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, 29 May 2018

Developing subject related vocabulary

At our CoLs meeting it was reiterated several times by Jannie, Anne and Aaron that 
We teachers are very good at extracting and asking students what they know about a topic, but do we also give enough so children can produce cutting edge information? One of our jobs is also to lift and feed students with information so we can make them cognitive thinkers who can talk about their learning.
I took this idea back to my class. This Term the topic of our study is space.
The most urgent need for my students was to stretch their language and this would require effortful, purposeful and engaging tasks.

I used a you tube video that not only had lots of information but challenging, purposeful language that would extend my student's vocabulary. We watched the video in parts and had a lot of discussion around new words and phrases. 
My students struggled to form complete sentences when they tried to use the new words to deliver information verbally. We practiced and finally we were able to frame good sentences.

I also used a transcript of the video as a reading text. 

Students need to listen, speak read and write the new words a number of times before they can begin to use them in their spoken and written language. This requires very thoughtful planning, firstly to resource students and designing tasks that will provide an opportunity to use their new knowledge and vocabulary in different contexts.

Here are a few examples of writing produced by some of the students.

The sun is the biggest object in the solar system.It has
a massive magnetic field and extensive gravitational pull
which holds the Earth and the other planets to make our
solar system.It is many times wider than
Earth and the sun is the star that
is many times closer to us.The sun
can fit more than 1,0000 planets
in the sun.The sun is a burning ball
of gas mostly hydrogen and helium.
If the sun wasn’t here there would be
no light no heat, plants would not grow and the days would grow colder.

By Dyzon

The Sun is the biggest object in the Solar System.
It has a massive field and extensive Gravitational Pull which holds the Earth and the other Planets to make the  Solar Systems.
It is many times wider than Earth and the Sun is the star many time closer to us.
The Sun can fit more Then 100,00 Planet’s in the sun is a Burning ball of gas.
By - Fine

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Manaiakalani Class On Air lesson # 5

I teach in a school that is situated in low socio economic community. Some students who start school come with an oral language of a three year old. This creates a big gap between them and the students who come form affluent backgrounds. Language acquisition is one of the major concerns for our community. 
This year I have been exposing my students to texts that are abundant in language and have trained them to notice words and word groups that make a text captivating.  Students understand and learn meanings of these new words and then try and use the new words and word groups to tell the story in their own language. Through this lesson I have tried to show the process of how we do this in our class.

Click here to watch the complete episode on Manaiakalani Google Class on Air.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

T2 WK 4 - My most exciting moment this week

Each week we focus on new words and phrases. For the past couple of weeks we have been learning lots about planets and the solar system. I always encourage my students to use new words in their writing. Usually these words are on the word wall for students to write. This week I had not been able to put these on the wall and some students who were absent did not have these in their vocabulary book either. When they needed the words to write for their explanations, they realised that they did not know how to spell them and so did not feel independent while writing.
I took this opportunity to ask them what they would do in such a situation, where they knew the word and it's meaning but did not know how to write it.
It did not take them long to come to the conclusion that they needed to learn the spelling of these new words as well.
So now we spend some time in our class everyday to learn spellings of new words we have learnt during the week. Super exciting!!!

Friday, 18 May 2018

T2 Wk 3 - My Most exciting Teacher moment this week

Russell Burt, at his recent CoL meeting laid a lot of emphasis on making students employment ready.

Russell said that what made people successful was the difference between the ones who could speak fluently and share their thoughts and ideas clearly to the ones who could not.

I reflected on my inquiry and to see how I was making a difference to making students learn ready and employment ready. Were my students becoming confident learners?
To find this out I asked my students a question that was related to my inquiry.
My inquiry is all about building vocabulary and providing opportunities to use new words in different contexts.
The question I asked my students was-

" Why do you want to learn new words?"

Watch the video below for their responses.

The News Board

In the beginning of the term I bought a big white board from the warehouse and placed it in the corner of my room for students to write what they wanted to share with the class. I modelled for them by sharing my story. It was exciting! everyone wanted to read what I had to say. All I was trying to achieve was to have them write for real audience. Slowly students started taking turns to write any story they wanted to share.
With time, the white board has become very popular. Everyone wants to say something! The focus is still on using clever chunks and delightful words, new vocabulary, phrases and the effort is on how we can write ideas in a better way so that our audience gets lots of information about our news.
When there is news item on the board, students look for describing words and circle them using with another coloured pen. It has turned into a kind of a competition. They have created their own rule to decide which story is the best. The rule is - the story with most describing words is the best. I don't know how this works and I sometimes feel that I need to shift their focus from just describing words to other aspects of good writing too, but I do not want to kill the enthusiasm by having too many technical details.
The part that excites me the most is when students feedback each other and suggest words that could be used to make the story sound better. This involves a lot of editing and crafting. It is also helping in developing a culture where children are readily beginning to provide feedback to their peers on our writing topics. The most challenging subject is beginning to become fun in my class.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Book is still there

This was a follow up conversation that my students had with me after we made a book on Easter.
Just to remind, my big idea was to let students understand the purpose of writing. We had all agreed that writing is an important skill as it helps us communicate our ideas with the rest of the world. So now our big book on Easter was not published and it seemed no good to the students as it would never reach people out in the world.

