Friday, 31 August 2018

Encouraging the 'Talanoa' - Home group/Expert groups in Level 2 Social Studies

In my level 2 Social Studies, I have been looking at ways to engage students in their learning through encouraging the use of the 'Talanoa', or discussions about the context, as another means of knowledge building and understanding.  Dr Jannie Van Hees recently shared that we need to be 'developing conversationalists' and how students oral literacy skills would improve if they could 'chainlink' what they had to say to each other.  I wanted the kids to work in smaller groups to discuss and engage in conversations about perspectives that were relevant to their learning.  

The topic we have been studying is the conflict between Israel and Palestine and in a recent exercise (that I'd blogged about earlier) we split the class into two different groups with opposing perspectives, to allow for students to verbalise their learnings.  Although there were some good debates going on, realistically it was 2 or 3 students with the confidence to speak who did so.

To get more students to engage in a 'talanoa', my co-teacher CC and I, tried out a home group/expert group exercise.  We asked students to get into an expert group of their choice, making 5 groups in total.  A leader from each group came up and pulled out one of the perspectives from a box - Hamas, IDF, PLO, U.N and the Zionists.  Students were given a brief about what they needed to write and got to the task of researching their assigned perspectives.

Most of the groups worked well together, but I noticed one or two students who would not contribute or did not engage.  I had a quiet word with them to remind them that soon, they will need to split up and have to be able to tell others from outside their group, who they were and what they believed in.  This gave them a 'boost' with the expectation that others will need their input.

After about 30 minutes, we asked the expert groups to split up and move in to 'home' groups, where they shared the beliefs and perspectives of the group they had studied  Each group was then given a scenario, whereby they had to attempt to reach a resolution .  Near the end of the session, I put the final statement on the board 'Whose owns the land' and gave everyone the chance to go for it!

On reflection, I found this activity was really engaging for the students, even the ones who had little to say.  Some students spoke with confidence and encouraged each other, where as others listened, then gave input where they saw fit.  Although there were one or two stragglers, the others in the group pulled them in to the conversation.

When I asked the students what they thought about the exercise, one student said how she felt 'brainy' because she could say what she'd learnt and reply back to other people who had opposite beliefs.  One of the boys said he felt surprised that he could say what he did because he was usually shy but felt safe enough in the smaller group environment to speak up.

For next time, I would like students to write a reflection of the exercise to gage how successful (or not) it was in helping them in their learning.  I may also use conversation cue cards or question cards on each table once their in their home groups, to get more kids to share and get used to discussions in these smaller, more manageable groups.

Year 10 presentations

I have recently inherited a year 10 class for one period a week and although it is hard to gather momentum when you are teaching something, I've made it my goal to make sure that they are challenged and excited about learning in Social Studies.

For our lesson, the kids had been working in human rights groups, on a Universal Declaration of Human Right.  They had to present their work on a google presentation as a class with their other teacher, but didn't do this so I was eager to see how much work they'd put in.

When asking for volunteers, I got a varied response.  There were the super confident students like Leo, who jumped at the chance to present and then there were the shy, withdrawn students who refused to get up.  I didn't want to pressure or force every student to present and from what I could gage, the culture wasn't quite right or comfortable enough for each group to present.  In the end, 5 of the 7 groups in some form or other presented and I let the class know, that my goal was to support them in their confidence to get up and share their learnings with each other.

Leo is super confident to present

Jolise offered to share her learnings

Fana and Tevita started well but became shy

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

T.C as Connected Learners: Knowing why we 'Share'

At our staff PLD this week, Lenva Shearing from Manaiakalani, discussed the aspect of Share from our cluster wide kaupapa of 'Learn, Create, Share'.

Humans have been sharing since the beginning of time from the time of cave man paintings and it is not a new thing.  Although the mode has changed, our human instinct hasn't. 

"Creating and sustaining relationships is the key to sharing".  In the past, sharing was limited to the people in the classroom and around the learners but today there are no limits - sharing can happen anytime, anywhere with anyone.

When our staff were asked what our favoured medium of sharing was, the majority of our staff who used social media said facebook.  Some of the reasons people used social media was to share stories, keep in touch with family and friends and stay connected with the outside world.  When asked what our boundaries were, one staff member said 'if it's something you wouldn't show your grandma, don't post it'. 

