Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dealing with conflict in the classroom

This term has seen some significant changes in my classroom. Due to an almost school-wide reshuffle, my classroom lost 4 students and gained 5 more from another, younger classroom. This was something that my class really struggled to cope with. Prior to the class change-up, room six worked hard to create a close-knit classroom.  Everyone was mates, and nobody wanted their mates to leave. At the same time, the new students were coming into an unfamiliar classroom environment - one which had a very close bond. This made the new students feel somewhat unwelcome and apprehensive to join their new classroom.

This term we have had to work hard to work hard to establish a new classroom culture, where both new and original room sixers feel included, safe and happy. This is an honest reflection of the realisations I have come to.

Here are some important things I have discovered when dealing with conflict in the classroom

Getting to the bottom of problems ASAP

As soon as I have gotten wind of a problem, I have made it my priority to deal with it straight away. Sometimes this has meant that I have had to leave the rest of the classroom whilst dealing with a small group. I think this has helped because things were not left to escalate, or become worse by others getting involved.

Two sides to every story

This is something that we all know- but do our students?  Before starting a restorative conversation, I have learnt the value of expressing this to my learners. There are two sides to every story, and there are always truths on both sides. Emphasising this fact helped my learners to understand that I was willing to listen and support both parties. As a result, situations were calmed down because both parties knew that I cared and would listen to what they had to say.

Compartmentalising problems

I noticed that often the 'big problem' between the two parties was created from many smaller, unrelated problems.  Some of these problems involved intentional unkind acts, whilst others were not.  I felt that it was really important for the students to see that while there were some instances of meanness, other times it was just misinterpreted and innocent.

As a group we work through each problem in isolation. Initially this is difficult, as students will bring up other issues when trying to deal with the one problem in particular. I needed to remind the group that we would make sure we shared and solved each problem, but it was important to focus on one at a time.

Asking why

A problem isn't solved unless you get to the root of it, and find out what caused it in the first place. Asking why helped to find out more details, understand the feelings and thoughts behind actions, and also find out how the problem began. It also helped to discover when actions were intentional or just misinterpreted. The more information you ask for, the better you understand the problem and how best to solve it.

Taking time to talk, listen and say sorry (and mean it)

It turns out that one of the biggest problems we had this week was due to a fight that happened last year.  There a physical altercation between two groups and it was broken up by the teachers.  It turns out they were still holding onto what happened a year ago, because they never actually dealt with the problem.  Instead, they were just told to apologise.  This meant that body language, meaningless comments and moods were misinterpreted as angst towards the other group.

The biggest problem with this is that they never able to move forward because there was never any restorative conversation.  Instead, their anger was just left to fester and become much worse. It can be easy to just make children apologise and expect them to move on. However I have seen the value of taking time to allow all learners to share their perspective of what happened, why and how it made them feel.  It was much easier to give a genuine apology once they understood the thoughts and feelings behind the actions. Following that comes the joint decision of how to move forward.

Understanding learners cultures and family backgrounds

This is probably the biggest thing I have learnt. Due to their cultural and family backgrounds, children deal with conflict in different ways. At home, some children are free to share their problems. Others are expected to 'suck it up' and never voice their problems. Some children are even punished for speaking their minds. It was pretty naive of me to think that all learners would be able to voice their issues with ease.  In fact, this turned out to be a huge barrier to dealing with conflict.  This had meant that small issues were left to fester, leaving all parties more upset, angry and confused.

It is really important that students know that they have permission to share what is making them angry, hurt and upset.  In saying this, it is also important to acknowledge that all families deal with problems differently, and that is okay. The last thing I would want is to come across disrespectful towards my students families and cultures. While stressing this to my learners, I also explained that at school we need to be able to talk about our problems so we can solve them together and move on.

And lastly...

Everyone always says it, but it is so crucial to know your learner.  I have found that if students feel valued and cared for, they are more likely to open up and respond better to restorative conversations. The hardest students to get to talk were the new students to room six.  Building rapport takes time to develop but I feel it can make such a difference.

Summing it up

This week has been quite the challenge. I have seen how important it is to deal with problems as soon as they arise. I also have learnt that students home lives and cultures can play a huge roll in how they deal with conflict. This can make it difficult for some learners to openly express their feelings. In saying this, it is super important that students understand that they are encouraged to share what is bothering them. At first it felt personal that my learners were unwilling to share how they were feeling.  But taking the time to the right ask questions allowed me to learn so much more about my learners.

Monday, 17 July 2017

My inquiry: the research design of my study

As discussed previously, my dissertation/inquiry this year is about the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction on students understanding of author's purpose.  It is my suspicion that if students are able to identify and articulate why authors have chosen to use specific structures and language features to communicate their purpose, then students could transfer and apply this knowledge in their own writing.  Initial data gathered from writing samples and student work indicated that students did not have a strong enough understanding of the structures and features used for specific purposes.

