Inside Education

Inside Education 2015-08-06T16:27:53+12:00

These are excerpts from a series written by the Principal for our school Newsletter called the Tattler

Inside Education: Teacher Registration

Tattler 31st March 2014

Recently, there has been media focus on the changes that are ahead for creating a new registration body for teachers. I thought it would be timely to chat about what registration means and the terms we use in teaching to describe teachers.

Up until five years ago a teacher who left training college (now with either a teaching degree or a degree plus diploma in teaching), was called a BT or beginning teacher. This has changed. As any new teacher must complete two years of a teaching before becoming fully registered. Teachers are Provisionally Registered for the first two years, hence, their new name, PRT1 or PRT2. (Provisionally Registered One or Two depending on which year they are.) These teachers can teach in any area of schooling. Yes, Intermediates have PRT’S on staff. They have a mentor teacher to help them continue to develop as teachers, through an advice and guidance programme.

Registered teachers are still sometimes referred to as Scale A, which is from the old system of ranking a teacher for which jobs they could apply to the Board of Education for. Many schools have different names for teachers classed as experienced. Experienced teachers are ones that have been teaching for over 5 years. They are also generally taking lead roles in a school like Curriculum Leaders (ie Maths or Literacy)or Team Leader roles in bigger schools. Part of being an experienced teacher is sharing your knowledge and supporting others.

A teacher reapplies every three years to be re registered. Their lead teacher or principal confirms that they are meeting the Teacher Registration Standards. They are police checked and of course pay a registration fee. These standards are part of our teacher’s appraisal process. A teacher is appraised every year based on these standards at our school and specific goals based on learning and teaching.

The new roles the Minister of Education has announced, is on top of current roles in school The lead teacher they talk of, is one that would work out of their own school supporting teachers in their region or cluster (A cluster is a group of schools that work together. Like our EWES events) I think this is a great idea however I don’t believe they should be chosen based on National Standard data… but that’s a topic for another day. http://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/

Inside Education: Ministry of Education Bus Service

Tattler 4th April 2015

The Ministry of Education provides a service to enable students to attend their local school. They are entitled to either; a school bus if they are 3.2 kms from their nearest school OR if they are in zone, but over 2.4 kms from their nearest bus stop, they are provided a conveyance fee to get to the nearest bus stop. This may also apply if there is not a service in your area (E.g. Tauhoa Road).

All students who travel out of their transport zone or live closer are not ‘entitled’ to use the bus. We (the Rodney cluster group and bus contractors), allow students that live closer, based on the safety aspects of expecting them to walk to school, to also catch the bus.

However, a big however, as a cluster we have also decided to allow non-entitled students to use the bus service. As Rodney schools work in a group scenario we, along with the bus companies that we contract, allow others to travel across other schools TZ’s. The stipulation is that those parents who are using the service this way, are reminded that this could change at any time and they be required to pay for this service as it happens on other school runs in other areas. Another stipulation is the use of a bus contract.

All our students sign a bus contract, which covers the expectations for behaviour on the bus. This includes staying seated through to following bus driver’s instructions. Part of the expectations on students is to be at the bus stop 10 minutes before it arrives. The bus company has a 10-minute leeway either side of the time expected at the stop.

Our school has bus monitors that are trained by the NZ Police in case of emergency and to let me know what is happening on the buses. They have a notebook, which they share with me when required.

If you think you qualify for the conveyance allowance or want further information please contact me or visit the website: www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/SchoolOperations/SchoolTransport.aspx

 

Inside Education: New Zealand Curriculum

Tattler 11th April 2014

The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) was rewritten and introduced to schools in 2007. It was a much-condensed version than previous (the last had a book for each curriculum area). The prior curriculum also created an environment where what had to be taught became the focus rather than how you teach and engage students.

The NZC is an official statement of policy relating to teaching and learning in NZ. Its function is to set the direction for student learning and to provide guidance for schools as they design and review their own curriculum for their school. This means as a school we create a curriculum that meets this policy while reflecting our school’s vision and goals for our students. These are found in our charter.

 

Being actively involved is central to the NZC vision. This includes involvement in our community and being active participants in their learning. Community and Participation and Ecological Sustainability are key values alongside the others of; Excellence, Innovation, Inquiry and Curiosity, Diversity, Equity, Integrity and Respect. Along with the vision are the principals of the NZC. The principles are important in the deciding on what and how we teach at our school.

The principles of the NZC set embody beliefs about what is important and desirable in school curriculums. They underpin not only our curriculum, but also school decision making.

