Sunday, 3 March 2019

Learning Through Play Workshop

On Saturday I  had the pleasure of attended a 'Learning through Play' workshop at Opiki School. It was run by Sarah Aiono. There was a lot of information and as Sarah mentioned usually it would be discussed over two days but we only had time for one!

We started by having a look at The Role of the Teacher in a Play-Based Classroom. Here we had to place ourselves on a continuum and think about our own individual journey rather than the collective intent. It was important to note that each person in your team may be on a different path but that is ok as long as we are respectful and supportive of each other. 

Sarah discussed the importance of having a slow, measured, considered and centred approach to play based learning. There still needs to be explicit teaching of reading, writing and maths. 

With this student centred approach we began to look at how play can help with higher order thinking, executive functioning and 'soft skills.' 

Here are some of the key elements of play based learning:

1. It is self directed and self chosen. They can work harder to stay in and/or walk away. These are both valuable in the play based environment.
2. It is process rather than product driven.
3. It contains structures of rules eg a softball game. But the rules, time frame and equipment are altered to make a 'home made' and authentic version.
4. It is imaginative, non-literal and removed from reality. ( We want to keep them here for as long as possible and not grow up too fast.) This is where KCs come into play.
5. It occurs between those who are ACTIVE, ALERT and NON STRESSED. If there is trauma it is hard to access and you need to calm and rewire the brain.

So what does the research tell us? 

That Constructivist and Social learning  ( Piaget, Brunner, Bandura and Vygotsky) are the foundations for research that informs the validity and importance of play based learning.

We need to change our lenses from a chronological perspective to a developmental perspective. For example some students may not have the necessary cognitive skills for maths and language learning yet.

Piaget's Cognitive stages are roughly aged 3-7 years in Pre-Operational Cognitive Stage and around 7 years to 12 years old are Concrete operational stage. 

Some important aspects to note: Kids who 'flit' between activities are Pre Operational. Those who plan and have deeper, richer learning over an extended period are Concrete Operational. 

Play is beneficial for mental health. The can build resilience through play and parents are happy if there children are happy and resilient. 

Next we looked at the stages of play and how to plan, respond to and connect them with the NZC. 

First we looked at urges:

Sarah suggested we start with the  student urges, resource them and then get the curriculum links to fit with planning.

A really interesting point was something our Pod had noted as a concern.
Repetition vs Low Level Play. 

1. Repetition is good to grow neuro pathways and investigate at test things. So, don't redirect students engaging in this play.
2. This could also be low level play which is safe with low risk and low level learning. In this case put the things away that enable this play. Redirect by having these things not available. Then monitor and watch.

We always need to be asking- What rich learning is coming from this play?

Looking at large loose parts and how they tap into students urges to construct, climbing, to be enclosed etc vs a playground with limited scope.

We also had a really in depth discussion about loose parts and their role in play based learning 

Some key take aways for management of these were:
1. You need to be well resourced with loose parts both large "tradies treasures" and small loose parts too. (You could use part of a team meeting to gather resources. Or hopefully start to make connections where tradies can drop of to you.) * Some tradies may not think what they have is valuable. But it is for our kids!
2. Dress ups should be 'non themed' eg make capes and masks from plain colourful material so they can be who they want and it can be multi- functional.
3. Don't buy or have things that others have 'come up with' eg a butterfly play dough cutter. Otherwise it has no other use and no imagination or creativity goes into making what students want. 
4. Don't focus on making things. They should use what they've made in their play.
5. Open ended resources are the best.
6. There are consumables that can be used and non consumables that can be photographed and then put back to be re used. ( This is a key understanding for kids to respect and use things appropriately.)
7. Small loose parts can go into a couple of Systema boxes together. Although it will be challenging for most teachers don't stress about this! The kids can use a brush and shovel to do this. They need to be taught to be respectful of their space and be "reseting" and tidying too. 
8. There is a difference between productive mess and disrespectful mess. If the students 'don't care' then it goes away until they can. 
9. Instead of clean up through out he day teach "reset" and this helps students to do this more quickly and efficiently.
10. Teaching resources are OFF LIMITS for kids. 

