July School Holidays

I have an exciting fortnight coming up. Soon it is the New Zealand school holidays. We have two weeks and it is the middle of winter. However at Newmarket School you would not believe what an amazing day we have. I am back at school on a beautiful Saturday to work on my upcoming presentations and to finalise ELL data for term three distribution of our in class support. Those of you who know me know I look after my aging parents and this past six months have been full on as they require more of my time.

So these two weeks coming up means I get a chance to have a break as my sisters step in to support me. They know how much I enjoy sharing our learning so have agreed to take over the care of my parents while I am away. My sisters support me daily with them but during this time they will be the primary support team.

Meanwhile I will be in Nelson, then Hamilton, Auckland for two days and finally I will visit Christchurch to make up for two days missed on the TPDL course that I am involved in this year.

Part of the NZALT preparation has included gathering artifacts to share. I have been working with my Thursday student Mandarin tutors who are helping me prepare my personal introduction in Mandarin. Yes it is really hard and they are tough on my pronunciation. On Monday our Mandarin dance group have agreed to perform for the school’s leadership assembly so I will have an example of that too. Of course SOLO Taxonomy continues to drive what I do and I am especially excited to be sharing SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners at CLESOL and at the PPTA Pasifika Fono.

As we race towards the end of the term our school has reporting to parents and of course the leadership week.

However I know that as crazy as it seems all my colleagues are in similar situations and are hanging out for some sleep ins, the chance to do some PD in their PJ’s and the chance to catch up with each other as we share what we do in our schools.

Do share what you are doing in that fortnight. I am particularly interested in those of you taking some time for mindfullness  and well being activities. This non contact time might also be a perfect opportunity to update that blog you have been meaning to do. Remember to use the #EdBlogNZ hashtag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defining Task-based language teaching

 

Part 1 of my reading log for EDPROFST 360 

Course Director and Lecturer: Dr. Constanza Tolosa

Write answers to the following questions after you have read the reading you have chosen.

  1. According to the author, what is a task-based approach to language teaching?
  2. In what ways does the author claim that task-based language teaching is superior to more traditional ways of language learning? What are the benefits of this approach to language teaching for language learning?
  3. Write a personal response to the author’s claims where you give your reaction to the ideas presented.
  4. Suggest ways in which the content of what you have read could be applied in your language classroom.

Reading Chosen

Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: Sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 19 (3), 221-246.

Defining Task Based language teaching (TBLT)

Task Based language teaching (TBLT) is an approach to teaching a second/foreign language that seeks to engage learners in interactionally authentic language using the target language by having them perform a series of tasks. TBLT aims to both enable learners (1) to acquire new linguistic knowledge and (2) to proceduralize their existing knowledge.  Teachers need to understand that TBLT involves input-providing as well as out-put prompting tasks and that it is possible to build up proficiency initially through a series of simple input-based tasks.

Task

Central to TBLT is that word task, and teachers must have a clear understanding about task by providing opportunities for communication. There is is no single ‘task-based teaching’ approach. Task can be focused or unfocused and can be identified by the following four key precepts of Task.

First the primary focus for TBLT should be on ‘meaning’ by which is meant that learners should be mainly concerned with processing the semantic and pragmatic meaning of utterances.

Then there should be some kind of ‘gap’ with a need to convey information and to express an opinion or to infer meaning.

Next learners should largely rely on their own resources whether it is linguistic and or non-linguistic in order to complete the activity.

After that there should be a defined outcome other than the use of language because the language serves as the means for achieving the outcome, not as an end in its own right.

These key precepts of tasks central to TBLT is superior to more traditional ways of language learning because TBLT is capable of providing much greater exposure to the target language than traditional language teaching. Task allows the students to communicate for a real purpose to achieve success criteria. The tasks need to be trialled to ensure that they result in appropriate L2 use and revised in the light of experience. Therefore in practice attention is drawn to as the name suggests, the Task.

Advantages of TBLT

Task-based learning is advantageous to the student because it is more student-centered, allows for more meaningful communication, often provides for practical extra-linguistic skill building and are likely to be familiar to the students such as visiting the doctor.

