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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

In New Zealand’s state schools, teachers are increasingly faced with larger class sizes, a diverse range of learning and behavioural needs and the requirement to include special needs learners into the classroom environment.

Although ORS students tend to come with a teacher aide (although not 100% of the time), the expectation remains that we will find ways to include special needs students into mainstream classes. Sometimes this can be to meet social needs, other times academic goals and sometimes a mixture of both – although not generally to levels we would expect of mainstream students.

This year I’ve been trying to find quick and easy ways to provide bespoke tasks so that a teacher aide supporting a Student with autism can do so in a meaningful and age appropriate way.  At 14, Student X is keen to have work that in some way resembles what is peers are working on.

This term that involved a novel study of Fleur Beale’s Slide the Corner.

Based on the novel’s content, I devised a series of lessons using Microsoft’s Learning Tools to provide a series of bite sized lessons for X to work on while we focussed on essay writing.

Using a picture of a Lego car,  the Student began by labelling car parts on a paper handout:

Step d.png

Then, with his aide’s help, he completed a cloze paragraph filling the gaps with words from a word bank to write a paragraph about the main character, Greg

Step e

Finally, using the same syntactical structure, he was then prompted to complete a paragraph supplying similar details details about himself.

Step f

I then copied and paste the word document into a OneNote in X’s Class Notebook.

That’s when the real fun began! Using Immersive Reader, the paragraphs were read back to him.

step b.png

At this point, Student X’s expression was one of sheer incredulity. He was simply delighted to hear “his” work read aloud. I showed him and the teacher aide how to adjust the gender and speed of the speaker (he was similarly enthralled by the tortoise and hare icons).

Finally, I demonstrated to the aide and student how to use the dictate function. This allowed X to tell the computer what to type. X was asked to tell the PC what he thought about the lesson – a very basic reflection as his processing is pretty much surface level so he has a very literal world view. We discussed his response verbally first.

I’m  hopeful that both the student and aide will use these amazing Learning Tools again – at least in English but also other subjects too. (The only issue we had was that some of the school laptops had not been updated to run Windows 10  a- simple fix but it pays to check first to ensure microphones are accessible.)

 

step 3

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I stumbled across this wee gem a few weeks ago courtesy of the New Zealand Book Council.

Each Friday, the council releases a list of six words via twitter and invites followers to write a short poem or witticism then tweet it with the #ramereshorts tag. The words are tweeted at 9am and the “winner” announced by 5pm.

I trialled this with my Year 10 extension class last week and while some found the concept challenging initially, all jotted down an offering by the end of 15 minutes – a great starter for creative writing/poetry units when discussing brevity, connotations and best words in best order.

I published my favourites with their first names only then showed them the likes and retweets on Monday. They were more engaged then! (Ah the gratification).

It was interesting to see the variety of work produced in that short time. I’m not sure if it was the words provided or the proximity in timing to the Christchurch mosque massacre but most of the class produced writing with strong messages of hope and redemption. Lovely to read.

I’d recommend this activity as a start for Years 9-13 – of course you’d need a twitter account and their permission to tweet on their behalf. (Only 1/30 had their own account). Here’s a selection of those tweeted:

 

And the winner:

 

RS winner

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9BM are a diverse range of learners, several with high literacy needs. I’ve been dreading the end of novel essay knowing how hard it would be for many of them.

Last year I used Immersive Reader and Learning Tools with a student with behavioral and literacy needs to keep him engaged so this week, adapted that approach for literary essays.

Initially I planned to use this strategy with one student but at the end of Monday’s lesson, became aware there were at least another two students who would benefit from the heavily scaffolded approach developed using Dictate, Editor Pane, Read Aloud and text highlighting functions as well as Class Notebook to distribute the “lesson” to students.

Here’s how I broke it down for them (this took me one 30 minutes break to set up).

As a class we brainstormed ideas about our character and wrote an introduction together. Using Office Lens I took photos off the white board and sent the files to One Note then copied them into our Class Notebook. This is helpful for revision at the end of the year as well as being accessible for the two students who were absent that day.

GetImage

class brainstorm

 

GetImage (1)

annotated collective introduction

Instructions were then shared with the two students who needed support by using the Distribute Page function in Class Notebook.

