Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Learning for 3-6 year-olds Week 1

Term is over and I am now enjoying the holidays with my three-year-old son. We made a list of ‘must do’ activities, and then I made another list of learning activities either related to the Early Years Learning Framework or preparing for the Foundation level of the Australian Curriculum.  I wrote the learning activities on coloured paper and put them into a bag so that there is an element of surprise when my little guy pulls one out. 

I have actually been a bit surprised with how keen he is to do these learning activities. On some days he has run straight back to the bag after we finish so that he can choose another! Rather than type out the whole list, I thought I might explain the activities day by day so that I can provide greater detail.

I think these activities would work well for 3-6 year olds – either as preparation or revision. I find the initial activity holds his interest for about 10 minutes and then he takes things off in his own direction - sometimes leading to even further learning. I also find that he refers back to the ideas in the days that follow. Let me know what you think.

Make some sequence photos. Then put them in order.
We took a sequence of photos related to everyday activities and experiences in the little guy’s life: getting dressed, washing clothes, ripening strawberries, going for a bike ride, sliding down a slide. Later in the day when we were shopping, we got the photos printed. Back at home, we scattered the photos on the table. My little guy chose a ‘story’ and collected the pictures he needed. He put them into the correct sequence and then I supported him as he told the story using words like: firstly, then, after that, next, finally.

Make your name using playdough
One of my good friends gave us the Cookie Monster's Letter Lunch Play doh set, which my little guy enjoys without realizing that he is even learning! He loves to feed the Cookie Monster, but with this learning activity card, he was prompted to make his name first! We talked about the letters he needed and found the moulds. We repeated the activity in a second colour before he lost interest and moved on to feeding Cookie Monster.

Play a Reading Eggs game on the iPad
We have Eggy Alphabet and Tap the Cat on my iDevices. Eggy Alphabet is great for learning letter formation and we use a stylus so my little guy can also work on pencil grip. Tap the Cat focuses on a range of skills including word recognition and vocabulary (which are the two we have worked on so far!) Both have reward systems that give my little guy a sense of achievement.

Learn a new poem
My little guy wasn’t so excited about pulling this one out. He was very hesitant to repeat back the poem I said to him. After working on it for a while with very little joy, I realized that this is an area to keep working at and come back to. A little later he quite happily recited the poem to me. Sometimes you just can’t win!

Make a photo book to show how you have changed
I must admit, I was a little less excited when this one was pulled out. On the bright side, Snapfish had a special deal running for Christmas, so it wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting. My little guy helped me to find some photos to add to our book and suggested a few captions, but as a 3 year old, he didn’t have as much to contribute as I’m sure an older child would.

Play the taste test game
A favorite from my childhood, this was a winner! My little guy went into the other room while I loaded up teaspoons with all sorts of flavours. I blindfolded him and gave him the tastes one by one. I asked him to describe what he was eating – gooey, runny, sweet, salty, crunchy etc. While he didn’t guess all of them correctly, he definitely had fun doing it!

Go for a walk. Take photos of all the signs you see. What do they say?
We didn’t walk too far for this one, as we only had a short amount of time. We still found quite a few signs and the next time we went for a drive, the little guy had more of an interest in the signs around us.

Choose an experiment from the Big Book
The Big Book aka “730 Easy Science Experiments with everyday materials”  is one that I picked up from the social book club at school. My little guy chose an experiment to see the strength of different structures made from paper. After we completed the experiment, my little guy used the structures for a craft project.

Put some music on and make up a dance
This is an activity we don’t do a lot of in our house, so that’s why it was included. My little guy pulled it out during lunchtime, so I cheated a little and just put on some kids songs that have dances connected to them. Between bites, he ran around in circles doing some of the actions!

Do some pages in your numbers book
I purchased a simple numbers workbook set for numbers 1-20. It comes with stickers and paper ‘ribbons’ as incentives for completing the work. I thought that something like this would transfer learning we have been doing from the iPad to pencil and paper tasks. It was very convenient too, that my little guy pulled this one out while I was bagging a quarter of a cow for freezing, so he could do it in the kitchen next to me with minimal help!
Take photos of shapes using the iPad. Outline the shape.
We walked around the house looking for shapes my little guy recognized and took photos of them. We then traced around the outline with a drawing app.

Follow our journey on Google Maps as we drive somewhere
I used Google Maps on my iPhone to direct me to the pool. My little guy asked if the blue line was us, so I explained that that was the path we were travelling and that the blue arrow was us. I handed him the phone for the remainder of the trip and he kept telling me what was coming up ahead. I was quite surprised when he informed me that we were about to go on a bridge over some water. I asked how he knew it was water, and he told me it was because there was blue on the map!

Follow the instructions to build a Lego set
We worked on a Lego set together and my little guy has been getting much better at looking at the pictures to create the cars and buildings in the book. He has been using Duplo for quite some time and has just recently made the shift to the smaller Lego pieces. There are lots of  skills involved in following the instructions, so I offered help with finding the pieces and gave minimal direction on where to place them, encouraging my little guy to look at the picture.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two New Writing Resources

It has been a very long time since I've sat down at my home computer for any decent length of time. At the moment it seems only to happen when I'm feeling a bit under the weather! So, as I've been suffering from a cold, I've found time to create a couple of resources to add to my collection of Writing Goal Strips. 

We have been focusing on both Expositions and Narratives this term, as I'm sure other Year 2 teachers in Australia might identify with! We are giving our students a bit of a boost in preparation for NAPLAN testing early next year. 

These writing resources can be used to guide students in setting goals prior to writing. They can select one goal, a couple, or use the goal chart to monitor what they are achieving.

