Category: Research


I created this A3 colour poster after reading Chapter 1 of Comprehension Connections. I wanted to share what I had read with Trish and Bob while, at the same time, making something that would be useful to me and others. If you would like one of these printed on nice glossy paper, let me know:

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Have you often felt that some of the best PD happens when teachers read something and then have a chat about it?

We have two teacher’s literature circles (should we call them TLCs or would that be too cheesy?) starting up at the moment – see this posting – and it would be wonderful if we could get many more happening. It really could be a good way to get the knowledge contained in these books to spread amongst us all!

Our resident wealth of knowledge on language publications, Trish, recommends the books in this slideshow:

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Please make a comment if:

  • You have read one of these books, would recommend it and why
  • You are interested in forming a TLC in order to read one of them

Here’s a visual that explains how to set them up and suggests how to run it:

Many of the most powerful things that are being done in the school are happening because groups of teachers have read a book that has informed and guided their practice. It is wonderful when things bubble up this way, rather than being supplanted from above.

To continue this trend, I have started up two literature circles with two different professional publications.I think this might be a way that we can spread the powerful effect that these books can have in a way that is manageable by very busy teachers!

We will follow this format:

  • Form the group
  • The first person will read the first chapter and decide what they will share (this could be powerful quotes, new systems, resources or fresh ideas)
  • The group will meet briefly (20-30 minutes?) to find out about the first chapter and to pass the book on to the second person
  • Continue this way to complete the book

Bob, Trish and I are reading Comprehension Connections:

Glenn, Nicky, Adrian, Rachel and I will be reading Bonnie Campbell-Hill’s Developmental Continuums:

Please let me know if you would like to recommend a book to be read in this way.

Something exciting happened this week. James Forsythe, from Phuket International Academy, has been reading the 6SS Class Blog. He noticed some similarities between what our 6SS have been thinking about and what his Grade 3/Year4 class have been thinking about. Both classes have been looking at wisdom and trying to understand what it means. He showed this posting from the 6SS blog to his students and used the 6SS students thinking to take his students’ conversations further:

Read the comments to see how the students’ thinking develops and to see where James adds his students’ thinking to the conversation.

James then sent through some photos to show the process he took his students through to arrive at their interpretations of what wisdom is.

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This kind of cross-pollination of thinking using a blog doesn’t happen that often, but it’s great when it does. Has it happened to you? I am always happy to help people work on their blogs to make them work better as learning tools.

This is a really interesting video about how science and dance can work together. I was skeptical at first, I have to admit, but as I watched the video I saw genuine conceptual connections that definitely deepened the students’ understanding of the science, and also helped them to understand how they can communicate through dance.

Try to ignore the ridiculous amount of times the boys say “like” though!!!

This is an idea I have been pondering for a while, inspired by the wonderful professional inquiries that have been going on in the school. I wonder if people would be interested in reading the same professional books and getting together – either in person or online – to discuss the book, share ideas, create resources and put things into practice?

I am currently working through Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor, which I borrowed from Trish. Like all of you, I have little time in my life and often start a book and end up forgetting I am reading it!!! Would anyone like to read this book with me? It has really influenced the Year 2 and Year 3 teaching teams and I really want to start putting some of these ideas into practice in my Year 6 classroom. The approaches suggested in the book, however, would work equally well in any age classroom.

What other professional books are you reading at the moment? Could other people read them with you to share the load?

This is a wonderful posting by Cristina Milos on a collaborative blog put together by Edna Sackson, both regular visitors and commentors on Art of Language.

The reason I have put it on here is because, although it is primarily about inquiry and taking students beyond the facts, it is also very rich in language and in the use of language to unlock and deepen student-thinking. It encapsulates the sentiments that all of our teaching teams expressed about language as a “vehicle for inquiry”.

Click on the image to get to the posting. Please feel free to comment either on here or on the posting itself.

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The Year 2 team opted for a sorting activity as their form of presentation. They explained that the activity was based on the five key beliefs that the team shares about language teaching and learning. Groups would then have to match images and quotes about teaching practice to the relevant beliefs that underpin them.

As you can see from the photos, everybody was very engaged in trying to complete the activity. Some people said that they were so “in” to completing the task that they didn’t think about the content as much as they would have liked, so that’s something to bear in mind when presenting in this way. On the other hand, most people loved the way that the Year 2 team had identified five key beliefs that were all-encompassing and easy to remember:

Simplicity is often the key!

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I dropped by Year 5 today, starting in Kate’s classroom, and found students reflecting on the presentations they have been doing for their parent audience over the last few days. The Y5 teachers were pretty “pumped up” about it and really wanted to talk about it because they felt it had been an excellent experience, and that the whole process of the unit had really empowered the students to do really effective, informal presentations that demonstrated their conceptual understandings.

The process of the unit looked like this:

  • The unit started with rotations in which teachers demonstrated 5 different presentation techniques – both formal and inforaml – and 5 possible areas of inquiry
  • The inquiry process helped students develop conceptual understandings, which made them able to focus their presentations instead of just listing random facts
  • Research skills were taught in homeroom and in library sessions to enable them to focus on relevant and important information
  • Parents were invited in to see presentations and demonstrations. They were ”converted” from passive observers to active participants by being given sample questions to ask the students
  • Presentations were filmed in some classes to enable students to watch themselves sharing their work and assessing how they presented themselves.

Watch this space for more information about this!

I had a few minutes at the end of today, so I decided to venture up to the world of Year 5 to see what was going on. I met Bill at the bottom of the stairs and we huffed and puffed our way up them (but didn’t blow any houses down!). I figured it was a little unfair to go into any rooms with teachers who had their kids as it was getting close to 2:30 and everyone was winding things up for the day. I’m sure Jane was glad about that as her A/C was completely broken and her and the kids were sweating buckets and madly stopping sheets of paper from flying everywhere because of the temporary fans they’d been given!

Anyway, Heather was sitting at her desk “being all nerdy about a blog posting” (Heather’s words) she was putting together for the kids to work on at home. The blog posting is all about different landforms and asks the students to research the landforms in the places they come from or somewhere they have been to. It states explicitly the different ways to collect information and it has a very visual element as students are expected to use Flickrstorm to locate and use images that are relevant to their writing (yes – blogging is writing, everybody!). Heather has modeled the process for the students by doing  a piece of writing about New York.

This is a wonderful, and yet very simple, illustration of the integration of Language Arts and a unit of inquiry. The task is heavy in research skills, speaking and listening, viewing and presenting, reading and writing. It calls upon the students to write for a genuine audience and will no doubt lead to further comments and discussions online. It is very rich in relevant vocabulary and Heather plans to use the students’ writing to feed into her ongoing word wall for this unit.

Have a look at the blog posting and maybe you’d like to make a comment to tell 5HR about the landforms where you come from? I’m sure they’d love the input and could use your language in their inquiries.

Just before I left the room, I recommended this video:

It’s an amazing, visual feast that captures the world’s landforms from a hot air balloon. The language is also quite poetic, and the subtitles will really help Heather’s students to develop their vocabulary and to understand the meaning of the film.

It’s quite long, and fairly slow. Heather and I talked about how it will be good for her students to develop their ability to view films like this.