Saturday, 2 July 2016

What I learnt at Tamaki College

Today the MDTA visited and observed each other's schools.  As an intermediate teacher, the wonder/concern of whether my learners will be prepared enough for college regularly plays in the back of my mind.  Therefore I thought observing a year nine english class would help answer my questions. I wanted to gain insight into what students do in year nine english, and to also see and hear first hand of the gaps the year nines have in their learning as they come into college.

Here are some of my thoughts...

Use of Kahoot!

Although I am familiar with Kahoot! and have used it and Socrative in my classroom, I have only used it as a form of summative assessment at the end of units. English teacher Vaughan Spurdle uses it in a variety of ways. Instead of merely playing the online quiz, Vaughan uses Kahoot! as a reference to further discuss and clarify their understandings. He makes the subsequent questions display time the maximum time and poses a question that asks whether the students understand what had been discussed.  Vaughan was constantly questioning his students and their responses, and guiding and supporting the learners in their understandings of punctuation. This was a really cool way to use Kahoot! that I hadn't thought of, so I will definitely be doing this in my classroom next .  He also spoke about using it at the beginning of a unit to identify prior knowledge and gaps in their learning.

Gaps in learners

Whilst in Vaughan's classroom I spoke to another teacher about the gaps that the learners come to college with.  The response I got was honest and quite worrying. A lot of students are coming into year nine English classes with little or no understanding of:

  • Structure of genres
  • Punctuation
  • Sentence types
  • Paragraphing  

This was alarming as these are the foundations of writing.  It really made me reflect on what I am doing in my classroom, and question whether I am doing enough to ensure my learners are understanding the basics of writing. 

Accelerated Reader

This is a program that has been recently implemented with year nine and ten learners at Tamaki College.  Learners choose a book, read it for 20 minutes each day, and take a quiz once they have completed the book. There is a wide selection of books, ranging from picture books to lengthy novels, and they are all levelled.  If a student gets more than 80% on their quiz, they are able to move up a level and read a more challenging text.  The Accelerated Reading programme has been very successful with the students. The kids now have a real interest and enthusiasm for learning.  Vaughan spoke about learners literally running to the library to get a new book after discovering they had moved up a level. Being able to move up levels has been really motivating for the learners who are both struggling and proficient readers.  The vast majority of learners are continuing to move up the levels, which indicates that the learners are becoming better readers and comprehenders.  Another point of difference of the program is the selection of books.  Instead of reading low interest texts, there is such a wide variety and they are books that teenagers typically enjoy reading anyway.  I saw the Harry Potter series, Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, graphic novels and many more high-interest texts.

Whilst I may not be able to implement this programme in my own class and school (it does come with a price tag), I can definitely take some aspects of it.  It is quite obvious that the learners love seeing themselves improve their reading and move onto more challenging texts.  If such a program is so highly motivational, perhaps I could create a similar program to run in my classroom. I could also use a range high interest texts like wide selection of texts within the Accelerated Reader program, as it is apparent that these texts actually hook the students in.

My visit to Tamaki College was very insightful and I am hoping that what I have learnt will enable me to better prepare my learners for college.

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