Education Readings January 26th

By Allan Alach

The New Zealand school year is about to begin, so Bruce Hammonds and I are back again with our education readings. Hopefully New Zealand schools are well prepared to make the most of the opportunities provided by the dumping of national standards, although we have our concerns that too many principals and teachers will struggle to break their mindsets free from the raising achievement focused dictates of the the previous nine years.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Assessment too often fails to prioritise learning – let’s change that

‘By relying less on data and more on teachers’ judgment, schools can give student assessment greater meaning while also cutting workload.

Often the focus is on what tracked data tells us about student progress, but I know of no large-scale study that demonstrates the positive impact of data-tracking systems on learning. My hunch is that you could delete all this data and the students would never notice the difference in terms of the education they receive. The majority of teachers have excellent knowledge of their students, with or without the data.’

IXL: Caveat Emptor & Personalized Misery

NZ may have been saved from this by the change of government, but …

‘As the computerized version of personalized [sic] learning continues to gather steam, we can anticipate increasingly aggressive marketing. Remember – you don’t win in a free market by having the best product, but by having the most effective marketing. Marketing for these algorithm-driven software packages of mass-produced custom education belongs to a special class of marketing – marketing that is designed to sell a product to people other than the actual end users… Education has always suffered from this problem– teachers get stuck using products that are purchased by district administrators who will never have to actually work with them.’

This is the one skill your child needs for the jobs of the future

‘Every child begins their journey through life with an incredible potential: a creative mindset that approaches the world with curiosity, with questions, and with a desire to learn about the world and themselves through play.

However, this mindset is often eroded or even erased by conventional educational practices when young children enter school.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

‘A World of Difference’: the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher – Bill Guild

‘In 2003 Bill Guild attended the Frankley Road 150th Jubilee, a school he had been principal of for 28 years from 1959 to 1986. An accomplished photographer, Bill complied a book ‘A World of Difference’ of the experiences and creativity of the students he taught to share with past students attending. Later an edited booklet was shared widely with teachers throughout New Zealand who knew of the quality of teaching he was well known for. Maybe it’s time to share his ideas again?’

Creative teaching:Learning from the past – John Cunningham teacher 1970s

Uncovering ideas worth sharing

‘The other day I was visiting my old friend John Cunningham. He had been recently sorting through old notes ( John is a bit of a hoarder) and had found some photos from his 1970 classroom and I suggested they might make an interesting blog.  In all areas of life we need to look backwards to move into the future; ‘ Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ (Santana).’

Starting the year right – building learning-focused relationships

‘If we want students who are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners, how do we maximise the beginning of the school year to ensure this happens? We often use words such as ‘learning’ and ‘learner’ with our students, yet how often do we stop and check that they understand what these words actually mean? It seems to me that with a new year before us we have an opportune time to unpack these concepts with our students. Learning-focused relationships with and between students will not happen by accident; they need to be nurtured through careful planning and design.’

Why Are Kids Impatient, Bored, Friendless, And Entitled?

‘I am an occupational therapist with years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my time as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in children’s social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.’

Teachers celebrate the end of National Standards

‘Primary teachers sound excited after the sudden announcement of the dropping of National Standards, and their New Year’s resolutions for teaching in 2018 are about re-discovering the New Zealand Curriculum, and locally relevant learning. They’re talking about passion-based projects, vision, and innovation; about drones and gardens, marine reserves and whakapapa. The romance has been re-ignited.’

Ken Robinson – How Schools Kill Creativity

Now that national standards have been dumped in the rubbish bin of history, it’s timely to bring back Sir Ken Robinson.

‘And the third part of this is that we’ve all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinary capacities that children have — their capacities for innovation… And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status… ‘

Who should learn most about White Privilege—Māori children or Pākehā children?

Ann Milne:

‘Although, internationally, there is a significant body of research on Whiteness and White privilege (for example, see here, here, and here), in Aotearoa New Zealand we have been largely silent about White spaces in our “Whitestream” schools. The racist backdrop that is pervasive in our education system creates and perpetuates the White spaces that marginalise and alienate our Māori learners, yet it is a backdrop that we rarely name as being a problem.’

