Friday, 29 September 2017

Week 9
The Literacy Plan has been presented to Departments and was well received. The focus for the plan is the Term 4 Jump Start programme which offers Year 10 an opportunity to complete their first unit in Achievement Standards. Staff across the school have indicated a willingness to develop their understanding of student literacy needs.

The plan responded to the examiners’ NCEA reports and used the PAT reading data analysis to highlight student learning needs. The examiners repeatedly stated that in the assessment tasks, students often seem unable to comprehend the questions and we know our students often have lower than average vocabulary levels. We also know our students need to strengthen their clarification skills when their understanding or comprehension breaks down. As a result teachers will expand their use of targeted vocabulary teaching exercises. They will also help students develop their clarification skills so they can repair a breakdown in comprehension when it occurs.

Term 4 is a short term and each Department is working on a single Achievement Standard  so there is the opportunity to look at using a generic reading strategy. It is up to each Department but, there will be a focus on the use of information transferes as a generic aid to improving comprehension. By using this strategy students develop the habit of rereading the the text, they develop awareness of text structure and at the same time set a goal for each reading task. Lastly, teachers will be asked to teach students how to recognize a few aspects of subject specific language features. This will be done to improve student writing skills but this will also help student comprehension. For example, developing awareness of model adjuncts can help students distinguish fact from opinion and it also aids student writing by showing them how to express their ideas in a formal manner.

A major challenge involved working out what to leave out of the plan. The Term 4 plan needed to be manageable so the intention is to extend this initiative into 2018. Alongside the teaching of vocabulary learning skills the plan also asks teachers to develop the ability to use reciprocal teaching strategies to improve student comprehension. In writing, the aim is to expand teacher use of functional grammar strategies as a way to improve the quality of student written work. The plan also requires class observations before and after the initiative. This will be done in order to assess staff professional development needs and also to guage student use of literacy strategies and the uptake of literacy skills.

Friday, 22 September 2017

August  2017 Newsletter #4

Literacy at Tamaki College

Carved in Stone edition
Autun Cathedral

The medieval church had many challenges but the low literacy rate was a major issue in the general population. The use of elaborate stone reliefs depicting the stories found in the gospel was one way of addressing this problem. Supposedly,  illiterate pilgrims having heard the birth narrative could then recognize the events depicted in this version of the Flight into Egypt. Much of the carved images of the period were found in the Gothic Cathedrals, and although the term Gothic suggests darkness and shadow, they were designed to inspire, by teaching the populous the stories found in scripture. Often the message in the great buildings, the stained glass, and in the carvings was implicit or wordless. Awe was just as important as the words.

When we analyse student scripts from the asTTle explanation writing test we note that many students write long run on sentences. We also note that many of their paragraphs lack structure because they contain two or more ideas randomly placed in a panicky stream of consciousness. Theme and rhemes offer a way to help students order their sentences.  

Finding strategies which directly help students improve the structure of their sentence and paragraph writing is difficult. One method used to achieve this is the teaching of the theme and rheme.  To do this we make explicit the way we link information within sentences and between sentences. The theme is the given information or the topic, in this case, the Holy Family. But the focus of the sentence is the new information -the flight into Egypt -and it is added to the old information.

1). A Functional approach to teaching sentence structure

A subject-based language approach to reading the relief above and to writing a description of the relief could go something like this.

Old  information
New information

In a dream, Joseph
was told to save
his family by taking them to Egypt.
The holy family
are fleeing
on a donkey, into Egypt.
rides the donkey
while holding the  baby Jesus
because the road
rough and dangerous.
On the journey, Joseph
his family with his sword.

Sentence Organisation

In the first part of the sentence, the given information is stated,  it is followed by the verb and then it is followed by the focus of the sentence,  the new information. In the second sentence, the New Information becomes the Old Information and so on.

2). Theme and Rheme in explanation writing

This example below is based on the Physical Education Achievement Standard 1.2

Old Information
New Information

The use of shoulder flexion
is the use
The use of your pectorals which is the antagonist and the anterior deltoid.
This is the agonist, it
is used
to build up force.
The application of this force
is used
to fire the ball up above the head when taking a layup.
This movement of pushing the ball during a layup happens
when going  
for the shot

Nouns or Head Words

The so-called Gothic Cathedrals of the 12th Century are a misnomer as the architecture: of soaring pointed arches, flying buttresses and huge stained glass windows were an attempt at reflecting the divine order of light and space.  As such, they were designed to inspire.
And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert.
14 y
Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold;
for aher cedar work will be laid bare.
This is the exultant city that lived securely,
that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become.

