The Importance Of Reading Aloud to Children…

Reading aloud to children provides them with access to literature that they can’t yet read themselves.  When I look back at my up bringing it is nice to recall times when my father used to read to me and my 7 siblings.  Dad would use the most fantastic voices to bring out the characters, and his phrasing and fluency was superb!  You may be thinking ‘So what!’ and ‘What has that got to do with helping my child read?’  Read on and you will find out….

Like all things that help us learn, modelling is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal.  When dad used to read aloud he was exposing us to a smorgasbord of vocabulary.  We didn’t realise it at the time, but the words he spoke were sinking into our subconscious minds.  Often he would stop and ask us questions to ensure that we did indeed understand the message the author was conveying.  Other times, dad would just read for pleasure, and our one job was to sit back and listen… much like sitting under a waterfall of words that painted pictures in our minds.

Later on as we began to read for ourselves, we already had an idea of the rhythm, or flow of how words should sound.  We remembered how dad would work out words, the strategies he would use when he might stumble over a passage, the fact he didn’t just read on, he went back and corrected himself.   If he was unsure of a word he would find out what it meant.  All these little things helped me be the reader I am today.  So yes, reading aloud to children is a gift that keeps on giving.

A big part of reading is to understand what the author is communicating, and also being able to make inferences and wonder about other contexts where this information might be applicable.  I don’t believe that we have to deconstruct every book we  read.  Simply reading for pleasure, whether non-fiction or fiction should be the greatest motivating factor.  However, with young readers I believe that is important that they are able to take something away from a text that they have read, and apply the ideas elsewhere.

If you lead a busy life, maybe you are a shift worker and your child is in bed by the time you get home.  Maybe with everything else you have to do in a day, it is hard to make time to read aloud to your child. The good news is, there is always people on the internet who like to share, and today I share something with you.

With Covid-19 upon us, and being separated from my tamariki (children) at school, I wanted to keep connected and share my love of reading with them.  When I was 10 years old a teacher called Mr Peters once read James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl to me and my classmates.  And now I read it for you.  It is my gift to all the tamariki out there who want to sit back and let the words that come from reading James and the Giant Peach fall down over them, like it was for me when dad used to read, like sitting under a waterfall of words that painted pictures in my mind.

Simply click on the link below and a PDF will open for you.  To listen and watch the YouTube videos click on the pictures inside the PDF.  I have also added a second link with possible activities for tamariki to undertake if they wish to delve a little deeper into the text.

To purchase your own copy of this wonderful book go to the Roald Dahl website where they have an online store.  Once Covid-19 is over they will be able to provide you with a copy in due course.

James & The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl read to you by Charlotte Hills


Learning Adventures with James & The Giant Peach.


Kia kaha.



Online Learning & Teaching

It’s been a while since I last posted.  So here we are… in the midst of Covid-19 that has sent so many of us around the world to our homes with the possibility that this might go on for longer than originally thought.  As an educator my role has become more important than ever in maintaining the connections with my tamariki (children) and their whanau (family) as we all navigate through this.  As we all know, relationships are the glue that keep society together and offer a sense of normalcy and must be maintained..

As an educator now is the time for me and my colleagues in this field to be flexible and open to learning a bunch of new skills to provide learning opportunities for our tamariki.  We need to provide ways to engage them in learning that will allow our students to connect into something other than thinking about the current situation 24/7.  

Over the past few days I’ve been mulling over what this will mean for my immediate whanau at my school and the wonderful group of educators that are currently designing appropriate learning opportunities that meet the needs of the different levels across the school.   

Learning is not just of an academic nature, it should be holistic where the whole child is developed.  In New Zealand we have nine curriculum areas across the Primary Sector (Mathematics, Writing, Reading, Te Ao Māori (language & Tikanga), Science, Social Studies, The Arts (Drama, Dance, Music & Visual Arts), Technology (includes Digital – Computational Thinking & Designing, Developing Digital Outcomes), Health & Physical Education.

As you can imagine filling a child’s kete (basket) is a process over time, and right now we need to take care of their emotional well-being first.  Learning online is not about putting activity after activity in front of a child to keep them busy.  We must consider the needs and levels of our communities.  Going in light and gentle for those starting this journey is important.  In doing so we will reduce stress levels for all involved in this process.  Learning should be interactive and interesting, not a chore for a family to be burdened with.

As I work through options and approaches I will do my best to share these with you.  If I can be of support to others out there on the same journey, I am here and will help where I can.