Another point we have noted as a Pod is noise level. This is something that needs to be managed so students have respect in sharing a space. If the noise level is disrespectful we need to stop, gather all students 'on the floor' reinforce expectations and consequences. Also we need to start to help students to self manage this. For example putting a finger to their lips ( Or another sign language message we could learn from Pou Sheila.) 

Next we looked at The Role of the Teacher: Intentional Teaching:

This falls into what Sir Ken Robinson calls the "art of teaching." Where we have the appropriate balance of adult guided experiences and child guided experiences to have overall balanced teaching and learning experiences. Sometimes we need to recognise when to "butt out" and let students work things out. Other times we need to teach new strategies e.g how to manage conflict. This essentially falls into Vygotsky's  Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD.) This is where the teacher or another knowledgeable peer is needed for commentary and coaching NOT questions. This is where a student is in the zone between what is known and what is unknown. They need knowledge to help them at that time. This is when we learn through each other.   

Learning Through Play All Day, Every Day

This is a stage that Sarah said takes around 5 years to reach. Where there is a rhythm to the day. With morning instruction and play afternoons based on urges. You may come together as a whanau and have shared reading, writing and group work. Then the teacher is out in the play 'on the floor' then calls a group eg reading. This rhythm of play/come together for groups/play is through out the day. You may see reading groups every second day. ( Less but done better.)

Planning should be done in anticipation of learning with a high degree of flexibility. There should be invitations to play and planning should be evidence of your response to document observations of learning through play occurring. 

Invitations may be: "I wonder what we'd use this for?" 

If they are hooked then it can become a provocation. Sharing learning with parents and in class visibly is really important. 

Plan for coverage using the KCs and student urges. You need to stretch knowledge not have pretty templates!

This diagram shared by Sarah shows the cyclical process of responding to your learners and teaching through play. 

One of the final areas we touched on was Learning Stories. These are essentially what are done in some kindergartens but ours would have a KC focus. 

Here are the key elements to a quality Learning Story:

1. There is a description of the process not the product.
2. It documents the active learner.
3. It works as the "eyes" to focus on KCs, learning dispositions and teachers support urges.
4. The story and analysis is talking to the child e.g Luke you thought...
5. You can have one to two stories per child a term.
6. Some may be group stories which are personalised as necessary.
7. You can use templates if that is easier and more time efficient.
8. Take a look at ipsative assessment ( measure against myself) to look at growth mindset and  personal best (PB.)

Data for play based learning comes through observations of KCs , oral language and an OTJ approach. 

Sarah also mentioned adding quotes from notable people into learning stories and your learning space helps as a subliminal message for parents and whanau too!

So,  a very busy day with a lot of information! The next step is meeting with the team to see which areas we can incorporate into our best practice for Play based learning.

Nga Mihi,

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Wellbeing and Gratitude

Today our Kahui Ako ( formally known as a CoL) went to a presentation by Dr Denise Quinlan about Wellbeing. It was lovely to listen to such an enthusiastic speaker. 

One of the main take aways for me was about gratitude and how this powerful attribute is a contributing factor to the way in which we view ourselves and the world around us. 

I think the word 'practice' is an important one. This is something that does need to be practised so it can flourish and become part of your everyday being. 

Also the concept that our gratitude doesn't need to be grandiose. It can be based on small, everyday things. Remembering the effect of your gratitude on others in the form of respectful gestures or comments can have a big impact on others as well. 

To show and practice gratitude can have a positive impact on our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us.

Nga Mihi,


Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A Balancing Act

Today I meet with Lisa to have some coaching around my goal to have a balance of workload  between my two different jobs. One as a collaborative team member of Aroha in a 0.4 capacity and the other in the Raukura Reader/ESOL role as 0.4 as well. 

