Saturday, October 12, 2013

Downloading #ulearn13...

It all started with some trash talking tweets! I picked this idea from  (the MAGIC lady). I just chose some random tweets from @PalmyTeacher and @CJsymon. This is where my journey begins.

I am so glad I decided to go to #ulearn13. Best decision of 2013 for me. I think I had become a little bit complacent over the last couple of years. #ulearn13 was excactly the kick in the guts I needed to step it up.

This year I steered clear of too many techie type breakouts because I wanted to look at how teachers and schools are using 'Modern Learn Environments' and 'Self-Directed Learning'. I wanted to see the pedagogical transformation from traditional curriculum. It was really exciting.
Ken Shelton (@k_shelton)'s message was loud and clear for me: 

"Behaviour changes when fun is involved.

Inspire, motivate and engage through technology-simply a mechanism for a transformation. Requires direction and action-information is powerful but it is how we use it that will define us."

Each of my breakouts were excellent.  Exactly what I needed to see and hear.  All of them. It got me thinking that if I teach the way I was taught, then I am not setting my kids up for what the future may hold.  Knowledge, any knowledge is at the tips of our fingers now.  Many jobs that require monotonous labour are being done by robots or in 3rd world countries.  So it comes to this.  And this is the message that I want to hit hard in my class this term: no one cares about what you know any more, it's about showing what you can do with what you know.  Each and every presenter inspired me to want to do more with what I know.  

I am really excited about following my passion this term.  In fact, this is probably the most excited I have felt since 2011 when we made parodies.  This has made me reflect on the way we do things at RSS.  Why do we have to have a 'school focus' for 3 terms?  Why can't we have a 'school focus' one term and follow our passions the other 3?  If the purpose is to create effective, life long learners, then I think that more development around these skills is essential.  

I thoroughly enjoyed networking with my twitter whanau and meeting people face to face. Some amazing educators to look out for @heymilly, , @CJsymon, @PalmyTeacher.

Now What? What am I going to action?
- Create learning focused environment
- Develop better support around peer mentoring
- Develop systems and attitudes to help learners to overcome blocks in their learning
- Class Twitter account
- Shared/Collaborative Self-Directed Planning
- Impact/Passion Project Days
- Connect/collaborate with other classes 
- SMILE! Make learning fun! 
- Allow students to "book" follow up workshops with myself and the teacher aide.

ULearn13 Vox populi 4: What will you take away from Ulearn? from CORE Education Digital Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School... AT NIGHT

I consider myself to be a reasonably tough fulla brave guy. Not someone who is scared easily easily scared.  I’ve climbed mountains.  I’ve walked the streets of third world countries, at night. I’ve even chased a robber down the street on my scooter! I can be a pretty tough fulla alright.  

So it seemed ridiculous when I felt a little bit jittery about going into school at night to get some  One night I had to come down to school to get some musical equipment from the back room in the hall.  I fiddled with the padlock. The front gates opened with a scrape.  The driveway grew dark.  The silouette tree’s silhouette loomed intimidatingly over the road.  The moon provided an intense shadow on it’s naked branches; thorny and sharp; making them pretude protrude seem bigger than it they actually was were.  I eased into my car and pretended not to notice.  

I approach the door by the library.  I shut off the engine and my heart begins to race at the sound of silence.  Let’s just get this over and done with I tell myself.  My keys take a life of their own.  I jingle and jangle them to distract myself from this nervous sensation growing inside.  I place the key in the lock. The key turns. I take a breath and step inside.

Dashing to the alarm box first, I key in the code in the darkness.  Beep, beep, beep, beep; beep, beep, beeeeeeep.  The sound comforts me, for a second.  Now it’s gone. Silence once again... Where’s the light?  Frantically, I scan the nearby walls.  Nothing.  My skin starts to crawl. Shudders of sheer terror flood inside my mind.  Who designed this building, people? Where’s the freaking lightswitch? The flood gates fly open.  Shadows sneak up on me in the corner of my eye.  BOO! I look but nothing is there.  My stomach twists and turns.  I have no choice but to head further into the deep abyss of the hall.  Every step is excruciating.