Each resource contains:
Instructions for use
Connections with both Australian Curriculum and Common Core
16 pages of writing goal strips 
1 page for students to write in own goals
1 goal chart

Both are free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store until Friday 22 November 2013.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I think it's time for an update on how I'm getting along at my new school. A couple of images have come to mind and have been bumping around my head.

I'm not a very strong swimmer. When I try to do laps at the pool, I can get through a few, but I struggle to pace myself. I seem to think that the only way I'll stay afloat is if I keep moving. So, I go through a few somewhat frantic laps and then pause for a break before going at it all again! That's how I'm feeling about school at the moment. My weekdays are frantic as I try to do it all, swallow a little water, and finally make it to the end. I take a quick breath over the weekend, and then it's go, go, go again.

Another image that I can't get away from is that of a jigsaw puzzle. It feels a little like I am faced with a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. At a quick glance I can see a few pieces that look familiar, but I can't see how they will all piece together. As I'm going along, I am starting to see more and more familiar pieces, and as I clip them together, things are starting to make more sense. Every now and then I get a new piece of information, and know it connects with something else I've seen or read, but then I have to remember what that was and link it up.

I'm finding it both challenging and rewarding. I'm aware that it is a lot of hard work at the moment, but at the same time, I know that a puzzle always gets much easier once you near the end, as does swimming with practice and training!

Tech Tips Tuesday

Two more simple uses for iPads in the classroom 

As I am becoming established in my new school, I am starting to work out the processes for borrowing and using ICT equipment. This week I made use of iPads for a couple of simple tasks, mostly just to get into the swing of using technology with my students. So, here are a couple of simple tips for this week:

Teach doubles with Photo Booth
Students set out some counters and take a photo using the mirror setting in photo booth. They can then count the counters in the image to work out the doubles fact. These can be printed out for students to glue into their books and label with the number sentence.

Student created clip art for class notices
Why not have students create the clip art for class newsletters, the class blog, or a secure web environment? You can use any drawing app and have students draw with or without a stylus. Save the images, crop where necessary and use as required. Always remember to give credit to the student/s who created the images, and check whether they are happy for their work to be used in this way. This helps students to appreciate the rights of others, and understand their responsibilities when it comes to using images.

For more simple uses, you might like to read: Three simple uses for iPads in the classroom

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Seating Arrangements and Groupings with iDoceo

This week I am sharing another tip for working with iDoceo for iPad. As I set up my new classroom, I have been considering different arrangements for my class seating chart, as well as student groupings for different tasks in Maths and English. iDoceo gives you five different arrangements per class. To select the arrangements, click on the icon I have boxed in red below.

iDoceo main tool bar

Seating Arrangements
The first arrangement I set up was the class seating plan. While in at the school, I set out my desks for optimum use of the interactive whiteboard. I could have taken a photo of this arrangement to use in iDoceo, but instead I made a quick sketch on a scrap of paper and then took a photo of this sketch. I added this image to my iDoceo folder in Dropbox so that I could import it into my background selections using the Settings icon on the tool bar (boxed in purple). I was then able to move my students around on my background to experiment with different arrangements.

Quick sketch of desk arrangement

iDoceo seating arrangement tool bar

Using data to help with sorting
I entered student data regarding reading levels and Maths and English bands based on information provided by the previous teacher. This information can then be used while sorting students into groups and is displayed as a coloured bubble alongside the student's name and image.

I used reading level information to help ensure that each table grouping had a mix of reading levels, with the opportunity for students to support one another for reading and writing tasks. As my second arrangement, I paired students with a reading buddy of different ability. I plan to use these pairings as an alternative to 'silent reading' after the lunch or recess break.

I used Maths bands to sort students into two groupings for Maths - one ability based groups, and one mixed-ability groups. These are my third and fourth arrangements. To label each arrangement, you enter its description in the settings.

Just for fun, there is also an option to group students randomly in the settings (boxed in purple), or to select a student at random by clicking on the dice (boxed in green above).

Things to watch for
Only one subject area (or tab) is displayed at a time, and within that you select one criteria to be displayed. For example, to see students' Maths data, you need to have been in the Maths tab prior to selecting the arrangement tool. Click on the icon boxed above in red to select the information to be displayed. Return to the data entry page to change tabs, and thus access different information. To cancel the bubbles, simply click on the icon with the photo and an x symbol (boxed in red above).

Another trick I found was that sometimes my arrangements seemed to be saved, and other times they didn't. From what I can tell, you 'save' the previous arrangement by moving to another numbered arrangement before returning to the data entry page. (Change arrangements by tapping the numbers in the blue box above). This seems to have been working for me, at least! I have also been taking a screen shot of the data when I am happy with it so that I have a copy should anything go wrong. Screen shot can also be used as a way to is also a useful way to create more than 5 class arrangements.

What I liked
I liked that I could use this to fiddle around with the arrangements at home, and draw on the information I had in a simple and very visible way. Obviously, I wouldn't purchase iDoceo for this feature alone, but it adds to the value of what I am already finding to be a very useful classroom tool.

For previous posts about iDoceo, click here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Three Simple uses for iPads in the classroom

I've been trying to think of more ways to use the iPad in the classroom. We've had a great bank of iPads that have been useless because they can't be set up without the departmental passwords (which we haven't been able to obtain), and an additional small bank of iPads that were set up before the passwords changed. I don't really understand how that works, but decided to get started with the five that were available. I was also teaching some iPad demonstration lessons for teachers in my school, and some of these ideas were born from our discussions. I needed to use what was already available on the iPads.

