Thursday, 16 April 2015

BYOD: Making it Mobile 2015

These are notes I took at the BYOD 2015 conference. They may (or may not) make sense!

Explain, reflect, and demonstrate learning through creation (Fiona Grant)

  • Google educator group
  • Google plus GEG NZ
  • Comments positive, specific, helpful, thoughtful, ask a question
  • GEG NZ events once a month- hangouts.
  • Use in school community to share readings with teachers
  • Want more face to face events
  • Hangouts (different from hangouts on air - broadcast live on YouTube)
  • Hangouts similar to Skype. Can use in classroom to connect with other schools
  • Schools can use hangouts on air to broadcast events. Need conversation with management. Can use a Page rather than profile. Needs to be under school domain.

The Student Perspective (Felicity Timings)

  • Research to evaluate success of BYOD
  • Every student surveyed
  • Year 7 - new toy, novelty, social media, home use monitored
  • BYOD preferred - isolated, anxiety
  • Students off task more so than teachers think
  • Device use during breaks
  • Do they behave differently when they got their devices
  • Kids felt they needed help with managing their devices
  • Identified learning advantages and disadvantages
  • Mix of handwriting and typing
  • Printing issues
  • iPads vs laptops - iPads seen as more of a toy distraction, laptops more work focussed
  • iPads - camera is too accessible, google docs not great, I messaging, snapchat
  • Facebook - groups for school problem
  • Year 7 banned use of devices in break time
  • Staff PLD -inconsistent use and skill levels
  • Digital citizenship - skill levels low,taught specifically, turnitin
  • Distraction more awareness, user protocol, PB4L
  • Printing - student hand in work online or by hand, hoping for cloud based
  • Home behaviour - newsletter column
  • Handwriting - both available
  • High multi-tasking children - harder to focus, more distraction, much worse social and emotional development
  • Important to practice face to face interaction.

Making learning visible and engaging in a digital learning environment (Matt Goodwin and Karen Belt)

  • Making learning visible and engaging in a digital learning environment
  • Learn create share
  • Accessible to all, visible to all, feedback from all over the world, blogging challenge, high engagement and motivation
  • Visible planning through Google sites
  • Visible learning through student blogs
  • Visible learning to teacher dashboard
  • Visible learning to whanau via Parent portal
  • Hapara
  • Enables students to start work straight away - they know where to look for what they should be doing
  • Plan online, create templates via drive, share using sites, review via teacher dashboard
  • Padlet - vocabulary task
  • Explain everything - (year) - first few weeks establishing routines, kaka of care
  • Create lessons on iPad and upload to hapara
  • Personalise projects - work for guided reading
  • Use record function in Explain Everything
  • Share learning 3-4 times per week via blog
  • Blog from y1 - 8
  • Oral language emphasis
  • Some choice in learning
  • Use of icons to communicate to non readers
  • Model all activities first
  • First page highly scaffolded later pages more independent
  • Use QR codes to direct students to curated content - follow up with oral discussion. Gave choice

Learn, create, share for teachers (Dorothy Burt)

  • Learning is active and social
  • Sharing includes reflection
  • Sharing implies that you have finished something
  • Finishing - hugely important for people who haven't experienced success
  • Ready to share =finished. More than just the teacher sees it
  • Children learning laterally from each other
  • Children capture learning process, have it in accessible location, outside boundaries of classroom
  • Do something once - not learned. Put it somewhere you can find it again. Rewind own thinking
  • Anything we want our young people to learn, we need to be modelling.
  • Key competencies - we need to model these. Life-long learners, active, connected
  • Teachers have different ways of capturing learning. Sylvia duckworth
  • What do you do to capture professional learning.
  • Sharing - how do you share?
  • VLN -
  • What percentage of teachers give back?
  • How to capture PLD in schools. Is it digital?
  • Teaching as inquiry - part of it creating and sharing
  • Make learning process rewindable
  • Manaiakalani google+ community
  • @teachinquire

Site tour of Hobsonville Point Primary School

In the last session I took the opportunity to do a tour of HPPS. It's open plan design is very different to the classroom that I will be taking over in just over a week.
But as Mark Osbourne said in a session I attended last year, it is not about the furniture, it is about the pedagogy. And there were plenty of examples that can be incorporated into any classroom.

