Hànzì 汉字 simplified Chinese characters.

I have often said that I would never ask a teacher or a student to do something that I was not prepared to do myself. I am a trained ESOL teacher and I also believe that it is important to develop empathy with my learners by learning a language myself as a teacher.

This year is a huge year for me as I undertake my 2017 goal of preparing for and sitting HSK level 2. Those of you who know my language learning journey will know that Chinese is my seventh language. Four of my languages have been learnt over two years. Most of the languages I have learnt I am still very much at basic level except for Samoan. However when I am in the language it does not take long to reactivate vocabulary.

I learnt Maori at teacher’s college and found it similar to Samoan so was able to pick up vocabulary quite easily. 

I learnt Dutch for two years and my best way of learning vocabulary was listening to a Berlize tape on my way to school. The journey took 30 minutes so for an hour each day I listened to the same tape over and over again. By the time I arrived in Holland I could understand basic conversations.

I then hosted Japanese students and so undertook to learn Japanese. My goal was to learn Kanji. I learnt Japanese at night school for two years and could hold a basic conversation. However Kanji just evaded me. Learning to recognise characters was too hard. I could see no patterns in the script and gave up.

Last year I agreed to teach and learn Chinese. Through teaching Chinese my vocabulary exploded. I also attended night school at Unitec and sat HSK level 1 and passed. However the Hànzì 汉字 or simplified Chinese script was again so very difficult. I practiced and practiced and learnt to recognise numbers but again could not make any sense out of the characters. I downloaded a tile app and practiced that with some success but could not seem to commit the character to memory. 

This week something exciting happened to me and again I am so grateful to my student teachers. I have had two girls go over with me my vocabulary and my phrases each week so that I had a booster of what I do in night classes. This week, they showed me how to read simplified Chinese characters.   For example pretty 漂亮 Piàoliang

They said see the pretty leg hanging off, that is how to remember. For 下雨 Xià yǔ, to rain, they said, “See the raindrops in the window, see the slope on the left, it is like water falling down.” Guess what? What they said works because I can now see something. 

Then they both told me that next week they would test me on my character reading. They said that 10 characters is a good start. Maybe that was the push I needed because little do they know how motivated I am and that this weekend I have memorised 30. In addition there are no numbers in my list. I feel so excited because I can now tell which way up the characters should be, I can see little characters in bigger characters and I have had heaps of fun with my 88 year old mother as she has called out the word in Pinyin or English and I recognised the characters. My mum is a shorthand typist and she helped me look for patterns in the words. For example 睡觉 shuìjiào, to sleep. Mum said, “see the man under the blankets.” and I can.

So I took all the double characters from HSK level 1 and created groups of them and printed them off in different colours and chunked them in groups of 10. They are blue tacked to my cupboards so before I go to sleep, I can see them and when I wake up I can see them.

I have also recently discovered the HSK vocabulary lists on youtube and speed them up so that I can hear the words and practice memorising the characters.

In all I am feeling quite positive about my language learning. I believe I have gone over a hump that has been holding me back. I can see the way forward for learning script that just was not there before. 

So do you know any other languages with a different script? What strategies do you use to learn vocabulary? In my list above, can you recognise Ni Hao? Just one simple greeting that your Chinese children can read and that you expect to move up in PM levels in English.

 

 

 

Part 2- Influences and Effect Sizes on Writing

“Without data you are just another person with an opinion.”

W.Edwards Deming

Last term I reflected on the process of teaching writing. I wanted to be really clear of what I did so I stepped through the process of what I do. This piece of writing is a follow on of a reflection I carried out in March.

 

 

Effect Size

My year 4s sat the written asTTle test and I followed through the process of marking and moderating alongside their team. I compared my targeted group’s data with their historic data and could identify that the first term intervention made a difference. Hattie cautions when calculating an effect size and especially when using less that 30 students. He highlights the  usefulness of  ensuring that all students are tested and that scores from the same group of students are compared.

I have studied all the year 4 data. Currently we have 34 students over three classes. Of that number,  25 year year 4 students at our school have data carried over from last year into this year. Therefore we have 9 new year 4 students at our school. Of that 25 original group, 11 made progress of 1 sub level and 5 of that 11 worked with me. The ongoing challenge is sustainability. I believe that the students I worked with will continue to make progress and I know they will maintain what they have learnt with me.

Soon their class teachers will be contacting families as part of three way conversations and I will be part of this.

My learning about data from unpacking the process.

I believe it is really important for teachers to track the historic data and I have taught the team I am working with how to do this. They looked at the same period of testing results and compared them across 12 months. When teachers only look at their interim March data and compare it to their October data, this gives a lulled sense of achievement. I now know that the focus needs to shift from March to March data. Then a clearer picture of learning is formed. Like reading, there is definitely a summer slide happening in writing. I can see this when I look at the October data and compare it with March. The holiday slide can be slowed down and I have achieved this when I targeted a group of older children and gave them a school chromebook to write with over the holidays. I will write about that strategy next.

My other learning is to focus more on the oral language before writing. Sometimes I believe that as teachers we can be so focussed on written output that other literacies are pushed aside.

Just to recap with strategies I used that went well.

