My reflection on using RSS to learn and develop a Personal Learning Network

Here is my reflection on our journey to use RSS to communicate and learn from one another.

Our Nelson Link Learning Cluster is a group of thirty-five schools wide spread from Hira to Wakefield to Riwaka in the Nelson basin. As you can see we are geographically spread so opportunities for group meetings are precious and costly. We are a primary school cluster with one Intermediate School, one residential school for girls with special learning needs, one specialised special needs school, rural, urban, contributing and full primary. It can take an hour and half to drive from one school to another!

We are loosely based around The Loop collaboration of schools working on fibre ultra-fast broadband but not exclusively so.

Cluster Goal
Our goal is to encourage teachers to share e-learning best practice, encouraging reflection and sharing.

Goal: Ensuring collegial support by encouraging teachers and schools to develop reflective practices to reflect on and share their e-learning experiences.

Intentions- why did we do this?

  • To bring the cluster teachers together to share practice and see what other teachers are doing with their blogs
  • For teachers to personalise their professional development by reading the thoughts of educational leaders directly
  • To interact with educational leaders directly by contributing to conversation in comments.
  • For Principals to be aware of what teachers on their staff are publishing on their school blogs in the school name.
  • For Principals to encourage and participate in the publishing of their teachers
  • For Principals to personalise their professional development by reading what other principals and thought leaders are sharing on line

Interventions- What we did
The cluster facilitator had attended Learning at School in Rotorua some years ago and attended a workshop run by David Warlick on using RSS as a means to personalising your online reading experience.

As part of our Lead Teacher Day programme at the end of last year (2010) we had had an attempt to set up a Google Reader RSS feed but it was not as successful as we had hoped because we are such a large group of nearly forty people and not all of us could connect to the internet at the same time so many of were not able to set up and populate their RSS feed.

We thought that having an RSS feed was an important way to help us move toward fulfilling our cluster goal of share e-learning best practice so we tried again in 2011 with the venue’s new wireless internet solution and we were all able to be on line at the same time. A screencast video tutorial could give some assistance to those who found the process tricky.

As a resource we used a handout by Sylvia Tolasino and the facilitator was able to share her personal RSS and how to add a READER and SUBSCRIBE bookmark to participants’ web browser toolbars. For some even being able to view their browser toolbar was a challenge.

We started by facilitating a workshop on Getting Good with Google where teachers were able to create a Google account if they did not already have one.

Many teachers over the past six months had already created a Google Account so it made sense to use Google Reader for their RSS feed as Bloglines was, at that stage, in decline, and some schools already have Google Apps.

We had previously recorded our cluster blogs on our wiki so teachers were able to retrieve their colleagues’ blogs from the database.

Teachers were then able to choose which blogs to subscribe to with their Google Reader. People were then encouraged to comment, encourage and learn from other’s blogs found through their RSS Reader. The aim is to reprise the concept each following cluster workshop so that we can share our challenges and new learning.

We repeated this session with Principals at their next cluster meeting. Principals looked at the activity from the differing perspective of knowing what is happening in their school and to learn from reading the blogs of other New Zealand principals and educational leaders.

The facilitator wrote a blog post with links to NZ blogging principals and invited others through her Twitter network and blog to add any principals that she had missed. Principals could then easily see the hyperlinks to the blogs of others.

Teachers and Principals were able to create an RSS feed. Some later asked for more individual assistance to make sure that they ‘got it’. This was appreciated as it showed that they could see the usefulness and purpose of having an RSS feed.

Some, although they created an RSS feed at the workshop, have not followed through to use and add to their RSS in their own time quoting a lack of time or focus on other things.

Lead Teachers are still getting to grips with the practice themselves and many are not yet ready to share their new learning with others on their staff.

Impact on students/teachers/whanau
Some lead teachers have really taken the practice on board and are successfully forming partnerships with other teachers and their classes through their class blogs. Teachers have reflected how cool it was to have their peers comment and give feedback on their blogs.

The teachers who are regularly checking their RSS feeds are learning what others are doing in their classes and are beginning to open their class to others.

Next Steps

  • We need to revisit using RSS at future Lead Teacher days to ensure that the practice becomes more embedded.
  • We need to encourage people to, once they have read their new content, to move out of their RSS reader to converse and give feedback to the authors on a more regular basis
  • We need to encourage and support Lead Teachers to share the use of RSS with their team back at school so that it becomes a regular way to share their practice and personalise their professional development.

Reflective interviews with Cluster personnel

  • Sandra Rolls: Tasman Bay Christian School 2 minutes: 41 sec

  • Charles Newton: Cluster Consultant 9 minutes: 34 sec

  • Cheryl Eden: Richmond Primary School 3 minutes: 41 sec

eLearnings: Implementing a National Strategy for ICT

ELearningsSome time ago Derek Wenmoth asked me to contribute my thoughts to a book he was compiling to archive the impact and implementation of the national ICT in education strategy in New Zealand 1998-2010.

I was, at the same time, honoured that he would think of me and overwhelmed by the task ahead. Derek wanted a teacher’s perspective on the changes over the last ten years in ICT in NZ.

My contribution reads a little like a CV in that in chronologically delves into my journey with ICT over the last decade.

My teaching has changed immensely since I began this journey. Only six years ago- a huge amount of time in the life of a New Entrant but a dot in time for someone who has been teaching as long as I have.

I really am an ordinary teacher doing pretty ordinary things but I tend to share them through my blogs and on line spaces so people know about what I do in class. ICT has afforded me many opportunities that I would never have dreamed about before and now I know couldn’t teach well without access to my Personal Learning Network of friends and colleagues, some of whom I have never met.

Contents include:

Designing the Vision:
Policy perspectives on the development of the national Strategies for ICTs, 1998-2010.
Securing the Foundations:
Perspectives on the development of a technical ICT infrastructure for centres and schools.
Building Teacher Capability:
Sector and teacher perspectives on teacher learning and professional development.
Developing Digital Content and Digital Communities:
Perspectives on learning ‘online’, the Virtual Learning Network and building online communities of practice.
Improving Student Learning and Engagement:
Research and case studies on student learning in ICT contexts: elearning for literacy, languages, enquiry, and engaging local communities.
The Future – Trends, Challenges and Opportunities

The book is reasonably priced at NZ$19:90. You may like to get yourself a copy.

Share IT

photo-5As the terrible tragedy of the earthquake unfolded today in Christchurch I am at Learning at School conference in Rotorua. I was asked to do an EdTalk. Here is the transcript of what I wanted to say….

I am Allanah King. I am a teacher and an ICT facilitator for the Link Learning ICT cluster in Nelson.

I want to encourage you to share your practice and the learning events that happen in your classroom.

I taught for twenty years in my own classroom with my class of thirty children. My world was corralled by my classroom walls. I rarely got out of my teaching space and the children and parents of that group of thirty children were the beginning and end of my world. Sad I know!

