Thursday, 8 December 2016

Teaching & Learning

As our first semester draws to a close, we have much to celebrate in terms of our achievements. Students have demonstrated their learning in many ways from the development of their discussion techniques to deeper reading and the refinement of their writing skills.
A recent comment made me reflect on how all these achievements relate to teaching. In an ideal world, everything that is taught would be learned, but in reality this is not the case. Many factors influence learning including readiness, maturity and repeated practice to name but a few. If teaching were a mathematical formula such as teaching = learning, our lives would be a lot easier but - alas - it is not so.
An aspect of effective teaching is that we seek to continuously improve. If students tell me that previous learning experiences worked for them, we will tap into this to maximise achievement. If the same learning experience didn't work for others, we explore alternatives that work for those individuals.
For sure this semester has brought up some surprises as students forget previous learning, but we also recognise that as students mature they are cognitively ready for different learning opportunities. This is good news as it means we can expand our approaches and techniques to explore even more ways learning can happen.
No two students are the same, and some students will benefit more from a particular approach than another, which is why it is important to include a variety of learning options (without compromising on the learning itself). In our classroom this variety can include teacher explanations, EdPuzzle videos, lesson slides (and other materials) being available via Google Classroom and one-to-one sessions after school on Mondays and Tuesdays.
If - on an initial assessment - students do not 'know' something, it does not mean they have never been taught it, but it does mean that they didn't learn it deeply enough to 'stick' over time, or that perhaps they understood it for a period of time and then forgot. That is why we have a curriculum that is progressive and builds on what has gone before.
There is also the fact that by a certain age, and by living in the world, we make assumptions that students have noticed particular things. An example that comes to mind from earlier this semester is when the majority of students told me they did not know what the abbreviation i.e. meant. I expressed my surprise as I find it often in texts, and expected they would have encountered it too. It turns out this wasn't the case, but we cannot then conclude that there was something missing in their education - not everything comes from the classroom.
I am confident that the learning that happens in previous grades at this school is excellent preparation for the middle years program. That students have knowledge gaps is to be expected - they are not robots that we program, but individuals that we guide and coach. In a school such as this, outside assessments prove we do this better than most, but even we are not immune to regression or forgetfulness in our students, who are only human after all. And let's not forget the cognitive impact of moving from elementary to middle school. Students have so many new things to manage and learn - the classroom input can become secondary to negotiating relationships, finding their way around and the increase in workload. It is our job as teachers to not only inspire but guide them toward motivation, autonomy and - ultimately - learning.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Grade or Learning or Both?

It has now been almost 2 weeks since students submitted their final research papers. Our school has a policy of returning student work within 4 class meetings, so that should be about now.
Two students recently asked when they would get the grades for their paper: I can only hope they were looking forward to the constructive feedback that will carry them forward, rather than a number or letter to say how they compare with others.
Unapologetically, learning always comes first in our classroom and at this point we have much work still to do to ensure this writing learning goes deeper than it has previously.
As I sat down to grade the papers, I realised that - just as students had done before with their vlogs - they had not checked their writing against the rubric. This was despite recognising and reflecting on this omission in their blogs at the time, and having been given class time to do so. So we stop. We regroup. And we do it properly. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it is more challenging, but our students would not be here were they not equal to the task.
For sure, my unplanned absence - due to the rampant virus that has been circulating in our community - has slowed us down somewhat. However, if we want to learn from the past, we know that simply putting a grade on a paper and moving on is not enough. If it were, I would not now see research papers without thesis statements, topic sentences or conclusions.
Today, we started the process of reading the rubric in detail, and marking our papers to show how each of the criteria has been achieved....or noting where it has not. Where a feature has been omitted, students know this needs to be included before resubmission. In some cases, this will mean simply adding the aspect; for others, it will mean some more learning needs to take place. Thankfully, all our lessons are archived on Google Classroom, and there is a collection of videos on EdPuzzle so students can work on the writing skills most relevant to them. (This is one of the great benefits of being in a school where students have such open access to technology.)
Following these steps means that when the papers reach my eyes, they will absolutely be the best each student can do, rather than a collection of misreadings, misunderstandings and oversights. That will then allow me to give them valuable feedback to ensure growth and progress, rather than reminders to add in the obvious.
As a parent, I suggest any discussion around their research papers focuses on what students believe their goals are and the plan they have to reach them - hope is not enough. We need action, and we want to encourage students to find or ask for the support they need. If we can encourage them to be in the driving seat of their learning, they will be much more likely to feel accomplishment and motivation to challenge themselves further. Then, the grade they achieve really will be reflective of what they can do, rather than an inaccurate reflection of something rushed to meet a deadline. I know our students are going to rise to the challenge and end this process with something to be justifiably proud of.
As always, happy learning!