Isaiah 13:21
Noun Groups
This stone relief above must be one of the few pieces of scripture to mention a hedgehog but it provides an example of how noun groups are used in descriptions. We often teach the nouns as part of a vocabulary exercise but do we teach students how to use nouns in a sentence. Nouns usually occur as a group along with a determiner and a classifier. Often the noun or thing will be modified with a describer and a qualifier. This may seem complicated but we can prepare students for writing by using the grid format.  If we make students aware of the function of the noun group we can ask them to create similar phrases in their own writing. -note the collocations
3). Using Grids to teach Noun Groups

Head word or noun

like the desert




4).  Noun modification is made explicit using a grid

In PE Explanation Writing it could be modelled like this:

Explain the anatomical movements in a basketball free throw?
Elbow Flexion -
In basketball when your elbow goes back for a free throw, this is called elbow flexion. Elbow flexion is when the angle in your elbow decreases or bends backwards. Due to the elbow being able to bend backwards and forwards, this means our elbow is a hinge joint. At this hinge joint, the bones involved are the Humerus, Radius and Ulna. When the angle reduces in your arm, when being bent back, there are two major muscles working. The two major muscles are called the antagonist and the agonist muscle. The antagonist muscle is the muscle that lengthens, and the agonist muscle is the one that shortens. The antagonist muscle in elbow flexion is the Triceps Brachii, and the agonist muscle is the Biceps Brachii. This is due to the Triceps Brachii getting longer, and the Biceps Brachii getting shorter when bending your elbow backwards.

Head word

is called elbow flexion.
At this

the bones involved are the Humerus, Radius and Ulna.

are called the antagonist and the agonist muscle.

in elbow flexion is the Triceps Brachii

5). Spoken Language changed into Written Language.
Beverly Derewianka          Exploring How Texts Work PETA. Newton. P62
Hubble's Theory
There's this man called Hubble and he discovered that the galaxies keep expanding into space. Because of what he discovered, we now understand the Universe and how it began quite differently.
When writing we need to compact our ideas to save space and time. This is called LEXICAL DENSITY (lexical means words). A sentence has only one or two clauses but it is packed with meaning.
A favourite ploy of adult writers is to take a "process" and turn it into a "thing".
Look what happens when we "repack" the spoken statement above (Hubble's Theory)
he discovered
  Hubble's finding
keep expanding
the expansion
we understand
 our understanding
how it began
its origins

Using this change, Hubble's Theory becomes:
Hubble's finding about the expansion of the galaxies revolutionised our understanding of the Universe and its origins.  If galaxies are flying apart, then once upon a time they must all have been packed closely together.  This assumption led to the theory that the entire Universe once formed an infinitely dense, infinitely hot ball comprising all space and matter that for some unknown reason exploded. That explosion is called the big bang.

6). Spoken language into Written Language
In PE this could be modelled like this. Nominalization is the process of turning verbs into nouns.
I had to participate in
My participation
I had to do 3 sets of bicep curls
 At the completion of   
 three bicep curls
I extended my elbow
 The elbow extension
Is when your muscles shorten
This muscle   
Our writing sounds more formal when we change verbs into nouns.  ‘I had to participate’ becomes ‘the participation’, or in this case ‘My participation’. Gerunds are formed by adding -ing to ‘shorten’ and by adding -ation ‘to participate’.
7). Coping with Lexical Density
Lexical density is one of the major issues we face as classroom teachers. When giving texts to students we must be aware of the lexical density of that text. A simple scan of a class text will tell us how many big words there are in the text, how many specialist or technical words there are and how many topic words there are, i.e. ones that come loaded with unstated meaning.
Consider the two sections of text below, taken from a Government website designed for junior students studying the working of our political administration.
Words like: Parliament, “sworn in”,  Sovereign,  Speaker of the House, Usher, debating chamber
Vocabulary support at this level is essential if we want our students to engage with and comprehend the texts that are at the curriculum level expected of Yr 9 and 10 students. This type of language support is time consuming but it is achievable if we collaborate as a department.

Opening Parliament I Card 3
Keywords:  read and highlight the keywords in the text below
Parliament, “sworn in”,  Sovereign,  Speaker of the House, Usher, debating chamber

The State Opening of Parliament takes two days. On the first day, the members of Parliament are “sworn in”. This means they swear their allegiance, or loyalty, to the Sovereign. Members may do this in English or Māori. This process is called “taking the oath of allegiance”. Once all members have been sworn in, they elect a Speaker of the House. On the second day, the formal ceremony to open Parliament takes place. The Governor-General’s messenger (called the Usher of the Black Rod) is sent to the debating chamber to summon members of Parliament into the Legislative Council Chamber.

