Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Recommendation to Twinkl - Hire a Pasifika Adviser for your Polynesian Resources

For the past 3 months I have been so wonderfully fortunate to spend time as a volunteer teaching in paradisaical, Rarotonga. Although I was able to volunteer in another part of The Cook Islands, Aitutaki - I spent my teaching hours in Raro.

As a Polynesian woman; I'm half Samoan. I was thrilled to see Twinkl's expansion of resources that focused on New Zealand Maori, Samoa and other Pacific Islands. While in the pacific, and teaching Pasifika students for the first time I was eager to teach about islands other than The Cook Islands. And most of my students (aged 9 and 10) knew very little about their Polynesian neighbors.

In my primary school class where I was relieving for 3 weeks, I decided we would have a literacy week. All things literacy - reading, reading activities and strategies, writing, spelling and decoding. For our reading material I chose a handful of Jill MacGregor's fantastic books from her Children of The Pacific collection. They are spectacular books with beautiful photographs of Polynesian kids from around the Pacific talking about their homeland's traditions, language, celebrations and more. A real dream collection of books for Pasifika teaching and Pasifika students.

Alongside the reading, I did a range of reading activities from the Twinkl website. The kids had a lot of fun. Before anything, I had the class set up into teams. Then, we would read one of MacGregor's books and after, I started a competition between the groups. In teams they would , round by round, have to complete reading activities that I downloaded from Twinkl's Reading Activity Resource Pack. I didn't use all the pack, but I did use the Find 3 Adjectives and make 3 sentences worksheet, the noun worksheet that's similar in style as well as the making words from the Author's name.

These challenges were fun to complete in groups and I would award points for the first team finished but additionally, I made sure to award more points for the best and most creative answers. Round by round, I could see the students had comprehended parts of the book we had read. The first day we read 'Dharma's Diwali' - which was great for these reading activities as this particular story has a short story within it, that summarizes 'The Story of Diwali' in easy to read and understand text.

Moreover, the reading activities Twinkl have that can be applied to just about any book - are great for literacy exercises and in general, reading comprehension activities.

However, the reason for my blog post's title - Hire a Pasifika Adviser is something I don't say lightly. I truly think Twinkl needs to step it up in their Polynesian resource department. When browsing for resources of the Pacific, on their site, I was happy to find a few Samoan themed resources. A resource I quickly downloaded and read was Twinkl's Samoa Differentiated Comprehension Activity Sheets. But I was disappointed not only with some of the inaccurate or missing information - but also the way they handled some of their communication with me. 

I was especially concerned at what was written about Samoan Tattoo. Although, I certainly agreed with most of the information featured, I felt they had forgotten that Samoan Tatau (Tattoo), is also very significant to women. Many Samoan women throughout history and today, have the traditional female tattoo called the Malu. As a Samoan I know about the Pe'a (Male Tattoo) and Malu but I am not an expert -just someone of the culture who knows from life experience.

What was written in the original resources (they have now updated and made changes due to my feedback):

That was all that was written on Tatau. So I wanted to offer them some honest advice, as a Samoan woman. I felt this short description of Samoan tattoo made it sound as if only men adorn Tatau or furthermore, that it's only important to Samoan men. Which is implied as there is no mention of female tattoo. I'd think that many Samoan woman would find Tatau equally important to them as Samoan men.

And I also, did my research. After pondering over the absence of the 'Malu' in Twinkl's resource I wanted to know more. I'd never questioned it before as I had knowledge as a Samoan woman who saw the Malu and had it explained to her by family members or the wearers themselves. But I wished to further understand for myself, the very importance of female Tatau - and thankfully, there are an abundance of resources online that describe just how significant Samoan Malu is to Samoan culture and identity.

"The malu is also a mark of Samoan identity that Samoans find to be extremely important. Many believe it is the true signifier of a Samoan lady. In getting the malu, young women traditionally gain a variety of responsibilities. The female tattoo was traditionally reserved for the high chiefs’ daughter, the taupou, who was responsible for dancing the siva (Samoan dance) and mixing ‘ava (drink ground from root vegetable) at special occasions." 

This quotation is from Drea Miesnieks's "Stories of Tufuga ta Tatau" (2014)

"The word for a female tattoo is malu, which means to be protected and sheltered...Both male and female tattoos show that you are ready for life, for adulthood and to be of service to your community." 

