Monday, 28 August 2017

Manaiakalani Hui 2017

Last week on Friday the annual Manaiakalani Hui took place at the Panmure Yacht club. A student representative from each of our Manaiakalani cluster of schools in Auckland presented examples of their learning. The students were well spoken and represented their schools very well. In particular I enjoyed the presentation about the issue of disability parking from Somerville School.

Next the SPARK MIT teachers spoke about their inquiries. I spoke about the use of the Paideia method of learning and Paideia Seminars to improve critical thinking skills for learners in the Year 5 & 6 Extension group. I felt well prepared for my presentation as I had good evidence (video footage etc) to back up my statements and results. So far, 10 out of 18 students have made a shift/improvement in their critical thinking skills. I used SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) as a framework for showing shift in thinking.

I also enjoyed listening to my fellow SPARK MIT group deliver their presentations. Teachers from Tamaki College shared how they could make a difference in student learning through blogging and by using visible learning and teaching sites.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Inquiry Findings - Term 3 Week 4

For this group inquiry meeting we had to share what were were up to so far in terms of our inquiry and inquiry findings. I shared snippets of our first Paideia Seminar and my analysis of it using SOLO as a framework. I replayed footage of the seminar to analyse the different types of student responses. This was plotted onto a graph and the totals were added up against each child and their responses.

From there I could then create a bar graph to view the results visually. It was very interesting to see specifically who dominated the talk time and who did not participate much. The data enabled me to identify students who needed extra support.

The Year 5 & 6 Extension group will be exploring the idea of how the human race might adapt as a species in order to survive on other planets. Our Year 7 & 8 students presented two great workshops at this years GEGNZ Student Summit held at Ormiston Junior College.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Beat the Goalie Game on Scratch - Reflection

First the students were shown the game (Beat the Goalie) on Scratch without the lines of code. They were asked to think about how they would go about recreating the game to replicate the original. Students had to think about how to create the lines of code to recreate the game so that it looked the same and had the same instructions. Because they were already experienced with using the Scratch programme they were automatically able to create 2 sprites and a background quite quickly.

Each student had access to an imac. By working individually rather than in groups I could clearly see who could manage with this task independently and who struggled. Instructions and hints to possible lines of code to be used was shared with the students, but most seemed to be able to go ahead and create the code (or at least experiment) without the instructions.

By the end of the session, two thirds of the class managed to get to the end of game within an hour. Zoe (from OMGTech) challenged them further to create a two player game. Instead of random movement of the goalie (or a stationary one), code was needed to control the goalie instead using the arrow keys. Just over half the class were able to achieve this independently.

This was a really good task to test the skills of the students. It is not a task that I would start with early in the year with students who are new to coding. This task tested the skills that had been learnt over the last two terms. It was reassuring to see that most of the students had the skills to achieve level 4 of the new digital curriculum.

Beat the Goalie Game snippets from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Reflection about Fake News Inquiry Enactment

Fake News Inquiry Enactment 1-oz-silver-kraken-round-obv.jpg
Search for the Kraken on the internet.   
    • Decide: Is the Kraken real, imaginary, or something in between?
    • How do you know?
    • Why might it be important to be able to figure this sort of thing out?

This was another opportunity to practice the Paideia method leading up to our seminar. Students were instructed to search for the ‘Kraken’ and decide whether it was real or not. Students took sides and interestingly enough there were a couple of groups who thought it was either real, fake, and/or something in between.
The process of making a decision based on evidence or lack of evidence found on the internet (or from personal general knowledge) was encouraged. Through discussion, students were asked to justify their positions based on their findings. There were interesting and plausible answers for and against the existence of the Kraken.
Students questioned the reliability of the internet and the lack of concrete evidence. Others made comparisons to dinosaur fossils and the possibility that the Kraken may have existed as a type of ancient species. Regardless of their positions, the students continued to practice how to listen to others, build on the ideas of others and argue their point of view backed by evidence.

Paideia Practice The Kraken July 2017 snippets from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Back in da Day Reflection

The production was performed on Tuesday the 27th of June. We had our final dress rehearsal on the Saturday just before the production. A third of the students couldn’t make it (6 out of 18) which made things a little difficult, but we had a good run through of the show including the backdrops and sound. Anne Sinclair and I took care of the cast, while Mr Jacobsen took care of the sound, microphones and headsets.

