Monday, 19 March 2018

Building the foundations of self efficacy...


Building self efficacy with learners who have more disconnections than connections to a learning area is a challenging task. Having decided that this is the direction I will be following this year I have spent a lot of time analysing the way I deliver writing instruction. I could see from an earlier analysis of the e-asTTle attitude responses that 62.5% of my focus group do not like writing at school. None of these learners feel that they are good at writing, and more sobering from my perspective, is the fact that 75% of this group believe that I don't think they are good at writing. All statistics that need to be changed if connections are to be strengthened and shift to be accelerated. 

Positive learning conversations, or simply affirming 'talk' is the way forward. I used the content from the writing samples in my class to help my learners notice all the aspects of explanation writing that they had mastered, and to help them identify the 'gaps' that will become our areas we need to learn. The DLO I used to reinforce the vocabulary is embedded at the top of this post. All the content is specific to my class and the content of their writing samples. This lesson only focused on structure. I chose to word the questions as 'Do you have...' or 'Did you...' so that it was easier for my students to see their success and gaps in a positive light. To make this more accessible I reminded them that the areas we know how to use will become the skills we will practise, and the parts we didn't include or get right will become our learning. In doing this I drew on a strategy I learnt many years ago when I trained as a dyslexia support teacher in the UK. 

We were shown how using a flexible times-table square will allow students to see the tables they already know and highlight the ones they need to learn. Once connections had been made (ie: if you could answer 2 x 5 then you knew the answer to 5 x 2). Once the tables that have been mastered are folded over the smaller grid left (the outlined square on the image) shows students the tricky ones. This square is a lot smaller than the whole grid and gives them confidence as they can visualise the challenge ahead is now more manageable.

When applied in our context I knew everyone had included a title and had an introduction in their explanations. This meant that we were all able to put a tick beside the T and the I of the TIIC (Title, Introduction, Information, Conclusion) acronym (borrowed this from Rob Wiseman's Class on Air lesson from 2017). There were definitely smiles all round as my learners could see they had used some components of the structure of an explanation correctly. These are now our 'practise' areas. Our gaps were definitely evident in the 'information' and 'conclusion' parts of the structure. Rather than having a mountain to climb my learners saw that they 'only had two parts of the structure to master', however the reality is that we definitely have our work cut out here.

To help build connections to the vocabulary needed to understand how to structure and write an explanation I used a grid of content words. To help fill our knowledge baskets we had races in pairs to say these words, and share which ones we already knew. This is on slide 4 of the DLO. It also provided an opportunity to identify the words we didn't know or understand. I will be able to revisit and repurpose this slide as the year progresses.

+Karen Ferguson observed this lesson so I was in the lucky position of being able to reflect on the lesson through two sets of eyes. The link to Karen's blogpost is here. My takeaway in my quest to build student self efficacy is to remember not to assume I can identify the owners of the work I am sharing. Despite having permission to share one student's introduction, I was unaware he looked embarrassed while I was sharing his example of great work. My plan now is to find out ahead of time if the owner of the work I am sharing is happy for me to identify them, or if they would be prefer their work to be shared anonymously.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Collegial Observations... 2018

Last week +Karen Ferguson and I were talking about ways we could help our learners access and connect to the content language they need to be able to find success in their learning. Today Karen came to observe a literacy lesson in my class. The link to Karen's blogpost is here. 

I am currently exploring new ways I can help my learners see, hear and use the content vocabulary they need to strengthen their connections to the learning, so it was great to see what my lesson looked like through another person's eyes. I look forward to seeing how her takeaways from today are applied with older students and plan to reciprocate the visit to see this in action. On my part sharing the thinking behind the strategies I used was very powerful as it encouraged me to reflect on my practise at a deeper level. Thank you Karen.

Image courtesy of +Karen Ferguson 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Analysing the data (February)...

I have chosen to measure student self efficacy levels in writing using the self evaluation attitude questions asked of them at the start of the Writing assessment. 'Very Unlike Me' is the weakest indication of the attitude domain, so it is marked as 1. 'Very Like Me' is the strongest indication of the attitude domain, so it is marked as 4 (e-asTTle help site).

This data shows is that my learners don't like writing at school, they don't believe they are good at writing and worryingly, most think I don't think they are very good at writing. While it is affronting to read, the data gives me a great starting point to help shape the changes I need to make in my teaching practise to increase student self efficacy in writing.

'For Reading, Maths and Writing there are multiple sets of attitude questions available. You can choose which set you would like during the test creation process. The relationship between motivation, interest, self-regulation, and engagement towards a subject, and the achievement in a subject is valuable information that you can use to further understand some of the factors that make up your students’ learning' (e-asTTle help site)In searching for further information on these questions I discovered a wider selection of questions (link here) that I will ask my learners via a google form. It will be interesting to see if their opinions change outside of testing conditions.