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Knowledge is Power

At the end of this week - Friday - students will have submitted their final informational research papers. They have been working on these since before the break, and Friday will see the product of all their hard work. These papers offer students the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic they are interested in, as well as develop essential academic writing and research skills. In the process, learners can see how it is possible to use online resources and critical thinking to learn anything they choose to. My hope is they can transfer these skills to any topic, and in this way become genuine life-long learners.

Of course, we can offer as much support and encouragement as we want, but it is up to students to accept that assistance. Today our lunchtime session was busy, but there are still some students who would benefit from joining us. Anyone who is struggling to make adequate progress is welcome to join us, and those who are behind our in-class checkpoints are obliged to join us. This is make sure nobody falls behind and then panics when they realise they cannot meet the deadline. It is not a punishment; it is a support.

Indeed, some students who are not struggling or behind join us at lunchtime or after school so they can have some extra time to work on their papers. This has the benefit of reducing homework so when they leave school, they can focus on other things.

Please let's support our teens in meeting Friday's deadline so we can spend the rest of the semester with a positive outlook, having celebrated all the hard work that has gone into these.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Quarter 2 - Positive Educational Experiences Ahoy!

Quarter 1 saw most of our students finish the session with a grade that reflected their achievements, and one they were proud of. For sure, starting a new school, meeting many new teachers and systems, as well as learning to time manage is a big challenge. So, congratulations to all students for making it this far and still being able to smile! It was great to be able to share these positive notes with parents at the PTC so thanks to everyone who came along.
As we move into Quarter 2, there will now be a change to the grading policy. Whereas before, students were given a grace period of up to a week before assignments were marked as 'F', from now on, you may see some assignments graded much quicker. This is to avoid students getting the the end of the quarter and panicking as they realise they have multiple assignments to submit. For some reason, the allocation of an 'F' grade seems to get students' attention faster than a 'missing' or 'incomplete' icon. I do not know for sure why this is, but if it alerts students more than other methods, it makes sense to use it.
This new grading practice is in combination with the catch-up sessions at lunchtime and after school.
What else are we doing to support student success?
  • In Advisory, we will be guiding students to create a weekly schedule where they fill in every hour of their day with priorities, and then fit the rest of their activities in the remaining time. Of course, we need to remember our Core Value of Balance in Life, so students will be encouraged to designate time for family, friends and relaxation.
  • Homework will be reduced in Language Arts as far as possible. NoRedInk and Lit Circles will still be a regular feature, but we will try to do as much in class time as we can.
  • In class, we will talk about the Pomodoro technique, and I will encourage all students to try it out over the next week. (Check out the video below.)
  • Students will be asked to install apps to help them focus, the first few of which will be Stay FocusedForest and Pomodoro Time- feel free to try them yourself! 
  • I am asking all parents to consider the impact of 'academies' and other after-school tuition. Recently, I have had 2 students tell me they cannot complete homework because their academy or tutor gave them other work to do. This jeopardises students' chances of success in SSIS, so I would greatly encourage everyone to consider whether extra classes are needed. Please remember teachers are available by appointment (for free!) if students need extra help with particular subjects. It does not always make sense to employ another person who probably will not be familiar with the content of our lessons anyway.
My hope is the above steps will reduce pressure on our teens, and help them have happy, healthy and productive weeks ahead. Stress is OK in moderation as it can motivate us to avoid procrastination, but too much is unhealthy, leads to unhappiness and can cause feelings of being overwhelmed.
Let's work together to ensure our students enjoy their education and maximise their learning.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Supporting Student Success

