Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Conversation with Leslee Allen - Junior Assessment and Play Based Learning

Dr Sarah Aiono has a conversation with Leslee Allen, teaching principal of Kaurihohore School (Whangarei), and creator of Number Agents.

Leslee is a passionate advocate of developmentally responsive teaching, including the value of both explicit instruction and child-led learning through play. The conversation also discusses some misconceptions around school reporting, MoE requirements and systemic responsibilities schools have.

Takeaways from the podcast

  • The school has no reporting to Board for Years 1-3. No benchmarks as markers for where they should be for Year 1-3. No recording of data anywhere except for the target students. 
  • The school believes it is utterly unfair to use benchmarks for students in these early years because each child's developmental progress is so different. For example, girls develop cognitively earlier than boys, yet boys develop movement skills earlier than girls. Do we measure girls movement skills and then call them below if they have not developed their movement skills yet? If a child is cognitively at two years, why compare them to a five-year-old benchmark?
  • Since the changes, teachers are now asking how cognitively developed the students were when they started school. 
  • Benchmarks are false as not a marker to progress and do not consider the variability of factors that could impact a child's development. 
  • A teacher who understands the child well will know when they are ready for the next part of their learning journey and show us they are prepared for the next step. For example, children will start to ask how to spell words when they are ready. 
  • Still share a lot with parents about their learning, especially why they are doing something. For example, they are learning to hop because it supports their balance and strength development. 
  • Reporting to the Board is done by curriculum levels from Year 4-6. There is no mandate from the MOE or ERO, reporting to Boards on which learners are above, below etc. The only things needing reporting are how schools are doing on their goals at the start of the year.
  • The MOE policy states that schools have autonomy, meaning we can create our curriculum and make our own decisions around assessment and reporting. 
  • The school utilises data to unlock student and teacher needs and the new learning as part of an inquiry by teachers and leaders. Data is helpful from Year 4-8 as it is helpful to see patterns in cohorts, e.g. gender, years, ethnicity etc. The annual report is written for the leadership team in the school, not the Ministry of Education.
  • The Principal reports on the targets set in the annual targets around well-being, writes a narrative for the MOE about well-being, how they have developed trauma-informed practice, and what processes and procedures are in place to support well-being. The targets help ensure we make sure the children are happy and doing well.
  • The National Education Learning Priorities (NELP's) are excellent and will drive the school's targets into the future. 
  • The MOE wants assessments that are useful and dynamic and paint a good picture of the child. MOE wants our children to be happy and ensure they are doing well. 
  • Robust systems are in place to identify and track target students throughout their school years. 

Thoughts and More Questions than Answers

What does success look like at Years 1-3, so we know play-based learning, structured literacy and individual interventions meet our learners' needs? Do we need to know?

How do we measure success, engagement and well-being through the school? 

Why should we not just trust

  • The students will be getting all they need in the first three years at school based on the developmentally appropriate practice in the community.
  • The teachers know their learners and are inquiring into their practice as part of a professional growth cycle, ensuring meeting the needs of their learners.
  • Our assessment for learning is utilising the most appropriate information?

Where does Hero fit? Do we

  • Use Hero in place of multiple Google files or link these in Hero to the students? 
  • Student feed for communicating with student and caregiver.
  • Using tracking flags to keep target students at the front of mind.
  • ensure goals are shared with students and caregivers so that there is a partnership for the students learning.
  • ensure our Hero Milestones/Expectations fit our expectations for Year 1-3 if we follow Kaurihohore School lead?

How does assessment at Year 4-8 look?

  • Are the assessments functional for teachers and leaders and designed to improve both teaching and learning?
  • Are the assessments dynamic, mana enhancing for the learner and teacher and paint a good picture of the child?
  • Is the assessment a partnership between the learner and teacher

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Lighting a Spark with Mindfulness - Kerene Strochnetter

Kerene Strochnetter spoke to our Kahui Ako "Light it Up!" conference as a guest speaker. I found the keynote really good and came away with some actions moving forward. These are my notes and wonderings from her presentation.

