Saturday, 30 August 2014

Heights Teacher Only Day - Navigating Towards Relevant Schooling - 29th August 2014

I am going to attempt to explain how absolutely transformative and revolutionary today's professional development was.

Heights have significantly raised the bar for future professional development because the keynote that was given by Maurie Abraham (@maurieabraham), the Principal from Hobsonville Point Secondary School, was seriously that awesome.

I thank the Board of Trustees immensely for allowing that day to happen - for the organisation and the delicious kai at the Novotel and also for the bus journey into town as a Heights whanau which was as equally empowering.

Maurie - you have sparked that little revolution we have been having at our school - hopefully enough that there are some serious changes. Am not sure whether we would change into having 100 minute blocks, but the possibility that people may have heard your messages is even more important.

The revolutionists were spread throughout the room as were those who choose to stay as they are. I myself was sitting by our fabulous admin and teacher aides who are a mixture of change and tradition.

The minute I heard that Maurie was coming to talk to us I knew that there was going to be some inspired people. It was the reason I had nervous butterflies the night before and why I was walking around school with a bounce in my step that morning and why I kept saying 'Kia ora' in response to what Maurie was saying throughout his keynote.

I'm on the bandwagon. I got on promptly with my hands holding on tight at the start of the year in March when my eyes were opened by Steve Mouldey's (@GeoMouldey) presentation at the PPTA Issues and Organising conference on Hobsonville Point Secondary school and the way that their students are learning. Because it isn't about the flash technology or the beautiful new school. It is simply (and I thought quite obviously) about the way students are learning.

The way students should be learning today - as inquisitive, curious, problem-solving and collaborative young 21st century learners.

Maurie made some serious points today. I particularly liked the comments about how schools still don't allow cellphones to be used at school or how schools still enforced other archaic methods. The laughing from the staff saddened me because he had phrased the comment in a way where he wasn't targeting us at all - he had said something along the lines of - isn't it crazy that there are schools that ban cellphones at school? It was sad because that's what we do. And we haven't moved with the times or seen the value of our students having their own devices that they can use.

Maurie's style of keynote was great too - his panda birth and baby clip at the start made those who weren't sitting up and paying attention - pay attention. It was shockingly brilliant. I need to find it for my class. Haha. He had videos throughout his presentation which spoke to us - well to me anyway - and they helped break up what may have sounded to some as trying to push us into the 21st century.

The point is that we're already here. Been here for a while actually. For those resistant to change this may have sparked some questions about the way that they teach or their thinking around 21st century learning and teaching.

Maurie's keynote reflected thoughts I had from when I first watched Sir Ken Robinson's 'How Schools Kill Creativity' TedTalk at Waikato University during a session while training as a new teacher. That was back in 2010.

Maurie talked about how we continue to expect our students to sit down and pay attention - still teaching like we're in the 18th century within the industrial age. How teachers say that kids are naughtier now - are they? Or as Maurie said, have they just stopped accepting so much?

He made a very valid point about the fact that students live in an 18th century world at school, with bells and people to report to and people who are on their case about needing to learn more and better - and then when they leave the gates they're back in the 21st century world.

How are we teaching our students to be reflective, self-regulated learners if they are not given the chance to do so. They leave at 18, as Maurie said and don't know how to learn for themselves. They have to learn those skills later on.

Why aren't we teaching them those transferable skills now? The importance of being a motivated self-regulated learner, someone who will work well with a range of different people, someone who can collaborate, multitask and problem-solve.

You may say we are - but are we really? We enforce deadlines and give punishments when it hasn't been completed to satisfaction or on time.  We expect them all to be ready to be assessed at the same time. We expect that they will pay attention no matter how we are teaching them.

The overall point that Maurie was trying to make I think was that we need to be more aware of how our students are learning and prepare them for life - not just outside of school, but within it too. Enable our students to become self-regulating, inquisitive and collaborative learners by allowing that environment in our classrooms. Enable ourselves to be inquiring learners too. Never stop learning in fact.

We put too many roadblocks in front of our students. Why not take many of them away and allow them to create, evolve and grow?

Teach different. Don't allow the way you used to teach to become the norm. Adapt to new situations. Be comfortable and love that others are succeeding. Be encouraged by your failures because you will just try another way around it. Have goals and think about what you want to do to develop your teaching style to enable 21st century learners to learn. Be agentic. Be aware of a changing world around you. Focus of the many positives, and ignore the negatives. Find relevant professional development that will help in succeeding and achieving your goals. Develop a growth mindset. Challenge your way of thinking - that you've always done it that way - so why change? Challenge the way school is run - it doesn't have to be like that. Challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Be inquisitive. Be curious about the world around you. Learn with the students. Learn from the students. Share the 'power'. Teach students to be free-thinkers - constantly able to adapt to new situations, problem solve, collaborate and challenge resistance.

For pictures and tweets of the keynote - check out my Storify I collated of our #HeightsTOD discussion and note-taking:

I just want to say again - the hugest of thanks. Truly. Nga mihi nunui ki a koe e matakite. We appreciate all that you have said and done for us. It's up to us now to do something about changing our school for the better.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Relief Lessons - 27th August

As some of you may know I'm involved within the PPTA - primarily as the Branch Representative for Establishing Teachers and also as the Regional Rep for ET's too. Nationally, I was chosen to be a part of two committees for ET regional reps - the Establishing Teacher's Committee and also the Establishing Teachers Conference 2015 Organising Committee.

As part of the ETC today, I was in Wellington.

Yesterday was the first day I've ever not been excited about going. Mainly because I had thought I was going to be missing out on starting the new topic with my Y10s and then realised that I didn't have them until Thursday. So was back to being okay with going - but still felt bad for leaving - as I always do.

I make it my priority whenever I have to go away for the day, sick or otherwise, to provide the best relief ever.

The best relief I have learnt doesn't just mean that my students are learning the way I would teach them, but also easily explained, accessible relief for my colleagues or relievers to take care of while I'm away.

Part of this I have learnt is to not overcomplicate things. I am not, and never will be a teacher that hands out worksheets and expects that to be the learning of the day. Even when using workbooks where those kind of worksheets come from - there is always a lot of teaching going on in order for students to understand.. and then the feedback and feedforward for each student is then needed in the follow up.

So when I set relief I find it hard to set easy relief that the kids are 'happy' doing and that the reliever finds easy to manage.

I have never been a fulltime reliever. I have relieved lessons for colleagues and know the importance of making a good impression with new students - because there is always the possiblity of teaching them in the future. I don't know how difficult it is not having that relationship with a class in order to carry out relief. But I do know that whenever I have done relief for someone else, I try to do it as well as the teacher would. I go around to each group of students and ask them how they're going and whether they need any help (not that I can usually help them!) But I facilitate the learning and sharing of knowledge between students.