Jugyou Kenkyuu

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

e9: Editing Our Writing

I was really proud of my writing lesson today!  I hope I made lots of connections with "What you do, when you review?" I modeled scrupulously what I would do to re-craft one paragraph. It was amazing when we re-read the edited paragraph and I asked "What's the overall feeling of this paragraph?" I heard Baily utter to someone next to him "He's so cute..." It was such the perfect 'teachable moment' about how sentences within paragraphs all work together to create a mental image about the author's idea.  So we added "He is so cute" to end off the paragraph.

As he wakes up his eyes go all wide and he says my dad went uhn uhn bye bye, then he crawls to his mum because his bed is connected to my auntie and uncle.

As my cousin wakes up, his eyes go all wide and he mumbles/squeals/babbles, “my Dad went uhn uhn bye bye”.  , tThen, he crawls scurries to his mum because his bed is connected to my Aaunty and Uuncle’s. He is so cute.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Appraisal Chats 2013

The following is a half-way survey on my progress towards meeting our charter goals for the school. I feel pretty proud that I am on track at meeting these goals. Does it make me a better teacher? I don't know some days... I think about about when I first started teaching. You come out of Uni thinking "Yeah, I can do this". However, teaching and learning only takes up a certain amount of an educators time; behaviour management, assessment, portfolios, eportfolios, elearning, productions, school assemblies, school discos, staff meetings, team meetings... The list goes on and on. So you just get swept away in the river of school. 3 years later, I Have a bit more experience at RSS, it's kind of like learning to kayak. To a novice, the velocity of the current sends you down the river of school, full of rapids and turbulent whitewater, it thrusts you around like a rag doll. But as a practitioner, you learn to use your paddle correctly and adjust with the current; you learn to recognise the lines and angles of the river and change your stroke. You predict what is coming around the corner so you can position your body, paddle and mind to slide through with ease.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing Workshops - Murray Gadd and Rita Palmer

“What kids can do, can’t do and what I need to teach them” - Murray Gadd
"Little and often" - Rita Palmer

I have been exceptionally lucky to have professional learning development days with these two superstars of writing.  One thing I picked up from both of these educators... was reading.  I think we can get swept away with all of the new and innovative ways to teach writing but reading to kids is by far the most effective.  I often wonder if there are enough opportunities to read to my class?  I remember in my primary schooling our teacher would read up to 5 chapter books in a year!  I am lucky if I get through one!  I guess one reason could be the different structures of the day.  Now we only have an hour and a quarter in the afternoon, whereas back in the day, there was 2 hours...  

I just had a flashback of actually having 5 minute afternoon tea breaks - wow.  They were manic.  Imagine hundreds of screaming kids, being let out of the cage, tearing outside for 5 minutes!  I literally remember going hell-bent for leather, screeching like an annoying battery operated toy.

Rita Palmer advocated mentor texts; a text which you could go to, to help you with a particular aspect of writing: imagery, short sentences, you name it.  Ever since then, I have been examining books left, right and centre to add to my list of mentor texts. There are lots of examples online.  If you have children, you probably have half of the titles sitting around at home, so go grab a container and start compiling a box today! 

To add to this, the new journals are amazing!  If you get a chance to use them - check them out.  They are packed with rich texts that the kids can read and unpack.  Did you know that "Research tells us that reading, analysing, and emulating model texts increase students writing abilities" - Graham and Perin 2007


Murray Gadd had lots of really simple yet effective advice.  Gosh he is really switched-on though. Astute as Jacqui put him. He made things look and sound so easy but there was a wealth of experience and knowledge behind his tips and pointers.  Here are a couple I have tried out already.  I liked his "Knowing words, looking words and hearing words" a strategy for writers when they are spelling. I also liked his use of prompting: "Maybe your reader needs to know that..." Murray's scaffolding was incredible. I must do more of this.

