Friday, 4 December 2015

Christchurch Presentation

Today was a first for me. I was invited to Christchurch by Mark Maddren, Manaiakalani Outreach facilitator for the Hornby Cluster. I was asked to share my MIT journey with the lead teachers from the Hornby cluster. What an absolute privilege to be asked to do this and to have the opportunity to make new connections face to face. I felt confident speaking about something I am passionate about and was happy to share, and be asked to share our R5 Writing Toolbox. Thank you to Mark and to Manaiakalani for challenging me to do this.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Building connections in Maths

We spent some time this week looking at how asking questions can help our learning. Below is the list of our own Room 5 'crowd sourced' examples. Our next step is to create a display that encourages questioning during learning time.

What questions that you have asked, or heard someone else ask that have helped you in maths?

  • Don’t be scared to come up and ask for extra help?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions?
  • Can you explain your thinking ?
  • Do you know what that is.
  • Do you get what I mean?
  • What strategy should I use?
  • Can you say it in a easier way so I can understand?
  • Can you help me?
  • Do you want be to explain in more detail?
  • Does this make sense to you?
  • Do you need help?
  • What strategy should I use?
  • Are there any maths game to help me?
  • Is there a website we can practise on?
  • Is there a different way to solve this?
  • Does this strategy work for me ?
  • Is this strategy work with bigger numbers?
  • Do you understand now?
  • Can you show me an example.
  • What is the best strategy to use to find the answer to this question?
  • Does this strategy work for me.
  • Can you break the strategy down for me?
  • How did you use your strategy?
  • Do you know how to solve this?

Refining our proofreading skills

Fine and Samantha created this movie to show the process we went through to repurpose an idea to make it our own. This has certainly made proofreading more focused as my learners know what it is that they have to do.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Putting It Altogther

This is the Thinglink I made to share the journey of my 2015 MIT inquiry. All of the MIT inquiries for 2015 are now complete and can be accessed on the MIT page on the Manaiakalani site. 

If you would like to access a copy of the learner speak rubric we made you can access it here. Please remember that our rubric is not a blackline master that can simply be introduced to another learning environment with the expectation that similar connections will be made.  It should be seen as something that is to be adapted and repurposed so that connections can be forged to what will then become their own resource, written in their own language.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Revisiting Recounts!

This term has kicked off with our end of term assessments looming. To make sure my class are set up for success we have been revisiting our previous learning about recounts. I am both amazed and empowered by the level of content knowledge my learners have been able to recall. For many years I have been a fan of using acronyms to support structural knowledge. This year a colleague and friend, Aireen Ah Kui shared with me the 'new' acronym of TREE.

Title, Reveal, Events and Ending... four little words that my learners connected to quickly. We repurposed the prompt DLO that was shared with us so that our own academic and content language was embedded throughout. With this knowledge in place we have been able to spend time focusing on the language features that support this genre. I was stunned today when connections were made between TREE being seen as a dinner plate and the language features being seen as the food you add. A visual image everyone could connect to, after all we all know the difference between a bland dinner and a delicious one!

Over the last two weeks we have followed the mantra of 'repetition without boring'. I'm now quite skilled at saying the same thing in many different ways! We have spent time building our TREE plan (success criteria) both as a class, in groups, in pairs, and independently. Making sure my learners are able to recall and record this information using our words was vital to them being able to plan efficiently. Our Room 5 rubric has helped so many make visual connections here. I noticed a huge difference in the quality of the content this week after focusing on planning a recount rather than simply writing recount after recount. It is interesting to note here that more than half my class were not using their writing plans so learning how to write and use a plan became the tangent on which we travelled.

Our recent learning sessions once again highlight the fact that it is not only is it vital to ensure that the learning you provide allows for connections to be made but also vital to realise the impact that harnessing the power that comes with really knowing your learners can have on deepening those connections. My favourite part so far, when one of my learners said "Don't forget to remind us about the simple stuff!" Yet more evidence that in Room 5, we own our learning!

Friday, 9 October 2015


Empowering and affirming sums up the messages I have heard at uLearn15. Here are a few of my takeaways.