Label the diagrams below with the keywords from above.
Use all the keywords to write a summary in ‘my own words’.




Big hall


The chair



Holder of the black rod

Opening Parliament II Card 3
Keywords:  read and highlight the keywords in the text below
Governor-General, Throne, door of the House, Serjeant-at-Arms, MPs, Legislative Council Chamber, powhiri

The Governor-General then gives a speech (called the Speech from the Throne), outlining the Government’s plans for the next three years. The door of the House of Representatives is always locked for the start of the State Opening. This is symbolic – it shows that the House is independent of the Sovereign. The Usher of the Black Rod must knock three times before the Serjeant-at-Arms (on behalf of the Speaker) allows the door to be opened. Then the Usher summons the MPs to the Legislative Council Chamber where the Governor-General is waiting for them. Since 1984, a pōwhiri has been part of the State Opening of Parliament.

Label the diagrams below with the keywords from above.
Use all the keywords to write a summary ‘in my own words’.

Queen’s representative

A plan
A speech made like a king

Men and women who form a government

Entrance to Parliament

Ceremonial leader

Maori welcome

8). Functional Grammar Writing Prompts

Students use these writing prompts to help you write a summary.

Time indicators:  
When Parliament is opened................., At the yearly opening of Parliament ...........,   First they............., next they..........,

Relational Verbs
They have to ......................,  They use a Bible to.................. ,  The Governor-General has to........., the speaker's job is to....,  the Usher’s job is to…….,

Modal Verbs
the Governor must………, It is important that the Sergeant-at-Arms………, is a formal event………, is a very formal occasion…..,

Noun Groups
The members of Parliament……….,

Oath of Allegiance -watch how it is done on Game of Thrones

9). Using Solo Taxonomy to help students write a description.

See Pam Hook’s website    HookED SOLO Hexagon Generator

Dorothy Apelu used this strategy with her Yr 12 Social Studies class
This exercise ensures student get out of their seats. In groups, they regroup and sit or stand around a packet of hexagons. They then say it out loud. Saying it aloud helps embed the vocabulary and the key ideas. They use the hexagon prompts as a way of explicitly stating what they have learnt from a series of texts. This is done as an aid to writing a description of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict.

Print the template and cut out the hexagons. Ask students to arrange the hexagons in sequences and clusters, justifying and annotating any connections made. See the photos and Solo structure below.
  • Unistructural learning outcome-student identifies one hexagon
  • Multistructural learning outcome-student identifies several hexagons
  • Relational learning outcome-student connects hexagons and explains the connections with annotations.
  • Extended abstract learning outcome– student tessellates (clusters) hexagons adding annotations to make generalisations about a vertex (intersection point)

9). Teaching  Inference making
We can help students to form inferences.  This relief comes from Amiens Cathedral: there is a structure here and a  grammar.     Ask students, ‘What can we infer from this text?’

Heads off means


Heads on means


When teaching inference skills, we tell students we are reading between the lines. At a surface level, we read that two of the figures are headless and two are not. To get below the surface of the text, to understand its meaning, we must explain to students that we must work to create a credible story, one that explains the meaning of the image in our own mind or in our own words.
To do this we must act like detectives and look for obvious clues. We make predictions by asking meaningful questions. Are these headless zombies from the gothic period? Are these major figures from church history? Explain the need to slow down and to re-read the text.
Teachers direct the focus of student thinking. What is the context of the figures? Where are these figures likely to be found? In what type of building are they found? There are two types of figures, how do they contrast? Ask the students to visualize how the headless figures got to be this way? What are the headless figures trying to show us? In contrast, what is implied by the figures with their heads on?
Ask students to revise their predictions.
Zombies from a horror movie       Or         Important Church figures or saints.
Bring it together: heads on, heads off, alive, dead. Add technical vocabulary: militant, triumphant
Students write an explanation paragraph to summarise the visual text above.

In Amiens Cathedral a relief sculpture shows us four important church figures. Of these four figures two have their heads on but in contrast, two are headless.  The first two figures show headless saints who are in heaven and the second two saints, who still have their heads on, are alive. The dead saints in heaven, are said to represent the church triumphant while the other two saints, here on earth, represent the church militant.