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Friday, 25 August 2017

Confirming Hunches: Class Observation in Numeracy

Each term, we are observed by our team leaders to help inform next steps in our teaching and develop ideas related to our target students.  This week, Aireen came to observe Maths in my class.

One of the key comments in her feedback form to me was:

"...most students said if they are stuck on the task that they would ask a buddy for help - not from the same group. This shows that the Tuakana/Teina maths that you are doing in the class is working as students have the confidence to ask for help from their peers in another group..."

What makes me happy about this, is that the Maths Tuakana concept appears to be embedding in the classroom learning ethos.  Students are identifying those who they can turn to for support and the classroom environment supports collaboration and open learning conversations between students.

I am going to keep working on this, but it is always nice to have affirmation from other teachers, that they see what you think might be happening...or trying to achieve.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Mixed Ability Grouping in Maths: Learning about Decimals

We enjoyed another morning of mixed ability Maths for the first hour session of the day.  We are focusing on decimals at the moment - particularly, place value of decimals up to the thousandths place.

I am a big fan of deci-pipes as a material to support students to visualise the decimal numbers.

Students were put into groups of four and numbered themselves off 1-4.

I would write a decimal number on the board and call a person to make that number using the deci-pipes.  The group were allowed to support them to make the number.

I saw great engagement, and students who are in my target group participating and using great maths language.  You can see more of this in action below (photos and video):


I will definitely play this game again as a warm up over the next few weeks.  The students said it was great fun and having four groups, we had the opportunity to repeat learning four times (repetition without boring!).  In particular, I saw one of my target students taking on a real leadership role, which I think is due to the safer environment of being in a 'team,' rather than having to answer anxiety inducing multiplication questions on his own.  This was a Year 8 student currently achieving at Stage 5, so this was exciting to see him being so enthusiastic when learning about decimals with his friends.

This photo illustrates the problem progression I followed.  Starting with:
  • Creating a decimal number inclusive of tenths and hundredths.
  • Adding decimals inclusive of tenths and hundredths
  • Adding decimal numbers inclusive of tenths, hundredths and thousandths.
  • Adding decimal numbers that required place value knowledge to 'roll over' groups of 10.


The last question was a big challenge, but I always like ending on a challenge so students have an idea of what to expect in the next lesson and a way forward.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Integrating Reading and Inquiry through Group work - Jigsaw Activity

This task is not a task I invented.  It is a tried and true jigsaw task learnt from my TESSOL diploma studies.

The reason I like it, is because it includes the 4 different modes of literacy:  Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.  I also like it because it promotes positive relationships in the class with students in mixed ability groups.  Another positive is that students are forced to become 'experts' in their own area so you generally get little behavioural issues or students relying on others for all the answers.

Because we now teach Maths for 2 hours in the mornings, I had to find a way to integrate literacy learning in the middle block.  I wondered how I might do this, and settled on trying to use inquiry as the context and using mixed ability grouping as a strategy.

First, I picked 5 texts - all based on hobbies:

  1. Just One Wheel (Year 4 : L2 May : 2015 : P2-11)
  2. The Man Who Makes Animals (Year 6 : Part 02 No. 4 : 1993 : Pgs 30-35)
  3. The GHB (Year 6 : Part 03 No. 02 : 2006 : 29-32)
  4. In Sync (Year 6 : Part 03 No. 02 : 2006 : 9-13)
  5. Half a Bit of Butterflies (Year 6 : Part 03 No. 1 : 2000 : Pgs 2-7)

Next I created this recording sheet with the key ideas along the top that I wanted students to think about as they were reading.

After that I asked students to choose their own groups of 5 - these become the 'home groups.'

In their home groups, students numbered themselves off 1-5.

I asked all the 1's to stand up (should be one person in each group)

They were given a recording sheet each and one text to read together.

This continued for numbers 2-5.

In number groups, students worked together to read the text and complete their boxes on the jigsaw sheet.

Students then returned to home groups to report back.

By the end of this session, all students should have a completed recording sheet - hence the name - jigsaw!


This could be done by hand or electronically, but I have found in the past, electronic versions lend themselves to cutting and pasting information rather than students listening to each other and taking notes.

The key lessons from this activity were:
  • Follow your passions
  • Hard work takes time
  • Hobbies can lead to careers
  • Hobbies can lead to new experiences
  • If you love it, do it
  • There is something for everyone
We are going to be pursuing our own hobbies and presenting information about our hobbies in week 10.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Reflection Post: Maths Tuakana, Whole Class Maths and Student Voice

After our data discussion at the end of last term (click link to view blog post re: T2 data), we reviewed our maths programmes and discussed ways we could change, improve, innovate on our programmes for greater student outcomes.  As a team, we decided on implementing a 'double period' of maths each morning (2 hours of maths) and to focus on basic facts as well as integrating strand and problem solving in this time.

