Thursday, November 23, 2017

I believed !

As a visual learner I have often been attracted to visual quotes and slogans.
As we head into the crazy season for teachers where deadlines and paperwork take over and we often wonder why we wanted to be a teacher - I thought I would share some of my favourites.

Well done for surviving another busy long  year - Hang on in there for a few more weeks.
AND Remember together we make a difference for our tamariki.

To my Manaiakalani colleagues I thank you for sharing the journey with me.
To my incredible colleagues at Sommerville, I thank you for the passion and dedication you put into each day with our special kids.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Language and learning disorders

Learning disabilities are believed to be closely related to a past history of developmental language disorders. Learning disabilities are concerned with abnormal development of verbal and/or written expression and reception. Therefore, the early detection of these disabilities prevents later educational and social consequences.

Check out this very interesting article

Developmental Milestones in Normal Language Acquisition

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Inquiry - My story so far.

Alternative Assessments for Students with Additional needs.

As part of my on going Inquiry into appropriate assessment tools to use with students who have additional needs I have investigated the following tools.


 (cost to purchase or may be available RTLB)

I have tried these assessments with a range of students at Sommerville special school and several students within the Manaiakalani schools.
These assessments have given more detailed assessment information for students who can not be assessed using standardised school assessments.

Narrative assessment, Expanded Framework and Bracken - school readiness are all recognised assessment with the Ministry of Education. These assessments cater for students with very complex learning needs.

The Developmental Writing scale and Developmental Spelling assessment were recommended by 


Dr Sally Clendon PhD Univ North Carolina Chapel Hill

Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy, Massey University NZ.

I have found that these assessments are very informative for establishing what the  student  can do  and what their next learning steps should be.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like some more information.

Raising Student Achievement Throught Targeted Action

How do I know that the programmes , professional development are making a difference?

When making changes within a school around curriculum development , assessment and student achievement I think we need to look at four important areas:

  • What do our students need, what we doing for our students?
  • What do our teachers need, what are we doing to help our teachers?
  • How are we supporting our Whanau to be on this learning journey with us?
  • What is our assessment data telling us?

I am responsible for Literacy and Numeracy across Sommerville Special School, including arranging professional development and gathering school wide data.

I wanted to review  what actions we are taking and who was responsible for what areas. This has proved to be very insightful and allowed my to review and plan for the future. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Visual strategies for learning

What skills do our students need to be capable confident members of society?

Sometimes I think we get so tied up in student achievement and measuring their progress we run out of time for some very important skills and learning opportunities.

As a successful learner we need skills to relate or others and manage our own behaviours - The Key Competencies are a vital part of our NZ Curriculum. They should be incorporated into every aspect of our class programme.

Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC)

Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.

AAC includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking. We all use forms of AAC every day. You use AAC when you use facial expressions or gestures instead of talking. You use AAC when you write a note and pass it to a friend or coworker. We may not realise how often we communicate without talking.  
People with speech or language difficulties may need AAC to help them communicate. Some may use it all of the time. Others may say some words but use AAC for longer sentences or with people they don’t know well. AAC can help in school, at work, and when talking with friends and family.  

Types of AAC

Do any of your students have difficulty talking? There are options that might help. There are two main types of AAC—unaided systems and aided systems. You may use one or both types. Most people who use AAC use a combination of AAC types to communicate.  

Unaided Systems  

You do not need anything but your own body to use unaided systems. These include gestures, body language, facial expressions, and sign language.  

Aided Systems 

An aided system uses some sort of tool or device. There are two types of aided systems—basic and high-tech. A pen and paper is a basic aided system. Pointing to letters, words, or pictures on a board is a basic aided system. Touching letters or pictures on a computer screen that speaks for you is a high-tech aided system, some systems have voice output.

New Zealand Sign Language

Alternative assessment - Bracken School Readiness Assessment



Developed by early childhood experts, this readiness assessments help you evaluate early literacy, language, and academic skills to determine whether kids are on track for school success, and enable you to identify youngsters for whom early intervention may be appropriate.

I have been carrying out this assessment on a range of students who have additional needs. The RTLB service use this assessment as part of their screening criteria for High Learning Needs support for students who can not successfully complete standardised test eg JAM, Running Records etc.