A challenge was put to our staff and we were asked to blog about it.  The statement was that 'All this technology is making us anti-social'.

Staff really got into it and I could hear from staff around me some good debates going on.   I personally could see both points of view as I understand that different generations see social media in different ways and I guess it depends on how you define being 'social'.

I am thinking carefully about my blogpost.
Lenva reminding us the importance of blogging for our students
We were reminded of the benefits for our students to continue to write and share blog posts, most of whom have been blogging since primary school.  Lenva shared the amazing results of the summer blogging journey - that if students blogged at least twice a week, they could potentially go up at least two asttle scores.   This was evident in the results shown by the 5 students from our school who took part in the blogging journey and all made good gains in their asttle writing scores - blogging was their golden recipe for success and could be for the majority of our kids too!.

A few of our summer bloggers who made good gains in their February asttle scores.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

All this technology is making us antisocial - Dot's view

I believe yes and no.

Yes if you are a baby boomer, generation X trying to talk to a generation Y.  You communicate differently and being 'social' means a different thing to different people.

Image result for technology anti social 

No, if you want to reach out to people who you want to stay in touch with.   It helps to keep relationships going and people socialise differently these days.

This is my two-cents.  Please leave some change.

Friday, 24 August 2018

My Hui presentation

The Manaiakalani Hui is an opportunity for our CoL teachers to share our inquiries with lots of different people who are invested in some way or form in or Kahui Ako.  This year, we made one minute introductory videos to our inquiries, which provided a taster for anyone who wanted to find out more.   Once our videos were played, we held a round table session for 10 minutes which allowed us to discuss our inquiries further.   Below is my video:

At my round table sessions, I spent much of my time talking about what I had found with my inquiry and I there was a lady who was also a social science teacher who asked some really interesting questions and comments.  I shared that a group of us teachers have met to look at using and teaching sentence structures that was adopted from the 'Write that essay' programme and how much students learnt from the strategies.  One question was whether I saw the benefits of using the writing strategies in a 'Tuakana Teina' aspect, where the senior boys could support the junior boys in their writing.  I said that was an interesting way to use the skills they'd learnt and I would look into how they could work.  It was refreshing to share our inquiries with like minded people who cared about the learnings of the kids in our Kahui Ako.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Encouraging the Talanoa - giving our kids the confidence to speak

When I ask my students to stand up and discuss or debate an issue that they care about or know a lot about,  there are a few kids who nail it. They are often the confident ones who enjoy the attention but in my level 2 class, most lack the confidence or the skill to stand in front of their peers and share their opinion for a number of different reasons.  

At our Power-up homework centre recently, DJ Tuaru, who runs the sessions, took the students who attended through the power of 'Talanoa', which looked at encouraging students to voice their informed opinions on an issue that interests them.  We discussed the meaning of 'Talanoa' and I found it empowering to be reminded that our Pasifika people were an oral people and that generations of our elders passed on their knowledge through song, music and storytelling. I asked DJ to come to my level 2 class, to share his presentation and help run a debate around what my kids had been learning about.  I wanted to see how the students would respond with the lesson.

Orators from around the Pacific
My students had just learnt about 2 different perspectives from the same religion in Israel who wanted different outcomes - the Israeli Defence Force and the Orthodox Jews.  We wanted to see if they could argue the perspectives from those viewpoints and respond to each other.  My recording of the lesson is below.   
(Please note: When debating, the students perspectives where in role play).

Reflection:  On reflection, I could see how hard it was for the majority of the class to speak up.  I wonder if it was the environment or their lack of knowledge of the context or other reasons.  I will have a follow up discussion this week and feedback from the class to see how they felt about it.  My next steps will be to organise smaller conversational groups, to support those who would not speak or were less confident and to allow them practice to hold conversations through different prompts and to mind map their responses.  I will also look at other strategies to encourage our students with the 'Talanoa' and ask Dr Jannie about ways to support our kids with conversations.

Acknowledgements:  Thank you Mr Tuaru for your inspiring lesson.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Shared 'sentence' success - Level 2 Health and Social Studies

This term we have been focussing on teaching different types of sentences that can help formulate effective paragraphs in preparation for our external exam.  During our social studies lesson this week, one of my year 12 boys was struggling with how to write a power sentence.  He pulled out a little red notebook, that his health teacher, Whaea Kata had given him and looked carefully at his definition of what a power sentence was.   He tells me that they are doing the same thing in health and he just wanted to double check the meaning.

