Monday, April 22, 2024

First blog for ages


Kia Ora - greetings everyone 

A few years back my old computer got a virus and in the process of transferring files to my new computer I lost access to the ability to add new blogs although I must admit I'd lost a bit of interest continuing.

Today I've found a way to continue which I might, or might not do. What I can do is now check on the data of people who have visited my blog which is fun.

Over 1500 blogs have been written since I began and total visitors now:


This month: 17377

Last month: 43463

I've found this both suprising and encouraging.

Maybe I'll write some new blogs. At the moment I'm not sure how to add graphics.

Ka kite ano - until next time 

Saturday, January 30, 2021


Beginning the school year


Seven ideas to consider

Pass on to interested teachers.

Beginning a school year is a challenge to all teachers - even the most experienced. In teaching, it seems, there is no shallow end!

Check out the links below the seven ideas below - you might find some of them useful to you.

'Begin with the end in mind' 

Business 'guru' Steven Covey advice is to 'begin with the end in mind'. A good idea ( for an individual teacher or staff) is to define the attributes of a great learner that you would like all students to achieve by the end of the year. 

This is equally a good idea to discuss with a new class at the beginning of the year.  They could be posted in the classroom for reference. In New Zealand they could be part of a class treaty linking the idea to the Treaty of Waitangi if so this might define positive teacher behaviours as well.

Once such attributes/ competencies have been defined then when  seen in action students could be given praise. See ideas 6 and 7

Here is what educator John Holt hoped all schools would achieve - it reminds us of how the very young learn before school.
In 1970 he was asked:

‘If American schools were to take one giant step forward this year towards a better tomorrow what should it be?’

John Holt - a perceptive educationalist

‘It would be to let every child be the planner, director of his own education, to allow and encourage him with the inspiration and guidance of more experienced and expert people, and as much help as he asked for, to decide what he has to learn, when he is to learn it, how he is to learn it, and how well he is learning it. It would make our schools,..... a resource for free and independent learning, which everyone in the community, of whatever age, could use as much or as little as he wanted.’

Idea number one : what attitudes do students bring with them?

In a few days teachers and students return to school to begin a new year.

One excellent idea is to gather data about students current views on a range of
school activities. Ideally this would be best as a whole school activity and the information gained used to suggest area for teachers to improve attitudes. Student poor attitudes interferes with their achievement levels

For some ideas click on this link.

 Number two:The power of personal experience/writing

A good idea is to prepare a small presentation about yourself - students will be extremely curious about their new teacher!

Value the 'voice' of your students

Give the a potted history of your life experience and tell them that over the year you will get to know all about them.

To read more click on this link

Idea Three: developing a 'growth mindset' through a simple portrait ( the research of Carol Dweck)

With strategies we can all dr

What are your students' views about their artistic ability?

Do they believe that only some students are born with the ability to draw or that everyone is  an artist?

For further information click on this link. Idea Four:Observation is an important skill in all areas of learning - all too often students look but don't see. 

Close observation encourages a slower pace of work which assists student memory.

Once the skill of observation is in place it can be used throughout the year in all learning areas.

Link to further information.

Idea Five: What talents do your students bring to your class?

All individuals whose talents weren't recognized at school.

With the current press in schooling focusing on achievement in literacy and numeracy it is all too easy to overlook the unique talents that students haveAn education focused on developing all students talents and gifts also provides students the opportunity to become literate and numerate in meaningful contexts
Link to further ideas to consider

 Idea six:-how do we learn?

How did you get better at firing arrows?

Did  your students learn something new during their long holidays - or get better at something during this time?

Idea Seven : Developing a 'stance' as a teacher- ideas of Robert Fried and William Glasser.

Socrates's 'stance' was clear -is yours?
It seems students quickly pick up on the stance of their teachers so it is worth thinking about what's the 'stance' about teaching you want them to pick up? Now is time to think about how you want to come across to your students and fellow teachers.

