Saturday, 19 March 2016

School Leader's Study Tour

On Friday morning, the MDTA cohort was fortunate enough to attend the exciting and thought-provoking Student Leader's Study Tour at Stonefields School, a school within the Manaiakalani cluster which bases it's learning around four vision principles.

The importance of teaching our learners transferrable skills really stood out for me and it was evident whilst walking through the hubs and talking with the learners. This is something which I think is so important for our learners in such a fast-changing world. The learners really reinforced this introductory message and showed their ability to think reflectively about their learning.

I attended two workshops during the morning. The first was on teacher effectiveness. This workshop started with a group discussion around the effective practices that move student learning outcomes. Some of the responses to this included practices such as relationships, involving learners in discussions around their learning, and being explicit with our teaching. Even though these practices (and more) are all important to move student learning outcomes, how these are approached look different for different teachers.

The workshop based on culture and collaboration resonated well with me. The workshop looked at what makes team collaboration work well. We were encouraged to think about our team and how we work. Attending this workshop reinforced discussions I have had with my mentor teacher regarding being open as a team and talking about things which may be difficult to discuss. Flexibility was another aspect of culture and collaboration which stood out. Being flexible and open to change can make a team work more effectively.

Spending the morning at Stonefields School was a great way to reinforce our discussions we have been having on our Friday digital immersion days, as well as challenge us with what our learners need to be learning for their future success.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Using HTML in google sites

Today we had two of the MDTA alumni, Karen and Matt, speak to us about using HTML on google sites. From being introduced to google sites last week as well this introduction to HTML, I now feel extremely motivated to experiment with creating a website. I like the mix of structure, creativity and artistic elements that are required to build a site effectively, and I look forward to developing my site/HTML skills over time.

I found it interesting to learn that a website layout can be designed using tables! A table can be made invisible so that only it's content can be seen, and therefore to make it possible to create a clean, engaging website.

Below is an example of a 3x1 invisible table in a google site. I have used this to organise three images on a site page.

Friday, 11 March 2016


Today we focused on the create element of learn-create-share which is a learning experience in itself, where learners are expressing their learning in a variety of ways. We discussed what this looks like and came to the agreement that a learner's creation does not have to involve use of a digital tool. However, digitalising the creation allows the share element to evolve. We also discussed the importance of using the correct terminology with our learners to provide school-wide consistency and clear expectations for our learners.

On reflection, I have had learners create a poster describing the different sections of a narrative text, a google map showing volcanoes around the world, a quiz based on a particular text, illustrations based on descriptions in a text and an interview of a character who is knowledgeable about the text topic.

Here are examples of artefacts I have created to model the process of 'creation' during different learning experiences for my learners:
Figure 1: Narrative poster

Figure 2: Google map - Volcanoes of the World. Note: This google map just includes one pin as it was a model for teaching learners how they would create their own 'Volcanoes of the World' google map. Learners added at least 15 pins to their own maps. The description under the pin has been changed since being used as a model for my learners. This is because on reflection, I realised my example was too simple for what I would expect of my learners at years 5/6. 

Figure 3: Quiz using google forms, based on a reading text (The Pink Umbrella by Lani Young, School Journal Nov. 2014, Level 3).

My next focus is to develop the create element of the learning experience so it encourages critical thinking for my learners.

This discussion around creating led onto discussions around important aspects of web design. We focused on the importance of thoughtful web design to engage our audience whilst at the same time, ensuring everything is visible (we don't want to see 'restricted access' signs throughout a site).

Saturday, 5 March 2016


Something that captured me today was an analogy Dorothy shared with us. An escalator is constantly moving. Many of our learners are experiencing a challenge with their learning which can be compared to having to run up the down escalator. If they stop moving forward, they will go backwards in their learning. Alongside this analogy, we also began to explore what it looks like to get our learners thinking critically, something I have already started to challenge my learners with in the classroom, particularly in reading.

My initial thoughts were that the combination of these two discussions create a massive challenge for us (the teachers) and our learners. We need to engage our learners so they are motivated to push themselves and therefore catch up to where is expected of them for their age. At the same time, we need to teach them the skills to be able think critically. We looked at these challenges alongside developing our google sites skills and talked about how we should make learning multi-modal for our learners (that is, putting learning into a range of different forms for our learners to access). We  each developed a google site page with a range of ways we could teach critical thinking through well known fairy tales. 

I can see SOLO taxonomy having the potential to help greatly with this because of the structured levels of thinking which build on each other, forming a visible goal for our learners. Therefore, after a discussion around SOLO taxonomy with my PLG, I have developed a challenge for myself where I want to begin weaving SOLO taxonomy into learning experiences for our learners.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Inquiry into formative practice in reading.

In reading, I have noticed how some learners do not take part in discussions during guided reading. I feel that dialogic discussions are so important in reading, as it reflects the learners' understanding of a text and their skills in using the key competences of the New Zealand curriculum:


Using language/symbols/texts

Managing self

Relating to others and Participating/Contributing

The observation around dialogic discussion was made at the start of the year. It made me wonder why some of our learners do not contribute/ participate in these discussions. 

Some of my first thoughts:
  • Learners' require more confidence so they feel their ideas are going to be listened to and valued.
  • Unfamiliar - new class/ new teachers.
  • My teaching - what do I need to do to ensure my learners are engaged?

This has led to my inquiry focus: use formative data to determine next steps to focus on in dialogic discussions during guided reading.

To do this, my first step is to test a focus group of learners, using Probe. This focus group is one which is showing the characteristics which I have observed in terms of dialogic discussion in reading, and which will hopefully demonstrate whether my inquiry into my teaching is having an effect on their learning. As Probe breaks down reading comprehension into different areas, I hope I will gain some insight into the area(s) which learners are having particular difficulty with, so I can therefore have this as a focus for group discussions around texts.