Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Window to the Soul

Good poetry offers ways of expressing emotions, capturing experiences and language techniques that stimulate students in ways other genres don’t. So how can teachers get students more engaged in poetry?

“In short, they can make poetry more prevalent and therefore more relevant,” says poet and writer, Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Te Whiti).

This can be done by reading poems out loud more, exposing students to poetry available in New Zealand and beyond, encouraging students to write and refine their own poetry, and creating opportunities to engage with poets and poetry resources.

In Aotearoa, there’s a bifurcate understanding of what poetry is, Vaughan says.
“For Māori, ngā mōteatea are a holistic and intrinsic part of our heritage, an oral tradition from long before the advent of written English language poetry to the nation's shores.”
“In many ways there remains this bifurcate understanding of what poetry here actually is, given that of course many Māori poets utilise English language. Increasingly, I find that more English language poetry evinces the song-poetry stylisation and format of ngā mōteatea.”

“More than this and, also significant, are the influences of Pasifika and Asian poets that represent an ever-burgeoning segment of poetry in New Zealand. We are a multi-cultural nation with quite a range of cross-comprehensions of what poetry is or should be.”

For students who write their own poetry, poetry is about individual identity.
“Students can express, as well as strive to refine and define their emotions, their likes and dislikes, beliefs, credos, in all the multifarious ways and methods poetry opens up for them.”
“Poetry offers a window to their soul.”
Vaughan’s second book in the hugely popular Poetry in Multicultural Oceania series is published this month. It continues to use diverse perspectives to build students' understanding of poetry and multiculturalism.

About Vaughan Rapatahana: Vaughan was a semi-finalist in the Proverse Prize for Literature in 2009, highly commended in the 2013 erbacce poetry prize (from 6000+ entrants), and won the inaugural Proverse Poetry prize in 2016, the same year as his poetry collection Atonement was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines. His latest poetry collection is ternion (erbacce-press, Liverpool, England). Rapatahana has a PhD in existential philosophy from University of Auckland, on the novels of Colin Wilson, whom he has written extensively about and will lecture on at the Wilson conference in Nottingham in July, 2018. He is also a language critic and instigated and co-edited English language as Hydra and Why English? Confronting the Hydra (Multilingual Matters, U.K, 2012 and 2016). He has also written commentaries for Jacket 2 (University of Pennsylvania).

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Melting chocolate and foaming snakes

Melting chocolate and creating foaming snakes are both strategies to build science students’ observation powers in Pam Hook and Willem Tolhoek’s latest book.

This book is the second in a series titled Using SOLO Taxonomy to Make Observations Like a Scientist.

It presents simple experiments from familiar contexts to guide science students as they investigate the increasing complexity of gathering and interpreting data, and simultaneously develop their powers of observation.

“By unpacking the 'gathering and interpreting data' capability into curriculum levels we provide a scaffold that progresses and deepens both students and teachers’ understanding of the capability over time,” Pam says.
“Through 'common' experiments, we re-affirm that science educators can take existing resources and modify them to change an activity’s purpose and students’ learning focus.”
With SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome) as a base, the book progressively leads students through relevant curriculum learning levels: learning to observe carefully, measure precisely, observe indirectly and to make choices about observations.

Yet these experiments are not only learning opportunities, they are also fun. What student wouldn’t want to observe the melting point and changes in the structure and shape of chocolate, create a vinegar volcano or a foam snake?

Creating practical science experiments that engage students in the thrill of exploration – or observing science experiments that capture student curiosity – about an everyday event is important when designing learning experiences for (or to prompt) deep learning outcomes.
“We’ve designed these experiments to be engaging and align to students’ experiences in the 'real world'. Using SOLO levels to observe the experiments ensures that students are prompted to shift their observations and thinking from surface to deep outcomes.” 
This series shows how to develop curious minds with the science capabilities. It combines SOLO Taxonomy, as an accessible, robust way of making learning visible, with current theories on how students learn and effective pedagogies.