  1. Task-based language teaching offers the opportunity for ‘natural’ learning inside the classroom.
  2. TBLT emphasizes meaning over form but can also cater for learning form.
  3. TBLT is intrinsically motivating therefore students are more likely to be engaged, which may further motivate them in their language learning.
  4. TBLT is compatible with a learner-centred educational philosophy but also allows for teacher input and direction by allowing the learner to pick out the language to use for the task.
  5. TBLT caters to the development of communicative fluency while not neglecting accuracy.
  6. TBLT depends on the purpose of the activity and can be used alongside a more traditional approach.
  7. TBLT develops communicative abilities.

The role of the teacher for TBLT

Teachers need to be clear in their understanding of what a task is and to be aware of the purpose and rationale for performing tasks. Developing task materials allows teachers to tailor the task to the proficiency levels of their students.

Applying the principles of TBLT In my current practice of teaching Mandarin.

In my current practice of teaching Mandarin I am already using several principles of TBLT. However I had not unpacked it to the depth that I am currently doing. I am a new learner of Mandarin and I use songs and simple children’s poems when focussing on form. My current class has a large proportion of Mandarin speakers and I use them to help with extensive L2 input. Initially they supported me with form and L2 input with the other children. I am already taking into account the individual differences of my learners by grouping the students according to ability. From other readings would like to trial grouping mixed ability children so that more experienced speakers can help emergent speakers.

Where to next

I will develop language teaching activities with a primary focus on meaning as I have been focusing only on form. I will aim to provide more opportunities for group and paired activities that enable my learners to pick out the language for the task.

When I highlight the 10 principles I can see that I have taken formulaic expressions to mean my learning of the expressions but have omitted my students learning them too. In order to understand what a task is and understand what is required of the learner to understand communicative messages I have begun the process of providing tasks and activities to focus on output. I have identified that I need to examine free use of language as well as controlled production because activities have shown that such tasks are effective both for practising managing and facilitating students’ performance of tasks in TBLT.  For my new task I have made decisions around both design and methodology. I have sequenced the tasks using the three phases of pre task phase, task phase and post task phase. For the pre task phase my learners sing the Mandarin colour song that has already been taught. We recap on the colours by holding up a colour block as the colours are called out. For the task phase I have developed a resource using the images from the simple PM reader called Sally’s leaves.  I have added a question and answer component to the story using formulaic phrases of  asking the question, ‘Where is the red leaf?’ Then responding with, ‘Here is the red leaf.’ My learners will group in threes to discuss and practice the patterns that they can see and hear. For the final two slides, I will leave out the formulaic expressions but will leave in the colours of the leaves. For the post task phase I have created another resource that has the coloured leaves with the words. Included are the two formulaic phrases. My learners will work in pairs to practice asking and answering the questions. The task I have created for learning has an element of natural language use.

 

10,000 is the magic number.

 

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http://dilbert.com/strip/2013-02-07 By Scott Adams 

I had been reading around  the 10,000 hour rule that was shared by Gladwell. You can read all about the research and also how and why it was recently criticised. 

At the same time I have been analysing our student data against national standards. At this time of the year I usually have a look at how we are doing and particularly how my ELL students are doing. I have written about this process before. 

I looked at our writing data and wondered about the hours that we put into daily writing. A 40 hour work week multiplied by 5 years equates to an estimated 10,000 hours.

Children should be having approximately 1/6 of that or about 6,000 hours worth of school learning by the time they leave primary school. I am taking into account the 40 week school year. So 25 weekly hours face to face multiplied by the 40 week year.

If we want to see a shift in our school’s writing data then we have to be targeting that number. However the realities of school life indicates that writing happens more like 200 hours per year. I thought about the usual class timetable that schedules an hour a day for writing. I haven’t carried out any research into this claim but am just putting it out there. In order to fulfil a daily writing schedule as educators we have to be focusing on writing across the curriculum. I have been working in the senior part of the school this term for an hour a day and have the fabulous opportunity of being part of an experiential timetable. One way I see around this dilemma of practice is encouraging students to write at home in the same way that we encourage them to keep a reading log. 

I wonder too if a 2P in writing equates to 600 hours worth of crafting. The article mentioned a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals. So I wonder too if we can fast forward a 2P to a 3B if that requires another two years years or another 200 hours of writing practice.

Personally I also believe that teachers too should be writing. They should be crafting their own work and working on their own skills. I believe it is not enough to teach writing but should be happening as part of teacher’s own learning.

One way of gaining motivation to undertake writing is to create a reflective journal. I read with interest some of the comments teachers on the New Zealand Primary School Teacher’s Facebook Page gave in regarding to keeping a digital portfolio. I believe that part of my portfolio includes me reflecting on what I do in a visible way and I do that by blogging. I wonder how these same teachers evidence their professional teacher criteria. Surely if you teach writing you should be working on your own skills.

