Thursday, 24 June 2021

T-Shaped Literacy for teachers of Year 1 - 3...

On Monday our staff attended Dr Rebecca Jesson's presentation 'T-Shaped Literacy for teachers of Year 1 - 3' at PT England School. Having used the T-shaped literacy approach for a number of years I know the benefits that can be gained from wide and deep reading. Seeing this done through the eyes of a junior school teacher has provided me with a deeper understanding as I know see how I can use this to meet the learning needs of my struggling learners too.

Here are my notes: Link
The video below captures the presentation.

Implement and Try #2...

Today I worked with my focus students to practise using our LS2 oral language framework in context. This is the process we followed:

  1. Write a question on the board that linked directly to the strategy of long multiplication that we have been learning this week. 
  2. Students then answer the question using the known strategy on whiteboards to give them a visual reference for sharing time.
  3. Use the LS2 oral language framework to explain the steps they followed to find their answer.
  4. Reflect on which question/s we found most useful and unpack thinking.
  5. Share what we found 'hard'.
  6. Repeat the process

One student shared that they weren't able to share their strategy confidently because they didn't have the maths words to explain the steps they followed, so after some quick thinking on my part, I wrote a list of the maths words on the board. (Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of this.) The image below is an example of what we did. The focus here was on the strategy, not on identifying the maths in a written question. 

With the vocabulary list visible the students felt their conversations became more detailed. Afterwards we discussed the difference between the information shared without the vocabulary scaffold and with the vocabulary scaffold. 8/8 students felt they were able to make stronger connections to their partner's strategy. 

Student G83 shared that she 'felt more confident when it was my time to share as I had the words that I was missing before. This time I kind of knew what to say.'

The next change to my practice will be to co-construct a strategy specific vocabulary list during my guided teaching sessions. 

Abstract noun senses poem...

This term I have had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a poetry focus group run by Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsey. Each week Sheena has worked with a group of students who find writing a challenge, to front load them with the skills needed to find success in a poetry task. I then follow the plans shared by Sheena and Louise with the whole class during our reading and writing lessons. 

I have noticed that the students who Sheena has been working with are empowered and fully engaged in this learning, taking on a leadership role each and every time. The poems below are the end result of a whole class collaborative writing lesson. Our focus here was to use the 5 senses to describe an abstract noun using similes and metaphors.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Implement and Try #1...

After realising neither myself nor my students had made a strong connection to the language used in theTalk Moves framework we changed the speaking frames to incorporate the language we use. I explained why we were making these changes, then embraced the changes my students suggested. 

Today we carried out our usual thinking group challenge, something we have been doing all year. This means that as we move into the latter part of term 2, the students are all familiar with each other and have developed the confidence needed to participate actively within these groups. We began the lesson by unpacking our adapted speaking framework. This meant that anything that needed further explanation was broken down so that connections could be made. I asked each group to choose a leader and that the leader could be anyone who wanted to have a turn to lead the learning conversation. 4/6 groups had a student from my focus group step up as the leader.

The photos in this slideshow capture a snapshot of the whole lesson to preserve the anonymity of the students in my focus group.

The difference today was once the initial independent problem solving challenge had been completed, the academically productive conversation flowed. I think this may be due to the fact I introduced the updated speaking frame as our own. Each group had a least one student who had participated in the process of changing Talk Moves into LS2 Moves so the ownership and connections were in place. The photos above show the level of engagement. 

At the end of the lesson I asked for group feedback linked specifically to the wording of our questions:
  • 'Who has a different strategy? let students avoid self doubt if they had no strategy to share'. 
  • 'My group feel that Who has a different strategy? and What other strategies could we use? are the same so maybe we could choose the one that helps us share our thinking more confidently.' 
  • Can you tell me what you said? and Do you mean… are asking the same information. 
We discussed this feedback and decided that we need to clarify the purpose of the questions in context to help strengthen connections further.

Focus group feedback at the end of the lesson:

Thursday, 10 June 2021

TOD: Pause, Breathe, Smile...

Today we had a TOD to walk us through the Pause, Breathe, Smile mindfulness program. Here are my takeaways from the day.

Mindfulness - take time to check in with yourself to support your wellbeing. It is a life skill that encourages you to put your head and feet in the same place. An intentional focus on the immediate experience so that you can approach what is happening with curiosity, openness, acceptance and love (COAL). It is... paying immediate attention to what is immediately occurring (happening now) with kindness and interest. 

Attention Regulation - No one tells us how to pay attention which means we can look focused but our minds are elsewhere. Attention regulation is about knowing where the attention is... knowing where it needs to be... and directing it to where it needs to be. The more attention you are paying to the present the happier you'll be.

Gratitude - This is one component of the program I am looking forward to. Taking time to appreciate the ordinary and the things we usually take for granted. Gratitude is contagious and helps us to notice what is going well rather than what isn't. Gratitude helps counteract the negativity bias that our brains are so used to holding onto. 

Emotions - If you can name it you can tame it... if you understand what the emotion is you that you are experiencing  you can calm down from it.

Pause, Breathe, Smile is an 8 week program that focuses on learner wellbeing by teaching our students to notice and describe their feelings, pay attention and be curious, and regulate emotions by asking 'Is this being helpful?'. 

Monday, 7 June 2021

TAI 2021: Where am I at?...