Visible Planning

 Student voice

Making learning visible

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Power of Self Assessment

It is one thing having someone tell you how well you have performed in a task. It is quite another to review your own performance. The power of self-assessment was really brought home to me tonight.

One of my sons is learning to play the trumpet and, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, is finding it hard going. Tonight I decided to video him while he practised. Because he can't hear himself when he plays, he finds it hard to work out what he needs to practice. When he saw the results played back, he instantly became aware of the areas he needed to work on.

Children can be pretty astute assessors of their own work when given the opportunity. We adults just need to make sure they have the tools available to make it happen.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

I was browsing Twitter the other day and came across this tweet from Bron Stuckey:

Seeing that sign made me think about the still prevalent attitude that playing computer games is anti-social. So many people ignore the sense of community that forms when children (or adults) share a passionate interest in gaming.

Real friendships have blossomed over a shared passion for games like Minecraft. I have seen the power of connections made through games in my students, especially those who aren't part of the "cool" group. It often allows these children to be "experts" who are sought out by others. This can be pretty powerful for kids who are a bit on the outer.

As a teacher, I have used my (rather meagre) game knowledge to make connections with my students. Being able to converse with a student about Minecraft directly led to that child feeling confident and eager to include the game in their writing. For a very reluctant writer, that was pretty huge.

Of course not all libraries discourage games. Auckland Libraries run several gamer focussed activities. And who knows, maybe the kids will pick up a book or two while they are there

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Colour Thesaurus

I saw this on Twitter and thought it was pretty cool. I know I sometimes struggle to picture the difference between "azure" and "cerulean". I think this would be a great resource to help expand vocabulary.

The original post is here.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Supporting children with reading and writing difficulties week 6


  • Allow for extra time
  • bigger font size - 14 Ariel
  • Allow computer
  • Define words
  • Teach spelling of subject specific vocab
  • Don't double side pages - dyslexic learners often miss the verso side of the page
  • Don't take off marks for spelling, especially if it is not the competency being measured
  • When evaluating spelling allow for modified marking - eg if they get 20 words to learn, tell dyslexic child to write the ones they think they know and their mark is how many they got correct vs how many they attempted.
  • Read questions aloud unless evaluating reading
  • Use visuals to support input as well as manual-kinaesthetic 
  • Evaluate one aspect of the writing eg spelling, grammar, punctuation...
  • Write the correct answer for spelling. Circle correct words
  • Provide students with multiplication tables for maths
  • Provide a summary of the lesson rather than get them to write it. Get them to highlight key words (for example ) so that they are not passive.
  • Evaluate orally rather than in writing
  • Discuss a mistake as a positive thing eg over-generalisation can talk about the rules and the exceptions
  • Celebrate progress.
  • Text -to - speech conversion
  • Record questions
  • History - allow for use of computer, vocabulary, define words, bigger fonts, they may reverse dates - don't penalise them for that, allow for use of mind maps
  • Maths - have multiplication tables next to them, display four basic operations, evaluate reasoning and result separately, simplify instructions, allow use of computer/calculator

Technology Aids Reading

  • Programs may have been superseded by something more useful
  • Text to speech; annotation tools (on and offline); change visual appearance of text (colour, contrast, font, letter spacing, smaller window?); organisational tools for collating information from multiple text sources
  • Text to speech - AT bar (text to speech, magnify text, take images, use dictionary); 
  • Change visual appearance of text - eg change background/text colour; 
  • Annotation - eg increasing letter spacing. Voice Dream includes this.
  • Size of Windows - a guide for lines, text in columns. Try what works with individual students. 
  • Organisational tools - Evernote, Trello (project management tool, allows different people in a team to log in, assign tasks to different people), reminders
  • Give responsibility to students to choose apps that work for them

Aids for Writing

  • Pre-writing - graphic organisers, mind maps etc. Kidsperartion. Pre-planning is VERY important for children with dyslexia. We have a tendency to rush the pre-writing stage and it is important that this doesn't happen with dyslexic learners.
  • Writing - text expander - shortcut so that don't have to type whole word - Phrase Express, Let Me Type; Live scribe digital pen audio records the writing (for notetaking); Ginger spell checker - takes into account context; Speech to text tools - use with caution with younger children because of the frustrations involved in training the software, also has difficulty with accents, hard to speak in the same way that you write so might add cognitive demands rather than reduce them

