New Zealand Chinese Language Week

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Newmarket School recently celebrated its first Chinese Language Week. In New Zealand Chinese is the fourth-largest ethnic speaking group. However at Newmarket School it is our largest group. Our school is nearly one third Chinese and we wanted to celebrate who we are.

As a school we promoted Chinese language and culture through a range of activities. Students were involved in several events such as calligraphy, traditional Chinese games, making and cooking dumplings, investigating and creating Chinese art, eating Mooncakes, and a celebration assembly. Our children also used WeChat to talk to a kindergarten and then our sister school in China.

We had a special day on Wednesday when children were invited to celebrate their own culture by wearing traditional dress. We asked for a gold coin donation to help with the publication of a student created book telling the story of Chang E. I am still working on this with our children.

Friday was a special day for us because the youngest members of our school led our assembly. The whole school had been learning songs and a dance that we incorporated into our assembly. Mandarin has been identified by our school community as being important. So much so that we offer after school classes in addition to the language being taught in all our classes.

We have undertaken this journey because our Ministry of Education research shows that Mandarin is an upcoming global language. I also know from experience that learning a second language contributes to literacy skills in our children’s first language. As a school we are part of the Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS). Therefore I am a student of Mandarin and am teaching the language to our five and six year olds.

The week long events highlighted our Chinese students and chance for them to step up and be leaders. At the same time many of our senior school students stepped up too and led morning tea game activities and supported many of the in class art activities.

We were one of the lucky schools to receive funding from the Asia New Zealand Foundation to hold events. This funding was used to purchase art equipment and Chinese food ingredients for our children.

We also had Lily Lee as a guest speaker who shared her book Sons of the Soil and told us stories of her time at Newmarket School.  Confucius Institute Auckland supported us with a guest calligrapher and support team who shared his skills with us. In addition we were most fortunate to have parents who gave time to share their skills too.

For clearer photos, do visit our school’s facebook page.

Where to next?

This coming weekend I have been invited to share our story at the Oceania Chinese Language Conference. Here is a link to my slides.

Our junior classes will continue to flatten their walls of learning as we take part in the Flat Connections Project beginning in term 4. The project is called K-2 Building Bridges to Tomorrow. We will be working with schools from around the world as we connect, collaborate and share our learning together. One way of doing this is using WeChat and all our junior school teachers are signed up and on board.

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up

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Introduction

Yesterday I took a bit of a risk. Yesterday was the day to share my inquiry around Chinese language learning with my year 0 and 1 children and teachers at Newmarket School. We were asked to create a Task Based Language Activity, teach it, evaluate its effectiveness and present our learning to our colleagues in the EDProfst360 TPDL Course. I had extra pressure of having my principal invited to come and hear my learning and of course she accepted and was there. My learning about the task I created was how I failed and the learning I took away from this. So here is my presentation and story.

  • wǒ xìng Van Schaijik
  • wǒ jiào Sonya
  • wǒ shì xiǎo xué  lǎoshī
  • wǒ zài Newmarket xuéxiào jiào shū

Background

My class is made up of forty four year 0 & 1 students. I take them for thirty minutes once each week. The class is made up of 22 year 0 students and 22 year 1. Of these ⅓ are Chinese speakers of varying proficiency from new learners of English to having some words. There are two teachers who work in class with me and we are all learning together. However because I am in the TPDL programme I am the teacher preparing and leading the lessons. My own language of Mandarin is minimal and I am in my second semester of learning Mandarin. I am also teaching the language therefore my proficiency is developing.

Where did the idea for my Task Based Language Activity  come from?  

Earlier this year for my first assignment, I researched Rod Ellis. I  developed the learning task using a PM reader. I was really clear in my approach and rationale behind the lesson. I spent ages on the artefact so that it all worked well. I called in a proficient L1 speaker to help with the resource. My understanding was the task should have worked.

Information gap.