To pull them out of this notion, I shared a fabric book with them. This was a book made by a mother who is now a great grandmother. She created this book for her children when she was a young mother and it has since been passed on in the family to her grand children and great grand children. The book teaches simple skills like learning numbers, shapes, alphabet and tying shoelaces and is still in use. Here is a picture of the fabric book!

A little peek into the book would take you through some of it's contents.

This was such a great example of explaining my students that a book really does not need to be published to be called a book. The book is still there...

Thanks to Jannie for sharing the book

Click the link below to have a look at what one of my students has said after looking at a fabric book.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

CoL -T2 Wk 2 - My Most exciting moment this week

This term we have been learning about the Solar system. As said in one of my previous posts, That now students are beginning to notice new words in text, both digital and non digital. I am excited to see students hooked on to developing their vocabulary bank and use new words in speaking and writing.

My most exciting moment this week!

I was completely blown over when this student of mine could speak in complete sentences to describe planet Earth. I had not dreamt of this kind of progress in the wildest of my dreams.
This is a student who would not participate at all during class discussions. He would never speak in complete sentences and would usually look up the roof waiting for someone else to answer.
This week during circle time he raised his hand... and said everything what he knew about Planet Earth. The whole class gasped and clapped for him instantly.

I had to record this as evidence and so I called him later to say all of it again.
Watch the video below

Next step - Keep encouraging students to talk about their learning and keep discovering how my students are improving in their learning.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Noticing what makes good writing

 Lately, I have been focusing on two teaching aspects.
  • Direct students to notice clever chunks and words in texts. 
  • Use these clever chunks to narrate their stories.
It is important for students to notice how texts are crafted for impact. My students read texts but did not notice the new words and vocabulary in texts. They asked for it's meaning but did not really use the new words in multiple contexts. I wanted them to use these words and phrases over and over again so that they become a part of their repertoire. Also, my children needed to understand why we need to learn to write. When asked this question, they completely missed the point and said things like - "To make sure that our story makes sense".  
This is not the reason why we write stories... Writing is a skill that helps us to share our stories with the wider world, much wider than we can share through verbal communications.

Jannie Van Hees our CoL facilitator,  gave me this beautiful idea of how to make students notice the use newly words and phrases in text and then create an opportunity for them to recycle these words.
For this I used the Easter story because when I enquired what students knew about Easter, I found out that not many knew why we had Easter. Out of the whole class only 3 students had gone to the church and had some story to share. Two students had easter chocolate eggs and others had chocolate in some form or the other. I felt a bit disappointed that most children had not celebrated Easter in it's true spirit. This led me to talk to them about Easter and know the true purpose behind it. We needed to have our audience and we chose our younger siblings, who did not know the story of Easter.

I used this read aloud video from you tube to introduce the story.

I then printed out each page and distributed parts of texts for student to read. Their task was for them to identify clever chunks (Phrases) in the part of the text they got to read. I modelled this for them.
We also talked in detail about why clever chunks were important part in writing. At this stage children were just having a go at finding chunks and sometimes they would give me a difficult word - for e.g. 'astonished'. I made a separate list of these words to go on the wall as I wanted them to use new words as well. We then we made a list of all the new words.

Next I cut the text and gave away parts of the text to all the children in the class. They had to order the story in a sequence. I did not help them at all with this task. Students read and re- read to find the right place to fit their text in and this gave them opportunity to read their and other's texts a number of times. The activity definitely provided space for them to gain fluency in reading. Even the slow monotonous readers could read some pages fluently. Exciting!!!
Here is a picture of children arranging text in sequence. It took a long time, but it was worth it. 

Next students wrote parts of the story in heterogenous groups and collated it to make a big book for younger students to read.

I enjoyed  the lesson and the children were motivated and engaged. I could maintain a good balance as the lesson was spread over three days. Children did not feel bored of repetition and the tasks were not tedious at all. They were just right (in the Zone of proximal Development). The most important aspect was vocabulary and I was thrilled to see that they recycled it and used it in their writings. They could also hold a sequence of their ideas in their head to make a simple paragraph. I am glad I was able to scaffold the story in a metacognitive way to make children understand why we write.

Monday, 7 May 2018

CoL - T2 Wk 1, 2018 - My most exciting teacher moment this week

Last term we started learning to notice clever chunks and words. These are words that are new to us and the phrases that we have not heard before.
Usually, I would be the one who would draw student's attention to the new words. But this week suddenly in the middle of the lesson I found one of my target students say -"That is a clever chunk".
I was so elated for him to notice and discover the chunks during shared reading time. This has been such a moment of celebration as other students have started to deliberately look for new words and phrases and find meanings of these new words.

Next step
Next step for my students would be to talk about these new words and make an effort to use these words in their oral and written language.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Col Meeting 3

What school level practice made a difference to the children that will make them employment ready?
PISA report shows that New Zealand is moving one point down each year. What challenge we have as teachers?

Dr. Jannie Van Hees talked about Language in abundance - There is an astounding capacity for children to learn, while they may be disadvantaged but that should not hold them back. Language is the elevated tool that allows us to make meaning to life. This rightly suggests that language is the tool that we as teachers should be focussing on. 
What is it about getting children to talk.
We need to have rich pickings in the way we speak and write. Bring much richer concepts and ideas.  to heighten the language acquisition positions of children.

We teachers are very good at extracting and asking students what they know about their ideas, but are we also giving enough so children can produce cutting edge information? One of our jobs is also to lift and feed students so we can make them cognitive thinkers who can talk about their learning
I need as a learner to receive -  extracting children's ideas. but from a cognitive point of view - connect new learning. we have to make available potential learning to happen. our job is also gifting and feeding children.

What will I put my lens on?

1. Optimising learning and interactional conditions

2. Elaborative style pedagogical responses.

3. Scaffolding learners to become effective Conversationalists.

4. Plan, Prepare and providing

Flourishing learning potential these are the things that Jannie mentioned -
Attention to and noticing, effortful and purposeful engagement and interaction, engage in participation, triggering from known to the new, streching learner's current language, multiple encounters, context relevant, facilitating through engaging mediating tools, high expectations
(Teaching in Goldilock's zone) 

One of Jannie's ideas was to make a poster and talk about the given items to the students.
The poster/ rules will be -
  • Focus and notice
  • Put in effort
  • Take part fully
  • Push yourself to the edge
  • Dig deep for what you already know
  • Learn from others - Notice and focus
  • You share and others gain from you
  • Think and talk, think and read
  • Wandering and asking opens up possibilities to know
Aaron from Auckland University talked about how we should keep a good record of our sightings, experiences shifts and student voice. Teachers who do inquiry need to keep a regular documentation of the changes that show how children are improving in the area of inquiry. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Developing Mathematical Inquiry Community (DMIC)

Today we had a PLD on Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities.

Why we need to develop mathematical inquiry communities?

Only 26% of Maori students and 11% of the Pasifika students are achieving at Curriculum standards at year 8. Yet a high proportion of teachers indicated they felt confident in their teaching and that they are able to engage and meet the needs of their students.
Set our mindset out of the closed stages.

Exploring and challenging our beliefs, values, pedagogy and practices. 
Our beliefs about our students can affect our
  • Perception of students status
  • expectations of students
  • teaching practices and decisions
  • learning opportunities we provide
Does streaming in schools help?
Hattie says " we have more streaming than any other country in the world", we also have on e of the widest gaps between those who do well in our schools and those who do worst. The Pisa results worldwide suggest countries that stream less do better overall.
Streaming predetermines children's performance, removing challanges they might have faced in a class of mixed ability, foreclosing the possibility they might be a late improver, permanently lowering, or raising, their confidence in themselves.
Nothing boosts a child's confidence, or lowers it, more than educational comparisons with their peers.

What is DMIC?
  • Culturally responsive teaching and learning
  • Inquiry learning
  • Developing rich mathematical reasoning ad thinking
  • Proficient use of mathematical practices
  • Social groupings and group worthy problematic activity.
  • High ecpectations
  • co- constructing teaching and learning.
What are mathematical practices?
They are the specific things that successful mathematic leaners do? These could be-
  • Unpacking the problem?
  • Applying the strategies to solve problems that may not necessarily be a maths problem.
  • Making connections with their everyday life
  • Being able to articulate what they understand.
  • Using mathematical language
  • Making a claim
  • Developing a mathematical explanation
  • Justifying thinking
  • constructing arguments
  • Generalisiing a mathematica idea
  • Representing mathematical thinking using pictures, material and numbers.