Action Research

My action research will gather quantitative data relating to effectiveness of an integrated reading and writing approach. As the integrated reading-writing instruction will be standard classroom practice, all students will be involved in the intervention.

After looking into the current literature and studies supporting integrated reading and writing and considering the needs of my learners, I have created an intervention.  The intervention period has begun, and will continue until the end of term three.  In order to determine whether the integrated instruction will make a difference, I have taken a number of measures which will allow me to compare students writing samples and awareness of author's purpose before and after the intervention.  A survey containing a number of tasks was given prior to the intervention period. Writing samples were also collected.  The samples were graded against a rubric, which specifically assesses whether students have deliberately chosen structures and features appropriate to their given purpose. 

During the intervention period, I will have detailed lesson plans. I will also keep a diary which reflects deeply on the student's ability to identify the structure and features author's use to convey their purpose, as well as their ability to  transfer this knowledge and apply it in their own writing. I will also have informal check-ins, gauge students understanding of the learning during the experiment. These will be audio recorded and transcribed.

My inquiry: integrated reading and writing instruction

Does integrated reading and writing instruction affect year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika students understanding of author's purpose in writing?

This year I have merged my teacher inquiry with my dissertation. I have chosen to investigate the effectiveness of integrated reading and writing instruction, with a focus on understanding the author's 'purpose' of writing. 

Why have I chosen this?

I have chosen this topic for the a number of reasons. Current data from my school suggests there is a need for some kind of change in the way we deliver reading and writing lessons. Also, many theoretical frameworks support the use of integrated reading and writing instruction. The theoretical framework has also led to numerous studies that have found that integrated reading and writing instruction can lead to improved outcomes for some learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011). As the integrated reading and writing instruction is a broad topic, I chose to narrow my research and focus on author's purpose.

Underachievement in writing

In Aotearoa, Maori and Pasifika students are underperforming in writing (Amituanai-Toloa, McNaughton, Lai & Airini, 2009).  The data for students achievement in writing in my classroom  mirrors the trend in New Zealand of Maori and Pasifika learners underachievement. Therefore, a change in the way writing is taught is necessary.

What the literature says 

Integrated reading and writing instruction is supported by the theoretical conceptualisations about the similarities in knowledge and processes involved in reading and writing. Prior to the 1980s, reading and writing were taught independently of each other.  At that time, reading was believed to be a receptive skill, and writing a productive skill (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).   In addition, developmental ‘readiness’ theories also played a role in justifying the separation of reading and writing. Educators had believed that writing was dependent on the previous attainment of reading skills (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). The receptive skill of reading was posited as being the basic, foundational skill which had to be mastered before acquiring writing skills (Shanahan, MacArthur, Graham & Fitzgerald, 2006). Educators were fearful of teaching writing prematurely, as it was thought to be was ineffective, perhaps even harmful (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). Therefore, educators would not teach writing skills until students had mastered reading skills. 

During the 1980s, the traditional theory of reading and writing as separate domains was challenged. Tierney and Pearson (1983) presented the argument that both reading and writing involves the processes creating meaning and composing texts, thus questioning the notion of reading as a passive skill.  Readers create meaning through considering the author’s purpose, information in the text and their own knowledge and experiences (Lee & Schallert, 2015; Tienery & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Essentially, readers are composing a text in their minds in an effort to create meaning from these cues (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Writers also create meaning through using their experiences, considering their audience’s prior knowledge and experiences and what they want their readers to think or do (Tierney & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Therefore, readers and writers use the same cues to construct meaning and compose texts.

The 1980s also marked the new understanding of shared cognitive processes involved in both discourses. There are four fundamental types of knowledge that readers and writers must use; metaknowledge, domain knowledge, knowledge about universal text formats, and procedural knowledge (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Understanding the shared knowledge between reading and writing allowed educators to better understand how an integrated reading and writing approach would strengthen students understandings in both domains.

What previous studies have shown 

Many studies have concluded that integrating reading and writing can lead to improved outcomes for learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011).  An integrated reading and writing approach allows learners to transfer their knowledge of reading strategies to enhance their writing skills.  

Many studies have found integrated instruction leads to improved outcomes for ELL and tertiary students (Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Plakans, 2008; Sadat Booyeh, 2015). However, there is little action research or experimental studies that inquire into the effect the approach has on English speaking learners in primary school.  Therefore, more research is needed in order to discover the impact on English speaking learners in primary school contexts.

