Thursday, 1 March 2018

MIT Retreat: possible approaches?

Later in the MIT retreat we looked at the people involved in the issue and those that could support us to facilitate the approach. I created this diagram to represent those that are involved in my issue to support me to explore it in greater depth.

It was during the creation of this diagram that I realised how helpful it would be for me to discuss the issue with other educators - those teaching at year six, at intermediate, at the college and with Manaiakalani facilitators and senior management.

After unpacking the problem we were tasked with imagining different approaches that might address the issue. We had to create eight ideas to ensure that we were thinking broadly and widely (we could be as imaginative as we liked).

The hearts indicate which approaches the educators favoured

From creating these possible approaches it became obvious that a link between college and intermediate might not help my year sevens, although it might make life a little simpler for the year eights as they transition, it does not directly address the issue. Instead, looking at ways to build the students engagement or to integrate the subjects may be more useful. Lenva shearing noted how isolated some of the subjects can be and how much more useful it could be to integrate the topics - to make them seem more purposeful. It would be simple enough to integrate reading and writing and I see it as a potential next step for my inquiry.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

MIT Retreat: The Problem

On Friday the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers were fortunate enough to travel to the Coromandel for a retreat. There we discussed the problems that we had identified in our teaching and the hunches that we held.

My problem focusses on students in years seven to ten as they are not making the same accelerated progress as students in years one to six. During the retreat we discussed the potential causes of this issue; the decreasing level of engagement and motivation to learn, puberty, the students social development and the expectation for the students to work independently. I initially used the data below to investigate the issue, but it became clear that I needed to delve deeper into the issue.

Today I was visited by Lenva Shearing and I had the chance to quickly pick her brain about the issue. She noted that the kids lacked a lot of the language and vocabulary associated with learning. She also told me that students entered the college at around level three and that they needed support accessing level four of the curriculum in year nine. However, she also noted that the students became less engaged and that they were expected to become increasingly independent.

I then went to Tamaki College and I had a quick staff room conversation with some English teachers. Like Lenva, they noted that the students are not able to understand the language of learning - for example they would be unsure of what a noun or perimeter might be. They also had issues with grammar - as many of our students speak English as their second language,  they may follow the syntax of their first language or use broken English. This can affect their sentence structure and their ability to write coherently.

I looked into the sentence structure problem to see what we had been doing to teach it. I found that it was a prominent learning intention from years four to eight. Therefore, we primary and intermediate teachers are looking at it, but it is not sticking with the students. Perhaps we need to look at this learning intention using ESOL strategies, or perhaps we should be tackling it a different way.  

I  also wonder if we need to introduce more vocabulary into our lessons and to ensure that we are not 'dumbing down' the way that we are teaching. I also wonder if we are teaching at the students current level or if we are attempting to bridge the gap into level 4. 


Thursday, 1 February 2018


This year I have moved 1.5km up the road to teach a year 7 and 8 class at Point England School. I was really excited to have the chance to teach year eights again and to gain the opportunity to teach in a hub with four other teachers.

I feel absolutely honoured to be able to work with these strong kaiako, as despite finding the move pretty challenging, I have felt really supported by my team. It is taking me a little while to adjust to the routines and differences between the schools, but I am enjoying the journey and I can already feel myself learning a lot because of this.

This year I would like to develop strategies that I can carry with me from class to class, as I realised that a lot of my management techniques relied on my strong relationships with my students. This year I will have three different classes and I will be interacting with over a hundred and fourty students on a regular basis, so this will be an important skill to develop. I would also like to continue to develop my classroom management strategies as I adjust to the different policies and strategies that are put in place at PES. Moving away from PB4L for example has been a bit of a change, but I am developing my own strategies instead.

I am also adjusting to changes in teaching policies. For example, the students rotate between the teachers for different lessons, so I see a different maths, literacy and homeroom class each day. Within that the school also supports different teaching approaches to what I have used and had professional development in before. For example, we are currently having training in DMIC or Bobbie Maths; a problem solving approach to teaching mathematics. While this is similar to what I have done before, there are several differences between this approach and the one I had PD in at Glenbrae.

I can see that this will be a great year of growth for me and I look forward to reflecting on my learning throughout the year.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Inquiry 2018

As the year draws closer and I reflect on 2017, it is time to consider what aspects of my practice I wish to work on next year.

This year I completed an intervention and dissertation on mathematics; specifically using differentiated approaches to accelerate the learning of all of my students in a mixed-ability setting. I learnt so much from this intervention and it has altered much of my mathematics pedagogy and use of my class site. 

However, next year I would like to focus on writing, as this is another area of the curriculum that some of my learners struggle with. As I will be teaching a year 7 and 8 class, I must ensure that my teaching will support the students to transition between intermediate and high school. It is also vital that I facilitate accelerated learning so that they can cope with the literary demands of college.

