Friday, June 29, 2007

If they can't share their voice at school then where?

36 NZ teachers were asked if they thought enough time was spent in classrooms on Oral Language, 22% said yes, 58% said no and 20% were undecided.

These same teachers were asked if they thought that it was more important to teach Oral language for different aged students. 72% answered no, oral language was important for all ages, 22% thought oral language instruction was more important for the juniors and 6% were unsure.

So then, how did these teachers answer the question, 'why do you think oral language instruction is important?"

"If they can't share their voice at school then where?"

"It underpins a child's success in everything they do"

The response that occurred the most was 'to communicate' (33%) followed by 'underpinning every other curriculum area" (14%), 'increasing confidence' (12%) and 'the basis for all literacy' (9%)

Other responses included:

  • clarify ideas
  • listening skills
  • clear instructions
  • learn to read
  • to discover and understand
  • to teach others
  • to set goals
  • to be able to use vocabulary effectively
  • to learn to write.
The conclusions that I draw from these results is that teachers recognise that a child's command of oracy is vital for success at school and in life. Teachers have also identified that maybe not enough time is being spent on developing this vital skill, or indeed, in letting student's speak. One teachers response "If they can't share their voice at school then where?" is the reason for my research.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What is this thing called podcasting?

This term I have been working with a group of students to gather data for my research project on podcasting. I have made a mash up of the final podcasts these students made for me and posted it on the ICT U Can! Podcast. The assignment I gave the students was 'tell the world what this podcasting thing is, and why you like doing it'. Please head over to their podcast page and leave them a comment on how well they have done at

I have finished gathering data for my project now and the next term will be spent interpretting my findings. I will post further podcasts as I do.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Oral Language Skills

36 New Zealand teachers were asked to identify the skills they taught under the banner 'Oral Language'. The top ten responses were:

  • Listening (50%)
  • Questioning (44%)
  • Clarity (28%)
  • Volume (28%)
  • Eye contact (25%)
  • Body Language (22%)
  • Responding appropriately to others (22%)
  • Concise, organised structured message (22%)
  • Aware of audience (14%)
  • Turn taking (14%)

The New Zealand Ministry of Education has provided a matrix of Oral Language skills and I have put the skills identified as being taught by New Zealand teachers into the matrix:

When you compare the skills identified by teachers to the Oral Language matrix, teachers have identified all of the key skills as being actively taught. When you look at the top ten skills that teachers identified as being actively taught, 7 of those listed came from the category speaking and listening skills 2 from Ideas and 1 was to do with Language.

This result is refreshing. Even though teachers do have a heavy emphasis on the 'skills' of how to speak in front of an audience, it shows that there is more of an awareness of the importance of teaching students how to express their ideas. This fits more with my cry for more 'thinking communicators' not just 'proficient speakers'.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

How is Oral Language integrated?

36 teachers were asked which areas of their classroom programme Oral Language was integrated in to.

  • 28% responded that Oral Language was integrated into all areas of their programme.
Following are areas that teachers listed specifically:
  • 36% reading
  • 33% writing
  • 28% Inquiry based learning
  • 19% questioning
  • 19% topic time
  • 17% discussion time
  • 14% speech
  • 11% English
  • 8% social studies, science, drama
  • 6% reflection time, maths, technology, social skills, ICT, current events, debates
  • 3% self assessment, visual art, dance, music, health, physical education, religious education, visual language, learning intentions.
Some of the areas that teachers listed are interesting - questioning, discussion, reflection, social skills, self assessment and learning intentions do not really fall into the category of 'curriculum areas'.  Inquiry based learning is currently being adopted through many NZ schools and is supported by the current ICT programmes being run through the country.  Reflection, questioning, self assessment and learning intentions would be important skills to sit within Inquiry Based Learning (IBL).  Hopefully these results show that student talk is becoming more a part of the classroom when IBL is happening and classrooms become more child centred.

Do you have any thoughts in regards to this data?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where do New Zealand Teachers go for Oral Language teaching ideas?

In this post I am continuing my look into the oral language survey. 

Out of a cohort of 36 NZ teachers, 25% would rate their knowledge of how students learning oral language as poor to fair, 50% would rate their knowledge as good and 25% would rate their knowledge as very good.

Teachers were asked if they had attended any professional development in the area of oral language recently (in the last 12 months) 80% of teachers responded they hadn't had any PD in that area.  Of the 20% who had PD the sources were:

  • Reading Recovery
  • ICTPD cluster - questioning and inquiry
  • RTLB (resource teachers of learning and behaviour)
  • Critical Literacy
  • NESB - Jannie Van Hees (Non-English speaking background)
  • Head start development

When asked where teachers get most of their teaching ideas from the highest response rate (17) was from books, specifically:

14 participants listed websites:

9 participants listed colleagues as a source of ideas and support

5 participants listed their own experience

4 participants listed other professionals:

  • RTLB (resource teachers of learning and behaviour)
  • SLT (speech language therapists)
  • ICTPD Facilitators (Information and Communication Technology Professional Development)

2 participants listed podcasting and lastly 1 participant each mentioned television and Toast masters.

Are there any gems that you would like to add to this list?  Leave them in the comments and share the wealth.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oracy in New Zealand

Age SpeaksSpeak no Evil, Hear no Evil, See no Evil

A few months ago I asked for people to fill out an Oral Language Survey as part of my research in the E-Fellowship programme this year. 36 teachers from throughout New Zealand took part in this survey - A big thank you to all those who took part. I thought I would begin to summarise some of the findings on this blog.

