Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ideas for group work in the high school classroom: Wāhanga Rua

Part Two:

I am ready to roll out my groups tomorrow! I feel I know the students well enough and have enough data to group them appropriately. I have decided I will need to review these groups over the rest of the term. I will be satisfied if they are fully established by the start of Term 2.Here is the written instruction I will provide students tomorrow, after I have told them their groups.

Groups groups groups!

Your first project as a group!

1. Choose an abstract noun that will be a goal for your group to work on. You need to find out the English, Maori and any other relevant translations of the word. I will discuss this with your group over the coming week and will help you decide. Think of this as your core value, like Trident's core values of manaakitanga, kia manawa nui and whaia te iti kahurangi. Once you have made your selections Ohinemataroa [our hapu] will potentially have TWENTY core values to strive to fulfill!!

Then either:

2. Suggest a 'patron' of your group. Think Harry Potter and patronuses except different. They must be: a New Zealander and creating the kind of thing we might study in English. So they could be a lyricist, director, author, actor, illustrator... Again, I will help you choose. Our hapu's patron will be Lorde.


3. Design a flag or sigil for you whanau. Remember that your whanau has up to 30 members across four different classes. How can you best represent those 30 people? Hint: perhaps you could ask me what your other group members have chosen as their core value.

I will be there to help with all of this - it's not a test!

I have also created a poster that will be on my door and probably on the whiteboard. And duh, on my computer's desktop! So the kids will now see this whenever there's no Power Point, video, etc on my projector screen. I'm a genius.

I can take no credit for the creation of the poster. I used the website Canva, literally didn't choose the fonts, found the image on Google Image Search and that's about it. The only thing I came up with was splitting into five. So I'm hoping one of my more artistic students decides to create a more snazzy poster for our hapu. Visual and verbal text credits? Yes please!

I'm sure you can gather from the poster that I have chosen my hapu name as well as the five whanau. Ohinemataroa is the proper Maori name for Whakatane River, and the other five are the surrounding rivers from this region. Some words are supposed to have macrons but unfortunately this font wouldn't recognise the macron-ed symbols.

I'm a little nervous about how the roll out will go, but I think I'll have enough buy in to make it work.

You may have seen my creative writing starters posts and be wondering what that's all about. I plan to talk about them in my next post or so. Suffice to say, my participation in the writing starters seems to be increasing student participation - yay for bribery!

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Pursue excellence – should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain

Friday, 13 February 2015

Creative writing starters 8

He knew that they were wrong due to the unmistakable scent of smoke fuming from the peak of the island: that slightly sweet, slightly woody smell of warmth and dryness that only comes from a human burning wood that has been stored over the seasons.
Peter questioned whether he should continue to propel his small tinny forward, or whether he should abandon this mission. He loosened his grip on the throttle to slow the vessel and turned away from the island, back towards the navy's intimidating frigate. Even though the distance between himself and the ship was significant, at least half a mile, he could feel the eyes of his superiors burning through their binoculars, questioning his every move, his every decision. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Creative writing starters 7

The cherub sat atop the concrete slab building contemplating the consequences of his mistakes. Given that this situation was entirely new, he wondered if it were possible to undo his fateful shot. But therein lay the conundrum: that tricky word 'fate'. Even Cupid could not choose fate. Even the destination of Cupid's arrows was predetermined by some higher being.
All around the innocent victim, a commotion was exploding. The arrow's effect was taking over and the audience members affections were being stirred. Oblivious, the comedian continued to expound his stand-up routine, wooing thousands with every syllable, every smile, every mimed gesture. The security guards were struggling to focus on the task at hand, bursts of love emanating inexplicably from their hearts.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Ideas for group work in the high school classroom

Kia ora all! This blog post is a real train of thought, work in progress entry. I have a lot of ideas about using groups in my class and I'm sure this plan will be refined over the coming weeks. I really look forward to hearing your thoughts, suggestions and questions!

I have mentioned before that my department is invigorating our junior program and that these plans are ongoing. A key part of this change is that we are guided by four Kaupapa or themes throughout the year, one in each term. We are starting the year with Papatuanuku and I have explained to the students that we will be considering our texts through this lens.

I have also started the year with my desks in groups for the first time, having never had room before. And that's what this blog post is all about - how I am going to use these groups in the classroom.

Here is the plan:

- I will name the five groups of desks (six desks per group) after a local body of water or landmark: Ohiwa, Rangitaiki, Tarawera, etc. To be confirmed.
- As Trident is our iwi, I will refer to my classroom as a hapu and each group of desks would be a whanau (across classes, for example, there will be at least three groups of students who are "Ohiwa" across at least three different classes)
- each group, in each class, will decide upon an abstract noun that they will aspire to demonstrate. For example aroha, manaakitanga, perseverance... This idea comes from my husband's plan to integrate the qualities of a good teammate into his Sports in Education class.
- somehow, each group of desks will end up with a flag or sigil, a couple of abstract nouns (from the different groups in different classes) and most excitingly, a patron of the arts. Ideally the patron will be a New Zealand author, director, screenwriter, lyricist or actor.

I have two Year 9 classes and a Year 10 class so I'm not sure how to divvy up the research and decision making when it comes to the flags and patrons, but I'm excited about how these decisions can be part of my classroom teaching about visual and verbal texts as well as the context of New Zealand art and literature.

Some decisions I am yet to make are:

- will these groups be flexible? Might I have to jiggle students throughout the year, or is the point to work through any issues with each group by falling back on their core value, as well as my school's core values?
- how will I determine the groups? I will certainly not be splitting them into curriculum levels from lowest to highest. The next obvious choice is to spread each level of ability across each group of desks. Alternatively I could base my decision initially on personality, and subsequently on reshuffling if I notice a predominance of a certain curriculum level at one table. While one of my classes is technically 'streamed' the students do cover a range of two or three curriculum levels, the other two are definitely mixed ability due to their special interest nature (Great Barrier Island group and BYOD class).
- I am also keen to get my seniors to buy into this, but as my Level 1 class is tiny and my Level 2 class is strong willed and very 'cool' I may struggle. They may dismiss the whole thing as very primary school. One strategy might be to not even mention it to them and see if they react to the posters and values going up around the walls.

What do I hope to get out of this?

- accountability, enthusiasm, belonging
- bonding within each group
- I hope that awareness of the other groups who occupy your set of desks will encourage more responsibility as a citizen of the classroom: less graffiti, rubbish and gum under desks.
- More interest in wall displays and therefore other students' work
- behaviour management through positive peer pressure
- more opportunities for peer teaching
- an increase in student progress (hopefully this is the overarching reason why we do anything in the classroom!)

I will see how Term 1 goes and if these ideas are not enough on their own to achieve my goals I may look at introducing some form of inter or intra (or both) group competition. Thankfully we have a fantastic PB4L system of core value certificates and of 'coffee club' stamps that are a simple way to acknowledge and encourage positive behaviour and work ethics. I'm not big on competition in the classroom, but my boisterous junior boys may require that kind of motivation

As you can see I am very excited about how this will work. I'm already thinking about the future and whether I would keep the names the same across the years or whether I could branch out and use different kinds of philosophies, names of novels, international authors, past successful students, the options are limitless...

I would love to hear your ideas, suggestions and advice. Do you use groups in the classroom? Do they stay the same all year? What do kids like or not like about this approach?

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Pursue excellence – should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain

Creative writing starters 6

Snowflakes melted on the tips of his eyelashes. Swathes of snow crunched underfoot. The smelt distinctly of nothing except cold. His eyes crinkled against the intense white light reflecting off every surface.
In the distance a fir tree trembled and snow fell to the ground with a wumpf. The boy flinched, startled. He shaded his eyes with numb fingers and stared at the tree. Was that...? No, it couldn't be... A large beaver, perhaps the size of a 12 year old child, was standing upright, brushing snow from his glistening coat.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Creative Writing Starters 5

"It's so nice to finally meet you," it said, grinning from ear to ear. 
The shaggy polar bear registered his visitor's glistening white fur and glanced down at his own yellowed pelt.
He emitted a low growl as his eyes cast down to the watery depths surrounding him. Shame engulfed every inch of his being and tears stung at his eyes. The polar bear swallowed back his shame. The visitor realised the impact his presence was having on the captive animal and began to nervously fidget with his own glistening coat, shuffling his plastic paws from side to side.
After a moment of shared anxiety the polar bear could take it no more and pushed his gigantic paws against the thick glass, launching his body away from the visitor, leaving a swirl of bubbles behind.
The visitor drooped his head in disappointment and turned to leave, confused by the whole experience.