Friday, 31 August 2018

Learning Differences Workshop 2018

Today I was fortunate enough to attend the "Learning Differences Workshop" at the The University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research department. Hosted by Bronwen Connor, Kate de Groot, Marie Kelly and Emma Ratcliffe.

Bronwen Connor spoke and stated that approximately 6-10% of children have some form or a form of: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dycalculia, Dysgraphia, ADD or Auditory Process Disorder. The question was asked, 'Are teachers trained and prepared to assist these children? Bronwen continued that children have learning differences not learning difficulties and that all children learn differently and as educators, how do we tap into that?

Kate de Groot from Grow my mind spoke from 'The Parents Perspective'. She asked the question, how can we change our practices to help support our learners? Kate had five main points. The following is what I took from her main points.

1. What drives our communication and surfacing beliefs?
As educators we should be working alongside parents of children with learning differences, the learner themselves and any other agency that will help the child. Kate summarised this as the "Shared Need" that helps our kids realise their potential. She continued to talk about beliefs above and below the line. Examples of Above the line are: every child has potential, behaviours are for a reason and Below the line: it's the parent/s fault, some kids are naughty, the kids just need to do as they're told. This point made me think about learners that I teach and realise that for some, there could be more to why they behave the way that they behave.

2. Communication opportunities
Children with learning differences need more time. Liaise with parents, email and send them photos, their writing and videos of their child is doing at school. Kate pointed out that 'the small stuff' matters. 

Our next speaker was Marie Kelly who focused on 'Strategies for the Classroom'. The main focus of her presentation was around Dyslexia. Marie stated that Dyslexia is inherited and 1:4 in males. There was a genetic factor also that 40% of those with Dyslexia have glue ear. 'What does Dyslexia look like?' in which Marie described as a Disorder of Processing. Some things that help to help identify children with Dyslexia is: early intervention - trying to catch it early in a child, a 6 year net, an Education Psychiatrist report of similar help and instruction in good language models and Phonological awareness Pseudoword which is a decoding test. Up until today, I did not know much about Dyslexia only that some people saw and read words as jumbled or scrambled letters.

Some resources and sites that were useful that Marie suggested to us was: Call Scotland for iPads, Reading Rulers, iWordQ, Keeble, Clickerdocs, DocsPlus and others. Websites included:, and other sites.

Our final speaker was Emma Ratcliffe who is an Occupational Therapist. She spoke about Dyspraxia, a Developmental 
Co-ordination disorder that affects planning and organising. The point was made that children with this disorder can be good at sports and have Dyspraxia. Emma stated and showed us using a picture of the brain and where the connections were not being made. Hence why children with Dyspraxia may have learned something really well one day but then it is forgotten the next day. It is the planning and organising that is the difference ie. Dyspraxia. 

The causes Emma states can occur at an early age and that there are no real obvious causes for Dyspraxia. It could be a number of reasons known or unknown. She used the illustration of the brain and the connections of neurons in the brain and how each is different. Emma stated that 'Dyspraxia is a hidden disability disorder'.

What can we do as teachers and educators? Adjust expectations, allow more time, adjust quantity of work (each speaker pointed out the irrelevance of homework for these children), listen to parents, breaking all instructions down clearly, encourage and develop the strengths of these children and acknowledge the effort of work these children have put into their tasks.

I found this workshop beneficial to my teaching practices as an Educator. It has helped me to be more aware of children with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia and how best I can help them. These speakers had such a vast knowledge between them that I hope they will run more of these workshops in future.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Improving Writing in LH1

As part of our professional development here at Ormiston Primary, our inquiry is based on writing. Our over arching question is: "How can we personalise writing with our learners?" Within that question, we focused our inquiry further in the habitat by coming up with the question: "How might our learners use ORAL LANGUAGE to articulate their ideas in Writing?"

In the Effective Literacy Practices Years 1-4 under Oral Language states that 'the relationship between oral langue and literacy learning is reciprocal. Children draw on their oral (or signed) language when they learn to read and write and in turn their progress in literacy learning enriches and expands their oral language'.

This site also explains that there are four kinds of oral language uses and development that underpin curriculum access and student ability to learn in later years.

Independant listening - student ability to listen to extended speech that differs from discussions at home
Independant speaking - student ability to use extended talk
Using social language - developing conversations in small groups and joining conversations
Applying discussion skills - ability to interpret specific language (typically academic language) to carry out structured learning tasks.

My question: does this determine the English Language Learner formers that educators fill out for students who come from backgrounds where English is not their first language?

In our habitat there are 93 learners. Here is the data for our learners and what their First Language is:
Mandarin - 26
English - 24
Hindi - 11
Punjabi - 7
Arabic - 5
Khmer - 4
Cantonese - 4
Farsi - 3
Urdu - 3
Vietnamese - 2
Korean - 1
Japanese - 1
Afrikaans - 1
Other Middle Eastern - 1

I am wondering how I can help my learners develop their oral language to enhance their writing?

