Monday, 27 November 2017

Spark MIT Reflection Session

Reflection of my learning this year and what I am going to take from it into my teaching for 2018.


This year has perhaps been the most reflective and personally honest year with my teaching since I began teaching in 2000. Looking back, I know that I was beginning to feel ‘burned out’ and ‘stagnant’ in my teaching before leaving the USA.  Although we had adopted and implemented a brand new literacy curriculum (that I helped to write) and a brand new maths curriculum (that I helped train others in our district to teach), I still felt as if my own creativity was being stifled and the demands to be on a certain page in the curriculum at a certain time were limiting my own innovation in my teaching.


When I began teaching in NZ, I had so much to learn about the different classroom models and curriculum. I often felt my previous professional confidence level challenged and I had many internal struggles over my own abilities. However, as my understanding of the curriculum grew and I was provided with opportunities to grow and sharpen my pedagogy I really began to see the opportunities that I now had as a NZ teacher to build my own passions and innovation back into my daily classroom teaching.


When I considered applying for the Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher program for this year, I was very excited to be part of a group that would not only provide an opportunity for me to research and try new ideas with my students, but also provide an avenue for professional conversations and growth for myself.


It is so hard to believe that the year is coming to a close, but there are a few things that I know I will definitely be bringing with me into my 2018 classroom.


  1. Students who are reading at/above grade level will be reading using multimodal texts from among the 4 Woolf Fisher Text Types (Scaffolding, Challenging, Complementary and Student Selected)
  2. Students will be provided opportunities to simply talk (whether it be on a screencast, blog post or in a small group/buddy share) about what they have read.
  3. Students will be encouraged to independently read novels of their choice and be provided time in class to do so in an effort to increase their reading mileage.
  4. Students will be encouraged to dive deeper into topics of interest that are discovered when reading an assigned text...even if they lead to a bunny trail away from the original assignment for a time
  5. I will continue my personal education that will enable me to implement various methods that promote dialogic conversations
  6. I will continue to use the multi-textual database, while promoting, encouraging, and educating other teachers about the benefits of contributing to and using a database of this nature.
Personally, I feel that I have regained my own professional confidence, especially after presenting at various events throughout the year, and being a part of dialogic discussions with colleagues from across our cluster and outreach clusters. Although I know that there will always be room from growth and improvement, I am increasingly aware that what I am doing with my students and the passion I have for it are valuable and I will definitely continue to share my findings (positive and negative) on my professional blog.

2017 Spark MIT ULearn Presentation

This year I have had the amazing opportunity to be part of the Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher program.  We have worked together to formulate, implement and reflect on our Teaching Inquiry which also included an innovation of some sort.

Here is the final screencast video of my presentation from this year's ULearn with updated data from the end of the year testing.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

2017 Bursts and Bubbles

As an end of the year event, the Manaiakalani Community of Learning held a "Bursts and Bubbles."  Each CoL teacher was given 3 minutes to share their own Impact Burst with the audience.  When preparing for our 'Burst' we were asked to think about four main aspects of our Inquiry.

What happened for the learners?
What evidence do I have for this?
What did I do to make this happen?
Wonderings about what next?

Here is a short video clip of the event which highlights my Impact Burst.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Through the Eyes of a Child: A Success Story

This year, I have been inquiring into extending prior knowledge and critical thinking, while promoting dialogic conversations when working with Year 4 students who are reading At/Above their grade level.

One of the students in my class, ended the school year in 2016 with a reading age of 8 years.  This put her "at" the National Standard for Year 3, but it placed her in my middle group for term 1.  This was the group that was working with a very basic version of reading wider and deeper into our cluster wide Inquiry Te Taiao o Tamaki.


However, as the term progressed, it was evident that this beautiful girl was ready to take control of her learning and she was one of the very first to begin working on her assignments from a home computer at night and on the weekends.

