#nzhpechat Creating a supportive learning environment

It was a privilege to moderate the first #nzhpechat for 2017, and engage with so many enthusiastic and inspiring educators.  Here is how it played out…

Welcome! Who are you and where are you from? Ko wai tō ingoa, nō hea koe? What has been a highlight for you so far this 2017 school year?

Thanks to these amazing educators for contributing to this chat.  The responses to the questions in this blog is a collation of their awesome ideas.

  • Debbie Robertson – HOD Health and PE – ChCh. Highlight – teaching my Year 7’s a sense of belonging in their new school.
  • Georgia Dougherty – I am a 2nd year HPE tchr in East AKL, highlight so far is seeing all my students from last year again 🙂
  • Rachel Colby from Stonefields School. My highlight: connecting with a new group of amazing learners at my new school.
  • Hanchen Johnson, Levin. Highlight so far for 2017 is teaching at my school for the second year so relationships are established
  • Rachael Dixon from Christchurch; full time student-ing.
  • Grace Goodall – HPE teacher @ Welly Girls’. Highlight = meeting all my new students/colleagues. Low light=traffic in2 CBD 😩
  • Mallory Bish – 2nd yr from East Auckland highlight = familiarity of students from last year
  • Jo Smith from Kapiti/Welly. Highlight is my Level 2 class…they’re already stepping up!
  • Sally Hart – highlight, seeing students forming great relationships with their Kaiarahi… purposeful selection, akonga and staff buzzing
  • Hayden Viles from Takapuna Grammar. Enjoying the challenge of becoming a dean and making connections between pastoral & curriculum
  • Nicola Richards from Christchurch.
  • Natasha Low from HPSS in Auckland.

Talking about Classroom Culture tonight.


So let’s start off thinking about the WHY. Q1. Students learn best when….?

  • they are engaged and have opportunity to take ownership and direct their learning; teachers co-create learning experiences based on interests and make it meaningful and real; they are interested in the given tasks
  • teachers know who they and what makes them tick; they know you care; meaningful relationships
  • they know you as person and not just a teacher (relationships)
  • safe learning environments are created; when they feel important, safe and valued; they can share ideas & take risks & feel they are valued
  • Authentic, relevant, empowering, r-ships…
  • they have opportunities to PLAY, Freedom to explore, be CREATIVE, share their learning with others
  • when they are able to connect with people, ideas and place.
  • when they feel safe to challenge themselves, not afraid to make mistakes and feel part of a +ive working enviro.  How do we actually know that students feel this way though?  Ask them. What helped you to learn today? What more could I (Teacher) do to support your learning?  I think that you can feel their confidence increase, by their willingness to share their own ideas.  noise, excitement, sweat & tears! Students questioning the process, reflecting on disappointments, joy of success
  • And here is what the NZC had to say… (p.34)


Q2. What are some specific examples of how you build relationships with your classes and within your HPE departments?


  • Starting the year with Adventure Ed unit and spending breaktimes playing with learners informally – Got to get on their level! I’ve also asked them to teach me Māori (I’m American) to help make connections.
  • last yr for my hardest class I got them to create a playlist of music we played in the gym, they felt very spesh
  • sharing yourself with students, finding out about students identity, whanau, connections to each other, perspectives, values…
  • lots of trust, ABL, communication, team building. Listening is a big focus too…we do this for few weeks as impt
  • Lots of ABL games! Try and show the students I am human too and can have fun! I feel we need to do more as a dept.
  • ABL activities such as fruit salad and questions that allows students to anonymously share personal info with you
  • I have been doing the Helium Pole ABL activity with groups of teachers – hilarious!
  • Full Value Contracts have been something we (my Ss & I) have gone back to this yr- has been positive so far. ABL as always
  • Human connect 4 is one of my favorites and played first 1/2 sessions on plus bodyguard – breaks down barriers…
  • include in decision making eg course outline, create times for sharing, discussing, reflecting and not just being content driven
  • set the scene and provide a snapshot of what students can expect for the year. Lots of fun, ABL and co-op games. Learning students names!
  • Use TPSR (Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility) activities and introduce concepts early to get them caring about each other

Q3. How do you go about building relationships with whānau and the wider community and why is this important?


