Monday, 7 December 2015


So here is my final reflection for the year in terms of my Inquiry.

In terms of the process of my own Inquiry what has been highlighted to me to me as that the Inquiry should be a reflection of the dynamics of the classroom. It needs to change and diverge depending in the needs of the children. The focus needs to connect into an evaluation of the practice you are using and modifying and altering it to ensure the children are getting what they need.

I initially was intending to focus my inquiry on exploring ways to incorporate more higher order thinking skills in reading with the emphasis on having a range of responses to text follow-ups. This was the focus for the first half of the year for my target group of average to above average readers.

By mid-year however I was disappointed in the progress of my focus group. Although they were classed as at/above readers in 2014 their reading behaviours in class seemed to indicate that their understanding at this level reading was lacking. The mid-year testing confirmed this as on the whole (8 out of the 13) were not able to pass the next level up in terms of comprehension and so had not made the 6 months gain. 

I needed to do something different so I shifted my focus onto the unpacking of texts in a more thorough way in the guided lesson. I still endeavoured to ensure follow up activities were using the higher blooms thinking skills of creating, analysing, synthesising but now with the understanding that the time and energy needed to be spent on the intensive unpacking of the texts to develop that deeper understanding, (without which the quality of their follow up responses would always be lacking). 

What I found really useful with this was the Hilton Ayrey guided teaching books. The step by step process used whilst being somewhat time-consuming did ensure that misunderstandings were brought out into the open as the children had to explain their understanding of what sentences meant and rephrase them in their own words. It gave a good opportunity to explore unfamiliar words and the differing meanings of words. 
As the teacher it gave me a much clearer insight into the children's reading processing and those who were struggling and needed more support. For the children it modelled a clear process for attacking text in order to gain a deeper understanding - a process they couldn't then use independently.

Over the second part of the year,this refocus was beginning to pay off as their comprehension was improving. This was confirmed with all of the group having made up the slow start in terms of progress and made at least the normal shift by the end of the year with  6 of the 13 making more than a year.

Monday, 3 August 2015

In our Inquiry group sharing session today it was interesting to listen to Kent talking about his inquiry as it resonated with my thoughts and experiences. He was sharing about how there was a disconnect
between having great higher order thinking reading tasks set for the children, and what they then produced. This is what I have also noticed - that tasks I have thought involved quite a lot of thought and creativity have ended up being finished with minimal depth. We have both had the realisation that what was lacking was the scaffolding needed to support them in these tasks.
Added to this is a continued difficulty some of my more abled students  have had being able to demonstrate a deeper comprehension of texts. Because of this I had decided that while continuing to set follow-up tasks that would hopefully engage the children and have some depth to them, I wanted my main focus to be trying a more systematic approach to developing comprehension strategies in their instructional group work.  So far the approach I have been using  (developed by Hilton Ayrey) is highlighting misconceptions in their understandings that I hadn't expected. Unfortunately as this approach takes up more teacher time for each instructional reading group, it has meant that it is unrealistic to be able to then spending even more time supporting the students in being able to undertake the follow-up tasks more satisfactorily. Dilemma.
Something that Kent has been trialling is have better supports online, such as audio files with instructions that the children can replay again and again so they are clear about what to do. Another key factor is having more checkpoints along the way so the children are needing to be more accountable with what work they are doing.
This is an area I would like to keep working on in conjunction with my instructional group focus on comprehension.

Monday, 29 June 2015


It was great to see teachers at our staff meeting today sharing the amazing things they are doing in their classrooms. The dedication and commitment our teachers have to helping our kids become achievers is outstanding. It is always inspiring to get a glimpse into what goes on in others' classrooms and has definitely left much food for thought for over the holidays, and things to give a go. Thanks heaps peeps.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Small and Big Picture

Since watching the video clip I posted on my previous post about education and what is classed as valuable knowledge I have been pondering many things, not only about the big ideas of education  but also thoughts on my daily practice in the classroom.

So my thoughts first about what has been happening in the classroom in relation to my inquiry of developing higher order thinking in reading.

The needs of my reading groups are very varied. The way we have organised our two classes is that I take the higher levels and lower levels. This means that 1/2 of my reading groups are reading at a year 1 reading level or less, whereas the other half are reading at or above their age.