Additionally, there has been little inquiry into reading and writing integration for a low decile learners in New Zealand.  In saying this, Jesson, McNaughton and Parr’s (2011) case study uncovered the elements of effective teaching of integrated reading and writing programmes. Their case study involved an in-depth, descriptive look into four teachers who had been recognised as ‘effective teachers of writing’ (Jesson et al., 2011). While the study was insightful, I believe it would be useful to have a study of an action research design, to further discover the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction. The 'intervention' period of the action research will allow me to discover whether integrated reading and writing will have an effect on my students achievement in writing.

Author's Purpose

Upon examining students writing samples, I noticed that there is no evidence of deliberate use of structures and features when writing texts for a purpose. I hypothesize that strengthening students understanding of 'author's purpose', in both reading and writing, will improve their writing.  It is my thinking that if a student is able to identify the structures and features authors use to communicate their purpose, then they will be able to transfer this knowledge when they are writing their own texts.

Summing it up

Given the current data on underachievement in writing, it seems a change the way that writing is taught in my classroom is necessary.  Literature and current research into the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction suggest it can improve students achievement in writing. I endeavour to discover whether it will have an impact on year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika learners, as previous research has not been aimed at this particular demographic.


Aminzadeh, R., & Booyeh, Z. S. The Comparative Effect of Reading-to-Write and Writing-Only Tasks on the Improvement of EFL Learners’ Writing Ability.

Amituanai-Toloa, M., McNaughton, S., Lai, M. K., & Airini (2009). Ua aoina le manogi o le lolo: Pasifika schooling improvement –  final report. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland UniServices Limited.

Cho, H., & Brutt-Griffler, J. (2015). Integrated reading and writing: A case of Korean English language learners. Reading in a Foreign Language, 27(2), 242.

Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing relations and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 39-50. 

Griffith, R. R., PhD. (2010). Students learn to read like writers: A framework for teachers of writing. Reading Horizons, 50(1), 49-66. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/236477675?accountid=8424

Jesson, R., McNaughton, S., & Parr, J. M. (2011). Drawing on intertextuality in culturally diverse classrooms: Implications for transfer of literacy knowledge. English Teaching, 10(2), 65.

Lee, J. , & Schallert, D. L. (2015). Exploring the Reading–Writing Connection: A Yearlong Classroom‐Based Experimental Study of Middle School Students Developing Literacy in a New Language.  Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 143–164.doi:10.1002/rrq.132

Plakans, L. (2008). Comparing composing processes in writing-only and reading-to-write test tasks. Assessing Writing, 13(2), 111-129. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/61956348?accountid=8424

Tierney, R.J., & Shanahan, T. (1991). Research on the reading–writing relationship: Interactions, transactions, and outcomes. In R.Barr, M.L.Kamil, P.Mosenthal, & P.D.Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 246–280). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (1983). Toward a composing model of reading. Language arts, 60(5), 568-580.

Wittrock, M. C. (1983). Writing and the teaching of reading. Language Arts, 60(5), 600-606.

Friday, 7 July 2017

What my kids think about using digital tools

As term two draws to a close, it has been a great opportunity to gather feedback from my students. Along with my surveys about my teaching, I also wanted to find out my classes perspective on using digital tools.  This has been a massive change compared to how they had learnt in their previous classrooms.  I use digital tools on a daily basis, and not just Google Apps for Education (such as Docs, Drawing, Slides).  While I love teaching using digital tools, I wanted to know what my kids actually thought about it.

Digital tools vs. traditional Think-Pair-Share

I have spoken previously about the affordances of digital tools, compared to the traditional and verbal Think-Pair-Share approach. I have always believed that they increase engagement and participation, as they help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also believe the quality of responses is higher. My own opinion on digital tools vs traditional T-P-S proved to be the same as my learners.  I posed the question: Do you prefer sharing ideas verbally, or with digital tools? Out of the 16 students who took part in the survey, 15 said they preferred digital tools, while one student said he liked both.

Here is what they had to say about why they prefer digital tools:

Because it is better

Because it's easy to use and it's really fun

because it  is faster and because half of the class don't even share there ideas verbally.

Because we can share our ideas and  I like the word clouds.

Because I can see everyone answer.

because I don't like writing on paper

because it easy and a little bit fast.

Sometimes I like doing it on both.

Because it helps us with our learning 

I like Nearpod because it helps us answer questions on what we learn and you get to write as many words as you can.

because it's good for us to learn 

I like nearpod because it shows your Ideas on the screen.

I like using it because we share our ideas with the whole class.

I like mentimeter because It has lots of things and its fun.

Because you can write more sentences.