If you want to find other New Zealand teachers who reflect in visible ways and who practice the craft of writing then look no further than

http://www.edblognz.blogspot.com

I wonder what are your thoughts on educators teaching writing. Is it enough to teach writing or do you also believe that teacher writing and teaching writing go hand in hand?

I look forward to the dialogue.

 

Road Safety Week

This week is National Road Safety Week. This is a week of events to end devastating road casualties by making communities safer. The week is also run by Brake, the road safety charity of Aotearoa New Zealand to help raise awareness of the terrible carnage on NZ roads. 

As lead teacher of Newmarket School’s Travelwise team, I oversee the weeks activities.

Road Safety Week

Road Safety event student leader coordinator is Stella and with her were 4x other student leaders who offered to plan for and implement one of daily school wide activities.

Over the past fortnight the team met to discuss and finalise details for their activity. Part of this preparation included creating a slide to back map ideas, scheduling and meeting the principal for event approval, broadcasting the week before at our school assembly, and approaching peers and extra adults for support in running activities. 

You can see that there are a lot of events happening to highlight this very important week on our Travelwise calendar.

Safety Hero

Here are some of our statistics for the week.

  • We raised $168.00 for Bright day and had David Seymour our local minister of parliament join us.
  • We had 86 children take part in the Milo mornings as encouragement to walk or scooter to school. We guestimated 60 students to take part from our previous surveys and activities.
  • We counted 46 scooters on our scooter rack, an increase from 9.
  • We had heaps of posters for the Step up for Road Safety Competition because we are keen to win a Big Foot Adventure for our school.
  • We had 21 3D scooters handed in and they were fabulous.

On Friday we have our final activity which is walk or scooter to school and get another free Milo.Over the week lots of fabulous highlights surfaced and I commend the way the student leaders dedicated and carried out their part to ensure the smooth running for the week.

Overall, I believe the Road Safety Events held at Newmarket School raised awareness about being safe on our roads. Even more important was standing back and observing our student leaders plan, work together and create activities that involved the whole school.

Already I have had other students approach to be part of the Travelwise team and the student leaders have asked what the next event is. Tomorrow at our weekly meeting we will evaluate the week and identify areas for improvement as we will definitely run it again next year.

Update

On Friday we gave out 114 Milo. We had 36 scooters lined up on the rack with 18 helmets.

Giving out stickers we noticed the amount of children not wearing a helmet and the number of secondary students jay walking. At our next Travelwise student meeting results will be discussed and evaluated and our next steps identified.

 

píng guǒ shuō- Apples talk

If you use google translate and listen to the first two words on this chart, maybe you will be like me and find them quite similar.

朋友 péng yǒu friend
苹果 píng guǒ apple
shuō talk
中 文 zhōng wén Mandarin
请 帮 我 qǐng bāng wǒ Help me

Goals

On Monday, I asked Virginia, our Deputy Principal, to come and observe me teaching Mandarin. My two goals were to use the Mandarin language 100% in instruction and for the children to be using the language as much as possible.

Linguistically the strategy is known as ‘forced output’. Me I call it Flippin’ hard.

My lesson focus was to recap on term ones learning and to find out how much had been retained and to extend our native Mandarin speakers in using numbers.

Anyway, I began with some songs because the teachers I work with have asked me for more songs to help them and the children learn vocabulary and also phrases.

I also included the songs we were practicing for our team’s turn for the upcoming school assembly. Then I had some children come up and share their learning and was proud to see our non native speakers stand up and share their growing vocabulary.

After this introduction the class was split into three groups and I sent the teachers off with their group to practice some previous lesson’s activities. One group worked on questions and answers. The third group worked on colours.

I took the extension group to extend their number knowledge and also for me to learn numbers in isolation. For example I can count to ten but ask me ‘What is 9 Sonya?’ I count on my fingers and then tell you what 9 is. I need to know my numbers because I am desperately learning how to tell the time in my own Mandarin learning. When my tutor asks me the time, I need to use my fingers and need a long processing wait time before responding. I really want to be able to flip back the answer straight away without translating and or using my fingers.

My group lesson

So I took some playing cards and I set up a line of numbers and through hand signals, modelling and the white board was able to get across that the children were to add two numbers together and give me the full response in Mandarin.

