Monday, 11 September 2017

Google Forms are Choice!

I am a big fan of using Google Forms in my practice.  It is a great way to capture voice, check for understanding and gain feedback on lessons.

However when I did my Level 2, I learned about how you can maximise the element of choice in your forms.  Prior to this, I had created forms that took learners through a series of questions from start to finish.  However now I can add sections to a form and have learners go to different parts based on responses that they give.

This has helped me support learners who may struggle with a concept so rather than just have them answer "no" or "I don't know" to a question, I can now take them to a different part of the form where I can ask specific questions to help me gain further understanding of what I might need to assist them in their learning.  I also learned how to add videos to help learners build their knowledge of concepts before answering questions.

I have updated a lot of the current Google Forms that I use with my groups and now really enjoy seeing how learners are making choices and decisions and then justifying these decisions.  Here are some examples of how I have updated these forms.


I have been getting the groups to evaluate their texts this year by rating it on a likert scale, however this term I chose to change it up and allow learners the chance to give a more definitive answer which is closely followed by the chance for them to justify their decision based on their response.


I am revisiting a lot of the Early Stage Five Addition and Subtraction strategies with my groups so have been giving them some activities and videos to help me gauge their understanding before moving onto the Stage Five equivalent strategy.  This helps me to structure the learning based on which learners are feeling about the current learning.


Similar with my numeracy groups, I am trying to do some refresher workshops with my writers on how we refine (edit) our writing.  This also gives me the chance to see what learners need assistance with their current skill sets or spot opportunities for future workshops or sessions.

To sum it up, I think my title of the blog post hits home - I do find using Google Forms a key part of my practice and am looking how I can continue to challenge my skills in this area.  Stay tuned for future updates!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Impact Stories 2.0

This morning I, along with the rest of the Stonefields staff, presented our impact stories to each other.  These presentations are an update on our teaching as inquiries, however as a PRT, I had to present one of my term goals towards registration.

I chose to use Powtoon to make an animation detailing my inquiry - this goal links in with my dissertation focus with my group of writers.

While it was great to trial a new app for learning, I probably over invested time in getting this done.  Check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts on my progress so far!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Exploring New Ways for Publishing

This term, we have been exploring how to write information reports that links in our learning about the forest.  Most of the writers I work with have not had much exposure to report writing so I thought if we started with looking at the structure of a paragraph would be a great start.

An opportunity that I wanted to explore with the group was thinking about both the purpose of their writing as well as their audience.  We decided that we wanted to create information for visitors to our school and this got me thinking, how would we be able to share these with others as well as demonstrate our skill in writing paragraphs.

Looking at some of the senior hubs blogs, I noticed that they had been using an app called Thinglink that allows you to turn images into interactive graphics.  With this in mind, I chose to model an example first to see what the response from the kids were:

There was a buzz of excitement when I showed the kids this and lots of questions about where I had
chosen to place my paragraphs and then I noticed, that they were reading the paragraphs and giving me feedback.  With this goal in mind, everyone set off to create a Thinglink of their own.

When it came time to take their photos, I saw a great deal of care from the kids to make sure that the image not only suited their writing but also demonstrated empathy for their audience by considering what message they wanted to portray.  These are kids who normally can't wait to be finished with a piece of writing however they were analysing their photos and retaking after having conversations with one another.

Check out their finished pieces on our hub blog:

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Power of Padlet!

I have used Padlet as an information collection tool in my practice - mainly for me to capture voice from the learners and use it as a visual brainstorm.

This week I went and observed one of my colleagues, Mel, who teaches in one of our Year 4/5/6 hubs. My observation focus was how she teaches Year 4 literacy as I now have learners who are accessing this area of the curriculum.  One thing I noticed and liked was how Mel used her modelling books as an interactive tool with her learners, enabling two way communication between herself and her learners.

Reflecting on this, I really wanted to see how I could try something similar with my literacy groups so I thought about how Padlet may allow now only me to see how the kids are engaging with their learning but also with each other.

This week, I reintroduced the idea of quad blogging to my reading groups as they seem now more interested in engaging with other blogs.  We discussed why we had a hub blog and I let the kids write their thoughts down on this padlet.

Made with Padlet

There was an instant buzz in the air as everyone started to write their ideas down however the really cool thing was when they noticed that they could read each others ideas.  Questions sprung up straight away to one another about why they would write that or noticed similarities or differences in their comments.