We all know that there are increasing demands on time and attention due to multiple reasons. Whether those demands are technology overload, family commitments, or numerous distractions in our busy world, it is essential to recognise when you function at your best. 

We all have a love-hate relationship with being busy, however we pressure ourselves and our colleagues to remain busy.

The acronym of PAIN highlights some of the demands on our lives. 

  • Pressure and stress
  • Always on
  • Information overload
  • Non-stop distractions

When you are functioning at your best, you will be

  • Relaxed and energised
  • Clear and present
  • Kind and generous

Understanding when you are at your best is crucial as the quality of your mind determines the quality of your life and relationships. An overwhelmed and busy mind will potentially result in lower quality of life and relationships with others.

Our mindset determines 90% of our happiness.

One impact on the quality of our mind is the amount of time it wanders. Our mind wanders approximately 47% of the time, and the other time we are in our headspace thinking about the focus task etc. The more our minds wander without being aware of it, the more unhappy we are. 

That is quite surprising and makes me think about the exercise I do as I find it very beneficial to clear my head. Does my head wander on the bike, or does it allow me to focus on one thing and process this?

Research shows that the activity is not crucial, for example taking out the rubbish or playing with the kids. It is more crucial we are present in the moment.

I will have to think about this, yesterday as I was sitting in the spa, I was in the moment. However, I also started to focus on the birds singing and then the noise of cars. Does this mean my mind was wandering, or was I present and noticing things in my environment? 

When we are not present in an activity

  • we miss out on stuff
  • we are cut off from people and the environment
  • we do things poorly


The human brain cannot multitask and must multi-shift attention. There is no difference between men and women when multi shifting! When interrupted, it takes 64 seconds to recover train of thought, and distraction by email of 3 mins adds up to 8.5 hours of lost time a week, impacting productivity.


No one wakes up in the morning and says, "Good morning, let the stress begin!". Stress like happiness is very much to do with mindset. Often we wait until circumstances change, e.g. when I pay off my mortgage, etc., so we do not have to confront stress in our lives.


The fast pathway is the old primitive part of the brain. It is the unconscious part of the brain and is quick to react, goal-driven and includes the flight/fight response. 

The fast pathway is described as the Cookie Monster Brain.

The slow pathway is the newer part of the brain. It is the conscious part of the brain, has a more detailed process, and brings more perspective. It allows us to challenge the direction the fast pathway sends us and can help redirect our thinking and actions. 

The slow pathway is described as the Gandhi Brain.

Mindfulness, at its simplest, is being present and being aware of the moment.

Meditation is an exercise for your brain and takes time to develop as a skill. Just as you do not expect a great body after going to one session at the gym, you must continue meditation to see any impacts.

Impacts for me long term!

  • Exercise Exercise Exercise - Is all exercise good? Do I mind wander when exercising by myself? Am I always present as it a place to clear my head? Does it make me better? Running with a friend keeps me more in the moment? Swimming with a focus on form, etc., makes me more present because I am thinking of form, stroke, etc., and concentrating more on the exercise.
  • Connect with family and outdoors - get rid of wifi at night? Go walking, possum spotting or other activity that is not in front of the TV.
  • Family game night, meditation night, movie night, Ellesmere Road Runners, Leeston Cycling (summer)
  • Family spa four nights a week
  • Switch off tech - am I brave enough? Do we need to if we have family activities planned?
  • Check emails every three or four hours. Set the alarm to check email. Remove the Google Chrome tab in between checking.
  • Do not numb out - watching Netflix, food etc.
  • Run a coaching session as part of my weekly routine as there are impacts for the coach and the coachee in terms of being very focused on one activity.
  • Breathe three in and three out for five times
  • Having a walking meeting instead of meeting in an office.

What Do I want more of in my life? What will I make happen NOW!

