Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

For those who are crying: "How will I plan and assess without National Standards?" here is some inspiration.

Ding!!  Dong!!  National Standards are dead.

I’m pretty ecstatic about that, as I have always opposed them from the moment I first heard about them late in 2008.  I’m pretty proud to say that my original document for National Standards remains unopened in the plastic.  It is currently buried in a storage lock up with 99% of my other belongings.  That demonstrates the scorn I’ve always had for them - the Standards, not my belongings (oh how I miss you cheese slicer!).

What I am dismayed about, is hearing a whole lot of teachers asking the following questions:
  • How will we assess students now?
  • What will we teach them against?
  • How do we plan?????

Hello?  Have you people not heard of the New Zealand Curriculum? 

It is what we used BEFORE National Standards came along.  And it served us very well.  In 2011 New Zealand was still top of the pops in global educational rankings… unlike last year when it was demonstrated after seven years of National Standards we had taken a significant slide down the rankings.  It has been proven in many countries that once they go down the standardised pathway of assessment that student outcomes spiral downwards due to over emphasis on particular subjects and narrowing of the curriculum.  It is proven that once the Arts are taken out, language and mathematics scores decrease.

National Standards were never a planning document, so any teachers who used them as such were not doing themselves or their students any favours.

We also did assessment before National Standards came along.  Here’s a list of assessments we used, and you may be familiar with a fair few of them:
  • ·         Running Records
  • ·         Probe
  • ·         School Entry Assessment (SEA)
  • ·         Six Year Net
  • ·         Year Four Survey (aka Standard Two Survey)
  • ·         NUMPA
  • ·         Gloss
  • ·         IKANS
  • ·         Basic Facts
  • ·         Peters or Schonell Spelling
  • ·         Essential Spelling Lists from NZCER
  • ·         aSSTle
  • ·         Writing Exemplars

We have always had expectations of where our learners should be and we always knew where they were due to research over decades and decades.  We never needed National Standards, but politicians seem to think they know best, and with National Standards they took us back to 1900. 

If you want to know more about the history of how we got to National Standards in 2009, please read my Master’s paper: Back to the Future:How has economic policy influenced the development of education policy and howthe educational achievement of children in New Zealand primary schools ismeasured?

So I’m here to advocate for making sure you plan to use the whole curriculum from 2018 and to (hopefully) provide a little inspiration in your planning and to talk you through assessment without National Standards.

Because I am a “Disobedient Teacher”, I never planned with National Standards in mind since they were implemented.  My first port of call has always been what the children need to learn, the New Zealand Curriculum, our school goals and focuses and then I have a folder full of resources I’ve gathered over the last 22 years that prompt me as well as the fact that your resource room at your school should be full of inspiration!

Firstly, below are examples of my long term plans before and during the National Standards era.

You will note that I colour code my plans according to the colours of the original Curriculum Documents released in the 1990s.  It is helpful for me to have the colour.  At the top I have the main focus or topic name, below I have the strand, and then I have the main curriculum objective.  I do this so that I can demonstrate to myself and others that I have had coverage throughout the year.  It focuses me.  Some schools just encourage a title, but this detail was something that helped me when it came to unit planning.

One school I was at insisted that every curriculum be present on the plan – personally I hate empty white space.  That’s why I prefer the one row called Topic instead.

Once I started writing this blog post, I fell down a rabbit hole and ended up doing my long term plan for Term One 2018 and some unit plans.  It may still change, but at this stage this is where I'm at.

Your unit planning should link in and marry up with your long term plan.  So I have gone back through what I still have of my planning after a major loss of data last year, to be known henceforth as the Great Data Loss of 2017, to find some examples of planning units prior to National Standards and some during.

Below is a plan for the beginning of the year about recount writing I did in 2006.  The focus was a Holiday Recount, recounting their favourite, or least favourite day, in the holidays.  The planning template used was Gillian May’s Plantastic based on the New Zealand Curriculum English Document released in the 1990s (see the very end of the post for a link).

Here is another example I used for the same unit in 2009.  At this stage National Standards was a vague concept yet to be realised by then Education Minister Anne Tolley’s minions and it was business as usual with the new NZ Curriculum being implemented that year.  You will see that some changes have been made because I have learnt from previous years of using this unit and stolen some  new ideas off other teachers (as you do). 

And because I am writing about today’s planning and assessment without National Standards, I’ve written the plan for my new class this year for their Holiday Recount.  I’m using Gillian May’s Plantastic 2, which was updated when the New Zealand Curriculum was implemented (see the very end of the post for a link).  I like using this template because I can highlight and type in what I want and I can also delete boxes or insert boxes into the template to suit the planning I am doing.  You will see that I have detailed things I want to explicitly teach, aka: deliberate acts of teaching or DATs.  I’ve specifically talked about the use of my modelling book in this plan.