Grant Lichtman
Links to crowd sourced docs and keynote

'Technology has reimaged the transfer of knowledge and learning relationships between teachers, students and knowledge'
'fear and inertia get in the way of innovation and transfer of knowledge'
'We need to provide opportunities to evoke curiosity and problem solving skills'
'The stairway to success should be visible, inclusive and innovative'
'Students should ask own questions to generate passion'

What will I do:

  • Introduce an ideas wall
  • Ask my learners to describe something in 1 word then create a tagul to capture an image that represents the thinking.
  • Ensure every learner has contributed at least one question to explore during inquiry time.

Dr Anne Lieberman

'Teaching is something to share with others -  learning and teaching each other -  sharing stories and giving feedback. Teachers feeling released from keeping their ideas and questions to themselves'
'We should see each colleague as a valuable contributor'
'Learning is not done on your own, it's about making meaning by connecting to others'

What will I do:
  • Continue to embrace the Manaiakalani values of Learn - Create - Share

Reflecting on supporting and acknowledging Pasifika in the classroom
Annette Laban

'Teachers should be asking 'Who are my learners? Where do they come from? When did their ancestors come to NZ? Why did they come to NZ? What is their culture?'
'The culture of the child cannot enter the classroom until it has first entered the consciousness of the teacher – ‘Know me before you teach me!’

What will I do:

  • Create a crowd sourced inquiry (virtual atlas with facts) to establish collaboration and forge new friendships at start of year
  • Use technology to afford my learners the opportunities to 'hear' and 'say' the language

Things you should be teaching, but don't
Nikki Urlich

'Knowledge in your pocket need knowledge acquisition but needs explicit teaching!'
'Search it search it search it - question, words, clarify connect….skim scan and evaluate'

What will I do:

  • Run a Toolkit to share this learning
  • Use tuakana teina time to help develop searching skills in younger students
  • Introduce ‘Find out about Fridays’
  • Share the 'Google Off' idea
  • What should be in a model for searching? (What is it you want to find out? Use keywords to write your question. Skim scan is it working (Evaluate)? Change the words)

Lifting Our Game
Allanah King and Barbara Reid

'SAMR is not a ladder - Rather how we use technology in the classroom to benefit students compared with what we did in the past'
'Dr Ruben Puentedura looked at how different technology makes a difference in student achievement'
'Technology affords our learners... padlet from workshop'

What will I do:
  • Explore Link to Book Creator App
  • Follow @sylviaduckworth - illustrations to represent learning concepts
  • Ask: 'What is the task going to do for my students?'
  • Introduce the apps in this presentation to my class
  • Revisit the SAMR model when planning

ULearn15 Presentation

Today we presented our inquiries to our audience at uLearn15. Empowering to be a part of such a innovative cluster.

Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers 2015
Link to MIT15 presentation

'You can't help yourself unless you can see yourself' - Jason Borland

'Creating communities that learn how to improve student achievement' - Michelle George

'Don’t teach the same concept twice... our learners have one language tank' - Kyla Hansell

'Students re purposing docs for their own needs in the process gives an interesting insight and highlights gaps in the planning' - Karen Ferguson

'Plan lots of opportunities for our learners to collaborate' - Sheena Campell

Sharing the evolution of our Room 5 'learner speak' resource. 

'We speak two languages and it is important to remember that as teachers we do not speak ‘learner’ anywhere near as well as learners do!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Papakura Kōtuitui Presentation

Sharing both my Manaiakalani journey so far and the writing process that operates in my class with lead teachers from the Papakura Kōtuitui cluster. Great to receive such positive feedback. Thank you to Dave Winter for inviting me to take part.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Maniakalani Hui Presentation

This was my presentation at the Manaiakalani Hui. It reflects my inquiry journey so far. Our next step is to share our rubric with the other classes in our school with the challenge to adapt and change our resource so that it becomes their resource. We're looking forward to their feedback.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Manaiakalani Hui Presentation

Yvette and I after our presentations

An exciting day for Room 5 today! Both Yvette and myself presented at the Manaiakalani Hui. I shared my MIT journey so far, and Yvette did an amazing job at sharing a learning experience in our class. I was really impressed with the confident way she explained the learning process and why she enjoyed this task. Great job Yvette!  #proud teacher

Friday, 14 August 2015


We're excited to be hosting the Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers at Spark City today. These inspiring teachers are developing new and impactful e-learning techniques!
Posted by Spark Foundation on Thursday, 13 August 2015

Friday, 24 July 2015

Visit from our SPARK 'buddy'


Today Room 5 had a visit from our SPARK 'buddy' Greg. Greg has been following our blogs this year so we shared how we learn in our digital 1:1 learning environment, and talked with him about setting goals and making wise choices. Thank you for visiting us Greg!