Pam Hook is an educational consultant (HookED www.pamhook.com), who works with New Zealand and Australian schools to develop curricula and pedagogies for learning to learn based on SOLO Taxonomy. She has published articles on thinking, learning, e-learning and gifted education, and written curriculum material for government and business. She is author and co-author of many books on SOLO Taxonomy including titles translated into Danish, and is co-author of two science New Zealand textbooks.

Willem Tolhoek has been a science educator in New Zealand secondary schools since 2005. He has a passion for developing literacy and engaging students in science. While in an acting HOLA Science role over the last four years, he has worked with Pam Hook to further integrate the use of SOLO in the science curriculum to develop students’ surface level of thinking to a deeper level of understanding.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Keep Students’ Science Curiosity Alive

The old spiritual song “Dem Bones” might not seem like a science lesson. Yet its rhythm and repetition are perfect for helping students pronounce and remember the common and scientific names of bones, says teacher and Essential Resources author, Brenda Greene.

Brenda’s hands-on, curriculum-aligned activities certainly keep students’ curiosity alive, something she says is critical to learning.
“Everyone needs new ideas to keep their passion for science and teaching fresh. Exposing students to different ways of expressing and experiencing science is vital to their learning and engagement.” 
“If you want to improve your sports game, explore space, or find gold and precious stones then, great, explore physics, biology and chemistry from there,” she says.

In her latest Emergency Science books, Brenda details absorbing experiments and activities. They include a crossword on the water cycle related to the topics of fire, flood and drought, and a segment on volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis that requires a hard-boiled egg, ruler, pencil and eraser. The egg is used to model the rocks that make up layers of the earth’s crust, to practice drawing and labelling a diagram, and to compare scientific models.

Yet behind the lively fun and games are serious processes—comparing, sorting, describing and measuring changes; exploring new ways of doing things; understanding concepts like models, reports and methods; and learning scientific language.
“The marvellous thing about science is that language, process skills and concepts of scientific thinking are at the heart of every topic.”
Brenda is currently writing some new books for Essential Resources. Check out her latest, Emergency Science – Book 2 and Science Investigations for the Classroom – Book 2
Brenda Greene gained an MSc from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and worked as a scientist, publishing papers on the genetics and conservation of New Zealand birds. She gained a Diploma in Teaching and Learning from Canterbury University, and taught science at the Orana Wildlife Park and in Christchurch secondary schools. She enjoys hands-on science, and is always inventing new experiments for her students to do.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Mentoring for a Changing World

Have you thought about becoming a mentor? Teacher mentors have a potentially life-changing role in encouraging students to be positive influencers in their communities, says Essential Resources author and mentoring expert, Robin Cox.

They can transform the lives of students, enabling them to believe in themselves and their abilities to achieve.

He recalls a former student we’ll call Simon. He had a passion for rugby, diet and exercise but was behind in his studies and displaying bullying traits.
“In a mentoring process we set Simon a long-term goal of captaining the rugby team. We talked about what it meant to be a role model leader and a positive influence, and how to achieve realistic academic goals.” 
Over time, Simon became a positive community member, achieving his goal to be rugby team captain and improving academically.
“Where teachers motivate and inspire students, demonstrating the relevance of education, helping them find a life purpose and sharing a love of the subjects they teach, most students will engage and respond positively.”
Teaching is a really challenging role and teachers often feel burdened by the demands of the job.
“Mentoring provides a personal development opportunity for teachers and, in turn, creates a more positive community environment.”
Positive school communities equal less stress for teachers.
“As teachers in the 21st century, we’re preparing students as global citizens. A teacher’s role is becoming more of a facilitator of learning experiences as they guide students to be innovative, creative and critical thinkers.”

About the series: The Spirit of Mentoring titles are packed with practical suggestions, well-tested activities and inspirational principles for any teacher who has experience or would like to take on mentoring.

