Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sharing our learning...

This week I took a group of year 7/8 students to Tamaki College to share their learning with some of the Tamaki College students. These boys did such an amazing job of sharing their google draw skills. As their teacher I was so incredibly proud to see them shining as they lead the learning and explained the instructions so clearly and confidently. A huge thank you to Mrs Pameka and Ms Apelu for giving us this opportunity, and to Mrs Hamer for inviting us into her classroom and for joining in the lesson.

Here are the links to the boys blog posts: Jack Sanujan Alex

 Jack explaining the skills he was teaching
Sanujan helping Mrs Hamer
  Jack explaining sharing some of his work with Mrs Pameka and Ms Apelu
  Alex explaining the skills he was teaching
Engaged learners
Team photo

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Impact Bursts 2018

Last week the Manaiakalani COL teachers shared the impact of their 2018 Teaching as Inquiry as impact bursts in a panel setting. Here is my journey...

I chose to focus my inquiry around our hardest to shift writers in Year 8. All boys who didn’t think they were good at writing, and more affronting to me, didn’t think I thought they were good at writing. Instead of taking risks and trying the new, they opted for the safety of falling back on the known, or employed the go to work avoidance techniques they had mastered over time.

What I noticed happening with my learners was the default of quiet compliance and procrastination was replaced with purposeful chat, as word knowledge and confidence needed to join in the learning conversations, evolved. The quantity of work increased, with the students writing more than they ever have before. Alongside this, the quality of the content also improved when student participation in the learning moved from passive, to active.

I know this because of the changes in attitude and demeanour - what I mean by that is, I went from looking at a group of students who slouched at the tables, avoided eye contact and utilised every strategy known to them to avoid work; to a group of students who smiled, raised their hands and confidently shared their thinking. The shifts this group made are on my blog so I would like to use this time to tell you about the student I am most proud of. He was formerly our most reluctant writer who came to us with the historical lack of self belief that continued failure brings. This year he shifted from <2B to 2B for the first time ever!  


To make this happen I lived by the idea of 'Repetition without boring' which when unpacked, means repurposing, revisiting and tapping into the known to help access the unknown. In other words repeat, repeat, repeat, but do it in a creative way! I used the same lesson format, regardless of text type. Began each lesson by co-constructing the success criteria and revisiting the available scaffolds and exemplars created by our group. Talk was actively planned for to front-load the vocabulary needed to unpack the topic in context, and the language of instruction personalised and explicit

Moving forward I will continue to actively plan time for front-loading, time for planning and time for talk in my lessons, but most importantly, I will try really hard to make sure my learners not only think that they’re good at writing but also think I think they’re good at writing.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Analysing the data (November) and Reflecting on my Inquiry...

This year I have been looking at ways stronger connections to content specific vocabulary can help overcome hindered student self efficacy in writing. In February I collated the data from the e-asTTle attitude domains for writing as a way of measuring student self efficacy in writing. My February data 'shows that my learners don't like writing at school, they don't believe they are good at writing and worryingly, most think I don't think they are very good at writing.' 

Comparative data collected in November (refer to presentation below) shows that there have been some notable changes between the time one and time two data. Most significantly is that everyone now sees themselves at being better at writing, with 3/8 students seeing being a 'good writer' as something that is 'very like me'. 7/8 students now like writing at school more and 6/8 students now believe I think they are 'good at writing'. Writing out of school is not something these students enjoy, a shift possibly influenced by age and a change in outside interests and influences. When looking using this tool as a way of measuring student self efficacy in writing I can see the shifts are positive. Additionally I know that in the classroom engagement has increased, work completion rates have increased and confidence levels have increased. 

To reflect student achievement (refer to the graphs below) I chose to show the shifts in each of the e-asTTle writing domains using the R scores as this allows me to see where the shifts were strongest. I am aware these levels are subjective, but have been assessed by the same person and moderated for validity. This is a powerful reflection tool as I can see where the strongest connections to my instruction were made

The biggest shifts are in structure and language, sentence structure, punctuation and in organisation. When I looked back on my long term planning I see that this ties in with the adaptations I made to dedicate more time to the oral language component of front-loading the vocabulary and more time to talk and use their words in context when planning. There was an increased expectation that all work would be completed and the format of each lesson the same except for the added daily challenge, something determined by peer led feedback and decided by my students

When analysing the writing samples I noticed the consistency with co-constructing the success criteria linked to structure, language, punctuation, sentence structure and organisation at the start of each lesson was replicated in the writing plans. Possibly because these students understood what they needed to do to improve their learning. Analysis of ideas and vocabulary show these areas have remained consistent with minimal movement, perhaps due to the fact the writing assessment does not allow time for front-loading and talk when planning. 