I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be ready for the Tuesday show as several students still didn’t know their lines and were reading off the scripts. We tried again to practice on Monday during our lunchtime. There were still a few hiccups and I was feeling quite nervous. Mr Somerville was on hand to provide support. Then on the Tuesday morning, we found out that three students were absent. Luckily three students filled in for the absent students. One student had covered someone else’s part on Saturday, another learnt his lines the day before and one even took over someone’s part an hour before the show.

Showtime. We had one last run through during lunchtime but it was still a little nerve wracking thinking about the issues that we had. Soon 2:00pm went by and the hall started to fill up with teachers, parents and classes.

During the show I watched from the back of the hall as I was filming it, so I could see the whole production in action. It took about half an hour and by the end of the show I was so relieved as the students had put on an incredible performance considering the lack of time to practice and learn lines, the absent actors, and other dramas along the way.

I couldn’t even pick out my highlight as I loved every bit of it. We had students who were so shy but had stepped up, learnt their lines and shone. The actors and dancers were amazing. The students had actually put in an incredible amount of work to produce the show to the level that they had.

Mr Burt congratulated the students for their awesome performance. I think by this stage I was too emotional to speak. I was so proud of all of the Year 5 & 6 Extension group who had just performed. But I was especially proud of the fact that the whole school had come along to support us. As I looked out into the crowd I could see a sea of red and black. There were parents sitting proudly in the back rows. Teachers were smiling. I was literally holding back tears thinking how lucky I was to be part of an amazing school. Not only were the students given the opportunity to shine and perform in front of their peers, but the whole school was there to support us. That’s what made it all worth it.

Year 5 & 6 Extension mini-Production: Back in da Day

On Tuesday the 27th June, the Year 5 & 6 Extension group performed their mini-production called ‘Back in da Day’ in front of the whole school. The students collaborated to put this production together. They were placed into 5 main groups: Script writers, Costume and Makeup designers, Background and set designers, Light and sound, Actors and Dancers. Of course the jobs of some of these groups overlapped during the term.

The theme was based on this term’s school wide theme around technology. This was incorporated into the script quite cleverly by the students. The story is set in the current day where a group of children spend quite a bit of time on electronic devices and games. The children grumble about how the adults in their lives seem to hold them back from their game time. Bethan (Year 6) performs a solo that she wrote about the unfairness of it all. Then they stumble upon a mysterious device that transports/teleports them into another time period.

In the Pacific Setting, the students discover that they are no longer at home and struggle to communicate with the locals. A pacific style dance item is performed. Later the students are teleported again, this time to a time in the 1960s. A brief movie plays which shows snapshots of images and icons from the 60s. They children discover that they have been transported to the family home in the 60s and they meet their grandmother when she was a child.


During the 60s item the dancers perform to ‘Chubby Checker - Let’s do the Twist’ song. Then Zaeeda (Year 5) performs her solo that she wrote. The children are then transported into the future. Here they see things that they have never seen before. They meet a human who owns an advanced personal robot and find out what life is like in the future. Then a futuristic dance item is performed, followed by a solo item from Marika (Year 5) who wrote her own song.

Finally the children are transported back to the present and realise that there is more to life than just playing on their electronic devices. Quality time with friends and family is important even though technology can help with their learning.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Talk Science and Talk moves - relation to Paideia method

Talk Science

This article is about academically productive talk and how to achieve it in a classroom setting. Although the focus in on improving discussion and thinking around science concepts, it can apply to any subject.

I read this article because it completely compliments and supports the Paideia method that we have been using with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group this year.

(From the article)
Four necessary and foundational goals that underpin academically productive discussions:
  1. Help individual students share, expand and clarify their own thoughts.
  2. Help students listen carefully to one another.
  3. Help students deepen their reasoning.
  4. Help students engage with others reasoning.
Too often in a classroom, discussion about a subject is only at a surface level and deep thinking about concepts and ideas by students is never reached. The teacher usually asks a question with a single right answer and calls on a student to respond. The teacher indicates whether the answer is correct and then moves onto another question. This approach does not encourage students to take risks or develop critical thinking skills.

Academically productive talk is about students being fully engaged in a discussion, sharing ideas, listening to others, and taking risks. It is also about conversation being focused and coherent, based around a given idea or issue.  

Well established ground rules are needed for talk. I feel that this was accomplished during term 1 when the Year 5 & 6 Extension students were constantly reminded about what a Paideia style discussion looked and sounded like. They were given plenty of opportunities to practice thinking and talking about an issue or topic.