Monday, 20 July 2015

MIT Update #5: Student Agency

This year we have continued our school-wide professional development journey focussing on Writing with Nadine Sorrensen from Team Solutions. The MIT group and myself spent a block with her asking questions and sharing our own learning journey. By using think-alouds and teacher modelling, Nadine and I were able to demonstrate in context that giving and receiving feedback was very much a two way street. Initially the students were very quiet but as they gained confidence they started asking her the types of questions those seeking feedback should ask. It frustrates me here that I didn't record the dialogue, however my excuse is that I too, was fully engrossed in the learning.

We shared our Writing rubric and explained the thinking behind why we had created it. Nadine asked questions of the content that required clarification. Noticing how these students were able to confidently respond showed me that they definitely owned the learning. What was also very evident was the high level of content knowledge that each of the students has developed this year. They have have achieved high levels of student  agency by developing a tool that they use in their own learning.

With the students working on the feedback they had been given I was able to have my own learning time with Nadine. She directed me toward another reading that supports my inquiry. Although not created to use in a digital medium, Jeff Anderson's 'Mechanically Inclined' explores the power of 'organic growing, changing charts that address the what the kids need to know to survive in their world of writing'. Anderson highlights how his student generated wall charts were 'referred to, pointed at, moved and looked at... and a living part of the class's making meaning journey.' This thinking resonated with me. My observations and years of chalkface experience have shown me that if something is generated by the students there is ownership, and with ownership comes the mindset to 'use', as the content knowledge that allows the information contained in these reference points is in place. The thinking behind our rubric was exactly this as we wanted something that our class had connections with and could make meaning from anywhere, anytime and at any pace.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

MIT Update #4 Making Connections - Merging the learning

Fine and Ducati used the 'ifaketext' task to help them merge the learning from the last few weeks to write a persuasive text that reflects their own perspectives and harnesses the power of the structure and language features needed. What I noticed here was the power a 'critical friend' had when they were able to see by referring to our co-constructed DLO which language features had been included and which language features had been overlooked. The peer led feedback was very powerful as both students were able to have real discussions that were based on fact and supported by a reference point that both learners had buy in and understanding of. Below are two powerful examples of the end product.

Should New Zealand change its official flag?

Ducati's Perspective:

In my opinion, I don’t really know what to choose. Have you made a decision? Well I haven’t, and I don’t want to be cruel, but I don’t want to choose the wrong side. So I don’t know what to do.

1834, 1840, and 1903 are all the times New Zealand has changed the flag. But, the flag is still similar, so we have still kept the honour that our soldiers have fought for our freedom, it’s making my decision hard. Yet about 5% of the world’s flags have not been changed, so the rest of the countries have changed their flag.

I am unsure, and apprehensive about my decision. The flag is a symbol of honour so it would be hard to give up, and  it’s making my decision hard for me. If you're unsure about a decision, then you know how I feel. Everyone is trying to make me “Think like them” and choose their side to be on. Thinking about my decision is so hard, considering that I am very picky(I have a hard time making a decision).

Would you choose changing the flag? Or Would you choose not changing the flag? Well I just don’t know. Neither side is wrong, yet neither side is right. My decision will come in time, not now, tomorrow, the next, or the next, but it will come.

I just don’t have a decision to make, because the idea of the flag changing is alright, but what about not changing the flag? Well could I ask you one thing?  “Do you think I’m right?”

