Saturday, 5 October 2019

Presenting at the New Zealand Social Sciences Conference 2019

This week, I was invited to present at our annual Social Sciences Conference (SOCCON) which was held this year at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre.  The theme of my presentation was 'Teaching as Inquiry in a Junior Social Science classroom' and it was a 30 minute brilliant burst.  I choose this theme because at conferences in the past, I have not seen or heard much about inquiry and this has been focus for me.  I wanted to share my journey in understanding the impact of my practice on my learners.
I was nervous because it is hard to gage why people are there so I first asked them to share in groups their understanding of inquiry and what it looked like to them.  I then defined my understanding so they could see where I was at, then proceeded to share some of my findings and reflections.

I explained the Manaiakalani kaupapa and how it had guided my inquiry to where I felt confident to describe my learnings as a teacher in the kahui ako.  I also explored the idea of being open and transparent as it supported others who may have the same challenges.  As the workshop progressed, I grew more and more at ease with the flow of the presentation and choose to have time at the end of the session for people to talk and ask questions.

At the end of the session, a number of people came up to thank me and one particular teacher, Sarah from Naenae College in Wellington said I was doing exactly what she was doing except her focus was on reading rather then writing!  She said she was so happy to find someone else who was doing something similar and we exchanged email addresses and said we would share resources.  Another colleague of mine from Mangere College tagged me in a facebook post which was really encouraging.  I enjoyed the chance to share my journey and look forward to doing it again.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

"Teaching as Inquiry" in a Junior Social Science classroom: SOCCON 2019

Talofa Lava everyone,
Here is my presentation for my talk today.  Please feel free to like, comment or email me at:!
Malo Soifua,

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Tweaking #1: Phonetically sounding out words/terms

A tweak in my practice:  Phonetically sounding out words/terms.
From my first intervention lesson #1, I read my reflections about sounding out the words and phonetically sighting and sounding the words to deliberately use all throughout the last two lessons I'd taught my year 9's.

I noticed that I never used to think about doing this in the past because when I have taught, I would assume that kids knew the words and knew how to sound the words out and sound them out fluently.  I was also conscious of the lack of time that we have in a lesson and have felt the pressure of getting everything done.  Now, I am trying to think carefully about the words themselves, about the varied learning needs of my kids and how they would need to know how to pronounce the words carefully.

I find myself staying on words/phrases for a lot longer instead of rushing it to the definition.  I give them the time to 'sit' on the word, look at the word, and just process it in their brains.  We clap it out for the syllables, they say it aloud to the class and also to each other.  I've noticed the first time I did this, kids were not receptive but the more times we did this, the more they got used to it, the more it seemed to become normal.

When I discussed this with Jannie and Mele, our ESOL specialist, they said there was important research that supported the number of times a student needs to hear and practice a word 5-16 times before they can properly understand a word.  

For further monitoring, I am thinking that I would like to voice record students sounding out a word and watching me practicing and verbalising the words so that the sound could resonate with them.  I am also think of putting those voice recordings plus movie recordings online to build a rewindable learning library.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Intervention #2: Increasing the number of Iterations for learning

In a previous blog, I discussed my inquiry with Jannie who shared one of the effective ways to support my learners in understanding their learning.

"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are) consolidating and creating iterations of their learning" (Blogpost, 10th August, 2019)

Research that supports these principles within my specific learning area of Social Studies, can be found in the Best Evidence Synthesis (BESs) report, commissioned by the Ministry of Education.  It was found that 'students need sufficient, related opportunities to revisit learning through a variety of activities that will embed that learning in their memories'.  (p12, Sinnema and Aitken, 2008)

I used these principles when I planned my lesson for my year 9's recently.  To put this into practice, I allowed for more time for learning and the context we were learning about was to understand what parliament does.  

When reflecting on my previous lesson, I used the ideas of slowing down the learning by focusing on key words and concepts, to guide my lesson.  To crank my lesson up slightly, I used lots of different images and simple definitions to support new words and concepts.

Lesson structure:
1.  Pretest and post test:  I created a pre and post test that asks students to connect a word/phrase related to parliament, an image to support the word and a definition or example of that word.

2.  Powerpoint presentation:  I created a powerpoint that had limited wording, an emphasis on key points and big images and pictures.
3.  Video:  On the powerpoint, there is a short video discussing what I will be talking about on my powerpoint. 

4.  Mix and match exercise:  I cut up the words/phrases related to parliament, the image that supported the words and a definition or example of that word and asked students to match them together by turning the cards upside down and playing 'go fish'.  