The Research and Work Programme Summary Attitude Domains in e-asTTle paper is a downloadable PDF that explains these domain this further.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Make sure the readings answer your inquiry question...

I was reminded of something today that I wanted to share...

With my new inquiry in mind I had been searching for readings to grow my own content knowledge. There is a wealth of literature available and to be honest I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to absorb it all. During a conversation with Dr Rachel Williams (WFRC) today I was reminded that it is important to 'make sure the readings answer my inquiry question'.  Sometimes it takes someone else pointing the obvious out to you for you to sit back and breathe out. 

Seeking clarity and embracing advice...

I had an idea of where I wanted to go with my inquiry this year but was unsure of which research pathway to walk down so I contacted Dr Rachel Williams for some advice. After a discussion with her colleagues at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, she suggested I explore ways of building student self efficacy. This makes so much sense to me as my target group are all students I have worked with for a year, but despite my previous efforts to nurture, scaffold and develop their skills in writing, they are still achieving well below the expected norms.

When considering the language in abundance lens, I now know that I need to change my inquiry question. I am moving away from 'looking at ways I can use talk to strengthen connections and raise achievement in writing for my priority learners', to 'looking at ways stronger connections to content specific vocabulary can help overcome hindered student self efficacy in writing'.

In searching for a definition of self efficacy, I found this sabbatical report from Ted Benton (2014). In his report, Baker defines self efficacy as being, 'the strength of an individual’s belief that he or she can successfully perform a given activity or task'. This definition resonates with me as I know this is the historical barrier to learning that I need to breakdown. 

In my previous post I identified the fact that many of these learners find writing 'boring' or 'too hard'. From an inquiry perspective, if I am to accelerate achievement in writing for this group of priority leaners, I need to be obvious in my belief of their ability. They need to be able to see the partnership between my belief in their ability and my expectations of what I want them to achieve. Making this conscious change in my practise is one area I will be putting under the microscope. 

Ensuring I provide opportunities for these learners to hear, explore, understand and use a wider variety of vocabulary is another avenue I will be exploring. “The extent of a student’s oral language resources has an enabling or disabling effect on his or her... writing... In the classroom when talk.... is an integral part of literacy.... writing is enriched and expanded.” Dr Jannie van Hees, (2007)  With this in mind I plan to use oral language (talk) to build on the familiar and help these students embrace the learning.

My immediate next step will be to use the e-asTTle attitude matrix to identify how these learners feel about writing and how they perceive others (including me), feel about their writing. By gathering this data now and comparing it with the end point data for 2018 I hope to show a shift over time in self efficacy. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Noticing, connecting to and using the words around us...

Written words are all around us in a school but how many of these words do our learners have a connection to? How many of these words do they notice and use? During a class discussion I discovered that although most of our class could say our school whakatauki, I quickly realised personal connections to the meaning behind these words was missing. This made me think about how I could help my learners to notice, understand and use the language around them.

During our first CoL meeting this year Dr Jannie Van Hees reminded us of the rich language opportunities available to us in our local area. Our own school seemed like the perfect place to start building my learner's vocabulary kete. After unpacking our school whakatauki by looking at the history and purpose behind these words I introduced combination of think-pair-share and small group discussions to allow my learners to use the language in an authentic context. Working with a buddy to search for other whakatauki and the meaning behind them, resulted in connections and comparisons being made. 'Manaaki whenua, Manaaki tangata, Haere whakamua' are no longer simply words we see and can say. 'Care for the land, Care for the people, Go forward' are all words that each of my learners understand and have formed their own connections to. We captured this learning by creating DLOs to reflect our understanding and grow our print rich learning environment. Jeremiah is happy for me to share his example. Jeremiah's blog


Following on from this we looked at a phrase commonly used at our school, 'Agents of Change'. I know that I have personally unpacked this phrase each year with my learners as it is a powerful way for them to grow their leadership. This year we looked at how we could become 'Agents of Change' in our own 2018 learning journeys. This was goal setting wrapped up in the language around us. It provided an authentic purpose for my learners to strengthen their connections to these words by using them in a personalised context. Jack is happy for me to share his example. Jack's blog


We took this a step further by bringing the language, personal to our school, into our assembly time. I have been working with our student leaders when they write their assembly scripts, so together we have begun to weave our PBS language into their weekly reports. After all we learn best when we learn with and from each other, and who better to grow this learning and sense of ownership than our own student role models. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

Using statistics to create accountability and ownership towards blogging...

In 2013 I wanted to my class to take responsibility for ensuring their completed work was published to their individual blogs, so I asked them to analyse the number of posts they had published over the year. We graphed these results and analysed why some months were stronger than others. This was such a powerful learning opportunity that I have introduced this at the start of each new learning year since then. 

