Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What am I learning ?

We have been focusing on how we can share our Learning Intentions with our students.
Students with special learning needs often need visual representation to help them remember their goals and targets or the strategies they need to learning.
Check out some of the examples from my fabulous colleagues at Sommerville.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Managing self

Our students need to learn a range of skills and abilities to help them to do well in life. A very important key competency is managing their own behaviour.
Some of our students struggle with managing themselves when something goes wrong. We need to teach them some strategies to cope.
Here are a few visual strategies we use with our students.
We personalise these to suit the individual needs of each student.
The student needs to be taught how to use these strategies before they are upset and need them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Language is a vital part of communication

How can we support oral learning and development:

ERO publishes evaluation reports - there report on language say:

  giving greater attention to oral language learning of new entrants within a rich curriculum
  developing formal expectations for monitoring oral language progress or development across               Years 1 to 3 and beyond, across all key learning areas
taking a formalised approach to identifying students’ oral language strengths (including       capabilities in languages other than English), needs and concerns, rather than relying on           informal observation and ‘gut feeling’
systematically planning for interventions, where particular concerns or needs for oral language learning and development are identified
 teachers building on the advantage linguistically diverse learners bring to language learning
building and strengthening teacher capability to support oral language teaching and learning.

What can we be doing in our classrooms daily to support our students? 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Leading Change - What are our priorities?

I had the opportunity to listen to Bek Galloway present on "Leading my team".
Bex talked about having a clear vision and purpose then everything you do should then work towards that goal.

She has a great visual that resonates with me.  
I think all teachers need to take stock of our class programmes and visions to ensure we are doing what we need to do.

As term four begins and we are all reflecting we need to think about our students needs.
What parts of my programme , plans do we need to Start, Stop, Limit and Continue for my vision to be a priority.

I think as a teacher all the demands placed on us sometimes distract us from our key task - Educating our students to the best  of our ability to ensure they achieve the most they possibly can !

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The right assessment for the right purpose.

In education, the term assessment refers to the wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.

Educators should use a diverse array of assessment tools ,and methods to measure/assess our students. Assessments have different functions - assessments are typically designed to measure specific elements of learning—e.g., the level of knowledge a student already has about the concept or skill the teacher is planning to teach , or what they have learnt from recent learning opportunities.  Ideally, assessments  are used to identify individual student weaknesses and strengths so that educators can provide the most appropriate educational programmes. 

Are we using the right assessments to give us the most relevant information on our students to help us provide the most appropriate educational programmes? 

Do our students know what we want them to do, and how to do it ?

Are we  doing too much testing and not  enough teaching?
Everytime we ask a student a questions it is a form of testing, unless we have already given lots of input first.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time to reflect

Time to reflect.

I had the opportunity to attend the APPA Leadership conference this week.
I attended Bek Galloway's workshop.
Thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and she has left me with lots to ponder.

Firstly, it confirmed my strong belief that teachers should be constantly learning and reflecting and our Teacher Inquiries give us a structure to this.

Bek talked about a Learning Culture Space.
The power of student focused learning and a curriculum that supports this.

Time to Reflect and Refocus.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Next Generation

Tony Ryan Educational consultant spoke at the APPA conference about the future of the next generation.
What skills will we need?


Are we preparing our students for the future? What can we do as educators ?
There seems to be a common  theme from several presenters today  around the importance of the
  Key Competencies.
How do we increase the inclusion of the important competencies in our daily class programmes.

Tony Ryan also talked about the vital skill for our future being  Oracy.
This is a major concern considering the low levels of our students oral language skills.
Tony suggested we teach our students about how to self-talk, the beginning of thinking our thoughts through and problem solving.
Thanks Tony lots to consider.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A common theme - our students' language.

Manaiakalani Boards' Forum

At the BOT forum tonight 6 Col teachers presented their Inquiries. Well done to our presenters you were very informative.

Common theme: - The limited oral language and vocabulary of our students.
Each COL teacher presented on their Achievement challenge - everyone of us talked about how our Inquiries had lead us to realise that our students language levels were significantly impacting their progress across all curriculum areas.

Raising achievement in Maths - students did not understand the maths vocabulary
or could not follow instructions with positional concepts.

Lift the achievement for boys' writing -  students do not have  the vocab to describe and explain.

Lift the achievement in Reading for all students, - students need the confidence and language to share their ideas and the language vocabulary to understand what they are reading.

Here is the next challenge team - how do we accelerate our students language skills?

Watch out for some exciting professional development Sommerville will be offering next term.                            

Update on my Inquiry.


I had the opportunity to present to the BOT from Manaiakalani school tonight.
This was a great opportunity for me to reflect on what i have been up to.

Monday, August 28, 2017

HUI - Sharing

Sharing Our Inquiries

What a great afternoon of sharing and learning.
I was so impressed with the creative ways the COL teachers displayed their Inquiries - Well done team.