Then I asked the children to turn to their 苹果 (Píng guǒ) and 说 (shuō) in 中 文 (zhōngwén) ….. Meaning: turn to your friend and talk using Mandarin.

By this stage, Ginny my observer was nearly rolling on the floor with laughter. I knew straight away what I had said because I know how similar 苹果 (Píng guǒ) is to 朋友(Péngyǒu) But for the life of me I could not remember which was correct. So I turned to one of my little teachers and said 请 帮 我 (qǐng bāng wǒ) -help me. He corrected me and we continued the lesson. Ginny speaks Cantonese and knows some Mandarin and yes we know each other really well and have a history of mutual respect.

After the session Ginny gave me some fabulous feedback. She always knows how hard to stretch my learning. The first thing I wanted to know was, did I full fill my two goals? She said yes pretty much. I would have had my lesson in 97% Mandarin. Yes too, to the children sharing their learning and on me limiting teacher talk.

From my feedback these are my next steps.

I need to increase the font size of my resources. Because even digitally, they are too small. I need a few more formulaic expressions to add to my growing list. These are

  • Make a circle
  • Talk to your friend in Mandarin.

I am really lucky because I have access to our parent community and they are willing to help. My next step is to bring them into my lessons to help me teach it. 

Mindset

On Thursday I had the ALLiS Lead teachers come to Newmarket for our monthly meeting. My principal was present at the meeting and the first thing she said was ‘Share your apple story.’ So I did. I know that sometimes the funny incidents help break the ice for a new group coming together and getting to know each other. 

I shared my lesson resource blog with our ALLiS Cluster teachers. This space is where I am placing anything I use in one space so that other teachers who are willing to have a go at teaching Mandarin can do this. The space currently has videos I have used from youtube, however as our children learn, I will go back and replace the originals with what they do. I have to acknowledge too the huge work that our Mandarin Language Assistance did when they were with us. All their resources are available too to our teachers and have helped me immensely in what I am doing.

The bonus of having a blog, which I had not considered was I can place a homelink on the student iPads and they can come back and go over the lessons too. I know, the students should have been my first consideration when making the resource. However I was creating something and I love to tinker around learning. Already my mind is racing with possibilities. I am also using the site to curate some of my own language learning lessons. So when I have a moment, I can quickly pull it up and recap on any device. 

Assembly

On Friday our little ones stood up and shared their Mandarin learning with the whole school. I was so proud I could pop. At the same time I am incredibly proud of the teachers that I am working with in Te Ako Kowhai because they are also learning with me and are willing to learn too with the children. I thank them for practicing the songs and poems every day as this helps me tremendously in growing our children’s vocabulary.

kowhai.JPG

At our school our children learn Te Reo as well as Mandarin so most of our children will exit Newmarket School as Qualinguals. You read correctly,  four languages because most of our children are already fluent orally in two languages when they arrive. I really like too how learning TeReo and Mandarin gives our learners a chance to shine because once you learn another language, then learning a third and fourth is a lot easier.

Me as a learner

The children take great delight in making me practice my Mandarin so love coming up and asking me basic questions. The parents have even taken part too and greet me in Mandarin and ask me how I am. I now  know three differing ways of greeting them back and have learnt how to respond when I am asked ‘Ni Hao Ma? (How are you? I used to always say 我饿了(wǒ è le) – I am hungry. But I can now say 我 很 好 (wǒ hěn hǎo) as well as a few others.

Coming up as part of my learning another language.

I have another observation coming up this week as part of my TPDL course and I am looking forward to that happening on Wednesday.

Next week I have two sessions at Auckland university around pedagogy as part of my TPDL course. I have finally completed my registration for that. I just need to finish the Ellis booklet.

I have had my abstract accepted for the New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (NZALT) conference. http://www.eenz.com/nzalt16/.

I am still attending my Wednesday Mandarin course at Unitec which takes four hours out of my day. I enjoy the train ride and the walk time as I use this quiet time for reflection. This week I created some vocabulary slides to help me memorise seasons, weather and days of the week. 

I have investigated sitting the Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) Level 1 test. The test is designed for learners who can understand and use some simple Chinese characters and sentences to communicate. In New Zealand the test is offered by Confucius twice a year. I aim to sit this first level in November.  I have found this fabulous app that helps me memorise Chinese characters using flashcards. The app is called Find a pair. It is free and I really like it. I have gone on and bought the next level but at this stage that is too difficult for me.