  • Start with the data. Show the children their results. Identify the gaps and plan strategies that will support the learner.
  • Provide language based experience and use common school events or shared experiences to write about.
  • Track how many words are written in a session and build a graph of the number over a week’s writing.
  • Craft, craft and recraft. Using SOLO Taxonomy highlight key words that can help lift writing.
  • Help the children reflect on what they have learnt about how to make their writing better.
  • Show the children their progress and celebrate writing milestones with families.

 

Where to next

This term I have reset a goal. By the end of term 2 I will video the process of using a SOLO Taxonomy Describe Map to make a difference to Learner Outcomes so this can be used as a resource to build teacher capability.

Beijing in Spring

Springtime in Beijing

This post is crossposted on ILEP Website.

For the past three weeks I visited Beijing with a group of twelve New Zealand Chinese Language teachers. We applied for and won a place on the 2017 China Scholarship Programme to Beijing developed by ILEP, Confucius, Hanban and the New Zealand Ministry of Education. We were hosted by Beijing Language and Cultural University that is located nearly in the centre of Beijing and stayed in the conference centre.

BLCU

Personal Goals

I had three goals for this journey. My first goal was language. I wanted to further develop communication in simple and routine tasks and to exchange information on familiar topics by building on basic phrases because I recently passed the HSK (Level I) exam. My second goal was cultural and to learn more about Chinese history and visit historical sites. Because I am also a teacher of Chinese children I wanted to learn more about where my children came from. My third goal was about connections. Making connections with other educators on the group from New Zealand as well as educators I came into contact with. I also was keen to make connections with local people.

The journey developed more than my three goals.

Language

Daily I was immersed in the language from catching a train, shopping at the supermarket, daily routines such as passing pleasantries with staff at the front desk to asking for my clothes to be washed at the laundry. Daily I was surrounded by language from the fabulous forms of vehicle mashups and their advertising to the signs directing us to uniformed checkpoints and of course wherever we saw food. Daily connections were made with the teachers I travelled with from sharing our learning to being together in the various daily life. I spoke with local people at the historical sites we were taken to, on the trains, at the university canteen, with my home stay and with our tutors and support students. We visited a school and observed a lesson in action. I was delighted to see and hear the traditional student teacher greetings before the lesson that I had heard about. The language lesson was centred around whole group teaching with a focus on traditional poetry. As the teacher unpacked the poem she used videos to give the students imagery written about in the poem because she was aware that many of her students would not have had first hand experience with what the poet was trying to depict. After the lesson observation we had a round table discussion with some their teachers. This part of the session was particularly interesting as we had a compare and contrast discussion between our two systems. The common theme was what was best for our children.

As a group we attended a Kung Fu performance and a Beijing Opera performance so again we were exposed to language but in a different way. Both used a different type of language that I liken to when Samoan matai meet. The language used is similar but the vocabulary is quite different.

The language highlight for me was when we stumbled across the BLCU students’ end of semester talent performance. There we saw and heard language used in singing and when the master of ceremonies introduced each item.    

Culture

What I have learnt about Chinese culture is how old and steeped in history the culture is. I saw similarities with my Samoan culture such as some thatching of roofs, the openness of the buildings with the pillars, the use of patterns for effects. I also saw how the young people take care of the old people. I saw grandparents taking care of the grandchildren while parents worked. I also really liked the mishmash of old and new. There appeared to be a sense of evolving as can be seen in the scooters.

We were fortunate to research and prepare for visiting many historical places and were given the opportunity to take part in calligraphy, paper cutting and in Tai Chi Fan movement. During these sessions we were reminded of the ancient history and of how far back Chinese dynasties predates European history. This was particularly so during our time at the National library where we were able to visit the Oracle collection and view ancient writing on bones.

Food

When we talk about language and culture we must also mention food because together everything intertwines. Our daily routine involved food. Our opening and closing days involved food. Our daily excursions involved food. There was lots of it and the price was cheap. Several meals I ate at the BLCU Canteen and the range was massive. A few times we might have paid $20.00 for an evening meal but that was the exception rather than the norm. In Beijing we were exposed to several area cuisines such as Sichuan, Fujian and Jiangsu. We ate several types of street food such as jianbing and investigated nearby eateries such as a local Taiwanese restaurant or a Japanese restaurant. However one memorable and unscheduled meals would have to be from the Nanjing provence hosted by one of our member’s brother. There I tried lotus root stuffed with rice. Our final meal together involved rice flambeed in front of us, eating Peking Duck and an opportunity to sip local spirits. Some mornings I ate yoghurt and peeled fruit rather than go out for breakfast. Sometimes when I needed some quiet time I took a container with me to the canteen and brought back leftovers and had that for dinner. Generally food involved being with people, talking, reminiscing, planning next events and activities or celebrating.

The numbers game.

I am always interested in numbers and am always thinking about how we track what we do. I wore a FitBit and my daily step average was 16,384. By the end of the trip I had walked approximately 250 kilometers and I have walker’s blisters to show for this.

We visited historical sites to learn about history and places of interest where we could observe traditional arts and crafts happening.