I would like to investigate the use of text analysis, peer and self assessment to make the connection between reading and writing explicit. In this intervention, I intend to start the week with a text analysis. The learners would first respond to the text as readers to gain an understanding of it, before I guide them to analyse a specific aspect of the text as writers. Smith (1983), states that effective writers are able to write like readers, and effective readers read like writers. That is, the students notice the techniques that writers use when reading and write with their audience in mind.
This analysis would involve a great deal of discussion, to provide scaffolding for the learners. These text responses would be shared on the students blogs as a short text or video. They would then select elements of the text to use in their own writing in the week, before discussing their ideas for writing with one another because "reading and writing float on a sea of talk" (Briton,  1970, p.164).

The students would self and peer assess during the week against a rubric that we would co-construct. At the end of the week we would analyse a student-created text just as we had at the start of the week.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Where it all begins

As I have always been interested in teaching intermediate school students, I have not had much experience teaching younger children. My lowest practicum placement was a year two class, however the learners worked at a year three and four level. I know it is really important for me to develop an understanding of the junior school and my learners experiences when they first came to the classroom. I also need to develop an understanding of how educators support students as they begin to learn to read, write and count, as I will teach students who need this support at my level.

I have decided to spend some more time with my buddy class (year 1) who are achieving at a range of levels. I will be taking my class to participate in buddy reading/writing with these learners every couple of weeks and I will spend some of my release time working with these learners.

This morning I observed our reading recovery teacher, Mrs Kelly teach a writing lesson to teach the learners about penguins. After reading a shared book about penguins and having a discussion about them, she co-constructed an acrostic poem with the class. I chose to work with a student who was learning how to form their letters and I found it incredibly interesting to see how much challenge she faced just by copying the words on the board! She found it hard to form the letters and there were some letters that she needed help to identify and sound out. It was really helpful to watch the teacher interact with her to see some of the strategies that she had used.

I will continue to work with these learners and to spend time with the junior school teachers, so that I develop my ability to cater to the needs of all of my students.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


Today my class engaged in their first mindfulness session, facilitated by Ara Simmons and Chris Bush. I am really privileged to work with these ladies and to carry out the 'Pause, Breathe, Smile' programme over the course of the term. While I have run a few mindfulness activities before, seeing it put together as a full session was really helpful for me to learn more about the way that it can be taught.

After some introductions and a quick chat about mindfulness and being present in the moment, we started with a short breathing exercise using a Tibetan singing bowl. This was a hit with my learners (and myself) as we all felt relaxed listening to the bell ring. We then completed a mindful eating activity where we looked at, smelt, held and tasted a piece of chocolate. We discussed how eating the chocolate mindfully made it taste different to some of us. Finally we took part in a guided meditation and shared our thoughts about the way we felt during this time.

I was really impressed with my class and how well they took to the session. It had a huge calming effect on my learners and we had a lovely reading lesson afterwards, where we all completed our allocated tasks. Most of the learners noted feeling calm, relaxed and happy during this time and I hope to recreate this environment during short mindfulness activities over the course of the week.

Of course, it great for me to have the chance to be calm and present with the class; positive reinforcement came easily and there was no need to 'growl' at bad behaviour. However, it made me realise how well the children responded to the slow calm commands made by Chris, Ara and the videos that we used. At times I can be quite excitable when I teach and at times I can talk quite quickly to my learners, which I would like to work on. I think these mindfulness sessions will support me to slow my voice and to teach more calmly; I will be considering how Chris and Ara achieve this as the term goes on.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Future Focussed?

This year I have ensured to cover careers education, as I understand the importance of providing these opportunities for my learners. The Ministry of Education explain that students need to be aware of different career pathways and the knowledge and skills that are required to follow various career paths. It can also support students to be more motivated about school and higher education.

This term I have done a lot more work in this area than I had previously and I introduced a range of occupations to my learners, from architecture to engineering to working for the police. As a school we have invited lots of different individuals and organisations in to talk to our students about their careers.

I have found that this has had a positive impact on my learners, as they are far more aware of the different avenues that they could pursue. I found that they particularly learnt a lot from the engineer that I put them in contact with. He reported the importance of maths and physics for engineering, but expressed that he was not a strong writer at school.  A lot of my students could relate to this and found this quite meaningful. He was also very impressed with the students ICT and the fact that they were learning to code.

This caused the students to realise that they are quite privileged to belong to a cluster of schools that promotes the use of ICT, different media and programming skills, as it is not offered in all schools yet. We had a large discussion regarding this and they began to identify some of the other special skills that they have learnt so far, such as movie making and editing.

I look forward to hearing from past students in the future and learning which career path they decided to choose.