I can now read 11 characters.

 

 

 

 

 

#eTwion

etwion.png

My ongoing personal inquiry is teachers and how they share their learning. I was really excited to  join Arjana and Bart @abfromz @BartVerswijvel and six other global educators on Tuesday 26th of April for a global networking seminar as part of their programme for European teachers called The Networked Teacher. When Shelly opened the session, we had both Arjana and Bart on screen and I was reminded about our history of connections through the TeachMeetINT virtual sessions that we took part in a few years ago. Bart had this cow bell that he used as a timer. That bell was an awesome timekeeper and we tried hard not to hear it.

I shared parts of my ongoing personal inquiry but from my perspective of how I built my professional learning network. I was asked to focus on my New Zealand connections so was extra excited to share about our part of the world to European educators in the eTwinning programme. The hashtag they use is #etwion. The session took place at 5.00am in our New Zealand time zone. You can check out the hashtag and see what the attendees are learning.

I built the slides over a few days. An event like this allows me to reflect on where I am as a learner and from listening to other global educator stories inspires me to set new digital learning goals. I was interested in hearing their stories from their parts of the world. Happening in the chat window was a lot of questions. I am not the best at multitasking so quickly captured the questions asked of me so I could respond to them later. The ones that caught my attention involved teachers of heritage languages wanting to make contact with our Te Reo teachers. So I suggested contacting me via social media and I hope to help them make connections here. I learnt the splot trick from @MissSpeir. So sprinkled purple splots as hyperlinked breadcrumbs throughout my presentation.

I have to mention here how Arjana was an inspiration for the #TeachMeetNZ project which is where New Zealand teachers share their passions and learning in 3 minute video clips. In a way too she plays a part in #Edblognz because it was by tagging me in a #Meme that the list of New Zealand educator blogs was curated by @HelenOfTroy01. I took that over and expanded that to include all other New Zealand blogs which was then added to the #EdblogNZ curated site of New Zealand educator blogs which I now help curate with @nlouwrens and @ariaporo22.

Thank you Arjana and Bart for inviting me to share our New Zealand teachers learning. To Joe from Canada @Joe_Sheik, Fiona from South Africa @fibeal, Shelly from Texas, USA  @ShellTerrell, Karina from Israel @karinam60, Marie-Leet from Belgium @BensBel, and Annamaria from Brazil @anamariacult, fabulous to meet you all. Hearing your stories was inspirational. To all the attendees of the webinair great to meet you all and I look forward to adding you on twitter.

 

Holiday presentations

Last week I attended the #GafeSummit in Auckland. The event was held at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I have inserted access to the three presentations I attended as well as access to everyone’s presentations via the Summit Schedule.

Summit Schedule

Richard Wells Learner agency: No matter what! Slides
Molly Schroeder Google Classroom and Introduction and Best Practices Slides Google classroom can only be happy with the same domain. 

Integrates with Drive and calendar.

Can have co-teachers.

Archive with students work.

Chris Harte My World, My Maps. Slides Gets the chn curious to locate and ask good questions

Each session enabled me to  make connections and reconnect with other educators and for me to reflect on my own learning. I was excited to see some of the #TeachMeetNZ presenting for their first time and had intended on supporting them, however became very sick. So once I presented my first session and  the first day ended I went home to bed and put in apologies for my second session. For this presentation, I included several hands on moments after showing the attendees examples of what our students had created using google draw. Included also are links to educators who have a way with visual and graphic skills:

Here is my session description and my slides are above.

  • Session Description *Sonya will share how she uses Google draw to create thinking maps. She has recently used this strategy with students as part of Flat Connections Global project where students from around the world contributed to shared Google Draw maps. She has also used Google Draw with second language learners to help them plan their writing.

#Etwion Global Networking Webinair

List of presenters

My ongoing personal inquiry is teachers and how they share their learning. I am really excited to be joiningArjana and Bart   and five other global educators   ,on Tuesday 26th of April for a global networking seminar as part of their programme for European teachers called The Networked Teacher.

I will be sharing parts of my personal inquiry but from my prospective of how I have built my personal learning network. I have been asked to focus on my New Zealand connections so am extra excited to share about our part of the world to over 200 European educators in the eTwinning programme. The hashtag is #etwion so if you are up around at 5.00am do follow the hashtag. You can also follow along now and see what the attendees are learning.