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Sunday 5 April 2020

5 Tips for At Home Learning

As we move to full time at home learning there are many confused and nervous parents who just don't know how they are going to do it so I am going to give you my top 5 tips for how this can be successful for you as a parent.

1. Chill Out!
Just chill for a second, teachers and schools are not expecting that you will be replicating a classroom in your home. That is just unrealistic. Hopefully your school has provided you with some guidelines and resources to use, if you are struggling with it find the things that are working and focus on that first. A stressed out parent cannot teach a stressed out child, make sure you are taking some time to relax with your child (or without) through the day.

2. Unschedule
Some parents and children will need to have a schedule that will keep them on track, some won't, that's ok. Do not expect that you will be schooling your child from 9 am to 3 pm everyday. That is unnecessary and overwhelming for everyone, particularly if you are also working at home. Morning is the best time for learning so if you can fit in learning during that time and the rest of the day is netflix, outside play, reading or just relaxing that's ok. If you have more independent learners who need a schedule set make sure there is flexibility in that for change.

3. Get Physical
Take regular breaks through the day to move and exercise. This is not a PE lesson, it doesn't have to be structured, get on the trampoline, chase the dog around the yard, play ball games, get out the skipping rope, climb a tree!  If you can't get outside create an obstacle course inside, dance, yoga, use weights ( or whatever you have that could double as weights). It is important for brain development that children have physical activity everyday.

4. Ditch the worksheet
Worksheets do not teach, that's it, the end. The best learning happens when children are active participants and parents this is where you shine! What a great opportunity for you to do some amazing activities with your child. Cooking covers so many curriculum areas, maths, literacy, science, health, history, cultural experiences. It is a great time to connect and have fun. Get the lego out and build some incredible structures, lots of maths and engineering involved. Teach them how to knit, crochet or sew, some really important fine motor skills can be honed with learning these skills.

5. Game on!
Now is the time to get out the board games. Your child can learn so much from this, counting, problem solving, critical thinking, cause and effect, reading and comprehension. Not only academic abilities but social etiquette, how to take turns, resilience when things don't go their way, following rules. It doesn't matter what games you play they are all beneficial. Maybe your family could develop your own board game to play!

You may have noticed that none of these tips involve technology. That isn't to say you shouldn't use technology and in my next post I will write about how you can use technology at home in ways that isn't just keeping them busy.

I hope you have taken at least one little tip away from this post to support you and your children with their learning at home. If you have any questions or need more info just send me a message!

Sunday 29 March 2020

Learning at home with dice and cards

Hey Friends,

I hope home schooling is going well for you and murder has not been committed.  It is important to remember to be kind to yourself and to your littles, this is a time when we should be minimising stress not increasing it. Some of the best learning is done through games so today I am going to share ways that you can use dice and cards to build fact fluency and problem solving.

1. Race to....
Set a number to reach depending on the level of ability for your child. Take turns to roll the dice (or can be done with one person) and add on to the total until you reach the target number. You can also use this for subtraction, so instead of counting up you start at the target number and count backwards. If your little needs help with counting you could use a number line or items to count with such as dried beans or lentils, rocks, leaves, blocks etc.

2. Odd and Even
Choose a number of times you will roll the dice, depending on the ability of your child. Gather a collection of items eg rocks, blocks, m&m's, pretzel sticks, sultanas or anything you have a collection of. One person is odd, one person is even. When the even player rolls an even number they can take 1 token (whatever you have chosen) if they roll odd they don't get anything. Then the other player rolls, if they roll an odd number they take a token. Continue to roll the dice for the amount of rolls you identified in the beginning. To increase the difficulty add more dice so the child has to add, subtract or multiply the numbers before identifying whether the number is odd or even.

