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.