We did some fabulous school work. I put that work on the walls of my classroom and it went home at the end of the term and at most it would have been seen by 40 to 100 people. Now and again another teacher or parent would walk through my class and give us some feedback and encouragement but this was rare and random.

I would sometimes look up from my classroom activity and gaze at the cars going down the highway near school and wonder what was happening in the outside world.

In 2005 I went to a course with Mark Treadwell and he put a photo on the internet really quickly and told me that he had used Blogger to do it. I nodded knowingly and then went home and Googled the word Blogger and worked out how to put my own photos on the internet.

I first started a family blog, then a classroom blog and was encouraged by the feedback of others in my own school and local schools.

The isolation of my classroom was being chipped away.

I felt a connection with others outside my school and I started learning from them and then with them. With other teachers in jobs like mine with similar frustrations and joys- just like mine.

After some encouragement I started an Education Blog. Now- as well as sharing what I was doing in the classroom I began to share my professional thinking. I could share the things I had learnt, I could reflect on my own progress as a learner. I record the professional development opportunities I had been given. I could model the things that I want the children in my class to be- confident, connected, actively involved, life long learners.

I believe we, as teachers, have what Dean Shareski from Canada calls a ‘moral imperative’ to share our practice with others.

If you go on a course to learn something thing new it is cost effective to share it with others. An average day long course costs a small fortune- reliever, cost of salary and course fees. If teachers go to a conference or course for even one day and do not share their experiences and new learning then they have wasted thousands of tax payers dollars.

We owe it to the people around us to share our practice, our experiences, our teaching.

In my classroom I have found that children really ‘get’ a concept if they are given the opportunity to teach it to others. The same applies to teachers when they share. By sharing my classroom and professional learning I have put aside the time to reflect and make my new learning stick.

When you share your learning by taking the time to put it on line you acquire the self discipline and presence of mind to frame your thoughts in a more coherent, sensible way- clarifying and defining your own perspective.

Learning from other teachers is most powerful. We can learn from each other and with each other.

If you share what you do you develop a network of people that will support you even when things go wrong.

You can and should learn from your mistakes and what might work for one person or class may not work for another.

What better way to share and connect with others than in an online space like a blog. With a blog you can reach people from all around the country and make connections with people who can support you and who can learn with you.

We are better together than we are on our own, when we share our lives and learning.

Unfortunately I found that my reading of the transcript was pretty lame and I had to wing it. You will have to wait and see what a dog’s breakfast I made of the talk.

Thanks @Jedd and @JaneNicholls

OK- for better or worse- here it is!

Principals’ Conference- Lake Rotoiti

Last week I had the privilege of attending part of the Nelson Principals’ Conference at Lake Rotoiti. I was there to facilitate an ICT challenge but I went up on the evening before so I could capture the dawn on the lake- something that I’ve always wanted to do. Here is my Flickr set that I’m really pleased with. Here’s the five frame storytelling outline that we completed. Well done Team Drummond for your spectacular presentation.


They had David Gurteen talking about the Knowledge Cafe– the idea behind the knowledge cafe is to re-create some of the conversations that happen in the pub after the staff meeting, where people feel OK to really express themselves and challenge each other on an equal footing and say what they really think.

David quoted Theodore Zeldin on conversation, “Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, and engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.

The kind of conversation I like is one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person.

Theodore Zeldin (b. 1933) Historian & Author

David Gurteen’s comments: “I love this quote and use it in many of my presentations and workshops, especially when I am talking about the meaning of dialogue. I also tell people in my knowledge cafes that this is the sort of conversation they should be having – not a conversation where they tell people things but a conversation where they listen and learn in other words a ‘learning conversation“.

At this point I made the connection to Dean Shareski’s 2010 K12 OnLine keynote where he said “I am a derivative.” Me too- I am a derivative of all the people I know.

Conversational dynamics are better with smaller groups of four or thereabouts. It sounds a lot like our planned cluster unconference.

The process of a knowledge cafe- small groups, conversation based around a question, 5-10 minutes, ask a few people to move to another group, others sit tight and continue- coming back together but don’t report back- try and have another big group conversation- everyone can contribute. By changing groups the dominant ones when moved tend to be less so after being moved changes the group dynamics.

‘Who would like to share something with the wider group?’ For a larger group you may need a mike. One big circle at the end. Finally ask each person for one sentence in reflection of the process or the new perceptions as a result of the conversation.

The key outcome from a knowledge cafe is what people take away in their heads- a deeper understanding of one another, a better appreciation of your own point of view and the perspectives of others. A better understanding of each other and thus improved relationships and collaboration.

I would like to give the Knowledge Cafe a go at Thursday’s lead teacher meeting and in my classroom. I think the world needs more conversation- people tend to talk past each other not to each other.

And a final quote from Theodore Zeldin, “Change the way you think, and you are halfway to changing the world.

K12 OnLine Conference Keynote- A Week in the Classroom

So here it is…

Welcome to my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. The whole process has been a learning experience for me as I made decisions about what parts of my classroom programme that I thought people may be interested in. I also pushed myself a little in publishing the video using iMovie09 which I wasn’t very familiar with.

When I showed my class the finished video they seemed happy enough with it and gave it a round of applause so I was pleased it got a tick of approval from my most important audience.

If you would like to wander through some of the links I mention in the video you may like to visit the presenter page on the K12Online site.

I started the class blog in 2005 and this Edublog in 2007.

I had no real idea how sharing what we do as a class and my reflections as a teacher would lead but it seemed like an interesting experiment at the time. It seems incredible to me now how I only started blogging and sharing on line five short years ago. The whole process has been transformative for me as a teacher.

The use of ICT has allowed us to share our practice in ways that have never been practicable in the past.

Before the availability and accessibility of online learning teachers were sealed in their classroom cocoons with few opportunities to visit others’ classes or learn from others’ experiences outside their neigbourhood.

The world of ICT has opened my eyes and the eyes of my children to a world of infinite possibilities.

My question for you is how can you share your classroom practice with others?

How do you collaborate and learn from others.

How are you able to offer children choices in their learning?

Please feel free to ask questions through the K12Online Conference Ning so together we can learn from each other.

The joy of a conference like this is that all of the content will be available on line whenever YOU want it, at a time and place that suits you.

To see everyone’s presentations click here or search for K12Online in iTunesU for download. Each presentation is only about 20 minutes long so they are in very manageable byte sized bits.

Where do you hope learning that uses ICTs will be in 5 year’s time?