From the Education Endowment Foundation documents: Improving Literacy Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2

In Literacy Key Stage 1 it states that Number 1 Develop pupils' speaking and listening skills and wider understanding of language. This pointed out that 'a teacher encourages children to clearly articulate what they are going to say in writing'. Evidence Strength: Extensive. Idea 3 Effectively Implement a systematic phonics programme proves very extensive for evidence strength.
In Literacy Key Stage 2 stages that 'Purposeful speaking and listening activities support the development of pupils' language capability and provides a foundation for thinking and communication. It also states that 4 Teach writing composition strategies through modelling and supported practice. It continues that 'Purpose and audience are central to effective writing. Pupils need to have a reason to write and someone to write for'.

Through professional development with Dr. Jannie van Hees and applying her strategies in writing, 'oral language' is a big part of that. In the reading 'Conversational Classrooms' that five year olds in many schools found that significant numbers with low oral confidence and fluency.

In my own practice, I have been trying to gift as much 'rich language' as possible to my learners, for them to use in their writing.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Maths Problem Solving: Spiral of Inquiry

This year our inquiry has been around Problem Solving in Maths. In our habitat (team) we have trialled and changed a lot of our practice to best suit our learners (students).
Looking back, we started out doing problem solving as four different classes with our home class and over the terms this has evolved. We now are problem solving altogether. Our learners all get the same problem.

The learners are also divided into alphabet groups based on Kagan theory of group work and collaborative learning. Until yesterday, I learned that Kagan groups have 4 in each group, not solely based on ability but also taking into consideration their Key Competencies. Each learner is given a specific role and is meant to be purposeful. Groups are meant to change every term (note for next time).

All learning coaches collaborated and had a turn at launching the problem one day of the week. Once problem is launched, we then sent our learners in their alphabet groups to each learning coach to work with. Once they had some time to work on their task, we gathered our learners up again and selected a few learners to share and others to reflect. Here is what we presented as a team yesterday for our Inquiry.

Some of the things, I'd like to work on next year are: looking more into the Kagan collaborative learning groups. Looking at other strategies to help our ELL learners. Improving our word problems to be more in the context of real life based. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Restorative Conversations and Practice

Restorative practice is a relation approach to school life grounded in beliefs about equality, dignity, mana and the potential of all people. (PB4L website). John Dyer, Elaine Ford and Bev Aerenga all directed our Educator Learning Time this afternoon.

Consistent application of restorative practices in school results in:

  • a calmer school environment, with less classroom disruption and more time for teaching
  • an increase in the engagement and learning of students in the classroom
  • growth in relational and problem-solving skills, both for adults and students across the school community
  • improvements in attitudes and relationships across the whole school community
  • a consistent best-practice approach across the whole school community that aligns with the school’s shared values.

As part of our Staff Meeting we used some of our time on PB4L. Today our activity was to sort out different behaviours and situations and to think about whether they were a minor or major behaviour. Here are some examples: vandalism and graffiti are considered major and running inside and making animal noises are all minor examples.

Our next activity is to role play a scenario and using our restorative conversations to resolve the issue.

Boy A wants Boy B ‘off’ the playground spinner so he can have more room. He steps on Boy B hands a few times. They tell each other to shut up in increasingly loud voices. Boy A storms off and sits alone.

This activity helps us to realise and think forward of what to do and how to deal with this in conversation. The steps are to: tell the story, explore the harm, repair the harm and reach an agreement, plan a follow up. Here are our speaking frames used here at Ormiston Primary.

This has reminded me to reflect on how I deal with certain unwanted behaviours in the habitat and how I can best deal with them in a positive and restorative way.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Understanding Behaviour: Responding Safely with MOE

Understanding Behaviour: Responding safely

Physical restraint: from the guide
A staff member using their own body to deliberately limit the movement of a student
To prevent imminent danger of physical injury other students, other staff or staff

Learning about strategies that deescalate situations where students are in danger. What is the best way to deal with learners where both staff and students are safe? The most important idea when it comes to responding to behaviour that can cause danger to others is: SAFETY. When there is an incident for restraint, forms are to be filled out within 72 hours of when the incident took place.

What is seclusion? Education Act Update: Banning seclusion and creating a legal framework for physical restraint

1. Understanding the "why' behind the behaviour.

There are a lot of things that can affect and go on in a learner's life when at school. What happens outside school or at home can influence a learner's life. How we respond and what we say can trigger a positive or negative reaction from a learner. We, as educators can only control ourselves.
All behaviours serves a function. Some are easy to see and identify and others aren't obscure. If we understand the "why" of a behaviour we can start to teach a 'replacement behaviour'.

Understanding yourself - what are your values and beliefs? These can shapes our individual experiences. If we understand our reactions to behaviours that challenge us, we can manage situations with learner's better.

2. Encouraging ready to learn behaviour

We need to understand: Managing safety and teaching, how to create effective learning environments, the importance of relationships, how to support emotional regulation, the importance of verbal and non-verbal strategies.

