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Ministry of Education.




Student 1:
Matua lets me stand up in class and put ideas up on the whiteboard for the class to see, and then take the questions for the class to answer.

Student 2:
So we've got two questions here about the Olympics. And it can't just all be about the Olympics eh? So we chose to have one question about our school work. And lately we've just been studying about movies and stuff like that.

Student 1:
About movies – Hawaiki, short films...

Student 2:
And the movie we're studying this week so far is Hawaiki. That's pretty much it.

Student 1:
Just trying to warm up their memories...

Student 2:
Just make sure they learn. Instead of just talking to their mates.

It's kinda like homework too. But homework at school.

There's a student here, I'm not going to name her. She's awesome and she's on this side of the class. ...has chosen to present her creative writing as a diary. So she's done journal entries here. "2/3 hard at school. Everyday I'm constantly fighting for acceptance." Kai pai. So she's made herself the character. She's going through and developing some awesome ideas. And through this we're going to see her story.

So options are really where it comes down too, and providing options that students are going to feel challenged by. Hopefully that they're going to see is a little bit relevant as well. That's really, really key. It doesn't matter what the skill is that we're looking at. The task needs to have these kinds of options in it. And it needs to be organised and grouped according to student challenge levels.

Sometimes I'll design a task where the initial scaffolding task will be a little bit easier. To get students warmed up into it. And then it gets progressively harder and harder and harder. So whatever is produced at the end of it, well, that should be where that student is working at. Obviously the more high-ability students, they can kind of race through things and finish it perhaps within that period or within the allocated time for that task. And so our other students need a bit more time to work through it and that's okay. And often, you know, it's negotiated. Often I'll sit down with the students or a group of students and say, well, okay, what do we need to do to get to that end?

So with the writing task, it was really deliberate in terms of the topics I picked. In terms of the depth of questioning. In terms of the kind of engagement I could have with it. Seeing that also... making it really clear what I was wanting, what I was expecting from each level was really, really important. Just so they know, I suppose, what to reach for.

There'll be some generic things I'm getting all the students to do, whether it be kind of on a creative level, or on a structural level. But each level should know exactly what they're aiming for, what the skills are they're needing to work on. And basically, feel some sense of achievement as well, at satisfying that level.

So having a plain marking criteria, or paearu paetae is what we call it, is really, really good. And I go through that with all the students before we do any kind of assessment. I often need to clarify that with students as well. So putting it into their language, I do use the terms of NCEA level one, and that's deliberate. That's so they get used to these terms, get used to the language in it. And so, hopefully that offers a fairly seamless transition into level one.

So explaining the task, going through it, and then working with individual groups on whatever they need to work on. Say a group shows that, I'm not sure, the introductions aren't really providing a good encompass of what they're going to be looking at. Well, we'll just work on introductions with that group. High-ability group, well they're working on how to include quotes a little bit better, how to integrate things a bit more. So I can just sit down with that group and work with them.

At every opportunity though, for using a student, try and jump at it. So and again, this tends to transverse or break out of the different levels often. So a student might be really, really creative, and come up with a heap of ideas that's going to help, you know, their peers. So I'll get that student to work with the ones that are struggling a little bit. And that works a lot better. The less I can talk, the better the learning is.

So this is a simple thing. Trying to share power. Ultimately, trying to make it a bit more co-constructive, and giving the students a voice. That seems to take a whole lot of skill sets. So just running the "do now" and also running the recap at the end of a lesson. I get students to do that. And they have free rein as to what they want to do. And some of them will run a game. Some, questions on the board. A little bit more traditional. It's really up to them. The idea being to build confidence, get them presenting, get them thinking about what we're learning about as well. And getting them to engage with each other. Seeing each other as a resource as opposed to just matua at the front.

Bringing this up a little bit more now, in term 3, is giving students the power to teach a skill that we're working on. Getting them to actually say, "well, this is how I do it, maybe you could do it as well". So the modelling comes from the students, the more able ones. I think that's one of the real benefits of having a class with such broad ability. The modelling doesn't just need to come from me, it can come from the students themselves.

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Published on: 29 Oct 2012