Picture 4I have been asked to write a few sentences for the Education Review Publication on where I hope learning that uses ICTs will be in five years time. In case my responses never end up going to print here is what I wrote…

  • In five years I would hope that all schools would have reliable access to ultra fast broadband so they can access the work of others and  effectively publish content that they have created. Alongside this children need appropriate hardware and a decent  wireless connection to connect to that network. In five years time I envisage that we will have more access to more mobile devices because of their portability, price and popularity.
  • I see cloud computing being more and more prevalent. It just makes sense to able to access web based resources where and when you need them without the need for a specific operating system or device but I see the lack of bandwidth as a major challenge.
  • I would hope that many more parents would be able to participate in their children’s learning through sharing their children’s learning journeys on line — through blogs, wikis, e-portfolios and on-line collaboration.
  • I see social media playing more of a role in on line learning. People are social animals and we can learn so much directly from others who form part of our personalised learning network.

What would YOU write?

Why would a school pay good money for a Learning Management System?


In my new job I have been on a bit of a mission to find out more about Learning Management Systems (LMS)- specifically Moodle, Ultranet and KnowledgeNet which have the MoE big tick as well as other systems that might be out there for schools to chose from.

The first question I suppose would be, ‘Why would a school want a Learning Management System at all?‘ Is it just because everyone else has one?

What a plethora of choice- I bet there are more that I don’t know of.

I want to be able to put a set of questions of any LMS and compare responses so I thought I would pose them here and see what  friends of my blog think.

  • What do you get in an LMS above what is already available on the internet for free?
  • What benefit does an LMS add to a child’s learning?
  • Would parents have access to the LMS and on what level- would the child share their username and password with their parents and thus have access to everything- even the ability to change a child’s work. Or would the parent have separate parental access.
  • Would your LMS be able to be hosted on your own server or would you need to have it some place else like in the cloud or with a provider?
  • Can children develop their content within the LMS or would it more for a snapshot of a ‘finished project’?
  • Is there a visible (non- passworded) option for sharing content with those outside the LMS?
  • How collaborative and creative can an LMS be?
  • How can I share the learning progressions of children in an LMS, with parents, with community or with others.
  • Can I, as a teacher, personalise the LMS with features how I want them to be? Can the children personalise their own pages?
  • Can you embed content from Web2.0 apps. If so, how easy is it to embed content from Web2.0 applications?
  • On leaving the school can a child archive their content for a time when they are no longer able to access the school network?
  • Can the content and assessment created within an LMS be portable to another LMS?
  • Does the LMS synch with a School Management System. Now there’s a whole new can of worms- SMS!
  • If content can be archived what format would it be in?
  • I know it’s not about looks but it is. How appealing and navigable is the format for all levels of the school. We have children from five years old up to twelve. Would the LMS cater for them all?
  • How much bandwidth would a school need to be able to sustain the LMS?
  • How much support would the average teacher need to get to grips with the LMS? Is it something that I could work out for myself or is it that tricky that you need on going user group or expert input to master?
  • How much would it cost to set up and implement the LMS initially and then what on going costs, fees would be incurred?

If you can think of any other questions please post them in the comments and I will add them here for a more comprehensive set of questions. I have found this pdf on TKI that has heaps of more detailed questions you could put to a LMS to help confuse matters even more.

A problem as I see it is that you often only see inside an LMS if your school uses one. You only know what you know. Hopefully someone will read this post and help me with this question.

If you use an LMS and like it or dislike it could you please let me know which one you think and why.

Please don’t feel the need to comment in a logged in way- just add anonymously if you feel your comments may play against your current school practice. I want to know what you really think. If you would rather add your comment via email to me I will add it anonymously.

Here’s what Ewan McIntosh thinks about ePortfolios- obviously not behind the fence of a walled garden. Click here if the video plays hard to get. I have been told that the video will be updated after the weekend and it will actually play properly- I will re-embed it then.

Brian Crosby’s TEDxDenverEd Video

My mate, Brian Crosby, recently had his ISTE10 video published on YouTube. I thought I would embed it here to share. Brian is a classroom teacher who integrates ICT into his daily classroom practice to entice his class to participate and build learning power. He makes learning engaging and relevant.

We even get a mention as well. It’s almost like being there. One day, Brian, one day….

Google Apps For Educators

Not being known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer I have taken a fair bit of push to use Google Apps with my class although I use the Google Docs package extensively myself. The main reason why I never used Google Apps for Educators in my class is I didn’t know how to specifically and I didn’t know the usernames and passwords for the children in my class or even where they would log in. So after a bit of beavering away and a little help from my on-line Personal Learning Network I am there!

The final push that took me over the edge of thinking it might be something worth trying and spending my evening free time (ROFL) investigating more deeply was that because our wonderful COW of Apple laptops are basically dead or on their last legs and as we couldn’t afford to replace them in one hit we have leased three baby netbooks for my class. Frankly I loathe them but we do the best we can with what we’ve got and at least I have something apart from my TELA laptop for the kids to use. I also have two slow and troublesome eMacs bringing the total that my class has to six so I suppose I shouldn’t whine. Anyway, the kids want to draft their stories on the netbooks and of course they don’t have WORD on them and I couldn’t find the time to download Open Office.

So I found out where to log in for Google Apps and put a link to it at the top of our blog so the kids knew where to look. I fleetingly got myself Admin access to Google Apps and entered  the kid’s names and gave them passwords that were the same as their e-AsTTle log ins so we could remember them. Then my admin privileges were gone but the set up work had been done.

Admittedly the children in my class are generally fairly ICT capable for eight year olds and all but three have internet access at home so they catch on pretty quickly to new ideas. I had one session with the whole class in front of the data projector to show them where to log in and let them read the screen as to what they needed to do to create a new document, write and draw on it and share it with others within the domain.

They caught on exceedingly well and work has been pouring in ever since. We are basically in the PLAY stage of learning- where we discover what we can do with the tool.

Google Docs - All items
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Last week we set a task on our homework grid to log in and do something on their docs. Marshall even set homework for ME to do using the docs.

Today Marshall who is eight decided it was time that we learnt to do presentations with Google Apps so he made a presentation on how to make a presentation.

Just in time learning on Sunday night before our Rocky Shore field trip my PLN brought me Tom Barrett’s post about using Google Spreadsheets. I quickly put one together to record our population counts from our field trip and when we got back we all entered the data as quickly as we could with multiple edits being visible on the whiteboard as we went. It was a good way to make sure everyone got a shot at logging in and recording their data and conclusions.

It’s all good and we are finding out new things together which is even better than me teaching kids how to do things my way. New things in new ways. All this in four short weeks. Yay

Picture 1
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

This video summarises the useful updates to Google Docs.

Discovery Time

During the holidays I attended the Cutting Edge Conference in Porirua. As well as presenting I was able to attend a couple of workshops. One that intrigued me was about Discovery Time, run by Brenda Martin and Gay Hay co-authors of the book, Discovery Time- Developing Key Competencies through activity based, child-directed learning.

