Superheroes emerge as imaginations take flight

Issue: Volume 97, Number 21

Posted: 22 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9onG

A new approach to improving literacy is paying off at an Auckland primary school where teachers are thinking outside the box.

This year Koru School in Mangere decided to encourage Year 5 and 6 students to take ownership of their literacy learning. The uplift was immediate. The students have been inspired to write their own comics, inquire into endangered animals and poaching, invent their own superheroes, and craft letters to celebrities who inspire them, including movie actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The students are becoming more independent and self-driven. Lead teacher Jocelyn Tuia says, “We have seen a significant shift in their engagement and interest in writing since they could pick their own genres to explore. Because their interest is high, their writing has improved. The students choose topics they want to opt-in to, as opposed to a traditional classroom setting where mostly everything is pre-planned for them.”

Tracked changes and robust discussions

Changes are being tracked, focusing on lifting of students’ vocabulary use, as they become more active in making precise and descriptive vocabulary choices. Collaboratively, they are partaking in robust discussions around word choice when working on their writing tasks.

Student voice is being utilised at the school.

For her narrative writing topic, 10-year-old Foua Su’a has created a superhero character called Taffryn, who is female, with powers of teleportation and invisibility. Another student, Marley Katoa, 10, writes about a superhero called Tamantha, who can time travel. Chiquita Dewan, 10, is writing a comic book with dialogue in speech bubbles.

Most of the students are from Māori or Pacific families. The school decided to utilise student voice over the past few years, and at the end of term 2 this year the children were asked what they wanted to study for their inquiry theme. After brainstorming, they decided on ‘Impact’. They voted for topics around the theme and the most popular topic was extinct and endangered animals.

Marley says, “I chose animal extinction because I want to know why poachers kill animals, and what can be done to save endangered animals.”

The students choose topics they want to opt into at Koru School.

Motivation levels sky-high

Jocelyn says they now actively seek feedback on their work to ensure they are on the right path, and are completing their tasks on time and with enthusiasm. “They ask to take work home to finish it, or are online in their Google Classroom accounts finishing off tasks.”

Chiquita likes the change. “Before, if the teacher chose a topic, it could have been something we already know, or wasn’t interesting. The new way is more motivating, and I also get to share what I am studying with students in other workshops.”

There’s also been a move away from paper to device-based learning and measurement keeping. The students are learning fast about what technology can do. “They are able to research about topics they are interested in rather than being given topics dictated by us,” says Jocelyn.

Google Classroom is a key learning tool, and many children take the opportunity to continue their online learning using a device at home, even though they have no assigned homework. Students’ learning achievements are tracked by the teachers through Google Classroom.

Foua says, “My parents really like it because at home they can see online how I am progressing by going onto Google Classroom.” 

The school has been using the resources available on e-book website link), including audiobooks, tutorial videos and read-alongs, and has found it a rich resource for improving students’ reading skills.

The students are becoming more independent and self-driven.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:38 am, 22 November 2018

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