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.

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.

 

Holes in the bucket

I wonder if there are holes in the bucket?

Phonological Awareness.

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and consciously break words into syllables, rhyme, onset and rime, and individual sounds or phonemes.TKI 2016

Phonological awareness refers to an individual’s awareness of the phonological structure, or sound structure, of words.

Phonemic Awareness

TKI defines phonemic awareness as the ability to hear, differentiate, and attend to the individual sounds or phonemes within words and is part of phonological awareness. Alcock further states that ‘Phonemic awareness is a category of phonological awareness and is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds in words. Phonemic awareness is necessary for understanding and using phonics knowledge.’ Alcock, 2010.  Gillon (2004), stresses that, “Phoneme awareness performance is a strong predictor of long-term reading and spelling success and can predict literacy performance more accurately than variables such as intelligence, vocabulary knowledge, and socioeconomic status” (p. 57).

Many people do not understand the difference between phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. Others are uncertain about the relationship between phonological awareness and early reading. I created the following diagram from our teacher only day to help clarify my thinking. You can see that phonics are visual and phonological awareness is all about listening. Phonemes are a subset of phonological awareness.

phonological awareness

phonological awareness (PDF)

Phonological awareness is an important and reliable predictor of later reading ability. Some of the most exciting findings from research on phonological awareness is that critical levels of phonological awareness can be developed through carefully planned instruction therefore having major influence on children’s reading and spelling achievement.

This week we had our team meeting with Andrea our fabulous team leader who had asked Lynne one of our RTLiTs to come in and do a follow up session of Phonological awareness that she had run for staff on our teacher only day. Andrea had been so inspired by the concept of checking the foundation of literacy using the phonological awareness assessment that she had run the phase one test with her 5 year old class.  She had been motivated by the patterns she had identified. She thought phonological awareness is something we should all seriously look at. After our team session I totally agree with her.

I reflected on my inquiry regarding 3 level guides and wondered if I was working with leaking buckets of knowledge. So I asked Lynne if she could carry out a phonological awareness test with one of my students whose data did not make sense. I wanted to observe how she carried out the test so I could continue when I had similar doubts with some of the data I gathered. I also wondered about using it to gather further data before I began my writing intervention.

Lynne used the Plymouth Phonological Awareness Assessment Phase One. One of my target students is a year 6 second language learner. He has been with us since he was nearly 7 and I know he did not achieve literacy in his first language. Those of you who work with bilingual students know about the phenomena that happens when children are literate in their first language and how fast they can accelerate when learning their second language.

This student is at level 17 for reading. He is well below for writing. He was recently tested using Steps and identified as achieving well below his chronological age.

Sure enough the Phonological Awareness Assessment identified gaps in his literacy. Lynne often states in her discussion that, “If we do not address that basic foundation then all we are doing is pouring in time and resources into a bucket with holes.

She shared with me the information from our ‘Switched onto Spelling’ programme that indicates the importance of carrying out a Phonological Awareness Assessment before undertaking the programme. Alcock, 2010

I reflected on our overall school literacy programmes. For example, I run an ESOL programme and intervene with children who need accelerated work to catch up to the moving target of peers that they are chasing. We run a ‘Steps’ programme that works with children who appear to have gaps in literacy building blocks. We gather data for the Mutukaroa cluster project that we are part of. We have reading recovery for children identified at 6 years old observation survey who do not appear to make the required progress. Often the programme spaces are taken up with our second language learners.  

In addition we sometimes run an accelerated literacy programme for our gifted and talented children.

Writing

This year as a school we have targeted writing and especially targeted SOLO Taxonomy as the framework for writing because this has been identified as helping children to deepen their literacy. We have put more of staff resourcing to support learning in class because international research has identified that withdrawal is the least effective form of literacy development. Our teams are currently trialling grouping students according to needs as teachers experiment with their own learning pedagogies. This is a cautious approach because we are also aware of the research around grouping children.  

Data

As a school we are really good now at gathering data. Teams are beginning to develop an awareness that our children’s data is all of our responsibility. Data is an ethical issue. As a school we are all responsible if our children are not making the required progress.

Therefore I believe that along with making connections with the child and their families we also should check the bucket of literacy learning. When children are literate in their first language we should see accelerated progress. If they are not literate in their first language, then we should endeavor to ensure language maintenance continues. Before we pour in the learning, check that the foundation of literacy is in place.  The Phonological Awareness Assessment is simple to administer and yet can quickly identify gaps that need addressing.

Where to next for me

I begin a new writing group this week. Before I do anything, I have looked at their data and identified where they are reading at. I have looked at their e_asTTle writing data from last year. I have looked at their historic data and found out as much as I can about the children. I will now carry out a Phonological Awareness Assessment and check their foundation and feed this back to their teachers. This week our children are sitting an e-asTTle test and I will mark and collate my group’s data. I will be part of our team moderation and then our school wide moderation. Taking part in moderation ensures that my own teacher judgements remain current with national standards.

Overall

As a teacher of children learning English I believe it is important to find out as much as I can about the children I teach. I believe it is important to address the urgency of second language learners catching a moving target of learners. But not at the expense of maintaining their first language. I believe it is especially important to make connections with the children that I teach. One way of doing this is just getting to know the children personally. I do this by targeting them in the playground and saying hello in their first language. I often make links with them via a common interest. At the moment a big interest with children is Minecraft. With some of the older girls, it is drawing using the Manga style- (Big Eyes).

I also believe in the importance of reflective teachers and this year I aim to reflect in a visible written format.  Finally it is especially important to have ongoing dialogue with colleagues about what they are doing in their inquiry and for me to make links with that information to my own inquiry. I especially like it when colleagues send me links to what they are reading and become even more excited when they tag me with something reflective that they have written. So Andrea thanks for giving me a prompt to reflect on my practice and for alerting me to revisit what Lynne had shared with all staff on teacher only day. The follow up session allowed me to dig deeper into my pedagogy and to think about the words of John Hattie, ‘Know thy impact.’

My last question for anyone reading this is….

How do you ensure that your buckets of practice do not have holes?’

 

References

Alcock, J. (2010). http://www.spelling.co.nz/Downloads/Practitioner’s%20guide.pdf

Gillon, G. (2004). Phonological awareness: from research to practice. New York: Guilford Press.

Gillon, G. (2013).  http://www.education.canterbury.ac.nz/people/gillon/Workshop_handout_2013Sept.pdf

Plymouth Council. (2016) http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/phonics_assessments.pdf

 

 

Three Level Guides

I am always up for a challenge and there is no one like my mentor to give me the push I need to reflect and think through pedagogy.

Just before the end of the year, I always go through the end of the year class data and identify my English Language Learners who could slide in reading over the summer period. Therefore over the summer period I give them a bag of books with the understanding that I will test them when they come back to school and I expect them to have either maintained their level or moved up one level depending on where they sit on the PM benchmark or using early probe levels.

This week from testing the children after the summer holidays I have several year 4 and 5 children at turquoise level on the PM Benchmark. So we are looking at level 17-18. Those of you who understand our system here in New Zealand will know that this is well below where they are expected to be by year 4 & 5.

But stop!

Have a think about this piece of information. Many of our ELL children came to us two years ago with no English. Therefore against our system that is the progress they have made within two years beginning with no English. If we look at our data and our school standards level 17 and 18 is the benchmark that we aim for for children after two years at school. In addition these children have achieved that benchmark and often began with no English. Therefore are they ‘failing’? Linguistically they have made accelerated progress because they have had to go through the silent, watching period and then learn basic interpersonal communication skills so they can communicate with peers and now they are beginning to gain cognitively applied language proficiency as we start the next process of developing inferential skills in reading. They have caught up over two years what a first language learner achieves after 7 years old. Pretty amazing and always makes me proud.

From the recent testing analysis I have identified that at the text level or the surface level of reading, their decoding skills have improved markedly from last year with a 95+ % result.  However the analysis identifies that they could do with help unpacking between the text and beyond the text comprehension strategies. Those comprehension questions continually trip them up at inferential level and stop them moving up to the next reading level.

Those of you who are ESOL teachers will probably know the work of Herber (1978)  who devised a comprehension strategy known as ‘The three level guide’. This comprehension strategy is a pre/post reading activity that gives students the opportunity to evaluate information at the literal, interpretive and applied levels based on a reading selection. The comprehension strategy was developed further by Morris and Stewart-Dore (1984) to help students think through the information in texts.

Myself I have trawled our fabulous TKI ESOL site to revisit ESOL comprehension strategies that I learnt about during my Diploma of TESSOL with Sue Gray and team. Furthermore this time I have used my SOLO Taxonomy hat to unpack the information using an information transfer chart. I have created 3 level guides in the past and have used them with great success.. However over the past few years I have been focussing on writing with my English Language Learners as this is another area that continually needs support.

Three level guides means just that 3 levels of comprehension. The comprehension strategy has teacher created statements that occur with searching for information at surface level of text, then has between the text statements that the reader applies the information from the text to real life contexts and explains reasons for this in paired or group discussion and then finally it has beyond the limits of the text statements that the reader critically evaluates the information and relates it to what is already known and justify their answers and their views.

Using SOLO I have identified exactly where each level sits and why but from the writing research I have recently carried out I know that unistructural level in SOLO Taxonomy is also a really important level to go through and this does not feature in three level guides.

The three level guide sits comfortably at multistructural, relational and extended abstract. I now know that is why I have alway found them extremely effective in teaching inferential skills. Therefore as I have unpacked the guides against SOLO I have identified the unistructural part. That is reading or decoding the text. Our ELL are fabulous at that. Decoding is especially noticeable when they are literate in their first language. They fly through the PMs and then when inferential really kicks in at level 17 and 18 they plateau. Often I observe the data and see them sitting at this level for far too long. Several ELL can sit there in class for a year. Personally I believe this is not good enough and we are undervaluing what can be done to push them forward and especially if they are to match their peers after 6 years at school in New Zealand.

Therefore for this first term I will provide explicit teaching and feedback using three level guides in order to scaffold my English language learners to develop reading strategies. I want them to be able to infer from text and think critically independently. By doing this I expect a shift up of one level over this term. Personally I will aim for two levels but I know from past experience if I push too hard then they sit at the next level for three terms.

I have begun the first step by identifying the gap in their learning. I have gathered my data through carrying out reading analysis using running records. I have looked at their historic data and have identified that they have been sitting at level 17-18 for longer than they should have. I have identified that decoding skills are strong so can move straight to multistructural discussion by looking for information in the text. They can retell the story as this is another early indicator of understanding. In SOLO Taxonomy retell is at relational thinking as this demonstrates an understanding of sequencing and progression. For the clarity of this intervention I will look at sequence from a unistructural perspective and think of it as listing progression in the text.

Prestructural

In SOLO before I even begin to teach comprehension I need to identify where the learners are at. One way of doing this is sharing with them their comprehension data or their latest running record. So with my support they can begin to define what comprehension is and list the difference it can make to their reading.

Unistructural

Once done, I begin the Three Level guide strategy. So the students are using one comprehension strategy. The learner can decode the text and retell the text simply by listing the order of events.

Multistructural

At the surface level the learner finds the answer to literal questions on the page and point to them. This is looking at surface level of comprehension. At this level the learner can decode the text, retell what they read and find literal answers on the page by pointing to them.

Relational

At between the text, the learners will be paired into similar levels and they will interpret what the writer is saying by discussing their answers of what is between the text. They will do this by interpreting and applying the information from the text to real life contexts. They could use a variety of relational thinking such as compare and contrast, analysing, part whole thinking, classifying, cause and effect or even analogy.

Extended Abstract

At beyond the text  the learner critically evaluates the information and relates it to what is already known.They will explain their answers and justify their views and come up with a single overall statement. I like the I wonder statements and so will begin with these ones.

At the end of each article the children will identify their next steps by using SOLO Taxonomy rubric to reflect on their growing understanding of inferencing.

Using a follow up test I will see the difference that this intervention makes.

I am really lucky at Newmarket School because the teachers who have these children are into their second year of researching and teaching using innovative learning pedagogy. we also have teachers who are enthusiastic at what I achieve with the children and regularly query my methods therefore I have been able to articulate clearly what I do in a visible way.

In addition I have a mentor who gives me clear feedback and regularly prods my thinking so that I am always ready with research and data. If I am not then I say so. By having these regular minor learning discussions I have grown confidently in my pedagogy.

I have also been thinking about February’s #EdBlogNZ challenge of creating a photo of my learning space. I have begun by setting up my SOLO Taxonomy writing wall. If you want a copy of the words then look out for SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners available very soon from Educational Resources. Pam and I are very proud of our collaborative book. If you want the SOLO Taxonomy postcards then these are available from http://shop.pamhook.com/

writing

My ongoing goal is to make learning visible and SOLO Taxonomy is fabulous for doing this. I usually create ‘messy’ walls because they help me think and reflect on my pedagogy. I will complete my reading wall now that I am really clear on what it looks like.

My challenge to you, ‘How do you make learning visible for your learners?’

For all things SOLO, visit http://www.pamhook.com/

Update: My mentor mentioned I had omitted prestructural in my thinking. Therefore I have added that. (that is me thinking I do not really need to be adding that.) However presrtuctural is also an important part of thinking.

 

References

Herber, H. (1978). Teaching Reading in the Content Areas. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Hook, P., and Van Schaijik, S. (in press). SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners. Making second language learning visible. Essential Resources Educational Publishers Limited. New Zealand.

Morris, A. and Stewart-Dore, N. (1984). Learning to Learn from Text: Effective Reading in Content Areas. New South Wales: Addison-Wesley.