Monday, March 12, 2018

Passion Friday's start this week in the MTL VLC :)

This year we have talked to the students about how they thought Passion Fridays at WGP should roll. This followed a conversation at our team meeting when we were discussing Passion Friday options. As a teacher in many ways I felt like the "Jack of all trades, Master of none". I wasn't an expert with a passion that I thought would inspire students to come learn along with me.... Yeeha! That's what I try and do for core curriculum, I'm not sure my brain can handle giving a passion as well :)

Wikipedia version of passion:

"Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards or compelling desire for something. ...

...As a motivation for hobbies

Hobbies require a certain level of passion in order to continue engaging in the hobby. Singers, athletes, dancers, artists, and many others describe their emotion for their hobby as a passion. Although this might be the emotion they're feeling, passion is serving as a motivation for them to continue their hobby. Recently there has been a model to explain different types of passion that contribute to engaging in an activity."

With that in mind we decided to ask the students what they thought we should plan to do?

They came up with the idea that the things they were passionate about they were also probably pretty good at. Can't argue with that logic! Studetns leading what they were passionate and experts in for the other year 5/6 students in our classes and the rest of our VLC Y2, 3 & 4s. Fantastic idea we thought.

On Friday we shared with the students the passions the studetns had come up with. A pretty cool list I think from the M2/3 students:

It was great to see the enthusiasm and buy in from the students as their Year 5/6 role models shared what they wanted to do with them for Passion Friday's this term. The teachers will be making sure it all happens the way it should and our learners will get a different teaching experience.

Check out Taiga solving The Rubik's Cube as motivation to join his Passion Friday option:

We'd love to hear your feedback as our Passion Friday options unfold this term.

Assessment FOR Learning

Over the past week students not just at our school but across NZ engaged in the same progress and achievement tasks I did when I went through primary school in NZ, way, way back in the 70s/80s. Yes they have been adapted content wise but the format is almost identical.

One reason they have been adapted is so that not only can they show the progress a student has made from one year to the next but to also give the teacher and learner real information about the mistakes they made. In education we call this Assessment FOR Learning. In the past the focus was often on assessment OF learning and not a teaching tool. It meant teaching to the test and all kinds of poor practice models.

It was the first year I'd taken the assessment tasks with ILE (Innovative Learning Environment) furniture. It was hilarious to see the 'test rows' non-existent and the students performing the tasks independently all over the place :). I wish I'd taken photos. This is what it looked like last year:


I'll take some mock photos tomorrow so you can see the difference. It was substantial :)

ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING is the 6th Principle of Learning and following on from last weeks post instead of going in order and posting about the 2nd principle I thought this was more apt and timely. It also illustrates that the principles are not an ordered list. Even though Learners at the centre comes first on purpose I think.

Here's a picture of one of the kinds of reports PAT data gives:

It's not easy to see, I encourage you to blow it up bigger. I have removed the name so it is anonymous. This report tells you the learners score and the stanine they achieved compared to other students in the same year as them across NZ.

More importantly, it identifies the questions answered incorrectly and what kind of questions they were. It's not hugely in-depth but added to other assessment tasks and the learning conversations students engage in they become pretty good at setting goals and working towards achieving them.

The OECD Report "The Nature of Learning" describes the Assessment FOR Learning principle as where... "The learning environment needs to be very clear about what is expected, what learners are doing and why. Otherwise, motivation decreases, students are less able to fit discrete activities into larger knowledge frameworks, and they are less likely to become self-regulated learners."

Understanding learning gaps, setting appropriate learning goals and working towards achieving these is what Assessment for Learning is about. A side effect is, it also provides motivation and connection to learning that can mean a much stronger and more powerful learning environment. A learning environment where students can Own their learning, Respect the learning of others and their own, Collaborate towards shared and personal goals so everyone can Achieve their best.

ORCA fits well into the OECD principles of learning as well :). I am sure the students are pleased to have completed "assessment week" and I hope they look forward to looking at their assessments and making meaning of them. 

These results will be available to parents through your Linc-Ed portal soon. If you want to know these sooner ask your child. They will be finding out about them over the next couple of weeks as part of their learning.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Week 4 Happenings & Learning

We keep getting busier as the term progresses and students have been actively engaged in the early stages of our Inquiry for the term. As we look closely at Learning we are finding out the kind of things we need to know about ourselves as learners. Where do I learn best? Under what conditions? With whom? And also, very importantly, what kind of things stop us learning and when do others "own' our learning and when should others "own" our learning?

