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Ready, reset, dig deep...GO!

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Key points:

  1. Access the document discussed in this post here. Make a copy if you want to edit it. Click on the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet and make sure you read the explanation on the first tab!

  2. You have to play, play and play some more to muddle your way through new concepts and processes. Kill the ostrich, reset, dig deep and get into it.

  3. Share your thought processes with colleagues – yours might be the method that kick starts an aha moment for another and vice versa.

  4. Beginning with a 'Critical Theory of Aotearoa, then checking this against the significant learning points worked best for me. See Mark III below.

  5. Still some thinking to be done. Might change everything yet!

The dilemma

How do you plan a unit when you’re taking 3 sets of ‘criteria’ into account? With the review of, not just NCEA, but our education system, teachers must consider:

  1. Matauranga Māori – “the Maori way of being and engaging in the critique, examine, analyse and understand [it]” (from the Kia Eke Panuku team)

  2. The English Learning Matrix with its:

    1. 3 big ideas – fun and enrichment, language and identity, making and creating meaning

    2. 4 significant learning areas – language, interpreting text, aesthetic qualities, and Māori voices

  3. The traditional teaching around aspects of literature (plot, setting, character, symbolism, ideas, purpose).

Where do you start? How do you find the time and the 'calm' to really nut it out? (And quite frankly, when the Ministry of Education puts in obtuse phrases like “aesthetic qualities” sheesh. SUCCINCT people!) Needs must.

So, I began the process of carving out a way to plan for the three aspects above knowing I’d go around and around, reinventing wheel after wheel until I'd shaved and sanded it down to something manageable. The process took days, and was both brutal and beautiful! The story so far...

In the beginning... Matauranga Māori

Bearing in mind the ‘motif’ of the recent NZATE conference around Matauranga Māori, I began there. I was open to this because I had cultural lenses in mind when I created My Lens - Their Lens. What are the key aspects of te ao Māori? Being pakeha, I have limited knowledge, understanding and rights to decide this, but I looked over my notes from my Tikanga Māori course, channeled what I'm learning in my te reo Māori course, and came up with:

  • Whakapapa

  • Tūrangawaewae,

  • Mana motuhake

  • Kaitiakitanga and

  • Whanaungatanga

These aspects were to make up a type of critical theory for approaching texts. (The aha moment came when Nigel Mitchell (Ministry of Education) talked about a student who enjoyed The Halfmen of O and their discussion about how aspects of te ao Māori ran through it.) And so, my Critical Theory of Aotearoa was born, or CToA as I like to call it! Feel free to email me with feedback on this - I'm no authority; it's open for discussion of course!

Looking at texts from this angle first means students really can “make and create meaning” (big idea 3) through their identity (big idea 2). And I’m buggered if students won’t get “enjoyment and enrichment” (big idea 1) out of doing it!

Because my traditional brain couldn’t quite let go of the aspects of literature (ostrich), I avoided the 4 aspects of significant learning outlined in the English Learning Matrix, and reverted to plot, setting... Baby steps! I felt a spreadsheet coming on...

Unbelievably, this was awesome to use! Beginning with the CToA helped me see angles and activities previously not considered. Wow moments plus and hashtag goals! Adding a creating meaning and making meaning column for each aspect of the CToA, allowed me to plan for students to practice skills necessary for the new Achievement Standards. Boom! I went to bed feeling great ... but there was a stink elephant in the room and it woke me at 3am. Those bl@#%* significant learning thingies!

Mark II – Add the significant learning thingies

Feeling daring the next morning, I carved it up by replacing the traditional aspects of literature with the significant learning points from the matrix. So now I’d plan with these and the CToA. Look at me go! Would it work? Far out sprout – I got even more creative! Combining the new significant learning points with my CToA was seriously sparky! Again, I was able to think more ‘left field’, creatively, freely! It was ... like the old days! Perhaps I really had been teaching to the Achievement Standards! Whoops!

But hark! A logistical catch. Each activity covered several significant learning areas so I didn’t know where to type them in - how to show this in my plan. Aaagh! Nice to finally ‘get it’ and to have enjoyed some free thinking, however the real world demands a written plan. How was I ever going to work out how to do that so that all three ‘criteria’ – Matauranga Māori (CToA), the significant learning from the matrix AND the traditional method of breaking a text into aspects of literature – were covered. Hmph. I needed sushi and Tank.

Mark III – almost there...???

Refreshed, I was back on the tools. What if I planned from the angle of one of the three ‘criteria’, but then had to tick boxes that forced me to think about how the other two criteria were being taken into consideration? Seemed like the simple, sensible option. That way I could account for all three of my criteria and there were fewer words and fuss on my planning sheet.


Okay, I can see how that could work. I played around with Lord of the Flies again using the CToA as my starting point and came up with plenty of ideas.

Next steps:

  1. Transfer this to tables in PowerPoint / Google Slides (not stinky Word or Docs) so that I can more easily print my plan.

  2. Find a way to show an order of progression through the activities.

  3. Work with buddies and keep an eye on workshops for further ideas.

  4. Create resources (as you would with any unit plan) to use in the classroom. I’m in the process of making generic models to show, for example, how you can investigate character through their whakapapa, tūrangawaewae etc.

So I’ll keep hammering away while you watch this space! Remember, you can access my planning efforts here. Make a copy if you want to edit it. Click on the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet and make sure you read the explanation on the first tab!

PS: If you’re struggling to find all the necessary documents for the review, I’ve tried to show them as a hyperlinked map so you can see where everything is and get to it easily. Access by scrolling down to ‘Administration’ from here.

EDIT: My final product, after 4 prototypes, is ready! I show you around this resource here. If you're keen for your own set of course and unit planners it can be grabbed from here. Whoop whoop!

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