  • Check emails first when I arrive at school, after a morning tea break, lunch break and then after school. Set the alarm to check email at home or use school timings of breaks. Remove the Google Chrome tab in between checking.
  • Having a walking meeting instead of meeting in an office.
  • Run a coaching session as part of my weekly routine as there are impacts for the coach and the coachee in terms of being very focused on one activity.
  • Monday - spa night, Tuesday - family game and spa night, Wednesday - Ellesmere Road Runners and Spa night, Thursday - movie night

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Te Whakamānawa for Facilitators - Reflections Module One - Ko Wai Tātou / Who Are We?

How well do I know myself?

This learning has been very contentious and made me realise just how little I know about my ancestry and past. A week after completing this module, I was contacted by a distant relative who has put together a Maddren Family site of all the family history back several generations. Very timely and well-received.

Part of the module was to look at my cultural iceberg and reflect on it.

Reflecting on my cultural iceberg made me realise some of my unconscious bias and its implications in the relationships with other people, organisations etc.

These are a few of the components of my cultural iceberg:

  • A strong sense of fairness and justice
  • Strong time management skills and living my life to time
  • Communication that includes minimal physical touch, hugs and affection
  • Strong respect for elders
  • Grown-up being seen, not heard
  • Very much a mentality of apprenticeship and doing your time before you become a leader
  • Males role in a partnership?

How you feel your whakapapa has impacted your worldview and how you live your life? 

As with many of my generation living in the southern parts of New Zealand, I grew up in a white world with no knowledge of Te Ao Maori all through my school years or tertiary years. In my early teen years, the Waitangi Tribunal gained momentum, and large settlements were made with lots of resentment felt by the local communities.
Over the last eight years, my knowledge of the past and understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi has opened my eyes. I think my world view has changed a lot. I am a bit disappointed I never learnt these things growing up!

How you think your whakapapa might impact and influence how you facilitate the learning of others? 

This is changing and will change more as my knowledge and understanding is established more. At the moment facilitation around culture and equity is a bit worrying however as a pakeha it is important I am brave enough to challenge my colleagues, friends and whānau to also look at themselves and how bias in their teaching or interactions impact on others.

This is the pepeha I have been using for the last seven years.

I now need to rework this as I am not tangata whenua I can not claim Aoraki as my mountain, however I can state that I am in the shadow of Aoraki.

Here is the start of my new pepeha

Tēna koutou kua huihui mai nei 
Greetings everyone gathered here

E mihi ana ki te mana whenua, Ngāti Moki
Greetings / I acknowledge manawhenua 

Nō  ōku tipuna Madron, Cornwall
My ancestors are from Madron, Cornwall

I tae mai ōku tipuna ki Aotearoa i te tau kotahi mano waru rau whitu tekau ma wha
My ancestors arrived in NZ in the year 1874

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

UDL in Distance Learning: Meeting Each Learner’s Variability Webinar

This webinar by was full of great ideas, tips, and resources supporting all learners learning from home. This webinar also had excellent ideas for supporting all learners in collaboration and working online in a 1:1 classroom. 

What is learner variability? 

A recognition that all learners differ and that learning sciences research guide us in understanding how these differences matter for learning.
It considers the whole child.

In the video Research@Work: Embracing Learner Variability in Schools, David Rose discusses the importance of providing learning supports and structures tailored to students’ individual needs and abilities. He shares his vision for “de-standardising” education to help students discover their strengths and become expert learners.

Teachers need to understand how I learn, not how the average student learns, which our new National Education and Learning Priorities focus on, particularly Learners at the Centre and Barrier Free Access.

What do we mean when we say engagement?

Student engagement is made up of Emotional and Relational, Cognitive and Behavioural which I have blogged about previously in Wellbeing Won't Cut It Alone!.

The Learner Variability Navigator: A Whole Child Framework

A great framework is The Learner Variability Navigator, which helps us understand learner variability and then recognise learning challenges become a design opportunity rather than a student problem. 

First, you choose the area of interest of either math, reading, literacy or adult learning. Then you explore the factors that may create barriers to the learning for example in Literacy 4-6 Examples are Literacy, Cognition, Social and Emotional Learning and Student Background.

 If you know Syntax is a barrier by clicking on it unpacks the factor.

Once you understand the factor, you click on Strategies, and the framework has various research-based strategies for the factor.

