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Showing posts from 2017

Using SOLO to support my year 12's exam preparations

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This week is senior exam week for our students and trying to get my year 12's ready for exams has been challenging at times, especially with the mixed levels of literacy in my class.  Students have to write an explanatory essay, and the context is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Students were engaged with learning about the conflict but when it came to retaining some of the information and using it to write a structured essay, quite a few didn't know where to start.  
A few weeks ago, I taught some facts and issues around the conflict using the presentation below.  


The slide is quite content heavy, so I created a SOLO Hexagon activity to help them remember the key ideas and concepts.  I wanted them to connect ideas so they could show they were working to at least the relational stage of SOLO taxonomy.


At first, students were a bit hesitant to use the hexagons and had to refer to their notes.  But I persisted and every day for two weeks, I pulled out the hexagons and as I d…

How my Inquiry fits in with our Achievement Challenges.

The Achievement Challenge that I am inquiring into relates to achievement challenge number 2, which aims to:
Lift the achievement of boys' writing in Years 1 - 10.
The students I am focussing on are the year 9 students in my social studies class, with a focus on the writing achievements of the boys.  I want to look at effective writing tools that will engage my learners and raise achievement.

My aims are:
To increase engagement and motivation for writing"I want to write because I like to write"To improve and shift achievement in writing "I want to write because I know how to write"I had a hunch:  That transitioning from year 8 to year 9 can be pretty scary and sometimes overwhelming for our kids - lots of teachers, new students from other schools, new ways of being taught.  What can help with the transition?  What skills can they transfer over?  How can we better connect and track their writing from one year to the next?  These were the questions I had at the beg…

Our local MP drops in for a visit

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At the moment, our year 9's are learning all about our government.  There are a lot of systems and processes that they need to know to understand how it all works and sometimes our kids get disengaged and bored because it feels so far removed from their realities.  To try and get them to understand the importance of the up and coming elections, I invited our local MP Simon O'Connor to talk to some of our students about what it's like to be an MP at the moment.

He talked about the challenges he faces in his job and his passion in helping the people in our community.  At question time, our students asked what his inspirations were, whether he played sport when he was younger and where he saw himself in 6 years time.  Simon's mother and family were his main inspirations which resonated with many of our students.  He shared that he played soccer and cricket when he was younger and that his favourite past time at the moment was fencing.  He shared a story of when he went to …

SOLO + Blogging = SLOGGING!

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My SPARK M.I.T inquiry is looking at using effective blogging with my year 9 social studies class.  Part of my reason for choosing blogging relates to challenges that our year 9 students face have when they start high school and the need to shift and accelerate their achievement towards the national norm. With my focus being on writing, I found one of the biggest obstacles was transitions from year 8 to year 9.  A writing tool that students have been using throughout primary school are their blogs which showcase their learnings.  They also allow me an insight into how students write.

I have looked into writing frames that were being used in the primary schools so I could understand what their teachers were using to teach writing.  In finding a connection between years 8 and 9, I am also looking at balancing what students need to know by the end of year 10.  I felt it was important to acknowledge the need to prepare students for the how to write better, in the senior school and for NCE…

Unifying our inquiries - Tamaki College's COL's staff meeting

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One of the key aspects of raising achievement for the young people in our cluster is through a collective focus on our Manaiakalani achievement challenges.  In the past, teaching as inquiry has often been hidden away and considered something a teacher might do as part of appraisal or teacher registration. A few teachers generally like to inquire into their practice, but in my experience there has rarely been a unifying movement that connects a great number of inquiries to central shared challenges - that was until now! (Click on the link below to find out more about our achievement challenges).

Recently, we held a staff meeting where our challenges were revisited and discussed.  Our COL leader Russell Burt began the session by reminding us of our purpose and to focus on the positives of our work.  His words were pretty inspiring for many of our staff and I know it was an eye opener for both our newbies and our  'oldbies' like me.


The purpose for our staff meeting was to share…

The Summer Learning Effect at the college level.

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The Summer Learning Effect(SLE) encourages students to practice their reading and writing skills in the summer school holidays.  The data presented recently from Aaron Wilson and his team showed the summer drop off in results for boys well below the norm. A three time point analysis showed boys who'd been tested term one 2016, term 4 2016 and again term 1 of this year falling well below the norm.  I wondered why the data showed such alarming statistics particularly for our boys.