1. Listening Post
This is an example of old ideas with new technology! The iPad can be plugged into a transmitter for a set of headphones so students can listen to stories without disrupting others. Obviously, students can listen to stories online, or read interactive book apps, but why not have students record their own stories or readers? I had one group record their reading of a reader for another group to follow along. The trick with this is to choose a book that the recording group should read fluently, and that the listening group will be reading at an instructional level. Our iPads didn't have an audio recording app, so we just recorded with video.

2. Graphing
Students worked in small groups to conduct surveys, collect and represent the data, and present their findings to the class. We had Draw Free, so I based the survey questions around the stamp images available in this app. Questions included things like: What is our class's preferred way to travel - car, train or plane? Students used the stamps in Draw Free to represent the data in a pictograph. We then plugged the iPads into the interactive whiteboards to display the graphs while students discussed what they had found.
Tasks for students

Students cut these roles into strips, put them in a hat and selected one to determine their role in this task

Example of pictograph

3. Story Making
Prue had a great idea to make stories with felt boards, take photos and have students write their story on paper. She then printed the photos and made them into books for students to read. We took this idea and explored it with the iPads. Again, students created pictures using the felt boards. They took photos with the iPads and wrote their story on paper. We then used a story making app - Story Creator - to make the 'books'. Students inserted their photos and recorded the audio for the story. We viewed the finished products on the interactive whiteboard.

Students working cooperatively on story making task
Example of felt board story page

Why use the iPads for tasks that can be done without them?
It's true that at times it takes more effort to organise lessons around iPads (or any other ICT for that matter) but using them increases student engagement in lesson content and gives students an opportunity to develop ICT skills. Due to the limited numbers of iPads, I feel that it also leads to greater use of collaborative tasks which help students to cooperate and share both ideas and resources. Outcomes in the Australian Curriculum call for greater use of ICT as a way of demonstrating understanding and creating content.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

What does 1000 look like?

In Maths over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to build a better picture for students about what 1000 looks like. My pre-service teacher worked with them to create a poster containing 1000 grains of rice, and that got me thinking about other ways we could see 1000. I went to Google images and Flickr, but for many of the results, I didn't feel I could be sure there were 1000. We discussed this as a class and tried counting items in the images and then estimating from our counts. We discussed how great it would be if there were pictures we could rely on to give us an image of 1000.

So, we split into small groups and students created a plan for how they could represent a collection of 1000 items. We wanted to think of easy and cheap ideas that would be achievable within a few lessons. Some suggestions included:

  • dots
  • sheets of paper
  • paper clips
  • pencils
  • Pokemon cards
  • rocks
  • paper-chain links
  • pieces of Lego
Students worked on the plan and then used the support of other class members to pull it all together. These Flickr images are the result of our work:

I've created a Flickr group so that other people can add their own collections of 1000 items. Why not try this with your class?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I'm still here!

This term has been absolutely crazy, and this is the first chance I've really had to quickly catch my breath. A lot of what has happened has been hush hush, so not only has it been difficult to find time to write, but a lot has also been unwritable until now. So this is a quick post to catch you up.

Pre-service Teacher
I have had an excellent pre-service teacher with me, and she has been doing a lot of the teaching, particularly toward the end of her prac. The class did some really great work with her, and I had an opportunity to observe students and collect more data for report writing than I ordinarily could. As I have been doing less teaching, I have also been creating fewer classroom resources for TPT, but hopefully that will change a bit in the weeks to come.

This is the big one!
As you all know, I have been raving for years about the wonderful school that I am part of, and this year has been a particularly good one, with a great teaching partner/team and students. I couldn't be happier. But as I've explained to my students, sometimes you have to make a decision with your head, not just your heart. As someone who doesn't like change, particularly when things are going well, it's been very hard for me to make the jump.

Mobility is built into my school system such that teachers need to move to another school after a given amount of time, and this can be negotiated out to a maximum of ten years. I have already completed a number of years (and bits of years) at my current school, and thus wouldn't be able to see my son go through the school while I teach there. This is important to me as a matter of convenience and also connection to my son and his schooling. Given that, over the past couple of years I've been working towards a position in another school I'd love to work in, and it all came together for me this term. This new school is in the private sector, so I have had to resign from my current position, which is a really scary thought to me after 11 years!

The process took up a good part of the term with interviews and a demo lesson, and all the other bits that need to be pulled together. I've also been trying to familiarise myself with the new setting and have been using my "at home day" to visit the school and get to know the students/parents/staff. It's been an effort to juggle two work settings and home as well, but we've managed somehow.

It's not an ideal time of year for a class shift in Australia, but at the same time, everything has slipped into place for both class groups and both are having a successful transition/hand-over.
As I am now going full time, I have had to find additional care for my little guy, which has been a bit of a stress. As mum's know, it's hard to concentrate on doing a good job if you are worried about your child, and there are a lot of guilty feelings tied in with it. On the bright side, it is looking like my little guy may be able to join the preschool at my new school next year, thus making child care much easier.

So that's mainly what has been going on in the background this term, and what has eaten up any time I might ordinarily have had for blogging. The next couple of months will be hectic too, as I adapt to the new setting and write reports for these students, but hopefully I will have time to blog as well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

iDoceo and Reports

I have been using the iDoceo App this year and have written about it before. While using it, I have been wondering how useful it will be for report writing. Throughout the semester I added student grades, work samples, comments, and video/audio recordings. In hindsight (as always) it would have been great to start putting together the actual written comments, however I still feel much more prepared given the information I've collected. Another aspect I haven't really got working for me yet is exporting the data to other forms and saving time on data re-entry. At this point it is quicker for me to re-enter the data than to fiddle around with the files.

What I've found useful:

Icons - I have used the coloured emoticons to represent how well students achieved different aspects in a piece of work. In the subtitle for the column I wrote the aspects that students were marked on. This helps for given specific feedback about the tasks.