I am so glad that they advised against "doing 5 weeks of narratives" - this just gets boring! Writers in my class now are exposed to an experience or text and shared writing on Monday, crafting and re crafting Tuesday - Thursday, and publishing on Friday. Murray Gadd said that kids do their best writing when it is based on personal experience.

Nonetheless, there is definitely a buzz about writing at the moment. I have loved writing weekly with different purposes to cater for what we were learning about during reading or inquiry. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of making reading and writing links.

I will finish off with this inspiring story by Colin McNaughton. It encapsulates what effective teaching of writing should be and is!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wow! This was spectacular to see - Awesome Fi! You are an amazing teacher! You have made learning so exciting for all of those little people. They were so engaged but at the same time, they were well scaffolded and they were able to experience success. Thank you Fi - great job!

JK Teaching Group B: Plan and Observation Lesson 2

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Release

I am always re-inventing the wheel!  The digital classes got together ages ago and discussed how we might "assess" writing against the matrix.  We talked about highlighting in pages, then saving it to PDF and ultimately uploading to box that can be embedded onto the kids blogs.

This was not quite working for me because I wanted my kids to be engaging with the matrix all of the time.  Creating a google doc means that I am able to share them into their assessment and have the process more collaborative.  I would love to be able to share the parents into the document to make is a 3 way thing.

This list is on my writing plan so I can at any time go to the link off the plan to any student's assessment and make notes, assessments etc.

Anyways, that's my thinking now.  I will reflect deeply if it all turns to custard!

Performance Agreement 2013

JK Teaching Group B: Plan and Observation

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shared writing: WALT explain

We have been learning to explain this week so we have been examining texts to see how to set up an explanation? We found out that an explanation begins the writing by briefly introducing the topic but does not give away too much information and this excites the reader because they want to find out more.  Check out our shared writing from yesterday!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Here is a video I made using PowToons on Google Drive.  It is in response to the shared writing sections in the 'Effective Literacy Practice' books 1 - 4 and 5 - 8.  See here for the readings.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tataiako Reflection

1. What is tataiako?
Tātaiako has been developed to help all educators think about what it takes to successfully teach Māori learners. It provides a guide to the development of cultural competence for teachers.

2. Write about one thing (about your/our current practice) that was reinforced in this workshop.
This workshop really reinforced many of the values that we do at RSS.  Once putting it all together I felt, like wow, because we do a lot here and it was a really satisfying feeling.  I feel that I am in the fore of this document because I am a part of the Nga Whakaaro think tank, Kapa Haka and Te Roopu Whanau.  This workshop reiterated that what we are trying to achieve in these groups for our Maori learners has a flow-one affect for all learners. 

3. Write about one thing that was new or challenged you.
I found challenging the activity where we had to read and collect the top three statements about Tātaiako   It challenged me because you really had to which statements were alive in your class.  See here for my choices.

4. What is your (or our) next step?
The challenge now is to keep on going; to keep up-to-date with these practices and beliefs.  What is good for Maori learners is good for all learners.

(from Staff Workshop)

Five Competencies:
1. Wananga
2. Whanuangatanga
3. Manaakitanga
4. Tangata Whenuatanga

Wananga: How do we work in partnership / communicate - teacher/ children/ 
Conversation and engagement in partnership

• children, parents, teachers communicating openly and honestly / listening to views / talking 
• Actively encourages and supports and challenges Maori parents, whanau, iwi and community to determine how they wish to engage about important matters
• Not all decisions are made for Maori - decisions are collaborative
• Representation of Maori - ensure their is a strong ‘voice’ for Maori in our school / community
• Board member – Staff 
• Te Roopu Whanau
• Nga Whakaaro
• Sharing with parents / communicating everything / good and bad - with respect ensuring parents are kept informed
• Children talking with their teacher about their learning
• Teachers listening to parents / whanau / 
• Confident to share
• My teacher engages me / their is a real partnership in the teaching and learning

