Saturday, 19 December 2015

Our Year


It is really exciting to reflect on what has been a challenging and exciting year. As the year has progressed, we have been exploring...
  • Creating a community of learners. 
  • Valuing student voice. 
  • Developing dispositions/competencies for lifelong learning. 
  • Developing children’s ability to manage their own learning by giving them choice and flexibility. 
  • Ensuring our learners continue to strive for excellence across the curriculum. 
  • Developing children’s understanding of themselves as learners. 
  • Reducing the amount of whole class teaching so we can personalise learning. 
  • Using our integrated curriculum model to provide opportunities for children to follow their own lines of inquiry. 
  • Developing children’s ability to collaborate. 
  • Effectively using digital technologies as a learning tool. 
  • Using the flipped classroom approach to support learning and teaching. 
  • Giving children the ‘power to act’ in order to develop their learner agency. 
  • Ensuring the children are challenged by new learning - In the ‘Learning Pit’. 
  • Providing authentic opportunities for critical and creative thinking and problem solving.

Friday, 27 November 2015

GRi11 Documentary


Check out the documentary the children in GRi11 created to help share how they are learning.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Learning Pit

This term we wanted to provide some of our children with the opportunity to drive their own learning. Lots of our children are very good at managing themselves on a daily basis but they are not agentic learners. This is because we are not allowing them to be! We believe that we have some children who would be more than capable of leading their learning. We are currently planning the majority of the learning activities and the children do not actually have opportunities or time in their day to lead their own learning.

Prior to providing the children with this opportunity, we decided that the children needed to have a deeper understanding of The Learning Pit. We wanted the children to understand that if they were going to drive their own learning that they needed to ensure they were being personally challenged - the learning had to be hard if they were actually going to be developing and growing their knowledge and skills. Katie and Clive developed the children's understanding of 'being in the learning pit' through a series of challenges and rich conversations. One of the challenges was a balloon powered car and the other was a paper challenge. In both cases, the children were given the resources but no instructions. The children worked in teams and some individually.
While the children were completing the challenges they were ask to record what they were thinking and feeling on post-it notes. Katie and Clive then used the children's comments on the post-it notes to co-construct their understanding of 'the learning pit'. With the children's comments on post-its, Katie and Clive asked questions such as...

  • "How did you feel when we first gave you the challenge?" 
  • "How do you feel now? 
  • "What Habits of Mind did you have to use to help you?" 
  • "Is it good for our learning if things are easy? 
Katie and Clive placed the post-its in a way that showed the children's changes in emotions and their thinking throughout the experience.

When the children had visited Mind Lab in Wellington at the end of Term Three, they learnt about FAIL - First Attempt In Learning. This concept obviously really resonated with the children and they constantly made links between the learning at Mind Lab and being in the learning pit.

Following a series of challenges, Katie and Clive asked the children to re-asses themselves on their learner pathway. There were 17 children out of 58 who thought they could move to 'Driver'.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Flipped Classroom



Andrea, Katie and Kristen have been exploring how they can use videos to support learning and teaching. Above are some of the videos they have created to support writing. Check them out!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Weekly Planning

Each week the children plan their week on a weekly planner (some do this digitally and some on paper).  At the start of the week, the teachers share their weekly planner with the children.  This allows the children to record their group sessions with the teacher, workshops, and other requirements. E.g. Writing support, sports coaching, music lessons. The children then plan when they will complete their learning tasks.  It has been really exciting to see the children using their planners to arrange times when they are all available to work together on shared inquires or to arrange a book club meeting when everyone can attend. The children are taking responsibility for managing their learning by selecting which learning task to complete, when, with who and where. They are responsible for prioritising their time on a daily basis so they can complete learning tasks before set deadlines. Conversations with individual children demonstrate that they have a clear understanding of how this system works and enjoy learning in this way because they like having the freedom to choose.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Maths Learning

In the Senior Syndicate we teach maths from 9.00am - 10.00am each day. As the year has progressed, some of the teachers have started to make changes to their maths programmes to reflect how they are teaching literacy and integration.

