Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Ideas...

Merry Christmas,

Despite thinking about doing no school work until the New Year ( we are on summer hols in NZ), I was up at 6am mulling over ideas! 

I am going to set up a book club blog for my classes next year and I would really love to have some students from around the globe joining in. If you are interested could you please leave a comment or email me. I am thinking of calling it  'Literature from Around the World'.

For my Year 10's I would like to focus on change and making a difference. I am thinking of having them create some pod casts for the blind, and looking at the importance of literacy, but I want it to be interesting -any ideas? I want to create a program that integrates technology but where students can make a difference. It would be brilliant for them to create relationships with students from across the globe and share their knowledge of the English subject.

I have a Senior English class which I am so excited about, and I have so many ideas, I literally don't know where to start..

A we update on my daughter: She created two keynotes presentations one on 'butterflies' and the other on 'Christmas around the world'. The thing that filled me with the most pride was she organised a Christmas movie showing with students at school. She got permission from the teacher, created posters, asked for input from the students. The aim was to collect food cans for the City Mission as entry. On the second to last day of term she got off the school bus with two shopping bags full of cans and a massive smile. We went to the City Mission and dropped them in. I told her how proud I was and she said "Mum, you had the idea." 
I said " Anyone can have an idea, it is what you do with that idea that makes the difference". 
After some thought she said:  " Mum, I really made a difference and it felt good...I love my new school... I'm so happy".

Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Silver Linings...

In New Zealand I like the fact that the school year finishes the same time the year wraps up. I like this because I can reflect over the year and put in place plans and ideas for a new year.

2011 has been tumultuous and I will be glad to shove it in a box and stuff it to the back of the cupboard. However I am happy and pleased to have risen to all the challenges and got through like so many others. In  Dec 2010 I moved back to the closest thing I have to a home city, to a new exciting teaching position, just in time for Feb 22nd earthquake! 

Avonside Girls has a had a year of site sharing with Burnside High School, both schools I think coped incredibly well. I was very impressed with my students and their ability to adjust to an afternoon condensed timetable, as well as coping with all the challenges at home such as: chemical toilets, lack of water and houses that were red , orange or green zoned, and so much more. Teachers worked will little resources to start but help from teachers and schools around the country and overseas flooded in. It was welcomed and gave everyone such a positive feeling to know others were thinking of us, thank you. 

I found it hard keeping up with my studies, teaching and looking after my kids, but got there with love and support from family/friends. Then it became apparent that a 149 full time teaching positions in high schools across CHCH needed to be disestablished due to roll drops. I was one of those disestablished teachers, sorry to be leaving but understanding of the process. This is where the silver lining kicks in: My family are happy again, I live in a green-zoned house in need of minimal repair and I have a new position in CHCH at St Andrews College. I am very excited about embarking on this step in my teaching career.

Right now, I am thinking of themes and ideas to incorporate all I have learnt this year, and my love of e-learning into my programs for 2012. If you know of any good websites or have any ideas please let me know.

Happy Holidays

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Excited about learning

As a parent of  2 school age children I always find it interesting how they view their learning and school. My eldest likes structure, she likes to know what is happening when, what the expectations are and how she can improve, she will say that "I love school and learning". When she has a test she looks forward to it to see what she has learnt, needless to say her teachers like her input in the classroom and she isn't a know it all! Next year she will start high school, I think she will be fine.

My middle daughter always gets the diligence award, and always tries her best, however she goes to school for: hip hop, art and sport. She is a quiet member of the class but always tries her best. Her comments on school are "It's boring", her teacher is great, works hard and has her students best interest at heart. But this daughter needed a different way to learn.
So something had to change for her and guess what, she is excited about school for the first time. We took a look at the Discovery School this week and she loved it. She told her Learning Adviser 'I have always wanted to learn about the Bermuda Triangle'. On the way home she was completely excited about planning her project of her choice and this is what she wants to do:
Create a website about Christmas around the world. With information on different cultures and how they celebrate Christmas. What food they have and what traditions are important. She wants to try making a Christmas item of food from another culture, review some Christmas movies, create a fundraiser to get food for Womens Refuge 'because they might need help over Christmas time', maybe skype some students in another country. Her ideas are endless and the work will come with putting it together and following through when the excitement wears off.