How well do you live by your competency?
We do a good job of connecting / communicating / sharing / collaborating with our Maori students / parents
Some specific examples/ opportunities for parents / students  / teachers to be involved and communicate / share / collaborate
Harakeke regeneration
Te Roopu Whanau
Seed to Table
Planning for Te Reo Maori to happen regularly in the class
Student led conferences / link to parents and children and teacher all together - places importance and value on the child and their learning and the importance of sharing/ celebrating their success with their parents / My teacher ‘cares about what I think’ 
Blogs - another way for children to share their learning success
What could you do better at?
Not all children would be engaging /  - what can we do to improve this?
Making sure we take the time to personalise the relationship /  notice the parents who might not be comfortable with talking / sharing / engage with these parents in a meaningful way.

Te Roopu Whanau well established  - we need to keep the strength in this / make sure they are involved with the Maori strategic plan (currently have one)

2. Whanaungataunga - Actively engages in respectful working relationship with Maori learners, parents and whanau, hapu, iwi and the Maori community
Teacher has working relationships with Maori learners and their whanau - 
Teacher actively seeks ways to work with whanau to maximise Maori learner 
Teachers are visible at Maori community events
Listening to voice of Maori - children, parents, whanau, iwi
Positive relationships with teachers
Teacher knows family
Parents feel welcome at school
Teacher knows about child
Child knows teacher well
Whanau feel welcome and included
Respectful, positive and productive relationships
As a school, how well do you live by your competency?  What could you do 
How far does whanaungataunga go?  Children, parents, whanau - yes!! Hapu, 
Te Roopu Whanau
What about those not involved with Te Roopu Whanau?

3. Manaakitanga Values – integrity, trust, sincerity, equity look like @ RSS
Powhiri want to do them right, more than tokenism, with sincerity- Consult resources BOT, Staff,
They are our values. Moari first then english. 
Normalisation of Maori protocol in school environment.
Celebrations like Graduation have maori prominence.
Learning context focus within our program
Treaty of Waitangi workshops and learning connection to start of term units.
Tuakana Taina buddy class, Matariki day,  
Importance of Te Roupu whanau, think tank
Release for Kapa Haka- Priority. 
Maori Strategy- 
Data analysis and planning with focus on Maori
Communication through work days with food. 

4. Tangata Whenuatanga
Looks like & Sounds Like:
2x 10minutes minimum per week in every classroom
Meeting/greeting in Maori & basic te reo (as per Curriculum level 1 Maori DRAFT policy)
Waiata - local myths and legends - identifying with local tangata whenua e.g. mihi/pepeha
kapahaka (own waiata)
Cultural Context:
e.g.Term based contextual focus e.g. Matariki, te Marae
e.g. Te Marae, Harakeke,

How well do we do?  What can we build on?
Consolidating and looking for new opportunities...
Whakapapa - where children are from - making further links e.g. kaumatua.
Having conversations about what we are doing.  Developed our Maori 
Links e.g. to Kia ora FM/Maori TV
Takes responsibility for their own learning and that of Maori learners
• We felt this means the teacher taking responsibility for their learning about the Maori culture, the needs of Maori and achievement levels. It also means taking risks and bringing in experts.
• It is important, it brings lifelong benefits and rewards and makes for a better person.
• Behavioural  indicators are planning and using pedagogy that engages 
Maori learners and caters for their needs and also accelerate learning.  
Teachers can give regular, purposeful feedback and constructive feed forward (as we do all students).  We can think about the prior knowledge of Maori and have high expectations.  Learn about Maori achievement.  Ensure congruency between learning at home and at school.
• Many of the above is what we do for all students.
From the Maori students point of view this means
• Let me and my peers know when we are doing well 
• Never give up on us (the most important thing I have learnt in teaching)
• Knows what works for me and my learning
• Asks us what we know
• Shows me how to learn
• Expects everyone of us to do our best at all times
• Believes I can succeed
• Tell me that we are both responsible for how well I do – we both get to celebrate when I do well, or have to try harder if we don’t
• Seems to enjoy learning from us to.
We felt Russell St School was listening to the whanau voice.   We have student led conferences and portfolios so that Maori parents know what their children are learning and can support them at home.  We have AJ and Darryn on the BOT so Maori can make decisions about the teaching and learning programmes.  We also have the raupo whanau group.  We have identified Maori and know their achievement levels.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Encouraging Girls to appreciate Creepy Crawlies...