So from my bubble to yours, kia kaha (be strong) my friends, draw your loved ones close and keep in your bubble.

Me, Mya & Maddie (Minxy the cat out catching mice!)



Building Agency

Learner agency is only possible if learners have the required capability sets that allow them to take increasing executive agency over their world.

To take agency over their learning world, learners need to be:

1. … competent

2. … able to understand and apply the Learning Process

3. … able to work within a conceptual curriculum


Competencies, Skills & the Learning Process

We cannot give learners agency! Agency is a complex set of capabilities that must be learned over their time in schools and homes. Currently, ‘agency’ is expected in schools rather than being consciously enabled. Learner agency is only possible if learners have the required capability sets that allow them to take increasing executive agency over their world. To take agency over their learning world, learners need to be:

1.   … competent

2.   … able to understand and apply the Learning Process

3.   … able to work within a conceptual curriculum

The roles of teachers and students need to be transformed, enabling students to become learner-educators, and for teachers to become educator-learners. Learning is the key to unlocking our curiosity and our ability to explore our world. The transformation of teachers and students to become learner-educators and educator-learners requires a 2-4 year process of consistent Professional Learning. This involves…

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Treaty of Waitangi Principle

I am constantly being reminded how far I’ve come, yet how little I still know. I found this post to be informative and inspires me to step out of my comfort zone…. Thanks Sonya Van Schaijik for sharing.

Sonya @VanSchaijik

Ko te manu e kai āna i te miro nona te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai āna i te mātauranga, nona te ao.

The bird that consumes the berry his is the forest. The bird that consumes knowledge his is the world.

An Education Review Office report (2011) stated that ‘many school leaders and teachers found the Treaty of Waitangi principle challenging to implement.

I was a little shocked to uncover my own lack of visible evidence for this practising teacher criteria or PTC 10. This is when practising  teachers work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand. Key indicators are highlighted as:

  • Practise and develop the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context.
  • Specifically and effectively address the educational aspirations of ākonga Māori, displaying high expectations for their learning.

Don’t get me wrong. I can get by with many formulaic expressions…

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Students Need 21st Century Teachers!

2016-03-09 11.47.00Raising awareness often means putting yourself out there.  Recently I agreed to be in a video to raise awareness around professional development for teachers because my students have directly benefitted from the Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) with MindLab.  

There are some really strong avenues out there to build teacher 21st skills to pass onto our students. There are also many ways a teacher can now receive professional development (PD), but not all are equal.  Not all will provide better outcomes for students (or teachers).  Over the 10 years that I have been teaching I’ve attended loads of courses.  Some good, and some just plain boring. So if the purpose of PD is to make me a better teacher, and therefore make a positive impact on my students, shouldn’t the PD be interesting, interactive and looking to develop my 21st Century skill set?

Click on this link to watch the video (you will need a Facebook account to watch this).


Coding isn’t some niche skill. It really is “the new literacy.”

Key Points:

  • The nature of work has fundamentally changed.  Today, it is no longer humans who do most of the work — it’s machines.
  • Think about it — every day, humans make 3.5 billion Google searches. It’s machines that carry out that work — not humans.
  • But machines are only able to do all this work because humans tell them exactly what to do. And the only way for humans to do this is by writing software.
  • You can’t stop technology. You can only adapt to it.
  • Learn to code. Learn to talk to machines. And flourish.


Retrieved on 28 May 2016 from

Quizzes Can Help Students Learn

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Quizzes can help students learn because it helps them identify what they know and what they don’t know.


I have found the areas bolded in the text below to be true when I’ve used Kahoot for maths and science.  Still early days, but will continue to incorporate into my programme.

The students then have a better idea of how well they are grasping the material, hopefully motivating them to study more and helping them allocate their study time effectively by focusing on the information that still needs more practice.

What’s more, though, in some cases a test can make the next study opportunity more effective. Teachers can help students see what topics they are not grasping by providing feedback after quizzes, and that feedback need not be immediate to be most effective.


1) Quizzes help students learn:   Find out what they do/don’t know

2) Quizzes give teachers feedback:  End of each slide and stop and  discuss if you want to

3) Quizzes increase attendance:   Not really relevant in my class

4) Quizzes promote test expectancy:   Looking for the right responses

5) Studying is more efficient after a quiz:  Identify what needs to be learnt and learn it.




Retrieved on 26 May 2016 from:


Summary Of My Postgraduate Learning Journey & Plan For The Future

Three areas of the Practising Teacher Criteria I believe I have met well over the past 32 weeks are:

Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.

