Changes to Level 3 – global issue

I made some changes to the Level 3 program this year. Last year for AS91432 – Analyse aspects of a geographic topic at a global scale we looked at Malaria. While students found this topic interesting enough I wanted to make the Level 3 program a little more exciting for students. At SOC CON 2017 Geostuff were selling resources for units and one that caught my eye was a unit on Maritime Piracy. I tried this with the Level 3 class this year and what I liked about it was this brought unit presented the course content in a really clear methodical way which made it really easy to teach. As I am still in my second year it was a really useful resource to help me get my head around the standard.

Furthermore, as noted in previous posts its important to keep course content up to date and fresh – as it is just as important for the teacher to be excited about the material as it is for the students. On reflection, it also reminded me that the presentation of material is important – where possible teaching needs to be made explicit and ideally content is presented in clear sections. While the Malaria unit was rich in content there was perhaps a little to much collected over the years which meant it was difficult for students to focus in on key points or key ideas. Sometimes less is more 🙂

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Deadlines and having high expectations

Throughout 2017, I had trouble in most of my senior classes with students handing in work by the agreed deadline. While I initially tried to enforce strict deadlines, students didn’t really seem to take these deadlines very seriously. On several occasions in my level 1 and 3 classes students would just completely ignore the deadline and as a result I would then give the entire class an extension – feeling like this was perhaps because I hadn’t given students enough time for their assessment.

However, towards the end of 2017 I came to realise my enabling of missing deadlines was an unfair approach to assessments. On the one hand I felt that giving students more time was better than them not gaining credits for their incomplete work. However, this seemed unfair for small minority of students that did work hard in class to complete work by the deadline. It meant effectively I was favouring some students over others and some students were getting a lot of extra time to complete work. For some students they were then gaining; achieved,  merit or excellence grades while other students who were handing in on top potentially could have gained a higher grade if they were given the same amount of time. Furthermore, students did in fact have plenty of time in class to complete their assessments but because they were no real consequences for missing deadlines and too many second and third chances this meant student were developing poor time management skills in class. If I wanted my students to develop strong time management skills and take deadlines seriously I needed to address this issue. I knew I was setting students up to fail later in life (at university or workplaces) if I didn’t foster a sense of urgency around work completion. I realised  I needed to establish a clear extension policy early on and follow through on this policy.

As noted my level 1 and 3 classes seemed to have a pretty relaxed approach to work completion and deadlines however, this didn’t to seem to be as much of an issue in my level 2 class. I realised this was because I had set some clear expectations with this class at the start of the year. I had gotten students in this class to apply for an extension on their first assessment prior to the deadlines.

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As you can see on the form students were required to reflect and take responsibility for meeting the new deadline. As a result of doing this early on with my level 2 Geography class I think this meant students took their deadlines a little more seriously than my other senior classes.

At the end of 2017 during a Social Studies Department meeting my colleagues and I were discussing the challenges of getting students to take deadlines seriously. I shared my application for extension form with my department and we decided to use this and implement a department policy. This would involve students applying for an extension (prior to the deadline). A phone call would be made home to inform parents/caregivers. This would then be signed off by the classroom teacher and then given to the HOD. The HOD would then talk to the student and approve or decline the extension.

The policy was made clear with students in the first week of classes and a letter was sent home to all Social Science students informing parents/caregivers of the policy.

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The process was made clear with students and the deadlines were set early on so this meant students knew exactly what was expected of them in terms of assessments and deadlines. The expectation being deadlines would be taken seriously and there was a clear process on how to get an extension. This meant that it was fair for all students – those that needed more time needed a legitimate excuse and their were clear steps for them to follow if they needed an extension. This policy was discussed with students in week 1 and the assessment calendar was shared with them.

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Reflecting on this policy at the end of term 2 I think it has been successful in getting students to take their deadlines seriously and there is definitely a sense of clarity around what is expected in terms of taking responsibility for completing work on time and taking ownership if an extension is required.  There is definitely more of sense of urgency and stronger work ethic in class leading up to a deadline.