I gave it a go for the first time on Friday and it was a great success so I thought it worth sharing. Here are my notes…

Discovery Time is a 90 minute, action, activity based programme reminiscent of Developmental in the old days. The teacher is engaged with the learning as well. Parents have to be reminded of need to ask questions and not to solve problems. It is well planned with structured, activity based activities- it can bring the week’s programme together.


Activities could be constructing, painting, drawing, weaving flax, parent passion, outside activities, skipping, sanding, sandstone carving, dressing up, making movies, carpentry, Lego robotics kit, shadow puppets, OHP stories, cooking, skipping, new food tasting, spending more time working on something that hasn’t been finished, Journal craft activities, clay, water play, trains, darts, juggling, musical instruments, clothing design, marble tracks. There are heaps more ideas in the book.

It is student centred learning based on play, creativity, activity and centred around the child. The teacher or parent doesn’t try to solve the problems for the child but leads the child to solve problems and challenges for themselves. The teacher lets go a little and hands the control more to the children.

The structure of the lesson-

  • Introduction- key competencies eg managing self- managing our gear- we discuss first what it would look like if we were managing ourselves well ( Y-chart).
  • Activity time- doing the activities from a menu of choices- children select what they would like to do- if there is an over-subscription the opportunity to do an activity will come up again another time.
  • Share what you’ve done, buddy-up, photos, share- before we pack up.
  • Reflection- after we’ve packed up. Thinking about what we’ve learnt. I would use Wallwisher to record our thoughts if I had more laptops to record with.
  • List of ideas from kids on what they would like to be doing next week. And also list of who has missed out that would like to have another go next week.

The Discovery Time book has a CD of ideas and resources to use to supplement the programme. Here is my planning sheet for the session minus the individual targeting section.

Our first session went really well on Friday with children totally ‘in the zone’ for the whole hour and a half. I liked particularly that I wasn’t ‘teaching’ the whole time and had the opportunity to sit next to the children as they worked rather than directing them to complete tasks. Children appreciated the opportunity to delve more deeply into an activity for an extended length of time. Next time I would add some more artistic, creative activities to our list of choices.

I liked the Discovery Time concept as we talk about creativity, child-centred learning, key competencies and life long learning it ticks all the criteria of what learning is.

As we finished Friday after a Discovery Time, a workshop with the St Johns First Aid instructor, Jump Jam and ANZAC assembly one cherub, about to go home for the day said, “It’s been just like a birthday party today!” A good way to finish the week.

Habits of Mind with Karen Boyes

Last week I was able to attend a Habits of Mind workshop with Karen Boyes. I had a bit of an idea of Karen’s style as I had attended her Fish Philosophy workshop at ULearn09 and I subscribe to the EdTalks podcast in iTunes.

Here are my notes…

Habits of Mind are the things that will help children/adults sustain ourselves in 21st century. Rate of change is accelerating- who knows what the future will bring?

What is thinking? Cognitive brain actions- thoughts, feelings, opinions, strategising, multi-solutions, considerations, conscious, unconscious-thought.

“Thinking is when your mouth shuts down and your head keeps talking”. THINK- PAIR- SHARE. Remember the hand signals. ( I used to use the hand signals last year but forgot over the school holidays ). Time for processing- 7-10 seconds to process the question.

How would you want kids to think- risk takers, engaged, individual thoughts, justify their thoughts, curious, open to other people, links to outside the classroom text to world connections, thoughtful failure.

What dispositions do successful people have? And if so can we learn them? (Interestingly George the soccer guy came school last week and talked to the kids about the sorts of things successful soccer players do- fitted in nicely to my thinking).

Habit is a cable, we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it.” Horace Mann.

Mindful Garden of Verses‘ by Marie Ciota- poetry book about HoM- they help you solve problems and know what to do when the wings fall off. We’ll have to get a copy.

Here are the Habits of Mind– I hope I got them all! Image

  • Translate and transfer information-
  • Persisting- not giving up- thinking of the frog and the crow cartoon.
  • Managing Impulsivity- think before you act. Successful people think it through before they act.
  • Listening with empathy and understanding- while listening we are busy thinking about what we are going to say! I know you don’t know but if you did know what would you think/say/do.
  • Thinking flexibility- e.g. The Real Story of the Three Little Pigs.
  • Thinking about thinking- metacognition- Successful people can talk about their thinking.
  • Striving for accuracy- the word is striving. ‘Never work harder than your students’. C3B4ME. Say there are 3 errors in your writing rather than you got seven right, if children think they ‘passed’ they won’t bother to learn or work out what the mistakes were.
  • Questioning- at the end of a topic they should have more questions than when they started.
  • Applying past knowledge to knew situations- use what you learn.
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision. Getting the right/differnt word when writing, avoiding generalisations, exaggerations.
  • Gathering data through all the senses- like they do when they are little.
  • Creating, imagining, innovating- we can grow creativity. TED talks. Shift happens. Creativity is our point of difference from the production capability in India or China. (This ties in nicely with what Chris was saying last week– I am triangulating my data.)
  • Responding with wonderment and awe. FISH philosophy. WOW moment. I love the Fish Philosophy. It’s great to show happiness and joy and magic.
  • Take responsible risks- be OK with failure- try new things constantly. Failure is like manure- it sticks but it makes things grow fast.
  • Finding humour- kiwis like to laugh- be resilient- laugh it off and move on. (Personally I find that one hard- I don’t move on easily- I fester)
  • Thinking independently
  • Remaining open to continuous learning
  • Now the NZ Curriculum- T.R.U.M.P– Thinking. Relating to others, Understanding symbols and text, Managing Self, Participating and contributing.


    People need to be mindful competent- not automatic- thinking about the task that needs to be done.

    Developing Habits of Mind in Elementary Schools’ by Karen Boyes. Moving from teacher led teaching and learning to student led mindful learning.


    • Do a word splash- other ways of saying the same things- key words, synonyms, phrases that convey the same meaning Wordle
    • How do we do that- what it looks like. Graphic- prove with 3 ot of evidence- Comic Life
    • Ask a child who is successful what they do to be successful. Celebrate it- Y chart look like, sound like, feel like. None of the HoM stand alone.
    • Pausing, probing, what do you mean?- to get more clarity of understanding.
    • What habits of mind do successful people display to help them be successful- sports people, authors, role models
    • Managing impulsivity. An owl or a frog- which personality type are you. Make a four part rubric co-constructed with the kids body parts of the frog.
    • Success-o-meter- pudding like, luke warm success, groovy success, outstanding.  Like a growth chart on the wall 0r our traffic lights.
    • Use the language of thinking- analyse, predict- use the right words, don’t dumb it down
    • A thinking buddy- Tony Ryan’s idea- soft toy to do your thinking with.
    • If you allow it you teach it.
    • Make trading cards- make eight cards- teacher gets one and rest are traded. Like our fitness cards with a digital photo of how it looks. Each for an example of HoM.
    • Bookmarks with the HoM with photos of HoM in action
    • Certificates on HoM to be completed by parents
    • The teacher needs to always model.