Developing a level of accountability and responsibility for blogging regularly are the reasons behind this task. As the statistics available to each learner are personal to them, this quickly allows each person to make a connection to the learning. Over time I have adapted this task to looking back at blog post totals by year at the beginning of the new school year, as mentioned perviously, to looking at blog post totals by the month in term three. 

This is an amazing motivator as there is no hiding from what is still sitting in Google drives compared with what is published on blogs. The analysis process (done in teacher chosen pairs to help develop new working relationships) promotes a wealth of rich conversation and a healthy sense of competition. I find it really interesting listening to the honestly behind the reasoning why blog post numbers have fluctuated over time. The best part about this learning is the ongoing discussion that emerges afterwards as the analysing continues. I display the DLOs on the wall and find that my students tend to gravitate towards this display as the connections are strong. 

Here is the link to my planning for those interested in trying this in their own class. The links to the student blogs below will provide great exemplars for your students. 

Some students took this a step further by creating a Screencastify to explain their learning.


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Rewind to Remind is alive in LS2!

Last year after observing +Chantal Millward using Explain Everything (EE) on her iPad to create a rewindable learning resource, we asked +Fiona Grant to show us how we could include EE in our Chromebook classes. Rewindable learning has always been alive in our learning space, but this year I am making a conscious effort to make this more visible.  +Karen Ferguson shared the 'Rewind to Remind' image with me (an image she too is using this year), so these buttons now have a permanent place on our LS2 class site. 

In my case it has been start as you mean to go on. Using EE as a modelling book is so new to me I am still at the stage of being very aware that I am using it. Natural progression between what I am teaching and recording is very much still a work in progress, however despite the fact I am totally out of my comfort zone, I am using the tool and I love it!

Everyone has to start somewhere, so my somewhere is with my maths group. I have shared with my learners the fact this is my personal learning challenge so they are very supportive. Each time we review the recording I ask for their feedback. Today one student told me I need to 'speak more like a normal lady.' He was not being disrespectful, he just didn't have the vocabulary to tell me I sounded like a robot. He then went on to tell me to speak like I normally do and not to worry about how fast I write the numbers. I think this is brilliant feedback. It shows that I value my learner's opinions and it also shows them that when we are learning something new it is ok to make mistakes. This is definitely a win - win situation.  

Despite the obvious floors in my published EE clip, I confidently guided one learner back to the 'Rewind to Remind' (R2R) button. She told me afterwards that the 'R2R' was a good idea because no one else knew she needed to look at it. I suggested that she have another look at home tonight so she could practise her new learning from today.

To Chromebook teachers who are yet to venture into this realm, I absolutely recommend taking the first step. The speed at which you can upload this to your google drive means that rewindable learning is immediately available to your learners, making it a useable and valuable resource to enhance your teaching program.

Monday, 19 February 2018

New Year... New Inquiry

The new learning year brings with it a new opportunity for me to inquire into my own teaching practice. After a lot of thought I have chosen to focus my inquiry around our hardest to shift writers in Year 8. They are all boys with identified learning needs who have participated in intervention programs to try and fill the knowledge gaps that have become more and more evident, as they have progressed through their own learning journeys.

Having worked with this group last year I know the level of scaffolding that was required to help minimise the disconnects they perceive that they have with learning. These students all want to experience success in learning, but rather than take risks and trying the new, they opt for a safer route preferring to fall back on the known. This means that when data is analysed their levels of shift show minimal movement, which is the main reason I have chosen to inquire into ways I can help them strengthen their connections to writing.

Today I asked a few questions to establish how they felt about writing at school. This is recorded in the table below, (I will update the table after the assessments next week so that their e-asTTle writing levels are current for 2018)It seems that running out of ideas puts explanation writing in the 'boring' basket, a 'go-to' word that masks the fear of failure. They all said they wanted to do more of the quick write challenges that I introduced last year after a professional development session run by Jeff Anderson. None of these learners are not wanting to learn, they just do not have the confidence to try new learning as they are afraid of making a mistake. That part shocked me as I thought I encouraged a very safe learning environment where making mistakes just show we are learning to use new skills. When I clarified if they were frightened of making a mistake or just didn't want to get something wrong, I realised they simply didn't have the language to articulate that they didn't want me to think they didn't know what to do. 
These learners will happily work collaboratively but seem to lose confidence when asked to complete an independent task. My initial thinking is that I will borrow elements from the Big Write program in the UK by including a fun VCOP focus each week as vocabulary, punctuation and sentence structure are major stumbling blocks for us. Additionally I will revisit and build on the familiar quick writes we used last year, as they all experienced success with this. Talk needs to also play a huge part in helping to strengthen these connections, so my next step is to research ways that I can provide authentic learning opportunities for my learners to use the language I need to help them embed in their own knowledge kete, in context.