Date - I like to include the date on each entry so that I can see when the information was last updated. This is particularly helpful with reading levels, so that I can ensure levels have been tested recently before allocating a grade.

Colour coding and stars - I use colour coding to mark in a fashion similar to grades. The colour coding is easy to see at a quick glance and makes it clear which areas students excel in and/or struggle with. This helps with formulating subject specific comments. I also use the star icon to mark students who received a perfect score on an assessment. In the future I would like to use the in-built function for colour coding rather than having to do it all manually - but as yet I have not had the time to fiddle with this.

Annotations - Audio recordings and video recordings have been great for grading on speaking skills, counting sequences and group work. Photographs of work samples have made it easier to mark work from home and also review student work without carting home large piles of books.

Yes/No Editor - This is great for a quick check of a skill at any given point in time. I have used it to monitor on-task listening behaviour.

A-E Grades - I used this editor to grade artworks produced by students to use to come to an overall grade.

I continue to find iDoceo to be a valuable classroom tool, and have been pleased with the level of usefulness for reporting. Obviously, it is only as useful as the data you input, but there is also something to be said for having it all in one location on an iPad, which is so portable, and backed up to Dropbox.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about THRASS

Recently I was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to attend a parent workshop about the THRASS tools for teaching reading and spelling. While vaguely familiar with similar tools and aware of the THRASS chart, I had never really heard it all explained before. Anyone who has worked closely with me over the past few years has had to hear of my frustration with teaching spelling. I've been determined to find something that actually works and that provides a strong framework on which to pin learning.

THRASS stands for Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills. As far as I can tell, THRASS is not a teaching program, but more a philosophy and approach to teaching. Resources support the use of the THRASS chart and cater for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. 

In simple teacher terms, the chart displays 120 spelling choices to represent the 44 phonemes that make up the English language. Each phoneme is accompanied by the word (with phoneme in bold) and the equivalent picture. Once students are familiar with the chart, it can be used to help students to spell individual words and consider other words containing the same spelling choice. 

What I like about this:

  • It provides a structure to the sounds in the English language, and covers all 44 phonemes.
  • It provides classroom resources for students to refer to for support when spelling.
  • It allows for a common language and understanding around the types of phonemes - graph, digraph, trigraph, quadgraph.
  • It doesn't dumb down - children learn the correct metalanguage.
  • It can be used over a range of grades, and is flexible enough for differentiation within the class as well.

As I have only been to the parent workshop so far, there is a limit to my understanding of what it looks like in action in the classroom.

When I think about how I see it working, I imagine:

  • Exploring different spelling choices that students can see within a text they are reading. Eg. How many trigraphs can you find on this page? How many different spelling choices can we find for the phoneme ...?
  • Using the THRASS chart to approach the spelling of unknown words during writing tasks, and then using these moments to teach mini-lessons on similar patterns.
  • Encouraging students to test out spelling choices in a have-a-go book to determine which looks most right.

Though my current understanding is quite limited, I find that this approach appeals to me due to it's systematic nature. It just makes sense. I look forward to reading more and exploring THRASS further.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mentoring University Students

This term I have a university student with me for her Professional Experience. She is completing two of her pracs back to back and will be finished her degree on completion. We have just completed the first prac and now head into the final prac. This is not the first time I have had a student, but I have been very aware of my style this time. I thought I would share a few of the things that have made it work for me.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes
I clearly remember how difficult it was to start out a new prac - particularly those first few lessons, when you are trying to juggle behaviour management, effective communication, interesting lesson, monitoring students, and keeping an eye on the time. That's not to mention the nervousness you feel to have all those little eyes watching and judging AND your mentor teacher watching and judging! Of course, when you finish the lesson, all you can think about is all the things you either did wrong, or forgot to do!

As a mentor teacher, it is important to appreciate the difficulty of that juggle and to be supportive and encouraging. Of course the student is not going to get it all right the first time. They haven't been in a classroom practising every day. That's why they're here! Notice the things they are doing well, and pick just one thing to work on at a time.

Encourage Reflection
Even as experienced teachers, we don't always perfect a lesson the first time we try something new. The reflective process is very important for improvement, and for acknowledging the things that have and have not worked.

I admit that I have a tendency to share what I have thought of a lesson, before asking my student what he/she thinks. This is a no-no as it may prevent the student from reflecting and sharing their own thoughts! If you allow the student to share their thoughts first, you can gain a greater understanding of the things they feel they are struggling with and help them to work through those issues first. This year I have been trying a "Professional Conversations" format provided by the University. This has a list of questions for both mentors and students.

Plan Their Learning Experiences
As the student is there to learn, it is important to plan the experiences that will help them to demonstrate the skills they are required to practise. I go through the report format with my student and we discuss possibilities for meeting the requirements. I also encourage the student to look at what they will be asked at interview so that we can include those aspects as well.
We try to include:

  • a variety of curriculum areas
  • a sequence of lessons, including assessment of the concepts
  • extra curricular activities
  • meetings
  • article for the newsletter/or other parent communication
  • visits with other specialist teachers in the school
  • integration of ICT
  • differentiation 
  • transitions between activities
  • behaviour management strategies/resolving conflict
  • duties
  • team planning, assessment and moderation 
  • grading/reporting

How about you?
If you've mentored university students, what things do you find are helpful for making a successful learning experience for them? Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

National Library Of Australia - Digital Collection

This year is Canberra's centenary and there have been many events celebrating the life of Canberra during this time, with more still to come. For Canberra's birthday at school, I was asked to put together a 5 minute silent 'movie' showing footage and photos of significant events and the building of Canberra into what it is today. 

I can't share it here due to copyright restrictions, but it was enjoyable to put together and explore the images available through the National Archives and the National Library of Australia. I used iMovie to edit the clips and create the movie.