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

    Thanks Karen- a lot to go on with but good practical, real things I can do in my classroom this week and next term.

    Sitech IWB Conference- Learning

    Last weekend I was privileged to be invited to present a couple of workshops at Sitech’s IWB conference at Koraunui School in Upper Hutt. Apart from from being the only person there without an IWB I found the conference to be quite affirming and energising. I was so impressed with Koraunui School- they closed the school early on the Friday and some of the senior students stayed behind to assist participants. There was fabulous parental support as well. We started with a powhiri which set the welcoming tone for the whole conference. I also admired the way the whole staff at the school watched out for each other and supported each other. You could see it was a real learning community.

    My workshops were based around the concept of using wiki to enhance learning in science. I shared a couple of science wiki that we had created to serve as a resource centres for our learning like our one on Flight. I also shared the one Lisa Parisi and I had co-created on comparing hemispheres which, I think showcased an even better use of wiki- that of collaboration and authentic learning.

    Not surprisingly I learnt more than I shared. Chris Betcher was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and I was able to get to a couple of his sessions. I made notes- even having to resort to using a piece of paper once as the wifi wouldn’t let him go on line and if you’re presenting a workshop on Google Labs you really do need wifi- I had my trusty Telecom T-Stick with me so lent Chris my computer so he could get on with his workshop, leaving me computerless! Imagine that!

    The first of Chris’ keynotes was titled “When the Wings Fall Off.” Here are my notes (in black) …

    The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

    Example Swiss watches- 1968 the Swiss had the world market sown up. Within a couple of years Japan took over through the invention of the quartz movement watches. The Swiss monopoly wasn’t able to adapt to the changes and they withered.

    Example camera makers- camera manufacturers who were not able to shift to digital withered.

    Example- vinyl records, tapes, CD, digital and they withered.

    Example- newspapers are withering.

    Those most adaptable to change will survive, not the strongest or the cleverest as Darwin proposed.

    ‘People who are able to adapt are successful, those who can’t fail- the change makers are those who are the ‘troublemakers’, the creative one that think differently. Think of Maui- the youngest brother who stirred up trouble and started  a new order!

    Example- fall of the Berlin Wall- the troublemakers in a dockyard in Poland spread across Europe. An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted. Victor Hugo.

    We still reward compliance- Sir Ken Robinson– creativity not valued. Not innovation in classrooms- one size does not fit all.

    Why the wings just might fall off education- Social networks, search tools, falling costs, free, Web2.0,  jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Things are changing- what worked in the industrial age will not work now.

    Google is 12 years old. Pre-Google like pre-printing press- a defining moment in history. Google has changed everything- the way we find out stuff. Where did all the questions go before Google?

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Recognition of play- can we do some play- to follow ideas for a time, find a time each week/fortnight. How can we allow for experimentation, the following of a passion. Let kids play with ideas. Google company allows their staff to ‘play’. Some of their best stuff comes from play. I like to let kids play with new tool or software before I ‘teach’ it, but should pursue the idea of play within the curriculum.

    Why? Other countries have an abundance of riches- NZ does not- we need to have a point of difference- successful just doing lots of something isn’t enough- you need to be ‘beautiful’ well designed as well- eg iPhone, iPad?

    Automation- if your job can be done by a machine it should be done by a machine.

    What then is left- creative, design, aesthetic… That’s what we CAN do well.

    How do we encourage creativity in children? Come up with something interesting for them to work on. Give them time, tools and skills they need. Get out of the kids way and let them get on with it.

    Recognise individuality- interests, choices, flexibility, thrive on ambiguitymy long time Twitter bio , encourage risk, allow and grow from mistakes.

    The less restrictions you place on the task, the more creative the response. Where does success criteria fit here? Are they too limiting?

    Think big- make it hard fun but still push the kids further than they thought they could achieve.

    It was an excellent conference, well organised, with great network and learning. Thanks for the invite.

    Twitter- a way to build a network

    Twitter RepliesI was honoured to be asked by Innes Kennard to present a couple of workshops to groups of teachers in the Wairarapa and Palmeston North last week. We talked of the communication, audience and collaborations enabled by the use of Web2.o tools in the classroom.

    Particpants asked about how I let people know of the things we do in the classroom and how I have been able to form a Personal Learning Network.

    We spoke of having an RSS feed like Google Reader or Bloglines to bring interesting blogs to you instead of having to go out and check them every day.

    I spoke of the power of Twitter to connect with educators around the world and demonstrated that with a quick tweet to that affect. I don’t like to send out general tweets like that as a rule as I don’t like to presume that I will get a response.

    Being that, personally, I generally do not have the time to tweet during the teaching day I was surprised at the number of people who could spare a moment to reply. Responses came thick and fast from Scotland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Maine, Essex and New Zealand. All within minutes. Powerful stuff. Thanks team.

    When I got home I got to reflecting on how these people came to be in my network.

    I try to support others- that’s how I get supporters. I try and engage in conversations with people. A couple of people who replied I had not been previously following as I went through a stage when I felt I might be overwhelmed by following too many so I really followed few who requested that I follow them. I immediately remedied that by a follow.

    When I first started the journey to create a Learning Network I was way to shy to express an opinion because I was in awe of the reputations of the people I was following. After having built up a rapport with some of those people I now realise that generally they are just teachers like me- like us.

    So- to build a network, I think, people should just leap in and engage with fellow educators- leave comments, direct tweets to people, ask questions, encourage, challenge, discuss. We are all learning together.

    National Standards Review

    This morning I attended a talk by Lester Flockton at which we got to hear his take on how he sees National Standards in New Zealand. My view of them is filtered through doom tinted glasses so anything I might add can be taken from that point of view. These are my views and are to be taken in no way as a reflection on the views of staff or BoT at my school. My reflections are in italics. This is what I took from Lester’s talk. I don’t usually blog about contentious issues but I wanted to share what I heard from someone who knows more about it than most. Here is what I heard…

    National Standards have their foundations in politics not education so how can you discuss them with reason or logic. It was a political decision to start the National Standards process.

    We need to be strong to say what we think– will I actually post my notes as a blog post but people already know via Twitter what I think. Press had been asked to leave before the Principal’s meeting started so how different is my blog post from a post in a newspaper, apart from lack of readership of this blog. We have a culture of compliance in NZ- we need to THINK of implications for National Standards- its possible/probable impact on teaching and learning.

    Here are some of the slides that Lester used in his presentation. To see them in a decent size hover over them and click fullscreen.