Ros Wilson explains the Big Write

Friday, 16 February 2018

Summer Learning Journey 2017/18

Huge congratulations to all our Summer Learning Journey 2017/18 participants! Today Rachel, Mika and Matthew came to PBS to present our blogging champions with their certificates and prizes. Well done to Mele and Alex who were our top blogers, Ofa who came second, Marieta who came third, and Angela and Fau who were both highly commended. 

A huge thank you to Rachel and her team who read and commented on every post. Well done to all our PBS bloggers. You have set yourselves up for a successful year of learning, and we are all very proud of you!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Teaching as Inquiry 2018

Click here to see how I align my inquiry with the Manaiakalani framework.

“Recognising and spreading sophisticated pedagogical practice across our community so that students learn in better and more powerful ways...”The Manaiakalani Community of Learning is working together on this task using the expertise existing in of our community of learning. In 2018 for my inquiry I selected the following CoL achievement challenge that I will be looking at through a 'Language in Abundance' lens

#4. Increase the achievement of Years 1-10 learners, with a focus on Years 7-10, in reading, writing and maths, as measured against National Standards and agreed targets.       


LEvidence, LScan, LTrend, LHypothesise, LResearch, LReflect,
CPlan, CTry, CInnovate, CImplement, CReflect,
SPublish, SCoteach, SModel, SGuide, SFback, SReflect

CoL Meeting #1 2018

This year our focus as CoL teachers is to inquire into our own practice through a 'Language in Abundance' lens. In my case this means looking at ways I can use talk to strengthen connections and raise achievement in Writing for my priority learners. I'm really excited to begin this journey as all aspects of literacy are a personal passion of mine.

'Language in abundance environments ‘drip’ with language availability and attention, where noticing and relevant use of words allow for deeper, wider, more specific and precise, context appropriate language expression… leading to knowing at deeper and broader
levels.' - Dr Jannie Van Hees

Today was our first CoL meeting for 2018. It was great to see so many familiar faces and welcome our new colleagues. The connections formed last year contributed hugely to the success of my 2017 inquiry, and is something I aim to further develop this year as I found the collegial advice and support so valuable.

Presentation 1 - Dr Rebecca Jesson
Meta Analysis of Inquiries by Woof Fisher:

“WFRC will analyse data and evidence from teachers’ inquiries to identified Learn Create Share practices likely to contribute to accelerated progress for students.”

This year Woolf Fisher, our Manaiakalani research partners, will analyse our teacher inquiries to see what works at classroom level. In our CoL teacher role it is innovation that keeps us moving forward. When we develop our knowledge we help to build the knowledge of the whole cluster.

Presentation 2 - Dr Jannie Van Hees
Language Acquisition & Development as the Inquiry Lens into your subject/level:

  • Language in abundance is not a programme - it is what is says… abundant language in optimising conditions = brain and language development - drippingly available language not just surrounding them.
  • How can we do this? This makes the learning rich!
  • Students need to feel comfortable.
  • Class culture needs to be inclusive and accepting of all language contributions - value these responses regardless of contributor.
  • Role play (eg: PBS Flying Fives) talk accompanied action
  • Use talk aloud - and make sure chn know they are allowed to talk ie - conversational dialogic learning
  • Information is received then tried out - learners need pegs to hook learning on - these need to be in the dialogue of meaning making
  • Students must be able to explain what happened etc to show understand - understand a word means you can explain with specifics and contextualise - be 'Explain Ready' using content specific language helps to expand repertoire of learner
  • Use BBC and Radio NZ as a resource to promote listening
  • Meaning making = capacity to learn and use language
  • Are we reading enough? What language is involved?
  • How am I going to get my learners to notice it?
  • How can I increase uptake so students are involved?

Conditions on the image above will optimise conditions for learning


Connections to realia and known contexts for language (eg: the surrounding area) help to strengthen language connections and more importantly are known connections that knowledge can be built on.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Setting our PBS teachers up for Inquiry success

Part of our TOD PD was ensuring we were all on the same page as far as our personal teaching inquiries are concerned. Kiri and Richard asked me to revisit the Manaiakalani inquiry framework with the staff so that this year our PBS inquiry framework aligned with the cluster inquiry framework.

For many of our teachers this means starting new inquiry blogs. Kiri, our Y4-8 Across Cluster CoL teacher and I, our PBS Within-school CoL teacher, will be there to support this journey every step of the way. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Power of Shared PD


Today Kiri and I took part in a professional development session that looked at ways to develop an effective writing programme run by Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsy. The powerful take away from today, aside from some great ideas to add to engage and scaffold our learners, was the rich conversations between Kiri and myself. As teachers who share a learning environment having shared PD helps to cement our shared understandings, and allows us to make aligned adaptations to our own language of instruction and the resources we use in our practice.