Fine's Perspective:

We grow up in a generation where a flag defines a country’s importance, stereotyped label, past and future. New Zealand already has a flag that shows our importance and what kind of a multicultural country we are. It acknowledges our past and will contain our futures memories. So I ask you this question, how does changing the flag respect our countries milestones and hardships? I feel that if we changed our flag, we would be being disrespectful to many. If we redesigned our flag, will our coming generation be able to respect the soldiers that have died for it? Will they be able to see through the stars and appreciate our ancestors that navigated all day and night to find our homeland? Will they be able to see the small amount of red that resembles the blood of our tiny nation? Will they be able to appreciate the navy blue that surrounds and protects our shores? No. They won’t, because the most important representations of our country won't be acknowledged.

We need to know that the designer of our new flag will be able to include essential icons of our nation. We need to know that he/she will produce a flag that is instantly recognized as ours, and our current flag has accomplished that quite well already. How can we put so much trust into one person? Although many people feed off pressure and use it as a fuel to drive them towards their goals, we can’t expect the designer to produce a flag as good and honourable as the current flag.

The cost for changing the flag, is an estimated 25.7 million dollars! Money the wrecked homes in Canterbury have been overlooked for 3-4 years could well use. How can New Zealand be able to use all this money on the changing of a flag, when we have citizens who have no homes. The money should be going to the families who are struggling and the people who actually need help. This is a waste of money, that New Zealand can’t afford!

The soldiers who have fought for us in wars, used the flag as a motivation to fight and bear through the heartache, loss and pain. They used the flag to represent themselves whether an individual or crowd. They used the flag as a symbol of hope to return home. They used it as a promise, to fight for the freedom of their families. Why do the people who have probably never even held a gun in the defence of their country, get to decide whether their connections with the flag are taken away?

We can not change the flag of New Zealand! We can not take away history and memories! We can not take away the opportunity of the coming generations to grow up with the proud flag we all have grown up with! We have to make a stand and remain with the same flag that our ancestors have fought for, our athletes have been represented with, and the same flag that has brought our country pride. New Zealand’s history needs to remain intact!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Making Connections

These are my screenshots of a fake text. Yvette used iFakeText to create fake messages based around the debate about changing the New Zealand flag. Her messages are against the flag being changed, and Evelyn her partner is for the change. These messages state the different reasons for and against. This app allowed the students to 'see' the language features they were using and allowed their partners to 'see' the language features missed out or used incorrectly.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Punctuation Questionnaire

The MIT group devised this questionnaire to see where our class was at with their own understanding of punctuation. They sat with each student to support them with their responses. This decision was made after a group discussion revealed that maybe not everyone would feel confident answering questions if it wasn't explained properly. The group wanted this to be seen as an anonymous questionnaire so they created it on my devise and only I could see who has sent the responses. I printed this out (minus the names) and gave it to them to collate the data.

Our decision: We need to add DLO's that support and scaffold the learning to our rubric so that everyone can access and use it.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

MIT Update #3

With our year 7/8 camp over and the work to celebrate the amazing learning we had outside our usual four walls completed, my MIT group are back in action. We are still in the create stage of our 'student speak' rubric and know that if this is to be a success we need to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. I think the most exciting component in our rubric is our decision to include DLO's created by ourselves to help make the learning visual for others. In effect we hope to create a tool that facilitates and support independence when revising a piece of written text, thus helping to shift student achievement.

We realise one size does not fit all. Many of my students stated in an 'anonymous' google form questionnaire that they needed something that allowed them to check their own understanding before they felt confident enough to give others feedback. It was that realisation that if all students in our class were not able to use the rubric with confidence, then it would simply become digital decoration. That is most definitely NOT what we are striving to do. Our aim is to create a tool that becomes embedded in our learning environment and is used often and accessed by many.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Our monumental challenge!

