Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The Catalytic Issue and my Hunches

Image result for catalyst
Explain why you judge this to be the most important and catalytic issue of learning for this group of learners this year.

This year I will be inquiring into promoting vocabulary acquisition to strengthen reading comprehension and stimulate student led dialogic conversations.  This is the most important issue for my group of learners as indicated by our school wide reading data and the 2018 Manaiakalani Reading data because as the years go on for Manaiakalani students the gap between our students and the NZ norm increases tremendously as they reach years 7-10.

I believe that based on the Professional Development we have received over the past few years from Dr. Janni van Hees focusing on Language Acquisition and the discoveries made by previous CoL teachers are key to building the link from primary to intermediate and then again from intermediate to high school.  I am very interested in seeing if the students from my focus group are able to grow in their understanding of unpacking topic rich vocabulary to ultimately lead to a growth in self-efficacy to promote dialogic conversations that will in return create a "want" in my students to independently go "Wider and Deeper" in their reading, as previously unpacked by Dr Jesson and Dr McNaughton.

Some possible wonderings that I am considering as I discover the catalytic issue of learning this year are:
-Have students at this age have lost the confidence to share with their peers? What can I do to promote student self efficacy in my classroom?
-Is it true that my students are not actively reading for pleasure?
-Do my students know where to begin to read for pleasure?
-How can I effectively model and recreate useful strategies for students to use to gain vocabulary knowledge while reading?
-What are the level of texts used in the high school reading program?
-What does the high school do to promote reading comprehension? What do their follow up tasks look like?
-Could introducing NCEA level vocabulary purposely in years 7-8 help to bridge the gap between intermediate and high school?

Selecting the Challenge of Student Learning

Describe how and why you have selected this challenge of student learning. (WFRC #2)

Manaiakalani Kahui Ako Achievement Challenge #4:
Increase the achievement in Years 7-10, in READING, writing and maths, as measured against agreed targets.

After teaching in Year 7/8 for a year in 2015, I have been bouncing from year 6 (2016) to 4 (2017) to 5 (2018), which has enabled me to have a first hand look at what tools and understanding students are coming to years 7/8 with. Knowing that I was heading back into a year 7/8 classroom this year, I kept thinking of the presentations we have heard from Dr. Rebecca Jesson over the years beginning with the year I spent in our Intermediate block.

For the past two years, I have focused on Language Acquisition and Dialogic Conversations when Reading, and it has become something that I am passionate about. I am very eager to see which successes I had teaching younger groups of children will work in the same manner with the older children. I am also very eager to learn more about what is expected at Years 9 and 10 literacy and how we can begin to make that an easier transition for our students by either raising our expectations or realigning content and class expectations between years 7/8 and Years 9/10 at Tamaki High School. I would also like to spend some more in depth time looking into the expectations and language used on the NCEA exams and in our Year 9/10 classwork with the hope of introducing and unpacking that language at the intermediate level.

When considering the Manaiakalani data, it was clearly apparent during our cluster presentation earlier this term that while we are making adequate shift in writing and maths we are not seeing that same trend with reading as indicated in the graph below.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019


PES PD: DMIC 11 March 2019

The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones.

Justifying and Arguing Mathematically:
-Require that students indicate agreement or disagreement with part
of an explanation or a whole explanation.
-”Do we agree? Does anyone not agree?”
-Ask the students to provide mathematically reasons for agreeing or
disagreeing with an explanation. Vary when this is required so that
the students consider situations when the answer is either right or
-”Why did you do that?”
-Ask the students to be prepared to justify sections of their solutions
in response to questions.
-”Can you explain why you (or your group) did that?”
-Everyone in the group presenting is held accountable for the solution.
               -Require that the students analyse their explanations and prepare collaborative responses to
                 sections they are going to need to justify
-Model ways to justify an explanation
-”I know 3+4=7 because 3+3=6 and one more makes 7”
-Structure activity which strengthens student ability to respond to challenge
-Expect that group members will support each other when explaining and justifying to a larger group
-Explicitly use wait time before requiring students to respond to questions or challenges
-Require that the students prepare to explain their thinking in different ways to justify it

Questions to support student justification/extension?
-Why did you….
-How did you know…
-What do you mean by…
-Why did you do this...and not this…
**Encourage “so” “if” “then” “because” to make justifications**
Questions to extend an explanation into a generalisation? (CONNECT to GENERALISE)
-Does that work for every number?
-Would this work for “X”?
-Can you make connections between…?
-Can you see any patterns?
-How is this the same/different to what we did before?