PLUG Groups PLD 2018

As mentioned in earlier posts at Tamaki College teachers meet regularly (every 2 weeks) to discuss and collaborate on how to best help priority learners with their academic achievement. In particular, students who have 0 credits in a number of subjects. In 2017 we focused on Level 1 and Level 2 students. However, in 2018 we will just be focusing on Level 1 students. As my Level 1 class only has 7 students there is only one student I am focusing on within the PLUG group discussions who prior to meeting in our groups had 0 credits in Geography.

I wasn’t really sure why this student wasn’t achieving  in geography. While attendance was a bit of an issue she worked hard when she was in class and cared about her academic success. I mentioned to her Science teacher who is also in my PLUG group that I had found her writing to be a bit of a problem. This student’s writing was at times overly descriptive and perhaps better suited for creative writing or perhaps speech writing. However, this didn’t really work in geography. Her science teacher also commented on some issues with her writing.

After this conversation I decided to pursue this further by talking to the student one on one and giving feedback. I suggested she use grammerly and regularly share her work with me so I could comment on her writing (as well as content). We have been doing this were possible and since then this student has achieved 3 credits in geography and I have noticed a vast improvement in her writing style.

Reflections on Rotorua field trip, 2018

P1010412.JPGI took my level 3 Geography class to Rotorua for 4 days in Week 7 of Term 2. I made a few changes based on my learnings and reflections from the 2017 trip. Here a few things I adjusted:

  1. Based on the results from both the exams and internals tied to the trip I decided to establish a criteria for students attendance on the trip (80% attendance and 3/4 assessments submitted prior to the trip) – see more on this here 
  2. I changed the days from 3 days to 4 largely because I felt the time there was too rushed and it didn’t leave my time for students to reflect and plan their field work. In 2017 there was only one opportunity to collect field work data but the locations students choose wasn’t appropriate so there was no space to fix this. This year the extra day allowed for 2 research slots. After the first data collection I got students to reflect and then re-evaluate their research plan for the following day – including location. E.g. if they went to an area where there were no tourist they could then reflect and change their location for the next day.
  3. I included more fun activities e.g. the ogo and white water rafting – this is based on my reflections of 2017 and the professional development I attended at the end of 2017.  I wanted to take a more holistic approach to teaching and learning.
  4. I included more cultural based activities – as this was something maori students appreciated from the 2017 trip (seeing their culture valued). So we spent more time at Te Puia, Mitai and Kaitaki Adventures (run by iwi).

Some general reflections on the trip this year:

Putting criteria in place was a positive step to motivate students prior to the trip but also meant that some students missed out. However, we were left only bringing the engaged students on the trip which meant we had less behavioural issues etc on the trip.

The research over 2 days was definitely better and allowed students to critique their own research process. However, a couple of students skipped a significant number of classes prior to the trip which meant they really had no idea what their research plan was. Getting students to actually carry out the research in the mist of all the fun activities was a bit tedious I will need to look at solutions to this for next year – perhaps not allowing students to come if they haven’t planned in advance and making this really clear with students. I could also find ways to get students to evaluate their group members to avoid some students “carrying the weigh of others” on the trip. Having morning briefings with students prior to starting the day will also make sure the schedule is clear and everyone knows what is expected of them.

The first and second day were good in terms of students following instructions and showing up on time. However, by the end of the second day I started to feel a little like a nagging mother getting students up and ready in the morning. Perhaps an incentive for students displaying RISE values could help address some of this issues. Again regular briefings with students could also provide opportunities to reinforce expectations around behaviour and attitudes.

Overall, the trip was a success – especially in terms of getting students to do their research and critically reflect after each data collection. Students had a really great attitude (most of the time) and enjoyed the trip. However, there are still some organisational and structural issues I need to tighten up for 2019.

 

Level 2 research trip – where to build an ice-cream shop?

For the research standard AS91244 “Conduct Geographic Research with Direction” in 2017 my Level 2 class looked at “Where to build a new coffee shop?”. For the field work in previous years the class had gone to Auckland’s CBD (Queen Street) to determine where we should build a new coffee shop? Students did pedestrian counts and surveys in several different locations over a day. However, my first year planning this trip I decided to take the class to Glen Innes shops. The logic behind this was that this would be an environment that students had some prior knowledge and could hopefully make some meaningful connections to their research.

