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.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Looking ahead to 2019

As I think ahead to 2019, I am excited for what 2019 will bring as I prepare to move back into a year ⅞ classroom. I am looking forward to working with a new group of students after rolling up with mostly the same group this past year. I am excited to possibly revisit a combination of my prior two inquiries into my own teaching to see the impact that they can make on a year 7/8 classroom in comparison to the year ⅘ classes I was with in 2017-2018. I am excited to look deeper into the ways that we, as year ⅞ teachers, can support students by using NCEA vocabulary in our learning tasks and small group discussions to help promote student efficacy as they prepare for their College level exams. This will also help with bridging the gap from intermediate to high school. I am also interested in looking closer at the current gap from intermediate to high school. I would love to come up with ways to make that transition a smoother one for our students and their learning.

In 2019, I am wanting to further my confidence in DMIC style maths teaching and in doing so gain a deeper understanding of relating back to the big idea and providing opportunities for student engagement. I am looking forward to having students who have a previous understanding of the DMIC process which will hopefully allow up to focus on working together and learning from one another.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

What do you want a PES student to leave our school with?

Today we met for the first time as our Year 7/8 (Team 5) staff and we spent some time exploring what we would like our PES year 8 students to leave us with at the end of the year.  This was an amazing activity to remind us what our end goal is and how important it is to teach the Key Competencies in our classrooms on a daily basis and how important it is to provide our students with opportunities to realise that the Pt. England Way are the bricks laid in front of them to travel life and be successful in future endeavours. 

We're ready for the to focus on the first week of school as we begin our planning to lay the foundation for success in all of these areas this year. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Focus Group Data Term 4

Now that our Term 4 testing has been completed, I spent some time taking a look at the data and comparing it to their scores from Term 4 last year and Term 1 this year.  I was easily able to do this for all of my focus group students except in a few instances due to excessive absences during the testing period.

This year, I focused my research on a group of 7 Māori students in my literacy class (as discussed in a previous blog post).  Below is a graph showing the Reading Ages as provided by our 2017 and 2018 Term 4 Running Record Data.  At the beginning of 2018, all of the students in my focus group were reading below grade level between 7.5 and 8.5 years of age and as the graph below shows, they have all made some progress and are now reading between 8.5-9 years.
One of the tests that our students take twice a year is the  PAT-Reading Comprehension test.  Here is a comparison of their test scores from Term 4 last year (2017), Term 1 2018 and Term 4 2018.  The majority of the students did somewhat better on the 2018 Term 1 test, which indicates that there was not much summer drop off with my focus group of students and nearly all of the students made some shift from Term 1 to Term 4. 
Our students also sat the STAR (Supplementary test of achievement in reading) Test, which is another way for us to assess a range of our student's reading skills.  Although, the PAT shows not much drop off in the results, our STAR data clearly shows the opposite. However, I find that students who struggle with reading often decide that it is simply "too hard" and give up on the STAR test particularly in the beginning of the year.  It was my hope earlier this year that we would see greater improvement during Term 4 and in nearly all cases the students did somewhat better.
Lastly, as I stated in a previous post (linked here), I decided to administer an additional word recognition assessment to my focus group called the Burt Word Reading Test.
At the beginning of the year, I found the results of this test very interesting, especially when compared to the 2017 Running Record Reading ages and looking at it now, I feel the same way. The majority of the students who were able to complete both testing cycles made some improvement during the year and in nearly every instance the growth of their reading age this year nearly matched the estimated growth span (the age for the Burt test on the graph shows the lowest age in the scale score band).

I am very proud of the progress my students have made this year in their vocabulary usage and confidence when speaking orally and sharing their thoughts and opinions with their peers.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Critical Successes: A Reflection

Image result for Success

The past 12 months have provided many challenges (and stresses!) in my classroom. However, through determination and keeping my eye focused on the real reason I am teaching (my students) I have pushed past the hard times and focused on Key Competencies with my students for much of the school year. Ensuring that behavioural expectations are clear and achievable for all my students early on in the year and keeping that line strong and clear has allowed for students to feel safe and provided for student self-efficacy to flourish. I believe my biggest success this year is in the growth of my students despite the outside factors playing against us. The level of achievement that my students have made during the year has me amazed. There is still room to grow and steps to be taken to continue for future successes, but the data is looking good.

My own personal growth in understanding the DMIC way of maths has been developed and I am now feeling more confident in delivering a successful DMIC style maths program. Once we restructured out learning groups (socially based) students began to flourish. We also began planning together which allowed for the students in our space to work together on their non-DMIC days with students from any learning group.

The Inquiry I conducted into my own teaching has been personally rewarding with the growth that I have been able to see in my teaching and look into how I inquire for my inquiry. This has been largely based on the amazing PD we received as CoL teachers that was easily adapted into our daily classroom teaching and reflection process.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Pathway to Success

This year I was presented with a very special group of year 5 students, who for many different reasons required a lot of strategic strategies and routines to be formulated, tried, put in place and often reformulated in order to optimise student engagement and begin working on my proposed inquiry into my teaching practice.

Recently, I read the Code and Standards put out by the Education Council and many of the things that I really had to focus on and incorporate into my teaching practice this year are easily summed up by the 4 te reo Māori words listed as the values: whakamana, manaakitanga, pono and whanaungatanga.

The idea of whakamana been one of my favourite aspects of my job especially when working with our learners who struggle the most for whatever reason and striving to find the necessary tool that would allow for that individual student to reach their highest potential. Incorporating key strategies introduced by Dr. Janni van Hees has really helped many of my students reach their highest potential in literacy this year.

I have always believed that by being aware of Manaakitanga, and increasing a student’s sense of well-being and confidence directly impacts their ability to learn. Taking interest in a student’s day-to-day life promotes a sense of self-worth and importance, and allows for me, as their teacher, to understand possible barriers that need to be overcome for a child to succeed.

Showing integrity by treating my students fairly and respectfully is something that I am proud to say that I have heard students both past and present say is one of their favourite things about being in my class. This allows them to know where they stand and that they have a voice. It is my strong belief that by formulating this type of relationship with my students is what ultimately allows accelerated learning to take place. The concept of Pono also lays the basis for whanaungatanga to occur. Once that relationship has been fostered, a sense of Whanaungatanga is felt and students realise that their class is a whanau within the village of Pt. England School, they feel free to participate in dialogic conversations, take risks in their learning groups when answering tough questions, and in every aspect of their school life they are always striving to do their best.

Without these 4 values strongly evident in my classroom, I would never have been able to conduct my inquiry into my teaching this year, and my students would not have benefitted as a result of it.

I am currently in the process of administering the last of my end of the year tests, and as soon as that data is all in I will be sharing it on my blog and comparing it to the data from the beginning of the year.

A Quick Glance at My Focus Group

It's that time of year again!  Time to look deeper at our data and our focus group.  Unfortunately, my end of the year testing is not quite ready to be posted due to student absences and Running Record testing still being conducted.  While the progress made by my focus group may not be accelerated progress as the defined 1.5+ years the progress my students have made this year deserves to be celebrated. 

The students in my class have made massive leaps in self-efficacy and as a result will hopefully, only continue to grow as a confident reader able to discuss and make connections with what they are reading.