Sunday, 19 May 2019

May Testing 2019

First testing round of the year has just been completed and most students performed as I would have expected. we've worked very hard on our reading over the last 10 weeks. High volume of texts, read tos, listen tos, dictations, writing, over load of text. The boys have all done a great job to work on their individualised goals and to keep up the effort every single day.
Starting term 2 we changed round some groups as students had made significant gains and others needed the individualised support being offered in my space. - So my data for May has some gaps compared to February.
The 4 identified target boys have made some good gains in their reading levels but still remain significantly behind where they should be. The three higher students (J, L, N) are reading in the same group and are presenting with decoding issues around looking beyond the initial letter of a word and to always ensure that the text they read makes sense. For term 2 I am concentrating the boys on word families and noticing detail. Betsy Sewell's program - Agility with Sound offers so much that these boys need.
The focus from her program will be on phonics and becoming fluent in reading a range of 3 letter word families - such as tin, pin, bin, sin, kin. The simple idea is that if the children can become confident with the medial vowel, they can apply the sounds they've learnt to decoding more complex words.  At the moment the boys tend to change the sound of the vowel to make a word that they are familiar with instead of what they see.
To run the whole program would mean spending all day on reading strategies - so as all teachers do - we are taking a small portion to try ad make significant difference.

The lower student (A) is only in year 3 and has increased his number of sight words and is confident when supported at yellow. He is needing to learn to apply strategies he is learning to independently decode. He tends to say any word that he is confident with - regardless of initial letter or meaning. So I have put him back in a beginning yellow group to solidify letter sounds as well as re build his confidence with the sight words he knows but can forget.

The challenge that this group is providing me is one I am thoroughly enjoying - to need to plan and prepare so many individualised programs keeps me busy and thinking around what will make the difference that these boys need.

Thursday, 9 May 2019


We have very recently received a Cubetto coding robot in class. The premise is that the children are given a narrative about a little robot and the challenge is to decode it on its journey through Cubetto Land.
My favourite thing about this tool is that there are no screens. The children code the movements by using coloured tiles.

Today I got out Cubetto for a group of 25 year 3/4 students. Together they had to come up with directions to move Cubetto from one spot on the mat to another. If a group could orally indicate their plan, then they got a chance to code with the tiles. On all occasions the route was challenging enough that the groups needed to assist each other to de bug their code. All groups worked collaboratively and, being a new tool in class, the engagement was high.
My next plan is to build a series of narratives around Cubetto, that exist in a shared space so that many classes have the ability to access a narrative and see if they can code and perhaps de bug Cubetto's journey.

Cubetto is certainly a tool for younger primary, but I am seeing the benefits in language development, justification and discussion as well as all 5 Key Competencies in middle primary. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Term 1 Reflection

Our term involved learning the routines that will set us up for success during our year.
By the end of term all of the kids could take home a book bag, read to an adult, practice spelling and return the book bag the following day. This was a HUGE success and not one that I have ever experienced in all my years of teaching. Why this group latched on to a routine when previous classes didn't seem to? - I have no idea. But I can certainly see a difference in this group and in the enthusiasm that they have for reading. The groups argue over who gets to read first and how many books they have read with the teacher. Certainly a group who love a good book - despite struggling to do so.
They've loved listening to read alouds, audio books and interactive comics. There's been a lot of text in our mornings and this has shown in the enthusiasm and hopefully the results.

27/28 children have moved up at least one guided colour level and one child made 2 years progress in one term. (Obviously he was ready to fly before the school year even began).

I"m feeling very positive about reading this year and the progress that we have made as well as the excitement we have built to continue our strong start.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

2019 Plans

For 2019 our year 3/4 cohort on average, tested lower than previous cohorts. In particular, we have 60+ students working 1.5+ years behind their expected level in literacy.
As a team we are focusing on lifting the achievement of students working 1 - 1.5 years behind in reading.
We test the students in June and November using PM Benchmark - unseen texts.

The results of 23 of my reading class from November 2018 are below. These students are all working 2+ years behind expected.

Target students for 2019 are highlighted

The challenge that I face is how to lift children in an area of schooling that is essential to all other curriculum learning. Without reading, most students fall way behind in other academic and even social areas.
By placing all 28 students in one literacy class, but within a larger MLE - I am able to support the deeper learning needs, but still maintain examples of excellence from higher achieving students within our MLE.

My question I am asking is, In our quest for digital initiative, have we lost sight of traditional pedagogies that work for our more vulnerable learners?
In my 10+ years of being innovative, embracing new technologies and creative approaches, I have seen many of our students thrive across all areas of the curriculum. But how many are missing out?
This year, my literacy group are the ones who have missed out. My job is to adjust and adapt our flexible curriculum to provide an onramp to vocab learning, increased confidence, a sense of achievement and improved test results.

I am reformatting our bank of Explain Everything resources to support older, lower level students. With a focus on high frequency word learning, sentence structures (surface and deep) and basic comprehension.
We are using collaborative engaging technologies to learn to read and spell high frequency words.
We are upping reading mileage - through read to, read with and home reading.
We are harking back to analogue book work with a focus on taking pride in handwriting and book layout. This may seem superficial, but I truly believe that we have lost many fine motor skills that actually support the students to look for detail in text and self correct errors. These skills are pencil grip, letter formation, using a ruler and visual spatial skills such as layout.

As always, I am placing the Key Competencies at the centre of this learning with these students focusing on Self Management and Participation (being successful at school).

Monday, 5 November 2018

Cybersmart Blog Commenting

With the Annual Manaiakalani Film Festival fast approaching, we are ready for the just in time check in that our kids are up to speed with Cybersmart blog commenting.
Blog commenting is an integral part of our literacy program but not always directly taught each and every week. With such a big push this week on blog comments, we wanted to come up with an activity that honed these skills and brought the known blogging kaupapa to the forefront of the kids' minds.

We've experienced a lot of success this year using analogue strategies to promote discussion and collaboration. We decided to tackle this challenge creatively using paper, glue and scissors.
The children were grouped in friendship groups that would encourage talking and sharing, but also getting the task completed.

The task was to watch 4 old Maniakalani Film Festival movies from years past - we purposely chose movies that we knew the children would not have watched - however, we also chose movies that were created by older siblings/cousins - to enhance some connection and engagement.

We gave the children pre-crafted sentences that pertained to a particular movie as well as more generic sentences that could match almost any movie. The challenge was to select three sentences that matched each movie to create a comprehensive comment. There was a lot of need for discussion and reasoning as the groups tried to narrow down which sentences were best fit for which movie.

Each group then glued their selected sentences onto a template in order to complete their comment.

The challenges faced by the children were around actually watching the movies and paying close attention to what set each movie apart and to find matching comments.
They also struggled with realising that the movies were "tabbing" within the browser and that they needed to hunt back in previous tabs to find the links of movies still needed to watch.

The "reward" for getting the comments completed was to have access to the entire back catalogue of Manaiakalani Movies - an absolute treat as the kids explored literal hours of child generated content.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Teaching Grammer

In our 3 class space we switch around learning groups depending on student needs, teacher needs and relationships. Currently I am teaching a group comprising 10 kids who are reading between 1 - 2years behind their chronological age and who are struggling to write complete sentences with sufficient detail.

An activity that I have tried in the past introduces the language of words and sentence structure and then encourages the children to play with the words to create different sentences which still hold essentially the same meaning.

10 years ago, PLD with Jannie van Hees introduced me to English grammar (despite 13years of schooling in NZ) and the importance of explicitly teaching grammar to ESOL students to enhance understanding of how words can be put together to create powerful sentences.
I made word packs with verbs, adjectives and adverbs - individually laminated and colour coded. Added to this are a small set of prepositions and blank cards for writing nouns.

To start with I'd give each group individually selected words that would make sentences - simply. The idea was to have the children be successful in putting the words together. Once the sentences were put together, we discussed the role of each word in the sentence and the power that they hold.
We spoke about verbs and how adverbs come in to play to modify the verb or to add more detail which gives the audience a greater understanding. We talked about nouns and how adjectives play a role in adding detail. We also looked at how prepositions can be used to add further context to a sentence. We played around with the order of the words and looked at how a sentence can still share the same message and use the same words - even if put in a different order.

The most powerful part of this activity is listening to the groups discuss and work through each set of words as they attempt to make the most detailed and powerful sentence. They argue with each other, back themselves and yet still listen when faced with a different point of view. We found that on most occasions, once the sentence is said out loud, the children were very quickly able to ascertain the validity of what they had constructed.

There is always great enjoyment in this particular activity and as we become more practiced at the grammar and structure, we are starting to choose the words blindly from the packs and are taking the opportunity to learn new vocabulary.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Argumentation, Justification and Using Scissors

We noticed in our cohort this year that most of the children struggled to use scissors, use glue "sparingly" and have those constructive learning conversations with their peers. Using a device meant that we could complete these sorts of "cut and paste" activities with less mess and less fuss, but the children were missing the vital fine motor skills and the art of argumentation and justification.

We hypothesised that by having the activity printed and in hard copy in front of the group, we would illicit argumentative discussions that would encourage the children to justify their points of view more readily and more strongly.
We set the context around punctuation as this was the main area in our E-Asttle testing that was letting this group down.
Our groups were friendship based in the hope to encourage the conversation.
The task involved scissors, glue, crayons and lots of talk.

Initial excitement was high as we explained the activity to the class. They were excited to work with friends and excited to rotate round different activities, to complete a variety of tasks.
We were fortunate to have a third year student teacher in class, which meant that we could have slightly smaller group sizes at each station which made some of the management slightly easier.

The activities that the children completed in rotation were

  • Organising sentences into simple and complex sentences.
  • Constructing complex sentences from dependent and independent clauses.
  • Punctuating simple and complex sentences
  • Punctuating a complete paragraph.

Each group had to work together, justify and explain before cutting, pasting and taking a photo to insert onto their Google slides.

We noticed as we introduced our activity and supported the kids through the learning, that while not all the children completely grasped the concept being taught- every child embraced the idea of team work and discussion. The students who lacked the initial knowledge, thrived on listening to their peers and offering input when they felt confident. The students who went into the activity with more confidence, learnt to assist their friends and to listen to others points of view and to build new knowledge of their own. This discussion and listening built well on what we have been practicing during DMiC this year.

The fine motor skills were definitely challenged with many groups cutting through work instead of neatly around it, too much glue being used and not being able to glue papers to fit in correct spaces. However each student could use an iPad effectively to take photos and upload their work to the right folder. I'm not sure we should be sacrificing one skill for another - so more work to be done on the more analogue tasks.

The children loved being more active in their learning and the classroom was a buzz with that fine line between chaos and lively discussion. As teachers, we enjoyed listening to the children talk and argue, as well as problem solve and work through issues and differing points of view.

We endeavour to do an activity such as this involving groups, discussion and analogue processes at least once a week. We owe our kids the best of both worlds to ensure they develop a range of essential learning tools.