Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Success for Boys Website- Story Starters

Success for Boys is about taking steps to ensure all boys are engaged and achieving in their learning. The Ministry of Education is focused on lifting the engagement and achievement of all young people. This site is designed to help you as school leaders and teachers to look at the teaching-learning relationships with boys in your classrooms, create supportive learning environments for boys, and access a range of approaches and tools to address the diverse learning needs of boys so they achieve to their full potential.

Story Starters is a video resource aimed at engaging boys and inspiring them to write. It has been developed for boys in years 5 to 8, using boys of that age to help create the material. Its main purpose is to kick-start boys’ engagement with writing and be part of a range of tools teachers use to reduce the number of boys who are disengaged or not achieving to their potential in writing.
The opening sentences from the role models were taken to schools in Wellington, with groups of boys in years 5 to 8 developing them into stories. The boys provided a huge range of creative, descriptive, inventive and funny ideas, which a scriptwriter took and crafted into eight stories. These stories were developed into fast-paced, modern and entertaining animated videos.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Using Spirals of Inquiry to transform practice and raise literacy levels for boys

This article on using Teaching as Inquiry Model Spiral on Inquiry is where I would actually like to go with this inquiry.

To save you clicking here is a copy/paste from the Enabling ELearning: Teaching Site.

Fendalton Open Air School teachers collected and analysed a range of data to enhance their writing programme and engage learners. 

Focusing the inquiry

Teachers, Sue Gordon and Judy Harford from Fendalton Open Air School used Halbert and Kaser’s Spirals of Inquiry (2013) to transform their teacher practices and raise literacy levels for boys in their classrooms, while participating in the Future Focus Inquiry programme.
A fundamental part of this process was:
  • improving data collection
  • developing student agency
  • determining what quality feedback looks like
  • collaborating with parents, teachers, and peers as critical friends.
Judy and Sue collected relevant information from the boys and their families, alongside asTTle data and anecdotal evidence, as a part of the scanning and focussing phase of the Spirals of Inquiry framework. This included:
  • using learner maps to identify the boys’ strengths, interests, experiences, and knowledge
  • having learner consultations to assess the boys’ attitudes and behaviours towards their writing and learning
  • using both of the strategies above to explore the impact of whānau engagement in the writing process.
This information was examined to determine the role teachers, parents, and peers could play to support the development of the boys’ writing potential. Judy and Sue realised:
1. Discussion is an important part of the writing process
During the learning consultations, the boys revealed that if given the opportunity to talk about their writing, they could articulate ideas, identify difficulties, and explore their learning needs. For Judy and Sue, this emphasised the importance of processing time and giving feedback in writing. So they established "talk-time" for all students in their writing programme. 
2. Collecting different types of data is crucial
Learner maps and consultations revealed “hidden data” not collected from asTTle or writing samples. They showed, the need for boys to talk about ideas and receive feedback throughout the writing process.
“Gathering writing samples is not enough evidence. Give learners a voice. Ask them about their learning, but be sure to wait and listen to the answer. If you really want to support your learners listen without prompting or filling in the gaps.”
Teacher reflection
3. Including whānau in the writing process is important
The learner consultations highlighted the need to inform and include whānau to support the boys’ with developing their ideas, structure, and language when writing. When asked about the feedback their parents gave them, many boys replied, “spelling” or “how neat my writing is”. Consequently a number of the boys stated these as important personal goals to improve their writing, rather than focusing on the content.

Using digital technologies

Judy and Sue utilised Google Apps for Education due to it’s inbuilt features such as the comments, dictionary, thesaurus, and research capability. They hoped the platform would raise levels of engagement, allow a wider audience for the boys’ writing, and improve the quality of content.
The boys engagement and motivation immediately improved using the Google platform. However, there was no development in the quality of their writing content. Judy and Sue realised they would needed to revisit their inquiry, and their approach, to improve learning outcomes.
By reviewing the comments within the boys’ Google documents, Judy and Sue identified the boys weren’t making the connection between their goals and steps for improvement. Judy and Sue concluded the boys needed more explicit instruction to understand their writing goals.
Together, the boys and teachers explored the Kid-speak writing progressions, which support learners in self-regulating their learning. The boys used the writing progressions to set individualised goals, taking responsibility for their own progress through self-monitoring and self-direction. This strategy gave the boys a deeper understanding of how to improve the quality of their writing. Judy and Sue explored processes for giving and receiving explicit synchronous and asynchronous goal-based feedback. They regularly addressed the boys writing goals and modelled effective feedback on the writing based on each student's goals.

Developing partnerships and relationships to support boys learning

As part of student led conferences the boys were asked to model guidelines for providing quality feedback to their parents. They introduced the Movenote app, which allows students to record a video alongside documents or pictures. The boys used this tool to teach others, including their whānau, about goal setting and giving quality feedback.

Guidelines for parents providing feedback
Student Movenotes


Target learners’ achievement improved in all key skills assessed in thee-asTTle rubric, progressing from less than 2B to ranging from 2A–4B. Improvement was also evidenced by the boys:
  • greater levels of focus and concentration
  • developing more comprehensive personal writing goals
  • self-regulating writing behaviours
  • expressing a greater ownership of their learning
  • taking risks with vocabulary and ideas
  • using spellcheck confidently to identify correct spelling options
  • seeking explicit feedback
  • being enthusiastic about writing with increased motivation to continue at home
  • gaining confidence as leaders and teachers, using Google Docs and Movenote to instruct whānau on the writing process.
Whānau have expressed pride in the progress their children have made and the improved confidence and ability in their boys’ writing. 


The teachers consistently re-visited the Spirals of Inquiry framework to check, evaluate, and monitor the effectiveness of their approach.
“Teaching inquiry questions change and grow and go off on tangents or circle back on themselves depending on the data and what you do with it. It’s about us as’s all about improving your practise.”
Teacher reflection
Sue and Judy realised the value of getting support for their inquiry. They sought and found further evidence, knowledge, and expertise from a range of sources, including:
By engaging in a genuine inquiry process, Sue and Judy were able to analyse and deconstruct their teaching practice in a meaningful way. They gathered student voice and incorporated whānau involvement. They were innovative in their approach to addressing their learners’ needs and used digital technologies to support this. It was not the digital technology alone that improved the boys’ writing, but the way it was used to develop partnerships to support their learning. Utilising the Spirals of Inquiry framework, valuing student voice, and agency, supported by the use of e-learning tools, was key to creating authentic and positive change in this approach.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Book Track Embed

Last year I was excited to find out about Booktrack and they have just added a new feature- being able to embed the Booktrack book you have written into a blog. This is one we collaboratively wrote and published last year. This is a test run to see how it embeds in a blog.

Here is my workflow in how to create a Booktrack Book and soundtrack.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Five Quick Ways to Assess Writing

I came across this in my summer reading. I do think we spend far too much time 'correcting' kids' writing long after they have ceased to be interested.

This might help.'-writing-progress'-writing-progress

Monday, 3 November 2014

Our Book is Published on iTunes

So happy with our combined book we put together has been published on iTunes.

The workflow went like this.....

1. Boys wrote their blog posts on their blogs as usual.

2. I copied and pasted the text into one Google Doc and we all looked at it to make sure it was what we wanted to publish.

3. Boys illustrated their texts with hand-drawn illustrations to help personalise the book.

4. I copied and pasted the text into separate pages of a Book Creator book. If we had had more time it would have been better if we had copied and made our own pages but I wanted to crack into it as a proof on concept. That can be our next step for next time.

5. Boys recorded themselves reading their stories into the app.

6. As I had already created an Apple iTunes Connect Account there was no problem there and Apple iTunes Producer has been updated to make it even easier to upload books the job was easily completed.

Book Creator has already put together three handy tutorials to help you publish your own books.




And now the book is published on iTunes- you can search for it by looking for Allanah King or Brightwater, or the link is right here!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Write About This- Pinterest

You know I like Write About This and they recently tweeted that they are storing writing prompts in Pinterest. What a great idea!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Boys' Writing- Reclaiming Their Voice

Annemarie Hyde has been doing some research around boys writing. She shared this in a recent blog post.

Boy Writers- Reclaiming Their Voices- by Ralph Fletcher I would like to get hold of the book as it sounds like a good read.

In a series of short chapters, ideal for after planning quick reads, Fletcher outlines his findings, anecdotes and reflections, ending each with a list of "What Can I Do in My Classroom?"

Ideas he covers include:

  • giving boys choice
  • accepting their humour
  • understanding their unique voice
  • the place of conversation
  • handwriting and fine motor skills
  • why violence has a place
  • relationships
  • why fun is important

He leaves us with four main points to better nurture and support struggling boy writers.
1. Just let them write
2. Take the long view - you want them to want to be writers.
3. Consider pleasure.  Is it fun?
4. Think relationships. "We're not teaching writing - we're teaching writers."

This article follows an interview with the author