So I carried out the lesson with the whole class. The task was mostly receptive and did not require much language demand because the children were already familiar with colours and where is (zài nǎ lǐ)

 叶 子 在 哪 里
hóng zi zài nǎ lǐ

They just needed the new word zi meaning leaf.

I deliberately chose a PM reader that most would have already read in English so there was little language demand.

I wanted the children to fill in the missing colours by looking at the picture of the leaf. I believed that they would easily accomplish this simple task and the lesson would be a great success. 

However I experienced a disastrous outcome. I felt that nothing was right.

Justification on my disaster

So I reflected on the outcome.

  • Why was the task all wrong?
  • Maybe the timing was wrong.
  • My expectations were too high.
  • I did not have enough language knowledge to carry out the teaching of the task.
  • Maybe the children were just playing up for me this particular day.

#Smallvoice

Then a niggling doubt surfaced. Maybe my designed task did not not fit a task based language activity.

According to Rod Ellis, a task has four main characteristics:

  1. A task involves a primary focus on (pragmatic) meaning.
  2. A task has some kind of ‘gap’.
  3. The participants choose the linguistic resources needed to complete the task.
  4. A task has a clearly defined, non-linguistic outcome.

Yes there was meaning because the children could see the colours and hear the language.

But there was no gap because I was teaching whole class, all children could see the task. I misinterpreted Gap as a Gap in knowledge, rather than a gap in communication. 

I did not give the participants an opportunity to choose the linguistic resources in order to complete the task because I had colour coded the vocabulary I expected them to use.

The task did not have a clearly defined, non-linguistic outcome. Instead I expected a focus on form.

Evaluating the task

I could not evaluate the task because I did not have enough evidence. I did not allow the students to use all the language they knew and or are learning. Instead I expected them to use just the ‘target language’ of the lesson. Therefore I had little evidence of output.

Time was against me as the term’s end was approaching fast. So instead I gave up on this activity and left the idea of task based language teaching for a few weeks. 

Instead I concentrated on more focussed input such as building vocabulary and building simple sentences by having the children continue to learn formulaic sentences.

I used more songs to give sentence frames and structure for language. I read more around the criteria of a task.

The impact of designing this task on my teaching

With failing comes reflection:

  • Reflecting on practice and where to next;
  • Discussion with colleagues how to improve the task and using my colleagues and their teaching skills; 
  • Refocus Task Based Language Teaching and ensuring that pretask, task and review are ongoing;
  • Refocus on learning formulaic expressions;
  • Refocus on my own language learning and registering for semester two of learning Chinese;
  • Focus on allowing the children to use all the language they knew and or are learning and opportunities to develop greater complexities of the target language such as using connectives or time order words.

Try again but adapting the task

  • Will the activity engage learners’ interest?
  • Is there a primary focus on meaning?
  • Is there a goal or an outcome?
  • Is success judged in terms of outcome?
  • Is completion a priority?
  • Does the activity relate to real world activities?

Focus on Input

So I spent most of term three focussing on input because the children still required plenty of exposure to LI through input before I can expect output. Therefore I focussed on smaller group teaching with the teachers focussing on language input. I was lucky enough to have an L1 parent join us as support and she was a fabulous L1 model and help. We also had a teacher in her final year of training who had the mindset and was willing to have a go. So with our forty four students we had 5 adults. I continued to use youtube videos as a model for L1 and created several visuals with images that would help with receptive input because most of our children are still developing basic reading skills. I focussed too on less whole class teaching except for the pre task stage.

The impact that ‘failure’ had on my students

Initially I was gutted and felt like giving up. I was tired and disheartened and I know that by my third TPDL observation I had more than had enough of my own learning.

But as the Chinese saying is

失败不是倒下,但拒绝起床。
shībài bùshì dǎoxià dàn jùjué qǐchuáng
Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up

So as a thinking teacher who is always reflecting I looked for opportunities to bring in the expertise of the teachers I work with. I completed another assignment around the key concepts relevant to intercultural communicative language learning. This gave me another pathway to think outside the square and try something even more amazing.