The end of term Paideia seminar consolidated their learning and understanding of the Paideia method and about the issue of pollution. The students reflected on the seminar and talked about the areas that needed improvement. Some of the reflections mentioned that a couple of students had dominated the conversations and that they needed to be more inclusive of others by taking turns and encouraging others to participate more.

More importantly the students realised that they needed to build on other students arguments and points of view. They tended to have lots of individual disconnected ideas which is talked about in the article. We looked at ways in which they could connect their combined ideas by listening thoughtfully, building/piggy-backing on ideas, clarifying etc.

By the middle of Term 2 (just recently) the students were able to show that they could build on arguments and use effective language in their discussions e.g. ‘ Can you clarify...’, ‘I agree with ___ because…’, I’d like to piggyback on ____ idea because…’  and so on.

The answers were more focused, specific and varied. Students were thinking more with little prompting to inspire conversations. The topic that was put to the students was about ‘fake news’. Some students were interested in using their background knowledge of the recent terrorist bombings to talk about the idea of ‘fake news’.  The students talked about the evidence that was needed. They understood that providing proof was important and they could give examples of what to look out for. They could identify some of the key indicators of ‘real news’ items e.g. footage, photos, interviews with witnesses, reliable sources etc.

The biggest difference from last term was that more students were confident enough to share their ideas. Last term there were at least 3-4 students who could speak confidently and most of the group tended to keep quiet. Now there are 3-4 students who still need to build their confidence while the rest of the group are confident to share their ideas freely.  

Monday, 15 May 2017

SPARK MIT Meeting #2

Today was our second SPARK MIT meeting at SPARK Headquarters. We talked about where we were all up to in terms of our inquiry focus. I talked about my inquiry focus which is all about improving critical thinking skills through the use of 'deep dialogical discussions' with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group. I also talked about the use of 'coding' with the Year 7 & 8 Extension group to extend their thinking skills.

When I reflect upon my experience during term one, I consider myself really lucky to have had the guidance, help and support from Anne Sinclair who has been like a mentor teacher. The Year 5 & 6 students were extremely lucky to have the attention of two teachers throughout the term to help guide them with their learning. Teaching students how to hold deep dialogic discussions was something new for me. By the end of the term I could see how most of them had developed their skills in speaking and holding a conversation with others based on a topic. With some prior knowledge and background research (including lots of scaffolding),  most of the students could talk about their position/stance about an issue (pollution) much more deeply. We gave them an opportunity to reflect on the Paideia Seminar that was held at the end of the term, and most students were able to recognise and reflect on the areas that they needed to work on.

In terms of coding with the Year 7 & 8 group I am also grateful for the help that I received from Zoe from OMGTech. I don't think we would have made as much progress with their games as we did if she hadn't been there for support, advice and guidance. It would have been a very stressful process to try and get the students games completed on Scratch (in time for the cluster exhibition) without her help. The students also learnt many new technical skills along the way. I felt that it was a huge learning curve for me as my knowledge about coding was quite limited earlier in the year.

During our meeting we also talked about the 'innovation' aspect of our inquiries. My innovation is around the use of a range of tools to collaborate with and capture evidence of student learning and collaboration. I have used padlets, shared docs, google slides, a survey (google form), movies (vignettes) and my site (Creative Space) to capture evidence of learning and collaboration. This forms part of a bigger question which was how to assess and measure learning with these students based on my inquiry. What evidence did I have? Monitoring and assessing some of the Key Competencies would also be important. Using surveys to capture evidence of student attitudes towards their learning was considered. I also needed to consider how to get the home class teacher (of the student) to take notice of what the extension kids are doing.

We also had the opportunity to meet with our SPARK buddy. Today I met with Tracy who is a lawyer at SPARK. Tracy has previously been a teacher so we had a very interesting conversation about my inquiry and how she could help support me this year.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Coding - Scratch Games shared at Te Oro

Our Manaiakalani group of schools in Auckland, NZ have been learning about how we can take care of our local environment. The theme was 'Te Taiao o Tamaki'. On Wednesday 12th of April our Manaiakalani Cluster of Schools held an exhibition at Te Oro to celebrate a term of learning about the environment. You can view highlights from the exhibition on this link

At Pt England school our theme for the year is 'Responsiblity'. In term one we have focused on 'Kaitiakitangi i nga wa katoa' which is about taking care of our environment and everything in it. The Year 7 & 8 Extension group used Scratch to create games about our local environment. 

