they most probably did not have enough opportunities to use those words several times till it was ingrained in their language so much so that it came out fluently when they choose to speak in different contexts.

What Can I do?
As a teacher of these students I will be making deliberate attempts to create opportunities for them to use their new words in meaningful contexts till they gain automaticity through practice and repetition. This means having to talk about things and situations in meaningful contexts. I will introduce new language when students have gained some key concepts through small group work, so that new language is readily comprehendible. If I choose to teach them new language straight away, it might become an overload.

 So for the next few weeks I will be building on their existing understanding of language and to link old learning with new.