This quarter has seen many students succeed with their learning goals. It has also seen some students struggling to manage deadlines, workload and communications. The build up of late or missing
assignments just leads to additional stress for students, and some conclude they are 'stupid' and / or it's impossible to catch up. I definitely do not want either of these situations to occur.
For this reason, when we return after the break, I am introducing a new policy. Where an assignment is overdue, students will be invited to a lunch-time catch-up session on the same (or next) day. Where this is not possible (due to other time commitments), they will be offered an after-school slot. This will enable them to carve out specific time for the specific task, and I will be nearby to support with any issues around understanding. These issues may be technology-related or content-related; either way I am here to help.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you see your son or daughter struggling even before a deadline - the sooner we identify obstacles to their achievement, the sooner we can get them back on the right path.
I hope everyone has an enjoyable and well-deserved break.
We will be heading back to the beautiful town of Hoi An. Whether you are staying home or travelling out of the city, I wish you safe travels and an enjoyable break.
Remember - whatever you do: happy learning!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Crystine and Teddy Stick With It!

This morning before school, Teddy and Crystine dropped by to ask questions about some concepts from NoRedInk. Both had been struggling with different language issues, but within 10 minutes, they were resolved and they were then able to complete the task successfully.
Their achievement is worth recognising because not all students ask for help when it's needed. Some give up at the first hurdle, or perhaps after trying just 1 solution. These 2 demonstrated the understanding that sometimes you have to go that little bit further, with a little extra effort if you really want to succeed. They were clear about what they didn't understand, and were able to use the time efficiently.
Congratulations to both these learners for showing us how it's done.
I hope they, along with everyone else, enjoy the long weekend.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Introducing Notecards & a Break from Lit Circles

This week, Mr Benck (8th Grade ELA) introduced the students to research notecards. The video of the session is below.
Students are gathering information on their self-chosen topics, so please do encourage them to share their findings at home.

We will return to lit circles after the break, and now students are encouraged to read as many informational texts as they can. This way they can replicate the successful features they notice, and raise the standard of their own writing. Of course, we still expect they are reading a fiction book of their choice every evening for at least 20 minutes.

On another note, we've had lots of student success with the building of community in our classroom. A visitor would now notice the courtesy and kindness with which students talk to each other. We will never stop working on this, and it's great to see our students growing personally as well as academically.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Learning from the Library - Research Databases

This week, we were fortunate to have the middle school librarian, Mrs Keller, lead us through the databases available through SSIS' subscriptions. Students had the opportunity to explore such great resources as Encyclopedia Britannica, Kids Infobits and Webpath Express. All these are accessible through SSIS Link, so students can make use of them whatever their location. This means that when students carry out their research over the next week, they have reliable, trusted sources to learn and cite from.

Please ask your tween about the topic they have chosen. At this stage, students are still refining their focus and everyone will benefit from talking through their ideas, to make them more concrete.

I, for one, am looking forward to some interesting reads as students have chosen to focus on a wide variety of areas from historical heroes to life skills. Undoubtedly, anyone who peruses their final products will discover something new.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Last Lit Circles for Quarter 1

This week saw the final session of our lit circles for this quarter. Students closed their final circle with a reflective discussion on the characterisation, themes and conflicts in their novels. This was a step toward their final reading assessment which is a vlog (video blog post) presenting their insights on these topics.
The lit circles were arranged a bit differently to those in Elementary, and the students were challenged to explore their reading in different ways each week. At the end of the sessions, I asked students how they felt about the process, and had overwhelmingly enthusiastic and postive feedback. Here are just a few comments:

"It was good to know about other people's perspectives." - Seungwon

"When people told us their opinions, it helped us think about the book in a different way." - Haley

"It was amazing, because we could read books we wanted to." - Brian M

"It was fun having teamwork." - Vannak

All of these convince me the reading teams were supportive and productive. Many students have already expressed impatience to get started with their next book, with many of them opting to read 'classic' texts such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, War of the Worlds and we even had a request for Shakespeare. For sure, these Grade 6 students are not afraid of challenges!