With this initial excitement, I have decided to incorporate Padlet into the Build Knowledge element of my reading programme where learners can write their predictions down in a Padlet and we will use this as the springboard into our guided reading sessions.  I was conscious that I may need to give the groups time to experiment more with Padlet so was glad to read this blog post from Troy on allowing sandpit time with new apps, with a focus on Padlet.

Looking forward to seeing how this encourages collaboration between learners!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

How to teach spelling like a pirate?

Roll on Term 3 and Hub Whenua are already into assessments with our mid year snapshot of learners spelling ability.

The learners who I am supporting with their writing have come such a long way with their spelling as detailed in this graph where I compared their result at the beginning of the year to what they were able to achieve this week.

This success has come from the learners being determined, fantastic support from whanau and the inclusion of spelling into my practice each week.  However while these results are fantastic, I am not seeing the transition of this confidence with vocabulary when the learners are crafting their writing.

This has got me thinking about how I can redefine the spelling component of my practice.  How can I turn something that has the potential to become 'boring' and 'repetitive' into something that learners want to engage with and can make links with while writing.

I am currently reading "Teach Like A Pirate" by Dave Burgess and one of the first areas of passion that he writes about is content.  While I consider myself to be a confident speller, I really need to up my game with knowledge to be able to confidently pass these skills onto learners.  I am fortunate to have worked with our PE specialist Rachel and she has introduced me to activities to help develop confidence with spelling but I feel that I need to continue to explore this area too so I have a kete of resources to use.

Stay tuned - this pirates spelling ship is just setting sail!  Always grateful for ideas or insight into others spelling programmes.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Term Two Reflection and Next Steps for Term Three

As I have already reflected on my practice in relation to the learning areas of reading, writing and numeracy - this reflection will look more at how I have been building relationships with the learners this term and outlining some small personal goals I have for the next term.

Our Term Two concept was "Being My Best Self" that linked with our schools vision for wellbeing but we also chose to expose learners to the concept of hauora where we explored and investigated the different realms of wellbeing.  This term I felt that we had more learners open up and discuss who they were as a whole person because we gave them the opportunity to both explore and express these facts.  Another great initiative we created in the hub is the daily affirmations at the end of the day where learners were able to share when they noticed someone else in the hub being their best self.  This experience showed me that this concept learning had heightened everyone's knowledge about one another so it was great to hear when a learner who historically may have been distracted in numeracy learning be nominated for being extra determined with their learning for the day.  We found that learners were not nominating their friends and the sheer look of joy or surprise when someone heard their name being called out meant that we were all leaving the day on a positive note.

I asked my Guardian Group for some feedback at the end of the term about how they had been enjoying our time as a group and here are the responses.  The fact that the majority of the group put down that they enjoy "Fun Day Friday" means that the time that we are spending as a group is well worth it - this is where the group have the challenge on Friday to make me laugh when we are doing the roll.  These are moments where I see learners that are usually reserved really open up and I have a few masters of the worm who like to bust it out.  While it was nice to get some affirmations in the "What would I like Mr Lewzey to know about me?" section, my eyes went more to the responses like "nothing" and I have massive respect for the learner who called me out on not pronoucing their name correct all the time.  So I still have a long way to go with some of my group, however while this survey was anonymous, I have a good idea about which ones I need to continue to build relationships with.

Here is when my Star Wars fanatics wanted to do the roll on May 4th:

However that is only 22 of the 70 learners in our hub that I interact with and there are still learners in the hub that while I feel I have a good understanding of, I need to keep on trying.  We have done some regrouping for Term Three so this means that I will be working with some learners that I have not had the opportunity to work with this year so far so I am looking forward to building those relationships.

In regards to relationships with all hub learners, we check in with the learners each term to see if they have a significant adult at school and more so in the hub.  Here are the results from when we asked the learners this term:

My eyes go direct to the nine learners who do not feel confident to talk to any of the teachers in the space, whether they have a problem or would like to share something.  Learners have the chance to acknowledge other teachers within the school, however looking at the data, these learners have indicated that they do not have anyone and coming into half way through the school year, this is something that we as a hub team need to address quickly so we have tagged ourselves to particular learners and will discuss with their families next term to see if we can get some more insight into this.

