Posted in Criterion 2, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 5, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

Can we truly personalise learning?

I have a dream! A vision of learners who are excited to come to school and learn because they have chosen what they will learn about and how they will do it. Their learning is totally personalised.

If I was at school today I would want to learn how to form a rock band, write and record songs, plan a tour and a marketing campaign. To do this I would choose music, English, business studies, design technology, fabrics (costumes are important!) and maths – eek!

How cool would it be to do subjects that you could see were totally relevant to what you wanted to do in life?! I realise that this is not an original dream or vision and that there are many schools already achieving this to some extent. But I feel like I can almost taste it, that it is just around the corner…but how do we get there?


What is Personalised Learning?

Recently I decided to do some research into what personalised learning is and how it actually happens. According to The Glossary of Education Reform website:

The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. 

A range of strategies and methods are employed to personalise the learning of each student. These strategies and methods include developing strong relationships with learners; mentoring; differentiated learning; creating learning portfolios; including student voice; passion projects; and inquiry based learning.

I was surprised to realise that many schools already offer a range of these strategies and methods. We are on the way to realising the grand vision!


What do we already do?
In the English faculty at Whangaparaoa College, many of us use Project Based Learning as a teaching and learning style which gives our learners choice and voice. With our junior classes we add a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix in which learners collaborate to choose activities and then present their learning in a visually appealing format of their choice. This could be a slide show, a video, or a website.

Many of us gamify our junior classes by using Class Dojo or Classcraft to provide competition and motivation. Some teachers also create podcasts that are used to flip the learning so that learners can choose when they engage with the information they need.

We have a Creative Writing group which is run at lunch time for those who enjoy writing. These learners can choose to complete the internally assessed writing standard at either level 1 or level 3 as these are not part of the English programme. We also have a choice of English course at level 2 and 3. At level 2 learners can choose either a literacy heavy reading and writing course or the viewing and presenting course which is focussed on visual texts and a speech. At level 3, learners can choose a literacy course to catch up on missed literacy credits or the mainstream English course offering the usual subjects.


As a school, we offer Academic Counselling instead of form classes or tutor groups. Academic Counselling is focussed on goal setting and reflection, creating digital learner portfolios, and preparation for the Learner Led Conference held in the middle of the year. The Academic Counsellor mentors each learner in their group by offering support and guidance. They will contact home and the learners’ teachers when necessary to advocate for their learner.

The Social Science faculty offer social projects where learners identify a social issue and plan a campaign to help. Recently a couple of our learners were on television and interviewed by John Campbell about the issue they had chosen. Our PE department have a Sports Institute that learners apply to become involved in and this has proven to be very successful.

Cross disciplinary personalised learning opportunities?

We have made a solid start towards the dream but I wonder about the following:

1. How do we move from where we are now to a cross disciplinary approach?
2. How might we involve the community?
3. How might we incorporate and value diversity?

The Heads of Learning at Whangaparaoa College have begun to meet regularly and we discussed personalised learning recently. We have created a spreadsheet and each added a page detailing what topics our faculty will be covering each term. We then looked at each other’s pages and identified areas where we could work together. For example, when year 9 social studies are investigating political systems they could write a descriptive piece for English based on a dystopian setting. It’s only small steps but its a start.

To really achieve the dream of truly personalised learning it is going to take a massive disruption to schooling as we know it. Timetables will have to go; faculty silos will have to go; year levels will have to go and that’s just the beginning!


I’m up for it, are you?




Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Standard 3, Standard 4, Teacher Registration

Year 9 Priority Learner Progress

Have I seen any improvement in the learning/behaviour of my PLs so far this year?

I have 9 priority learners in my year 9 English class, there were 11 but 2 have been moved to a different class. They comprise of a mixture of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha learners whose curriculum level ability range from level 2 to 4. I have definitely seen an improvement in the behaviour of this group this year. One of my learners was very disrespectful at the beginning of the year and now we have a positive relationship. They are all completing their learning and four out of nine have passed their first common assessment test. Four did not submit the test and one failed.