Anyway - the point was to talk about the relief I left for today's lessons!!

Y12. Continue working on editing creative writing for their portfolio and complete the report from 91107. Computers needed.

Y9. Continue watching Holes. The film study they are doing. Easy relief I suppose. Still needed to get students to write about the events and characters that they had learnt about since they last watched the first part.

Y11s. Probably the most indepth lesson. And last period too. Two sections of students - one section read The Hunger Games and the other read Noughts and Crosses.

HG students needed to analyse quotes and say who said it, what event they said it in and who they were saying it too. They then needed to think of a theme that related to the quote.

N&C students needed to choose a theme, think of historical events and parellel structures of the text. They needed to think about WHY the author did what she did and her parellelisms within her writing.

Both sections of students then needed to write at least one pgh about what they had learnt that lesson.

I organised print outs of information about historical events, themes and quotes into four -five groups for students to analyse and pick apart.

Tomorrow - I will check for essays, how well classes did for their relievers, how much learning went on and lastly what needs to happen next. I want to use hexagons again to reorganize students understanding of the text in more depth.

Great ideas. Tired me. Night!

Update on PledgeMe 2014

ULearn14 is going to be the most amazing opportunity. (Note that I'm talking as if I'm going... still hopeful!)

I have already started saving my own PD fund for next year's event.

In the meantime - I just wanted to say to you all that I truly appreciate all of the pledges thus far.
Makes me feel supported, inspired, acknowledged and thanked.

You guys are amazing.

Now just to do the final push toward the last half of the pledges. The aim is about $750 ($695 + GST) - of which $420 has already been raised.

Thank you. Thank you SO much.

Your belief in me continues my solidifying awareness that I am doing something worthwhile for my peers and leaders.

Nga mihi nui,


Second UPDATE:

Cognition have very graciously pledged $100 to my intent in going to ULearn14. This is huge. So amazing. So much so that I was left in a bit of a mess where the only coherent thing I could say on Twitter was: Wow. Thankyou. Wow. 

Thank you all SO much for your support. I truly truly appreciate it :)

After talking with my principal today and Maurie Abraham there is a possibility that the school might help pay for me to go to ULearn after all. I wonder whether she ever got the message that I had taken a proposal to our DP in charge of professional development at the start of last term... Will find out on Monday!! Watch this space :)

NZATE Journal - Blog Post Published

This week while cleaning up my classroom I found an unopened piece of mail in my to do tray on my desk.

I could barely contain my excitement during a particularly stressful session with my Y12 students on finding the 'English in Aotearoa' journal - Information Literacy.

On the inside cover was the note:
" Many thanks Alex
- Steve"

I looked at the contents page while quickly trying to remember who Steve was and why I was sent this.

My name! On the contents page! Page 32!

Flipping through the pages, I read my name twice more on page 32 and the post from my blog on why I chose to do a workshop on Twitter.

Wow. Thank you Steve.

I had totally forgotten that I'd agreed for one of my blog posts to be added to the journal. What a fabulous opportunity.

Thanks go out to my Y13 students who pushed me into making the decision to do the workshop in the first place. If I hadn't opened that email during class with the query of whether I could do a workshop on Twitter by one of the organisers... and If I hadn't been visibly excited... and if my students hadn't asked me what was going on - all of this wouldn't have happened.

It's those seemingly small moments that can create a beautiful horizon of opportunities.

So grateful. Thank you to my colleague R for finding my one spelling mistake while reading the article. ;)

Have since shown the majority of my students in my classes and when showing them all I do is hold the page open with one finger by my name. They look at the page, look up at me, back at the book and go,  "Wow Miss!" And that's basically the coolest thing to see them proud of me, happy for me and stoked that their English teacher has been published in a book.

It's the first time I've been published as a teacher. My first journal article was published as an honours student, while studying medical history.

Am so stoked for myself.

My colleagues are proud of me.

My Mum and Nan too. Haven't told my Gran because she has been having a horrendous time with her health recently, and Dad is still focussed with the rugby girls. I wonder if they won their game on the weekend..

Stoked. Thanks again for the opportunity.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Imposter Syndrome - Newbie Teaching

Having another moment of "jeez I'm awesome." Why? Am talking with a friend of mine who is a newbie teacher in her first term. She is freaking out, stressed and feeling like an imposter. We've all been there. Right? I know I have. Still feel like that a lot. But tonight I have my mentoring potae on.

Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? Go on - Google it. I'll wait right here.

Weird aye.

So the strange thing is it happens to a lot of us. We don't feel 'enough' for some reason. And don't feel capable of doing x 'properly' or as well as someone who actually 'knows what they're doing'.

When it comes down to it, isn't it better feeling a little self-conscious or a little nervous that you could have done it differently - than being arrogant and thinking that you know everything?

This is part of my conversation with my friend:

"Just knowing that you are making a difference. One mate said to me when I asked her the same thing - she said "We know you're probably going to mess up at some point and that's okay. You're still learning." While it was kind of shocking she'd said that it kind of made me accept it better."

"Get some feedback from students and ask them what else they need to cover before the exams. Just keep going. Ask those stupid questions and dont be scared of sounding dumb. Just do it. Coz if your support people dont know you need help then how are they meant to help? :)"

"Keep those expectations humming. And be yourself. When they start to see you for you then their attempts at trying to break you will stop."

"You'll be ok. Just think - "there's got to be an easier way to do this" and there usually is. Just find the path of least resistance."

And that's as truthful as I can be.

At the end of my day at school, if I know in some way I have made a difference even to one student then my whole day is worth it. For example, the one past student who showed me her debating speech afterschool while I was in the reading room working on relief. She has matured into this brilliant and coherent Y11 student and is now showing her thoughts, with pride in her heart - it oozes from her, the way she talks, walks and smiles. So good to see this change in her. She showed me, accepted my bits and pieces of feedback stoicly and then when I said how proud of her I was (because I truly am) there was this obvious glow about her. She smiled. Lifted herself and her shoulders even higher. Said thanks Miss and walked off to finish her speech.

If you have somehow made an effort with one student - and the probability is that on a daily basis you encounter and deal with more than 100 students daily - then you're making a difference. Hopefully a good one too :)

There will always be those times when you need to learn more. Why not learn from your students? They are often the experts in the room. Share the power. Don't be a hog. Learn from your students, let them be the teacher and see what it's like - to empart knowledge and thoughts.

Be inspiring. Be yourself and above all else. Keep doing what you're doing.

Because the matter of the fact is that if you weren't asking these questions about your teaching practice - then I'd be worried. Being a reflective practitioner is what it is all about. Think and rethink in how to do things differently and how your practice affects your students. It's healthy.

You can only do what you can do. In five years time you will look back at this and be able to help someone else through the journey.

Nga mihi nui ki a koe e hoa ma.