So what of the Bermuda Triangle...'I can do that next year, Christmas is soon!'
Wow how exciting is that!
Here is a link to the Discovery School

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Schools of the Future...what my Year 9s think

I recently asked my Year 9 girls to complete a piece of formal writing about what schools in the future would look like. Here is a summary:
·         Large open space classrooms with lots of natural light – so students can move around and learn
·         All students will have Ipads/tablets – that way you only have to take one thing to school,and you can find      
       all the answers quicker
·         No uniforms  - the ties choke you and the school shoes are uncomfortable
·         Giant touch screen Ipads for whiteboards
·         Schools should be bigger with more students and people
·         Lots of trips to learn about new cultures
·         School hours 10-2 only 4 days long
·         Hologram teachers so they can teach from different places
·         No more books, laptops instead
·         More fitness classes because of all the technology
·         No moving from class to class all the time
·         Learning should be ‘fun, convenient and exciting’ everyday would be different
·         Veggie garden and plants
·         We shouldn't be sitting writing lines about pasta -we should be taking part in a professional restaurant –   
      we would store this in our brain better.
·         Projects instead of boring stuff
·         The world has lots of amazing technology why don’t schools? Schools will have all the technology.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Taking the Ego out of teaching!

    It seems to me there is a bit of fear around the use of web 2.0, social media and technology in the classroom, still. I think we need to 'let go' a bit in the classroom. We need to be letting students use the tools they have to learn; to discover the answers. When we acknowledge that we don't know it all and that we can learn just as much from the students, a more relevant type of learning takes place. One where discovery is encourage and deeper learning can take place. A lot of teachers are embracing a new way of teaching/learning and this was very evident at the Ulearn conference. I keep going back to my notes (which are on Google Docs and on my smart phone!) and questioning 'Why?' and then asking 'How?'. 
    It is an exciting time to be back at school!

    Tool of the day!
    Skype in the classroom over 18000 teachers online making connections and blazing the trail.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    A week after Ulearn...

    Ulearn always fills me with a huge amount of inspiration. I am sometimes left with an unsettled frustrated feeling about what I want to do, over what I can do!
    I have just watched the 'Seven Spaces of Technology' by Ewan Macintosh, and now I want to change my traditional high school classroom. But it is all about what you can do with what you have. So, next week I will ask the students what they think and see what we can do.
    Check out 'Through the Fog Blog' by Kellie McRobert's which is where I stumbled upon the 'Seven Spaces of Technology'. Kellie has done an inspiring amount in just 1 week.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Somethings of Interest...

    It seems that paper.li  is gaining momentum. This is an online paper and free to sign up. I am thinking of creating a class paper  using this site, take a look and whilst there, check out these:

    At the start of each term I try to pick one or two online tools to add to my growing knowledge. Whilst I know it is not new, and I am probably the last to use it - http://delicious.com  I think is brilliant! I have created a stack which has a collection of educator blogs called: Innovative educator blogs. It is a great way to bookmark sites and I like the visual element.

    Awesome Screen Shot (found in the Chrome Web Store - free)  is brilliant you can take a screen shot and then annotate it before saving it on your computer.

    So that's 2 tools I am using and it is only day 2 into term 4, off to a good start!

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Term 4 Begins!

    This school year, despite all the upsets with earthquakes, seems to be rapidly approaching the end. I will be relieved to reach the end of the year and look forward to a normal school year.

    The Ulearn conference was amazing and has got my mind ticking with questions like: How can I make this relevant? How can I help my students be ' Agents of Change'? What social media or web 2.0 tools can I integrate into student learning? 

    I am also going to drop the word 'work' from things like 'homework' and words like 'lessons' to 'learning opportunities'.

    Wish me luck as I embark on this exciting journey!