Explain the possible reasons for this. What did I do that worked/didn’t work?

I am happy that four learners passed their assessment and I attribute this to the task they were given which was well scaffolded and easy to understand. I have also developed positive relationships with these learners and have given regular feedback/feedforward on their learning. Using Google Classroom has been effective as it means that I can check on what learners are doing by looking at their document in the Classroom folder in Google Drive.

I am disappointed that so many learners did not submit their assessment even though they had completed some of it and I had seen it. I sent a letter home to these learners and did receive some supportive replies from parents who said that their child would complete the assessment and send it to me but only one of these did this. The learner that did submit their learning achieved well.

Where to next?

I have been doing some reading about how to help Maori/Pasifika learners to achieve and, as these strategies will work for all learners, I will apply some of these principles. I will focus on teaching until my learners understand as I sometimes can get impatient and not do this.



Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 8, Teacher Registration

Priority Learners


As a department we have identified our priority learners and are doing the following to help:

1. Discussing the learning with them on a 1:1 basis to ensure that they understand tasks.

2. Give regular feedback and feed forward.

3. Setting small, achievable goals each lesson.

4. Providing audiobooks where appropriate.

5. Consistently reinforcing basic classroom expectations.

6. Providing plenty of encouragement.

7. Monitoring the use of devices.

8. Communicating with the whanau when necessary.

9. Differentiating and scaffolding activities.

10. Buddying with more able learners.

We have noticed improvements in many of our learners: 

1. Learners do not feel afraid to ask questions when they have the 1:1 conferencing. 

2. When they understand the task they are more likely to stay on task and complete the learning.

3. Relationships with our priority learners have improved because they feel respected and valued.


Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Professional Development, Teaching As Inquiry

Gamification and Assessment


The research topic area that will be addressed is the impact of gamification on assessment results. In the reading that I have completed there is much evidence of improved engagement and motivation when game based learning and gamification are utilised in the classroom. “On the one side, experiment qualitative analysis suggests that gamification can have a great emotional and social impact on students, as reward systems and competitive social mechanisms seem to be motivating for them…” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391). However, there is not much evidence to prove that these strategies improve higher order thinking. “…On the other hand, researchers have indicated that merely accessing learning content via playing games might not be sufficient to engage students in higher order thinking, such as analysis, evaluation, organization and creation.” (Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S., 2014, p. 130).

I have a very weak year 9 English class who have written essays that have not gained many marks higher than Not Achieved or Achieved. Higher order thinking is necessary for higher grades. I am hoping that the use of the game, Classcraft, will help provide motivation to improve engagement and the effort required to improve essay results. Classcraft is a gamification website in which learners complete their learning in groups that are set up by the teacher. Each learner can set up their own profile and choose to be a Mage, a Healer or a Warrior.

Points are rewarded based on the behaviours that the teacher wants to encourage. I have created a list based on the Key Competences and 21st Century skills.  In a study of the use of 1:1 devices to improve maths achievement it was found that, “…the use of 1:1 mobile devices showed promise to assist students in 21st-century learning skills…“ (Carr, 2011, p. 278).  One way of encouraging these skills is through gamification and rewarding their use with points. Points can be deducted for being late to class, not handing in an assignment and disrupting the class. Essentially Classcraft is a behaviour modification tool which extrinsically motivates learners to engage, work collaboratively and be motivated to learn. If getting a better result is about engagement, motivation and more effort then the use of Classcraft will be worthwhile. However, I have read that gamification is not successful for all learners, so it will be interesting to see whether it does lead to consistent engagement for all. “These good results don’t happen for everyone though… In some cases the system was even discouraging, as some students don’t find it fun to compete with their classmates for a rank in the leaderboard.” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391).

21st century skills graphic


  • How might the use of Classcraft increase engagement, motivation and lead to improved essay writing results?
  • How might extrinsic motivation lead to consistent engagement and improve the results of less motivated learners?