As a class, we began reading a few times a week from chapter books, and sharing short summaries on our blogs.  I did not focus on the actual writing of the summary, but really just wanted to get them sharing and talking about what they were reading.  I believe having the freedom to share has helped her discover her own voice when sharing.


As term 2 rolled around, and our beginning of the year testing results came out, she showed tremendous growth, and began reading with the group that was my CoL focus group.  She immediately was able to jump right in and it only took a few weeks to get her to begin talking and sharing her ideas with the rest of the group. This is one area that she has grown tremendously in this year.  



Her progress has continued to be seen in class on a daily basis, and she has become one of the leaders in my focus group...even though she is not part of the actual "focus group of 7."

When looking at her testing data, it is quite interesting to note that she had the exact same Scale Score (33.8 +/- 4) at the beginning and the end of the year, and her STAR Scale Score only increased slightly (from 89.2 +/- 4.5 to 89.9 +/- 3.6).  However, her Running Record Reading Age has increased from 8 years at the end of 2016 to 10.5 years at the end of Term 3 2017.   

She has made 2.5 years accelerated shift in her reading age!

While I am celebrating this, I am also considering some key areas of growth that she will need to continue in as she progresses through to Year 5 next year.  

*Continuing to increase in her confidence when sharing what she has read with others.  
*Making connections across texts and looking deeper into a subject when more clarification is necessary (or personal intrigue prompts)
*Confidently sharing her opinion on a subject and backing it up with related information from within a text. 



CoL Achievement Challenge #3: A Closer Look




A Quick Glance at my Focus Group



It's that time of year.  Everyone is obsessing over their data as they prepare for marking end of the year reports. 

This year, I find myself taking a step back and reflecting on the small, yet meaningful steps I have taken in order to open the pathways of dialogic discussion with my literacy students.  I am so proud of my original focus group.  They have all made 1.5-3 years of progress during the first three terms of the school year.  They are more confident when sharing their thoughts and ideas with their learning group, and they are able to ask a thoughtful question about what they have read. Many students are spending time independently reading deeper by conducting their own Google search into the answer to their question(s).


Monday, 6 November 2017

Celebrating Accelerated Shift for ONE Maths Learner in 2017



Dorothy Burt: Visibility Enables Accelerated Shift

"Visibility Accelerates Accelerated Shift" 
-Woolf Fisher Research Centre

Today, during our PES Staff Meeting, we had Dorothy Burt come in for our Term 4 Manaiakalani PD.   Here are a few of my notes from what she shared with us prior to having some time to reflect on the shift in our own maths class. 

Just as Manaiakalani's Learn, Create, Share cannot be done without the other, our Kaupapa: Connected, Ubiquitous, Empowered, Visible needs all four parts to be successful.

What is the #1 Factor Influencing Student Achievement? -According to John Hattie, it is definitely: Collective Teacher Efficacy! 

As a school, we identified Maths as our 2017 focus for our collaborative inquiries. 

Data>Evidence
-School Inquiry: School/Department/Individual Teacher
-External Inquiry: Woolf Fisher Research Centre, Auckland University
-Teacher Inquiry: Teachers Inquiring into their own practice and learner outcomes. 


This led to us having some time to spend celebrating accelerated shift for ONE learner in our 2017 Maths class.  Click here to see my "Impact Burst" post.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Presenting at the 2017 Manaiakalani Wananga

The annual Manaiakalani Wananga was held today at Pt. England School for all of the principals and school leaders from the schools across Manaiakalani and the Outreach Clusters

I was asked to present, along with a panel of teachers representing the Manaiakalani CoL, what we have been doing this year as we conduct our Collaborative CoL Inquiry into our own teaching practice.  Each of the presenters represented one of the Manaiakalani CoL Achievement Standards that our CoL teachers and Manaiakalani schools are Inquiring into.