About Robin: Robin Cox has been an educator in multicultural environments for 40 years – as a principal, deputy principal, sports coach, board housemaster and life skills facilitator. During that time, he has also mentored about 1000 adolescents. Since 1999 he has trained over 1000 volunteer adult mentors, as well as written and developed mentor training programmes and manuals and a secondary schools peer mentor programme which have been used in both New Zealand and Australia. Robin is married with two adult children. His interests include jogging, tramping, golf, fishing and reading. Robin would enjoy discussing youth mentoring with anyone interested in the field; contact him at www.yess.co.nz or www.facebook.com/robin.coxmentor or via Twitter @million2016coxy. He also presents regular podcasts on working with youth, available through his website.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Achieving Balanced Learning for ELLs

The idea of balance in learning a second language is important to success.
In practical terms, how does this idea translate to the classroom?

When working with English language learners (ELLs) at Newmarket School, Sonya Van Schaijik uses Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) Taxonomy to build balanced learning opportunities and long-term success across the four strands of language acquisition – listening, reading, speaking and writing.

The teacher and Essential Resources author is passionate about SOLO Taxonomy and its power to deliver. Her co-authored book with Pam Hook outlines practical SOLO-based strategies that enable ELLs to successfully build language skills.

SOLO Taxonomy is an evidence-based learning model that makes visible the structure and process of learning. Its five levels of learning outcome clearly show teachers and students both what has been achieved and where to next. For example, for functioning knowledge (knowing how to), learning outcomes may range from pre-structural for a student who needs help to start through to extended abstract for a student who identifies new ways of doing things. The approach establishes a common language of learning, in which everyone can readily communicate the levels through terms, symbols, hand signs and academic verbs.

SOLO Taxonomy can frame any learning activity, says Sonya.
“Using SOLO I can quickly identify if learning is surface or deep just by highlighting the verbs used in planning and modelling books. When I hear children reflect on their learning, I can hear their level of thinking and know how to support them in developing next steps by using SOLO Taxonomy HOT rubrics.”
Sonya finds SOLO Taxonomy inspirational in forging a positive, balanced learning path that leads ELL students to acquire language successfully.
“Using SOLO I see the progress children make and the difference in the quality of learning. SOLO also allows me to reflect on my own learning process as a teacher.”

About the book: With the support of the astute guidance in SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners by Pam Hook and Sonya Van Schaijik, join those who are already celebrating the step up in language proficiency in their ELLs. 

About Sonya: Sonya Van Schaijik is an experienced teacher from Auckland, New Zealand, whose teaching and thinking are underpinned by SOLO Taxonomy and recorded in her blog (www.sonyavanschaijik.com). She is tattooed with the Samoan woman’s malu, is a bilingual learner who speaks Samoan fluently, and has trained in effective pedagogies for bilingual education and ESOL. At Newmarket School, she has responsibility for the integration of technology into teaching and learning programmes in ways that maximise student learning outcomes. Her considerable experience in building and leading e-learning communities for teachers and students includes introducing and coordinating TeachMeetNZ, which promotes conversations on effective pedagogies (including ESOL), being actively involved in the Flat Connections Global Project, leading groups of teachers on Connected Educator and as an across school leader for the Auckland Central Community of Schools, ACCoS Kāhui Ako. She was a recipient of an e-fellowship with CORE Education Ltd in 2011 and TeachNZ fellowship in 2013. In 2016 she passed HSK level 1 and completed her TPDL certificate. In 2017 she was a recipient of  the China Scholarship Programme to Beijing.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Create learning activities that captivate students!

You need to get inside students’ heads to create learning activities that captivate them, says top-selling Journal Journeys author Marie Langley.

With nearly 90 titles to her name, Marie is one of Essential Resources’ most successful and prolific authors.

Many of her titles are part of the Journal Journeys series—best-selling educational resources that link hands-on learning activities to the content of the Ministry of Education’s long-running Junior Journals and School Journals series.

