Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Stepping out of the Shadows and into the Sun

giftEdnz Blog Challenge 2018 #17

2E or twice-exceptional students can be hard to identify. Reading: Why So
                 Many Gifted Yet Struggling Students Are Hidden In Plain Sight, what
               questions spring to mind? What questions are circling for you? What squares
               with your thinking?

When I read this article about twice exceptional students this quote really stood out for me:

"What I came out of this with is a sense of how left behind and in the cracks these kids are, how serious this is. I think at the heart of the 2E movement there's something deeper."

So, what do we do about this in a practical and manageable way? How can we help these students step out of the shadows and into the Sun? 

Perhaps starting with Awareness, Action and Advocacy. 

How can we be more aware of 2E students? The first step starts with finding out more about
what twice exceptionality is. What are the 2E complexities and difficulties faced by some gifted
people and how can we better understand these. Leadership within a school acknowledging these students are there and need accomodations in their learning environment to help with social and emotional wellbeing as well as learning is a big factor. Also, providing professional development for staff, so that they can better understand how to support gifted 2E learners.

How can we support and include them so they don't slip between the cracks? A first step can be the implementation of mindfulness. This can support the management of anxiety that can manifest for 2E students and our other students as well. Normalising anxiety through doing this with all students makes for a more accepting and empathetic culture among students and staff. It gives language to describe how you feel as well as actions to calm, relax and re centre yourself.

Planning learning experiences for all students so that they can stretch and grow. Giving them opportunities to follow their interests and passions. Accommodate, give students time and let them have different approaches to learning. Teach them how to manage their time, set goals and deal with failure. Let go of assumptions and ask them what they need from you to help them succeed.


Advocacy is action. Be there, listen and care. Take the time to make personal connections with all students but especially those on 'the margins.' Collaborate with our fellow teachers in the best interests of our students. Be a voice that accepts who 2E students are but also challenges the status quo. Remember that we are all learners and the more we learn the more effective an advocate we can be.

Ngā Mihi,


Saturday, 13 October 2018

When Everything Clicks

giftEdnz Blog Challenge 2018 #13

Write about a memorable moment in the classroom and how it reminded you about why you love what you do.

Last term I worked with Aroha Pod, the majority of whom are 7 year old students. The choice to work with this age group was based on brain research, including Nathan Wallis' about learning "readiness" at this age.

Our main goals were to increase confidence, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension in our reading. The students picked always seem to be on the fringe. They can read, but are not quite where they should be. So I asked why is that? What can we do about it? Here begins the challenge.

The students that I work with have tangles and roadblocks to move to reach their reading goals. As a teacher there are many layers to look at for learning while also quickly building positive relationships so that we can take that 'leap of faith' into the learning pit together.

Sometimes this can seem like a really challenging task and often it can be. But last term everything seemed to fall into place ( with a lot of hard work and perseverance by all!) A big factor was making sure students could follow their interests and passions as much as possible through reading. It is so exciting to see a student 'click' into their learning. Especially when their goals are met with improvements in Running Records and Probe.

I love sharing that moment where everything clicks into place. I can see it, the Pod teachers observe it, whanau notice and most importantly the student themselves know it. We've scrambled through that Learning Pit together and made it out the other side! It's moments like these, that make me love what I do and I hope my students have loved it as much as I have.

Nga Mihi,

Monday, 8 October 2018

Key Competencies Time

giftEDnz- #9 Blog Challenge 2018Reflect on how Genius Hour could be used to extend your gifted and talented learners.

Having Genius Hour learning set up for just an hour in a week seems like a bit of a 'skim the surface' way to approach personal, passion areas. I think that it should be woven into the week through curriculum or key competencies time. Which should be the majority of your learning time. This gives plenty of scope to open up the ceiling and let students move at their own pace, following their own passions.

Genius Hour also seems to be something that needs a bit of a 'Number 8 Wire' fix up to reflect our unique Kiwi culture! Tap into the Key Competencies and get some authentic and passion filled learning going for all students.

This would allow teachers to give students more agency over their learning. They could support them to work on areas of strength or weakness through a key competencies and/or school values focus as they follow their passion. It could also be used to set goals against or report on. They can navigate their own waka or jump in and work as a team if that's what they need or would like to do. It would mean that their learning would be differentiated and personalised too.

Having learning woven together like the 'kōwhiti whakapae whāriki'  from Te Whāriki which I have discussed in a previous post would be ideal :

This could definitely be done with the five key competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum:

  • Managing self
  • Participating and contributing
  • Relating to others
  • Thinking
  • Using language, texts and symbols
Source: The New Zealand Curriculum Online

Using these five key competencies means that we can re focus on our New Zealand Curriculum Framework in an authentic way. One that looks at a range of areas and offers a wide scope for student and teacher passion areas. Why use genius hour when we could have our own kiwi version?

Nga Mihi,


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy

giftEDnz Blog Post Challenge 2018- Differentiation, what does it look like in your learning environment? How do you personalise learning?

Differentiation starts when we:

 Photo Source Credit: Unknown. Quote: Ms Frizzell, The Magic School Bus!

Incorporating this mindset into your learning environment can be the first step to students delving into their interests in a safe and supportive environment. Having a robust Inquiry based program driven by big, open questions supports differentiation planned through curriculum areas. It gives a broad overview, to map out student learning with flexibility to deviate when necessary.

Give students choices based on their personal interests and passions. This means they have more ownership and agency of their learning. Last term I incorporated this into our reading and instructional writing using this resource:

Having choices gave students real purpose for reading, introduced them to more vocabulary and discussion in a meaningful way.  They were excited about the whole process and it really boosted their confidence. One of my students linked the problem solving involved in the reading and making process of a cardboard Ninja sword to "debugging.'" He was making links to computational thinking! 