Robert Fried, in his excellent book 'The Passionate Teacher',  writes about how teachers need to create an atmosphere that makes the students want to be their rooms.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Home Schooling Activities to educate students during the COVID 19 virus emergency

Learning at Home during the 'Lock down'

(I haven't written a blog for months but thought I would share a few ideas that i had posted on Facebook. There are still people viewing my blog so here goes)

Learn Five New Things a Week

I heard yesterday on National Radio an interesting idea for students to do at home ~ get them to learn five new things a week ~practical things like learning to cook something new, or study something of personal interest etc Students could make a list of things they want to learn about - a personalized curriculum.
I note a lot of school sending out worksheet activities for their students but I feel the situation requires something more creative. Too many worksheets would not be a good idea - time to think out of the box.

Set up a 'My Learning Journal /Scrapbook'. 

Students could set up a My Learning Journal to record activities ~could make a wonderful family historical artifact to share in the future?

Set me thinking of other possible home learning tasks like: 

Sorting family photos and making a PowerPoint presentation to share with the family
Finding and writing up family histories from mum and dad.
Develop a family reading group and share what each member has been reading (keep a reading log) 
Draw something every day (maybe choosing something from their environment),
Keep a diary of events as the situation unfolds ( think of Anne Franks)
Write a short poem each day and illustrate to share 
Research the photos and ornaments around the home - there is usually a story behind each picture /ornament
Do  personal research project on something of interest each week (make a list of ideas to add to and then choose o to study),
With mum and dad keep a record of family spending,-learn basic budgeting.
Do a research study of a family pet - how to care for them, how they evolved to be pets how wild animals relate to domestic pets.
Learn to use basic Te reo phrases  as a family (school could supply or google them),
Learn to play a musical instrument (possibly not a recorder!). Develop a simple percussion band with siblings (in the backyard),
Develop a PE obstacle track in the backyard.. Time and record how long it takes to get around How many balls can you catch before dropping a catch; develop a short cycle of fitness activities,;play skipping and catching balls game ~make a record of improvement.
Try out different art activities ~simple printing (potato printing) /using different media.
 Take digital photographs on a phone and select five to share/print. Could set a theme  nature photos for example.
 Research some simple science activities to do using Google , for example kitchen science (all baking is science)
Technology challenges ~like make a bridge from rolled newspaper or experiment how far can your paper dart can fly,/lesson on keeping safe
Learn the names of flowers in the garden ~research them on Google
You might want to learn about viruses ~sure is plenty of information. Guess most parents will have had a family meetings to discuss the virus with family members. 
Just thought some of the above may be of interest? 
And that the list above may also encourage you to think of your own activities

A bit of advice ~try to encourage kids to take their time. Too often they think first finished is best

On reflection the ideas above cover all the Learning Areas of the New Zealand Curriculum and , in particular, the phrase every student should 'seek , use and create their own knowledge'.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Teaching the Best Practice Way - Methods That Matter

Its been a while since I've posted on my blog but I thought the below was worth sharing - Bruce

Teaching the Best Practice Way

By Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar.

A valuable book for teachers wanting to develop a modern learning environment.

The other day I heard an interview on National Radio expressing the sad fact that a great number of students leave school with no idea about what they want to do.

It made me wonder about what’s the point of school? For me, school ought to be premised on developing the gifts, talents and interests of all students.

Sadly, primary education is still centred around literacy and numeracy, all too often taught as self-contained subjects, and most secondary schools are still based on fragmented subject centred timetables. No wonder so many students leave without know the direction they want to head when they leave school!

 With this in mind I thought it might be useful to share the Seven Best Practices presented in the book ‘Teaching as Best Practice’. by Daniels and Bizar (Stenhouse Publishers USA).

 The books great strength is that it combines a progressive education philosophy (in line with the intent of the NZC) with practical examples of the philosophy in action across all levels of school. The book relates to the ideas of such educators as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, James Beane, William Glasser, Howard Gardner etc. and the examples are based on experiential hands on learning fuelled by the passion of extraordinary teachers. The book is antidote to the standards movement and hyper accountability of past decades.

The Seven Best Practices.

1 Reading as thinking.

 Reading is seen as transcending debates about phonics and is more about reading as thinking embedded in the context of broad and interesting integrative units where students are continually representing to learn in writing, art, and performance. 

Since reading is thinking students need to be provided with rich text worth thinking about, and strategies to help them think. Proficient readers are seen as ‘co-creators of meaning’ Context is everything; it’s about getting students ‘to think like historians, mathematicians, and scientists.  Practical classroom examples in the book clarify the approach.