Above quote from the Australian Museum website article "THE MEANING OF TA TAU - SAMOAN TATTOOING

There are far more journal articles and websites that explain and emphasize the Malu's importance to Samoan women and Samoan culture. A good website is also

Moreover, a good thing about Twinkl is that they have the option to write a review or suggest a change with every resource. To be honest, I didn't see the "suggest a change" tab until later - so I wrote my suggestion and feedback straight into the review section of the page. See my review written below:

It reads:

I love that Samoa is included on this website. However, as a Samoan woman I am slightly offended that the Tatau portion of this workbook only says that tatau is important for boys. The traditional female tatau for women is called the Malu and is equally as important. The tatau for women and men in Samoa is sacred and traditional - I think it needs to be edited. Many Samoan women in NZ and the pacific wear the malu - and would disagree with this workbook. 

Now, their first response was excellent. I received an email to notify me that there was a response to my review and I saw not one, but 2 responses when I checked in. And they handled the review well - with a tone of care and thanks.

Review responses/replies from Louise and Joe

Hi ardynbaia,
I am really sorry to hear about this mistake, and I apologise if it has caused you any trouble. It will be changed shortly!
Louise.R@Twinkl, Nov 27th 

Hi there ardynbaia,
Thank you so much for letting us know about this issue! Our lovely resource creation team have amended the resource and emailed you the corrected version. It will also be updated on the website very soon.
Joe.M@Twinkl, Nov 29th

I was very satisfied with their replies and awaited when they would update the resource with the necessary additions. Soon, I received an email to notify me that a new version was available for download. I downloaded...

Disappointment 1 - they did indeed update the resources - but there were mistakes! If you're going to attempt to edit something, especially about someone's culture you may or may not have knowledge of, you should do it with care and accuracy. Research skills needed at Twinkl!

It reads: ( I have bold and underlined the mistakes)

Tatau or tattoo is a cultural tradition for Samoans. The Pe'a is a tatua that goes from the waist to the knee and is a rite of passage for young men, often telling the story of their ancestry and ranking. The malu is tatau for women, it is on the back of the thigh down to the knees, traditionally this tatau was a sign of high ranking. Tatau is a mark of commitment to Fa'a Samoa. The tufuga ta tatau (tattooist) uses traditional tools made out of bone, tusk, shark teeth, shell and wood. 

Disappointment 2 - With a spelling error and description error of the Malu, I had to write another review of concern.

My 2nd response reads:

Hello, thank you for your efforts. Although it's incorrect once again. A Malu is not just at the back of a woman's thigh. It goes around the thighs and starts under the buttocks, stops just below the knees. A Malu is possibly, even more sacred than the Pe'a as it was traditionally only tattooed on women of high ranking - called the Taupou. I understand that I am going into some detail here - but would I use this resource with New Zealanders who are Samoan or know of Samoan culture they would disagree with the implication in your writing, that the Pe'a has more value or importance than the Malu - or that men's tattooing was more special than the women's. You also have a spelling mistake. You wrote 'tatua' instead of 'tatau' at one point. I strongly suggest that you have a researcher of Polynesian culture or a Polynesian who knows their cultures when writing these resources - especially if these will be used in New Zealand or Australia as there are many Pacific peoples who know their stuff. I'll be looking out on your careers page in the future - I would love to join the team especially if you're writing about Polynesia. As a New Zealander and Samoan, it is important to me that Pasifika culture is represented correctly.

ardynbaia, Nov 29th

Now, it's my own opinion of importance that I express about the Malu - debate that with me another time, but still my concern that the Malu is not accurately portrayed and there are spelling mistakes within a Twinkl resource - that's about my culture - is justified.

Of course, a little irked now, that they have made a mistake - it seemed careless, especially the spelling error. But I was hopeful that Twinkl would reply quickly and that they'd be even quicker to fix their resource.

Disappointment 3 - A dull response to my concerns that seemed to miss the bigger picture - this resource is not for ME it's for all who may teach about Samoa.

The response from Michaela.G reads:

Hi ardynbaia,
Thank you so much for providing further feedback on this resource, it is much appreciated.
I will ask our resource team to look into this and make any necessary amendments for you.
Michaela.G@Twinkl, Nov 29th

Now, I've chosen to highlight the last bit of her sentence "any necessary amendments for you" because it's this I have a bigger issue with than the resource being incorrect (twice).
It's one thing to create resources about other people's cultures and have things missing and/or wrong - but it is another thing to imply that this resource and the amendments needed are only being made due to one person's concerns. It's for everyone! 

