Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A little Wow! every day

I was talking to some teachers at a Wellington school yesterday and they talked about how they had recently surveyed some students about whether their parents left the house in the morning excited about the day that stretched before them. Only a quarter of the students put their hands up to indicate "yes". Whether or not the children's assumptions about their parents' excitement is true or not, this is their children's perception.

What do your children see? Do they see you excited about the world and life? (I know that some do, because I see you out cycling and playing sports with your children, making the most of beautiful sunny days). Do they see you awed, at times, by the world's awesomeness or worn down by a daily grind? This is a question I am asking myself, too. I think we should all make it our goal to share a little bit of awe and wonder (the wow! of life) with our kids everyday.

The following is a link which was sent to me by a parent which illustrates the "hugeness" of the universe. Perhaps you could share this with your children and together you can experience a bit of Wow!


Monday, March 19, 2012

News from the Library

Today all children in Koru Hub received a slip of paper with their name, a number and a password on it. Harakeke children received theirs last week. This information allows you and them to check their borrowing information on the library catalogue.  This can be accessed via the library website or directly through the catalogue online.

In the library catalogue go to My Library (on the left) then Borrowing Detail. Once signed in you will be able to check which books your child has issued, when they are due back and they can also be renewed.

I have also added some information to the parent page on our library website about reading aloud to children.  There are some great resources to give you ideas and to explain why reading aloud to children continues to be important at all ages of primary school. There is a parent in the library reading to her child as I write this blog post after school.  You are welcome to come in and share books with your child before or after school.


Parent Survey

We believe it is timely to gather information how you are feeling about Amesbury School. Below is the link to a simple online form that we would appreciate you filling out to provide us with information about schooling at Amesbury. This information will be used by staff to reflect on our journey so far. It will help us to see things through your eyes so that we can improve what we are doing and celebrate the things we are doing well.



Coming Events - Note these dates

The following are some important dates. Please put these in your diaries/on your calendars:

Monday, 26th March, 1.40pm – 3pm and 5.30pm – 6.30pm, Drop in sessions: “Learning at Amesbury School”. Come in at any time during either of the sessions and join the discussion about learning at Amesbury School. Grab a drink from the downstairs coffee bar and come upstairs to the staffroom.

Wednesday, 4th April, 5.30pm – 7pm, School Community Evening: This will begin with a family Easter egg treasure hunt, followed by light refreshments – we will provide sausages and bread, please bring some finger foods. There will then be children’s activities and a parents’ session. More details later.

Tuesday 3rd April, 9.30am – 11am, Open Session: An opportunity for prospective parents and children to look through the school while it is in operation

Thursday, 5th April, 1.30pm – 2.30pm, Learning Celebration: A school gathering/assembly where children will share their term’s learning.

Friday 27th April, 11am, Art work unveiling: The building consortium have commissioned an art work by a well known NZ artist which will be unveiled and presented to the school on this day. The artist will be present. In turn, we want to take this opportunity to let the consortium know how much we appreciate the school they have built for us.

Thursday 10th May, Official School Opening *Please note – the changed date (was to be 8th May) and this new date is still to be confirmed. The Governor General is no longer available and we are seeking another dignitary to officiate at the school opening. More details as they come to hand.

Monday/Tuesday 14th-15th May, Student/teacher/Parent conferences: These will be three way collaborations in which children will talk about their learning, achievement will be celebrated, learning needs will be identified and Individual Learning Plans will be confirmed.
Wednesday 7th June, 5.30 – 7pm, School Community Evening, Family fun – Banana or the Bag!
Homemade soup and buns. Guest speakers for children and parents.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warts and All

It’s exhilarating being part of a new school.

I love that the focus is on what is best for student learning, rather than simply doing what has always been done. It’s exciting to start with a blank slate and endeavor to create the very best learning environment we can without all the baggage of “we’ve always done it this way”. Most of all I love that I’m not alone in doing this.

I talk constantly with the amazing people I team teach with. We share our thinking, ideas, problems, solutions and laughter with teachers in the other hub. I ponder pedagogy and future focus areas with the leadership team guiding the school. We discuss issues with the students and ask them to try things out with us and feed back how it’s going. Parents follow our blogs and planning sites. Students share their google docs and wiki sites with parents. We get lots of feedback online and in person. We find out what’s working, what’s exciting and engaging the students, what isn’t going so well and what’s causing children to feel anxious and concerned. I’m certainly not lonely on this journey!

I love the transparency of what we are doing. Everything is out there for people to see, follow, understand and comment on. I strongly believe that this is the way forward in creating an open and collaborative learning environment, but it is a brave step to take. It means that people now get to see what they often haven’t had access to before; the raw and unpolished learning process. They can follow the journey we are taking as we learn new things, make mistakes and take risks, rather than viewing the final polished product once understanding has been developed, consolidated, edited and published.