Of the 36 teachers who filled in the survey, 72% teach in the primary sector, 9% in the Intermediate and 3% in High School.

How many hours per week do you spend on the following literacy areas?

  • Writing - ranged from 1 hour per week to 8 hours per week with an average of 4 hours
  • Reading - ranged from 1hour per week to 7 hours per week with an average of 4.5 hours
  • Visual Language - ranged from 20 min per week to 5 hours with an average of 1.5 hours
  • Oral Language - ranged from 0 hours per week to 12.5 hours with an average of 3 hours.

In the responses to reading and writing, one person mentioned that they integrate these subjects and in the responses to visual and oral language three people mentioned that they integrated throughout the curriculum. One response to Visual Language read, "Don't know what this is".

I am just reporting back statistics straight from the survey here and would not like to draw too many conclusions as yet. This is only one part of my data gathering to form an overall picture. But I would like to say that it is interesting how differently teachers run their programmes. It seemed that teachers found it easier to calculate the times they spent teaching reading and writing as these two areas of literacy seem to stand alone outside the programme even when integrated. Other things are integrated into these areas. Visual and Oral Language on the other hand are seen as integrated through all other curriculum areas.

This does lead me to wonder whether enough specific focus is put on these two areas. If you think about the skills adults will need in the 21st Century (as far as we can predict anyway) it seems to me that Oral language is maybe one of the most important skill students can take away from our classrooms. A person with well developed oral language skills can communicate their needs and ideas effectively. Also students are interacting more and more with visual images. I believe being able to communicate and interpret visual images will be just as vital as being able to write in the coming years. I am not saying that writing is not important, it is. But it must be underpinned by effective oral language skills. The four strands go hand in hand. My aim is not to push Oral Language to the detriment of all other literacy areas, but to bring it out into the immediate family. As I see it currently, Oral Language is the third cousin in the back row of the wedding photo with his head obscured by the bride's veil.

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Replace the teacher?

On my run this morning I was listening to Jeff Utech's podcast, On Deck. Episode 7 of this podcast is a discussion with a group of year 6,7 and 8 students from TeenTek after they had watched footage of the new Microsoft multi touch interface. This was a really interesting discussion as the students predicted what technology like this might mean to their classrooms.

Jeff asked the question, "What could this technology replace?" The students discussed this for a while and after a few suggestions one of them said, "The teacher". A discussion then ensued as to how this could happen and the students mentioned that you could download textbooks and have your schedule on the screen and work through it etc. I started to think that these students saw teachers as the deliverers of knowledge and agreed with them whole heartedly that a teacher could be replaced if that was all they were doing.

Take a moment, think about your class, would they think you could be replaced with the latest cutting edge multi user touch screen technology?


I would hope that my students would think that this technology would be a cool thing to use alongside me. That we could do even more interesting and innovative stuff than we do now. That they would see that we are co-constructing knowledge and above all, that we are creating a culture of learning in our classroom based on relationships. Learning is constructed through interaction with others, collaboration leads to deeper understanding and seeing alternative view points. This cannot be replaced by downloading a schedule and a textbook, what do you think?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How cool is this!!!

I have been podcasting with my class since the end of 2005. I can not stop telling people about how powerful podcasting is in the classroom. It provides an authentic context for learning and gives students an authentic audience. Well, today we had something really exciting happen. Over on our podcast page from last year, Room5's podcast we received a comment on one of our book reviews. Now this is nothing new, we get lots of comments on our book reviews but this one was special... It was from the author herself! Check it out! Click on the image for a better view.

Imagine how the producers of this podcast now feel! They have put together a podcast reviewing a book they enjoyed reading and then received feedback from the person who wrote the book, how powerful is that. What a great motivator to not only keep reading, but producing scripts (writing) and recording podcasts (oracy). This is only made possible by the power of using the internet. I would love to hear of any similar experiences you have had. Let's celebrate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

As I went on my travels around the blogosphere I came across this cool tool, thanks to Clay at Beyond School.

It is so cool! You could even embed it straight into a wiki I'm sure, but I'll have to try it out.

Wow, things are just getting easier all the time.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Podcasting with Percy Jackson

Titan's Curse, Cover"Dreams like a podcast

Downloading truth in my ears

They tell me cool stuff"

Haiku recited by Apollo, god of the sun, in Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (page 147)

Podcasting has made it to the mainstream :) Rick Riordan has included this term in his book which has been ravenously consumed by my two boys in the last two days. Could it be possible that there are still teachers out there who think that this stuff will just go away?

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Time 4 Online Conference

Podcasting Workshop:
Online Publishing with Audio and Visual Tools
Presentation one by Jane Nicholls Available now!
Description : Oral Language is the basis for all learning and is a powerful tool in itself. Podcasting is a way to harness the power of audio for authenticity - of purpose, audience, and context. What is this thing called podcasting and why should I care? This presentation is for those people who have heard the word podcasting and would like to know what it means. I will showcase podcasts for fun, professional development, and for student learning, and give you directions for putting your toe in the water and having a go yourself.

Time4 Online Conference Blog

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Time 4 Online NZ Conference, the second round of workshops have just been released.  There are some great presentations from classroom teachers and from students to motivate you into giving this stuff a go and some instructions on how to get going.  Go on, take a look, you know you want to :)

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