The pictures above show us beginning the challenge of creating our own writing rubric that all the students at PBS could understand. We reflected on our earlier task of assessing our own writing against a rubric written in student speak. Although some of it made sense after we unpacked the language we felt that we needed a rubric that we could use in language that we could understand. Thus the idea of creating our own rubric was born. We started with sentence structure as that had been our learning area the day before and moved onto punctuation. The discussion taking place was amazing. We borrowed some ideas from exemplars but made sure we made the learning our own. I was stunned to see the students 'testing' whether their words were specific and easy to understand. Still very much a work in progress but we're off to a great start! Thank you to Ms Kirkpatrick, Mrs Millward and Mr Wong who helped us check if our thinking would make sense to their students.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sentence Structure

Today I used my MIT group as 'experts' but have noticed that these students all have strong and dominant personalities. This often results in them taking the lead leaving those who need further support in coasting mode. However today there was a twist... the 'experts' could only question the people in their groups. This completely changed the locus of control, something my 'experts' found very frustrating. 

How did one 'expert' overcome this 'frustration'? 

St. #1: This is really frustrating Miss, they just didn't get how they had to write things in their own words.
T: So what can you do to help them?
St. #1: I could ask them different questions using easier words I think.
T: True... and while you're thinking about what you could say think about how Austin's friends helped him...
St. #1: Oh... I need to be more specific!

T: (thinking) Yah! Connection made!

Having worked through the collaborative challenge we played a version of whiteboard tag. Each group member had a role to play in sharing their understanding of our learning. Sajiha, Fine and Yvette created this quiz about sentence structures to help Room 5 consolidate their learning. We wanted everyone to be successful so allowed the 'open book' option using the group notes if answers needed to be checked. The best part was that by the responses I could see every student showed that they had made a connection to the learning.

Monday, 30 March 2015

How Austin helped Room 5

Sharing Austin's Butterfly with my MIT focus group helped them make real connections to the power of feedback. The students were amazed at the transformation of Austin's initial image to his final drawing. This clip allowed them to see how using 'the eyes of a scientist' his peers were able to guide him through six drafts. Our challenge was to notice what the feedback looked like. 

What we did:

Ideas were recorded on whiteboards independently then shared with a partner. The objective behind the 'list sharing' being to compare lists and merge ideas into one list. This allowed a further two opportunities to connect to the feedback. Once all lists were compiled we shared as a group. By doing this we were able to co-construct the success criteria that would guide our own feedback skills.

We think feedback is:

  • Information that supports the learning
  • Kind and positive
  • Helps people realise and see their errors
  • Critical (but not mean)
  • Detailed and specific
  • Useful - should have a purpose
From our success criteria we derived our learning intention:
  • LI: To give useful, specific feedback 
This lesson was observed by our literacy facilitator who asked if they had the opportunity to make a decision about their learning during that lesson and if it was successful.

Student 1: Yes I did because I got to help decide what our Learning Intention was and what that would look like. It will help me to help my critical friend by getting them to see their mistakes in a kind way.

Student 2: Yes because we set our own success criteria. It was fun learning about how Austin changed his simple butterfly into a detailed picture. I think I will think about this when I'm helping my critical friend because it will help me look at my own work too.

What's next?

I need to provide real situations that will allow for specific feedback to be noticed and given. This will allow the students to see how the feedback helped them make changes. To move learning to the next level I will need to provide time for the students who receive feedback to explain in their own words why they were given this advice.

Friday, 13 March 2015

... and we're off! MIT15 Update #2

What a week! It's the end of Week 6 and those of you who are teachers will know that means we are now half way through term one. For me that also signifies the conclusion of our visit from the Education Review Office (ERO)! 

When reflecting on the last week I have identified a personal high point of ERO's visit. I know that for many teachers having a visitor in your room is daunting, but when you are part of the Manaiakalani cluster visitors to your learning environment are the norm. I have learned to embrace visits as opportunities to share my classroom practice and celebrate my student's learning successes. Someone was definitely looking after me that day because my observation took place as we were building the foundations of my MIT inquiry! In addition to being asked about the current learning taking place, I was asked to talk about the ways I extend and engage my students. Apart from this being something I am truly passionate about, having an active class site and blog meant I had a wealth of supporting evidence at my fingertips. Many of my learners were spoken to and it was evident from our discussion after the lesson, that all the students spoken to understood what they were doing, why they were doing it and could talk about what they needed to do to get to the next level in Writing. This excited me as I could see that my MIT focus was very much alive in Room 5.