Secret Teacher: why can’t my school just trust us to do our job?

‘When I started my career in teaching, I was encouraged to be creative and experiment. I loved that freedom and I think it helped to make me a good teacher. I got used to reading around my subject and trying out different ideas. I made some mistakes, but I was always thinking, always learning, always trying to do better with my students. I got good results. I enjoyed my work. Contrast that with the situation I and many of my colleagues face today. My job and so much of what happens in my classroom is being controlled and my teaching hindered by excessive micromanagement.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What messages does your school pass on to students?

‘It is important if students are to become active learners for them to tell their own stories, to pose their own questions and to make their own interpretations of what they experience. If their ‘voices’ are not recognised there will be many who will continue to disengage from their learning.’


Education Readings December 8th

By Allan Alach

As the New Zealand school year is coming to an end, Bruce Hammonds and I are taking a break from producing these education readings. We hope you all have a great festive season and we’ll be back at the end of January.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

A Special Letter From Santa … Why Teachers Must Be Magic!

‘Please take a moment to read this very special letter from Santa! He takes a moment to describe the magic that you as an educator make happen every day!’

3 Signs Of Gender Discrimination In The Classroom You Need To Know

‘There are 3 signs of gender discrimination in the classroom that you need to know which are behavioral discriminations, achievement discrimination, and developmental discrimination. This articles discusses each sign and provides key components you need to know to avoid discrimination against boys and girls in the classroom.’

Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information

‘The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports.’

Is your school feeding inequality?

‘Education is meant to be society’s great leveller. Offering public education supposedly gives everyone a fair chance to succeed in life in any capacity they might choose, but in reality … it doesn’t. In fact, I would go as far to say that it barely tries to. Now, If you’re an educator, that might upset you as I’m sure you are thinking “I try really hard to help all my students!” I know many teachers who are inclusive, flexible and cater for individual needs, but that doesn’t stop the systems they work within, undoing much of the progress they make.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Students can own Their Learning Through Creating Questions

A simple read but important.

Dr Ann Milne – Why not White Boys’ Writing?

‘Do we think White boys have an additional writing or reading gene that our Maori kids missed out on? Or do we think they had better parenting perhaps – you know, bedtime stories, books in the home, and all that? Or, here’s a thought, could it be that the whole system, the way we set up and structure schools, our teacher training, our obsession with copying failed policy from other countries which also marginalise their indigenous learners, the knowledge we value—and measure—is also White and it, therefore, benefits the children whose values match, and whose values are embedded in and reproduced by our schools?’

What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?

‘The idea of personalized learning is seductive – it implies moving away from the industrialized form of education   that pumps out cookie-cutter students with the same knowledge and skills. After decades of this approach, it is clear that all children don’t learn the same way and personalization seems to honor those differences. However, that term has taken on several different meanings.’

‘We help them flourish and bloom’: using nature to keep students in education

‘There is evidence to back this idea up. In 2015, Mind’s report Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside (pdf) found that activities such as gardening boosted self-esteem, improved physical health and benefited those at risk of developing mental health problems.’

Our education systems must focus on developing underlying human capabilities, not just knowledge and skills

It is absolutely clear that better, broader education will be essential in creating a positive future of work. However we still need to work out precisely what is the education that will be most relevant for tomorrow’s world.’

‘Collaborative problem solving must be placed at the heart of our curriculum’

‘The latest Pisa rankings prove that if our pupils are to thrive in future workplaces, the importance of collaborative problem-solving, creativity and teamwork must be emphasised in schools, writes one educationalist.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Time for a rebirth of the creative spirit.

Make the most of the end of national standards.

‘The time is right for a true educational revolution! We need to listen to lost voices and rediscover our own The spirits of creative teachers, long gone, will be with us. The secret is to seek out and network with creative teachers in your own areas to share their wisdom.’

