Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whānau engagement: We can't do it without you!

During my online travels and Facebook scrolling, I came across this video of a waiata sung by Raukura from (Rotorua Boys and Girls High School). I watched it over and over and over and over! 

I can't believe how beautiful this waiata is and wanted to know who wrote it. I soon learned, Mahia o te Mahi Raukura was co-written by Talitha and Kimiora Webster, While exploring other songs composed by the Websters I came across this documentary below and am blown away by the entire Webster whānau.

"It was all because of mum and dad and their unconditional love and tautoko they gave us throughout everything we have done. Always, teaching us and always empowering us as being Māori...." - Kimiora Webster

When we were growing up as kids, our dad although he was working (and mum) made an effort to come and support us... It doesn't matter what we do they were always there! - Jamus Webster

In my role as Mutukaroa Coordinator, it has become clear that whānau engagement is vital to the success of our tamariki. Of course, children can be successful in spite of this. But the video below shows just how much influence whānau have on the trajectory of success for our tamariki.

This reminds me of the following whakatauki:
Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini
My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective.
What a rich example of Maori achieving success as Māori, and Māori achieving success because they are Māori.

HEROES FOR EDUCATION SHORT DOCUMENTARY from Mike Jonathan / Haka Boy on Vimeo.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Taking action with Oral Language

Taking action
What can we do differently to make enough of a difference? "Genuine inquiry needs space to take risks, make mistakes, and try again – and again". Changing things can also feel risky for some learners who then resist change, and in turn, bring concerned parents. We need to build understanding for all, right from the outset.

So I've had a bit of a lull with my inquiry, mostly because I have been somewhat resentful about having to explicitly teach Oral Language in my classroom. I know I'm not the only one, as we've discussed this at a recent OCoL but the fact of the matter is that oral language is the foundation to reading and writing, and it is vital that children have the oral language to support their ongoing learning.

So, I have been using Time to Talk to guide my 'oral language sessions' and have adapted this to suit my class. Some of our lessons include explicit modelling of conversations and rules for listening (among other things). I am repeating the lesson several times so that children are getting repetition and lots of practice.

I have really played up the idea of 'respectful listening'. What does this mean? Well, Gingers rules for listening are:

1. Look with your eyes
2. Listen with your ears
3. Keep still
4. Be quiet

As a class, we have added 'Be respectful'. Which means focus on the speaker and listen intently.

It seems contradictory to have such a structured oral language programme in a play-based classroom but the role modelling of explicit language conventions seems to support our language in all areas of our classroom. The evidence is quite fascinating.
I have been using JOST (Junior Oral Language Assessment) to measure progress in oral language. Below is an example of the shifts made in an oral story with picture prompt:

May 2018 "The boy is wet".
September 2018 "The girls in the window she's angry at the boy because he took his shoes off and jumped in the water".

In addition to a rich language focussed, play-based programme and lots of 'read aloud' opportunities, the Time to Talk programme has been a good reminder to me of the importance of oral language.

Below are samples of progress in oral language of children in my class.

The areas in which I need to really focus on are:

* All body parts (chin, elbow and little finger) seem to be a struggle for new students.
* Plurals - 1 boat - 2 boats, 1 bus - 2 buses, 1 mouse - 2 mice
* Prepositions - in, under, beside, behind etc
* Tense - jump|ed, fall|fell, find|found, clap|clapped.

So while lots of action has been taken I am looking at ways to support children with specific aspects of their oral language development.

This week I am at a professional development session with Jannie Van Hees and I look forward to implementing my new learning into my classroom.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: More learning about Phonemic awareness

Yesterday I came across a Facebook post in the Learning through Play page that asked about 'readiness for reading' in a play-based classroom. There was a range of really useful information and most confirmed my hunch around phonemic awareness. I really enjoyed seeing how the teachers in the following video integrated the phoneme levels into their everyday routines like reading.

