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From primary school years, children are taught the difference between nouns and verbs, then adjectives and adverbs, possibly prepositions and articles.

Why then at secondary school, do we find many students still confused over identifying parts of speech?

And does it matter?

It matters because as students progress through the NZC, our aim is that they will be able to provide insightful analysis on author’s purpose. This means they can independently analyse entire texts (or extracts) and figure out what they writer is trying to say and why. The how they do this then becomes important. Tone and style (more concepts for senior students) are inextricably linked to diction and language features.

In NCEA examinations one of three externally assessed standards for English is Unfamiliar Text. Many students avoid it due to lack of confidence in the simple act of identifying and then explaining the effect of diction, language features and structural devices.

I suspect that although students are “taught” various writing devices over the years, it is the application of that skill that is the real challenge.

And thinking beyond the lines is certainly challenging if students are not hooked in to reading by this stage.

For revision, I’m going to use a triple app combo (selling it!) to bolster confidence at close reading texts in my Year 9 students. Using Office Lens, OneNote and Flipgrid, I’ve developed a lesson that aims to revise parts of speech identification and then, consider the effect of the writer’s choices working initially collectively and then independently.

  1. Via my phone, use OfficeLens, take a pic of a passage from a novel we studied in class.
  2. Send it to their shared ClassNotebook.
  3. Students log in and silently read the passage
  4. Instruct students to use the highlighter to highlight nouns purple, verbs red, adjectives green and adverbs yellow.
  5. Then instruct students to open the same passage in Immersive Reader (under view in OneNote)
  6. Go to Grammar Options icon top right. Turn the various parts of speech on.
  7. Students can then compare their selections to the correct answer. The colours I selected are the same as those used in Immersive Reader to help visual learners.
  8. On the whiteboard, make a list of all the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the passage.
  9. In pairs, ask students to discuss the connotations of adverbs and adjectives.
  10. As a class discuss the following: How did the character feel at this point? How did you know? What was the effect on you – did you feel sorry for him? Excited? Happy? What words made you feel like that?
  11. Give students a starter sentence and instruct them to write a passage in their writing journals explaining the writer’s purpose.
  12. For homework, share a flipgrid code featuring a topic asking them to give examples of parts of speech that created a sad mood in the same passage.
  13. Discuss in class the following day.

This task could then lead on to revision of the novel itself – in particular we could use it as a springboard to an essay on character. Working smarter is the key at this end of the year, right?

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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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As senior students head off on study leave, it’s time to think about supporting Year 9 and 10 students with their preparation for end of year exams.

I’ve found a new tool that I hope will spark some deeper thinking for junior students when revising novels and films. Flipgrid is a video discussion platform ideal for student engagement and formative assessment  that aims to amplify student voice, encourage self expression and build a sense of community. It is designed to move the learning process from inclusion and integration to transformation and finally empowerment.  Clearly, this has a wide range of applications in our classrooms.

There’s a great tutorial on the Microsoft Educators website here which I highly recommend.

All you need to to do is go to the Flipgrid website and work through the process of setting up various grids (subjects/tasks) and associated topics (questions) which students respond to via short videos. (This is the selfie generation so hopefully they won’t be too bashful – you can always let them respond in pairs to start with if it is an issue). Flipgrid was purchased by Microsoft recently so if you have a Microsoft account, simply sign up using that and, supply your school domain name so students’ email addresses can be verified.

There are a series of prompts to go through which took me no time at all and were easy to navigate – it pays to do the tutorial first to get your head around the difference between grids and topics. There are four basic steps:

  1. Build a grid – you can adjust preferences as you go
  2. Post a topic – pose a question to your students. You can also make a short video and model an answer, add links, attachments etc. Again you can set preferences for how long student replies should be, the time period the topic exists for, whether you want them to be able to comment on each others posts etc
  3. Share a site generated code with students.
  4. Students use the code to post their response.