What this data does not show however, is the change in the quantity of the content nor the confidence that my learners approached this task with. It does not show that everyone wrote for the full allotted time and when asked to move onto editing, each student used the time to try their best to check their work for accuracy. A sneaky look at the revision history showed me the latter. 

Reflecting on my professional learning through this inquiry cycle...

In our focus on achievement we often overlook the power that positive reinforcement and self belief have on outcome. Strong healthy classroom relationships mean that student engagement  interwoven benefits. The best part is that the adaptations made in writing created a knock on effect across several other learning areas for many of our students.

My inquiry goal this year was to grow self efficacy in my reluctant writers, something I have tried very hard to do. Learning from Jannie, Rebecca, Aaron and Russell in our CoL meetings has played a huge part in my growth and the growth in my students this year as I come away from each meeting with a ‘takeaway’ that I tweaked to meet the learning needs of my students. Although initially challenging to do I found being asked to backward map a causal chain the most useful tool in keeping my inquiry focused. I have referred back to this many times and is something I will definitely create in my next inquiry.

Adapting Cynthia Greenleaf’s research into student self efficacy in reading to writing in my classroom has given me an increased empathy towards my reluctant writers. These students are not simply disengaged or disruptive, they are, in many cases masking their perceived historical failures by seeking negative attention. 'I always muck around cos then you won't ask me anything cos you'll think I haven't done my work. I always do that every year Miss.' (Boy 8, June 2018) This was the response I got after I had purposely ignored his behaviour for a period of time and focused on strengthening my rapport with him. From then on I made a point of asking for his input. In turn I noticed over time that he had become far more engaged in the learning, he was happy to share his thinking (as long as I didn't ask him first), and from mid way through term 3 took pride in letting me know his finished work was on his blog. Russell reminded us in one of our CoL meetings that success comes with completing a task, something I have seen first hand is vital if we are looking to grow student self efficacy, and one of the most successful adaptations I have made across all my teaching this year.

I can see that the way forward for me is to replicate the changes in how I deliver my instruction as it has given these students the knowledge to approach writing with confidence. 'Repetition without boring' allows key learning points to be revisited so that stronger connections can be made. Planning time for talk and front-loading means new learning is unpacked and new vocabulary used in context. I noticed that the students who said the words used the language. This required a lot of teacher modeling, think alouds and scaffolding initially but allowing my learners the time to process the new, meant I was able to build in challenges that promoted the risk taking I was after. Ignoring behaviour, praising success and setting the expectation that all work will be finished helped to change 'This is boring!' into 'Miss, can you check my work?'.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Adding in the 'fun' factor...

Last week one of our writing tasks was to create Kahoot quizzes with a buddy that would challenge others to recall the deeper and surface features found in an explanation. A learning task that quickly engaged all my learners. As I mentioned earlier, they were working in pairs so there was a lot of collaborative chatter as the thinking evolved. The best part of this was seeing many of the teaching scaffolds and the feedback comments that linked to their own explanation examples being used as reference tools as I had not prompted any of this. 

With the quizzes underway I took the time to step back and observe. Self efficacy was definitely alive in this lesson as my usually shy group had morphed into confident and active participants who were trying hard to recall the answers in the fastest time. No one was reluctant to share their quiz as everyone had the tools and knowledge to complete the challenge successfully. It was great to see the celebrations and praise they were bestowing on each other for making it onto the response podium. What excited me the most however, were the deep conversations that were taking place as my learners were noticing and discussing why their responses were correct or incorrect. 

Monday, 29 October 2018

T1/T2/T3 Comparison of what success in writing look like through the eyes of my learners...

Throughout this year I have focused on growing the self efficacy of group of reluctant writers. As I could only capture 6/8 responses in the T1/2 data comparison I chose to use the data of the same 6 students in T3. Notable changes in responses have been highlighted in yellow. I growth in content specific information that was emerging at the T2 checkpoint has continued to evolve, and there is a general consensus that in order to be a good writer across the learning areas you need to understand what it is you are being asked to do so that you can use your words to talk about and write about your thinking.

Changes I have noticed in class:

Target Students:
  • settling to work quickly is the norm
  • questioning is for clarity
  • increased levels of confidence
  • working with a buddy has once again become the preferred option at planning time with active engagement in talk/learning conversations 
  • continued positivity towards new learning 
  • work completion is the expected norm
  • increased levels of risk taking 
  • sharing work with class is the norm
  • praise is owned and sought
  • strengthened connections to the learning through engaged talk
  • positive praise linked to previous success to engage reluctant writers
  • overlooking the behaviour that accompanied disengaged learners and focusing on the task ahead. 
  • continued explicit instruction
  • increased front loading time so that stronger connections could be made
  • timetable changes to allow time for work to be completed
  • following the same teaching sequence meant familiarity with the process allowed me to reduce the level of scaffolding
  • increased talk time for planning
  • high expectations
  • repetition of content specific language in context

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The power of strong connections...