Step 1

Students typed the introduction into a One Note in their own folder.

step 1

Step 2

Students finished sentences for each of the paragraphs in the essay.

 

Step 2

Step 3

Students then had to go back and highlight the S.E.X. and Y sentences in their first body paragraph. This was so they could show me they understood the function of each sentence in the paragraph.

 

Step 3

Step 4

Students copied and paste the paragraphs to lower down the page, took out my instructions and backspaced to run the sentences into paragraphs.

 

Step 4

Using Read Aloud, they listened to their essay read aloud and corrected any wrong/missing words.

Step 5

They then copied and paste into a word document and, using the Editor Pane were able to see any spelling and grammar errors and correct as needed.

 

Step 6

Finally, they printed their finished essays and have filed away for later use.

We used a quiet space outside the classroom while the rest of class worked from the board using starter sentences. The students had to hold the laptops close and speak clearly when using Dictate. Some of the words were typed incorrectly but with Read Aloud, it was obvious where the wrong words were (drain for dream for instance).

Hopefully now my students are familiar with the tools used they’ll become more confident at using them independently.

To finish the lesson I played back one of the student’s essay to the rest of the class, using that as an opportunity to boost her confidence and show the rest of the class how to use Immersive Reader and the Editor Pane.

I believe these students gained a sense of satisfaction from the process and one in particular felt a huge sense of achievement. She can’t wait to show “her” essay to her parents tonight.

#winning

 

 

 

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If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll be aware that secondary school teachers are seeking an improvement in teaching and learning conditions in New Zealand schools. One crucial thing we are looking for is support for the increasing number of students with behavioral and learning difficulties being placed in our classrooms with no additional resourcing.

I welcomed one such student to my Year 9 English class. He became student 29. The rap sheet was long but equally concerning was the learning levels and associated needs. So what’s a teacher to do?

I can’t ignore him because that could lead to outbursts that will impact everyone’s learning and potentially place us in danger. Philosophically, I believe that despite his negative attitude, student X is a human being who deserves a chance. There are reasons beyond his control leading to some of these challenges.

On the other hand, I simply don’t have time to make an individual learning programme for a student who is probably two or even three levels of the New Zealand Curriculum below where he needs to be.

When he joined us, we had just started a unit of work on formal writing.  I quickly realized I needed to find a way to adapt the tasks or things would go pear shaped very quickly. Of course I realise that’s our job but those outside education must consider the context. Our classes already cater for recent immigrants with no support who can arrive with zero English language skills, international students, children with dyslexia/dyspraxia (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), ORS funded students with intellectual disabilities (who have teacher aides but still take time to socially integrate into class activities) and the list goes on.

Day 1 – I started by setting him up with ClassNotebook and spending 15 minutes showing him how to naviagte the LMS. Because he was prone to losing his password and log in I popped it on a post note on the wall he faced with a laptop so that couldn’t be an issue.

Day 2 – The next day, we watched a documentary on boy racers, brainstormed ideas in support or against them and then students had to write persuasive paragraphs in their journals. I sat down with student X and got him to discuss his ideas, prompting him and encouraging him to use the S.E.X.Y structure of paragraph writing. We then crafted them into paragraph which I typed.

Day 3 -Language features – Student X picked a topic (tazers) and brainstormed three ideas about why Police shouldn’t use them. I typed up a paragraph for him. Then we went back through and I pointed out and colour coded formal writing features.

Day 4 – Picking a topic for our assessment and researching supporting points. Student X picked one and brainstormed ideas. He was then given time to find examples to support his ideas (research)

Day 5 -8 – Drafting an essay. Student X did this on ClassNotebook. I supplied feedback by making audio recordings to suggest ways to make paragraphs better or a smiley sticker if he had done well. He really struggled with editing and crafting – once it was written down, it was done as far as he was concerned. His short attention span meant he found it difficult to go over the same paragraphs more than once.

Overall this approach enabled me to build a more productive realtionship with student X. I set clear expectations that in English, he was expected to do the work like other students BUT I tried to make sure that work was pitched at his level, gave him choices, clear deadlines, heavily scaffolded the assessment task and gave him one on one time.