I have found this assessment very useful for students with communication needs. As the resource provides visuals to use for the assessment students who have limited oral language can point to the correct answer, this allows me to assess their knowledge without restricting them due to their verbal output.

Several of our students at Sommerville use AAC Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) as a way of communicating with others. This assessment allowed me to assess their early maths and literacy skills including alphabet, colours, concepts of size and shape etc.

With two students it allowed us to create a whole new maths programme for these students as we have a better understanding of their knowledge and what their next learning steps should be.

For two other students who are completely non verbal, they could demonstrate their knowledge through using their AAC and pointing , where other assessments have been to complex or frustration for the student.


I would like to take the visual principles and easy access of this assessment resource and adapt other assessments we use better meet the needs of our students.

Whanua involvement in the learning journey.

Sommerville school held an EXPO on Saturday 28th October , where we offered our families an opportunity to come along to school for an information day.
We had community organisations  run information sessions on relevant topics for our families included : Medical concerns, behaviour management , special needs funding etc.

We provided supervision and entertainment for their child ,while families/adults attended the information sessions. This was the fabulous idea of our Principal Diane Hankins. Our families are already asking about next year's Expo and offering ideas and suggestions for what they would like more information on.

I ran an hours session on how families can support the learning of their children at home.
My focus was to show families how they can get involved in fun, engaging ways that are enjoyable for everyone - adult and child.

Here is an example of some of the slides I presented.
Our parents are very keen to be involved in their child's learning, we just need to show them some ways of making it appropriate for their child in their home environment.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Manaiakalani Outreach Wananga Sharing time

Spreading the Word

Today I had the opportunity to attend part of the 2nd annual Wananga with our Manaiakalani Principals, Outreach Principals, Researchers and School Leaders.
It is so exciting to hear the successes and pedagogy of Manaiakalani Glen Innes are going to be duplicated in even more areas of NZ.

I had the opportunity to share my Inquiry :
Will using fine-grained assessments improve teacher capacity for setting appropriate goals for students who fail to register on standardised tests?

As we head into testing and data collecting time - it's a good time to reflect on the information our assessments give us. A fail or not achieved results tells us what they can't do , we need to know what they can do to help plan our next teaching steps and to have baseline data.
We need to be able to identify the fine grained progress of all our students even ones with complex learning needs.
Lets celebrate progress no matter how small! Every step is a move in the right direction!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Working Noise levels

Recently I have been asked about how to help students understand about appropriate  working noise levels in the classroom.
Some of these visual charts may be helpful when teaching your students about appropriate noise levels in the classroom.
While oral language is a priority in our classrooms,  noisy chitter chat can be distracting for our learners.
Noise levels can be a problem with open-plan classrooms, especially the high noise levels coming from the other classes sharing the same space. This is particularly problematic when a class is trying to engage in critical listening activities where it is essential that the children can hear the new concepts they are being taught.

We must remember that during the learning situation in a classroom, the student is submitted to two different types of stimuli: the main one that is the teacher's voice or main student sharing and that is the one the student must direct all his attention to; and the secondary one that is the competitive noise and that the student must be able to neglect it in order to allow the main message not to be distorted. This can be a challenge for everyone but particularly for students with processing or communication difficulties. 

If you would like a copy or some help please get in touch.

Supporting our Colleagues - Sharing

What am I learning ?

We have been focusing on how we can share our Learning Intentions with our students.
Students with special learning needs often need visual representation to help them remember their goals and targets or the strategies they need to learning.
Check out some of the examples from my fabulous colleagues at Sommerville.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Managing self

Our students need to learn a range of skills and abilities to help them to do well in life. A very important key competency is managing their own behaviour.
Some of our students struggle with managing themselves when something goes wrong. We need to teach them some strategies to cope.
Here are a few visual strategies we use with our students.
We personalise these to suit the individual needs of each student.
The student needs to be taught how to use these strategies before they are upset and need them.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like copies or some ideas.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Language is a vital part of communication

How can we support oral learning and development:

ERO publishes evaluation reports - there report on language say:

  giving greater attention to oral language learning of new entrants within a rich curriculum
  developing formal expectations for monitoring oral language progress or development across               Years 1 to 3 and beyond, across all key learning areas
taking a formalised approach to identifying students’ oral language strengths (including       capabilities in languages other than English), needs and concerns, rather than relying on           informal observation and ‘gut feeling’
systematically planning for interventions, where particular concerns or needs for oral language learning and development are identified
 teachers building on the advantage linguistically diverse learners bring to language learning
building and strengthening teacher capability to support oral language teaching and learning.

