Monday, 6 November 2017

Impact Burst - how my inquiry has impacted on students.

My teaching inquiry has been around my masters project - how to accelerate vocabulary acquisition in a digital environment. One child has made accelerated progress in reading (18 months so far this year, and has really struggled to make progress in the past), due in large part to her involvement in the Quick 60 lessons. She has always had excellent oral vocabulary however has struggled with reading and writing. As we have focused more on vocabulary and the use of "powerful words" she has begun to see herself as a capable reader and writer who has ideas to share. She is still caught up in the technical and motor skills of reading and writing, however her attitude about her capabilities has changed. Here is some evidence of her work:


This learner has been able to harness the affordances of the technology to help her to succeed. She uses the iPad voice dictation, prerecorded instructions, and symbols, to learn create and share in new ways that are not restricted by her reading and writing abilities. 
She has become an empowered learner, as she realises she can learn in different ways.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Writing, writing, writing...

I have always found writing quite easy. Not necessarily concise, academic writing, but writing nonetheless. Over the past four years of study (yes, it has taken me four years to chip away at my masters) I have become better at academic writing. I have started to "get it."

However, sitting down over the luxuriously long Labour Weekend, I found myself staring a the computer screen, write barely one sentence every few minutes and with long pauses in between. Part of the problem is that I don't like to redo things - I'd rather get it right the first time. And yet, writing something, at this stage of the year, is better than nothing.

Last week I got an email notification that one of my supervisors had been commenting on my Results chapter. I nearly fell over when I saw that she had made more than 50 comments on this! I sat down, Friday after everyone had left, and tackled some of her suggestions. Every single one of them made sense.

There are a few times on this journey when I have had to remind myself not to freak out. I think that is par for the course for people who are attempting study alongside full time work. And work that I care a huge amount for.

Without going into every personal detail of my life, the past five years of living and working in Auckland have been some of the toughest. I have had a lot happen during this time, personally and professionally. The latest being a much wanted pregnancy. I'd like to think this puts things in perspective, and I think it will in the long run, but from where I sit now (at the end of a long weekend of writing), I just have to get through it.

I have made this sound negative, and it wasn't supposed to. We all get caught up in our lives from time to time, and sometimes we get pretty bogged down. I wrote a post a while back about remembering the things that are important - the people, the real reason why you do things, the fact that I'm not stuck in an office all day, and I get to do a job that I am so passionate about.

At this time of year, I get a bit nostalgic and think about what a wonderful class of students I've been able to teach. That is the reason why I do it. And if I become a better teacher for doing all this study - then it is completely worthwhile.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


I have been working my way through my data, over and over - reading, coding and organising it into a manageable narrative. Luckily the themes that have emerged relate directly to my research questions, and in fact, answer these.

I have also been thinking further about where I could take this next. I am very interested in getting hold of Jannie van Hees' new book What Every Primary School Teacher Should Know About Vocabulary, and also looking further into what the Talking Matters group are working on.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


I am finding it hard to share my time between study and classroom demands. I love being back in the classroom and this had meant that I have spent less time that I should and need to on my research. I have, however, made a start on analysing the data I collected.

My data was collected through pre-intervention interviews with both the teacher participant (n=1) and the student participants (n=15), observations of the intervention lessons (n=17), and post-observation interviews with the teacher participant (n=1) and student participants (n=14).

I have a large amount of rich, qualitative data which I have coded under five themes. I am currently in the process of sorting through this data, however I have already made some preliminary findings.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Back to the classroom

I am now back into the throes of classroom teaching and loving it. My husband, however, has remarked on the noticeable change in me since starting back. School life is exciting, forever changing, inspiring, and never ever dull. Yet it can also be stressful, with demands being made of you left right and centre. It has been very hard to keep up my focus on research as the here and now immediacy of teaching always has to be dealt with first.

I don't for a minute think that I am the first person facing this problem, and it is a situation I created myself by wanting to complete a masters degree while teaching full time. I know I will get through it by the end of October, but I also know that juggling two things that I want to do my absolute best in will be stressful and time consuming.

However, as I work through this blog post and the presentation I will give to my inquiry group on Monday (below) I realise how this research has opened up some new ways of teaching to me and given me the time to explore areas that I am passionate about. It has been very refreshing to spend concentrated time on one small area of the curriculum, but also to see how this links with many other areas.

I believe that a focus on vocabulary throughout the day, week and year, will make a significant impact on our young learners.

Here is my post-intervention reflection:

Monday, 15 May 2017

Week 14... counting down until I'm back in the classroom.

Week 14 of study leave...

I can hardly believe it! I only have three weeks of leave left. The time has gone incredibly fast and sometimes I worry that I haven't got as much done as I wanted to. It's often not until you take the time to look back on what you have done that you realise you have achieved a lot.

The following screenshots are of activities that I have created for Year 1 students to practise using what I have termed "powerful words." The goal had been to expand their vocabularies of words around feelings so that they are able to express their emotions more accurately, and hopefully this can translate in to their writing and reading comprehension.




Thursday, 2 March 2017

Getting my thoughts down on paper... or Padlet

Sometimes we need to revert to the good old brainstorm. I'm very much a visual learner, and I often revert right back to a big piece of paper and makers to help me get my ideas down.

I have completed my literature review for my dissertation and now I am working on the design of the intervention. This is the fun part!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Back to School (as a student)

I'm back to school! And this time I mean as a student. 

In 2014 and 2016 I completed two papers through the University of Auckland towards a masters degree. I did this with the cohort of MDTA beginning teachers and mentor teachers. It was hard work to say the least, working as a full time teacher and studying in 2014, then full time teaching, being a team leader and studying in 2016. I swore never to do it again.

However I was very lucky to be supported by Pt England School and receive a Teach NZ Study Award for 2017 to complete my dissertation and masters degree.

I have always been interested in language, language acquisition and vocabulary. For several years, Pt England School staff received professional development in this area by Dr Jannie van Hees - a passionate and respected researcher at the University of Auckland. She was enthusiastic, confronting, challenging and determined to help us to develop the oral and written language of our students. I, like many others, was a convert, however with the demands of the job, the theory was not well implemented into practice. It did, however, start me thinking about future research options.

In 2016, Dr Rebecca Jesson agreed to provide reading professional development to the Pt England teaching staff. She already had a strong relationship with the school and the Manaiakalani Cluster (now CoL) as she has been the one of the primary researchers into the efficacy of the digital innovation taking place in this cluster. 

One of her strongest messages in the development of our reading programme was the necessity for targeted vocabulary teaching and the possibility of combining this with the affordances of the digital technology in order to accelerate the reading achievement of students. This resonated with me, but I, like the rest of the junior school teachers, struggled to implement this into my teaching. It seemed possible with older and more advanced learners, but not for our young readers who were still struggling to decode text.

And so my research project was born. How could we as junior school teachers in a 1:1 iPad environment, implement a targeted vocabuarly programme that was additional to our generally successful guided reading, and used the affordances of the iPad?

My research questions are thus:

  1. What influence does the introduction of a novel digital vocabulary acquisition programme have on the pedagogy of a junior primary teacher?
    1. What opportunities does a digital vocabulary acquisition programme offer teachers who are looking to accelerate the vocabulary acquisition of Year 3 students who are reading 6-18 months below national standard?
    2. What challenges do teachers face when introducing a novel, digitally-based vocabulary acquisition programme into classroom literacy classes?
  2. What impact does a novel digital vocabulary acquisition programme have on the metacognitive processes of low-decile school students who are reading 6-18 months below their expected reading in Year 3?
  3. What impact does a novel digital vocabulary acquisition programme have on the attitudes of low-decile school students who are reading 6-18 months below their expected reading in Year 3?
  4. What impact does a novel digital vocabulary acquisition programme have on the behaviours of low-decile school students who are reading 6-18 months below their expected reading in Year 3?

I have been going through the involved process of getting ethical approval for this research and I hope to begin observing the intervention in two weeks. I have completed a literature review, and will now spend time designing the intervention based on vocabulary acquisition research and the affordances of the iPad. The research will be conducted in a Year 3 class at a Manaiakalani school in Auckland, NZ.