I still watch this video when I am feeling a bit down about my practice as it helps me remember a key component of my beliefs as a teacher: everyone needs somebody who believes in them.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Google Certified Educator - Level 2

Having done the Google Certified Educator - Level 1 last year, I had always thought about doing the second level.  I decided that I would try for it these holidays and I was able to pass.

I went into the experience, thinking that it was going to be about developing further skills in a number of the Google Apps for Education that I was already using, however I found that while doing this, the experience made me reflect on things that I was already doing in my practice as well as challenge my thinking in how to engage with the learners in different ways.

The training takes you through the following three sections:

  1. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership;
  2. Increase Efficiency and Save Time; and
  3. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
One of the great things I found out to maximise time is to create 'canned responses' in Gmail where you can build emails and have them be available as templates for you to populate rather than typing or copying and pasting previous emails.  

Another aspect that I wish to explore more is the 'HyperDoc' - this is something that we spent time exploring last year as part of the MDTA programme however this process made me reflect on how I could leverage this more in my practice to help learners both learn at their own pace but also encourage them to keep challenging themselves in their learning.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mid Year Reflection: My Practice in Writing

As with reflecting on reading and numeracy, I also reflected on my writing practice this term and gathered voice from the learners.  I was a bit nervous to see what these learners would feel about my instruction as they had both been a focus for our Term 1 inquiry as well as the focus for my dissertation this year.

Looking at the above chart, I am not surprised by these results.  Some of the learners (18.2%) have been vocal about not enjoying writing hence the reason why I have tried to keep my practice fluid and find ways to engage with them based on their interests.  

The tension I have had this term has been balancing the need for aspects like handwriting and spelling and finding ways to get technology to aid us in the writing process.  From the feedback, it looks like I have had some success with using Explain Everything to help us with our planning and crafting sessions.  Learners have been able to use the voice recording aspect to capture their ideas and plan on their device to help them then go onto craft, refine and publish.  While I had intended to have the group create a full narrative on an animation we had watched, I found that we needed to spend more time on the first part of a narrative where critical elements such as characters and setting are introduced.  The group have achieved some amazing results this term where we were able to share and celebrate via our hub blog (please leave a comment if you can):

I also chose to ask them about an element of my dissertation inquiry where the group reflected on their writing progress each week.

I do wish to carry on with a scaled down version of this reflection process for next term so will gather some more information from the group on how I can make this less of an event and more a natural part of the process.  Over the term break, I will start to analyse the data collected from this term so hopefully some other insights will spring from that.

I feel that I have grown the most in my practice in relation to teaching writing.  While I enjoy writing, I need to realise that it can be a difficult process to others and feedback from both the learners and their families is that they are unable to see progress in their writing (in contrast to both reading and writing).  This has made me think about how I can use the tools available to help learners see their own progress but also celebrate shift more.

Another takeout I have taken from gathering this feedback is that I am working with a group who may not enjoy writing and how can I make this more enjoyable or the learning not as teacher directed as it may have been in the past.  I was fortunate to go and observe a colleague as she used stations to keep the energy high when teaching phonics so I will look into how I can incorporate movement and rotations into teaching aspects such as handwriting and spelling more. 

Mid Year Reflection: My Practice in Numeracy

Similar to the learners I work with in reading, I collected voice from my numeracy groups to analyse both engagement and shift.

In relation to results, all the groups have maintained their 'At' call in National Standards as they are all now working towards operating at early Level 2 of the NZ Curriculum.

Term One was about consolidating all the learners knowledge and strategies at Stage 4 as I had learners working at all different parts of this so this term has been developing and building their confidence in Stage 5 Number Knowledge and introducing them to a number of the strategies for both Addition/Subtraction and Multiplication/Division.  As you can see in some of their responses, some of these strategies have really stuck with them.

One of the main differences that I did this term was to create four sub groups within the group so I could differentiate learning to the level appropriate for the learners.  This helped me challenge particular learners as well as support and develop confidence in others.  Here is the snapshot at where the current engagement levels are at:

This goes with my gut on how I felt learners were feeling about their numeracy learners.  The four learners (21.1%) are learners who have developed the confidence to tell me when they are stuck in their learning and this has taken a couple of terms to build this ability.  

The biggest learning curve this year in numeracy has been my own PCK - last year I was working more with our Year 2 learners in Stages 3 and 4 so moving into Early Stage 5 has been both exciting and challenging as I think of ways to engage with learners.

