Monday, 11 March 2019

Exploring Thinking Skills Through Film

Acclaimed English teacher and author Yvette Krohn describes The Matrix as the best film ever made.
“I was first introduced to philosophy in an authentic context when I watched The Matrix in 1999. I had little to no knowledge of formal philosophy, but the ideas contained within the film resonated with me. I had no choice but to explore them in more detail.”
This journey of discovery through the philosophies of Descartes, Plato, Socrates, Foucault, Nietzsche and Baudrillard, among others, led Yvette to incorporate philosophy, psychology and sociology into the English curriculum, primarily through the medium of film.

Yvette teaches high-level thinking courses, including gifted and talented education, extension and scholarship classes.

Thinking skills must be explored in an authentic context or they have limited use, she says. Immersing students in a "thinking world" requires exploring the world through the vessel of philosophy.
“Today, so many films are underpinned by major philosophical ideas. This accessible and authentic context engages students and makes the ideas relevant to them.”
Book 8 of Yvette’s latest series Making Connections was published by Essential Resources this month. The book uses the American dream theme to help students make connections in a meaningful way.
“Connections can be in the form of their own lives, the world around them, or the various media and text forms that surround students.”
Yvette says students’ thinking skills are enhanced through constant challenge – examining a situation through different viewpoints or lenses, listening to and evaluating new ideas, and by creating new pathways and visions.
“These skills add depth and perspective to any situation and give students the ability to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and points of reference.”
Yvette, whose contribution to teaching was recognised with a Woolf Fisher Fellowship in 2015, loves seeing the effect learning thinking skills has on students’ engagement in class.
“I love seeing their excitement when they realise their own opinion matters, and as long as they can substantiate their opinion with evidence or reasoning, their viewpoint is valid and justified. This realisation is empowering.”
Within this new title, Making Connections, intertextual connections are made and the philosophies underpinning the theme, the American dream, are explored. 


Yvette Krohn (now Krohn-Isherwood) has been teaching English for more than 25 years. She has had a raft of management positions, including faculty head of languages, HOD English and assistant principal and has been a lecturer of communications and learning styles at Lincoln University, as well as an English facilitator for team solutions at the University of Auckland. Yvette’s teaching was recognised with a Woolf Fisher Fellowship for 2015. She is the current President of NZATE and a member of the NZQA EGA – Expert Group Assessment.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Essential Resources breaks into the United States market place producing teaching resources for USA’s largest education publishing company


Essential Resources managing director, Nicola Smith said
“It is wonderful to have our New Zealand expertise recognised by America’s largest education publishing company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). New Zealand has some exceptional educational authors whose work is now global.”
Global Education Systems Ltd (Global Ed) produced the JillE Literacy programme. New Zealand educational publisher Essential Resources has developed the Teacher Lesson Plans to support the JillE Literacy programme.

JillE Literacy has more than 320 books, written by Jill Eggleton, international education consultant and author. The JillE books engage readers, spark critical thinking, and inspire curiosity. JillE Literacy will support HMH’s new core reading programme, Into Reading. The JillE books and teacher lesson plans will be available for classroom use from June 2019.

Eggleton, is delighted with the HMH partnership. She said
“We need more engaged students. Therefore, we need books that excite them – books that spark emotion, imagination, critical thinking, curiosity and creativity. Getting students interested in reading is my passion.” 
Erin Kinard, HMH VP Product Management & Strategy: Humanities, Core Solutions, said
“Our partnership with Global Ed will allow us to enhance Into Reading, our next generation core curriculum solution, providing teachers with powerful literacy solutions and engaging titles that empower them to grow learners into strong readers and confident students.”

Monday, 10 September 2018

Rhythm: A Tool for Writing Success

What brings writing alive for boys brings writing alive for all children, says author Frances Adlam, whose book Writing Success for Boys has just been published by Essential Resources.

For children who struggle with writing, Roald Dahl’s words ring true: there’s nothing scarier than an empty page.