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Ulearn 11

    Ulearn 11 is a truly amazing experience. It is impossible to not come away from it without your heading swimming with ideas. 

    Stephen Heppell                             http://workshop.heppell.mobi/
    I made the most the opportunity to hear what he had to say. He is someone who truely has a vision and puts it into action. I want my children to attend the schools he talks about. I want to teach in one of those school! Where learning really does start with the student and student voice is paramount. 

    Agents of Change by Tony Ryan      http://www.tonyryan.com.au/blog/
    Learning should be about creating change in the world and teaching real-life practical skills. I am already jotting down notes for how I can change my English course to have my students creating, changing and doing something really worthwhile

    Some Useful Link 
    Half the Sky http://www.halftheskymovement.org/
    'The best way to fight poverty and extremism is educate and empower women and girls.

    EPals     http://www.epals.com/
    The World's Largest K-12 Social Learning Network

    Edudemic http://edudemic.com/
    Connecting education and the classroom

    Mr Kemp Reflects http://mrkempreflects.blogspot.com/2011/10/u-learn-breakout-5-web-tools-to-support.html
    Web 2.0 Classroom    http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    The Blended Learning Research

    I have complete my self study research which I was doing through Otago Uni as part of my MA. I am going to try and condense 5338 words into something more bitesize! :)

    The question:  Can a blended learning approach raise reading achievement in Year 9 girls?
    Answer: YES

    Part 1: More about the Non Web 2.0 component

    The results were positive. Engagement does contribute to achievement and the use of web 2.0 tools provides the engagement. A blended learning approach, enables more students to engage in the activities especially if choice is a key component.  Not only has the reading ability of the students improved, but their confidence and willingness to engage with a variety of texts has also improved. A blended approach meant that students who prefer one or the other style of learning knew that they would get a chance to engage with their preference.

    This was important to most students for example they would rather select their own book than use a class set. Having said this, there were some who would rather just be told what to read. Those that preferred their own book, talked about not feeling like they were reading the ‘dumb books’. The choice of activities online was good; a typical comment when asked why was ‘Because I didn’t like some of the activities.” Others commented on it being ‘fun’ and that helped them learn. I believe that for a blended learning approach to work students do need choice, choice to use paper or computer. It is about cooperative learning and utilising all tools available.

    The Most Successful Non Web 2.0 Activity
    The tasks on how to read a book cover and where to find information, was seen as the most useful and one student in-particular had a light bulb moment with this and as a result her reading scores have increased dramatically. When completing their student reflections, 9 students out of 12 said that it was a useful exercise because: “Some people don’t like reading books and knowing what it is about can change their mind.” Another student commented that “Because now I know which to choose”. When going through this task I started with getting the students to locate the different aspects of a book: the cover, spine and back cover. We then discussed the verbal and visual elements and what impact this has on selecting a book. We also looked inside fiction and non-fiction books to compare the differences. This discussion and activity led us to explore how to read graphic novels. I had assumed they would prefer this style as it has more pictures than words, I was wrong. Many of the students did not know how to read a cartoon book or graphic novel, however once explained this opened up a whole new world to them.

    Literacy Books
    The literacy book is an exercise book that they can take to each class. At the back is a page for vocabulary for each subject that students can add to. In the front there is information and completed worksheets relating to literacy for example: how to read a Science experiment or what to do when you come across a word you don’t know? These literacy books can be added to during form-time or class time.

    The literacy books were a positive for all students and they can understand the purpose of them, however they would like the teachers of their other subjects to be more involved and use them more. This book is such a valuable tool that I am going to continue using it this year and will get some more feedback from the students. It is an idea I have also brought up at a meeting for next years’, Year 9 students.

    The Use of Web 2.0 Tools 
    During this research we used the learning management system (LMS) Moodle. This LMS went live for the students a week or 2 into the study. I had been using a Wikispace which I set up at the start of the year. Students had navigated the Wiki before the study and in hindsight I should have continued with it, as I underestimated the time needed to show the students how to use Moodle. Moodle is where I placed the work and websites for students to access, as well as work sheets. Students could then access the learning activities at home and in class.