The framework is not specifically for New Zealand; however, I see value in this, especially for teacher PLG's as part of an inquiry to include in the Learn if they are looking for new strategies to support learners and the connections between the factors.

The framework also supports teachers of learners with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Deaf/Hard of Hearing by identifying what strategies would support.

If Universal Design for Learning is new to you or you wish to inquire further into it Smita Worah a professional development consultant from SERC has created this Padlet - Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

Made with Padlet

The following notes come directly from the slideshow today and are the work of the educators below and others. Even though this is talking about distance learning there are strong links to online learning when using Google Sites as part of classroom practice.

Distance learning: 6 UDL best practices for online learning

Examining Barriers to Find Solutions Summary (click the link above to unpack each point)

  1. Explicitly teach expectations and engagement. 
  2. Allow for asynchronous learning. 
  3. Assign note-takers or provide guided notes with a summary of key ideas.
  4. Make materials accessible. 
  5. Embrace your students as teachers.
  6. Actively build a supportive community.
Watching a lesson via video rather than experiencing it in the classroom can make it difficult for students to: 
  • focus
  • feel connected 
  • process information 
  • identify key ideas
Video is a challenging medium of learning for many students. Students have varied skills and
comfort levels with technology for distance learning.

Examining Barriers to Find Solutions Summary (click the link above to unpack each point)
  1. Feeling Anxious About Being on Camera 
  2. Staying Focused
  3. Keeping Up With the Lesson
  4. Managing Sensory Information 
  5. Remembering Key Points

UDL solution: Explicitly teach expectations and engagement

  • Co-create expectations with students.
  • Teach and provide opportunities for practice
  • Use multiple formats for sharing and referencing expectations. 
  • Some students have trouble processing information only in auditory form.

UDL solution: Allow for asynchronous learning

  • Record video to access later (or again)
  • Incorporate other representations
  • Provide transcripts, using apps like (has a limited free version), Youtube (Not always accurate), iPhone dictation
Materials, handouts, and images can be difficult to access for some students, including those who use screen readers.
  1. Be consistent in how you post your content and share information.
  2. Create a regular timeline for providing information and activities.
  3. Use a consistent layout for sharing tasks and activities. 
  4. Offer multiple means of representation.
  5. Remember to use multiple means of action and expression.
  6. Introduce new tools in low-stakes ways. 
  7. Provide a structured drop-in option for help, questions, and support. 

UDL Solution: Make materials accessible

  • Create short text descriptions for images and videos.
  • Use Word, Google Docs, or another accessible format that have optical character recognition (OCR) for screen reader access.
  • Use tools like WebAIM (cost involved) to check written materials, especially PDFs, for screen reader accessibility. 
Distance learning can make it harder to check-in on and gauge emotional and physical well-being and to provide support to each other. 
1. Schedule regular check-ins with students and their families.
2. Teach strategies for organization, planning, and self-regulation.
3. Read and discuss current events.
4. Assign a project that encourages students to be “helpers.”
5. Share stress-reduction and mindfulness strategies.

UDL solution: Deliberately build a collaborative community
  • Build time in for students to connect with each other
  • Use “break-out” rooms (Zoom) or have individual/group check-ins with students
  • Use discussion boards or collaboration tools like Miro or Padlet

UDL enhancement: Embrace your students as teachers

  • Build in interactive ways for students to provide feedback on your plans
  • Check in with students about what they need and be flexible and responsive 

How to plan online lessons with Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Using a Google Doc and Screencastify with Drawing Tools to annotate.

Before Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Think about physical design and layout
  • Familiarize yourself with technology platforms
  • Give time and patience to student and families to learn technology
  • Anticipate misconceptions and questions
  • Think about pacing and breaks

While Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Leverage options within technology platforms
  • Provide choices for how students can interact
  • Give students agency over how and when they engage in work
  • Be open minded about formats that students’ work can take

After Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Develop a reflection and evaluation practice with yourself and with students
  • Read and study up-to-date research
  • Engage in learning communities with other educators to learn and share insights

UDL Lessons In 2021 and Beyond

  • Don’t feel like you need to implement everything all at once.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Expect several iterations.
  • Work in partnership with others rather than trying to do it all by yourself.
  • Acknowledge that cognitive demands on kids and adults can look and feel different across learning models.
  • Prioritize necessary skills and standards for students. Think about how to integrate different skills within lessons and across content areas.
  • Think about UDL even when teaching social emotional learning and self-advocacy skills.