  • Tino Rangatiratanga: The Principle of Self Determination

The skills rewarded in Classcraft that relate to this principle are persistence, managing self, and participating and contributing. These are the skills that are needed for self-determination and independence. Points will be rewarded for using initiative and learning independently.

  • Whanau: The Principle of Extended Family Structure

Classcraft encourages family involvement by providing a parent code for each learner so that the whanau can see how well their young person is doing. The data and evidence will also be shared with the whanau and they will be invited to respond and share any feedback they may have.

  • Ata: The Principle of Growing Respectful Relationships

Learners will play Classcraft in teams which will require respect, effort and energy, and discipline. Points will be rewarded for interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Mahi Kotahitanga: Co-operation

Learners will co-operate and consider each other as they learn and play. Points will be rewarded for participating and contributing, interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Ngakau Mahaki: Respect

This is a core value of Whangaparaoa College where learners are expected to respect themselves, each other and the environment. Points will be rewarded for respecting and understanding cultural diversity.


The communities that I will be engaging with in this project are my Year 9 learners, the staff in my department, and the whanau.   It is hoped that my Year 9 learners will see this as fun and therefore want to put in more effort to gain points and level up. They are mostly quite weak learners whom I have had difficulty engaging and motivating, especially with using their devices. They have mostly preferred to use pen and paper and a few learners did not bring their devices to school until they could see that many of their classmates were enjoying making websites to showcase their learning. From previous experience at Orewa College, I know that using devices is a key to better quality writing, especially among less able learners as they do not see it as such a chore and happily write 500 words in an essay where previously they struggled to write 200 words on pen and paper.  It is hoped that by teaching these learners to become more confident in using their devices effectively by participating in Classcraft,  that this will lead to better quality writing.

Secondly, I will also keep the staff in my department informed about what we are doing in the hope that if this is successful they may adopt Classcraft as a strategy to help their learners.  Many of my department have had limited experience with using technology to enable their pedagogy but they are mostly interested in how to do this. Showing improved results and the results of a Learner Attitude survey at a Curriculum meeting will help to prove the validity of gamification to those members of the department that are sceptical. I will invite those that are interested to come and watch how I use Classcraft with my learners.

Thirdly, Classcraft has a parent code for each participant so those parents who are interested will be able to see the progress of their son/daughter and encourage them in the game. This will enable parents to see firsthand what we are doing in class so that they don’t think we are playing games that don’t add value to learning.


I have data from the essays that were written in Term 1 which I will compare with the results from the essays written in Term 2. This data will show whether there has been improvement or not. I will observe my class and their interactions with the each other to see if they are talking about their learning, gaining points and taking steps to gain those points. During the term I will ask my class to complete a Google Form which surveys their attitudes to Classcraft and their learning in this manner.


I discussed this project with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, and explained it to her and then asked for her opinion. Check out the video of her response:

One of the things Lisa suggested was to have points rewarded for progress along the way and the final product at the end so I have added in 3 new categories for receiving points. I think this is a good idea and I have made the point value quite high so that my less motivated learners will think that the task is worthwhile.

Lisa also suggested asking a group of learners their opinion on my plan. I haven’t done this as I had already started the game before our discussion but this is something that I will do in the future. However, I will ask them about the kinds of rewards and prizes they would like though as I do value their voice and would like them to take ownership with me.

I asked Lisa whether she thought other teachers might be interested in implementing Classcraft and she offered some useful ideas on how to share what I will do. Sharing what I am doing and the results from it will be the best strategy as having some examples and proof of effectiveness would be more convincing than just saying that learners are engaged.

The issue of learners doing the bare minimum to get points and not necessarily doing the required learning was something that I had not thought about so having this feedback from Lisa helped me think about ways to prevent this. Her idea of rewarding milestones along the way is one that I will implement.