I quickly replied to Michaela, quoting her words back to her:

It reads:

"make any necessary amendments for you." 
Thank you, although editing this resource is not just for me. It's for any teacher who wants to teach accurate information about Samoa.
ardynbaia, Nov 30th

And I've received no response since. Thankfully, they did update the resource with more accurate information. You can download it now, without the errors! And you can tell they actually spent some time to research further as they added more about the Malu and it's meaning of shelter.

Moreover, a real concern I have with Twinkl is their attitude as well as their Pasifika consultant or if they have one?

When Michaela used the word "you" in her reply it made me feel as if I was suddenly a nuisance to her and the Twinkl site. That my suggestions to get a resource on Samoa with accurate information was bothersome and unimportant as if to say: 'it's just you, one person who is complaining'. 

But you know what? I am so sick and tired of this sort of response when people of perhaps, lesser  known nations (smaller nations that aren't so Westernized) complain about inaccurate information being spread about our people! History, Geography and Social studies books around the world have printed the wrong information about cultures - don't even get me started on some American textbooks and their convenient omission of the word 'slave' replaced with 'foreign worker' when writing about African and South Americans in early US history.

If you are going to create resources about culture and people -do it well, with accuracy and don't make the person suggesting corrections feel as if they are inconveniencing you. 

I helped YOU out, not the other way around. The New Zealand education system is a wonderful one and we have some fantastic statistics. Your resources on Samoa are aimed at teachers from New Zealand, teaching the New Zealand curriculum. These Kiwi teachers are a dynamic lot to be respected - and a large percentage of New Zealand teachers are Polynesian and know their facts of the pacific. So, get it right Twinkl or you will not be taken seriously amongst New Zealand educators or moreover, Polynesian people. Especially, if you are getting things wrong and having an attitude when we correct you.

Other than that experience, I am still a Twinkl fan and user. I expect growing pains are a big part of any educational resource company. I do still recommend, that seeing you are expanding into resources about the Pacific, that you do employ a Pasifka adviser or a consultant.

Happy teaching, and resource creating,

Ardyn Baia. 

Friday, 23 December 2016

Twinkl - Class Decor in The Cook Islands!

Mrs. Elu was away for professional development in Fiji and I had the wonderful opportunity of teaching her grade 5 and 6 class for the last 3 weeks of the term. During my final week of relief teaching at Papaaroa School, I wanted to do Mrs. Elu a favor - cleaning and decorating her classroom for the new year. 

Twinkl, a website I absolutely love was my main source for decorative purposes. I wanted to share what I did and hopefully give other primary teachers some ideas for their classrooms.

First, a class redesign was in order. I had a vision of a 'reading corner'. When I was teaching, I was instructed to keep up with the regular SSR - 'Sustained, Silent Reading' that should happen at least once a day. I noticed quickly that the students would grab a book from one side of the class and bring it to the front to sit down on the carpets. I thought that I should rearrange the classroom so that the books were in the same area as the carpets. Hopefully, they could buy some large pillows or beanbags in the future to really make the reading corner a cozy place. 

I got all sorts of print outs for the reading corner. I loved the reading corner display pack, which features many posters with famous quotes about reading. 

Bunting : 

Here's what it looks like:

Students... not reading but playing blocks... in the reading corner (it's was break time)

The reading quotes, banner and street signs are from Twinkl - I printed and laminated them. 

I love the Scrabble tile idea! I left space for the teacher to post up some English work, next year. This is the English corner as well as Reading corner. 

I absolutely love the triangle 'bunting' - there are all sorts of varieties of bunting on the Twinkl site. I printed these 2 for each A4 page, but you could print them smaller or larger. You can also see the cool 'Books of the Bible' - perfect, as it's a Christian school.

Every area of the class falls into a subject section - this is the Art area... I posted up a few Twinkl posters of colour mixing  here. 

Now, for the boring exit and evacuation notices - I made a 'School Safety' banner. A really cool feature on the Twinkl site is the 'Twinkl Create' section. You can create any sort of resource you want, and write what you want as well as pick from a variety of images they have on file.  I also made a 'Te Reo Maori' banner as The Cook Islands teach both English and Cook Island Maori. 

Cool Superhero bunting for the months of the year! The kids loved the superhero theme! Even better, all the Twinkl resources with images of people include people of color. As I am teaching in The Cook Islands, my students are all skin tones - beautiful brown skin would be the most common - so it was awesome to see the superheroes the same skin tone as the students! 