Introducing myself to the Wananga participants. 
2017 Wananga
I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my Inquiry and I feel that every time I present, I feel less nervous and a little bit more confident sharing in front of a large group.  This year, I have discovered that this Inquiry process quickly makes something you considered out of reach a year ago your daily normal. You become so invested in the Inquiry process and what you see as successful that you forget that everyone else has not walked every step of the way with you. When given the opportunity to present, I thoroughly enjoy the verbal (and non-verbal) response you receive from those in attendance as you share your small steps, trials and triumphs, and of course it's always fun to receive one or two "Cheehoo's" in our Pasifika community.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Term 4: Maths Inquiry Update


This term, I plan to continue using the strategies that we discussed with Jo during our Term 3 Professional Development.  However, as we move towards preparing our students for their end of the year testing, I am also placing more of a focus on problem solving and small group discussions.  This is a very difficult thing for the students in my class for a variety of reasons.  Some find the actual text of the story problem difficult to understand and unpack, and others have a difficult time deciding which problem solving method to use.  This generally results in reverting back to the easiest method that they have been doing for the longest period of time (skip counting, counting on, etc).  Unfortunately, this means that they are not progressing when they are tested even though they are able to use some higher level thinking to solve problems.  

The students in my class are still trying to break through the confidence barrier.  This means that we are spending a lot of time discussing problems and helping our friends understand how to do something using their in class learning assignments, MathsWhizz and micro-learning group sessions. 

Multimodal Texts: Where to Start?

The one question I have been asked by a number of people, both at my own school and after presenting my Inquiry at various locations, is: How do you find your texts?

The simplest answer is that I begin with our school-wide Inquiry Topic focus for the upcoming term.  For example, when looking at Technology our team decided to incorporate Matariki and look at some of the ways Māori used technology with a primary focus on finding the best way to make a kite.

So, to start off I began searching through Journal Surf to see if I was able to find School Journal articles that related to our topic.  From there I decided that I needed to break the term up into a few smaller related topics.  As a class, my reading groups spent the first four weeks of the term reading and discussing Māori mythology.  We then moved into three weeks of technology with a specific focus on stories that introduced Māori kites in various forms, and we ended the term learning about Matariki.

As seen on the Google Slideshow below (taken from my class site), we started out reading our primary text which was from a School Journal article, "Making Manu Taratahi."   We then read another School Journal story "Eggshell" that was a complementary text because it provides more information about our primary topic the usage and construction of Māori kites.  


Now, as seen above in the yellow box, my selection of scaffolded texts (that provide students with more understanding of a topic to extend their prior knowledge while providing more detailed vocabulary) are generally taken from online resources.  As a result of our school Inquiry topics this year I have actually used the pages Te Ara often this year. It is an easy site for our students to navigate and often provides a multimodal resources on a topic. 

The last text type (in the green box) is supposed to be a Challenging text.  This text type can provide a different point-of-view or offer a difficulty in reading material.  This year, I am working with Year 4 students so I have often selected a text at a higher reading level (year 7/8) that fits with our topic.  This allows our group to have a more straight forward "reading" session where we are able to break up more difficult words and unpack their meaning for vocabulary expansion and understanding.  I have actually found that my student enjoy reading this text selection the most because after gaining an understanding of the topic they enjoy the challenge of reading something a little more difficult for fluency. 

The only text type not shown on this slide is student selected texts.  I have discussed using this text type in a previous blog post "Empowering Student Selected Texts". 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Maths PD: Jo Knox

Today the teachers of Team 3 were given another opportunity to meet with Jo Knox and spend some time together going over some the areas of maths that we are seeing our students struggling with. She began our session working with a small group of year 4 students to model various teaching methods for us.

Using pictures of monkeys and some beans to feed the monkeys the students discussed various ways to share the beans with the monkeys.   Remembering to remind the students that you want to have a fair way of sharing the beans. After providing some time for the students to think about what they would do, Jo gave them the beans and asked them to share their thinking with the others. Being sure to stop and have the students explain their thinking allowed her to see which stage of thinking they were at while they solved the problem.

ex. If you have 2 monkeys and 8 beans how many monkeys would each monkey get? 