Our Chinese Language and Culture Week at Newmarket School

So I approached our management team and asked for the opportunity to develop a week long series of events that focussed on culture. I applied to the Asia New Zealand Foundation and won a grant to help with the weeks event. I planned for several cultural events such as the kinds of games that children played, a calligrapher who shared his skills and who I was able to get through the support of our deputy principal and her connections with Confucius, a guest speaker who wrote a book about the history of Chinese Market gardeners to New Zealand.  I thought seriously about opportunities for language output and was especially excited because my focus classes of year zero and one would be hosts for the upcoming school assembly. I ran a small speech competition with a focus on students who could use connectives and I also looked for students who could recite a poem because I knew that they would have to carry out research to do this. Classes were invited to compete a Chinese art artefact and in order to do this I knew that the teachers would have had to research into some Chinese history and to find out about the art before they would do this. I asked all classes in the school to learn a dance and to learn three songs in preparation for the assembly and they did. My own Chinese dance group were given another opportunity to present and this time I ensured that they had dance costumes so they looked stunning.
The highlights are published on our Newmarket School’s Facebook page. The highlights for me were:

  • Seeing the little children talk to a kindergarten in China via WeChat and singing Twinkle Twinkle little stars together;
  • Seeing the parents come in to help with in class activities;
  • Seeing the delight at the whole school partaking in mooncakes during Mooncake day;
  • All classes learning a little bit of culture and language;
  • Our fabulous guests;
  • Our senior students leading the games events each morning tea;
  • Of course my absolute pride at the fabulous team lead assembly from the 5 and 6 year olds.

Balance

You might fall down seven times and maybe on the eighth time you might have your balance. As I reflect on my language programme I must balance meaning focussed input with meaning focussed output. I must balance  Language Focussed Learning with Fluency Development. This delicate balance enables more student centred, meaningful communication, and provides extra-linguistic skill building. I must continue to provide real world activities and tasks that are familiar to the students such as our WeChat session and our fabulous week long celebration. Our recent week highlighted that our students and staff were engaged which may further motivate them in their ongoing language learning of our target language as part of the ALLiS project.

Celebrate the learning

Finally look for opportunities to celebrate the language learning. Use the tools to capture the output such as video or iRecord. I have a big week ahead of me as I publish our celebration for our school website. I have a group of students who I will record their poems and introductions for our learning resources. I have a book that needs publishing in both English and Mandarin. I have heaps of people to send thank you letters to that helped make our week amazing.

So my failure ended up being hugely successful for my children and my school. I am always looking for new ways of forced output for our children. I have managed to convince our junior school team to take big steps in term four. They have all signed up for WeChat as we explore new ways for making connections with our families. As a team we have signed up for K-2 Flat Connections project where they will work with schools around the world and look at new ways of learning for our children. The project is called ‘Building Bridges for Tomorrow‘.   Our teachers will be exposed to new tools and the chance to think in new ways because technology has a way of forging past the traditional junior school teacher modelling books and the traditional walls of sharing student learning.

Connections are the beginning of collaboration

nps nps2

Yesterday we had the most amazing experience with our children as part of our school wide focus on Chinese language and culture week. One of our parents set up a WeChat session with a kindergarten in Zhengzhou, Henan in China. She came, was part of the session and and helped to ensure that it was a success.We spent approximately 30 minutes with the children and teachers. The kindergarten is one her son attended before they came to New Zealand.

The experience was a little different to Skype in the classroom because our children are learning Mandarin. Therefore we did not do the usual ‘Guess where we are sessions.‘ I was really lucky to have a translator as this helped immensely with the experience.

The video quality was low from their end, but that is OK because I know that as educators we are problem solvers. They shared with us via WeChat what it looked like from their end and it was so exciting to see the faces of their children. The children were really excited as ours were too. They had hooked up a computer to a data projector and their teachers were balancing the computer and holding up the computer for our benefit so that we could see their children. The really exciting thing about using WeChat was that we did not fall off. I have had experiences using Skype with China where there is a lot of interruption but using WeChat seemed to eliminate this.