Ka haere tonu ki te taumata me te whetu. :)

Update on Google Classroom

Frustrated. Been working hard this entire term on getting my Y12s used to Google Drive and majority of them have made the switch relatively easy. The trick though is to work between both digital and paper fluidly and fluently.

And then when trying to invite my students to Classroom.. it says I can't. Why? Because they don't have the school domain name. Gah. At least it's something that is relatively easy to fix. Just depends how quick it is resolved.

Either way I've got them handing in their work through Drive and email so that's good.

Lost one student's piece of writing in the move from the workroom to my class. I can even visualise the coversheet of his work. It is stressing me out to no end. Feeling absolutely awful. On the bright side, my class, car, workroom and house are now all tidy in my hunt for it! Gah.

Update on Growth Mindset

Two things.

One student said today that he was stoked he was nearly finished his 3rd paragraph of his essay. I said, yup that's good. Now keep going.

Halfway through finishing he said, I dont think I would ever have thought I was able to do this at the start of the year. I looked up from my marking and smiled. He said, Growth mindset aye miss.

Naaaw. SO proud. My year 11s are amazing.


I did this interview with a Y11 a couple of weeks ago. One day I will sit down and actually transcribe it too. Such a cool interview. Miss doing public history stories.

Will see if I can upload it to Soundcloud and put the link on here.. He has given me his permission to put it on the blog. Just need to double check it's okay to put on Soundcloud.

Update: Have uploaded it to Soundcloud as an unlisted private file.

Here is the Interview below:

Student Leadership

There's no point to student leadership if they're not actually leading. Over the past week I've been talking to key students about how they lead at school. Some do it without a badge and some do it with one too. Most students don't see themselves as leaders without a badge and this is sad because they are all amazing.

At the start of each year there is a rush to preen in order to be chosen for student leadership and when the names come out there are always disappointed students. I love that we have our new house groups at school and that they give the opportunity for those amazing leaders who missed out on a Prefects badge to lead the house, culturally, academically, sporting, and through sheer will.

I would love our leaders to be doing more inspirational speeches at assemblies and working with the juniors. They have great advice and seeing them support each other is awesome. Because these are life skills. We have taught them the expectations and values we have at Heights and we need to allow them to do something with them.

I have loved being a part of the different groups this year because I see the leadership, mentoring, teaching and learning that goes on collaboratively. I take pictures and have evidence of their teaching in case they ever need references and I can attest to their brilliancs with pure evidence. It can also be used to gain credits in assessments too.

The student council can make huge changes when the student voice is listened to. When I was at school the student council was imperative. No change would have happened without it. We had student led assemblies and big prize draws at the end of each term and the end of year assembly was awesome. As part of SADD, Yellow Ribbon and the 40Hr Famine team, we were able to have a captive audience and could inspire and advise our teina about the inportance of keeping safe and being aware of others and what they go through.

Seeing S yesterday with a new Y9 is exactly what a leader is meant to do. She awhi'd her and told the girls in my class to look after her and when I left S to it outside I knew I could rely on her to make a positive impact on this girl's life and also on the girls from my class.

I was gutted that I never got any leadership roles when I was at school, but it was very much a popularity contest then - not to say that those who got in weren't good leaders when it came to it, because they were - and the voting was always conducted in form class where you could all pick the same. Voting should be done with speeches, campaigns and proper voting booths. So that students are informed. They're not just picking off a massive list - most of them not knowing who they all are. If you are passionate about being a leader you should be expected to stand up and lead from the get go.

It's what I did with the Interact club this year at Changeover and it quickly stopped those who just wanted the position for the sake of having it. Now we have true leaders who lead from the front.

At prizegiving at the end of the year - I was so angry at the school for not awarding me any prizes - or so I thought. Mrs Thomas asked me if I was going to prizegiving and I asked why. She said I needed to be there. I was angry because I had done so much for the school and hadn't gotten any acknowledgement of the work I had done for my school. And then.. lo and behold. They called my name out just before they awarded Dux. I was awarded the Community Service award for commitment to the school and supporting others.

And it's the same with our students now - they don't lead because no one has told them they're capable - though we have they just don't have a badge to prove it. Am pretty sure S doesn't have a prefects badge. Yet she is still a leader.

Every student is. They just need the opportunity.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Next Blogging Challenge

Am thinking about creating a new blogging challenge... where we need to choose our top 5 blog posts we've read, link them, share them....

Any other challenge ideas?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Brief Post that Should be several posts..

1) Had a bit of a moment last night where I finally was able to relax but then overthought and got frustrated and upset. Colleagues on and off Twitter and friends on FB helped too. Now feeling a lot better because I have had a good sleep, food, thought about and released all that pent up stress...

2) Just got feedback from a colleague in Science about the SOLO hexagons I shared with her and another colleague last week - and how useful they were in her class. She said that some were connecting them in lines and other ways too and that they may not have been doing it 'properly' but students were having those well-loved and hard fought for 'lightbulb' moments - and one of her students said "Miss, I feel really smart!" That's awesome. :)

3) I marked. Heaps. Actually was able to use my two non-contacts effectively instead of running around after the rugby girls getting them organised and off on the vans etc.

4) So glad the season is finally over. Am re-thinking my extra-curric activities I help with...

5) Asked KidsCan for help with sponsoring our Breakfast Club.

6) Still want to go to ULearn - need to do more of a push with the fundraising/pledging via my PledgeMe account.

7) My students were literally CALLING OUT to me yesterday in reading room - asking to read Shakespeare. Seriously. Why? Because of the amazing Heemi MacDonald's (@tintinskywalker) Reading Fitness programme. LOVE IT.

8) I want to do the next #Edchatnz blogging challenge

9) Still need to choose four topics to have a vote on for #engchatnz

10) Looking forward to dinner with the Establishing Teachers from the Bay of Plenty tonight at PignWhistle

11) That not everyone wants to use Twitter. So I do the Nekeneke thing - and find the ones that do - or could see it being effective. I've found one person who sees the light and wants to create a PLC with me about using tech in class.

12) There still is never enough time

13) Can't make everyone happy.

14) Can only make myself happy and appreciate what I do for my own students.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Inaugural #edchatnz Conference 2014

Wow. I made it.

I was so worried that I wasn't going to be able to go. I wasn't allowed to go on the Friday. I was truly gutted. Not only because I wouldn't be able to see the speakers on N4L and the modern learning environment at Hobsonville Point Secondary School but because I'd miss out on that first day of fan girly squee. I was so looking forward to meeting all my friends face to face for the first time and I spent Friday at school wishing I was in Auckland with them instead. It felt like everyone else had gone to Disneyland without me.