Aids for Memory

  • Can we increase our memory? Science isn't clear
  • Software to increase memory span - some evidence that can increase specific skill you are training but unsure how generalised this skill is
  • If we know that auditory memory is vulnerable, support it with our other senses eg images, videos, manipulating objects
  • Overlearning things - once introduced word, then get them to do more active retrieval, repetition of word over time (Word Generation)
  • Chunking - instructions are in chunks so that they can be remembered (eg digit span test)
  • Front-load key information - say action verb in instruction early on; give visual back-up
  • Think of a signal the child can give that they don't understand that won't be obvious to other children
  • Record instructions

Aids for Organisation

  • People with dyslexia may also have problems with things in time and space
  • Can be seen as a motivational thing rather than related to dyslexia
  • Scaffold some planning strategies
  • Orientation in time (timetabling, planning) - eg timetable using symbols and pictures to aid memory
  • Timetables in multiple places
  • Timetables that make sense for the student = collaborative effort
  • Give students content before hand so they can plan
  • When setting homework allow some time in class so misunderstandings can be clarified

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing - Week 5

Multisensory Teaching Practice

Auditory Discovery

  • Children listen to the words and identify the common sound (fog, careful, sift, refill, funny, cliff, often, fight).

Visual Discovery

  • Give list of words - children circle the letter that makes the sound.
  • They don't need to read the word.
  • What is the name of the letter?


  • "Catch" each f by circling it, keeping pen on the paper in between.

Oral Kinaesthetic Discovery

  • Try to feel what is happening with our bodies when we say f.
  • Put hands on neck and feel the difference in sound between f and v.
  • When we pronounce f, the vocal chords are not moving
  • Tongue - explore movement with children. It can move in all directions. How does it move when we say f? Sh? Ss? When saying f, tongue is against your teeth.
  • Teeth and lips - pronounce f and s. What difference do you see? When you say f, lips are closed, can't see teeth.

Manual Kinaesthetic Discovery

  • Read words with fingers, not eyes.
  • Use cards with raised letters - can you read the word?


  • Cover eyes with blindfold.
  • Read words with fingers.
  • Use counters to count the number of syllables in a word.
  • Then put hand under jaw to count syllables. How many times did your jaw touch your hand?
  • Write the word with a line after each syllable.
  • For long words, use your thumb to split the word into syllables.

The Alphabet

  • Lay alphabet in the shape of a rainbow so that you can see all of the letters.


  • Blap is from planet Gizoom.
  • What sounds do you hear in the name Blap? Put a counter down for each sound.
  • Find words (real or imaginary) that end the same way as Blap.

Revision of Reading Cards

  • Review short and long sounds for vowels and the sounds for consonants/blends.
  • Say the clue word, children say the first sound they hear in the word.

Teaching Phonological Awareness and the Alphabetic Principle

  • Start with shorter words and move on to longer words.
  • Use the Blap "alien" to work through the assessment tasks.
  • Use counters/objects to help teach phonological awareness. Ideally, different colours - syllables, two shades of same colour to represent onset and rime and a colour for the phoneme.
  • Have wooden/ plastic alphabet for touch. Get children to write the letters. Start with upppercase because less confusion between letters.
  • Must make sure child has a thorough understanding of the alphabet.
  • Dyslexic children may not be able to tell you which letter comes before or after a target letter, although they are able to recite the alphabet.
  • Five minutes a day work on alphabet - use in a rainbow shape.
  • Ask them to lay letters out and put their hands on their mouth and throat so they can feel the movement.
  • Close eyes. What letter comes before another? If they get stuck, ask them to feel the letter.
  • Have a word in your head. Each child has one letter. They have to listen to each other the work out what the word is.
  • Auditory discovery of phoneme - series of words where the target phoneme is at the beginning, middle and end of the word.
  • Visual - circle the grapheme relating to the phoneme you are working on.
  • Write the word in the air, in sand trays etc.
  • Tracking - have the letter in different fonts/forms
  • Reading cards to use for revision. Important to reinforce the grapheme-phoneme correspondences.
  • Spelling cards - when teaching the spelling of phonemes always start with the more frequent graphemes (eg first f, then ff, then ph).
  • Children can review reading cards each day - say the clue word, say the phoneme, and then turn over the card to see if they are correct.

