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,


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,