I used my iPhone to record or children and streamed this through apple TV so that they could see our children. My main technology was heaps of bluetac to connect the iPhone to the top of the television. Before the session Lili one of our parents and I had carried out a test run with our virtual guests. Then before the live session I flick on the video so that our children could see themselves on the television screen. This helped align our children for the camera in preparation for the session.

Our children practiced saying

大家好 dà jiā hǎo Hello everyone!
您好 ni hao Greetings
您好 ni hao lǎoshī Greetings teachers
再见 zài jiàn Good bye 

We went live and both classes greeted each other.

Then they sang us a song. We sand them a song in Chinese. They sang us 5x little Ducks in Chinese, we sang them a Maori song. Next their teacher suggested we sing a song together that we both knew. This was twinkle twinkle little star, so cute. After that I had our teachers introduce themselves in Mandarin. Finally we all said goodbye and thank you.

The point of all this you may ask?

The authentic use of a language. The chance to share our learning in Mandarin even though it is really basic. The opportunity to make connections with children in another country who are the same age as our little ones. To show our teachers that there are new ways of learning. So rather than using photos or videos of another country, culture and language, we can be doing so much more.

Where to next?

The learning I learnt from taking part in Flat Connections student projects is the importance of co construction. I was really excited when their teachers suggested singing a song together. This is something I know about early childhood teachers, they always think outside the box. My imagination is all fired up with the possibilities. I have suggested that our teachers explore Wechat so will do another big push again with this tool.

asianz

The rest of this week is about celebrating the culture and language of one third of our student population as part of the National Chinese Language Week.  We have so many activities and experiences organised.  I give a massive shout out to the Asia New Zealand foundation who approved our application for support. The extra amount enables us to help make this week memorable for our children.

Sharing is caring — learning is giving back to the community

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Image from Darren Kuropatwa

Ewan once wrote that ‘Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work.

Recently I was interviewed as part of a research in the use of digital tools in appraisal practices in primary schools. I was asked some interesting questions that I found myself thinking about the interview long after it was over. 

I was drawn back to a series of presentations I shared at Eduignite. My second in a series of three was Digital Tattoos. At Eduignite, I shared about the importance of leaving evidence of what we do as educators and to be cautious of having folders on desks. Personally I have never understood the point of having an appraisal paper folder. I struggle even more with the notion of creating PDFs of what I do. I chuckle at the PDF notion just like I chuckle at stories of educators being asked to print off digital planning. I am aware of needing evidence for compliance, but believe like Ewan, that online sharing is much more powerful. You can check out my slides from that Eduignite session below. Even then I scoffed at the paper folders.

I have writing several times about the importance of transparent sharing.

When I reread my 2015 goal of having all teachers at Newmarket School with an online reflective blog, I am excited to say that I have achieved that goal. Currently most blogs look like the early push onto twitter. Sporadic writing like the earlier sporadic tweeting. Two have set theirs up but have not yet taken that first step. But hey after curating #EdBlogNZ  with two online colleagues, I know, as a school we are in a good space.

I am always thinking about the importance of our teachers sharing. I do remind them about using twitter like online note taking so that they can get into the habit of microblogging and our teachers have supported the use of our school hashtag .

This year I have been particularly excited to see our teachers examples of sharing. These include

  • Running Staff Meetings
  • Running school wide events
  • Presenting outside of school at education events
  • Sharing at Educamp
  • Sharing at an online course and at face2face courses
  • Sharing on twitter chats

However the most powerful of these are when I can see a follow up reflection on their blogs because again it is the sharing online that creates an artefact for the education community.

I am really excited at across school sharing. We have the ACCoS initiative, the ALLiS and the Mutukaroa projects. In addition I co ordinate our Eastern Area ESOL cluster group.