2 Representing to Learn.

This method is based on the premise that humankind has always had an impulse to represent experience and that this goes beyond using words including strategies that are commonly classified as art, drama, dance and music, and today multimedia

There are a range of genres to explore and opportunities to extend and amplify a full range of intelligences (as researched by Howard Gardner). A range of practical examples are covered in the book.

3 Small group Activities.

Students need to be given opportunities to practice democracy and work together to solve problems (the writings of John Dewey). Many structures are provided, and practical classroom examples given to ensure groups work productively.

 Group tasks must be ‘have enough inherent structures to operate automatically, to remain engaged, on task and relevant’.

4 Classroom Workshop.

The authors see the classroom as a workshop a useful metaphor or ‘working laboratories or studios, where genuine knowledge is created, real products are made. and authentic inquiry is pursued.’ 

 In the workshop, learning laboratory classroom students choose individual or small group topics for investigation, inquiry, and research using long chunks of classroom time to do this.

 Teachers take on new roles modelling thinking, conferencing, offering well timed compact mini lessons and providing help as required. In the early days of workshopping teachers keep the time short lengthened as students become more independent. In workshops students learn to act, plan and question like a scientist. Classroom examples clarify the approach.

5 Authentic Experiences.

For many students schools need to get real and many people from John Dewey onwards have argued for school to be more lifelike, more genuine, more authentic.

 Just as in real life these experiences are inherently multi-disciplinary and messy problems; these problems need to be identified, complexity needs to be faced, and solutions found. Inquiry into authentic questions need to be generated from student experiences. Students need to become researchers, gathering data, asking questions, conducting experiments, recording information and discovering

This kind of inquiry becomes possible when the conditions that support Best Practices are in place; when the classroom is a community with students eager to take responsibly for hands on experiential learning and with opportunities to express what they are thinking,  and able to use technology to advance their inquiries. 

The authors believe ‘that technology can leverage some of the best teaching if used widely ‘and that it can ‘play a lead or supporting role’ once the appropriate pedagogy is in place.

 Once again a range of practical examples are provided.

6 Reflective Assessment.

Students need to be helped become self-monitoring, self-regulating, able to be in control of their own learning, able to set ambitious goals, keep their own records, adjust their efforts, make good decisions and grow by healthy and measured feedback.

This is in contrast to the toxic current accountability movement which the authors state simply correlates to student socioeconomic status of students, is inconsistent with what is known about how students learn and distort teaching often resulting in streaming, tracking and ability group segregation. A range of practical alternatives are provided.

7 Integrative Units

The writers save the best for last. 

The last best practice blends all the other six methods into days or weeks of rich, cross disciplinary investigations driven by student interest and scaffolded by teachers who model, coach, and manage the inquiry process

With integrative units teachers step emphatically out of single subject instruction and
lead their students into inquiries as complex and multi-disciplinary as the real issues grown-ups face as workers, parents and citizens.

Teachers believe that students can learn subject matter (including basic skills) amid holistic, integrated experiences. This approach doesn’t mean that traditional subjects are disrespected or abandoned. On the contrary, as James Beane writes, ‘the disciplines of knowledge are useful and necessary allies of curriculum integration with knowledge being called upon to support student investigations as required.


Nome of the above will be new to progressive primary teachers and those secondary teachers busy transforming their schools, often in new purpose built environments.

 For many the book will be a practical inspiration to confirm or transform their teaching.

If widely applied in our school system students will leave with their talents, interests and passion tapped and amplified, equipped with appropriate learning skills, and will not leave schools not knowing what to do with their future – they will have seen the point of their schooling.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

A lost voice for creative education - time to call it a day?

Time to call it a day?

Readings week 2 July 2019

Our Leading-Learning blog has a long history.

 It began as Primary Arts Magazines set up by Wayne Morris and Bruce in 1980. Over 25 editions were printed. They were hand compiled and posted and when subscribers got over 500 it was all too much.
Some of the 25 Primary Art Magazines

The premise of the magazine was to share the ideas of creative teachers – teachers who were developing student centred programmes with an emphasis on using the local environment, the importance of the creative arts and develop stimulating room environments featuring student work.

Wayne and Bruce then developed a website in the 90s with an associated e-zine which was sent out to 4000 members – this worked well until, with a change of web master the e-zines were rejected as spam by many schools.