On Friday of Week 1, I will show my Year 9 English class the site and go over some basic navigation. In the first topic, I have asked them to consider the importance of friendship  which was one of the key themes in a novel we studied. Specifically, I ask them to think about and explain how this message applies to them AND what they learned about friendship from the novel. The following week, I ask them share another book or film that also features this theme and the following week, ask them to imagine they are a reporter interviewing the main character and to share three questions they would ask him then explain why.

Students have detailed character and theme notes, access to whiteboard notes on ClassNotebook and have written a practice essay. At this end of the year, the aim is to encourage them to dig deeper and make connections beyond the events in the story.

I can moderate student responses and the grid is only accessible to us so hopefully, sharing their brief (1min 30) responses will inspire some big picture thinking.

I’m really excited about this tool and can see other ways, aside from revision, that it could be useful:

  1. Student feedback at end of year re text choice – likes, dislikes, suggestions
  2. Practicing oral presentations – students record their introduction/conclusion at home and get feedback off each other/teacher
  3. ESOL students could use it practice pronunciation with each other and their teacher
  4. Beginning of year introductions – invite students to share three facts and then match them to facts in class via teacher prompts or two truths and a lie. Work out the lie.
  5. Setting relief work/homework

 

 

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Like many NZ schools, our seniors recently completed practice exams. These are an important way for learners to gauge areas of weakness they need to focus on before the upcoming NCEA examinations later in the year. As such, we aim to give them as much feedback as possible.

But when faced with large piles of marking across three year levels and a quick turnaround time (these grades also need to be entered into a database and report comments written shortly after), it can become a taxing and rushed job especially if you have a full teaching workload.

This year, I was keen to find a way to give students maximum feedback while avoiding the physical strain of handwriting lots of comments. My senior students all have access to ClassNotebook which features a content library as well as individual student folders. ClassNotebook is an online collaborative LMS offered as part of Microsoft Teams in the Office 365 suite of products.

Once I’d graded and written general comments on their papers, I went into each student’s individual folder and recorded supplementary feedback and feed forward using the insert audio function. So if I wrote on a student’s paper they needed to provide specific examples of how the setting impacted the character’s mood, in the audio recording I would give them suggestions and examples from the text naming locations within the story and explaining how they impacted on character’s state of mind.

Each audio recording is roughly 2-3 minutes long. The students can play them back as part of revision leading up the NCEA exams. They appreciated the more in depth feedback and I felt satisfied they I’d been able to more thoroughly explain myself. I also made a point of starting each recording with a positive statement of what they had done well and then rounded off with a general comment along the lines “if you can do this, this and this, you are on track to a Merit grade” or “if you wish to move to Excellence, you should read back the director’s notes and consider his opinions on rural NZ communities”. etc

A lot of English teacher jargon there but the approach would work for any subject.

Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t take long once you’ve done a couple and enables a teacher to help students focus on exactly what they need to do to improve their final grades.

I also encouraged students to use the Office Lens app to take pictures of their exam papers and save them on the same page for back up in case they misplaced their papers between now and the end of the year.

The ball is now in their court!

 

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Amidst the hurly burly of senior exam week, I shared and reviewed a raft of learning tools available via Microsoft 365 with our school’s teacher aides. They loved the read aloud function and had some good ideas about how they could use Office Lens with their learners too. Using read aloud via the edge browser was also a winner for them

The presentation was structured as a showcase followed by a why we would use it brainstorm and then later on, how would we use it. For some it was their first time sharing ideas via the collaboration space in a Notebook I have set up for them.

The downside was the devices we had in the school library weren’t running exactly the same versions/setting of MS as mine so that was a bit frustrating for them but I will follow up and get that sorted so there are half a dozen there they know have the tools we reviewed together.

And on the up, they’re keen to keep sharing ideas via a follow up workshop next term. Watch this space.

Here’s a link to what we’ve covered so far!

https://sway.office.com/5cXovvK2ivhzhDOb?ref=Link

 

 

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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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