Posted in Analyse assessment information, Personal TAI, Uncategorized

DATA: Teaching as Inquiry: 2017

I have enjoyed the blended approach to teaching and learning for some time now. But this year, due to the new and improved Ako Orewa approach, I am actively giving choice and agency over to the students. For the writing standard in year 11, we have moved away from doing both creative and formal writing. And, unlike last year, I never gave the option of doing both standards. What I did ask is for students to dig deep and find what they are passionate about. And write about that. Ten students chose to do the Creative Writing standard. Six of them boys. The rest chose to tackle Formal Writing.

Asking students to dig deep and find what they feel passionate about does force them to take ownership of their work. When you have a teenager saying: “I think I’m good at creative writing” it almost forces them to prove their point by getting on with it. And doing a good job of it. So unlike in previous years, I found that students very quickly came up with plans for their writing. I was prepared to workshop ideas, but instead, for the most part, simply listened to their good ideas and then told them to get on with it.

With the formal writing I found much the same thing. I had students writing about Tibet, New Caledonia and the migrant crisis in Europe. And it took them no longer than a lesson to come up with their topics. When I dug a little I found that they all had a deeply personal connection to the topic. So what we were able to work on was personal teenage voice. This took the work from good formal, factual writing to another level as it was infused with an authentic teenage flavour. With some encouragement, I found that they were adding details like the following:

I am Tibetan, and my grandma was in Tibet when China took over and was there when they were under China’s rule. My grandma fled Tibet through the Himalayas to India and had to leave all her possessions in her home. She said that the Chinese once came and took all the males and said that they would help them, and so this left all the woman and gathered them into a group. This is when she escaped and went through the Himalayas with her children and a small amount of food, as they left most of their livestock back where they used to live. Many children on the road died due to malnutrition and so, because they were weak, they either died from malnutrition or they died from illnesses and diseases such as chicken pox. Due to the shortage of food my grandma and the group she stayed with went to villages and ended up trading expensive jewellery for simple cups of rice or flour. And when they had traded all their jewellery and what else they had left, they had to beg for food from the villagers. (Year 11 Student)

But the real test is always when the grades are returned. We do not mark our own students’ work which really helps with moderation and equity across the standards. Suffice it to say I had some pleased students with the following grades:

I found these students to be independent, resilient and happy to rely on feedback from people other than myself. They shared their work with family members and peers for both critiquing and feedback.

And in this age of concern over boys’ writing, I am pleased to report that out of the 14 boys in the class, 11 got excellence.

Posted in Bicultural context, Personal TAI, Uncategorized

Teaching as Inquiry 2017

As I suspect with most teachers, I have inquiries swimming around in my mind all the time. Looking for solutions to help students improve outcomes, that’s what we do right? And looking for ways for students to develop these skills independently. So for my inquiry I have to narrow it down to two aspects:

  1. How increased student agency can improve outcomes. And
  2. How blended learning helps facilitate this.

Spirals of inquiry

I am focusing on two classes, namely my year 10s and my year 11s.

My year 10s are a largely mixed ability class. They are self motivated and respond well to a relaxed environment with largely facilitation and small group discussions. They have responded well to both flipped aspects of the course, as well as in-class flipping. This helps with differentiation. I have provided them with all the course work in a book which I created in iBooks Author. Unlocking English includes tasks, videos and marking rubrics. It makes flipping aspects of the curriculum easy.

My year 11s are also self motivated and are largely driven to achieve good grades. That being said, they are a motley crew with a keen sense of humour. So although they are an academic class, they seem to be far more relaxed than classes of this nature in some previous years. They don’t seem to take themselves as seriously as I have experienced in previous years, for the most part anyway. And the biggest factor that I have noticed and that I will investigate more fully, is that they are far more independent and resourceful. I have also  provided them with all the course work in a book called Engaging English. This also includes tasks, videos and marking rubrics.

So the scene is set for a student centred environment, where learning can take place in a differentiated way. Having the work in a variety of ways should facilitate learning anywhere, anytime, at any pace.


Posted in Analyse assessment information, Personal TAI, Use critical inquiry and problem solving

Flipped coursework

This is the second year where I have expected students to access my work on line and be prepared for lessons. Most of the work has been at the ‘gathering’ stage and has been in the form of videos that I have made. This has been interspersed with PBL and student led lessons. All within the framework that I have set up. To make this easier for students to see the bigger picture, I have created iBooks of the year’s course work. The best spin off that I have found is more time to set up relationships with students. When they are working at their pace, I am able to work along side of them, guiding and coaching when necessary.