Lester Flockton. Nothing wrong with being critical!

‘Lester wisely suggest that we need to reflect carefully on the ‘over stated claims’ based on this thing called ‘evidence’. It is almost impossible these days to avoid ‘evidence based’, or ‘best practice’ whatever, in any Ministry document! ‘Best practice’, when imposed through heavy handed contracts, can ‘mutate’ into, what educationalist Dean Fink calls, ‘educational sects’ that make it all but impossible for teachers to develop new creative approaches. If we are to be creative then there will be times that we can’t wait for the ‘evidence’. Schools must feel free to create their own ‘best practice’ through their own actions. Such an approach is what some scientists call, ‘enlightened trial and error’ – or simply common sense.’

End of year survey – tapping the wisdom of your class/school/community

‘At the end of the school year it is a good idea to gather information from the students you are passing on. Not only is this a chance for you to get some insight about your teaching but it is also a great way to value the ‘voice’ of your students. What are your students’ attitudes towards areas of learning?’

Creative schools – schools as true learning communities.

‘When schools develop a culture of approved (and enforced) ‘best practices’ such schools can be defined as ‘best practice learning communities’. Where schools value the creativity of both students and teachers they fit the ‘learning organisation ‘definition.  Michael Fullan has written that it is ironic that few sc  hools are true learning organisations. A ‘community of best practice’ follows the guidance of experts from outside of the school or classroom while ‘learning organisations’ value the inspiration of creative teachers. The emphasis chosen makes a big difference.’

We need a new story for our future.

‘What we need, as we make our way into the new millennium, is a new way of thinking to align our thoughts behind. We need a new story, myth, narrative, or metaphor, to replace current thinking – thinking based on a mechanistic emphasis on economic progress, exploitation and short term thinking.’

Education Readings December 1st

By Allan Alach

Two important articles bookend this set of readings. If you’re not familiar with John Dewey, I recommend you read Bruce Hammonds’ article: “John Dewey – New thinking 1897!” If you want to see how Dewey’s vision can be expressed in a school, read the first article from Kelvin Smythe: “A schoolwide science experience.’

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

A schoolwide science experience

This is a must read!

‘My intention was to provide an opportunity and context where children could engage to make connections with science in their environment, to learn how science activity affects life, indeed their life. I delighted in the idea that that in the process of undertaking this science, the children were keenly telling their parents what they were doing, why they were doing it, and the ambitions they had for the outcome.’

Tes talks to… Alfie Kohn

‘Everything you think you know about behaviour management in schools is wrong, according to Alfie Kohn. For example, if you believe that the use of rewards and punishment improves children’s behaviour, think again, he says. In fact, the American former teacher and author of books including Punished by Rewards and Beyond Discipline believes that using these traditional techniques only makes matters worse.’

Some Schools Are Abolishing Homework In Favor Of Reading, And That’s A Good Thing

‘While there is no solid evidence that homework is beneficial for academic success in younger kids, there is plenty of evidence that reading is.’

Teaching of synthetic phonics in Australia based on flawed evidence

I’ll toss this contentious topic into the fire and then stand well back…

‘What is phonics for? Where does it fit into an overall pedagogy of literacy? Without clear answers to these questions, the contestants in the phonics debate will continue to circle each other like blindfolded prizefighters.’

The Brain Is Wired for Math—Sort Of

While genetics and gender play a role in math achievement, classroom teaching can pick up the slack and help kids soar. Three keys? Make math understandable, useful, and beautiful. This is no small task, but you have 23 (or so) helpers in your classroom who can make the job manageable if you work with their natural abilities and motivations.’

The State of Being Stuck

‘Last year, I got the high school math teacher’s version of a wish on a magic lamp: a chance to ask a question of the world’s most famous mathematician.

The essence of Wiles’ answer can be boiled down to just six words: “Accepting the state of being stuck.”’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

6 Problems with our School System

‘The traditional system of education was designed in the industrial age and is now outdated and ineffective. Learn about the 6 major problems with the system.’

