Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Create - Innovate - Writing Paragraphs in Science

This activity took three days but I believe it was completely worth it! 

First, we spent an entire period playing with these energy cards


Students raced against other to complete a full set, and then I gave them a few minutes to look at their completed sets as "answers." Then the real fun began. Desks were set in a circle, and students battled each other in a game of memory by setting the cards in a grid and taking turns flipping over three. 

Two rules must be enforced for this: 
1. Cards must be flipped over in the spot that they lived, and stay in that spot when they're flipped back over.
2. Both students must see all flipped cards, not just their own. 

The next day we had a double period. 

I moved around the room and let students randomly draw out pictures from this set. Then they had to identify two different types of energy in the picture, before swapping and having another go. Finally, in their small groups I gave them 1 picture between them and they set about writing a paragraph onto a big whiteboard between them. If they got stuck they could use this template

For the rest of the lesson (once they had a complete paragraph with full stops and capital letters in the right places) they individually split their paragraph as "Evil Wizards." Many students found this difficult and I had to spend time with lots of students 1-on-1 to teach them. This activity only works if each sentence is split in HALF (not more than that). Having different energy scenarios (from the different images) ensured that each paragraph was different - necessary for the next activity.

As an added bonus I included the word "wizard" in korean at the top and a link to it being pronounced out loud, because this class (largely) are quite interested in Eastern cultures, hence the KPop context for this term as well.


This activity engaged some students who had previously not been engaged. Student 2 LOVED it. 

Another student who hasn't been very interested in writing anything much this year also really engaged with this, she experienced lots of pride in completing her paragraph split before others in the group and led the charge as a "Good Wizard" in our final lesson.  Here is the link to her finished work. 


The final lesson was perhaps the most simple, but the most effective. 

I had copied and pasted 6 finished "Evil Wizard" split paragraphs from the 6 groups in class into a document and printed one copy. Then, I cut them out and sellotaped them around the room. "Could this have been done digitally?" asked Russell, our DP. Yes, it probably could have, but I wanted students to get up out of their seats and move around the room, rather than their usual static position. 

Students recognised their own paragraphs and most "healed" them first.  This also gave them ownership of their learning - they had created the activity themselves!  They were eager to move around the room and solve the rest. 

Here is the link to a blank "Good Wizard" activity - you'll have to complete the lesson sequence to have 6 split paragraphs to solve!


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Share - Model - Guide

Now that the results are in for whether my intervention was successful (in some cases, yes definitely,
in other cases sort-of, and best of all - no one LOST any words!) I can share my intervention all in one
place in case anyone wants to “borrow” it for their kiwi learners.


Plan for Introduction to NZ Volcanoes
and Auckland Hotspots


3 minute vocabulary test



Hook to topic

I turned off the lights, shut the curtains, cranked up the volume as loud as I could and sat the students
close to the screen and to each other, and then played the full 8 minutes of this Pompeii eruption.



Class shares a video, gif or fact they find interesting.

I also did a quick demonstration where 4 students got to “make volcanic eruptions” with food colouring,
baking soda and vinegar lava spewing down the side of paper “volcanoes” just because they kept
bugging me about it! I did a larger one with “elephant’s toothpaste” at the end.



Interactive Reading

Text about New Zealand volcano Lake Taupo here


Interactive guide to the text here

Supporting visual video here if students want to watch it at the end of the text.

Kahoot to review at the end here - check what students took from the reading!



Vocabulary Instruction

Introduction to vocabulary visually here


Crossword to solve here




Animating a Hotspot

A video to visualise hotspots here (pretend they say Auckland instead of Hawaii).

Decoding a diagram of Auckland volcanoes and teacher demonstration of how to use a ‘key’ here.

Captions to animate here.

Example created by class here, if you want to see one.

Video of class completing this learning sequence here.





Gamified writing about an Auckland eruption

Instructions for this activity here.



Links to examples from the class here

Prizes given out one Friday afternoon for all students who scored over 20.


3 minute vocabulary test.

Share - Publish

Comparing pretest to post test vocabulary.

Students were given the same instructions for both tests;
simply “you have 3 minutes to write down as many words relating to volcanoes
as you can.” I encouraged them to keep it a secret from their neighbour and
to just use their brains. I tried to turn it into a bit of a game!

Three minutes was the perfect amount of time. Some had run out of words and
only a few were still writing furiously at the end, and that only happened in the post-test!

I also took some Kahoot data near the start of my interventions - after the interactive reading:

Kahoot scores from the middle (including literacy questions about the Lake Taupo interactive reading):

Interestingly, Student 2 only scored 41% in the kahoot. Student 2 did not enjoy the
interactive reading activity before the kahoot at all (questions were based off the
reading), but DID appear to enjoy the other interventions, particularly the crossword
that linked vocabulary to definitions and the feedback from me that went along with that.
I guess that speaks to the need to revisit content over a longer period and in different ways.

