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Friday, 3 March 2017

Introducing my Community of Learning Inquiry

This year as part of my role as a CoL lead teacher within my school, was to identify an inquiry that aimed to address the needs of the school I am working within and the community of schools that I am working within, and of course the class of 29 learners I am working within.

The story of how my inquiry came to be spans about 8 years - but I don't have time for that, but basically, I completed a Grad Dip Tessol - which got me interested in language acquisition.  Then I took part in the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers programme - all of which has been recorded on this blog - which got me thinking - I should probably learn a second language myself to see what it's like to be asked to write, read, speak and be assessed in a language I am not confident in...Which lead me to taking a year off, with thanks to TeachNZ to enrol at Te Waananga Takiura o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa...which lead me to develop a lot of knowledge of te ao Māori...which upon my return, I realised is a bigger challenge to embed in the mainstream schooling system than I thought...which then sent me into a bit of a spiral of depression...but I was pulled out by friends and family who said if anyone could do it, I could...which made me think of it from a different which I latched onto the SOLO taxonomy and literacy across the curriculum...which lead me here.

TL:DR - I had life experiences that shaped my world view and challenged my priorities, which lead me here.

I have a class of 29 Māori students.  Year 7&8 - they are ALL my priority learners.  I have students well below, below, at and above the National Standard across Reading, Writing and Maths.  My inquiry will address all the learners in my class.

This was the slide I presented at our most recent CoL meeting, introducing my inquiry in response to the Woolf Fisher research, school data, and my own interests and observations of the learners in my class over the last 5 weeks.  It was however, these posters from the Pam Hook 'Hooked' website, which really ignited my ideas:

So I started to refine the main drivers that lead me to choosing this inquiry was, and what I hope this achieves:

  • The need for greater shifts in students in Years 7-10
  • To hopefully ease some of the transition to our local college as they use SOLO and NCEA is built around SOLO.
  • To use the new reo and knowledge I had gained.
  • To strengthen partnerships with our Māori families and in turn, have more meaningful learning conversations with them.
  • To pass of the gift of te ao Māori to the tamariki in my class.
  • To encourage students to think metacognitively about their own learning and in turn develop greater agency over it.
  • To deepen my own planning - in decision making about texts, the types of questions I ask and the 'create' tasks that would occur in response to the 'learn' and the types of reflections students would write in response to the 'share.'
  • To accelerate achievement for the 29 Māori students in my class by the end of the year.
How might the use of the SOLO taxonomy and increased knowledge and inclusion of te ao Māori promote higher order thinking, cognitive engagement, and acceleration of student outcomes for Māori students in Years 7-8? (And, ease the transition to Year 9?)

I was so happy that this area of interest met one of the overarching CoL goals to:

Raise Māori student achievement through the development of cultural visibility and responsive practices across the pathway as measured against National Standards and agreed targets for reading Years 1-10 and NCEA years 11-13.

Although I am going to try and do this across the curriculum - not just reading, it will be easy for me to extract data for reading.

So we'll see what the year brings!  Nā reira, nau mai, haere mai ki tōku huarahi ki te tihi o tēnei maunga teitei! 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Templates Matter

I love templates.  I love creating them, and even more, I love it when they afford great learning.  This year, as our whānau conferences were approaching, I reviewed our 'goal setting' template that we usually used and thought - does this afford me, the advantages of getting to know my families better?
The current template, was a google presentation, that I completed with the students over a series of lessons in which we set goals for Reading, Writing, Maths and one personal.  On the night, students embarrassingly and cringe-ing-ly (I have Year 7s and 8s) whizzed through their goals and then I asked "Any questions?"  It seemed like a success because after all - the students had done the most talking and they were goals formed with students.  However, I couldn't help but notice the parents nodding with the look in their eyes of "I have no idea what R4 in Structure in Language means and I don't know what using multiplicative strategies has to do with algorithms."