5 Principles of Outstanding Classroom Management

‘Effective classroom management requires awareness, patience, good timing, boundaries, and instinct. There’s nothing easy about shepherding a large group of easily distractible young people with different skills and temperaments along a meaningful learning journey.So how do master teachers do it?’

Critical Thinking: Keeping Our Minds Open

‘Critical thinking is the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. Thinking critically involves seeing things in an open-minded way and examining an idea or concept from as many angles as possible. This important skill allows people to look past their own views of the world and to better understand the opinions of others. It is often used in debates, to form more cogent and well-rounded arguments, and in science.’

Neuroeducation Will Lead to Big Breakthroughs in Learning

‘All human abilities, including learning, are a result of our brain activity. Hence, a better understanding of how our brains operate can result in a better understanding of learning.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Tapping into the student’s world

‘Every student brings with them memories and ideas gained from the experiences they have had. All too often this personal form of motivation is overlooked by teachers who seem to think they have better ideas to use – their own. It is as if students come to school as blank slates (tabula rosa) when instead they come with a wealth of ideas to share but to do so their ideas need to be valued.’

John Dewey – New thinking 1897!

If you’ve not read about John Dewey, this is a good place to start.

‘John Dewey’s famous declaration concerning education was first published 1897 and is still as pertinent now as it was then. All school communities ought to declare their beliefs about education and then work towards aligning all their teaching to achieving what they believe in. If they do not determine their own destiny someone else will. Having clear beliefs provides both security and the basis of making all choices – or simply saying no as appropriate.’


Education Readings November 24th

By Allan Alach

The demise of national standards in New Zealand schools opens the door to a return to more progressive, child centred learning. In the first article, Bruce Hammonds gives his take on the possibilities in the post national standards classroom. All progressive teachers should read this.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Organising the school day for 21st Century Teaching – the Craft of Teaching

Bruce Hammonds:

‘What ‘message’ does the timetable, or the day’s organisation, in your classroom give? Does it reflect past expectations or future thinking? Which learning areas are given the most prominence? Which areas are neglected? With the termination of the reactionary National Standards the time is right for progressive thinking re classroom organisations to be considered.’

Progressive Education Is Not Just Child’s Play

‘Despite the incontestable evidence of what is best for young children, our society continues to tolerate – often celebrate – schools and educational methods that directly contradict several hundred years of evolving knowledge. At least among sensible educators, the importance of play and discovery for young children is a consensus belief, despite policies that often make it hard to teach that way.’

The importance of keeping a beat: Researchers link ability to keep a beat to reading, language skills

Anyone want to have a go at trying this in their classroom?

‘Because hearing sounds of speech and associating them with the letters comprising written words is crucial to learning to read, the Northwestern researchers reasoned that the association between reading and beat synchronization likely has a common basis in the auditory system.’

Why Art And Creativity Are Important For Kids

‘Schools that eliminate art programs are doing so at their peril. No one questions foundation subjects like reading and math for the development of competent citizens, but not enough people are inquiring about how important art and creativity are for kids.

The importance is paramount. Arts and creativity nurture well-being and assist learners in creating connections between subjects.’

Always asking questions

‘Hopefully, in most cases, the entire experience is about asking questions. But the curriculum often militates against good question times. It is so stuffed full of unnecessary content, there is far too little time left for teachers to help children to frame their questions. They must make time, because the bloated curriculum shows no signs of going away just yet. Questioning is far too important to gloss over or push into a corner. Give the kids time to ask questions.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Creative by Nature

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ―Pablo Picasso

‘All human beings are creative by nature. Young children know this in their hearts, but as we grow older most of us begin to have doubts. We live in a culture that discourages creative thought and wants us to believe that artistic ability is rare. Over time, most of us learn not to color (or think) outside the box.

What Should Schools Teach?

‘In the UK, decades of political meddling in the curriculum have resulted in endless lists prescribing what – and how – teachers should teach. How refreshing then, that unlike many educational policy prescriptions, What Should Schools Teach? does not offer a dazzling list of innovative academic hybrids, along with an interactively inspirational flowchart of how to deliver them.’