If they are able to easily answer this question, raise the number of beans they are sharing.  Once again provide thinking time prior to having them share their reasoning with their buddy.  Then, if doubles are going well, move them on to 3s, etc.

Moving to Fractions using Equal Groups
Instead of saying 3 monkeys shared 12 beans, move students to understanding that this is 1/3 of the beans.  This achieved first by showing them 3 fractions (1/2, 1/3, 1/4) and asking which would be used for this problem.   Which fraction would be use to make 3 equal groups?

Using Repeat Addition
With another groups of year 3 students, we moved onto solidifying basic facts without using skip counting.  Using the animal strips, make up a word problem. 

ex. Farmer Jo has 6 fields and she has 5 snails in each field.  How many snails does she have altogether?

How could we write this as a multiplication problem?  What if we combined the fields to 3?  Then,  we would have 3 groups of 10.  After doing a few similar problems, ask how many groups of 10s we have compared to groups of 5.  See if they are able to understand that making groups of 10 creates 1/2 the number of groups.

Deriving Basic Multiplication Facts
Using games to practise "rote" learning of facts after discussing with the class how you could find the product using what you already know about the basic "benchmark" facts (1, 2, 5 and 10).




Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ULearn 2017: Spark MIT Presentations

During day 2 of the conference, the Spark MIT cohort presented our Inquiries as a group. Using an Ignite Talk format, we each prepared 20 slides to represent out findings, and were given a 20 second timeframe to speak to each slide.  We used Apple's Keynote to develop our presentations because it offers a presentation mode that allows for automatic timed presentation of each slide and provides a presentation mode for the presenter to see their speaking notes.

I was last to present, which I thought might be quite nerve wracking.  However, I found myself becoming extremely involved with the information being presented by the others that I was actually quite shocked when it because my turn to have a seat onstage to await my turn.


Overall, I believe that my presentation went rather well.  I was confident in my content and layout, especially after presenting at the Manaiakalani Hui and Board's Forum last term. I did have a little hiccup when I noticed our room monitor hold up our red 5 minutes left card in the back of the room.  I tried letting her know that I saw her, but she missed my non-verbal cues and began waving the card around to be sure I saw it.  I knew that if I verbally acknowledged her the flow of my presentation would be off due to the time constraint on our automatic presentation.  Unfortunately, making my eye contact with her more obvious caused a slight word jumble but I don't believe that it altered the flow of my presentation.

The audience was then asked if they had any questions for us, and the only question I received was in regards to the MultiTextual Database.  Once I let the participants know that the database is available to all NZ teachers, there were no more questions until the very end of the session.  I had one teacher approach with questions and curiosity about how I go about choosing texts for my students to use which has made me think about a possibly future blog post. 

I am so thankful for the opportunity to present at ULearn with this group of educators and for the Spark Foundation and Manaiakalani for supporting us in many ways during the past year.  Keep your eyes out for our final Spark MIT blog posts summarising our 2017 Inquiry Teacher experiences later this term.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ULearn 2017: Keynote #3 Dr. Ann Milne

Closing Keynote: Dr. Ann Milne
Kia Aroha College-

Teach for All-Teach First NZ
Young children are not concerned about where they put colour on the page in their colouring book...until society teaches them that certain colours belong in certain places.

The system’s hegemony over Māori now includes mainstream.
Mainstream = Whitestream
-It is key to remember that white spaces are everywhere...even in your head.

“Your identity is formed by the way other people see you” -Ann Milne

Who defines our community?  
Without our culture we have no identity, and without our identity we have no community.

Developing Māori and Cultural Identity needs to occur everyday and everywhere.

Schools have a responsibility to sustain cultural practices of communities of colour.  We are not here purely to close an education gap.  Teaching kids in poverty to “Play the game” is not enough.  Students need to have the tools to take control of their destiny.