3. Clear the Board
Create a grid 10 across and 6 down. Write numbers across the top, 1-10 for students who are learning about numbers to 10, students beyond that could be 11- 20 or even greater numbers. Roll 2 dice for numbers to 10, 3 or more dice for numbers beyond. Students add the numbers and if they can make whatever numbers on the board they then place a token on the grid under that number. The next person has a go and places a different token. Continue to play until all the places on the grid are filled and the person with the most tokens on the board is the winner.  This can also be played by each player taking it in turns to put tokens on the board then taking it in turns to roll the dice and remove their token if they are under that particular number. This can be done by adding, subtracting or multiplying the dice.

There are sooooo many card games you can play to practice maths facts and fluency. Any of your traditional card games are great to play, Snap, Uno, Memory etc are fun and involves mathematical thinking.

1. Greater than Less than 
This card game can be played with 2 or more players and can be adjusted for the ability of your child. First of all remove K, Q, J and joker cards, if you are turning over 2 or more cards also take out the 10, Ace becomes a 1 card.
Identify if you are going to be playing for who has the largest number or the least number. Players take it in turns in turning over cards and then identifying who has the greatest or least. If you are playing for greatest number whoever has the greatest number collects the other players cards, if you are playing for least, whoever has the least collects the other players cards. This game can be adjusted for ability by choosing how many cards you will turn over, so for numbers to 10 only turn over 1 card, 2 digit numbers, 2 cards and so on. This helps students learn about place value and number sense.

2. Make to....
Take our K, Q, J and Joker cards, Ace becomes 1.
This game works on fact fluency and can be adjusted for the ability of your child.
Identify what you are going to add to, 10 for beginning students beyond that for more capable learners. Lay the cards face up so they are in an even grid and each card is next to another. Players take it in turns to take away cards that add to 10 or whatever number you have identified. Generally it is only 2 cards but you can adjust this to whatever you want. The cards must physically be next to each other and they can be moved after each turn to fill gaps. This can be differentiated to using subtraction or multiplication as well. 

3. Double up. 
Take out K, Q, J and Joker cards as well as 7 and 9, Ace becomes 1.
This game focusses on students learning about doubles and is played like Go Fish. 
Each player is dealt 5 cards each player asks for the doubles that make the total of a card in their hand eg if they have a 6 they need to get two 3 cards to make a double group. If the other players say no double they pick up a card and the next player has a turn. 

4. Go Fish Partitioning
Take out K,Q, J. Ace becomes 1.
This game is played exactly like double up except you ask for 2 numbers that make up a number in your hand. To increase the difficulty players can ask for 3 or 4 cards to make up a number.

This is just a few ways you can use games to practice maths at home in a fun and easy way but can be adjusted for the ability of your child. You could even ask your child to create a dice or maths game that they could share with the family. 

I would love to hear from anyone who has had a go at some of these games and let me know how it went. Oh and have fun!

Saturday 28 March 2020

Learning at home using junk mail

As millions of parents face the reality of home schooling I can feel the anxiety in the air peaking! Never fear Classroom Ponderings is here to help you shoulder the burden. Your school may or may not have provided you with lots to do already but here are some activities that might help you with your kiddos at home just using magazines, newpapers or junk mail.

1. Use old magazines or junk mail brochures for cutting practice. Use the pictures to create a collage picture, if you have writers they could write a story to go with the picture. If you have littles that need cutting practice draw shapes around the pictures or different kinds of lines that they can cut along.

2. Use the magazines to do a word hunt for spelling. You can choose a spelling pattern (your school may have already provided you with a list) or words beginning or ending with a certain sound. Find words with 1,2,3,4 or more syllables, find compound words, find rhyming pairs, extend this by asking the children to add more on to the list. If your little is still learning about letters and sounds then start an alphabet wall/chart that can be added to over time as you find pictures and words that start with that letter. Limit it to learning 1 letter over 2 days.

