Thursday, 15 November 2018

Reflecting on my Classroom inquiry into raising the achievement of boys' writing in my level 2 Social Studies class

In February this year, I shared a blog post about my classroom inquiry and the fact that 8 of the 9 students who'd joined my class had not taken social studies in year 11.

"When asked why they took my class, 2 replied because it was the only option in the line they liked, 3 said because they wanted to try it out, and rest weren't sure why they'd taken my subject.  Only 1 student had said it was part of his career pathway" (February, 2019)

Over the year, I have used engaging contexts and activities to motivate my students with their learning and to think critically about the social issues that they were learning about - the Tamaki Regeneration Company, the 40 Hour famine, Marriage amendment laws and Israel and Palestine (for the external). Having limited knowledge about what social studies is all about, I was hoping that their interest will grow if I exposed them to different learning environments.  

I also used a variety of effective writing strategies to get them used to academic writing and to improve their confidence in writing.  A workshop by Joseph Driesson on Improving boys' literacy skills helped kick off a drive to research effective practices.  This was followed by a PLD opportunity with 'Write that Essay' taken by members of staff, who have shared effective strategies that we had trialled throughout the year.  A focus on 'Language in Abundance' has allowed my students to use the 'Talanoa' to encourage my kids to make meaning of their learning through verbal and oral discussions.  This has probably been the most effective strategy because my kids love to talk.

To measure whether my inquiry has made an impact in their achievement, I have looked at:
  • Credits gained in their assessments
  • Credits gained at merit/excellence level
  • Literacy credits gained at the of the year
  • Student voice surveys
(Note:  These results are based on 8 remaining boys in the class)

Credits gained in their assessments, at merit/excellence level and in literacy.

My Reflection:  I am pleased about the results overall as there has been a shift from 6 boys achieving credits in the first assessment to all 8 in the term 3 one.  As shown by the table, there have been successes in the number of merits and excellences gained by the boys, but not a significant shift.   This shows me that more work is needed to shift the achieved students to a merit or excellence grade.  

Student voice surveys

I conducted a comprehensive student voice survey at the end of the term for my kids to sum up their experiences in the class for the year.  
  • Engaging Contexts

I asked the kids to rate the topics on a scale from 1 - 5, 1 being the least interesting, 5 being the most interesting.  I then asked them to write why they put this grade on the scale. 

  • Effective writing strategies

I asked the kids to tell me whether they thought their writing had improved and 100% of them said that it had and they then identified which strategies may have helped the most. 

My reflection:  I can see the link between engagement and achievement in that the students that did not rate the first unit we did on the marriage laws highly - they then did not achieve as well as they could have.  As we got to the next two units, there were lots of different activities and engaging tasks that I feel impacted positively on their learning and therefore led to good achievement in their assessment results.  The more engaging a context is and the more a student can identify what helps them to write, the more they will invest in their learning and achieve better results.  When asked whether they will take social studies again next year, 100% of them answered and told me they were bringing their other friends!  I look forward to taking up the challenge again next year!

Next Steps:  I want to continue to focus on raising the achievement of boys' writing because I feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed for our learners.  I have enjoyed learning about the different ways that writing could be improved and find it rewarding to see the success of our boys when they write a great power sentence for example or they overcome the challenge of starting a paragraph.  For my next inquiry, I want to explore the power of the 'Talanoa' further and sit down with Dr Jannie Van Hees to plan to develop our kids as informed conversationists, which I am excited about. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A summary of my BIG inquiry: Raising the achievement of boys' writing by implementing engaging contexts and effective writing strategies.

When I started my big inquiry this year, I had a desire to continue the work and research that I'd begun last year as an in-school COL teacher and my key focus then was 'How to raise the achievement of our boys' in their writing'.  When I think back to my WHY, I was driven by the desire to take on this challenge because I was disillusioned with our poor results in writing, especially for the year 9 boys.  At our cluster wide meeting in February, Woolf Fisher shared these results and I couldn't stand it anymore - my goal was to change those results! I felt motivated to figure out what was going on and find ways to solve the challenge.

My Big Picture plan

I started with a big picture plan and I was guided by two questions:

1.  How can I help/support/guide the most number of people to make the most impact in addressing this issue?
2.  What do I need to do/fix/start within our school that would support the implementation of effective writing?