Andrea, Katie and Kristen give the children priorities they are required to complete throughout the week. These include: Basic facts practice, rich task problem solving, word problems, Mathletics, and strand related tasks. The children can complete the tasks in any order, on any day.

The teachers run different workshops throughout the week. Workshops may be focussed on number knowledge, number strategies, or strand based. The children worked alongside their teacher to develop an understanding of their individual strengths and next steps. This information has been tracked on personal goal cards for each child. The children use these goal cards to help identify which workshops they need to attend.

Andrea, Katie and Kristen have had to develop planning and tracking templates and systems to ensure that the children's learning needs are being met and challenged. They have adapted and developed these systems as the year has progressed.




Some comments from the children...

“I like it because we get to learn the strategies we don’t know very well instead of just learning a new one each week. Sometimes we needed more practise but the whole group had to move onto a new strategy.”

“If you forget how to do something you can go back to another workshop. If you go and then you realise you don’t need to stay because you know it, you can leave. It is wasting time if we already know it. We learn about things we don’t know.”

"Miss Gordon has workshops and we go to them if we need to and if we don’t go but Miss Gordon knows we need to go she comes and shoulder taps us."


Andrea shared the changes she has made to her maths programme with the Senior Syndicate teachers earlier in the year. Her presentation is below.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Integration in Action



The big idea for our integrated unit this term is 'Enterprise'. Our aim was for children to understand that businesses go through a process to become successful and apply that knowledge and their skills by forming a business. The learning throughout the term involved exploring different types of markets by visiting the Saleyards and the Farmers' Market in Feilding, learning how to write a CV and application letter, designing a syndicate currency, developing business plans, producing products, advertising and selling products. To support this learning, Simon Barnett from OBO shared his journey and gave the children valuable advice about being a successful entrepreneur. We have also had several parents join us to share their expertise throughout the term.

All children are now 'working' in a business venture. The children from GRi11 are selling products for real money to fundraise for a trip to Mind Lab in Wellington. Pot of Gold, Fab Five and VALT are earning our Senior Syndicate currency ‘Smackers’. The children applied for a job, developed business plans, conducted market research, completed budgets, designed and produced a wide range of products. The products will all be sold at our Market Day on Wednesday.  

Monday, 14 September 2015

School Visits

During Term Three, Senior Syndicate teachers used their CRT time to visit:
  • Whakarongo School
  • Amesbury School
  • Island Bay School
  • Parkland School
  • Ashhurst School
These visits were an opportunity to further develop our understanding of innovative learning pedagogy and see other modern learning environments in action.

Thank you to each of the schools who shared their exciting journey with us. We loved listening and talking to passionate educators and children who love learning!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Providing Evidence of Learning

This year the children in GRi11 have a digital version of our integration matrix in their Google Drive. The children record their evidence and provide links to learning examples that support the indicators on our integration matrix.  As a result, the children have a clear understanding of their next learning steps.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Day to Day Learning and Teaching

From 10.00am to 3.00pm, the children are taking responsibility for managing their learning by selecting which learning task to complete, when, where and with who. They are responsible for prioritising their time on a daily basis so they can complete learning tasks before required deadlines. For some children this process is significantly guided by the teacher, for most children, they are now independently taking responsibility for managing their learning.
At times throughout the day children might be involved in:
  • Small group learning with a teacher e.g. Guided reading group sessions, guided writing group sessions, problem solving group sessions, spelling group session.
  • Optional workshops with a teacher e.g. Learning how to organise ideas into paragraphs, learning how to write an argument, multiplication strategies workshop.
  • Individual conferences with a teacher e.g. Touching base in relation to a research task, providing feedback on a piece of writing, getting started with a problem solving challenge.
  • Learning co-operatively in peers or small groups e.g. Completing a group research task and communicating learning, attending book club meetings.
  • Learning independently e.g. Crafting writing, silent reading, reading follow-up tasks, completing assessments, practising spelling words, practising basic facts. 
  • Whole class learning e.g. Writing motivation and modelling, maths rich task introduction.
  • Syndicate learning/activities e.g. Sports Rotations, Syndicate Singing, Go For Gold Programme (Term Two only.) 
  • School events e.g. School assemblies, cross country.



