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.

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