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 ?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Are we inclusive for all students?

Inclusive education is about the full participation and achievement of all learners. In fully inclusive schools, children and young people with special education needs are engaged and achieving through being present, participating and learning. 

The ERO has an evaluation indicator framework to help schools evaluate how well they are doing in supporting students with additional learning needs. 

What is an inclusive school?

At an inclusive school, all students are welcome and are able to take part in all aspects of school life. Diversity is respected and upheld. Inclusive schools believe all students are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners and work towards this within the New Zealand Curriculum. Students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and their learning needs are addressed.
This the dream! But, is it a reality for all our students?
How Inclusive is your classroom? How inclusive is your school?
What changes can we make to create a better environment for all our students to learn and experience success?
Love this statement from TKI site
As each student brings unique and diverse experiences, needs, and strengths to their learning, education systems need to be flexible and responsive to this predictable diversity, rather than expecting students to fit around a fixed system of teaching and learning.

Just another interpretation .

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reading is a real challenge!

Learning to be a confident READER. Have you stopped to think about all the cognitive and linguistic skills it takes for everyone to do this ?
Have you stopped to break down all the parts that have to align to make us into capable confident readers?

Let me list some components of a skilled reader. 

  • phonological awareness
  • word recognition processes 
  • vocabulary
  • syntax
  • decoding accuracy
  • learning to read, children start out acquiring elementary decoding skills and learn to apply these with greater accuracy and speed.
  • comprehension processes
  • concepts about print
  • spatial awareness
  • cognitive performance
  • fluency
  • visual modality 

In addition to these:
 attention, perception and working memory are extremely important aspects of information processing and significant in children’s reading development.

If we could assess these different components and see where our students have specific difficulties could we then provide more support for their specific learning needs? 
Do we currently digging deep enough to help our learners?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Assessment for Learners with Special Education Needs

Narrative assessment

Narrative assessment is  for students who are expected to learn long-term within Level One of the New Zealand Curriculum .

Narrative assessment provides a rich picture of students’ skills, strengths, and learning support needs. It uses learning stories to capture progress in students’ learning, and records the often subtle interactions between the student, their learning environments, their peers, their learning support team, and their learning activities.

The use of this information to engage with parents and whānau, allows those who know the child best to collaborate in planning next steps learning as part of the child’s Individual Education Programme and plan. In this way, narrative assessment provides clear and specific reporting about the individual student’s learning, support needs, and progress.

This form of assessment fits very well with Manaiakalani pedagogy ' Learn , Create, Share' - putting our young learners at the very centre of their learning.

To learn more check out this website, or book some time with me to learn more.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Alternative assessment for students with additional needs

It is necessary for New Zealand schools to design and shape assessment in our classrooms so that teaching and learning is meaningful and meets the needs of their particular communities of students?

Are you aware of this assessment for students who need  additional  support?

The frameworks, or matrices, expand and enhance Level One of the New Zealand Curriculum in literacy and numeracy, following national matrices and leading directly into Level One. Holistic learning progressions are set on a continuum, identifying the fine-grained progressions that some students make.
The matrices were developed to help teachers identify the key features of learning, achievement, and quality in relation to each achievement objective. Teachers are able to use the matrices to place each student on an individual starting point, identify next step planning and teaching and hold suitably high and realistic expectations for achievement.

Support for our Learners and their families.

As part of my new role working across the Manaiakalani schools to support our diverse learners, I wanted to find out what support services were out there in our community.

Tāmaki Regeneration has created this list of Tāmaki health, community and social services on the Healthpoint website:

Great starting point for our families.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Do you have students who need support to remember a task sequence?

Some of our students need additional support to remember a sequence they are suppose to follow during a class learning task.

This checklist is kept inside the students writing book. She self monitors as she has completed each step. The checklist are individualised to each student's needs and to match their specific learning goals. These check list stop a lot of repetition, wasted time and frustration by teachers and students.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

New Zealand Sign Language week - 8 and 14 May

New Zealand Sign Language Week
It is NZ Sign Language week, time to celebrate Aotearoa’s third official language (since 2006).
New Zealand Sign Language Week provides an opportunity for schools to reflect on the inclusion principle and explore the values of diversity and respect. Students can make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and text and relating to others.
Check out the great resources online
Have you checked out the fabulous songs on Youtube that have NZ Sign Language

How about learning our National anthem with all three of our official languages.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Inquiry Model

I attended my first  Maniakalani COL teachers meeting on Thursday and was introduced to the Manaiakalani Inquiry framework for the first time. Well done to the team who collaborated on this.

At Sommerville  Special school we have been looking at the Spiral of Inquiry by Helen Timperley, Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert.
Graphic credit: Judy Halberg and Linda Kaser (2013)

These frameworks seem to blend together quite well.  I am currently in the 'LEARN' stage in the 'Learn Create Share', so moving through the scanning, focusing and developing a hunch in the spiral.
I found the TKI information on Teaching as inquiry very helpful - thanks for sharing Fiona Grant.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Inquiry

'The New Zealand Curriculum describes the Teaching as Inquiry cycle and the idea of purposeful assessment (page 39). Assessment is one of the tools that inquiring teachers use to improve their students’ learning and their own teaching.'

'Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES] emphasises the importance of focusing on student outcomes and using both research evidence and assessment information to improve teaching and learning.'

While undertaking my initial scanning and evidence gathering, it has reinforced my strong belief in the extreme importance of having the correct assessment resources, tools and data. The current mainstream resources give us lots of information about what our students ''can not do or 'have not achieved'
Our job as teachers is to gather evidence-based informative and summative information on our students. Then use this information to plan comprehensively and implement programmes to meet individual students needs.

'The learning inquiry takes place both during and after teaching as teachers monitor their students’ progress towards the identified outcomes and reflect on what this tells them. Teachers use this new information to decide what to do next to ensure continued improvement in student achievement and in their own practice.'

I look forward to sharing some of these appropriate assessments for diverse learners with schools in our Manaiakalani community. I have decided to set up a separate page for assessment for learners with complex needs and another one for strategies for students who have specific needs. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dyslexia - reality - the big challenges .

What can we do to support our learners with Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is an alternative way of thinking - a learning difference - that affects an estimated one in ten New Zealanders including 70,000 school children.

How to support and prompt but not do!!!

Are we offering the right level of support and prompts to our learners?
Do our learners have some control?
How can we scaffold the learning?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Neuro - Diversity - Ever wondered why our students struggle in our classrooms ?

                           Challenges for our students.

Collaboration - Manaiakalani in a statement!


How much do you share and collaborate with your colleagues?
Other perspectives help us reflect on our teaching and students learning.

Using visuals - Why are the important for our diverse learners ?

I often get asked why visuals should be used with students who have learning difficulties. 
This is a great explanation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Te Taiao o Tāmaki

Super proud of the amazing artwork the students at Sommerville special school produced to share with our community.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Literacy - A comprehensive approach to Literacy for Student with complex needs

Dr Sally Clendon ran professional development today for our new teachers. -    BIG challenge - share three years of PD in one day!

Great to reinforce the importance of knowing our students well and engaging our learners.
We need a well-balanced comprehensive approach when teaching our students Literacy skills and strategies.

How do we ensure that our teaching is at the right level for our complex students?
Are our students cognitively engaged in an appropriate learning task?
How do our students demonstrate their learning and understanding?

Always so much to think about after a day with Sally !!