Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Language in Abundance - creating a word wall

In our year 9 and 10 social studies classes, we are creating 'Word Walls' in a hope that our learners will see key words and concepts being used for understanding.  On these walls, we will have the key concept that we are learning and how we can say these words in our different languages so that we can see what they mean to the different ethnic groups in the classroom.

Some of the questions I have are:

  • How can we keep the word walls active and dynamic?
  • How can the students utilise these words walls?
  • How do we know that they work?

My thoughts around how to incorporate these 'words' into our lessons will start with what are important concepts that students need to use when understanding a context.  For the first year 9 unit, the concepts around sustainability have been important to find out what kids know and what they need to know.  

I am thinking about 'Important Tamaki Words' that are possibly shared across our subject areas and the possibility of find consistent, cross-applicable ideas and concepts that could help our learners achieve better.  At the moment we have our SOLO charts which has been a great way to assist our kids in knowing where they're at.  My possible next steps would be to collect information across each learning area to find out which words, ideas or concepts we can develop together.

Our SOLO charts found in every classroom.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Inquiry 2018: The Challenge - my year 12 Boys

At the start of this year, 9 boys joined my level 2 Social Studies class, 8 of whom had not taken a Social Science subject 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.

I am hoping to inquire into ways that will engage my students, especially the boys so they can discuss and critically think about the social issues we will be covering during the year.  Having limited knowledge about what social studies is all about, I am hoping that their interest will grow if I expose them to different learning environments.  I also want to use writing strategies to get them used to academic writing and improve their confidence in writing.

To measure this, I will look at:

  • Credits gained in their assessments
  • Credits gained at merit/excellence level
  • Literacy credits gained at the of the year
  • Student voice surveys

So far, I have met with each student in the class and created a tracking sheet to show where the kids were at and what their goals are.  I hope to see what their writing is like NOW, so I can compare what and how their writing improves over the year.  We will revisit each of these goals during the term and I will update their credits as we go on in the year. 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Language in Abundance - Take 2.

Today we have had the privilege of listening to Dr Jannie van Hees.  This is the second time in the last fortnight that I have heard Dr van Hees speak about 'Language in Abundance' and each time, I have heard something new that has resonated with me and challenge my thinking.

The issue that is facing many of our kids is that if they haven't got language, they can't carry concepts.

We want kids to 'Flourish' and part of it lies in understanding the brain (cognition) and concepts knowledge.  But a key component lies in the attitudes towards the learning.  When the learner loves language, this is difference making.  Self-esteem matters greatly.

Another key idea Dr Jannie shared was that if we as teachers are not paying attention to the learners paying attention, we can not recognise purposeful engagement.  Unless this is happening (photo) and we are optimising learning conditions, there is no learning happening.

Keep triggering the known to the new - all the times, different contexts (at least 3 times over to let it sit with the learners).  It has to all come together.

So what can we do help?  Help kids to scaffold themselves and the learner and amongst themselves and their peers - help them to be co-contributors to learning opportunities.  I have asked Dr Jannie if she could come to the college and help us build and implement strategies that can ensure our kids are getting 'language in abundance'.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Informing teachers across our cluster about NCEA

Every year, the Woolf Fisher research team presents to teachers and leaders across our cluster reading, writing and maths asttle results from the previous year.  From these statistics, we saw results that presented a number of challenges, particularly in year 9.  Because these statistics only share results from years 1- 10, I collaborated with Russell Dunn to share with schools our senior results.

Here is the presentation:

  It was important to explain NCEA as some of our primary school colleagues may not know much about it.  The SOLO framework was also important to emphasis because it helped us to share the key language of learning we use to prepare our students for NCEA and to allow our colleagues to think about what language they could use in the primary schools as linked to SOLO.

At the end of the presentation, a number of staff approached me about coming to talk to their school staff meetings about NCEA, which I am looking forward to.

Friday, 9 February 2018

My Inquiry for 2018

My Inquiry for 2018

For my inquiry, I have selected the following Manaiakalani CoL Achievement Challenge:

The focus of my inquiry are the boys in my level 2 Social Studies class. 

What and who:

Supporting my senior year 12 Social studies class through engaging contexts and effective writing strategies whilst ensuring they achieve success within the NCEA context and timeframe.

I will also share best practice evidence with my Social Studies department and support the implementation of writing strategies for the junior year 9 and 10 programmes.


I will plan use researched and practiced evidence to understand how boys learn and develop a programme based around this evidence.

I will use engaging contexts to gage interest and motivation for writing.

I will use developed writing strategies such as SOLO taxonomy, our literacy resources at school, and visit other classroom contexts to design resources that will be tried in the classroom.

Measurable outcome:

The goal is to ensure that the boys in my level 2 class will gain 14+ credits at level 2 and at least 5 credits in level 2 literacy.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Learning 'Language' at our first COL meeting

The kaupapa of our Manaiakalani COL team focuses on “Recognising and spreading sophisticated pedagogical practice across our community so that students learn in better and more powerful ways...”.

As an Across Schools COL teacher this year,  I have the opportunity to 'recognise' and 'spread' pedagogical practice not just within my own school, but across the cluster.  I am looking forward to the challenge and acknowledge that it is a big role to undertake.