5.  Kahoot!: I created a quick spot quiz on Parliament in kahoot.

6.  Blog post:  I wanted to get kids to write a blogpost on their learning. 

7.  Survey:  I created a survey that asked 4 questions: 
  • Did you enjoy today's lesson on Parliament?
  • What part did you enjoy the most?
  • Is there anything else that Ms Apelu can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
  • Is there anything else that YOU can do to help you learn better next time? (write one thing if you think there is something)
Actual lesson:
I made the kids do the pre and post test on paper and supplied their pens and pencils for ease of collection.  I asked for devices to be off and to focus on my explaining the powerpoint.  I emphasised the key words and sounded out words that students may not understand.  I tried to use phonetically sound out key words and write the words on the board.  I made the students say it out loud, clap out the syllables and turn to a partner and say the words to each other.

When we moved into doing the mix and match exercise students seem excited to do the activity.  Unfortunately my instructions weren't clear so some students lay all the words out and tried to put them in groups, others did 3 columns and other played 'go fish' (I know for next time to model what I want them to do and have it on the ppt).  Although lots of kids were doing different activities with the same words, I felt there was lots of mixing and matching going on and that students were mostly engaged.  The first student who got the answers matched up correctly was asked to go around and check other students.

The class really enjoyed the kahoot as they got to challenge each other - the boys were the most excited but the girls got the better results.  I noticed we had run out of time towards the end of the lesson and didn't get a chance to start the blog.  Just before the bell, students were asked to complete the survey and the post-test. (I will report on the results in my next few posts)

Quick reflections:  
I was pretty exhausted by the end of the lesson, mostly because I think I stood at the front and had to encourage the talking and rephrasing and modelling of the language.  There were so many components to the lesson that I had to keep track of the time, of the activity and monitor the behaviour of the students especially in the last 30 minutes.  Overall I think the lesson went well and judging by the quick survey answers, I can use their feedback to modify my next lessons.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Monitoring #5: Student feedback on our lesson on key concepts

Today I sat down with a focus group of students who are in 9PKr to show them the lesson I taught on key government concepts and to ask for their feedback on their thoughts of the lesson.  I also wanted to know if there were any other ways that I could support them in their learning.
I choose two boys and two girls from the class with mid to high levels of ability.  I did this because I thought they wouldn't be shy to share their ideas and because they seemed engaged during the lessons.  I have coded them as:  T2 and T3 = Male, M2 and A2 = Female.  Here is a snippet of our conversations.

Did you enjoy the lesson? 

M2:  Yes it was cool
A2: That was one of the funnest days because we actually worked as a class and everyone participated.
T3: We got to talk about words that we didn’t know and practice them heaps

Is there anything I could do to help you talk about your learning more?

T3: Make it a challenge and put us in groups. And whoever gets the answer right, gets a prize.  Us boys like challenges.
M2: Give us more things where we can move around and have to talk to each other.
A2: Yea like maybe do things where we don’t have to talk to the same people

Should we mix up the groups?

A2: Yes cause we’re always in the same groups

Anything else?

A2: Oh miss, can we try debating once in a while because we did it in Health and it was fun.  It we can hear from everyone even the quiet students.

Tell me more about that?

A2: We had boys against girls and it was fun.  We had to really about what to say because
T3: Have us in groups of 4 or how we had the U shape like when Ms Jannie was here cause it made everyone on the same level and we all had to contribute.

Reflections:  As they watched, I could see they were interested more in what they were doing during the lesson rather than what I was doing.   I think one of the things that I have learnt from showing them the lesson was that as they got to see what they were doing and how they were responding, they became a bit embarrased and they were surprised to see themselves behave the way they did.  From time to time a few of the kids called out, made comments that could be heard on the video or distracted others from their learning.  Although this was not how I intended to use the video, it was interesting for me to see their reactions and I feel that this could be a useful tool to do from time to time to keep students in check.

Next steps:  I enjoyed listening to the students' feedback and found that by giving them a voice, I could hear how they wanted the lessons to go.  I want to use some of their ideas in our next lessons to support their learning more and find more opportunities to sit down with different students in class to ask for feedback as a focus group.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Monitoring #4: Discussing my theories of teaching with Dr Jannie.

Recently I had a discussion with Dr Jannie about my default theory of teaching to see if there was any feedback or advice she could give me about it.  I also wanted to talk about the lesson I did with 9PKr in a hope that she could offer some help with my next steps.  This formal discussion of where I believe my teaching theory is at, hopefully adds to the monitoring of my teaching actions.

I have a voice recording of our meeting and a transcript of some of the key points from our discussion below. (I like to record discussions I have with Dr Jannie because I want to make sure I don't miss any pearls of wisdom).  

I talked at length about the aspects of my template and in doing this, it helped me sound out my theory in a sort of logical way.  As Jannie listened, she was able to identify an aspect that was she felt was missing.

Talking their learning.    
"The thing I see missing from here (my template) is talking your learning... from your summary they should be able to say, so here it is...if you say we have a female Prime Minister and you have 10 points to elaborate that.  That’s not doing anything until you can powerfully talk to that ...Yes you have your notes in front of you but that you can look people in the eye and say that point that point and that point.  Firstly it might seem a little staccatoish but more as you practice it, we have more capabilities to pop in something to make it so that it’s a presentation of your learning"
"...One of the things in Taumaranui is that the kids regularly showcase their learning to each another, to a group of teachers, to their whanau".

