Sunday, 27 August 2017

Stepping Up

Like most new teachers, I tend to find school trips pretty stressful. I take frequent head counts of the children, have a bit of a korero beforehand about my expectations and how the day will run and I keep my tamariki close to me at all times. However, up until this point my school trips have been pretty simple to manage. I have often been accompanied by several other classes (and teachers) and I often only have to guide my students through an enclosed and controlled area, such as a museum or theatre.

That all changed this week as I escorted the year sevens from my class on a week long camp to the Bay of Islands. This camp would involve kayaking, spending the night in the bush and visiting numerous locations. The thought of this was pretty daunting and I even had a few nightmares in the week leading up to the camp! I was all too aware of the headlines about disasters that had occurred during school camps. I was also a little worried that my students would begin to forget some of the things that they had just learnt, such as the maths concepts I had taught during the previous weeks.
                             My students practicing their skit about Bush Survival

However, as soon as our first activity had begun I realized how wrong I had been to dread the camp - it was amazing! My students were able to learn so much about New Zealand history from the museums and tours that we attended. They had numerous new experiences and learnt skills such as bushcraft that they would remember for life. I saw so much value in every activity and had so much fun, when Friday came around I would have been happy to stay on (despite being exhausted)!
A huge challenge for me was sleeping in the shelter we built
For one thing, I managed to include a lot of mini lessons over the course of the camp. As we spent time every day travelling around the Bay of Islands, I spent about 15 - 30 minutes over all each day to facilitate a mini maths lesson in the car. As my students are really enjoying the maths at the moment they actually began to ask for this on our journeys and we managed to work through the learning that I had left for our year sixes back at school. I also spent about 10 minutes with my group each day writing about the places that we had visited and putting them on a timeline. This supported them to build a conceptual framework around the topic and illustrated the connections between the places that we visited. After dinner we reflected on the experiences we had, set goals and filled in a PMIS chart about the activities.
I even got to go back over a water safety lesson that I taught in term one - we got in the huddle and HELP positions, skulled, treaded water and swam a distance.

Another really important aspect of the camp was that I developed really strong relationships with my learners and they got to know one another a lot better. All of my year sevens worked so well together and my group illustrated really effective and supportive teamwork. Some of my students who don't usually work together had the opportunity to do so and it was so lovely to hear them remark on this on our final night, stating what they did not know about the others in such a positive way.

One aspect of my teaching philosophy is that I seek to support my students to develop an understanding of themselves, their beliefs and their perspectives about different matters. I could definitely see my students learning new things about themselves on this camp,be it that they love kayaking, or that they discovered a new food that they like, or discovering deeper things, like how to help a friend in trouble, to be resilient or to try new things, even if they did not think that they would enjoy them.In particular I saw some of our Māori tamariki take more pride in their culture and using more of their language.

I am so glad to have had this experience and I know that I will draw upon my learning here for the many camps to come.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Honoring the Treaty

In a few weeks time my learners and I will be heading off to Russell for a school camp focused on the Treaty of Waitangi and the history of New Zealand. To ensure that my learners can connect with this topic, we have been studying history and the Treaty in our inquiry lessons. 


This was the first time that my learners had investigated the Treaty in depth and many of them were quite surprised by what they learnt. In particular, they were startled by the fact that there were two versions of the Treaty and that the land wars occurred shortly after the Treaty was signed. As we investigated the clauses of the Treaty, there was much discussion around how it is used today. Many of my learners thought that it would contain laws much like those that we follow today. This lead onto a discussion about the partnership between Māori and Pakeha and the importance of learning Te Reo  Māori and about Māori tikanga.

As a class we reflected on the fact that we have a weekly Te Reo lesson, sing waiata, discuss whakatauki and learn a little about Māori customs or tikanga. However, I discovered that there are many gaps in my learners knowledge; some were unaware what a hongi was for example. To remedy this, I planned some lessons that would cover different areas of Māoridom. We looked at powhiri and marae protocol for example and made traditional Māori bread (Takakau).