3. Shopping brochures are great for learning about money and numbers in general! Give your child an amount they can "spend" and have them cut out the item with the price. They will need to work out a total and then how much change. This activity obviously needs to be leveled accordingly and helps with skip counting, if you have toy money around that is great to use, if you don't maybe use some coins to make rubbings and then cut them out. Make paper notes by drawing and colouring them in. (yes I guess technically this could be counterfeit but hey we could also be going into a global financial crisis, we need to prepare ourselves!) If you raid your recycling bin for boxes and other bits and pieces you could set up a shop area with shopping lists (writing), labelling, signs, pricing and of course social distancing rules in place.

4. Cut out the numbers to use for place value. Make a place value mat with the hundreds/tens/ones columns, you can of course extend this to thousands or beyond if your little is up to that. Kiddos can place numbers in each column and draw MAB to represent them. MAB's are hundreds, tens and ones blocks that represent the value of a number. You could ask them to make a number greater than or less than a particular number and using a blank number line ask them to place it on the number line according to its value. For littles who are just learning about numbers, cutting them out and putting them in order is a great way to start fluent counting, they could then count objects such as rocks or sultanas to represent that number or draw how many it could be.

5. Give your kiddos one page of the newspaper and tell them they have to make the longest paper chain they can with that one piece. Talk about how they could do it, then measure how long it is against another person. This teaches them about length, comparison, problem solving. Get them to do it more than once so they can see if they change their strategies can they make it longer!

These are just a few ideas to start with, I will be back with more in the coming days! Wish me luck I will be homeschooling a Grade 10!

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Freeze Frame

Hey friends!

Today I wanted to share a little technique I have been using with my students this year to help them with practicing kindness and respect and managing their emotions.

I think we have to acknowledge that first and foremost it starts with us. We need to model to our students what we want to see in them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that was the end of it but it isn't. Our little people are just that, people, human beings capable of making mistakes.

So I talk to my kiddos about imagining that our lives are a bit like a movie, in that it is a series of frames. During the making of a movie there might be a mistake, the wrong thing being said or something falling over. When this happens they have editors that can take that frame out and replace it with one that will correct the mistake. We call this Re-framing and I teach my littles that when we say things that are not kind or we are starting to feel frustrated we might make a mistake but we can edit it so that it will be better.

An example of this might be a student who may be playing a game in a small group and they accuse another student of 'cheating'. I may go to that student and ask them to reframe what they said to fix their mistake, if they need help with 'editing' their response I might give them an example or sentence starter.

If I can see a situation that looks like it may be escalating quickly I will say "FREEZE FRAME!" this is a signal to that student/s that they are heading into the red zone (we use zones of regulation) and they need to stop and have a break. They can take a walk, have a drink, go to the cool down zone, jump on the mini tramp or whatever they need to do. After they have cooled down, they can then re-frame the situation and fix their mistake.

I have had such great success using this technique and I am now hearing my students using the same language with each other. It also helps them to solve their own problems as they calmly ask someone to re-frame what they said. It allows both parties to maintain dignity whilst practicing kindness on both sides.

What do you think? Would you use this in your classroom?

Monday 24 June 2019


I know it has been a long time since I have posted and I have just been really investing my time into family and my classroom.  I have felt uninspired with my teaching and I guess I felt like I had nothing to share, that is really the sad fact of it.


I have found inspiration again through a Kath Murdoch seminar I have attended this week.  You know when you go to a Professional Development and you want to go back to your classroom and start using these strategies straight away. You try but you have to put all these other things in place first and then it all becomes too hard.  Not this time!

Kath Murdoch teaches with an Inquiry Learning approach. She talks about curiosity and questioning, she talks about wonderings and the beauty that our students find in learning.

It got me really thinking about my teaching practice and how I encourage this in my classroom. I thought I had created an environment that let my students ask questions and explore, but you know what I had only dipped a toe into that pool.  I came back to my classroom after 2 days and I looked at it with a critical eye.  I looked at my transitional art table, I looked at my library, I looked at my Wonderwall.  I knew I could do more.

I made 2 changes that made a difference on the day, I gave my students more choice with the transitional art.  I moved my Wonderwall to the front of the room, I added a photo of each child and made it more visible, I added my own picture and put a wondering there.