  • Termly activity nights where whanau can come and participate with learners, teacher vs learner games, fortnightly comms
  • I have started the year by emailing all parents to open communication lines – have had some great responses back
  • I call each of my tutor classes caregivers and introduce myself, regularly stay in touch re: attendance etc, have conferences
  • Relationships with students whanau and wider community is important to create a partnerships between home and school.  How do we move from relationships to partnerships? Is there a difference?  partnerships involve constant communication, common expectations & working together to enhance student learning.
  • Ringing/ introduce yourself to Whānau students family. Using community in learning programmes.  Do you have some examples of how you use your community in your learning programmes?  primary schools to come to college to experience coaching by senior students. Local athletes as Speakers for sports academy,
  • we have yr level parent evenings, tutors call parents, PDP with student, tutor and parent and online communication..
  • We start with IEMs, individual education mtgs between hub coach, hub students & their parents, 30min, great to set-up the yr.
  • I email parents 2 intro myself and provide an outline of what Ss can expect this year. Let parents make contact if they need

Q4. How do you create an environment where students cultural identity is welcomed, celebrated, nurtured and connected to their learning?


  • Have my students teach me about their cultural identities/language and make connections in lessons
  • Include in their cultural practices/traditions/games/values
  • Model & position self as a curious learner. Co-construct activities with students & learn about their experiences, strengths, fears, hopes, culture
  • through creating opportunities to share and bring their culture & identity into the class
  • ultimately for all these things to happen students must feel safe +supported & this should be done by building relationships first

BYOQ. Finally tonight time to source the expertise in the ‘room’… what questions do you have for your #nzhpechat colleagues?

I am struggling to co-create experiences – do you have any examples/suggestions of how you do this?

  • Find out what your Ss are interested in, what do they want to learn, what contexts excite them, provide choice

Do you have any cool activities to describe/demonstrate the importance of listening? I’d love to include into ABL


  • play a simple game eg put 10 passes together and then add rules 1 by 1, must count passes aloud correctly, can’t return a pass
  • I have a good one for name game which requires listening, it’s called four on a couch.

Do you ever provide students in Health or PE with ‘free time’? Why/why not?

  • Think of it as ‘freedom to explore’ and if it is purposeful then yes absolutely.
  • Yes! Freedom to connect concepts & form new ideas. It also is an insight into what/how Ss want to learn
  • I think it provides opportunities for students to make new friends by connecting through interests too
  • I do for my lower level classes who struggle to stay focussed for a long period of time. Or also a reward for working hard
  • Me too! I’ve decided this year to have 2-3 challenges during ABL lessons, & if completed successfully then free time

What are the best PD seasons you have attended? And why were they thre best?

  • Anything that is PD for teachers, BY teachers eg. EduCamps, #WellyHPE workshops. PENZ conferences, ConnectedPE Conf
  • Not HPE specific but mind lab is pretty amazing
  • Practical applications made by teachers for teachers @phys_educator has AMAZING resources!
  • Also, @mrrobbo is coming to NZ to do PE & Tech workshops. Auckland 8 May
  • Twitter chats! Because I interact with others, challenge my ideas as well as others, & pick up resources

What are you most excited about trying/doing/implementing in 2017?

BYO ABL – If you didn’t share this as part of Q1.. tell us what some of your favourite ABL resources and games are.

  • #minefield Great start to the year observing how groups operate, the roles individuals play and group dynamics. (A.S91336)
  • Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil
  • Anything that encourages the students to challenge and share their ideas! The square paper challenge is always fun! (Students have to keep folding the paper in half and still fit the whole group on the paper)
  • Class photo, calculator, name time, turnstile, blindfold tent pitch, confused muse…so many games!
  • I love listening/command games like captains coming/Mr Viles says, Buddies up, Squistle tag, number shape maker
  • Activity to develop listening, teamwork, communication – Life with the Wright Family
  • Great resources for ABL – two books that are a must have – Silver bullets or Cowtails and Cobras – Karl Ronke.  Also project adventure – go online for their activities & also go to thenewPE.com and select adv activities in PE.  Wilderdom.com is another goodie.
  • ABL games and activities for Effective Communication via Hayden Viles

This was a great chat to start the 2017 school year and I hope that this summary will prove to be helpful.  Thanks again for the opportunity to connect with you all.

Celia Fleck

PE Curriculum Facilitator, University of Auckland


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