The potential impact of the inclusion of Classcraft with my Year 9 class is that their essay writing results will improve through the extrinsic motivation of gamification because they will be rewarded for skills such as TRUMP, collaboration, problem solving, innovation, adaptability and other 21st Century skills. This will hopefully ingrain these skills into their mode of operating and will be carried over into all aspects of their learning in other curriculum areas. I believe that TRUMP and 21st Skills are essential skills for a successful career and life.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 1.38.16 PM

I am excited about this because I have been looking for a away to reward these skills for some time now and Classcraft seems to be a great vehicle for this. If the use of Classcraft is successful with my Year 9 learners then I will consider using it in my other classes. I’m not sure whether it will be as effective with senior classes as it seems to be aimed at younger learners but I could try it and see.

If this inquiry is successful it could be used by many other teachers to encourage and reward TRUMP and 21st century skills which are important for our learners’ futures as many report that the jobs our learners will do haven’t been created yet. Therefore, having these skills and being able to adapt to future environments is of utmost importance.


  • Assessing the relevance of my project

To assess the relevance of my project I will discuss it with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, to gain feedback on what she thinks will benefit our learners and what other aspects I need to consider. I will also discuss it with members of my department to explain what I am doing and to get their feedback on how they think it will work.

  • Gathering the data/evidence

I will record the results from 2 essays that will be written in Term 2. These results will be compared with the Term 1 results to see whether improvement has been made. A survey of learner attitudes to using Classcraft will be completed using a Google Form and I will used the chart making part of this app to collate the data. I want to find out whether my learners found Classcraft enjoyable, helpful and motivating. This should show me whether there were any learners who did not find it engaging and motivating and the reasons why.

  • Sharing the data/evidence with relevant parties

Once my Year 9’s have completed 2 essays I will compare the results to the Term 1 essay results and then share this data with my class. The purpose of this will be to show them their improved results and explain how Classcraft was instrumental in helping them to gain these improved results. I will explain that TRUMP and 21st century skills are essential for success and tell them that these are the skills they were rewarded for. Because they demonstrated these skills, their results were improved.

The results and the data from the learner survey will also be shared with my department and Lisa White so that they are able to see the success of Classcraft in improving learner engagement, motivation and essay writing results. This may inspire them to try Classcraft with their own learners. Results and data could also be shared with parents in an email which would explain the whole inquiry. I would invite their feedback to reflect upon and consider for future use of Classcraft.


  1. Smith, G.H. (1990) Principles of Kaupapa Maori. Retrieved from
  2. Te Noho Kotahitanga (n.d.) Retreived from
  3. Carr, J. M. (2011). Does Math Achievement. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11, 269–286. Retrieved from
  4. Dominguez, A., Saenz-De-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers and Education, 63, 380–392.
  5. Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S. (2014). Improving learning achievements, motivations and problem-solving skills through a peer assessment-based game development approach. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(2), 129–145.
  6. VG Business (2010) Amazing Statistics. Retrieved from:
Posted in Criterion 4, Criterion 8, Mindlab reflections, Professional Development

An engaging, collaborative, creative and challenging education.

On Saturday I went to my first Mindlab session which I really enjoyed. It was great to meet like-minded people and also to think about and discuss what knowledge is. I love that our first reflection is about our own experiences. The topic is to reflect on how your understanding of the purpose of education is visible in your classroom. To fully discuss this topic I have broken it down into 2 areas:

  1. What is my understanding of the purpose of education?

The purpose of education is to help learners discover knowledge and meaning, to not just know something but to actually understand it and be able to apply it in other areas of their lives. There are 3 ways that I believe are important in enabling this lofty goal to happen.

  • Education must be fun and engaging.
  • It should be collaborative, creative, challenging, involve critical thinking and problem solving,
  • Positive and respectful relationships with, and between, learners is essential.

2. How is this understanding visible in my classroom?

  • One way education can be fun and engaging is to play Kahoots with my classes at the end of a lesson. I am yet to meet a class that does not enjoy this. For year 10 revision this term, students worked in pairs to create their own Kahoots which the class then played.


