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Janet McQueen's discussion posts

  • Janet McQueen 24 Feb 2015 4:42pm () in ELLs in Modern Learning Environments

    Hi Andrew

    With so many schools moving to modern learning environments this is a very important question to ask. Personally I have not taught in such an environment but I think you are on the right track by asking these questions at the start of the process. 

    There is such a wide range of MLE but generally they seem to consist of more flexible classroom spaces and furniture, and a greater use of digital learning technologies etc. I am assuming this is what you mean by the term. 

    Like everything I think it comes down to quality teaching and having effective structures and routines among all the flexibility. They remind me a little of open plan schools that were often unpopular but when they worked they worked brilliantly.

    It might take a little longer for a student from another country or with limited schooling to adjust and to know where to go when etc. But with appropriate scaffolding they will get there and with differentiated learning and explicit language instruction they may thrive. 

    While I was at the MOE I was involved in project managing the development of the ELLINZ programme which is aimed at year 7-13 ELLS working at the Foundation or stage 1 level of the English Language Learning Progressions. It is taught online by a remote ESOL eTeacher to students who sometimes had no prior schooling e.g. refugees or English. When we began it was quite ground breaking and there wasn't a lot to base it upon. We tried to incorporate the best principles from the two worlds of second language acquisition research and from eLearning research.  Sometimes we would swing too far down the elearning track and the students weren't really ready for the demands placed upon them.  They certainly needed a teacher aide alongside to help them with the technology etc. 

    At first a lot of the teaching time needed to be on teaching the students the language of computing, how to use the various digital tools and programmes etc but this decreased in time and more time was available for explicit language teaching. The teachers needed to be very flexible and were constantly tweaking the programme and the materials. In the beginning language progress seemed slow and we wondered if the digital barrier was just too large. However they got there and once we were over the technology hurdle they thrived. Eventually most made accelerated language progress whilst on the programme.  

    So why did we get these good results? I think it came down to explicit teaching of language, through the use of technology teachers were better able to design individualised student work which was targeted at their particular learning needs. Plus for most students it was very motivating being able to work online. They often became the class go to person for technology which also gave them an area of expertise within the class.  

    I hope this goes some way towards addressing your questions. It would certainly make a good teacher inquiry topic. I would love to hear from teachers who are already teaching in Modern learning environments. 

  • Janet McQueen 09 Feb 2015 1:31pm () in Developing personal libraries using Digital Books with ELLs

    Hi everyone

    Digital books especially those with audio sound, offer many opportunities for ELLs to develop their oral language, reading and vocabulary skills.

    This article by Todd Brekhus, in Laguage Magazine extols the benefits of students developing their own personal digital libraries http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=122950 .

    I have also written a blog post on this topic see Personal Libraries and the use of Digital technology where I raise a number of things to consider.  

    My questions are:

    1. What digital book sites have you found useful and engaging for your students? 
    2. What tips do you have for teachers setting these up for the first time with their students? 
    3. How do you encourage engagement and collaboration with digital books among your students? 
    4. How do you provide and encourage access from home? 

    I look forward to your responses. 



  • Janet McQueen 13 Oct 2014 4:38pm () in Book Group #1: Key Competencies for the Future, with NZCER | from 3rd October

    I am also enjoying these conversations and have just listened to the webinar as I missed it in real time. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of your book. However I love the concept of 'wicked problems' as they sound very similar to the 'global' themes and transformational teaching that I was encouraged to use in a 'Critical Literecy' course that I studied at Auckland University about 6-7 years ago. One benefit of using such themes is that they are very inclusive. All students have knowledge that they can contribute and bring to the classroom conversation. This is very important as our classrooms become more diverse in their composition.

    I was just beginning to explore and grapple with how I do this as a classroom teacher when I moved out of the classrrom. I know that as an individual teacher grappling on her own that this was difficult to get my head around. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the change and the huge possibilities that it opened up. I wanted to change everything at once yet knew that my colleagues weren't ready to follow. It came down to what can I do in my individual classroom and taking small steps to begin the process. Letting the students led the learning and in the process encouraging them to transform their own community /world was a huge challenging but so exciting. It was a shame I wasn't around longer to see where we ended up. I think it would be much easier if my school leadership was on board and the process was something that  the whole staff was involved in.  

  • Janet McQueen 23 Sep 2014 1:56pm () in Help with oral language strategies and digital tools

    Hi David

    Thank you for sharing how you use these apps because I am not in a classroom situation I don't get the excitement of  trying out digital tools on students. However as teachers I think it is important that we explore and try new things especially in the digital world which has so much potential to assist in language teaching. So please keep experimenting and sharing what works for you as I know other teachers will be interested. 
    Recording students is so easy and something which we are encouraged to do in order to track progress. This then makes deciding where a student is at on the English Language Learning Progressions much easier. Students can hear themselves and 'notice' their own language more which leads to error-correction. I know several teachers who find voice thread works well for them. They often set up voice thread oral language homework for them to complete. 
    Kind regards
  • Janet McQueen 19 Sep 2014 1:30pm () in Teaching kids typing skills??