"I don't think that it is the power breaker until they can talk to it....if they can look people in the face and say that, it's a very powerful thing to do"

Principles of learning
"One of the Principles of learning is that you need a number of iterations.  You're building in those iterations.  Teachers are overlooking this need that we all have that you don’t learn things and do the same things over and over, you crank it so that in a different way or a little bit more challenge or you go back to it again, not only to your partner but to each other.  They are all ways that (you are)consolidating and creating iterations of their learning".

Next steps:  
  • I added Jannie's suggestion to look at how kids can 'talk their learning' to my template diagram.  It is one of the things that I think will help accelerate my students' learning and my job is to figure how to teach it to well, so that it will support my kids learning.
  • I want to find research that supports Jannies' discussion around the principles of learning and I want to understand the term 'iterations' better.
  • Dr Jannie talked about how well kids can talk their learning and I expressed an interest during our meeting to see how they do it in Taumaranui school that encourages this type of learning for students.  I have been offered the opportunity to travel down to Taumaranui High School and am looking forward to going, to see how the students engage in talking their learning.  I am excited to learn how to teach it more effectively to my students and will hopefully be able to apply some of the strategies I learn in my teaching.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Monitoring #3: Choosing an area of focus in my teaching

Quizzing the kids by slowing down my questioning
This short video observation is one I am examining more closely to monitor my questioning of my students.  It comes after 1 hour of learning the concepts and their meanings and thorough discussions around examples of them.  I’ve chosen to highlight this part of my teaching practice, as normally, my default teaching would have shared a document and asked students to write down their answers and share it with me.  For my deliberate teaching, I’ve chosen to use verbal prompts to encourage students the opportunity to verbalise their learning in a comfortable classroom environment.  
  • Holding the suspense of students by not rushing the questions.
  • Not worrying too much about kids who call out things that isn’t the answer.
  • Being aware that kids may miss out and acknowledge them.
  • Most of the kids were engaged when I slowed down the quiz
  • For the boys, I wanted it to be a bit more challenging and so I put a small time challenge on it.  They ended up trying to beat their own times and their friends.
Work ons:  
Perhaps have the students lead the words and ask each other the same way.  I can model more.  Not have me talk the whole time.  I said ‘shhh too many times’.  I also say ‘o.k’ and ‘right’ a lot as well.

Observations and next time actions.
When scoping the room, I’m aware that Marco is not looking my way, but he put himself at the front, which was unusual, he is usually hiding at the back.  I have noticed that he wanted to take part in the group challenges so for next time, I will encourage and invite some group challenges.  
I am also aware that girls at the back like Ana had her hand up and that I ensure that they aren’t ignored by attention being on the boys.  I might give them a different challenge because they are high ability students.

What I learnt about myself doing this:
I would normally rush tasks and when I have asked questions in the past, I would usually have asked students I know would answer the question.  This time, I purposely used wait time a little bit more and dragged out the questions because I wanted kids to think about the question and if they were picked, they could be ready.  I think this helped build their confidence more and kept them a bit more engaged for the next question.  

I enjoyed this process and even though it may have seemed like we didn’t get much done, or any writing or reading, I felt happy with the outcomes.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Monitoring #2: A Colleagues observation of my teaching

In my on-going discussions with my department about my inquiry, I described to a colleague how well I thought my lesson went with my year 9’s, in learning the 7 concepts we need to know in our new Government unit.  I explained in my lesson, I had to focus on just getting the concepts learnt repeatedly and that this was a change in my teaching that taught me how to be more patient with my kids.  She wanted to see what this looked like so I offered to take one of her year 9 classes through the same lesson, for the first period in a double. 

My reflections:
The class was 9PDv and I taught exactly the same lesson that I’d taught the day before with 9PKr.  As it was just the first period of a double, their teacher continued to support their learning of the concepts during the next period.  I felt they are responded really well to the lesson because they seemed engaged and did not shy away too much from giving it a go.  I have not taught them before and it was refreshing to have different faces in front of me and different dynamics in a classroom.  

Staff feedback:
The feedback from my colleague was that she enjoyed seeing how I engaged the students in slowing the learning and forcing them to use their brains to learn.  She was surprised to see some of the loud boistrous boys standing up and giving the challenges a go.  She liked the way the kids stay focussed on the tasks and it gave her encouragement to try the model that I’d shown her.  She also shared it was one of the rare times that they’d been fully engaged.

