Tuesday, 6 December 2016


This time of year I like to reflect on what the kids have ACTUALLY learnt. Where has my teaching made the biggest difference?

Looking at hard data gives one very small point of view. One moment in time that tells us something - but not the whole picture.

So much more exists in our day to day than reading, writing and maths. Children make gains socially, emotionally and metacognitively. Those unmeasurable qualities that make for the well rounded citizens we're shaping and moulding.

Early this morning I quite randomly stumbled across a re post on Twitter titled -
Don't Ask Me for My Kids' Test Scores... 
I'd share more thoughts, but this blog post from Eric Johnson says it nicely.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Hōkūleʻaʻs Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

In 2015 we had the privilege of welcoming the waka Malama Honua to our very own Pt England Beach. This story shares the tale of the connection Manaiakalani shares with the people of Hawai'i and the ancient pacific voyagers.
I was fortunate to be able to share part of my own story from my 15 years at Pt England.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Speaking, Reading, Writing, Listening

We decided this week to undertake a whole class writing activity that I had found successful last year.
Using the context of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the students would sequence a series of sentences into paragraphs.
The writing learning consisted of learning about how a paragraph is structured with a topic sentence, supporting ideas and a concluding sentence.
The reading consisted of reading each sentence to determine the purpose of each sentence in the paragraph.
Speaking - each pair recorded the completed paragraph using Explain Everything.
Listening - the paragraphs were listened to, to determine their accuracy and flow.

More importantly, social learning came to the fore. Students were grouped by the teachers into some unexpected partnerships. Our intention was to look for the ability to listen to each other and share ideas and roles. 

The discussion in the classroom was almost all learning based as the students discussed the order of the sentences, how to read the new topic based vocabulary and what to do next. They helped each other, worked together and surprised themselves with how much they knew and could do.

A powerful lesson that comprised all aspects of literacy - including illustrating and sharing - that was fun, engaging, high energy and full of fabulous new content learning alongside our intended curriculum and social goals.

The motivation given to the students on the class site.

The visual instructions of what to do at each step.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Reading for Curiosity

For reading this term we have embarked on a challenge - a digital tool to engage even the most discouraged of learners.
I've highlighted a small group of high achieving boys who lack some enthusiasm and passion for learning. They desired more agency and creativity. I desired that they have more passion and self regulation.

The pedagogy underpinning Manaiakalani is Learn, Create, Share. This pedagogy makes the most of 1:1 digital devices, personalised learning and creativity.

Dorothy Burt shares her discussions around Learn, Create, Share on the Manaiakalani Blog.
Evidence confirms that Creativity is a significant hook into learning and we need to be empowering our young people to develop this. And whatever medium a child uses to express their creativity, the affordances of the technology mean that this can be captured digitally and shared with a wide audience. (Burt 2015)

Underpinning the New Zealand Curriculum lie five vital components to a student becoming a life long learner. The Key Competencies are what our students need to be equipped with in order to become contributors to their community.
Managing Self
Participating and Contributing
Using Language Symbols and Text
Relating Well to Others

In a digital, connected world it is even more important that these skills are addressed, explicitly taught and learnt, to allow our students to direct their learning, be passionate about discovery and strive to reinvent and create.

In my experience, the hook for learners to engage with and be passionate about learning, is the ability to share “something never created before” with an authentic audience. “Something never created before” is a tagline I use with my students to ensure that they realise that their creations can be and should be unique and personal. And according to Steve Jobs - put a ding in the universe.
Being proud of what we create and the process we shared, is fundamental to learning Key Competencies and being intrinsically motivated. When my students graduate high school in 2025, the skills they require to achieve in society will be self regulation, intrinsic motivation, curiosity and empathy. Our teaching in 2016 requires us to notice this and address it.

The boys in this study have never been excited by traditional teacher led instruction in the classroom. They have towed the line and done, mostly, what they should. They test well and have played the education game well. The lack of enthusiasm and passion is clearly noted in day to day interactions in the classroom.

The literacy digital tool requires no teacher led instruction. The component of choice of context and output, hands the agency to the child. The digital nature means that the student can travel along the journey at their own pace. They can access text to suit them and their learning. They can collaborate when necessary and work alone when necessary.  

The nature of the driving questions and open tasks, allow for the students to implement problem solving strategies to make meaning of the wider world. Through collaboration and discussion, the boys learn to transfer new skills and critically apply them to the new concepts. Most importantly, the self regulation and awareness of the process being implemented to acquire their new knowledge, means a child is more metacognitive and reflective. They are cognitive about what they are learning, how they have learnt it and what learning still needs to occur to master a skill.

Twice a week the boys will meet together with the teacher to discuss what they are up to, where they are going and address any issues or questions. We will use this time to talk about what they have found out and how that information links to the driving question overseeing the context. The discussion will be led by the teacher but directed by the boys. Any interesting sites, texts, movies or facts that the boys have found to support the context, can be shared with each other in this session.

Digital affordances allow for the learning to be driven by a series of well scaffolded Google Slides. The scaffolding on the slides directs the child with their thinking, search skills and questioning. They are prompted with questions, sub-questions and creative tasks. Movies, website links and driving questions will ensure that the students are well engaged with thought provoking, clever thinking and creative output.

The agency given to the student around choice of context and creativity, will hook in reluctant participants, making the task and learning more meaningful and therefore increase the all important metacognition and further develop the key competencies that underpin the New Zealand Curriculum.

Utilising a strong pedagogy of Learn, Create, Share, coupled with student agency, high achieving boys with low motivation can develop a curiosity and love for learning. They can learn to self regulate and develop the motivation to create something never created before. - To create excellence.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Don't Forget the Child

Implementation of new interventions, innovations and creative teaching strategies, assume that we're building them upon the foundation of a solid person.
When in reality, what's underneath is potentially quite fragile and these new building blocks will not stand strong and will not hold up, until you support the foundations underneath. All you will endeavour to achieve is to place more stress on an already over stressed shell - which in turn causes more damage and pain.
Like any builder will tell you, strong foundations equals strong house.

You have to fit together all the complex pieces of the puzzle before you can begin to think that any intervention or teaching strategy is going to make a difference to a child.
The puzzle pieces begin with identifying what makes him tick. Who is this child?
Then you need to identify and try to understand the traumas that this child may be dealing with. What's underneath the surface of the child that you need to support and understand?
Then you need to build a relationship with this child so that they trust you and so that you can make accurate decisions to benefit this child.

Then and only then, can you begin to think about those strategies and interventions that might assist this child to learn.

All of this takes time. For some children it may take years, others only months. Every child has their own story, every child has their own pathway and we may never know what is happening under the surface for each and every one of our precious children.

We can't forget the person. We can't forget what's underneath. We can't apply new teaching strategies without considering who we are applying them to.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Growing the Magic in our Children

When we grow the magic in children, the other stuff pales in comparison.

Magical children love what they do.
Magical children are curious and passionate.
Magical children love and respect others.
Magical children smile.

Magical children make the world more awesome.

We grow this magic:
By loving what we do
By being curious and passionate
By loving and respecting our kids
By smiling

Thank goodness that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by children and their magic each and every day.
My job is to let that magic grow and flourish and make our world more awesomer!