Monday, 16 September 2019

Critical Friend Observations...

When carrying out an inquiry into your own teaching practice it is really helpful to have a critical friend who can see your practice from a different perspective. Their feedback and feed forward helps you to adapt your practice to continue to meet the learning needs of the students in your classroom. As I mentioned in a previous post, for me this person is Donna Ryan. I know what I think I do/say when I am teaching, but having Donna observe me taking a phonics session, and record exactly what she saw me do, was a valuable learning opportunity.

This is what I did/said to help my learners make the connections they needed to make sense of the learning:

  • Recap learning from last session
  • Check in to see if understanding is in place
  • Co-construct the learning intention (LI) and goals for the lesson
  • Asked the students "What do you need to do today to achieve this?"
  • Gave students control of the learning by giving them the opportunity to choose the follow up activity
  • Asked "Why are we doing this?" to recap on the purpose of the learning
  • Reinforced the focus/goal as a reminder
  • Modelled the learning
  • Guided/scaffolded students towards next step
  • Checked in to make sure understanding was in place
  • Identified where they had met the LI
  • Reaffirmed "I like the way you have used the commas correctly, we learnt that yesterday and this shows me you were listening carefully"
  • Asked "Can you remind me what we were focussing on today?"

From this I can see that I share control of the learning with my students, continually check that connections are being made, scaffold through questioning and teacher modelling, and reaffirm to ensure self efficacy and confidence continues to grow.

Spring Into Maths Reflection...

After our first few weeks of moving Spring Into Maths from a withdrawal group to an in-class programme, my target group are all excited for Maths lessons. By taking time to step back and observe I have noticed these usually quiet students who shy away from sharing their ideas, are now confidently interacting with each other, and appear keen to share their thinking. Actively engaged is not a phrase I would have used many times when talking about this group, but if I was asked to describe their learning today it would have been exactly what I would have said!

Possible reasons for this change in confidence could be linked to: 
  • opportunities to strengthen visual connections to the learning through use of materials
  • the 'fun' element of maths games
  • the small group size
  • aligned ability levels has evened the playing field - no one is viewed as the 'expert' so everyone is willing to share their thinking
  • following the SPRING format allows for opportunities to revisit learning using different numbers 
  • the learning is pitched at the right level
  • teacher/teacher aid shared language of instruction
  • teacher/teacher aid enthusiasm
  • increased self efficacy
After the lesson today I asked two of my target students to work collaboratively to write a description of their learning for this blog post. Their description of today's learning written by students G2 and G5 is below. 

'Spring into Maths is a group that develops and practises basic facts and gives students in the group an opportunity to understand the maths that is hidden in the questions for example - What is ⅛ of 24=?- This question is very similar to multiplication but instead we use the opposite strategy which is division. Today, the Spring into Maths group played a few games that involved addition, place value, and multiplication. We wrote down numbers on the white board and used the place value strategy to help find out the answer. Our warm up  energizer was using the biggest to smallest strategy to sort the number cards out. Next we played maths game to practise our times tables which was called Digi Facts. After that we used the place value house to clarify our understanding of numbers using thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones. Here is an example using the number 689 -600 is the hundreds, 80 is the tens, 9 is the ones. We got all ours right!

We like Spring into Maths because it helps us improve on the areas we need to work on in fun ways. All of us are confident to share our answers because everyone is respectful even if you get the answer wrong.'

Students G2 and G5

An additional element we have added to this programme is a problem solving challenge to help these students strengthen our connections to the maths language we encounter when reading and trying to make sense of written maths questions.  

Phonics with Year 7/8...

With my inquiry in mind I have been actively looking for opportunities within our class programme that I can use to reinforce reading strategies. The blog post below outlines one way I am doing this. We call it 'phonics' and it runs alongside our formal guided reading sessions as part of our reading rotation.

Earlier this year our senior syndicate attended a phonics professional development workshop. Phonics is most commonly used in early literacy programmes. While my data showed the need was there, I felt it was important to make some adaptations so the programme would be more suitable for my year 7/8 learners. To do this I merged ideas from the phonics PD, the 'Chunk, Check, Cheer' spelling programme and my own knowledge. Linda, our LS2 Teacher Aid and I worked together to put together a programme that she felt comfortable running and would meet the learning needs of the students we work with. Once this was in place we invited Donna Ryan to observe what we do and give us her feedback. The pretest Donna shared helped us to identify the specific blends/chunks that need to be targeted.