Multisensory Techniques

  • Working in structure - don't put child in a situation where they haven't seen the grapheme/ phoneme link in a multisensory link.
  • Give the children self-correction tools so that children can self-correct
  • Reading - grouping words into families - teach explicitly with colour coding
  • Reading - helping children separate longer words into smaller sections eg syllables.  Underline the phonemes, cross out the silent letters, separate the syllables.
  • Make a reading pack of irregular words
  • Spelling - teach cursive writing because each time the pen is lifted from he paper. the more chance of error for a dyslexic learner (American dnealian). 
  • How to teach regular/irregular words.
  • Regular - SOS (Simultaneous Oral Spelling) 
  • Irregular words - LSWC - Look Cover Write Check
  • Sentence dictation - allow child to read the text before you dictate it. Child says back sentence. Teacher dictates sentence, students write it. Pupils read what they have written. Find mistakes.
  • Tricks to remember spelling.


  • Try strategies with students to see what works with those students.
  • Use audio books to allow children to access content when you are not focussing on working on the text.
  • Be aware of font when creating worksheets etc. San serif fonts like Ariel, size 14 with letters a little more widely spaced can make things easier to read. Double spaced too.
  • When presenting a text to a child:
  1. Verbal preparation, preview difficult words in the text, what do they know about the topic?
  2. KWL - knowledge, what do I want to learn, what have I learned?
  3. When the child is reading - self-monitoring eg re-read sentences, look up words. Stop  - what did that just say? What words didn't they know?
  4. Active processing of the text - asking children to recall, get children to sequence chunks, students take on role of teacher and ask questions of a student or a peer.
  • Reading Rockets website, Reading Educator website.
  • What kind of text is it? Different strategies for different types. How is the text organised?
  • Visualisation, mind maps. Use visual imagery for comprehension. Is it useful for the child in front of you (not always useful)
  • Mind maps can be used to plan writing


  • Pre-writing stage - bring together background knowledge, make sure student knows exactly what is expected from the writing. Brainstorm, mind-maps, get the ideas down.
  • Karen Harris researcher
  • Organisation - structures.
  • Try to make writing task authentic
  • Think about audience - who am I addressing?
  • Drafting - then edit
  • Editing - part of the process. Make process explicit
  • MAPS - Meaning, agreement (grammatical), punctuation, spelling
  • Use writing strategically - do they need to demonstrate their knowledge via writing?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Māori Greetings Spinner

I want to put together a set of resources to use for a te reo lapbook so thought I would start with simple greetings. It occurred to me that I could use a spinner element to show the different greetings you use for one, two and more people in te reo Māori and so that is what I made.

My illustration skills are rudimentary and my Adobe Illustrator skills are virtually non-existent, so I used a tutorial from the Guardian How to Draw series to help me make some cute little aliens for my spinner.

I have made two sizes. The original printed on A4 paper and works fine but the drawings are quite small to colour (perhaps blow up to A3?). This version has some brief instructions.

The slightly larger version that prints on two A4 sheets. The pictures are still quite small, so I have included a colour one as well as black and white.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

CS002x Programming in Scratch

I have just completed week 2 of the EDx CS002x Programming in Scratch course. I have played around a little bit in Scratch in the past but never really got a handle on it. The course has provided a structure that, for me, helps me to learn a little more easily. The videos are especially good at explaining concepts. The quizzes can be a little intrusive - I think that more hands on experimenting would be better than multi-choice questions. Having said that, I did manage to make a very simple game. I even figured out how to get the bat to fly around myself! Baby steps :)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Reflection: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann!"

I requested the book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann! from the library on a whim after seeing it recommended as one of the best books about a scientist. It is an odd read. Basically, it consists of transcripts of stories told to Ralph Leighton by the Nobel Prize winning scientist, Richard Feynmann. He had a pretty interesting life, including working on the atom bomb during World War 2. He was also clearly loved telling a story (also was a bit of a smartass and had some fairly dodgy attittudes towards women by modern standards). What surprised me was that, in addition to his science, he clearly loved teaching and had some strong opinions about it. In particular, the chapter about his experiences on a committee choosing a maths textbook for schools is eye-opening and pretty depressing. I found myself noting down some of the things he had to say (below). Not a perfect book but I felt it was a fascinating glimpse into the life of an extraordinary person.

