Friday, 25 October 2019

Intervention #3: Talking the Learning vs Writing the Learning

How do 'Bills become laws in New Zealand: Banning Plastic Bags'.  

The objective of this lesson was to reinforce some new terminology using our ‘slowing down the learning technique’ and to deep dive into unfamiliar text.  I hoped that students would be used to this technique and would respond to instructions faster.
Lesson structure:
1.  Introduce the concepts through think, pair, share.
2.  Watch video on the P.M's decision to ban plastic bags.
3.  Read article together through deep diving on the N.Z parliament site.
4.  Discuss blogpost assessment to show their understanding.

Actual lesson 
I feel that students responded well to our first part of the lesson that focused on knowing key concepts as they've come to expect that when I say we are talking our learning today, they engage and energise their brains.

In depth 'Albert Einstein' Reflections
(As I write this, I am listening to John Lennon, Imagine...😳😂)
When it comes to my teaching, the more I do slow down the learning and deep dive into text, the easier it gets.  I am sharing with kids the process of thinking about their thinking and in turn I am thinking about my teaching.  The pace and timing of my lesson is more intentional which I am becoming more comfortable with - I am not expecting much writing to show their learning, but we are talking and listening to our learning which is pretty awesome.  In saying that, my levels of tolerance for 'learning talk' has increased - I'm not really asking for quiet if I know kids want to talk more about a topic.  I feel like I'm giving them a bit more permission to inquiry into why things are they way they are rather then scooting over an issue.  The offset of this is that we aren't spending much (or enough) time on writing.  I wonder, no actually I know that this might effect their writing in Social Studies because when would I have time to teach them how to write when they are deep diving?  I think about the original intention of my inquiry, which was to enhance their writing, was one that needed more deliberate planning and scaffolding related to the specifics of the 'teaching of writing', something that I know I'm not an expert at.  I've found that to get kids to write well, they need to understand what they are writing.  Kids are showing their understanding better, but are not necessarily 'writing' better...hmm, back to the drawing board!

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Presenting at the New Zealand Social Sciences Conference 2019

This week, I was invited to present at our annual Social Sciences Conference (SOCCON) which was held this year at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre.  The theme of my presentation was 'Teaching as Inquiry in a Junior Social Science classroom' and it was a 30 minute brilliant burst.  I choose this theme because at conferences in the past, I have not seen or heard much about inquiry and this has been focus for me.  I wanted to share my journey in understanding the impact of my practice on my learners.
I was nervous because it is hard to gage why people are there so I first asked them to share in groups their understanding of inquiry and what it looked like to them.  I then defined my understanding so they could see where I was at, then proceeded to share some of my findings and reflections.

I explained the Manaiakalani kaupapa and how it had guided my inquiry to where I felt confident to describe my learnings as a teacher in the kahui ako.  I also explored the idea of being open and transparent as it supported others who may have the same challenges.  As the workshop progressed, I grew more and more at ease with the flow of the presentation and choose to have time at the end of the session for people to talk and ask questions.

At the end of the session, a number of people came up to thank me and one particular teacher, Sarah from Naenae College in Wellington said I was doing exactly what she was doing except her focus was on reading rather then writing!  She said she was so happy to find someone else who was doing something similar and we exchanged email addresses and said we would share resources.  Another colleague of mine from Mangere College tagged me in a facebook post which was really encouraging.  I enjoyed the chance to share my journey and look forward to doing it again.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

"Teaching as Inquiry" in a Junior Social Science classroom: SOCCON 2019

Talofa Lava everyone,
Here is my presentation for my talk today.  Please feel free to like, comment or email me at:!
Malo Soifua,

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Tweaking #1: Phonetically sounding out words/terms

A tweak in my practice:  Phonetically sounding out words/terms.
From my first intervention lesson #1, I read my reflections about sounding out the words and phonetically sighting and sounding the words to deliberately use all throughout the last two lessons I'd taught my year 9's.

I noticed that I never used to think about doing this in the past because when I have taught, I would assume that kids knew the words and knew how to sound the words out and sound them out fluently.  I was also conscious of the lack of time that we have in a lesson and have felt the pressure of getting everything done.  Now, I am trying to think carefully about the words themselves, about the varied learning needs of my kids and how they would need to know how to pronounce the words carefully.