I used the Twinkl animal train for the days of the week - but also edited the resource, as you're able to download it in word.doc - and then I added the Cook Maori translation! 

A class rules and routines corner. I really love the space theme welcome signs, "garden of manners" poster and kind hands displays. The class pledge was already in the class, I just had it cleaned and posted, ready for the new year. 

Overall, the class looked great and the students loved the new decor. 
Twinkl was a great website to use. Easy to download, print and laminate. 
I would definitely recommend it for all class decor needs. Plus, all the resources as well! 

Top 3 likes about the Twinkl site:

1. People of colour appear in 90% of their display items - great for multicultural awareness. 
2. You can create your own resources using their website and easily print it out. -This was especially useful for me as I could make Cook Island Maori resources. 
3. You can edit most resources - I was able to download some resources in word.doc format, so I could easily add translations and more! 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Visual Text (Static Image) Assessment - Explaining the Criteria

Hey there, sorry for the long break between posts - the weeks flash by here and I've been busy, busy, busy!

Back to my Static Image/Visual Text lessons - Explaining the Criteria and giving out the assessment guidelines.

Here's a copy of my Visual Text Assessment - it's based on the NCEA guidelines but I added a lot for the students so they could really break down and see how to get the best marks. It includes the assessment criteria, explanation of draft and peer review and finally, the peer review checklist.

Let's break it down, shall we?

The Main Criteria 

Page one, the basic criteria and due dates, etc...I read over the table of expectations with the students and made sure they understand what is being asked of them. I also explain how the draft portion of this project is HUGE and important. 
The draft is worth 10, then the peer review of the draft is worth 10 , the teacher's approval of draft is worth 10 and you can earn up to 10 marks for showing understanding of the draft process which influences your final visual text.

I chose to make the draft mandatory and important to this assessment because my mother, who has taught visual text projects in English for many years, had warned me that many students do not follow a draft and then end up with an aimless, not well thought out final images.

I didn't want that. I wanted them to value the drafting process and stick to their drafts as that would mean that not only did their peers and teacher give feedback to improve where necessary but also so that they would stick to a plan and not end up rushing a whole new concept!

I also provided my own example of a draft. I chose to do it on the Save Our Shell's poster I made for a demonstration of the last lesson - when a client comes to visit and we had to design a poster for them on sea conservation - see lesson here. 

I purposely chose NOT to do it on our text "On the Sidewalk Bleeding" because I don't want them to copy me. 

The main thing I stressed with my students - is that it does not need to be a work of art, a draft simply has to have the outline of what they are going to draw in their final. And must have a lot of annotations explaining their choices.

The Peer Review Checklist

Although some may criticize my checklist as 'anal' or too much - for a first time teacher of this Visual Text assignment I wanted it as detailed and thoughtful as possible. I also wanted to provide a sort of mathematical way of marking the draft and simultaneously letting the students see for themselves, how I was marking them - and they would also mark each other using the same checklist.

Here it is:

As you can see, it's a pretty thorough and we went through it box by box so that the students could see what I was looking for - and more importantly, what they themselves, would be looking for when they marked each other. Now, a serious part of this is what constitutes a 'reason' - as you can see for colour, layout, dominant image, etc - I ask for "2 or more reasons" or "3 reasons for choice" etc. This was what I really wanted to discuss with them. I started with colour and wrote on the board:

"This is coloured pink because it's pretty."

Then I asked the class - is that a good reason for you to write in your draft?
The class answered - like music to my ears - in unison, "No!"

Okay, so what's a good reason?

A few students replied - "it has to relate to the story/text" which I applauded - and we brainstormed some reasons for 'pink'

We came up with some:

"This is coloured pink because it relates to the colour of Andy's heart, which has been stabbed in the story."

"Pink is connected to love and it links to the love of Andy and Laura in the story."

Of course, they hadn't created any image with the colour pink but it was through this activity that they could understand and think about what makes a 'good reason' for a visual text. I also told them that not every colour needs to have an amazing reason - it could also relate to the visual qualities of the design but I wanted to ensure that the students were always connecting their choices to the story 'On the Sidewalk Bleeding'.

After going through the peer review checklist I told them to start their drafts. 
Stay tuned as I will post about the drafting stage and finals soon! 

Happy Teaching!