Monday, 6 July 2015

Student Voice Survey

We wanted to gather some student voice about the changes that we were making so we asked the children to complete a survey using Google Forms. The questions were aligned to our vision for learning and teaching. Some of the questions we asked were:
  • How do you feel about coming to school? Why? 
  • How are decisions made in GRi11/Pot of Gold? 
  • What decisions do you make about your learning? 
  • What decisions would you like to be able to make? 
  • What does striving for excellence mean to you? How do you strive for excellence at school? 
  • In what ways do you learn with others? How does this impact on your learning? 
  • What are your learning strengths? What areas do you need to improve in? How do you know? 
  • What new digital skills have you learnt this year? 
It was exciting reading the children's comments. Below is a selection of comments:
  • "I feel happy because I have learnt new things and we worked together to build this learning space. I really love coming to GRi11." 
  • "I feel excited to come to school because I like learning/working in GRi11 because it is fun and you can do what work you want." 
  • "We make our own decisions. We build on others ideas and usually find the right choice in the end." 
  • "I think it's great because we always get a say in whatever we do and it's not just the teachers making all the decisions. We all get to vote and majority wins." 
  • "I learn with others all the time because every time I'm stuck or need help I know that someone will be able to help me." 
  • "In Pot of Gold I get to choose how I make my learning better." 
  • "I think that working together makes my work better because there are more ideas coming in." 
  • "In GRi11 we are always learning interdependently and it impacts on our learning because humans only have one brain and two brains can come up with more ideas." 
  • "The matrix helps me with my learning because I know what stage I am on for my learning." 
  • "I feel like it (the matrix) pushes me to go to the next step." 
  • "I really like learning in GRi11 because we have freedom in what we do and when we do it and I like that." 
  • "In Pot of Gold the kids and teachers make decisions together."
  • "I like coming to school because we do fun and amazing things everyday."


Friday, 12 June 2015

Writing Strengths and Next Steps

One of our goals is to develop self-aware learners who drive their own learning. To achieve this we need to support our children to develop an understanding of themselves as a learner. Katie and Clive have experimented with this in the area of writing this term. Katie created a 'child speak' version of our writing matrix. Katie and Clive then worked with small groups of children to explore an exemplar and assess it using the matrix she had created. This allowed the children to develop an understanding of the indicators. The children then assessed themselves on the matrix by using their writing as evidence for their assessment. Conferences with each individual child, revealed that in general the children were very accurate, and if anything too hard on themselves. The matrix was highlighted pink for the areas the children are achieving and then together with the teacher two next steps were identified and highlighted green. The children were able to use this matrix to share their strengths in writing and their next learning steps with their parents as part of their Three-Way Conference.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Google Apps for Education


This year we have moved to Google Apps for Education. All children have a Personal Learning Space on Google Drive and all classes have a blog. 

Katie and Clive are also trialling Google Classroom and the children in GRi11 have their own blog. As part of this learning, the children have also developed their understanding of Digital Citizenship. It has been very exciting to see how the children in GRi11 have significantly increased their ability to use Google Apps since the start of the year. The majority of the children now easily: 
  • Log in to 'Drive'.
  • Create new folders, docs, slides etc.
  • Share docs.
  • Upload shortened URLs to the class Fast Track.
  • Post on their blog.
  • Comment on others' learning.  
All of this has taken a considerable amount of time (and some very patient teachers) however the children are now well set up to use these tools and skills to support their learning for the rest of the year.  One of the biggest issues we face is the difference between using Goggle Apps on a computer compared to on an iPad.  The majority of our BYO devices are iPads so these issues need to be worked through on a daily basis.

Clive and Katie attended the Google Apps for Education Summit in Auckland at the end of the Term One holidays.  They returned inspired and full of lots of new ideas!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Agency Co-construction in GRi11


Clive and Katie also co-constructed their agency progression in Term Two. During our visit to Russell Street School they shared how they used the 'Stuck on an Escalator' clip to start this conversation with their children. Katie and Clive asked the children to watch this clip and complete a 'See-Think-Wonder' in small groups. The children actively discussed the messages from the clip and were then challenged to make links between this clip and their learning. For example: If you get stuck on the escalator sometimes, what might learning look like for you?