I find myself staying on words/phrases for a lot longer instead of rushing it to the definition.  I give them the time to 'sit' on the word, look at the word, and just process it in their brains.  We clap it out for the syllables, they say it aloud to the class and also to each other.  I've noticed the first time I did this, kids were not receptive but the more times we did this, the more they got used to it, the more it seemed to become normal.

When I discussed this with Jannie and Mele, our ESOL specialist, they said there was important research that supported the number of times a student needs to hear and practice a word 5-16 times before they can properly understand a word.  

For further monitoring, I am thinking that I would like to voice record students sounding out a word and watching me practicing and verbalising the words so that the sound could resonate with them.  I am also think of putting those voice recordings plus movie recordings online to build a rewindable learning library.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Intervention #2: Increasing the number of Iterations for learning

In a previous blog, I discussed my inquiry with Jannie who shared one of the effective ways to support my learners in understanding their learning.

"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are) consolidating and creating iterations of their learning" (Blogpost, 10th August, 2019)

Research that supports these principles within my specific learning area of Social Studies, can be found in the Best Evidence Synthesis (BESs) report, commissioned by the Ministry of Education.  It was found that 'students need sufficient, related opportunities to revisit learning through a variety of activities that will embed that learning in their memories'.  (p12, Sinnema and Aitken, 2008)

I used these principles when I planned my lesson for my year 9's recently.  To put this into practice, I allowed for more time for learning and the context we were learning about was to understand what parliament does.  

When reflecting on my previous lesson, I used the ideas of slowing down the learning by focusing on key words and concepts, to guide my lesson.  To crank my lesson up slightly, I used lots of different images and simple definitions to support new words and concepts.

Lesson structure:
1.  Pretest and post test:  I created a pre and post test that asks students to connect a word/phrase related to parliament, an image to support the word and a definition or example of that word.

2.  Powerpoint presentation:  I created a powerpoint that had limited wording, an emphasis on key points and big images and pictures.
3.  Video:  On the powerpoint, there is a short video discussing what I will be talking about on my powerpoint. 

4.  Mix and match exercise:  I cut up the words/phrases related to parliament, the image that supported the words and a definition or example of that word and asked students to match them together by turning the cards upside down and playing 'go fish'.  

5.  Kahoot!: I created a quick spot quiz on Parliament in kahoot.

6.  Blog post:  I wanted to get kids to write a blogpost on their learning. 

7.  Survey:  I created a survey that asked 4 questions: 
  • Did you enjoy today's lesson on Parliament?
  • What part did you enjoy the most?
  • Is there anything else that Ms Apelu can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
  • Is there anything else that YOU can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
Actual lesson:
I made the kids do the pre and post test on paper and supplied their pens and pencils for ease of collection.  I asked for devices to be off and to focus on my explaining the powerpoint.  I emphasised the key words and sounded out words that students may not understand.  I tried to use phonetically sound out key words and write the words on the board.  I made the students say it out loud, clap out the syllables and turn to a partner and say the words to each other.

When we moved into doing the mix and match exercise students seem excited to do the activity.  Unfortunately my instructions weren't clear so some students lay all the words out and tried to put them in groups, others did 3 columns and other played 'go fish' (I know for next time to model what I want them to do and have it on the ppt).  Although lots of kids were doing different activities with the same words, I felt there was lots of mixing and matching going on and that students were mostly engaged.  The first student who got the answers matched up correctly was asked to go around and check other students.

The class really enjoyed the kahoot as they got to challenge each other - the boys were the most excited but the girls got the better results.  I noticed we had run out of time towards the end of the lesson and didn't get a chance to start the blog.  Just before the bell, students were asked to complete the survey and the post-test. (I will report on the results in my next few posts)

Quick reflections:  
I was pretty exhausted by the end of the lesson, mostly because I think I stood at the front and had to encourage the talking and rephrasing and modelling of the language.  There were so many components to the lesson that I had to keep track of the time, of the activity and monitor the behaviour of the students especially in the last 30 minutes.  Overall I think the lesson went well and judging by the quick survey answers, I can use their feedback to modify my next lessons.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Monitoring #5: Student feedback on our lesson on key concepts

Today I sat down with a focus group of students who are in 9PKr to show them the lesson I taught on key government concepts and to ask for their feedback on their thoughts of the lesson.  I also wanted to know if there were any other ways that I could support them in their learning.
I choose two boys and two girls from the class with mid to high levels of ability.  I did this because I thought they wouldn't be shy to share their ideas and because they seemed engaged during the lessons.  I have coded them as:  T2 and T3 = Male, M2 and A2 = Female.  Here is a snippet of our conversations.