I realised that I need to be talking more to my colleagues about alternative assessments that may give a more detailed picture of our students with additional needs. I was surprised by the number of teachers who were unaware of any other assessments to  possibly use on students who failed the mainstream assessments.

I  have exciting work ahead!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Numbers Talk

Oral Language and a rich vocabulary 
- the key to successful learning.

The Numbers really do matter!

Reading mileage and Reading at home really does stack up!

As a teacher we need to find ways to create links and build language - this will help achievement in all curriculum areas.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Language development and Reading Comprehension

Are your students struggling with reading comprehension ?  
Do they have the language skills and vocabulary to answer the comprehension questions during reading?

We need to be offering our students opportunity and stimulation to help their Oral language development.

We need to teach the language and the skills of comprehension.

Gail Arriola-Bagayas  our speech therapist at Sommerville has shared this fabulous resources that makes it very  clear about the developmental steps in understanding questions.
Check the great ideas in this handout.

Sometimes we need to unpack the learning goals.

Please get in touch with me if i can help with your reading programmes or helping develop your students comprehension skills. 

Book time with Donna 

Verbal reasoning -  the big picture.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Maths Assessment Progressions

Maths Assessment Progressions at Sommerville.

The Sommerville Maths curriculum team have created this overview of maths assessments.
Students at Sommerville who often can not be assessment using mainstream maths assessment are assessed against P levels. This is a series of leveled progression indicators. P 1 to P 7 are below  the Emergent maths levels.
As our students reach these  P level progression indicators we move them onto Mainstream assessments eg JAM and Gloss.

Sommerville Special school uses a fabulous maths resources called Numicon
Numicon has an assessment system that matches this maths resource.
Numicon is a distinctive multi-sensory approach to children's mathematical learning that emphasises three key aspects of doing mathematics:
  • communicating mathematically
  • exploring relationships
  • solving problems in everyday life experiences (generalising)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Differentiating our Assessments in Literacy

Literacy Assessments at Sommerville.

Sommerville Literacy assessment

As part of my on going Inquiry into using appropriate assessments
Will using fine-grained assessments improve teacher capacity for setting appropriate goals for students who fail to register on standardised tests?

I have put together a overview of assessments we are currently using at Sommerville to help us establish exactly what our students know and inform how we set appropriate learning targets and goals for the students next steps.
The teachers at Sommerville now have a range assessment to chose from . It is important that the assessments used give the teacher as much information as possible not just a pass or fail!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Oral Language a crucial element.

Starting primary school is an enormous transition in a young child’s life. Children need to find their place in a new social and learning environment. Entering this new environment with Speech Language Communication Needs can have long-term impact on a child. Children may struggle to make friends, to learn, and to be themselves as part of their new  school community.

It is expected that when a child starts primary school, they will be able to understand much of what is said, express themselves clearly, share their feelings and make their needs known.
In many ways our ability to communicate  can define us, sometimes it is away we are judged and measured by others and the means by which we form our relationships. Children starting school with speech, language and communication needs may struggle with many aspect of communication and they can become withdrawn or present with challenging behaviour within the school environment.

Some children may not be able to understand the words being spoken to them. When their teacher tells the class what they need to do, or explains a new idea or concept, these children may struggle to understand what is being said. Having an appropriate vocabulary is essential for  learning, however learning vocabulary has been identified as one of the most significant difficulties for some children.

As teachers we need to scaffold the learning for our students. Offer multiple opportunities to learn new vocabulary, and practice it regularly. We need to help make connections and use visuals to help cement the new learning.
How much of our day is spent developing our children's language?  Low language levels impact all other curriculum areas.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grit - I think I can , I will keep going until I do it!

During the Manaiakalani Leaders PLD today there was a discussion around setting clear expectations and setting goals for our students .

I am a firm believer in the principle 'if you think you can - then you can' and also if ' people I trust believe in me and think I can then I will '.

It reminded me of the TED talk I had
Listened to.

Worth a watch and some thoughts

Let's build some Grit in our learners .

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Inclusive School Curriculum - A Curriculum for ALL !

NZC- A Curriculum for all.
Framework for an Inclusive School Curriculum.

This framework embodies the key elements of an inclusive school curriculum that together ensure progress and achievement for all students.

"The New Zealand Curriculum is a clear statement of what we deem important in education. It takes as its starting point a vision of our young people as lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved."
The New Zealand Curriculum, 2007, page 4

A flexible framework

"The New Zealand Curriculum, together with the Qualifications Framework, gives schools the flexibility to design and deliver programmes that will engage all students and offer them appropriate learning pathways."
The New Zealand Curriculum, 2007, page 41

The New Zealand Curriculum supports schools to ensure that teaching and learning are effective and engaging for all. When teaching, learning, and assessment recognise and respond to the unique differences of individuals, all students can learn.
The New Zealand Curriculum is not prescriptive. Its learning areas provide a flexible foundation for exploring, evaluating, integrating, and enhancing knowledge. Its key competencies, which capture learning capabilities and dispositions, strengthen the learning areas by supporting students to value curiosity, thinking, self-management, perseverance, collaboration, and caring for others.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Developing Language Skills in our students.