"I don't know what's the matter with people: they don't learn by understanding; they learn by some other way - by rote, or something. Their knowledge is so fragile! (p36-7)

"After the lecture, the guy who had invited me said, "Well, how did you like it?" "Just fine," I said. "The only part I didn't understand was the part about lecithin. What is lecithin?"The guy begins to explain in a monotonous voice: "All living creatures, both plant and animal, are made of little brick-like objects called 'cells' ...""Listen," I said, impatiently, "I know all that; otherwise I wouldn't be in the course. What is lecithin?""I don't know." (p71)

"So because I was self-taught using that book, I had peculiar methods of doing integrals....I got a great reputation for doing integrals, only because my box of tools was different from everybody else's...." (p87)

"The trouble with computers is you play with them. They are so wonderful." (in Los Alamos 1940s)  p 127

"Then they came to work, and what they had to do was work on IBM machines - punching holes, numbers that they didn't understand. I said that the first thing there has to be is that these technical guys know what we are doing....Complete transformation! They began to invent ways of doing it better." p128

"If you're teaching a class, you can think about the elementary things you know very well. These things are kind of fun and delightful. It doesn't do any harm to think them over again. Is there a better way to present them? Are there any new thoughts you can make about them? The elementary things are easy to think about; if you can't think of a new thought, no harm done; what you thought about it before is good enough for the class. If you do think of something new, you're rather pleased that you have a new way of looking at it. The questions of students are often the source of new research." p 166

"I finally figured out that the students had memorized everything, but that they didn't know what anything meant. When they heard "light that is reflected from a medium with an index," they didn't know that it meant a material such as water. They didn't know that the "direction of the light" is the direction in which you see something when you are looking at it, and so on. Everything was entirely memorise, yet nothing could be translated into meaningful words." p212-3
 Note: Feynman memorised things like log table that enabled him to do calculations in his head very quickly by thinking about numbers that were close, ie approximation. The difference is that he UNDERSTOOD the maths. Having the facts to hand just enabled him to work more easily and to spot patterns.
"I taught a course at the engineering school on mathematical methods in physics, in which I tried to show how to solve problems by trial and error... After the lecture some students came up to me in a little delegation, and told me that I didn't understand the backgrounds that they have, that they can study without doing the problems, that they have learned arithmetic, and that this stuff was beneath them....One other thing I could never get them to do was to ask questions. Finally, a student explained it to me: "If I ask a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We are trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question.'" p214-5

"I had this uneasy feeling of "I'm not adequate," until finally I said to myself, "I'm gonna stop, and read  one sentence slowly, so I can figure out what the hell it means."
So I stopped - at random - and read the next sentence very carefully. I can't remember it precisely, but it was very close to this: "The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels." I went back and forth over it and translated. You know what it means? "People read." p281

New maths
"The purpose was to enhance mathematics for the children who found it dull.
I'll give you an example:They would talk about different bases of numbers - five, six, and so on - to show the possibilities. That would be interesting for a kid who could understand base ten - something to entertain his mind. But what they had turned it into, in these books, was that every child had to learn another base! And then the usual horror would come: "Translate these numbers, which are written in base seven, to base five." Translating from one base to another is an utterly useless thing. If you can do it, maybe it's entertaining; if you can't do it, forget it. There's no point to it.
Anyhow, I'm looking at all these books, all these books and none of them has said anything about using arithmetic in science. If there are any examples on the use of arithmetic at all (most of the time it's this abstract new modern nonsense), they are about things like buying stamps." p292-3

"I think ordinary people with common-sense ideas are intimidated by this pseudo-science. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way - or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one." p 340

"It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty- a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid - not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked - to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can - if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong - to explain it....
In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another." p341

Feynman, Richard P. (1992) "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann!" Adventures of a Curious Character as told to Ralph Leighton. London: Vintage Books

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Why do we learn to write?

