Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 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.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Tweaking goals and moving forward

As part of our continuing inquiry into practice, yesterday we had the opportunity to reflect on our progress to date and tweak our goals (if necessary) for the remainder of the year.  My inquiry continues to be around motivating (reluctant) learners to write.   I can definitely see progress in many of my writers and the authentic audience provided by whanau commenting more on learners' blogs (part of my MIT inquiry) is definitely helping.

Through reflection I thought about the areas that I feel are still not working effectively and there are two main areas I'm wanting to work on in my inquiry for the remainder of the year:

  • Gifting of ideas and vocabulary to learners who struggle in whole class situations and won't contribute to a brainstorm
  • Finding interesting things to write about or making even the most 'mundane' writing idea seem appealing and exciting to my learners
As always, I try to incorporate specific writing scaffolds and support in areas that learners need during small group teaching, however I have found of late that the whole class brainstorming is not working.  Despite gifting exciting vocabulary and ideas, many learners are not using it and others are still at the "I don't know what to write" stage when we write on any topic that is not 'free choice'.

Yesterday we also had an opportunity to connect with our new school inquiry group - this is a change from the teachers that I have worked with for the last two terms.  In sharing my inquiry with new teachers it gave me an opportunity to hear different ideas as well as formulate a few things to try going forward.  

One of the immediate changes I'm going to make is to brainstorm in smaller groups and depending on the group, in different ways.  I've looked again at the writers in my class and regrouped so that the brainstorm groups can hopefully be more effective.  One of the challenges (particularly in writing) is what to have the other learners doing so they are engaged in meaningful activities.   I'm aiming to use dictation and editing activities which they can do independently until they have had their brainstorm time and are ready to write.  

Another suggestion from my peers yesterday was to spend more than one session on a piece of writing - while this has been problematic in the past, I think the new groupings will support this more effectively.  I look forward to putting this new action plan into place and reflecting on how effective it is.


  1. Hi Karen
    "Another suggestion from my peers yesterday was to spend more than one session on a piece of writing"
    I maybe could wax lyrical about this but I will refrain. For a significant number of our writers the question is not "How well can I write about this?" but rather "how little can I get away with?" or put another way "How long does it have to be? (in their head that equates to as short as possible). This is often because 'writing' is a time bound exercise with a focus on getting it finished AND getting it RIGHT with grammar and spelling leading the charge. This is not how authors often work - they write different bits, they often write the last sentence first (how else do you know where you are going and how do you work out how to get there?), they feel very comfortable editing, they keep iterations (very easy digitally), they spend time building their 'stories'. As Margaret Mahy, in a magic moment, once said to one of my classes "I have had a sentence running around in my head for a long time. I finally found a story to put it in to!" - she then read the story Chocolate Porridge, and who ate it - the sentence was in the MIDDLE, yep the kids wanted to know, a wonderful story if you have never read it, it is in a School Journal from way back!
    It takes time, real time, but if we want our kids to be authors we have to move through writing and editing into a whole new area.
    Enough already! One could quote Theodore, Albert or Ken on changing mindset but one will do "William Shakespeare was 9 once and someone had him in their Year 4 class!"
    Good luck.

    1. Thanks Innes, as always your comments are inspiring and definitely helped. I've just reflected on how the changes I've made have been working (http://peskarenbelt.blogspot.co.nz/2016/08/moving-forward-reflecting-on-changes.html) - and your feedback was really valuable!

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