Genius Hour in Elementary School

‘Educators know a good idea when we see one (even if Google eventually ended the program). We want that vibrant creativity pulsing through our classrooms. We can visualize the end, filled with projects in which our students have connected with experts, filled journals with intelligent thinking, and explored with curiosity. How do we get from this euphoric idea to a classroom reality.’

Have we forgotten that children are still just children?

‘We seem to be so desperate to jump on the next bandwagon, to shape our classrooms for the future, to teach these supposedly ‘different’ learners, who are so ‘different’ to how we were, in progressive ways. But what is it that has made them so different? My thinking has now meandered to this point….children are no different to how we were….they are still just children.’

Here’s How to Apply the 4P Approach to Building a Creative Classroom

‘What is a creative classroom? Creative learners are not linear thinkers. Contrary to popular belief, while others have a plan from the beginning, creative learners are different. They might need to play first and experience the medium before they begin to come up with ideas of their own. That’s why the students in a creative classroom strive for innovative solutions to unexpected problems.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Learning is about constructing meaning.

Marie Clay was more than about reading

‘Marie Clay was ‘constructivist’ or more accurately a ‘co-constructivist’ believing, like such researchers as Jerome Bruner, Piaget and Vygotsky that students create their own meanings and that this is best achieved by sensitive teacher interaction, always leaving the responsibility of learning in the child’s hands.’

John Holt quotes on learning – more pertinent than ever

‘The freedom and anti-authoritarianism movement of the 60s challenged traditional views in all areas of life. Creative teachers of the time had access to a number of writers spreading the message of an alternative approach to education. I am reassured that there are still  many creative teachers doing their best; unfortunately far too few innovative principals. With this in mind I thought the sharing of John Holt’s quotes are as relevant as ever.’


Education Readings November 17th

By Allan Alach

Now that the curse of national standards is being removed from New Zealand education, the way is clear for schools and teachers to really let loose. Bruce Hammonds’ two articles on Elwyn Richardson provide a really good insight into this teaching genius of the 1950s, whose work is very relevant today in the post national standards world.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

The Northland school teaching with art

‘There is a place for the arts in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum. Teaching becomes lively and fun; children are ‘doing’ rather than sitting, and the classroom becomes an environment where students love to learn. This is a simple definition of ‘arts integration’ which is being researched by educators globally: A small school in Northland has taken the ideas on board and the results are proving remarkable.’

Teaching to Forget

Much of the ‘learning’ children do at school each day is gone by the time they walk out of the school gate…

‘The truth that we all know but are loathe to discuss is that the vast majority of what kids “learn” in our classrooms will soon be forgotten. We know this because we ourselves forgot the vast majority of what we learned in classrooms when we were in school.

And the other truth that we don’t want to admit is that the grades that we give that are supposed to show what a student has “learned” are pretty meaningless considering that student will forget most of the “learning” once the grade is given.’

Engaging Practice: Making in English Language Arts

Use creative technology tools to engage struggling readers and writers.

‘Creative multimedia tools allow for multiple forms of representation, providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding while practicing literacy skills through writing (text), reading (audio), and illustration (picture walks and visualization). “When students publish their own books, you tap into their innate desire for recognition as they learn to connect to literature, play with language, and beam with pride at their accomplishments,” shares California educator Linda Oaks.’

It’s Time for a New Core Curriculum

‘If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students.  Building on some of the great work from, the ISTE NETS for Students and keeping in mind those most desired future job skills from above, I would propose the development of the following 7 courses for every student:’

6 Strategies For Dealing With ‘Difficult’ Students

‘As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six “pillars” can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions. Add or substitute other methods within each pillar to reflect your style and preference.’

