Thursday, 7 July 2016

Visible Teaching and Learning

This is my third year Team Teaching (Collaborative Teaching) with my colleague Kate.  We have made many changes over this time to make this work for us, but more importantly for it to work for the children. One of the philosophies that we have held dearly to during this time, is that all teaching and learning is visible.

Why is this important to us?  Firstly we wanted children to have a clear understanding of what they are learning, why they are learning it and their next learning step will be.  Secondly we wanted learning and teaching to not only be visible to the students, but also the parents and whānau.   Essential visible teaching and learning strengthen the home and school connections.

Understandably our understanding and implementation of visible teaching and learning has changed significantly during this process.  The most significant changes that have occurred are due to the integration of devices into learning programme, which gave us better opportunities and a platform to create an environment that promotes visible teaching and learning.

Initially we had limited resources, 6 Ipads (2014).  We then introduced 10 chrome books into our classroom as a pilot to gain a better understanding of working in a digital environment.  In 2015 we we fortunate enough to have enough Chrome books for 1:2.  This gave us more opportunities but we were still limited, as we had one foot in the digital classroom and the other foot in the analogue classroom, which creates twice the work.  Thankfully this year we are 1:1 (chrome books) over half of them student owned.

The most important  part of this process hasn't been the technology, it has been the pedagogy  that now drives our teaching and learning, which is Learn, Create, Share.  We are on our second year of the Manaiakalani Outreach Programme.  Learn, Create, Share is visible teaching and learning. With our assistance and guidance from our Manaiakalani outreach facilitator Mark Maddren, we have been able to develop a better understanding of what this looks like and how we can implement it into our programme.

This year we have built a learning site where the children access their learning.  This alone has made teaching and learning more visible.  Children are able to continue their learning at home and have access to the resources that we have used to enhance the learning. We have also used a class blog over the past two years to share with the parents and whānau what the children are learning.  But the problem with the class blog was it wasn't personalised for the individuals in the class.  Parents could see what the class was doing, but not necessary what the individual child was doing or how they were progressing. This term the children all have their own personal blog.  This has opened up a lot of doors for us as their teachers, there whānau and more importantly them.

We have learnt pretty quickly that you can have a class site, and blogs but that doesn't necessarily make your teaching and learning visible. Especially if the parents and whānau don't know about them, or know how to access them.  Initially we were encouraging the children to go home and share both the site and their blogs with the parents with limited success.  Luckily for us we had learning conferences at the end of term 2.  This was the perfect opportunity to not only expose the parents to the learning site and their individual blogs,  but also to showcase how they are used in our programme but more importantly how they can access them.

We are required to report to parents for National Standards twice a year, but we didn't want the children's leaning conference to be just about that.  We wanted it to be a showcase of what they can do and to celebrate their achievements.   We wanted the parents to have a better understanding of Learn, Create, Share, and what visible teaching and learning is.   We wanted to show them how they can access and connect with what their child is doing in the classroom.  We wanted them to leave those learning conferences with the confidence to connect with their child's learning.

Traditionally we get around  70%-80% of parents turn out to learning conferences if we are lucky, which isn't ideal.  Traditionally Kate and I do the heavy lifting for the children in preparation for these, and a significant amount of the heavy lifting during the conferences.  Traditionally after Learning conferences we feel completely washed out as most teachers can relate to.

Things were significantly different this year.

All of the children created a slideshow, which consisted of 5 slides.  The first 3 slides covered there learning goals for reading, writing and maths.  Children had to find evidence to show whether or not they had achieved their goals or still need to work on them.  The children were able to link blog posts and blog comments they had written as evidence, they were able to link their digital modelling book, and anything else in their drive that could be used as evidence.

The forth slide was a mid year reflection where they had to describe what has helped their learning and also what they are most proud of.

The final slide was an opportunity for the children to teach the parents how to write  blog comments using the formate the children use (positive, thoughtful and helpful).  We gave the children plenty of time to create their presentation and practice presenting it, ensuring that they highlighted their evidence they collected and explain their next learning steps. We felt comfortable allocating as it was easily justified as it essentially covered our schools key characteristics.

Learning goal template

The end result was great.  We had children excited about learning conferences, nagging parents to make sure that they turned up.   We had the best turn out we have ever had 52/54 of the children's family and whānau turned up and we are confident of catching up with the final 2 families. Both of those children have shared their presentation with their families.

As for heavy lifting and feeling feeling wiped out after two days of learning conferences.  Not at all! For the first time our student led conferences were in fact student led. Students were able to justify why they have achieved goals or why they were still working on them.  More importantly the parents and whānau left the conferences knowing how to access the site and their child's blog.  They also had a better understanding of what visible teaching and learning is.