I have written before about taking extra university papers in order to learn some Te Reo and the fact that I seek to use the langauge and Māori resources wherever possible. However, by studying this unit my learners have become more aware of the importance of using Te Reo and they are beginning to ask more about Māori tikanga. Despite having these conversations before, I believe that they lacked the knowledge to truly connect with what I was trying to stress. I am now really looking forward to the camp and to watch my students as they engage in authentic experiences around the Treaty of Waitangi.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

High Expectations in STEAM

I love presenting new information to my learners, particularly when it leads them to finding new interests. At the end of last term we investigated different times in history which lead to discussions about etymology and language. This was a great hook for my learners and I had a group of boys who began to read texts about medieval times and King Arthur, while other students became fascinated with geography and foreign languages.

This term our school is focusing on architecture, which has presented a wonderful opportunity for us to investigate 'STEAM' subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). I am hoping that this topic will be just as rich and engaging as our previous inquiry and it will allow me to cover different areas of the curriculum.
Student create activity about insulation
We kicked the week off with a Science Intensive, where we spent four days investigating different scientific and technological concepts. Each teacher was responsible for covering one topic and the students rotated around the four senior classes. My science intensive covered chemistry and I focused on the states and changes of matter with younger students and atoms and molecules with the year seven and eights.
Building a bridge from a single piece of paper
In class we have been comparing the different resources and types of buildings used by different cultures. We also looked at design and investigated engineers and their careers. I challenged my students to create a stable bridge in my year six technology class and there was a lot of rich discussion and problem solving taking place.

Following the design specifications
While the students have been exposed to a lot of content over the past two weeks, they have coped with it well and a lot of learning has occurred. I believe it is really important to have high expectations of learners in these subjects and to support them to interact with these concepts. If they are introduced and enjoy such topics at an early age, they could go on to study them at high school, university or to pursue a career in a STEAM field.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Creativity Empowers Learning

This week our staff meeting was run by Fiona Grant, who came to talk to us about the way that creativity empowers learning. As our  Manaiakalani pedagogy is 'Learn, Create, Share' our students are given regular opportunities to create and to be creative.

However, not all create activities are equal. When we consider the SAMR model, we know that we can design activities at the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition level of the model. We know that we cannot always design tasks at the top two levels of this model, and that substitution has its place.

                                                          image by Sylvia Duckworth

Fiona reminded us that often Modification and Redefinition level tasks can be more time consuming than those at the Substitution and Augmentation level. However, students can achieve a deeper level of understanding in these higher level tasks. Fiona suggested that we consider the concepts that we are teaching; we must decide what we can teach in a shorter substitution session and what would be best explored in depth through a task at the redefinition level of SAMR.

We also considered the cognitive load of these create tasks. While some require the students to simply recount their experiences, others require the students to have a deeper understanding of these experiences. I have decided to make an explainer video as my next create activity for inquiry and writing, as it requires the students to have a deep understanding of the content and to consider how they can best represent and explain the key ideas.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Making Progress

I have just completed my mid year assessments and I am reflecting on what has supported my learners this term. To support my own observations and data, I have sent surveys to my learners to discover what they have found most helpful in each of their lessons.

1. Student Agency and Workshops
As part of my dissertation, I have been using a workshop approach to teaching maths a few times a week. My learners select which workshop(s) they need to attend and choose the activity aimed at their level. To support the learners when they are not with me, I have provided videos portraying the content that was covered in the workshop and materials. I have found that the students have been able to select the correct workshop and activity for their level.  They noted that the small group environment, materials and time with the teacher were very helpful.

The students also have two problem solving lessons a week which I facilitate but let the students take the lead on. This means that we have a balance of teacher led and learner led maths lessons, which the students also found helpful.

2. Reciprocal Reading
This has been a huge hit with the learners and they can now run this with little teacher intervention. It is great to see them holding debates and discussion about the texts and trying to challenge each other with the questions that they are asking.

3. Fluent Reading
I noted that some of my less capable readers were not able to read fluently, so we made this a focus and we used Screencastify to record them reading aloud with expression. This was particularly beneficial for the students on the colour wheel, who have become far more fluent readers. Thanks to Clarelle who is working on this intervention for her dissertation.

4. Meaningful Experiences

I have tried to create as many language experiences as possible this term, which has been very beneficial to the students writing. However, it has also been wonderful to see the students apply their learning in real life or different contexts. For example, using our fractions and measurement knowledge in our class cooking lesson. I found that the students can consolidate and deepen their understanding of concepts this way. This was particularly apparent when we constructed Pompeii and I listened to conversations about the different parts of the volcano that they were creating and which Roman God their temple would be associated with.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Te Reo Māori

As someone who completed the majority of their schooling overseas, I cannot say I experienced any Te Reo Māori lessons when I was at school. As such, when I began teaching last year I was a little unsure of how much Te Reo is usually taught and how these lessons are structured. Naturally, there is a lot of variation between courses and different ideas of how best to support the development of the language. Fortunately, I was able to experience Te Reo lessons first hand as I enrolled in two different courses as a student.
                                                    Learning about the colours

While I was a student at Auckland University, I took a linguistics paper in Te Reo Māori which helped me to develop an understanding of the structure of the language and supported me to build a basic vocabulary. As I still struggled with pronunciation and wanted to learn more about Tikanga, I enrolled in a course at UNITEC. This course was free and I would urge other educators to enrol, as I found it hugely beneficial. We went through the basics of the language, but looked at pronunciation,  tikanga and kapa haka.  The tutors in this course were wonderful; the activities that they provided were engaging and we all came a long way in a short space of time.

                                                                                                               Our Matariki Video
I now use a combination of " Ka Mau te Wehi!" which is the programme followed by my school and the lessons from my Kura Po classes at UNITEC. I have found that my students are just as engaged in the activities from my classes as I was and I can tell that much learning is occurring in these lessons.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Encouraging Collaboration and Problem Solving

This term I have sought to facilitate discussion between my learners and to step out of group lessons so that they are student led. I have utilized strategies such as reciprocal reading, maths as problem solving and circle time to encourage this. I have also highlighted the importance to work with others during our class PB4L lessons.
Team Building Sport Games

Within these PB4L lessons, I have facilitated a number of activities to foster team building. We played team building sports games, technology challenges and the famous toothpaste activity. One of the most engaging and successful activities that the class has participated in has been Breakout Edu.

A PB4L Challenge

The students were respectful, supportive, collaborative and engaged throughout the game, which was very rewarding to observe. Part of this success could be due to the amount of focus that we have put into team building in the past, but the Breakout had my students captivated and they have requested that we complete another game as soon as possible.

Our first Breakout was simple as the context of the game was designed for younger primary school students. However, as this was their first experience with the game, I felt it was important that they learnt a little more about it before the challenge is increased. The students have suggested that I facilitate a slightly trickier game at the end of term, which I am already looking forward to.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Building Experiences

This year I have learnt the value of providing rich experiences for my students, particularly as prompts for writing.  As the year has progressed, I have noticed that my students are asking to learn about a more diverse range of topics, from learning languages to learning about ancient history.

Over the past four weeks we have travelled to a farm and learnt about how farmers run their businesses, shear sheep and herd cattle. We have learnt to make scrambled eggs, dioramas, models and to play hockey. We have also learnt a little about Etymology and had a sign language lesson with a tutor from Deaf Aotearoa.

Learning to sign this week

From these experiences I have seen my students vocabulary increase and they have been able to create very rich pieces of writing. I have found the true value of language experiences and intend to utilise these to support my year six students in particular, as they are focussing on the recount genre this year.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Integrated Inquiry Approach

For the first part of the term,  our inquiry topic has been focussed on animals and being a responsible pet owner. I integrated maths, reading, writing, inquiry, technology and art as to maximise the amount of learning that could occur in the short time that we were given.

I was amazed by how much content we covered and how much the students learnt. My reading books aligned directly with the inquiry science lessons, where we investigated classification, adaptation and the food chain. I ensured that my students were engaging with multimodal text types each week and that we read a few texts that covered the topic in depth. I found that these reading lessons were very successful; the students made connections between their prior knowledge/ learning and between the texts.This aligned with a wide and deep reading approach, which Glenbrae and other Manaiakalani schools are focusing on at the moment.


In writing we investigated and wrote about responsible pet care, writing reports and letters about this. While we worked on addition and subtraction questions around buying items for our pets and visiting the vets in maths. The students were given technological challenges to create items that would support farmers and as a create activity for writing, my year six students created dioramas to illustrate the different environments that pets live in.

Creating dioramas to illustrate an animals habitat.

We are now looking at some of the big issues around animals, such as factory farming and animal testing, as part of our personal lines of inquiry and class sessions. These are promoting great discussion and debate. The students will be responding to these issues this week through poetry, to end our inquiry.

Overall, I feel I have learnt a lot from teaching this unit. This is the first time I have attempted to integrate as many subjects and it is something that I will definitely be doing again.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Reflecting on my first term!

I have done so much learning this term and can already think of so much I would change or do differently when I enter the first term next year. However, it has been a pretty successful first term and I have really enjoyed my time with the children.

I have found that our inquiry lessons have been pretty successful this term. The children were interested in the topic of global warming and the environment and we covered a lot of content by integrating reading, writing, health and social studies. We also created  and shared art that illustrated our view on environmental issues and I was impressed by the ideas that the students had and their creativity.

I have seen a lot of success in reading in particular, as my students have been able to meet the learning intention and create some wonderful DLOs in response to the text that they have read. I can tell that the students have been engaged, as they have consistently met deadlines, completed reading tasks at home and have frequently blogged about. 

In writing the majority of my class have consistently met the learning intentions and we have completed some fun activities. While I found strategies to support some of my reluctant writers faster than others, I was able to create some engaging writing activities at the end of the term that I hope to develop in term 2. 

While I have struggled in maths (check out my blog post here) I have come a long way in this area and I have definitely learnt some new strategies.

I'm really excited to apply this learning next term and to continue to develop as an educator!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Maths Mayhem?

Teaching maths has been the largest challenge I have faced this term. I attempted to follow the problem solving approach, teaching half class mixed ability problem solving lessons 4 times a week, with one workshop. This had been an approach that we were taught through professional development last year and my school sought to continue. After struggling with this for the first seven weeks, I sent out a survey to determine what the students thought of our maths lessons. It was clear from the responses that the majority of students were unhappy. Some said that the problems were too easy, while others said that they were really struggling. I was having more behavioural problems in maths than in any other subject because of these emotional responses.

 I then tried to offer more materials to my learners who were struggling and to run a longer warm up at the start of the session to explain the concept to them. This helped them a little but they lost engagement by the end of the maths lesson. I also tried to do something similar for the high achieving students but in the end I really rushed through the lessons, conscious that this was surplus to the 'main' lesson that I was running that day. 

This was pretty amusing as I am about to start research looking at how teachers can differentiate their maths lessons in a mixed ability class. I was feeling pretty concerned, and I could even match my mistakes to those documented in the literature. However, the research inspired me to make a change, so I began to offer three workshops and got the students to opt in to at least one of them. This meant that I had enough time to cover the content at different levels of difficulty. Similarly, I  create different digital independent tasks and allow the students to choose which to use.

I run these workshops at the start of the week and ensure that they cover the concepts that the students will require to tackle the problem. I have also ensured that I have used open ended problems as much as possible, so that the students can alter the difficulty of the problem themselves. If I have to use set numbers in the problem, I will include the option to alter the numbers so that they are larger or smaller.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

learn, create, SHARE,

After conducting a presentation of my class site for a university assignment a few weeks ago,  I realised that it was time to confront my fear of public speaking. As such, Clarelle and I went to present about digital teaching to a group of Bed (Hons) students at the University of Auckland.

This was quite a daunting idea at first, but I decided to jump in and give it a go. With someone I trust by my side, I was able to deliver my presentation more confidently than I had done before and actually found it quite enjoyable.

                                                    Our Presentation

I also realised how far I had come in my digital knowledge since the start of my teaching career (only a little over a year ago).  Back then I was only just learning to use Google Docs and had just discovered my drive. I also used to really struggle to make videos or engage with multi-media. Now I have overcome these fears and I am using them more than ever - voluntarily filming videos with my class and editing them with ease.

I look forward to seizing more opportunities to share this knowledge and to speak about my journey with others. I think if I can make this much progress (with a lot of support) others can too, and I would love to aid in their digital journeys as well.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A Digital Balance

One of the highlights of my week are my Friday mornings, as I am left with six students while the others go to technology at Tamaki College. It would be easy to use this time for finishing off work, or to facilitate quiet activities, but I see this as a huge opportunity to try out some more adventurous lessons and to offer my learners new experiences.