What can we be doing in our classrooms daily to support our students? 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Leading Change - What are our priorities?

I had the opportunity to listen to Bek Galloway present on "Leading my team".
Bex talked about having a clear vision and purpose then everything you do should then work towards that goal.

She has a great visual that resonates with me.  
I think all teachers need to take stock of our class programmes and visions to ensure we are doing what we need to do.

As term four begins and we are all reflecting we need to think about our students needs.
What parts of my programme , plans do we need to Start, Stop, Limit and Continue for my vision to be a priority.

I think as a teacher all the demands placed on us sometimes distract us from our key task - Educating our students to the best  of our ability to ensure they achieve the most they possibly can !

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The right assessment for the right purpose.

In education, the term assessment refers to the wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.

Educators should use a diverse array of assessment tools ,and methods to measure/assess our students. Assessments have different functions - assessments are typically designed to measure specific elements of learning—e.g., the level of knowledge a student already has about the concept or skill the teacher is planning to teach , or what they have learnt from recent learning opportunities.  Ideally, assessments  are used to identify individual student weaknesses and strengths so that educators can provide the most appropriate educational programmes. 

Are we using the right assessments to give us the most relevant information on our students to help us provide the most appropriate educational programmes? 

Do our students know what we want them to do, and how to do it ?

Are we  doing too much testing and not  enough teaching?
Everytime we ask a student a questions it is a form of testing, unless we have already given lots of input first.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time to reflect

Time to reflect.

I had the opportunity to attend the APPA Leadership conference this week.
I attended Bek Galloway's workshop.
Thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and she has left me with lots to ponder.

Firstly, it confirmed my strong belief that teachers should be constantly learning and reflecting and our Teacher Inquiries give us a structure to this.

Bek talked about a Learning Culture Space.
The power of student focused learning and a curriculum that supports this.

Time to Reflect and Refocus.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Next Generation

Tony Ryan Educational consultant spoke at the APPA conference about the future of the next generation.
What skills will we need?


Are we preparing our students for the future? What can we do as educators ?
There seems to be a common  theme from several presenters today  around the importance of the
  Key Competencies.
How do we increase the inclusion of the important competencies in our daily class programmes.

Tony Ryan also talked about the vital skill for our future being  Oracy.
This is a major concern considering the low levels of our students oral language skills.
Tony suggested we teach our students about how to self-talk, the beginning of thinking our thoughts through and problem solving.
Thanks Tony lots to consider.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A common theme - our students' language.

Manaiakalani Boards' Forum

At the BOT forum tonight 6 Col teachers presented their Inquiries. Well done to our presenters you were very informative.

Common theme: - The limited oral language and vocabulary of our students.
Each COL teacher presented on their Achievement challenge - everyone of us talked about how our Inquiries had lead us to realise that our students language levels were significantly impacting their progress across all curriculum areas.

Raising achievement in Maths - students did not understand the maths vocabulary
or could not follow instructions with positional concepts.

Lift the achievement for boys' writing -  students do not have  the vocab to describe and explain.

Lift the achievement in Reading for all students, - students need the confidence and language to share their ideas and the language vocabulary to understand what they are reading.

Here is the next challenge team - how do we accelerate our students language skills?

Watch out for some exciting professional development Sommerville will be offering next term.                            

Update on my Inquiry.


I had the opportunity to present to the BOT from Manaiakalani school tonight.
This was a great opportunity for me to reflect on what i have been up to.

Monday, August 28, 2017

HUI - Sharing

Sharing Our Inquiries

What a great afternoon of sharing and learning.
I was so impressed with the creative ways the COL teachers displayed their Inquiries - Well done team.

I realised that I need to be talking more to my colleagues about alternative assessments that may give a more detailed picture of our students with additional needs. I was surprised by the number of teachers who were unaware of any other assessments to  possibly use on students who failed the mainstream assessments.

I  have exciting work ahead!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Numbers Talk

Oral Language and a rich vocabulary 
- the key to successful learning.

The Numbers really do matter!

Reading mileage and Reading at home really does stack up!

As a teacher we need to find ways to create links and build language - this will help achievement in all curriculum areas.