Archive for the ‘teeangers’ Category

Funny sometimes how the classes you lose the most sleep over end up being the most rewarding. Last holidays I tried to devise a new approach to teaching formal writing with a class of 28 mixed ability Year 10 learners which features an ORS student, 2 ESOL students and 8 SENCO tagged learners with a variety of learning challenges.

As a group BOY formative testing showed they struggled to unpack ideas in reading, and without an idea, it’s hard to form opinions and without opinions it’s difficult to be persuasive – you get the drift!

I recalled that at the end of Term 2, the entire Year 10 cohort had workshops with guest speakers from Police and other agencies about cyberbullying. It struck me I should start with something they had discussed recently and were likely to have an opinion on. In an aha moment, I came across two FREE DVD teaching resources on the NetSafe website complete with downloadable worksheets. Perfect – these guys love visual starters. So the seed was sown.

My objective was to help students progress their formal writing skills by developing ideas around a class wide topic – the perils of cyberbullying. As well as watching the DVDs, I provided opportunities to develop ideas and conduct research together to ensure they ALL had facts to back up their opinions while at the same time exposing them to a heap of valuable online resources. The lesson outline was a mixture of core skills and ideas development that went something like this:

Lesson 1 – SEXY para revision via reflective writing in journal based on TVNZ reporters sharing their experiences: Do celebrities deserve the same rights to privacy online?, formal vs informal language, paragraphing using BBC Skillwise site.

Lesson 2 – SEXY para revision based on Sexting clip: Why is sexting dangerous?, Tone – rewrite a bogus school report, Research Skills discuss ACC (authenticity, credibility, currency) show tree octopus and the “True” Martin Luther King website, show students how to conduct keyword searches, show students how domain names give clues to authenticity, research trash and treasure hunt – find 3 facts about cyberbullying in New Zealand

Lesson 3 – Watch Tagged, write own definitions for bullying and cyberbullying, check actual definitions, friend request worksheet from Tagged, Role of bystander – write a SEXY para in journal: Why don’t people stop bullying when they see it?

Lesson 4 –  SEXY para The dangers of stereotyping via YouTube Clip Other People’s Shoes. Class discussion Why do people follow the Queen Bee? Watch Tagged webcam character interviews, complete timelines, profiles and what’s the status worksheets/activities.

Lesson 5 – Watch Let’s Fight it Together, answer focus questions in groups, devise solutions as mind map, watch character interviews on DVD, blow up character questions to A3 complete in groups, share. Hand in journals for feedback on this week’s reflective paras. (Give feedback on SEXY structure and explanation of ideas)

Lessons 6 – Complete THINK worksheet and discuss as class, revise language features via Pimp My Writing ppt, write two pimped sentences in journals. Issue task: We need to get tougher on cyber bullying.

Lesson 7 – Complete research worksheet in pairs in class using websites supplied.

Lesson 8 – Spelling rules starter, draft intro and BP1: What is cyber bullying and how big is the problem in NZ?

Lessons 9 – Spelling rules, Draft BP 2: What are the effects of cyber bullying? and BP 3: What is being done to stop cyber bullying?

Lesson 10 Draft conclusion (think about causes, effects, solutions) hand in for feedback, discuss feedback with students

Lesson 11 and 12 – craft, edit, publish, submit

During the five assessment sessions, our ORS student was working on his own presentation about cyber ullying using MySimpleShow which he presented on the last day of term – and it was awesome. He told his teacher aide what to type, they selected pics together and he presented it. The other students were gobsmacked!

As for those completing the essay assessment, their results showed some incremental improvements in terms of summative assessment but for me, the real results were less tangible and included:

  • addressing issues within the class between different clicks by using THINK
  • establishing who specifically their own “trusted” adults are
  • reaffirming the sanctity of their own bodies and how they most respect themselves
  • crossover with Health and PE. Students were getting double exposure of key concepts and ideas

Here are extracts from some of my favourite essays – regardless of where they sit on the curriculum scale, I’d like to think they learned a few valuable lessons during the process:

We definitely have to get tough on cyberbullying. The victims of cyberbullying are getting younger and younger. Cyberbullying is no game. It’s not something you do as a joke; it’s serious and pointless. Cyberbullying destroys people and makes them feel unimportant.

Cyberbullying is when someone uses social media or technology to bully and put someone else down. By using this method the bully can hide behind the screen instead of having to confront the victim face to face. My opinion is that if you have a problem with someone, you should sort it out then and there, face to face and not cower behind a screen and bully others without having the guts to say things to their face.

Cyberbullying is when people decide to bully other people online with technology and turn it against each other to make a horrible situation for the victim or victims. Cyberbullying gets worse at high school where 25% of students report they are constantly cyber bullied, 30% say they have sexted and 67% say they have been asked to sext. The most common type of cyber bullying is using cell phones because 80% of high school students use them.  Cyber bullying is most common with girls. An example of this is in the Tagged film when two girls start cyberbullying the victim as a “joke.” Clearly, cyberbullying is a vicious game that needs to be taken seriously.