I have been back to the National Library of Australia's site this week looking for resources to use for another lesson I am designing, and again the results have been very pleasing. I am fascinated by the images of Lake Burley Griffin in its construction phase, and struck by the concept of such a complex task to make something that looks like a natural environment. I remember being just as amazed (if not more) when I first learned of the planning and design that went into Central Park in New York City. It is interesting to look back at our history and do so with articles from the past. The digital collection includes: pictures, maps, manuscripts, books & serials, printed music and oral history.

So, today I want to encourage you to check out the resources available at the National Library of Australia either through their website, or through their app, particularly when teaching a unit about Australia's history.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Comparing and Measuring Mass

In recent weeks we have been focusing on mass during class maths lessons. Given the success of our comparing and ordering capacity lessons, I decided to create a similar sequence of lessons for comparing and measuring mass using balance scales.

The first lesson was a cooperative task whereby students worked in groups of four to select items, compare them, measure their mass in a uniform unit and record their results in both written and video form. Students enjoyed this hands on approach and worked effectively in their teams. We then had a sharing time for students to select a video to show the class.

The second lesson was a rich task for assessment purposes. Students were required to select items for Little Red Riding Hood to take in her basket to her grandmother's house. They needed to choose five or more items weighing a total of less than one kilogram. While the task went well, it got pretty hectic when I tried to have everyone doing the assessment task at the same time and recording their measurements as well. I got students to finish off one at a time at stations and that was much more sane, so that's what I would recommend for anyone trying to do this. I would also recommend students only video recording an explanation of their results when they have completed the measurement rather than the whole process.

I have uploaded the lessons to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The packet includes:
Instructions and recommendations for use
Cooperative task and worksheets (including version without video cameras)
Rich task for assessment with worksheets and rubric

I'm really enjoying creating these measurement tasks with rich tasks relating to fairy tales. I wonder what I'll do when I get to length and area!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Clapping Pattern

This is a video of a clapping pattern our students are learning to perform at our upcoming assembly. I am posting it so that families can access it if their children are having trouble learning it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Tech isn't all that makes us tick

I know this is an obvious statement, but there are times in our lives when it is particularly evident that tech isn't (or at least, shouldn't be) all that makes us tick!

At the end of last year there was a blast of news stories about Generation Y and their phones. The premise was that smart phones have become so ingrained in their daily routines, that they become anxious without them - as if part of them is missing. As a Gen Y myself, I'd have to agree. If I forget my phone, I'm not just forgetting my 'phone'. I use my smart phone constantly throughout the day to check email, use the internet, take photos/videos/notes, check spelling/facts, and as a GPS, calculator, calendar, clock/timer, shopping list - just to mention the most evident ones that come to mind! A smart phone makes life easier, but would I be completely lost without it? Not yet - I still have other options that are just not quite as convenient. Also, to be completely honest, there are a lot of times when I use my phone when I actually don't need to.

The past week has been a pretty messy one in my life - nothing devastating - but just enough to leave me feeling pretty run down. As I've tried to manage the juggle of teacher, mentor, mother, wife, blogger, TpT seller and basic human being, I've been trying to find extra minutes for my day, and realised that there are some precious moments of time that have been wasted by obsessive phone checking. So my tech tip this week is about trying to get a better balance.

Cutting back on the unnecessary
I'm sure we all have our distractions which we find ourselves checking an unreasonable amount of times during the day - be that Tweets, Facebook, email, txt messages, TpT product sales/downloads, website visits, apps for sale, friends, followers, ratings or any number of other distractions. A simple way to get some more time back into your day is to cut back on the number of checks you do. You might actually get a nice surprise to realise that the obsessive checking is unnecessary and can be counter productive. The continual urge to check might even go away!

  • Try to avoid carrying your phone on your person at all times. Have a location that is accessible, but not too accessible. 
  • Wear a watch rather than relying on a phone for your time piece.

Changing things up
Sometimes I become so preoccupied with my gadgets, or plans for things I'll do next time I sit down at the computer, that I don't make the most of the other events in the day. Don't forget to enjoy the other goodies life has to offer. Toddlers are great at dragging you away from your technology! They want to experience the world and make sense of all that takes place around them. They build, do puzzles, get messy with paint, climb rocks, take nature walks, search for treasures (geocaching), ride trains, swim and splash, and get all gooey while they cook! Take a lesson from their book and get away from the tech a little.

  • Get outside
  • Explore other hobbies/interests/games
  • Be in the moment
  • Visit friends and family in person!

And when the Tech isn't there!
Every now and then we forget how much we rely on our IT and then something goes wrong - and boy do we know it! We wonder how we used to survive when we didn't have the internet at our fingertips 24/7. Or how we used to teach before electronic whiteboards, photocopiers, printers, teacher computers, laptops... BUT WE DID! And we can when things are undergoing maintenance or roll over. It doesn't even mean that we go back to teaching pencil and paper in books - but rather that we teach through living and experiences. It's important to maintain balance in our teaching so that a) we don't lose our ability to teach effectively without IT and b) our students don't lose the ability to learn effectively without IT.

  • Enjoy the mini-holidays from IT when they arise - rather than grumbling at how your lesson has been ruined. 
  • Teach resilience when the technology doesn't work and help students to find other ways to learn effectively
  • Don't get tricked into using IT just for the sake of it. Could your students learn more through a hands-on activity rather than reading about it or watching someone else do it online?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Improve your Google Searches

Lately I have been thinking about a Google course I did last year to improve my search skills. There are a couple of things I learnt that have been useful on a regular basis, and others which I have drawn on less frequently. Today I thought I would share a few which are useful for teaching.