Distance learning toolkit: Key practices to support students who learn differently

Monday, February 22, 2021

Toro Mai - Hauora - Health

What does Hauora mean?

Hauora conveys wellness and vitality from a Māori worldview and describes a way of understanding the holistic nature of wellbeing. Hauora encompasses all of ourselves, our relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi, and our physical environment.

Mana and Mauri

You nourish Hauora with deliberate actions to enhance an individual's mana and mauri. By recognising and supporting each dimension of Te Whare Tapa Whā can help support Hauora.  The wharenui offers a useful analogy to understand Hauora. Sir Mason Durie developed te Whare Tapa Whā in 1983 to understand the interrelated and holistic nature of Hauora. Each taha (side) of the whare represents one of the four cornerstones of Hauora:

The dimensions are
Hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing)
Whānau (social and relational wellbeing)
Tinana (physical wellbeing)
Wairua (spiritual wellbeing)

If one element is ignored or not attended to, Hauora can become compromised. All four cornerstones of Hauora are critical for wellbeing.

What areas stand out as being particularly strong or flourishing? 
I feel I am flourishing in these areas of Hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), Whānau (social and relational wellbeing), Tinana (physical wellbeing).

Conversely, are there any particular areas that may be languishing or may require more attention? 
I think an area I need to develop more is Wairua (spiritual wellbeing). I am not sure about connecting with spirituality through a church or religion as some of the values and beliefs do not sit well with me. I may investigate this further in the future. I do like the concept of spirituality format Te Ao Maori word view and the connections to atua.

What strategy might help to strengthen those aspects of Hauora for you and your whānau?
To strengthen all the aspects of Hauora, it is about being present and allowing time to participate in each dimension.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Toro Mai - Te Ao Māori - Guiding Principles

Kaupapa and Tikanga: Guiding principles and cultural practices

The marae is one of the most important and sacred gathering spaces for hapū and iwi and guided by kaupapa and Tikanga. Tikanga is unique to each marae.

Kaupapa (Principles)

On the marae, kaupapa is a guiding principle, value, or purpose. Kaupapa informs Tikanga. The kaupapa of manaakitanga (hospitality) on the marae through Tikanga, includes feeding manuhiri well and welcoming manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae by way of pōwhiri.

Tikanga (Actions, practices and behaviour)

Tikanga is sets of actions, practices, and behaviours appropriate in a given situation; Tikanga refers to culturally informed practices handed down from previous generations of kaumātua, elders. Tikanga can sometimes evolve or adapt to reflect new or altered circumstances. Therefore Tikanga may change. However, the kaupapa itself, the value or guiding principle, does not.

Kawa (Ritual)

Kawa is atua-endorsed rituals that keep people safe and protected. Kawa supports a process to help achieve the goals. Kawa is often started with a karakia to set the scene. 

Karakia (acknowledgement of the atua)

Karakia seek the endorsement of atua and are recited by tohunga (experts) upon entry into and exit from atua domains. The ocean, for example, is acknowledged as the domain of Tangaroa. The forest is the domain of Tāne Mahuta. Karakia helps raise critical awareness before and during entry into atua domains, ensuring participants' mindset is appropriate for the tasks. Karakia necessitates a moment to pause and be mindful of the risks, threats and challenges associated with the environment.


Pōwhiri is a ritualised process of welcoming visitors, manuhiri, onto the marae. Each marae has its distinctive way of directing and leading this process. The role of tangata whenua is to uphold the customs and protocols of the marae and maintain the mana of the hapū and iwi. It is the responsibility of manuhiri to be aware of the marae's tikanga and kawa before going on.