Community of Learners

Soon I will be sharing our school’s journey at Ulearn. I will be sharing about how Newmarket School contributes to many networks such as:

I will be sharing how changes and structures in the school day have evolved from being teacher driven to being student driven and enable innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Also how task-based learning activities are curated for students and how communication evolves as both teachers and students learn to give and receive feedback. I will also share how informal and formal learning creates opportunities for sharing knowledge and skills among the learning community. The above spaces will be used as examples as well as what we are doing in Newmarket School with our children and teachers.

Where to next?

Reminding teachers about keeping content current is an important part of online sharing. I have a project that has developed into something quite close to my heart and that is the #EdBookNZ project. This is where I have identified current education jargons and invited educators to contribute a piece of writing. I take all the writing and publish a digital book for the education community. The #TeachMeetNZ google hangouts that I have run quarterly have been shelved because I have taken on two other roles this year and that has been about building communities of learners.

Finally, I am particularly excited that our principal joining the next cohort of Flat Connection Leadership for Global Education. A criteria of the course is regular blogging so I look forward to her ongoing online sharing.

So as schools how open are your examples of teachers creating and sharing? Do your teachers see online sharing as on top of what they do or is online sharing part of their practice? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Not too hard or soft but just right

 

Goal Setting 

In  his book Visible Learning (p. 164) John Hattie summarises that the right kind of student goal setting can have a positive affect on student learning.

This is the second reflection I have in regards to my 2016 personal inquiry. My first one is here. I stated that by the end of September I will have trialled the visible learning  interventions for ELL and then through data analysis ascertain the effect size of the interventions so that the most effective strategies can be applied to accelerate the progress of  targeted  ELL students.

In term 2 of this year I worked with Kahikatea year 5 and 6 students in class. I regularly came in as the third teacher and worked alongside the teachers as part of the class rotation. I found it such a joy to work with my English Language Learners as part of a normal class programme. I was delighted to see my targeted children part of a vertical grouping in maths, reading and in writing. They were not streamed but were placed in groups where problem solving was the main strategy for learning. For example in mathematics I might have been using https://www.youcubed.org as the focus for the lesson. Therefore it did not matter what level maths you were at, it was how the problem solving was carried out.

ILE

I worked too with writing and reading. I observed how my targeted children managed the tasks set in the innovative learning environment. I marvelled at the way they could structure their days of learning using google calendar. Each day needed to have an hour each of maths, reading and writing. At the beginning of term two I gathered all their reading and writing data. I will compare the new data with the initial gathering of data before the end of term three . This will help determine if having me work in class alongside the teachers made much of a difference. There are a variety of variables to this being successful. Some of these include using google classroom to curate learning, or by using peer feedback to critique work. Other variables could include accountability with how much learning evidence was collected or the challenge of completing all must dos in order to take part in passion projects as part of Discovery Friday.

Goal Setting

I supported the children in setting learning goals. In order for this to be successful they were given their reading and writing data and then their maths data. From these pieces of evidence and mapping these to the learning progression, the children identified where they were at against their National Standards peer group. The children then highlighted any gaps and these became the basis for their next steps. In addition the children set learning goals that were achievable. Hattie speaks about learning goals being not too hard, not too soft but just right. I look forward to the new data and how the students will evaluate these against their learning goals set last term.

Year 4 writing 

I had another group working on writing. They are a group of year 4 students achieving just below national standards for year 4. Their reading levels were much higher. Again I worked in class with this group and began with goal setting for writing. This group of students were not all ESOL funded students because I added two children who were not eligible but yet needed similar support. I have always tried to adjust what I do so that the learning is the most effective. One way of doing this is by me working with one group and the teacher works with another. For this group I chose to make learning authentic and used real learning to motivate their writing For example one part focussed on slaters. The class were investigating a variety of mini beasts. At the end of the writing the children created a video artifact for their class.  I am also particularly interested to see  if the goals that they set at the beginning of term two are achieved by the end of this term.

