Tiaan Lötter

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Collaborative Short Story Reading

posted 11 Sep 2016, 01:36 by Tiaan Lötter

What I needed to accomplish
Learners struggle with vocab in an additional language environment and doing short stories provides ample opportunity for them to expand that vocabulary. I then needed to read through the story, explain certain concepts and also help them in answering questions from the perspective of a character - as this was pointed out as one of the challenges they faced during  the exams. Changing perspectives not only requires true knowledge of the contents and context of the story and narrative element, it also requires individual narrative and composition skills. I needed them to grow and create this ability within themselves.

What did I do to accomplish it?
So in order for my learners to have a grasp on some of the harder words that I wanted to use I created a shared Google Slide deck for each class listing a word per slide. The instruction was to search for and add a picture to each slide of your interpretation of the word. They collaborated in figuring out what it means and each learner contributed to constructing their own knowledge of each individual word.


I then read through the short story with them, allowing questions and providing feedback along the way. I condensed the information and questions that would normally be asked of them into a dialogue presentation, which each learner then made a copy of and answered individually. 

Rooikoos hardloop die myl ‎(Dialoog)‎

The last questions posed to them leads them to the whole grade's chatroom established on our LMS where they then need to post their reply about what a struggling high school student can do to turn his life around. 

Some educators with whom I teach still feel the need to have control over their learners, making it hard for them to let the learners do all the work. Making sure the learners have the required app (Google Slides) and being logged into the account that allows them access is also a requirement. Beyond that, I need to keep an eye out for learners who post risque pictures but generally when I tell them I can see who posted what and when, even after they delete it, that stops any nonsense. 

The learners thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the construction of smaller group, personal and whole-grade knowledge.

Vine and Film Study

posted 11 Sep 2016, 01:20 by Tiaan Lötter

What I needed to accomplish
I needed to expose my learners to a specific set of terminology regarding film study, but I wasn't in the mood to write a list and just have them study it or associate pictures from films with the words. I wanted to use constructivism, where learners create their knowledge through interaction.

How I went about it
So to start off with, here is the list of terminology that I provided to learners on our LMS and went through it briefly with them...


I then gave them the task of using one of the short stories that we have read so far during the year and recreate them using the film angles and shots they now know (or will know once completing the task). In order to accomplish this as well as practise their summarising skills and allowing other learners to review their video's for upcoming summative assessment on story content I decided to use Vine.
Vine is a micropublishing app that allows short videos to be posted like Instagram posts images and twitter posts text. I challenged my learners to only use each camera angle and shot once and to number their stories, use shot names and their team name in the hashtags. This enables other learner groups to review stories they weren't involved in just by searching for the hashtags.

Learners had an absolute blast and performance for each group of learners was higher in the section of the stories they were actively involved in.

Future thoughts
I would encourage learners to make summaries of a similar nature for each story that they are involved in. Perhaps breaking up film study angles and shots into smaller chunks and challenging learners to summarise stories using only 4 or 5 at a time. However, each group will then be involved in making a video for each short story and learners will also gain a long-term exposure to film study rather than just a once-off project.

Dialogue with Google Story Builder

posted 6 Apr 2015, 05:40 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 6 Apr 2015, 05:41 ]

Dialogues with Google Story Builder

Dialogues are relevant writing activities that hold many possibilities for classroom engagement. I tasked learners to write a dialogue with or concerning a new learner in school. This is shortly after we did a series of activities on "How to be awesome instead" so I was glad to see everyone encouraging and protecting the new learner :)

Click on the images below to take a look at this awesome app and some of the examples my kids wrote in Afrikaans:
Clara se storie
Lu se storie

The thing is: ThingLink

posted 18 Feb 2015, 06:48 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 18 Feb 2015, 06:56 ]

Learners creating and and their creativity have purposeful aims in my teaching over the recent parts of my teaching career. So, when it came to teaching prepositions it took the same stance and also used the opportunity to incorporate the app / web tool ThingLink. It basically enables you add (link) content (things) on top of a picture.

The learners were provided with prepositions and example sentence fragments in which they occur. They then had to find images that related to a combination of the prepositions and through ThingLink add their own complete sentences onto the image and share it with me to be checked.

Take a look at what came out of it:

Lotter's Lottery: Teaching Numbers

posted 7 Feb 2015, 12:51 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 7 Feb 2015, 12:59 ]

Numbers and languages don't always mix - just think back when the alphabet was introduced into math. The results are catastrophic for the average high school student. So spelling numbers correctly should be a problem, not even in your additional language, Afrikaans.

The set-up was easy: all the learners need is somewhere to write. I then present them with their first set of possible numbers and ask them to pick 10 by writing them out in words...

I then use a script named KidPicker to select random numbers from a list of pre-prepared numbers (the same provided on the monitor to the kids). 

I have one learner standing in front of the class writing out the ten numbers drawn randomly. Everyone is checking whether they have the number and whether it is spelled correctly on the board and in their list.

The learner(s) with the highest number of correct matching numbers wins. This is repeated 2 or 3 times, before we step it up a notch...

I now provide a list that is a little harder, involving fractions and ranks. Again the same practice is followed, choosing 10 numbers, me randomly selecting them using KidPicker and a learner writing it on the board (everyone works together with my supervision to spell it correctly).

The winners are rewarded with a sweet or some form of surprise. However, the entire class loved this activity for over and hour in the last lesson in a Firday - an achievement in itself - and on top of it all, they learned.


Teach punctuation without writing (Afrikaans punktuasie-les)

posted 4 Feb 2015, 02:50 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 4 Feb 2015, 03:51 ]

pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.jpgSimilar to my other lesson endeavours I seek to make lessons engaging and fun in order for learners to be motivated towards getting it right, rather than just getting it done. 

When we are faced with punctuation, this can be daunting as it seems to be an inherently boring topic. I've heard this statement a few times and I don't buy it - no subject or content area is inherently boring and it doesn't have to be taught in a boring way. Back to punctuation... The first thing I told my kids was to put away their iPads / books (some were sceptical, but most were hopeful) and we ran through a recognition exercise of directions and punctuation - They gave me all the answers so I knew what their base knowledge was. Many images I use are courtesy of contributors from TheNounProject.com which is an excellent resource to find simple images of almost anything. Just remember to acknowledge your sources.

Next, I divided the class into two teams (they selected their own names and I translated it into Afrikaans - extra vocab for them!). I then revealed the main activity:

Not Pin the Tail on the Donkey, bur rather pin the punctuation on the sentence. I printed out punctuation with their names on pieces of paper and attached a temporary adhesive (e.g. Prestik or Blu Tack). 

Each team could select one member to be blindfolded. The blindfolded learner is given a punctuation mark on a card before the sentence is revealed on the board with that punctuation missing. His team should then guide him (having recapped "op", "af" etc. proving useful) to place it in the right place. The first round we behave ourselves... However, in round two the opposite team is allowed to interfere! Shouting "stop" or giving incorrect instructions! Chaos! The good kind. :)

I started timing the two teams and adding up the time, at the end the team with the lowest time wins... The learners really had a lot of fun and everyone learned together and from one another.

 Print and cut this:

 Present this:

Crack my code! (Kraak my kode!): Teaching syllables in Afrikaans

posted 3 Feb 2015, 04:09 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 8 Feb 2015, 05:35 ]

So, there I was wondering if I should clap or count along to words to establish where and how many syllables there are. I decided no, I should make it different. Here is my idea:

Crack the code! Each sentence will contain a certain number of syllables, which is the first letter of your code. Your poem or series of sentences will then make a code or cellphone number... I started by asking them to use their existing knowledge to crack my code:
Now, it was time for them to to teach one another, create and crack codes of their own. 

They swapped codes and cracked each others codes with enthusiasm. I walked around helping them and correcting them as they were cracking or struggling to crack codes. Finally, they had to post their sentences / poems and the cracked codes to their website portfolios.


QR Mosquito Hunt: A QR Code Poetry Lesson

posted 27 Oct 2014, 09:05 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 4 Feb 2015, 03:51 ]

The Idea

I’ve been blessed teaching grade 7 Afrikaans to boys for the final quarter of the year. I aim to make all my lessons fun and interactive for the boys. Seeing the success of QR treasure hunts in various posts and especially by a Parklands College colleague, Anthony Peters, I decided to use the approach to teach poetry.

The poem I set out to teach was Muskietejag (Mosquito hunt) by AD Keet, which is about a person irritated by a mosquito. He swears vengeance against the irritance of this mozzy. This is similar to the irritance of boredom I encounter when young children are being taught.

Setting the stage and hunting

Entering the classroom, I immediately wanted to immerse the learners into the world of this irritated speaker, so I found a YouTube video containing just the sound of a mosquito buzzing around, which I used played in the background. (Find it here: http://goo.gl/OgNNdP)

Next, I prepped a few “mosquitos” and hid them throughout the class. I attached the first level of engagement for the learners to these mosquitos: a QR code containing one line of the poem (there were as many mosquitos in the class as there were lines in the poem - 24) which they had to write down in the space provided and then translate into English.

I involved the learners in their own mosquito hunt by telling each of the four groups to hunt down 6 mosquitos. After they hunted down all the mozzies I turned off the now quite irritating sound - but it served its purpose. Individually or working together they then scanned the QR codes, wrote the sentences down and translated them.

We read through the poem as a class, line by line, every learner explaining their line that they interpreted from the QR code out loud to the class. We did a final read through and conceptualisation before getting stuck into analysing the poem and doing questions and answers.



Tiaan Lötter




#Teaching with Twitter

posted 20 Oct 2014, 10:42 by Tiaan Lötter   [ updated 4 Feb 2015, 03:51 ]

Sign up

Two years ago, as a teacher entering the realm of technology I set up a Twitter account by accident. Meaning, I didn’t really know what I was going to be doing with it, but somehow I felt it was important. I proceeded to put it on my board and advertised it to the kids, again not quite knowing what for. The kids, duly ignored it. Being at the amazing school that Parklands College is, we quite fortuitously were trained in the use of Twitter a few weeks after - #rightplacerighttime

Still, I was adamant on using it. We subsequently had an “e-day” which are days set on the school’s timetable where learners run their school day from home. Teachers set work, distribute it to learners through an array of virtual platforms and should be available online to their learners at the time that would’ve corresponded with their lesson on the timetable. The task I set learners on our Afrikaans Intranet portal was to watch a music video and tweet a review about it and @ me in. Learners responded and received this as a new and quite refreshing way to respond to work.


Not the most exciting sentences to write, but getting a homework assignment to complete over Twitter… a little less monotonous than pen and paper or even Word and E-mail.

Hatch your egg, follow and Tweet!

I didn’t see this as a great success. Indeed my eyes were shut as a little baby bird peeping out of its shell for the first time. It took me about another year to become an active member of the Twitter community. Mainly using it to follow people who have something to say. Many times I unfollowed those who just ranted about their personal lives, indeed that is what Facebook has become known for. I decided my Twitter experience should be different. Following various organisations and people I stumbled upon a few of the right connections and I grew my network of Tweeters that had things to say that I wanted to read.

Following this, my adoption of other technologies in the classroom and my growth to Google Certified Teacher and beyond, I decided it is time to take Twitter further have been an active Tweeter of educational technology over the past year. Sometimes I retweet something interesting or I tweet something that I found that I find interest, hoping others would also find it useful. I also started creating content and spreading it through this medium. I created Prezis for the entire Grade 12 Afrikaans first additional Poetry syllabus and tweeted each one as I finished it, hashtagging and mentioning anyone that came up as suggesting tags.

Spread your wings and #fly!

The time arrived to revisit using Twitter as more than a reading and micro-blurbing tool. So introducing myself to my new class of grade 7 boys was the prime opportunity to put this to the test. I had them get out their cellphones at the beginning of a lesson - which never goes down badly! - and had them tweet the following:

Afrikaans is die Mooiste Taal.png

This way they learn how to Tweet, hashtag and mention - yes some of them had no idea how Twitter works. Learning the sentence was also incentivised using potential bonus marks if written correctly at the end of a test. Next, came the part that the boys absolutely fell over to get and do right. They had to divide into teams and one was allowed to be the Tweeter, but he was not allowed to speak at all. The other members of the team had to feed him Afrikaans sentences to tweet to #TwitterResies (#Twitter Race) and their class (e.g. #7PSpan1 i.e. #7PTeam1).

They didn’t want the other teams to hear so they were quiet as mice! Also running between the board where I was showing the # stream live from Twitter (you can also use one of the multiple web tools to display # streams) and their seats. The highest number of sentences I received in 10 minutes of Twitter Racing was 26! I obviously had to curate these sentences to make sure the language was okay and that they didn’t just tweet nonsense. Competition + Boys = Win, which combined with teaching results in grade 7 boys writing 26 Afrikaans sentences (remember this is their additional language) in 10 minutes in the last lesson of the day. In my opinion: #lessonmadeofwin

I would have loved to reinforce the wins or the amount of sentences with a gem of positive reinforcement called Classcraft, but the short nature of term 4 has forced me to postpone its useuntil 2015.

It didn't end it there, in their next lesson I taught degrees of comparison (again having them moving around in a different game) and their homework was to tweet as sentence using the comparative degree as well as the superlative/. #TmetT for “Trappe met Twitter”

Ultimately, using Twitter is a way of getting kids to use some of the tools of the 21st century. I need to mention that most of them said something like: “Oh, its almost like using Instagram,” which pointed out that Twitter has been around for a long time and that today’s generation is being increasingly engaged by the visual medium. This is nothing new. However, used in an engaging, fun and purposeful manner something text based - like Twitter, Facebook or even an eBook can become fun and an awesome learning experience.

Tiaan Lötter




Teaching Poetry with Prezi: Poetry in Motion

posted 20 Oct 2014, 04:17 by Unknown user   [ updated 4 Feb 2015, 03:52 by Tiaan Lötter ]

Teaching poetry

I have used preset works of poetry, set my own, paper and coloured pens, projectors (the old-fashioned and modern kind), Powerpoints and Keynotes to teach learners poetry.

“Why do we need to do poetry, sir?” I often hear the cries. The response is simple: If we have an opportunity to learn from those that do it the best we must take it, including poetry. Poets are skilled wordsmiths and it is their job to be best at using a language, they then serve as our tutors to using new vocabulary, figurative and literal speech as well as other language devices.

The manipulation of information to learn

To enhance engagement of learners, retention of information, the acquisition of new knowledge abilities and skills. To cause change in our learners: movement in their intellectual capacities, we dance, act, discipline, play, give and take freedom for the benefit of our learners.

“As we move into the next century and more technologically sophisticated industry and service sectors, work becomes more abstract, depending on understanding and manipulating information rather than merely acquiring it.” (Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice, Jack Mizerow)

Learning has many definitions which all contain an element of change on the part of the learner. This usually includes the acquisition of a new ability or being able to prove this new ability was gained. The latter we term “assessment” and some frown on the heavy emphasis that is placed on it. However, learning remains the foundation of what we aim to achieve.

"Tell me, and I'll listen. Show me, and I'll understand. Involve me, and I'll learn."

This quote has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a Teton Lakota Indian and as a Chinese Proverb, I do not know which is true, but in my experience the quote holds truth. It speaks directly to the principle of learning through the manipulation of information, circumstances and one’s environment.

Using Prezi to Teach Poetry

Teaching and learning what poetry has to offer through the manipulation of a poem using Prezi has changed my entire outlook on teaching verse. Instead of being bound to a static image / page (it doesn’t matter how cool the picture is) there is only so much interest it will awaken in a learner. But what if an entire poem about making contact looked like an iPhone and the learners are able to manipulate the information around it. Here is what I came up with to teach my first Grade 12 Afrikaans First Additional Language poem, Kontak by Theo de Jager:

Apart from the initial “Wow, sir! This is awesome,” I was told by learners, they universally agreed it is a clearer and more concise version of what we did before, except now they can taking the wheel. I explained various parts of the poem - able to jump from one part to the other effortlessly - and when a learner wanted to review what I said before or work ahead they can easily do so on their own devices. I choose to share all of my work with my learners - you can do the same.

I immediately went on a quest to transform all the Grade 12 Afrikaans FAL set work poems into manipulable pieces of information using Prezi. You can find them all and more here: http://prezi.com/user/ym_nywyiwcj6/

I did not stray too far from my old approach - the learners were allowed to make notes on paper, keyboard or tablet. Learners with their laptops or tablets with them were able to take in information visually, audially and through manipulation of the information - kinaesthetically. I did not end the lesson there. I used Google Docs to have each class collaboratively in groups answer questions adding peer learning into the mix. We then reviewed the questions and answers, each group being responsible to answer and justify their questions - attaining the highest form of learning: explaining it to someone else. Of course, so

me learners will take full advantage of this, while others need to be pushed and motivated to do so.

What I didn’t do...

Teaching poetry again I’ll definitely add in something I added in when we revised our novel: creationism. Although the learners were engaged and were assimilating knowledge, I strongly believe that modern day education should address the main curriculum of teaching learners how to learn. I also believe this is achieved through involvement. Having learners create their own Prezi’s (or other forms of presentations) and questions and answers (using a guide based on some kind of Educational Taxonomy - there seems to be quite a few going around lately).

What we shouldn’t do...

Technology is a wonderful tool that has revolutionised everything that it has touched including teaching. But, we must be aware of something that Michael Fullan, in his book Stratosphere, calls the seduction of technology. We must be careful that technology does not outstrip our ability to learn how to use it effectively. In this sense we recognise our own abilities to learn how to learn. Technology will not teach for us. Before pens and paper we taught on stone walls and stone tablets. Today we are teaching on electronic walls and electronic tablets. “The more things change the more they stay the same.” (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) is an old adage. What matters most is the way in which we adapt to use our tools and toys to prepare learners for a world that does not exist yet.

Tiaan Lötter

Twitter: @MrLotter

E-mail: lottertc@gmail.com

Website: bit.ly/MrLotter

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