Criteria 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.

Criteria 7: Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.

Over the past  32 weeks of my learning journey, I know that I have shown leadership that has contributed to effective teaching and learning at my school.  I have actively contributed to the professional learning of my learning community by initiating and running professional development sessions for teachers, primarily on and around blogging.  I have also shared professional readings/videos and shared ideas from the postgraduate course I am on.  

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 6.47.32 pm.pngI have introduced staff and students to Carol Dweck and what it means to have a ‘growth mindset’ to be an effective teacher/learner.  In my class, each student can tell you where their mindset is and where they want to shift it to.  Being able to know our weaknesses and be able to share them with others, is another way I have shown I am able to foster trust and respect among my ākonga/learners.

In recognition of our Maori learners needing to develop their student’s voice, blogging was reintroduced as one tool to help achieve this. With collaboration with professionals, both inside and outside of school, I was able to form the inquiry question:  

“Can blogging improve the strength of a student’s voice when given authentic opportunities to identify their interests, direct their own learning and receive feedback from peers and the wider community?”  (Hills, 2015)

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 7.07.23 pmThis inquiry was presented to members of the community for feedback and after review, it was agreed that blogging was to be embedded in our learning programme.  This inquiry was also reviewed by an academic who awarded me 92% due to the detailed and structured proposal put forward.  With the pedagogy available to support how blogging could support student agency, and a clear implementation plan put forward, they felt I had clearly identified how blogging would engage students, parents and teachers to improve levels of engagement (Hills, 2016).

Throughout the past 32 weeks, I have worked collaboratively with my peers, my students and outside providers, with the one aim, to raise student achievement for all.  I have utilised my social media network to help me grow my understanding.  I have started a discussion group on the use of Chromebooks on the VLN Network and made many new connections with professionals using Twitter and Facebook, as well as utilising my connections through my postgraduate course with The MindLab in Petone.  It has been a fun fuelled year and it does not stop here.

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My two main goals for my future development in direct relation to the Practising Teacher Criteria will be to focus on:

Criteria 3: Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

Criteria 9: Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

I feel like I have opened a door and want to walk through it in relation to my commitment to the bicultural partnership between Maori and Pakeha.  I want to hold a better understanding in my head about the history of this partnership that goes beyond knowing the three ‘Ps’ (protection, partnership and participation).  I want to at every opportunity make connections to similarities and differences, so students know their cultures and what makes them unique, but also how they can work alongside others with empathy and understanding.

I work at a culturally diverse school and feel I am only scratching the surface when it comes to responding effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.  I will be asking my school to provide me with professional development that really hones in on implementing teaching approaches, using resources, technologies, and learning and assessment activities that are inclusive and effective for diverse ākonga/learners.  I have already shown I am able to modify my teaching approaches, so this type of professional development will really help me move my practice forward, benefiting the students that I teach.

What I have without a doubt learnt over the past 32 weeks of attending my course at The MindLab is the need to continually be looking for ways to improve and refine my practice while keeping an open mind.   I have also set a goal to complete a Masters in e-Learning so I am able to earn a specialist qualification in the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning purposes.


“Professional development processes share a common goal: improved practice.”  

                                                            Ostermand & Kottkamp (1993, p 12)

After completing my postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) I can honestly say that the professional development has been rigorous and has without a doubt improved my practice.

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Click For More Information!




Hills, C.  (2016).  Develop a reflective portfolio: Identify and engage with relevant community or communities in the formation of specific research questions. Address the potential impact of findings. Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from

Hills, C.  (2015).  VLN:  Using Chromebooks to record student voice (26 replies).   Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising Teacher Criteria and e-learning. Retrieved on 13 March 2016 from

Ostermand, K. & Kottkamp, R.  (1993).  Improving Schooling Through Professional Development.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from

Indigenous Knowledge & Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

My Views On Indigenous Knowledge & Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

My exposure during my upbringing and schooling years to any other culture than my own was minimal.  Both my parents worked, and with eight mouths to feed, money was always tight.  We went to church on Sundays and in my naivety, I thought people were pretty much all the same, had the same opportunities and values.  Turns out I was wrong.  It wasn’t until I became a teacher  in my early thirties that I was thrown into a cultural whirlpool, doing my best to catch up.   

