School Principal Reflects on the Impact of Professional Development

 Once all of our data had been analysed for the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, writing was identified as a major area of weakness. We endeavoured to get in as much PD as possible so that we could gain new ideas. We were working on the basis of “fail fast but fail forward” so had a mind set to try out many new experiences.

Last year the focus was on gaining a lot of pedagogical knowledge on different ways that we could teach writing. This year, 2014, with written language as our school wide focus, we are focusing on putting into practice some of the writing strategies that we covered last year with Accent Learning.

As a school we had identified that the main reason for the poor writing was because a huge percentage of our students are English Language Learners with Assyrian as their main language. We realised that we needed consistency across the classrooms about expectations and approaches to written language; a shared language around the pedagogical content of written language together with a focus on building the students’ vocabulary knowledge. 

The outcome of the professional development was that we became much better at:

o   Analysing data from moderation samples – deciding on the next step (the senior students often deciding on their own next steps)

o   Being clear about the expectations from the Literacy Learning Progressions

o   Linking writing to inquiry topics / NZC

o   Using anecdotal records e.g. using an iPad in class time is the latest improvement here.

o   Focusing on the four steps of planning for writing: building the field, modelling, joint construction, independent writing

Professional development with Accent Learning has changed the way teachers at Miramar Christian School focus on writing. Here’s what the staff say:

I now use rich tools to motivate the students in their writing. The students are enjoying using focussed vocabulary activities such as running dictation and developing word walls. Betsy Anderson: (Teacher)

I use fun word games to develop the student’s vocabulary e.g. fast five. I learnt that it was OK to have shorter specific lessons that may include only rich oral language rather than write every day. Uaea Toelupe: (Teacher)

Whilst writing continues to be part of literacy there is now a lot more integration across the curriculum. The walls, not just in the junior class, are full of displays of “Word” charts. Authentic writing, some of which is scaffolded and some of which is independent, is on display as well as being regularly sent home. Being part of this PD has given the staff the opportunity to think outside of the box, become adventurous in extending the ways in which the students write and being more confident when modelling new ideas. As a result the students are more engaged and successful in achieving their next steps.

Elizabeth Cranney

Acting Principal

Miramar Christian School