I’d like to report the story had a happy ending but issues outside the classroom meant he was removed for a spell. Hopefully when he comes back we can pick up where we left off using ClassNotebook to engage student X and progress his learning.

Below are screen shots (click on them for a clearer view) of the scaffolded tasks we worked through for formal writing:

Day 2student dictates a paragraph based on visual text and class brainstorm

Day 3 – language features and paragraph structure

Day 4 – pick topic, form opinion, brainstorm points, research

 

 

Days 5 – 8 Draft, craft and edit essay. Students gets feedback visually and as audio recording

Structure broken down – student chose previous topic rather than one from list

 

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Being open minded is key for learning new skills, self-reflection and professional growth as a teacher in 2018.

The MIEE 2018 (inaugural?!) Hui held in the April school holidays offered a smorgasbord of opportunities for teachers keen to develop their digital technology kete, extend their ability to use a range of tools available via Microsoft apps and programmes and connect with other educators.

The problem with a smorgasbord is it is sometimes difficult to know what to choose. We were truly spoiled for choice.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if Lynette Barker’s Creativity with Literacy sharing session would be to my palette. Me a South Island based secondary teacher of English and Media Studies in a large coeducational state secondary school. Lynette a teacher Librarian in a Catholic primary school across the Tasman.

Time to ditch the diet.

Not only did Lynette present us with an exciting menu of ideas, she backed this up with examples, resources and honest answers to our questions. The added bonus is that following the hui, Lynette has continued to share resources via the twittersphere.

Her ideas help bridge the gap between written text and digital technology with activities that seamlessly integrate both and, were clearly linked to learning objectives.

Some of those ideas were:

  1. Telling a story with music  – using MS lens and PPT, scan pages from a text and then invite students to match the words with music. Lynette used Red Fox.
  2. Reversioning a story – using MS Lens and OneNote with a free pdf of a children’s illustrated book (available here – http://mybirthdaybunny.com ), students use a stylus to “graffiti” the original version of My Birthday Bunny with their own version.
  3. Augmented reality – use MS Paint 3d to add moving images to a story. Take a  pic of object, import to Paint 3d then animate via power point. (@ibpossum has had hour of fun with this 😉 )
  4. Comprehension and creativity – Lynette used Using Cups Held Out byJudith L Roth. Read to kids then gave them cup. Students  were asked to tell how they could show support to others OR whatever they took from story via photography. Their photos were then collated using Movie Maker.
  5. Vocabulary extension, development of  connotative and emotive language via blogging- using Piranaha’s Don’t Eat Bananas, students were invited to finish sentences from the story with their own words.  Using Last Tree in the City, students were asked to supply 10 words they associated with this story about environmental damage to word banks. They then did the same with A Forest, a story featuring a contrasting message.
  6. Catering for students with special educational needs –  Lynette set up a series of activities on One Note pages which were code protected. The student, working with a teacher aide, had to complete each activity to get a code to “unlock” the next task.

Like any meaningful PD, the proof is in the pudding. My goal is to develop and deliver a workshop for our teacher aides and share some of these ideas alongside those gleaned from Crispin Lockwood’s Immersion Session MS Learning Tools for Differentiation. The aim is to broaden the range of literary related activities offered to engage students with special learning needs and ESOL students.

And of course there are plenty of ways to adapt Lynette’s ideas for a secondary learning environment.

“Cups” could be used in Junior Media Studies to teach the Rule of Thirds as well as camera shot types and angles, Red Fox could be used to apply visual and verbal matching techniques for Media Studies and English students while the vocab extension activities would work alongside a short story/novel study or as a starter for Creative Writing.

 

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When searching for resources to use alongside Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala next term, there seemed to be a gap in resources for the age group I will use the text with – Year 10s working at Level 4-6 of the NZC. Lots for younger readers and some very high brow analyses that would extend them but nothing that was a perfect fit in terms of learning objectives.

Using the resources available via the Global Women’s Institute as a starting point, I designed a unit of work encompassing memoir as a literary genre, the importance of education as well as a collaborative research and writing project culminating in a presentation on social justice using Microsoft Stream, one of the audio-visual presentation apps available via the Office 365 suite of products.

