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!