Each session begins with the phonics element. I have repurposed activities that help unpack a blend/chunk. This involves:

  • A timed challenge to list all the known rhyming words that have the focus blend/chunk in them on individual whiteboards. These lists are then shared and help to create the master list, or as we call it the 'chunk' family. To add an additional challenge element the students use dictionaries to help them add to the master list by finding words with 7+ letters. Something that has been really well received from the outset as the competitive aspect of finding the longest word has hooked everyone in.
  • We then select an activity that involves circling all the 'chunk' family words in a paragraph, putting words from the 'chunk' family in alphabetical order and completing cloze sentences/paragraphs to add in the fun element.
  • The next part involves establishing the meaning of any unknown words, something that helps strengthen understanding. Each student chooses a word then writes it in sentences (one simple, one compound and one complex), which allows for sentence structure and punctuation reinforcement. 
  • After these sentences are shared, the students are given a challenge to write as many of the 'chunk' family words in a paragraph. We use Chromebooks for this task. The finished paragraphs are then proofread and edited in pairs. This writing becomes a blog post as well as providing an opportunity for further reinforcement.
  • The final part of our phonics session involves a reading component and means all pens are put down. We use the Key Into Inference text to help strengthen connections to this strategy. The students read the text together, listen to the teacher read it, read in pairs or read silently before having a group learning conversation to unpack the questions.
Everything is recorded and stored in folders which are then used as modelling books. Although the session is run by Linda, we plan it together. This allows me to focus on the same blend/chunk she has focussed on when I am doing my guided sessions. Since this intervention began we have noticed a huge increase in self efficacy, engagement, active participation and comprehension levels. My learners are excited to participate in a literacy challenge they can do because it is hard to be the person who is 'learning to read' when the rest of the class is 'reading to learn'.

This began as an intervention for my target group but has grown and now reaches a much wider audience. We have two groups who work with Linda, and one who after suggesting it to me, that works independently. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Spring Into Maths...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe Karen, one of our amazing teacher aides, taking a Spring Into Maths session with three of my students who are part of her withdrawal group. What stuck with me the most was the atmosphere in the room. My students were smiling throughout and confidently offering answers to questions, even when they weren't sure of the answer. The latter is something I see happening in the classroom only when they are confident their response is correct. The self efficacy I saw is something I really hope can be transferred back to the classroom.

Spring Into Maths is an intervention program used to provide extra support in number knowledge and strategies for students with knowledge gaps in maths. It is not new to me as I have incorporated this programme into my maths lessons on numerous occasions over the years, however is not something I have been running formally in my maths programme this year. I asked these students what they liked the most about being part of this maths group. Here are their responses:

  • JA -  'The games Miss because we can challenge each other in a fun way.'
  • AK - 'I like the number challenges because we can try and get a better score than what we got last time. It shows that we know stuff.'
  • SB - 'I like being able to say my answer and I don't feel shy because there's only three of us and I really like the games.'
Going forward I am going to rework my maths programme to incorporate the hands on elements of Spring Into Maths into our maths sessions. I saw first hand how powerful being able to manipulate materials is, and see this as another way stronger connections can be made to the knowledge my learners need to be able to operate confidently in a mathematical capacity. 
Image result for number knowledge

I began this morning's lesson by explaining the changes I wanted to make to our maths learning time, and as I wanted buy-in from everyone we spent today's session playing the huge amount of number knowledge games that had been most definitely underused in my class this year. The buzz of noise meant this was most definitely not a quiet lesson, and like yesterday all I saw were smiling faces, engaged learners and some outstanding collaboration as they negotiated their answers. 

I'm looking forward to see if this change can help all my students see that they can recall and use their number knowledge skills confidently at speed.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Looking for micro-shifts...

With my class having recently completed the Individual Knowledge Assessment of Number (IKAN) assessment for the second time this year I had an opportunity to take a closer look at the shifts in data. When I compared the overall achievement stage from time one with the overall achievement stage from the time two data I was left quite underwhelmed. Whilst there had been no backwards slide, sadly there had been no gains in this section of the data either. My target student's data appears to have flatlined which doesn't in any way align with what I have seen happening in the classroom. This assessment does not show the huge increase in the confidence levels, the huge increase in work output levels and the huge change in engagement during learning time.

Rather than basing my evaluation of student and teacher success on this one section I dug a little deeper and looked for the micro-shifts in the other four sections. Refer to graphs below. This painted a picture that aligned more closely to what I see happening in the classroom. 

I can see from the data where stronger connections to the learning are being made. In this case fractions and basic facts. A possible reason for this is that fractions has been our most recent focus, and basic facts because of the number knowledge games we play to make sure these are being used and recalled at speed. Each lesson also includes 15 minutes on the self pacing e-Ako maths programme, 10 minutes of times table challenges and 10 minutes of levelled basic facts challenges. These three activities were introduced to help develop confidence and number knowledge when working with the basic facts and multiplication tables that are needed to be recalled and used when working with larger numbers.

The place value questions in banks 1 and 2 of the IKAN test ask how many tens are in a given number and how many groups of 10 make a number. All these students were able to do this with confidence when the numbers they were working with 2 digit numbers, however when the numbers increased to 3 digit numbers they were not able to apply the same knowledge to find the answer. I wanted to understand why this was so I had a 1:1 follow up chat with each of my focus group. When I asked them the place value questions again, I noticed that 8/8 students quickly answered the questions involving the 2 digit numbers. However when I asked the same type of questions using the larger numbers, no one was able to make the connection between 'groups of' and the times tables. I know that I am constantly modelling and recording on the board the fact that 'times' is the same as saying 'groups of' but I think I need to make this more visible by creating a permanent scaffold for the wall. Looking at my own practice I see that I need to increase the pace I move at with regards to using larger number denominations in the classroom. This should help my learners approach these questions with increased confidence. 