Hohou i te Rongo

Hohou i te Rongo is the transition into the realm of Rongo (peace) from the realm of Tūmatauenga (conflict, war) and establishes peace and respect. Hongi is an important part of this process because the sharing of the breath signifies the joining of the two parties' māuri and ethos. Hau is the wind; it is air. It is a distinct energy that belongs to the realm of Tāwhirimātea and refers to the vitality of the universe and people. 

Tangihanga: a period of mourning

A tangihanga is a mourning period that brings together whānau, hapū, iwi and the wider community to grieve the loss of a loved one. Tangihanga takes place at the marae and is one of the most sacred and detailed of all Māori cultural rituals. The Tangihanga ensures whānau pani can be removed from daily tasks so that they mourn their loved one with the support and guidance of their people around them. The rituals and practices performed at Tangihanga stand alone and are unique. Tangihanga is lead by kuia and kaumātua of marae, hapū and iwi, and each marae has particular kawa and tikanga for Tangihanga.

Tangihangi help to support two important outcomes:
Provide the whānau pani with the highest expression of Aroha – unconditional support as they remain in a state of mourning, or tangi. 
Help send the wairua, the spirit of their loved one, onwards into the realm of te pō and on to te moenga roa, the final resting place. 

Whakatau: A Return to Te Ao Mārama

Whakatau signifies the commencement of the whānau pani journey back to te ao marama and their reintegration back to everyday life.

Whakatau ki te Marae

After the burial or nehunga, the whānau pani is called back into the whare tupuna with a Karanga. This Karanga signifies that the most intense period of the tangihanga is now behind the whānau pani. Often it is light-hearted to help lift the burden of loss. 


The serving of cooked food as part of a hākari (feast) helps ensure that the Whānau Pani can participate in whakanoa, which is the lifting of the state of tapu they have carried in recent days.

Takahi Whare

To prepare the home of the loved one to be reoccupied again after the tangihanga an ope kaumātua (a group of elders), they will often go to the family home and perform karakia to bless the house, lift tapu and enable whānau to return to reoccupy that space.

Hura Kōhatu

Hura Kōhatu is the unveiling of the headstone in the urupā (cemetery). The Hura Kōhatu occurs anytime from a year (sometimes longer) after the tangihanga.

Tikanga at home

Tikanga is not limited to the marae or formal occasions. Here are some of the ways that Tikanga can be applied at home – te kāinga.

Kaua e noho ki runga i te tēpu (refraining from sitting on tables)

Sitting on tables designated for kai should always be avoided as it is considered offensive to Māori. Therefore, it is best to avoid sitting on any table rather than speculating whether it is for food use or not.

Kaua e noho ki te urunga (refraining from sitting upon pillows)

The head is tapu; therefore, we need to be careful about things that are related to māhunga (the head), including pillows. Sitting on a pillow compromises the tapu of the person who uses it and could diminish their mana. Similarly, intentionally stepping over another person, especially when we are on a marae, can also jeopardise mana.

Kaua e kawe kai mā runga i te māhunga o te tangata (refraining from passing cooked kai over someone's head)

Cooked kai, is noa; it is an agent for lifting tapu. Passing kai over someone's head compromises tapu and can potentially diminish the mana of that person. There is the real and present risk of being burnt by hot food.

Te tapahi matikuku, maikuku me te makawe (cutting & disposing of fingernails, toenails and hair)

Matikuku, maikuku and makawe come from the tinana (body). Removing these items from the body can lead to a person's mauri's potency or life force weakening. Cutting fingernails should also happen outside and well away from areas like the kitchen (he wāhi kai).

Te tiaki kākahu me ngā taputapu (taking care of clothing and personal possessions)

Anything that is attached to or used for the tinana, like clothing or towels, should be safeguarded. It is essential to store these personal possessions thoughtfully. 

Kia mārama, kia mōhio ki te tapu me te noa (keeping things that are tapu separate from things that are noa)

Tikanga and Kawa help keep things that are designated as tapu separate from that which is noa, this also helps to protect mana and mauri. Common practices keep kai away from areas such as the whare tupuna and wash tea towels separately from bath towels.