“First of all, we need to accept that writing is really difficult. That is why they world is full of quotes and books from famous, successful authors who talk about writer’s block,” Frances says.
“As teachers, once we accept and acknowledge this, we can then make a bridge from being in our head and talking – to creating steps that help all children make that empty page or screen less scary.”
Just sitting down and writing doesn’t work, Frances says. What’s needed is rhythm and pre-work that brings the subject matter alive.
“Writing comes alive with all the pre-work to the writing: let’s imagine, let’s talk about those ideas, let’s act what we’ll write about. It’s fun, exciting and engaging.”
While creating this rhythm provides a clear pathway for building success in writing for all children, specific external factors may support boys in the development of their writing skills. For example, boys who are avid readers or who have male role models who read and write, are often more successful at writing.

Nevertheless, research shows that all children under-achieve in writing compared with other key learning areas such as numeracy or reading.
“Writing is a tricky process. We must plan our lessons in an inclusive way and above all make writing fun.”
Research showing many boys are disengaged from the process of writing has laid down the challenge; this series responds. Boys won’t be able to resist its inclusive, purposeful writing programme, which puts fun and creativity at centre stage. Grounded in the author’s unique Bridge to Writing philosophy, Writing Success for Boys cleverly connects the dots between boys and literacy, engagement in literacy, the rhythm of learning and master teaching. 


Frances Adlam is a highly experienced and creative educator and therapist. Frances has worked in all areas of the educational system – as a teacher, lecturer, writer of resources, adviser and counsellor. Frances currently has her own private practice – Out of the Box – working as an educationalist and therapist with highly unique and creative children. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

Thriving in a Changing World

Today’s children will inhabit a challenging, fast-changing world. Encouraging STEM thinking empowers them with the skills to live well, say co-authors of STEM Detectives, Niki Buchan and Bronwyn Cron.

“As the world moves and changes at an ever-increasing pace, STEM thinking provides our children with the skills to not only survive but also to thrive,” Niki says.

The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in children’s play. It refers to creative problem-solving, resilience, innovation, critical thinking, analysing data and information, and imagination.

Bronwyn agrees that a play-based approach to STEM means children are more deeply engaged and self-motivated, and their formative STEM experiences are positive.
“This goes a long way to sparking an ongoing interest in further developing STEM thinking skills and perhaps pursuing STEM learning and career options.” 
Children naturally notice, observe, question, investigate, hypothesise and experiment as they explore and play. To identify these STEM behaviours, adults need to sit back, observe and fully tune in to children’s conversations and thinking – using a STEM detective’s lens.

Adults don’t need to ‘teach’ STEM in the early years, Niki says.
“Adults provide a rich environment and share the children’s awe and wonder as they explore this wonderful and exciting world they find themselves in. The adult is the mentor and guide, the children are the scientists.” 
The key is to provide children with time, space and loose parts, she says.

If children are given large periods of uninterrupted time to play with objects and resources that don’t have a set purpose and that they can change and manipulate in any way they choose, children will naturally explore complex STEM thinking and concepts.

“Ignite the fire of curiosity and wonder. That is, after all, what drives lifelong learning,” says Bronwyn.

STEM Detectives is designed to encourage and guide educators to identify the STEM happening in children’s play, as well as develop the skills and understanding to support and encourage a deeper level of exploration and discovery.



Niki Buchan has a biomedical background. She identifies strongly with children’s natural instinct and desire to explore, discover, investigate and experiment as they make sense of the wonderful natural world they live in. She works internationally as an early childhood consultant and is an experienced speaker. She is considered a leading voice in promoting nature-based practice and has written several books.

As a highly experienced environmental scientist, Bronwyn Cron is passionate about Education for Sustainability and connecting children and communities to their environment. Over the last few years, she has focused on building the capacity of early childhood educators and services to embed sustainability and support the development of STEM thinking skills in young children.

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.