Last week we revisited explanation writing. This is something most of my group find a challenge as they do not believe they are 'good at writing explanations'. We have looked at the language features and structure in a variety of ways this year as I have tried to show them how to use these features in context. However when I said we would be writing explanations I was met with the usual moans and groans that appear whenever this group think something is 'boring'. I have since found out that 'boring' in this setting means 'I don't know how to do that, or I lack the confidence to do that'.

These comments quickly changed when I said we would be writing explanations about how to
make a hangi. Instant connections were made as everyone in my group has eaten
or been to a hangi our umu. I had buy-in because my learners had a 'hook to peg
their knowledge on'. Together we unpacked at a written exemplar, watched a
YouTube clip, looked at a series of images that show the process of making a hangi. With the front loading complete we then co-constructed our vocabulary list so the learning conversations could continue with the words I needed them to use being used in context.

Once again we used the safety net of paired planning but this time the written challenge had
to be done independently. My learners had a scaffolding framework so they could organise
their ideas but the actual content had to come from their plans. I noticed lots of rewindable
learning taking place so that facts could be checked.

The biggest success from this writing challenge was that one of my most reluctant writers
(Student X) was engaged the entire time! For the first time in writing this year his motivation
was intrinsic and he completed and blogged a piece of writing
(I have included this below).

How to make a Hangi

A hangi is a special kind of traditional way of Maori cooking using a pit which has been dug in the ground. Men work together to lay down the hangi. There are several steps to preparing and cooking a hangi.

Firstly the pits needs to be dug in the ground.Then volcanic rocks and irons are lit and the fire needs to burn for about 2 hours.While the fire burns a Karakia is said to pray for the environment and protect the native trees, bless the food and pray that it is cooked nicely.

Once the fire has been burning for about 2 hours they break it down and dig out the
ashes to remove some embers. This helps stop the food from getting too smokey
and acrid (better tasting).

Food gets wrapped in cabbage leaves.This keeps the food from drying out and
keeps the dirt from going in the hangi after the wrapped food is put in basket. Meat like chicken goes in first and then veggies are put on the top.

Cabbage leaves and sacks soaked in water then put on the hot irons. The baskets
are carried over to the pit and then covered with wet sacks to keep dirt out.
Finally it is all covered with canvas. They let it cook for about 3 and a half hours before they remove the sacks and the baskets of food.

Hangi food is still cooked on special occasions the same way it has been done
for many years.

The power of strong connections to the learning, using realia and tapping into the
cultures of our learners is huge.

Innovation, Creativity and Success #2...

I have realised that the more enthusiastic I am about our learning the more enthusiastic my learners are, so with that in mind I introduced our pick-a-path story challenge. We began by exploring an interactive advertisement that gave my learners, who were working in pairs, a choice of which path to follow. I knew I had picked the right hook as the initial giggles were quickly replaced by excited chatter as the outcome of each choice became evident. We then went on to explore some pre-made pick-a-path stories that allowed a wider choice of options.


Once I knew my learners were hooked we began planning our own versions. We began by planning our ideas in pairs as I knew the discussion around the storylines would be richer if we did this. However the final piece of completed work was done independently as each person was given the freedom to add their own twist to their shared planning. the I used a planning template that Matt Goodwin shared with me to help us organise our ideas. The screenshots below show our twist with this. We found we needed to colour code the ideas that went with each other as this helped us organise our responses on the google form. 

We had a few hiccups linking between the sections on the google form. The pictures below show one pair's problem solving strategies.


Te Pounamu is happy for me to share his pick-a-path story. He has done this with other teachers and classes in our school and absolutely loves reading the response sheet. This YouTube clip is a great resource that explains the process using google forms.


Te Pounamu said on his blog post 'I like this story because it was a new experience and I want to do this again because it is fun, new and interesting. It is a awesome way to do a writing lesson. I think everyone should have this experience and have fun.'

What I noticed most of all during these writing sessions was that everyone was engaged and motivated. There were even moans when we had a change to our timetable that meant writing wasn't going to take place one day! When I think of what we did through the lens of self efficacy, I can say that on this occasion the boxes were well and truly ticked. My challenge as the teacher is to now capture this so that we can hopefully transfer the same level of self belief to our next writing focus.