Did you enjoy the lesson? 

M2:  Yes it was cool
A2: That was one of the funnest days because we actually worked as a class and everyone participated.
T3: We got to talk about words that we didn’t know and practice them heaps

Is there anything I could do to help you talk about your learning more?

T3: Make it a challenge and put us in groups. And whoever gets the answer right, gets a prize.  Us boys like challenges.
M2: Give us more things where we can move around and have to talk to each other.
A2: Yea like maybe do things where we don’t have to talk to the same people

Should we mix up the groups?

A2: Yes cause we’re always in the same groups

Anything else?

A2: Oh miss, can we try debating once in a while because we did it in Health and it was fun.  It we can hear from everyone even the quiet students.

Tell me more about that?

A2: We had boys against girls and it was fun.  We had to really about what to say because
T3: Have us in groups of 4 or how we had the U shape like when Ms Jannie was here cause it made everyone on the same level and we all had to contribute.

Reflections:  As they watched, I could see they were interested more in what they were doing during the lesson rather than what I was doing.   I think one of the things that I have learnt from showing them the lesson was that as they got to see what they were doing and how they were responding, they became a bit embarrased and they were surprised to see themselves behave the way they did.  From time to time a few of the kids called out, made comments that could be heard on the video or distracted others from their learning.  Although this was not how I intended to use the video, it was interesting for me to see their reactions and I feel that this could be a useful tool to do from time to time to keep students in check.

Next steps:  I enjoyed listening to the students' feedback and found that by giving them a voice, I could hear how they wanted the lessons to go.  I want to use some of their ideas in our next lessons to support their learning more and find more opportunities to sit down with different students in class to ask for feedback as a focus group.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Monitoring #4: Discussing my theories of teaching with Dr Jannie.

Recently I had a discussion with Dr Jannie about my default theory of teaching to see if there was any feedback or advice she could give me about it.  I also wanted to talk about the lesson I did with 9PKr in a hope that she could offer some help with my next steps.  This formal discussion of where I believe my teaching theory is at, hopefully adds to the monitoring of my teaching actions.

I have a voice recording of our meeting and a transcript of some of the key points from our discussion below. (I like to record discussions I have with Dr Jannie because I want to make sure I don't miss any pearls of wisdom).  

I talked at length about the aspects of my template and in doing this, it helped me sound out my theory in a sort of logical way.  As Jannie listened, she was able to identify an aspect that was she felt was missing.

Talking their learning.    
"The thing I see missing from here (my template) is talking your learning... from your summary they should be able to say, so here it is...if you say we have a female Prime Minister and you have 10 points to elaborate that.  That’s not doing anything until you can powerfully talk to that ...Yes you have your notes in front of you but that you can look people in the eye and say that point that point and that point.  Firstly it might seem a little staccatoish but more as you practice it, we have more capabilities to pop in something to make it so that it’s a presentation of your learning"
"...One of the things in Taumaranui is that the kids regularly showcase their learning to each another, to a group of teachers, to their whanau".

"I don't think that it is the power breaker until they can talk to it....if they can look people in the face and say that, it's a very powerful thing to do"

Principles of learning
"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are)consolidating and creating iterations of their learning".

Next steps:  
  • I added Jannie's suggestion to look at how kids can 'talk their learning' to my template diagram.  It is one of the things that I think will help accelerate my students' learning and my job is to figure how to teach it to well, so that it will support my kids learning.
  • I want to find research that supports Jannies' discussion around the principles of learning and I want to understand the term 'iterations' better.
  • Dr Jannie talked about how well kids can talk their learning and I expressed an interest during our meeting to see how they do it in Taumaranui school that encourages this type of learning for students.  I have been offered the opportunity to travel down to Taumaranui High School and am looking forward to going, to see how the students engage in talking their learning.  I am excited to learn how to teach it more effectively to my students and will hopefully be able to apply some of the strategies I learn in my teaching.

Intervention #3: Talking the Learning vs Writing the Learning

How do 'Bills become laws in New Zealand: Banning Plastic Bags'.   The objective of this lesson was to reinforce some new term...