    Just to add to your thinking and discussion on handwriting verses typing I would like to suggest that you read this article in the New York Times which looks at brain functions used for each. maybe handwriting helps us to think more deeply?  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?emc=edit_bg_20140603&nl=booming&nlid=59208117 . 

    I would be interested in your thoughts. 

  • Janet McQueen 16 Sep 2014 3:25pm () in Help with oral language strategies and digital tools

    I am interested in how we best support oral language development partriculalry for English language learners and students who arrive at school below where we expect them to be functionaing at in oral language.  How can we quickly develop their oral language skills? I have made some suggestions in my blogpost which you can read - key instuctional ideas for supporting oral language developemnt .

    Now I am interested in learning about oral language strategies you have found to be particulalry sucessful. Also any digital tools/apps that you have found helpful. i would also love to hear how you use them in the classroom.

    Pease share your suggestions. 


    Janet McQueen 



  • Janet McQueen 10 Sep 2014 1:10pm () in How to best use devices in the ESOL classroom and a language laboratory

    Hi David 

    Thank you for sharing this question. You may be interested in this document Google docs of online tools and apps where various teachers have shared their favourite online tools and apps to support ELLs. It is open to everyone to add their ideas. You will need to scroll through it. 

    Kind regards


  • Janet McQueen 09 Sep 2014 3:32pm () in NZ e-Learning pedagogy: What does a New Zealand teacher in 2014 and beyond look like?

    Agree with everything Rebecca has said. There are so many skills a good teacher requires. I think top of my list is that they need to develop quality relationships with each child and connect with their families. They adopt an inquiry approach into their teaching as 'the how' is always changing and we need to continue to grow but emsure that what we are doing is effective. Someone who knows how to motivate every student.  A teacher who is digitally confident and willing to try new things. 

    I would like all teachers to know how to support English  language learning whilst differentiaing lessons and scaffolding students to success. With the increasing use of technology this is becoming easier and many lessons are almost individualised. 

    Good teachers have positve student relationships, are motivational, are focused on learning for all students, set high expectations, monitor student progress and adjust their teaching as required, get real positive shifts in student achievement. They continue to grow professionally, are connected to other teachers from around the world, innovate with purpose and are not content to remain static in their teaching. They strive to do better but still know how to laugh and enjoy the moment. However this is really only scratching the surface. 

  • Janet McQueen 01 Sep 2014 5:02pm () in NZ e-Learning pedagogy: What does a New Zealand student in 2014 look like?

    A great topic.

    One area I think we all need to consider is the increasing population diversity in New Zealand and what needs diverse students have and require from school.

    One in every four New Zealanders (25.2 per cent) on Census day was born overseas. This is one of the highest shares of overseas-born people of any country in the world, just ahead of Australia in its 2011 Census (24.6 per cent) and only slightly behind Switzerland and Israel (both 26 per cent). This change has largely taken place in the last 20 years.

    We have moved on from laregely being either Pakeha , Maori or Pasifika. We are aslo seeing students identifying with an increasing array of multiple enthnicities. Whilst we are beginning to talk about teaching using culturally appropriate ways - when we say this we still laregely talk about Maori and Pasifika students. We need to use mult-ethnic approaches. Students bring different world-views and different cultural values and knowledge to the class room. As teachers in New Zealand we also have our own cultural understanding and knowledge in the way we teach. Teachers should adopt a critical approach to learning and teaching, building onto what the students bring to the classroom and using universal themes that everyone can contribute to. 

    With this increase in diversity we have also seen an increase in the number of students who do not speak English as their first language. It takes at least 5-7 years for a student to learn acdemic language - the language of the classroom. As these students are expected to laregely learn all subjects in English they need scaffolded language support. This means having language objectives alongside curriculum objectives in all learning areas.  All students benefit from language support as academic English is no ones first language. Yet how to do this is rarely a focus of professional development and scant atention is paid to it whilst training to be a teacher. We need to grow this knowledge and think about it as we think about the future as this increasing diversification of NZ society looks likely to continue. 

    Interesting challenges.  

  • Janet McQueen 21 Jul 2014 3:14pm () in How do we support students who are transitioning from Māori medium to English medium classes?
    How well do we support students transitioning from Māori-medium to English medium education? How do we support them to continue to succeed in their learning and to continue to grow in their use of both Māori and English? 

    I have just come across a great article "Transitioning from Māori-medium to English medium education: The experiences and perspectives of three students", by Hamish Weir, Victoria University of Wellington. You can find it in the University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, Volume 7, June 2012, pp 51-85. You can read online for free at
    I think the questions raised in this article are important for schools to consider and discuss especially those who have students from Māori-medium transitioning to English medium education. How do we support students to continue to succeed in their learning and to continue to grow in their use of both Māori and English? 

    ESOL trained teachers should have a role to play as we are knowledgable about second language aquisiton,  scaffolding language and developing acdemic English. We also know the importance of maintaining and continuing to use first language and of teachers incorporating and building upon cultural knowledge. 

    Are we sharing our knowledge with colleagues and leading the way in our schools? Have we checked what is happening in our schools and offered our expertise? Have you collaborated with your Māori Colleagues about this topic? What more should your school be doing and what can you do to strengthen current practice? 

    Please share any suggestions that you have tried that have been successful to support transitioning students.