Friday, 22 November 2019

Reading Data 2019

I've decided to take a different look at my reading data for 2019.  Most of my literacy group have struggled to learn to read and have been unable to make the expected 1 year progress for 1 year at school that is normed for NZ children.

Column 4 of the table above shows the academic progress in years that each child has made per year - on average. - (assuming an initial age of 5yrs upon starting school) Some of the children had been at school 2 years and others 3 years.

The final column shows the shift in 2019 compared to previous years.

Student 2
This child started year 3 with an instructional reading age of 5.9years. He had spent 2 years at school and had made roughly 11months of reading progress in that time - or 5.5months per year.
In 2019, this student made remarkable progress, and by November was reading at an instructional age of 10.5yrs. That is nearly 5years of progress or 10x the progress of the previous 2 years.

Student 6 
Student 6 maintained the same level of progress as he had in his previous 2 years at school - roughly 4months of progress per year. During 2019 it has become clear that he has a literacy processing issue. This will endeavour to be addressed further in 2020.

Students 14 and 16 
These two boys were in their second year of being in my literacy class. 2018 had not been too successful for these boys as I had failed to discover what they needed to progress.

Student 14 has been identified as high learning needs in 2019. He made twice the progress in 2019 that he was able to make in his previous 3 years at school -including 2018 in my class. The changes that I made to our reading program have really helped this boy connect further with letter sounds, blends and retention of sight words.
Student 16 has been identified as high learning needs in 2019. He has learnt to read this year. The changes that I made to his program - and the other boys at Levels 1-3 have made a huge difference to their decoding ability and overall number of sight words.

Not all of my class has been tested, but I am pleased with the overall results of the running records. Not every child has quite made the goal that I set for them at the start of the year, but nearly every student has made pleasing progress with regards to their own development.

The changes that I made to my reading program involved redesigning all of my follow up activities for every text that we read. Every child reading green or below read everyday - 4 texts per week. Each week we focused on sight words in the text in follow ups and in spelling and handwriting.  I incorporated the decoding prompts of Gwenneth Phillips as well as phonics from Agility with Sound. Intensive group guided lessons coupled with follow up activities focused on words, word patterns and spelling conventions - have meant that the boys are more aware of the need to and have the confidence to self correct, have more sight words and a wider and stronger set of decoding skills.

None of this is rocket science or anything new, for me it was the deliberate choice of knowing that I had to give my all to help these boys have success and to see themselves as readers.
The year 3s I have continuing into year 4 for 2020 will continue to build on what we have achieved in 2019 and I have secretly high hopes for their ongoing success.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Supported Narrative Writing

We're working on writing narratives in class. We have designed and described settings as well as developed characters. This week we're attempting to put our ideas together to begin planning a narrative.
My group needs a more supported approach to writing a complete narrative, so we're beginning with sequencing and retelling a short clip from The Monster House

We started by watching the short clip and discussing what was happening at each moment. The boys were then given 11 short sentences to sequence by cutting and pasting in order.

Day two of the activity and we again watched the clip and revisited the text ordering from the previous day. The boys had remembered many of the new vocab.

Today's activity involved sequencing pictures - screenshots from the movie - that matched the text from day one.
Once the pictures were sequenced, the boys needed to write their own sentence to help retell the story.

The support provided was through Explain Everything on their iPads.

I made slides that had each picture and a range of vocab that the boys may need to use to write their retell. Each word had a matching recording so that they could listen to the words and not have to be able to read them. This helps push their writing beyond simple known vocabulary.
The Explain Everything activity was lined off the class site so that each kid could access and download it.

The boys were happily able to write their own sentences feeling supported and empowered to attempt new and more complex vocab in their story.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Trauma Informed Teaching

I was highly fortunate to attend amazing PD around Trauma informed teaching delivered by Kathryn Berkett. Kathryn is an Educational Psychologist with a certificate in Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics - Trauma.

Unfortunately the number of children presenting at schools around NZ with significant trauma is increasing. Kathryn offers valuable information around the physiology of this trauma as well as some simple ideas that can benefit both the traumatised children as well as the teacher.

I adore working with these more challenging kids and the interesting days that we share. Kathryn's korero not only supported a lot of what I believe and taught me new things,  but also challenged two fairly fundamental areas of "basic" teaching practice.

"Some children can't". As our neural pathways develop in utero and in infancy, some children effected by trauma do not build pathways that fit the norm of society - perhaps they don't even build certain pathways. These children then - can't. In just the same way that a child born without legs cannot walk, a child with poorly or "wrongly" developed pathways cannot reason or spell or show empathy. We provide disabled children with on ramps - with ways to access learning and life - do we provide those same on ramps for our traumatised children?
The key to knowing these on ramps is relationship, love and empathy from the significant adult. Every one of our 30 children needs their own on (and off) ramp - just another thing to add to the teaching load. But it is worth knowing as the pay off in a busy classroom is huge. Unsettled and disruptive children become calmer, happier and begin to learn.

"Don't punish the behaviour." As a teacher we are firmly rooted in rewards for those who do well and consequences for those who don't. We need to switch this mindset for children who have no other option. If you have been raised in a house where lashing out is the norm, where swearing is the norm, then your neural pathways have made that your default.
How can we punish a child for simply doing what is (almost) innate?
The key is in apologising and trying to notice the behaviours and then re framing for the child. The reframing is not simple and cannot be done when a child is in their heightened agitated state. Kathryn shared an idea around manufacturing moments of minor stress for these children and scaffolding them through with the correct responses. Slowly, but surely, through these manufactured moments the child would learn correct responses and begin to build pathways that are more conducive to the society that we live in.

So in out class we are not expecting "fairness" in completion of tasks during the day. Each boy has their own challenge and their own goal - if the goal becomes unattainable due to anxiety, then the reward is not taken away, the goal is shifted. The boys don't want the goal to shift - they prefer to work to their maximum, but some days, some goals need adjustments.
We are learning about our heart rates and how to raise and lower them. We are accepting and loving and every boy is celebrated for who they are and what they bring. Everyone has an on ramp to support them to be their very best each day. Today, for one boy, the on ramp was a clean t-shirt and a sandwich. For another boy it was simply writing down his story for him because today it was too much.

Flexibility is key and flexibility for 30 kids is exhausting, but possible. It is possible because of the ultimate reason why we teach. We teach because we love and because we want to see progress in these kids - not academic progress, life progress. The small moments make the biggest difference.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Board Games

As part of our learning into computational thinking we've had the children design, test and create their own board games.
Before we started we had spent a few weeks learning how to follow and write step by step instructions. It became clear, as we introduced the idea of board games, that not many children had played actual board games before. Many were familiar with chess, snakes and ladders and a variety of card games.

So in order to ensure that the children had some knowledge to draw on when creating we played board games in teams and filled in lots of necessary vocab: roll the dice, miss a turn, go forward 3 steps, move backwards, take a card, start again.
We discussed how many different games had many different ways to win - from having the most money or points to being the first over the finish line.

I work predominantly with the boys who are 2+ years behind in their literacy, numeracy and key competencies - so we had extra filling in to do.
For this group of children we provided the choice of 4 different board templates that they could choose from.  The boys had free range over hw their game played and the theme of the game. We encouraged the boys to have extra options like money or prizes associated with the theme of their game.

One group used random card selection to decide where the player moved to that had different challenges with different levels of prizes depending on the challenge completed - so creative. Most groups used colour coding to indicate different options within the game.

This group were unable to write their instructions independently but were able to discuss, share and refine their choices with final writing of instructions and rules being done by a teacher.
The game pieces were designed and made and the boxed were decorated,
All in all the boys went through a scaffolded design and creation process that resulted in them having their own board games to share with their friends.

The boys have thoroughly enjoyed sharing their games with others in the class and talking through how to play - they are revelling in being the "boss" of something, being the most knowledgeable in the room and teaching others. As they have played they've practised turn taking, sharing and conflict resolution - and have been very successful.

Board game creation has been a raging success.

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.