Friday, 29 March 2019

Meeting #4 with Dr Jannie Van Hees and Ms Feps: Collaborative planning

There's never enough time in the day to really dive deep into anything really, let alone text!  In our attempts to find the time for my year 9 social studies class to develop language, Dr Jannie and I came up with the idea to collaborate with their English teacher, Makerita (Ms Feps) to collaborate and design a course that will build a rich programme of language learning and making, to help support our students.

Our initial brainstorming planning meeting was held 15th March, where we were pitched the idea to my year 9 classes English teacher Makerita.  We talked about themes and how it could look to both subjects and ways we could collaborate on the teaching and learning of texts.  After the meeting we went away to think about what we needed to have done individually with our separate achievement objectives and also ways to connect with each other. 

Today we had a google hangout session where we focussed on the plan itself.  We started with brainstorming, then talked about ideas for creating and sharing of the student learning.  I discussed the problems students had in connecting with their community and we unpacked what the reality was and how we could develop it further.  Here is a brainstorm plan that I developed from our meeting.

The blue circles underneath fit under each area of people, place and community so I didn't try to link them together.   We will discuss this further at our next meeting this Friday.

Jannie, Makerite and me on our google hangout (I'm sick by the way lol)

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

School Goal Number #2: Sharing departmental literacy strategies

One of our department goals is to utilise literacy strategies across our junior school to support achievement in reading and writing. At our department meeting today, our team shared some of the literacy strategies that we have learnt from our PLD with Marc Milford, our literacy guru, who was present to provide feedback and feed forward.

There were lots of good activities that our team shared which was really great to see.  One particular strategy that Sonya Robertson had taught in her classroom, utilised resources from a site called Newsela (anyone can join the newsela site with their google account).   On the site, it has current events articles that allow you to choose the reading level applicable for your kids.  Below is an example. 
The title and article are for the less able readers as shown by the drop down box.
The same article but at more advanced level for the more able students
Students were then asked to use a scaffolded template of predicting, questioning and selecting 20 key words from the article, then select the 6 most important words.  Using this list, students were asked to summarise what the article was about in their own.  They then used this summary in a blog post.  Here are a few examples of blog posts:

It was awesome to hear how students such as Kaleb, who has had time off school, show his learning in his blog.  Sonya pushed him to get it done and she shared how she felt she had made progress in helping him with his work.  Marc was really impressed in the modal verbs that some of the students were using and suggested that a point be made to the students what the modal verbs were and how these helped develop their summary.  I was really proud of the strategies that Sonya and the team have used so far to address the learning needs of our kids.  I look forward to hearing more in the future.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

CoL teachers meeting #2: Understanding the inquiring teacher

At our CoL meeting today, Dr Aaron Wilson shared his insights around how to build a 'detailed and robust profile of our students in relation to that student learning focus'.

Just a thought...
Before this meeting, we had to find out what was going on for the learners in my classroom.  I needed to figure out how to find this out so of course I started by googling it.

I wondered about student engagement to try and build a picture of how we can look more closely at engagement.
Reflections on the effect of my practice on engagement.

Types of engagement include:

(a) Cognitive:  kids are engaged with the process and are willing to learn
(b) Behavioural:  kids show they're ready and willing to learn
(c) Emotional:  kids feel secure in the relationships with teachers, classmates and school.

I have been thinking of the me and my survey that Dr Graeme Aitken had alluded to at a PLD last year and I am reading through the background of the survey to understand it more.

Here are my notes my from our CoL meeting:
Come up with a plan to build a rich picture in relation to the valued learning outcomes that we have identified.

What is a common focus? Is this a common focus across our CoL team?

Do we have similar approaches to profiling the students?  I need to think of a plan.

The next stage for our inquiry is to look at describing tools/measures/approaches that I plan to use to get a more detailed and accurate profile of students' learning in relation to my challenge.  We then need to justify why we chose these approaches.   I want to break down what this means further.

  • Profile
  • Standardised tests
  • Student voice
  • Connecting with whanau
  • Data (PAT asttle)
  • Progression over the years
  • Formative/diagonistic/summative tests
  • Research types
    • Learning styles is an example of gathering information
Idea #1:  Is there a lack of resilience in reading or behaviours when it comes to text?  What are their attitudes to learning?  Do they like reading/writing?