  • Group work or social learning is a staple in my classes. I often ask the class to work in groups to complete a project based learning inquiry or a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix. Each student is assigned a task so that no-one can freeload. PBL encourages collaboration, critical thinking and creativity in the way that the project is presented. Sometimes I ban the use of staples like Keynote and Pages to encourage more creativity.
  • I often put learners in charge of their learning by flipping the classroom. This does not always mean them watching a video before coming to class but instead is more about all the tasks being available on our LMS and students working through at their own pace with me as the ‘guide on the side’. This has helped me to develop good relationships with my students because I am talking to them, not at them. I keep the ‘chalk and talk’ to a minimum unless really necessary which it sometimes is.
  • My learning space is a colourful and welcoming environment. I am fortunate enough to have a whiteboard table, colourful tables and splats. I also have couches and beanbags and colourful posters. My students love this and often comment about how nice the class is to come to. I also play music while they are working which creates a relaxed environment. I have Spotify so that I can create playlists or students can choose songs that they like –  within reason! Consequently my class is not often silent but filled with chatter and laughter. I used to think that they were off task but when I checked, they weren’t! Well, some were but not many!



Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 2, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Personal TAI, Student Achievement Analysis

Personalised Revision

The Revision Plan

This year for revision for my middle school classes I created a revision multitouch book with text notes, essay writing instructions, and activities. Each activity is labelled with the level of thinking required – gathering, processing or applying.

The goal was for students to choose what they would like to work on each period and my role was to check their work, give feedback and answer questions. This means their revision was personalised and they revised what they needed to revise not what I thought the whole class should have done each period.

Once introduced, students spent most of the first lesson looking through the book and then selecting which activities they would do. Many students didn’t really understand that they were in charge of their learning so I had to explain it again to those who were struggling with the concept.

I woke in the middle of one night and had a small inspiration to extend some of my students – as you do! Many of my students have Macbooks so I thought that they could create their own personalised multitouch revision books. I wrote the task the next day and students now have the option of doing this if they want to. It’s all about personalisation and choice!


At the end of the second lesson I noticed that some students were spending a lot of time completing the gathering activities but not moving on to the hard graft of essay planning and writing. To deal with this I challenged the class to write one essay per week in the 4 weeks before the exam.  When and where they wrote each essay was up to them but every Tuesday I would be looking for essays to mark and give feedback on. The reactions on their faces was priceless! Shock and horror! But I told them that they would thank me when they got their exam results.

Once students had chosen their tasks and started working through them,they came into class and simply got on with their revision without any prompting from me. Each period I zoomed around the class on my roller chair and checked in with each student to see what they were working on and answered any questions.

Exam Results 

Year 10 Extension 2014/15 Comparison

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It is particularly pleasing to see the number of Excellences for the visual text almost double with this class because I tried a new way of teaching. Check out my blog post about this process.

The number of Excellences increased for the written text also but not to the same extent. We did PBL for our study of The Tempest and also a performance of the play so inquiry based learning definitely played a part in the results being good for this unit of work.

Year 10 2014/15 Comparison

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The visual text results for my mainstream class were slightly worse than last year’s. I think this is because the unit of work was not inquiry based but instead involved a list of tasks to work through. I did this because the class needed more structure. Students were able to work at their own pace with me as the ‘guide on the side’ but I would not do this again next year. I will go back to the PBL task that I used last year but provide more structure and feedback.

The written text results were slightly better this year with a slight increase in Merits and Excellences. This year the class completed a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix which they were very engaged with whereas last year’s class completed a PBL without the matrix.

Students Reflections

I handed the class back their exam results and then asked them to reflect by answering these questions:


Reflecting on these questions helped students to see what they need to do to improve for NCEA next year. It also helped reinforce the connection between robust revision and good results.