However, I learnt this was not the best decisions – the class expressed their embarrassment about researching in their own community. I realised I had missed up and let my own perspective cloud my judgement. To me Glen Innes was an interesting place to research (I had written my MA thesis on Glen Innes). I quickly regretted this decision and admitted my mistake to the class. They were pretty understanding and didn’t let their embarrassment get in the way of their research project. This year I knew I had to think more carefully about the research location. I also realised that deciding where a new coffee shop should be located wasn’t the most culturally responsive topic for Tamaki College students. To my students coffee culture was really limited to a cup of instant coffee in the morning and the concept of going out to buy coffee was pretty foreign to most students. However, I had already made a lot of significant changes to the level 2 program this year (Ihumatao and hip hop)and didn’t feel like I had the time to create more resources and design a whole new assessment.

I spoke to my HOD about this during our regular catch ups and she agreed designing new content was too much work. We looked on the AGTA website but the resources on their didn’t really speak to our students either. We both contacted some other geography teachers but didn’t hear back and eventually I emailed the AGTA asking for some material. They provided me with resources for “Where to build a new ice cream shop”. The field trip was planned out for 4 locations on Auckland’s North Shore. I was initially reluctant about taking students to the North Shore (again letting my own perspective cloud my judgement) because to me the North Shore was a bit like Glen Innes was to my students as this was where I grew up and therefore to me wasn’t really an interesting place to research. However, I decided to try out the field trip that had already been tried and tested rather than coming up with my own locations. This turned out to be a really good decision.

On the day students arrived early and were ready to leave by 9am – this was particularly impressive since there is often an issue with lateness for period 1 and 2 classes. We hit the road and arrived at Orewa (our first location). Students had a booklet to work through that require them to make specific notes on the location, count pedestrians and interview people. Students were working closely together in groups to complete their tasks. 45 minutes was a good amount of time because it kept the class busy and focused and engaged in the activity. We then moved to the remaining locations; Silverdale, Takapuna and Devonport. By the end of the day students were buzzing they were having a great time and for some this was their first time ever crossing the harbour bridge! One student asked another student who was sitting up front to change the radio station to “Mai Fm” – the student replied “I don’t think you can get 88.6 out of Auckland!!!

This comment in particular made me realise how important taking students out of their own environment was. I needed to be more aware that my lived experience was very different to the kids I was teaching – some very rarely leaving GI – taking students to new places to explore is really something geography has to offer students at Tamaki and I really needed to remember that when planning field trips in the future. While we were in Devonport a couple of students mentioned they had never been on the ferry. Perhaps this is an experience I can give students next year on the Ice-cream shop field trip!

Literacy strategies – Year 10 Amazon paragraph writing

Literacy is a significant issue for students at Tamaki College. Students tend to be well below the National Standards for both reading and writing. During Term 1 the Social Science department met with the Literacy Specialist at Tamaki College (Marc Milford) to discuss his writing plan for 2018. During this session he shared his plan with us and discussed strategies would could use in our Social Studies classes to improve literary.

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During this session Marc gave some suggestions of strategies we could use in our Social Studies classes. One I liked in particular was the “Judge group writing task”.

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I decided to try this with my Year 10 class latter in the week. I asked Marc to come along and observe and help judge. During a double period I set this up as I had already planned to get students to write a paragraph on the Amazon. I explained they could write the paragraph in groups and then we would write them up the next day and “judge them”. There would be a small prize (chocolates) for the best paragraph. Students took the task very seriously and began writing their practice paragraphs in groups.

The next day Marc came in and gave the class a little more guidance and some tips on how to improve their paragraphs. Students seemed to be excited to get into the writing. Once they had revised their paragraphs students wrote there one up on the board. Marc gave a quick explanation of strengths and weaknesses of each paragraph and then gave a grade out of 5.

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Some refections: Overall, this was a really fun engaging activity that students enjoyed. When I asked students about how they felt the task went they said they enjoyed it but needed more time. Perhaps this task would be better over a double period rather than a single to allow students more time to write. It would be useful for students to do this fairly regularly and then gradually build up to students judging each others work (with guidance).