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Inquiry Blog #3: The most important and catalytic issue of learning to me

(3) Explain why you judge this to be the most important and catalytic issue of learning for this group of learners this year (In chemistry, a catalytic substance one  which increases the speed of a chemical reaction).

To help me understand how I got to my inquiry challenge, I've had peel away layers and layers of what I'm going to call technical 'bull crap' and get to the crux of what has been annoying me (if you want to call it a flash word, I'd say I have been metacognitive - thinking about my thinking).  It just dawned on me as I've scribbled down countless brainstorms, read numerous academic research and rummaged through top teachers' blogposts - I have to make the main thing, the main thing.  What is happening and not happening, in my classroom for my learners and what have I done to contribute to it?

I could go on all day about all of the great student learnings that I believe is happening in my classroom, and show you all of the great kids work.  I could also pinpoint one or two things that I think I have done to get those kids to produce great work. Hell, I even got my kids to stand up and introduce themselves to our new student teacher and share with her what their favourite subject was at school because I was so confident that my kids were succeeding in my class because social studies was their favourite and I was their favourite teacher!!...

(And the buzzer goes off)...ehhh, wrong.

In reality, most of the class said social studies was one of about three other subjects they liked and then they proceeded to muck around and distract themselves and each other for the rest of the period and there was very little real work done and I ended up keeping half the class in for doing nothing.

What I was essentially doing and have been doing for a long time, was cover up my inequities by pretending that everything was beautiful when in reality, my inquiries focussed on sharing successes about students who were achieving well because of what I thought were my actions as their teacher, when I should have been looking equally as much at students who were not achieving well because of my actions as their teacher.

But there is hope... because we all want what is best for our learners and damned if I'm gonna give up trying to figure out what works and what doesn't work!  This is not just a job, it is a vocation (cue the violins... ah to be honest, I do actually believe this).  All jokes aside, I have come to realise that what starts with me, ends with me and that these are kids who are in my care and they deserve to have the best educational experience ever. 

Working backwards to figure out my inquiry
At school we always talk about the Ideal student.  What does the ideal Tamaki graduate look like when they leave school? What is it that I want my kids to have achieved when they leave Tamaki College?  Is it success based on outcomes eg. NCEA or producing people who are informed, confident members of society? Or is it both?

Graduating seems so far away for our students...which is why I want to start with the year 9's!  Plant the seeds now, then watch it grow, blossom and bloom (with lots of water, sun and all the other stuff that plants need to grow!).  In my next post, I will be summarise the challenge of student learning that I plan to focus on in this inquiry.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Thinking about reading in Social Studies

There are a few reasons why I wanted to focus on reading this year.  The first was that in the past, my inquiries have focussed on improving writing and from my inquiries I've found that part of the reason why kids are still struggling with writing is that they struggle with reading.  Kids won't write a summary about an article if they don't understand what they've read. 

Secondly, reading as a focus, has not been an aspect that I feel we have focussed on or addressed purposely in our department which I know should be happening.  Although contexts are interesting and engaging, bringing reading to life for a struggling reading can sometimes be difficult particularly when there is a vast range of learning needs in the classroom.  To be effective in our department, I know there needs to be a shift in how we use reading to accelerate learning.  

Lastly, the Woolf Fisher Research team presented evidence that reading has made the least shift for our students- if anything it has gone backwards.  I wanted to explore why our results were so poor and I wondered how much of these results were because of a lack of focus in the classroom.  Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at gathering data and thinking about ways to tackle the challenge with the support of experts in literacy such as Dr Jannie Van Hees and Marc Milford, our literacy expert.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

My Inquiry for 2019

The Achievement Challenge that I am focusing on in my inquiry for 2019 is 

Achievement Challenge 1:  Raising Maori student achievement through the development of cultural visibility and responsive practices across the pathway as measured against agreed targets for reading Years 1-10. 

The group I will be inquiring into is my year 9 social studies class, with a focus on how I can lift the achievement in reading for the Maori students in my class.  

Thinking about my inquiry
When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to inquire into, my passion is in the Talanoa.  I feel drawn towards oratory and the power of 'talk' and the connections people make when they hear someone speak. To me, the ability to verbalise learning shows an added depth of understanding that elevates learning for our kids.  The key to this learning is language.  Part of what students need to do show to show understanding. 