The overall objectives of this specific unit of work are to enable students to:

  • Discuss the importance of education and gender equity; appreciating educational opportunites
  • Form and express opinions and emotions around Malala’s journey; developing empathy
  • Explore the effectiveness of memoir as a literary genre; developing critical literacy skills

As I began mapping out lessons for the four week unit, there were obvious opportunities to link our analysis with other core skill areas in the Junior English programme by using the text as a springboard for other tasks.

  • Impromptu speaking – using issues encompassed in I Am Malala as debating topics for the impromptu speech unit; watching Malala’s speech to UN and identifying oral presentation features.
  • Personal reading – recommendations based around other memoirs students can use for AS 1.10 Personal Reading

And of course there were clear links to other curriculum areas such as Social Studies where students studied apartheid in Term One. This provides further opportunities to utilise prior learning when choosing a topic for their end of unit presentation (see below).

Overall the lessons tick all the key competencies:

  • Thinking – about the importance of education and the value we place on it; gender equity
  • Relating to Others – when interviewing a Syrian student at our school about what being a Muslim means to him
  • Using language symbols and texts – when completing reflective writing activities and an essay
  • Managing Self – when creating a Stream presentation in and out of class to meet a deadline
  • Participating and contributing – to class discussions and debates on education, gender diversity, fundamentalism and other issues raised in the novel

Via Class Notebook students can access glossaries, pre-reading tasks, extension reading  and viewing opportunities, language activities, a recommended reading list, debate topics and the Stream assignment. Flipping the learning is a bonus as we head into Term 2. when, alongside the usual interruptions to timetabled classes, our classroom is undergoing a refit meaning we will be homeless for several weeks and working from other rooms. Planning ahead in this way will take some pressure off during this disruptive time – as long as we have access to computers in our allocated temporary room!

If you’re still with me, here are the lessons as the students will see them on Class Notebook (minus the video and pictures to breakup text!):

What is a memoir? 

In choosing to narrate the brutal attempt on her life, Malala Yousafzai chose the literary form known as MEMOIR. A memoir is designed to capture a certain moment in time.

Memoirs are characterised by their ability to mesh private feelings with public issues and raw emotions. They are not the same as autobiographies which tend to cover a person’s entire life and where the story unfolds in linear fashion. Memoirs also differ from diaries as memoirs allow for more reflective narration of important social and historical events.

The three forms all use first person narration. This means we only get one person’s point of view. Memoirs might not seem to use as many language features as poems or novels but if you read carefully, there is plenty of emphasis on pace, tone and language choices in I Am Malala.

 

Pre-reading activity: 

What do you know about Malala already?

What would you like to know?

What are you unsure of?

Watch the trailer for the documentary about Malala’s Life, read the prologue and note five facts you learned about Pakistan and Malala:

He Named Me Malala Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Documentary HD

Glossary of words to learn: 

Social Justice – justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

Pashtun – a member of a Pashto-speaking people inhabiting southern Afghanistan and NW Pakistan.

Swati –from the Swat Valley region of Northern Pakistan (see map)

Fundamentalism – a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.

Code of Purdha – the term used primarily in South Asia, to describe in the South Asian context, the global religious and social practice of female seclusion that is associated with Muslim communities.

Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset.

Muslim –  a follower of the religion of Islam.

Islam – an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.

Quran – The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah). It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature

Taliban – a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country

Jihad – a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam

United Nations – an intergovernmental organization tasked to promote international cooperation and to create and maintain international order.

If you enjoy this style of writing visit the personal reading page in your Class Notebook for suggested texts for your personal reading responses.

Background reading: extra reading for those wishing to delve deeper –  

The Daily Show – Malala Yousafzai Extended Interview

New York Times articles about Malala

Class Dismissed: story about the 2009 documentary

FULL Amanpour Malala Interview

Language features activity: 

Language features and structural devices used which you need to be able to identify and explain are listed below. Your homework for the first week is to copy and paste this list into your NOVELS folder, write a definition for the term and find an example from the text. You can do this in groups and share the answers:

Foreshadow (page 9)

Memoir

Prologue

Epilogue

Allusion

Epigraph

Imagery

Simile

Metaphor

Symbolism

Maxim

Group assignment:

 

In pairs (plus one group of three), you will create, save and share a Sway presentation about a person noteworthy for their contribution to SOCIAL JUSTICE. 