It was a bit of a we tell you what's best for your kids, using the kids as the mouth piece.  This was the template we used prior to the graduate profile.

So after a conversation with a colleague at the end of 2016, I was encouraged to visit the Ministry website and look for 'Graduate Profiles' - so this idea isn't particularly 'new' but you see new things when you have new lenses on, and this year my lenses are heavily focusing in on strengthening relationships with Māori parents and students in my class.

It's the participation of the whānau, student and teacher that we know as educators can help promote great learning and achievement.

So I created the beginnings of our Graduate Profile in the form of a Y-chart.  We had our school goals on one side, the student goals at the top and the whānau goals on the other side.  I had never had such enriching conversations with parents at whānau conferences before.  One family, of which I have taught three of their children over the last 9 years - tells me we're from the same marae.  How did I not know that sooner?  I had never asked.  The template we used never afforded that kind of connection.

I think what I came away with, was that feeling of win/win - I got my needs and wants across and the families felt they had contributed to the goals and aspirations of their child.  My conferences took the longest - so I suppose, it's how you weigh up effort for outcome... for me, it balanced out because although I was the last teacher to leave, I felt that I had engaged more authentically with the parents of my students than in previous classes.

If you wanted to have a look at the template I can find it by clicking here.

If you have your own templates - please share!  I'd love to see what else is going on out there and how you feel they are working for you and extending conversations with your families.  I can always improve on my practice...and templates!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Learn, Create, Share - Te Reo Māori

Today we started our formal Māori language lessons.  We focussed on the sentence structure:  He ___ tēnei.  Although I am not formally trained in the Atarangi (rakau) way of teaching, I bought four sets of cuisenaire rods off trade-me (pro-tip, they were the cheapest I could find!) and got into it.  Bonus tip:  you don't neeeeed four sets straight off.  We managed with one set today, but as they begin learning more complex sentences or adding detail, they may need more rākau.

I was interested only in students using their listening and viewing skills.  I repeated sentences numerous times:  He rākau tēnei.  He rākau tēnei.  He rākau tēnei...etc.

We progressed to our tēnei/tēnā/tērā prepositions and students worked in table groups asking and answering about what object someone was holding and where they were holding it.

After that, we progressed to ēnei, ēnā, ērā, but this was kind of brief - just for exposure - we will return to it again.

Before the end of that session we came together as a class and I had written the sentences on the board - just so they could get a sense of the spelling of words and the visual aide if they were still struggling with the listening.

The second session, I gave out my kupu list.  This was a list of words adapted from my course last year.  It was a list of adjectives in Te Reo Māori and English.  Words such as 'momona = fat', 'kaha = strong', 'hūmarie = humble' etc.  We talked about each word and then I gave them the challenge to describe a friend.  This was our structure for our very first kōrero:

Kia Ora koutou katoa.  (Greetings to everyone)
Ko __________ tēnei.  (This is ____)
He tama/kotiro _____ ia.  (He/She is ___)
He tama/kotiro _____ ia. (He/She is ___)
He tama/kotiro _____ ia. (He/She is ___)
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.  (Thank you all).

Students had 5 minutes to choose their words from the list and practice their kōrero.  In pairs, students then presented back to the class, their descriptions of their friends.  That means we heard those structures over 90 times.  Repetition without boring!

This afternoon - Friday - hot - we are describing our whānau members, using the same sentence structures and the same word list to support us.  Students are completing these by hand for a display.

If I had netbooks operating today, I would have asked students to make a Google Presentation with one family member on each slide.  I would also love to record students describing one another.  I think I would like to do that to put on our class blog as an introduction to us!  Yep.  Just added that one to the planning.

This series of lessons covered many literacy modes: listening, viewing, reading, speaking and writing.  Students were not bored with learning one sentence for the day as they were offered a variety of ways to present their learning.  They were offered a variety of people who they knew well and loved.  I got to know more about their families, which we know is important at this time of the year.