Student 2 has made the biggest vocabulary shift in both quantity and quality of
volcanic vocabulary (as you will see), but their kahoot score indicates most of the shift
happened after this interactive reading.

Click here to open the comparison of pre and post test data.


TLDR summary of data: so far 2 students have improved in both quantity and quality of volcanic vocabulary. The other 2 have dropped slightly in quantity and the quality of words remained the same; they omitted some from pre to post test but replaced them with roughly-equivalent quality scientific volcanic vocabulary. Two more results weren't collected due to extended absences.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Create - Try New Things

The first thing I tried that I would not usually do is spend an entire 50 minute period NOT learning science
but instead trying to HOOK students to the topic!



3 minute vocabulary test - data on paper. I will compare this to a similar test done at the end.



Interactive Reading

I created a text based on the transcript of this video here, and then I went through and made a few 
volcanic vocabulary tweaks. Next I made an “interactive reading guide” to accompany it, which included 
instructions on HOW to read the text. This included instructions for things like scanning the text at the 
start for clues in the title, bold words and images before making a prediction about what they might learn 
in the text. It also included how many paragraphs to after they had done that and then where to stop, 
mini-activities like drawing a sketch for four of the sentences, to stop and watch a video to watch at a 
certain point, to summarise a paragraph, find evidence in the text for the meaning of two words (one 
volcanic, one not), questions to answer after a paragraph and then to share their answers in pairs etc. 


This is my reflection from that activity:

~ It was glorious, three girls in particular were engaged throughout. They did some extra research and 
reading about taniwha of Taupo and found images of carvings of the guard dogs. They also found 
another guardian carving of the lake. 

~ Other students in the class engaged well with the visual of the video supporting the text and said 
things like ‘woooaaah’ when they saw the mountain collapse and the lahar powering through.

~ This is the second time I’ve made the class do a large reading and it worked 100x better in pairs rather 
than in when we did readings groups of 4 with the clarifier and questioner roles etc. 

~ The interactive reading prompts seemed to be set at appropriate levels for this class.

~ There were three students in particular who didn’t really engage as much as the others; two were 
having an “off” day and one is difficult to engage, but it’s wonderful to see when they do!

~ Taking a full double to really engage with the text definitely paid off. 


Vocabulary Instruction

The research I got this from said my natural instinct might be to front load students with definitions and 
to be honest I nearly did. But I caught myself in time and instead I included gifs and videos in the 
document before each definition to illustrate the vocabulary (and hopefully pique their curiosity) before 
they read about it. The next step was to complete a crossword (solving the clues, using the vocab).


This is my reflection from that activity:

~ I definitely delivered this activity wrong. I gave students both the volcanic vocabulary document AND 
the crossword at the same time - foolish! As one student pointed out, “Miss you should have just given 
us the document first.” 

~ Students were in a rush to answer the crossword and didn’t have the skimming/scanning strategies 
available to flick back and forth between the crossword and the document full of answers. 

~ The three students who were not at all engaged by the interactive reading were FAR more engaged 
during this activity. 

~ Most boys seemed to tolerate both activities but didn’t really “get into” either of them so far.

~ One student requested that next time it be a wordfind not a crossword, so I need to think of a way to 
upgrade the learning value of a wordfind. Maybe matching found words to definitions!



Physically modelling the relationship between vocabulary in a story

This one didn’t really involve a literacy strategy specifically described in my literature review -  the 
activity was to animate the concept of a hotspot; they had to interpret the volcanic vocabulary given to 
them in ‘captions’ and model it in a play-doh animation.



My reflection from this activity:

~ This activity would have gone better if I had one more lesson previously to establish some
understanding of hotspots. As it is I tried to squash this into one lesson; a quick video about hotspots, a
diagram showing all of Auckland’s 52 volcanoes to amaze them and link the video to their lives, and then
I explained it all again. 

~ Then I had to deliver some technical instruction around how to physically make an animation and what 
the expectations for that were, which chewed up more time; we watched a video I’d previously made for 
Y11 about stop-motion animations and I showed them examples of hotspot animations from previous 
years. 

~ Students were definitely engaged during this lesson but there wasn’t enough of me to go around. 

~ Some groups required more guidance and time than I could give them, so consequently not all groups 
finished their animated interpretation of the captions I’d given!

~ This one engaged the boys a lot more, but they required a lot of support and I didn’t get to help all of 
them.



Gamifying writing

I got this literacy strategy from Matt Goodwin (Pt England Primary) after a discussion on literacy 
instruction. He suggested turning writing into a competition and assigning words or language features 
points or deductions. He also clarified for me what a narrative, recount, and explanation were, and said 
that the best writing in the real world is a combination of all of them. 

This activity does also involve something that I took away from Dr Jannie van Hees’ second COL 
presentation; to get students to really focus in on one thing when they watch a video or do a task. I 
turned off the light, cranked up the volume and got students to watch an animated volcanic eruption in 
Auckland three times; first to think how they would describe what they saw and felt using adjectives, then 
to focus on how they would describe what they saw using scientific vocabulary, then finally to think about 
the processes happening under the ground that they couldn’t see. Then I got them to write a short story 
describing the eruption; they could earn points for different writing features and vocabulary that were 
included.



My reflection:

~ Everyone seemed to enjoy this activity, bar one boy. One of the other boys who had been disengaged 
in other activities jumped right on board this one as it involved blogging, which I’ve noticed he’s both 
good and prolific at - he’s had almost 5000 visitors to his blog! 

~ The one boy in particular who did not engage is consistently resistant to getting started on work, and 
this is a trend in his other classes as well. Hopefully a culture of writing and learning can be built in the 
class and he gets swept up in it. Positive peer pressure for learning!

~ Lots of students asked me to check their writing as they were going; they were both proud of what 
they’d come up with and wanting feedback on how to include more of the vocabulary/score higher points.

~ Students had read my comment/their score on their blogs by the time they arrived in class the next 
day!

~ One student mentioned she had also visited other students’ blogs; particularly the boy who had beaten 
her by one point in the competition!



3 minute vocabulary test in exactly the same conditions as the pre test - the same desk layout, the same
refill paper, the same thick colourful pens, the same simple instructions, the same timer projected on the
board, the same prompts to hide their work and encouragement “just keep going!” as they started to fade
at the end. Then I let them do a summary crossword of the entire topic at the end, because they had
enjoyed that. We went through the answers at the end.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Create - Make a Plan

Today I’m sharing a graphic of my first round of interventions.

As I go through my inquiry the first half of the bubbles will remain the same (because my achievement challenge and outcomes are the same), but the interventions, measurable outcomes and ‘what it looks like’ will change..


Click here to open the image above. Inside it notes the interventions include:

Interventions Round 1:

  • Paired reading.
  • Interactive/guided reading of scientific texts with cultural links as well.
  • Revision kahoot after the reading.
  • Vocabulary instruction and crossword.
  • Modelling of the relationship between new vocabulary.
  • Gamification of writing about a volcanic eruption.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Learn - Reflect

Literacy tests used in Manaiakalani and why I can’t use them in my inquiry

STAR tests - Supplementary Test of Achievement in Reading.
e-asTTle tests.
PAT reading.
SEA - Writing Vocabulary. In 10 minutes how many vocab words can you write down on a piece of
paper? It’s a measure of fluency - do you need to devote time to work it out or can you just “go”?

These are all legitimate measures of reading and writing that are pretty universally accepted in NZ
and in the case of PAT, around the world.

However for me they are not useful to measure improvement of literacy in science (hopefully caused
by any intervention that I do) as I only see my year 9 students three times a week for a total of 200
minutes! That means they are spending a heck of a lot of time with other teachers; in English, reading
for 20 minutes a day during the school’s AR programme, and then of course there’s all the time at
home where students could be doing anything at all - they could be reading novels for 5 hours a day!

I need to come up with my own measures of scientific literacy!

I'm thinking about 3 minute scientific vocabulary tests or 5 minute paragraph writing about a topic -
leaving it absolutely wide open. I could either give identical instructions for pre and post tests, or even
return the pre-test at the end to see if they can improve upon it after the intervention.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Study and Success

Today I returned the Year 9 exams to the students - but not before I recorded their data!

I thought it would be interesting to count the total number of questions each student completed during their opportunity to complete a practice exam during class time. 

This is a time-honored study technique. Students attempt practice questions on the material they know they'll be tested on, then get some feedback on it to 1) build their confidence (100% correct already), 2) expand their understanding (getting there) or 3) to fill any gaps in their understanding (unsure).

The practice exam I made for students had sections that exactly mirrored the real one they would sit the next week. The questions only differed a little!

There was a study doc that also matched the practice exam with revision activities, videos, etc, for students to visit and find answers, and I was very happy to help when they asked any questions. 

Anyway. Students took varying advantage of this across two lessons, despite my constant circling of the classroom.

Here is the scatter graph of the number of completed questions that I provided feedback on (or were correct but without feedback - I had to include this second category because the student represented by the dot in the top right corner took the practice exam home to study off):


My conclusion was that as a student increases the number of questions they study, the data shows that their number of correct answers in the exam also increases. 

The equation on the top right says that for each 1 extra question studied, students were likely to get 0.741 more questions right on the real exam. 

This is a nice gradient; the payoff for studying 1 - 2 more questions is to (mostly likely) get at least 1 more question right in the test!

There is one obvious outlier up the top in the middle, where a student studied only 10 questions on the practice exam but got 24 right in the real exam! Maybe they studied at home?

One unlucky person is also about the same distance from the trend line as the student mentioned above. They studied 16 questions but only got 5 right on the exam. Perhaps they were only copying out answers -words and shapes of letters-, rather than trying to understand why the answer was that, while they were studying.