I went up Friday night, nervous butterflies in my stomach. Had dinner with my bestie Steven and Nick who cooked the most amazing dinner yet. Must be all of those MKR episodes they've been watching. Dragged Steven along with me to meet my friends at Marina Restaurant and Bar.  I knew I'd be fine once I got there but just needed him for a tiny bit of support but mostly so he could see how amazing these Twitter connections I've been making are.

When walking in I saw Mr Beech (@beechEdesingnz) - who promptly told me I need to start calling him Terry.  Matt Nicoll stood up and gave me a massive hug. Was SO cool to finally meet him. They walked me and Steven over to the rest of our friends at the table still. Terry said, "Danielle is over there in the hoody." Had no idea where she was. Was expecting someone with black hair like her shadowy profile pic haha.

Before I carry on - I must say how incredibly surreal and weird it is meeting people who you know but who you haven't ever met. Making those connections with my colleagues over Twitter has been so transformative for me as a teacher, a future leader and for my own personal growth.
Matt introduced me to the table - Anne-Marie, Monika, Danielle and a few others who I hadn't talked with before.

Meeting Danielle was the coolest experience. She turned around and said, "Hi Alex" and I said, "Danielle?" They had had a massive day of hugs and meeting each other and other than Matt this was my first time I was meeting one of my eduheroes. I reverted to a nervous fangirl haha and when she stood up and said, "Alex Le Long!" We hugged it out, and I went and sat down trying not to stare at her. I was so excited and happy to finally meet her! Seriously. The weirdest feeling meeting people you know you know but haven't met face to face yet.

Next meeting was with Monika Kern who I had done a few twitter chats and learnt from during a TeachMeet and catching up with Anne-Marie Hyde who is my Twitter mentor from Rotorua :)
We were sitting down and talking for ages when eventually I was sitting next to an English woman, Matt and a new guy I met that night. The new guy - Heraun? - was telling me I should talk to the lady by Matt about whatever we had been talking about because she worked at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I looked at her again, then said, "Ros?" She looked at me and I said who I was. We both stood up and I jumped up and down a little haha another fangirly moment - and then sat down again explaining to Steven who this amazing person was and how I talk with her all the time on Twitter.

It must have been weird for Steven even though he's a teacher too - to see me speaking so openly with people I had only just met face to face. But the reality is that I've been talking with these friends for months. Intellectual conversations around best practice, struggles, needing mentoring, gaining advice, inspiration and friendship. Hard too for him because he only ever hears an "It's fine" from me when he asks about how things are going on the phone and hearing the detail I went into with my Twitter mates must have been a bit strange.

The last amazing meet ups I had that night was when Matt took me to meet Philippa and while talking with her, two people walked over to say good bye to them - and as they were walking out - he'd said, "That's @Ginippi." I was trying to be all cool after meeting everyone so far that night, and in the end I couldn't do it and ran out the door, down the steps calling out to Gin. Massive hug again, introductions to another teacher (not on Twitter...yet!) and then they left. 

The next morning I was equally nervous because I was just that excited to check out the school, meet my friends and knew I was in for an awesome day of workshops and presentations.

Personalised PD at it's best.

Started the day with the Face to Face Twitter meet up. It was so cool. Met so many of my friends that morning. @BridgetLCM, @MrsRodgers, @geomouldey, @mrsmoorenz,  @dancewellNZ, @emPOWERed  met loads of new people too.

Danielle led a Twitter chat right there with us tweeting our group mates' thoughts and ideas about the conference so far and their Twitter experiences.

We talked about being the "lone nut" and the importance of remembering our amazing PLN that supports and keeps dancing with us.

Next up was the Personalising SOLO workshop with Andrea Hensen (@andrea_hensenNZ) which was awesome. I learnt so much and also had lots of things clarified as well. There was one guy who seemed like a bit of a heckler but I think he was just trying to understand the taxonomy in more depth and in how it would relate to him and his students. 

During Morning Tea, I was walking aimlessly trying to find some more friends - but it's so hard in a room full of people where you don't really know what they look like properly. I thought about tweeting out to everyone and say, "Hi Guys! I'm by X." But thought it was a bit silly - so instead kept walking around until I bumped into Sarah again and we looked for friends together. haha. 

Finally bumped into a few people Sarah knew - and started talking about how the conference was going. By this stage we were all very used to people grabbing our lanyards and turning them over to see who we were talking to. Mine was turned and then there was a bit of a squeal  - I turned hers over and jumped up and down because I'd just met the one and only @annekenn. 

Caught up and met @raewyndonnell, @MaryWomble, @

Next up was Ros Maceachern's workshop on 'A Brave New World'. She talked about her journey within Hobsonville Point Secondary School and then got us into our curriculum areas. We were asked to think about systems and how they would work in our setting. 

Of course, the English teachers were onto it and got their ideas down (on post-it notes of course!) and then we needed to think about the process in which we were explaining the idea of systems and how to teach it. 

We chose societies - absolutely perfect for my current topics around 'The Hunger Games' and 'Noughts and Crosses'. 

We discussed the different texts we could use to show this and more importantly how we would teach it. Thematically, using the wider context and current events to help deepen understanding. 

Pics to come:

After this, I went to the next workshop which was the one with Pam Hook on SOLO in the classroom. 

She absolutely blew my mind. Such a fabulous workshop. Brilliant ideas and inspiration. 

Taught us about SOLO - from the source. So clear. Like @BridgetCasse said - it's about the learning. It's all just learning. 

She explained hexagons and how to use the rubric generator. I finally get it. 

Pics to come: 
After her fantastic workshop we went into the auditorium for the keynote speaker from @karenmelhuishspencer and learnt about learning again. This time digital literacy and research. 

Lastly, we had a massive ending empowerment speech from Danielle where she asked the room who was on Twitter. I put my hand up and looked around the room. Nearly everyone put their hand up. Stoked. 

Felt so good to be a part of this massively connected PLN. 

Loads of prizes were handed out and then thankyous to the Steering Committee and goodbyes with all of our favourite people. 

I stayed behind and hung out with Ros - got some great resources for 91107 and suggestions for 91101 and ideas for how to do the close viewing assessment better. 

She gave me a tonne of resources for Noughts and Crosses and The Hunger Games too. Thanks also to Katie for her resources - and the many others who answered my call for help over the English forums. 

Was great catching up with you all face to face. I look forward to the next time :)

Nga mihi nui ki a koe,


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Twitter Journey - Paper Tweets with Year Nines

So today we begun some more writing challenges - with a focus on reading mileage and a beginning session on using Twitter in a live chat.

1) Promoting and developing a Reading Community - one that chooses to read rather than one forced to read...
2) Encouraging more positive behaviours through collaborative group and class work
3) Encouraging oral/aural listening skills through verbal questions and written answers on paper

We started the lesson with students writing down as many books that they could remember reading - for some I added the "since the beginning of time" suggestion. I asked them to choose their favourite ones and write down what each one was about and also why they enjoyed them the most.