The expectation is that you WILL succeed.  The challenge is to put them in places (and with people/resources) where that can occur. Being Māori means that you are powerful.  That includes being powerful in your education and knowledge.

Students need to academically and culturally strong.

It’s not culturally sustaining, if it’s not critical.
Three Goals of Critical Pedagogy (Moreli & Duncan Andrade 2008)
  1. Empowered cultural identify
  2. Academic achievement
  3. Action for social change

All students are on a journey from unrealised to unlimited potential...no student should have a label (gifted, special needs etc).  As a student’s relationships and cultural identity grow their journey from unrealised to unlimited potential is achieved. Identity and Relationships grow and then maths, reading and writing will follow.  

Students need to become warrior scholars!
-proud
-able to achieve
-take action
-create change
-inspire others to make change


What does success and achievement look like in our school using this continuum?






ULearn 2017: Embracing the Pasifika Culture...

Breakout Session #7: Embracing the Pasifika culture to enhance educational outcomes for our Tagata Aoao
Presenter: Danielle Boxall

“Embracing who you are no matter how you look.”
  • Implement focused programmes in targeted schools with high Pasifika rolls which will accelerate the learning of this group
  • Provide professional development to upskill educators
  • Provide alternative pathways and learning opportunities to increase success.
  • Reduce the rate of suspensions and exclusions
  • Increase the rate of National Standard Achievement to 85% across all learning areas
How are we as a school, and myself as a classroom teacher, doing at raising this learning achievement standard?  I know we say 1.5 years progress is our aim each year, but does that mean that my class reaching that 85%?



This is a really nice graphic that shows the National 2016 data by cultural group.  
What would my class data look like compared to this graphic at the end of the year?  Even wondering, what would it look like now?

Integration of Learning:

Transdisciplinary Learning-Using more than one branch of knowledge to create learning that transcends the traditional and encompasses authentic and connected big ideas

Self-directed learning - Allowing students to choose their learning based on personal strengths or areas of interest and encouraging skills that will enable them to take responsibility for their own learning and success

Key Strategies for Pasifika Students
  1. Let them be social-group work can produce great things
  2. Have a laugh-change your tone from angry to silly but with the same message
  3. Don’t embarrass them in front of their peers
  4. Create opportunities for movement-sitting for long periods of time is unnatural
  5. Provide opportunities for creativity and expression
  6. Be real, be an aiga.

ULearn 2017: Digital Literacy Across the Divide

Breakout #6: Digital literacy across the divide
Presenter: Cleo Woodall

Short films with No Dialogue: Use to pull apart the portions of a narrative plot line.  After watching the film, small groups form to collaboratively decide which part of the story matches the elements of a story plot while describing why.


Use the “Bernard” series for recount writing.

To help with character writing, “Geoff Short Film” Look at the development of the character throughout the film.

Give It Meaning-

Using Google Drawing to create a digital image by using the various shape/line tools, graphics, png images and layering, while playing with the textures.
A student created this image of Matariki on Google Drawing.

This is so cool….I would love to investigate this further and have my class give it a go this term.  Perhaps as a launch to use for writing their own song lyrics?

When writing a script, after filming, have the kids come back in and adjust their script to match what happened while filming...do this in a different colour to show the post editing changes.

Short and Sharp
Provide students with a structure (poetry or paragraph) that they have to follow in order to complete a task.
Using websites such as: 100 word Challenge or 5 sentence challenge as a weekly assignment provides an opportunity for students to independently write after scaffolding and modeling how to use the site and complete the assignments.

ULearn 2017: Keynote #2 Adbul Chohan

Keynote #3: Abdul Chohan (Director the Development The Olive Tree)

What does the 'plumbing' look like in my school?  
-What does the teaching look like?
-What does the learning look like?