Education, Teaching & Learning today is very different from when the adults (ie: the parents around) went to school. I often hear comments from my friends about how their kids aren't getting taught like they had been, what was going on? They were having what a good friend of mine calls a: If Not, Why Not? moment. I think it's important to understand why it's different. I think probably most adults know if truth be told :).

Two Fundamental reasons we don't teach in environments that encourage 20th century thinking & life skills:

1. It's NOT the 20th century

2. These are the skills our kids need for the world they will work in:
  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility
These are not the skills needed for an industrialised society. They are not the skills we were taught/are teaching still in many instances. To continue to do that would be failing my students in my opinion.   Image SOURCE - from Linkedin
We need to make a mindshift and instead of valuing content knowledge (sorry people by this I do mean reading, writing, math, science, etc when taught in isolation) and instead valuing behaviour and skill acquisition. This means teaching big concepts and ideas through content (oh, whew, reading, writing, math, science, etc. is still very much part of the timetable - it's just not the BIGGEST! Does that make sense?)

One of the biggest things you may notice about the difference in student learning is VOICE and CHOICE. This is highly regarded in M2 and as we discuss Learning to Learn, 'Learner' Licences, etc. the choices students make will become high stakes.

The OECD Report "The Nature of Learning" identifies 7 Principles of Learning and because I am a learner too, I would like to share each principle over the next 7 weeks. The first links nicely to Voice and Choice and understanding ourselves as learners. It is:
1. Learners at the Centre - The environment aims to develop "self-regulated learners", learners who make good choices in their learning, who set, monitor and reflect on goals with the aim of becoming a life-long, engaged learner.

In M2 some ways Learners are at the centre are:

  • There are times students get to choose how they will respond to their reading, wriTING and math goals using the CLASS-SITE
  • Students may be given a task but how they complete said task is left to their choice and creatiity like the "How to use my Drive" drawings they had to complete for CyberSmart. See some examples below"


Another cool experience we had last week was visiting the life education caravan. The focus for the two visits were: Day 1 - Identity & Influence, Day 2 - Big Problems, Little Problems & Managing problems with a Growth Mindset

Examples of keeping students at the centre of learning were:
  • Students got to design their own images around what their "Head Hasslers" & "Mind Master" looked like and how they were going to show their learning in their Inquiry books
  • Students are in charge of their learning - they show and reflect on learning in a way the will best remember the learning
  • Students actively explored concepts of learner profile maps 
  • Multi Modal planning is used (see Reading, Math, CyberSmart pages on the class-site) where the philosophy behind use is Choose your Learning, Create a Response, Share your Learning
Students engaged in Life Education:


Then in the second session we started talking about how the brain works and what stops us from solving problems efficiently. The technology was really awesome and we learnt strategies to cope with problems.
I call this developing resilience or building GRIT!

Learning about being a Learner has continued and will continue to be our focus as we move through this term. It is my learning as much as it is M2s learning and I am enjoying showing and sharing with my students as my learning unfolds as well. 

Learning is usually Complex, often Difficult, always Messy and something we must learn to do every day of our lives. When things get tough, the tough get going :). To finish this post I will share this clip we watched this morning to remind us how to be when facing challenge as we began our PAT testing week:

Catch you in a week to up-date and reflect on what happens this week in M2 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Week 2 Occurings & Wonderings...

Our second full week gave me a real understanding and appreciation for 'knowing your environment'.

On Monday we started our swimming lessons at the leisure centre and it was a real pleasure to know how that organisation rolled.



Throughout the week I continued to get gentle reminders that everything at the start of this year lacked the utter bewilderment the start to 2017 had been. Coming into the WGP School environment for the first time and trying to figure out how things worked around here, or any new place is challenging. It made me realise how students feel at the beginning of each year and how transitioning or moving schools is really difficult. We need to prepare our Year 6s so they can do that in 2019.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not adverse to challenge it's just really nice to have things familiar so we can get faster into our learning and what's important. I hope the students feel like this too. Especially the Year 6s who have stayed together with me as their teacher.

I'm looking forward to seeing their progress over the next week as they engage in the national Progress & Achievement Tasks they have done every year since Year 3. Remind them to rest, eat well and have a growth mindset as they engage in these tasks.

Last week students worked on completing their letter to their teacher. I was really impressed with some of the creativity the students used to publish their efforts. See a few examples below. Names have been omitted as much of what is shared is very personal. I respect how honest M2 students have been:



Last week we also got our XTRAMATH Logins. Students are encouraged to spend 10 minutes everyday on this, strengthening their basic facts knowledge and recall expertise.
To go to the Extramath website CLICK HERE.

It has been great to get going where we left off in regards to the collaborating partnership Sam Unwin and I have developed over the past year. Opportunities to engage together will just grow. This last week we enjoyed the Cybersmart programme and getting to know each other playing speed date table tennis/badminton. It was great fun.

