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.

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.