It was surprising seeing the reading mileage by a few particular students - they're not particularly 'strong' readers and one student said today that she was "forced" to read that many. Surely though.. even if she did just have a good memory - could this be a simple cry for help? She remembered at least 20 books in under 2 minutes. When in the reading room in our set reading timetabled period - she sits there reading - but doesn't seem to enjoy it. I really want to help her love reading.

To do this - I was talking to Bridget Compton-Moen (@BridgetLCM) about the 40 Book Challenge from Donalyn Miller's 'The Book Whisperer'. I want to start a ridiculously enjoyable experience of reading in my English classes - particularly with my Y9's. Up until now we've had quite a few disruptive terms - with students leaving to go to alternative education and then coming back and then going again - the class dynamic has changed at least 3 or 4 times and we're finally at a good point in the dynamics where the majority of the kids wanting to learn outweigh the kids who don't really care. The reading mileage has been good, but I still want to measure it - with a few dyslexic students, others with other learning issues and behaviour management issues - it's been difficult measuring their reading - other than through verbal conferencing between myself and students individually.

For this lesson though - the focus was getting some quick feedback halfway through the year in how they're doing and what they're enjoying, struggling with and what they would like to do more of in English.

Before we began with the rules of the game - I asked them to group themselves with two others (groups of 3) with one person who reads a lot, someone who reads a bit, and another who doesn't read much at all.

In their groups they needed to then create handles individually which they wrote in their spelling books. Half will now be used for spelling and half for Twitter practice.

The Rules: Like any Good Twitter Chat :)

1) Every tweet they write needs to have the hashtag - #Y9English
2) They can only say up to 10 words (to fit into the 140 character limit)
3) They need to answer the questions - A1. (response) #Y9English, A2 and so on..

The questions we used:

Q1. What's your name and where are you from?
Q2. What have you enjoyed so far about English this year?
Q3. What subjects do you not enjoy/struggle with at school?
Q4. What makes these subjects not as enjoyable?
Q5. What are three things you have learnt so far this year in English?
Q6. What do you get frustrated with in English?
Q7. What does Miss L do to help you in English?
Q8. What would you like to learn more about in English?
Final Q. What do you think Miss L needs to do better/differently in class?

These questions were chosen to assess their learning, my teaching and also what else I need to do to help my students achieve to the best of their abilities.

Issues during the Mock-Twitter Chat

Some students were initially not wanting to get involved for a few reasons:
1) Felt that they weren't allowed to do Twitter at home so did not want to try on paper in class
2) Said that they had been blocked for some reason from Twitter
3) Didn't understand the task

Out of 23 students - I had 6 students who were being rude, disengaged and unfocussed - they were onto it at different points of the chat but I held them back during interval to discuss their behaviour and how disrepectful it had become.

I hardly ever yell. With one particular student he says I'm "too soft" - that phrase again. I understand why he says that from his point of view and he may very well be correct in saying that I'm not hard enough with him as a result.

Issues in Using Twitter in Class

I have not asked parents yet about using Twitter in class - mostly because we're not actually using it as Twitter yet - but we are using twitter terms like hashtags, questioning and answering structures and handles.

Visibility in Going Forward
I want to make everything I'm doing incredibly visible - transparent even - so that everyone knows what I'm doing in my class - and so that the students can be proud of the work they have done.

In order to do that properly I need to do a few different things:

1) Talk to Principal
2) Talk to BOT and Deputy Principal in charge of IT
3) Double check policies on Cybersafety that students have already signed with their enrolment forms
4) Create a class policy on Digital Citizenship
5) Talk to parents and whanau and ask them about their concerns and issues with students doing this
6) Talk with students about using Twitter appropriately - even if we only begin with a Class Twitter account for starters
7) Set up a Class Twitter account '@EvolvingatHeightsand' maybe and a Class Blog - 'Evolving at Heights' to further showcase student's learning :)
8) Talk with those running @kidsedchatnz and @NZWaikato about blogging and twitter
9) Use this evidence as a base to make sure everything is on board.

I would like to do another Twitter chat in class - perhaps this time on small sheets of paper with the students' handles on it and put them up on the whiteboard or windows to share students' thinking.

If I get the students' permission about sharing their tweets - I will take some pics and put them up here :)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

On the Importance of Commenting on Blog Posts...

Kia ora ano whanau,

Well passed my bed time - however there is one more post I need to write for now -

During the recent #edchatnz conference we talked about the importance of commenting on each others' blog posts. We talked about the kinds of teachers and parents who read our blogs and yet might not be on Twitter. There is a HUGE blog reading community that we need to engage with. To do that better we agreed we would be more active in writing comments to each other for blog posts.

So far I have read at least 8 different blog posts in the last two days - and I have commented on at least six of them.

Why do we need to do this? To role model good commenting practice for our students. To share our thanks and thoughts to the person who wrote and made public their own ideas. To make public our own experiences and ability to connect relationally with the person in which we are reading about. But above all of that - it's polite, good digital citizenship practice and gives a tiny bit more oomph to the person writing so that they'll continue and know that they have a following..

The stats are all well and good - but it's nice to get that connection with your followers too :)

So comment up a storm. Comment on Twitter too, but make sure you comment also comment on the post you read.

And thanks for reading and learning with me on my own journey thus far :) Hope you keep on reading too and sharing your stories and thoughts with me :)

- A

#edchatnz Blogging Meme 2014

"I want to keep the connections going and make more connections. So maybe a blogging meme will work." Reid Walker @ReidHns1

Well Reid - you've begun a bit of a viral meme I must say! Finally I'm getting on to it.

Thanks to +Bridget Casse (@bridgetcasse), +Alyx Gillett (@chasingalyx) and Mike Boon (@boonman) for tagging me :)

So here goes:

The Blogging Meme from #edchatnz

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn't)
I attended virtually from Rotorua while still at school though still need to read Storify's and more blogs to see what else I missed out on for the first day of #edchatnz. On the Saturday it was overwhelmingly and excitingly face to face! :) So cool! :D

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
Just me :) I think a few of my colleagues from school may have been lurking but they haven't told me yet.

3.How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
1, 2, 3, 4, I missed out on 4 because I was too nervous to ask for one with +Pam Hook (@arti_choke) and too much of a fan girly mess to ask for one with +Danielle Myburgh (@missdtheteacher) and too in awe of my amazing friend +Ros MacEachern (@rosmaceachern) who I learnt loads from to ask for one with her either. I am usually totally selfie trigger happy. Was way too overwhelmed and overjoyed to be there.

Did 7, possibly did 8 but not sure, probably did 9 but again not sure, I was in a Grelfie with a tonne of #edchatnz Tweachers which was taken by +Steve Mouldey (@geomouldey) - does that count?