I watched a student in an inquiry group meeting earlier this week. She was perched on a stool furiously typing as other students in the group talked and bounced around ideas at lightening speed. She was working on her inquiry wiki page, taking notes about what the group needed to achieve over the next few days. As I stood there I saw a student who could type and contribute to a conversation at the same time, something I have yet to achieve! I saw someone who could collaborate, accept ideas from others willingly and respectfully, rank tasks in order of importance, break down jobs into steps and delegate responsibility. In short, I saw a future leader. When I went back afterwards and looked at the typing she had completed I saw that she had not used full stops in her ideas, she had transposed a few letters in her haste to type ideas and there were quite a few spelling errors.

I didn’t talk to that student about her typing. Nor did I ask her to go back and edit her work. What would be the point? It was never supposed to be a polished piece of writing, that was not the purpose of the meeting. The point was to ascertain what needed to be completed to allow the group to move forward in their inquiry and to have a shared document where students could revisit ideas and check what needed to be done. Goal achieved. Later in the week the same student attended a writing workshop where the goal was to use punctuation appropriately to allow her writing to make sense to the reader. At that time she was asked to go back and edit her work, as the focus of the task was her understanding and use of

At Amesbury School people can share our learning journey with us. They get to see the whole messy, exciting, scary process warts and all. I think that’s fantastic, but I also think it’s important for people to remember that they are seeing the process, rather than the finished product. Take the time to consider the focus of a task and what it was supposed to achieve rather than judging it as a finished piece of work, because it frequently isn’t.

By Urs

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflecting in a new school

"Being a foundation teacher of a new school is a curious time. We are never short of authentic inquiry projects because there is just so much to do! This photo pretty much sums up how we feel on a very regular basis."

Photo by Matt Ives

"These kids are trying to figure out the best way to spend our book budget."

Follow the link below to read the rest of this very interesting blog post by Tara TJ, our very own e-Learning Leader and Harakeke teacher.


It's a great read.

New feature - Follow by email

Just letting you know that our wonderful e-Learning leader, Tara, has added a feature to this blog to make it easier for you to keep up to date with school news. Some people have commented that they are forgetting to check the blog and are missing some important messages/stories. If you look at the top right hand side of this page, it says "Follow by email". Submit your email address and every time a new item is added to this blog you will receive an email notification. I strongly recommend all parents sign up for these updates. I know you all check emails regularly, so this will enable you to keep up with school news. Remember, this blogsite is our "living newsletter".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

School Lunch Order Form

A new form has been added for school lunch orders.  This version covers lunches for the week commencing Monday 19th March 2012. We would appreciate it if lunch orders could be submitted in advance, and by 9:30am at the latest if ordering for the same day.  Please click on the link below to fill out an order form.

Thank you,


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Making reading comprehension strategies explicit

Here Anna, Ryan and Hannah are working with Carolyn in the library. The students are reflecting on the reading comprehension strategies they use. They are then exploring those reading comprehension strategies further and giving the strategies a name - visualising, predicting, applying prior knowledge, for example. The process of making comprehension strategies explicit will empower the students to use those strategies more effectively in the future. In future sessions, they will discover new ccomprehension strategies that they can use. These will be added to their effective reading toolkit and will increase their reading competence.

Over time this will assist students to achieve the Amesbury School Standards' indicators related to using reading comprehension strategies.

For example:

Year 2: "With support can use and combine a variety of comprehension strategies to meet their purposes for reading"
Year 3: "With some confidence, can use and combine a variety of comprehension strategies to understand texts."
Year 4: "With increased confidence students can use and combine a variety of comprehension strategies."

By the way - do you know what a nogard is? See if you can work it out from the description below.....

Can you visualise this? If you can then you are using a comprehension strategy.

Achievement in Reading

There has been a strong focus on a child’s reading level/age as an indicator of how a child is doing in reading. This is understandable because it is an easily accessible, cut and dried, seemingly objective result that is easily able to be graphed, that enables parents and teachers to make a quick judgement about a child’s progress. However, as an indicator of achievement in reading it is very one-dimensional.