Tech Wizards!

Congratulations to Vannak and Brian for their perseverance with GIMP - a photo editing program, similar to Photoshop. Many students were tussling with the question of how to blend images quickly, and Vannak and Brian worked out different ways. They kept experimenting, failing, learning from their mistakes and building their knowledge. This was definitely one way to show development of a growth mindset!
Additionally, they were also very kind in helping their classmates with the same issue without even being asked. When they saw someone needed help, they offered assistance without taking over their laptops or being condescending.
We all appreciate their focus and generosity.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Congratulations to Crystal!

Today, Crystal was awarded a certificate for her resilience and determination to improve her vocabulary. Crystal used our classroom sets on Quizlet to practice all the activities on offer. She then, without anyone asking or instructing her, tested herself to check her learning. She scored 100%!
What makes this so worth celebrating is that Crystal decided to do this learning herself. Although I do remind students they regularly need to review words from our Word Wall, I have never required that they do specific exercises.
Crystal did not do this to earn a certificate.
Crystal did not do this because the teacher told her to.
Crystal did not do this because she wanted a good grade on PowerSchool.
Crystal did this because she knew she had a learning goal.
Crystal clearly felt the need to work on this, which she did over the last 2 weeks in particular, and we can see that her effort really lead to success.
What a great attitude and proof that effort and the right strategies can help you achieve your goals.
Please join me in congratulating Crystal on her growth mindset, and her achievement!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Writing to Do Whatever We Need To!

Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone for their comments and questions on last week's post - Why Did I Get an F? Hopefully, our students are now clear about the opportunity they have for academic success, and I know there were more than a few relieved people who immediately took the opportunity to improve their grades.

This week's focus has been on setting up students for writing. While the broad umbrella is 'informational writing', my goal is for students to be able to take any kind of text and reproduce it, while thinking about purpose, audience and format.
Students were introduced to our 'PAF graphic' (pictured) and we explored how texts can change depending on who they are being produced for. For example, a diary entry about a food fight at school will differ greatly from the way you'd email the events to your best friend, your parents or principal. Understanding how language changes for different contexts will empower our students to be effective writers for life. We can't predict what types of writing they will need in their future personal and professional lives, but we can ensure they have a strong foundation in technical accuracy and enough knowledge about purpose, audience and format to be able to pick out the approach they'll need to employ.

As we move forward, students will identify topics they find meaningful and important. Conversations at home about their interests, passions and concerns will support them in making these choices, so please do open up a discussion at the dinner table, if you can. The stronger the personal connection to the topic, the more authentic their writers' voices will be.

Students will conduct research and write their texts to educate others about their topics, before deciding which media will be best to convey their messages. This will depend on the audience they have decided to target. To illustrate, peers of their own age are unlikely to be excited at the prospect of reading an essay, but they might be more inclined to watch a video or read an article in a particular publication that is relevant to their interests. By finding places to connect with authentic audiences, students will be able to see the relevance of their writing, and see it have an impact in the real world, not just the classroom.

An exciting part of this 'audience' piece is that I have had contact from schools abroad who would like to collaborate with us. We have made connections with schools in Canada, the USA, Ghana and Ireland. Not only will this offer our students the opportunity to access different cultural perspectives and request valuable information from primary sources, it also provides a guaranteed audience for our texts. My hope is this will increase motivation, interest and engagement, so watch this space to see what our students produce!

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Why Did I Get an F?

When students submit an assignment by the deadline, it should be returned within 4 class meetings, as I allocate a specific time near that date to go over the work. If it is submitted late, I need to find another time to review the tasks, so this will happen after all other priorities have been attended to. This means it is likely students will have to wait some time for a grade and feedback. This is unfortunate, as research tells us that timely feedback is the most effective feedback.

When students submit work late, it is not penalised in terms of the grade they can earn - when an assignment is submitted, it will be graded according to the quality of the work. This means a student who has an F can easily raise their grade simply by submitting the task, and letting me know by posting a comment on their work in Google Classroom.

Even more important than the letter grade, is the fact that late submissions have an adverse affect on their learning; we are building connections in our lessons, and missing previous feedback means an unsteady foundation for new learning. For this reason, I greatly encourage students to meet deadlines by posting reminders via Google Classroom (which go directly to email, unless the student has disabled notifications) and frequently mentioning upcoming due dates in class. This is in addition to the calendar on our Moodle front page that displays all homework, including the details that appear on Classroom.

As all Classroom assignments are posted to the Moodle calendar, there should be no confusion for parents who are using Moodle to check homework dates and details. All assignments on Google Classroom are on our Moodle page.

Despite this, there are still students who do not turn in work on time, and this can be for a variety of reasons such as:

  • not recording the homework in their planners and they forget;
  • leaving it to the last minute, and then realising they don't have something they need to complete it (e.g. it's in their locker);
  • not knowing how to do the task, but failing to ask for help on Google Classroom, email or in class;
  • completing the task, but not turning it in on Google Classroom so I cannot see it - sometimes it is forgetting to turn it in, and sometimes it is not knowing how to turn it in.
For the first three points, teachers and parents can help by reminding students. For submitting tasks on Google Classroom, this help video should clarify the process.

When 6th Graders have so much to navigate and get used to in this new phase of their lives, it is only right they be given time, support and understanding through a 'settling in' period. For this reason, I have held off grading assignments on PowerSchool, preferring instead to allow students more time (in some cases up to 3 weeks) to get themselves organised and submit whatever tasks have been agreed.

As we approach the end of our first month of school, it's time to start letting students and parents know about progress, and this is done - for better or worse - through our grading system on PowerSchool. This was done for the first time yesterday. Where no assignment has been submitted, I have no choice but to grade it as an 'F' as there is no evidence of that task. I only do this after I have had a 'missing' or 'incomplete' icon on the work for a week before, so it is clear to parents and students that this needs attention. As time goes on, students learn not to ignore these icons (and the accompanying comments), and I know this will happen for our new 6th Graders in the near future. I have faith!

Other important notes about homework are:
  • lesson slides are posted on Google Classroom on our 'About' page, and on Moodle under the homework calendar - this allows students to review lesson material;

  • Google Classroom is a great way for students to ask questions about any assignments or anything else related to lessons;
  • Digital Literacy classes have no allocated homework - all assignments are to be completed in class time, unless students have significantly missed the deadline and need to catch up;
  • if homework ever clashes with family events, please send me a quick email and I will extend the deadline for individual students;
  • grades in PowerSchool are cumulative - this means each individual (counted) grade affects the final grade;
  • if a student needs more time, please encourage them to contact me and let me know - this is not appropriate the night before a deadline, especially if they have left it to the last minute. 
On a final note, please encourage your child to keep grades in perspective. They are not a reflection of my feelings about students - they are an objective way to let students and parents know that progress is being made, and all is well. Where the grade is not desirable, there is a way to rectify this and it requires open communication. There is no need to be upset about a grade because it can always be changed, but a low grade should cause students to take action to improve. The exception to this is once report cards have been finalised, and this happens at the end of every quarter.

If a student has academic concerns, I will contact that parent after speaking to the student, so as long as parents and students are talking to each other, there will be no surprises!

As always, please reach out to me any time via

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Never Bored!

Do you ever have evenings, weekends or holidays where your son or daughter tells you they are bored because they "have nothing to do." This is more likely if you have just told them to close the laptop, put down the iPad, switch off the phone...You get the idea.

If you're like me, you might feel somewhat guilty, even though it is impossible to fill every hour of your child's time with entertainment, and experts have actually suggested this could be detrimental anyway.