All the teachers at his school are trained to use twitter to tweet what they are doing in the classroom using specific hashtags. Mostly because it is a simple, short and quick thing that teachers are able to do on the fly.  Teachers are also required to become Apple Certified and Swift Coding.

Students in this school are learning how to write actual lines of code starting at age 5.  They do not use the more basic block coding and they are seeing young year 1-2 students able to figure out why a line of code is not working.

The school’s motto is Believe You Can which means anything is achievable with perseverance and a belief that no task is too big.”

The biggest thing they have changed in their school is not the behaviour…They focus on making change based on belief.  There are two ingredients to make this happen. Keep things “Simple & Reliable.”

The six most expensive words in education are “We’ve always done it that way.”  This is because the intellectual development of people does not happen.  

The Age of Change
“The Age of Change has already happened….it is in the past.”

If we are going to put technology in education, what should we expect? What will be our return to our investment?  What is it allowing us to do now that we couldn’t do before?

What are the ingredients for good teaching and learning?
(Not very surprised to hear as he described this ‘Model of Teaching and Learning’ it was basically Learn, Create, Share)

  1. Activity
  2. Authenticity
  3. Investment
  4. Motivation
  5. Technology

Building Consistency within the School
(teachers and students)



It is important that when you are changing things you need to measure impact.  Using a university researcher to measure allows them to use a specific framework to measure student voice to complete assignments using an ipad.

ULearn 2017: Virtual Field Trips



Breakout Session #5- “Engaging students through virtual field trips”
Presenter: Shelley Hersey

Using the Learnz website

All of the field trips remain online for use whenever you would like to use or rewind.  However, there are live trips that last for three days, and connect with students during that time.  This connection includes live web conferences each morning, followed the next day by an upload of the day before’s adventure on site.

Many of the locations where the field trips take place are generally inaccessible for our students.  They are not to use as a replacement for other field trips but as a springboard for future learning.

The website for every live trip is accessible online generally a month before the trip for prior exploration.  Six participating classes are able to send an “ambassador” (stuffed toy) to go on the field trip with the Learnz staff.  Students are given an ambassador report from the learnz teacher onsite with the ambassador about what they are experiencing on their trip.

With field trips that have already taken place, students can use portions of each field trip as part of lessons happening at that time in class.  Each field trip provides the teacher (and the student) with a wealth of information and resources about that topic. This could be a great thing to use in conjunction (or in some cases as) a reading task. However, they are not as valuable as a “field trip” unless you are experiencing it live.

While I see the value of implementing this program in my classroom, I was very surprised to see that there were no follow up activities to further the student’s online/virtual journey embedded within the program.  That said, I can imagine the dialogic conversations and create tasks that could evolve from using learnnz.

Friday, 13 October 2017

ULearn 2017: Brad Waid Engaging Globally Connected Students

“Engaging the ‘Globally’ connected student of today.”

DBWbbGWXoAAYBD9.jpg

Guided Questions:
What are kids learning?
Where are they learning?
What is our role as Educators?
What are the y sharing?
Would they share what we are teaching?

The Role of an Educator: Times have changed...have we?
A 21st Century Teacher MUST be able to engage with a 21st Century Learner
Are we preparing our students for “Their Future”
….Or for “Our Future”?

Sometimes the key to opening a kid’s mind is to find the “device that speaks his language.”  However, the most important component of that key is beginning with the relationship a teacher has with their students.

We are a ‘physical’ goods generation.  However, technology can easily be leveraged for an educational outcome.   For example, PokemonGo got kids outside, but more importantly the locations that kids needed to go to were the places of importance in those cities (libraries, parks, memorials, etc).


RULE(e) -We all have a gift to give...what will you give?
Relationships Engaging technologies bring people closer together.
Understanding What unites us is stronger than what divides us.
Learn Successful people use roadblocks as learning opportunities.
Environment Our environment is something we can have an immediate impact in.
(e)xpression If one person sees what you share and it’s a positive impact it’s a great thing!