For some people they won’t find this plan detailed enough.  For me this is incredibly detailed.  I’ve been teaching for 22 years and this unit is refined each year and new ideas are brought in based upon experiences and ideas I’ve nicked off other teachers.

And for your interest, here is the brainstorming plan I referred to in my writing plan.

You’ll also note that this is not just a writing plan – it is also an oral language plan too.  Why should I write out two separate plans when one will do?  Plan smarter people.  You will also see that I have ticked The Arts in the Other Curriculum Links part of the plan.  That is because I will be getting the students to do a painting based on their favourite day in the holidays too.  So I’ve written that plan too, as you can see below.

In both these units above, I've talked about using self-assessment as the method of assessment.  The reason I am doing that is to encourage the students to reflect on their own learning and identify what they can an can not do.  The other reason is because I also learn about how the students see themselves - do they view themselves through rose tinted glasses or do they have a low opinion of their own abilities or can they be realistic?  You can learn so much more than what the child can do in regards to the curriculum by your choice of assessment tool.  This way the assessment becomes a teaching tool as well.

Below are two examples of self-assessment I have used with students previously for recounts for their holidays and camp.  The idea is that they highlight the areas they feel best describe their writing.  Sometimes they may highlight in two boxes in the same line.

This is the self-assessment I am working on for our holiday recount news this term.  This is still a work in progress, and I am unsure how this will work yet and may yet change it.

Below is a Health unit I wrote for a Firewise unit.  It appears brief because I really don't believe in rewriting what is in the manual.  It has been written by the professionals and I will make adjustments to that as I go - like I would with any plan I wrote myself.

This is an old example of an assessment used for this unit.  It mixes up some multi-choice, questions requiring written answers and self-assessment.

Below is my plan for one of my favourite units - New Zealand native birds.  It fits under Living World in Science, but you will also see that I have made this an integrated unit with writing, reading, language activities and there was art.

Below are examples of the posters created from this unit for the Science aspect.  Each part was explicitly taught: deciding what information we were looking for; using subtitles to identify where we could find that information; identifying and highlighting key words; rewriting information in our own words.  I pretty much know what I want them to find out, but I go through the process with the students telling me what information they think they need to collect in this investigation.

Once they had the information the focus changed to presenting that information - the Visual Presenting strand of the English Curriculum .  So we went through the process of creating a poster, step by step - borders, titles, subtitles, ruling lines (which can be rubbed out) to write on, placing pictures, use of space and colour....

As a result the students know what they are expected to achieve.  With digital learning such a bigger thing now, this can be adapted to other methods of presentation.

Each reading group focused on different texts linked to birds to meet their reading needs and supplement the learning focus on native birds.  Here my planning for the reading is in my modelling books (see Modelling Books - how I use these to plan, teach and assess in my class for more detail on this), because I do not see the point in writing a separate plan when the planning in my modelling books is so detailed.

One of the parts of my native bird unit I do early on is the reading in a Junior Journal about how Dr Orbell rediscovered the once thought of extinct takahe.  I explicitly teach the close reading to find information to the whole class - they work in pairs with a copy between them, and I (in the old days) projected it up onto the board with an overhead projector (aka OHP), but today I'd use an ActivBoard or a digital projector.

This is a great way to teach looking for keywords and highlighting them and then rewriting the information in your own. words.  So below is my planning/modelling for reading, then my planning/modelling book for writing and two examples of the work produced by pairs of students.

The other writing activity was to write a sneaky poem.  Again, the planning is all in the writing modelling book and each step is explicitly taught.  Students also have a copy of the example in their own writing books to write all over too.  Brainstorming is explicitly taught, as is the writing process.

When it came to publishing, that brings in the Visual Presenting strand of English again, but it also gives you the chance to explicitly teach some ICT skills like changing the font and the size of the font.

It is always important to include an art aspect if you can, and one of these is making pom pom versions of the native bird of their choice.


Below is the assessment part of the unit plan for the native bird unit.

And this is an example of an assessment I have used for the bird poster.  This is not a self-assessment.  This is a teacher assessment on the criteria set at the beginning of the unit.

This is a unit I love teaching, Fizzing and Foaming, using baking soda and citric juices and vinegar.  It is a lot of fun!

This was a practical hands on unit.  As they went through the activities, as a group they recorded the results.  My role was as a roving photographer, because the students would need these photos to make a PhotoStory 3 presentation to explain their learning in their own words.

I'd show you an example of one of the PhotoStory 3 presentations.... but it got lost in the Great Data Loss of 2017.  (Excuse me while I go cry in the corner and mourn the loss yet again).