I also asked them to say whether they thought they had received enough support from me while revising. Most replied that they did have enough support apart from one student who said that she did have some support but not the kind of support that she needed. She wanted me to explain how to write an essay in detail to the class. She also said that not everyone learns the same way and that she wished that I had taught essay writing instead of just having powerpoints to follow in the iBook.

I think that she makes a fair point and I could offer essay writing tutorials to small groups in class time, if needed. I have done this in the past but forgot to do it through this process.

Final Thoughts

The results from my extension class prove that giving students agency to complete inquiry based learning does improve results! Having them create knowledge to demonstrate their understanding of content was a successful experiment that I will repeat again.

I have discovered that, with a ‘normal’ class, PBL needs to be combined with the structure of a learning matrix. This helps students to stay focussed and engaged but they are still able to have some agency in their learning and create knowledge also.

As Mark Osborne says,

“…sustained higher achievement is possible when teachers use pedagogical approaches that enable students to take charge of their own learning. Such approaches do not leave students ‘to discover’ in an unstructured environment. Rather, they are highly structured in supporting student agency and sustained thoughtful engagement.”

Posted in Criterion 6, Criterion 8

Developing a Body Paragraph

At Orewa College we have recently finished our senior Practise Exams. I asked my students to reflect on how they did in their exams and also asked what they would find useful as a revision activity. A few students asked for help on how to develop a body paragraph. I teach PEEL (Point, Example, Explanation and Link) but the request got me thinking about what more I could do to help them.

What I have done previously:

After a bit of research and discussion with my colleague and friend, Althea White, I discovered some further ideas to incorporate:

  • Explain the point, explain the evidence, add and explain more evidence.
  • Include transitional phrases.
  • Refer back to the essay topic at the end of the paragraph.
  • Explain what human behaviour/nature is.
  • Include tips on what the marker will look for and what Excellence level thinking is.
  • Have a checklist to tick off each part of the body paragraph.

I have really enjoyed researching and thinking about how to do this and feel like I have learnt quite a lot. It has also affirmed what I was already doing as a good place to start.

Here are the presentations that I made:

 Level One

Level Two

Some helpful links that I found:

So hopefully this will help my students, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Personal TAI

Entering the Matrix

Over the past few weeks my Level 2 Viewing and Presenting class have been studying The Matrix(1999) directed by the Wachowskis. Students who choose to do Viewing and Presenting are typically students who find reading and writing a challenge so choose an option which focuses more on the visual aspects of English. This film study is an external standard so they will be sitting an exam at the end of the year.

The Plan

We viewed the film and then discussed the 2 main settings, the Matrix and the Real World. I did this to try and help the class understand the difference between what was real and what was computer generated. The class then completed a timeline of events from the film. I introduced an activity matrix to help students engage and undestand the various aspects of the film and provided an interactive ibook study guide for them to refer to. I created a planning document for students to keep a log of what they worked on each period. 

One of the themes in The Matrix is Fate vs Free Will. The computer programmed world of the Matrix is linked to Fate because everything is preplanned as it is a computer programme. The Real World is linked to Free Will because there are choices about the outcome of the future. I wanted my students to have free will when studying this film, choice about what activities they did and when they did them. The outcome was also their choice!

My intention was also to reduce the amount of time I spent at the front of the classroom and have my students create digital artifacts to demonstrate their understanding of the key aspects of the film. Their work would be published on their blogs.

What happened?

After 3 weeks on this unit, of which most of the class seemed to be happy and engaged, I introduced an essay and gave the class the option of working on their essay in class or continuing on their matrix activities. I gave due dates for both but they had the choice of what they would work on. I did this so that I could be available to help with the essay in class time as it was their first literature essay for the year.

After 3 weeks of checking their blogs, alarm bells began ringing. There was very little of their matrix work published. In class I had been roaming the class, asking if anyone needed help and giving it where needed. However, most didn’t seem to have completed anything fully. I asked them to begin posting their artifacts so that I could give them feedback but still very little work was posted. After the essay due date I checked theIr blogs again and only one third of the class had posted their essays. After threats of letters home and being kept in at lunch several more essays were posted but there were still 7 outstanding essays. I realised that social learning was a failure in this class. There was too much choice and not enough structure.