We are spending this time with technology lessons, where we are following the process of designing and creating new products. The students were eager to start with food technology, and we are currently role playing that we are a company who are tasked with designing new products for Pak n Save. Our tasks are growing more complex by the week, and I would like to end the term by creating a product and its (environmentally-friendly) packaging that can be 'purchased' by our fellow students.


In these lessons I have found a balance of digital learning, where the students conduct research into the products and look at recipe ideas, and practical learning,  where we have taste tests and use kitchen equipment. I have found that the digital components have enhanced what I am teaching practically. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Getting Creative

After engaging with a summer school paper regarding digital teaching and learning, I feel more inspired than ever to make greater use of the technology in my 1:1 Chromebook class.

This year about 95 percent of my students own a Chromebook and the others can work 1:1 due to the PC's that are available in my class. This has allowed me to step up my digital teaching and create more activities that align with the augmentation, modification and redefinition level of the SAMR model.
Using MnMs while looking at different types of graph in statistics

So far this year, the students have used Tagul to create posters, Infographics to convey statistical information, Answer Garden, Kahoot and Padlet to share their ideas, Google Forms as exit cards, Sketchnotes to illustrate their maths strategies and Google Slides to present their learning during our school science week. I have used technology more meaningfully in these first five weeks than I was able to do last year thanks to the culmination of my MDTA training and my university papers.

Using Google Draw to create a class infographic

Not only have I been more creative with the activities that my students are participating in online, but I am also facilitating more non-digital creative activities as well. I now have a far better understanding of the notion of using technology meaningfully - I can easily recognize when a non-digital activity might be better suited than a digital one.

 Creating bird feeders as part of a wastewise lesson.    Creating a Tagul as part of a lesson on identity          

I cannot wait to see what my class are able to create as the year continues.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Going Solo

I have now been teaching 'solo' (in a single cell classroom, without my mentor) for five days and I cannot believe how much I have already learned.  At the start of this year I decided that I would enter the classroom being a little stricter than I would like to be, so that I could quickly establish expectations and routines.

While I managed to stay uber strict for the short walk from the hall to the classroom, I was quickly laughing with my students and my strict facade was broken. However, I was very persistent regarding our class routines and I am finding that my students are following them fairly well. We have chatted about respect being a huge part of our class treaty and the idea of work hard, play hard - which really means that the students get to play a game when they pack up efficiently or work well in class. You can check out what a day in our class looks like in the video below (we managed to put this together in a day and I am quite pleased that we managed it so early on in the year).


I tend to have very high expectations of my students in terms of their learning and this has definitely been something I have reflected on this week, particularly after attending a Manaiakalani meeting regarding our data. We have been advised to teach critical literacy; to support our learners to read widely and deeply and to look up to what is expected of them in the years to come. Although I need to be wary that I am not pushing my students too far (bearing in mind some of them are two years younger than the students I taught last year), I have discussed this with them through our goal setting lessons. My year 6 students in particular are very eager to set high goals for themselves, seeking to achieve similarly to the year 7s in our class.

As my students had the task of creating a self portrait and quote that would inspire them to meet their goals this year, I created my own reflecting my high expectations. I also wanted to reflect our desire to work as a team and to stay in/ row our class (metaphorical) waka, in which we all do our part to sail towards success.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Whats on the horizon for technology in education?

This week we began our university summer school course with Rena Heap and Kerry Lee. The course is concerned with digital pedagogy, which is an area we are all involved with and passionate about. Our first task was to create a fifteen minute presentation based on one of the course readings.

I chose to cover the NMC/ CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition. I spent a couple of minutes covering the outline of the report and shared a slide show containing my notes with the class.

For the remainder of my presentation I created a mini Makerspace featuring Google Cardboard and robotics. I wanted to give my peers the opportunity to experience some of the technology described in the text. We had a great time running the Edison robots around the track and experimenting with some of the Apps on Google Cardboard. I'm really looking forward to introducing this as part of the technology lessons I teach with my year 6 students, while the year 7's are at Tamaki College.