Investigating docAppender and other add ons to forms for tracking observations & behaviour

I am currently investigating docAppender as I work towards sitting the certified educator level 2 exam. As I have looked into this, I am intrigued by the possibility of developing an observation tracking form.

We have established a tracking table on docs for students, but this has become clumsy as more is added to it. Data requires multiple entries when multiple students are involved.

Earlier today I was considering forms as a method of tracking because at least you could sort by name etc. DocAppender however, has a possibility to send this information into multiple documents, allowing a central collection as well as an individual tracking sheet. It will be interesting to see how these can actually be used.

Anyway, brain unfrozen. I shall continue my work. Update to come.


New learning = blogging explosion

Yet more just in time learning! I wanted to create some QR code stickers for our school Ready to Read texts so I don’t have to keep fluffing searching for the audio file during the lesson, or going and putting a bookmark on each device to the text. I was going to use for short links & creating QR codes. A quick Google search & some experimenting = success!

How to create QR codes on mass  – use this. It does work. I was really suprised – but excited.

“Getting Ready:
  1. Go to:
  2. Create a new spreadsheet.
  3. Label Column A “Text or URL.”
  4. Label Column B “QR Code.”
  5. Resize the columns and rows so they look like the screenshot below.
  6. Enter some text or URLs in column A.” Quoted from Google Search”

I then wanted to resize the cells so that QR codes were larger. I figured out how to do one – a bit painful, but achievable – on mass though? No. There is a shorter way.

Resize cells in Google Sheets – “Locate and click the Select All button just below the formula bar to select every cell in the spreadsheet. Hover the mouse over the line between two rows. The cursor will turn into a double arrow . Click, hold, and drag the row border to modify the height.” Quoted from Google Search. 

Side note…Writing

Just a quick note because I had the most awesome writing lesson today. We were working on recounts…familiar to any teachers out there? Our focus was using a hook and putting events in order.

The context: pretend you are a magnet. Recount your day. (Please note we are currently investigating magnetism and trying out magnets).

The students got so excited about the topic. They planned verbally. We went through what made a hook & briefly touched on time connectives. There was fantastic language. This is a context I will use again.

The spiral of inquiry.

Last year we were given the reading: ‘The spiral of inquiry’ (Timperly, Kaser & Halbert) by our LwDT coordinator. I put it in a safe place. This worked, until I moved classrooms. It’s new ‘safe place’ is secure from me, something I’m sure everyone can agree with.

Regardless, after searching online and in my house, it finally popped up in ‘The Pond‘ (a NZ site established for educators to share resources etc). It is similar to, but different from the VLN – (virtual learning network).

This is an excellent reading, one that really clarified my understanding of the teacher as inquiry process (and one I need to keep revisiting – hence the blog). The biggest wrinkle I have had with the process is the sole emphasis on the priority learners. This is definately essential (and what my inquiries are focussed on). I can understand this better now. My biggest stumbling block initially was that this ‘inquiry thing’ seemed to put a roadblock between me doing my broader learning and readings. I have passed this, and perhaps better understand how the

I’ve been thinking a lot about the marginal middles – those that aren’t performing at their peak, but are just far enough inside the bubble to miss out on the detailed focus of these inquiries. I would love to do an investigation around this.

Cave teacher

I am very aware that I am not currently discussing research. That is on my mind, and I will get back to that presently. 
Regardless – Cave teaching. 

I come to the end of my two weeks teaching in the cave. I have thoroughly enjoyed this. School activites are settling into a more normal routine as I am sure they are around the country. The students at my workplace are beginning to get a handle on the concept of coming to the cave for teaching in their groups.  Our wonderful, skilled teacher aide has been assigned four groups to take during whole class times (although I generally do the planning). 

Initially I walked away from most sessions considering my pedagogy a joke. I considered myself hauling students out, chasing them up to get them there and then rushing through a lesson so I could ‘tick the box’. Some sound advice from my team leader and team mate helped immensely. I began getting through less groups, well, and being extremely specific about the routine of coming out to see me.. As those routines have become more established I have felt less like a shepherd and more like a teacher. 

I have been using modelling books with the students. With all three of us taking turns in the cave as well as a teacher aide taking groups on alternate days, these are allowing communication between the teachers. Students are also able to take the modelling book through with them to the clearing/the glen to work with. As I have an apple TV in the cave I do most of the session sung the app Notability, printing it at the end of each day and sticking it into the modelling book. This allows me to capture evidence from our whiteboard table and mini whiteboards  rather thn getting students to squish around  scrapbook. 

 The planning itself is on a google doc (colour coded of course).
Larger groups can be taken for each subject, with a much higher quality lesson taking place. I am really thrilled. Additionally, as the cave teacher, there are less behaviour issues to deal with. Those are the domain of the other two teachers (generally) so groups can keep having their deliberate learning. 
I have found that I have to be constantly on the ball, but I have more thinking energy at the end of the day. I discovered that I still dislike worksheets considerably, but can see the value of them. 


