Tuesday, 12 August 2014

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.