From this plan, I focused on a number of areas that I wanted to engage with and implement as part of my 'Big picture plan' and throughout this year, I have developed these programmes with the support of our school and Manaiakalani, who have allowed me the time to get these initiatives up and running.

I want to share with you my reflections on a few of the things that I felt were the most successful.  I have tried to write briefly what I did and what the outcomes were below.

The Students 
  • Designing engaging contexts
As part of designing engaging contexts for students in their learning, I helped to develop and implement the Rise Above: Parakuihi and Hauora cross curricula unit for a year 10 class.  This involved working alongside Jacquie Bay and Alvina Pau'uvale of the Liggins institute, as well as Rose Hipkins of NZCER to develop professional development opportunities for the teachers of the unit.  I also facilitated staff PLD and supported teachers in my department with designing lessons.  As the unit is currently being taught this term, we will be reviewing the programme with all of the team involved at the end of the year.  The initial feedback from teachers is that the students are engaged in their learning and can see the benefits in this type of integration.  This has been a good learning opportunity for me to see how to develop a programme such as this, with a number of key stakeholders involved from the start.  My hope is that the learnings from this unit could support a bigger programme next year.

    10RMz are learning about healthy eating.
  • Knowing the value of Asttle 
The TKI e-asttle 'Assessment for Learning' site describes ways to communicate the value of knowing about asttle to educators and explains the importance of sitting down with students to inform them of where they are at with their results and how to set goals to raise their achievement.  I recently wrote two blog posts about a writing plan that I'd developed to support our juniors in their recent exams (Year 9 post and a year 10 post).  Both blog posts gained some positive comments from educators in and around our outreach clusters, to schools such as Hornby Primary and I was excited to hear that their leadership team were going to try aspects of the my writing plan in their school.
Top tips for kids writing
  • My Classroom Inquiry
This year I taught a group of year 12 boys who had never taken social studies before and most of them were there by default.  I utilised some of my learnings from my last inquiry and PLD from Dr Jannie Van Hees to focus on supporting their writing through engaging contexts and the use of effective strategies.  For each of the 4 contexts taught, I tried to get us out of the classroom, invite guest speakers in, use lots of different writing techniques, debates, role plays and student initiated learning to engage and motivate the students to write.  Our focus on 'Language in abundance' and the Talanoa has given the kids another avenue to share their understanding of knowledge and make meaning from their contexts.  Overall, students have enjoyed their learning journey and have made some positive gains in their achievement.
A few of my year 12's on our recent visit to the 'Are we there yet' exhibition.
The Teachers
  • Our Social Science Department literacy goals
One of our department goals is to try and move junior students up at least one asttle score above their entry level in writing.  My team have a range of strengths and experiences in teaching literacy and a focus of most of our department meetings has been to share any writing strategies that we'd used to allow us to have a bank of strategies to draw from and to see which have been the most effective.  We also enlisted the help of Marc Milford, our literacy expert to guide us through identifying language aspects to support our learners.  Each teacher choose writing as a focus in their own inquiries and I was able to support them as a HOD and a COL teacher to guide them in their teaching and learning pedagogy.
The bestest department ever- Social Sciences team

  • Our Write that Essay (W.T.E) team
During the term 2 holidays, I found a PLD that was being run by Dr Ian Hunter, the developer of the programme 'Write that Essay'.  A number of staff from different curriculum areas attended the PLD and on their return, I invited them to share their key takeouts.  We agreed on a number of strategies that we would use and over the year we have applied, modified and shared these strategies with our students.  We will be meeting again before the end of the year, to see how it went in the classroom and reflect on what we could implement school wide next year.
Our W.T.E team in action

  • PLD opportunities for our teachers
The Learn, Create, Share model is a model that we at the college are purposefully implementing school wide next year and to prepare us better for this, we have been supporting Lenva Shearing on the Manaiakalani team, with staff PLD over the year.  Putting a name to something we are already doing is making the learning explicit and connects us more to our Manaiakalani kaupapa.  As COL teachers, we have also been supporting staff from other curriculum areas on their inquiries which has been positive.
Lenva in her element - sharing her knowledge at the Tamaki College Staff PLD