The effects of cyberbullying are long term and potentially deadly. In Dunedin, a 14 year old girl received 150 threats to kill herself in three hours. In another incident, a 15 year old girl on tumblr was asked for tips and messages on how to kill herself. People who get cyberbullied fell depressed and can end up self-harming. Most of them can’t handle being cyberbullied. In my opinion, cyberbullying is pathetic and cowardly. The victims have a whole life ahead of them. They shouldn’t have to put up people bullying them. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

There are now multiple places for victims to get support such as websites like nobullying.com or helplines like 0800WHATSUP. There is also a programme called Sticks and Stones started by young people in Alexandra. These are all for people in need of someone to talk to and get help to prevent further problems around cyberbullying.

In conclusion, I think cyberbullying is a gutless way of putting someone down. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all. Cyberbullying ruins lives and you don’t want that sort of guilt on your hands.

Read Full Post »

Ensuring pedagogical practice gives more than a nod to diversity and inclusive practice is inherent in twenty-first century teaching in Aotearoa/New Zealand. We’ve come a long way from the bad old days of deficit educational practices yet still our Maori and Pasifika learners languish at the bottom of achievement tables (if that’s to be the measure of success), boys are slipping behind girls, New Zealand is more multicultural than ever before and there are growing calls for teachers to be (at the very least) more aware of the needs of LGBT students.

I grew up in the 70s in New Zealand when “Girls Can Do Anything” was a common catch-phrase. So when I attended an all girls’ school in the 80s, there was a huge push for us to study maths and science. My former classmates now sit on boards of global food producers, head police stations and run their own businesses – many while doing a stunning job raising their own children.

I’m not sure if it was a direct result of the focus on girls’ academic success or the teaching and learning environment in the 80s and 90s or a combination of those factors but the result appears to have been a comparative slide in boys’ academic success with many schools now taking a long, hard look at how they can  better meet the needs of young male learners. More hand wringing, more studies, more strategies.

And in New Zealand, where our bi-cultural status is enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi, a document whose articles and principles are studied, analysed and reflected on by all teacher trainees, there have been numerous policies developed aimed at raising the achievement of the tangata whenua, Maori learners. These have met with varying degrees of success probably because it is so difficult to separate the Pandora’s Box of factors outside the classroom impacting on the success of our Maori learners from teaching practice. Now the focus is shifting to our Pasifika learners. On top of that, our classrooms are increasingly diverse in terms of gaps caused by the digital divide and a growing awareness of meeting the needs of LBGT students.

In The Professional Practice of Teaching (McGee and Fraser, 2008) Barbara Whyte suggests four basic principles for working with diverse students:

  • know the students you teach
  • know yourself
  • teach with the student’s ethnicity
  • develop cross-cultural understanding

With so many factors outside a teacher’s control, knowing yourself is vital. Teachers are humans. Each one brings their own unique learning and life experiences to the classroom.  If you can reflect on what has shaped your teaching and learning style, and recognise that we all need to modify the way we do things because none of our learners are the same and probably none will share the same experiences we did, then we can go a way to meeting diverse needs. Self-awareness is a great tool to bring to the classroom. As Whyte notes: “The confidence that comes with being secure in one’s own ethnic and self-identity can go a long way to create and maintain an accepting an environment.”

It can’t be taught but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that our attitudes are key to meeting learners’ needs.


Read Full Post »

Interesting talk about how physiological development in the brain affects decision-making and empathy in teenagers.  Nothing too new, attended a similar lecture by Otago University vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne in 2010. Still a good refresher.

Very much enjoyed the conversation thread about what people weren’t taught in school but thought they should have been.

Comments range from schools needing to focus on social skills more and focus less on job skills to teaching financial literacy and the psychology of human relationships (good luck with that one).

I think NZ schools are leaders in teaching critical thinking skills despite having a heavily summative approach to assessment.  Primary schools in particular are good at providing opportunities for inquiry-based learning. One Dunedin school uses the future problem solvers website with its students to give them real life problems to work on. This is also an opportunity to teach social skills through working in groups, with the community etc.   If the teacher is not skilled enough to ensure some degree of focus (and guidance over the diplomacy of group work), the associated learning can lose some relevance. And some teens get to secondary school and find it hard to adjust to the more defined approach to content – i.e less scope for inquiry based learning, especially in senior years.  Again not the teachers’ choice.

I don’t know a single teacher who enjoys teaching to the test but if the Government is hell-bent on comparing apples and pears to pander to some misguided middle-class perceptions (misconceptions?) about what makes a “good” school and what “success” is, then I guess that becomes the default. This is especially true in an economic recession when teaching jobs are scarce, competition for vacancies is fierce, schools regularly cannibalise each other for staff and students (in the south anyway) and then the Government signals moves towards performance-based pay (based on apples and pears based league tables) It’s all so wrong.

And as for social skills – some valid points there. I do worry about the role of parents and whanau.  My sons’ school spends a lot of time teaching core values to its pupils – kindness, honesty etc.  Wouldn’t it be better if children arrived at school with those values instilled from home and a couple of years quality ECE? Ah well, back on planet Earth!  Now back to those dreadful teens…


Read Full Post »