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
Ros, Danielle and +Matt Nicoll (@mattynicoll)

Ros - SOLO, big projects, the Brave world in which we work in everyday, how the curriculum doc is set out in particular areas in which we can then assess and work within, life lessons from my Twitter EduHero and also some fabulous insights into how to do assessments better.
Danielle - embracing the lone nut, being proud of what I've achieved thus far, that I can become a complete fangirly jumping and nearly crying mess when first meeting her in person. lol. :) Thanks for being as excited to meet me too, saying "Alex Le Long!" and hugging me - it made the entire experience so much more amazing :P
Matt - embracing the crazy and doing it anyway (onesie time), importance of being the lone nut and dancing anyway because everyone supports each other, that in a crowded room of Tweachers meeting f2f for the first time - he can make me laugh at myself like I do at home when he says something witty and hilarious - in the way where I use too many Um's - "Got that Alex?" haha.

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
Jeez. Can I just say all of Friday? Um... Maurie's keynote sounded amazing. Would have liked to talk with Andy Schick and the people from Netsafe. Would have liked to have caught up with Catherine Delahunty again too.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned?
I'm choosing four people - 
My principal - so she could see how big this thing is. And so she could understand why I was a bit (okay a lot) heartbroken at not being able to go on the Friday - and also so that she could be exposed to the amazingness of our education revolution :)
The DP in charge of IT - so she could meet some of the amazing people I connect with on a daily basis and begin using her Twitter account more effectively :) She has passion and has the ideas and the ways to implement it - but having advice from others who have already done it would be beneficial for her I think :)
My amazing friends Clare and Jane - Clare is a new teacher and Jane is an experienced teacher. Both would have loved this experience and gained so much from it.
Next year! :P

7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?
Yes! Loads!!!! But I was truly gutted to miss two in particular - Micheala Pinkerton (@kaiako_nz) and Toni Cliffin (@tcliffin).

Because I've talked to both so much online and they've helped me HEAPS! :)

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why?
Pam Hook's textbooks - my amazing HOD bought them for us last term when I kept going on and on about how I wanted to learn about SOLO and I only ever read bits and pieces. Now that I've got the SOLO bug again I reckon I'll be able to chew through them quickly :)

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?
Keep smiling and be the lone nut. Allow myself to help others to integrate tech into their classes and be positive and supportive when they ask for help or acknowledgement of their changing growth mindsets, stay humble and don't get a big head about what I do on Twitter and how many people came up to me to thank me for being inspirational. I truly appreciate all of those comments - they floored me. Each time. Mainly because I don't see what I'm doing as inspirational - it's just what I do. And also because your toughest critic is always yourself :P

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
Always. :) Did just that today - well kind of. I need to get better at stepping right back and letting the learning happen organically because my students are amazing :)

Who will I tag with this meme:

Bringing SOLO Back

Before blogging about how amazing #edchatnz was - I need to write about the first of (what I'm hoping will be) many successes this year after #edchatnz - and because of it!

For those of you who read my blog - and for those of you who don't - this year I have been learning how to use SOLO and more importantly, how to use it effectively to improve my students' learning.

For info on what SOLO is - check out a few of my previous posts on SOLO here:
First Lesson with SOLO Taxonomy
SOLO Continued with Year 11's and V for Vendetta
SOLO Taxonomy and PBL Interrelated Yet Again

As well as Pam Hook's website - Hooked. Look at the SOLO rubric generator in the apps page and also the lesson outcomes and hexagon maker :) There are some fabulous HOT maps as well in her books. Check them out :)

Today I taught all five of my classes. No rest for the wicked, as they say. The only classes which I didn't go over SOLO with today were my Year 9 class as they were in the reading room (a post to come about that soon after this one) and with my Y13s as they are working on their Pecha Kucha's and beginning to mature and ask big 'What am I going to do with my life next year?' questions so we get off and on track too easily as it is. Using SOLO with them would be good but need to do it to them rather than with them as we'd get stuck on the 'Inception' side of the terminology and levels of going too deep rather than focussing on the task at hand.

So - from the beginning. 

Year 11's. The original adopters. They get SOLO. They use the language, the symbols and they can explain to myself, themselves, others and observers of the lesson what we are doing, learning and more importantly, what their next step is.

Today we were working on character development in 'The Hunger Games' and 'Noughts and Crosses', and more importantly, working towards understanding how characters relate to each other and the way in which we can connect them with other world leaders and people (past and present) so they can gain a wider contextual awareness.

Here is an example of the collaborative process from this lesson - where we discussed SOLO again and how it is important to know how we're learning in order to learn better. They understood how the levels worked within NCEA and how the differentiated learning outcomes and statements could help them determine which level they were starting at.

We discussed the fact that it didn't matter which level you were starting at as there would be times when you'd get to a point and then have to go back to pre-structural and uni-structural to gather more information about something in order to show that deeper analysis.

We collaborated with the different activities that they could do - I wrote less activities than I could have  - and found that as I went they didn't need that many either because they were using those activities as benchmarks and created their own in order to best showcase their understanding.

One student said in order to understand the characters' personalities and how they compared with other real life people, he needed to talk about the kind of person they were through their actions and events that they were involved in. This was brilliant because all I had written was 'complete a personality trait table'. He read into it and chose his own way to show what he understood. He said that by doing it that way he would be able to better explain how the characters could relate to real world examples of people (past and present).

Am incredibly proud of this class. This is the second time in two weeks where our Y11 teacher aide has been able to pop into our class and I've heard her ask the same questions that I ask and it's so awesome hearing the students being able to articulate what they're learning, how and more importantly why. So so proud of them. Truly growth mindset kids.

Year 12's. They too get SOLO but have a bit more of a 'teach us rather than discuss the ideas with us' model within their class which is always hard to move from after the collaborative nature of the Year 11 class I have this year.

Today we were working on how creators (in our case NZTA) use driving ad's to effectively persuade and have an impact on teenagers (in our case NZTA's target audience) in how they behave in and around cars.

This is yet another example of the terminology, explanations of the symbols and what the terminology means, and the differing learning outcomes. Activities are on the side in orange. :)

Most of this lesson was taken up by explaining SOLO again - waiting for printing to be collected from the library - though the printer in the English dept is now working again with my laptop - so won't need to wait so long any more :) We talked through a new assessment sheet to collate their data in order to show their understanding for the task of close viewing. Up until that point I wasn't sure what I could use to actually mark them on their understanding of the close viewing. So thanks to Ros MacEachern (@rosmaceachern) I now have an awesome resource, which I was able to share with my department this afternoon as well :) Thanks Ros!!

Year 10's. They too get SOLO. They see how it all interconnects. They're learning how to learn and they think it's cool that they can pinpoint what place they're at and what they need to work on next. They're able as well to communicate their own learning - with these simple questions as I walk around the room.