My hunch
There is a fear for some of my kids that speaking or presenting in front of their peers isn't a cool thing.  I have found that in year 9 especially, our kids have lost that spark and confidence that they had in year 8.  They have come from environments that encourage them to stand in front of a camera and create wonderful presentations on a regular basis, to one where 80% of the time, they are confined to reading and writing and hiding behind their netbooks.  Sadly, I am guilty of enabling this and I want to look at embracing the confidence kids once had at primary school.

When I think of our Maori and Pacifica kids, the words 'seen and not heard' resonate with me.  They come from a culture that quite often does not encourage them to speak up, or stand up and be confident about who they are.  This is the environment I grew up in and I often empathise with students who find it hard to talk.

Our vision for learning in the New Zealand curriculum is to develop learners who are 'confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners', the key word there for me is confident.  What does confident mean?  For our culturally diverse learners, what does confident mean?  How could we develop a students' confidence in class and link this to achievement?  Is there a link?

Reading as a focus
For the last two years, my focus has been on writing and I have enjoyed the process in learning ways to support our learners.  This year, I've decided that I want to explore the challenges around reading and finds ways to support my learners in the classroom.  My next blog will talk about reading more.  

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Inquiry Blog #2: The how and why of my challenge.

(2) Describe how and why you have selected this challenge of student learning. Locate your inquiry in the context of patterns of student learning in Manaiakalani overall.

The challenge of student learning that I have found is that many students in my year 9 class, struggle to explain to me, whether verbally or in written form, what they have learnt which often leads to incomplete work, disengagement and a lack of overall achievement.  
I have selected this challenge because students are expected to develop critical thinking skills by the end of year 10 to be prepared for NCEA but unfortunately I have found that they are lacking the basic skills to discuss their learning.  

The more I explore the 'why' of this challenge, the more I have found that I need to start with unpacking what I expect my students to know and in the time frame that they need to know it.  I have found that I have overloaded my kids with 'stuff' and not slowed down the learning so that it becomes deeper and wider rather then surface and narrow.  

When I wonder about where my inquiry sits in the context of patterns of student learning in Manaiakalani I feel it relates most to achievement challenge number 1: Raise Maori student achievement through the development of cultural visibility and responsive practices across the pathway as measured against agreed targets for readings Years 1-10 and NCEA years 11-13.  

The reasons why I believe it lies here is that it relates to pedagogy around cultural visibility and building language capacity through developing interventions that support the learners identity and cultures.  As I develop a better understanding of the who my learners are and what my beliefs are as a teacher, I hope to find, develop and implement strategies that work for the diverse learners in my classroom.  I also hope to develop my teacher practices further to enhance student success in social studies. 

My kids writing down a 'get to know me' story.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Inquiry Blog #1: The challenge of student learning.

1. Summarise the challenge of student learning you plan to focus on in this inquiry. Be as clear and specific as you can about the evidence you have about this to date.

My inquiry question take #1:  Could an effective change in teaching practice and pedagogy, by putting the lense on language and diving deep into text, develop critical thinkers, readers and writers? (TBC)

Summary of the challenge:
My year 9's often struggle to tell me (either verbally or in written form) what it is they have learnt at the end of a lesson and I am trying to figure out whether the way I am teaching them and what I am teaching them is too hard (or too easy) and whether this is leading to them not achieving personal or classroom success.  My hunch is that part of this lack of achievement is because I have become too complacent in my teaching and am not setting high enough expectations for each learner in my care.  Another hunch is that students need more scaffolding and work that is suitable for their level in the curriculum and that they find the work difficult.  

I need the students to be critical thinkers which is an important social science skill to have but also important for the big wide world awaiting our kids when they leave school.  Unfortunately, the reality for the majority of my year 9 kids right now is that they struggle to get one task completed during our class time.  This is leading to a lack of engagement by the less able students and a lack of motivation by the more able.  By 're-configuring' my pedagogy and forcing the lense on language, I could support my learners to become critical thinkers.

The light bulb moments of figuring out my challenge: My evidence to date!

1. Action vs Inaction
Recently, I taught a double period lesson for our year 9's to help them start their inquiry assessments. Basically it was 15 minutes of me emphasising the importance of the assessment, then explaining each aspect in a hope that they understood what was required of them. I then set them the challenge to complete two of the tasks which was to find at least 3 parts of background information and complete a map task.