All the research tells us our students are arriving at school with low oral language skills. The oral language children have when they start school directly impacts on their ability to think and to learn. Alison Burge presented findings from the "Welcome to school project" in Tamaki schools showing 53% of New Entrants assessed had significant concerns in Communication.

All students who enter the school environment need to learn about a variety of conventions and routines of talking and listening in a context that is unfamiliar to most of them. Students’ oral language improves through practice, that is, when students talk regularly for different purposes and with different partners.  (Ministry of Education. (2009). Learning Through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1 to 3. Wellington)

At Sommerville we extremely fortunate to employ our own Speech language therapists who work directly with students and provide on going Professional development to our staff.
Francesca Bierens SLT has shared her Verbal language development Summary for how language is developed and the progress
 'Assisting Students with Language Delays in the Classroom  - A Practical Language Programme'

                                Published:  In 2015 by Speechmark Publishing Ltd, London, UK,

I have attached Oral language resources from Francesca that are worth a read.

Oral language development and abilities have significant impact on our students ability to access the curriculum in all areas.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Early writing levels

While researching my  USLT Inquiry I have observed students whose  writing levels are too low to be assessed by NZ standardised testing.

At Sommerville we are currently using a Developmental Writing Scale which is helping us identify what level our students are at and what their next learning targets are.

I thought I would share this with our Mainstream colleagues.

Developmental Writing Scale

Check out this great one page  visual snapshot of children's writing development.

Reminder to Manaiakalani COL schools that you can book time with me to discuss your literacy programmes for students with additional needs.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

What's your learning style ?

What's your learning style?

Each of us has a preferred way of learning. You may learn best visually, by listening, by reading and writing, or by doing.
This way of thinking about learning preferences is known as VARK:
• Visual images – you prefer learning material in a pictorial or graphic format
• Aural messages or the spoken word – you like to listen to lectures and discuss your work
• Reading and making notes – you learn best through reading and writing
• Kinaesthetic or active learning – you prefer to learn through practical activities
Some learners may show a strong preference for one of these ways of learning, while others use a combination of learning styles.
Have you thought about the learning styles of your students?

I was reminded just how important learning styles and learning preferences when working with students who have ASD . Using students strengths and preferences to support new learning.  All students deserve access to the best learning opportunities.
How do you see your students? Check out this video for a different perspective.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Additional support at Writing time.

Do your students need additional support at writing time?
Sometimes using writing plans and frames at the planning and draft stage help our learners remember their ideas add more information to their stories.

 Sentence starters and models scaffold the students writing until they understand the structure needed and have developed a memory for their ideas.

Writing involves alot of thinking and processing  as well as good language skills.

"Planning takes the writing assignment and long-term memory as input, which then produces a conceptual plan for the document as output. Planning includes sub-activities of generating (coming up with ideas), organizing (arranging those ideas logically in one’s head), and goal setting (determining what effects one wants to achieve and modifying one’s generating and organizing activities to achieve local or global goals). "  Hayes and Flower (1980)

Let's make it easier for our students to experience success!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scaffolding the learning.

This week I had the opportunity to visit Khismira Lal at Pt England School.
I was particularly interested in how Khismira offers additional support to her students, especially when they are working independently or in small groups without the teacher.

It was incredible to see the extensive planning and preparation that goes into Khismira's reading programme. I was very impressed with the thought gone into scaffolding the learning for her students when using the Ipad app Explain Everything.

I particular like the idea of adding sound bites to help the students with instructions.
Fabulous Idea !
What a great way of teaching Concepts about print.  I am keen to try this with some students next term.

Thanks Khismira - highly recommend spending some time in her classroom.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Inquiry .. My scanning .. My hunch

I have been visiting classrooms and talking to teachers and reviewing current assessment practices in the mainstream classes from new entrants to year 7 and Sommerville Special school classes year 1 - year 11. There are several incidences of students who struggle with reading who fail the current assessments and do not meet National Standards.  The difficulty being faced by some teachers is that the currently used assessments gauge the students as having failed and give no indication of next steps and current skills. Teachers are left with limited information and are therefore continuing with more of the same strategies that have been unsuccessful.


By using a range of assessments that focus on fine grained steps and achievements in reading, teachers will be able to use the information to create appropriate programs and goals for students who are currently failing in their reading. If teachers use this information well then reading levels should improve for those students.

Will using fine-grained assessments improve teacher capacity for setting appropriate goals for students who fail to register on standardised tests?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Risk taker - trying something new!

After listening to Graeme Aitken at the Manaiakalani leaders PLG I have been reflecting on my willingness to take action and try something new based on my hunch and research.

Teachers need to work through their teaching inquiry and develop some hunches, gain some new knowledge, but most importantly be willing to take action.
What new learning or teaching strategy have you tried or implemented? Have you taken any action this year ?