A new year and a slightly different focus…and yes it’s all about the ‘word’, in particular the spoken word!
This year we want to help our students go beyond any limits and build a vibrant capacity for exploring new vocabulary which will enable them to build strong foundations to become“creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a changing world.”
We began by delving in deeply to think about when throughout the day we could focus on practising the skills required for active listening and speaking, as well as introducing new vocabulary and not simply during the literacy block! In actual fact when you stop to consider it we are constantly using our language skills everyday across all subjects, when we interact with each other and socialise outside in the playground. At our school we begin each day focusing on a particular social skill based on three of our six pillars (Witness, Manage and Relate) and in my learning space we have the students working in ‘Tribe groups’. Each tribe has between 4-5 students and every week the students take turns in being the tribe leader, supply manager, communicator and cheer squad. This week we were able to integrate Religion into our tribes as each tribe had to work together to create a poster teaching others everything they knew about Ash Wednesday. As the groups worked on their poster they were reminded of the social skills for this particular week:
• learning to share equipment, furniture and learning spaces.
• make people feel welcome
• Look after my own, others and school property
It was fascinating watching the students who were able to communicate effectively as well as apply the social skill learning. Then there were other students who although they are good communicators during other learning opportunities guided by the teacher in this particular situation they struggled to share the equipment and communicate their intentions or feelings with each other. At the end of the task all the students who had the communicators job this week stood up and presented their poster to the larger group. This can be challenging for many students especially when they are EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect). One of the student’s who couldn’t recall all the information added by another student actually asked them for clarification. The more opportunities these students have to practice their speaking skills then they can incorporate any new vocabulary learnt and have peer modelling as well.
To assist in this journey of discovery our professional learning meetings are incorporating a balance of reading articles, accessing resource books, participating in open discussions amongst colleagues and then sharing of ideas.
Each week we are trialling a new idea in our learning spaces to enhance the development of new vocabulary and being very aware of supporting student voice within the learning spaces. One of the activities I have been using with the students has been a ‘word wheel’ where we identify new words from a text or key concept and then students get to talk with a partner about how they can use them in a sentence. Each student shares their sentence with each other and then I extended on this to have them write it in their literacy books, adding an illustration to match. This matches the saying “If I can think it I can say it, if I can say it I can write and if I can write it then I can read it!” The students have enjoyed choosing which 4 words they would like included in the word wheel daily and eagerly share their new sentence with their partner. Some of the students are working on using 2 words while others are ready for the challenge of using all 4 words in a sentence.
This week we have been using a ‘talking stick’ in a maths warm up where the students have been creating patterns using 2 D shapes. Then within their small group one student holds the talking stick and describes their pattern while the others listen. An anchor chart that the students helped co-create is used as a resource for the students to refer to when using the language of 2D shapes. Every day the students are growing a bank of new words to add to their vocabulary so their limits will be endless!
Next step is transferring this knowledge into the student’s writing…but that’s another Blog! So we’ll keep on exploring and using the power of the WORD!!