  • Connecting with our Primary school teachers
One of the real benefits of being an across school COL teacher was that I got to meet with some really hard-working practitioners who generously gave me their time to share their knowledge.  At Glenbrae Primary, Elfrida Raj invited me to a number of their PLD sessions to see how they were incorporating writing in their PLD as a school wide goal and I was excited to be part of the planning with my insights into what we have found was needed at the college.  At Point England Primary, Rob Wiseman shared his writing strategies and units that we could link up with to connect common contexts.  At Tamaki Primary, Heather Collins discussed ways that we could be 'seen' and be actively involved more at their school and Prem Rankolowan invited me to meet some of our potential year 9 students who will be coming to the college next year and next week, Robyn Anderson from Panmure Bridge will be bringing some of her talented students to teach some of our kids how to use google drawing better.  These examples of the openness of staff in our cluster to share their practice, supports the theory that if we can build a relationship based on trust and respect, we can move towards being united in our teaching and learning journeys, whilst still embracing our uniqueness.  I look forward to working more proactively with our primary teachers in the future. 
A writing wall at Glenbrae.
  • Connecting with teachers across the globe
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of meeting Wayne Poncia, the Chief Product Officer of Hapara who invited us to be part of a Global Colab project involving students from Tamaki College, Canada and the States collaborating on solving a global issue.  As part of the planning team, we have met online several times and have designed a programme that will use workspace for  teaching and learning.  This project kicks off in term 1 of 2019, and we are really excited to be part of it.
Wayne Poncia on the right, who has kindly blocked me out:)

My personal learnings

There is no guidebook or instruction manual on how to be an effective across school COL teacher.  I think back to where I've come from and yes, I have done some good things and started some cool initiatives but at the end of the day, will it help our kids improve their writing?  It's hard to say at the moment, as you can't put your finger on just one thing that might work but I hope that part of my plan has helped start a movement. 

There were days when I wasn't sure that I was doing the right thing or working hard enough and I felt like giving up.  But I had to remember to keep my eyes on the prize - helping our kids.  At the end of this journey of inquiry, I have recognised a determination in me that has grown out of what drives us teachers to work as hard as we do.  It had given me purpose and reaffirmed that our kids are at the centre of all we do.

Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Preparing our year 10's for their asttle tests - a whole class approach

The year 10's have been preparing for their exams and as a way to get them ready, I visited 6 year 10 classes and armed myself with their asttle exam papers from February and a copy of their overall asttle results (the colourful ones).

I handed each student their tests and went through a presentation that I'd created.  Below, I thought I'd share a running commentary of what I said to each class as I went through the powerpoint.  I've also written some initial reactions from the kids as they happened.

Slide ONE:  Illusion vs Reality

Me: So when you're going to your exam, this is what you should look like on the left.  Being ready to write, prepared - don't worry about what the words say, it's how she looks ready to write.  But for some of us, on the right is what it really looks like - we're freaking out, panicking and don't know where to start!  My presentation today is going to help you think more about how to prepare to write in your upcoming exams.  Hands up who can tell me which subjects here at school that you need to write in?

Kids reactions:  Students put their hands up, call out a subject or two before they get the fact that every subject they do at school requires them to write something. 

Slide TWO: Understanding the curriculum 

Me:  Now the image on the right show Years 1 to Years 13 and here you are at year 10.  The blue shaded area shows our New Zealand curriculum levels and across a few years, for example at year 9, you could be working anywhere along say levels 4, 5 or 6.  On the left here, your writing levels could be broken down further into basic, proficient and advanced.  Now the reason why it is important to know where your writing is and where it should be is that after exams, you will be in year 11 and starting NCEA and to be able to succeed in NCEA, you need to write at level 6 of the curriculum!  

Kids reactions:  Kids were quiet and started looking at their own results on their asttle papers.  A couple of kids gasped but the majority were engaged.

(For slides 3 to 7, I went through each page of the test and students referred to own tests to see how they did)

Slide EIGHT:  Understanding your test - the marking page

Me:  What do you think the marker has highlighted on this particular page? Why do you think there are lots of comments or circles around words or phrases?

Kids reactions/comments:  "The marker is showing what this person has done WRONG!" (100% of the students who put their hands up said this).

Me:  Not quite.  The markers were marking and highlighting everything that you've actually done RIGHT.  They are looking for evidence of where you have covered the 7 aspects for asttle!  They are highlighting where you have used lots of ideas for example or where you have shown relevant vocab.  If you have lots of circles or lots of comments, the markers have found that you have used the right things.