    Pamphlets about National Standards were posted out to parents before Christmas. Interestingly no one in the room had received a pamphlet in the mail – they were posted and not given to teachers to hand out- no wonder! The pamphlets were filled with political rhetoric in talk back radio language like

    • 20% of students are failing (Lester says 10-15% of children are struggling for a variety of reasons). Every country has a large tail- to make a difference to those struggling kids there are needs to be a whole package of assistance that they need to become successful- a test without real resources to support the family/whanau is unlikely to be successful.
    • Identify struggling children early- like we don’t know already which children are struggling.
    • We need one national test to rule them all- thankfully but also fatefully National Standards don’t deliver one test to rule them all- each school/teacher puts their own slant on the standard.
    • National Standards are needed so children can be compared one school against another. Lester says that the Standards are already impacting with schools advertising for staff to raise standards. Schools should be collaborative not competitive.
    • Parents are tired of politically correct sugar coated reports. Plain language reporting- it was changed from plain English as by saying English it was not politically correct! LOL)

    League tables- inevitable in the long run- John Hattie is going to be in working party to develop them. He says he wants to make them safe- only comparing like decile schools. Lester says NEMP data is much more dependable and reliable. Schools will be pitched against schools! Common data sources- you won’t find them with National Standards there really isn’t moderation between schools- league tables based on surface features- because they more easily measured. It will breed a whole new batch of data driven tests.

    Revision of NAGs in November 2009- blue sheet. Lester handed out NAG revision handout. Now no need to assess AOs. Schools asked to report to MoE on demographic analysis and trends, weakness, and what they are intending to do about it.

    If you have a good reporting process keep it but add on as an appendage to your normal reporting schedule in term one and term four. Bring data on from the end of the previous year- beware of children’s fading over the school holidays. Beware of last year’s teachers who are soft or too hard so you appear over hard with kids moving between average or below for example- if a child was assessed as average last year and you put them at below beware of the parental wrath– Beware teacher workload.

    MoE timeline- BoTs report on trends and what schols intend to do to achieve those targets. There will be enormous variance across teachers and schools as on what is above/below standard. There needs to be ongoing moderation between teachers and across schools.

    Looking carefully at the characteristics of the reading and writing standards- same word games as the Achievement Objectives- the characteristics of year five and six are the same- it will be up to teachers to make those judgments and actually put it in plain language.

    The people who put the standards together weren’t teachers and were done behind closed doors without teacher practitioners being involved. Why trial something that is rubbish anyway? Overseas any improvement has come at the expense  of a balanced, broad curriculum. Is this what we want- to follow failed overseas systems?

    Trending to a data driven system. Children are not data.

    Learning is messy.

    So there you go! What do you think. What have you got to add?

    Virtual Coaching

    Tonight a got an email from Jacelyn at Goldfields Primary School in Otago asking that I give her a hand with some hyperlinking on her blog as it had her perplexed. It seemed like a lot of typing to explain so I made a little video using It is just so free and easy that I thought I might have the kids in may class make little instructional videos as well later on. Videos that you make are deleted from their servers after seven days so if you want to keep it for longer you have to download it which is easy.Picture 2

    Once I had made the video I downloaded it so I could upload it to Blogger. The video of course ended up being tiny in Blogger so I put it in my public Dropbox folder so that people could view it in a decent size. I have 5GB of storage in Dropbox so size doesn’t matter really. Here is the video tutorial in its hugeness.

    While I was on a roll I made a new post on my Bling4yrblog blog on how to do it.

    What a great way to share the learning.


    Picture 3Tonight there was a write up in the Nelson Mail newspaper about a radical ‘new’ way of doing homework. Not so radical and not so new. I have been setting homework in this ‘new’ radical way for the last three years. I based it on a book by somebody and I can’t seem to lay my hands on it! Maybe someone can enlighten me. Before that I was the queen of the fill in the gaps, what is the capital city of… kinda girl. Not anymore. I even put a folder with year’s worth of homework in it on Trade Me and some poor sucker bought it for $10.

    I teach Year Four (8 year olds). Nowadays we have a theme to the weekly homework that compliments something we are focussing on in class. After the theme has been chosen we brainstorm using Kidspiration. I save this as a pdf and children get a copy in their homework books. At the beginning of the year we start with very basic suggestions but get more interesting as the range of topics builds up. After we have done a bit of everything we dabble our way across the curriculum and key competencies.

    Picture 4

    A bit extreme but I have one one occasion podcasted the homework into the classroom when I was home with the flu! If you take a listen you will hear just how sad and crook I was!

    Along with the focus brainstorm each child gets a grid with their homework activities for the week. It builds up over time so that each week has a range of academic, social and cultural segments with a section each week for home work- doing something to help the smooth functioning of home.

    I give out the homework on a Friday and children return it on a Thursday for us to discuss, comment on and for me to write new words in their spelling notebooks for learning. This way gives the kids a whole week to work on it so if they get stuck in they could do it over the weekend and it leaves parents more able to contribute rather than rushing through the Monday-Friday thing with all the workday stresses.

    If there is something on or homework doesn’t get done for a week life goes on but if children just don’t do or say they have left it at home they get a note that goes home to remind them to bring to school so I can help them with sections at lunchtime.

    I have received great positive feedback from parents about my system and I would definitely never go back to the old system.

    People via Twitter and the commenting have told me that the book is by Ian Lillico- you can find out more about him by following this link.

    What do you do for homework in your class?

    Phone a Friend

    My mate Brian Cosby from Nevada recently posted about a very cool gadget for helping children with proof reading and reading aloud with fluency. With 32 lively children in my class the noise level often rises beyond acceptable levels and children need to be reminded to quieten down- especially as our new classroom is attached to the school reception area and everyone and their dog can hear us.Image

    After reading Brian’s post I whipped out to the local hardware store clutching a photo of the laundry extensions from Brian’s blog. The chap at the hardware store was impressed with the weird things that teachers sometimes ask for.

    The next day I gave the new ‘phones’ a try out in class. They were an instant hit- not only for their novelty value but how they helped children to hear what they had written as they read aloud. Using the ‘phone’ children were able to pick up mistakes they might have missed when proof reading on their own. Their voices dropped to an almost whisper as anything louder would shatter your eardrum.

    I am giving it to readers as well as they re-read texts from guided reading lessons.

    I now need to source a few more so that more children can use the technology.

    Learning From The Experts

    Our highlight from last week was a Skype conversation with @NZWaikato’s class at Melville Intermediate in Hamilton. Every year at Appleby we take time to learn our mihi (Maori greeting). Drawing, as we do at Appleby School, from a predominately European background I find it difficult to put the learning into a authentic context. At ULearn09 I had the pleasure of meeting Myles Webb face to face and we set up a plan to have the experts in his class teach my class how to pronounce their mihi. My class is familiar with the traditions that underly how a Skype call is likely to go but Myles’s class had never tried to video Skype before.