Is it perfect?  Far from it and we have a clear understanding of what our next steps are, such as creating a parent portal on our site.  There are a few families who do not have internet access, so we need to adapt to cater to them.

We can definitely be more visible with teaching and learning, but we have come a long way since our journey began in 2014.  Having had individual blogs for children since the beginning of term 2 has made a huge difference.

Has this created more work for us?
I personally don't think so, we aren't working harder, we are working smarter.  The initial set up  of the blogs was a lot of work but now the children are doing all the heavy lifting.

Resources that we are using to promote visible teaching and learning:

  • Google apps (Docs, slides sheets etc)
  • Classroom site
  • Class blog
  • Individual blogs
  • Screencastify
Other things that we use to also promote visible teaching and learning:
  • Sight, sound and motion
  • Rewindable learning
  • Children creating digital learning object
Presentations for parents about what learning looks like in Ako Ngātahi.

Examples of children's presentations.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Blogging! Has it made a difference?

I have been on this journey for a while now and it's time to reflect on the changes that have occurred, or difference that it has made in my delivery of the curriculum and more importantly  student success.

This term my class all started blogging on their individual blogs.   The children were very familiar with the blogs as we had a class blog that we used successfully last year and the beginning of this year to promote visible teaching and learning.

The impact on engagement was instant.  Children are highly motivated to 'share' or post on their blogs. They have an authentic global audience.   There is more purpose to what they are working on and are connecting with friends and family across New Zealand and in some cases overseas.

The most important part of this process has been teaching the children how to comment on other children posts.  They follow the 3 steps of write something positive, thoughtful and helpful.

By following this template it has stopped children from giving shallow feedback like 'Good work',  'Awesome, well done!'.  Their comments now are full of advice or questions that promote further learning or initiate a learning conversation.  But the biggest impact to the students learning has been the improvement of punctuation in their writing.  This has been transformational!  Through the combination of the  3 steps to writing a comment and having an authentic audience the children's punctuation has improved out of sight. 

Here are some examples.

This had made me make changes to my delivery of writing.  I have stopped giving children constrained practice activities (worksheets), related to surfaces features like punctuation.  These have been replaced with blog commenting.  Not only is this a more authentic writing activity and engaging, it has lightened my workload in terms of finding or creating the activity and then making them all.

Finally, my ultimate aim as an educator is to cause learning.  My biggest change that I am currently working through is ensuring that all teaching and learning is visible.  Why?  Because not only do I want to engage the students, but I also want to engage the Parents, Caregiver and Whānau, so they can play an important part of the learners journey.  

So is this happening?

This is gold!  How does a comment like this make a student feel?  That's easy to answer.  It motivates and drives them, it gives them a huge sense of pride, they see themselves as a learner, an author and a teacher.  They have a voice and a world wide audience that is listening!

I would like to acknowledge Mark Maddren for his ongoing support as the Manaiakalani Outreach facilitator.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

2016 Inquiry

Can reporting digitally to parents over 4 terms be more effective at informing parents/caregivers about the child’s progress/ performance at school than the traditional written reports?
The following inquiry will be run by Kate Weaver and Simon Scott in 2016:  
We will run a Teacher as Inquiry for the year seeing how effective reporting to the parents digitally will be in terms of the understanding the parents have about their child’s capabilities and how they can assist their children in their learning.  

We will be using the children’s individual blogs to share the children’s learning over the year.  Each term we (teachers) will be adding links to these blogs where they will have access to digital reports in the form of Learning Stories, videos and National Standards reports.

Children will also be taught how to find evidence of their learning and relate it to the Learning progressions.  This will mean the children have a better understanding of what they are able to do and what their next step is.   This will ultimately have a huge impact on student led conferences, as the children will be sharing this evidence with their parents.

We want to talk to as many parents as we can and survey them about how they feel about the traditional written reports and how we could improve them.  Also, what do they want to know about their child's learning and what is their understanding of National Standards in regards to their child’s achievement.

Their will be a survey about parents/caregivers satisfaction and understanding of reporting and the feedback they are receiving from us.  This will be done beginning, middle and end of the year.

We will also continue to develop parental understanding of chromebooks/ Blogs and how to access and interact with their child’s learning, through workshops (Tekkie Breakie) that will be run throughout the year.

This will run nicely with where we are heading with ‘learn, create, share’ and the importance of visible Teaching and Learning for children and caregivers.

Click here to see the parent survey:

Monday, 1 February 2016

SOLO Taxonomy - Day 2

Hooked on SOLO Maps

Essentially the maps are strategies they are not SOLO.  They are strategies to help children understand the academic language of school (General Language of Learning).

All maps can link with other maps interconnecting into one big map.