Creating DLOs

As Glen Innes School is a part of the Manaiakalani cluster, our pedagogy is Learn, Create, Share.  I wanted to focus on the 'create' aspect, and discover how my students really felt about it. After students have learnt something, they use any app they like to create a 'Digital Learning Object' (DLO).

Essentially, a DLO is something that is created by the student to show their understanding.  A way that it is explained to students is that it can be used to teach somebody else.  Therefore, a DLO needs to be clear and easy to understand.

Again, I used a likert scale to find out whether they liked creating DLOs for reading, writing and maths. I wasn't surprised with the responses I received:

Overall, students enjoy creating DLOs to show their learning

It is pretty clear that my learners love to create DLOs about maths.  My class was relatively new to the concept of creating a DLO, so I initially focussed on creating DLOs in maths.  Now that they are experienced with creating DLOs for maths, my class absolutely loves it.  They are always engaged, and their DLOs are becoming more detailed and articulate.

While the response towards creating DLOs for writing and reading is still mostly positive, there are students who either don't like it, or feel impartial.  In an effort to boost their enthusiasm, I am working on introducing new tools for learners to use. I wonder whether their lack of exposure to creating DLOs in reading and writing has contributed to some of the students not enjoying it.  I am hoping that over time the students will enjoy creating DLOs in reading and writing as much as they do in maths. 

Students perspective on using digital tools

I used likert scales to determine how students felt about the commonly used digital tools in our classroom. Here are the results:

Class favourites

The most common favourite digital app was Kahoot, followed by Google Apps (Docs, Drawings and Slides) and Canva.  Some students chose more than one favourite, which is why there is more than 16 responses. To help make sure these really are my students favourites, next time I would list all the digital tools we have used to help learners pick a favourite. There is a possibility that the students choose these apps because they were spoken about and used in the last two weeks. 

Here is what they had to say about their favourite apps and why...

Read theory because when you are done read you can answer the questions 

google doc,google drawing,and more

Collaborative Problem solving

Cause it's fun playing on kahot! and plus learning from you  mistake.

kahoot because it cool

Kahoot, quizizz and canva

Quizzes because you don't have to wait for the teacher to press Next like on Kahoot. 

Canva because you can create your own posters 

I like kahoot because it's fun and it is also helpful

I like using them for work because they're easy to use.

I like DLO because it helps us what we did for maths.

Kahoot because we want to win so it motivates us to read the question carefully and be fast to answer it. Nearpod because I think it helps me understand that it doesn't matter if I get a question wrong, because I'm not the only one who got it wrong. Canva because I get to be creative and make inforgraphics.

youtube and because you can play music and a movie

I like mentimeter because its fun 

Kahoot because you can play games and learning games.


  • When students mentioned DLOs I counted this as GAFE because they mostly use Google Drawings and Slides to show their learning.
  • I have copied and pasted the responses exactly how they were written - hence the typos and grammar issues.

Least favourites

Here are my students responses to their least favourite digital tools:

ANSWERGARDEN because it doesn't let us write lots 


nothing I like all the digital apps that we use.


Socrative because it dose not have funny meme's like quizizz.

Kahoot because you have to wait for the teacher to press Next.

Answer garden because you can only use 40 letters or 20

Mentimeter because I don't like how it is created. 

none because I like them all.

I don't have one.


play store because you can download games 

Answer garden all you got to do is write the answer for the question and the words get bigger  

Answergarden because you can only write like 40-60 letters

While the majority of students said they don't have a least favourite digital tool, the next most common response was AnswerGarden.  I think this is interesting because their reasons is one of the reasons why I personally like AnswerGarden.  Because of the word limit, AnswerGarden forces respondents to be succinct.  This can be a challenge for students.

Summing it up

It is great to see that the response to digital tools is mostly positive.  Digital tools help to increase student engagement, as they are more willing to share ideas and collaborate on tasks. My survey has also shown that the class prefers using digital tools over traditional verbal methods of sharing and collaboration.  I will continue to expose my learners to new and exciting digital tools, as I think this will help them to become more comfortable with using them.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mid-year reflection

Where has the time gone?! It is crazy to think that we are half-way through the school year.  With the end of term two quickly approaching, it has been a good time to reflect on how it has been going.  

I created a Google Form to gain insight into the feelings and opinions of my learners.  I stressed the importance of my students taking their time and answering the questions as honestly as possible.  I explained that the purpose of the survey was to see what was working well in room six and what I could do better. It was very important that my kids felt comfortable to be completely honest. There is always room for improvement! 

The feedback I received was really heart-warming.  When asked the question Do you like being in room 6? the students had to rate between 1 and 5 (1 being no, and 5 being yes).  It was awesome to see that the general consensus was that my students enjoyed being in the class.  This question was followed by Why do you/ do you NOT like being in room 6? I did this because I wanted to know why my students liked or didn't like being in room 6.