These principles put students at the centre of teaching and learning. All school curriculum’s should align with: High Expectations, Treaty of Waitangi, Learning to Learn, Community Engagement, Cultural Diversity Inclusion, Coherence and Future Focus.

Finally to help meet the vision of The NZC is the key competencies. These are the competencies that people need to live, work, learn, and contribute as active members of their communities. As a school we meet these competencies through our school curriculum and the contexts in which we teach and learn in.

Finally, we have our eight areas of learning. These are the areas that are levelled areas such as Mathematics and Statistics and English, which are the subjects that we cover. Can you think of all eight?   Next week I will continue explaining these and how we integrate them to meet the NZC in our teaching and learning.

Inside Education: New Zealand Curriculum Part Two

Tattler 9th May 2014

So… did you work out the eight curriculum areas? There is a diagram to explain each one at at the bottom of this newsletter.

Have you ever heard the term, ‘The Crowded Curriculum”? This is a term often mentioned when professionals look at what a classroom programme must cover, and with eight areas to cover, it is a big ask.

So how do we do this at Tauhoa School? How do we make sure students can learn in all areas?

Like most schools, we use an inquiry learning process.

Ok, yes, that for some, is a new term…

Inquiry learning is an approach that provides learners opportunities to actively develop skills that enable them to locate, gather, analyse, critique and apply information in a wide range of contexts as they develop understanding. We use inquiry learning because knowledge is changing rapidly. It is no longer possible just to transfer information because of its volume and changing relevance and authenticity. Lifelong learners need to be able to locate and use information to solve problems they might face. We use a learning and teaching tool called Solo Taxonomy. Solo taxonomy empowers children (and teachers) to evaluate the success of their work and identify the next steps to take to improve their achievement.

Today’s classroom may also not always be split into definite time slots… (now we do maths, now we do written language etc.) These subjects, along with reading are often linked to the topic of study or part of a rich learning task. I would describe a rich task as having a range of characteristics that together, offer different opportunities to meet the different needs of learners at different times.

Let me give you some examples. Last term, students were finding out information on systems. To write a report on this they need to know the structure of a report and who to write one correctly. So as part of that topic work, report writing was part of that work.

Explaining statistics and adding information to calculating the distances from between planets incorporates maths. I am not saying this is what happened in the class it is an example of how subjects are not always taught in isolation. Writing instructions for a game to play in PE or reading for information to support writing a story on heroes all helps a school today cover the many facets of the curriculum. Yes, there are times where individual, group or whole class teaching on how to do something to meet students learning needs has to happen.

Teaching today is complex. We are not the distillers of information but the teacher of how to discern what information is best and what you need for your purpose. Along side this we need to have the knowledge of many subjects to support student in their individual learning needs. And yes for teachers in year 7 and 8 they are to teach an additional language.

Through this article I have often mentioned about next learning steps. How teachers know what to teach and where students need to focus their learning in any given subject is called ‘Teaching as Inquiry’. But that’s a whole new subject for next time.

Inside Education: E Learning

Tattler 16th May 2014

Another new term in education over the last 5-6 years is E Learning. E learning is a catch phase that means ‘learning conducted via electronic media.’ But for most schools that is just the beginning.

Interestingly, alongside the Oxford dictionary definition is a phase that statessuccessful e-learning depends on the self-motivation of individuals to study effectively” and that is where the interaction between what happens in a classroom and the use of technology occurs.

Our School E learning policy refers to our School goal to ensure our students have access to the curriculum through the provision of a future focused learning environment.”

Technologies, particularly computers, are an integral part of our modern society. Computers provide opportunities for children to learn unique and stimulating ways. Access to the World Wide Web allows our classrooms to be without walls. It allows our students to explore the world beyond our small community. Other technology such as Mimeo, Computers, Fax, OHP, Web pages, phones, DVD players all have a part to play to support student’s learning.

Most importantly they are tools. Just as a cook needs to know how to handle a knife well or a builder his hammer, our students need to develop the use of these tools. And they are tools, they cannot replace a sound teaching and learning environment, just enhance it.

Tauhoa School believes in providing up to date learning and teaching tools to engage students. We access support systems such as e asTTle, Mathletics, Google Drive and Dashboard. Using Webpages, such as wiki spaces, enables further interaction between parents and whanau and our students with a particular focus on their learning.

Students now need to know what is the best tool to use how to use it and do so safely. We spend time talking about cyber safety. We have to develop skills in our students about searching for information, and discerning what information is reliable and what is not! Just ‘Googling’ your question isn’t enough! This is all part of E learning.

