Monday, 15 May 2017

Meet My Guardian Group - Agents Of Their Own Learning!

I wrote an earlier post about getting to know myself before knowing my learners so I thought I would introduce you to my Guardian Group.

While not your standard photo, this does sum up some of the personalities of these kids.  In the hub with 70 learners, I am responsible for the roll and pastoral care of this group of learners.  When I came into this year, I reflected on my interaction with my last year's Guardian Group (that I shared with my mentor teacher) and felt that our time together was quite transactional and dedicated solely to the taking of the roll and the dissemination of information.

So coming into 2017, I really wanted to dial up the relationships with my Guardian Group.  A noticing that the hub team had with all our learners early in the year was that they needed some time after lunch to come down from the excitement of break time so we came up with "Relax and Refresh" - a 15 minute period after the roll where they could prepare for the afternoon block of learning.

Wanting their voice into how to best utilise this time, we discussed different ways that we could continue our learning and after a couple of days, this is what they came up with!

Looking at the activities they came up with, there is a great balance of the initial intention of providing them a chance to relax and recharge, but what I enjoyed seeing more was that some of the activities gives us opportunities to develop our skills of collaboration and finding out more about one another.

I got a great insight into the nature of these kids last week when I shared with them this article.  We discussed the article and how this idea linked in with our Break Through learning (learning spawned from an insight or our passions) and then we spoke about the money.  I innocently asked the question about what they would do if they were offered the $44 million.  The majority of the group spoke about how money does not equal happiness and how aspects such as family and health were important.  I was blown away by the humble nature of their responses and know that by doing future activities like the ones we have planned out, that I will get further insights into how to engage with these learners.

I tell the kids that these 15 minutes are one of my favourite times of the school day and I am looking forward to building further agency with these learners for the remainder of the year.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Changing Spaces 2017

This year I decided to take a risk and present at Changing Spaces - I attended the day last year and supported but watched all my colleagues speak about their practice and how we operate in an ILE and thought that this would be a great goal for my second year.

I was fortunate to attend the keynote by Chrissie Butler where she challenged us to take a mental walk around our schools and their environments as she spoke.  She spoke of us as educators as developing an acute sensitivity to individual differences in order to drive design decisions.  This means that we should be looking for a framework to support the deliberate design for variability.  As a teacher, I should be providing options for recruiting interest, optimising individual choice and selecting options to help minimise distractions.

She really challenged me in my thinking of how am I using our environment to do so and as I was frantically tidying up tables and chairs after our presentation, I stopped and thought about some of the following points in her presentation:

  • What defines the bicultural space?  How are the learners' individual stories being represented?  Are there spaces for everyone to make connections?  Does it feel like a safe environment to meet the needs of the whole person?
  • This safety extends to both gender and sexualities - Chrissie challenged us to stop speaking in the binary and more as a 'we'.  This also links with being a community.
  • Equitable access for all - she shared a great quote from Timoti Harris: 'Steps will naturally exclude some, a ramp allows all to enter'.  Again I have started to look at our space with a new lens and will continue to observe throughout the first few weeks of this term.
  • Sensitivity to sensory needs - it was great to be reminded of this as I feel that I have become accustomed to the background noise in the hubs.  For some learners, this is a major distraction so how can we use the space more effectively to support them with their learning?  It also made me more mindful of the learners that use the noise to slip into the background.  Are there ways that I can connect with these learners in a way that enables them to feel comfortable but also makes me more aware of their needs when teaching?

This final quote from the presentation really stuck out for me - 'Nothing for me without me.'  I do centre my practice around using student voice however as I was putting the tables and chairs back into the spaces that they sat for Term One, I had to walk away.  This notion is key as I am not the only individual in the space and our learners needs to feel that they have a voice in the design of their space.  So instead of finishing the task, I just made sure things were back in an orderly fashion where we could use some time next week to look at the design and see if we can improve on anything for Term Two.  I am looking forward to the learners' input and feedback as I know they will have some great insight into how they want this to look like!

After the keynote, Latai and I were able to share with a group about our journeys so far as beginning teachers in an ILE.  This was the 2.0 version of a presentation we gave last year at the University of Auckland We asked the group to share with us the reasons why they chose to attend our session and it was a mix of those who were also new to teaching or those who had or were transitioning into an ILE setting.  Feedback from the previous year was that people appreciated the stories that teachers told about real life situations so one of the main activities we ran was giving groups scenarios that they discussed and brought back to the wider group to share.  These scenarios were examples from our first year and after everyone shared, we gave our insights based on our experiences.

I was grateful for the opportunity to present as I do need the practice of public speaking however co presenting takes a bit of the nerves away and this was a good example of how hub teams work together to complement each others' abilities as well as the generating and sharing of collective insights.  