I began this term structuring my 2 hours into two parts:  the first part, whole class approach and the second part, instructional groups.

As I have been inquiring into culturally responsive practice and increased cultural visibility across the curriculum, I have looked into mixed ability grouping, in particular, students choosing their own Maths Tuakana - and we use this term in both whole class and instructional group settings.

Having Year 7s and 8s I have tried to use whole class teaching as a transitional approach to what students might experience in Year 9 and have aimed lessons at Level 4.  In this way, I have found students are now recognising why I have been harping on about the importance of basic facts.  They now understand why it will be important to their learning in Year 9.  This has strengthened motivation for basic facts practice.

Today I constructed a student voice survey to see if the students themselves were enjoying this new approach to Maths.  This is a presentation of the data from the survey and the implication for myself.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Inquiry Lesson: Cultural visibility with a SOLO twist!


Currently, we are inquiring into hobbies - or how to fill our leisure time in positive ways.  We have made links to our past inquiries through Te Whare Tapa Whā, which gives all our learning purpose in building the best versions of ourselves.

This lesson was about hobbies from the past.  I wanted to make the point that the context we are in, can impact the decisions we make.

We looked at the context of people in the past and present.

The circle models you will see from slides 5-7 has been a big help to provide a visual aide for students learning what 'context' means.  Now, I can physically gesture, by making a circle in the air as I am asking students to describe contexts or tell me what context means.

I have used whakataukī again, to illustrate the values and beliefs of our tupuna...I find this is one of the easiest and accessible ways to bring depth to a lesson if you are trying to make links to whakaaro Māori.  We discussed that laziness was frowned upon, hard work was admired.  We talked about the development of technology and how that impacts on the way we can manage ourselves.  We discussed war past and - possibly present!  

The table on slide 12 was printed and completed collaboratively in groups of 2-3.  Students then turned their paper over to complete the last paragraph (assessment task) from slide 13.

The paragraph on slide 13 is based on the SOLO taxonomy to encourage higher order thinking in inquiry time.  I used this resource to help me select my sentence starters...

This lesson took about an hour and was done in the afternoon!  It was long, but worth it as students can now describe what context is, how it can impact on people's choices and understand hobbies past and present.  


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Going Beyond the Hemi Part 3: Cultural Visibility in Maths

One area of the curriculum that I am trying to rethink in terms of cultural visibility, is Maths.  This is a reflection on one very small manageable thing I have started to do to work towards achieving this in a way that isn't token, but captures principals of Ka Hikitia, whakaaro Māori and wairua Māori.

Numbers are universal, so how do I reflect the lives of experiences of students through Algebra?  Geometry?  Multiplicative thinking?  One thing we see time and time again, is changing names in number problems to Māori names, and calling it a day.  "Hemi had 5 oranges, he ate another 3 oranges, how many oranges did he eat all together?"  Or maybe, if you're feeling extra cultural, "Hemi had 5 kūmara, he peeled another 3, how many kūmara did he peel all together?"

So there was my challenge - how do I go beyond the Hemi in Maths?  Something that should be quite straight forward?  Formulaic?  Black and white?

At Tāmaki, our Maths data is looking a bit sad in comparison to our Reading and Writing.  In the syndicate I work in, we've decided to do double period maths and how we organise that 2 hour block, has been left up to us.  I've decided to teach whole class in the first hour, and then break up into differentiated groups for the second hour.  In the first, students are allowed to choose who they work with to solve the whole class problems.

So what did I try today?

We've started using the term:  MATHS TUAKANA and I have asked the question today, WHO IS YOUR MATHS TUAKANA?

On maoridictionary.com, Tuakana means:  1. (noun) elder brothers (of a male), elder sisters (of a female), cousins (of the same gender from a more senior branch of the family).

At Tāmaki, we have Tuakana (older)/Teina (younger) classes, in which senior and junior classes are matched up and work together throughout the term.  Buddy reading might be a traditional example you have heard of.   We do art with our little ones and my class also helps our 'teina' class with bike riding.



Tuakana/Teina, captures the idea of the expert helping the less expert.

When working with my instructional group today, a student said, "Miss, [Student] should be in the group up, because he's getting this faster than us."  I replied with, "Maybe [Student] can be your Maths Tuakana..."  The boys smiled at each other, and [Student] took his role seriously, even saying to me towards the end of their dice game, "Yep, Miss, they've got it now."

This supports our school value of AKO, in which all learners are expected to be both learners AND teachers.  I like it because ANYONE can be a tuakana in a given situation.

I think this is a simple thing to change and include - but sometimes, it's all about teacher dialogue in the class.  MATHS TUAKANA is something I want to continue to use, say, practice and celebrate throughout this term.  Perhaps I would extend it to, "How were you a Maths Tuakana today?"  Or, "Who was your Maths Tuakana and what did they help you to achieve?"

Who was your maths tuakana was growing up?  Mine was my older sister.  My literal tuakana!