Using the kids love of Pokemon to teach place value was something that I thought was a bit random at first however the kids loved it and I managed to help some learners overcome the obstacle of regrouping with this activity.

That is the key to keeping thing fresh - teaching numeracy can be black or white.  Either you know the strategy and get the answer correct or you don't.  So my personal challenge is to look to develop my creative skills in teaching numeracy to continue the engagement for both the learners and myself!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Mid Year Reflection: My Practice in Reading

Following on from last term's reflection, I reached out to my learners in order to gauge their voice in my teaching and to analyse the shift.

I chose to add one question to the ones I asked last term, this being:

  • What are some things that you have learned this term?  This was more out of interest to see what learners could remember from this term.

The first question I ask of the learners is how much they have enjoyed the learning this term, with them being able to rate it on a likert scale from 1 ("I haven't enjoyed it!") to 3 ("I have enjoyed it a lot!").  

Great to see that 4 learners (16.7%) are sitting between the two choices, this means that I still have a bit of work to build engagement with reading.  This group of learners are very engaged with their reading to the point where they are planning their own time when it comes to reading.  Here is a slide that I add to each groups modelling books to help them do so.

It was great to read what learners had both enjoyed reading and learned this term.  I had worked to have learners make connections through different texts, using both readers and journals alongside using apps like GetEpic!.  The learners have really enjoyed using this as an additional resource for books and I have used it to build collections on similar topics so they can analyse and decided whether texts are appropriate for their use.

It is also great to see that some of the additional writing activities made the lists like our alliteration activity and you might notice that a lot of the group mentioned learning about Haikus which was a follow activity where we looked at syllables and how we can use this knowledge to help us when we need to chunk new words we encounter in our reading.  Check out the groups great poems below (note two links due to labels):

Reading through the challenging comments from the learners, great to see that learners had reflected on some of the learning that I chose to focus on this term.  We spent a lot of time working on the differences between retelling and summarising as a lot of the group found it difficult being able to identify and utilise these skills.  We also spent time developing our word attack skills so activities like the ones above helped learners build their confidence in these strategies.

Looking at shift, the majority of the group have maintained their skills and I have mapped out their shift based on a resource our SLT helped created for us and reflecting on this, some of the comments about how I can help learners progress stand out for me.

A few of the learners mentioned about how they would like me to help them further understand their follow up activities so I will reassess how I am creating modelling books and ask my mentor to come observe me in relation to instruction with these groups.  Great to see the honesty with some learners requiring further assistance with summarising - this was a note that I communicated to whānau these holidays along with the links to the resources to help learners practice over the holidays if they wanted to.

In summary, I am very fortunate to working alongside this group of learners as they are so engaged with their readers.  Stay tuned for an update on what Term 3 is going to look like for my reading practice!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Co-constructing Success Criteria for Blog Posts

As part of the Cybersmart learning this term, our hub have tried a two prong approach to building learners' capacity in using the digital aspects of their learning.  These were:

  • Working with our Year 2 learners and some learners that identified that they needed to consolidate their knowledge of Explain Everything.  This is something that we will need to return to for all learners as Explain Everything has had an update recently - check out Karen Belt's blog post that explains some of the upgrades.
  • The remainder of our Year 3 learners have been learning more about creating a smart footprint in preparation for next term's focus on building smart relationships in Term 3.

We introduced the learners to how they could email a blog post to the blog and had some great discussions about what we would need to consider before we upload a draft post to our hub blog.  As a result, the learners asked if we could build some success criteria to help them remember what is important before uploading blog posts.  Here is what we came up with:

I am looking forward to seeing learners take advantage of the email to blog function next term!  Stay tuned to see how this takes off.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Noticing Shifts in Writing

Today I ran a second writing sample as part of my data collection for my dissertation focus.  I was quite nervous about this as it meant asking these learners to sit and write for 45 minutes.  I chose to give these learners a visual prompt along with some of our guidelines that we have used for our narrative writing throughout this term.

When I spoke to the group about doing a writing sample, I was met with excitement and questions. The prompt seemed to excite everyone in the group and the questions ranged from surface features to wonderings about how they could link the various parts of the picture to their narratives.

During their planning, I noticed that a lot of the learners were discussing their ideas.  While not an official e-assTTle writing sample, I intended to run the session as similar to the first writing sample as possible, however seeing the excitement and enjoyment that the kids were getting out of sharing their ideas, I chose to following some of the advice from the passage below from TKI:

When the planning time was over, I again thought it would be difficult for the learners to move into their independent writing but I was greeted with sights below.  These photos are not staged, in fact, no one noticed me taking these.  They were so engaged with getting their pens to paper.