I was in a class of newly minted year 3s the other day and, as part of our lesson on full stops and capital letters, I asked them why we learned writing. The children had many answers including:

  • so that our work is neater
  • so we know how to write out letters
  • to make our hands stronger
One child suggested it was so they could learn to write letters. That was the only answer that came close to addressing the real purpose of writing - communication! It reminded me of another time when I asked some year 5s why we learned maths (apparently so that they could teach the times tables to their children!)

Experiences like these have reinforced for me the importance of making sure that students know the "why" and not just the "what".

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Getting on Board with Vision Boards

To help keep me on track on my "one little word" project, I signed up for Ali Edwards' class. Each month she gives a "creative prompt to help you make your word more visible in your life". This month the prompt was making a vision board. This was a pretty new concept to me and when I found out it was related to the so-called "Law of Attraction", I wasn't that enthusiastic about making one. But, seeing as my word is DO, I put my doubts and misgivings aside and decided to give it a go.

Ali included a very helpful video in the class about the process she used to make her board. First, grab some magazines that you can cut up. I used what I had on hand (Taste, Photoshop User and Education Aotearoa). They were all old and heading for the paper recycle bin so it felt good to use them for something. Next, flip through the magazines and cut out any images or words that appeal to you. This is the "brainstorm" part of the process.
I put my cuttings in a plastic bin as I knew that I was not going to make my board until the next day (I wanted to separate the "idea generation" process from the "making" process).

Ali used a canvas for her vision board but I didn't want to buy anything so I re-purposed a piece of corrugated cardboard from a box. When I started sorting through my clippings, I realised that I would need to have at least some kind of structure to work from. So I decided to grab the images first to use them as a base for my finished board. I arranged them first without gluing and when I had something I was happy with, I stuck them down. I was fortunate to find a large image (Make Some Thing) that I think works well as an anchor for the rest of the board (and relates to my word).
Finally, I sorted through the words, selecting those that "spoke" to me or that worked with my word. Again, I arranged them on my board and shifted things around until I was happy with the way it looked. I am reasonably happy with the final product (but happier just to have gone through the process).

It would be an interesting (and relatively cheap) process to do with kids. It would be a great way to spark discussion on design principles like grouping, use of colour, size of elements, use of lines (straight and curved), symbols, fonts etc and how they used them (or decided not to) in their work.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lapbook 101

I didn't really know anything about "lapbooking" until I stumbled across a few pins on Pinterest. It seems to be very big in the home schooling community in the US although I am not sure how much it is used in schools.

It looked quite interesting so I thought I would have a go at making a sample lapbook using some of the more commonly used minibooks. I bought some cheap manilla folders at the Warehouse and, seeing as this is a sample and I wanted it to be somewhat sturdy, I used lightweight card for the books. For some of the books, I used templates made by The Candy Class. These templates come with detailed instructions in both pdf and Powerpoint form which would be very handy if you were using them with a class.

The lapbook was not difficult to make. I would imagine that the main challenge would be planning what kinds of books/information would work best for the topic you are doing. I am thinking about making one for my pepeha, which might make a good back to school activity.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing - Week 4


  • Important that schools respond to individual differences.
  • Teaches children to be open to differences.
  • Less expensive than specialised schools.
Early identification important as is getting parent and community involvement.
Learning happens when there is active participation from the child.

Successful inclusion in Finland:
  • All learners sharing the same classroom
  • No wall between children with special needs and others
  • Children taken individually at the back of classroom by a specialist

Reports on Reading

Key components of learning to read:
  • Explicit teaching of phonological and phonemic awareness
  • Explicit teaching of the grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPC)
  • Both reinforce the other
Phonological activities should focus on rimes in English because of the importance of rimes in English.
Systematic teaching of GPC is better than other methods such as whole word, whole language, especially for dyslexic (Ehri et al, 2000).