A Surprising Strategy Makes Kids Persevere at Boring Tasks

‘With the onset of early childhood and attending preschool, increased demands are placed on the self-regulatory skills of kids. Children need to start completing tasks that may be much less interesting than the myriad of entertaining distractions around them. Researchers have been interested in how to develop self-control and perseverance in children by teaching them tactics like averting their attention away from distractions.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Use Einstein’s Educational Philosophy to Boost Your Learning

‘Although he overall did well in school, Einstein was skeptical of the schooling system and strongly disliked academia’s restrictions on learning. Here are 10 things we can learn from Albert Einstein about school and education: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”’

Why This Second Grade Handout Should Be Your New Creative Manifesto

‘Last week, I attended curriculum night at my daughter’s school. In discussing the things the kids will be learning this year, the teachers handed us the chart above. My first thought was, what an amazing thing to give a bunch of second graders. I am sharing it with you. I feel like this is as good a guideline for a creative department I’ve ever seen. A simple chart for all teachers at all levels.’

How This School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent

‘To adapt to changing student needs, some school libraries are reinventing themselves as makerspaces, but this Ohio library took a slightly different approach. Now they’re seeing incredible results. A library as a place where students did hands-on work, an extension of what was happening their classrooms toward more personalized learning.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s the Point of School?

What’s the Point of School asks Guy Claxton

‘The purpose of education’ Claxton writes, is to prepare young people for the future.Schools should be helping Young people to develop the capacities they will need to thrive.What they need and want, is the confidence to talk to strangers, to try things out, to handle tricky situations, to stand up for themselves, to ask for help, to think new thoughts’ ‘This is not to much to ask’, says Claxton, ‘but they are not getting it.’

Reclaiming the joy of learning 

and also

A new inspirational book about Elwyn Richardson – New Zealand’s pioneer teacher

Two articles about the great NZ teacher Elwyn Richardson that all teachers should read.

‘What matters is a curriculum that places children’s natural curiosity at the heart, so that they are encouraged to explore who they are and the world around them.This is evident in Elwyn’s use of an integrated curriculum, focusing on intriguing questions that motivated children to pursue avenues of enquiry. He encouraged the freedom to explore, the opportunity to observe closely, and the discipline to record findings in various ways. He also upheld the value of the arts as a vivid means of expression and not secondary to other subjects. He also realised that one subject informs another; that scientific understanding is enhanced by the aesthetic, and vice versa.’

Looking back

Dr Beeby and the first Labour Government set an example for today

‘Today teachers need to look back to ideas that have been sidelined by the imposition of the current technocratic curriculums of the 90s and to appreciate that it is these curriculums that have caused our current confusion and distress. Dr Beeby believed in a creative role for education. He reminded those present in 1983 that the most important thing realized about education in the previous decades had been the discovery of the individual child. It is not that individuality wasn’t appreciated earlier but that the school system was based on a mass education vision which made realizing such an idea impossible.’


Education Readings November 10th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

What every teacher should know about … memory

‘There is a wealth of psychology research that can help teachers to improve how they work with students – but academic studies of this kind aren’t always easy to access, or to translate into the realities of classroom practice. This series seeks to redress that, by taking a selection of studies and making sense of the important information for teachers.’

Walking backwards into the future

Steve Wheeler:

‘When we consider the future we tend to strain our minds to imagine what will come next. And usually we fail miserably. Perhaps instead we should follow the Maori tradition and build our own future on the shoulders of giants. In the case of education and the future of learning we should consider what those who have gone before us have achieved, the lessons they learnt and the trajectory they have set us on.’

Listening, Not Testing, Will Improve Children’s Vocabulary

‘While we may actively teach our children to read, oral language skills (the ability to learn words, form sentences and to communicate abstract ideas) is a defining human characteristic and, of these, it is vocabulary which is the pivotal skill. Children grow up acquiring these skills driven by, in Canadian telly-don Stephen Pinker’s words an “instinct” for language.’