This was an integrated unit I did for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  It encompassed a number of different learning areas.  To be honest, the official looking unit plan below was just done to tick an admin box.  It wasn't much help in my teaching.  The class I had at the time were a Year 5-8 digital class.  I pretty much ran it on a contract basis.  See below for an example.

Below was the real planning.  I designed it around Gardner's Multiple Intelligences to enhance opportunities for creativity and to ensure the students had a wide range of learning experiences.  It was also designed to develop the self-management and decision making skills of the students.  It also gave them the opportunity to negotiate with me any changes they thought should happen to activities to suit the challenges arising - therefore it became student led.  A side bonus was the peer-peer tutoring that happened as challenges arose and trail blazers told those who did activities after them the knowledge they had gleaned.

Again, due to the Great Data Loss of 2017, I have no example of assessment or work to show.  (Yes, I'm weeping in the corner again).

I've taught this technology unit three times, and it is another fabulous hands on unit with the students having a real life problem to solve: the problem being my cat hates travelling in the car and needs an appropriate cat carrier for him to be happy while in the car.  I often started this unit by bringing my cat to school so they could see how much he detested the cat carrier - and because Murray Cat used to do the trifecta: pee, pooh and spew!

The best part of the unit for me was taking the boxes home and letting Murray Cat do the 'assessment'.  I would video Murray checking out each box one by one with me commentating the process.  The children loved watching this before they did their self-evaluation, which sat alongside the assessment completed by Murray and myself.

I decided that individual plans for poem of the week were cumbersome, so in 2015 I came up with this plan.  I always plan my poems before the term starts and I have them photocopied and ready to roll to glue into the student's books.  So I decided to put it all on one plan (the other weeks were on the back) detailing my focus for each of the targeted areas, and I cover one each day.  I may write on the hard copy of the plan as to which concept is covered on which day of the week and highlight things completed.

Below I will now look at some other examples of assessment I have used for a variety of learning experiences.  I've also discussed these previously in Data Walls: Why you will never see one in my class.

You can not go past the basic Running Record/Probe assessment for reading.  This is how I present the results to students and parents each time to allow feedback.  It tells the student and their parents where they are currently and the next steps to work on.  I've used this with Years 3-8.

I then follow this up with a practical reminder for each individual of one or two things they can focus on, taken from the next steps I have identified and written on the Running Record summary.  These bookmarks are brought down to guided reading sessions to remind them of their focused next steps each time.  I've used this with Years 3-8.

Below is a swimming self-assessment the students do at the beginning of swimming in February and again when the season finishes in March.  I video the students doing the skills and they view the video to assess themselves.  I've used this assessment with Years 3-8.

I have found that having the students articulate the specific skill they have learn helps to retain it.  I also love having Project Energize teachers come in to sharpen up my knowledge.  We usually completed this assessment after a class discussion on the skills we had learned.  I used this with my Year 5-8 class.

This science assessment was designed to assess the knowledge gained from the unit we did focusing on eggs.  It's a good old pen and paper assessment (they are still allowed) with matching up, multiple choice, drawing and written answers required.  This unit was done with Year 3-5.

Sometimes you should just take photos to show the learning.  This was a poetry/drama unit I was asked to trial by the poet and drama/speech teacher, Judi Billcliffe.  This type of assessment can be used for any level.

A matrix can be very helpful for students to self-assess themselves.  I also like using matrices for the assessments I do too, especially for writing.  These show what the student is doing and where they need to go next.  Highlights can be made in more than one box in a line too.  I have used this one with Years 3-8.

I give this one to students as they start the speech writing process so they know what the expectations are before they get started.  They can then scrawl all over it to check their progress.  At the end they will get another fresh one to do their self-assessment, using the video of their speech presentation to help them.  I also get students to peer assess each other, and then there is also the judge's assessments.  I've used this for Years 4-8.

I use this page to show the parents and student after I have completed a Gloss as to where the individual stands in their ability to use number strategies to solve problems.  It also demonstrates what they need to learn next.  Now that National Standards is no longer a factor, I would re-look at the boxes to the side to see if they need re-wording or not.

I get the students to highlight this one themselves once I have returned the tests to them.  It is a timed test for each section of ten questions and there are six sets of questions for each level.  It is a very structured assessment.

My big message to you all is to go back to the New Zealand Curriculum as a school and a syndicate/team and unpack it again.  Get to know your document.  Also, go and spend some time in your resource room.  There are an amazing amount of resources in their, many specifically written to go with the NZ Curriculum.  Find the ones that speak to you and which you can adapt to the learning in your class.  You do not have to stick to them slavishly.

And if you liked the look of the Plantastic planning tool by Gillian May, there is a new updated version, Plan-Tastic 3, at the website Out of the Box, where you can buy your own copy or the school can get it for all the teachers to use.

So go out there teachers and be creative with your planning!!