- So what level are you working at today/right now?/What level are you working towards today?
- What do you need to do to move on to the next level?
- What are working on right now that will help you achieve this learning outcome?
- Cool, so after you've completed this - what do you need to do next?
- Awesome. You've completed this. Not quite 'done' yet though ... what do you need to do next to understand x in more depth?

9 times out of 10 they have an answer. The one time that they don't is when they either need to think about the next step, need to look at the board for possible activities to do next, or need to learn more about SOLO and how it works in order to keep going.

Today we were working on how events in 'The Bone Tiki' help us in our understanding of the narrative structure of the text as well as how the events help to develop the characters. We thought about the ways in which we can then link the events towards an outside worldview and how we can compare and contrast our understanding of the events to help us understand the characters in more depth.

After the lesson, I worked with one student on her 'homework' as she will be away for the next two weeks at Koroneihana in Huntly for Kiingi Tuheitia. Great experience for her as well to bring back to our class. We worked through the SOLO levels again and then discussed the next aspects of the novel study we were going to be working towards completing while she was away - Events, Characters and Themes in 'The Bone Tiki'.

 With each aspect she drew the symbols and we worked on the differing levels to achieve the next step. We completed the characters aspect and added some differentiated activities as we went so that she can complete the themes one at home now that she knows the verbs and phrases in order to show her understanding of the next levels to go deeper in her analysis.

From Pam Hook's discussion on the use of hexagons in SOLO - I created some quick ones for her to cut up and use when she got home and then drew an example of what I meant by the character personality traits and comparison with real life tangata table. She asked me if she could just have the one I drew on the coloured paper - so cut that out as well. While I was cutting out both of these little examples - I had her write down a few of the main characters from 'The Bone Tiki' to show her what I meant by connecting the characters together - and then how that understanding is developed further by explaining how those relationships are connected visually by giving examples as to the how. Eg. Puarata, Matiu and Wiri - how these three are interconnected and why - the bone tiki and the events, quotes, personality traits - quite similar to Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort and the scar I guess. 

Here is the link to the Hexagon's for 'The Bone Tiki' I just created through Pam Hook's Hexagon generator :) 

Anyway - this was my day of SOLO. 

Each time I use it, I see how effective it is, and that the students get it. Each time it gets easier to understand and after the #edchatnz conference I understand much more in how to use it and how to effectively develop my students understanding of how to learn by having very clear and visible learning outcomes and objectives. 

Eventually the process won't take as long and the students will get used to having a benchmark of the kinds of activities they could do for each task and so that side of it would become easier as well because they're learning how to learn by learning. One of my students said today that it was like Inception - 'Learnception'. Thought it was a very apt way of describing SOLO. 

The HUGEST thank-you to Andrea Hensen (@andreahensen_NZ) and Pam Hook (@arti_choke) for sharing your understandings and advice during your workshops. Am incredibly thankful and my students are achieving every day - particularly today and the other days where we have done SOLO properly and even when we haven't because SOLO was always in the back of my mind when creating activities. Now I just have a better grasp on how to use it. Thank-you thank-you thank-you :) Nga mihi nunui ki a korua. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Posts to come this week

1) Blogging #edchatnz Meme
2) #edchatnz reflections (one done so far - on using SOLO in class)
3) Update on how far I've gotten with my to-do list after #edchatnz
4) My experience as an emerging leader - #engchatnz, Rotaract and PPTA stuff. And where to from here.
5) Halfway thankyou point during this yes year.

To-Do List after #edchatnz

Thanks to @boonman himself for this awesome blog post! 

My To-Do List after the #edchatnz conf to continue the revolution -

1) Create a sign up sheet for my colleagues to learn more about Twitter this Thursday afternoon. Some have already said that they want to get started. Just need to know how and why.

2) I will ask my students what they want our classroom to look like in their learning environment. They will have complete ownership. I miss my class being really decorative and colourful and above all else, effective. I will exert a growth mindset in regards to the exams and having to take it all down to put it back up next year with the new student's ideas.

3) I will create a class blog to share what my students are up to in my class. They need to summarise the lesson. A five minute summary with videos like how @mattynicoll does it.

4) I will promote my Ulearn14 PledgeMe project and go to the bank this week to ask for help.
UPDATE: Day One after #edchatNZ - have posted it via Twitter and Facebook. 
UPDATE: Day One at School after #edchatNZ - My fabulous Twitter PLN have ReTweeted it for me and I already have a couple of pledges. Thankyou! :) 

5) I am going to help with #connectedrotorua and get more Heights staff along for Connected Educator's month.

6) I am going to find a balance between learning, work and volunteering priorities, family and friends.

7) There are still tonnes of eggs to lay and hatch.
UPDATE: Day One at School after #edchatnz - found another lone nut! Just need to hook her in and get her onto Twitter so she can dance with us :)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Scratching the Surface: Stereotypes and Mindsets

Just thought about a comment I made to a student a couple of days ago. He was getting frustrated with this group of boys in my class and he said, "Should just give them a punch to stop them looking, that's the Maori way." I looked at him, and said "No it's not. The Maori way is to talk about it and sort it out." I should also mention that he then looked down at his book, where afterwards when I talked about the issue with him and why he was hurting - he was honest, talked about it and then relaxed and got back into his work passionately and happily.

How often do we let these flippant comments slide and not scratch deeper at what's actually happening?

I'm pretty quick. I refuse to let racism and racist terminolgy enter my classroom, particularly when particular stereotypes negatively affect my students minds and opinions of themselves and their ability.

There's a few issues in his statement. Let's break them down.
1. Straight away there's the thought that the way to solve the issue is by violence and therefore he must see violence at home as a way to solve issues. This may not be the case at all.
2. Another assumption: that he thinks it's normal to say and think like that. And that it's normal to be violent.
3. That it's the Māori way.

Firstly, in no means shape or form am I a counsellor. I would love to move into that side eventually because it's that reason that I got into teaching. To help people and more importantly, help where I see a need.

The biggest need I see every day is that our students don't have growth mindsets. They think that for whatever reason, they can't do x. This is not to say that every student has a fixed mindset about English and other subjects but there are a number of students who don't feel confident in sharing themselves and their ideas.

When I'm in class and talk to my students I use empowerment tools. I teach my students the importance of standing alone and being proud of who they are. I hope that they feel like they can talk to me about anything - and they do and whatever is too much for me to even think about let alone deal with - I pass it on.

When I was in my first year teaching I was in danger of getting too caught up in my students lives. I hadn't learnt the line yet. I know it now. But that year was invaluable. I learnt so much as a newbie teacher and was taught by some amazing social workers in regards to a few other empowerment tools such as Rock and Water and Mana Potential. Still. I refer way more now than I did then. Because back then I was in saving mode and thought I really could save the world. But like Sarah Kay says, our hands will always be too small to catch every bit of pain we see in the world.