A good thing about National Standards is that it draws attention to the breadth of learning required in the three curriculum areas of reading, writing and mathematics. A running record is just one indicator of achievement in reading and even with that one test there is a huge variation in how that test is administered and interpreted by teachers. There is often a strong focus on decoding – how fluently a child reads the words - but National Standards, and we at Amesbury School, are much more interested in what knowledge and understandings the child is able to draw from what they are reading and then how that knowledge is able to be used in real–life contexts. A running record does not give much indication of this.
National standards is focused on students being able to use strategies, implement skills etc. “consistently, most of the time across a range of curriculum areas”. At Amesbury School we would add to this statement “and in a range of real-life contexts.” Achievement in reading is not just about being able to master a skill, but it’s about the competency required to apply that skill in a range of situations. It is highly possible for a student to come out above the reading level indicator in a running record but not meet the standard. For example, after two years at school it is expected that a student will be reading texts at Turquoise level. However, it is possible that a student could be reading texts above that, but not have achieved many of the other indicators of achievement in reading such as the ability to “Summarise main points”, “Becoming confident at giving an opinion about the author’s message and purpose of the text”, being willing to “evaluate texts with support”, “with support, make simple inferences”, “becoming confident in using a variety of strategies to increase comprehension of texts”, “Make appropriate choices of books for independent reading”. When you look at what a child is expected to be able to do to meet the Standard after two years at school, much more knowledge of what a child is able to do is required than what is tested in a running record.
Therefore, to be able to make a defensible statement about where a child is at in reading in relation to the National Standards – which we are legally required to do – we need to be gathering evidence about how students are using a wide range of reading competencies in a range of contexts not just doing a running record. Our inquiry-based approach is central to enabling this. Inquiries provide the range of “real-life” contexts “across the curriculum” that enable the development of reading competencies, the use of reading competencies and that also enable us to gather evidence and make defensible statements about students’ achievement in relation to the National Standards.
For further information about the kinds of reading competencies required check out our reading matrix (which is currently being reviewed - more for format than content). (https://docs.google.com/a/amesbury.school.nz/file/d/0B3aZXUfDur02MDczMzY5NDAtMDgzMS00Nzk0LTgzNGEtNzQwOTQxZDY0MTc5/edit)
This matrix, along with the Maths and Writing matrices, is being developed into an online tool for assessment, recording evidence of achievement, reporting, homework support and developing personalised learning plans for each student. More about this later.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Library Information for Parents/Caregivers

Hooray! The library now has shelves and we can make full use of this wonderful space. Here is some information for you about both our physical and virtual library:

First, a huge thank you to everyone who contributed their time to process over 1300 books at the start of the year. Three community members - Anne, Elizabeth and Clare - will continue cataloguing and processing books on a voluntary basis even though they don’t have any family connection to Amesbury School. Thank you so much!

The school library is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:00pm, except Wednesdays when it will be open after school until 3:30pm.  So please call in and visit our space or spend some time there with your children.

We also have a library website, the Amesbury School Virtual Library. The website has links to the library catalogue, Access-It, and to the library blog. There are also links to other library resources including Information for Parents. All of the information in this blog post will be available on the Information for Parents page for future reference.

Please note that the virtual library is not a static website nor is it complete. It will be a growing and evolving resource for everyone in the school community to use and contribute to. We welcome your comments on the library blog.

There are a number of things Access-It can be used for apart from finding items in the the catalogue.  Items can be reserved and renewed, reviews written, and borrowing details obtained using individual student sign ins. You will receive a Borrower Number and Password for you and your child to use on the Access-It website. Information about how to reserve items, write reviews and renew books are on the Access-It homepage. Go to My Library on the lower left of the screen to log on to Borrowing Detail.

I am in the process of setting up an automated system for nearly due and overdue items.  There have been a few technical issues setting this up and at this stage the only way to find out when an item is due back or overdue is by logging on to Access-It and checking Borrowing Detail for your child.  Our efficient student librarians are also letting children know when their books become overdue so we can get them back as soon as possible.

We expect children to be responsible for the care and protection of our lovely new library books. All children should have a safe method (book bag, plastic bag, separate pocket in their school bag) to transport books to and from school, away from drink bottles and lunch boxes.

I look forward to seeing you in the library. Please call in or email me if you have any questions.

Carolyn Knight
Library-based teacher

Junior Book Club children listen to a story read
by a senior student at lunch time.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Soccer Tournaments

We have the opportunity to be involved in two soccer tournaments. Our involvement will depend on our ability to put a team together. Please fill out the online form below. This opportunity is available for girls and boys year 4 - 6.

The tournaments are:

1. Northern Zone Football, 27th March, Alex Moore Park
2. Primary Schools Wellington, 3rd April, Wakefield Park.

Please use the following link to indicate your child's interest and to provide essential information.


Registrations close 16th March. Please indicate your child's involvement by Tuesday 13 March.


Creation of Family and Friends of Amesbury School


Towards the end of last year we had a meeting with a number of parents regarding the creation of a PTA-type body for Amesbury School. We listened to what people said and out of that we have created a concept which the Board of Trustees is happy with and we are now seeking feedback from you. This concept is slightly different from the usual Home/School or PTA type body. The intention is to develop a concept that allows parents to be involved at the level of commitment they feel they are able to give (given their family circumstances) and to be involved in activities that interest them and utilise their strengths.

Please take the link below and check out the plan and let us know what you think. Please either email me principal@amesbury.school.nz with your thoughts or comment using the blog link below.


Please let me know if this link does not work for you and I will email out the document to you.