During the SLE, the majority of students who signed up and participated were from the primary schools, which was fantastic.  We originally had 5 students partake, but ended up having 2-3 students regularly blogging which in the scope of things is a bit sad.  I wondered why this was and remembered at the end of last year 2016, we had one introduction to the programme and then sent the kids off on their merry way.  In hindsight, I wish we as staff had understood the importance of the programme and had given…

Connected learners share - the writing challenge exemplified!

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In our recent school leaders PLG, Aaron Wilson shared feedback that he and Selena Meikljohn-Whiu had collated, which looked at comparing e-asttle results in term 1, 2016 to term 1, 2017.   Although all aspects of his presentation were important, the focus of my COLs inquiry is lifting the achievement in writing for boys particularly in year 9 which I will discuss in my blog.  What I found is that writing is THE biggest challenge across all schools in our cluster.
Some of the evidence from the report show for writing overall:

Strong evidence of acceleration in Years 3 and 4 but less than norm gains in Years 2, 9 and 10 Despite acceleration overall, writing achievement remains a significant achievement challenge with levels on average more than two years below norm Addressing the summer learning effect could be instrumental in increasing acceleration in writing Gender: Marked gender difference with boys’ writing 13 terms (-125) behind norm vs girls 6 terms (-63 pts) behind norm


When faced …

PLD blogging at Tamaki College

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Today we had an awesome session on blogging presented by Lenva Shearing.  It was really refreshing to see and hear how important blogging is for our staff and the students at our school as I can see it as a powerful teaching and learning tool.

As we followed the presentation, Lenva led us 'back to the future'. We were reminded of our links to the cluster and how everything is visible, which is a driver for the learn, create and share model (the presentation can be found here).

I liked understanding how blogging is rewindable and you can revisit a child's learning over time and see their journey as a progression of skills and ideas.

Here are my key takeouts from the session that I found could be useful for now and in the future:
Let's get an online newsletter for students, staff and parents which could link back to a students' blogsGet onto the Tamaki College facebook page and promote our blogsIn the classroom, get a group of students to become a 'committee…

What will the end result be? Refocusing my Spark M.I.T

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Today at our SPARK M.I.T day, we were asked 'in a perfect world, what will the vision look like in 6 months time?  What will the end result be with our inquiries?'.  When I was asked this question, I totally thought I knew what to say. When it came to my turn, I had decided that my focus would be on getting the teachers and systems in place and that all will be wonderful in the world - but noooo, I was totally on the wrong track!  Where were the learners in all of this??


I needed to check what my original inquiry was:  how could my year 9 social studies studies be engaged in their learning to improve literacy outcomes through the use of blogs?  I decided to write down some learning objectives.

By the end of the year, year 9 social studies students will be engaged in their learning to improve literacy outcomes.

Students will be able to:
Engage in blogging consistently and effectivelyProvide constructive feedback to their peers on their blogsRecognise, use and choose effective wri…

The Heart of Innovative Teaching - Unpacking the 'TPACK'

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Now that I have discovered which framework  suits my MIT Spark inquiry, the challenge is 'what does it look like in context?'.  As mentioned in a previous post, my scribing on paper has helped me formulate an idea that could be 'innovative' (let's see what my bosses say lol)!  I have attempted to apply a TPACK framework to a teaching and learning context that I am familiar with - social studies at Tamaki College.

I started with the PK (Pedagogical knowledge) and the CK (Content knowledge) circles because I felt confident with the them.  As a teacher, my PK are the practices and methods that I use for teaching and learning.  It's me knowing how students learn and using strategies that would suit their learning needs.  My CK is everything I know about my subject area alongside knowing what students need to know to achieve success.  When you combine the two, you get the PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) is basically knowing how to teach the content effectively(a…

A visit to Panmure Bridge School

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After trialling a writing strategy with my year 9 social studies class, I still needed to explore whether I was applying the strategy correctly and how students could use a writing strategy within their learning independently.  During the last week of term 2, one of my COLs colleagues Robyn Anderson invited me to see her LS2 class in action.  I was really excited at the chance!
The context that the students had been working on was on the 'Tamaki Wrap'.  I observed students move into groups to identify and summarise the main points of their learning and as they did so, they shared their 'learning talk' so I could hear what they thinking and doing.