  •  Water Cube & Birds Nest: 4.8km
  •  Tiananmen Square: 16 Km
  •  Mutianyu Great Wall: 67 KM
  •  Forbidden City: 14 KM
  •  Summer Palace: 9.6KM
  •  Nanluoguxiang/ South Luogu Alley: 12 Km
  •  Oriental Charm Market: 23km
  •  Sun Park: 16 Km
  •  Pearl Gardens: 36 KM
  •  Zhujiang Dijing (Host Family): 25 km
  •  National Library: 8.7 KM
  •  National Museum of China: 16 Km
  •  Hanban Confucius Headquarters:
  •  Tianjin City: 149km
  •  Liyuan Theatre: 15 KM (Beijing Opera)
  •  Red Theatre:  (Kung Fu Show) 21 Km

My highlight was visiting the Great Wall at Mutianyu. The journey there took us nearly two hours because we were caught in traffic. However once I stood on the wall I felt emotional and a part of something very big. I spent time on my own walking parts of the wall and reflected on my Chinese learning which like the Great wall has been massive. Parts of my learning is crumbling from lack of use and parts are stronger from teaching. Part of my learning is growing as I continue to focus on my goals.  I took the chairlift up and the luge back down because my feet were problematic with blisters. Some of the teachers walked up and down the wall and the feedback we gave was to provide more time at this amazing place.

mutianyu

Overall during the journey to Beijing I had travelled 1000 kilometres by bus, by taxi, by subway and by high speed train. In addition I took just over 1300 photos to help capture part of my learning.

Environment

I saw rejuvenation happening. I believe that language and the environment go together and have a belief that the current challenges that Beijing is having with natural resources will continue to improve. When I check new environment I look at the air quality, water quality and soil quality.

We were there in the spring but apart from the blossoms there was no other evidence. The air was as warm as summer because of the low ar quality. There was no spring rain for all the time we were there and I missed the rain. I saw patches with trees and escaped to these sections when I could. However the dust and thickness of the air could not be masked by the greenness of the trees. The sky was quite blue, often cloudless but was generally hazy in the distance. When it was warm and seemed clear I would check the readings and usually went out with my mask.

Water was a premium and I hesitated to eat fruit or vegetables with no skin. So I generally ate imported fruit and ensured that I only ate cooked vegetables. Toilets were interesting because paper was placed in a nearby basket and not flushed down. At the same time I could see that already water was given priority as we were encouraged to keep waste materials separate. For drinking water I initially tried boiling water until the metallic taste put me off. So I switched to bottled water and and churned through nearly four litres daily. It wasn’t enough though because my skin was dry as sandpaper and I found I needed full body moisturizing twice daily.

The soil looked parched and stripped of all goodness. I wondered about what I was eating so stuck to what local people ate. Generally vegetables are eaten cooked. Therefore I did the same and avoided uncooked vegetables.

The birds gave me hope and I would look out for them as I walked to class each day. When we visited sites I would also look out for them. They are indicators of how healthy the environment is. The main birds I saw were the indigenous magpies. They had magnificent colours of an azure green, kind of like our tuis. I also saw one woodpecker.

Transport

I am a travelwise lead teacher so am always interested in public transport and in how cities move people. I loved the Beijing subway system. I found it easy and user friendly. Beijing did not have a separate bus lane like we do in Auckland. However I loved how cycles and electric scooters had their own lanes and how pedestrians had their own lanes and these appeared just as important as cars and buses. I loved seeing the mashup of electric scooters. Some looked like mini trucks, some looked like mini cars and some looked like normal scooters. Everyone using them did not wear helmets and like the cycles seemed to have the same rights as pedestrians. One highlight was catching the high speed train, with a colleague, to Tianjin a nearby city of 19,000,000 people. A city I had never heard of until the week I visited it. Another highlight was activating an Ofo account using wechat. Ofo was one of the bicycle systems we saw. There are several but Ofo caught my eye first because of its bright yellow colour. I had 100 yen transferred to my wechat account from a local resident because I believe a Chinese bank account is  needed to activate wechat wallet. I then needed help to activate Ofo because all the instructions were in Mandarin. Once activated I could ride an Ofo bike for one yen (.20c NZ) for 30 minutes. When I reflected on how successful this would be in New Zealand I realised that it would not work as well because helmets are not compulsory in China.

The challenge that Beijing has is traffic. Like every large city cars are everywhere. Travelling on motorways takes a long time and if you plan to take the motorway then ensure extra time is always accounted for.

Internet access

Well where do I begin with this one. The internet is as important to me as natural resources. Coming from New Zealand into Beijing I had to make several adjustments. One was leaving Google behind. That was the most frustrating because I am used to the ease of google for searching, for collaborating and sharing, for site translating, for storage of photos and videos, maps with marker locations. Over the time in Beijing I learnt to adjust to other tools and just had to get on with it. I missed twitter the most because I could not keep up with general education news. I used viber to communicate with family but even that died in my final week. I was determined to cope as a local would without a VPN but maybe I should have ensured that it was working well before I left. I could still get school email on the phone but could not access it via online. I am sure that staff I work with were happy to have a little peace from me.

However the positive was WeChat. We used WeChat as a form of group communication and this worked really well. We could share photos, ask questions and confirm information. I learnt to push out information too using WeChat. For example creating PDFs from powerpoint and uploading them using my computer version of WeChat. I observed how WeChat was used to purchase grocery items, restaurant food, pay for petrol, movies etc. In fact in New Zealand I believe this is definitely an area that is still in early stages. We have to download a movie app to buy tickets, download a petrol app to pay for petrol and so on. But we have yet to develop a system that does all this within one app.

