Monday, 24 June 2019

Curiosity

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.

BUT!

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. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Put your hand up! Or don't...



How many of us out there use the old hands up to answer or ask questions, take part in discussions and show understanding.  This is a practice I no longer employ in my classroom,  I hear you asking why already.  The next questions are usually what do I do?  How do you manage discussions?  Is it havoc in your room? 

The answers are no, it is not havoc or chaotic, no people do not speak over each other and the strategies I use ensure that everyone gets a fair go at being responsible for their learning.  One of the reasons why I no longer use hands up is to eliminate what I call the hitchhiker learners, you know the ones who sit back and let everyone else answer the questions or carry the discussion with little input.  There are NO hitchhikers in my classroom anymore.  The other reason I got rid of the hands up is to eliminate the competition of being chosen to speak or those students who wave their hands in your face while sitting on their knees and are seemingly about to burst if they don't get the opportunity to speak

So here are the things I do in my classroom to encourage everyone to participate and takes away the hands up strategy.

1.  Stick it to them!

I tell them ahead of time who I am going to choose to answer the questions or I use sticks with their names on them and pull them out so that everyone gets a chance to participate.  If the student doesn't give the correct answer or needs help to answer the question they can ask a friend to help them.  Then student can then come and choose a stick and that person can help them.

2.  Tag you're it!

I love using discussion in my class to explore ideas and concepts.  This is usually the time when you would find the same students contributing so to avoid this I use a tag discussion.  It works like this, students either sit in a circle or it can also work just sitting on the carpet or at tables.  I choose a student to start the discussion or share their thinking, they then tag the person next to them.  Students can add to the discussion, agree or disagree with a person who has shared their thinking.  If they aren't ready to add to the discussion they can pass the tag on but make sure they know you will be coming back to them.  This can be used in so many different ways to explore ideas stemming from questions or something as simple as saying a word that starts with a particular sound. 

3.Thumbs up!

This is pretty self explanatory and a quick and easy way to check for understanding.  Very quickly I will ask for my students to show a thumbs up or thumbs down if they think they understand a concept.  Depending on what we are exploring I might ask a student to explain their understanding.

So this is 3 easy strategies to use in your classroom to eliminate hands up in your classroom, let me know how you go!

Monday, 25 June 2018

Fine Motor Activities- Rock it!

Hi Friends!

I wanted to talk a bit about the importance of fine motor in our classroms, we know that it is a vital part of getting our students ready for reading and writing but sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming right?

This year I am running a Perceptual Motor Program and combining it with some other gross and fine motor activities as well.   I have 4 classes that each acess this 4 times a week for around 30 minutes.  Early reports back from classroom teachers are saying that it is making a HUGE difference in comparison to when we could only manage twice a week.

I have made some Fine Motor Activity mats that I have been using with decorative glass stones and my kiddos have loved them! 





You know the ones I am talking about?  My kiddos love running their fingers through them and say that they are pirates treasure heehee.





Students place the stones along dotted lines, pathways and around shapes, don't have any stones?  That's ok, use counters, buttons, pom-poms or playdough.  When I have used pom poms I get my kiddos to use tweezers or pegs to pick up them up.  This pack is about precision and carefully placing the stones so that they touch each other.

Their all time favourite one is definitely making a bridge for the dinosaurs to cross the river.....




however the flowers in the garden are a close second.



I have included a mat that students can write how many stones they have put on the flower.



Like what you see?  Check out my TpT store and click on preview to see what other mats are included.



I will be back next week with some more fine motor ideas for your classroom, till then.....



Saturday, 5 May 2018

Individual Learning Plans

Hey Friends!

This year my role is a Support teacher so it means I am that person who helps you write those dreaded Individual Learning Plans for your students who need a differentiated approach to the curriculum.

I know a lot of teachers see Learning Plans as extra work and initially they can be but I want to help you see this as a way to make your job easier!  I already hear you groaning but trust me this will be painless.

So lets start with what they are called, I asked some of my followers on my FB page what they call Learning Plans in their school and this was some of the responses


  • IEP's Individual Education Plan
  • PLP's Personalised Learning Plan
  • ILP's Individual Learning Plan
  • PLASP Personalised Learning and Support Plan
  • ICP's Individual Curriculum Plan
Whatever they are called they all pretty much have the same function.  They are there to make sure the information about a particular learner informs the teaching and learning for that student.  These learning plans should be created in conjunction with a Support Staff, parents and Classroom Teacher, this way you will get the most relevant information and all stakeholders are aware of what will be happening for that learner in the classroom.

So what should an effective Learning Plan include?

  • Student information including name, age, grade level, teacher
  • Diagnosis information if relevant 
  • Types of Professional assessments that have been done including psychologist, speech therapist, OT etc
  • Student strengths and interests
  • Information about sensory issues, personal assistance needed ie toileting, transition assistance, social management, communication
  • Strategies and adjustments for the above information
  • Curriculum outcomes and goals
  • Personal and Social outcomes and goals
  • Evidence to show the progression toward achieving the outcomes and goals
Phew!  Seems like a pretty extensive list but believe me when I say this is all relevant and will make your life and the students life easier.  When you have this at hand you can easily see what needs differentiation and what doesn't. Let's face it though most student who have a Learning Plan need it to access the curriculum in a way that needs adjustments and the heaviest subject areas are English and Mathematics so most Learning Plans I have seen usually include an English and Maths Outcome.

Most schools have a preferred template for you to use so if you don't have access to one find out from you admin staff if there is one for school use.  If not you can download this free one here or by clicking on the pic below.  This is a Word document so it is completely editable for you to add your school logo and anything else you need.



Sunday, 29 April 2018

Mothers Day

We all agree that Mum's are special people right!  I love that we get to share and show our students that the females in our lives who care for and love us should be celebrated.  I love asking my kiddos why that person is special to them, they usually always answer with what that person does for them, here are some quotes from my kiddos,

Why is Mum so special?

"Because she makes my favourite dinner."
"She always reads me stories"
"My mum smells good and hugs me all the time"
"She can do cartwheels with sparklers in her hands and toes"

Ok, that last one was about me haha!  But seriously it is what makes me special.

So in honour of the wonderful women in our kiddos lives I have updated my Mothers Day craft pack, you can get yours here

Here are a couple of examples of the crafts that are included in the pack.  





Which Mum would not love a vase of flowers, you can personalise this with more flowers or special messages on the petals


I love this puffy heart decoration, you can easily spray this with some lavender or rose oil to make it smell pretty to hang in the cupboard to make Mum's clothes smell nice.

These are just a couple of examples of what is in the pack, there are also some writing activities as well as cards to make.  I hope your kiddos love making these for someone special in their lives even if they can't do cartwheels with sparklers!