Firstly students wrote down freely the key ideas that they had learnt previously (they would normally do this online, but because it was easier for me to see the bigger picture and roam around to see each of the groups, it was done on big realms of A3 paper which I appreciated).  Once the students wrote their own key points …

Blogging resources for teachers

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One of the challenges that I have come across was that very few teachers at my school blogged.  I wanted to encourage more teachers to start so I thought I would find some interesting sites and readings that discussed how teachers and educators just like them, have dealt with blogging, in a hope that it would allow for a clearer understanding of how important it is, regardless of what subject they taught.
1. Tips for choosing a class blog: Wesley Fryer I like the image that is shared on this site.  It has all the components that we dream of providing our students when it comes to their learning.  Fryer analyses 6 different blogging domains that staff could find use dependant on their context and highlights the features of each of the domains that could be useful in a classroom.  
2.  Teaching with blogs strategy guide (Tracey Gardner)
This is a really helpful guide which describes the processes involved in composing blogs in the classroom, the process of writing regular posts that are …

Understanding my thought processes in unravelling a framework that works!

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I have been struggling to find ways to be more innovative with my chosen M.I.T inquiry.  My focus moved away from ensuring students at our school blogged innovatively, to getting the teachers on board and blogging.  I wanted to have a purpose for engaging students and staff in blogging, and essentially it was to help students improve their writing skills.  The connecting of all the aspects has proven more difficult then I envisioned, so I decided to brainstorm the old fashioned way - writing it down.  I will share my thought processes with you, to help understand how I got to a framework that I feel has hit the jackpot!!

I started by thinking about what I wanted to blog about and number 1 was to talk about some cool sites that teachers could use when trying to get them motivated and keen to blog.  Sites that were informative, helpful and interesting for staff but also basic and easy to understand.
This led me to thinking about blogging for students at number 2, which would be innovati…

Redefining, redirecting and re'doing' integration

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One of the challenges that I have is figuring out how to use the short amount of time I have with my year 9 social studies class to ensure they come away learning something that is meaningful and purposeful inevitably to achieve 'success'.  When I say short, I am talking 4 x 50 minute periods a week, and if we take away 20 minutes for AR reading, then it is actually 180 minutes or 3 hours a week!  And in the 3 hours, I am expected to cover the achievement objectives of the social studies curriculum, ensure students have conceptual understandings of key concepts key skills needed to interpret and understand resources and teach them to understand how 'societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed and responsible citizens' (Social Sciences in the New Zealand curriculum, Ministry of Education, 2007).


I am not alone in this feeling of frustration.  I know each subject area at high school feels that they don't have enough time. So why in the…

Using a writing strategy with my year 9 Sos class

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After reading examples of writing (like blogs and summary paragraphs) from my year 9 social studies class during their first unit on 'sustainability', I felt many of them lacked structure and did not allow me to understand where the gaps were in their learning.

For my inquiry into how to improve the writing of our year 9 boys, I wanted to trial a writing strategy that I had learnt from Robyn Anderson at Panmure Bridge.  This strategy would hopefully allow students to formulate a more structured summary from their learning.

The context that we had been learning about was the impact and effects of globalisation in the small country of Tokelau.  Students had been looking at the push and pull theories of migration and needed to describe reasons why Tokelauans had moved to New Zealand and the issues they'd had with moving.  I found a reading which I felt students could cope with and asked the question:

Write a summary explaining reasons why Tokelauans moved to New Zealand.
What …

Surveying our staff about 'blogging'

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At the beginning of the year,  I had set up class blogs for each of the classes in our year 9 cohort and expected my department to ensure students blogged regularly and they posted feedback and comments at the end of each week.  In theory, this seemed doable, but in reality we all struggled to keep on top of this and with the restrictions in our timetables (we see our year 9 classes for 3 hours in total a week) it seemed there just wasn't enough time!.

I wondered if TIME was a common barrier for the staff and teachers at our school.  I posed these questions in a recent survey that I sent out to our staff, in a hope to understand where they were 'at' with blogging and from it, try to figure out ways to best support them in their blogging journeys.  Here are the results:


This was interesting for me, as I expected that the majority of staff at our school would have some sort of blog but the results showed it was a little over 50%.   44.8% of our staff never blog, with 31% say…