Showing posts from May, 2017

Getting my year 9's to write paragraphs

When it comes to paragraph writing, a common phrase that my year 9 learners relay is 'I don't know how to start'.  I have wondered in the past at what this 'block' or 'bump' in the process was and when I talked to my kids about it, they say that they worry about getting it wrong.  With the affordances that the digital world offers (ie spell and grammar checks), I wondered if it was more of an intrinsic belief that caused them to stall rather than the lack of grammatical knowledge.

One of the ways that we will be looking at tackling this issue is to ensure that our students are supported in their learning through scaffolded teaching and learning tasks.  Marc Milford, our schools Student Achievement co-odinator has been coming to our department meetings and sharing strategies and writing templates that we could implement within our units.  He has been working with one of my level 3 students who is an ESOL student and has struggled with understanding basic ter…

How to structure writing - which is the best model?

When it comes to writing, my department knows that preparing our students to write can be a daunting process.  As part of my inquiry, I wanted to find out what other departments at my school were using as their models for teaching and learning.  I emailed them to ask what they used in their teaching.

Our maths and P.E departments use the P.E.E chain which is reflected in the chart below:

The English department use T.E.E.P.E.E:
T = topic E = example/quote E = explanation P = purPose (author/director’s purpose) E = effect (also consider on whole text and reader) E = evaluation (make connections, comments outside the text)
And we along with our fellow scientists, we use S.E.X:

I wondered if it made sense to use a more common, cross-curricula framework so that kids didn't need to learn and relearn from class to class how to write a paragraph.
In my department meeting, I discussed with Marc Milford, our schools 'Student achievement co-ordinator' which structure he thought would be t…

The value of connected learning in our Manaiakalani cluster - Te Taiao o Tāmaki.

When posed with the question of 'what does future focused learning in a connected community' look like, the Manaiakalani cluster wide inquiry of Te Taiao o Tāmaki' set the foundation for our year 9 students to be 'connected' to their learning.

Te Taiao o Tāmaki allowed connections to be made between teachers and schools in our cluster.  At our meetings, ideas were shared and networks made.  Teachers selected students from their respective schools to quad blog with students from other schools, to gain an insight into each others worlds and see that they were not alone in their learning.  Teachers across the cluster also shared their teaching strategies to support each other to work towards the collective vision.

Te Taiao o Tāmaki allowed our year 9 students at Tamaki College to feel connected to the rest of the schools in the cluster.  Many of our year 9's had younger siblings in the primary schools and would share their learnings over conversations at the dinne…

My Spark M.I.T inquiry - take 2!

My initial inquiry was looking at ways to improve engagement and learning outcomes for our year 9 students through blogging.  Before coming to the college, the students in the primary schools in our cluster had been blogging since year 0 and I wanted to implement blogging as 'normal practice' in year 9 social studies programmes.  This was one strategy that I could see working in helping with transitioning from primary school to secondary school which has always been a challenge.

Although blogging at our school is something that is done dependant on the teacher (or department), I decided to focus on how we could implement it within my department.  I set up class blogs and helped to ensure that students had access to their individual blogs.  In our department meetings, we found opportunities to share lessons when we would write a class blog and what we wanted students to write and reflect on in their individual blogs. Looking back at our terms work, I found that my teachers add…

Making new habits - when teachers blog in a department meeting

One of the key achievement challenges that we have in our cohort is how to raise the writing levels of our students, particularly our boys.  At our department meetings, we are limited on the amount time we get to spend on figuring out ways to engage and motivate our students to write. Quite a bit of time is spent on admin, which is no doubt important, but alas once we get to talk about strategies and relevant activities that we could use in the classroom, the fatigue of a long meeting has set in.  Nevertheless, I needed to use the short time I had at the end of our meeting to tackle a few things that I wanted them to understand - blogging is important and relevant for teaching as inquiry and we need to use and develop more structured writing frames in the classroom.

Aaron Wilson from Woolf Fisher says that one of the ways to get students to write is to ensure that they are writing for a purpose.  The purpose for the writing activity that I got my team to do was essentially for their t…

Focusing on my priority student

One of the key goals for our school is to find ways to improve the achievement outcomes for our priority students.  A school wide initiative to address the challenge is the formation of a cross-curricula group of subject teachers who meet to identify students who are not achieving success across curriculum areas and discuss and implement intervention strategies that could support them.  We call the initiative our 'PLuGs' groups (Professional Learning Groups) and for this term, we meet fortnightly.

At our first meeting we looked at years 11 and 12 and the students who had not achieved any credits across all of their curriculum areas in term one.  I don't teach year 11's but in my year 12 class there are a few students who had yet to achieve credits in social studies and this was an opportunity to see whether other staff were having the same issues with the same students.  It was interesting to see that yes, they too were having the same problems.

I selected a student …

Writing is hard, even at year 12!

At the moment, my year 12 social studies class are working on their 40 hour famine projects.  When they heard that they were going to give up food for 40 hours and camp out at our school marae, they were mega excited and couldn't wait for the date.  When I said that they needed to plan and write about the reasons they were doing it, I literally thought the cyclone had hit us - kids were hiding under their desks, shielding themselves behind friends and refused to make eye contact - I knew they hated the thought of having to write anything.

The last two weeks of term 1, I'd given them the chance to start and we'd had a great lesson on the 3rd to last day where everyone was engaged.  But after the holidays, it seemed like something in the air had magically poisoned their minds and they'd forgotten everything.  Comments filled the air today like 'what are we doing? I can't find my booklet?  where do I find it?  where am I' and as I'd expected, there was no …

Understanding the Asttle data and finding reading and writing strategies

Today I met with Marc Milford our schools 'Student achievement co-ordinator' with the hope of understanding where our year 9 students (particularly our boys) were at with their asttle reading results and discuss strategies to engage and improve their writing results.

Marc had sent the asttle results to me earlier in the week and he'd calculated the average reading score (ARS) for the boys was at a 2b.  He said that it was not uncommon for decile 1 schools and that there are always variables that happen that may impact on the results - what happens on the day, how seriously the students take the exams etc so the risk of them not being 100% accurate is a factor to take into account.  There are 67 year 9 boys in total and I noticed there were a lot of students that measured >2b and that immediately worried me.

The writing test was conducted with two classes at a time in the library.  Initially they had problems accessing google but Marc's overall impressions during the…