At our first COL meeting, we discussed our big idea for the year 'Language in Abundance' and we were fortunate enough to hear from Dr Jannie van Hees.  Dr van Hees is an expert in 'Language' and has studied why talking matters related to 5 - 6 year olds at school.  We were given an example of how a child would feel, if they were told instructions on how to make a kite.  Through each of the stages, I thought a lot about assumptions and when I am teaching students, do they really understand the language and the words that I am using?  And how do I know this?

An example of this was earlier in the day with my year 12 class, and we were talking about different perspectives on Waitangi Day.  I found a short Mike Hosking clip and when I played it, it became clear to me that students didn't understand what he was saying.  When it was finished,  I asked the class 'do you think he is for or against Waitangi day', and straight away a student said 'Ms, he used some big flash words aye?  I feel dumb'.  I felt so disheartened and sad when I heard this because I assumed that our kids could gage his perspective from what he was saying.  This was not my kids fault, but definitely my lack of knowing the learner and assuming that in year 12, they would have 'language' to make meaning from what they'd heard.

Next time I use a clip by Mike, I need to lots of time to teach and expose kids to the 'flash words.'

One of the phrases that resonated with me, was Dr van Hees saying we needed to have 'an abundance of language that was drippingly available'.  She went on to describe significant ways to share language with our kids.  I remembered my visit to Panmure Bridge and seeing on every inch of their walls, language that flowed from every ebb - it definitely inspired me to want share this way of exposing our kids to language across our school - to be honest, at the moment my walls are bare.

What 'Language in Abundance' could look like - Panmure Bridge

Dr van Hees went on to describe that the contexts for sharing this language was right here on our doorstep, in our community and all around our kids.  I understand the value of this and saw it in action when our year 9's took on the integrated unit around 'Sustainability' in our community - our kids were so engaged and motivated because they could connect in some way to the theme.

Contexts are all around us.

I left the COL meeting feeling like I had learnt much about the value  of understanding how important language is for our kids to making meaning of their world.  It is clear that 'knowing language' is the key to whether our kids are able to achieve or not. One of my challenges as an across schools COL teacher is recognise how we currently use 'language' across our cluster, why we use it this way, and to develop collaborative and successful strategies to use the 'language in abundance' values so as to complement and support our teacher's practices and pedagogies.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

When the Context drives the Learning...looking at the 'Big Picture'.

Over the past few years, I have been working with Jacquie Bay from the Liggins Institute to develop and implement a context embedded curriculum for our year 9's.  A recent study published by Jacquie and the team, trialled a context embedded science based curriculum within a number of different schools, including our own.  "Adolescents as agents of healthful change through scientific literacy development: A school-university partnership program in New Zealand" found that when students learnt about what they were eating, they made changes in their attitudes towards food habits. This in
turn had the potential to 'improve long-term health outcomes for adolescents'(1).

'Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of preventable ill health, related disability and premature death in the world today(2)'.   Part of the Liggins kaupapa is to support schools like ours, to educate our young people on this epidermic, through a context embedded curriculum.  To support this theory, one of our own ex-students is leading research which relates to the our kids and their community.  Alvina Pau'uvale, Dux and head girl of 2011, is completing a Masters degree looking at the 'Health-related Attitudes, Perceptions and Practices of Young people' at Tamaki College and compares them with students at Tonga High School.  Last year, Alvina conducted a survey with our year 9's and collated data from a number of focus groups to find out that:
  • Students generally had poor food consumption 
  • Those who have the poorest diet scores were those who though that what they ate doesn’t matter very much to them
  • Their preferences were influenced by cost, taste, their current mood, access, availability and advertising.
Alvina presents the data to our staff

I could relate to some of the findings when thinking about my senior students.  For most of 2017, our school was kindly donated bread from Countdown.  Every second day, I would gather a whole heap in my arms and trudge down to my classroom to an eager group of seniors who had neither eaten breakfast nor brought any food to eat for the day.  At the back of my room would be milo, coffee and hot water for them to have with their bread.  This routine came about after two weeks of kids telling me how hungry they were when they came to class.  We know that kids can't learn if they are hungry.  I could see that the seniors in my classes were accustomed to the habit of not bothering to bring food to eat because to them, being hungry and not being able to learn was something they could not link together.

The logical step from knowing what our kids think about food is to figure out how we can use the research and data, to shift their mindset and bring about change.  In 2015, Tereora College in the Cook Islands led an integrated unit across it's year 9 cohort that looked at developing a healthy attitude to food, diet and wellbeing.  The Ministries of Health and Education supported research developed by Liggins and utilised data gathered from students and their families at the school.  Within the school,  the Social Studies, P.E/Health and Science departments created a unit and robust resources, that used real examples from their communities and found that students were making conscious informed choices about food, that extended out into their homes.

Students at Tereora sharing the resources that were created for them, about them.

On a personal level, my interests in the project haven't just stemed from knowing that our kids weren't eating healthy.  I myself have been bought up in a world that has revolved around eating whatever we could afford, whether it was good for you or not.  Now I can see my own children battling with their own struggles with food, and it is really disheartening.
If we can get it right, the resources that we can develop for our kids will allow for the use of real data collected by real people that our kids can relate to, to address the real issues that they are facing now and in the future.   For our kids, if we make the context real and meaningful for them, they can potentially change the health and wellbeing of their generation and the next generation that will follow.

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