One foot in front of the other:

My next step from Update #1 was to look closely at the content of the comments and see if genuine connections had been made by comparing the comments with the actual work analysed. Unfortunately when I did this my initial euphoria did a very large u-turn. I noticed that there was a significant amount of mismatch between what had been written in the task and what was 'noticed', evident in the comments.

The collaborative success criteria based on content only:

You will have done this correctly if you have:
  • Written in past tense
  • Listed at three goals you hope to achieve
  • Explained what you will need to do to achieve these goals
  • Included at least one question

The example above shows that the success criteria was used to help prompt the feedback but it is incorrect. There is no evidence of a question being asked, nor any evidence of how this student hopes to achieve these goals. 

This week saw us peel back and start by developing student content knowledge. I took advantage of the fact we have just done e-asTTle writing samples as that made the task of how to give feedback both purposeful and relevant. I explained that the rubric was what helped teachers find out what level their students were working at and helped them find out what they needed to teach next to help everyone move their work to the next level. This will make an interesting comparison when I compare my marking with theirs!

Again the students were paired with their critical friends. Each pair was given a version of the e-asTTle marking rubric written in 'kidspeak'. The more able student was given the task of noticing what their partner did well as I want my learners to see receiving feedback as a positive part of our learning. The purpose: To identify what level they are at now. 

What we did:

This was a step by step process as we explored the 'Ideas' component. Exemplars were used to show what this might look like at different levels. We then discussed what it was we were looking for and then carried out the task. I found the students to be extremely honest in their evaluations. Interestingly I noticed that the owners of the writing were fully engaged in trying to 'prove' they were at a certain level, and the critical friends were searching for real evidence to support this. Without me saying anything I observed that each pair was looking at the next box on the rubric to identify next steps. Yah! Connections are being made! We then wrote statements following a prompt:

I think I am at level ____ because _____. To move to the next level I need to _____.

I found that proving where they were at was the easy part. We had to reign back the next steps to only one point (per criteria) as there was a little bit too much ambition. I need this to be achievable in reality and not simply look good on paper.

The best part was this is what ERO observed taking place! Way to go Room 5 your learning conversations showed that you know where you are at and what you need to do to move your learning to the next level.

Throughout the week we continued the process exploring each component of the writing rubric.

What's Next?

I need to have the same learning conversations with my more able learners so that they too can identify where they are at and what their next steps are. Once we have done that we will devise a way of making our learning needs visible that everyone is happy with. Not sure what this will look like but I am sure of exactly what is needed in my planning!

Friday, 6 March 2015

First Steps: MIT15 Update #1

I have been fortunate enough to move through to the 2015 teaching year with some students who were in my class in 2014. This has given me 'feedback experts' who have a level of skills and knowledge in one curriculum area and can talk those new to our class this year through the process of giving peer led feedback. We have a new independent reading challenge which is allowing us to build on the familiar. By that I mean strengthening the feedback comments that were developed last year. This has been a very positive process so far. I love hearing the learning conversations that take place as the 'experts' guide my new learners. The exciting part for me is that the buy in and engagement in these tasks is gaining strength as the unfamiliar becomes the familiar. I have set up the program so that everyone has a buddy. This has allowed me to spend time guiding and conferencing each pair at the level they need. For some we have walked slowly through the process, and for others the scaffolding has almost been removed. 

The album below reflects examples of peer lead feedback in Reading, the curriculum area we focused on last year. The next step is to find out if my learner's feedback skills and knowledge in one curriculum area transferrable to another.

By providing this 'peg to hang the new learning on' I leapt into the oblivion and buddied up my class so that each person had a 'critical friend' to give them feedback on their personal writing. I needed to see where my learners were at as far as being able to give feedback in Writing so I simply asked them to work together to see if, when wearing their critical friend glasses, they could use our success criteria to notice where their partner had made a connection. 

The album below reflects examples of peer lead feedback in Writing. This is a snapshot of the initial independent feedback comments. The students were reminded only to use the success criteria to see where their partner had 'got it right'. 

What's Next?

The comments I have included in the album show that I have a great starting point. My next step is to look closely at the content of the comments and see if genuine connections have been made. I will do this by comparing the comments with the actual work analysed.