Initially I tried to incorporate activities for the lower readers that involved deeper levels of thinking. However the amount of time needed to explain tasks and support them through them was to the detriment of regular reading instruction of new texts to develop the much needed reading strategies they need to accelerate their progress. So I have limited their follow-up activities to one sort so they become really familiar with doing it well. Once they become competent doing this type of response I will gradually introduce variations. This has meant that I have managed to focus more on developing the skills they are really in need of. The key element in activities for them to respond to text is first that it is manageable for them, that it doesn't involve the learning of too many skills at one time or that if there are needed to be skills learnt those can then be practised until they become competent before introducing more skills. I think this was part of the problem I faced this term in expecting the children to easily undertake the tasks I had set without providing the necessary scaffolding to support them. This term I hope to gradually shift what the children are doing so that the tasks will involve more higher order thinking.

With the other half of the class I have been including a response to their reading text that involves an activity or two which incorporates higher order thinking on the Blooms taxonomy. The children have enjoyed these challenges but have needed much more guidance to complete them in the time given and to push them to complete them to a high standard.
Bethan's Alarm Clock (BARred)

What was most interesting about this term's learning was the e-learning task. We got the children to recreate a Mario Brothers game. They were really engaged and enjoyed the creativity of the task. They learnt and bounced ideas of each other and had fun coming up with different settings and scenarios. The great thing about the task was that it had no end as they could continue to create new levels. This has meant that theyhave continued to be as engaged now as they were at the start.

What this has shown is that the right task has the potential to really motivate and inspire children. Although this task didn't involve any reading or writing it involved a good deal of thought. How can we take this example and the key components it entailed to make other areas of learning more successful.

Room 11 Mario PENN from Team 3 PES on Vimeo.

So Big Picture.
Something I have been pondering about is the over use of devices in education.  Because devices give you access to so many different activities that can come under all curriculum areas the danger is that we over use the devices out of ease and so greatly narrow the type of activities children are exposed to.  Looking at this in light of the video clip about Western Education as it is we have greatly narrowed what we see as knowledge. My thoughts are that we should limit the amount of time that devices can be used to ensure that more children are given the opportunity to do practical activities that expose them to knowledge about their environment.

 I have been looking at the potential school gardens can have in ensuring that real life practical knowledge and skills are embedded in our programme - skills that are so valuable in so many ways. I would love to explore this possibility more. Even if it was just a focus for the Junior  School. However a school garden is only one way that we could extend what the children view and experience as knowledge. I am keen to keep mulling over this and think of ways this could be incorporated into what we already do in order to develop a breadth of learning.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Schooling the World (2010)

Very interesting. Rethink about what we value as education and knowledge and the destruction that can cause.
Thoughts about the relevance of this to us as teachers in today's schools:
Can we minimise the impact that imposing a western education system on all has had by doing things differently? How can we do this?
Are we so focussed on what we think is valuable and essential knowledge that we have narrowed what we "teach" or expose the children to and have them experience?

Schooling the World (2010)

Monday, 18 May 2015

May Reflection

After exploring SOLO last term in terms of my own research and reading I was quite keen to try and start implementing some aspects of it into the classroom. However over the past few weeks have revised my thinking. Part of this change was being made aware that there were different interpretations and understandings of what SOLO is and involves. I feel that it is better we are on the same page as a whole school as it involves a common language and common understandings. So for the moment I have parked it. This doesn't mean though that I have parked trying to incorporate more higher order thinking in reading. I have quite a range of abilities in my reading groups and find that half of my groups (who are reading at a Year 1 level) are really in need of regular small group instruction. However the follow-ups that I have been trying to use with them have been a little challenging in light of their chrome books skills (among other things). So what I have found is that while ideally I still want to have follow-up activities that require thought if this takes time away from instructional reading time it is a bit counterproductive. The problem also is that if it is too challenging that group is more demanding of my time which takes time away from the other groups. I am going to look more into using the ipads and 'explaineverything' as a way to support these groups into higher order thinking that is more easily manageable. With my more able groups we have spent a few weeks doing some reading about ANZAC with the task of creating an ANZAC movie. In hindsight I have realised they needed more step by step support with this. We are persevering with this.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

SOLO - Framework for Thinking

“Learning to learn” requires the learner to think about the strengths and weaknesses of their own thinking when they are learning and to make thoughtful decisions on what to do next. Students of all ages can use SOLO levels, rubrics and frameworks to answer the following questions:

What am I learning?
How is it going?
What do I do next?

 Through my recent reading and research I have come to a deeper understanding about what SOLO  is and how I could incorporate it into my programme.

SOLO is a process of learning you go on in order to develop a deeper understanding about something.

If you know nothing about a topic you need to start doing some finding out. 
 you have found out some information you then need to think about about that information relates to each other - you need to make connections. 
Its only once you understand the connections that  you can start to develop a deeper understanding about something and be able to extend that thinking and understanding.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

SOLO Taxanomy - A Reflection

I have been exploring the use of SOLO Taxonomy as a means of trying to get more higher order thinking integrated into our literacy and as a way of helping the children become more metacognitive about their learning. 

