29 October 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?

24 October 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.

16 October 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?