Their goal was to develop criteria for three stages:

  • Agency 
  • Self-managing 
  • Guided 
Up until this point, they had had many conversations about 'managing self' so they knew the children should be able to co-construct the indicators for the first two stages.  To start developing some ideas for 'agency' they asked "Where to next for learning in GRi11?"

Some of the resources that we used to develop our understanding of agency can be found on the Core Education Website.



Friday, 15 May 2015

Tracking Learning and Learning Conversations

One of the biggest challenges Clive and Katie had was keeping track of learning and learning conversations.  

Some of the issues:
  • Who has completed what tasks?
  • How can I easily access the children's learning without needing to search through their 'Drive' or books?
  • Who has had a writing conference? When?
  • Where can I record the children's next steps so that it is easy to view at a later date when I am planning what workshops to offer?
  • Which groups have had a meeting about their inquiry? Where are they at?
  • Where can I record anecdotal comments?
Answer: Fast Track!  




Katie and Clive used Google Sheets to create a spreadsheet that allowed them to address many of the issues above.  This idea was based on examples we had seen from Point England School and Russell Street School.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

12 Weeks in Pot of Gold


In Week Four, John and Kristen shared their presentation '12 Weeks in Pot of Gold - An Unexpected Journey.'  They explained how they were working towards developing "a community in which all learners thrive and take responsibility for their own learning."

Friday, 8 May 2015

ELS Presentation


In Week Two, Clive and Katie shared aspects of their 2015 learning journey in GRi11. They are using the term 'Empowering Learning Space' instead of 'Modern Learning Environment'. "We believe that we are creating a space that empowers children to learn and manage themselves."

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Integration in Action Presentation

At our Syndicate Meeting in Week One, we discussed our model for curriculum integration and our integration backstory. As a team, we have two beginning teachers, three teachers who have been teaching for less than five years, and three teachers who have been teaching at College Street for more than five years. This discussion allowed our teachers to understand the journey that we have been on over the last 12 years and why some of the changes have been made along the way. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Who's driving? Agency Progression Co-Construction

John and Kristen wanted to co-construct their agency progression (based on learning from Russell Street School) early in Term Two. To achieve this they referred the children to the PMI that they had completed at the end of last term and explained that they would be working on making some changes because of the comments and ideas from their reflections. John and Kristen had several conversations about this idea with the children in Term One. Now they wanted to use this progression with the children on a daily basis. Together they developed descriptions for each of the stages below:
  • Agency
  • Self Directed
  • Self Managing
  • Guided
  • Directed
As part of this process, John and Kristen highlighted the need to 'Strive for Excellence' at all stages. The children made links to conversations they had had about 'The Learning Pit' (based on learning from Russell Street School). As part of the co-construction process, the children made connections to learning to drive a car and getting your full licence because they identified that the progression moved from 'teacher driven' to 'student driven'. As a result their wall display is based on this theme.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Term Two Expression Unit Co-Construction

At a planning meeting in the holidays, Katie and Clive got excited about the idea of involving children in the planning process of our integrated unit. This was an exciting idea to trial because we believed that the children would have more ownership over their learning, be able to lead their learning and develop a deeper understanding of our integrated unit big idea if they were involved in this process.

On the first morning of Term Two, Katie and Clive explained to the children that they were going to have a go at writing our integrated unit for Term Two. They introduced our big idea - 'Expression'. To gather the children's prior knowledge about this big idea the children worked in small groups to complete a survey on Google Forms. Throughout the morning, the children completed a range of 'Expression' challenges and were engaged in expressing themselves in different ways. By the end of the day, the children had co-constructed the knowledge deep understanding and matrix indicators. By the end of Week One, they had identified the Habit of Mind focus, co-constructed the Habit of Mind deep understanding and co-constructed the matrix indicators. The children had also generated significant questions they could explore throughout the unit.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Our People, Our Place, Our Story - Inquiry Focus

Throughout the unit the children completed inquiries in relation to:
  • What is my story?
  • What is our story? (Class Focus)
  • What is our story? (School Focus)
  • What is our story? (Community Focus)
  • What is our story? (Science Focus)
Classes completed these inquiries in many different ways.  For example: 
  • What is my story? - In one class the children brought in a collection of 'Fragments of Evidence'.  As the items in the bag were being shared, the children shared their story. In another class the children created an artwork using koru to represent their family story. In several classes the children learnt their mihi. Some classes presented these digitally.
  • What is our story?  The class focus, was developed through the Block Classroom. As well as 'building' their learning space, classes developed a treaty and set up their class blogs. As part of the school focus, each class explored our school vision statement and the six attributes of the College Street Kid.  As part of the community focus, one class completed an inquiry into 'Just Zilch'.  For our science focus, classes explored and shared the stories of different landforms.  Some classes started by reading Maori myths and then explored the science behind the landform.

A school-wide focus for our integrated units is to explicitly teach children how to be successful researchers. Classes co-constructed their understanding of this process when they completed a whole class inquiry. For Phase Two of the inquire stage of our unit the children asked their own research questions and followed through the research cycle. Some children worked individually, most children worked in small groups.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Time for New Learning and Rich Conversations

A significant part of our planning day in Week Seven was dedicated to time for new learning and rich conversations. To start with we discussed parts of the presentation that Mark Osborne had shared at the Learning @ Schools Roadshow in Palmerston North in 2013. Following this we returned to the ‘Future-Oriented Learning and Teaching' Curriculum Update. As a group we looked at the personalising learning section and discussed ways we are currently personalising learning.


Following this we were asked to complete a research challenge. Teachers had time to complete a research task in relation to the big idea of 'Future Focussed Education'. This was an opportunity to revisit the vision for learning and teaching that we had developed at the end of 2014 and time to explore some of these ideas further. We developed an inquiry question and shared them with the group. We then had to plan, find, analyse and communicate our new learning. As part of the presentations, we were asked to include examples from our classrooms this year so that this could also be an opportunity for celebrating success.

The inquiry questions that we researched were:
  • What is the role of a teacher in a future focussed learning environment?
  • How do you develop agentic learners?
  • How has our understanding of developing ‘knowledge’ changed?
  • How can we use technology effectively in a future focussed learning environment?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Managing Self Literacy Focus

Our children are starting to have more choice in relation to their learning. In Pot of Gold this is currently achieved through Reading Choices and Priorities and in GRi11 this is currently achieved through a Managing Self Literacy Block. The children are taking responsibility for managing their learning by selecting which learning task to complete and when. They are responsible for prioritising their time on a daily basis so they can complete learning tasks before required deadlines.

"At the start of the week Mr Smith and Mrs Liddell tell us what the choices and the priorities are. These are displayed on the board. We start on our priorities first. We can do them in any order, just as long as we get them done. We have to write our priority or our choice and the date in our log. Then we show a buddy, who checks to see if we have done a good job, if we have they sign our log. I like being able to choose what I want to do."
(Year 5 child from Pot of Gold)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Touching Base

At our Syndicate meeting in Week Three, after nine days of school, teachers were asked to reflect on the vision we developed at our planning days in Term Four. Teachers identified the following strengths at this early stage:
  • The teachers and children are developing positive relationships.
  • The children have been making decisions about their learning spaces - Linked to 'The Block Classroom'.
  • In some classes the children are beginning to make decisions about their own learning.
  • Some classes are beginning to utilise Google docs for learning.
To develop our vision and support our changes in pedagogy we will need to engage in significant professional learning about future focussed learning and teaching. There are schools we can visit, websites and blogs we can follow and articles that we can read. Teachers were asked to read the ‘Future-Oriented Learning and Teaching' Curriculum Update. This update discusses key themes that will underpin future-oriented learning for young New Zealanders. (Ministry of Education, 2012)

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Thinking Matrix Co-construction

At College Street Normal School, children and teachers co-construct an integration matrix each term. This process allows our children to understand the learning journey, identify where they are at and identify their next learning steps. Our integration matrix breaks down the deep understanding on a continuum from novice to expert. The matrix is designed to help teachers personalise learning by using the indicators to inform learning and teaching.