  • Best training is the teaching of GPC
  • Phonological awareness is paramount
  • Such teaching should be multi-sensory, with tokens (or blocks) that can be manipulated  
  • Such training benefits all children, expecially those with dyslexia and those from lower SES

General Principles

Four principles:
  • Structured and sequential - associate colours with subjects. establish learning objectives, revisit same topic several times in different way. Structure corresponds to frequency of letters in the language. Logical progression in teaching the grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPC). From high-frequency simple concepts to low frequency concepts of more complexity. Simple digraphs (sh-) before more complex (-tion). Old English words, then Latin and French words, then Greek based letter groups. Phonics progression chart (Milne).Suffix that added to base word taught before suffixes that change the base word.
  • Phonics based- global methods are bad for dyslexic learners. They also induce social-economical effects.
  • Multi-sensory - combining a maximum of entries to the brain, simultaneously. Let children feel what is happening in their throat, mouth etc when they say words. Also manual eg when writing, touch. Must be structured, sequential, cumulative, each step mastered before moving on, memory training. Diagnostic - adapt teaching strategy depending on reaction of learner.
  • Metacognitive - constant self-questioning - how do I learn this? how will I remember? what approach is required for this task or problem? how did I succeed in a similar situation? Induces a feeling of control that is good for self-esteem. Relies on two principles: succeeding is not random, it involves a strategy, to overcome a difficulty, one must measure the extent of the incomprehension. Dyslexics often have weak memory.
What can you do to help?
  • Dyslexics will need more time to automatise processes owing to weak memory, both for storing and accessing knowledge.
  • Offer a pause for reflection every now and again and then you propose a solution to a problem, each validated strategy is put on the board, each then becomes a resource person who can help others. Card with steps on it. How did they get the answer?

Subject Specific Principles


  • Reduce literacy demands so student can access subject
  • Heavy language load - long, may sound/look similar
  • Instructions - experiment design etc
  • Memory load in instructions in class
  • Don't rely on verbal instructions, written as well
  • Instructions sequenced into short, manageable chunks
  • Prior warning of topic so they have time to pre-process some of the text
  • More repetition of terms, word walls
  • Different forms of assessment, not just written report eg video, powerpoint
If child not responding to phonics - may not have the oral language to access content, group may not be a good place for student, negative thinking (I can't do this), variety of presentation/texts. As a teacher you can never rely on one thing. What is working/not working for THIS child. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

There's an app for that - Mobile Doc Scanner 3 (MDScan)

I am a bit of an operating system agnostic. I have a Windows PC, an iPad2 and an Android phone so I use a variety of programmes and applications and thought that I might post occasionally about a few that I have found to be most helpful in the classroom.

Mobile Doc Scanner 3 is one of the most useful apps on my phone. It does pretty much what it says on the box - turns your phone into a scanner. What makes it cool are the tools it uses to improve the quality of your scans. It corrects the perspective so that they look less "wonky". It also corrects the colour depending on the type of document which means for example that text documents have bright, white backgrounds, not grey. There are several useful output options including PDF and it is a simple process to email your documents or upload to something like Dropbox.

I first used this app in the classroom when I was sitting in on another teacher's lesson. She commented that she would have liked to have a document on the whiteboard but hadn't had time to scan it. I pulled out my phone, used the app to photograph the document and emailed to the teacher. She had it up on the board in just over a minute.

Another time this app came in handy was in one of my relief classes. The children had been working in groups on an activity and I wanted to make it easy for them to share their work at the end of the lesson. Out came the phone and within a couple of moments, the children's work was being projected on the class IWB. This had the added advantage that the children could annotate documents as they shared their thinking.

There is a free "Lite" version but I have found this app so useful that I had no hesitation paying a few dollars for the full app. As far as I know, it is only available on the Android platform but if you happen to have a suitable device, it is well worth the download.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Why I Can't Let Some Things Go

My One Word for 2015 is DO. One thing I am (finally) doing is decluttering the house, more specifically the room we euphemistically refer to as the "study". Our study is "that room" - the one where stuff gets put when we need to get it out of the way or out of sight. No more (hopefully). A new broom has swept through and large quantities of stuff (mainly paper) is now awaiting the recycling collection. I have been pretty ruthless. Scrapbooking, photoshop, and photography magazines have been consigned to the bin (with a few useful pages ripped out for future reference). Books and equipment have been put in a box to go on Trademe. Old school exercise books and worksheets - gone. But there has been one exception - my kids' writing books. They are staying.

I can't let the writing books go because they are a glimpse into the minds of my children at a certain age. That person no longer exists. They have got older, changed, moved on to different interests. The kid who wrote endless stories about TV cartoons in year 1 has now written an alternative ending to Romeo and Juliet (one of the few pieces of writing I have been allowed to see recently and it was damned good!) Their stories make me smile and bring back memories. I am keeping them.