Friday, 21 April 2017

Term One Reflection and Next Steps for Term Two

Something that I have noticed Ashley do really well is reflect on each term using the voice from her students to help her take stock of her teaching practice and help inform her next steps.  It was something that I wanted to put into practice for this year, especially with my dissertation focusing on the use of feedback.

This term I chose to do this with both my reading and numeracy groups as my writing groups will be focused on next term with my dissertation intervention.  With each group, I asked the following questions:

  • How had they enjoyed the learning this term?  Learners could rank this on a likert scale from 1 to 3.
  • What did they enjoy during the term?  This is free text where learners could give me some insight into what they enjoyed in the particular learning area.
  • What did they find challenging this term? Again free text response to help me understand if I need to clarify or revisit some areas.
  • What can I help each learner with in Term 2?  Hopefully getting some voice from the learners on areas that they felt they needed assistance from myself on.

Learners were given time to reflect through the term using both their progressions and modelling books and then could respond via a Google Form that I had set up for each group.


I have really enjoyed the term with my reading groups.  We have managed to click as a wider group and each group has formed a close bond even with learners moving in and out of groups based on their current reading level.  In regards to levels, 85% of the group have moved at least one reading level and I am now looking at how I bridge some learners from the end of Year 3 standard into the beginning of Year 4 standards.

In relation to engagement, this graph shows that 74% of the group scored 3 meaning that they have enjoyed reading a lot this term.

From the responses, I seem to be hitting the mark with the texts I am selecting and the follow ups that I am creating however I was more excited to read some of the comments with what the learners were finding challenging or required assistance with next term.  A lot of the learners are developing their awareness as readers and I had noticed a trend with them that our word attack strategies were an area that we needed to develop further so this is a great goal for Term 2 to achieve with the learners.  I also need to look at how I am modelling and giving instructions with the follow ups as a lot of learners remarked that they were finding these difficult.


It was interesting to compare the responses from my numeracy learners.  In regards to engagement, the number of learners that enjoyed it is sitting around 60%.  As the learners are at a similar stage, I had been doing a lot of whole group teaching and running opt in workshops for those learners who wanted further assistance and my gut is telling me that this approach may not be hitting the mark with some of my group.  What I have decided to do for Term Two is create numeracy groups and I will work with these groups based on their needs.  While this may require more planning time, I should be able to focus the time with each group better.

I felt that the responses from this group have really allowed me to see where I need to focus on the learning for next term.  We are all moving into Stage 5 number knowledge and continuing to develop our multiplication and division strategies.  I found it interesting that both Kahoot and Prodigy (read Chelsea's blogpost on it) had got a few mentions seeing how I had only introduced both to the group in Week 8.  I have shared Prodigy with families as a way for the learners to practice their maths skills at home so great to see that the engagement with this tool at home.


I am starting to investigate our Term Two concept of "being our best self" by looking at the school's wellbeing progressions - we are meeting next week for our planning days but I am excited to be delving into this part of the curriculum.  Stay tuned for an update on both this and how I am going to be planning for my writing groups.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Term One Inquiry

Today we had to present our Term One inquiry to the wider staff.  This was introduced to us as a "sprint inquiry" which seemed a bit daunting at first however in reflection, this was a good exercise to really analyse our impact on our learners.

Hub Whenua chose to analyse the impact of experience in relation to learner's success, achievement and engagement in writing.

The group of learners that I have been working with are currently operating at below national standard or have expressed that they either do not enjoy writing or feel they lack ability when it comes to planning and crafting.  This meant that I had to really dial up the celebration of success both at school and at home.

Here are some of their artefacts from the experiences:

Play Dough Recounts:

Oobleck Recounts:

While there has been a positive shift in engagement and success, we have yet to measure achievement through assessment, however, I do feel that this will also be similar shift when we do examine this. This experience has really challenged me in how I am currently structuring my writing programme and I will add more elements of oral literacy and experience based learning into my writing plans for Term Two.

Here is the full inquiry document from today's session:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Tools of the Trade

Seeing it has been a bit of time since my summer school paper, I have started to think about why I am choosing to use certain applications in my practice.  I like how Chelsea has chosen to explain how she is using certain tools in her practice and thought that I would do the same now that we are nearing the end of Term One.


I am teaching most of our learners who are reading the Purple and Gold parts of the reading colour wheel, meaning that these learners are transitioning from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn' and while we are reading, a lot of the focus moves into elements of comprehension and looking at the deeper features of the texts.

A great application that has been introduced to me is Get Epic - basically an online library for learners to read both age appropriate and self-selected text.  Getting the learners to set up their profiles was a great activity to help me to get insights into what types of text they felt comfortable reading and where we can work together on other texts that they may find challenging.

Epic also helps me see what types of text that learners are selecting and how much time they are spending on each text.  The site does alert learners if they are reading texts too quickly by judging the number of page flips.

