Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Story Hui

At WRS, we've been looking at StoryHui, you can find out more here, here and here. We were first introduced by looking at this video. This has been trialled with students and teachers alike. And as a team we used the storyhui process to reflect on our Teaching as Inquiry this year. You can see my reflection below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Another day with Jannie van Hees (Oral Language)

Relationships with all key stakeholders takes time.
If you hope it happens, it won't!

Have a look at all of the children across your school that need extra support - identify the patterns and the trends? 

Phonological understanding of children is based on the quality of the oral language interactions of children and their engagement in talk accompanied print.

We've got no idea how capable their brain is, we need to have high expectations and keep believing. We have to see an unsung potential here and we need to see what that is! Every child has potential - Jannie Van Hees

A young child's brain development
Growing our children's language potential
Rich social interaction 
Responsible caregivers
Quality talk with child
Reading with talk support
SHAPES the CIRCUITRY of a child's brain

Conversational teaching and learning?
Dialogic teaching and learning?
What do high-quality conversations look like? and what does it do?

If you just listen to a story, you won't get as much out of as if you stopped and talked about it e.g. text accompanied print.

Instead of saying "listen" say "Victoria is talking, let's focus and notice so that we can respond". Paraphrase what Victoria says and invite more dialogue from students.


  • Be intentional in choosing books 
  • Develop a list of high-quality stories for Book talk
  • Can books be organized into themes?
  • It's never too early to read to a child
  • The quality and quantity of language counts
  • Put the time and effort in if you want outcomes
  • Reading to children is a skill, use it as an opportunity to have a conversation
  • Read for enjoyment!
  • You don't have to DO a book, experience a book!
  • Small group sizes are optimal
  • Children's knowledge is gained through language, and in particular 
  • Choose word groups rather than single words (the more we bring it to the foreground, the more children will)
  • Teach children to hunt for 'word groups'
  • Children thrive when they are taken to new learning
  • How do we lead children to new knowledge?
  • Play-based learning - how can we ensure deliberate acts of teaching and learning and provide new learning opportunities for ALL children.

Today in our workshop we looked at Perky the Pukeko and analysed for concepts and high-vocabulary.

WOW!! What an amazing experience and an exciting way to really look at how we might bring vocabulary and concepts to the fore for our students. You can see examples of how this played out for us today, below:

  • Explore possibilities to develop a stronger relationship with local early childhood centres e.g. cross-collaboration between school/early childhood education centre.
  • What might whānau workshops look like at Wymondley in relation to oral language?
  • Identify Goals for 2019! with dates and plan of action.
  • Ensure everyone is on board with this!
  • Diary dates in with all of the key stakeholders, this year for next year.
  • Analyse books and look for opportunities to bring to the fore vocabulary and concepts for students.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Analysing an oral language session.

As mentioned earlier, I have been enjoying Oral Language PD with Jannie Van Hees. In my last post, New learning about oral language I wrote a list of actions that I wanted to achieve by the end of the year. 

The first of these was to video a session of me working with a group of children. I then wanted to use the Vocab Profiler https://www.lextutor.ca/vp/eng/to analyse the vocabulary I used with my students.

Today I recorded a session with my class, 16 students in a multi-cultural class (many of which are emerging bilinguals). You can read the full transcript here.

Here is a summary of that analysis:

The data shows that in this 12-minute children were exposed to 1393 words and 314 different words. 

Of these 1393 words, 86.07% of the words were in the first 1-1000 frequency words, and 4.95% were in the 1001-2000 words. Only 0.50% of these words from the Academic Word List (AWL) which appear with high frequency in English-language academic texts. As you can see in the image below these words are analysis_[1] author_[2] contact_[1] demonstrate_[1] partner_[2] There were 8.47% in the Off-List Words these were allen_[3] alright_[1] ch_[1] cheep_[7] chicks_[2] chirped_[1] clues_[1] cock_[2] cockle_[3] crowed_[1] disrupting_[1] disruptive_[1] distracting_[1] doo_[5] doodle_[5] fluffy_[1] gingers_[3] hen_[10] hens_[3] ikihele_[4] illustrator_[1] leghorn_[12] leghorns_[2] neighbouring_[1] nikau_[2] nooooo_[1] okay_[17] oral_[2] pamela_[3] preened_[2] preening_[4] redhead_[1] rooster_[1] session_[1] shed_[3] sided_[1] sill_[1] ta_[2] um_[2] yeah_[3]. Children were exposed to many of these words through the read-aloud story. Our Junior team has committed to reading aloud to children every day, and you can see in the transcript this is having significant benefits to children's understanding of various words. For example;
Teacher: So the little red hen carefully stretched and preened one wing, then carefully stretched and preened the other wing and when she was quite sure she was neat and tidy. Remember what preening looks like? Child T: Yeah. Teacher: Show me, show me with your body preening when the Little Red Hen is preening. What's she doing? She's doing it like this….preening.Child Ta: She’s covering it.Teacher:  Yeah, it looks like this.That’s  a great way to demonstrate that for us D.


  • What can I do to ensure that ALL children a contributing to dialogue?
  • The most common word in this text is "and, are, a" - what do I need to do to introduce a range of other words?
  • What makes some children more confident to speak up than others?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Re-thinking Teacher Agency and Inquiry

I'm in the process of applying for my full teacher registration, as part of this process I have to share evidence of my teaching, professional learning and reflections via Standards of the Teaching Profession. This morning I saw this tweet, and like any curious teacher, I travelled down the rabbit hole...