1. Searching for a file type
You have the ability to determine what type of file you would like to search for when conducting a Google search. This can save a lot of time by eliminating other types of files with similar content. Simply use filetype:[file extension] So...
If you are wanting a Powerpoint presentation to use with your class, include filetype:ppt in the search terms.
If you are wanting a SMART notebook file, include filetype:notebook in the search terms.
Obviously, the same goes for other file types.

2. Searching for printable images
You can search for worksheets to use in your classroom by doing an image search and then selecting Search Tools to specify for the search to include only black and white images. Be aware that some of the images that come up may be only thumbnails, or may be protected by copyright. I've noticed that you can now search by image size as well.

Search tools button and Black and white selection for images. Also searching only within

3. Searching a particular site
You can search a particular site, or type of site in order to limit the span of the search. To do this, type site:[extension] For example if you only want to search .gov sites, type Or if you only want to search edu. sites, type This can also be used to search a particular site eg. or sites within a particular country eg.

4. Searching a particular time frame
You can search for a particular time frame by selecting Search Tools and choosing the time frame you would like results for. This is useful for finding relevant news stories or other timely resources.

These are the tips that I think are most useful for teachers to use to enhance their Google searches. I hope that you find them useful too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Having a Sale!

Since I've had a good holiday and am excited about starting back at work on Monday, I've decided to throw a 10% off sale for three days only at:
Come on over and check what's available!

Assessing Number and Place Value

At the end of last term I put my hand up to work on an assessment task related to what we've been doing in our Number and Place Value lessons so far this year. As I got started, I was struck by how boring the assessment was looking. I thought of the students in my class who feel intimidated by the mere sight of a page of Maths questions. So, I started fiddling with some ideas for how to make the task more appealing.

I needed to cover reading, writing and ordering numbers to 1000 and some addition/subtraction strategies. So far I have come up with 2 ideas, and I just need to come up with an interesting way for students to explain/demonstrate the strategies they use to work out a number of addition and subtraction questions. I'm thinking it will probably have something to do with folding a page into three - the first column for the addition/subtraction question, the second for the naming or circling the strategy used, and the third for demonstrating the mental steps. Here are the other ideas I have come up with already:

My first idea is Place Value Garden

This assessment is a picture of a garden, with different things students complete for each picture. For example, students write the bonds of 10 in the sun's rays. An instruction sheet explains what to do for each picture. I'm also considering a more open-ended option, whereby I provide students with the pictures and they create their own garden poster.

In order to make this assessment task, I needed to draw the pictures, and I ended up making a whole set of preliminary tasks students would complete in the lead up to the assessment. What resulted was a 48 page resource book for teaching place value using these pictures! While most of the resource consists of ready-made worksheets (with answer keys) and blank templates, I also make suggestions for how students can be extended, and follow on activities for fun. If you're interested in buying this resource, it is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and at a reduced price for the first week.

My second idea is Mini Place Value Booklets:

With these booklets students demonstrate their ability to read, write and represent numbers to 1000. Students cut on the bold lines and fold on the dotted lines and it creates a little booklet. My thought is that students will make a number of these and then glue them in numerical order on a separate piece of paper/card to demonstrate their ability to order numbers. I am thinking that I will provide them with a two-digit and three-digit booklet, and then allow them to choose other numbers (possibly by using a random number generator on my interactive whiteboard). I am still working on this resource at the moment, but it should be available at my store in the next couple of weeks. Update (13 May 2013): This resource is now available here.

Creating valuable assessment tasks is always a challenge, particularly in order to gain an accurate demonstration of what students are capable of. I will be using these in a couple of weeks time and will then have a better sense of their effectiveness in gaining the sort of information we are hoping for.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Screen Capture Basics

Today's tip is fairly basic, but one that I often find people are unaware of - the good ol' screen capture. I use screen capture quite regularly and for a range of purposes on all devices. I have taught students to use it to save an avatar image they have created, or to use a satellite image from Google Earth in their class work. I use it myself to snap shots of online receipts, and other web information I won't be able to return to. I use it on my phone to capture maps or images I need for directions but may not be able to access on the road. So today I will share the basic instructions for how to do this on Mac, PC, and iPhone/iPad.

Press command, shift and 4. The cursor will change to a cross-hair cursor. Click and drag to select the area you wish to capture. The image will be saved to your desktop. If you would like the entire screen captured, press command, shift and 3 instead.

Press the Print Screen (PrintScrn) key. Paste into required place. To edit the image, open Paint and paste here, make modifications and save. To save just the active window, press Alt and PrintScrn.
If you want to be more selective, you can use the Snipping Tool found in the Accessories folder in the Programs menu.

Press the home button (below the screen), followed by the power/lock button (at the top of the phone). The screen will flash white and make a camera click sound. The screen shot will be saved to the camera roll. View in Photos.

For those of you using Android devices, screen capture instructions are available here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I first got the idea for this graphic organiser a few of years ago, but I don't remember where the inspiration came from or whether it was purely my own creation! It's a simple way of illustrating the connection between one mathematical fact and another. I use it frequently in my maths lessons to explore these relationships. I have developed three different formats to support students with their brainstorming. All three formats are available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store. A demonstration of how to use them is embedded below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Integrating ICT with Maths

Last week I had a great lesson planned for Maths. I was going to get the laptop trolleys and have my students use a Microsoft Word template to insert 2D shapes into a table. It was fairly straightforward and I had my template ready to go.

Unfortunately, on arrival at school, I found a big red sign on one of the trolleys stating "DANGER. DO NOT USE". I wasted no time tracking down someone who could give me more information. As it turned out, the trolley had been sparking, and was thus deemed unsafe until it could be looked at further by someone in the know. Needless to say, that didn't help me with only 20 minutes until my class walked through the door!