Developing Generalisations
-Representing a mathematical relationship in more general terms
-Looking for rules and relationships
-Connecting, extending, reconciling
-Ask students to consider what steps they are doing over and over
again and begin to make predictions about what is changing and
what is staying the same.
-Ask the students to consider if the rule or solution they have used
will work for other numbers
-Consider if they can use the same process for a more general case
-”What happens if you multiply the number by 2?”
Revisiting how we Develop Proficient Mathematical Learners
-Attend to classroom culture
-Choose high-level, problematic tasks
-Launch tasks in contextual ways
-Anticipate strategies and monitor group work
-Select and sequence the sharing
-Allow student thinking to shape the direction of discussions
-Plan for anticipations and how the connect could look

Revisiting the Launch
-First focus on the context. The problem should be in front of each
group of students. Let Y3 up read it themselves.
-Use Talk Moves to help students with lower literacy levels to
access the information of the problem
-”What is happening in this story?” Ask for others to add on or
repeat and revoice until you know they all understand the
-20% Teacher Talk 80% Student Talk
-”What do we need to find out?” Do not let them say an
operation, focus their attention on concepts not how to do it
-5 minutes work time (Jr School) 15 minutes (MAX!! Seniors)
-Think through grouping carefully, think social grouping or
what individuals can bring to the group work
-Never ‘High Half’/”Low Half’
-Regrouping Regularly
-Keep groups close together to work on the mat
-Teacher role: roving, monitoring, etc

Connecting and Summarising
-Plan explicitly!
-Draw connections between solutions
-End with a summary of key maths ideas so students leave with
a “residue” from the lesson. This provides a way of talking about

the understanding that remains

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

CoL PD: Researching as Inquiry

Aaron Wilson -WFRC

During our first CoL meeting of 2019, we heard from Dr. Wilson from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre. He spent time talking with us about Researching as an Inquiry and the attributes of an Inquiring Teacher. Some really good reminders as to why, we as NZ teachers Inquire into our teaching practice. 

Researching as InquiryWe need to spend more time “understanding” our students more in the beginning of Inquiry before we jump in and start “trialing” things with them. We need to be analytical about our students in the beginning of the inquiry cycle and our teaching before the intervention.

Why Inquire? Three views of effective teaching (Aitken 2007)
1. The “style” view
2. The “outcomes” approach
3. The “inquiry” approach

The first two views do not effectively allow teachers in NZ to inquire accordingly with the NZ Curriculum.

It is necessary to have your Inquiry directed at something that is a hard to solve problem. It needs to be something that requires lots of contextualised problem solving.

8 Attributes of Inquiring Teachers

Efficacy: knowing that, notwithstanding other factors that affect student learning such as prior learning or socio-economic status, teachers can make a difference.

High expectations for all. An inquiring teacher is not satisfied because some or even most students have achieved valuable learning outcomes. Rather, she will seek to change, improve or refine teaching until learning success can be achieved by all.

Curiosity. Inquiring teachers do not accept the status quo. They ask why things are the way they are and how they can be changed. They seek new knowledge from experts, from published research and anywhere else they can get it.

Clarity about the student learning that is desired and the indicators of such learning.

Noticing. Inquiring teachers notice patterns of student learning during their classroom interactions with students, when they assess student work and examine achievement data.

Collegiality. The stubborn and persistent problems that are worth inquiring into can seldom be solved by one person. Good inquiry requires teams, leadership support and challenge, external viewpoints, external expertise, moral support.