Of the 21 students present, this is what I noticed:
  • About 4-5 students went ahead to start. They were a mix of abilities. They worked individually and sat away from the majority of the class.
  • A group of less able boys choose to work together although I needed to constantly remind them to focus.
  • Another group of highly able boys, mucked around and had to be separated.
  • A group of girls (who were my top students) refused to do the work stating they were being distracted and wanted to complete the work at home.

At the end of the lesson, less then half of the class had completed the two tasks. When I asked them what the issue was, most of them said they had been distracted. I found this really frustrating. Was it because they didn't understand the requirements? Was it too much or too little? I need to understand this more and figure out what was happening between my teaching and the students learning to cause this?

My wonderings:
  • Is it the culture of my classroom? Are groups too distracting?
  • Do I have low expectations of my kids (ie. you can do what you can, all good)?
  • Is it the work? Have I set them up to fail?
  • Is it the way I taught the lesson?
  • Am I spending equal amounts of support time with all students or only with the ones I think need it?

2. Time vs no time
I co-taught a lesson with Dr Jannie Van Hees recently and I learnt alot about myself and what I thought was important for the kids to know (here is a blogpost about the lesson).

I had always thought that if kids could tell you at least 2 things they'd learnt in the lesson and showed it in a summary, then it has been a success. I realised after co-teaching with Jannie, that it was not about what they'd learnt there and then, it was more about what they could transfer to the next lesson and whether they understood the purpose of their learnings and where it fit in the big scheme of things. On reflection, this was one of the most engaging lessons that I have seen the kids take part in so far this year.

My key takeout from the lesson with Jannie is that if we rush the learning, we set kids up to fail. If we can slow the process of learning and put the lense on language, we can build the students' capacities to make meaning from their learning and apply these learnings across texts and contexts. I also found that not enough time is being spent on the learning language to understand text deeply and we very rarely share this learning through oral dialogue and verbal conversations, something that I am passionate about.

My wonderings:
  • If I slow down the learning, will the kids miss out on other things they need to know?
  • Can I teach myself to be patient? Am I really open to the change?
  • What about my higher ability students, what are they supposed to do when we slow down the learning?
3. The damn data
In a blogpost recently, I introduced my students and shared data about their learning needs. The class is mixed from ESOL students to high level 6 of the curriculum readers and writers. This data supports my thinking that low ability readers are also very low ability writers. Is what I am doing in my teaching practice now helping or hindering student achievement? I need to find this out!

4. A taste of writing and reading
To understand how much they could read and write in these early days, I set the students a challenge. I called the activity a 'learning post'. They had to write a summary about Tokelau in 25 words or less and use 6 key words that they'd identified as important (this is a writing strategy they I had borrowed from the awesome Robyn Anderson a few years ago). I then asked them to record themselves reading their passage to me. The reason for the writing was to see if they could follow the instructions and to get a sense of how well they wrote and the reason for reading was to see if they could read with fluency and if this could possibly be an extra barrier to learning (blogpost to come).

What I found was that with the writing, a few (2 -3) students could write well and these same students articulated their writing in a good clear voice when reading their summaries. The majority of my class found it a struggle to understand the writing task which therefore made them feel pressure to spend less time on the reading of the summary. Most of them refused to have their faces shown, instead choosing to point the camera at a blank wall or at their computer screens and only have their voices recorded. One student though, choose to learn the reading off by heart and insisted I filmed him in my office away from his friends. This really surprised me and I have to give him credit for his efforts (short clip below).

My expectations were totally thrown off and the reality has reshaped my approach to my 'normalised' versions of teaching and learning. I will continue to collect evidence to support my inquiry because it is important to develop a holistic picture of what is happening for my learners and the impact of my teaching on their progress. In my next blog, I will describe how and why I have selected this challenge and I will attempt to locate my inquiry in the context of patterns of student learning in Manaiakalani overall. 

Introducing my inquiry group for 2019

The group that I am building my inquiry around are my year 9 social studies class.  There 21 students in the class,  8 female and 11 males.  There are 6 Maori students, 5 female and 1 male.

I want to look at their reading scores from 2018, to see how they scored before they arrived to Tamaki.  Then I can think about ways to address the learning abilities of the students in the class.

I have included a breakdown in ethnicity as I am exploring cultural visibility and responsive practice and it is good to know what ethnic groups my kids below to.  I am hoping to build learning profiles of my students through individual meetings once their 2019 easttle writing and PAT reading results are available.  We will set goals and develop a plan of learning for the year.  Hopefully this will kick start their thinking into success in social studies this year. 

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