The only protests I got through this session is when I told the group that the time was up due to us moving into reading.  What the learners do not know is that as a 'reward', I am planning to publish these and gift them to them in our end of term writing ceremony so they can go home to celebrate with their whanaus for the upcoming holidays.

Monday, 26 June 2017

My Spirit Animal is a Duck!

It is a strange title for this blog post, however, it is timely as I reflecting on nearing the end of registration.  With two terms to go, I am three quarters of the way there and am looking forward to the remainder of my time as a PCT.  I had written in a previous post about sharing my story about how I chose to come into teaching so thought I better make good on that promise!

The initial passion for teaching came from doing a special topic paper at the end of university where I helped create a pilot programme for the pastoral care of International Students.  Part of the criteria for the paper was to design and run weekly workshops for groups of 10-15 students on aspects of university life for example, how to use the systems at the library or how to set up your printing account.  While to an outside eye, this was probably mundane - I really enjoyed seeing people growing in confidence.

Working in admin type roles after graduating, I decided that I wanted to explore both this aspect further as well as the world so combined the two and that is how I ended up teaching English in Japan.  I bounced around different schools in Tokyo before settling into one in the suburbs bordering the city centre.  Due to its location, I ended up teaching children from the age of 2 (yes, you read that right) to 13 when they moved into the adult classes.  I moved into the lead role for the school during my time there for the children's learning programme and opened two junior schools before leaving to come back to New Zealand.

It was my intention to go back to university when I came home, however due to the time of year and financial reality, I took a job for a corporate and fell into a career pretty quickly.  The passion for education was still there but it had morphed into an appreciation for capability and training and I found myself excelling in roles where I was supporting others be their very best.  Towards the end of my time in the organisation, I even stepped into a leadership role to gain experience and realised that this was a different set of skills required for this and was fortunate enough to build my knowledge about coaching and mentoring.

An organisation wide restructure helped me stop for a minute to reassess where I was heading and opened up a few home truths about how I was feeling (this is where the title comes into play!).  I have picked up my work ethic from both my parents who had run and operated their own businesses for most of my life.  I was fortunate enough to work alongside them (not that they would probably say that at some times!) and saw that in order to make things work, you had to put the effort in.  At work, I tend to agree to things and would find myself spinning lots of plates.  On the outside I appeared that I was under control, however like a duck gliding along the water, no one sees the legs kicking like anything to maintain that graceful glide.

That was me and it had caught up with me.  I nearly burned out and ended up going to counselling for a while to help put strategies into place to help me restore the balance.  Finding the moment to breath is key if only for five minutes in the day.  Stopping also made me realise that I was not following my passions anymore and hence came the call to resign from work and go back to university to become a teacher.  You know the rest as my teaching journey started in this blog.

Now this is when you could say: "Heath, you realise that teaching is no different from your previous job.  If anything, it is probably going to be just as busy, if not more."  Others did and looking at it, they are right to a certain degree.

The reason behind this post was that a few weeks ago, the wheels did fall off and I found that I had been reverting to old habits to get through.  If I am model how to be a learner to my students, then I do need to live true to what I tell them about asking for help when they need it.  I also need to more transparent with people so they understand what is going on, rather than me just bottling everything up.  This transparency is a key factor to collaboration and being my best self as both a teacher and a person.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Superhero ABC and Feedback

Based on feedback from my reading groups, we have been looking at ways to develop our word attack strategies this term.  There is a book in our school library which is very popular with one of our learners in the hub called "Superhero ABC", so much so that it is known by a number of our learners as "his book" so they were very surprised when I used it as the prompt to explore alliteration.

With the hook there, a lot of the learners were quite excited to develop a character of their own and use alliteration to help describe their abilities and background.  I chose to use a combination of both Explain Everything so the learners could draw their character and Google Slides where they would be able to craft their descriptions.  I shared this to the whole group so each learner had their own slide but could also read others as I wanted to introduce the element of peer feedback to the exercise.

After the first session, I began to read through the descriptions and thought that I would use the comment function of Google Slides to give the learners feedback.  This was a bit of a risk as most of the learners hadn't had exposure to this form of feedback before however I gave each learner feedback.