To finish the week we officially welcomed all the new staff, students and families to Whangaparaoa School with a Powhiri. Always a powerful experience and so much more enjoyable being one of the 'welcomers' and a real theme of this blog and a concept worth unpacking more at a later date maybe.

Looking forward to a busy Week 4 with the awesome M2 - Learners on the Edge!:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

First Full Week 2018

Kia ora te whanau.

What a wonderful week it's been. It is so good to be back in the learning environment with no excuse but to try learning. I love it.

Even though many of us knew each other from 2017 we valued 're-teaming' and research says this is a must for any new group wishing to collaborate effectively. So, this week we asked ourselves:

What does a classroom look like if everyone cared?
What kind of classroom do we want?

This led us to asking:

How will we achieve the big values? What are ours?
What does ORCA mean to us?

We talked about the culture we wanted in M2. How ORCA will focus us to achieve an environment where we can nurture and grow a strong sense of self, an awareness of who we are, how we connect and learn together in the environment we create. 


The big ORCA letters form part of our Term 1 Project which we got going on, on Friday:

Amongst all this serious team building discussion and collaboration we enjoyed getting to know each other and finding out how learning can be fun! Especially when we all have a voice and share the responsibility of learning!

On Wednesday it was WHEELS DAY! I love Whanga School. I think our bike track is such a cool point of difference. What other school can boast such an awesome resource. Learning looked and felt very different and we were exhausted at the end of the day. 

Taking this opportunity to give a big 'shout out' to Debbie for the organisation and sausage sizzle - WHEELS DAY WAS CRAZY AMAZING!!!

Most of M2 bought wheels and some even dressed up and had some fun! Great job Kristin :)

Interesting how sometimes learning like this connects us to other learning seemingly totally unrelated. Let me explain:

One of the wheels day activities was the WONKY BIKE and I had assumed it was like the backwards bike used to prove how bias is so difficult to overcome. 

Once you can ride a bike you can always ride a bike, right? That's what the research says. But only if the conditions are the same, ie, when you turn the handle bars to the right the bike will turn right. Change this and you can no longer ride a bike. See the clip we watched and discussed to show how bias in our brain sets our thinking:


We enjoyed experts sharing bike maintenance and helmet checks, etc. and the amount of sausages necessary for the school sausage sizzle was simply extraordinary:


Looking forward to a busy third week....

What's on:

We start using our devices in our learning 
Swimming - Monday
Cricket with Ramesh - Tuesday

Connect to our Calendar HERE

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Welcome to 2018

Welcome to the M2 blog for the 2018 school year.

It seems to have been such a long break and everyone has been more than ready to start back.
Last week flew by. I loved connecting with my new students and adored reconnecting with the old ones :)

2018 is unusual for me as it is the first year where I have kept my Year 5s from 2017 and after 2 days of 'proper' class I can honestly say it does NOT feel like a new class at all. I am looking forward to the Year 6s bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience in how things work for us in M2 and being real role models to the new Year 5s who have joined our team.

I'm excited to be working alongside Sam Unwin for the second year and we are joined by Mark Shearer in M4 who also has a Year 5/6 class. We are all future-focused educators and looking forward to collaborating together with and for our students.

Highlights of the first week:

Whanau Connect meeting - these are such an amazing opportunity to sit down with students and family and really engage in some deep and meaningful 'blue sky thinking', as in what can we achieve together in 2018? It was an opportunity to share values and philosophies, school and class vision and set goals, as well as get to know each other better.

The M2 Team - Learners on the Edge


The conversations - during the first couple of days we continued to get to know each other, bond as a team and develop our MATEs agreement (Mutually Accepted Terms of Engagement). We have been exploring our strengths, passions and aspirations and the conversations students have engaged in have shown that they are ready to work hard and support each other when; the going gets tough, our resilience is tested or we just can't find our grit to get out of the pit.

I wanted to get a strong start on student voice. Because so many of us were the same as last year I wanted to know what they loved about working together and what could be worked on to improve the learning experience. What did we do that was great? What do we want to get rid of? and What could we do better?

There was strong support for the continuation of Learner Licences, passion projects, setting our own timetables for learning and using digital devices to access, create and share learning.

In the coming week we will look closely at The Treaty and prepare the one we will follow in M2. Part of this will mean defining ORCA and what that means to us. We have wheels day on Wednesday and cricket training starts Tuesday after lunch. The Year 5/6 pool day is Thursday.

It's good to be back! It really doesn't feel like a beginning - just a very happy continuation of learning.... Stay tuned to see what that looks like!