By the way, we are still looking for a name for this organisation - any suggestions???

Nga mihi nui

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Peter Dunne on Amesbury School

Finally we have a library!!

......And Student Librarians

It has taken a while, but finally our shelves have (mostly) arrived and the natural wood look is just gorgeous - all we hoped it would be. Linda Forbes, the wonderful library adviser we have been working with for the last twelve months to develop a vision for our library, came today and worked with Carolyn to get the books on the shelves. It is not quite complete yet, but we have a library!

At lunchtime today our student librarians ran Junior Book Club. It was very exciting to see the young children so engaged in the activities provided for them by our senior students. See the photos above and below. Congratulations to our seniors for showing such amazing leadership. I was particularly impressed with the way the student librarians took responsibility for creating such interesting activities and then stayed behind to tidy up. Well done!

Student libarian Jasmine issuing books. Soon we hope to have RFID self-checkout.

Student librarians,James and Megan, using the giant touch screen computer to create a game for their next Junior Book Club.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Morning Tea Invitation to Volunteers

Kia ora from the library,

We are very grateful for all the help we received in the past few weeks and would like to thank everyone for the time contributed to processing library books and reading books.  If you were one of the volunteers we would like you to join us for morning tea on Friday morning, 9th of March, at 11 am so we can celebrate the completion of this huge task and to show our appreciation of your contribution to Amesbury School.

Please RSVP Carolyn by email  - carolyn@amesbury.school.nz – or by phoning the school office by 3pm Thursday to let us know if you are able to attend.  Please mention this invitation to anyone else you know who volunteered their time as we don’t have a record of everyone who helped us. Thanks.

We look forward to seeing you on Friday.

The Green Paper – Protection for Vulnerable Children

Thanks to those who met with us in The Commons to discuss The Green Paper put out by the Minister of Social Development to explore ways of addressing the needs of “vulnerable children” in New Zealand.

I think the most compelling realisation as we discussed some of the questions was just what a complex issue this is. It is particularly complex because so many of the perpetrators of the crimes of abuse, violence and neglect have themselves been victims of similar types of treatment. Therefore, they are also victims as well as perpetrators. This means that empathy and understanding has to underpin any approaches to protecting the vulnerable, but at the same time, in order to change the future for these children (and their children - rather than perpetuate the cycles of abuse) a line does have to be drawn in the sand and early intervention is essential to ensure that the children recover from their experiences and the generational cycle does not continue.

Secondly, we discussed the fact that the line in the sand should not be either too high or too low but should reflect the point before which parenting becomes damaging for children. There is a need to clearly determine what “adequate” parenting looks like and ensure that this is what parents are held to account for. It is unreasonable to expect these parents to become exemplary parents, but that what we are looking for is a “C plus pass” (metaphorically speaking).

We discussed the fact that one of the big difficulties in changing what is happening for vulnerable children is the question of what happens to children when they are removed from their families. We are aware that CYFS often takes over the care of vulnerable children as wards of the state, but does not always have the capacity to look after them adequately, sometimes leaving these children just as much at risk as they were previously. We find this unacceptable, but did not have a solution.

While not coming to any hard and fast solutions, we acknowledged that education is central to changing the life possibilities of vulnerable children – this includes effective education for vulnerable children which assists in breaking the generational cycles of poverty, abuse, neglect and violence. Central to this is “empowerment”. A lack of empowerment seems to be at the root of abuse and violence. This is why as a school we are so committed to acknowledging in very positive and real ways the bicultural nature of New Zealand and the importance to us today of Maori as tangata whenua of New Zealand. We have such an amazing opportunity to raise a generation of young people who value Maori and recognise their importance to New Zealand and in that valuing to assist in the empowerment of those most at risk.

We also acknowledged that our community’s “privilege” places on us a greater responsibility to see ourselves as part of the solution rather than removed from the problem. Hence, Amesbury School sees developing students who are socially aware and concerned for others as integral to 21st century learning:

“Sustainability and Justice: Challenging students to adopt new behaviours and practices to secure our future and ensure the well-being of our world and of all life on earth. Creating leaders today, for tomorrow”

In the short time we had to discuss the Green Paper we did not have any “blinding light” insights, but it did remind us that this is a whole community issue, that it will take each one of us acknowledging it as our collective problem and that we are all part of the solution, before any real, sustainable change will occur.

Please feel free to comment.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Harakeke Sleepover

Morena Koutou

Apologies that these are the first photos from me of the Harakeke Sleepover. Too many meetings yesterday. But last night I popped in after a Board meeting and it was all incredibly calm, happy and peaceful. My congratulations to the teachers and students of Harakeke.

A few photos below of breakfast at Harakeke.

Spot the gumboot twins and the teacher looking surprisingly perky.....sort of!

Shortly they will be off to the Waters' bush and bush hut building.