This week students will sit their MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test. As with any such diagnostic, the purpose of this is not to rank students against each other. What teachers and students gain from the outcome can be very useful; the results allow us to identify areas of strength and growth so we - as teachers - can better tailor our lessons to students' needs.

Once these needs have been identified, we are fortunate, in our one-to-one program, to be able to then set up individual pathways for various aspects of our curriculum using online applications and sites.
One such application is NoRedInk. For a particularly good overview of the features it offers, you can read more here, but - in a nutshell - it allows students to work toward their own language goals, as identified by diagnostics set by the teacher.

So, what has this to do with being bored? Well, essentially it means there is absolutely no need to have nothing to do! Any time your son or daughter feels they need their brain to be occupied, you can quickly direct them to this site - preferably with the laptop screen visible to you - and they can work toward their (minimum) 40-minute-per-week study requirement.

My intention is that, through regular practice, we can eliminate those 'grammar gremlins' in a way that allows students to work at their own pace, and still be challenged. This should have an impact on their technical accuracy for writing, so please do talk to your child about what they are learning. We know that recall is an important part of learning, so the more we revisit prior study points the more likely it is to 'stick'.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Launching Lit Circles!

This week, students had their first taste of literature circles, middle-school style! Rather than preparing for discrete roles, students had to use all their skills to explore vocabulary, create engaging discussion questions, make connections between the text and their lives, the world and other texts - and that was only the preparation stage! During the lit circle discussions, they had to listen carefully, respond appropriately (remembering 'Respect for All'), and work with their team to dig deeper into the text.
Critical thinking was evident in overhearing students ask each other for clarification, provide specific examples to support their points and - at times - there was some passionate debate, which was great to see.
We finished the session with students evaluating each other for their contributions and setting specific goals to work on for the next session.
Among the comments from students were testimonials that the discussion had deepened their thinking, cleared up areas of confusion, taught them new vocabulary and challenged them to really put their brains to use!
While this first practice round was not graded, future sessions will be, so students had the opportunity to identify their areas for growth. I'm sure they will use future sessions to build on this great start.
Please note that although it will take students varying times to read, they should spend no more than 1 hour on preparation for lit circles. If it is taking significantly longer, please encourage them to speak to me, so we can work out why it is taking more time than necessary.

As we head into the long weekend, I wish you all a lovely time with your families. See you next week!

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Issues With Blog Access

It has come to my attention that some parents who access our blog on iOS cannot see the pages. This is because of Internet censorship in Vietnam. For this reason, I have copied the blog over to Wordpress. You can find it here:

If you can - and prefer to - access the blog at, that's not a problem. It does not matter whether you visit Blogger or Wordpress - you will see the same posts.

I hope this makes access easier for everyone. Don't forget to follow our blog by entering your email into the 'Follow by Email' box to the right.

Happy learning!

Monday, 29 August 2016

EFFECTIVE Strategies for Learning Vocabulary

Last week, we explored methods of learning vocabulary in conjunction with the launch of our Word Wall, which is always on display in our classroom.

Students talked about what it means to really know a word and came up with the following list of things we would need to understand:
  • Spelling
  • Pronunciation - how we say the word
  • Part of speech - whether it is a verb, noun, adjective etc.
  • Synonyms - similar words
  • Antonyms - words with the opposite meaning
  • Register - level of formality
  • Appropriate context - when to use it, and when not to use it
  • Being able to explain the definition to others
  • Be able to use it in a sentence
Students shared strategies they've used for learning new words. Among the useful strategies were:
  • creating flashcards on scrap paper with definitions, examples and terms
  • creating quiz cards for family members to 'test' students' memories
  • using Quizlet and Kahoot
  • spaced repetition
We also talked about strategies to avoid, such as:
  • re-reading definitions repeatedly with no other interaction with the target language
  • trying to 'cram' the night before a test
  • looking at the definitions once only

All students signed up to our class list on Quizlet, which provides a range of activities for students to interact with our chosen vocabulary items. The first set is up and ready for learning!

It is my intention to have regular low-stakes assessments for pairs, groups and individuals to monitor how well the key terms are being remembered.