As to how it changes a classroom and the way it functions… well that’s next week’s Inside Education.

Inside Education: Student Agency

Tattler 23rd May 2014

Does your profession have as many acronyms or catch phrases? Student Agency; this is an important part of schooling today. It is a key element in making E learning work and a key element in a 21st Century learning environment.

Our teachers came up with the following definition of student agency after the professional development they completed with the Learning Change Network; “Student agency is where learners are active and empowered and take ownership of their learning.”

I think they state this very simply and this gives clarity about how schools now approach learning through Assessment for Learning processes. In classrooms today, teachers take more time to share with students about their personal learning and help form next steps to improve that learning. Students always are given a learning intention: what we are learning, and success criteria; a guide to how to meet that learning goal or improve their work. This is what Assessment for Learning is. All our students know what they are learning and can generally say what their next learning steps are. These are also part of our reports and interviews. Next learning steps do need to be shared with your child.

It comes down to ownership. Students are expected to own their learning. Included in this ownership, is their ability to share what their goals and next steps are. In our 2012 ERO report, ERO were pleased to see we were moving to student led conferences. This is a key connection to the ‘ownership of learning’ factor.

Student agency also links to one of the New Zealand curriculum key competencies, which is Managing Self. Schools today are interactive. Promoting the ability to make good choices about what you learn, and how you will do so, are some of the skills a teacher develops with their students. Students now have more choice about topics or presentation of their work. Our learners also have the right to make choices about where they sit and whom they sit with. ‘Making a good choice about your learning’ is a catch phase in Hoteo Room. A good example of this is a student who lies on the floor to work seems to produce more work and at a better quality than when to sit at a desk. I can hear what you are saying…”But it is not like that at high school!” Well, high schools are starting to look like this. Schools like Albany Senior High are now built with learning commons not classrooms. Students can choose to sit in on a class, they need not just the one they are scheduled for. (Several classes work out of one large room, a learning commons).

As you can see Student Agency is huge! I haven’t even talked about student voice or have I?

Inside Education: Teaching as Inquiry

Tattler 13th June 2014

Effective teaching requires that teachers look into the impact of their teaching on their students.

Inquiry into the teaching learning relationship can be seen as a cycle that goes on all the time. In this process the teacher asks questions to help them reflect on what they are doing :

  • What is important, ( and therefore worth spending time on) , given where my students are at?
  • What strategies are most likely to help my students learn this? (This, being their next learning steps)
  • What happened as a result of the teaching and what are the implications for future teaching?

So basically teachers reflect and investigate not only the impact of their teaching but also what to teach, the best way to teach, what each student needs to learn and where to go to next.

Teaching as Inquiry means a teacher is always reflecting… what have I done that worked, what can I do better or how can I approach this teaching differently?

Teachers need evidence for this inquiry process. This evidence comes from many sources: Data, (tests), observation, marking, discussions with students and sometimes interaction with other professionals

There is no formula that will guarantee learning for every student in every context. There is extensive well-documented evidence about the kinds of approaches that have a impact on student’s learning.

This evidence tells us that students learn best when teachers:

  • Create a supportive learning environment
  • Encourage reflective thought and action
  • Facilitate shared learning
  • Make connections to prior learning and experiences
  • Provide sufficient opportunities to learn
  • Inquire into the teaching and learning relationship

With teaching as Inquiry as the basis for the teaching and learning cycle, teachers are always reflecting and improving their practice. Teachers have always completed this task. A good practitioner always will ask what can I do better?

Teaching as Inquiry has been the focus of our Professional development for the last two years. The discussions I hear between teachers demonstrates to me that our teachers reflect and share their teaching and learning regularly.

Inside Education: Inquiry Learning

Tattler 20th June 2014

Inquiry learning at Tauhoa School incorporates the learning in the fields of science, social studies and technology or where the learning fits the need of the student. Not to say that these subjects are not given direct teaching. For example, the plushy monsters in Hoteo Room for science activities this term in Atiu Room.

So what is inquiry learning?

Inquiry-based learning is an approach in which students have ownership of their learning. It starts with exploration and questioning, and leads to investigation into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It involves asking questions, gathering and analysing information, generating solutions, making decisions, justifying conclusions and taking action. Or, looking at it from another angle, the inquiry-based approach to learning is based on the belief that students are powerful learners who are actively engaged in the process of investigating, processing, organising, and extending their knowledge within a topic.

