Friday, 16 March 2018

Reading about Language

I have been doing a bit of background reading from our COL's sessions to help me understand what 'Language in Abundance' could look like at our school and in my classroom and how we could value the theories shared by Dr Jannie van Hees on making 'language' a key focus for us.

In the 'Education Aotearoa', an article the Dr van Hees had written looked at 'Conversational Classrooms', the discussion looks at how when 5 year olds arrive at school, who have noticeable gaps in their language.  When thinking about my own classrooms, my year 12 and 13 students at this stage should be able to articulate and tell me what their thoughts are around their learning - but find it difficult.  When it comes to critical thinking or high order thinking, I am the one who is often discussing concepts and at times, they are present but not contributing. I wonder if it is because I assume they should know the language or are they're other reasons.

I am interested in finding strategies to address this. Dr van Hees describes difference making in two schools - an all girls Catholic secondary school and it's feeder primary school.  What she noticed was they shared an:
  • unswerving belief in the capabilities of students
  • high student expectations
  • fine tuned, scaffolded learning support
  • high calibre teaching staff and leaders
  • strong home-school partnerships
  • high levels of student self-belief
  • and a focus on ‘what really matters’ – the essence of enablement educationally.'
When I read this, I wonder which of these do we as a school have and how did these schools get to these stages?

The article goes on to say that the teacher dominated classrooms where the teacher asks questions and the kids put their hands up lacks the depth required to allow kids to think critically.

"Seldom occurring will be the dynamic cut and trust of ideas exchange – what we might hear in families where balanced sharing of ideas and thinking is the ‘bread and butter’ of meaning-making relationships and learning".  

When I am thinking about my seniors, I know it is about stepping away from dominating in front of the classroom and listening to the language of my learners better. In my classroom, I have control and can apply the strategies suggested by Dr van Hees but in my role as a COLs, I want to think about how I can approach and work with the culture of our school to develop the change that can help other learners achieve success.

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