Here are some of their responses: 

 I like being ing room 6 because we always learn new stuff everyday.

Because it is cool and I got a cool teacher...

I like being in room 6 because I have lots of friends and I learn more

It depends on what we do.

I do like being in room 6 because miss tries to make learning fun. She makes it so that we want to learn and no one is forcing us to learn.

We learn a lot of things 

because my teachers kind and I learn lots of things

I like room 6 because Miss D makes learning fun 

because we hardly get free time

I like room 6 because we can talk about our feeling about each other. Room 6 is the best classroom ever. Give things a go. 

I like being in Rm6 because I got a awesome teacher that helps me learn and achieve my goals now and for the future. 

I am so glad that my learners feel that learning is fun in room 6.  This is something I am always trying to keep in mind when planning. At the start of the year, most of my learners were well below national standard. This had meant that I have needed to be creative in my approach to teaching the class. I had wanted my class to be engaged and to enjoy learning. I love that many of my students feel they are learning heaps in my class. 

Another firm belief I have is that in order for kids to learn, they need to feel happy and safe (because who wants to learn in a class where they are miserable and uncomfortable?). I think the responses clearly show that I have created a safe, happy and positive classroom environment. This makes me incredibly happy. It is something I have continuously worked on throughout the year.  Whenever the wheels started to fall off, we would revisit the key ideas of discipline, collaboration and kindness. We also celebrate shift and small victories. I have chosen to focus on shift rather than national standards, and as a result I have seen my students confidence and self-efficacy rise. I believe these things have made a huge impact on my students - academically, socially and emotionally.

The responses in blue are the two students who rated 3 on the first question.  The student that said it depends on what he does is one of my top students.  This makes me wonder whether he is possibly bored/not challenged enough.  I am going to have a discussion with him so I can figure out what he would like from me.

Reading, writing and maths in room 6

I wanted to discover my students attitudes towards reading, writing and maths.  I asked them a series of questions, with likert scales and open-ended questions. As you can see, the majority of my class loves maths, and feels okay about reading and writing.  

I also asked my learners what they liked, didn't like and what I could do differently for reading, writing and maths.  The responses were mostly positive.  The main negatives I got was that they hate sitting on the floor for maths, and a lot of my students don't really like writing.  With respect to writing, I think I need to be a bit more innovative.

Here is the link to the survey results.

What's working well

  • Students feel safe and happy in room 6
  • Room 6 loves learning maths
  • lots of accelerated shift in achievement - yay!
  • An increase in self-efficacy and confidence in students learning and ability
  • Students enjoy using digital tools to help them learn (blog post coming soon)

What's next?

From the feedback I have recieved from my class I have formulated a few questions which will help to refine and improve my teaching

  • How can I use digital tools to increase engagement and understanding in writing?
  • How can I help to excite my learners about reading and writing? 
  • How can I engage one of my high achievers?
  • How can I continue to accelerate my learners achievement in maths?
  • How can I make sure that my use of digital tools and lessons are deliberate and effective? 

The past two terms have been challenging but so incredibly rewarding.  It is so great to be a part of my learners growth and development.  We have come a long way from day one and I am very proud of the effort that every student has put into their learning.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next half of the year brings!

Parting words from my learners...

Finish this sentence: I want Miss D to know....

I want to do basketball sometimes when we go out for PE.

that I love being in her class

that we like spending time with Miss D

"that I want to do more fitness and I don't like writing. sorry miss"

do fitness in the morning 

i don't wanna move classes because i like it in this class

How I love this class

What I am doing

i hate writing

she is the best teacher

That she is the best teacher ever off my life.

I want Miss D to know that she is the best and funny teacher I've ever had.

I want Miss D to know that no matter what she picks for next term for the class I support her 100%.

Battle of the Presentation Apps: Mentimeter vs Nearpod

I have been using Nearpod and Mentimeter religiously since I discovered them earlier in the year. At first, I leaned more towards Nearpod, mainly because it is free.  Unfortunately, the free version of Mentimeter only allows for up to 3 questions. Because of this, Nearpod became my first port of call.  However, I loved the word-cloud and scale features.

Recently I bit the bullet and a purchased a one-year subscription for Mentimeter. I am so glad that I did.  Now I feel like I can more accurately compare Mentimeter and Nearpod.  These are my thoughts about what sets Mentimeter and Nearpod apart from each other.


Scale questions 

You can use this scale questions to gauge opinions or understandings of students. Mentimeter displays an average score (the circle) as well as the distribution of votes (just above the line). I find this to be a great visual way to show students responses.