To get balance between the two jobs it is important to have clear communication and set time limits for working hours ( which incorporate required meetings, conferences, TODs etc.) This balance is important so I can be effective in both roles and also maintain wellbeing for myself and my son.

As discussed with Lisa I have set up some clear timetabling for myself. I use part of Friday lunch time to gather in school resources and part of Sunday morning is allocated for planning for the week ahead. From Monday until Wednesday  I use 10 minutes before lunchtime to catch up on notes/ student monitoring for my readers. I then meet with the Aroha team at Tuesday lunchtime and every second Wednesday after school for a team meeting. We also have informal chats around learning before school on Thursday and Friday. 

Becs and I have set up 'Handover' notes on Google Slides to clearly communicate what has been going on with learning and behaviour. Often we have a quick phone call as well on a Wednesday evening to discuss anything else in further detail. We also share responsibility for staff meeting attendance and passing on relevant notes for them.

Although it will continue to get tweaked as the year progresses I feel like I have a made a positive start to implementing a teaching workload balance between the two jobs!

Nga Mihi,


Thursday, 24 January 2019

Be a Creator Instead of a Consumer

Today at our TOD we undertook some apple training to look at some different features that could be useful to support student learning and creativity. 

One of the features was the personification of photos using 'mark up' tools that could be used for creative story writing. 

The second was using Keynote to make an animation. My thinking around this was for students to make a pepeha.  Here they could draw themselves, their awa, waka, tipuna ... This could then be animated so that the drawing appeared as the recorded pepeha was played. The stages were pretty straightforward. A photo was taken and opacity added to delete the background. Instant Alpha could also be used. Afterwards the drawing was done and you click 'Build In' to animate. 

The results were really powerful. I used my son's pepeha as inspiration during Tautoko Tuakana Teina Time. It is important to teach Te Reo in a way that engages and inspires our learners. Using different approaches through technology is one way we can do this.

Nga Mihi


Sunday, 18 November 2018

Conversational Teaching and Learning

Today I had the pleasure of listening to Dr Jannie van Hees speaking. Wow! What an amazing person with such a wealth of knowledge. As a result I was really inspired to do some sketchnoting. As you will see there was a lot of information and so many take aways. 

Many of our learners have a vocabulary gap and as such have a knowledge gap. She talked about the benefits of multilevel learning. Also that you need to "open every child's 'known' to connect to the 'new'. This comes through carefully scaffolding by the teacher. It also develops through a process of continually scoping the known and scoping your experiences. 

To learn a  student's brain needs to be active. As teachers our kaupapa needs to be a co- contributor and the trigger who widens the domains of talk, opens the knowledge base and the vocabulary base. 

Students need support and practice to 'TRAIN YOUR BRAIN.'  Children saying 'I can't remember' can be taught to start to think again and we can help to rewire their brain. So that they respond to what others are saying and pick up the message that is shared. They need to be encouraged to 'Dig Deeper', to think and share, with no right or wrong as it's your brain and thoughts. 

Dr Jannie talked about 'killing listening' and instead asking, "Did you pick up the message?" She also encouraged the idea that "Your thinking is a gift, to all of us." With this comes a culture of respect. 

Play based learning was discussed as a positive thing but that we need scaffolding of talk and thinking. Don't just follow the students lead.  It must be gainful for students and deliberate so that language leads to concept and knowledge gains. It is important to slow down and dig deeper.  With this comes the 'Language of Abundance' which is explicit, hands on and evolves a culture of learning in an environment where you have time to dig deep. For this to happen all brains must be active and participating otherwise non learning is going on and learning time is wasted. 

As you can see from my sketchnote the last section of her presentation was jam packed with ideas! She spoke about several important concepts that we can implement as co contributors and scaffolders of learning. 