The number word sequence questions were all answered correctly when the numbers they were being asked to find remained under 1000. Once these moved to 6 digit numbers only the question that asked for the number 'after' was answered correctly. Again this is an area that I need to increase the pace in. I can see it is not ok to play safe by only using numbers my learners gain success from.

This snapshot of achievement shows me where our hotspots and knowledge gaps are in these four areas. My challenges are now are to find fun ways of helping my learners make the connections they need to be able to work successfully with larger numbers, and remind myself to stop using only 'safe' numbers to help my learners find success.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Digital Fluency Intensive... Day # 9

Our final session began with a reminder about how important the ubiquitous learning opportunities of being able to learn Anytime, Anywhere, Any pace from Anyone are

  • Enables learning to happen outside of 9 - 3 for everyone
  • Summer drop impacts acceleration made throughout the year - this is where the SLJ has harnessed the power of digital learning to continue learning outside of school hours/year
  • Research from the SLJ is a great example ubiquitous learning

  • Technology makes a huge difference if used well and not just as a tool
  • Rewindable learning - capturing the main points that our students need to know to strengthen their learning process - students need to be able to locate and use this content at own pace - Students don’t have to learn at the pace of the fastest student in the class - allows learning to be embedded and deep connections to be made. ‘If it’s worth teaching it’s worth capturing!... If it’s worth learning it’s worth capturing!’

Today was our last DFI session. I have absolutely loved being part of this group of awesome educators and want to say a huge thank you to both Dorothy and Gerhard for empowering us both as teachers and as learners. We ended the session by sitting the Level 1 Google Certification and I passed! The Level 2 exam is my next goal.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Digital Fluency Intensive... Day # 8

Cybersmart not Cybersafety!

Empowering our learners as connected and confident decision makers. All our students have had Internet in their lives since birth so they are at home in a digital world and if not we need to make sure they are. By promoting the positive, Cybersmart becomes the fence at the top and not the ambulance at the bottom.

How we implement Cybersmart:
  • Cybersmart training is a whole school focus
  • Planned and deliberate teaching, relevant and real scenarios as part of the existing programme of learning.
  • Term 1 Smart learners (LEARN) - are our stdnts effective and prepared users of digital
  • Term 2: Digital footprint (CREATE) - understanding what info we should share and what we should keep to ourselves - making these decisions is important
  • Term 3 Smart relationships (SHARE) - how we comment effectively on blogs, how can we invite an audience to engage with us - how to we equip our learners to be capable and positive contributors to a global society
  • Empowering confident connected actively involved lifelong learners
  • Ubiquitous when learning is accessible A4 (anyone, anywhere, any time any place)
  • Connected empower our young people to engage online behaviour and thinking that elevates positive actions (eg: Tuhi Mai Tuhi Atu as Blogger allows us to take our students online in a safe environment as we can monitor the content and comments)
  • Kawa of Care - empowers parents and caregivers to confidently connect with their children’s learning
  • Cybersmart allows for increased opportunities for learners to engage in cybersmart conversations and decision making with peers, whanau and teachers.
  • Dashboard helps make learning visible
  • Enables quick access to student work
  • All Classes - enables access to all school drives
  • Work must be in folders to be visible - open XXX folder then create a doc avoids trying to access unshared work
  • Drag whole Screencastify folder into media folder so its visible to teacher
  • Set up groups on my dashboard won’t affect a co-teacher
  • Reset folders: Will reinstate ‘lost folders’

Manaiakalani 1:1 Journey
  • Ako is a whānau or community experience - learning from and with each other
  • Engagement in the decision making eg Kawa of Care
  • Engagement through device ownership
  • Every learner can participate
  • Every teacher can be supported to become Digitally Fluent when all devices are the same
  • Engagement through device ownership
  • This should all happen behind the scenes
  • Manaiakalani partnered with Hapara to design Teacher Dashboard to make all digital learning visible
  • Partnership with N4L and Linewize for filtering

Equity and Access - Providing the very best device for learning for EVERY young person
Digital Fluency starts with the ability to use the device (Learners, Teachers, Whānau)
Teachers in a 1:1 Class need to use a learner Chromebook for a period of time to understand what the kids can (and can’t do). Today we used Chromebooks to access our learning the way our students access their learning. It was a real eye opener as this was my first time to purposely use a Chromebook. Completing the digital dig was a great way to familiarise us with what we ask our students to do every day. I know understand why some of my learners choose to use a mouse. The mouse pad would take a bit of getting used to as it didn’t respond the way I wanted it to. 

The Digital Dig should be included at the beginning of EVERY year at EVERY level.


  • - explicit site for iPad teachers
  • Best practise is to cast onto an apple tv when using the iPad as a teaching tool
  • Need to start by teaching the correct vocabulary as this is often transferable across the tools
  • We explored Explain Everything (the main platform the junior school uses) which highlighted the fact It is important for Chromebook teachers to realise and remember that students who have been through their junior school learning journey using iPads come with a large kete of digital skills.