Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Planning is Not Set in Concrete

As part of my beginning teacher mentoring programme with Cheryl, we focused on Criteria 9 of the Practicing Teacher Criteria in our last meeting. Criteria 9 suggests fully certified teachers respond effectively to the diverse language and cultural experiences, and the varied strengths, interests and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

As a group, we broke down the criteria using The Education Council's Self Assessment Tool. This is a great resource to really reflect on the criteria, to identify my strengths and weaknesses! After our PCT meeting I felt criteria 9 was an area of weakness I needed think about further. Although I know I have a lot of evidence for each of the criteria, sometimes I struggle to show, or put into words what evidence I have. One of three parts of Criteria 9 asks;

Am I flexible in my teaching approaches?

I feel I am constantly adapting my plans to suit my learners in front of me, particularly my Year 11 PE class. I wrote an outline of lessons for the first few weeks of term, and I have already changed this multiple times! As this is a Senior class, I want to ensure students have ample time to really understand the topics, so they can effectively explain and apply their knowledge. Sometimes this means spending twice as long covering a topic than I had initially planned for.

Last year I co-taught Years 12 and 13 PE. We realised throughout the year how so many of the students had gaps in their knowledge from their previous years, especially for anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology (which is the most difficult unit for most students). As a department we realised we needed to be increasing student understanding at a deeper level in Year 11, to better prepare them for Year 12. Therefore, although the suggested time to spend on anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology is probably about 7-8 weeks, I am planning for about 12 weeks. I would rather the students have a greater understanding this year, in prep for next year, than try to smash out more units. Quality over quantity. This can be quite difficult, because we obviously want our students to achieve their NCEA, but I would prefer they achieve Merits and Excellences and less credits, than more credits at an Achieved (or Not Achieved) level.

To achieve this, I have had to have regular conversations with students about their understanding, to ensure they are ready to move on. My inquiry this year is about blogging in Year 11PE, which I have found to be a great way to formatively assess student learning, and adapt my teaching to suit my students gaps. By reading through their blogposts, I am able to identify the parts they're still struggling with, and revisit this in a different way from before. For example, I am trying a variety of revision activities with this class currently, such as Kahoot, mix and match activities and team challenges (I will be writing a post about these different strategies in a couple of weeks, but see some of my observations here). If something works well for some students whom I struggle to engage, or who are struggling to understand, I try to replicate that in future lessons.

Therefore, to continue to feel I am flexible in my teaching, I need to continue to take risks, continue to read students posts to gauge their understanding and continue to seek student voice. In future, I think it would be useful to have more conversations with students about what they thought about the activities during lessons. I often think about the activities, and how I think they went, but don't as often ask the students what they think. I have started to collate some of their responses from a Google Sheet.


  1. Hi Georgia,
    It's good that you are taking a flexible approach and talking with students to find out what their individual needs are. Differentiation can be difficult to do in the first few years of teaching when there is so much to manage within a classroom environment.
    This video captures one teacher's approach through UDL (Universal Design for Learning) which could work well in a secondary classroom

    1. I have 6 Year 10 classes and I am really struggling to differentiate between them, because I only see them for one period per week. Then of course within my classes I need to differentiate, which is difficult with so much to get through in so little time, and so little time to develop relationships to really know my learners.

      I really enjoyed that UDL clip you have shared, that is definitely something I will look into next year! I feel this year I am trying to develop/create basic unit outlines, which can be built on further next year. A focus will be to have options of tasks/activities for students, especially the higher level learners, who I think are sometimes are not as challenged as much as they need to be!


Thank you for your feedback! :)