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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