A student teacher who’d also observed the lesson said ‘in both my practicuums, it was best teaching that had the kids so engaged that I’d seen so far, no offence’. (I was abit taken aback by this comment but felt humbled as well)

Student feedback through blogs:
Before the end of their double period, my colleague asked her class to blog about what they’d learnt during the lesson.  I enjoyed reading the blogposts below and felt positive and glad that they’d learnt what we’d set out to achieve.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Monitoring #1: Results of my pretest and posttest

As part of the lesson I did with 9PKr, I gave them a pre-test and a post-test on the 7 key concepts that we'd learnt in the double period.  I decided to make it a mix and match exercise.
Here are the comparative results:
The students either stayed were they were with results or made positive gains in the tests.  I found that the boys especially made the biggest gain in their results and it was pleasing to see this in the tests.  I think it may be a combination of slowing the pace of the lesson to focus primarily on the concepts but also the opportunity kids had to test themselves individually, in pairs and in groups to ensure they got the learning.  I hope also to examine whether it was my teaching approach that impacted on this shift in my next blogs.

Dr Jannie suggested I show the results to the students because the more times we can showcase their cleverness the better.   I want to give them the test again at a later date to see if they can remember the terms more easier.  I also want to vary the way I monitor them by changing the tests for example I might try an emoji system asking how well they know words like the one in the image below.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Intervention #1: Focus Lesson on key concepts

Evidence for a need to 'shift' my teaching.
Last term, I taught a unit on our community with a focus on significant places in our community.   At the end of the unit, students had to complete an assessment essay to show their learning from the unit and the many of the students answers were basic or did not reach an achieved.

When reflecting on why the kids essays were below standard, I wondered whether my teaching was part of the reason for these failures.  I don't think my teaching style had changed much as I have taught the unit many times in the past.  Although I used a number of strategies to support my learners, they were more for the scaffolding of reading and writing for the learners rather then looking at ways I could support my learners in my teaching approach.

This term, I want to implement strategies that I'd used at the beginning of the year whereby I purposefully and deliberately took away time spent on the context of a topic and used it to slow down the focus in a lesson to learn key concepts properly.  I also want to look at talking more about the learning too rather then trying to focus on having the kids write something down to show their learning.  Recently, I taught a lesson with these aspects in mind.
The Context
My year 9 Social Studies class are starting a new unit on understanding the Government and how decisions can impact on people and places.  There are a lot of different concepts that are complicated and challenging to understand and I wanted to use a technique that Jannie had taught me earlier this year to slow down the learning on new concepts and to discuss knowledge around the concepts.

Planning and preparing for the lesson.
The lesson time was a double period, 2x 50 minutes and it was after morning tea and before lunch.  To prepare for the lesson, I created a slide that had the concepts and their definitions on it.  I also wanted to test whether there was a shift in their learning, so I created a pre test and a post test that was mix and match exercise to measure if there was a shift in learning for the students (I will talk about the results in my next blog).   

Collecting evidence
I want to collect evidence to support how my change in teaching practice helped my learners to learn and understand key concepts in a more verbal and oral way.

  • Pre and post tests - I created a snap 'quiz' where students were provided with the 7 key concepts and had mix and match the correct definitions with the words.  
  • Videoing myself - I want to watch the video to see how I teach in this style.  I have video evidence of me teaching in my default style of teaching (the old me) and I want to see 
  • My observations of students - I want to observe the engagement of the students through the lesson and make mental notes of who is making a genuine effort as compared to previous lessons.  
  • Student verbal feedback - I will catch up with students at the end of the lesson to talk about how they felt about the lesson.
The Lesson
As the students entered the classroom, I handed them the pre-test and a pen and said we will be discussing our learning today through 'talanoa' (discussions) and to leave their devices in their bags.  The students were given 5 minutes to complete the pre-test at the start.  I collected the papers in, then I asked them to draw their attention to the presentation. 

I started by reminding them about the brain being like a muscle and that when they energise their brain through learning new things, they are making them 'smarter'.  I also reminded them that we will be verbalising our lesson through 'talanoa' learning and that I hoped they will become confident speakers by the end of the year.

I asked them to read the instructions and we went through each one carefully for understanding.  I then put the slide with the 7 key concepts up for 2 minutes, where they individually had to say the words, then 2 - 3 minutes to a partner, then a group.  I then called for volunteers to stand up in front of the class and say the concepts fluently without stopping.  I modelled to them how I wanted them to say the words, with good posture and in a confident manner.

At the end of the lesson, I did a quiz exercise which involved asking students to tell me answers to the concepts, to further learn the concepts and to get them to say out loud the answers.  I then handed the post-test questions to students who completed them before the bell went.  I have recorded parts of the lesson below.
My initials observations of the students as I taught them, was that they were engaged and motivated to give the learning a go.  I felt I had minimal behavioural issues and students were willing to try the concepts and learning out, and for the most part seemed happy.   I think this was because I was confident in my approach, I took time to allow students to try things out and gave them different ways for them to try out the learning.
Feedback from a student is that she felt it was a fun lesson and enjoyed the interaction with her classmates.