Changes to Level 2 – Contemporary Issue. Ihumatao, Otuataua, Stonefields.

In my second year of teaching Level 2 Geography at Tamaki College I wanted to make some changes to the course content. In particular to AS94245 – contemporary issue. Last year students had looked at whether or not a rail link should be built to Auckland’s International Airport. However, students (and myself) were not really engaged in this issue. As noted in my previous post about teaching Child Poverty in my level 1 class I feel it’s important to teach content that I find interesting and exciting to teach as enthusiasm can be contagious – this is especially important for issue related content. One of the reasons I think geography is such an important subject is for it’s potential to engage students in the world that we are living in.

Students are Tamaki College, living in Glen Innes are living the realities of a significant redevelopment project happening in their community. When I have discussed this in class with students this seems to be an issue they feel passionate about and are keen to discuss and debate in class. The Level 2 Social Studies class looks at this redevelopment and the perspectives around it and since their were some strong parallels between what is happening in Glen Innes (in particular with the Point England reserve) and Ihumatao.  I felt that this might provide students with an opportunity to draw links and think about issues a little deeper – especially for those who were taking both Social Studies and Geography.

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Additionally, Ihumatao is a good example of the Treaty of Waitangi in a contemporary context. Highlighting to students the Treaty is not simply a historical document that has been left behind. Rather, that is has implications in todays society too.

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Since Ihumatao is a local issue (located in Mangere, Auckland) this also provided an excellent field trip opportunity. I contacted organisers from SOUL (Save our Unique Landscape) to see if they were willing to take the class through and discuss their various perspectives with students. SOUL were happy to accomodate us and we organised a trip to visit the land. This was a fantastic way for students to see the land, hear stories and gain a deeper understanding of the cultural, archeological and historical significance of Ihumatao. Students then returned to school with a deeper understanding of the issue and heard a variety of perspectives on the issue (SOUL had 4 different speakers talk to the class!).

On reflection it is important to reflect on and change units of work in class and attempt to find issues that engage students and me as their teacher especially in a subject like geography that allows students to explore the world we are living in. Using locally based issues can be a powerful way to bring the issue to live for students especially when field trip opportunities are available. This can allow students to explore the issue and different perspectives first hand rather than reading off a website – this is especially valuable for students whose literacy levels are not good. Lastly, it is important as a teacher of social sciences to keep topics fresh and relevant!

 

Child poverty in Aotearoa, New Zealand – new unit level 1 geography, 2018

In my second year of teaching I wanted to make some changes to the level 1 program. Previously at level 1 students looked at the Waterview Connection as a contemporary issue. However, this felt slightly outdated as the Waterview Connection was build in 2017. I wanted to try something new that would be a little more engaging for students at Tamaki College. I decided to try a unit on Child Poverty in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Students were required to describe the issue, explore different perspectives and discuss solutions. I found this to be particularly fun to teach since students in my Level 1 class seemed to feel passionate about the issue of child poverty and were keen to participate in class discussion (something I struggled to get students to do with the Waterview connection unit).

While the class were able to describe the issue in detail (perhaps an issue a little closer to home for many TC students than the Waterview tunnel) I noticed exploring different perspectives was a bit of a challenge. I asked a friend of mine from Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) to come and speak to the class from her perspective.

This was an awesome experience as the class were engaged and interested in what she had to see. This perhaps made it a bit easier for students to identify a unique perspective as it was being told to them first hand.

My HOD asked her to come to her Level 3 Social Studies class to talk to some students who were looking at the issue as well. The feedback from these students was incredibly positive and students felt inspired to make positive social change in the future. One student even said to me “Was that your friend, she’s so cool. I want to be like her when I’m older. How did she get into working for AAAP”.  Having guest speakers is definitely a great way to bring perspectives and current issues to life and see how real people are making positive change in New Zealand’s society.

Changing the unit also reminded me it is important as a teacher to teach topics that you as the teacher feel passionate about – students definitely pick up on enthusiasm (or lack of it) and being genuinely interested in a topic can contribute to a positive and engaging learning environment.

