Sunday, July 30, 2017


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My baby 'graduated' on Friday ... and I've had a wonderfully crazy weekend celebrating her turning five.

I am so thankful for the NZ early childhood centre that she has attended.  She has been in ECE care since she was one and a half and attended 3 different centres as we moved from the North Island to the South when she was two and a half.  All these centres, both daycare and a stint at kindy when we first arrived in Twizel have given her skills she needs to now navigate the school system.  She is so excited about starting school - but I'm also a bit sad to leave behind her amazing teachers in this early childhood setting.  These teachers have given her the confidence to ask questions, developed her caring and nurturing side, pushed her to grow skills when she needs it, but also have given her space and place to just be as she needed it.

This is the end of an era for our family - we are now all school side and again, I count the blessings of working in an Area school.  I know for her first school lunchtime I will actually be 'on duty' in the junior lunch area and will be able to smile at her as she settles next to her bestie to eat the kiwi classic marmite and cheese sammies!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Navigating from the other side

I am amazingly privileged to work in an Area School.  As a mum to five kids - one of the best things is that I know their teachers not only as a 'teacher' but as a colleague and know the amazing amount of work these people put into their students and the learning from the other side of the fence as well.

In less than six weeks my youngest is due to start school.  This is where the other side of the fence is starting to come in.  While our children all learn at different stages and paces and I've learnt about being well below national standards and navigated reading support - this one is helping me realise that our Special Needs (for lack of any other term I am aware of) system and that related aspects such as RTLB and HHN are woefully hard to navigate and gain funding for.

I have much that I would like to write about - but I want to be extremely careful in how I portray those in the system who do work tirelessly for the students in their care.  I cannot fault the staff in our school who have helped me navigate from the other side.  Here I was with this thought since I was 'in' the education system it would be easier to understand.  Um.  No!  If anything - I am left wondering where those with more severe needs manage.  Whilst my child has qualified, at least we hang on to the hope that she will outgrow this need within the next five years - best case scenario and positive thinking.  What about families who don't have this end game in sight - or don't have any understanding of how long the cogs in the system take to work so don't even start the wheels turning before a child appears into the primary school system.  What about those parents who had such a bad experience with learning and school themselves they are unsure where to reach out for their own children?

I have a special needs child - and inspired by several mama and papa bears out there - I will advocate for my child.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Financial Literacy in M3

"Among students in OECD countries who took the 2015 PISA test in financial literacy, fewer than one in three of them reached Level 4 on the assessment – the level that signals the kinds of knowledge and skills that are essential for managing a bank account or a financial task of similar complexity. And the demands on their financial skills rise as students get older" Source1

Bearing in mind that the NZC highlights the skills of managing self and using language, symbols and text, I wanted to give my students the opportunity to engage with some form of financial literacy.  I did this by adapting a HyperDoc from Middle School Minds, and the Twitter hashtag #filemakeacopy which use Creative Commons.  I really appreciate the work that has gone into these and the willingness of these educators for us to adapt them to our own NZ contexts.  As a 'newbie' in the area of HyperDocs, it was also a chance to work with my students and see if this type of teaching and learning style suited them.

The NZC curriculum objectives I wanted to cover were:
Social Studies L5: Understand how economic decisions impact on people, communities, and nations.

English: L5 Reading
integrates sources of information and prior knowledge purposefully and confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts
selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence
thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence
monitors, self-evaluates, and describes progress, articulating learning with confidence.
Integrate somewhat with Maths where the AO state "In a range of meaningful contexts, students will be engaged in thinking mathematically"

Image result for world trip

My original idea was to create a Monopoly-style game that saw students 'holidaying' in the countries they landed.  This morphed into a World Trip Project where they won a contest and then through a random generator were given a budget.  I still got to be the bank - which was as much a challenge for me as for them.