After each class visited the Curioseum, they co-constructed their thinking matrix indicators. While the children were at The Curioseum they were asked to 'think about their thinking’. Prior to co-constructing the indicators, the children discussed, reflected on and evaluated their thinking during their visit. As part of this discussion the children identified that our focus Habit of Mind for Term One is Questioning and Problem Posing. The children then worked in small groups to write indicators for novice, apprentice, practitioner and expert. These ideas were used to develop the final matrix.  Each class developed a wall display and the children placed their icons on the display to show where they were at.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Curioseum

During the second week of school, each class visited 'The Curioseum -  A Museum of Curiosity'. This experience was our emotional hook for our thinking matrix co-construction. Our thinking matrix focus for Term One is 'Curiosity' and one of our significant questions is 'What are we curious about?'  The teachers gathered a range of different exhibits for our museum, including a range of items that we borrowed from Te Manawa.  We set the exhibition up in our art room.  Each child was given a ticket to enter the museum with their class.  While they were at the 'Curioseum' the children completed a ‘See, Think, Wonder’ thinking routine at several of the different stations. The children were highly engaged and loved being able to touch most of the items.  As a result, the children asked a wide range of questions.  The children were able to use their 'See, Think, Wonder' sheets as evidence for their initial assessment on their co-constructed thinking matrix.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Traditional Teaching Style Role Play

When the children in Room 10 and 11 arrived at school on Monday (day three of school), they noticed that their classroom had been set up with rows and rows of desks. When the bell rang, Katie arrived wearing a long kilt and and Clive was wearing an old grey suit. The children were seated in their allocated a desk and the day began. First the roll, followed by the National anthem, handwriting, dictionary skills, reciting Shakespeare, chanting basic facts and even marching on the quad and organised play groups at morning tea time.  Clive and Katie taught the whole block using a teacher directed approach.  This meant the children worked independently, silently unless asked to speak and of course they were all doing the same thing at the same time. 

Clive and Katie wanted to role play a traditional teaching style with the children as an emotional hook prior to co-constructing their managing self literacy block with the children. The children had started to plan how they were going to arrange the furniture at the end of Week One but they had not considered what learning looking might look like and sound like in their space.

Following the role play, Katie and Clive unpacked this experience with the children. The children responded to a range of statements and questions as part of a chalk talk. For example: Who is responsible for making sure we learn? As a result of this experience and the follow-up conversations, the children were able to explain how they manage themselves during lunch times and in different ways at home. Clive and Katie co-constructed with the children what the literacy learning would look in their space.

The children all wrote a recount about this experience. It was clear to see from their writing that they did not enjoy learning this way!


“The teachers wanted to make the point that we could manage our own learning.”
Year Six child.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Block Classroom

We started the year with our own version of ‘The Block’ television show!  When the children arrived at school on the first day of Term One, they noticed signs saying 'The Block Classroom'. The furniture was stacked in the corners of the classrooms and the walls were empty. Our goal was to empower the children to be part of the decision making process as they created their learning spaces and established a culture of learning. This was to ensure the children felt a sense of ownership and belonging in their learning environment. The children completed application forms and watched 'Episode 1' of 'The Block Classroom'. Each class was then set the challenge of creating their learning space.


'The Block Classroom' was a huge success! It was the perfect motivation for the children to ‘build’ their own learning space and begin to establish a culture of learning. It allowed the children to have ownership of their learning community because they were empowered to make the decisions. They made decisions about which furniture to use and how to arrange it. In some classes the children decided not to have set desks or enough seats at desks/tables for every child. They created different zones, including quiet zones and spaces where could work uninterrupted. They decided what and where their learning displays should feature on the walls.  The children were involved in the organisation of resources and equipment.  The children named their learning spaces and designed class logos that reflected their learning community.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sixtus Lodge Presentation

We had a staff retreat at Sixtus Lodge for our Teacher Only Days at the beginning of 2016. We shared a presentation about the Future Focussed Education objectives in our Annual Plan. The presentation allowed us to share some initial ideas with the staff about what we would be exploring in 2015. At the start of the presentation we acknowledged the things that we are already doing across the school to help prepare children for an ever changing world. We also took this opportunity to explain that we have been exploring some of these ideas in the Senior Syndicate since 2010, before there was any mention of 'modern learning environments'.