 

 

 

 

Changes to Level 2 – hip hop unit some reflections

In my second year of teaching Level 2 Geography at Tamaki College I wanted to make some changes to the Level 2 course content. As mentioned in previous posts I had already made some changes to the program. I wanted to the program overall to be more engaging and culturally responsive to the students I was teaching. A lot of the current content had come from text books or from the AGTA (Auckland Geographers Teachers Association). I wanted the program to be a little more relatable for the students I was teaching. At SOC CON 2017 I looked at the resources provided by Geostuff and a unit on hip hop grabbed my attention. A lot of my students listened to hip hop and RnB and felt this could engage a number of students in a more meaningful way.

This new unit was for AS91426 – Explain a geographical topic at a global scale. Students were to identify the global pattern of hip hop, explain the causes and significance for people. Perhaps a little more exciting than HIV/AIDS.

Some reflections – the class really seemed to enjoy the topic and the content. However, the pattern and causes were a little challenging – especially since a lot of the class were new to geography and had no prior knowledge. Secondly, the way I presented the content was a bit all over the place – I really needed to break down the causes and give students more examples of this rather than getting them to identify these themselves from the resource booklet. This was perhaps ok for the students who had taken geography at level 1 or students who were a bit more academic but I had a really diverse group of learners in the class this year and could have perhaps provided a lot more scaffolding for some students to make the pattern, causes and significance for people a bit more explicit. Especially considering this was the first unit of work we had covered for the year and the key geographic concepts were very new to a lot of my students. For next year I will scaffold more and take more time on key concepts – especially patterns (which can be a bit challenging)!

AGTA “Doing things differently course” -2017

On the 27 November I attended the end of year Auckland Geography Teachers Association  course as part of my professional development. This was a day long course and was useful for several reasons;

  1. We discussed the 2017 externals and changes to some of the wording in Achievement standards. This was something I had not heard news about previously so it meant I knew what to look out for in 2018.
  2. We also had a speaker from the Auckland Lantern Festival come and talk to us as a number schools teach this as their “Event”. At Tamaki we look at Polyfest as this is perhaps a little more relevant to our students. Nonetheless, this got me talking to other teachers about what they do – some teachers told me that they let their students choose – which I liked the idea of and this may be something I explore in my classroom. It also allowed me to think of other events that might be interesting to students at Tamaki College.
  3. We listened to a speaker from the University of Auckland talk about Tourism in Auckland – I found this particularly interesting since it got me thinking about the possibility of working on a tourism program at Tamaki College in the future as I believe a lot of students take geography because they are interested in working in the Travel and Tourism industry.
  4. I learnt about using tour builder  this lets students annotate and create tours using google maps. I also learnt about an  app called pursued which is a game where students guess the location – if they don’t guess on time they get “kidnapped”. I also learnt some stuff on google earth about tours that students can go on that have already been created with information about a particular place. This could be a fun way to provide students a bit more insight and deepen understanding about place. Especially for topics like the Amazon where students are unable to go a visit. After the course, I took these fun activities to my department and we used this for a lesson we planned collaboratively for Year 8 students from Pamure Bridge, visiting Tamaki College. Apparently the primary students had a lot of fun playing around with maps. While I haven’t used this in my classroom yet I think these tools will be useful – potentially for pepeha or mihi (tourbuilder). I also think I will try using it for spatial patterns in Rotorua as this provides a way for students to annotate and map at the same time.
  5. Another geography teacher spoke to us about updates with DOC (Department of Conservation) at Tongariro National Park – this is where a lot of Level 2 Geography classes go for their large natural environment (we cover the Amazon). This helped me reflect on our course and think about different field trip opportunities for the future. Perhaps studying somewhere that we can visit may help Level 2’s feel more engaged and deepen their understanding.
  6. Net working- it was great to spend the day with other geography teaches and hear about their programs. I also spoke to the HOD at One Tree Hill College who has offered to be involved in the moderation process and check assessment templates and share resources.

In summary, this was an inspirational PD. I left feeling excited about planning and reviewing the geography program and hearing different ideas from other teachers has inspired me to try new things and be a little bit more creative with content. After this PD I decided to talk to my HOD about a collabrative social studies program working on several standards together around Ihuamatao (in Mangere).