I am really excited to continue this teaching and learning journey.  I can already see the benefits of learning Te Reo with their English as we talked about adjectives and what they are and where they go in different languages.  Through the kupu list I had discussions about what 'giving cheek' means.

I used the senior story card template from Sheena Cameron's 'The Publishing and Display Handbook.'  Which I thoroughly recommend you have in your resource kete!

Are you a languages teacher in a digital space?  Or are you focusing on a new learning area this year as an experience digital immersion teacher?  How are you raising cultural visibility in your class or school?  Also, sorry for lack of photos - still getting back into remember a million things at one time!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tēnā Koe, 2017

Tēnā koutou katoa.  Ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou!  I hope this post finds you well and rested - that is, if you haven't started back with the kids yet - or in one piece after what might have possibly been your first day.

I am one of the teachers in the latter category.  I am sitting here in my brand new class, reflecting on my first day back after a year off on study leave.

I knew coming back would be hard.  But it really is like riding a bike.  A little wobbly at first as the muscle memory returns.  Oh that's right, I need to have pens ready.  Oh that's right, students tend to be a bit shy and a bit tired on day one.  I feel that!  After being a student again, I have come to appreciate how hard it it to actually be a learner.  To listen all day, think all day, contribute all day, worry, be in the right place at the right time, balance my desire to talk to my friends and the desire to do well with a new teacher - who I don't really know anything about.  The experience has definitely made me empathetic to the challenges of being a learner.

This year I am teaching a Year 7 and 8 class, and am aiming to enrich this class with as much Te Reo Māori as possible.  My personal inquiry is to see that if in empowering these students with cultural traditional knowledge and stories and thoughts, that they may see themselves as - to use the words of my new favourite Disney princess, Moana "Voyagers."  Capable of directing their learning and discovery in their own ways.  I think that some people might think this is fluffy stuff - but have you ever met an adult that didn't appreciate a curriculum or teacher that taught lessons that reflected who they were and where they came from?  In my experience, it can only do more good that if I didn't try.

So after an Auckland Anniversary day spent putting up bilingual signs around the class, and choosing my favourite waiata and karakia from my text book from last year, I was excited for welcoming in 30 tweens into my classroom this morning.

When someone asked me what I was 'trying' to do...bilingual unit, enrichment class, and other titles...I just responded that I am trying to do what I think every teacher in Aotearoa should be doing.  Enriching the lives of these students with understanding of our bicultural backgrounds and beliefs.  Putting into practice what I preach - that no one knowledge means more or is worth more than the other.

It will be a challenge.  I don't think I spoke enough reo today and it is so easy to fall back on what I feel is most comfortable.  So that's my future goal for this week...along with getting to know each student's strengths, interests, levels, an holistic approach after all!

So...I have some professional goals this year - what are yours?  What are you trying out, or what do you believe COULD work and do you need a colleague to say "Go for it?"  What area of school life are you trying to innovate, improve on, take a risk on?  I say:  Go for it.  Do it.  Take a risk.  And please share your learning journey!  To give others the confidence to try something new.

Kaua e mate wheke, mate ururoa.
Don't give up without a fight.  Fight til the death!  No one knows how far you'll go!

Personal side note:  I saw Moana three times at the movies and cried all three times and I can't express how much this movie made me think about the students I teach and how amazing they all are and that they should never believe anything less!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Yes I'm Alive, and I'm in NSW, Australia!

Only for three weeks though!

I have been contracted to come here and facilitate with a cluster of catholic schools here in NSW from Armidale, to Glen Innes, to Moree and many other wonderful rural towns of the region.

I will blog a little more in depth about my journey here but just wanted to come online to share a resource I made this evening while sitting alone in my motel room (travelling seems so glamorous until you're sitting alone in a room eating a half packet of popcorn with clothes strewn everywhere).

