Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a fourth year teacher working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 3 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Reinforcing HFWs


One of the things I really love about Explain Everything is that you can use it in so many different ways, limited only by imagination!  I identified a need for my learners to remember High Frequency Words as many are being held back in reading because they are unable to identify words such as "the" and "is".

I've decided to focus on three words each week with my learners and these are our "Star Words" for the week - we go over them multiple times a day and learners receive rewards for reading them when asked throughout the day - needless to say, they are always keen to be asked!

To further reinforce these words I've created an Explain Everything project which learners complete as part of our reading rotation.  We unpacked the project as a whole class earlier in the week and then all did it together - now they are able to complete it independently as part of the reading rotation and already, after just two days I've noticed an improvement in their reading when the star words are encountered!

Find the letters to make the word "the"


Write the word "the" three times




The last slide where a learner has to say the words

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Pushing forward with H.O.T. activities

The weeks of the term are flying by and with only a few weeks until the first break I'm realising how valuable time is in the classroom and how hard it is to cram everything into a learning week.  With three new learners arriving this week I took the opportunity to reinforce the routines I'd already implemented with the rest of my learners as well as introduce my new learners to the iPads in a much smaller group.  This gave me a great opportunity for the rest of the class to work on a second Wanted activity.

Much like the first week, we did it together first as a whole class, but this week rather than support the learners with their recording, I left them to work on this independently while I worked with the new learners.  Some did try to tell me they were finished before they'd recorded - this is where I really love Explain Everything as you can tell immediately that they haven't recorded.  I uploaded all the projects to listen to and look at later - thank you Hapara Teacher Dashboard - I can do that from the comfort of home!

Already, I'm noticing a definitely improvement in both the drawing skills, writing on lines and the oral language many of the learners are using - and that is only on the second opportunity to use the template.  I can see the benefits already of adding this template to existing Explain Everything reading projects next term!


The bear was hungry and he stole my, he stole my fish.


The bear made me laugh when he gave the white bear the fish and the black bear the fish.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Using my H.O.T. template ... small beginnings

As I've documented in my blog earlier this term, my inquiry is focusing on creating Explain Everything projects to encourage Higher Order Thinking with my five year olds.

I've created a template which I want my learners to use with a variety of books and I want to see if continued use of the same generic template can encourage greater HOT and, if over a period of time I see improvement through its continued use.

Today we used my "Wanted" template for the first time as a whole class.  We read a shared Big Book and unpacked the four characters in the book.  I carefully scaffolded the activity with the learners and we completed the activity as a whole class, drawing on ideas from everyone.  Then there was the opportunity for learners to do it individually.

There was varying levels of success with the activity - some learners did really well with the drawing and writing but needed support with the recording.  Other learners' struggled more with the drawing and writing components but did an impressive job with their orally recorded explanation.   I now have a completed project for each learner and I will be able to compare progress over the next four weeks - it is my intention to complete the activity at least once a week until the end of term.  The beauty of it being an Explain Everything project is that I can add it to an existing project as an extra for my higher level reading groups!

Here is a small selection of some of the results from today's first effort - it is important to note that many of these learners have been at school less than a month!


This is Mr Bear and he makes me feel sleepy because he told the boy to go to sleep.


The bear made me laugh because it was silly.


The bear is scary and he made me so sleepy. (Why did he make you sleepy?)  Cos he was scaring me.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Using the first of my 'SOLO' Explain Everything templates

Today I tried using one of my SOLO Explain Everything templates which we created during our inquiry session yesterday, as an additional activity with one of my reading groups.

They had read "Hedgehog is Hungry" (a Red level PM Reader book) the previous day and taken it home to read with whanau overnight.  Before we did our guided reading session for the day I introduced the template.  We talked about some of the things we'd learnt about hedgehogs in our book and the learners came up with some great ideas, including hedgehogs were spiky, hungry and ate worms.  I showed the group how to use the template and unpacked what the word "describe means".

