Priority learners are groups of students who have been identified as historically not experiencing success in the New Zealand schooling system. These include many Māori and Pacific learners, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs.
ERO (August 2012)
This is the definition of priority learners as per the New Zealand Curriculum. With this in mind I looked at my four classes. As an overall impression, they are all maintaining at least an “Achieved” grade. Which is good right? Well I suppose it is better than being below the standard. My ongoing goal is for them to be aiming higher. There are two exceptions. One year 11 male student is doing exceptionally well with the majority of his grades at “Excellence.” Another is a female student in my year 10 class, also gaining exceptional results.
These are the strategies I have used with them:
- RELATIONSHIPS: It is not rocket science, it is not a complex idea. But it is vital that teenagers know that you are interested in their views and that you are happy to be in the classroom. Once this positive relationship has been established you can start working on instilling confidence in their work. I have found the best way to engender good relationships is through those one-on-one discussions we can now have because we are no longer tied to the front of the classroom. So for all students, but particularly priority students for whom school has not always been their happy place, positive relationship building is vital.
- ENVIRONMENT: I teach in a traditionally built school building but as a colleague was want to say, the modern learning environment exists between the teacher’s ears. In other words it’s our attitude that has to be progressive. So I have worked hard to make my class look homely and comfortable. I think this assists with creating a safe and comfortable learning environment. I thought I’d add a few throws over the lounge suite to add to the ambience, never thinking that my students would leap at the opportunity to sit under these ‘blankets.’ They make themselves at home.
3. CHOICE: I have for a while given students the opportunity to find their own learning pathway and haven’t dictated a set format. But lately with the new AKO Orewa focus, I have given more learner agency by really getting my students to look at the way they learn best, and encouraging them to play to their strengths. I have discussed with them a variety of ways of thinking. We have done quite a bit of discussion around Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. Not only this, we have also been looking at alternative ways of submitting work. For example my year 10s had the choice of doing a podcast for their essay. They don’t always jump at the opportunity and sometimes would rather “just type/ write the essay.” Having choice forces them to be introspective about their learning styles. And they actually have to think when asked for an alternative solution. For many students they would rather fall back onto the tried and tested method. This has not been an option in class which means I’ve had some exciting and progressive submissions this term.
The photos on this post are not of my priority learners, simply students in action in class.