At this stage Bruce established the Leading–Learning blog in 2004 and in later years Allan Alach joined him in this. 1569 blogs have been posted with a total of 2 million visits.

Let's do it!

Tomorrows Schools have had a corrosive effect on school collaboration

End of sharing
Public schooling has been distorted by the competitive ethic of self centred Tomorrows Schools and, in particular the corrosive effect of National Standards.

We now feel that it’s time to call it a day as we no longer have any real contact with schools and we also feel that schools have been hi-jacked by standardised teaching, an over emphasis on literacy and numeracy (nine years of National Standards has all but killed real creativity in primary schools). We wrote about this sharing Professor Peter OConner’s view in our last blog.

The last straw.Above a impersonal school report with a antiquated narrow focus from a large school. The sign of a system gone terribly wrong. What gifts and talents have been developed? What key competencies have been identified and amplified?

Matt Damon teacher mother - see report above!!!

It is an interesting challenge to reflect on the influences that have contributed to your educational philosophy - this would make an interesting staff meeting topic?

 Bruce’s creative education journey

Bruce has had a long career as a school adviser beginning in the 60s – first in science then in art. Bruce and Allan Alach were both influenced by philosophy expressed in the inspirational book In the Early World written by Elwyn Richardson.  Thankfully the book has been recently reprinted by the NZCER and we recommend all schools buy a copy.

Some of Bruce's publications
As an adviser, in the mid-sixties, Bruce was influenced by teachers, mainly in small rural schools, who were implementing similar ideas to those written about by Elwyn. Central to this creativity (it was the 60s!) was the influence of Dr Beeby who had introduced a developmental teaching philosophy post WW2.  Also behind such ideas was the philosophy of American educator JohnDewey.

TheArt Advisers, established by Dr Beeby, assumed an important role in spreading the ideas of creative teachers. The art advisers ran related arts programmesthroughout New Zealand, one of which Bruce attended. The arts are vital to ensure students a positive sense of self – through art, language, music and dance.

Teachers in rural schools introduced the first integrated programmes moving away from the heavily timetables programmes, with an emphasis on literacy and numeracy, of the day. Schools, under the pressure of National Standards, have move back to these programmes.

Four other influences.

The Taranaki Findings
Firstly, the English child centred primary schools (sadly lost under the pressure of the National Curriculum, testing and league tables) that Bruce experienced while teaching in England in 1969. This experience taught Bruce about the importance of slowing the pace of student work to develop quality, teacher displays to attract student curiosity and of displaying students work.  Bruce worked with a group of Taranaki teachers in the 70sintroducing the open ended integratedinquiry programmes using the Nuffield Junior Science Project as a resource.

The second influence was the open education movement from the United States which had a similar student centred inquiry philosophy and led to the development of open plan schools. John Holt’s books HowChildren Learn and How Children Fail were key books and more relevant than ever.

 The third influence came from the lateKelvin Smythe and his holistic developmental approach. Kelvin believed strongly in the importance of the affective in education and deplored the current fetish of objectivity.

The final influence was Bruce’s involvement with the University of Waikato School of Education Learning in Science Project – essentially an inquiry model that valued students’ prior ideas and set out to challenge them.

It was an amalgam of the above ideas that Bruce developed as a classroom teacher, school principal and later working as a school adviser for Massey University School of Education and then independently throughout NZ and internationally. At this point Bruce met up with Allan Alach, then a school principal, who shared similar ideas. 

The centrality of the creative classroom teacher.

John Holt gives up on schools
Central to this philosophy is the centrality of the creative classroom teacher to any real lasting innovation - a position that has become almost untenable under the last decades of compliance and standardisation. Time to call it a day?

In the late 70s one of our open education ‘gurus’John Holt, (author of How Children Learn and How Children Fail), disappointed us by giving up on schools ever being transformed in his book ‘Instead of Schools’.

It didn’t deter us them but we have now almost reached the same conclusion. Almost, because we know there are still teachers out their battling on, and with the change ofgovernment, maybe the spirit of the 2007New Zealand Curriculum will be implemented. Maybe? We have done our best.

What has really changed the past three decades - not much in our opinion - that is if you ignore the false promise of modern technology which is no 'silver bullet' and more often a distraction an also the recycling of open plan schools of the 70s with modern learning environmnts.