So in order for access, we purchased a local simm card as soon as we could. I could not get a data only plan so went with a month phone plan. Back on campus I also purchased a month’s internet access. Both were adequate for my requirements.

The phone plan gave me access to wechat and maps. Using maps I could navigate the bus and subway systems. I was also able to use the GPS systems to always identify where I was. On campus internet was slower than what I am used to.

Daily routine

Supermarket shopping was part of the regular routine because of the need to buy water. However it was also an excuse to stock up on snack food such as nuts and fruit. What I noticed was alcohol was very cheap. For example a local 1 litre bottle of beer was 90c NZ.  Wine however was not cheap. I often bought pistachio nuts, salted plums and dried mangoes. I usually did a daily load of hand washing and was grateful for the hindsight to bring a portable washing line. The bigger items were taken to the local laundry where they would be washed and dried within three hours. I had taken coffee sachets but had not quite taken enough. Coffee was a daily luxury and I limited myself to one sachet. When we were out and about we looked out for café’s that might sell coffee. We did find a starbucks but the coffee was still not that wonderful. Generally coffee came in long sachets with powdered milk and too much sugar. For the first few days I needed a daily nana nap because jetlag affected me but I soon was into the Beijing rhythm.

Connections

For our final session we were instructed to present a reflection about our time in Beijing. I waited to go last because I had created mine a little differently focusing on some funny moments. However as I sat listening to my new friends share their highlights I felt the connections as I nodded and laughed recapping on an incredible three weeks learning. For one of my slides I have put all the highlights together to emphasise what a cram packed cultural and language experience we had. Together we collaborated to create a preparation lesson for each of the sites we visited. We created a variety of debriefs to show our learning and as a resource to use back back in our programmes. We reflected on what we learnt through our highlights presentations and we have returned to New Zealand tired but at the same time rejuvenated in our efforts to teach and share about Chinese language and culture with our students and our peers. However for me the greatest taonga I bring back are the memories of my time with my colleagues as together we navigated our way around Beijing and learnt more about a different culture and language. We have come home with a greater appreciation of our own country and the importance we must give to its environment, culture and language. Highlighted for us is the importance of people whether we are learning in a city of twenty two million people or teaching in a country with four million people.

My daily journal

Throughout my 21 days in Beijing I kept a daily journal that had similar focus areas each day. I kept a record of the air quality, daily temperature and short snippets of activities and places we might have visited. Each day I looked for a cultural element and each day I tried to identify new phrases I had learnt.

Probably my greatest learning was from the other Chinese Language teachers in the group. As part of our brief we needed to create a preparation lesson for upcoming places we would visit. Through them I learnt more about vocabulary and phrases I would need, I learnt about some cultural aspects such as an explanation about the appropriateness of using chopsticks. I also  learnt that no matter where we are on our language learning journey we still have some things to learn and with a little research we can still teach in unfamiliar areas.    

scholarship

Overall Statement

Overall the purpose of the scholarship was to grow our understanding of Chinese Language and Culture and also to rediscover interesting aspects of our own cultural identity. I believe that together with my goals I have certainly looked at who I am. One beautiful highlight was when I wechatted my Chinese ‘daughter’ living in Shanghai and her young daughter was learning to say Ni hao nǎi nai. (general term for grandmother). My heart is already made up of many bloods and this moment confirmed that there is also a bit of Chinese there. This journey was unbelievable. I have grown as an intercultural educator and return to my school rejuvenated with my work. I am excited to return to my weekly language classes to continue growing my Chinese and look forward to sharing this once in a lifetime experience with the children that I teach and with the teachers that I work with. There are many people and organisations to thank for this opportunity. First and foremost thanks to Fu Jiwei the Chinese National Language Advisor who first alerted me to the programme. He also came with us in a supporting role.  Also to ILEP for coordinating the programme.To Liu Hongyuan and Beijing Language and Cultural University for hosting us, providing us with two exceptional guide students Hu an and Siqi and for organising the sites we visited and the cultural activities we took part in. Thanks to our Ministry of Education, Confucius Institute and Hanban for approving the programme. Finally special thanks to Dr Wendy Kofoed and Newmarket School Board of Trustees for giving encouragement and approval for me to go.

I give a shoutout to these amazing Chinese language teachers who helped create fabulous Beijing memories:

Jenny, Elly, Nickie, Jordy, Lizanne, Olivia, Juliet, Karen, Lynn, Ann and Natalie

BLCU2

Influences and Effect Sizes on Writing

Hattie highlights that the diversity of our children makes a (d=0.11) difference to outcomes. Well that knocks out the statement ‘Our data is shyte, because we have so many ESOL children.

Research Based

Hattie’s research stresses that the greater than (d=0.40) is what makes a difference in class programmes. I read this to surmise that our second language learners should make minimal impact on class programmes.  Again it all comes back to the teacher who makes the greatest difference. Teachers trained in second language pedagogies. Teachers who empathise with our second language learners because they themselves have experience of either living in a country other than English or who are learning a second language themselves. An experienced teacher is an experienced teacher. Probably one of my greatest criteria is an empathetic teacher. I know because I am also a language learner.