Where to next?

After much reflection, I made a few changes but I was still really keen to avoid chalk and talk so had to think creatively about how to move forward. This is what I tried:

1. I found some YouTube clips which analysed the themes, characters and symbolism in The Matrix. We watched these as a class and then had a class discussion after viewing.

My colleague, Mel Brown, found some research which found that students are more likely to absorb information from a  visual presentation than from simply listening to a teacher talking and I found that this was true. My students have repeated some of the video information back to me in later discussions. They also became more confident in completing their matrix activities. An article in Psychology Today supports this theory.

2. I created several Kahoot quizzes to test information given in the iBook study guide. The winner of each quiz received a chocolate bar. I reminded the class that I would be testing them on info from the study guide so that they could prepare but I don’t think many did. 

John Kleeman, a British software assessment writer, has researched the benefits of quizzes and explains it in his blog post, he emphasies the importance of feedback also.

Kahoot is great because you can see how many people got each question correct and then use this data to inform a later discussion or area to revise. Check out this post from Sam Gibson to find out more. The class really enjoyed the Kahoots and it did help their learning. As I was checking with a student what he was working on, I questioned whether he was familiar with the themes in the film and he replied that knew them because he learnt them from the Kahoot quiz.

3. I spent more time with small groups of students discussing ideas and also helping them get started on activities. A couple of students commented that the activities were too hard and that they weren’t smart enough. They complained that they had to think too much!

I had a conversation with one group and explained that in the past I had simply got students to copy notes from the whiteboard but that this method did not help them undertsand the content even though it may help them remember it. One student commmented that she liked copying notes but it was boring and that the way that we were learning was more interesting because if she didn’t know something she could look it up and find out for herself. 

4. I sent letters home informing the parents of those who have not been producing the required amount of work. Those parents will also be emailed just before our parent evening next term and invited to attend.

5. I gave the class a goal each period which was to publish at least one artifact. If they did not publish, I needed to see where they were up to and discuss when the artifact would be published.


Final Thoughts

These measures did result in an improvement in work ethic and helped me to realise that students who find the work challenging do need more structure. In the study guide there are Keynote presentations embedded with structured activities that I had initially planned to do before deciding to flip the class. I will do these instead of the learning matrix next time if I have a similar type of class as most of my students couldn’t cope with Free Will. Those students who are self motivated will have the option of working through the activities at their own pace as it is still important to differentiate and not let the ‘tail wag the dog’.

When I was on duty with a more experienced colleague we discussed the issue and she helped me to realise that it is great to have high expectations but it is also good to be realistic. A helpful way to go forward is to expect the work to be done and to expect students to work to their full potential. But sometimes, as some wise soul said, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.



Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Personal TAI, Student Achievement Analysis

An Unexpected Outcome

I have 2 year 10 English classes, one is an extension class but it is not this class that I am writing about today. I have just completed entering the grades for my mainstream year 10 class and have had a pleasant surprise – 10 Excellences for the visual text essay! This is unheard of for me, I would normally get 2 or 3, and it has led me to reflect on how this may have happened.

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What happened?

We viewed the film Little Miss Sunshine and close read 2 important scenes together. I then flipped the teaching and learning by making all tasks and activities available on our learning management system. Students then worked through the activities at their own pace. They published each artifact that they created on their blogs. At 2 points during the film study I gave due dates for 2 essays and provided flipped resources to help students write their essays.

Flipped Resources

All tasks and activities were on a powerpoint which also included explanations of key themes and terms. I provided an Explain Everything video and essay templates for the weaker students. I also made myself available during class at the Essay Help Desk, and at other times via email.