I then asked the learners to select their favourite picture from the story.  Using this template which I'd shared to each learner in the group using Teacher Dashboard,  they all easily took a photo of their favourite picture from the story.  We took turns recording our ideas about the pictures and once each learner had finished we listened to the recordings as a whole group.  We talked about how many ideas each learner had included in their description.  I plan to use these icons to assist them in working up to including at least three ideas in each description they complete.

Unpacking what they achieved today

Here are two samples of what the learners achieved today - the first time we used the template.


The hedgehog is waiting and he is eating the worm and then <undecipherable>.  
(One idea)



This is hedgehog and it ... This is hedgehog and he eats worms and he's hungry.
(One idea with a little elaboration).

Referring back to the SOLO taxonomy diagram, this activity would fall into the unistructural category with one main idea.  


It is hoped that as learners become more familiar with this activity and more comfortable with recording their ideas, that they will add additional ideas and move further along the above diagram.  I always like to blog about my very first attempt with an activity as it provides a value starting marker from which to compare after a few weeks of additional learning.  

The beauty of Explain Everything templates like this one is that they can be added or combined with other projects and can be used with any book that the learner is reading.  






Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Using SOLO taxonomy to create Explain Everything projects

Our whole staff professional development this week looked at SOLO taxonomy and how we can encourage higher order thinking in our learners.


My professional inquiry group met this afternoon to discuss and create an Explain Everything project to incorporate the different levels of the SOLO structure.  As a group we unpacked how this could look for our learners and explored some examples of SOLO HOT maps and graphic organisers.  While many of these look great, I am aware that my learners are unable to write yet, and don't want to have this as a limiting factor for what they are able to achieve.

Our group focused on describe (unistructural and multistructural level) and compare/contrast (extended abstract) activities during our session today.  We decided that rather than using one specific book we would create our projects as 'templates' so that we could use them over a range of different titles.  I've chosen to use oral language in my describe activity:

For my compare/contrast activity, my template is blank however I will need to add photos to at least one side of the Venn diagram to assist my five year olds.   The plan is for them to find similarities in photos (either those I provide, or a combination of provided photos & some they take) and to move common things to the overlapping segment of the circles.  I liken this activity to my recent creation for the title "Brave Father Mouse" where I asked learners to compare what is in their lunch box to what a mouse eats.



Our inquiry group have used the images of SOLO on the projects so learners start to identify with these as they complete activities over the year.  I also plan to include key vocabulary (eg describe, compare, contrast) on my wall in the classroom under these icons and focus on unpacking these words, one at a time, with my learners.  

Following this session, I can see that my Wanted Poster idea which I'd previously created also links to SOLO and encourages higher order thinking!

I'm looking forward to trialling at least one of these activities with my learners this week as an additional follow up to reading and will blog the results!

It is great to work with other teachers with similar inquiry topics and unpack and discuss our ideas - the power of collaboration!  The other teachers in my inquiry group are (with links to their blogs):





Monday, 2 March 2015

Action Plan ... the theory behind my Inquiry

My Pt England inquiry is around developing independent higher order thinking activities for Year 1s to support reading.  My recent assignment on my Digital Enhancement paper complements this inquiry and the presentation that I gave to my MDTA colleagues last week showcases many of the ideas I'm trying to incorporate into my inquiry.


In order to display the presentation you may need to allow scripts to run on the page, or use this alternative
Link to presentation


Following the unpacking I undertook in my presentation, I've identified my next steps to be:

  • Scaffold the icons on Explain Everything projects so learners identify with them and understand that they are a way of directing which tool they need to use for each project
  • Unpack and scaffold with the whole class my "Wanted Poster" activity. I want to compare the progress that learners make when they complete this activity once a week, on a variety of books all term.  Comparisons will be made weekly to see the degree of detail in both the picture and accompanying oral language as well as comparing week 5 with the final week of term.
  • Continue to unpack Explain Everything activities with reading and continue to introduce complexity as learners grasp each step
I'm looking forward to introducing the Wanted poster with my learners and scaffolding it in a way to encourage oral language and asking learners to think about the character and how they made them feel.