Next steps:
  • I will collate the data from the pre and post test.
  • I will watch the video of my teaching and analyse what I see
  • I will try and collect feedback from students about the lesson.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Presenting our targets and outcomes in our Curriculum meeting #1

As part of our professional development around student centred learning, our HOD's and assistant HOD's were asked to present to our curriculum committee ways our subject areas were supporting students to achieve NCEA level one.

We had four questions to address:
  • Who are our target students and what are our desired outcomes
  • What will we do differently to achieve those outcomes
  • How will we lead that change
  • What support will we need
Here is my presentation:

Friday, 26 July 2019

Default vs Deliberate theories of action teaching #9

As a visual learner, I have designed a template to help guide my inquiry.

My 'Default' Theory of Action in teaching
When it comes to teaching, the old me would 'default' to my normal standard teaching practice as follow:
  • “Do Now, devices out, teacher talks for 10-15 mins to impart knowledge, students are shared tasks to do individually or in pairs, teacher checking work progress and understanding, complete a blog, students write a summary of the learning”.
I am pretty confident to deliver this standard teaching format and felt it worked because the kids appeared engaged and if they knew the routines, there would be less behavioural issues.  When it came to raising achievement in reading and writing, the mid to high ability students were doing well, but the gap seemed to be getting bigger for the lower ability.  On reflection, I need to be able to ask how my teaching actions have contributed to this gap and be prepared to challenge my thinking to enable better outcomes for my learners.  Albert Einsten said ''Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

Profiling and hypothesis generation
There are two areas for profiling and hypothesis generating - students and teachers.  For the students,  creating a comprehensive profile helps to inform strategies that align with raising achievement.  For teachers part, identifying my teaching theory and unpacking my hypothesis and causal chain support my design for deliberate teaching.

'My new deliberate Theory of Action'
The main hypothesis that I have is: If I slowed down the teaching and the learning of key concepts and have the students 'talk the learning', I theorise that the low-ability students will have the confidence and capabilities to build their language knowledge and this will could to an improvement in their reading and writing.

Intervention Design and Implementation:
I am consciously thinking about the planning around my implementation design and looking at the different aspects that support my hypothesis.  Rather then look at achieving the big picture straight away, I need to create little checkpoints along the way that will help me get to my valued learning outcomes.  I have identified a few ideas in my design and implementation, which will be detailed more in my other blog posts.

I have started to collect information to help me monitor the progress of the students and whether my teaching has had an impact in their learning and whether they can identify this.  I have listed a few formal and informal ways I will collect the information.  For the evaluation section, I will detail that further as my inquiry progresses.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Restating my inquiry and my theory of action/change of events #8

Restate my inquiry question and theory of action/chain of events.

At our COL meeting today we were asked to restate our inquiry question and discuss our theories of action/chain of events.  Initially my valued learning outcomes were based around the ability for students to improve their summary writing skills through understanding what they are reading.  I've realised that the barrier starts with reading and even before reading, it is about having the capabilities and tools to grasp the thinking behind language.

After much thought and research, I have come to the conclusion that the valued learning outcomes that  I want to improve for my students in this inquiry are...based around understanding and articulating key concepts to improve reading and writing.

The changes I am making to my teaching to improve these outcomes are...focussing on the learning of language vocabulary by slowing down the teaching and having students talk the learning.

The reasons why I think these changes in my teaching will be effective for my learners are...that they will be able to conceptualise key words and show their understanding of their learning through relevant conversations and dialogue.

As quoted by Aaron:
"At the end of my inquiry, I want to be able to find out the changes that have happened for learners and to know why those changes happened.  I need lots of good information about the learners but also about my teaching.  

Last year, we saw evidence for shifts for learners but that evidence about what changes for teachers were was a bit weak - it was hard to know what the teachers had done differently that had caused those changes or if they were related.  

Theory of Action:  Learners have these improvements in their learners and it is because we think they made these changes in their teaching".

I want to be able to say 'This was how I was teaching before, and this is how I'm teaching now'.  I am thinking of developing a visual diagram of my inquiry so far, so that I could see how I am progressing and what I need to do next!

Connecting with whanau to build student profiles #1

Studies show building a connection with whanau and families can support the achievement of a student.  In my efforts to know my learners better, we have our student achievement conferences and I asked the tutor teacher of 9PKr if I could support him in meeting some of the parents of my inquiry group.  My main purpose was to share my inquiry with them, discuss some of my findings, then hopefully set goals with them.  My key focus was looking at reading but if they wanted to know about writing, I was happy to share what I'd learnt about their child with them.

I went armed with the following resources:
* Profile sheets of evidence I had collected
* A blank graph that I had pre-sketched to show the progression of asttle reading results for 2018 and 2019 (and beyond).
* 'The Big Picture' diagram for students to complete
* Strategies for supporting students at home from Dr Jannie and department discussions.