Criticality. Inquiring teachers look at their own practice critically and look critically at easy solutions offered by others

Resilience. Because inquiry should be directed at the most stubborn and persistent problems there will be disappointments - the key is to monitor and notice as soon as possible and to see “failure” as an opportunity for new learning.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

PES PD: Betsy Sewell Reading

Betsy Sewell: Reading
Betsy Sewell - Agility With Sound
We were very blessed once again as a staff to have another amazing opportunity. Betsy Sewell was asked to come in to our school and present a PD session which was extremely informative and eye-opening at some points.  Below are my notes from her session.

After 1000s of years our brains have evolved. However, most people have only had access for the last couple 100 of years. Our brains have not evolved to incorporate reading naturally. Language (all words) is based on speech. For kids who see the think, begin to adapt that part of the brain and go on to become successful readers. Kids who struggle with this often have good visual skills and they attempt to adapt this part of their brain to understand written language (using pictures as clues). These kids often look at the beginning of a word and then use a picture reference to “guess” the rest of the word.

We can teach phonics consistently but unless children understand the link to reading they don’t understand it at all. Example: Many children confuse the “u” sound for an a “ah” when writing. For the children that simply don’t understand that the letter “a” actually makes many different phonetic sounds depending where on the word it falls. Students ultimately end up learning how to get better and better at reading badly. They continually pick out the visual bits and run with it. 

Keeping in mind that many Pasifika (and Maori) languages do not have many letter sounds (p and b, etc) and they also do not have ANY of our England blend sounds (fl and fr).

Phonics by itself if simply not enough. The first thing that all students need to understand that spoken word is broken into bits. Being able to know that speech is made up of a sequence of sounds put together is the first step in language development that links to later reading. Knowing that when you speak you are making individual sounds that run into each other. Only by understanding this will phonics begin to make sense. Knowing certain groups of bits allows a reader to form 100s of words.

Con fl ict ing
Con str ict ive
De str uct ive
Con d uct or
Con n ect or
N ect to rine
Con j ect ive
Act iv ate
Dis tr act able

The next challenge is using phonics applied to reading. Once students are able to make the link from phonics to reading are able to just instinctively see the link between word parts, and sounds and how to spell them.

Students must also know how to apply this way of thinking to their reading and writing. It is abundantly clear that the students who are still struggling by 6,7,8 (or older) have to be taught specific skills “HOW” to apply letter combinations, sounds and words to their reading.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Beginning a Teaching as Inquiry Process

During our staff meeting the PES teachers took some time to think about planning our 2019 Inquiry into our own Teaching. There were many great points to think about that I thought were worth noting from that meeting.
Image result for lens through a subject
Source: Wikipedia
What am I trying to achieve?  A lens through a subject or a subject through a lens?
Each term: What is your mini goal? How can you align your inquiry topic each term with the school topic?
1. Create an inquiry Focus question
2. Research/analyse data from 2018
3. Look into others across the school/cluster who have inquired into similar topics previously-great for getting groundwork ideas 
4. Inquire new lines of pedagogy, test, trial, change practice
5. Reflect and share on your blog
6. Be willing to openly share and gain insight from your collaborative groups

Things to think about:
What is the problem? Focus on student needs, how can YOU change their learning?
What can YOU change/do? What do YOU need?
Finding expertise, observations, feedback, etc.
As the year progresses, do you need to revamp or edit your inquiry focus?

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Summarising the Challenge

Summarise the challenge of student learning you plan to focus on in this inquiry.
(WFRC: Post 1)

Focus Question: How will promoting vocabulary acquisition strengthen reading comprehension and stimulate student led dialogic conversations?

After listening to the Wolfe Fisher Research Centre present their Clusterwide findings from the 2018 school year, we spent some time looking at the data from our school and comparing it to the National Norm.

It was clear that we are still struggling to increase our reading results across the school (and cluster).  Looking at the Term 1 to Term 4 (Teacher Judgement) results from 2018, it is clear that while there is some shift in achievement many students remain below the National norm for their age group.

The graphs below show the Year 6 data (our students before they come into the Intermediate block) and the Year 8 data (the students leaving the Intermediate block heading off to High School).

This year, my reading class is comprised of 32 year 7 and 8 students and all are reading below grade level.  It is my hope to focus my Inquiry on the seven students just below the National norm who currently have a reading level of 10.5-11 years.