Mouldy cheese and minibeasts: tips for teaching science in primary schools

‘Classroom teachers have a lot of freedom to teach investigative science frequently and creatively, and some do so beautifully. However, in general, there is not enough help for teachers in this area, with just under a third of primary school teachers saying they had no support for science in the past year, and a quarter saying they were concerned they might not be able to answer pupils’ science questions. So what can teachers do to increase the focus on science at primary level?’

Math Class Doesn’t Work. Here’s the Solution

‘Until we change the way we teach math to emphasize learning and exploration, rather than performance, we’ll continue to produce students who describe their math experience as a hamster wheel, or worse, a prison. We’ll continue to produce anxious students who experience fear when they see numbers. The performance culture of mathematics has destroyed a vibrant, essential subject for so many people.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Modern Learning Environments … innovation or disaster?

‘With glass walls, funky furniture and 60 children in a big open plan room where two teachers share the space, education consultants’ will explain the trend in classroom

design as an open, flexible learning environment in which inquiries are shared and interventions are devised collaboratively. Ask some of the men and women at the coal face of the modern learning environment about their experience teaching in buildings like this, and the answer is often less complicated.’

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

‘Learning is about discovering your purpose and passion in life. Schools should provide diverse pathways and opportunities for students to develop and unleash their special abilities and unique talents…not standardize them.’

Change, Beliefs, And The ‘F’ Words

Some advice if you are serious about transforming your school. Here is a summary of the main messages of the latest  uLearn Conference. The new Minister is removing National Standards and lightening the assessment load but if this is all that happens it will be a lost opportunity.

‘The annual uLearn conference is over for another year, and as the new term begins it’s worth taking a little time to reflect on the ‘big ideas’ we came away with — the overarching themes and messages that persisted through the various keynote, spotlight, and workshop presentations. I had the privilege of doing a quick summary at the end of this year’s conference, and want to share that in this blog post as an ‘aide memoire’ for those who are interested. For me, there were three ‘big ideas’ that kept surfacing (four if you count my two “F” words) which are expanded on below:’

How School Leaders Can Attend to the Emotional Side of Change

‘“All of us respond to a change that someone says or does not because of what it is, but in terms of what it means to us,”“Resistance to change is normal and necessary,” Evans said. “If you are part of some big change in your school and you aren’t expecting resistance, there’s something wrong with your plan.” But he also points out that resistance can be overcome when leaders understand its source and empathize with teachers. Evans shared several tips on how to manage change.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The rebirth of education – a real Renaissance

‘If we want to be recognised as a creative and innovative country, a country at the leading edge of change, then the most important asset we have is the talent and creativity of our citizens. Once such a vision has been defined then schools can follow the lead or better still be seen as leaders.’

Learning to be ‘creatively rebellious’. The importance of the Three Ds: being Different, Disruptive and Deviant.  

(This blog not for traditional school principals!)

‘Organisations that want to develop innovative cultures that enable leaders to be intentionally disruptive and deviant will flourish in the 21stC. And schools should be at the forefront  of developing innovative cultures. Risk adversity and fear of failure gets in the way of embracing disruption and deviance as the basis of developing innovation.’

Joyful Learning

‘Wolk introduces his article by saying, ‘joyful learning can flourish in your school if you give joy a chance’. John Dewey, in 1936, wrote that ‘to what avail if students absorb prescribed amounts of information…. if in the process the individual loses his own soul’. More recently, in 1984, John Goodland in his book ‘A Place called School’ after surveying high schools, wrote that he found an ‘extraordinary sameness’ and that ‘boredom was a disease of endemic proportions, ‘ he asked, ,why are schools not places of joy?’


Education Readings November 3rd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Now What: Recovering from the Standards Era

‘The damage caused by the National Standards policy of the previous government will not be easily undone.  The side effects have had somewhat of a cancerous impact on our education system, and a careful approach will be needed in order to support teachers through this next transition.’

The end of National Standards and the role of researchers and academics

Article by Professor Martin Thrupp, one of the loudest academic voices who battled against national standards.