I have had discussions with Whaea Kata on how she is using sentences structures in her teaching and her brilliant idea of getting kids to write down in their own notebooks the definitions so that they can carry them around to refer to, is paying off.  As I introduced sentence structures at the beginning of the term, the health kids were like 'we're doing this in health too' and it will be interesting to see if the 10 students, who take both subjects,  show better outcomes with their writing then those students who don't.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Writing effective sentences using images and post its.

For my senior students to prepare for their exams, I have had to reteach and remind them to plan and structure their essays to support the writing process.  I have found in the past, that the boys especially, struggle to start a paragraph let alone write a whole essay, so my focus was to look at how to write a good effective starting sentence.

After 2 weeks of solid content on the conflict with Israel and Palestine, I went through the 'How to write effective essays in Social Studies' lesson again with the emphasis on 5 ways to start a sentence.  I printed off and laminated each slide and made the 5 sentence starter ones bigger.

"How to write an effective essay" on the wall

5 sentence types in A3

To provoke their thoughts around our context, I gave out photos with provoking images on them.  I asked them to choose an effective sentence type to create, based on what was happening in the photos. By giving them a different point of discussion to start with, I hoped it would help provide the class, especially the visual learners, a way to connect their writing to their learning.  I then encouraged them to write the sentences on post it notes, to stick to the A3 sheets on the wall.

I made mini cards with the meanings to give out if needed.

The skill of using different visual mediums as a source of writing is probably a skill that needs further development and use in my classroom.  Some of the students found value in the images where as others, it proved harder for them to summarise in a power sentence, what the image showed.  For the more capable students, they were able to transfer the knowledge of what was behind the image (which we had been learning about) and use that knowledge alongside the photo to provide some good power sentences.  The post it notes helped students to share their sentences and would allow them to refer to a variety for the future, if they struggled to start a paragraph.  The actual physical nature of moving and putting their post-its on the wall was something that the boys liked to do, whereas the girls needed prompting to get up-they were quite happy to show me their sentences at their seats.

Post it notes help students share their sentences

Next steps:  I can see that the students engaged in writing power sentences the most which was interesting.  Now I hope to support them in writing power paragraphs, which will be my next goal.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

'Growing our children as conversationalists' - Dr Jannie Van Hees

At our recent School Leaders PLG, Dr Jannie Van Hees introduced the idea of growing our kids as conversationalists.  To define it, we think of 'talk of any kind between two, three or more people' as well as 'people in discussion - taking turns to share their ideas by speaking with each other'.  When I think about my students and whether I hear them having learning conversations, I admit that these conversations are very few and far between.

The idea of Chain Linking and the way students respond to each other has been something that I had never really noticed but I am really interested in finding out more about. Here are some of the notes from that PLG:
  • When kids talk to each other, they should take turns and share ideas
  • Talking WITH someone makes you focus on what is being said.
  • Take turns and share ideas.
  • Practice having conversations with 2, 3 or more people.
  • Link to a new idea or change the topic
  • Return to the point that has already been said.
  • Break down any conversations
  • Challenge what is being said and give your opinion
To and Fro talking
Chain linking - what you say to each other is thought about
Learners - brain has to work hard to respond to conversations

Talking WITH Someone
You can’t practice what you’re going to say, or your response
Learning to be conversationalists
A conversation is between 2 or more people, it’s about taking turns
Co-learn because we bother to share what’s in ourselves
Challenge what is being said

Some key questions to ponder:

What holds students back from conversing?
What can I add?
How do I add value?
Social appropriateness

  • Students are too sensitive, can be held back by giving responses or to challenge. Everyone’s contribution needs to be valued. Social appropriateness is important skill. Value and accept conversation in the classroom. 
  • Use drama to provoke conversations. 

My next steps:  
I am super interested in how to use 'conversations' in my lessons related to the context we are learning about in my year 12 Social Studies class.  I am thinking about how our Maori and Pasifika cultures are an oral people and I almost feel we need to do more to encourage our kids to speak and respond to each other.  

Monday, 13 August 2018

Essay writing in my Social Studies classroom

With the senior exams in week 8 of this term just around the corner, the pressure is on for my seniors to be ready.  The format for their exams is an essay for which the kids will be immersed in learning the context for this however, they still struggle to gage what the structure like in their minds and in the past, we haven't had great success in achieving in our exams because of this.