Kids reactions:  Lots of staring at their papers & sighs of relief as well as looks of disbelief.  Their faces said we are used to having things pointed out that are wrong!.
Slide NINE:  Understanding your test - the coloured print out

MeYour overall asttle test result is shown by the red arrow and your test identified your strengths, what you achieved at the asttle level and the gaps or the work on's that you need to focus on to improve your writing.  Now if you have a look at the continuum arrow in the centre, the blue line or blue water line is where the rest of the country is for your cohort and the red circle shows where you are.  You want to be at or above the line for you to succeed in your writing. 

Kids reactions:  Students were leaning over to check what their mates had gotten and where they were on the line compared to each other.

MeNow over the past two years, each of the subjects that have taken this year, for example English, Science, Social etc has helped you improve your writing and in your asttle test that you will be sitting very soon, your results will show us, you and me how far you have come.  We can see together if you are ready for NCEA! 
(For slides 10 -12, I slowly went through the top tips that Marc and I had identified could help kids tweak their writing and for the final slide, I showed students a link where they could look at an example of a level 6 writing piece and for that writing, what the 7 aspects that markers are looking for in their own time )

A teacher's reflection of this process:  A teacher who observed me giving the presentation said it was so helpful for the kids to look at their own copy of the tests and it being marked, gave it value.  

"They got a better understanding of what they're marked on and what the markers perspective is when marking.  It starts to give it purpose and kids say 'is this the reason for the asttle test?.  Kids always want to know why they're doing something".  

She also found it interesting that kids wanted to compare what they'd got with their neighbour especially when comparing where they were at with the national average.  The boys in particular were more vocal about comparing their tests, as they liked being competitive.  She could sense her kids having a wider understanding of the reality of the importance of these test and how it applied to them because their papers were in front of them (and it hit home!).  

Overall, I believe this was a positive process that would benefit the year 10's going into NCEA.  Giving them the opportunity to see what a markers sees empowers them to take ownership of their learning and their writing.  As the saying goes 'Knowledge is power'!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The 'Writing Plan' for our Junior school.

In November, our juniors will be sitting their second round of the asttle writing tests for this year, a test that will gage where our students are at with their writing.  I really wanted to make sure our kids knew it was coming and for them to understand how important it is.  My thinking was that if we are consistently talking to our senior students about the importance of achieving credits and NCEA, we need to be delivering the same message to our junior school with regards to their writing.  I met with Marc Milford, our literacy expert and we devised a plan to meet with all of the year 9's and year 10's during the last week of term 3.  I knew it would be a huge undertaking but it was a necessary one.

Preparing for the meetings
I created a 'Writing Plan' and Marc and I set about preparing the following resources for each student:
  • A copy of their February Asttle test paper 
  • A print out their Individual learning pathways from the Asttle website
  • A goal setting template called 'The Big Picture'
  • Exemplars of what a level 5/6 writing example looked like
  • A simplified breakdown of each of the elements that the test is marked on
Individual learning pathways
I then created a spreadsheet for each tutor class and we grouped them according to their writing results.  Below is a graph that shows where the majority of our year 9's were at according to their curriculum levels.

Results for the year 9's from their February asttle writing test.
Meeting with our students 
We met with 71 year 9 students over the week (10 or so had low attendance issues).  For the students at level 2, we met with them individually and for the others, we met with them in groups of no more then 3.  The meetings took longer then we anticipated, on average between 25 - 30 minutes each.  For the year 10's, I took my social studies class through the writing plans as a class, which I found was effective for them.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get to all the 10's, so will focus on them week one of term four.

We started by meeting with the students whose score was at levels 2 individually because we thought it best to spend some time discussing with them where they were at and to encourage them to think about ways they could improve their writing.  We wanted to hear what they had to say.

I began the discussion by talking about the 'Big Picture' .  For the 'Where am I AT?' box, we discussed their February asttle result and we talked through what each element meant on the asttle test.  They then wrote down their strengths and work on's from their individual learning pathway.

I also wanted to hear their thoughts on how they felt about writing and then we talked through the different ways in all their subject areas that has helped them improve their writing during the year.