This is the first time that many of our students have used Scratch. This was a great platform to learn how to code using blocks (lines of code) rather than text. The backgrounds are of our school, local reserve and beach. The exhibition at Te Oro was an opportunity for our Year 7 & 8 Extension students to share their learning this term. The 'Game Space' area was very popular with students at the exhibition. 

Link to the students games

Scratch Games at Te Oro - Manaiakalani Cluster Exhibition 2017 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Deep Dialogic Discussions - First Paideia Seminar 2017

Today we held the first ever Paideia seminar for our Year 5 & 6 Extension students. The Paideia method is based on the idea of having deep dialogic discussions and is sort of a Socrates based philosophy around discussion to share ideas. The students had plenty of support during the lead up to this seminar. Earlier this term they began to learn how to disagree agreeably, listen to what others had to say and think about how to share their ideas based around an issue. The main topic was based around our school wide theme for the term - ‘Kaitiakitanga i nga wa katoa’ and about caring for our environment.

During the term the students practiced arguing their point of view about an issue. We were lucky to have the guidance and support of Anne Sinclair who helped throughout the term. Later they were put into groups to talk about the issue of pollution.

The five main groups were: Conservationists, Caretakers, Birds/Eels, Children, and the Maori Tribe. Each group had to research from the perspective of these groups and find relevant information to support their ideas.
Once each group collected their research they began to create DLO’s to share their information. One group decided to create a play and filmed down at the local creek. Others decided to create mini documentaries. These movies will be shared on their blogs and on PENN.

Today’s panel discussion was the culmination of the students research and work around the issue of pollution. The room was setup to create the atmosphere of a conference. Students in each group received lollies as a form of token. Each student could eat a lolly once they had shared their thoughts. Everyone was encouraged to speak, share and respond.

I noticed that the students were quite shy to begin with. Further into the seminar the students began to gain confidence and were more willing to participate and speak up. One student in particular needed to be reminded to let others speak as this person tended to dominate the conversations.

Overall I think that the seminar was very successful. I am proud of what the students have achieved. It reinforced the knowledge that we have some very bright students in this group. However a couple of students still need to learn how to listen and give others a chance to share. A few students also need to be more prepared, or have more courage to share their ideas.

Our reflection will look at:
  1. How are we going?
  2. What worked well?
  3. Where are we going?  
  4. What could we improve?
  5. Where to next?

For a first time in Stage 1 of the Paideia Seminar the students did so well. We can ask them these questions as well and also what they would like to see and what ‘rules’ we could use, eg:
  • Only one person talks at a time
  • Respect the speaker
  • Give others a chance to speak
  • Look at the person you are talking to or asking a question of
  • Say their name when you ask them a question or challenge an idea
  • Be supportive of others and help them to participate
  • Be prepared
  • Expand on the discussion ideas next time using the prompts
  • Extend the discussion

Paideia Seminar Term 1 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Inquiry Focus 2017 - Term 1 Findings

Today during our staff meeting we broke off into our collaborative groups to share our findings so far for our inquiry focus. This is a summary of my inquiry findings this term.

Year 5 & 6 Extension: Focus on deep dialogic discussions (Paideia method)
Year 7 & 8 Extension: Focus on coding using Scratch

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Coding and OMGTech

The Year 7 & 8 Extension students were lucky enough to receive support in the form of Zoe and Alex from OMGTech to help with their projects on Scratch. Their knowledge and support was invaluable and helped the students to make headway with their projects. First they introduced themselves, described their backgrounds and then explained the basics of using Scratch. Later they worked with the students and helped them to problem solve and deal with issues regarding their games.

OMGTech visit Part 1 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Inquiry Focus 2017

Today during our staff meeting we broke off into collaborative groups to introduce and discuss what our inquiry focus was for the year. Many teachers are focusing on an aspect of Maths since that is what our school wide inquiry is based on. It was interesting to see where teachers were at in terms of their inquiry and to listen and share ideas with each other.

Friday, 24 February 2017


What is Paideia?

The Paideia method is a way of providing deep dialogic discussions. Its origin stems back to Socrates, the Greek philosopher. It involves having to have a talk about something that is very topical that requires you to research, think about things in a much deeper way, to struggle with ideas, look at alternatives and different ways of approaching something. It pushes students to look at multiple perspectives, challenge those perspectives, and justify why they took those perspectives.