I remind readers of the research of Collier and Thomas whose longitudinal research provides us with a historical way of viewing our second language learners. Their research looks at how long it takes for second language learners to achieve academic success and they say 1-2 years for Basic Interpersonal Communication and then on top of that between 6-8 years of Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency in their second language for evidence to be strong and again it all depends on class programmes. Ideally there should be an emphasis on first language maintenance too and then we would see even greater accelerated progress.

So our children are at primary school for 6 years. Therefore if they began at 5 years old in their second language we should see catching up with national standard data by intermediate levels and even secondary school. Yes it takes that long. Again when I see the high gains at years 1 and 2 with teachers telling me that the children are at standards, I usually respond with, “Great now let us see if they hold that when Cognitive Academic demands becomes more evident after three years at school and above. You know, that crazy year 3 dip in writing that appears to be common in most New Zealand schools.

In our Community of Learners (ACCoS) I am extremely excited because finally I will get the chance to see if the results from Thomas and Collier pan out. I have had snippets from past second language learners who began with no English and who have gone on to take away their school prizes in literacy at high school. I have often wondered how our other children do. Unfortunately in our CoL we will only be able to see our girls achievement at secondary school but can still make smart guesses about our boys.

A class teacher would find the challenges of having a dominant mix of ethnicities and a vast variety of English Language Proficiencies extremely challenging. However a proficient teacher will search for ways to cater for all their students. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, iPad app, computer programme, ILE or writing strategy to ‘fix’ this. Only time and an unwavering belief that our children will succeed and we all need to be pushing them along.

I have been working with a group of English second language learners in writing.  This is what I do to support them.

Background

Most of the children have English as a second language. However I also target anyone who needs support at the same level. I thought I would write about the process I undertake so that others might find it useful. I stress here that the best support is ideally within the class programme. But sometimes for intervention the spread happens across several classes within a team. I work alongside teachers so that the writing emphasis is similar to what takes place in class and the children remaining in class are also writing. The last thing language learners need is withdrawal and missing out on class programmes. They are already late to the starting line and we do not want to push this starting line back further.

The children I have selected for this piece of reflection are all year 4s. They are mostly boys but Hattie has reminded me that a boys focus only accounts for a (d=0.08) improvement. Most are second language learners but again Hattie has indicated that this makes (d=0.11) difference to what I do. Last year as year 3s, they sat at 1P for writing and so are below. However most were at for writing in year 2. Last year their reading was at for year 3.

Hattie’s Influences that I will focus on

So as an experience Second Language Teacher and one who uses SOLO Taxonomy to frame what I do,   I will use research (meta-analyses) ranking the influence of different strategies on student achievements (Hattie 2009, 2011, 2015) to explain the strategies that I have chosen. Hattie suggests that  the following influences will help make the greatest difference in student achievement.

  • Cognitive Task Analysis (d=0.87) using SOLO Taxonomy to identify where the task sits  on Cummins Task Difficulty.
  • Opportunity for class discussion (d=0.82)  and what we know about privileging opportunities for students to speak.
  • Meta Cognitive Strategies (d=0.53) using SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners because I have coauthored a book with Pam Hook about the process of learning framed with SOLO.
  • Concept Mapping (d=0.64)  using Hooked on thinking Maps because they are research based and framed using SOLO.
  • Small Group Learning d=0.47)  using targeted intervention for writing such as the SOLO Taxonomy list of writing words identified in SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners.
  • Parental Involvement (d=0.49) by making contact with families through a phone call and have one piece of writing each published in the school newsletter this term.
  • Self Questioning (d=0.64) using, ‘What am I learning? How is it going? What do I do next?’ as a daily beginning for each lesson used from Hook.  

The first thing I always do is look at the children’s historic data both in reading and writing. I did this for my targeted learners using our Student Management System, Edge.

results

Here is an example

First I located last years writing data in PDF format and printed this off for the children. I had them look closely at their data and highlight where they sat against National Standards. Then using a different colour they highlighted areas that required improvement. For my current group they all highlighted planning and structure. Often I see planning lagging right across all year levels and structure from about year 4 and older.  Next we scaffolded what planning is, looks like and how to do this.

So together we created a group map using SOLO Taxonomy Hexagons to list our ideas. Together we grouped our ideas and came up with sub titles for the groups. For this purpose I used colour post-it notes.

After that I took a photo of the Concept Map and gave each child a copy to use for their writing. We constructed the success criteria with an emphasis of ticking off any ideas we used in writing.

Finally the children used their individual photo of the co-constructed map to write from. Just before they wrote they numbered the subtitles to help with structuring their writing. I gave them a 20 minute timed task and recorded how many words they wrote in 20 minutes.

How did we go?

We looked at what we wrote and identified

  • that not enough writing was generated in the short time.
  • that paragraphs were not happening (structure)
  • in addition very few relational SOLO Taxonomy written words were used.

So that became ‘What do we do next?’

