Thursday, 6 December 2018

More Literacy with Year 13

I just published my last Class OnAir episode for the year! I had great fun editing this one because there was just so much quality discussion occurring between the girls in the group! 

The premise of the lesson is to have small groups of students co-construct a paragraph before sharing it to the class on a big whiteboard. This allows them to share ideas at first in the safety of a small group, and then have the anonymity of being in a group as their shared work is 'judged.' The process allows them to share and clarify their understanding together. 

This is a literacy strategy that Marc Milford, our TC literacy specialist, shared with us during a staff meeting at the end of Term 3.

Almost no resources were required for this - a word bank up on the board, some pens and paper, and a few big whiteboards and whiteboard markers.

I chose to front-load the biological vocabulary and speak about the words in context and in relation to each other, rather than starting with dry definitions that meant nothing to students. 

Please enjoy their discussions!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Learn - Create - Share - Year 11

I have a lovely, lovely Year 11 class this year. They're an absolute mix of abilities but most of them seem really driven to achieve. At the start of the year I asked them which standards they would like to do, and which topics from the junior years they felt they were the best at. Almost unanimously the class said "volcanos." 

So at the start of Term 2 we began the Surface Features of New Zealand assessment. I did only one week of teaching about hotspots and subduction, relying heavily on what they could recall from their junior years and hoping to give them enough of a reminder to cope with any online readings they came across. 

My focus for the internal was to build confidence and abilities in online research and report writing. To do so I decided to model the process from start to finish, and show students the skills required for report-writing in a way that they could return to and rewind whenever they needed. 

We spent a full two weeks doing a half-sized practice on Surface Features in America (Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon). 

Students had access to a series of screencast and narrated videos where I tried to speak my thoughts out loud as I researched and wrote:

I used the idea of checkpoints, rewards and punishments from my earlier PD on writing with Joseph, and while it was in place for all students my particular focus was on the boys in the class. I gave them some choices in rewards, and also let them honestly choose consequences that they wanted to avoid. For some it was chocolate or a phone call home, others wanted lollies and to (avoid) being sent to their Dean. 

Every single day I left feedback on every single practice essay, and I updated every single one of their checklists so they could see what they had done and where their next step was. Some students started to do this on their own towards the end of the practice time. 

For a few students who were really struggling, I made personalised screencasts of how I would go about continuing to craft their essay from where they currently sat. Here is an example below: 

Click here to view the full screencast made for one student as they composed their practice essay.

I don't really have a measure that I can use to show that every student in the class grew in confidence. I can't really compare this year's results to previous years' because the class itself is different. They're quite a motivated bunch. 

However, 13 out of 17 students who sat the internal did pass, 1 with excellence and 2 with merit. 2 students failed for plagiarism and 2 were incomplete in the time-frame given. 

One thing I can share is anecdotal evidence. At the end of Term 2 I presented students with this list of possible internals they could choose from, to do as our final internal of the year at the start of Term 3. 

They didn't choose the one with a field trip.
They didn't choose either of the ones with practicals and chemistry experiments.
They didn't choose the one that would help them with their exam.

They chose the one that was most similar in assessment FORMAT to their volcanos standard. They chose to research online and create a report (and evaluate their sources) about an Earth and Space science event. They told me they chose that one because it would be the "easiest." Even though I don't approve of the laziness underlying the word 'easy' - I was so happy that my students were confident enough to engage in a LOT of reading and writing BY CHOICE! 

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Learn - Create - Share - Year 13

Literacy is still a massive issue in the senior years and a barrier to achieving credits at Merit or Excellence levels, due to student’s ability to explain, analyse and justify. Jannie Van Hees was talking yesterday about Lexical chains in paragraphs.

I’m just rolling on with my literacy inquiry and using the previous research on literacy strategies rather
than summarising them all over again.

Today I spoke to Marc Milford (our literacy specialist at Tamaki College) about some work he’s been doing with Karen in Design.

I’m going to try this idea with my Y13 biology students by analysing an exemplar about a socioscientific issue. The content and context are completely different to what we will be writing about in our own internal, so I think it will be a useful exercise.

First, I collected data about what students think the assessment will include and how confident they are about what they must write about. I used this form to do that.

Then we went through this short booklet that Marc helped me to create. It includes explicitly pointing out the language features in the exemplar, giving students the opportunity to identify them, using language and grammar features to recombine a paragraph, and teaching about key words such as what 'justification' actually means.

Before the activity, student's didn't know what was expected of them and confidence was low. After the activity, students were able to articulate requirements and felt much more confident. Unfortunately, that was the only measure I was able to take. The exemplar also managed to completely confuse one of the lower-ability students who suddenly thought they would be writing about folic acid (the context of the exemplar).

The orange pre test has a lot of "I don't know" answers. The white post-test answers are much more explicit.

The orange pre-test measure of confidence looks like an average of about 2 out of 5, while the later pretest answers look more like a 3-4 out of 5. 

Did this actually help them with their literacy? I had no measure for this. However, I did film this lesson and we can observe it for ourselves.. here!!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Share - Reflect - Data Analysis - Writing in Science

The second intervention I did was described in my previous posts, and also in this Google Drawing:

Before and after the Sound and Light in KPop unit I gave students the same instructions:

You have 4 minutes to write an awesome paragraph about sound and light.

Below you will find the raw data and student samples of writing.

Here is the analysis:

All of the students increased the number of words they wrote about sound and light in the four minutes.

All students except one increased their use of scientific vocabulary. Student 1 and 14 in particular made large gains.

Two out of five students increased their number of complete sentences. Student 12 wrote enormous, run-on sentences in both pre and post test.

Three out of five students increased the number of ideas they had written about in 4 minutes. One remained the same, and one student wrote about 1 less idea.

I was quite disappointed with the results from students in their end of year science test, which included a section about different sentence types. Two different lessons were spent on sentence types and practicing with them, which I conclude was not enough. I think this is incredibly important learning and should be incorporated into more of my lessons, more regularly.

However, students DID have the opportunity to revisit and revise sentence types before the exam, and knew it would be an entire section in the exam. Perhaps not all students did not have enough time to study all sections of the exam (except, some did). 

Most students could not write a Simple Sentence, and (somewhat unbelievably) most students did not even attempt a W-Start Sentence by writing a word (ANY WORD!) that started with W at the start of the sentence! I am not sure what to conclude from this.  

Monday, 19 November 2018

Create - Innovate - Writing Sentences In Science

During the KPop in Science unit I have been explicitly teaching how to write well. 

Not how to write well in science.

How to write well. 

We started with "writing with precision" and I used an (only slightly) adjusted lesson with Y9, 11 and 13. My friend Kata (who attended the same writing conference with me) also used these slides with her tutor, Y9, 12 and 13. We share some of the Y11's and 13's, and they recognised the learning from their other subject. 

This is the presentation I used with Y9, at the end of their "forensics" unit. 

The link to this is here.

The class completed the learning activities for this on paper
Next we moved onto the Evil and Good Wizard activities, which focussed very simply on the use of capital letters and fullstops (see previous blog).
Since then I've taught them some different styles of sentences to include in their writing (again, thanks to the learning I took from Dr Ian Hunter, founder of Write That Essay, which I desperately want our school to purchase).

The link for this presentation is here, and we completed these sentences online on a shared Padlet. 
Students completed blog posts reflecting on their hangi experience utilising the three sentences they had just learnt about, some links to their blogs here:

Later I taught the remaining three sentence types

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 

~ 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 

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 

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 

~ 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.