 Tasks and Activities

Explain Everything

Essay Templates

Checking out the data

  • I completed an informal survey to see what resources had been used and found that most students had used an essay template. 
  • I also had a quick discussion wth 2-3 students about the unit of work and they commented that they enjoyed being able to work at their own pace and choose what they wanted to work on and when. They seemed to think that I had taught them something! I did prepare resources but there was very little sage on the stage.
  • I questioned whether I had been a little generous in my marking so I looked in my Kamar markbook summary and found that 5 of the 10 excellence students have a GPA over 75 which means they are very capable students. The other students had helped each other or I had worked closely with them at my Essay Help Desk. 

So what worked well:

  1. The choice of film. Students love this film as the characters and their issues are easy to relate to and understand.
  2. Allowing students to choose what tasks they wanted to work on and when to work on them. I often had some students writing essays, some pimping out their blogs for our class competition and some creating artefacts to demonstrate understanding in the same lesson.
  3. Giving extra time to write the essay. In the past I have spent one period teaching essay writing or brainstorming and then made the essay homework to be handed in a week later. This time I did very little essay teaching and allowed a 2 week deadline. Students were also able to work on their essays in class time so that I was able to help them when needed, and they also were able to help each other. Many students actually identified and wrote about themes other than the ones explained in the resource.
  4. Making all resources available on line – including me! I did have one or two students email questions about their work to me and I was happy to reply at a time that suited me. One student is very reserved in class and she was the one who emailed me the most. It was great for her to be able to ask questions in a non-threatening environment.

Examples of Student Work

Have a look at the following student blogs to see how well they did:

Posted in Criterion 2, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Personal TAI

Flicking the Switch

There has been a lot of research into the reasons why boys are not as motivated and don’t achieve as well as girls. Even though this research has taken place and advice has been offered, there does not seem to be much change. Is this because it is too hard for teachers to make the changes that they need? Is the change in progress but we have not heard the success stories? I can’t answer these questions in this blog post so I have decided to see what changes I can make with my own male learners. The TED video below explains some modern influences on boys and why it may be harder to enagage and motivate them.

What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
I would like to investigate strategies that will help engage and motivate my male learners. I would like to think that this will lead to better results.

What strategies (evidence based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
This article , from Teachthought, gave me some helpful information and also affirmed some of the strategies that I already employ. Many of the ideas are covered in Project Based Learning which I am a staunch advocate of and have been doing for the past couple of years. PBL results in an end product, allows boys to address unsolved problems or questions, can encourage competition and teamwork, and includes independent discovery and realisation. The strategies that I now need to try are including games and competition.

Teaching and Learning

Video Games

My year 10 class have just finished watching Little Miss Sunshine and I asked the class to create a sequence of events. I deliberately made the task quite general to allow for choice and creativity. I banned the use of Keynote/PowerPoint to encourage my learners to try a new app. Some used Pages and used the shapes to make their page more visually appealing, some used PicCollage, some used pen and paper. A group of 4 boys asked whether they could used Minecraft and I immediately said yes. All of them downloaded and signed into the same Minecraft game and were fully engaged. They talked excitedly about who would do what and I even overheard one say that it was fun. This is the result:

Games and Competition
My Level 1 Internal class had a class quiz on film techniques. The class split into teams and got 100 points per correct answer and lost 50 points for an incorrect answer. The class were engaged and seemed to enjoy the quiz. I also used it to manage behaviour by deducting points for a team that had their devices out when they weren’t supposed too – bonus!

Another competition that I run is a blog competition to encourage my students to take pride in their blogs.

What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?

The result of incorporating video games and competition was higher engagement, motivation and enjoyment for my boys. However, it did take the boys a while to get into the blog competition because the girls seemed more motivated to make their blogs look pretty. I made it a boys only competition for one period and after this I have had more boys making an effort. These 3 activities were very successful and my goal is to continue to incorporate them into future learning opportunities. Any time that students say that learning is fun is always a good time for me as well as for them.


 Reading and Viewing