Also, I trust our system and have complete faith that our guidance counsellors will follow up on any names I give them.

Of course, my core business is always teaching English, but as someone who trained in social studies and History as well, it's hard to break loose from the deeper issues. As an English teacher there is more of a chance to pick up the issues the kids bring in with them. Mainly because we open the emotional floodgates and allow them to discuss those issues if they need to.

We teach often emotional and thought provoking texts that are relateable and have deeper meanings within them. We hope to help influence our students' lives through texts like these and as such we tend to engage in those discussions, that prior knowledge. We see the issues because it's a safe place and try to keep it safe in every way possible.

Last year when one of our students passed away, I was teaching my students about 'The Outsiders' and when we got the news we were just about to start looking at the themes. Two of the themes are importance of friendship and the loss of a friend or someone close.

It was incredibly hard to teach. I was feeling the heartbreak in the room and the only way we could get through was by teaching to and through it. So I did.

In the past I have taught whole units on teenage issues, where we discussed those big dilemmas. We had open discussions, question box time and made use of the programmes already in place, Youthline, Kidstown and the school social workers and guidance counsellors.

The big issue here for me as I'm sure you can tell - is that my student was frustrated and the only way he knew how to solve it was to say something like that. Yes I noticed what he said, and yes we talked about it afterwards where we got to the root issue in class. But what I don't have the ability to do is delve into the crevices of societal stereotypes to change this boys thinking about himself and the fact that he said and surely could think that violence is the Māori way. Which it's not. Sure it was for warring parties and the concept of utu (revenge etc), but peace was found where it could be found and then harmony was restored.

What I do have the superpower of - is listening, empathising and trying to understand others' perspectives. In this way I can help influence my students abilities with these skills and hopefully teach them the power of their own thinking and the importance of being true to themselves and upholding their own mana and integrity as much as possible.

I actually think it's time we had a small group circle up to sort it out. Because if it's still small then it doesn't need to become a bigger issue.

I love how my girls, particularly B, are leading the way towards maturity and that they're looking down at the boys waiting for them to catch up. At the start of the year, all but one of the boys were fresh and young and were very silly and immature. Halfway through the year I'm starting to see more maturity and the boys are thinking. Which is great. The girls often lead their own initiative and get down and on to work where possible.

Sometimes too - when issues are made out of a small something then it becomes bigger than it ever needed to be.

Moderation, thinking, awareness and judgement calls are all important tools within the classroom.

It's now 6.35am. Still awake. More posts to fix up and finish :)

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Developing Literacy

What is literacy?

Literacy is defined as "   ".

This post was jumpstarted by things that I'm currently doing in my Y9 class as well as a post on Facebook by Rotorua's newspaper 'The Daily Post'.

TDP stated -

A few comments were left before I added mine. As a good digital citizen, I read what others had to say first, I thought about the question and the issue at hand for myself, and then I decided I'd post something - and as a teacher when I post on something as public as that I make extra careful that I'm portraying my perspective as clearly as possible - to ensure I uphold my own, my schools', my students' and my community's mana.

On reading that some 14 years ago, parents in our community were told that they shouldn't teach their students how to spell and read phonetically - I decided to ask for more info as well as put my two cents into the literacy debate.

"That's useful info Anahera - know why that's the case? Kids need to be reading more at home. If they're on FB - Sweet - but give them pages of worth to 'like' to learn about the world around them. Upworthy, Policymic, TedTalks. This newspaper page even. Teach them how to comment appropriately and be a digital citizen. Help them set up a blog. Be open to using tech to develop literacy. Foster a love for reading at home. Never too late to start."

I truly believe in the power of reading.

Like I said in my #WhoIAmWhatIDo post - It's incredibly important to ensure a love for reading from a young age. I credit mine to my Grandmother Lorraine. She is amazing. We would read together every night I stayed with her and my Grandad - and eventually she stopped reading to me and I started reading to her. It was something we could share together and just as important, created a burning passion for me to learn as much as I possibly could.

Literacy is important. As is numeracy.

You can be literate in speaking, reading and writing English. However the only way you will become fluent or improve your own literacy levels is to... you guessed it - read!

Of course the writing and verbalising your point of view is equally as important.

I totally believe that our students should be given the chance to share their opinions, do group work and peer assess to improve their thinking.

It's why I think student blogging is so damn effective. Because they're writing. They're reading. They're thinking about what they've read and written and then they're commenting and replying to others' comments. Boom. Improved literacy.

Yes there are risks. Read my earlier posts on this. But so many gains. Get your students writing. So many different challenges for them to work through. Get them writing in their books for starters. Even if it's a simple oral storytelling session as we did the other day which turned into a mighty writing and storytelling lesson. One of my students wrote a five page story when retellingy scary one. He made my story way better. And this kid wasn't one that I would have said previously could write well. He completely fooled me! He just needed to right oomph to get started.

And so now I'm sharing different books with them and stopping being apathetic and reminding myself why I got into this game of teaching - to help, to influence and more importantly to inspire kids to love learning... and reading too :)

The below is an awesome website. Found through Grammarly's recent post on FB.
Check them out!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Nigel Latta - New Zealand Stories

Just watched episode two.

Found myself nodding along last week to my colleagues discussion on episode 1 last week even though I didn't watch it. I didn't want to miss out tonight.

Great korero and totally tautoko his presentation of the issues we face in education. It would have been good to see him go to a wider range of schools - but for what he did go to, he achieved all possible learning intentions I was thinking he might hit along the way.

One of the biggest issues currently is equity of technology. The social and economic divide will become the technological divide - purely because technology is so costly. It's a never ending cycle. Frustrating because we should be able to give our NZ kids fair and equal chances and opportunities to success. Unfortunately this is not the case. At present - we are still so far behind - but we're getting there. The work that the Manaiakalani trust has done has been instrumental in showing communities that working together can actually achieve greatness.

The Future Focussed Learning report - yes that again - is an incredibly important document. It states that every school will implement a programme to integrate technology into their classrooms.

I'm lucky because I've taught myself a lot of stuff over the years - I'm a natural tutu. A truly kinesthetic learner - however still I can sit while listening to a discussion... I'm usually staring at something or touching something to keep my mind free to process and understand.

Our students should have the chance to succeed - despite the Decile rarings forced onto their communities and our schools.

I like what Richard Hattie said about the fact that NCEA gives chances for anyone to be excellent at a certain subject or range of subjects. Particularly liked that Latta focussed on lit and numeracy - in regards to group work, strategies, passion, professional teachers who are caring, compassionate and supportive.

I also liked that the primary school were using Google Drive effectively.

I look forward to the steps our school will make in future focussed learning and thinking about the many possibilities that could occur as a result of not knowing what could happen in the future. We have so many options and we need to make the most of them :)

Thanks Nigel :)