 

I believe that by unpacking the data with the learner, they are able to identify what they need to work on. I am developing in my own understandings of the learning progressions and I believe I am fairly accurate in judging a piece of writing. That is where my knowledge of SOLO taxonomy has been invaluable. The work I undertook last year as part of the book I developed with Pam Hook has enabled me to see at a glance the gaps in writing. Here is the link if want to know more about SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners

Where to next

I have been interested in seeing the latest development in the Visible Learning project. A key message is limiting teacher talk. This ties in nicely with my next piece of writing which is about my inquiry around teaching and learning of Mandarin. Through the termly observations I can see how much teacher talk takes place.

Reference

Hattie, John (2008). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. NY: Routledge.

Mid Autumn Festival

Background

This year I have been learning Chinese as part of my Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) learning. TPDL is an in-service year-long professional development programme for teachers at all New Zealand schools.

I chose to take on the challenge of learning Mandarin as part of being the ALLiS teacher for Newmarket School. I also took on the challenge as I wanted to foster closer relationships with the children that I work with at Newmarket School. Nearly one third of our school is made up of children who speak Chinese. I have visited China twice already but with limited vocabulary and my second visit happened during their Chinese New Year.

chang e Chang e -drawn by Seroung

Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節

Soon in China it is the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節, also known as the Moon Festival. One key idea I have learnt is the importance of festivals and celebrations to bring families back together. My first visit to Chine was just before the time of the Mid Autumn festival. During this visit I was introduced to moon cakes. Again I had very little knowledge of the importance of sharing moon cakes.

The Mid Autumn Festival  falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar year. Myself I naively thought this meant the 15th of August. However had omitted the phrase Chinese lunar year in my first round of information. I know now that Mid Autumn Festival takes place in September because Chinese New Year happens in February when we compare the dates to the Gregorian calendar or the calendar which the western countries use. This year the date for celebration is the 15th of September.

The Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People eat moon cakes for celebration. The moon cake is a kind of pastry with various fillings and the surface is printed with different artistic patterns.  Mid-Autumn Festival is also a time for family reunions. As the moon cake is round in shape, it symbolises the reunion of a family.
So for this Mid-Autumn Festival our children at Newmarket School will enjoy a delicious moon cake at school and at home they will probably also enjoy a Moon Cake shared with family.

nzclw

New Zealand Chinese Language and Culture Week

Last year New Zealand celebrated Chinese Language week around this period. The first I heard about it was after the event. I have been watching for this years dates and checking the internet for the confirmed week. This year there is now a site for this event.

This year I was determined that at Newmarket School we would celebrate this new national event. So at Newmarket School I am working with a group of senior students to coordinate a week long list of activities. I have just finished a paper on Intercultural Language Teaching which clarified the need to communicate in the first place and seek to teach culture in a way which develops intercultural communicative skills at the same time as developing language skills. Intwined with cultural activities is the opportunity to develop language. As a Mandarin teacher I have been focussed predominantly on language. Partly because of my own focus of learning Mandarin. 

NZCLW at Newmarket School

With my senior students we have developed a list of activities that they have chosen to lead over this week. The activities planned include:

  • Elastics
  • Long skipping rope activities
  • Pong pong
  • Chopsticks activities
  • Diabolo spinning
  • Jianzi- hacky sack-  Shuttle Cock kicking

One key activity is a language activity as I really want our children who learn Mandarin to have the opportunity to celebrate their learning. I will also give the children the chance to practice a formulaic speech and for this activity I will use our fluent speakers as judges to help me judge this. The second part is to identify our fluent speakers because next year I will prepare them for the oral Mandarin speeches.

In addition I am keen to develop literacy skills for our Mandarin speaking children. So I have set the challenge of writing a book in English to retell the story of Chang-e. The lady in the moon. Our children who are literate in Mandarin will help me with translating. Also we have our parent community who will help me with the final draft. I have a group of artists who have chosen to develop the images that will be used.