For each student, I wanted to share historical data collected from their primary schools (2017/2018) mainly asttle reading results and compare them to this years two test points (in February and June).  I wanted to explain where they needed to be by the end of year 10 ready for NCEA at the start of year 11.  I am also to sharing ways we could all support their child, through strategies discussed from Dr Jannie Van Hees and in my department discussion.  I am hoping that we could set collective realistic goals.

This morning, I met with two students and their families, and have collated what I will tentatively call a 'tri-angulation' of profile collecting for these students. 

Student ONE:  T1 is a young Maori boy, whose mum came in for his meeting.  I have found that he is a capable critical thinker and is able to verbalise his learning, but can not and will write much and this was evident in his asttle reading/writing scores where he scored 2A's.  I also know that socially, he struggles to fit in with his peers.
Tri-angulation of data and evidence for student T1
After much discussion, I found out that he'd only been speaking English in the last three years and he was the lead speaker at his kura kaupapa when he'd left.  She wants to continue encouraging him in his Te Reo and says he enjoys school. 

Quick reflection:  I was taken aback and said to her I now see him in a totally different way.  I can see now why he was having issues fitting in and I often see him bursting at the seams to answer questions.   I have written some reflection here about my next steps with him that I hope to implement in my theory of action.

Student TWO:  A1 is a young Maori girl whose mum attended her meeting.  She is a highly capable student who scored 4P in asttle reading and 5A in her writing.  She fits in well with her peers and always completes tasks to a high standard.  At times though, I noticed that she was only doing what was required at the fastest time possible and only after I pushed her to extend herself would she actually do it.  She would also get annoyed at the smallest things.

When I asked mum what her aspirations for her daughter were, she was a bit taken aback and said it was a good question (I don't think she was expecting the question). She wanted her daughter to be healthy, safe and confident and to be whatever she wants to be.  I asked A1 what she thought about what mum said and she said yes, I know.  I reminded A1 that her next steps were to continually challenge herself and be a highly critical thinker by digging deeper and finding out more.

Quick reflection:  I am thinking about ways to extend these higher level students in the class and there are about 5 or 6 (mostly girls).  I don't want them to lose momentum and feel that with more support, they could be ready to do NCEA in year 10! 

I am really happy that I met these students and their mums.  It has given me a whole new insight into who they are, how and why they behave the way they do and what I need to change in my approach to teaching them.  I feel more confident in identifying exploring ways to address their needs, it's just a matter of finding the right interventions -watch this space.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Reflecting on our Cross-curricula collaboration from term 2

At the beginning of this term, Jannie and I had been working with 9PKr's English teacher to collaborate on a shared unit around our community.  They had been reading a novel in their English class that had similiar links to Marae life and growing up in New Zealand.  We'd had a few meetings to design a programme and although they were productive, I feel the unit didn't get off the ground as productively as it could've.  On reflection, I wonder if the context had enough links across our curriculum areas to connect it better to each other or if it was just bad timing.  
In their mid-term exams, students are required to write an essay on our significant places in our community and to think about why it is important to know about our community.  13 boys sat the exam and 5 of them passed.  7 girls sat the exam and only 1 of them did not achieve.  Overall, I was disappointed with the results as I thought the context of learning about our community would've engaged them in their learning and motivated them to try harder. 

For my next steps, I want to utilise the strategies that I had learnt from Jannie in term one and focus on really 'energising their brains' to slow down the learning and focus on understanding and applying key concepts and terms. 

Friday, 31 May 2019

Inquiry Blog #7: My Causal Chain

"In this model, the intervention (a new teaching approach) does not lead DIRECTLY to the ultimate desired effect (improvement in reading overall).

Rather, the theory of action or proposed causal chain is that teaching improves the children’s ability to understanding reading text and that, in turn, leads to improved reading more generally.
A positive shift in asttle reading is a desired effect of the intervention and a intermediary outcome. In this model the intervention would only be partially successful if it led to improved reading but improved reading did not contribute to more generalised reading achievement".

Here is my causal chain.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Inquiry blog #6: My patterns of teaching

In March, I wrote a blog where I talked about what the most important and catalytic issue of learning was in my classroom.  I reread what I wrote and found that I hadn't actually identified what the issue was with the learning, but more of what the problem was with my approach to teaching. 

After identifying my preliminary findings and gathering important data and evidence, I've decided the biggest issue in learning for my students was that 'my students struggled to write a summary about a text that they have read to show their understanding of the text'.  To come to this point, I have had to unpack my findings, to develop a worthwhile hypothesis.  I want to explore likely barriers for these findings and identify what key teaching actions I could use to accelerated student achievement in reading.  
Link here

1.  Developing a set of hypotheses about patterns in my teaching that could be change to more effectively address the student learning focus.

My students are struggling to write a summary because I may not be:
  • spending enough time ensuring students understand the text more deeply
  • allowing them to verbalise and discuss their learning more deeply
  • teaching enough skills and too much content
  • focussing on essentials like vocabulary 
  • skilled in supporting the lower/higher ability learners
  • differentiating the reading and tasks
  • focussed on the process
  • showing them the end result
2.  The process for developing these hypotheses.