Not Literacy and numeracy and not tiresome assessment

The other day Bruce was asked what would he do
if he had a magic wand to transform schools?

The first thing would be to ask the question of what’s the point of school? And what teaching beliefs would underpin such a school?

Bruce has always believed the challenge of schooling was to identify, develop, amplify and enhance to gifts and talents of all students.  The word education comes from ‘to bring the gifts out’. This view is reflected by Sir Ken Robinson’s quote ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’ and also Guy Claxton who has said ‘learnacy is as important as literacy and numeracy’. 
Making certain students’ developed positive attitudes towards all areas of learning would need to be assured.

The role of school is to create those conditions that make students want to learn; not have to learn but want to learn more about self, others, and the world. The teacher’s role is to help the learner
forge connections between what he or she wants to know and what a learner wants to learn.

What if we started with the premise that school could be the most interesting place in a young person’s life? The challenge is to create experiences and contexts in classrooms where students can discover things they don’t know they love by implementing project that spur creativity, ownership and relevance.

Learning experiences would need to feature real experiences
through the senses and that information technology can be integrated in such learning but that it is no ‘silver bullet’ in itself. 

Projects would be based around students’ questions, value their current theories, and challenge
Valuing student questions and theories
them to consider new views.
This does not leave studies to students to decide – the teacher’s role is best summed up by Jerome Bruner ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’.

Literacy and numeracy would be learnt through real contexts and help given as an when necessary.The current emphasis has not improved our reading scores on international tests and maths still creates a feeling of maths anxiety. So much current teaching is based on the premise that without teachers students wouldn't learn - time to create the conditions and trust students do what they do naturally - learn!

Literacy and numeracy need to be re-imagined as foundation skills best learnt in real contexts .

The artistry of a creative teacher.

Bruce believes that the feeling from completing an excellent piece of learning - exceeding ones personal best - in any Learning Area is the most powerful motivation of all.  Helping students who exhibit lack of ability/interest achieve a sense of pride in any activity is the artistry of a creative teacher - a teachers who is able to slow the pace of work to allow positive interactions

Bruce also believed we do not have an ‘achievement gap’ but more an ‘opportunity gap’ – the school’s role is to create the conditions to give every learner the opportunity to learn through having positive experiences (this would mean the banning of ability grouping). 

The teachers appointed would need to align all their interactions with their students behind such ideas. Teachers would be selected also for their diverse set of interests because Bruce believes that we learn from the company we keep areas of learning would need to be assured.

An exciting room

The total environment is the ultimate teacher.

Bruce sees the total culture developed as the best teacher. Establishing a ‘tempting’ environment to attract students’ curiosity is the challenge for teachers.  To achieve this the schools needs to be envisaged as an amalgam of an artist’s studio, a science/technology lab, a media centre, drama and music areas, and plentiful areas to exhibit and display student creativity – an educational Te Papa – where students and teachers work together in teams solving problems and displaying their results for all to see.

And as for assessment – just check out the portfolios of the students’ involved. The concept to be valued is for every student to better their own ‘personal best’.

Imagine how schools would be transformed if such ideas were implemented?

Bruce Hammonds
Allan Alach

Current education

Display of work

This week's Readings

Professor Peter O’Connor’s article about the killing of creativity.

Educational Transformation.

The importance of the arts in the development of the self
Most important question   

Helping the students answer the question who am I?

How to organize the school day in a 21st Context

The need to slow the pace of work the key to quality

It's our responsibility to keep the creative arts alive
Schools must ensure that the creative arts aren't squeezed out and that the temptation to narrow the curriculum doesn’t win

Schools are rethinking classroom design to encourage collaboration, creativity

In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education Part 3

Another instalment from Kelvin Smythe’s ATTACK series that he completed just before he died:
The pure, uncomplicated expression of education values that follows has its origin deep in our
culture. But, particularly from the mid-thirties, there was a coming together of events, ideas and people including the depression, the election of a Labour government, the political education leadership of Peter Fraser, the ideas of John Dewey, progressive education thinkers from England, the influence of New Zealand educationists like Clarence Beeby and, tellingly for what follows, Gwen Somerset, a New Zealand-born primary teacher and infant mistress.’

Maybe, one day,  all schools will truly be student centred and creative - developing the gifts and talents of all students.