I have set up access for all of my learners at home so they can use this resource as an add on to books at home or readers and books they are bringing home from school.  There are a range of collections which I can assign learners as well as the different formats, including videos, audio books and books in other languages (Spanish and Mandarin at this stage).

Applications for this in my practice - I have currently set this as an independent activity during our reading sessions but as I explore it more, I will use this as another resource for learners to start to compare texts.  


My learners for numeracy are currently operating at Stage 4 of the NZC and with the summer break, we have spent most of this term consolidating our knowledge and strategies before we move onto Early Stage 5.

With a lot of the assessment for numeracy, we have to look at our speed of retention of basic facts and I have been using Kahoot! as an activity to boost speed and help develop our basic fact knowledge.

My kids love Kahoot - mainly because of the competition element of it however I do feel the assessment part of the application really beneficial as I use this information to develop future workshops for individual learners based on their knowledge.  However there has been a recent development and I can now use this:

Something that I struggled with last year was that the kids were quick to try and guess the one correct answer with the original model.  With Jumble, they need to think about using all the options and in the few times I have used it so far, I have noticed that they are reading the questions and trying to get the correct order.  We have had a couple of 'practice' runs to build our knowledge of the application and the excitement is still there - I get asked on a daily basis if we are using Kahoot when we move into numeracy.

In Summary:

I enjoy both these applications as they help me gain more insight into how learners are progressing when they are working independently.  Both promote critical thinking skills and allow us to discuss our learning as we use these.  I am currently investigating other applications to help support my practice and allow learners to learn at a pace that is comfortable for them so will look to update you in a future post.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Week Five Already?!

Wow!  Week five is upon us already.

It has been a whirlwind action packed four weeks so far as Hub Whenua has been getting to know each other and we build relationships with all 71 learners.  We are fortunate to have such an enthusiastic group of learners this year and with this comes the challenge of designing learning in a way that they can both identify with and apply their understanding.

I am currently crafting both my inquiry focus as well as my research for my dissertation this year. After reviewing our assessment data and using these first five weeks to really get the opportunity to observe our learners in action, the focus for both will be around the area of how I can boost confidence in writing.  I am excited for this opportunity as I have a passion for writing so hope to pass on some of this excitement and enthusiasm to the learners.

However this did have me reflect on how I will plan and design for these learning experiences.  I have put my hand up to present at this year's 'Changing Spaces' forum as a way to practise my presenting skills as well as build more pedagogical knowledge in how we can use the learning spaces to meet the needs of our learners.  At an information evening this week, we watched the following video that likened the design of learning to that of bowling.

The 7 - 10 split analogy has challenged my thinking around how I should be approaching my planning this year.  Last year I did plan for the majority of the group and found that sometimes I was missing the mark with learners on the outliers.  I feel by having this perspective change, I will further hone both my observational and analytic skills in with my design and instructional ability while in class.

I would love to hear you take from this video as the main messages or if it has a similar effect on your thinking around the design of learning?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Know Thyself Before Know Thy Learner.

Working in a hub means that you need to get to know your colleagues pretty quickly in order to establish team norms to get the systems and processes running for the design of learning.

A focus of our teacher only days this year was that of collaboration as all the hub teams this year are new, therefore it is imperative for us to get to know each other both professionally and personally before we enter the hubs and begin interacting with our learners.  Part of the collaboration activity was to determine our current personality type and we had to answer a range of questions to establish this.  I came out with the ISFJ or "The Defender" personality type as did both the other members of my hub team.

After determining our personality types, we shared with each other and had to do a SWOT Analysis for our team and think about how this might impact on both our relationships with each other and the learners as well as our design of learning.  This was a pretty powerful activity as it got me thinking about some of my personal goals for the year and how I may accomplish these.

One of the opportunities for development of the ISFJ is that we can be reluctant to change and reflecting on last year, I think that this is something I should remain mindful of as I begin to plan for 2017.  Just because something has worked in the past does not guarantee repeated success and as I get to know my learners' needs, I will have to differentiate activities based on their skill levels.  Continuing to take risks with my planning and trying new things is a key focus of this year, especially as I am no longer in a full time team teaching position in the hub.

With teaching and my dissertation, I do have to realise that it will be another busy year meaning that I need to continue with the disciplined thought and disciplined action.  I will be at school five days a week now (no more MDTA Fridays) and am more involved with extracurricular activities throughout the year so remembering to be open with how I am communicating and my workload commitments will be paramount to my success.  A key trait of the ISFJ personality trait is ensuring that others needs are met, however, as my colleague Latai tells me: "You can't pour from an empty cup" so I also will be mindful of my own wellbeing.

I will share these goals in a later post, however, thought the concept of knowing yourself first is key to how you plan to set up your classroom, relationships and routines for the school year.  I imagine that I will be reflecting on this post more as I get into the year so will look forward to seeing how I am tracking further in the term.

Here is a brief snapshot of what the ISFJ personality trait means.