    Particular site students identified as enjoying
    East of the Web     http://eastoftheweb.com/
    5 Card                    http://5card.cogdogblog.com/play.php?suit=5card
    One Word              http://oneword.com/

    Will write a separate post about the use of E-ASTTLE as this post is more like meal than bitesize! :)

    Thursday, October 6, 2011


    Well my research/self study on 'Raising reading achievement in year 9 girls' is almost  finished just have the write up to put together - I think I will end up putting together a 'how to'  as I learnt a lot. I really believe that Web 2.0 tools can be used to raise student achievement in the English classroom. 

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    An Idea

    Thinking about next year and literature units. 
    I am thinking about putting one together called ' Banned Books'. I thought this could be quite interesting as it would give good scope for discussion and responses to the texts. It will also help build up the idea of context and purpose. What do you think?

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Such a busy year! Can't believe it was March when I last posted. We are still site sharing which is rapidly coming to an end as the end of the school year fast approaches. The students at school have been amazing and now seem settled into the new school day.
    My research into Blended Learning and raising student achievement is in its final week and seems to have gone well - I think I have learnt a lot about what to do differently but my premise was right :)
    Will post some info soon.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Isn't it Christchurch great!

    Christchurch and Kiwis in general are great at pulling together in tough times.

    Burnside High School has offered to share their school campus with Avonside Girls. This is just brilliant as it enables our school to stay together. Students will be bussed out to BHS to make life as easy as possible.

    I would love to go back to life before last Tuesday but that just isn't possible and so we have to all work together and make the best of it. I am greatful for how hard the  managment team at Avonside Girls and BOT have worked to find a solution at this difficult time and how exhausted they must be.

    Kia Kaha

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Christchurch Earthquake

    Hi All

    Well, what a crazy week to say the least! I was in the centre of CHCH skiving off with a few other teachers at a lovely Italian Cafe. Cafe Valentinos when the earthquake hit - here is a photo Cafe Valentinos  It was shocking to say the least and the need to get to my kids slow and painful. But I am very lucky and my kids and family are all ok. My school - is not so good and thankfully we were shut for a paid union meeting! I am not sure when school will re-open how or when.
    What has been amazing is all the support from so many people from so many places.
    Thank you.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011


    Hi All 

    I have been wondering what technology would be the best for the English classroom - Data projector with interactive white-board Vs the Android Tablet with Data projector? I am thinking if students had access to a tablet in class like the Samsung Tab and worked collaboratively on activities it could be of more learning value? What are your thoughts?

    Sunday, February 13, 2011


    As with a lot of things one starts of on one train of thought and ends up somewhere quite different.
    The new school year has started and somehow two weeks has already passed! I am thoroughly enjoying being at an all girls school, this has given me fresh ideas to play with in realm of English lessons.

    Here is the plan
    Year 9 - Social Conscience which is looking a little bit more like Holocaust and poses the all important question can one person make a stand?
    Text - Hana's Suitcase, newspapers articles on conflict (students seem to be cutting up a lot on Egypt), Website for Hana's Suitcase is also useful...

    Year 10 - Teen Issues (always a meaty one!) - Text is Tiggie Tompson, Poem - Advice to my teenage daughter; Music 'Video' by India Aria (can be found on Youtube); We have had a quite a discussion on tagging and clothes.

    Level 1 - Discimination is the theme. Long text is 'The Wave' follow up with the dvd. We have also looked at a letter titled from hate to hope about Armenians in Canada.

    Level 2 - Rules, Society, Power is the theme. Text is Lord of the Flies. Short text so far has been the ' Lottery' and an article on women in Afganistan.

    I will let you know what else we get up to!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Hi All

    Well a new year and almost a new school year ahead!

     I am planning 2 new units which I am quite excited about  - The first is about female authors - the other is based around the theme of Social Conscience. I will provide more info in the next few weeks. The first is targeted at Year 10 girls and the other Year 9 girls. Both will also take on a historical and contemporary context with a range of texts.