I always remember when I first started teaching, we got our hands on some swan plants and really enjoyed watching the little caterpillars turn into big fat caterpillars.  We were lucky enough to even watch a butterfly come out of it's chrysalis during class time!  My class (and I!) really got into it, so much so that one particular day after the bell had gone for home.  I found a group of boys hanging around the swan plant looking at it curiously.  Now, I was teaching at a Decile 2 school.  The group of boys were not your "switched onto learning" "science crazy" type kids.  They were more like rough and tumble, rugby-or-nothing type kids.  So, as you can imagine, I was pretty stoked to have engaged these kids in such a way.

We watched, mesmerized as the last two butterflies opened and closed their wings in preparation for their first flying lesson.  It was a horribly windy day out side so there was a bit of tension about how they were going to get on.  Again, it was amazing watching these boys, who cared about nothing but sport, to act so empathetically towards these butterflies!

Off the butterflies flew clumsily into wind and were whipped away with a gust.  The boys followed in a bluster like puppies clambering over each other to retrieve a toy.  They were worried.  But one opened it's wings and took flight into the sky and was on it's way!  The other, however, didn't get high enough and flew directly into the torso of a Year 8 girl walking towards us. We all looked in horror as the girl screamed,  flicked the butterfly onto the ground with her hand, and stomped on it.

7 years later, I have an almost 6 year old daughter.  I have learnt from this experience and have tried to encourage my daughter in experiencing the wonder of creepy crawlies. They do help us in many ways!  Without spiders there would be too many mosquitos!  And worms help us with compost!  By developing these positive "attitudes" towards bugs will help girls appreciate them alive and not squashed.

So make sure you model fascination (and remind the females in your family to do this also).  Get out into the garden and scratch around.  Let worms squiggle in their hands and snails slither up their arms.  Watch slaters turn into balls and roll around on the palms of their hands.  Watch with curiosity as  a spider spins a web, eats a fly or protects it's nest.  Watch a praying mantis devour another so that you encourage girls to appreciate creepy crawlies.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tune in Activity

Russell Bishop (ed talk) - check out vid.

These were my top 3 statements that guide my practise. This was a tricky Tune in activity because we had to scrutinise many statements. I chose these because this is what I strive to do on a day to day basis.

Whakatauki to start us off

Ka hikitia - making meaning for Maori students.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marae Reflection

What an amazing way to begin the year!  I am energized by our team of teachers at RSS.  Tu meke guys - aroha nui.

Assessing Writing

It feels funny looking into writing again.  I remember going through the same process with my previous school at Coley.  You build upon knowledge and experience and now see it again under a new light; you re-see it.

I laughed reading my reflection here 3 years ago because we spent a lot of the time unpacking the meaning of the criteria for level 3 in writing.  For example, we spent ages finding out and discussing what  'verbial phrases' and 'morphemes' were much like how 'lexical chains' dominated our discussion 3 years ago.

This has made me reflect on the "formative assessment" belief at our school, especially in writing.  The truth is, the criteria for what good writers do is huge! It's overwhelming.  I fear that the massive list of things will put some learners off.

This being said, the mini-lesson that Chris Braid taught us 3 years ago works very well.  This is how I have been structuring my writing since then.  I have used some criteria from the standard, whatever the needs are of my learners, and delivered mini lessons.  To read more see here:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Writing; nuts and bolts

So below is a quick outline of what I teach in writing and why I do it.