To come to this conclusion, I am taking into consideration the following:
  • my observations of my students
  • my conversations and lessons with Dr Jannie
  • what my colleagues say about the students and their learning
  • student voice surveys
  • relevant research
3.  The hypothesis about teaching that I have decided in the MOST worth testing
Spending enough time ensuring my students understand texts more deeply by putting the lense of the language (reading, writing and oral).

4.  Testing my hypothesis and evidence I may use to support my hypothesis
  • Practical theories/strategies
    • Dr Jannie Van Hees, putting the lense on language and deep diving into text
    • Literacy expert Marc Milford's reading plan
    • Successful strategies from primary schools and previous junior classes
  • Critical discussions with colleagues
    • Collaboration across curriculum areas such as English
    • Pockets of excellence teaching within our department
  • Relevant research
    • Best Evidence Synthesis in Social Sciences
    • Key words: Asttle, reading, acceleration, ZPD
  • Gathering evidence of tests overtime in asttle reading and writing 
  • Student voice survey and learning discussions.
As I unpack the impact of my teaching on student learning, I am able to understand and formulate an intervention or set of interventions which will hopefully support the learners to achieve success.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

My preliminary findings about the nature and extent of the student challenge

Findings #1:  According to asttle, there are varying levels of reading abilities in my classroom and all the students who are level 2 are boys!.  When compared to their writing posts conducted in class (which shows their understanding of their reading) their writing ability depends on their reading abilities.  Students can’t write a summary if they don’t understand what they are reading. They struggle with the vocab and do not have enough time to 'dig deep' into text. This is supported by further evidence in the next finding. Please click on the document linked to find out more.
Findings #2: That students who struggle on average do not like reading or spend less time reading in or out of school.  These are the same students who struggle to write and have said that they need extra help and support when it came to writing. They are not motivated to read and struggle to engage with text that they can not relate to or are not interested in.

Findings #3: Writing a summary requires clear structures and scaffolding for the lower ability learners. Students think they know what a good summary looks like but acknowledge that getting there is a struggle and that many of them need help to get there. They also want more practice in writing them within a framework and need support in using key words to show their learning.

Findings #4: Although my focus is writing and reading, students wanted to the chance to talk about the context first. Having the ability to talk about the context in pairs and groups may allow for the text to be more relatable for the students who like to engage with the texts in this way. The gap between reading and writing might be shortened by talking about the text.

Next steps: I want to look at approaches and models that I could use as interventions. This will be in my next blog.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Inquiry Blog #5: Collecting evidence and data

To collect evidence of how my kids write, I asked them to read a text about Tokelau and write a summary as to why Tokelauans migrated to New Zealand.  I then used a marking rubric to identify where students sat according to levels related to asttle.  From this, I reflected on the results and wrote observations of what I saw and heard when students were given the tasks.  Below are the results:

Analysis of the evidence:  My observations of students who had low levels of reading and writing was that they struggled to engage with the text initially and I wonder if it was partly due to my lack of explaining the task.  The text itself had a splattering of words that were difficult but is targeted at a level 5 student.  Taking all the different learning abilities to the same text is like leading a monkey and an elephant to the same tree and telling them to climb it.  

After reading, students were expected to write a summary.  The students who were at 4 and 5, wrote good summaries in their own words.  The students who struggled either copied from the text or used language that didn't summarise the text properly.  A strength that I observed though was that they were able to verbalise about the readings ie. they were talking about the content.

Here are some of my wonderings (as an aside):
  • Schools who are entering results help to show good longitudinal data.
  • Some schools such as Glen Innes school, showed accurate data and shift.
  • Students whose language is not English, may benefit from learning vocab in their own language first.
  • Can we teach them new words through their language first?
  • How can student peer support help kids?

Friday, 26 April 2019

Profiles of my students and their learnings #1

The Challenge:  Kids struggle to write good summaries of readings they do in class.

Tools/ Measures/ Approaches to gather learning profiles:
  1. Asttle data:  Readily available, one of the tests used at our school to collect reading/writing data.  Although not necessarily the best one to use, at this stage, it is the one that the majority of the students have results for on kamar.
  2. Review of past year asttle results:  To see if the student has been progressing over the past few years with regards to their asttle results.  I wanted to see the pattern of learning from previous schools to help me see whether the student was progressing accordingly.  
  3. Writing post:  Conducted a formative assessment type writing task that students had to take ‘seriously’ (suggested by Aaron Wilson).  I used a marking rubric developed by Marc to measure the students’ writing against. I did this to see what level of writing the students had against a marking rubric taken from asttle.
  4. Student voice survey on reading:  I conducted a reading survey with the students which was developed with the support of Jannie and conducted over a period.  We carefully went over each question and had students carefully answer their questions.
  5. Different context observation:  The classes English teacher wrote her observations after teaching the class for one term.  I wanted to see if she saw similiar or different writing/reading results as I did.
  6. Quick survey and class discussion on writing:  I conducted a quick survey with 3 questions about writing and we discussed reasons for their answers.  I wanted to see what their thoughts around writing a summary was.
  7. Teacher observation (from my student teacher):  My student teacher has been with observed me teaching them for a number of weeks in term1, has tracked them for a day in all their classes and is currently teaching them as part of her practicuum.  I wanted to see if her perspective was similiar or different to my own with regards to engagement in writing tasks (TBA). 
The results of the profiles are linked here.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Team-teaching with Dr Jannie Van Hees #2: Deep diving into text