Then I thought about how I was going to frame my lessons for the day.  I had scheduled spelling, writing, maths groups among other things.  Previously in my spelling I would have sent them to find words with the long i sound.  Today I asked them a question, What is making the long i sound?  The result was a much broader range of words that we could add to our word wall, they were looking more deeply at the words and where the sound was. They then created categories for their words.

In writing we have been investigating the bandicoots that live in the bushland near our school. We have been incredibly lucky to take part in Nature Play this year and our kids are loving it. There is a resident bandicoot that comes out to see what all the commotion is when our kids are playing there. So instead of framing our non-fiction writing as a research statement, I framed it as a question.

What impacts do we have on the environment of bandicoots?

Image result for bandicoots in tasmania
For those that don't know a bandicoot is a small Australian marsupial.

The engagement was incredible! The thinking and responses were thoughtful and relevant, I even got some further questions to investigate! We did out First Thinking and at the end of our research which will include observing the bandicoots, we will do Second Thinking.

Can you already see the amazing learning that has been happening?
It didn't stop there!

During maths groups I work with a small group for 10-15 minutes so that I can do some explicit teaching and really get a good sense of each child's understanding. I wanted to teach a specific strategy for addition, but I needed to know what strategies these students already had. So I posed this question;
How can you turn 2 numbers into 1 number? 
Can you get a different answer each time?

I'm not going to lie, some of my kids were blank, some of them asked permission to use number line, counters, ten frames all of which I said absolutely!  Here was the really interesting thing I found out, without fail they all used addition with differing strategies. With some of my kiddos I used this as an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions or explicitly teach a strategy. One thing that really jumped out at me is that I need to revisit subtraction.

I am really just at the very beginning of this journey and I am so excited to be able to share it with all of you.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Christmas is coming.....

WooHoo!  We made it!  Finally here in Australia I am officially on holidays.  I plan on taking this time to rest, relax, recharge and be ready for the new year.

I am so very happy to tell you that I will be back on class next year with a Grade 1/2 composite and I have so much planned to blog about.  After being in an off class role this year it has really shown me how much I love teaching and having that face to face interaction with students, I am meant to be in the classroom.

This is a short post because well, holidays but I wanted to pop in and wish everyone a Happy, Merry, Cheery holiday however you celebrate.  Spend time with your family, your friends and yourself,  I can't wait to be back next year with lots of new ideas and resources to share with you!

Enjoy your time off teachers!

Sunday 18 November 2018

When a diagnosis becomes the excuse....

You've heard it many times in your career as a teacher, "He/She can't help it, they have  (insert diagnosis here)!!  Usually said in a tone that is strident and or defensive.

What do you do next?  I asked my FB followers and this is some of the responses.

Jena says- "Sigh"  Yes this is usually the first response isn't it!

Emma says- "Collaborate with learning support, the Child Development Advisor, and admin to develop a positive communication strategy that supports the child and protects the teacher from being cornered or attacked by the parent."  

Common sense prevails!  A great start is to go to your Learning Support or Behaviour Management team or whatever it is in your school.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to get these strategies in writing and to document every conversation you have with parents.

Diane says- "I often ask what strategies they use at home that work?  That we can transfer to the school setting? Document the behaviour.  Also expectations are often different at home than in the school."

Great idea Diane, consistency is always key when dealing with behaviours that we see impacting on students academically and socially. If we can work together collaboratively and create a team approach you can only think that outcomes will be more positive for our students.

Jason says- "Share my lived experience" 

I can totally relate to this!  I often feel like our parents of students who are in particular dealing with a new diagnosis feel overwhelmed and isolated.  When we can share experiences it makes us feel like we are part of a group and more open to hearing about what has worked for others.  Shared information is so empowering!

When a student gets a diagnosis it really is the first step in creating a plan to support not only the student but parents and teachers as well.