    I recorded the various test calls we made along the way while Myles beavered away behind the scenes to get the technology to work. After a number of trials we eventually got the connection going, much to the delight of both classes. Myles did well to get the audio going on his antiquated equipment but in the end couldn’t get the video to go. On the strength of the experience he has since gone out and bought a new webcam. The video below shows the progression of the call from our end. I was so impressed that Arahina was able to teach our girls their mihi so well. I was able to leave the girls alone to get on with it. You can tell over the period of the call the improvement in the korero. It will be great next week when we are able to continue the learning and we will both be able to see each other- we realised that we get a lot of clues as to whose turn it is to speak when we can see each other.

    Pencil or Pen?

    A friend rang me tonight and asked what we do at our school as regards the use of pen or pencil for general writing. At my school everyone from five year olds up use a pen for writing and a pencil for maths.

    I remember when I first started teaching we used pencil pretty much all the time and if you were ‘good’ at writing you got to use a pen and we always used pencil in your maths book. Juniors always had to use a pencil and I spent many happy hours sharpening pencils with my handy Stanley knife. At one stage we accessed a powered pencil sharpener- it only lasted a few days as it was so much fun that everything that could be stuffed in it was and was immediately sharpened to a form a lethal weapon.

    In my class now we use pens all the time apart from maths- why do we do maths in pencil? I have no idea really- just because we do! I have a tray of pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers etc for focus learning groups so that children don’t have to waste time trying to find something to write with. We have class sets of art pencils, felt tip, highlighter and whiteboard pens for children to use.

    I have a personal hatred of liquid twink and will happily use the dry whiteout roller to correct mistakes if needed. Children can buy their own if they want but most let the school buy it for them.

    I take handwriting lessons with my Year Four/Five class on a usually regular basis and recently have started to reward effort and attainment in handwriting by giving them release to practise their typing ability. I have made individual sheets for children to copy the lessons from so they don’t have to peer at a badly written example on the whiteboard and I can model better on a piece of paper than a whiteboard.

    John Greatorex and I collaborated a few years back to create a set of NZ fonts for Apple and PC and I have a copy of this on my computer. It is great to put good examples of WALTs etc on the wall in NZ fonts. I had asked Learning Media to come up with a NZ font ages ago but drew a blank response so outsourced the idea!


    So that’s what I do! The teacher asked if I could help her find out what other people do at other schools. A tweet was needed! I was surprised to find out that most people tend to use pencil in the younger grades and move onto to pen as the children get older.

    So what do you promote in your school and why?

    Teaching Reading Comprehension with Dr Alison Davis

    Teaching Reading Comprehension - Product Details @ Learning Network NZ
    Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with Dr Alison Davis who wrote ‘Teaching Reading Comprehension‘. This was the first non online or in-house PD I have attended this year and it was an excellent day with lots of new ideas about the deeper features of teaching reading comprehension and I wanted to share my take on it to further cement the ideas in my own head before implementing them in my classroom. Along with the theoretical there were lots of practical ideas as well. Alison knows her stuff and it is always good to talk with the people who really know what they are talking about rather than hear the message filtered through someone else’s eyes as you are doing here!

    The focus of the day was on practical metacognition, looking at the pieces of the jigsaw that it means to be a fluent and accurate reader.

    We, as teachers,  can make a difference- we can help children make accelerated progress to improve reading fluency beyond  what a child will do by maturation. There is a need for explicit teaching. Alison started by posing the question, ‘How much focussed reading time do we spend in deep reading instruction- how many minutes a week would it add up to. I have five instructional reading groups in my class and they get 20 or so minutes with me twice a week. Times that by 40 weeks. I had to do the sums a couple of times- I thought I had made a mistake. Allowing for other events that get in the way of instruction Alison has figured that children get a frankly rather pathetic- 12-18 hours of focussed reading instruction a YEAR!!! So how can we made that eighteen hours the most effective as it can be. We need to make the learning time BEFORE and AFTER the focussed reading instruction as good as it can possibly be looking carefully at what the kids are doing when they are not involved in the direct explicit instruction. The Reciprocal Reading approach came from the metacognition theorists- it hooks into what good readers do automatically and explicitly teaches it.

    Knowing when you are learning, knowing when you’re not learning, what to do about it, knowing why you are learning and doing the learning. What strategies (tools) might you use when you are reading?? Like gardening- you have to know there are tools that you could use and then use them- the right tool for the task. Researcher  Michael Pressley found  that there are 40 odd strategies that good readers do to read fluently. Reading is an active activity- not a passive one.

    Before the instruction it is crucial to activate Prior Knowledge.

    Formative assessment WALTs…  We know we have achieved this when… Because… Success criteria- show me… Self and peer assessment as long as there is criteria to assess that your assessing peer can SEE.
    Eg We are learning to visualise what we read because good readers see images as they read. We know we are successful when we tell our buddy what we ‘see’ when we are reading and give a word from the story that gives you a clue to the image that the text invokes.

    Eg Leading to what did you hear when you were reading– what do you hear when the text says ‘said’? How much that word ‘said’ changes the tone of what is happening in the story? Exchange that word ‘said’ with whispered, stated, offered, replied, and the rest.

    Importance of prior knowledge– how important that is- give it more of a place in the reading process- before the lesson with the teacher- giving children an activity the activates prior knowledge. When we talk about prior knowledge of

    • content- do they know about what is happening in the story
    • text selection – eg electricity first lesson might totally on the vocabulary children need to know to access the text
    • structure- main characters, characters, setting plot are things that happen in fiction but it won’t be there if you are going to read a non-fiction text. How an explanation differs from a narrative as a genre.
    • personal knowledge- the personal and cultural prior knowledge that children bring to the text

    Construct generic graphic organisers to give some structure to this. Here comes the plug- buy the ebooks based on our NZ School Journals by yours truly here!

    Example One- before reading a book about fishing have children complete the graphic organiser below to activate prior learning about fishing.

    Allison Davis
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Example Two- This graphic was from a story one of my reading groups had used earlier this week- I had already made this one. I must be doing something right!

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Example Three- Children record the vocabulary they think they are likely to meet in the story and tick them off as they do meet them AND they can also tick off synonyms for those words.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Example Four- Give each child a different picture/vocab from the book and get kids think about what they are going to meet in the story- thinking critically about what they are going to read.

    Anything that brings kids to stickability so that it becomes automaticity.

    Struggling readers use all the cognitive capacity into decoding so that less brain power is available to thinking about what they are reading. They reach a cognitive overload- there is just so much new stuff going on that child reaches overload.

    For things to stick it has give kids something to hook their new learning into and it gives you some information on what holes and gaps that they bring to prior learning. I liken this a bit to putting the full stops in when writing. It has to be so STUCK that you don’t even really need to think about it- you just do it.

    The Thinking Aloud Strategy- making the strategies accessible to others by verbalising, telling others the processes, thoughts and ideas that you used to make meaning from texts. Describe what you did with your prior learning, make learning process visible to yourself and others- like we do in maths.