The unit took just under four weeks - which was somewhat longer than I anticipated.  We had tournament week in the midst of that - which meant some disruption for several students.  Students were initially really excited about choosing places to travel - then the reality hit of checking whether they needed visas, insurances (would they risk it?) and goodness- were plane tickets really that expensive?

We ended up splitting our lessons, with the first half using a PDF textbook of Geography skills and concepts, so my Y10 students who wish to take NCEA Level One geography next year will have the understandings of the terminology and concepts they need to succeed.  This also enabled the students who do not prefer computer work a chance to complete set activities and exercises.  

The second half of the lesson the students could work at their own pace through the World Trip Document.  I used Google Classroom to set it as an assignment, so each student had their own copy. This meant students could also access the document from home if required.  We tried to link it to SeeSaw, but this was not working yet.

During the course of the project students had to compare costs from different providers, compare what different providers offered and make decisions based on this.  They plotted their course on a personal Google Map, and used the tools in this to measure distance and chart routes.  Students had to plot travel, and compare costs of a variety of travel methods, including different types of hire vehicles and public transport.  This then impacted their choice of places to stay.  Some choose to buy a tent, but then had to research freedom camping areas, others choose to stay with family and some learnt the hard way if you splash out for a five start motel, you will be writing a letter to the bank (AKA me) for a loan to complete the rest of the  trip.  Students also costed out food for several days on the trip, and this was interesting - yes, if you choose to eat McDs for all the days if you wish - BUT how might your energy levels be impacted ... or comparing the cost of a capsicum in the USA to one in New Zealand.

Today students took the time to reflect on the project, what they felt they had gained from it and what I could do to improve the learning experience if I ran this unit again in the future.  I think it is important they give voice to both the positives and the negatives.

I will now go and in a quiet space read their reflections, comment on them and we will file these in their hard copy learning portfolios.


Trip to Wellington

I found out about the NZTA professional development through Twitter.  I had previously looked at several of the resources available online and wanted some more support surrounding using them in the classroom.  Seeing the Pam Hook herself was going to be speaking at the day, along with Alex le Long, both educators I have admired for several years – was the clincher.  I contacted NZTA, impressed that the Wellington Council was paying relief for educators to attend.  Unfortunately, being outside the district this could not be so for myself, but they were very happy for me to attend. 
Catching early morning bus to the city

Working with SOLO hexagons

Amazing amazing presenter!!!

Walking from course to the National Library - was nice to be North Island bound for 48hours

Supported by our school principal and board, I was enabled to take the time to attend.  For me, the best takeaway moments were a reminder that the roads are a commons and teaching citizenship surrounding this – aimed at our students as ‘bundles of capabilities’ is key.    I have come back to Twizel and in consultation with our staff, the areas of safety they feel key to our community are negotiating road hazards (especially when walking and biking) and being in and around cars safely.  Further to this we will collaboratively plan a road safety week within the next few terms using some of the ideas and resources from the NZTA website.

Many thanks to all the organisers and presenters for an inspirational PD day that will go on to have far reaching consequences.    I have two students so enthused about the NZTA game design competition as well - so fun to watch them brainstorming today!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Back to Square One

I had to take a step back and stop yesterday - and look at  how I had started things off for the year with my Y11 class.  After having had my M3 (Middle 3) class for two years (Y9&Y10) as a Homeroom class, meaning at least four 100 minute periods a week, split over every day - it has been a change for us all to switch to a plain 'English' class for 250 minutes a week, only seeing them 3x a week.  We have a double (100 mins) on Tuesday and Wednesday and a single (50mins) on a Friday.  We had been following a very thematic/topic based Integrated Studies programme - which I am now thinking of reworking for Y11.

Last week was our first week, so we spent time on explaining the course outline, learning about the Unfamiliar text book they would use every Friday, and doing some basic reading & writing tasks.  Today I thought I would give them a topic that we could debate in class before writing about it - so I could see initial writing skills (after summer break) and a starting point.  What I quickly realized was my starting point was OFF ... so, it was a quick photocopier message to the office & we started again.