Phoneme level is the most important level of phonological awareness, the four aspects of these are:

Phoneme Identity: Helping children identify single sounds in words
Phoneme Segmentation: Break a word up into all of its individuals sounds
Phoneme Blending: Blending individual sounds together to form a word
Phoneme Manipulation: Playing with sounds and words.

The diagram below shows the building blocks of reading success: 

Reading is not creating something completely novel, reading consists of connection and creating an interface between vision and the spoken language system.

There are parts of the brain that are only activated by those who know how to read e.g. visual recognition of letters.

And perhaps the biggest message of all by Prof. Sanislas Dehaene...

Phonics is superior to whole-world training!

Image result for the brain architecture for reading

No automatic alt text available.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Learning about Oral Language

If you've been following my blog over the years, you will know that I have been a real advocate for Oral Language, especially in the form of Digital Storytelling.

Did you know that kids growing up in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3? The 'word gap' has been a rhetoric in schools for the longest of time. Especially in South Auckland (low-socioeconomic area in New Zealand), however, this article found in MindShift challenges this widely known fact, and states that the study was done 40 years ago with only 42 families.

However, in my new role as new entrant teacher, it's pretty obvious, regardless of the study that Oral Language in our young people is in dire straits! 

I thought I knew about Oral Language, I thought I knew how to foster it, but it seems that I actually need to be more strategic and intentional in the teaching of oral language (how did it come to this?)

So I've read a range of books and watched a number of videos to explore how this might work for my class, and have created a booklet with 20 Ideas to Support Oral Language. At our recent OCoL (Otara Continuity of Learning) we looked at oral language across settings (early childhood and primary school). With my head full of ideas and possibilities I called on a team of people to help me whittle down the key practices and package all of this information into a session or programme in my class.

So our Speech Langauge Therapist (SLT), the Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), and the Psychologist met over the holidays to look at a programme. We have chosen to go with "Time to Talk" by Alison Schroeder. It looks like it will be a great way to intentionally teach oral language and create ways for whānau to be engaged too.

In addition to this, I am also enrolled in this exciting opportunity to work with a team of people and alongside Jannie Van Hees who is world-renowned for her work on oral language and vocabulary.

So, there are lots of opportunities for learning this year! I look forward to reporting on this new learning and the impact it will have on my students learning.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Play in the new entrant classroom

Play in education is not a new concept by any means. My very first job in education (back in 1996) was at a centre aptly named "Play and Learn Early Education", the philosophy of this early childhood service was inspired by Playcentre which began in 1941. From the very beginning of my journey through teaching, I have been immersed in play as a way of being, engaging and learning.  In fact, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996) demanded that early childhood educators honour this as a valid way of learning in our centres. 
"Children experience an environment where their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised" - Te Whariki (1996)
Recently, we have seen a surge of primary school educators embracing 'play' in their classrooms. The Learning through Play Facebook group has over 7000 educators committed to implementing play in their schools. There's a good reason for this too, as seen in the quote below:
"When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behaviour, according to a study" - excerpt from Ellen Wexle article here.

So what does this mean for me in my practice? 

The ongoing pressures of assessments, achievement in reading, writing, and math can be overwhelming in primary schools. My gut knows that 'play' is so important for children. However, trying to balance everything out in a day can be so tricky! When I truly let go of the structure and let the children 'play' with no agenda in mind - great things happen!

This article "Why every kindergarten and first-grade school day should begin with inquiry and imaginative play" by Olivia Wahl confirmed my hunch about play.
We must have a mindset shift in this country. A shift from seeing schools as buildings that children attend to understand reading, writing, math, and social sciences to schools as part of our communities where children develop understandings of the world around them and social-emotional skills that will help them thrive and communicate their ideas with others. I truly believe if there is not ample time allotted for our children to begin every day exploring, playing, and building social awareness, we are failing them.
Term 3 will bring an opportunity to reassess my planning and classroom curriculum and look at what will make a difference to children's life-long learning.

Making Phonics Stick! - Professional Learning Webinar

Friday, June 29, 2018

New Streets: South Auckland, Two Cities

Full link here: