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.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Mr Wong's Maths Challenge...

Earlier this week Greg Wong shared an awesome resource he had created as part of his teaching inquiry. Today I introduced 'Mr Wong's Maths Challenge' to my to my Maths group and it was met with a huge level of enthusiasm. I have added the link as Greg is happy for me to share it (Don't forget to give him the credit!). My initial thinking was this basic facts challenge would be completed in 15 minutes, however when I called 'time' I was met with a collective, "Miss can we keep going?"

I am very much a believer in capitalising on learner engagement and enthusiasm so we carried on. Greg's randomly generated arrays were designed to support knowledge gaps in basic facts recall. The timed element of competition is how this challenge is able to meet individual learning needs, but on this occasion that took a back seat as rich dialogic discussions about how different strategies suit different numbers and which strategies were the better choice evolved. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Taking part in AR/VR Research

Since Term 2 Kiri and I have been working alongside Yvonne and her research team from the University of Auckland Augmented Human Lab to create purposeful AR/VR for the classroom. Today saw the many hours of hard work behind the scenes come to fruition. LS2 had their hands-on learning experience and it was fantastic! Kiri and I collaborated with Yvonne so that the content was relevant to our context. 

Our students used the VR app on ipads or google cardboard to travel back in time to the days before the Panmure Bridge was constructed. After using the punt to deliver mail across the Tamaki River they then travelled forward in time to repeat the task using the bridge they constructed. We are so fortunate to be a part of this experience as strong connections to the learning were made which meant the collaborative discussion that followed was rich and informed. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Manaiakalani Hui - Sharing our inquiry journey...

This year as part of the Manaiakalani Hui the CoL teachers were invited to share their inquiries so far through a 1 minute video followed by more detailed round table discussions. 

Here is the video I created which gives a snapshot of what I have been doing in my inquiry this year. As I have been focussing on developing student self-efficacy I chose not to use images from my classroom, instead decided to use images that capture the message I was delivering. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Innovation, Creativity and Success...

This is a celebration post and one I am extremely proud of! The clips below show the end result of our pechaflickr style challenge. You will see that they vary in recording style but when you listen to the story that accompanies each clip you will hear sentences that make sense, links between paragraphs, risk taking with vocabulary and the voices of collaboration. To preserve the anonymity of my target students I have shared a selection of DLOs from my group.

When I reflect on this learning challenge from start to finish I know I began with a huge level of motivation as this was (my twist on) one of the ideas I brought back from ISTE, and I was excited to try something new. I think that captured my learner's interests initially, but it was the fun element and the chunked bites of success that kept it going. As I had not given my learners a specific topic they enjoyed the freedom of being able to explore and be creative. The oral language component set everyone up for success because the storylines had been trialled a few times before becoming scripted text. This meant that ideas that didn't fit could be explored and easily eliminated.

Throughout the lessons I made myself available for 'learning chats' that were specific to the content of each pair of learners. I made sure I approached the new in a gentle way as this year has shown me that is what works with these learners. We celebrated the positives, shared our own exemplars of great ideas and each lesson set a focus together for the next. 

The challenge for me as the teacher is to retain the level of interest shown in this challenge as we move on to the next. I learnt a lot about what I need to do to help the levels of self efficacy continue to grow. External factors like ongoing absence and withdrawal group support mean not all my learners have the same opportunities to complete the work, so my next challenge is to ensure everyone is able complete the task.


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Success comes with completing a task...

Our writing session today was the most focused and on task my group have been all year! A big statement to make but also one that is very true. Last session we created our own pechaflickr style slideshows and had created the simple storyline plan to accompany these images, so today it was all about fleshing out the details. 

Throughout the lesson I could hear a lot of negotiation taking place as each new paragraph was created. To clarify here my learners were creating a collaborative piece of writing. As I have mentioned earlier, I work with a large group of reluctant writers so for us collaboration is the way to go when we are unpacking new learning. 

Our initial drafts show great promise but what I was most proud of was the efficacy that is growing within this group. No one was 'too shy' to share and feed forward was well thought out and constructive. Developing links between paragraphs was the guided teaching component. I found the best way to do this was to work with three pairs at a time. In each guided session I began by asking for an exemplar to use and this time I was most definitely not at a loss for volunteers. 

With permission I made a copy of the exemplar text and shared it so we could all help make the links between the paragraphs. This style of editing our work was really well received because it was safe. I noticed smiles and elements of dialogic learning conversations emerging. This meant when I left the group they were able to continue the process and help each other to make connections and links between their paragraphs.

Self efficacy remains the focus and I have learnt that patience and gentle praise on my part have gone a long way towards growing this. The final part of this challenge is that each pair will present their narrative alongside their pechaflickr style slides to the class.