In our double Social Studies class this week, Dr Jannie and I team taught a lesson in deep dive session looking at the article 'Fossil of ancient four-legged whale found in Peru'.  Students often skim read current events articles without really understanding what it is telling them and what they have learnt.  The purpose was show the students how to put the lense of the language and make meaning from text.

Jannie went through the reasons for focussing on reading and ways to go about it.  I videoed much of the presentation below.
I admire the patience that Jannie had in drawing information from students who otherwise would have annoyed the heck out of me.  My idea of a successful learning environment has always been, teacher talk, students ask questions, students work either individually, in pairs or group.  There was none of this back and forth rhetoric that I saw happening in the class.

From a teaching perspective, I struggled with pace.  During the lesson, we had only focussed on one sentence and I was anxious nearing the end.  Jannie had to leave early and so I was left to test the students understanding and I was gobsmacked at how much information they had retained!  I asked my student teacher Sam to record them and I see now how successful the deep dive was.  Although I see the end results as rewarding, the process to get there is what I need to get my head around.

For my next steps, I need to re-evaluate the mindset that I have around pace in the lesson and really thinking about the essential language I want the students to have to better prepare them for success in their reading and writing.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Meeting with Dr Aaron Wilson to sound out my inquiry #1

At our last CoL teacher meeting, we were given the challenge to find tools and measures that would support our inquiries in a more robust way.  Because I am a bit slow at processing important information some times (meaning I need some one to one translating of words and concepts lol) another colleague and I, Hinerau Anderson, asked to meet with Dr Aaron Wilson to sound out whether we were on the right track with our inquiries.

I shared my thoughts around the difficulties kids had with completing tasks and when it came to writing summaries, students especially boys, were struggling.

The first task I need to do was to find out who was not completing them and how long they were.  Aaron shared that he had worked with a teacher at another secondary school (similar to ours) who was struggling with their year 10 class to write summaries.  When collecting data, he suggested that the best source of data would be copies of summaries they've written themselves.  Once I had evidence of kids work, I could put them into three categories: incomplete, complete, missing.  Using a marking rubric will help me gain a good picture of where the kids were at with their summary writing.

From this, there are a number of hypothesis that could be the reasons for the challenge:

1. Was them understanding instructions
2.  Related to not reading the text (can't/don't know how)
3.  Flow diagram - can read but don't know much about summarising
4.  Not good at knowing the structure of the text.
5.  Some can write a summary but don't see the purpose - analyse and find out what's going wrong

We touched on a number of approaches that could support different students at different stages which I will talk about in later blogs.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Inquiry Blog #4: Collecting evidence and data

Begin to collect evidence and data and come to the next session ready to share your preliminary findings about the nature and extent of the student challenge i.e. using your baseline student data and evidence.

To ensure that we are 'identifying, checking, prioritising and investigating the nature of the student achievement issue', we need to develop a 'rich picture with a high degree of reliability and specificity'.  

The image above shows the evidence that I hope to collected.  I have already started to collect evidence below.

  • PAT blog post - TBC (to be completed)
  • Asttle results blog post here and one more to come
  • STAR data blog post -TBC
Literacy Background:
  • Strengths, weaknesses and gaps blogpost (looking more closely at the data)- TBC
  • Different contexts - (discussions with other teachers and Marc) - TBC
  • Outside the classroom (student voice survey) - TBC
Behaviours, Attitudes and beliefs
  • Student voice survey - survey completed, data analysis needed - TBC
  • Teacher observations - one blog post here and another TBC
  • Class discussions - blog post TBC
Teacher observations
  • Recordings of student interactions - one blog post here and another TBC
  • Engagement - one blog post here (action vs inaction) and another TBC
Student voice
  • Student voice surveys - completed, blog post TBC
  • Focus groups - TBC
Things to remember:
Other data may / may not support standardised test results, particularly if results are surprising. Other sources include teacher homework, teacher observations, other tests, discussions with students. If other sources do not match, seek to understand why. E.g., students perform worse under timed test conditions, and need support in learning to work under time pressure

Presenting at the New Zealand Social Sciences Conference 2019

This week, I was invited to present at our annual Social Sciences Conference (SOCCON) which was held this year at the Waipuna Hotel and Conf...