The next day I explained to the group that I had read through their initial drafts and had given them feedback using comments.  I modelled how they could find this on their slide.  In hindsight, I hadn't told them about the 'reply' function of the comments but as you can see from the images below, they soon worked it out.

The majority of the responses were similar to this (NB have blocked out learners full names):

However as the week moved on and I started conferencing with learners, I noticed a shift in some of the learners responses.

I even started have dialogues with some learners who posed me questions of their own:

Learners who normally were too shy to ask for help during lessons now found that they had a voice and were empowered to ask questions.

This did get me reflecting on how I was using feedback in my practice and how I could use the affordance of comments to extend my reach - to date, I had not used the comments as I 'felt' that this may had been too advanced for some learners but seeing how naturally these 7 and 8 year olds took to this, I can now look develop both my own and the learners skills in both receiving and giving feedback.

Here is the blog post with the learners new identities on there - good to note that Blogger only allows a maximum of 20 labels on a blog post so I had to split the post in half to ensure all learners names were on this.  Stay tuned for another update as they have requested we look at some poetry before the end of the term with our new identities!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Pai tū, pai hinga!

Currently our staff are fortunate to be having a weekly PL session with Rosalie Reiri on our use of Te Reo in our practice.  When I first heard that this would be running each Monday afternoon for the remainder of Term Two, my first thoughts were the following:

  • "But I have so much to do, when will I get the time back?"
  • "I'm already using Te Reo in the hub!"
  • "I hope I don't have to say anything in front of anyone - my pronunciation is terrible!"

Notice how these thoughts go to self doubt and time constraints - I didn't and it wasn't until this week that I realised this.

The sessions so far have been pretty insightful more on how much I still have to learn about using Te Reo in my practice.  I reflected on how I felt hard done with the Te Reo course at university which gave me a great perspective of the bicultural nature of our education system but did not set me up for success with any practical application for my practice.

Rosalie shared with us this video where Janelle Riki-Waaka speaks of the schools of Aotearoa.  It is a great video to watch if you are reflecting on how you are using Te Reo as I came away from watching this with a new sense of purpose on ensuring that I am trying my best to show our school as one that is of Aotearoa.  The first thing I did do after our initial session was to learn how to add tohutō (macrons) to the vowels to ensure that if I am using Te Reo in emails or planning that I was reflecting the correct use.

Another thing helping my confidence grow is the 'homework' tasks that Rosalie is giving us to develop our skills!  Here is one of the examples where I was able to create a short stop motion to illustrate the difference between tēnā koe and tēnā kōrua:

These sessions have also given me more confidence with teaching - the learners in our hub have decided that they want to share some Te Reo with the rest of the junior school at our upcoming assembly.  Normally I would be quite nervous with helping the learners practice and ensuring that we we saying words properly however we shared with them how the teachers were all learning Te Reo and our practices now seem more natural.  I feel more confident to help learners with pronunciation and am looking forward to seeing the hub perform this week.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Getting Our Write On!

I have written earlier about how my dissertation focus will be around building both confidence and engagement in writing and seeing if this has a link with achievement so I thought it may be timely to discuss the approach that I am using with this.  As mentioned earlier, our hub has already undergone our Term One inquiry into writing so my individual inquiry focus is a continuation on that.

I am currently working with a group of learners which are working towards the Year Two or Year Three writing standards.  The standards for each are as follows:



With these in mind, I am exploring the links between students' non-cognitive skills and both engagement and achievement with their writing.  Each week learners will be reflecting on the following:
  • Which of our seven learner qualities did they use in their writing this week?
  • How did they feel about their writing learning this week?
  • What help do they require in their writing learning from myself for the following week?
I am using Explain Everything to help learners both articulate and record their thoughts.  Learners are able to highlight and record their thoughts on each of the above questions which I am transcribing and using to help to inform the following week's planning for their writing sessions.

Already two weeks in and I can already see how this is impacting my practice as I listen to the reflections - learners are taking the time to really be honest in how they are going with their writing and what parts of their learning that they require further assistance from me.  This has helped me already craft some workshops where I can spend time with learners on particular skills that they feel they need a boost in.  I will be examining these feedback loops in more detail in Term 3.

I am very lucky to be working with such a great bunch of kids - check out some of their description publishing below and if you can, please feel free to leave a comment on the blog post!

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.