Word clouds

I am a big fan of word clouds.  While I will always love AnswerGarden, I also love that Mentimeter also has a word cloud feature. It became really frustrating when I would create a presentation in Nearpod, but would really want to have a word cloud.  Word clouds are useful when you want learners to share and notice commonalities amongst student responses.


Downloaded report from Nearpod... not the greatest for some purposes
This is ultimately what drove me to purchase Mentimeter.  Sometimes we would have amazing lessons using Nearpod, but I wouldn't be able to capture those moments.  If I didn't take a screenshot of the results right then and there, the responses would be lost.  You can download a report, however it mostly displays participation rates.  The reports are not something you could use as a display or share with your class for later reference.

With Mentimeter, you can download each activity as a jpeg. You can also download the entire presentation as an Excel document or a PDF  I have often created shared folders in Google with all the downloaded jpegs from our lesson.  This has been helpful as this makes the learning rewindable.  Students are able to revisit the learning and see their responses. Students can also enter the code at a later date, and submit results.


Draw it

Draw it is an activity where students can annotate an image you upload.  Students can highlight, draw and add text.  I have found this to be very useful in both writing and math activities.  I use it for punctuation activities, paragraph correction and filling in the blank activities.


If you like platforms like Padlet and LinoIt, you will like the collaborate activity on Nearpod.   Students can add text as well as images onto a platform that closely resembles Padlet.  Students can also 'like' other peoples ideas, which they love.

Students opinion

I asked my class to rate the digital apps we use out of 5 (1 being no; 5 yes).  Here is what they had to say about Mentimeter and Nearpod:

 As you can see they are basically the same, although there is a slight preference for Nearpod. The graphs also show that majority of my class enjoys using these presentation tools, with only two students rating 1 and 2 for both Mentimeter and Nearpod.

So, what is the best?

It is pretty hard to choose between Nearpod and Mentimeter.  While they are both presentation apps, they can be used for different purposes.  I think Nearpod should have better download options, as I would like to be able to print off and display some of the awesome work we do on Nearpod. For Mentimeter, I think they should include a function similar to the Draw it activity on Mentimeter.  The only reason why I would choose Mentimeter over Nearpod is because of their options for downloading presentation results.

Overall, I couldn't recommend these presentation tools more highly.  They increase engagement and participation, compared to the traditional verbal Think-Pair-Share model. Both tools help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also think the quality of ideas is a lot better.  This could be because they are talking more time to think and compose their responses.  Using these tools take longer than TPS, but you get a lot more out of your learners.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Getting kids hyped about blogging: an update

A few weeks ago we looked at our blog stats and our global audiences.  Since then, my learners have become more interested in sharing their learning on their blogs. I really wanted to capture and keep their enthusiasm, so I have made a display for the room. 

1000 club

My kids were really excited to see their blog views as well as the countries. I decided to encourage this attitude, as well as a little competition.  I started off with just the '1000 club' - for students who have 1000 blog views or more. Since some of my students have only just got blogs, I decided to also include a '500 club'. I want my learners to feel proud of their blog views and celebrate their global audience.  

Top bloggers

I also wanted to encourage my learners to regularly post high quality blog posts.  I decided to run a weekly competition, using a tally system.  Every time a student posts a high quality blog post, they get one point.  The top blogger of the week gets a prize.  I have enlisted the help of 3 students to check the blog posts and record the points. My helpers check that the blog post clearly explains their learning, how they went and what they can do to improve. My helpers also check that the blog posts make sense. It has also been helpful to have helpers, as it can be hard to check every blog post before it is posted.


At the bottom of the display I have included the students infographics about their global audience.

How it's going

Even though I have just started using this blog display, my learners are already so keen to get sharing their learning. In fact, after explaining how the top bloggers competition works, something crazy happened.  The bell went for morning tea, and no one moved.  Every student stayed and completed their blog posts. And it kept happening throughout the week.  Personally, I think a little extrinsic motivation can work wonders. When students write a blog post they are summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning. Even if they are motivated by the idea of a prize, they are still summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning, which I think is awesome. 

Next steps

I am hoping that my students enthusiasm towards blogging will continue.  It is important that I continue to stress the importance of quality blog posts, where students summarise, evaluate and reflect. I would like my learners to write more detail in their blog posts that is more than "I need to try harder".   I would like my learners to be more specific as this will help them to understand their next steps in learning.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Getting real about meanness

Over the last couple of weeks I had noticed a change in some of my students behaviour. There has been some unkind comments towards other classmates and bad sportsmanship happening. While this change in behaviour was in its beginning stages, I decided to do something about it ASAP before it got worse. Here is what happened!

