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Magic Weavers

Updated: Aug 6

by Rebecca Thomas





"Teaching, the magic weaving business."

-Sir John Jones


If I asked you to share with anyone in a room what the most effective pedagogies are for marginalised students, which ones would they be and why?


Firstly, let's agree what we mean by the term pedagogy. Some people find it an ‘ugly’ word or a word that creates anxiety, personally it's one I enjoy hearing as I know it is the bread and butter of what we all do as educators.


‘the science of teaching’ - how teachers teach (methods)

Fun fact it comes from the word, Paidos – Greek child, Agogos – Greek leader.


Some of the pedagogies that Russell Bishop refers to in his book, Teaching To The North East are:


-Prior Learning

-Feedback and Feed Forward

-Co-construction

-Power Sharing


They are the pedagogies that we know work for all learners.


Some of the impact these discursive pedagogies have on our tamariki are:


  • Students being able to identify success or failure; enhancing their level of proficiency to seek help.

  • Learners being able to practice their learning and articulate where they need support.

  • Students being able to invest energies and strategies towards successful learning, because they have been listened to.

  • Minimises exclusion; by interacting with students about what they are doing, seeing and thinking maximises their participation.


If you have thought about the last lesson, or meeting you led (if you are a senior leader) and divided the circle up below into sections that reflect the proportions you used these pedagogies in (in that particular lesson or hui) - what would it look like?




Those five interactive pedagogies are important to our tamariki and work most effectively in an environment that is relational. If you read Teaching To The North East (which I highly recommend you do), you will find them described in more detail in chapter 5.


Ahead of Russell’s visit to Northland, I re-read TTTNE. It’s amazing how once you learn new things you look back over a book and discover new understandings. Reading it with my Literacy hat on I was immediately drawn to Chapter 6 where Russell explains the impact of Power Sharing methods as part of culturally responsive pedagogies. In this chapter he talks about narrative pedagogy.


To frame this pedagogy I wish to share with you a quote from Daniel Pink about why narrative pedagogy is impactful.


“ Stories are easier to remember because stories are how we remember. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts into context and deliver them with emotional impact.”

Therefore if our thoughts bring emotion they are more likely to stick – in turn making you more likely to act.


In privileged positions as educational consultants we have the pleasure to be an all seeing eye across many, many schools in a variety of contexts; we hear all sorts of stories. Consultants also get to hear the voices from all areas of the educational ecosystem, be it the Ministry, media, leaders, students, or whānau.


Today I wish to share with you what the voices might sound like from students who have North East Teachers by using the power of narrative pedagogy.






Meet Ray and Phoebe, two Year 9 students at Werewere School. Ray walks in late and scans the room for his friend Phoebe who appeared to be very animated.


Ray: Hey Phoebe, what’s up?

Phoebe: Hey Ray. Where’ve you been?

Ray: Shae’s office. He wanted to know why I’ve been off school for the last week.

Sophie: What was it this time? Stranded out at sea whilst fishing? Stuck in your house because the door knob fell off?

Ray: Nah, just been sick. So what are you doing?

Phoebe: Mrs. J has asked us to draw a diagram to explain how a circuit in parallel is different to a circuit in series. Then we write a hypothesis about why we think that.

Ray: But we haven’t learnt that yet?

Phoebe: Not at school Ray true, but I guess some of us know stuff from our experiences, or maybe watching life hack reels on Swiftogram.

Ray: Life hack reels are sooo cool. I love them. Although I’ve yet to see a life hack for making sure you get the best grades at school.

Phoebe: Or a hack for getting the best teachers.


(Ray and Phoebe work collaboratively on their diagram and hypothesis)


Phoebe: There that’s done. Go and ask Ben’s group if it’s the same as theirs.

Ray: That’s cheating Phoebe. Why would they tell us?

Phoebe: No Ray, Mrs. J told us that once we’ve drawn it we have to compare it to two other groups.

Ray: But…

Phoebe: Just do it Ray. Then go and ask Nikau’s group too. Don't be such a *squid fade!


(Ray shuffles off with the diagram)


Ray: That was fun. They weren’t sure about their hypothesis, but ours helped them, and our diagram just needed to include the positive and negative terminals and the arrows to show the flow of electricity. Nikau said he did this at his old school, so he’s pretty confident.

Phoebe: Cool. Now for task 2. Mrs. J wants us to test our diagrams out by constructing the two circuits using the equipment. Then she wants us to take a photo of it and upload it to our workspace. We also get to find out if our hypothesis was right too.

Ray: I love electricity. Once for the science fair project I made a mobile phone charger that works off the energy created from the bike wheel as you pedal. It was amazing. My dad let me take loads of stuff apart to find a motor with the right dc charge, we decimated bilge pumps, old drills, wind up torches - even my brother’s radio controlled car. I love taking things apart.

Phoebe: Well I’m glad I’m in your group, as I feel a little unprepared. Mrs. J’s not being any help today.

Ray: That’s because she’s trying to find out what we already know, Phoebe. I think Mrs. J rocks! So much better than Mr. Wise who barks information at us from across the room.

Phoebe: Yeah or whaea Helen who never marks our work. How are we supposed to improve if we never get any feedback? I’ll go and get the equipment, but can you give me instructions Ray on what to do with it?

Ray: Sure, and grab those blue wire strippers from Mrs. J’s desk while you are there. They never make the ends of the wires long enough to thread through the screws of the crocodile clips.

Phoebe: Cool. I’ll be back in a bit.


*Squid Fade: A term used to describe students who retreat from an approaching adult in school. Squids form schools but don’t like individual relationships; when threatened they retreat.



Listening to the voices and the stories of our students when they are interacting in the family-like context is one of the best ways to encourage us all to make our pedagogy count.


That was just a small snippet of the possible.


If students can act and feel like this in science because of our interactions and the environment we create, they can do so in English, maths, and history.


This magic is down to us.


It all starts by honestly reflecting on the pedagogies we have, and supporting each other to be better.


Our students deserve - and need us to be amazing.


Now it’s no easy feat to change pedagogy. It is a lot harder than following a program or approach, but when you do so and see it, it feels like weaving magic!





If you want to find out more about implementing Russell’s approaches through Cognition Education’s Relationships First Program click here.


In Northland and want to catch Russell in person on 17th and 18th August 2022? Sign up here



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