Our phonics journey embarks. As a junior team we have decided to use Yolanda Soryl’s teaching method for phonics. Consequently we have the pre data and I have decided to do a mini-inquiry into this.

Observation: students are not making the connection between reading and writing, namely the spelling patterns. This goes across from beginner readers to fluent, beginner writers to fluent. 

Question: What effect does systematic teaching of phonics have on student spelling, when explicit teaching is made to help students transfer knowledge from reading to writing?

Assessments: Phonics entry and exit data. Phonics assessment conducted six weekly. Ten minute writing samples (done two times a term). BAS spelling assessment (completed terms 1 and 5). 

Methadology: students spread between four phonics groups, receiving fifteen miinutes phonic teaching at the start of each day. Lessons follow the format taught by Yolanda Soryl at her course, as set out in the accompanying manual, and lessons modelled on youtube. 

Observation: there are several struggling writers who view writing as a subject inflicted upon them by all the adults in their lives. Before they begin they have already given up. You can watch them visibly sigh, shrink back into themselves and sometimes grit their teeth. These students mostly have good oral language, are boys and have fantastic ideas that disappear into another realm when they are expected to put them to paper. The students are also writing intial and final sounds, with some writing CVC words. They know some high frequency words. These students are presently spending part of their day on ‘speedy writing’, when they record a dictated rhyming sentence, usually consisting of CVC words. The students’ attitude to this time is quite positive. These boys also enjoy time on the computer, including using kidpix.

Hunch: These students find the writing laborious, and already ‘know’ that they will not spell words correctly. Therefore they ‘know’ they cannot write. Obviously this is not the case.  

Question: will explicit phonics instruction, with its emphasis of transfer of knowledge from reading to writing, change these students’ attitude to writing?

“The challenge is to transfer what we know works from research into the classroom.”

Assessment Matters 5 (2013)  NZCER Press Notes

Disclaimer: These are re-typed short notes that I made. While they should by and large be my own words, there may be direct quotes (unidentified) of the text from the author. Please refer to the original text with any queries.

Scott Lee (2013). Inductive assessment approach: An open-ended and exploratory method for assessing students’ thinking competence.  In Education Matters. 

Find patterns/themes in data.

Engaging in conversations about thinking gives the opportunity to justify ideas and make judgements. Use facts to analyse student competence, but the thinking discussion to assess process.

Student thinking competence depends on their ability to adopt a structured and organised approach.

Make a well-defined, mental picture of a problem. The description of thinking processes should show their many approaches to task performance and allow multiple perspectives.

Rawlins, Peter (2013). Questioning as formative assessment: Investigating the ESRU framework to guide student learning. 

p.30 – “Formative assessment – the process used by teachers and students to recognise and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning, during the learning.”

Exploring first-grade teachers’ use of data to inform early literacy instruction Bohn & Johnson

  • One must analyse and interpret student data to change instruction.
  • Systematically record/monitor students.
  • p.50 “The challenge is to transfer what we know works from research into the classroom.”
  • Look at: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary.
  • Classroom assessment needs to be embedded in the curriculum. Align it with the instructional goals.
  • Make real time decisions.
  • Use the continual development cycle: Analyse, reflect, plan, implement, assess (repeat) – done by the teacher, informed by collaboration, useable data management systems, professional development and leadership.

Ulearn Day One Reflection.

After yesterday my mind is absolutely buzzing. At events like these I am reminded of two things: I am not used to crowds & I need paper (digital or otherwise) to organise my thoughts & articulate them verbally & coherently.

I attended Ann Milne’s plenary which explored what Maori achieving success as Maori actually means.

  • What lenses are you looking through? Acknowledge that you are looking through one.
  • Who has the power in your professional relationships?
  • We need to be explicitly counter hegemonic.
  • Make developing the cultural identity of students & building relationships. The academic will generally follow.
  • As long as we measure Maori success by Pakeha standards ie National standards & ignore success in the cultural realm, we are just going to replicate the existing situation.
    • So…what is this going to look like for us?
    • How can we make this a reality when some of us lack the skill base to teach cultural identity?

Ulearn:Grant Lichtman

Excellent speaker. Update the core operating system of education. It has not changed from Industrial Age in the sixties. The hardware is the tangata- the people. The software is the equipment. 

Change is uncomfortable but not hard when put in context with fighting a war, settling Midwest America or raising children as a single mother in poverty.

Change can happen. Embrace the discomfort.

Obstacles in school to change are fear and inertia, the anchors of my class, my time, my time, my subject and silos.

Ulearn and P2P 2015

Last week’s mission was basic planning for next week and Spring cleaning the house.  This week’s mission is conference! The conference begins tomorrow. I am excited: a whole week of just pedagogy, research and reflection. 

Expect many posts over the next wee while. I have some catching up to do.