School on trial…

A fish judged by its ability to climb a tree will be a failure. Check this video which is an interesting take on our school system. NZ might operate differently, but is our endgame actually any different (although dressed differently}. Play supports success and lets the fish shine!

— Read on


Building Blocks to Literacy: where does it fit with Play Based Learning?

Building blocks to literacy was introduced to me in 2015. It focuses on identifying foundational literacy skill and teaching these rather than diving head first into the things kids ‘ought’ to be doing. Presented as a framework rather than as a programme, it is a useful tool for ensuring that the bucket is ready to hold water, or spotting the leaks (so to speak). To this end I mean that it is very well and good making a child learn to read because they have turned five, but matters such as oral language, reasoning, pattern recognition and visual discrimination also need to be considered. If these are lacking how much harder will it be for the child learning print literacy? Is it not wiser to teach foundational skills that will ‘plug the holes’ so to speak rather than pouring water in and wondering why the learning doesn’t stay? Such a statement of course, connects with the readiness, age and stage debate. The trick is letting go of ego and recognising that you might not be the one to get the credit in the academic year…it might take time for those results to happen. This also requires trust and support from those in management and your parent community. In the interim however, strong foundations are built which will support students’ life long learning and sense of self.

As we reach the end of this decade we are becoming more informed about the neuroscience of learning. This has been particularly highlighted in a resurgence of interest in play based learning.

Like Barbara Brann’s building block, play based learning addresses the underpinning structures of learning…the soft skills or key competencies as they are known in the NZ curriculum. A skilled teacher can notice and utilise these opportunities to access the breadth and width of the curriculum…or the academic curriculum within this context.

In short I believe that the two can work together, with Branns work providing access to a wealth of knowledge which will support the enactment of play based learning. It is not an easy balance to find and will be affected by teacher knowledge, where you are in your experience, your school and community ethos and by sheer adult to child ratios. It is well worth it!

Looking back to the future…

* an old post I discovered.

No. I haven’t become confused (at least – no more than usual). Nor have I become caught in a cyclical wormhole which intersects with the space-time continuum. After doing some more readings I am looking back to move forwards, considering what my teaching was like last year to what it will be when I return from study leave at the start of next year. Continue reading

Play versus Work

What constitutes the difference between play and work for children? Georgeson & Payler (2015) posit that it is all about perception. At the heart of the matter, they say, is the perception of freedom versus constraint. Also of note is the impact of teacher discourse on signalling which is which.

Georgeson and Payler continue by listing some of the objects that children tend to associate with play such as blocks, paint, construction materials, computer/board games etc. This begs the question – if one of these were used in a constrained activity would it then become work?

I am reminded of a student who was an incredibly talented (and young) artist. Normally engrossed for significant lengths of time in an art project of their design, this student was taken into an art extension class. The student’s behaviour was reported back as being ‘disruptive’ and ‘just mucking around’. Now in this context students were being taught a particular art technique. Had this student’s ‘play’ become ‘work’?


Georgeson, J., & Payler, J. (2015). Work or play: How children learn to read the signals. In J. Moyles (Ed.), The excellence of play (4th ed., pp. 159–172). New York, NY: Open University Press.


Around the Western world coding has become a part of curriculums as governments seek to futureproof education and their ability to compete at a technological level. Putting aside for a moment whether one agrees with that or believe that such a move whilst simultaneously marginalising the arts will be beneficial… I stumbled across this awesome looking site with genuine coding projects that could be implemented.

As teachers we have to enact a curriculum, but we can make even coding purposeful rather than getting caught up in a repetitive rote learning cycle (hopefully – at least, that is what is suggested by our draft curriculum in this area).

Here’s a few ideas – I claim no credit for them but do intend to use them in the future. They even look like fun!

Coding project ideas!


Compulsory te reo Māori in schools

We look back on some practices e.g. teachings caning children and go – how could they do that/say that/ think that way back then? It would be wonderful if the next generation of teachers say the same thing about Māori not being compulsory in school.

It is interesting reviewing this post. I wrote it a good few months ago, and put it in draft form to come back to to avoid reactionary responses burned into the internet forever. I agree with much of what is written, and continue to agree with the principle of making te reo compulsory. HOWEVER, I think that an awful lot of structuring needs to be put in place to avoid it starting and failing because inadequate supports were put in place. At the end of the day it is our native language and the benefits of speaking more than one Continue reading

Bullying sucks

I heard a story of a child who has been feeling unwell as an avoidance tactic for school. This child was being bullied. On the grand scale of bullying it would count as on the minor side, but it was significant to the child concerned which makes it significant.

This yet again reiterated my frustrations as a teacher when bullying occurs. I can address the bullying with the child (and sometimes that is enough – by exposing it to the light or separating a couple of individuals who just get nasty together – those are the easy ones), but often this is not enough to address the issue. That is the issue with bullying – it is generally not a one off thing, but an ongoing pattern. Patterns can be hard to change. And just leaving it for the teacher to fix does not work because the teacher is not always there. Oh, the teacher definately needs to know it is going on and needs to take steps to support students, but this isn’t always effective. Yes there are strategies that can be employed

  • Restorative justice
  • Teaching skills to deal with it
  • Removal of the bully from the playground
  • Peer support
  • Teaching people to recognise unhealthy situations – or friends who aren’t friends
  • Home-school connections
  • Addressing it in the wider school context
  • Developing student relationships and expectations to stand up for one another
  • Helping kids learn to stand up for themselves and react less

But ultimately how do we stop it? A determined bully will find ways to continue. They themselves have learning they need to do. But how do we protect those who are being hurt in the process to stop it? How do we empower the victim?

In some ways physical violence is easier to deal with because there are marks. But what about words? What about those complex situations where the bully is subtle and jabs, jabs, jabs then gets upset when there is a response? What about when the bully knows how to play the game and hide the bullying?

Is there really anything that we can do or is it an uphill battle? In saying that it is not a battle that we can afford to stop fighting. It is a battle that we see played out not just in school, but continued through into adult life. New Zealand (in 2016) holds the silver medal for the highest statistics (worldwide) of workplace bullying. Click the link below to see an article on it. Therefore, simply dismissing bullying as ‘a part of life’, or as someone needing to ‘harden up’ because ‘life isn’t fair so you might as well get used to it now’ doesn’t work.

Despite a plethora of literature on bullying, it seems to be an ongoing problem (and not just over here in NZ either) and not one that is easily addressed. If you have some more ideas to add regarding this issue, please do.


workplace bullying