 Here is a comparison of each internal over the last two years. I think it is fair to say that the new pedagogical approaches has not hindered their progress. Anecdotally I’d say that engagement was up. I was able to challenge them more. Students are forced out of their comfort zones when they are challenged to think, rather than passively absorb information. I was amazed at their tenacity and hard work this year. And finally, I have enjoyed this approach far more than droning on from the front of the class.





Posted in Demonstrate knowledge of how akonga learn, Personal TAI

Creating ‘C’ students

It’s not all about the grades. We’ve heard that often enough. So what is it all about? The ‘C’ students can potentially go further than the so called academic student. What I mean is, that student that has developed the soft skills: collaboration, connectedness, creativity. The skills that students are quietly picking up along the way when they are given the time and the confidence that they can work independently. So bring in the student with some learning needs. 

This is the student that struggles with hand writing, but the iPad has helped him overcome this weakness. He has anomalies in that he is confident and anxious. Connected yet challenged. Interested yet disengaged.

I’ll get to my point.

The drama teacher at our school saw potential in this student to do the speech board exam. His confident side thought it was an awesome idea and he jumped onto Google and combined his love of history with his love of sport. These two combined, he quickly put a speech together based on the ’81 Springbok tour of New Zealand. This was based on what he was studying in history.

The day before the speech was due to be memorised and presented to the group the confident side disappeared. The anxieties were palpable. His verdict: “I can’t do this. I can’t memorise this speech!”

The English teacher in me kicked in. I’ve been teaching English for 25 years. I know what I’m talking about. As I was about to launch into the ” depend on me ” tactic, I saw another palpable change in this student.

I’ll get my iPad to read my speech to me!

And that’s exactly what he did. Quick as a flash he went to Settings. Accessibility. Voice over. And so for the next while he had the iPad read his speech to him over and over and over. This was his way of calming his nerves and getting the speech into his head, without having to read it himself. The work was authentically his, he just needed help reading the content.

I felt immense pride when I heard him the next day. Rehearsing the speech outside my classroom with the so called academic students.

The point of this post? Here we have a student who is challenged academically. But he has developed flexible thinking. He has developed problem solving and independence. He took a problem and he found a solution. Not an ‘A’ student but a fantastic ‘C’ student.

Posted in Analyse assessment information, Demonstrate knowledge of how akonga learn, Education, Personal TAI, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals

Encouraging independent learning


I was really interested to see the NCEA results for my level one class. I looked at the external results and compared them to my class from the previous year. The most obvious difference was the number of Excellences, with the 2014 group more than doubling the number. So there is a significant shift up when you look at the number of Achieved and Merit grades.


What was common between the two groups?
1. They were both extension classes with talented students
2. The texts I taught remained the same over the two years
3. The exams were largely the same

So why the jump in Excellence grades?
The biggest difference was that in 2014 all my students had devices, so I was able to confidently flip lessons when required. We could run with projects, knowing that we could share and collaborate because we were all connected. We also introduced blogging. My aim was to develop independent learning.

Now I know we shouldn’t get too hung up on grades, there’s more to teaching and learning. But it’s nice to see hard work paying off. Will this trend continue in 2015? Who knows, but I’m certainly excited to watch my students grow in confidence and independence.

Posted in education, Personal TAI, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals

Differentiating a college classroom

I started my lesson reminding my students that they should take responsibility for their learning. They know what works best for them, they need to communicate that to me so that we can get the best out of them.

1.One student said he learns best when I tell him what to do. I said it didn’t work that way but the point he made is a common one. He feels comfortable with the old style of teacher-led lessons…particularly with NCEA exams looming. So I started him off with a skeleton plan. But look what happened. These guys took over and I took a step back. And smiled.


2. Then as I wandered around the classroom I listened to what was being said. Some were collaborating and listening to the Explain Everything video I had posted for them.

Relaxed yet productive.

3. Next was this group who were not sharing ideas. They felt they had so much information, they were streamlining and consolidating ideas. Working largely independently of each other.


4. As I went around asking for evidence of what they were doing, I saw students on task. Just not the same task. Deeply engrossed in their higher level thinking. Sharing ideas and themes to prompt work. Even some jokers in the back row, posing for a photo.


Gratefully, as I wandered around looking, listening, recording, most did ask me questions. They engaged in real discussions as opposed to ones held solely on Google Docs. So I’m not totally redundant, but I do have a sense that I have some independent learners.

Parting question: “So why you taking photos miss?”
“For my blog…of course!”