Gilberthorpe school

Gilberthorpe school

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Delving Deeper - 10 May 2018

Wayfinding Māori Futures

We began the day listening to Eruera Prendergast-Tarena. He spoke about the population growth of Māori compared to European people and how we need to support Māori more in the education system. 

He had some startling statistics to share with everyone. For every European baby born in New Zealand there is one Asian, one Pasifika and one Māori child born. Only 10% of Māori are graduating University. They are not going into higher qualification employment even if they do have a degree. Only 1% of Māori work in jobs that won't be replaced eventually by technology advancements. 

He drew attention to the fact that we are not preparing them for the reality of what jobs will be in the future. Their jobs will not produce enough income to support the growing ageing population of Europeans in retirement. Eru emphasised the need for change in our education system as it's not moral, socially or economically stable for us to maintain the status quo. Now is the time to make a difference while educational reform is on the table.

For more information he suggested visiting for more information.

West Rolleston School

Two teachers from West Rolleston School talked about their learning space and how they run their days.

They have five Year 1 & 2 studios (homerooms) in a hub of up to 75 learners. They call their homeclass a 'whanau group'. The new entrant class grows to 18 then a new teacher starts. The older class breaks off when the younger numbers grow. 

All students who are pre-enrolled come for a fish and chip dinner to meet everyone once a term. Toys and equipment are available to help them familiarise with the environment and teachers and support staff are there to answer any questions. 

When new entrants start school for their first visit they come for just the morning and their parent stays. They begin the day by going for a walk through all the areas of the school and meeting different staff. For the second visit they come for the morning without their parent. For the third visit they stay without a parent until 2pm.  

Within their learning space, the day starts altogether and they then move into writing in whānau groups. Reading is spread between the whānau groups while the other children do play based learning. 

All three teachers take groups and the kids self manage. Every 3-4 weeks the teachers switch around. Other teachers were quite critical of this, emphasising the importance of having a learning coach and the advantages of being present and doing the cognitive, emotional and behavioural coaching as outlined in IYT while the children are playing. 

Phonics is ability grouped and spread amongst the three teachers. 

Maths groups are spread across the hub. Each teacher starts with all the groups that they see on their whānau group mat where they do hotspots and then go into groups. The children have to stay in their maths spaces with activities specific for each group.

Handwriting is done in whānau group spaces. 

Other curriculum areas go for just 20 mins in the afternoon. Currently they have two teachers taking P.E and one taking Music. They do this for a whole week then move on to something else.

They have a big focus on Key Competencies within their play based environment and spend the afternoons just focusing on play for the first five weeks. Following that settling into school period, they then introduce curriculum areas. New entrants that arrive during the year do play in the afternoons while others are doing curriculum areas so that they get their five weeks of learning how to play within the school's guidelines and also to explore their surroundings.

The play based learning resources are put out before school and the children can choose and start before school if they wish. They use picnic mats to keep areas distinct for Lego etc. 

In their Discovery Room they have babies, a toy kitchen and a doll house. 

Makerspace days are an exciting once or twice a term event. They are based on current topics/times of year, for example the olden days. Kids choose and come and go from activities whenever they want all day. Because teachers are released to teach different games etc during this time, it is easy to then incorporate these into other times like reading. 

They recommended looking up Longworth Education for resources and tips for play based learning. Ngaire Shepherd-Wills from CORE also recommended looking at Northern Ireland pdfs for play based learning curriculum, key stage 1 online.

Learning Through Play

Tara O'Neill - Haeata Community Campus, Year 1-2. Tara also runs the 
NZ Learning Through Play Facebook group.

We discussed aspects of the quote that stood out for us. How would this approach help Māori children to succeed in their education and in life? It gives them the opportunity to bloom, safe settings for them to learn and their sense of identity (learner and cultural) is protected and safe.

Why is play engaging and how does it lead to deep learning?

Tara spoke about dispositional learning as the deepest kind of learning. Dispositional learning allows you to keep the Key Competencies at the forefront of the children's learning. Dispositional learning allows the teachers at Haeata to teach social and emotional skills as well as creativity through play. I loved hearing about how important dispositions are for their curriculum. We based all our Learning Stories (assessment) upon dispositions during my time teaching in ECE and they are such important life skills for the tamariki to learn and for the teacher to foster and capture for them. Tara spoke about the children having Learning Story books (what we used to call Profile Books in ECE), as well as all their stories being recorded on Linc-Ed. They use Learning Stories as their assessment right up to Year 13.

Their classroom is set up into different areas of play and the children can move around the environment freely. They change their provocations for play as the children's interests change, but they always have a quiet space, construction area, open area, art area and outdoor areas.

The role of the adult is to support the children in their interests. It is crucial for the adult to follow the children's path in their learning and not dictate what they should learn. Teachers observe and coach and also run workshops about things that they notice the children are showing an interest in. It is optional for the children to attend when the workshop is run, but they do as the teacher has carefully aimed it at their interests. For example the children might have created an imaginary restaurant, so the teacher runs a workshop on how to write a menu. The activity is always the vehicle for the learning to happen.

The early learners at Haeata are Pre-level 1 so the teachers implement the Te Whāriki curriculum instead of the Primary Curriculum. 

The left side of the diagram is unstructured, for example playtime and lunchtime. The right side is highly structured, for example traditional education with the teacher up the front. Tara aims to be in the green zone as she says it's the best way for the children to learn.