‘It’s great, though, that New Zealand primary schools will now be able to spend less time shoring up judgements about children – judgements that have often been pointless or harmful – and instead spend more time making learning relevant and interesting for each child. Removing National Standards should also allow teachers to be less burdened, contributing to making teaching a more attractive career again.’

Longworth Forest selected as part of Finnish “HundrED’s 100 Global Education Innovations Project”

‘Longworth Forest was established in Poraiti, Napier, in 2014 by Linda and Bruce Cheer, and seeks to provide children 5 – 7 years of age with safe and semi structured opportunities to experience risk and challenge, to problem solve and enterprise, all at the child’s own pace. It is a child led approach which gives children the power to initiate and drive their own learning, to make meaningful choices and to discover and develop their interests. Through regular outdoor play, children learn to develop positive relationships with themselves and others as well as a bond with nature and an understanding of their place in the natural world.’

My Students Are Addicted to Screens

‘In my kids’ everyday lives, this type of constant technology reliance doesn’t make them better students. It doesn’t give them access to more information. It makes them dependent on instant gratification and sensory overload. Their minds are submerged in a soup of constant noise and conflicting demands for their attention. Stringing together thoughts and coming to reasoned opinions becomes increasingly difficult. This isn’t to say that technology has no place in the classroom.’

Teaching kids real maths

‘I’ve been doing some research about teaching mathematics, and decided to start by reading and listening to the thoughts of the British technologist Conrad Wolfram, who for a number of years has been arguing that we need to rebuild a maths curriculum for the computer age and that students should be calculating “just like everyone does in the real world”.  His argument is that school maths is very disconnected from the maths used to solve problems in the real world, and that it needs to be more practical, more conceptual and less mechanical.’

A Troubling Side Effect of Praise

‘Teachers often use praise to reward good behavior or correct answers. But there’s a potential downside to this common choice: Praising young children for being smart can increase the likelihood that they’ll cheat, according to a new study in Psychological Science by an international team of researchers.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Are We Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?

‘A few months ago, I noticed an increased amount of discussion around the notion of blended learning. Many of these conversations started on a similar note: “We’re blended—all of our teachers use Google Classroom” (or Edmodo, Schoology, Canvas, Moodle, etc.). However, in probing further, I often discovered that these tools had merely digitized existing content and classroom procedures.’

10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth

‘There’s a common misconception that the best way to encourage children’s creativity is simply to get out of the way and let them be creative. Although it’s certainly true that children are naturally curious and inquisitive, they need support to develop their creative capacities and reach their full creative potential.Supporting children’s development is always a balancing act: how much structure, how much freedom; when to step in, when to step back; when to show, when to tell, when to ask, when to listen.’

Why Learning and People Should Come First

‘My primary objective for all multiday workshops is to illustrate the vital role that technology can play in improving teaching, learning, and leadership.  Most of the first day is spent on emphasizing the importance of a pedagogy first, technology second mindset. The bottom line is that if we don’t get the instructional design right first, then the chances of technology improving learning outcomes is slim to none.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul – Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

‘If there is just one message I could share with parents, educators, and managers, it would be about the transformative power of interest.’ Annie Murphy Paul. The development of every student’s unique set of talents and gifts is the challenge for a 21stC of education and so far few schools have yet to appreciate this challenge.’

The rise and fall and rise again of teacher expertise

‘Schools need to be seen as ‘professional learning communities’ that respect creative teachers as true co-leaders with ‘principals who can develop such learning communities can create creative schools with extraordinary teachers, and make learning stretching, creative, fun and successful.’ A new sense of excitement could well be on the horizon. Only those who have been around long enough will know this sense of possibility is not new – but this time perhaps the time is right?’

Back to the future.

‘Twenty five years after retiring Bill Guild (currently  91 and still an enthusiast) has been invited back to his old school to share his ideas about quality teaching and learning. It is a half a century since Bill took up his appointment at the school.. Tapping into the wisdom of the past is a powerful idea – and it turns out Bill’s wisdom is very current .Bill was part of a small group of Taranaki teachers who worked hard to develop creative classrooms in the 1970s.’