Throughout this process I am gaining assessment data through observations and relevant testing so that our students are supported and scaffolded in their learning. I collaborate with other teachers and of course the students themselves to set achievable goals.Then we learn more about how to reach our goals. Making this process transparent so that knowing how to reach them isn't a mystery. Working as part of a supportive and collaborative teaching team is also key to develop differentiation.

To reinvigorate learning you can set up provocations to spark new ideas and thinking. Alternatively it could be used to support new learning focused on areas that students might need more exposure to. Being able to "take chances, make mistakes and get messy." is a positive place to start!

Nga Mihi,

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Look Back to Move Forward

giftEDnz Blog Challenge #7- Finding Your Tribe

Sometimes what you are searching for is.... just out of reach. If you manage to get hold of it you feel like it could disappear before your eyes. Maybe if you tried harder, acted like the other kids do, like what they like, you would fit in and find a sense of belonging, make friends and be happy. The fact that some of our students feel like this is something that we need to be very aware of. Supporting them to find what they are looking for, this is our challenge.

 So, How do you find your tribe? How do you help your gifted students find theirs?

These are BIG questions. Family, friendship, belonging and confidence.

One way to approach this would be to look back, to look forward. "This whakataukī encourages mokopuna to stand strong, proud in the knowledge that they are the embodiment of all those who have gone before them.

 Tū mai e moko. Te whakaata o ō mātua. Te moko o ō tīpuna. Stand strong, O moko. The reflection of your parents. The blueprint of your ancestors. " - Te Whāriki Pg 17

Finding out about your whānau is, I believe crucial for all young people. Seeing those reflections, the blueprint of your genealogy. Finding out about your own family 'tribe' first to help you understand where you come from. Here you can see important connections, support and perhaps find your gifts reflected back within your whānau. Then you have a foundation to move forward, hopefully with the confidence that comes from understanding  who you are. 

Getting our students to build confidence so they can learn more about themselves and then start to connect with others begins with knowing yourself and where you have come from. Having this open, caring, reflective and culturally responsive culture within our learning spaces is one way to help them start to find their 'like minds' and their tribe. 

Nga Mihi,

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Supporting Student Hauora

giftED Blog Challenge # 5- How do you help students come out of their shell?

Supporting students who struggle to find a sense of mana whenua (belonging) in a learning environment can be challenging. If they don't feel belonging it's difficult to feel included. We want students to have that whakamana (empowerment) and to make mana tangata (contribution) towards their own learning. Moving ultimately towards learner agency and feeling that learning and school is rekareka (fun).

Luckily we have some amazing resources within our New Zealand Curriculum Framework which we can utilise to help support ourselves and our students. I am not an expert in these areas but I am definitely not afraid to ask for help to find out more! Obviously the best way to utilise these would be to collaborate with other schools and kindergartens to get the best results for everyone. Especially asking our ECE teacher experts in this area for support perhaps through the utilisation of CoL (Community of Learning) networks.

Below is 'kōwhiti whakapae whāriki'  from Pg 11 of Te Whāriki :

The four curriculum principles are interwoven with the five curriculum strands.  This makes the vision at the heart of Te Whāriki. It talks about the journey towards potential, enlightenment, new life and growth. Surely this is what we want for all our learners?

It also has ideas that are fundamental to how Māori approach teaching and learning :

"Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini. I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents and strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors. " Pg 12 Te Whariki

These are concepts we are striving to put into the forefront of our teaching.

"The whāriki can also be understood as a metaphor for the developing child. Interpreted in this way, as in Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo, the whāriki includes four dimensions of human development: tinana, hinengaro, wairua and whatumanawa." Te Whariki pg 10

These aspects are also incorporated into another model to support student wellbeing and hauora.  Below is a model- 'Te Whare Tapa Wha' from Dr Mason Durie which is used in our Health and Physical Education document:

Thinking about well being from a Māori perspective is essential as a New Zealand teacher. We have many students who need support to manage anxiety and behavioural challenges. Using these kinds of frameworks as a starting point would help students across the board and especially those that need help "coming out of their shells." It is our job to make the collaboration happen with the right teachers and experts to benefit all our our tamariki. 

Bringing the Fun Back!

giftEd Blog Challenge 2018 #4- How do you bring joy to your learning environments?

This Blog prompt reminded me of our TOD back in Term 1 where we were introduced to the FISH philosophy. Basically, a documentary film maker John Christensen was in a fish market 'World Famous Pike Place Fish' in Seattle and he was amazed at how the Fishmongers had such enthusiasm, energy and engagement with the customers. There were large crowds and people were laughing, smiling and totally enjoying their experience.

After coming back to film the fishmongers they identified four main attributes that these workers had to be successful and happy in their workplace.  Below are their 'Four Practices.'

The Four Practices of The FISH! Philosophy

Be There

Be emotionally present for people. 


Tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. 

Make Their Day

Find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. 

Choose Your Attitude

Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. 

                    Source Credit-

Although this is within a business environment these four areas can work equally well within a school. As a staff we have incorporated these attributes into our school during the year.
( Some of us may have been doing some or all of these things anyway :) From Hauora Bingo, gifting flowers and fruit from the garden, "You've Been Mugged"- gifting something to someone for a surprise, really trying to listen or having a joke with another teacher. These are just some of the ways we have spread Joy within the staff. Of course we try to bring joy to our students as well. Often as teachers we put ourselves last so our Principal decided that we should use the FISH Philosophy, adapted as needed to bring more joy to our working lives. I think having an active approach to finding fun and joy is a great place to start!

Nga Mihi,