In class activities that teachers and classes can choose to include in their programme are:

  • Dumpling making
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting cherry blossoms
  • Painting Panda
  • Decorate a tea tin
  • Make and fly fish shaped kites
  • Mask painting
  • Paper cutting
  • Making lanterns from recycled materials

Health and Well Being

One of our school wide goals for 2016 is ‘Heath and Well Being’. So by incorporating mindfulness into the weeks programme through exercise, physical activities and meditation I am proactive in developing a positive health awareness culture in our workplace. I am conscious too that by sharing moon cakes during this week I must take into account the children in our school who have allergies to egg and nuts. Again it is about being prepared and identifying those children for their safety and well being. My next step is to work with my student organising committee and identify any hazards in their physical activities so that injuries for participating children will be minimised. I also need to reconnect with our National Chinese advisor as I wish to strengthen our working relationship. I also still need to reestablish connections with a past pupil of our school by inviting her to our events.During my research for the types of activities to run I have made connections with Confucius, Asia New Zealand, our local secondary school, several parents in our school community, our after school Chinese teachers and of course our children who are running several morning tea activities.

WeChat

Those of you who work with Chinese children and are not yet aware of Wechat, then use your phone and locate the app. Wechat is an amazing social media tool to use to create connections with our Asian neighbours. I use Wechat for communication in the Connect with China Flat Connections initiative. I use Wechat to build communications with some of our parents. I use Wechat to maintain connections with our previous Mandarin Language Assistants and to communicate with New Zealand teachers who have shifted to China. I use Wechat to develop closer relationships with our sister school in Ningbo. I have used Wechat to make connections with a kindergarten who will communicate with our junior school during the upcoming week of celebration. 

The week long celebration is now just two weeks away. I have let our parent community know that it is happening via our newsletter. I have alerted teachers to the dates and to be aware of their contribution in class. I have met with the student leadership team to design the activities that will be run. So now it is down to the finer details.

Those of you who are in an ALLiS cluster, what kinds of events have you hosted to raise awareness and to celebrate our children?

Collective Teacher Efficacy

The power of connections is vital for collaboration. When a group of teachers come together to work together  magic happens. When they come together for their students, and learning is the focus, then we have collective teacher efficacy.

Teacher Efficacy

So what exactly does teacher efficacy mean? Hattie says it is the way you think about your role as a leader or a teacher that defines the way you work and the impact you will have.

So as a teacher how do we measure our impact?

Keep our eyes on the game

When working with our school I like to make visible our school’s ethnicity data. I have been tracking ours for seven years and am amazed at how much movement I have seen in the seven years since I have been at Newmarket. We have a fabulous makeup of an amazing group of students who are predominantly Asian. Recently I have seen another surge of new migrants, when I have finalised our application for ESOL funding. I have begun with this because the makeup of our school affects our data. At the same time I stress the importance of watching the data. The aim long term is not to get caught up in the six month gains or the short term achievements that we can sometimes become excited over. I have faith that our bilingual learners will exceed our expectations when they get to secondary school because I have faith in our teachers and in my school.

The importance of data to help drive learning

My first query is, ‘Do our children want to come to school?‘ So by focussing on attendance data I look at our children who have attendance gaps and determine why this happens. We have an amazing person who watches the trends carefully and catches up with families if there is a drop in attendance.

We can also measure academic data and decide on the impact we expect to see. We have a range of assessment tools that give us this information and we are getting better at analysing them to target where our teaching gaps are and the effect we are having. We have a robust student management system that is able to aggregate the data and our teachers are developing in their skills to access and analyse the information.

When measuring our impact I believe that understanding what a year’s progress looks like is more important than measuring where our learners sit against national standards.  I also believe that it takes six to seven years to measure the learning journey to see that progress. I state this because of my training in bilingual education and am influenced by the work of Thomas and Collier who have also conducted longitudinal studies on language learners progress and have researched that it takes six to eight years to see the impact of bilingual education. We are not a bilingual school but we do celebrate the languages that our children bring with them.