Step 1 – Watch the Sway tutorial. More help can be found on the WELCOME page in this Class Notebook or by asking!

Step 2 –  Pick a person from the list below

  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Martin Luther King
  • Mahatma Ghandi
  • Sir Apirana Ngata
  • Dame Whinia Cooper

Step 3 – Set up your Stream (sign in using school account)

Step 4 – Share tasks. (Suggest one person is researching/sourcing images while other works on slide creation but make sure you share the roles).

Your Stream must contain the following content: 

  • A brief biography – who are they, why are they important?
  • A diary entry written in first person as if you WERE the person. Similar to Malana’s Life with the Taliban columns. Reword yours to suit your subject’s background and key events in their life e.g: Nelson Mandela – Life in Robben Island prison etc
  • A fully developed SEXY paragraph responding to the statement: The World is  better place because of X….
  • A slide with at least five key terms defined that are related to your subject/their issue e.g. apartheid, Nobel Prize, Treaty of Waitangi.
  • A slide with 6-8 questions you would ask your person in an interview for the school newsletter.
  • Final slide attributing your sources (hyperlinks)

To break up the text, embed visual images, relevant audio  and video throughout your presentation.

Due Date: TBA!

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Introducing …. you

You know how certain songs trigger memories of special people, place and events? No matter where I am, as soon as I hear the opening chords to U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, I’m instantly transported to the lane outside Lancaster Park in Christchurch on a sweltering November afternoon in 1989.

It’s hot, my stomach’s in my throat, can’t stop smiling as my sister, my bestie, my boyfriend and various associates prepare to embark on a musical adventure. It was much more than out first concert sans parents. The concert and associated road trip came to represent the end of an era for us as we finished high school and headed out to The Real World.

Those were the days.

At the start of the school year, a lot of teachers spend a few lessons getting to know new students (and names) via a range of introductory tasks and activities. It’s a great way to find out about their learning preferences and styles, interests and personalities!

Inspired by the aforementioned musical memory, I’ve developed a new introductory task for Year 10s called Playlist of My Life. The idea is to choose songs/artists that represent something about them and explain their choices. With the rise of Spotify etc I’m pretty sure they’ll know what a playlist is and hopefully, everyone can come up with half a dozen songs that mean something to them…

Here’s the lesson outline:

Teachers’ preamble for Your Life as a Playlist:

When you make a playlist, you can organise it by artist or genre or around a theme (chill out songs) or a time (Summer 2018).

(Discuss other ways to organise a playlist. Check they understand genre.)

Here’s an example of a playlist a teacher made on her blog summarising her teaching experiences. (Show)

And here’s one that came from the novel Playlist for the Dead . Each chapter is named after a song on a playlist a boy made for his friend. (Show link to blog post. Inform students novel is in school library. Deals with sensitive issue of youth suicide)

Students intructions

  • The task
    • Create a playlist of 6-10 songs that tell me something about you
  • Picking songs

Choose songs that remind you of people, places, events, memories or just because you really like the artist.

  • What to include
    • The song title and artist and a brief explanation of why you chose the song. For example: I chose History by One Direction because it was our team song in 2015 when I played Under 12 rugby for Taieri. We used to sing it on bus trips and knew all the words. The song reminds me of the players in my team. Some of us have played together since we were five. It was also the year we won our grade so it was pretty memorable.
    • For example: I chose Elastic Heart by Sia because I really like the lyrics. The song is about being strong but also being able to be caring at the same time. I think it’s a good song for girls because it’s powerful. To me it means we shouldn’t let people think we are weak just because we are girls.
  • Presenting your playlist:
    • On refill and hand in named OR
    • Word online and share with me OR
    • PPT online and share with me
  • Optional extras: If completing the task electronically, you might include links to videos or hyperlinks to information about the artist or to lyrics.
  • Due date: Thursday February 8th

This is your first task for the year so make sure it’s you best work. Remember you only get one shot to make a first impression!

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