Saturday, 15 September 2018

Reflecting on my year 12's exams

This term, my seniors have been busy preparing for practice exams.  We have looked at a complicated topic like Israel and Palestine and picked it apart in a hope that it makes sense to them and although I feel they know the context quite well now, the writing of it is something that I feel definitely needs more work.

Of the 17 students entered for the exam, 3 of them didn't sit it, and of the 14 who did, although they attempted it only 7 of them passed.  I was disappointed with the result and talked to my co-teacher CC, who helped teach and mark the exam, about it.  I could see in their writing that they still needed to structure their ideas better and that they lacked depth and insight.  CC said the students wrote like it was a 'brain dump', they just tried to get everything out on the page without double triple checking the questions or the exam paper. 

I talked to the kids and they generally felt like they were a bit lost and weren't sure what to do.  I also sent out a survey to follow this up and to help me understand what was needed to be done to support the kids better.

Here are some of the questions I asked my kids:

My next steps are to sit down with each student and talk about what they need to do to improve in their writing and to look at more effective strategies around essay structures to help them to feel more confident in their writing.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Professional Development with Dr Cynthia Greenleaf

Today we had the privilege of listening to  Dr Cynthia Greenleaf a well known researcher who work has conducted research into children and adolescent literacy and translated it into teacher professional development.  We were given a number of challenges that were interesting and enjoyable and helped us to see different perspectives of the same issue.

Some of my key take outs were:

  • What supports me in discussion and what gets in the way?
  • Thinking about how to build knowledge through reasoning and thinking about evidence
  • Evidence based argumentation which is different to persuasion.

If kids have abundant opportunities to collaborate together, they can rehearse having multiple perspectives in their head they can use it when they see fit - in-head reasoning skills - Dr Greenleaf calls it 'hedging'.   

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Sharing literacy strategies at our Department meeting

One of our Social Science department goals is to raise the reading and writing levels in asttle for the students in our junior school and at each of our department meetings, we have looked at how to address this.  Marc Milford, our literacy expert, has shared some strategies that we have gone away to try in our classrooms.

At our last department meeting, I asked staff to share a strategy that they have tried in their classrooms (for either their juniors and/or seniors) and we put together a google presentation to which each team member talked to.  Each slide has links to the resources they'd used and a brief description of what they did to implement the strategy.

It was good to hear from each team member and it was reassuring to know that cool things were happening in their classrooms.  We decided that at least once a term, we will reflect and try out more strategies to ensure we have a bank of resources that we can use to support each other and our students to help raise their literacy levels.  We would also look at strategies that we will utilise more purposefully in our planning if they are proven to be effective.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Encouraging the 'Talanoa' in Tongan Language Week - Inspirational speeches by our students!

At lunchtime today, a students from each of our four houses Puriri, Rata, Kowhai and Totara, were invited to speak in a speech competition on the theme for our Tongan language week "Fakakoloa 'o Aotearoa 'aki 'a e 'ofa fonua - Enrich Aotearoa with the love of duty and service to Country, Community and People".  

There were four students who took up the challenge - Suzie, Leopote, Ruth and Eliesa who all come from different backgrounds with varying degrees of 'Tonganess'.  Three of the students spoke in a mixture of English and Tongan, whilst our last speaker, spoke fluently in Tongan.  

Suzie, Ruth, Eli and Leo after their inspirational speeches.
Each speaker spoke with dignity and pride of who they were and what they believed in.  They spoke without fear.  To hear them share their values and pride in their language was inspiring and I wish I could've captured the moment better.  You could see the power of their 'Talanoa' as they spoke, the auditorium was silent.  Suzie talked about how she identifies as a Niuean, but her father is part Tongan and he would be proud of her standing at the front, showing respect for him and her Tongan side.  Leo spoke about being called 'plastic' for not knowing how to speak Tongan, which was merely a label, but his heart and soul was Tongan.  

Ruth shared how her speaking English has become more fluent then her Tongan but that this "lack of language does not define the depths of my lineage, my pride for my heritage or my authenticity as a Tongan woman". And lastly Eli, our final speaker, who spoke in his native Tongan language stood there with his head up high, allowing the words to flow out of him to inspire all that heard him.  It was quite emotional to see them in this light, with such pride and without fear and I know that the way they presented themselves today, will make every Tongan proud.  Their love of who they are and where they are from will empower all the students to be proud of their own identifies, whether they are Tongan or not. 