For the second piece of writing, again I used a shared experience and had the children create their own describe map using the previous subtitled words they had identified. They were given 5 minutes to plan and again 20 minutes to write. However for this session I realised I was missing the discussion part. Hattie’s elements identified that classroom discussion accounts for an effect size of (d=0.82) so have added this to elements to focus on. In addition using Cummins continuum I realised that what I was asking from the children was cognitively demanding and was context reduced because I did not provide enough support either visually or with front loading.

When the children finished the writing using a pencil, they transferred their work digitally to their Google Accounts and added more. Immediately I saw a doubling of written words in a very short time.

Now in planning for the third week of writing I will now include.

  • Meta Cognitive Strategies (d=0.53) using SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners because I have coauthored a book with Pam Hook about the process of learning framed with SOLO.
  • Concept Mapping (d=0.64)  using Hooked on thinking Maps because they are research based and framed using SOLO.
  • Opportunity for class discussion (d=0.82)  and what we know about privileging opportunities for students to speak.
  • Ensure that the task is cognitively demanding and content embedded.

For this week I will also include a co-constructed Hooked SOLO rubric because by now the children are developing a sense of the planning process. From previous experience I also know that the rubric contributes to the cognitive strategies by allowing self reflection using evidence base in what the children can see in their writing.

planning

Reflection

I still need to slow down the writing process but not loose sight of accelerated progress. I continually try and speed up the process.

I can continue to give oral feedback and follow up with a written comment.

I want to use digital tools for the total process to see if this makes a difference to the volume. My only challenge is using google draw for planning and the children cannot tick off their plan.

I wonder if I should trial presentations for the writing process because the planning tools can be manipulated better than in draw and docs. Unfortunately presentations does not have the word count feature which I really like to visually motivate the children.

Think aloud.

By stepping through what I do using this think aloud reflection, I can identify my strategy gaps in what I did with my learners. The main was was giving a cognitively demanding task but with little support or the opportunity for discussion.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of using shared language experiences for writing.

How often do we dismiss these for writing prompts because we do the same activity every year or every term. However by utilising annual or termly school wide activities in writing we develop a resource of snapshots in time and if the children are curating their work digitally we should be able to see a development in their writing using the same prompt.

Where to next

Make a connection with families. I kind of do this anyway but really need to lift my game and make this visual by tracking when I do this. I did this really well two years ago and need to revisit those home connection strategies.

My group will soon carry out their written asTTle test and I like to follow this process with marking and moderating alongside their team. I will compare their data with their historic data and see how much this first term intervention has made a difference. For a couple of the students I also want to follow up with their reading data because I am not as confident that they will sustain the levels they were placed at the end of last year. Using probe will confirm or dispute this assumption.

In addition I really want to dig deeper with our year 6 national standards data. When I track some of our ESOL learners who have been with us for three years I can see they have met after three years at school standard. But against national standards their data is well below. Looking at it a different way. They came with no English and then after three years at our school, they met after three years at school standard. Personally I confirm this as accelerated progress. What do you think? Are they failing? If you want to know more about the process of writing with ESOL children then you cannot go wrong with SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners: Making second language learning visible. Personally I cannot recommend this resource enough and not just because my name is also on the cover but because it is applicable for any writing programme.

References

Collier, V. (1987) How long? A synthesis of research on academic achievement in a second language. TESOL Quarterly, 23

Harris, A., & Goodall, J. (2008). Do parents know they matter? Engaging all parents in learning. Educational Research, 50(3), 277-289.  

Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement

Hook, P., & Van Schaijik, S. (2016). SOLO taxonomy and English language learners: making second language learning visible. Laughton, United Kingdom: Essential Resources.

Chinese Scholarship Programme -Beijing

china

Thanks to Huang Wu who helped stage this awesome photo.

This year I took an extra plunge at being the learner to walk in my learner’s shoes. I placed an application for the Chinese Scholarship Programme to Beijing. This week  I received news that I have been selected as one of twelve New Zealand educators to go. I am super excited. I have been to China twice before.

The first time to Shanghai to visit my homestay. The second time to Winan about three hours north of Xian, famous for terracotta warriors. The focus of my second trip was to attend my homestay wedding. This time I will be visiting Beijing home to our current Mandarin Language Assistant.

Last year I was in a massive learning curve as I opted to learn and teach Chinese as part of my role as an ALLiS Lead teacher for Newmarket School. I always say I would never ask teachers to do anything I was not prepared to do myself. Pushing my comfort zone and with encouragement from our TPDL tutors, I sat and passed HSK Level 1.

I pulled together all my learning for 2016 and included this in my application.

When I reflected on the past year for learning, it was massive. My biggest reminder is how hard it is to learn a language. Especially one with a different script and with tone nuances. It took me ages to memorise characters for numbers and even some basic characters. I still rely on Pinyin which is our script and know that I have to work really hard to leave that behind as a learning crutch.

One of the focus of the scholarship is developing intercultural communicative competence. An area that I am passionate about. There will be some extra-curricular activities such as visiting historical sites, experiencing life on a Chinese university campus, a homestay, a visit to Hanban and school visits. I really hope to climb the great wall of China and take the tourist selfie. I am especially keen on participating in immersion tasks designed to encourage interaction in everyday situations. I felt a little discouraged during the summer vacation when I met a new Chinese family and I could not pull my formulaic phrases out fast enough. I hope I can put to use my Thursday lessons with my student tutors who worked with me for most of last year.