When introducing children to the maps do not use complicated material  this will cause cognitive overload.  Keep it simple such as what you did in the holidays.  Give the children several experiences using the same map.  You may focus on one map for a long period of time before introducing a new map.  Ensure that they understand what its purpose is and when it would be appropriate to use it.

Children may get to the stage where they are creating their own maps.  By scaffolding the process by providing them the symbols for bringing in ideas, connecting ideas and taking them somewhere else, then children are able to build their own.

An important note is no to forget what rich teaching is.  Give the children those experiences, let them explore, get their hands dirty.  Do not start with the map!

Time to play in the sandpit and work on a range of map.


The first map that we are attempting is define.

Cause & Effect

Prediction Map

Generalisation Map

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

SOLO Taxonomy

SOLO Taxonomy

The Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes

Presented by Pam Hook

Resource Links

Solo Taxonomy Resource

Solo Maps

Solo Rubrics

SOLO Taxonomy
Why:  To accelerate student achievement.
What:  A simple learning model that can be used and adapted to all learning.  Research based with clear evidence that it works.

You need effort to learn,  the first effort is coming up with your ideas no matter how simple it may seem, then to connect your ideas, then finally extending your ideas.  Essentially this model create life long learners.

'Bring in' activities -  Bringing in ideas about a topic .  Whats your next step?  I need to 'connect my ideas'.

There are 3 types of negative label that learners often put on themselves that could be found in our classes:

Fixed ability 'Smart' - These children are essentially damaged because they have been told that they are smart and have often found school easy and boring.  But when challenged they do not show resilience and do not take risk, risk adverse.  Use excuses like I'm bored,  too easy ,  I'm still finishing it.  Rejects opportunities to learn if they might make mistakes.

Lucky -  I got a good mark or result because my teacher likes me or the work I did.

Fixed ability 'Not Smart' - These children have a negative attitude towards learning because they find learning difficult and when challenged by learning they use diversion tactics to avoid being made looking silly in front of friends.  They may make jokes about it to make their friends laugh, or refuse to do it,  have a melt down.  Essentially anything to avoid the learning process because they find it difficult.

SOLO doesn't label the learner it labels the learning.

Praise or feedback given by teachers has a huge effect on all learners in your classroom.  Praise the effort not the result.

Learning is not about being smart, dumb or lucky, its about bringing in ideas, connecting them, then extending those ideas and pushing them out somewhere new.

"The most powerful model for understanding these three levels and integrating them into Learning Intentions  and Success Criteria is the SOLO developed by Biggs and Collis 1982"
Hattie 2012 p54

Sandpit Pedagogy (Brainstorming on steroids.)  SOLO Hexagons
Students put ideas, information  or data onto hexagonal shapes.  They then try to join their hexagons depending on what the information is.
We tried this as a group,  we had to come up with ideas about morning tea.  We were able to link all our ideas.


This was an absolute light bulb moment of how these could be used in all areas, especially reluctant learners.  

As teachers if a student is prestructural ( have no ideas about a topic)  then it is your job to engage the students.  But that is the only part of the SOLO model that engagement is important.  What is important is the what the students are learning and the progress they are making.  Children can be engaged but making any progress.

What SOLO looks like for Primary school Children.
Prestructual -
Unistructural - Define
Multistructural - Describe
Relational - Sequence, classify, Compare & contrast, Cause & Effect, Analysis, Analogy
Extended Abstract - Generalisation, Prediction, Evaluate and create

A link to the Learning Intention Generator, that is an amazing tool for planning.  This produces a range of learning intentions for all area of the SOLO taxonomy model, which inevitably caters for all children in your class that would be working at different parts of the model.

SOLO Maps helps children unpack the different parts of SOLO Taxonomy.  It gives them the skills to define, analysis and all of the other skills at the different stages of SOLO.  Maps are a great way for students to organise their ideas, it scaffolds the planning process. 

Solo Maps

The Declarative Knowledge Rubric helps children understand where they are on the SOLO model when using the maps.  It gives them a clear pathway to their next step.

Functioning Knowledge - The ability to do it physically.  I can surf.

Declarative Knowledge - is the ability to talk or explain, write about a topic.  I can write about a surfer.

The Functioning Knowledge Rubric creator help children understand where they are when demonstrating something and what they need to do to move forward.

  • Its not just getting children to bring in their ideas but getting them to reflect on these ideas.
  • Don't give the children blank maps, give them clues in the maps such as technical language.
Achieving the learning goal.
  • Prior Knowledge - prior skills, prior competencies, prior attitudes, prior behaviors.
  • Link: ideas - relate - extend
  • Metacognition:  What I am doing? How well is it going? What should I do next?
  • Feedback:  on learning goals, with peers, with teachers
  • Multiple Ways: of knowing about a goal, of interacting with a goal, opportunities to practise.