As I led the discussions with each student, Marc read over their February test paper.  He addressed specifically what students had written.  He then discussed with them the things that they did well on and helped them identity their work ons specific to their paper.
I discuss with students their plans whilst Marc looks over their February test.
 Marc shared some of the tips below with our kids during the meetings:
  • Make sure to write an explanation not a narrative or story.
  • When explaining, try to convince your audience that what you are were saying is a fact
  • Keep it formal, no slang
  • Write a plan then use the plan - a third is planning, a third is writing and a third is editing.
  • Always write what you will talk about in the intro 
  • Use a topic sentence to start off each paragraph
  • Keep referring back to the topic of the essay
  • Don't write in first person, try to write in third
  • Imagine the person who is reading your explanation knows nothing about your topic
  • Use a variety of perspectives
Marc shares a highlighted exemplar
After sharing these tips, Marc then showed students what a level 6 exemplar looked like, highlighting the 7 elements that the markers will be looking for.  We then asked the students if there are any questions and I reminded them that there would be an opportunity for them to blog over the holidays as a way to keep their writing 'going'.  The last part of the meeting looked at setting some future goals in their writing that they could focus on.  I took a photo of their big picture pages as a way to keep track of who we'd talk to and to remind them of the goals at the end of the year.

We knew these meetings were important but actually having them one on one with the kids was really positive.  Initially, most of the students asked if they were in trouble, but once we started, they were quite receptive to hearing about their writing.

Here are some of the responses from the students we'd met with:

"Ms, I was really dumb back then.  Can I sit the test now?"

"Can we do this with our maths?"

"If we fail this, does it mean we stay back a year?"

"I can see why it's good to plan before you write"

Our Level 2A student wrote his 'Big Picture' plan.
One particular student who was a level 2A, admitted that when it came to writing, he found it hard to start and gave up.  When Marc asked him to think of a special place in the community, he said he didn't know one because he just stayed home.  A number of other students said the same thing.  Marc and I discussed this later and found that the task of asking kids to write about a special place in the community assumed that they actually got out in the community and found somewhere 'special' that they could talk about when the reality was, they couldn't answer the question because they lacked the life experiences needed to help them.

Overall, we found sitting down with the students really beneficial, not just for the students but for us in understanding ways to support our kids more.  The kids were engaged and receptive to the thought of focusing on their writing and understood the importance of looking at where they were in February.  They seemed to understand that across all of their subject areas explanation writing is a key component of their learning and that with a few simple consistent tools and strategies, they can take an active role in improving their writing.

Next steps
For the future, I have a few ideas to support what we've started.
  • Over these holidays, our department has discussed the need to prepare our juniors through a current events context, focussed on developing their written responses.  I will design a unit to support this for our juniors.
  • Next term, I want to speak to tutor classes and a year level assembly about preparing mentally for testing.  After reading their thoughts about writing, I can see some patterns as to how they feel about it. 
  • Once the asttle results for November are available,  I want to identify the kids who are still well below their level or who may have made the least shift and develop an appropriate programme to meet their learning needs.  This will be shared with their jumpstart teachers for 2019.
  • Meet with the HOD's of core subjects and discuss a writing plan that addresses explanation writing across our subject areas.  
  • Early next year, a few days after students have their marks recorded on the asttle website (most likely in March), me and Marc will sit down with each student and set some writing goals.  I will share these with subject teachers who can support their students with their writing. 
I hope that we could continue this writing journey alongside our kids and with better planning, I am thinking about how to involve our parents and their families further in the future.  Small steps but definitely worth it!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Encouraging the 'Talanoa': Using Cue Cards for reflections

My level 3 Sos kids have just completed their externals and to get my level 3 students back on track and completing reflections on their Social Actions, I wanted to use a different method to get them to remember what did they and how they did it.  Usually, I would expect students to reflect individually but in the past, students get bored and loss motivation.  Because I know the year 13's like to talk I got them into their groups, shared with them the lesson plan and gave them reflection cue cards to help them discuss their actions.  The main rule I gave was that everyone had to have a question and that every member had to respond with an answer (one at a time of course)

There were 4 groups in total and it was interesting to see how each group responded.  The boys in the front of the class found using them good to hear from the quieter less overt members of the group.  A small group of 3 used them to ensure that they could write in more detail because they were lacking this in their written reflections.  The biggest group of girls who had issues with their suppers (ie they ran out of food) were able to talk in honesty about how they felt when this happened.  The last group, who were my most able students, didn't find them as useful as I'd hoped, instead choosing to rush through the questions, so they could get to their writing.

