Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A day in a Bilingual Unit.

Kia ora kotou
Today I'm doing something new and quite exciting.
I will be spending the whole day in our school's bilingual unit. The goal is to observe the students in their natural learning environment and to draw links between what they do and what I do, or could do, to improve their learning when they come to my classes.
I plan to make some observations around:

  • Use of language- Te Reo and English
  • Use of technology in a range of settings- both by teachers and students.
  • Routines, expectations and transitions.
So I'm going to attempt to blog the entire day. Here goes:

The formal part of the day. Paepae, karakia, waiata.
10 minutes into the day and English is being spoken for the first time. Some of the students are very confident in their Te Reo  while for others, it is a struggle to speak Maori in front of their class but I'm really impressed at they way they are giving it a go and being supported by their teachers and peers.

There is a lot to talk about with some big events coming up. The students are all attentive. There are some serious things to discuss but Whaea Maha is animated and using humour to keep them listening. Speaking English now so that everyone understands what is being said. Peppered, of course, with phrases and words in Te Reo.

Pangarau (Mathematics)
The warm up game is very physically active as well as mentally stimulating. The kids are excited by the prospect- it's clearly something that some have done before and enjoy. Now Whaea Iritana settles them and explains the rules. Everyone is listening. . Students are allowed to sit, stand, lie while they receive instructions.

Today's lesson is in statistics and we are learning to use spreadsheets. The group lesson in a blend of languages with lots of specific vocab. being taught at the same time. Another group are using flashcards while a third group are using Mathletics on their new Chromebooks. All are engaged fully.

I'm in another room now. Similar set up to the last class for Pangarau. This is really no different to the way an effective maths class would run in any mainstream class and not a million miles from the way I run multi-group music lessons.

I think that later on today I'd like to meet with a small group of kids and talk to them about what they see as differences between classroom learning and music/specialist classes.

One of the kids is struggling with an easily teachable maths concept. The teacher in me insists I break cover and jump in. First time I've taught some maths in a few years.

I've just moved class again and the Maori language content has gone up noticeably . Whaea Maha is giving instructions primarily in Te Reo,  then clarifying in English.  For the first time since first thing this morning at the Paepae, I hear the students speaking more than just one or two words in Maori. They are conversing with each other by switching between the languages, sentence by sentence.

A game has begun involving the whole class. It's loud and chaotic at first glance and I'm having trouble following what's happening as it's 80% Te Reo. Maha tolerates the outbursts and general rowdiness that accompanies  the game with good humour and in the spirit of the game.

The game is over and the class have settled to work after Maha has clarified expectations (in 2 languages).
Once again, the class starts to look and feel like one of my multi group sessions, Maha is giving most of  her attention to a small group while the rest of the class have independent tasks that they are engaged in. She keeps an eye on the rest of the class and lets a group know when talking drifts off task. Students have chosen a space to work in, on their own or with others. Conversation and some good natured banter is going on but generally, students remain on task.

I've moved on to the fourth and final room in the unit. Although still part of the same open plan building, the atmosphere is very different. This is the Rumaki, where teaching and learning takes place primarily in Te Reo. Pa Lewis has spoken only a few English words since I entered 5 minutes ago. 
Another key difference is that this class has a 1-1 ratio of devices to students. Most appear engaged in self directed e-learning and the room is quiet, calm and busy.

It's beginning to become apparent that the 4 Kaiako in this unit are just as diverse in their teaching styles as the teachers in any other syndicate at this school and that is one of the unit's strengths. I'm not going to find a teaching style that fits for all these kids that I can copy or borrow from when they come to me. They may be very united as a syndicate but they are a pretty diverse bunch. 

This class obviously enjoy and thrive in a quiet environment and they have a teacher who is very quietly spoken. They self regulate the noise level within the class and are not shy about shushhing anyone who speaks above a low voice. 

All the students from the unit have moved into the hall for Kapa Haka practice for the afternoon. I have taken a small cross section for a bit of a korero about their learning here at Monrad, and specifically, their experiences in music and the other specialist subjects.

The following is a summary of the discussion rather than a transcript:

"What do you like about coming to music and the other specialist subjects?"

  • Learning new things- songs on the guitar
  • Experimenting with things from our Maori culture- in Food Tech we learnt about breadmaking
  • Making stuff in woodwork.
  • Understanding electricity in Science

"Do you feel that there are differences between the way you are treated and spoken to when you come to me and the other specialist teachers, compared to in your class?"

  • Not really.
  • Whaea feels more like a Mum- we're more comfortable with our own teachers but the specialist teachers treat us pretty much the same as our classroom teachers.
  • Sometimes we are a bit wary of them because we don't know them so well and don't know what their response will be if we ask for something.

"Is there anything I can do in music class that would make it better?"

  • It's fun there anyway. 
  • Can we learn more instruments?
"can you teach me some words and phrases in Te Reo that I could use in class with you?

Say Turituri if we're not listening.
You say "Tihei... " . We say "Mauri Ora" Whaea Kelsi does this.
Harakuraku is a guitar
Rorohiko is a computer
Puoro means music
"Haere mai ki te whariki"- come to the mat
Waiata means song or sing.
Try to roll your Rs, otherwise some people, rude people, might try to correct you.

So that's my day almost over.
I've been made to feel very welcome and have come away from the experience, knowing the kids and the teachers a little better and with a few insights I can share with my colleagues. In fact, I'd encourage them to try it themselves. 
A day out of the class, to watch some other practitioners teach is affirming and refreshing.

To top it all off, I dropped back into the music room to find that reliever had taken an idea from a video I'd left for them to watch -Rowan Atkinson's invisible drum kit, and turned it into a whole new activity, one I want to run with. 

So my music programme just became a little richer for my not being there.

Funny that.

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