Rotorua Education Network – “Famil”

In November this year I attended the Rotorua Education Network famil. This was a 2 day PD that involved meeting with and experiencing tourism in Rotorua. During the 2 days we went to agrodome, te puia, we also went white water rafting on the skyline to agrodome adventrues, on the ogo and to tamaki village for a cultural experience. This was a pretty awesome PD to be attending a aside from being a whole lot of fun it was beneficial to my teaching practice for several reasons;

  • This year was my first year taking my Year 13 geography class to Rotorua as part of their research assessment and external (cultural proccesses). I booked on line through the Rotorua Education Network but didn’t really know what to expect or what was on offer. The famil, showcased a whole lot of tourist providers and what they could offer school groups – including links to particular standards. I now have some ideas for next time and may be a bit more adventurous in the activities I book. This year I was viewing the trip purely from an assessment driven perspective and not looking at the bigger picture in terms of cultural experiences, fun outside of the classroom.
  • This trip provided me with a useful networking experience with about 20 geography teachers from around the country attending we spent a lot of time talking about the various programs and courses we offered which was useful to my planning and reviewing of the level 3 program.

I am now looking forward to creating a more engaging and holistic fieldtrip in 2018!

AGTA – New to teaching geography course

In May, 2017 I attended a workshop held by the Auckland Geography Teachers Association. This was a short 3 hour course that covered some general information about teaching geography. While there were a number of themes that were addressed in this discussion there was one point that really stood out to me. One of the experienced geography teachers was discussing planning your program and the amount of credits required. She was explaining the benefits of offering less credits in your geography course in order to provide a space for teaching and learning outside of assessment.

I liked this idea for a number of reasons;

  1. As geography is an option subject we should be developing students interest in the subject and making our subject as exciting as possible which can’t always be done if you are constantly teaching to assessment.
  2. It is important to take time out to explore other issues that interests us as teachers but also students. E.g. current events, global issues, media stories etc. Cutting assessments gives some space and time out and learn through exploration.
  3. Teaching the same content year after year can be tedious for both the teacher and student – exploring new ideas can be engaging for the students and keep teachers passionate about the subject.

Nearing the end of 2017 on the back of my first year of teaching this is something I am seriously considering in my planning, in particular cutting out one external. At the moment the majority of L1,2 and 3 students only complete 1 if any externals and so focusing on internal credits and making the content interesting could be are more meaningful and valuable use of class time than preparing for externals that are not always completed. However, I will re-assess this at the beginning of next year once we have the data for externals. In the meantime I am re-working some of the content for next year to keep geography interesting!

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).

SOC CON 2017 – some reflections

During the Term 3 holidays the Social Studies department attended SOC CON in Napier. This conference was 3 days in total and involved a variety of workshops and key note speakers. The overarching theme of the conference was “Developing Global Citizens”. I had never been to SOC CON before and was looking forward to attending as this was geared towards the Social Sciences. While there were many interesting points raised over the 3 days there was one highlight in particular for me that I have since taken and used in the classroom.

The Auckland Geography Teacher’s association (AGTA) did a workshop titled “Tricks and Treats to help priority learners in the classroom”. Here is the link to the presentation.

During this workshop the presenter discussed using chalk outside for students to practice their diagrams. I LOVED this idea as we were working on exam revision and my Level 1, 2, and 3 students were all required to draw various diagrams in their externals. I was keen to try this out as an exciting way to revise but also develop skills since a number of students struggled with diagrams in their mid year, end end of year practice exams.

I initially tried this with my level 2 class and got them to draw diagrams about development:




The class enjoyed it so much I tried it with my level 1 class for their natural process exam on tsunamis and their population exam:



And my Level 3 class in preparation for their cultural processes exam:



In conclusion, using chalk is a fun interactive way for students to develop their diagram drawing skills necessary in NCEA geography.


“PLUGs” students and achievement

A student in my Year 11 Geography class was identified in our recent “Plug” meeting as a “priority learner”. This particular student had been sitting at 0 credits in my subject and had a similar number of credits in her other subjects. This was particularly concerning as this student is more that capable of achieving academically. However, for some reason was not managing to complete her assessments.

As a result of the “Plug” meeting the Year 11 dean had also noticed this student was not achieving across the board. After the meeting the dean sent out an inquiry to all the subject teachers of this student.

However, she had a re-sub scheduled in my subject. At the same time perhaps as a result of the recent “plug” meeting the Year 11 dean was also on the case of this particular student. Because of this I noticed a significant shift in this particular student. She began making an effort in class and catching up on missed credits. She also took responsibility for her own learning by asking for and then attending geography study classes to catch up on missed work.

Discussions with other teachers during PLUG meetings and taking time to look at the data for our students can help catch students from falling though the cracks as a lack of achievement is caught sooner rather than latter.

GAFE (google aps for education) Summit 2017

In April, 2017 I attended the 2 day GAFE summit at Aorere College. Over the 2 day duration I attended a range of workshops and talks focused on using google more effectively for teaching and learning. Some of the work shops I attended included:

  • Using google docs more effectively
  • Using google maps, my maps and google earth
  • Using google ups to support te reo in the classroom


The key highlights for me over the two days that I have since taken to the classroom have been:

  1. Jefferey Hail’s work shop on google documents. While prior to this work shop I felt I was relatively proficient in using google docs I still felt I could learn a few things. The main “hack” I took with me to the classroom was being able to change the settings of a google doc to make sure students make a copy of the document straight away (simply changing /edit on the document to /preview or /copy). This was particularly useful as I was using google sites in most of my classes and regularly posting work on the google calendar but forgetting to change the settings. I had been caught out a few times with students writing on the original document. This tip has saved me a lot of time and hassle!
  2. Jefferey Hail’s workshop on my maps, showed me how to use my maps in an engaging way – especially important in geography! I have since used this with my senior classes as a way to become familiar with location. I like this app in particular because students can mark points on the map, annotate and add videos. Here is the link to the presentation.
  3. I went to a workshop on applications that were focused on using Te reo in the classroom and got some basic tips such as adding te reo as a language to include macrons in your text as well as basic sentence structure and grammar a site for waiata (which I haven’t used yet but could be helpful if I’m ever required to come up with and teach a waiata).I also learnt about māori maps which maps Aotearoa’s marae and the macron restoration site you can transfer text and it adds the macron into the correct place (I wish I knew about this when writing my thesis!).