Classify that!

As I’ve said in previous posts, as I read many reflective blogs following the #EdChatNZ conference I’ve been kicking myself for not using SOLO taxonomy as a thinking tool. I don’t know why I haven’t been using it until now. It’s so easy and the kids have responded to it so very quickly. If you can all please now imagine me smacking my forehead with the palm of my hand and admonishing myself with a resounding “duh!” Thank you.

For the past week or so we’ve been investigating the arrival of settlers to New Zealand – specifically Canterbury. This is our what. The why is: I want them to be able to compare their lives as they currently are to those of the first settlers to try to get some appreciation of both what they have and what the early settlers had to toil for.

Yesterday, after a few days of research I would call an information dump – discovering as much as you can about a topic as quickly as possible – I decided it was time to organise the information. I looked through my old SOLO maps and the Classify Map jumped out at me as being the most useful for organising our ideas into some kind of order. Here’s the original.

Here’s our whiteboard version:


Having all our ideas classified and grouped is helping guide our questioning. When we discovered there were gaps in what we had found out, I was able to set up some questions to help fill in the gaps. Translating my board scrawl – How did they know where they were going to live (when they got to NZ)? and How was that organised?


Here’s one I made using the Lucid Chart application on Google Drive. Click on the picture to see a bigger version.

I am now displaying this flowchart on the board each day. As more information is discovered it is being added to the chart (almost in real time, but not quite!). This is now combining nicely with our Uber-document – a large collaborative piece of work which is also being added to daily.

When I asked, the kids said this classification process has help them organise their ideas and thoughts. It was easy for them to verbalise their next steps based on what they need to find out next. It’s also helped my questioning while I move around the room.

You’ve got some stuff there about how the settlers got over the hills from Lyttelton… how did they get from the ship to shore? How do you think they felt when they were on the boat?

We are now moving on to our final stage – creating websites using their information through the Weebly platform. They will be moving to extended abstract before we know it!

I will have further updates as they come to hand.



SOLO flashback

In the week since the brain-changing events of the #EdChatNZ conference, I’ve been actioning a few things with my classroom.

The most notable of these is my implementation of SOLO taxonomy as a thinking tool. Although I didn’t attend Pam Hook’s presentations on SOLO over the weekend, the number of tweets popping up in my stream while I was attending others reminded me of the amazing tool SOLO is.

Early on in my teaching career I was lucky enough to be part of a the ICT team at Maungawhau School in Auckland. At the time we were receiving some professional development from Pam on the use of SOLO. This culminated with us presenting a session on SOLO at uLearn 2009 (I’m counting back – I think it was 2009 but I can’t find any actual proof on the interwebs).

My question to myself at the start of this week was: “Why the hell aren’t you still using SOLO you idiot?” Because  of the fact my class is situated in a pre-fab separated from the other buildings and I get to school before anybody else in the morning so I’m able to abuse myself reflect on my pedagogy in this way. So I’ve been trawling Pam’s HookEd website this week for ideas, thinking tools and reminders of the way things used to be.

Hilariously, this morning whilst trawling I discovered an embedded voice-thread from my class talking about their learning and assessing themselves using SOLO taxonomy. Unfortunately the embed code doesn’t appear to be working so you’ll just have to click here to be taken to the page.

This is a wonderful blast from the past and reminded me how long I’ve actually been a lone-nut.

Enjoy your weekend!


UPDATE: Pam has kindly embedded my YouTube commentary on our Olympics unit. As you may be able to see from the hair, there was a definite touch of the mad scientist about me back then…

Update on my to-do list

During the final stages of the #EdchatNZ conference I facetiously blogged this one line to-do list. At the time it was thinking, ‘this would be a hilarious joke – hopefully I’ll get heaps of retweets.’

Quite successful on the sharing stakes but on reflection, although the tweet was born from japery, there is more than just an ounce of truth in it.

How often do we return from a conference with the best of intentions only to get sucked back into the bubble of our classrooms as we become re-swamped with mountains of work, national standards targets and skiing trips to Tekapo (sorry – I had to add that last one in)

It would be so easy for me to let it slide.

They say if you don’t do anything in the first couple of weeks following a conference or some professional development you will never do it. I know that has happened to me following previous uLearn efforts.

My two days in Hobsonville Point have been so utterly mind-blowing I am determined not to let this happen.

This week I have begun the process of change.

So far: I have replaced my one of my display walls. My literacy zone has been replaced with a wall displaying some hand-drawn SOLO taxonomy symbols (I’m replacing my silos with SOLO???).





I am now using the language of SOLO in during maths and literacy and within three days the students are able to use the terminologies, co-constructing a rubric for our writing task and have become quite adept of both in placing themselves on a rubric.

In my efforts to have the kids redesign their room into a learning area which is more conducive to the way that they learn. The first part of this mission was to get in touch with Amy McCauley at Hobsonville Point Primary to have our students ask questions of the students there about their learning.

The fact that we spent 40 minutes trying to, unsuccessfully, to speak via a Google hangout does not matter. There were many moments of hilarity in those 40 minutes. We may have got one question answered. In the end I suggested a collaborative Google doc where the Carew kids could pose some questions and the Hobsonville Point kids could answer.

Those are two actions I have taken since the weekend that changed my life. More will follow.

What’s on your to-do list?