The supper group discuss their social action.
A smaller group 'talanoa' about their action.
On reflection, a thing I would change next time is to ensure that these discussions are done with the groups separated in a different space/room because it was a bit noisy in the one classroom where some really good discussions were going on.  I also think that I would have students voice record their conversations and create a transcript that they could use in their assessment.  From this, I hope to look at more focus group types of discussion, where I could model to them how to 'link' their answers to each other and learn how to respond to each other.  Overall, I think the lesson went well and I hope to develop this strategy better.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Concept Maps with my ESOL students

Lately I have been thinking about how to support my ESOL learners better in my level 3 Sos class.  In my last post, I wanted them to focus on understanding the deeper relevance of concepts that we were studying, rather then brush the surface.  I used a concept map with the word 'Reflection' in Samoan in the middle ('Mafaufauga') and with the support of a translator, they were encouraged to explore the concept more deeply.  (As an aside, although I am Samoan, I sadly can not speak it and this has been a challenge when trying to help my ESOL students fully). 

They were pretty enthusiastic about doing the task which didn't surprise me.  I knew that they would see a connection between the English and Samoan version of the words and it allowed them to see the concept as more then just a foreign word on the page. 

A completed concept map from Student 1
A completed concept map from Student 2
Once they had completed their concept maps, the next step was to use the concept to identify positives and negatives of their social actions.  I shared with them a document that asked them to apply 'mafaufauga' to the their actions.  I attempted to use Samoan words to emphasise the key ideas and I was encouraged by how well the students responded to this.  Although positive, I think they wanted to get the task completed rather then focus on detail. 

My next steps are to think of ways to develop more comprehensive deeper thinking on the issue and I'm thinking that they need to be exposed to this more often.  As Dr Van Hees has said, one of the ways that students can have better understanding of words is to expose them to 'language in abundance' and I think by getting them to see it in their world first could help them to be more receptive to new words and concepts.
Student 1's answers

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Reading Reflections: Supporting my ESOL students

My level 3 class has such a wide spread of learning needs and learning abilities, sometimes I find it difficult to ensure that each student and their groups have equitable share of my time.  I have students working at level 8 of the curriculum and achieving Excellences in NCEA, sitting next to students who had only recently migrated to New Zealand and are struggling to grasp basic English words and concepts. 

Although I have attempted to scaffold and break-down key elements of our learning and language, I know my ESOL students are not getting enough of my attention and support to ensure their success in my subject. 

Recently, I sat down with my 2 ESOL kids and discussed a realistic plan moving forward.  One of my students had chosen to return to year 13 having completed part of her course last year, so this is her second year in my class and she had returned to gain her level 3 over 2 years.  Last year, she managed to achieve one of the 4 credit internal standards in Senior Social Studies and also gained an achieved in one of her NCEA level 3 History exam papers which was awesome.  Her goal this year was to gain at least 10 more credits in my subject area as part of her career pathway.

My other student migrated to New Zealand at the beginning of last year and according to our English support teacher, was 'very low in her language comprehension and acquisition'.  Both students have a teacher aide sit with them for one of our double periods in class which has helped enormously with relaying ideas and learnings to them but the struggle has been the lack of opportunity to apply these learnings to a context that they could relate to.

I have been reading about how do this better and have found the TKI site 'Language enhancing the achievement of Pasifika' site useful.  Under 'Language and school', there are tools and strategies shared that I want to try out.

At the moment, my year 13's are being asked to write a 'Reflection' on the social actions that they'd completed earlier in the term.  I have provided different opportunities to reflect and now students are writing them.  I have realised that I have assumed that my students knew what the concept of reflection was and instead of allowing my ESOL students the time to process it, I have been trying to rush them to the next stage without them being ready.  One of the strategies that I want to use will be to extend their vocab by paying special attention to it.  Instead of trying to get them to write the reflection, I will get them to 'know the word' better so that they can apply it practically when necessary.  I will start with a checklist that can support them in their vocab learning.

A tool to support my ESOL learners
A common tool we use in Social Studies is a concept map that allows different ways to use a concept and allows student to become familiar with a concept at the start of a unit.  This will take a bit of time but it will be worth it for my ESOL learners to ensure that they come away with key vocab which will enrich their learning.

A concept map for 'Reflection'

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!

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