Our trip host will be Jiwei Fu, National Adviser for Chinese, ILEP and programme host. We will be based at the Beijing Language and Culture University and if that is no more than a coincident but that is the university of our current Mandarin Language Assistant Xuan.

Next week we will all meet together and begin the induction programme. I hope everyone is on WeChat the Chinese Social Media Communication space.

While I am away my usual social media tools will be blocked by the great firewall of China but that is not a problem because this year at my school most of the teachers have been using WeChat with our community so I will be able to keep in contact with school. I will also be able to communicate with my host daughter in Shanghai who has had a baby. I would have loved the opportunity to pop over there to hold her but that will have to wait for another visit.

I often just do things because I believe I have nothing to lose but in order for this trip to go ahead I needed my principal’s and board’s approval and my sisters support because they will be looking after my aging parents while I am gone.

Why am I going? Well for me the greatest reason is to learn more about the children that I teach. I want to make stronger connections. A key towards empathy is learning some of their language and learning about where they come from. I am an ACCoS Across School Leader and in our Community of Learners we have identified that our Chinese learners are growing in greater numbers.

Where to next

When I return from my journey I am expected to share and implement what I learnt with our students. In addition I am expected to share at clusters, networks, language associations, conferences and various other professional development sessions including my work colleagues. I am also expected to continue teaching Mandarin which I will do. Part of that includes continuing with my night classes at Unitec with Huang and learning Mandarin alongside other amazing people. This year I set a personal goal of achieving HSK Level 2. If you want to know more about WeChat download the phone app and then look for me. My id is: Ulimasao. I love WeChat for the ease I have with translating from the language being used for communication and back into my own language. What an absolute gem for our migrant families.

EPS -Educational Positioning System

eps

Tē tōia, tē haumatia

Nothing can be achieved without a plan

The ACCoS CoL have achievement challenges which act as a roadmap to identify where we have come from and where we are going. Our Achievement Challenges set realistic goals by supporting learners as they move through their learning using the national curriculum.

The core purpose of CoL is to know learning is happening and how to capture it. Over the past few weeks I have been comparing results from previous years by tracking historical data at our school. It is powerful to know that learning is taking place by observing the progress constantly. I have been aligning the reading with the writing data and have been looking at trends. When I lay the English Language Learning data alongside then interesting trends begin to surface and I think back to the graph of Thomas and Collier who describe the length of time to gain academic proficiency in a second language. I have been reading up on attendance and how much of a gauge that year 7 attendance has for achieving NCEA levels. The national data shows that higher decile schools have stronger attendance than lower decile schools and that Asian learners have the strongest attendance data of all groups.

Learning on the job, with senior staff, mentors and coaches is the way to go and our ACCoS planned for Across School Leaders to be trained in coaching skills. At our school our management team found the training invaluable so much so that we have focussed on coaching skills for all our teachers for this year.  We know that sharing best practices is where real change happens. As educators we have to be  accountable to our learners and reduce the levels of mediocrity in our education system.

Being strategic is knowing what to achieve, and then finding the best ways to get there” (Kaufman,1992).

2016 is the third year year for ACCoS and this year I can already see a change happening as our Across School Leaders swing into greater action with a greater focus on empowering all students for success. There is a stronger direction of data and a revisit of our achievement challenges. As an ASL team we are in the process of completing our first yearly report. We have begun meeting with our in school leaders (ISL) and the minutes coming through highlight the following :

  • Drilling down to find more specific information on each achievement challenge.
  • Comparing results from previous years by tracking historic data.

I have learnt to look for what cannot be seen and look for whose voice is not being heard.

Where to next for us

  • Data

This year a greater part of our work will be looking closer at our data. Research in assessment indicates that assessment information should be drawn from a comprehensive range of diverse sources including at least one norm-referenced or externally-referenced tool. We have it stated in our achievement challenge under evaluation that is an ACCoS expectation and it is now a matter of ensuring that all schools and teachers have this same message. The ministry have made our task so much easier by including all our data in one space. We will share this with our In School Leaders at our next across schools meeting. We have asked for all In Schools Leaders to bring their 2016 school data and we will begin the task of data discussion. I believe that we will all need training on data analysis. Many of our primary school teachers are just beginning to use spreadsheets and that is why working across schools is so exciting because we can call on our secondary colleagues who have been doing this for many years. As we dig deeper with our data there will be dips and that helps identify what still needs to be done. If we consistently focus on Hattie’s Effect Size and look at ways of measuring interventions then there is less chance of ‘plucking the baubles on the Christmas tree.’

 

  • Parent Engagement and Participation

 

Our fifth achievement challenge is Parent Engagement and Participation. We have also highlighted this achievement challenge as an area for greater focus this year.

There are pockets of excellence across our schools and it is timely to share these. So again this will be another area of focus for our in school leaders. This achievement challenge will be another reflection from me.

This week we will be meeting again as an Across School Leadership team and I look forward to the discussion with my colleagues.

Those of you who are part of CoLs what is your focus for this year?