To breakdown ways to tackle the essay, in our department we are using T.E.X.A.S as our main paragraph writing structure.

Before getting into the context, I spent some time discussing how to structure the essays with the main point being that every essay is an argument.  Below is the power point I developed and I tried to use Marvel characters to make it stand it out.

Slide 16 - 20 are the 5 of the 12 definitions that our W.T.E.(Write that Essay) crew agreed we would share across our curriculum areas in teaching our kids.  I've decided I would print off the powerpoint and put it on the wall, then blow up slides 16 - 20 so that kids could use post it notes to share their different sentences dependant on the context of their lesson.  In my next post, I will share how the lessons went.

(Credits: Marvel images, Write that Essay)

Friday, 10 August 2018

Using SOLO hexagons and Power Sentences

Teaching Israel and Palestine in the past has been a bit of a challenge as some kids find it hard to relate to the context.   Add the fact that learning dates and key historical facts can sometimes put my kids to sleep, I needed to find a strategy that would involve them sharing their knowledge in a way that would help them map the links for writing and verbalise what they've learnt.  Here are the steps I took for the lesson.


Using the online SOLO hexagon generator, I put in all the key words, concepts, details etc that we had learnt in 2 weeks.  I wanted the kids to use SOLO hexagons to connect what they have learnt and to verbalise the connections first to the peers and then to me.


When I pointed out to them that being able cluster and compare concepts and facts in groups shows that they are working at merit level and describing the impacts of different links on others was an excellence, students began to recognise the relevance of the exercise.

Tough guys like to hold flowers while they are completing their hexagons


I focused on one of the sentence types that our W.T.E (Write that Essay) crew suggested we try out to help our kids start a sentence, the power sentence.  This is a sentence that has to have a punch with only 12 words or less.  I gave examples on the board and as a class we wrote one together first.  I then shared a document where by I wanted students to write 5 paragraphs and each one had to have a power sentence.   I wanted them to use the SOLO hexagon activity to guide what to write in the paragraphs.


I realised the expectation was a bit much to get them to write 5 paragraphs and it wasn't enough to just share a doc.  I noticed the girls in the class happily opened the doc and got on with it, but the boys couldn't be bothered.  So I adjusted the lesson to get kids to share it on the whiteboard so that we as a class could judge the best one and I would award a prize to the best one.  It was then that the boys got fully involved and I took the opportunity to video it below.


It was the first time that I had actually observed some of my kids handwriting something - I never knew we had so many left handers!.   In saying that, the boys were especially engaged in the competitiveness of the activity and weren't shy to put up their answers.  This was encouraging as I want the kids to feel they can challenge each other to show what they know without being shy about it.

Next time: 
I realised that the girls are quiet and I need to make sure they feel included and have a voice in the classroom.  I see that the boys have grown in confidence and are not shy to answer and verbalise by making meaning from what they've learnt but I do not want the girls to feel that they get all of the attention.  My next steps are to ensure that they are provided a platform to voice their ideas more, whether it be out in front of the class or more 1 on 1.  I will definitely be sharing this lesson with my department and will use it with my year 13's.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

'Write that Essay' at T.C

Across our school, effective writing is one of the challenges that we are trying to address in our individual subject areas.   In my search for answers, I was excited to find a PLD being offered during the 2nd week of the holidays, around the 'Write that Essay' programme.  This is an academic writing programme that I had heard so many positive things about.  A group of staff from our school from a range of different curriculum areas, recently attended the professional development workshop and on their return, I organised a meeting to collect key takeouts and ideas moving forward. 

The W.T.E team sharing key takeouts

It was the first meeting for the group since the workshop and their discussions were positive and they had shared how they'd learnt so much from it.  They reflected on key takeouts and decided on a number of goal.  One of the goals was to focus on improving sentence structures with the help of a guide suggesting '12 ways to write a sentence', which the group has agreed, will be a good place to start.   These strategy's are ones that I had seen before and will adapt to use with my seniors.

A few of the strategies we will be trying out
In the discussion, the team agreed to try some of the strategies in their classrooms, reflect on them and come back together near the end of the term, to figure out how to share the strategies and reflections with the rest of the staff.  I've decided my job will be to support and monitor how they are going on the way, so that they can feel empowered in sharing the great things they are doing to support our learners with their writing.

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