Marie began writing educational support materials for Essential Resources in 2003, soon after the company was established.

It’s a unique creative challenge to tease out practical learning activities that build students’ cross-curricular skills and strengthen their abilities to think for themselves. It starts with getting your head in the right space, Marie says.

“I read the journal I’m working on, absorbing the level and approach it takes, and try to get in sync with that. Journal Journeys is about making sure there is a good cross-section of activities with wide appeal across many interests and abilities.”

While the activities Marie creates centre on literacy skills, they also cover a wide range of other skills across the curriculum and cater to diverse learning styles.

Most of her ideas come from subjects she is personally connected to—such as the natural environment, biking and music. Above all, it’s the creative aspect she enjoys, whether that involves generating an initial idea for an activity or taking it further to extend students’ thinking and learning.

She prefers open-ended questions over ‘right or wrong ‘answers too.

“I like the opportunity for kids to be extended or to get involved at their own level. It’s about encouraging thinking, expanding knowledge and getting kids interested in the world around them. That’s what inspires me.”

This year Essential Resources is celebrating 15 years of publishing resources that support the work of teachers and schools. View or purchase Marie’s latest Journal Journeys books to follow up on learning from the 2017 Junior and School Journals.

About Marie: Marie Langley’s experience in education includes 19 years’ teaching in secondary and area (Years 1 to 13) schools, during which she spent 10 years as head of an English department and seven years as a deputy principal. Her published works include a thesis for a Master of Teaching and Learning degree, magazine articles, short stories, poetry, picture books, a junior novel and numerous educational resource texts. She currently lives and works in Golden Bay in the top north-west corner of the South Island of New Zealand. When she’s not writing at home, you may find Marie helping to run the family’s cycle shop in the main street of Takaka.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Active Children, Engaged Learners (Part 2)

I teach children aged between 5-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years old. Children at this age need to be active; they need different strategies and activities to keep them motivated and engaged in their learning. The interesting part is that the children love to contribute and give me advice on how to change or add to an activity or make their own activities. Here are a few that we enjoy in my class. See my earlier post for more.

1. Physical activity before or after a lesson
Green Light: Move quickly.
Red light: Stop – and make a funny pose or a funny face without moving or speaking.
Orange Light: Go slow – act out in slow motion.

I ask the children to find a spot anywhere in the classroom and to act out the activity in silence.
I say: “Green Light, you are a beautiful butterfly looking for a flower to sit on”.
Allow children to act out this command for a time then say, “Orange Light”, then “Red Light”.
Change the command, eg, “You’re an aeroplane flying in and out of clouds,” or, “You’re a slithering snake looking for food ... “.

This activity helps with listening, following instructions, and thinking quickly while having fun.

2. Another activity children love (and it’s good for learning adjectives too)
  • Have a student walk around the classroom. 
  • Find an object to describe to the class. 
  • Come back to the mat. 
  • Describe the object chosen by only using 3 specific descriptions. 
  • The rest of the class have 3 chances to guess what it is. 
  • The child who guesses correctly goes next. 
Example: it is square, it is hanging on the wall, it has orange and red stars on it.

3. “End of the day” activity to solidify learning
I say: “I am not an animal, I am not a thing, I am a person, I work in the circus, I have funny make-up on my face and I do funny things that make you laugh I am a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “.
Or: “I am not a person, I am not a thing, I am an animal I have a trunk and I am the biggest mammal on land, I am an _ _ _ _ _ _ _“.

I tailor this activity depending on what the letter sound, blend or family word for the week is. In my books, The Language Contract 1,2,3 there are activities such as this that can used or changed to suit.

Peggy Bruce is a primary school teacher, specialising in teaching children who are learning English as speakers of other languages. She enjoys writing and has developed many of her own classroom reading and writing resources.

Peggy is the author of the series The Language Contract which is available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the world.