Endnote

As an analogy I was searching for something in education that was similar to ‘GPS’. So I searched for Educational Positional System and this link turned up. I felt deflated because I thought I had thought of it first. But not to matter because this is a fabulous read.

http://eps.core-ed.org/eps-difference

Reference

Kaufman, R. (1992) Mapping Educational success: Strategic thinking and planning for school administrators. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press

Other links of Interest

Global Collaboration

Last year November 3  I joined Julie Lindsay and several other Global Educators as part of K12 Online Conference’s.

I was part of a panel discussion around ideas presented in Julie Lindsay’s opening keynote presentation.

Some of the panelists included

  • Dr. Leigh Zeitz: ISTE Global Collaboration PLN President
  • Lucy Gray: Global Education Conference
  • Anne Mirtschin: global educator from Australia
  • Sonya Van Schaijik: Chinese language teacher from New Zealand

The discussion was hosted on youtube and the audience were invited to comment and ask us questions.

Before the session, Julie sent us questions of what she would raise so I created some notes for the session.

 

Why is online global collaboration important as a pedagogy? as a curriculum?

For me it is glocalisation. Where I have taken what I have learnt with Julie and put a local context on it.

Our classrooms at Newmarket School are already filled with a face to face of the world. I believe that global collaboration is important as a pedagogy because it exposes our teachers to the changing face of our classrooms. Making connections and collaborating supports our teachers and students  as they develop empathies for their new friends. A classic example for us was when we worked with Lincoln School in Nepal with teachers Brian and Sudha. Our children in the project were worried about their new friends affected by the earthquake that they set up a project and raised money to support the earthquake appeal. Another example was using the skills I have learnt on Flat Connection and connected with our sister school in in our sister city of Ningbo China.  

2. Do educators find the concept of global education and/or the practice of online global collaboration challenging? Why? Any suggestions to help them?

Yes because initially I believe our teachers see online global collaboration challenging and as an add on to an already busy curriculum. However as I work with our teachers I support them in the journey to realise that it is should be part of what they do because we are preparing children for the now and future. I believe that if we can teach our children to develop empathy through working with children when they are young then maybe one day as world leaders they can make decisions that support peaceful initiatives in the world.

3. What is required for the design and management of online global collaboration? Can you provide examples?

I have been part of online global collaboration since I was a child and my Canadian teacher set me up with a penpal. Then when I was a younger educator I was part of UNESCO’s peace project. You do not need flash wifi or the latest technology to make connections. Just the determination to make it work. For example whether it is via snailmail, email, skype, wechat and my latest favourite technology, a  bit of bluetack to the television so that the iPad works as a camera. However the work I do and have done with Julie has allowed me to push the way I do things to a new level. One of this is the importance of values when online. The respect we show for others through the handshake, though developing connections like using a digital handshake,  because without establishing connections, collaboration just does not work.

4. Can you share outcomes of global connections and collaborations that have changed or shifted the practice/approach/understanding of you or colleagues or students? Shifted in what way?

My biggest personal shift in thinking is about construction. In 2015 I was approached to judge some of the digiteen co-constructed videos and blown away by the quality of what I saw. It takes longer to do this however the relationship building in the process is what I believe is the true learning. Last year I set up an online system to do the same thing with about 38 educators and I saw first hand that the product was just the tip of the iceberg. The relationship building through making connections and working together was the real learning.

That was my ahhah moment. This year I have just joined a community of learners (CoL) as part of our Auckland Central 11 Schools. Again we have a massive achievement goal that we have set.  I already see that making connections and relationship building across our schools is actually the key learning. Because many of our teachers have never experienced global collaboration as a pedagogy they continue to believe that face to face learning is somehow the only way. They have yet to experience face to face through technology. There appears to be a belief that somehow technology is a barrier to relationship building.

I think of my own journey with Julie. For months I cyberstalked her work and then when an opportunity came to work with her in person, I jumped at the chance. But my real learning developed when I undertook her online course as an educator. Last year I brought in teachers and students to work with me. This year I am doing the same. But even more exciting is having convinced my principal to do this because to really shift a school in thinking we know that it takes a whole school approach. I can already see the results of this happening as we plan for next year.

Some of my takeaways from the online panel discussion

  • Collaboration is collective and is about the group succeeding not the individual. Hattie calls this effective teacher efficaey.
  • We need to set up conditions and systems for collaborations. I am doing this right now with our Auckland Central Community of Schools (ACCoS) group.
  • Opening up to the world we have to admit and anticipate the unexpected. This will go wrong and it is the thinking of how we deal with the challenges.

What is it that we can know that we don’t know. Taking risks and making mistakes is valuable for learning. Perfection gets you nowhere. When I am encouraging teachers to take part in a global project I give them some idea of what they are in for. However that is never enough because they will really learn by doing. 

Being part of Flat Connections Week in the Life bring children and teachers together to work on a common issue. However the learning is really about working together to build wisdom and knowledge.

Sow and create possibilities for future generations. I am speaking here about the generation that is online in the next hour, week, month and so forth.

Create knowledge through relationships. We have been learning coaching skills as an ACCoS Across school leader and embedded in the professional learning is the importance of building relationships and everything we say and act with others must come from the human layer.

I am passionate and curious to how far I can learn online with the teachers I work with. I am not focused on an endpoint because there never is one but I am focused to see how far we can go.

As an aside you can read more about the work I do in Julies Book, The Global Educator.