Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Learning Word Meanings from Teachers’ Repeated Story Read-Aloud

Today I took some time to read an article by Lu-Chun Lin from the Institute of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.  The article was entitled, "Learning Word Meanings from Teachers’ Repeated Story Read-Aloud in EFL Primary Classrooms."  The full text of the article can be found here.

The following are my own thoughts/opinions and points of interest while reading.
  • According to the research of Elley (1989), there is empirical evidence of vocabulary learning from listening to stories read aloud by classroom teachers.
    • Native speaking NZ students aged 7 and 8 obtained 15% vocabulary gains from read alouds 3 times a week without teacher explanation of target words. 
    • Gains still evident when tested 3 months later
      • I would love to look into this further and see if they published what assessment was used to assess the students' vocabulary gains
  • It is the repeated usage of vocabulary words in the SAME text that enables student understanding and retention. 
      • Although I have been reading a chapter book aloud multiple times during the week, I need to also be reading topic specific (rich language) picture books (3-4 times each) aloud to my class.  While reading Wider and Deeper is important for developing dialogic conversations in order for retention of key vocabulary words it is important to read the same text. 
  • Several studies show that the initial language proficiency indicates the level in which a student will be able to make higher word level gains. 
    • Researchers asked if this was due to those with higher levels of proficiency having more intrinsic motivation to learn (and apply) the new words
  • In a study by Elley, target words were explained to the children by providing a synonym, acting out the words or pointing to the picture. 
    • This is something that we do often as teachers, especially when reading with our micro-groups that are on the lower end of the colour wheel. However, as students develop a more independent approach to reading their assigned texts, we tend to focus more on comprehension and making connections across a range of texts.
My Take Away: I will continue to read aloud to my class for pure enjoyment from a chapter book during the term.  However, I will also be adding some read aloud picture books for vocabulary acquisition being sure to spend some time focusing in on the key words within the book and providing synonyms, reflecting back to the picture/diagram, or having the students act out those words.

Monday, 26 March 2018

My Inquiry Chain of Events: A Reflection

In response to Rebecca and Aaron's presentation last week, I have spent some time pondering the 'Chain of Events' for my own Teaching Inquiry.  It is so easy to focus on the day to day aspect of my Inquiry that I am often reminding myself of the bigger picture of using daily language acquisition to aid in development of dialogic conversations about a text or group of texts.

Why is important to articulate all the links in your theory?
If I provide multi-modal opportunities for vocabulary acquisition, students will be able to confidently participate in topic specific dialogic conversations. Improved vocabulary acquisition, will lead to better achievement in reading because students will be able to discuss ideas within a text or across a group of texts about a particular topic. 

What knowledge and knowledge-building activities are needed to develop a strong theory?
In order to develop a strong theory, I need to see my students confidently sharing information from the text that they have read using the subject focused vocabulary for that text/topic type.  Students will be able to support their opinions using details from the text that provide rich topic specific vocabulary. This will be knowledge-building for me as the teacher because I will be able to hear first hand from the students who fully understand a topic and I will be able to know where to gently push to provide avenues of deeper thinking and discovery.  Ultimately, this will allow for deeper understanding when reading wider and deeper as the students develop the necessary baseline for that type of reading programme.

What will my “near” measure need to tell you?

My 'near' measure will need to show that the students are correctly using rich topic specific vocabulary in all situations.  The easy answer here is to say that they will be using topic specific vocabulary in their easttle writing test at the end of the year, and I will see a shift in their vocabulary score.  However, I really want it to be able to tell me that my students are confidently using vocabulary in situations across the curriculum as well as outside of the classroom in their day-to-day lives.  How I will go about measuring this is still yet to be determined (on the formative side), but in addition to easstle, the Burt test, Star and Running Record comprehension tests will also be good indicators of growth.

Monday, 19 March 2018

A Virtual Field Trip?

Last week, my students embarked on their first Virtual Field Trip through Learnz.  I initially found out about the virtual field trip program after attending a session at ULearn in 2017 (click here to see my notes from the session). 

Keeping with our school theme for the year "Kaitiakitanga i ngā wā katoa" I decided that we would try the Sustainable Seas field trip.  Unfortunately, due to the timing of the actual 'live' field trip we were unable to participate.  However, I decided that we would do it on our own the week (or two) after we returned from our year 5/6 camp. 