As is often the case when you plan to use technology, I had to rethink what I would do. There were still four laptops and I have a student computer in my room, so I grabbed them. As I went to leave the storeroom, I noticed the iPads, which I hadn't yet utilised. I had no idea what apps were on them, but a plan started forming in my mind - and all it required was the camera and a drawing application.

So what I ended up with was four Maths centres:
1. Using the laptops with the Microsoft Word template to draw and describe common 2D shapes: triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, rhombus, trapezium and octagon. The second page involves students creating their own design with polygons of their choice - but students did not get to this in the time allotted, and finished during our lab session.

2. Using iPads to photograph five shapes in the classroom environment and then using Draw Free to trace the polygons in the photos and label them.

3. Using rubber bands and geoboards to explore quadrilaterals and then draw them in their maths books.

4. Using plastic sticks of various sizes and pins to create polygons with a variety of sides and explore how these shapes change when tilted and manipulated in other ways.

What resulted was a really enjoyable set of Maths centres focused on exploring polygons. I should also mention that I used the Mathletics dictionary and concept search to support my definition of polygons and quadrilaterals prior to the activity centres.

It's great when things work out, even when they don't initially go to plan!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Fonts

Since I started creating fancied up classroom resources I've become a lot more aware of different fonts. Fonts can add to the message or detract from it. Some fonts are easy for beginning readers to read and are a good model for handwriting. Others are more difficult to read and are used for their decorative element. Students are fascinated by fonts as well and love to see their words displayed in different ways.

With that in mind I created a simple Word template for students to use to explore fonts. I taught them how to select text and change font. They then changed the word document to display fonts they like, fonts that are easy to read and fonts that are difficult to read. They finished by changing the font to three different sizes.

I added a new category to my Teachers Pay Teachers store - Easy Freebie. As the name suggests, it's easy for me and free for customers, with no fancy cover pages or special effort. My first Easy Freebie is the Word template I created for this lesson. Feel free to download and use it.

Another aspect to my recent exploration of fonts, is the creation of my own fonts using iFontMaker. I love to experiment with different styles - reminding me of the calligraphy I enjoyed as a teenager. This app makes the whole process very fast and somewhat therapeutic. The font can be converted to a file that is simple to download and install to your computer's fonts. I have made a few so far and have used some in my TPT products. Here is one I created that I call "Sticks":

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mental Computation: Adding 2-digit Doubles and Near Doubles

In Maths groups we have been working on mental computation strategies for addition. My group has been working on adding 2-digit doubles eg. 20 + 20. Students have picked up the concepts very quickly and have powered through the work I have provided. As a result, I have developed a number of resources to use with this concept in order to ensure that the new learning is consolidated. While mostly related to Year 2 (particularly in terms of the Australian Curriculum and Common Core State Standards in the USA) it could be useful for Year 3 teachers when revisiting mental strategies.

This is my latest resource to be added to Teachers Pay Teachers. At 40 pages, it ended up being quite a bit of work - particularly when I forgot to save a day's work before shutting down the computer! (Yes, I still make stupid mistakes from time to time!) So, if you like the look of it, please recommend it to any of your friends who teach Year 2/Grade 2.

From a technical perspective, this new resource contains some of my unique clipart, borders and fonts. Still amateur, but improving, I think. The borders were actually much easier to insert than I first imagined, and it's nice to see my 'Me' font and 'Cutesy' font on something I have created.

Product Description:
40 pages of resources to support the teaching of two-digit addition using doubles and near doubles. Aligns with Common Core and Australian Curriculum for Grade 2. Concepts move from know facts of doubling 1-digit numbers, through multiples of ten, multiples of five, 2-digit without regrouping, problem solving, related subtraction facts, and near doubles.

Included in this packet are:
Instructions for use
Connections with standards
6 If...Then...Posters
8 Worksheets with Answer Keys
3 Games or Centre Activities
Review Quizzes and Assessment with Answer Keys

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for more information.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Comparing and Ordering Capacity

Over the past couple of weeks I have been teaching students about measuring the capacity of different containers. Our first lesson didn't run so smoothly, but students learnt a lot about the types of containers that are easier to measure, and more importantly, those that aren't! We used video cameras to record the measurements and then discussed how to measure more effectively - right to the top with no spills and overflow. We also had trouble with the initial worksheet I designed, and the camera batteries were varying degrees of flat. We learnt from all our mistakes so that when we repeated the lesson a couple of days later it went much more smoothly.

While I'm sure it would be pretty terrible if we had to repeat EVERY lesson because of mistakes, I think that from time to time it actually forms an important part of the learning. In this case, students learnt a lot from the discussion. Also, as students were able to choose which containers they measured each time, it didn't feel so much like a do-over. Plus, due to the appeal of the activity - water play AND video cameras - the students didn't feel like they were being punished!

We then had a rich task that I created which involves making paper cups for Mother Bear, Father Bear and Baby Bear according to their specifications. It was a lot of fun and the students really got into it. It was great to hear their discussion and see their problem solving strategies. As with all assessment tasks, there were some who REALLY got it, and some who didn't.

When putting together these worksheets, I experimented with creating my own font and a quick first go at a border. Since these, I have experimented some more and have come up with other fonts and borders to 'reveal' in later worksheet packets! I'm having a lot of fun exploring what I can do by pairing my iPad and computer to create worksheets.

The worksheets for these lessons are available free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The video instructions for making a paper cup are embedded below.

This packet includes:

  • Instructions, Recommendations and Connections
  • 3 worksheets for students to use for a group task
  • A rich task with assessment rubric

These resources are particularly useful for Australian teachers as they align with the Australian Curriculum for Year 2.