Wordcloud of 'mean' words

Word cloud created on Tagul
I know my learners are awesome and good kids, so I wanted to shock them and make them reflect on their words and actions. First up, I displayed a word cloud on the SMART board.  I got them to have a long, hard look at the words. Then, I asked if any of the words could be used to describe themselves. A lot of them said yes. We talked about the fact that these were mean and negative words. Then I told them that I actually created the word cloud based on what I was seeing in the classroom. My students looked a mixture of shock and guilt. I asked them whether they felt proud of those words, obviously nobody was.  I also reinforced the point that I believed my students were good, kind kids and that it was important that they understood how their actions and words affect others.

Creating a not-so-pretty picture

Next up, we had a look at the mean things that were being said in our classroom. Sticky-notes and felts were handed out. I asked the class to write down all the 'mean' things that have been said about them. For this one instance, I allowed them to also record swears, except with asterisks instead. I understand that it may be controversial to do so, but I felt it was needed as I wanted to be real with the kids and I wanted them to see all the mean things on paper.

I was surprised by how open my students were when it came to writing and sharing their sticky notes. Some students were okay with putting their own up, while others preferred me to come around and take them. My whiteboard quickly filled up with sticky notes. It did not paint a pretty picture. Again, the students reflected on what was up on the whiteboard. I read most of them outloud, which shocked the class. Then I asked them to put their hand up if someone in our class had said some of the mean things to them. All but one student put their hand up.

Consequences of meanness

Next, we used AnswerGarden to answer the question How does it feel when people say mean things?  AnswerGarden was a great tool to use for this particular activity because we could see common thoughts/feelings the class feel as a result of meanness. Again, we talked a lot about the ideas shared on the sticky notes and the direct consequences they had on our classmates. I reiterated that sometimes people don't mean to hurt other people, but it is important to realise how words and actions can affect people. I also reminded them that I knew that they are better than this, and that knowing effect of words/actions will help them to make better choices.

Stepping up and taking action

Following all the heavy stuff, I wanted to turn the mood around. I chose to talk about being a bystander vs stepping up and looking out for our classmates. I chose to use this particular YouTube clip because it had a few powerful messages, as well as an array of famous people that the students would know. My class was able to take away the key messages that were in the clip. While they understood the power of their negative words, they also realised the power they had to help someone in need of a friend.

Lastly we used Mentimeter to so share our ideas about what we could do to ensure we are being kind. I decided to make a connection to my initial  'mean' wordcloud, by asking my learners to share how they want to be remembered/described. Next students came up with ideas in response to the question: What can you do to make sure you are being a kind person. The class came up with heaps of ideas (64 to be exact) and we had a discussion about most of them. The mood had changed and the class was positive. I could really tell that they were thinking carefully about what they could do to be a kind person. Lastsly, students shared their ideas about why it is important to be kind.  They used what they had learnt from the lesson to come up with some serious ideas. 

Summing it up

I was very pleased with how this lesson went because it did have the potential to go wrong.  My students showed maturity, empathy and understanding throughout the lesson. I was relieved that my class was open and willing to participate in the lesson.  I understand that it took courage to share the mean things being said, as well as how it affects them. But it also meant that the learning was more powerful, as everyone was serious and honest. Talking about mean words and the effect it has on people seemed to strike a chord with class.  It was important to use a lot of wait time, as I wanted to make sure my learners were thinking about the seriousness of our lesson. It was equally important for me to turn it around into positives, by reminding them that I knew they were good kids and that it was up to them to make it right.  

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Student blogging: getting kids hyped about their global audience

I have been thinking about ways to encourage and motivate my learners to share their learning on their blogs.  This is something that is expected in Manaiakalani, however I feel that my learners are not really interested in it.  We have learnt about what to include in a blog post as well as writing blog comments. Now I have turned my focus on helping my learners to want to share their learning on their blogs (rather than me telling them).

Click here to view the Google Drawing that was used for this lesson

The motivator

A student at another Manaiakalani school received a comment from a famous author.
Before we started looking at our blog statistics we discussed the idea of a 'global audience'.  To motivate my learners, I shared with them a blog post from an ex-student from another school.  In her blog, she wrote about a recipe that was inspired from a book she had read. The author actually found her blog post and commented on it! This was a powerful way to illustrate that sharing your learning online can be exciting and gives you a global audience. We also discussed the importance of sharing enough detail in your blog post and using labels, as this helps people to discover posts.

Looking at our stats

First, we all had a look at our statistics. I had my own blogger dashboard up on the SMART board, and asked students to figure out where they could find out how many blog views they have. I was surprised with how pleased they were with how many views they had. We discussed that the more we shared, the more views we would get, as well as reiterating the importance of quality blog posts with labels.