Tara then described a typical day at Haeata. It was quite controversial amongst the group of teachers attending the workshop and led to lots of discussion.

First thing in the morning the teachers meet and choose spaces that they will be in for the day. They advertise the workshops that are available and the kids opt in if they want to.

When the children arrive at school they sign in and play. At 9.45am they meet with their homeroom. The teachers have the same homeroom for three years. Homeroom time could be for social or emotional teaching, it could include self directed learning, values, feelings, self regulation, how to calm and different ways to do that. They then say their karakia and share kai.

During learning time they are free to go wherever they want in their learning space. The day is split into three 90 minute blocks. They all come together at midday for lunch and then do 15 minutes of phonics in their home rooms. They play again in the afternoon and meet with their homeroom at the end of the day to check in with each other.

Each child has three goals to work on in their personal learning plan. The first goal is always a dispositional goal and there are two other goals that could be a variety of options.

All children have access to reading books and writing books. They use these when they want to. Tara said that focused learning is happening consistently throughout the day.

The teacher has three roles during the day. 
1. Notice the learning - add in, take out, support learners with their play.
2. Meet kids on their own once a week to catch up with learners about their goals and how they are progressing on them. 
3. Take a workshop or activity with students.

There are no formal reading, writing or math lessons at Haeata. Other teachers at the workshop questioned about the possibility that students choose not to participate in reading or writing instruction for the full three years that they in the Junior area of the school. While Tara said that yes, that is a possibility, but it never happens as the children want to learn these things once they reach the phase of readiness to learn.

Every child has a box with books in and they read from them if they choose. Teachers focus on the culture of reading - not that kids are expected to participate in reading but that they want to read. 

Teachers always watch for readiness before expecting writing and language. This results in engagement before compliance. 

Haeata is really redefining the concept of school, especially for the tail end of learners.

Rolleston School Reggio Inspired Practices

Heather Mutu and Jade Bell spoke about the Reggio philosophy at Rolleston School. Although I already knew quite a lot about this, I was keen to have a look at their documentation and discuss their ideas for following children's leads in their learning. I would love to be able to teach in this way, it creates such deeper understandings and student ownership for learning than what an Inquiry process does.

Rolleston School uses an emergent curriculum. This means that they observe what the children are interested in, provide them with provocations and follow the children's interests in whatever way it takes them. For the first few weeks they have no planning beyond reading and maths as they give children lots of opportunity to explore and look for clues about what the children are interested in. 

They have the flexibility in their programmes to follow new learning for a day if a child mentions an interesting thing and they are not required to have to stick to a timetable.

Rolleston School began their Reggio approach many years ago when they encountered such difficulty involving Year 1 and Year 2s in the Inquiry process. The principal visited Reggio in Italy and came back inspired to implement their practices in New Zealand. A small selection of staff visit Reggio every few years to observe and learn more about their approaches to learning.

Their first step was to create a common knowledge amongst staff about documentation. All staff members do this a wee bit differently. Some keep huge art journals with photos and work samples as children begin to show an interest and then develop that interest. Some have photo albums made up with summaries. Some document the children's learning journeys all over their classroom walls and then photograph that when they move on to a new interest. Some have a blog or present their documentation in other electronic ways. They all record children's voice constantly to show their understandings and take photos of learning throughout the day.

They don't do unit plans, they instead use their documentation to record what they children have done. They take advantage of all learning opportunities instead of being defined by a specified curriculum of what to teach and when. ERO are very happy with their approach and they can easily link the children's learning to the curriculum if needed.

Teachers plan on the go, always after the session of learning to build upon what has happened in the last session. Teachers are always looking for how to pull the learning in different directions in order to expand it.

Heather spoke about how she uses her environment to stimulate discussion and provoke learning. She always has paints, drawing supplies, wire etc available to the children to allow them to show their learning using the 100 Languages. The children's interests may last a term, two terms, a year and some have even continued for more than two years. Heather has followed children's interests from them having different coloured eyes to each other, to dissecting a pig's eyeball, to then noticing the optic nerve coming out, to wondering about the brain, to dissecting the brain and learning about the different parts and it just went on and on with such amazing deep learning experiences for the children. Throughout it all the children accessed different materials to show their learning, for example she showed us the playdough creations that the children had made of eyeballs and optic nerves travelling into the brains.

They work other core areas around the children's interests wherever they can, for example writing and reading. Maths is often a lot harder to fit in with different topics but it is still done whenever possible.

The opportunities that they provide the children with are so inspiring and I have taken away lots of ideas for documenting children's learning within my own practice. There is more information on the Reggio Approach and the 100 languages on this video. It warms my heart that my children are able to learn in such a fantastic way everyday.


  1. Wow Jess it sounds like this was certainly a worthwhile day for you. So many different interesting ideas relating to Junior students here, I think I'll have to read it again to really take in all of the interesting ways that teachers are changing their practice based on their learners.

    I would be interested in going into some environments like these to see how this actually looks. It is great to hear about it them and the different ideas but I think it is always even more powerful to see for yourself. I am especially interested in the play based learning ideas and how these could help us develop our action stations and areas.

  2. Hi Jess, I found this really interesting. Having done a placement at Rolleston school I am familiar with the Reggio process. I really enjoyed teaching these lessons and the students were extremely engaged with the topics. It was great to see so much student voice incorporated and teachers just went with the flow and were flexible with the direction in which the students took the unit. Instead of being teacher driven, it was driven by the students which is really refreshing!