The year 5 & 6 students got the chance to work with Anne Sinclair this week who is an expert in the field of education. They were introduced to the Paideia method which is a way of learning that can provide opportunities for deep dialogic discussions. This process will hopefully improve the communication and critical thinking skills of the students. A set of mini tasks were provided that enabled students to work in small groups and to think about the issues surrounding a statement or image.

This was one example:

Students were expected to think, talk with others and provide reasons for their thinking. They had to justify their thinking and needed to be able to communicate their ideas with others. They also learnt how to listen and respond effectively, as well as how to disagree agreeably. During this task I noticed that some students were more vocal than others. A few would dominate most of the conversations and the majority seemed to hold back and were reluctant to share their ideas. The next step would be to find ways to encourage the others to participate and share their thoughts. So far the activities have been interesting, but I would like to see other students gaining the confidence to speak their mind.

Monday, 20 February 2017


I have the privilege of being a member of the SPARK MIT group in 2017. My initial proposed inquiry was: How to improve problem solving and critical thinking skills through use of coding and robotics?’

Today we met for the first time as a group at SPARK Headquarters in Auckland City. We also met with Lynne Le Gros (SPARK Foundation) and her team. Our first task was to identify and share what our problem was regarding our inquiries. Then we brainstormed lots of different hypotheses for why the problem was occurring and shared these with the group.

After quite a bit of thinking and discussion around our inquiries I have decided to alter my inquiry proposal to: ‘How to improve critical thinking skills through the use of code and deep dialogic discussions?’

After looking at some of the recent PAT and STAR data from the Year 7 & 8 Extension group, I have found that the majority of our extension students are not achieving above the national norm in literacy. Most are achieving at the national standard (between stanines 4 - 6), but these are our brightest students in their cohort who should be striving to achieve well above the national mean.

The following is a list of hypotheses:

  • The majority of our extension students are not achieving above the norm in literacy (PATs and STAR) because they need to develop critical thinking skills
  • Students need to be encouraged/pushed to grapple with harder concepts to extend their thinking
  • Need to be exposed to a range of texts - multi-modal/wider and deeper
  • Need to learn to question/argue/challenge/build on thinking and expressing of ideas
  • Need to close the gap in knowledge and experience between students who know how to code and those who don’t
  • Must make sure that learning is visible, and that students have access to resources and exemplars
  • Students need to be taught how to use thinking tools more effectively e.g. SOLO
  • Students need to know what next level looks like - expectations
  • Students need more support from home to extend learning at home
  • Students need to have access to their own data - to reflect, set next learning goals
  • More student ownership/empowerment of learning is needed
  • We need to find ways to raise the ceiling in student achievement at school

I am looking forward to another year with the SPARK MIT group.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Year 7 & 8 Coding Survey

Since the focus this year will be about learning how to use code to improve the students critical thinking skills, they were giving a survey to complete which was about coding. Although there are 18 students in the group, there were only 14 responses as some students were away. Here were some of the results from the survey.

  • For the question: What is coding? - Most of the students responded by ticking the box that said coding is about writing a set of instructions for a computer to follow. 
  • 100% of the students agreed that students should be taught how to code. 
  • Most had used coding programmes such as, code combat and Scratch before. Not many had used Khan Academy or other sites. 
  • I'm not sure if the students understand what the types of coding languages there are e.g. html, Javascript, Python etc.
  • Most were unsure if they had the skills to teach others how to code. 
  • Most have used a coding programme for 2 years or less. 
  • Most agreed that was a good coding programme to use for students because it is a good site for beginners. 
  • Most agreed that learning how to code would help to improve their thinking skills. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Deep Dialogic Discussions - Paideia Practice Task

This movie shares some highlights from one of the Paideia practice tasks that the students had to work on. Anne Sinclair (teacher mentor) facilitates the discussion and guides the students through the process of learning how to have deep dialogic discussions (Paideia method). Students take turns to talk about a subject and explain why they think the way they do. The other students practice listening and responding to what is being said. Prior to the discussion taking place, students were presented with a list of issues. They had to decide on which issue was the most important for them to focus on immediately. Many students were hesitant to share their ideas and it was clear that a few students tended to dominate the discussion.

Paideia 14 Feb 17 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.