Next, I asked them to see if they could figure out where to find out which countries the viewers were from.  After some investigating, learners hopped onto the Audience section and were surprised with the results. The students exclaimed over the countries. Some had visitors from more than 6 different countries.

Infographic time

Now that the learners were feeling motivated and proud of their blog statistics, it was time to share it on their blog. I decided to introduce the class to creating Infographics.  When we learnt about Infographics in the MDTA, I had created one about my global audience (read about it here). I used my infographic as a model of how they could present their statistics. My learners loved the look of the infographic and were eager to begin creating their own.  We used Canva, as I have found it to be easy to use and very effective. I also like how you can upload your own images for free on Canva, which is something that you can't do on other infographic creators.

Angel's blog post

Sione's infographic

Summing it up

I was a little nervous to introduce a new way to create a DLO, however this was the perfect opportunity.  The students loved using Canva, and some grasped the concept of using less text and symbols better than others.  This is something I can continue to work on. The class was really engaged in this lesson and they loved seeing their statistics. I do think they felt pretty empowered and motivated. I am hoping this will motivate them to want to share their learning (instead of me always telling them to). Stay tuned!

I also decided to create an updated infographic about my global audience, enjoy!

Using YouTube & Google Docs to Teach Recount Writing

For writing this term, our main focus is on Recounts.  I am trying to make my lessons more engaging and meaningful for my learners.  After using YouTube for poetry & learning about acceptance, I decided to use videos as inspiration for recount writing.

We have covered the language features used in recounts and we have learnt the acronym TREE to remember the structure of a recount. So this week we have narrowed our focus to the first paragraph of a recount - the 'Reveal' paragraph.

I chose to break my teaching down like this as I have found that the majority of my class struggles with writing. My thinking is that breaking down a recount into more manageable chunks will allow them to have a deeper understanding of each section. I also choose to break up my class into two groups.   This is because I want to make sure everyone is participating in the sessions.  Oftentimes, certain learners will share and contribute while others will remain quiet.

This week we used Google Docs and YouTube to learn more about the 'Reveal' Paragraph.  To start with we discussed the key components of a reveal paragraph - a hook to grab the reader's attention and the 5ws. Then we had a go at identifying the Ws and the hook in an exemplar paragraph.

First up, a vlog!

click here go to group 1's collaborative Google Doc
Then, we turned to the interesting bit! We used Google Docs as an online form of a modelling book.  Each student had their Chromebook and editing rights.  First we had a go at writing a reveal paragraph as a class.  I chose to use a vlog about her first bungy jumping experience.  We watched the first minute and discussed what we saw. We brainstormed as many answers to the 5ws as we could.  Then, we worked together to write our paragraph. Lastly, we added our 'hook'. After sharing each other's 'hooks' we combined the best ones and added to the beginning of our paragraph.

click here go to group 2's collaborative Google Doc

The Present: pair paragraphs

Next the students worked in pairs to write another 'Reveal' paragraph. I chose to use The Present. I felt that the students would find it easier to write about The Present because we have already used The Present to learn about acceptance (& more). Since we were only focussing on a 'Reveal' paragraph, we only used the first 30 seconds. Again, the pairs brainstormed 5ws and then began writing their paragraphs. I decided to get my students to choose the Ws that they felt was important with setting the scene.  I have found that sometimes recounts can get a little boring, as there is too much focus on addressing all the Ws (ie On the 21st of June on a cold afternoon, I was playing PlayStation... boring!). Instead, we chose fewer Ws and also elaborated on some of  ideas.

Going it alone

Lastly, students had a go at writing their own Reveal paragraphs. I was able to get up to this with G1 but am planning on finishing this lesson with G2 next week.  I was pleased with the quality of the paragraphs.  Students were also adding in interesting hooks, which helped to grab the reader's attention.

Pair/individual follow up task

The follow up task was Revealing Paragraphs. This involved a number of steps.  First, students had to unpack a reveal paragraph by identifying the Ws. Next, they added in an interesting title.  Lastly they found ways to improve the paragraphs by making them more interesting by adding in a hook and some extra description.

Summing it up

Overall I am pleased with how this went.  Both groups were able to create some interesting reveal paragraphs.  I think using YouTube really helped, especially with my lower writers. It was also important that the students planned out the Ws before writing their paragraphs.

Using Google Docs was useful as all students could collaborate on the same document during our guided writing session.  I had the Doc projected up on the SMART board, so was able to discuss the paragraphs as well as address any errors. It will also be something that we will be able to return to, unlike writing on whiteboards that will disappear after the lesson.

I did notice that my class struggles with correctly using dialogue.  I will work on this next week before I continue onto teaching the 'Events' section of a recount.

Wherever possible, I will definitely be using Google Docs as a form of modelling books as well as using YouTube to help students in writing.