What does this have to do with education? Well this experience got me wondering whether we as teachers do enough to share our students' writing with their whanau. Blogs are useful but I guess I am old-fashioned enough to like something more tangible. Last year, I made a number of class books filled with the childrens' writing which were extremely popular (they were more usually found in desks than the bookshelf). I realise now that what I should have done at the end of the year was disassemble them and remake a book for each child to take home. They could have even designed a cover for it. Next time.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Lurking on Twitter

Recently I have been reflecting on the role Twitter plays in my life. Over the last week, some of the local female tweeters I follow left because they felt unsafe. Then there was this tweet from @whatedsaid about tweets that don't add value. Most of it sounded like my own "contribution" to Twitter. Stephanie posted a follow up blog post on tweets that add value. That didn't sound much like me either. So given that I am not exactly setting the Twittersphere alight with my wit and wisdom and it is a medium that has its risks, why do I still use it?

For me, Twitter is all about information. When I joined Twitter in 2008, I was a stay at home, digi-scrapbooking mum looking to improve my photography so I mainly followed photographers, scrapbookers, photoshop experts and a few other random people that I found interesting. When I did my teacher training I started following people involved in education. It has pretty much continued from there. I like following a variety of people. It helps widen my perspective and gives me access to voices I don't hear on the usual channels. I suppose I tend to treat Twitter more like radio than a conversation, so I don't get wound up about who actually follows (or doesn't follow) me.

Twitter has also opened me up to opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. The #edchatnz conference was one. Getting involved with the #twitteraunties is another. Both are the result of people with a purpose leveraging the power of social media to make the world a better place and are a reminder that Twitter is not all nastiness and trolling. That is the side of Twitter that I like and that is what keeps me tweeting (even if they are only cat pictures).

Saturday, 3 January 2015

One Little Word

One of the things I love about Twitter is how sometimes it throws up something that really resonates with where I am at the moment. The other day it was Stephanie's post about her #blogaday challenge. Today, it was a link to this post by Lisa Dabbs about the One Little Word challenge.  I thought that this sounded familiar. Sure enough, Lisa linked through to Ali Edwards' site.  I knew Ali from my scrapbooking days. I own several of her books and even met her when she came to NZ in 2006.

I remember when she started her One Little Word challenge. It didn't grab me then. Just the pressure of choosing a word to live with throughout the year seemed too much. So I forgot about it and got on with things. Fast forward to 2015 and a few life changes. I suddenly realised when I saw Lisa'a post that this was what I wanted as a focus for the year. Not a bunch of random resolutions that I would probably forget about in a month or two. Rather a word I could hang reflections on and that would (hopefully) spur me to do what I needed to do.

And there it was. The word. DO. Somehow, it just felt right. It is a very small word but I think a good one to go forward with in 2015.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year Blogging Goal

Pohutukawa with beach in the backgroundI have never really been one to make New Year's resolutions but perhaps this year I will make an exception. 2014 was actually pretty good for me (especially compared to the previous two years). We welcomed a new kitten into our family, the offspring both had good years at school, I passed a Te Reo Māori course with distinction and I finally got my first teaching job (which unfortunately finished at the end of December). Which is all good but it means I am back to square one in 2015 -  applying for jobs, getting endless rejection letters, watching the bank account go backwards.... Unemployment is not all it is cracked up to be.

I have been thinking for some time that I must stop neglecting this blog. I used to blog almost daily in a previous life but I seem to have lacked motivation for some years, partly (or mostly) because unemployment didn't give me a lot to blog about. I read a lot of interesting, education related material but, without a class of my own, I didn't feel that I was able to add anything to the discussion.

The New Year has given me pause to reflect. I realised that I was probably trying too hard to be "professional" and that was getting in the way of my natural voice. I am hoping that if I relax a bit more, I will write more. Yesterday, I stumbled across Stephanie's #blogaday post and that inspired me to set a goal for myself to blog at least once each week in 2015. I am usually pretty good at achieving specific goals I set for myself so I am hoping this will motivate me to get writing. So 2015, here I come!