Image result for lets start at the very beginning
Reflecting - these guys are still getting used to senior classes and the change they have perceived in focus (this year we will be studying X,Y & Z which will give you X, Y & Z credits) .... I am almost waiting for the "is this worth credits" question to pop up.  I need to further look at my programme tonight and do a complete reassessment if needed - they are not similar to the previous year class, so that will not work.  Talking to several, they are concerned, and have a preconception that every piece of work in Y11 is high stakes.  I need to remember to continually reassure them that all the work we do in class is learning - you will not be 'assessed' all the time but rather be given the opportunity to show your learning off when you are ready.  We will learn about texts and language so we can become more literate and enjoy the magic of language and stories.  We will let ourselves play with words to create beautiful things - poems, essays, editorials - but let ourselves play!

I am slightly concerned about the pressure they are feeling.  We did spend three day off timetable in week one, working on team building, study skills, organisational skills, some writing skills, and an overnight camp at the school lodge, working on mindfulness & resilience.  I am wondering if we did enough, or is this perhaps a growth mindset challenge for them?  I am pondering what I can change to help them feel more secure and confident about this year in my class.

Best moment of the class though - one of my struggles from last year wrote 374 words (he checked and double checked as he couldn't believe it!).  This student latched onto the topic we were debating and had strong feelings about it.  It wasn't grammatically correct or paragraphed BUT he did it.  So, I'm going to celebrate that, even if it was only one!  For this guy - he rocked it!! (and told me he just kept writing everything, like when we did our 100 word challenges!!)

So, as  I prepare to publish this, I have spent the past evening revising and re-planning.  We have an interactive power-point to work with this afternoon, several small group activities, followed by some research on a current event.  Thanks to the teachers that have used Slideshare and the Creative Commons Licensing.  I appreciate you - and look forward to paying it forward in the future.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Connections & Personalizing

Education Counts suggests that "Personalizing learning aligns with the idea that education systems must move away from an Industrial Age "one-size-fits-all" model. The idea of "personalizing learning" calls for reversing the "logic" of education systems so that the system is built around the learner, rather than the learner being required to fit with the system"

Over the past week we have had EOTC (education outside the classroom) activities where the middle school (Y7-10) have been split into groups of 10-12, lead by two Y10s and then completed a wide range of activities from tramping, rafting, paddleboarding to evading terrorists from the North Island.  While some activities were outside some comfort zones, it has been great to see that these activities were built to provide opportunities for the learners to step up into leadership roles and try new things.  

I spent two days with the groups tramping up and down the Darts Bush Stream Track and the best part about this for me was not only relishing that my eight weeks of circuit training had paid off and I was fitter than before BUT the time I got to spend out of the classroom with the students who will be heading into my room next year.  I could chat to them about their interests and what they had done well this year.  I could ask them about what books they read, what they plan to do in the holidays, what scares them and what makes them excited.  It was a great time to learn more informally what they were wanting to study further.  So, with a combo of hunting, dystopia, geography skills and drawing coming up tops for most, I am going to start planning a Unit called the "Geography of Dystopia."  I have four different texts so the students will again be able to self select - and one of these is audio, so the struggling readers, I will encourage this option.   The covers the Literature aspect, mapping skills are key to our area, so I will find a local to support this - and it will introduce students to Y11 Geography concepts.  

While I aim to plan the bare bones of the unit, we will look at together what skills we as a class want to showcase for our portfolios.  I know they also enjoy cooking, so we might head over to the Home Economics room and plan a dystopian banquet or head towards the Science Lab and learn more about genetics and cryogenic freezing - the world is our oyster.  I plan to teach these students about the inquiry spiral and imagine this unit taking all term, including our Camp week.  

So - with only Top House and Assembly to go - it's all go and I'm very thankful for the opportunities EOTC week has not just given our students, but myself to further connect and personalize their learning.