When I think of how 'fearless' their speeches were today, I am reminded of the power of 'Talanoa' and how it has given others the permission to now stand up, like them, and share their love of their culture with pride.  My favourite quote ever comes to mind:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marriane Williamson

Well done Suzie, Leo, Ruth and Eli - you have set the benchmark and have inspired me to encourage the Talanoa for all our students! 

Enriching our school with Tongan Language Week - my reflections so far!

This week is Tongan Language week and the theme is "Fakakoloa 'o Aotearoa 'aki 'a e 'ofa fonua - Enrich Aotearoa with the love of duty and service to Country, Community and People".

On Monday, our Tongan staff led us with a prayer, followed by a hymn and then our principal Soana Pamaka officially opened the celebrations for our school before we were invited by Mele Suipi Latu, to learn some important Tongan phrases.

Today, at staff briefing we were guided by Ozzie Kupu through a fun song to help us remember how to say hello and to reply.  It was a catchy tune which made us laugh in joy from trying.  Viliami Telefoni drew our attention to the craze of 2017 which was the Mate Ma'a Tonga Rugby League team and their rise to top.  It reminded me of the time when I travelled to Hamilton to watch NZ get beaten by the might MMT and I felt so proud for the Tongans and the way Pasifika people everywhere banded together to support them - it felt like a victory for all the Pasifika people!  Thank you for the memories Viliami, I look forward to seeing what is in store for the rest of the week!

Remembering a highlight for 2017 - MMT beating NZ!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

T.C Careers Evening 2018 - Our Social Sciences display

Recently, our school held a Careers Evening to share with future students, currents students, parents and families what their careers pathways could hold.  As a department, we were excited to talk through these pathways and it gave us a good opportunity to connect with parents who wanted to know about our courses.  Our particular display went with the 'Wizard of Oz' theme, to follow the yellow brick road to success - and because my name is 'Dorothy', it definitely made sense!  Here are some photos from the evening!
The Yellow brick road
Some of my team in our group shot
Seini sharing some of the products that her students had made.

Yes please, choose Social Studies!

Friday, 31 August 2018

Encouraging the 'Talanoa' - Home group/Expert groups in Level 2 Social Studies

In my level 2 Social Studies, I have been looking at ways to engage students in their learning through encouraging the use of the 'Talanoa', or discussions about the context, as another means of knowledge building and understanding.  Dr Jannie Van Hees recently shared that we need to be 'developing conversationalists' and how students oral literacy skills would improve if they could 'chainlink' what they had to say to each other.  I wanted the kids to work in smaller groups to discuss and engage in conversations about perspectives that were relevant to their learning.  

The topic we have been studying is the conflict between Israel and Palestine and in a recent exercise (that I'd blogged about earlier) we split the class into two different groups with opposing perspectives, to allow for students to verbalise their learnings.  Although there were some good debates going on, realistically it was 2 or 3 students with the confidence to speak who did so.

To get more students to engage in a 'talanoa', my co-teacher CC and I, tried out a home group/expert group exercise.  We asked students to get into an expert group of their choice, making 5 groups in total.  A leader from each group came up and pulled out one of the perspectives from a box - Hamas, IDF, PLO, U.N and the Zionists.  Students were given a brief about what they needed to write and got to the task of researching their assigned perspectives.

Most of the groups worked well together, but I noticed one or two students who would not contribute or did not engage.  I had a quiet word with them to remind them that soon, they will need to split up and have to be able to tell others from outside their group, who they were and what they believed in.  This gave them a 'boost' with the expectation that others will need their input.

After about 30 minutes, we asked the expert groups to split up and move in to 'home' groups, where they shared the beliefs and perspectives of the group they had studied  Each group was then given a scenario, whereby they had to attempt to reach a resolution .  Near the end of the session, I put the final statement on the board 'Whose owns the land' and gave everyone the chance to go for it!

On reflection, I found this activity was really engaging for the students, even the ones who had little to say.  Some students spoke with confidence and encouraged each other, where as others listened, then gave input where they saw fit.  Although there were one or two stragglers, the others in the group pulled them in to the conversation.

When I asked the students what they thought about the exercise, one student said how she felt 'brainy' because she could say what she'd learnt and reply back to other people who had opposite beliefs.  One of the boys said he felt surprised that he could say what he did because he was usually shy but felt safe enough in the smaller group environment to speak up.

For next time, I would like students to write a reflection of the exercise to gage how successful (or not) it was in helping them in their learning.  I may also use conversation cue cards or question cards on each table once their in their home groups, to get more kids to share and get used to discussions in these smaller, more manageable groups.

Reflecting on my year 12's exams

This term, my seniors have been busy preparing for practice exams.  We have looked at a complicated topic like Israel and Palestine and pick...