Every teacher needs to be tracking the children’s progress, but we really need to move faster as there is a sense of urgency for our bilingual children who are catching up. For them I expect to see greater than a years progress.We can track this by analysing reading graphs initially. When I look at reading data I love seeing something like this (Fig 1)and bearing in mind that orange to turquoise plateau when inferencing becomes even more important rather than at the text understanding. These graphs were borrowed from our student management system ‘EDGE’ and was part of what I shared with our Board of Trustees recently. Against National Standards this student is well below. Using the data I can share accelerated progress.

Fig 1

sample1

When I look at our writing data using asTTle as one tool, I check the scores because they tell me more about student’s progress than the curriculum levels. I align them to the reading and see where everything sits. I look for something like this (Fig 2). This is a three year reading graph and writing data. Remember many of our children are migrant and often come with literacy in their first language. The reading always shifts first and the writing can lag behind. Note the highlighted number, and I am seeing less of the inflated score that can happen at the end of the year. From my own learning I see a correlation between the scores and the colour wheel. This is not yet proven, but I am seeing a trend. For example a 1B writing score shifting into the 1000s usually happens from green level in reading. 

Fig 2

sample2 sample1a

I also scrutinise historic data and identify drops. I look for the classic year 3-4 drop when Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALPs) becomes much more important than Basic Interpersonal Communication (BICs) for assessing progress. (Cummins). I am excited to say that after several years of across school moderation, we are no longer seeing that drop at year 3 & 4 so I believe we have nailed that. One key question here is ‘How long have the children been sitting at or above before we know that this data is stable?’ Check out your own school data at the Education Counts site.  If your school data is stable then there should not be that year 7 drop that also happens when children go to intermediate. I can also see from our historic graph the last time when our year 2 data was still too high. The graph shows the last of the trending drop happening in year 3. (Refer 2013, Year 2.)

NSD

Oral Language

As teachers we do tend to focus on reading and writing because these can be measured. However  take into account Paul Nations research into academic vocabulary and unpack what is required to achieve at this level of learning and remember how long it takes to learn a language. This can be broken down further using Academic Word List (AWL) devices by Averil Coxhead.

Students need to be acquiring 2000 new words per year to make a years progress. When this is broken down further, that is approximately 40 new words per week that should be actively taught. Breaking it down further, this is 10 words per day because we take into account holidays.  I recommend seriously looking at Jane Van der Zeydens book Essential Oral Language Toolkit. I love Jane’s work because it is research based and from a recent classroom teacher’s perspective. Jane also understands the sense of urgency for our English Language Learners.

Goal Setting

Recently I had a discussion with a colleague about the importance of goal setting. But not from a teacher perspective as was her understanding but from the learner’s perspective. I asked why the children were not setting their own goals looking at their own data. I shared with her John Hattie’s effect size on goal setting and suggested using the ‘Three Bear’s’ analogy also used by John. ‘Not too hard, not too soft but just right.’ The following was taken from one of our previous student projects. SOLO Taxonomy framework helped me unpack my understanding of goal setting but that is another blog post. 

NPS3 bears

Sharing data

As a school we have worked hard to have a shared understanding of data. We have looked at all our data in teams and set goals. We have shared our impact with each other and recently in teams we shared our impact with our Board of Trustees. We are gaining an understanding about the sense of urgency and about looking for a minimum impact of a years progress for a years learning. We are developing in our understanding about what the learning progression looks like at each year level as we moderate across the school. 

Updatehttps://lpf.education.govt.nz/ The Learning progression framework has just become public. Do register to increase understanding for the work we do.

Where to next?

Well I have recently joined our Auckland Central Community of Schools as an in school teacher but with a focus on building the across school community. Those of you who follow my work will understand my excitement at this new development.  I can hardly believe my enthusiasm because I have the chance to see longitudinal data being shared across our 11 schools. I have the chance to work with over 70 educators as we come together to make a difference to 7,963 children and their families. I have a chance to see if what we begin at primary school feeds through to our intermediate and then our secondary school. I can check to see how we are doing against the Thomas and Collier chart. We are all on the same journey and that is giving our best to our children. I have a chance to see and be part of a collective teacher group and the chance to see teacher efficacy in action across several schools.