At Tauhoa School we support this move away from the view that knowledge is something that is taught, to the view that knowledge is learned. Inquiry-based learning works through a sequence of activities and experiences that starts with the student’s prior knowledge and experience and moves through a deliberate process wherein that knowledge is extended, challenged and refined.

So why do we do inquiry learning? What makes it so important in today’s schools?

Knowledge is changing rapidly. It is no longer possible just to transfer information because of its volume and changing relevance and authenticity. Lifelong learners need to be able to locate and use information to solve problems they might face.

Inquiry learning knits neatly into the vision of our New Zealand Curriculum. The vision sees our students as being confident, connected, actively involved, life long learners.

Our curriculum has a big idea or theme each term. For example; Cause and Effect or Sustainability.

In the Atiu Room, the teacher is directive with the focus. In Hoteo Room however, there is more focus on developing student agency (see previous Tattler) and for the students to develop an inquiry into this topic.

For example: This term saw students look at the cause and effect. Some looked at how hunting affects animal populations, some on the affect of power cuts. Some students looked at human impact on earth through pollution or population growth. So the student can work both in a context that is interesting to them, yet will be able to describe the cause and effects of their inquiry into that topic.

They also choose how to present their work and share this with others. Some work you find on their wiki pages.

This is perhaps where you see how E learning, inquiry learning and student agency all fit in together.

I can see as I wrote this, as to how teaching and learning in our classrooms today fit together. I suppose the next big question is; where does reading and writing fit into all of this (the good old 3R’s)? But that can be next time…

Inside Education: Written language

Tattler 27th June 2014

Written language is part of the Curriculum entitled English. Written language or writing, is a key element in our education system right through into the later stages of education. When I think about writing, I can see it can be broken up into several parts. How you write (handwriting or presentation) and what we write (spelling, grammar and content) and the way we write (structure and purpose). Teachers use terms such as surface features and deeper features to describe these.

Surface features are things like punctuation and grammar, structure, spelling and handwriting. The deeper features refer to things like ideas, which you are writing for (audience) Imagery, personal voice, description, language used. When teachers mark writing they look for a combination of these things.

How is it taught in today’s classroom?

The English Curriculum is broken down into levels. As a student progresses through the schools system, the achievement objectives become more sophisticated.

In the junior area of school, the basics are the focus; full stops, capital letters and how to write. This includes shaping letters, holding a pencil through to finger spacing writing on the line. Basics of spelling, like the letter sounds and blends of letters. As students move through the school and gain more skills, their writing content is also increased. Many junior stories are about what they have experienced. Slowly imagination begins to shine through and then as they progress looking at the purpose for writing and what type of writing best suits that purpose.

Students in the more senior section (Year 4 up) need to learn the structures of how to write a report or a formal letter. They need to be able to recount a story or create a character that puts a picture into their reader’s minds. They need to be able to write instructions or an explanation or an argument. They need to be able to entertain or inform.

All these forms of writing need direct teaching. Teachers also moderate writing to see what surface features they need to learn or improve as part of their next learning steps. These could be more complex punctuation or simply using paragraphs correctly

Sometimes these learning steps are taught in groups or whole class depending on the need of the students.

In Hoteo Room, teaching types of writing is incorporated into inquiry learning. For example: if they are researching a topic they may write a report so the teacher will teach alongside the topic how to report their research. Or if they make something, a teacher will teach how to write instructions.
National Standards state that students need to write across the curriculum. That means writing is not seen as just a separate subject. When judging where a student is in regards to National Standards. A teacher would look at topic books and other work as well.

More and more work is now presented in different ways. Students today can blog, publish on line, Webcast or create a power point of their work. These are also forms of presentation, which is acceptable.

 

That seems a lot to take in. I am happy to take suggestions of things to write in this piece, so let me know if you what me to pick a topic that suits your interest.

Inside Education: Maths

Tattler 25th July 2014

Recently we held a Bangers and Maths night to help parents understand what the numeracy project is and the difference between knowledge and strategies. It was an opportunity to see how Maths is now taught in schools.

I have popped the slide show I used that night.

TobeNumerate

In 2007, the Mathematics curriculum changed its name to become ‘Mathematics and Statistics’.

Mathematicians and Statisticians both use symbols, graphs and diagrams to help them find and share patterns and relationships.

This curriculum area is key in developing student’s ability in investigating and explaining and making sense of the world around them. By working in mathematics, students develop the ability to think creatively, critically strategically and logically. Sounds pretty amazing for something that we did out of textbooks in my day!