The first section suggested readers watch the following video that talks about "Drive: The surprising truth about motivation" (

Here are my key takeaways from the video:

* Incentives don't increase performance in workers
* Purpose is a key motivator
* Start treating like people (not horses that need carrots and sticks)

So then, what does this have to do with teacher agency and inquiry?

Well, the authors made this statement:
Autonomy is the choice for self-directed learning, mastery is having the skills and knowledge to take ownership of learning and voice is about being able to contribute to a greater purpose.

Followed by these 3 points (which had me nodding ecstatically - YES!!! we don't give or take agency. It is completely inherent in all of us, setting up 'agency' opportunities can actually be detrimental to children's innate sense of agency.

  • Agency is not ours to give or take.
  • We all have agency by nature.
  • As schools and leaders we can decide to honor this and support learners to engage with agency

The authors urge us to seek 'true agency' not what we think agency is. Ensuring that this is built on trust and relationships. There are no surprises that the key to success in this area, and in teacher inquiry and growth is 'purpose' looking at teachers as people rather than the role they keep. Ryan's (the authors) suggested method of figuring out your purpose is to ask a series of questions:

First answer what do you do? Then keep asking ‘Why?’ Why do you do what you do? Why does it matter? ‘Why?’ Why do you do what you do? Why does it matter?

There are so many gems in this article, https://chooseactreflect.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/shaping-our-future-teacher-agency-and-inquiry/ I strongly urge you to read, and read again and reflect on how this might impact your own journey.

What next for me?
I'm going to have a go at figuring out my purpose, I am also going to really interrogate the word 'agency' and read further into this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: New Learning about Oral Language

I had the great pleasure of attending a day long PD with Janie Van Hees today. While my brain is absolutely overloaded, I will attempt to share my key takeaways and actions from the day.

What is the role of talk?
  • More ideas shared
  • More words used
  • Greater quality words
  • more ‘to and fro’ talk with your child
Quotes that provoke!Its never too late! Be relentlessHigh expectations and delicious learning available to all tamariki.Surfing to comprehend, and surfing them back again…

Talk accompanied print is the difference maker

Why does spoken language matter? And what does it offer?

60-70% of my environment has to have ‘others’ language available to me

30% me trying it out

The role of talk
  • More ideas shared
  • More words used
  • Greater quality words
  • more ‘to and fro’ talk with your child
Your child hearing and saying reading and talking about reading with you and other sets them up for literacy and learning.
  • Knowledge gap - language is a critical contributor to the knowledge gap.
  • Oral language is a way to grow your thinking.
  • Lived experiences: fluffy sheep or smelly cow
  • Extended daily conversations

Teacher Attention
  • Attention to and noticing
  • Effortful and purposeful engagement and interaction
  • all participating
  • Triggering the ‘known’ to connect to the ‘new’
  • Stretching the learners current language repertoire
  • Multiple encounters
  • Context relevant
  • Facilitated through engaging mediating tools - persons, tasks, activities, sources.

Learner Attention
  • Focus and Notice
  • Put in the effort
  • Take part (participate) fully
  • Push myself to the edge
  • Dig deep for what I already know
  • Learn from others - notice and focus
  • I share - others gain from me
  • Think and talk; think and read
  • Wondering and asking opens up possibilities to know
Classroom talk
  • More time to process
  • Think to yourself, share with someone else and then share with someone else
  • First, second, third

A dialogic gifting exchange might go like this:
Lets all look carefully at the photo, really closely and think and look for details. Dig deep and notice whats going on…use your brain and your eyes to see and think about what the photo is telling us

Ill give you a good amount of think and look with all your brain. Get your ideas ready for sharing. So thinking and looking deeply as much as your bring can AND getting some of your ideas ready to tell someone else. Use gestures

Okay everybody, let's make sure we have on fabulous idea ready to tell another person. Remember how we get a fabulous idea ready.

Children show they know by putting their thumb up.
Teacher: Oh…so many of you remember. Tiaki, you tell us what we need to do to get a fabulous idea ready to tell someone.

Tiaki: We need to use words so they can know what we mean.

During teaching and learning/Dialogic gifting in class

Why do we keep asking so many questions? We should be in dialogue with our children

Example of dialogic gifting
Teacher: Sea horses are amazing animals. Remember how we read that they propel themselves through the water with the tiny fin on their back

Child: The fin flutters really quickly. It uses it for steering.

Teacher: Yes, I used the word propelling and you used the word steering, the fin helps it go left and right.

Teacher: It does, it has some other fins too. I wonder who can remember the name of those fins. We read that word.

CHild: P…. Pec… Pec Oh I can't say it

Teacher: Pectoral fins, clever, good remembering now let's talk about the tail and how 

The point is: When we have exchanges of ideas in the classroom, could we better at being responsive and adding to the kaupapa and the meaning.

High level vocabulary: Groups of words e.g. feeds no plankton, steady itself to eat, curly, scaly tail, fin flutters, seahorse is a fish

There have been some amazing words that we’ve used, lets remember some of them.

Lets explain that word - vocabulary
Like …. is an example.

  • Meaning making ready and explain ready rather than reading and writing ready
  • JOST in different languages e.g. Tongan/Samoan
  • Toy Library @ Wymondley
  • Re-word testing: gathering information
  • Video myself 
  • Create a framework of things to look for in my video analysis.
  • We choose best words to say what we mean, really say what we mean
  • Acknowledge what the child says and open it up for further comment
  • Students to do the heavy lifting
  • Provide quantity and quality in the schooling environment
  • Visuals: Ask what's going on in the photo, what else are you thinking?

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.