If you want to share in our success stories, why not ask your son or daughter to explain how they are being successful in this learning?

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Curriculum Night

Despite the torrential rain, it was great to see parents and students at the curriculum night. After a full day of work whether at home or in employment, we are all ready for a rest at the end of the day. Therefore, it was particularly heartening to see the number of people who attended, showing just how interested our parents are in their children's education. I hope you found the experience worthwhile.
For those that could not make it, I've embedded the presentation below. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
(Please direct queries for Week Without Walls to the school office, who will channel your question to the correct person.)

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Our Learning Space - Shaping Up

Respect for All
So, into our second week and the students have been doing a great job of learning to support one another and see lessons as cooperative rather than competitive. Very few are challenged to remember how to demonstrate our Core Value of Respect for All, and thankfully their peers can remind and support them with this.

Flexible Learning Spaces
This week students have been exploring different ways of working around the room. We've already spent quite a bit of time thinking about our bodies and how we position them when using our laptops. It is obvious that bad posture habits now can have consequences in the future, so using an app like Move It! ensures students do not sit in one position for too long.

Another feature of our classroom is students being able to move to different positions around the room, from floor cushions, to tables, to sitting cross-legged behind our new storage units. So far, it's been great to see students working out ways to make themselves more comfortable; the more comfortable they are physically, the more likely they are to be able to focus on their learning or task at hand.

'Typing Cloth'
In Digital Literacy (DigiLit), we've been working on touch typing. Some students found it too tempting to look at their fingers while typing, so one bright spark came up with the idea of using a cloth to cover hands while practising on Here's a student showing us how it's done. trains the brain to type without looking at our hands, as well as improving our speed and accuracy. Feel free to give it a go!

Our first unit in ELA this year focuses on developing a growth mindset, as well as all the other foundational skills (such as teamwork, reading, writing & discussion) that will lead to greater chances of learning success.

You may already have experienced students coming home this week and asking you to complete a mindset survey. Mindset reveals our attitudes and beliefs about learning, and you can read more about it here. We want our students to believe in themselves, even when faced with tough academic or personal challenges, so it is helpful for parents and teachers to be aware of how we can foster this.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. You can 'Subscribe' to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do - happy learning!

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Welcome to 6th Grade 2016!

I can honestly say I am delighted to meet this year's 6th graders, and am so excited about getting to know them better as individuals. We welcome and celebrate everyone from the loudest to the quietest voice, and are learning how to show respect, caring and courtesy to each other. I've made my promises for this year, and the students are all doing the same so we can look forward to a classroom where everyone feels safe and valued.

In our first week, we had a great start as we all got to know each other and spent time understanding expectations of ourselves as students, friends, teacher and a team. We practiced the start and end of lesson routines to ensure we lose no time for our learning.

Remembering names has been a challenge but we are getting there day-by-day. Thankfully, everyone is patient and helpful at reminding each other.

Although most subjects are using Moodle, students in my classes will be piloting Google Classroom this year. This means all assignments and course information can be found by using the student login and going to If you need any help with this, please let me know. Google have promised separate parent access in the next few weeks, so I'll be sure to let you know as soon as this feature is released. (Grades will be reported as usual in PowerSchool.)

In terms of supplies, students have been asked to bring 1 A4 hardback notebook for use in ELA. Some have already done this, but if everyone could have one as soon as possible - and no later than Tuesday - that would be great for helping us stay organised.

Coming up this week, we have our library orientation, and will be setting up our reading for this first session. We will also be using some tried-and-tested methods for building our community and team. You might also be interested to know we will continue to practice our reading, writing, speaking & listening skills through the lens of metacognition, or 'learning to learn'. This will help students understand the most effective ways to work with their brains, and set a strong foundation for all the great learning I know we'll see this year.

To the left of this post, you will see a list called 'Quick Links'. At the moment, we have 2 links but the list will grow as the year goes on.

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Please remember you are welcome to contact me any time via email

More updates soon!
Mrs Abena