Like many subjects now, Mathematics should be taught in context. When students are tested, often the Maths question is in a words story: Jane went to the beach and saw 84 gulls and an hour later she went back and there were only 43. How many gulls had flown away? Students need to be able to work out what is being asked of them and then what sort of Maths they need to do to find the answer. So you can see from this simple example how thinking critically and logically is part of Maths today

Strategies vs. Knowledge.
Maths Strategies are the different ways we can solve a math’s problem. This is a slide from the power point from our Maths night. We want our students now to be able to know many different ways to solve a problem.

Knowledge, what we know. Knowing my basic facts for an example is being able to say what 7X8 is quickly. Not having to use other basic facts or going (5×7) +(7 x3), or using our fingers. Knowing how many tens are in 78 should be instant.

Students cannot progress without a sound number and place value knowledge. Teaching numeracy is teaching both knowledge and strategies for our students to use. As a child progresses through school less time is spent on the number area and greater time is given to strand work.

Strand work is the work that we do in the areas of Geometry and Measurement and Statistics. The reason for this is that without number knowledge you can’t find the volume of a cube or add distances together.

Often work in this area is also taught in context. For more information, have a look at the teaching ideas on nzmaths.co.nz. Making and flying paper planes is a lot more interesting way to learn about measurement.

I feel I have rambled a bit today, but this subject is huge. Please ask if you need more information or have a burning question about education today you need answering.

Inside Education: Reading

Tattler 15th August 2014

I think the big question here could be about the differences between the junior and senior section of the school when it comes to reading.

The catch phrase is: ‘Learning to read and reading to learn.’

Up until about year 3, students are learning the skills needed to read fluently. They need to learn to able to decode (work out) what the word is through, the sounds of the letters and the blending of them   (sh, bl). They learn this by also chunking the words into pieces. They learn to work out unknown words by looking at the pictures or reading on or reading around the word.

Many of our early books have sight words in them. Sight words are words you just know, you don’t sound these out. Words that appear in every sentence, for example; a, the, is, my, I can. These words increase in number and complexity as student’s progress through the colour wheel.

The colour wheel is the way reading books are organised in level of difficulty. See below. (Just to add confusion not all publishers’ use the colour wheel and some books are levelled or are given a reading age!) They learn about print; Bold writing, speech marks. Types of books right down to reading from left to right. As you can see there is a lot to learn. We support this at our school in Atiu room by having students in groups reading with a teacher at the correct level/colour for them. (There are eight groups in Atiu, hence why I also teach in this room). Students should bring a reader home and need to read this book to you. We also use a speed card system to help student’s learn those sight words. These need to be read aloud. It is meant to be instant recall, so when they can complete a card in under 20 seconds they are deemed to have know these words and get a harder one. As consistency and regular review is important in this learning time. The reading time at home is vital to improve our students reading.

Students at the end of year 1 at school are meant to be, (under National Standards), reading at green of the colour wheel Green 3, EOY year 2, Turquoise 2 EOY year 3; Gold 1

And that is Learning to Read in a nutshell. Next week, Reading to Learn in the seniors.

Inside Education: Reading to Learn

Tattler 29th August 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote about the junior area of the school where students learnt the skills needed to read fluently, (Well).

Once students are able to read the words and use a book correctly, the focus moves to comprehension and understanding. Students now have to learn to find information, think about the meaning of a storyline or think about what they have read and make an evaluation of it. They need to think about why a character did something or the purpose of the story. These skills are important, as students need to be able to make decisions about the information they read. Is it true? What do I think of this idea? What would I have done in that situation? Is this information helpful? Will it suit my purpose? Can I use this?

The National Standards document states that by the end of year 8, students will read, respond to and think critically about texts. They need to be able to compare texts, locate information, evaluate and understand (synthesise) information and ideas, across a wide range of texts.

As students progress through school, storylines become more complicated, and the themes become more sophisticated.

At Tauhoa School, we use guided reading groups right through the whole of our school to meet the learning needs of our students in reading. Testing of student’s comprehension becomes important from year 4 up. This testing, assists a teacher in judging the next learning steps for our students. Teachers also use post reading activities to help students take time to think about what they read and help develop the skills I have mentioned.

Reading is vital for an adult to function in the everyday world. Research shows that adults must be at least reading and understanding what they read at a reading age of 11 to function.

And if you reflect on a day in your life how many times do you need to read to make sense of your world you live in? Food for thought…