As an educator, I would like to spend more time teaching than dealing with behaviour. How do I do this? And in the environment of our learning habitat, how do we as a team do this?
Teach learner's explicit behaviours and set expectations.

The stronger a relationship with a learner, during tricky situations, the easier it is for learner to trust you as an educator. What do you do to build positive relationships with your students? As an educator and throughout my teaching career, I've always believed that building relationships with students is key. It is a beneficial step towards classroom dynamics and minimising unwanted behaviour. It also helps with my understanding of what a child may be experiencing at that time. An example of things I've done, is doing home visits with reports as a way in with parents and to show students that I did care about them.

Emotional regulation for students helps them to feel safe and connected. We want students to feel valued and to believe that teachers want the best for them. What impacts a student's emotional regulation?

Managing a situation - non verbal
Demonstrating ways that are less intimidating to a child could be: having a side stance, open up escape routes, maintain appropriate personal space and appropriate eye contact (depends on culture). As an educator it is important for us to demonstrate support ourselves by: keeping calm, being in control, being attentive and interested and show empathetic.

Verbal communication - when things are escalating how is my tone of voice and what are the words that I am using?

3. Responding safely

We need to understand: what differential responding is, there are different levels of behaviour, what each level of behaviour may look like, how to respond at each level to increase likelihood of de-escalation and what practical strategies we use to increase safety and de-escalate.

Ready to learn - what do with a challenging learner who is ready to learn and maintain their focus.
Out of sorts - there's a subtle shift and if we know the learner, we as educators should be ready to notice. A trick to the brain is partial agreement ie. "maybe... it's time to get back on task".
Escalating - everybody around is being affected
Out of control - an extreme escalation in behaviour
Calming down - decrease in level of distress

This teaches me to be aware of what's going on and trying to de-escalate a situation with a student as quickly and safely as possible. What are some key ideas and strategies that I can use in the habitat?

Some self strategies that I use to manage tricky student behaviour are: choosing my battles, setting goals - what am I going to do differently next time? Positive self talk and at times walking away from the problem. Breathing techniques, closing my eyes and counting to ten. I am also a strong believer in prayer, this helps me a lot and has helped me immensely throughout my teaching career.

How do we share learners that are of high risk? In our habitat, we (the educators) communicate a lot about learners that we may need a break from or behaviours. There are specific educators that are the go-to people for these challenging learners.

4. Reflection and embedding

'He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata'
What is the most important thing of the world? It is people, it is people, it is people

What stood out for you during this training?
Going over in depth the correct way to manage extreme behaviours and understanding why and responding safely to these occurrences. This has reminded me to reflect on my practices and behaviours in the classroom and what are some things that need changing or tweaking. This is not for all learners but those learners that need addressing.

The PB4L programme here at Ormiston Primary helps to provide some interventions before learners get to the stage of out of control and escalating problems. We finished our workshop with this video: Just Breathe by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (WaveCrest Films)

Friday, 29 September 2017

PB4L: Positive Behaviour for Learning

Since being here at Omiston Primary School, I have been learning about how Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) works and what it looks like here. A learning coach from each habitat meets fortnightly as part of the PB4L team and discusses all areas of behaviour management and come up with strategies to keep it positive in our school.

According to the PB4L site on TKI it's a 'long term systematic approach involving ten initiatives'. They include: whole-school change initiatives, targeted group programmes, and individual support services.

We relate this approach to our school's vision principles: Curious, Collaborative, Capable and Connected. We divide the term that focus on: Learning, Playing, Meeting and Well-Being.

For example this term we had Curious Learning. On one week, during our hui (assemblies) will have a focus on Curious Learning and what that looks like. Then the following week in our whanau meetings, we go over the focus again and unpack and co-construct the language of the Matrix. We design activities for our learners to discuss and participate in, in smaller groups and with mixed year groups.

Our reward system is school wide. Here it is done by giving out 'Caught Being Oresome' tokens. If learners are awarded them, they then put these tokens into their whanau jars in their habitats. These are counted up weekly by our learner leaders. We also have special tokens that are worth "10 tokens" that are given out to learners to recognise their efforts.

Through this programme, we as educators are encouraged to keep things positive and have constructive worthwhile and long term interventions for our learners.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Inclusive Learning at OrmPS

Part of Educator Learning Time is to discuss and learn the importance of Inclusive Learning and we do this here at Ormiston Primary School.
Inclusive learning is all about equitable engagement and responsive approaches that ensure all of our learners are happy, safe and can access the learning experiences. - Diana Wilkes

Inclusive learning is ensuring ALL learners are included and provided engaging learning experiences which ensures each individual has opportunities for success and growth towards their learning goals.  - Karyn Patterson

Inclusive learning recognises that everyone learns differently and that these differences  should be catered for within a caring and supportive environment. - Lisa Pearson

Based on the discussion, as an educator it is important for us to ensure all learners are included and safe here at Ormiston Primary School.