    Knowing what ‘good’ comprehenders do-

    • The ability to decode- phonemic awareness and knowledge, phonics and word attack skills
    • Basic sight words- and strategies to work these out- read and SPELL in isolation and in context to automaticity- overtly taught- really high priority- a lot of them are not phonemic- so you have to get them BY SIGHT- they are high frequency in their own right but also because they are inside other words as well.
    • Wide vocabulary- oral as well. The words need to be in there to start with!
    • Fluency and strategies to be fluent- out loud, absolute need for prior knowledge- REPEATED READING. Kids need this so less of their brain is taken up with the decoding/struggling and more can be left over for comprehending.
    • Accuracy and strategies for accuracy
    • Comprehension and strategies for comprehension- main idea, summarising…

    But each of these bullet points is itself huge.

    So when the kids are not with you kids should be…..

    Repeatedly reading
    Word recognition- what to do when I come I don’t know
    Basic sight words
    Developing vocabulary
    Focussing on accuracy
    Maintenance of past taught- like visualisation

    WORD RECOGNITION– Pg43 targeted observation of what to do when you don’t know- word strategies- making connections with spelling learning. A note here- I have always been a big fan of whole language learning and this focus on phonemes and the like has me close to the edge of my cognitive overload! I remember when my teachers tried to teach me long and short vowels I just could not hear the difference even though I was OK reader. It wasn’t until I tried to teach it that it sort of started to make sense to me.

    Phonemic Awareness  a phoneme is the smallest sound you can hear in a word- eg d, dad, d-a-d. Whereas phonemic awareness is phonics when you see them written down. The 26 letters of the alphabet produce 43-46 sounds- long and short vowels are actually important eg cut/cute AND when you add a suffix that starts with i you loose the e- that sort of thing.

    • Teach the most common rules- hard and soft sounds like hard c/ soft c. Understanding that there are exceptions but not that many with the more important ones.
    • Segmenting and blending d-o-g
    • Multi-syllabic words – list-en-ing
    • Morphological – the knowledge of the rules like compound words, suffixes, root words ( I say ‘base word’ cos my kids snigger when I say ‘root’.)
    • All of the ways that you can write that long ā sound- slay, straight, made, neighbor, prey, rein, rain, great,
    • Make word lists that involve seeing the pattern that the one sound can be represented in different ways, play games based around recognising the patterns.
    • Explicit teaching includes demonstration, explanation, information (what, why, when) scaffolded practice- guided to independent use, planned transfer access curricula, student demonstration, explanation and self reflection. Equipping kids with a range of tools they can use when they come to a word they don’t know.
    • Onset and rime– there is a list of the most common rimes- Ake, ain, ake, all, ane, an, ank, ap, ask, at, ate, aw, ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ide etc…. I thought Alison had spelt rhyme wrong at this point- just to show my ignorance!
    • Peeling away to shorter more understandable words eg un-surpris-ing-ly
    • How would you help a child decode ‘hospital’ page 47 or ‘benefit’; beneafit, benifit, beneyfit- are the spelling mistakes kids making phonetically acceptable. Spelling Under Scrutiny is something else I have been exploring this year also.

    Things to do when you know that you don’t know a word

    • Sounding out
    • Vowel alert-
    • Tricky part alert
    • Rhyming
    • Peeling off the extras
    • Look for little words inside
    • Look for the syllables
    • Read on/ read through

    A new section on TKI to help teachers with this learning… Click on the graphic to take you there…

    Home - Sounds and Words
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Vocabulary Acquisition

    Looking up in a dictionary won’t advance stickability. Many new words are learned indirectly. ALL kids need to be read to, older kids just as much as little kids. Ask a bookstore near you with staff who know kids books or the National Library.

    Even ‘little words’ have big meanings. For example do a dictionary search for the little word ‘run’ use Dictionary on the Apple and if you are on line. They give 179 meanings for run- run up, run down, run in, run out…….

    Before reading- subject specific vocab- don’t be afraid to teach the vocabulary particularly if its subject specific. New vocab needs to be taught in context AND morphology in tandem to enhance vocabulary learning. Pg 106

    • SPOTLIGHTING- Teacher writes a list of the vocab that might be challenging. Spotlight the words- seek and destroy. If there are red words we need to teach the meaning and its root word.
    • RED if you have no idea- we need to learn these words
    • ORANGE I have a bit of an idea- talk about them
    • GREEN–  I am sure I know that word- look at the green words- is it a word with more that one meaning. What is the meaning of that word in this text.

    Loosing me a bit here after lunch and being a Friday afternoon and all……. Just found a free wifi access, checking mail, why won’t Twitter allow me to post…. Drifting……. Drifting……. Re-focus……

    • FOCUS on the base word eg if you don’t know ‘sustainability’ but you do know sustain then you are much better placed to keep the meaning of what you are reading.
    • Tier Words- Tier One Words– most frequently used- sight vocabulary- the must haves. Tier Two Words– frequently used- what are the words that are most important for children to know about Tier Three– subject specific- not often occurring in instruction to learn on as ‘on need to know’ basis.


    Again some graphic organisers

    Organiser One– synonym web- the word in the middle and synonyms spider out from it.

    Organiser Two– The Cline- put the words into steps- rate the word on a scale-

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Organiser Three– Word Families- build the family eg happy, unhappy, happily, unhappily happiest, happiness, happier. Then talk about the  grammar of these words- which of these is a noun, adjective etc

    Sketch the word. How would you sketch a word like sustainability but as you do you explain why you drew that, write your own definition, write the clues for it when used in a crossword puzzle, cloze procedure and the discussion that surrounds the marking of tense, syntactically or grammatically correct.

    Focus on a word- in your teaching group…

    • Someone finds the base word
    • Someone finds a definition
    • Someone finds a synonym
    • Someone finds a example
    • Someone finds a antonym

    Categorising Page 92 eg  focus on the word ‘irresistible’ find a place that is irresistible, a person who is irresistible, an event that is irresistible- cements the meaning of the word into your schema (things that you know)- stickability.


    Teaching Children to use these strategies for understanding reading, to learn a number of different strategies either intentionally or unintentionally, used before, during and after, direct and intentional teaching is effective in promoting reading comprehension.

    • Summarising
    • Construction of mental images, visualising
    • Question generation and question answering during reading
    • Activation of prior knowledge
    • Prediction of up coming content
    • Inference
    • Clarification
    • Analysis and synthesis
    • Evaluation
    • Self monitoring
    • Ability to correct faulty comprehension

    And at that stage we finished up the day. I found the challenging and informative and could well have spent longer delving more deeply but it was time well spent with some easy to construct and useful ideas for taking back to my classroom and sharing with teachers. Thanks Alison

    Putting this post together was a bit of a mission but blogging it helps me ‘stick’ the learning in my own head if nothing else.

    Greg Carroll added a really useful link to his post on a similar theme that I post here in case you don’t have a mind to read the comments directly.