Over the past 11 years, my knowledge around the Treaty of Waitangi and the part I play has become crystal clear, and this knowledge is shared with my students on a daily basis at it weaves it way through my practice.  I now know that ‘equity for all’ is my aim, and that this won’t happen by knowing it, I have to design opportunities in my classroom programme for students to reach their milestones.  This year has seen me and another teacher team teaching Tikanga and Te Reo on a Wednesday with the support of our student leaders who attend a Te Reo session in the morning with Whaea Claire.  It has been awesome being involved in the tuakana-teina taking place, and I know it has definitely improved my understanding of what it means to be Maori and improved my language skills. 

I will admit, I have in the past, fallen into deficit thinking about why some of my learners were not moving forward academically.  Yes it is a three-way relationship between the student, teacher and parent; and I realise now that my role is to facilitate this connection as highlighted by Davis, (2012). I have learnt the importance of developing stronger relationships with my learners to allow us to walk together towards goal setting and I am working on getting to know their parents.  I know these connections are important because Bishop, (2009) believes that teachers who have agency, and who are able to create connections and a context, provides opportunities for Maori themselves to be part of the learning conversations in the classroom.  This will often bring about higher levels of engagement, better attendance, which leads to higher achievement.  

My awareness around connecting with indigenous cultures was further highlighted by Tauli-Corpuz, (2012) when she raised the point that indigenous cultures have traditions that underpin their society.  I need to understand these more so those with this knowledge can play a bigger role in finding ways to celebrating  decision making of what goes on for their child’s learning.  This year especially I’ve been able to really embrace manaakitanga and whanaungatanga in my class thanks to a schoolwide focus on developing our Maori learners through the initiative of our lead teacher for Maori.  Her ability to introduce the tikanga that underpins what we do, has been beneficial to the students, as well as my practice.  I liken it to reading a book; you can sound nice when you read it, but if you don’t understand the message or take away meaning, real learning will evade you.

Evaluation Of Cultural Responsiveness In Practice At My School

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In 6 weeks over 2,900 people have viewed our learning. This shows we are connecting outside the school environment, making our learning available to families beyond the school gates.

An area where I think my school does well in, is the way we find ways to develop stronger relationships with our students and whanau.  We know that social interactions are important because studies have shown this. Bishop & Berryman, (2010, p.10) highlight that the acquisition of knowledge and skills through social interactions and activities, in formal and informal settings will support student learning.  In 2016, we reintroduced classroom blogging as a way to encourage interactions between student, teachers, parents and the wider community.  Using blogging in an innovative way gives our students a voice and the opportunity to participate in a different way; thus providing equitable opportunities for sharing learning.  For our Year 4-8 students, they will have their own blog by Week 7 of Term 1.  My class have been the trial class and they have loved it.  I have noticed that given a purpose and the ability to record learning in other ways than just a book, has seen an increased level of student agency.

I think like many schools, even with initiatives set up to support our Maori learners, they are still falling short in achieving the same academic milestones as their peers.  Hogan, (2012) raises the point that many schools meet the requirements of the New Zealand curriculum and do things that recognise their Maori learners.  So what is missing?  We often discuss different ways of connecting with our Maori community and have tried different things but are yet to find true success.  Do we really know how our Maori community want to interact with us?  

Ostermand & Kottkamp, (1993, p 12) state that before we can adopt new behaviours, before we can begin to introduce reflective practice as a professional development strategy whether in a university classroom, a school, or a school district, it is necessary (a) that we develop an awareness of our habitual actions and the assumptions that shape those actions and (b) that we consider the effectiveness of actions relative to intentions. I wonder what would happen if we brought in someone who was highly skilled in developing ways to connect with whanau?  If we were open to this and it worked, we would be in a stronger position to start building a culturally responsive environment that would develop  and lead our Maori learners to higher levels of success.  

Exciting thought… Watch this space……

To find out more about the Treaty of Waitangi please click this link.


Bishop, R. (2009).  A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from:

Bishop, R. & Berryman, M. (2009).  The Te Kotahitanga effective teaching profile.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from:

Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2010). Te Kotahitanga: culturally responsive professional development for teachers.  Teacher Development, 14(2), 173-187. doi:10.1080/13664530.2010.494497

Davis, P. (2012).  Critical elements of raising Maori achievement.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from:

Hogan, M. (2012).  Culturally responsive practice in a mainstream school.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from:

Ostermand, K. & Kottkamp, R.  (1993).  Improving schooling through professional development. Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from:

Tauli-Corpuz, V. (2012).  Understanding indigenous worldviews.  Retrieved on 10 March 2016 from:

The Treaty in Brief. (2016). Retrieved on 13 March 2016 from: