Category Archives: classroom

A bit of inspiration for my last post of 2014


Students finish today so I am doing my last post for 2014 – finishing on a high, I reckon.

This morning I watched a short video from an African environmental activist called Wangari Maathai and the story she shares fits in well with the future path of our school.

To explain, next year we are embarking on the journey to becoming a PYP school.

From the IB website…

What is the Primary Years Programme?

The IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) is a curriculum framework designed for students aged 3 to 12. It focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It is defined by six transdisciplinary themes of global significance, explored using knowledge and skills derived from six subject areas, with a powerful emphasis on inquiry-based learning.

An important part of any PYP inquiry is the ‘taking action’ by the student, using knowledge gained in their inquiry. For example, the year 6 currently get involved in a unit about humans and their effect on the environment. The difference with a PYP way, would be, I think, that there is an expectation that the students, during their inquiry take some action to effect their environment, or make a difference somehow. But when the topic is something as big as climate change, or deforestation, how can 1 student make a difference?

This is where this story comes in – and I have added it to the Libguide I created as well.

 Happy Christmas and I’ll be back in early February 2015.

Yobbos Do Yoga


Yesterday I shared a picture book called “Yobbos Do Yoga’ by Phillip Gwynne and Andrew Joyner  with a year 2 class.

It is the story of a little girl and her dad, who have ‘yobbos’ move in next door (for non-Australians, yobbos are usually young men, generally uncouth, prone to swearing and constant use of Aussie vernacular. A Yobbo is a heavy drinker, who places mateship above all else and lives for those wild memorable moments that are unforgettable.)

And the dad is a lover of peace and calm, and spends his day doing different yoga poses, so he is not pleased to have new neighbours. But Tubby, Ferret and King Wally Kahuna turn out to be very decent blokes,enjoying loud parties and music but including everyone and  are also willing to lend a hand and try out new things eg yoga!

yobbos do yoga 2



yobbos do yoga 1

Last year, when my colleague and I were considering what integrated units the library could support and complement during library classes, the year 2 unit of Healthy Living came up. The classroom focus is very much on healthy eating and exercising and we saw an obvious gap to us,  as there was no discussion about a healthy mind and ways to keep it healthy. So, in our limited class time with them, (45 minutes once a fortnight), I have begun to introduce the idea of a healthy mind and encouraging them to think about how something like meditation (of which yoga is a form)  can help to train the mind to be healthy and calm and positive, not re-hashing old and self- limiting ideas.

It is an area I would be interested in getting some training in as, for myself, doing a short meditation each morning before I get up, helps me set the tone for the day ahead…being one of calm and being able to observe those recurring thought patterns that don’t help me.

I have a teacher resource called ‘Meditation Capsules – A Mindfulness Program for Children’ by Janet Etty-Leal.She has done extensive work at Geelong Grammar , as well as other schools, as their ‘meditation’ consultant (2009) , pioneering well being for student’s through Positive Education. As my school has identified well-being for students and staff as being a priority for 2015 and beyond, this course and way of thinking of meditation as a life skill, fits in very well.

So I feel things aligning for me to delve deeper into teaching meditation to children.

Science videos for use in schools


It is National Science week this week as well as Children’s Book Week. Following the Science theme, Lindy Hathaway from Dickosn College in the ACT posted some interesting links on the OZTLnet list I belong to.

Here are just a few of the amazing resources out there to support the science curriculum

Science 360

Breaking science videos and news from around the world, ready to embed in websites etc. Hosted by the US National Science Foundation. Search for videos by topic or series.



Thousands of videos and lectures; explore by topics.


10 science YouTube channels you can’t miss Includes Minute Physics; The Science Channel; SciShow; The Periodic Table of Videos, AsapSCIENCE and the excellent Vsauce.


125 great science videos

Astronomy, physics, psychology, biology, ecology, technology….


New videos from The Kid Should See This – cool videos for curious minds of all ages


This is a great site to subscribe to, as every week you get sent a selection of the week’s most shared videos. But you can also go to the site and search for particular topics you are after.

Here are some gems, I reckon…..







John Hattie – nuggets of wisdom from ‘8 Mind Frames’


This morning I read an interview  with internationally acclaimed educator and researcher Dr. John Hattie, whose influential book
Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement has been recognized as a landmark in educational research.

In Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie presents eight ‘mind frames’ or ways of thinking that together must underpin every action and decision in schools and systems. He argues that teachers who develop these mind frames will have major impacts on student learning.

As I read the article, a few bits stood out to me, perhaps because of where I am on the continuum of learning about learning. teaching, feedback, assessment.  I want to share those with you. They are all from the article found at In Conversation with John Hattie

The purpose of schools is to help students exceed their potential and do more than they thought they could do.

This challenges my thinking of encouraging students to be the best they can be. Dr Hattie says if we do this, it is not enough. We should be encouraging students to be better than they think they can be!


Authors  City, Elmore, Fiarman, and Teitel (2009) in Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning  and Roberts in  Instructional Rounds in Action,  (2012) have favorite questions to ask the students to find out where they are up to in terms of understanding. I have printed these out to remind myself of them.

• What are you learning? What are you working on?
• What do you do if you don’t know the answer or you’re stuck?
• How will you know when you’re finished?
• How will you know if what you’ve done is good quality?


Lastly, because we are doing what is called Formative practice at school that involves us in teams of 3 or 4 observing each other’s classes once a term, the following rang a bell. I have, up till now, focused on the teacher and observing and commenting on what they did, rather than asking the students where they were up to, what were they learning.

Another example that comes to mind is what usually happens when we observe other teachers in their classrooms – the focus is on the teacher. Then what follows more often than not is that we give them feedback about what they did well and what they could have done differently. What we should do instead is spend our time observing two or three students in the classroom and find out what they’re learning and what they’re responding to. The conversation with the teacher afterwards will be dramatically different.


Here is a youtube that explains, succinctly, what the 8 mind frames of Hattie are.




Global education and connection


We all as humans, want and need connection to flourish. Dr Brene Brown in ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ talks about the fundamental importance of connecting to others. In a school setting, we connect all the time with students  and colleagues, but our world now is not just confined to our school, or our neighborhood or our city or even our country. We should be bringing the world into our classroom as it has immeasurable benefits, not from a connecting point of view, but so many others.

But how do we facilitate that? It is something in the past I have said I want to learn more about and get involved in. A beginning step for me has been connecting via a blog with our sister campus, sharing year 2 thought about the shortlisted books we are sharing each week and getting their response and ideas. Also I have organised a bookmark exchange with a school in Dubbo – my year 3 and 4 classes made a bookmark to send to Dubbo, after learning a little about where Dubbo is and how the children there live that is different to our lives. Fairly simple examples, but it is a start.

I subscribe to Ted Ed blog, and their post from a couple of days ago feeds into the idea of connection and how you make this happen in a school setting –

TED-Ed Club Facilitator on student individuality, academic freedom and global connection

Now I am over getting Book Week and author and illustrator visits organised, it is time to see what I can uncover about connecting classrooms with the rest of Australia, and the world! Will keep you posted !

The six elements of effective reading instruction – article


Although this article clearly has a political agenda, the clear stating of the 6 main parts of effective reading instruction tie in nicely with Donalyn Miller’s 5 characteristics of ‘wild’ or lifelong readers, from the book ‘Reading in the Wild’ which I blogged about in April.

1. Every child reads something he or she chooses.

2. Every child reads accurately.

3. Every child reads something he or she understands.

4. Every child writes about something personally meaningful.

5. Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.

6. Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud.

This last part – listening to a fluent adult read aloud is something that Miller didn’t list, but perhaps that is because her characteristics were based on her observation of adult readers, as opposed to students.

Anyhow, read the article for yourself and see what you think…

Every Child, Every Day  by Richard L. Allington and Rachael E. Gabriel

Article – Why Great Educators Need to be Great Storytellers


Came across this on the weekend…fits very nicely with my role as a teacher/librarian, where story telling is core of what I do and also, for any teachers, a reminder that storytelling is a great way to engage our students.

From the article……

Why is storytelling a great teaching method? Incorporating storytelling into teaching — either by using stories and anecdotes to support facts, or by finding ways to work entire topics into a narrative — is a great way to engage with students. Because of this, many educators intuitively incorporate elements of storytelling into their day to day teaching.

Check out the full article at Why Great Educators Need to be Great Storytellers

Using PhotoStream to help build a community of readers


In a previous post (14/April – The Book Whisperer), I shared how I had read a book by Donalyn Miller, called Reading in the Wild.

She lists 5 things that lifelong readers (or wild readers, as she calls them) do.
One of these is to be part of a reading community, where you can share what books you have read – to inspire others  – and hear about what others in that community are reading – to be inspired  – and to add to another of Miller’s lifelong readers’ behaviours – add to your reading plan, which is the list of books you want to read.

As I no longer have the year 5 and 6 classes for a stand alone library session, one of the things that I feel they are missing out on is this ‘reading community’. So how to achieve it when I am not seeing the classes regularly in the library to talk about books I have read and give the students a safe forum to share their reading as well.

Miller uses GoodReads, an online reading community, to connect her middle school students to a wider reading community. With primary age children, this open access to the www could be a problem in terms of keeping an eye on what they are accessing.

So, one of my colleagues came up with the idea of using PhotoStream. As all the year 5 and 6’s have their own iPads, this is a great way to use it.

I set up a photo stream, 5J Reading, and individually invited each class member, by email, to join the stream. So only people who are invited can access it.



I took a photo of a Tashi book I had just read to my year 1 classes and wrote a few words about why it was such a good story and posted it. This is so easy to do. Then the other members of the 5J PhotoStream can get on and ‘like’ my comments or comment themselves back so it is possible to get some to and fro happening between members.

I only set this up on Thursday of last week, so I’m not sure how successful it will be. Will the year 5’s post and will they comment? Of course, they can do these things whenever it suits them, ie. at school or at home, which is a positive, I think.

The Science teacher at school has just started using Photostream to give feedback to the year 5’s on their work. When they complete their science work, she asks them to take a picture of it and post it on the PhotoStream, with comments and she can reply back with – yes you are on the right track, or ahhh, what does this mean? is this what we talked about in class? – more immediate feedback and she likes it, because she doesn’t have to lug 27 bits of paper from school to home and back. It is all there on her iPad and easily worked on at home.

I have told the other year 5 and 6 classroom teachers about it so hopefully, they will want to get on board with this as well and we can create 4 ‘reading communities’ – to inspire and be inspired by reading and books.