I came across this interesting guide to evaluating as a teacher your use of SOLO in your classroom. It uses  the SOLO levels as a benchmark to gauge where you are up to and where to next.

Here are the main points of the guide.

How well are you implementing SOLO Taxonomy and HOT Maps?

Learning outcomes show unconnected information, no organisation. 
“e.g. “I need help to introduce SOLO Taxonomy as a common language for student understanding of learning outcomes.

Is SOLO use in your classrooms something you have yet to get around to?

What you see in the classroom: 
No visible evidence of SOLO symbols or HOT SOLO coded Maps and self assessment rubrics in the classroom

Where to next: 
For teachers with Pre-structural learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes show simple connections but importance not noted.

Are you using SOLO Taxonomy because you have been asked to? Can you explain why they are using the HOT Maps in terms of intended learning outcomes?

What you see in classrooms: 
HOT SOLO Coded maps and rubrics are used by teachers during the lesson. They are introduced to students with no explanation of their learning outcome or their purpose.

Where to next: 
For teachers with unistructural learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes show connections are made, but significance to overall meaning is missing. “I use them on a trial and error basis

Is your focus on HOT SOLO coded map use rather than the connection with student learning outcome?

What you see in classrooms: There is greater emphasis on the SOLO coded map use than student understanding of the learning outcomes.

Where to next: 
For teachers with multi-structural learning outcomes. 

Learning outcomes show full connections made, and synthesis of parts to the overall meaning 
“To help my students get a [ X ] learning outcome I plan to use [ X ] HOT Map because this map will ….

Are differentiated learning outcomes a planned focus of your use of HOT SOLO coded maps and rubrics?

What you see in classrooms: 
Student use of SOLO coded maps and self assessment rubrics is seen across all levels of learning outcomes - from unistructural to extended abstract.

Where to next: 
For teachers with relational learning outcomes

Learning outcomes go beyond subject and makes links to other concepts - generalises “We use SOLO Taxonomy and HOT Maps in everything we do … it has become part of the way we understand teaching and learning outcomes …

Are you and your students reflective users of the differentiated learning outcomes in SOLO Taxonomy. e.g. Intuitive use of SOLO to understand learning outcomes in the design, implementation and assessment of student learning 

What you see in classrooms: 
 SOLO Taxonomy and HOT Maps are seamlessly aligned and run in the background of the learning process.

My Reflection

Where am I at?
Through what I now have read and researched I have the understanding that SOLO is a process of learning, a way of making learning more metacognitive for the students so that they are able to ascertain what level of thinking they are at for a particular topic/task so they can identify what they need to do next to develop their thinking and to increase their understanding and thinking.  However having not introduced it into the classroom at all yet, (apart from trying to involve more higher thinking skills in reading activities) I would rate myself as being at the Prestructural Level.

I realise that it is not good enough for the teacher to just ensure that learning for students covers all range of learning levels. The children need to understand what SOLO is and how they use it so they develop better metacognitive thinking about their learning which will in turn give them more ownership and control.

This has helped me make a better plan of attack for introducing SOLO into our classroom. It is more important that I introduce SOLO to the children as a way to help them understand their own learning than just to ensure tasks and learning I set up encompass the learning levels. I had been thinking I just needed to start, but see it now as more important to put the time into the children  developing an understanding of the process rather than just using the Solo Map without referencing the whole model. 

I think that I would like to try and simultaneously introduce the taxonomy to the class while also trying to get the children to have an understanding of the learning outcomes (Solo Relational)  however realise that it just needs to happen one step at a time. The children will need to be scaffolded through the process to get an understanding of what it it about and the different tools they can use to help them learn.

So the challenge for me is,  how to spend the time developing an understanding of SOLO (what it is , how we can use it) etc whilst still maintaining effective literacy learning through reading and writing groups, (literacy being the only part of the day I teach as I am also doing Reading Recovery.)
I know that it is important to spend the time and that it will pay off 4-fold but with the children starting out on chrome books this term as well as adjusting to a more open learning situation, it already feels that solid literacy rotations and learning has been compromised.

Nevertheless for the last week of term my aim is to introduce SOLO in our reading slot. Essentially make a start!!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Kia ora

Kia ora all. Welcome to my blog where I will be writing about my learning journey for this year 2015.
Here is a link to a previous site I was writing about my teaching journey in 2013 when I was part of a MITA group (Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher Academy).