This has been a key concern for the teachers I've been working with and I just didn't feel like I could give concise answers or guidance - so I attempted to put it all in this Google Slides presentation.  I feel like this is something that can be shared, printed and posted up around a school/staffroom/office area for teachers new to Google Drive.

It is almost the end of my first week here.  The lovely teachers of St Joseph's School in Glen Innes took me out to a delicious dinner in the town centre this evening and they have gone from strength to strength in my short time here.  I will post more as I move around other schools and learn about strategies for facilitating, setting up digital immersion classrooms, lesson ideas and anything else that comes up!

Here is the resource I made, with a puku full of delicious grilled veges and parmesan cheese sauce.  YUM!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Reading Log: Telesā - The Covenant Keeper - by Lani Wendt Young

Those full time teachers with 2 year olds will know that you don't really have much spare time to yourself to indulge in hours of personal reading.  So when the opportunity came up to go to Kerikeri with my family for a little summer holiday, I was so excited at the thought that my little one would be having too much fun with cousins, grandparents, chickens, pigs, beaches and picking oranges in the orchard, to worry about me!

In this time, I delved into a book I've been dying to read for the longest time - Telesā - The Covenant Keeper, book one in the Telesā series, by Lani Wendt Young.

It was perfect!  Just the right escape for me during this time.  A perfect balance between romance, action, mystery...written from a female, Samoan perspective...refreshing!

I am desperate to get my hands on Part 2: When Water Burns and Part 3: The Bone Bearer so read before heading back to real life.

I had started following Lani on Twitter before I had read the books and can say that reading her 140 characters are just as interesting as reading her 400 pages.  At midnight as I was reading about Daniel (a beautiful character from the book) under a waterfall, I had to tweet her...and she replied!  Woo hoo!  Life complete!


I am a big supporter of art, literature, content that is told from a perspective outside of the mainstream and this book was no disappointment.  The description of the flora and fauna of Samoa, the food, the characters, the values and beliefs of the people - both pre and post colonial, were so enjoyable to read, all wrapped up in a X-Men-esque, mythological, legendary, powerful, romantic, feminist package.  I loved it.

I thoroughly recommend this book to any 15+ year old female reader in your family.  So what if I'm 28?  I still loved this book too...and I love Daniel.

Reading Log: I am Malala

I read 'I am Malala' to my class of Year 5 and 6 students in Term 4 and they LOVED it.

Sorry to say Roald Dahl and David Walliams...I tried.  But there was a very clear connect between the students and this book.

I read the Young Readers addition, which used simple language to explain complex and intense political situations.

Students were fascinated by the ideas of not being allowed to go to TV...go to the supermarket unattended by a male family member and not being allowed to play music in the car!  They had thoughtful reflections and questions about the events that took place and I really enjoyed discussing some of these big themes with them, such as equality of the sexes and perspectives of religion.

I have one muslim student in my class and we would draw connections to mosques, churches, and Marae.  We would talk about terrorism and at one point - our book was read in conjunction with the Paris Bomber reports and what that meant for families like the girl in our class and our views about what her family is like and what she is like.  We talked about extremists and the idea of freedom.  All from 9 and 10 year olds...most achieving below or well below the curriculum in Writing and a decile 1a school in East Auckland....

I even got an email from the most introverted student in my class late one night saying, "Miss!  Did you know they're making a movie of Malala's life?!  Isn't that so cool!?"  That may have been a career highlight.  That one young female student in my class was inspired by Malala's struggles for equal education for girls around the world.

Of course, being shot in the head and surviving engaged my most 'creative' boys, who listened in awe of each surgical procedure and what that meant for Malala in her recovery.

They youtube'd speeches, shared Ellen's interview and watched the movie trailer over and over again.

I will definitely read this book again and of course - we send Malala our support.  From a class of 24 at Tamaki Primary School in Auckland New Zealand.  Kia Kaha, Kia Maia, Kia Manawanui.

Malala Yousafzai - inspired students in my class to think about deeper world wide issues with her book - I am Malala.