The first was: a 'Framework for Talk." This is when you have a class environment where it is established that everyone is a contributor. The teacher is also a contributor. If you are using a framework for talk then you set simple guidelines for the talk and then the teacher doesn't ask any questions. As a teacher this can feel difficult to do. But with lots of practice it can be done! 

You also need to support students to listen to and pick up the message.  Dr Jannie said her research indicated sharing with a partner was the most effective way to do this.Then they can learn to respond. It is all about valuing and including. Not questioning and 'wringing' more out of the child. At the core is the focus of children and growing their language and understanding. 

At the end of her presentation Dr Jannie talked about optimising conditions for flourishing learning. There were so many points that could be broken down with students it was amazing! Here they are in bullet point format:

  • Attention to and noticing
  • Effort
  • Triggering 'known' to connect to the 'new'
  • Stretch your language repertoire
  • Multiple Encounters
  • Context Relevant
  • Facilitate by persons, tools, tasks, activities and sources
Under the heading of Learner Attention: ( which would be brilliant as a class focus/treaty)

  • Focus and notice
  • Put in effort
  • Take part ( participate) fully
  • Push yourself to the edge
  • Dig Deep for what you already know
  • Learn from others- Notice and Focus
  • You share, others gain from you
  • Think and talk, think and read
  • Wondering and asking opens up possibilities.
Whew! What an amazing presentation by an authentic, knowledgeable and engaging speaker. I am really looking forward to sharing my learning with my students and fellow teachers.

Ngā Mihi,


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Power of Words

Sometimes we need a reminder of how rephrasing something we say can change a negative statement into a positive one. It's important to realise the impact that words have. Especially for students who are sensitive or perceptive. it can help to encourage them to do something in a more mindful way. We practice mindfulness within our school and it's a great way to help students who feel anxious and also for those who need to calm their minds and body. Learning to manage feelings in a way that makes you feel calm and confident is really important.

I especially liked: You can do harder things, I'm here to help if you need me and Could you use a break? 

Ngā Mihi,


Saturday, 27 October 2018

Sharing Our Story

giftEDnz Blog Challenge #27
How do you share the learning and teaching with your students?  This is
              sometimes very important for our gifted learners.  This article - “How one
                teacher let go of control to focus on student-centred approaches” is a great
example of how change can happen.

When I read this article I was thinking how this can be best harnessed for those students who
have really specific passion areas. Sometimes they fall into the realm of 'normal' age interests.
But often these can be a little 'left field.' They may be looking for others to connect with who
have the same passions but just can't find them in their learning environment.

Having student choice is a wonderful thing, but potentially having no one to share those ideas
with can be pretty deflating for our gifted kids. I think that's when the teacher/s need to step
in to fill that role while they find experts and mentors to guide these students.
Someone who they can talk to and learn from that loves it as much as they do.

Including their passion areas into the learning space and expressing an interest in
them can be both a positive and motivational way to get other students interested.
Knowing our students well means we can approach this in an authentic and caring way.
Being an active listener when someone shares their interests can mean they feel a
sense of well being, connection and confidence from positive discussion and sharing about
what is most important to them. It doesn't mean we take their voice away, we just support
them to share theirs with confidence.Specifically targeting and celebrating their strengths can help morph an unmotivated learner into someone who sees their own self worth.

If you look at student centred learning or learner agency we should be looking at areas
such as their hauora and wairua, really giving our students the chance to have their voice
or story heard. Recently I read about #storyhui that was shared at uLearn by Kerri Thompson
and Sandra Howard after their work in a team as part of a Teacher Led Innovation Fund.
This is an area that I think is really valuable to take student centred approach to the next level, especially within a New Zealand context that considers key competencies and learner capabilities. Here is a brief overview of her presentation:

Source- Kerri Thomson, uLearn 2018

I love the idea of taking a concept such as 'student centred learning' and making it more meaningful, purposeful and relatable for our kiwi kids! I'm looking forward to finding out more about #storyhui and how it can support our learners to share their voice.

Ngā Mihi,