Last week I was writing some blog posts linked to my 2021 Inquiry and realised I had 'lost' my direction and focus. Having been the in-school COL teacher since 2017, I was initially thrown by this realisation as I know that I know how to carry out an in depth inquiry. Rather than find excuses for not being on top of my game I decided to find out why so I began by reading the posts that captured my journey so far this year. I then looked back over pervious inquiries and realised there were two important parts missing. An actual inquiry question and a causal chain. I was actually quite shocked that even though I had an inquiry underway I had somehow overlooked writing the actual question.

Step one was to amend this immediately, however it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I was trying to fit too much information into a very small space. Fortunately Dr Jannie Van Hees came to the rescue and helped me put into words everything I was trying to say. This wasn't a planned meeting but was definitely a very worthwhile conversation. Dr Jannie reminded me that my question needed to be succinct and through questioning helped me 'drill down' to what it was I actually wanted to focus on which is, 'Will using Talk Moves in maths accelerate student confidence and capability to use spoken and written maths vocabulary and language?'

Step two was to put my causal chain together. I found this so much easier once I had a succinct question to guide me. I have used a causal chain for a number of years and is one of the ways I help the PBS teachers put their inquiries together. Causal chains help to plan steps forward (ie: a cause leads to an effect and that effect becomes the cause of another effect - A leads to B. B leads to C. C leads to D) by working backwards to create a chain of events that unpack the logic of the actions of the inquiry. Once I had done this I had more clarity but still felt a bit lost so I asked for help. I feel that highlighting the fact I asked for help this is important because so many of us overlook this step, preferring to muddle our way through rather than reaching out. It takes a village and within the Manaiakalani cluster we have many people who can and willingly give support when it is needed.

Step three was to organise a meeting with Fiona Grant to talk through my inquiry so far. Fiona helped me see that I that my hypothesis is if I use 'talk' to help my learners gain a deeper understanding of maths vocabulary, this widened connection to maths words will provide opportunities to improve their reading comprehension which will in turn lead to accelerated achievement in maths. I want to find out if using Talk Moves to 'learn' to talk in Maths will help my learners 'learn' through talk. Alongside this I want to see if the knowledge and skills gained can be transferred from the classroom to the blogs. 

Fiona asked me what was happening now in relation to my inquiry. I explained that I have introduced, unpacked and created group norms. I have introduced and unpacked the TM framework prompt 'So you're saying'  to encourage my learners to actively listen to others' responses. At that point Fiona asked me if my learners understood what that meant. This was when it dawned on me the reason I was 'lost' was because my learners did not have ownership of the Talk Moves process. 'So you're saying'  is not how we speak. My students can't see themselves in the framework so there is no personal investment.

When asked how I was going to engage my learners in what I wanted them to learn, I knew what I needed to do. I know I encourage my learners to 'look for the learning' when we are commenting on blogs so I am now thinking that if I ask my learners to 'listen for the learning' they will know what to do. We need to create our own version of the Talk Moves Framework using our language because this is how we learn in LS2. When I reflect honestly this disconnect applies to me too. I have no connection to the words used as I do not speak like this... #Lightbulb moment! 

As the in-school COL teacher I am always looking for ways I can support our PBS teachers. My takeaways from speaking with Jannie and Fiona are:

  • Inquiry questions need to be succinct
  • Ask for help if you need it 
  • Use 'I'm hearing' when teachers are talking about their inquiries so that I am guiding not telling.
  • Create a causal chain to help visualise your theory of action.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Qu 7: Readings to support my hypothesis...

Share three pieces of academic or professional reading and explain how they and other sources helped you form hypotheses about aspects of teaching that might contribute to current patterns of learning.

If I want to use Talk Moves in maths accelerate student confidence and capability to use spoken and written maths vocabulary and language I need to make sure I have set the norms that allow for academically productive talk to take place.

'Students explain their ideas in detail with evidence... listen carefully to each other with respect... evaluate their own and others’ competing ideas.... are intellectually engaged.... Talk is not an add-on... it is a critical component of the lesson... that allows students explore ideas and use evidence to build and critique academic arguments.'
Page 13 of this reading suggests four goals that might support me in providing a learning environment where academically productive talk to take place
  1. Individual students share, expand and clarify their own thinking
  2. Students listen carefully to one another
  3. Students deepen their reasoning
  4. Students think with others
Michaels and O'Connor (2012)
Talk Science Primer

Instructional strategies are the tools of effective practice. They are the deliberate acts of teaching that focus learning in order to meet a particular purpose. Instructional strategies are effective only when they impact positively on students’ learning. Teachers need to be able to use a range of deliberate acts of teaching in flexible and integrated ways within literacy-learning activities to meet the diverse literacy learning needs of our students. These deliberate acts include modelling, prompting, questioning, giving feedback, telling, explaining, and directing.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, p. 78


Oracy is defined as ‘the ability to use the oral skills of speaking and listening’.... Spoken language is... of equal importance to reading and writing.... we need to make our classrooms talk-rich environments where every child is encouraged, expected and supported to develop a range of effective speaking and listening skills in a range of contexts.... Strategies for talk need to be in place to promote the transfer of knowledge, skills.... In practice this means there are two aspects to oracy, each equally important: learning to talk (oracy education) and learning through talk (dialogic approaches to teaching and learning).

Mannion, J. (2020, October 19). Oracy in The Learning Skills Curriculum: Rationale. Oracycambridge.Org.