The students were given a slides presentation, and were asked to work in a group of 2-3, especially at the beginning of the week to complete the readings, quizzes and learning task for each.   It took them a VERY long time in the beginning to get going, but I think now that they understand the process they are enjoying working at the own pace exploring deeper into the field trip as planned. 

One of the learning tasks that I gave the students while reading each text (or watching the videos) was to list the unknown/new vocabulary words that they came across.  When stopped to discuss these words with the group, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that many of the words they chose to write down were not the ones I expected to hear.  This was awesome to see because it meant that they were using the embedded tool on the site that provided difficult (topic specific) words in a different colour.  Students are able to hover over the words and have a definition pop up on the screen immediately. 

Students were also able to listen to the text while reading along, which is an awesome tool especially for those new hard to read vocabulary words. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Janni van Hees: Where will you put the lens?

As part of our bi-termly, Kahui Ako meeting, we were able once again to spend some time learning from Dr. Janni van Hees about Language Abundance. Below are my points to ponder and take home notes from our session.

Dr. Janni van Hees
Language in Abundance-Where will you put the lens?

Flourishing my learning and language
  • -Focus and notice
  • Put in the effort
  • Take part (participate) fully
  • Push yourself to the edge
  • Dig deep for what you already know
  • Learn from others-notice and focus
  • You share-others gain from you
  • Think and talk; think and read
  • Wondering and asking opens up possibilities to know
This allows for students to feel empowered to contribute to not only their own learning but the
learning of others around them.

CONTEXT RELEVANT LEARNING-This should be the teacher focus!

One of the biggest challenges for students in schools like ours is acquiring the language that is
needed to literary-type context.  

Case Study Notes:
Using visuals brings reality to a lesson for our students.
-It is ok to provide the rich language and have the students unpack what they think it might
-Be sure to keep having students repeat the learning availability in order to
provide avenues of recycling for student retention.
-Teacher needs to be sure to select the right pictures and provide 3-4 of the
correct rich language descriptions
-Provide opportunities for the students to NOTICE and FOCUS.

It’s not about providing opportunities to talk, but provide opportunities to build your knowledge
of complete language structures (word groups, text types).

Using what students have direct access to and tapping into that resource is allowing
excitement to build and ownership to develop of their own learning.

Language in Abundance: Impacting focuses
-Reading tsunami: each learner, each class, each school, CoL Wide-


-content knowledge-expanded perspectives and experiences
-grammatical and vocabulary knowledge-worlds open up
-VocabularyPlosion: Use WordPlosion intensively/regularly +/or implement core
elements-explicit attention to vocab
-Conversational Teaching and Learning: quality scaffolded ideas exchanges
as the ‘norm’
-Topic specific Spoken Texts: quality and quantity

-Explicit language attention in every context: quality-cutting edge-

Thursday, 15 March 2018

CoL PD: Theory of Action

Once again, our kahui ako was able to spend some time hearing from Dr. Rebecca Jessen
and Dr. Aaron Wilson from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at Auckland University.
They began by asking us the following question:

What will it take to obtain knowledge that is transferable when looking at our Inquiries?

TARGET: What is my theory of action?  How will I know?

The logic of what we are doing:


A causal chain is when a cause leads to an effect and that effect becomes the cause of another effect.

How and why will the specific outcome impact the general achievement challenge?

How and why will the teaching impact the specific outcome?

Source: Woolf Fisher Presentation

These next three questions to ponder we presented to us to consider when working through our own
teaching inquiry.  I will be spending some time working on my own answers at this time
over the next week or so.

-Why is important to articulate all the links in your theory?
Making it obvious for my own Inquiry!!

-What knowledge and knowledge-building activities are needed to develop a strong theory?
-What is it I want to see change for the kids will be knowledge-building for me as the


Monday, 12 March 2018

Focus Group Data: Term 1

Now that our Term 1 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.  I was easily able to do this for all but one student since he is new to our school this year.

This year, I will be focusing 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 Term 4 Running Record Data.  All of the students in my focus group are reading below grade level between 7.5 and 8.5 years of age.

One of the tests that students took last week, was the PAT-Reading Comprehension test.  Here is a comparison of their test scores from Term 4 last year (2017) to Term 1 in 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.

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.  Hopefully, this is the case and we see greater improvement during Term 4.

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.  

I found the results of this test very interesting, especially when compared to the 2017 Running Record Reading ages.  The majority of the students had comparable scores on the two tests, with the exception of one student who had a drastic difference between the two test results.  When looking further, it was noticed that this student received intensive reading support during the 2017 school year, and is currently receiving a different form of support this year.