Update 13 May 2013: If you found this resource interesting, you may also be interested in Comparing and Measuring Mass.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday


This app for iPhone and iPad provides a creative outlet for the mathematically-minded. I've clocked quite a few hours now creating and modifying designs with this simple-to-use application.

If you want to know the Maths behind the symmetrical designs, information is provided. If you just want to play and explore, it's set up and ready to go.

I made this design while watching my son play at the park.
And then by simply changing the symmetry, I got the variations seen below. Usually I would fiddle with the design and add more detail as I looked at the variations but I stuck to the original markings for the purposes of this post.

In the classroom this would be great for a symmetry lesson or an art lesson. I know that it has made me a lot more aware of the designs I see around me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Make an Easter Basket

Today Prue found some instructions for how to make an Easter Basket. We followed her instructions to make a basic basket and then added our own embellishments. Here is a video a student helped me create which demonstrates the steps.
 The finished products were very creative!

Number of the Day

This year I've decided to use a Number of the Day worksheet once a week to give students new ways to think about numbers and place value and provide opportunities for practice. My initial worksheet was based on some ideas I found in this Place Value packet. This was working well for us, but I wasn't very happy with how it looked and I wanted to add more questions based on some of the other ideas we were covering in our lessons.

Caterpillar Number of the Day
So I fiddled with my ideas some more and came up this worksheet. I fiddled some more and was able to make an easier and harder variation so that it could be used with a greater spread of student needs.

I tested it out with my students and two-thirds of the class preferred this worksheet to the previous one. I really liked the pattern question and number sentence question (not in the previous worksheet) because they are open ended and led to great discussion.

If you would like to buy a copy of the package I put together, it is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Resources provided include:
  • Instructions for use
  • Three worksheets of varying difficulty with samples
  • A blank worksheet for you to write in your own questions

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Number Bonds to 100

Last week my Maths lessons were focused on number bonds to 100. The students in my Maths group were already very familiar with the bonds to 10, so I decided to take them a step further. As is always the case, some caught on straight away, while others took a little more time and revision.

If...Then...Graphic Organiser
I used an If... Then... Graphic organiser to demonstrate how number bonds to 10 are related to number bonds to 100. For example, knowing 7 + 3 = 10 is related to 70 + 30 = 100. We then used blank number lines as a way to explore some of the bonds.

For the second lesson we used the If... Then... graphic organiser to explore how a knowledge of number bonds to 100 can help with working out change from $1.00. Students then used blank number lines to find change from $1.00 and a second worksheet with some examples of buying items at "Tessa's treat store". I was able to work more closely with some students to ensure they understood the process of using the blank number lines. We also used some base 10 blocks to demonstrate a common mistake students were making which resulted in bonds to 110 instead of 100.

In the third lesson students played concentration with number bonds cards, where they had to find the pairs of numbers that add to 100. This was a great way to reinforce the pairs and an activity I will come back to in future lessons.

The worksheets for this lesson can be downloaded for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The package includes:

  • Instructions
  • Three worksheets with samples and an answer key
  • Number bond cards for concentration

Tech Tips Tuesday

Teachers Pay Teachers

This site is a place for teachers to share resources either free or for a price. It is intended to be a time saving measure so that we don't all spend endless hours creating the same resources. What has developed is a showcasing of excellent teacher created resources at reasonable prices. There are plenty of great resources free for the taking with the lure of additional resources, and the request for positive feedback.

My experience

I have just started playing in Teachers Pay Teachers. Ever since I began blogging, my husband has been trying to get me making money through blogging, but this is not why I started blogging! I started blogging to 'give back' for all that I had found online to help with my teaching. These days, I find it hard to keep up with the blogging, but still try to share my thoughts and teaching ideas whenever possible. But at the same time, if I can share some of the work samples I have developed either free or for a price through Teachers Pay Teachers, then it's better than having them just sit on my computer.

So I signed up for an account and did nothing straight away, but then they sent me a newsletter that gave some tips for how to produce quality resources, and that caught my interest. I still had no time to work on anything, until I got sick from my son and thus had an unplanned day at home. Most of the things I had to work on were still at school, so instead I decided to create a "Number of the Day" worksheet for my Maths Group, and do so in such a way that I could also sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers. It took me a day to do this, but I now have a better idea of what is involved. Here is what I found...

The Roadblocks

The cutesy factor - I'm not a cutesy teacher, and I don't really cutesy up my resources. I think deep down I'm jealous of those who are, but I can't get past the feeling that I went through my cutesy phase in Year 6, and should be beyond that now. There are lots of cute resources available and all with amazing clip art. I don't feel like going down the path of dealing with copyright etc so am trying to create my own style - however 'uncute'! I've started fiddling with some drawing apps on my iPad and creating my own mouse-like creatures to use. I've also started using iOrnament to create backgrounds for my cover pages. I bought iFontMaker so that I can make and use my own fonts.

The time factor - I've already hinted at this, and while I think it may be easier to produce resources as you get into the swing of it, I still struggle to feel it is time well spent. When my little guy is awake, I feel I should be with him, when he isn't, I should be with my hubby, and when I'm at work, I have a long list to get through. I'm considering how I can compile some of the work I have already done with just a few minor adjustments to make them more appealing to others, and also how I can spend just a little more time on the worksheets I prepare for my class so that they can be added to my store.

The already-done factor - There are so many resources already available through Teachers Pay Teachers, and many of them quite chunky at no cost. The first resource you upload needs to be offered for free, but once you have additional resources you can change which resource is free as long as there is always one. This means that there are loads of great free resources, definitely worth checking out. On the flip side, if you create something that someone else has already created, yours has to value add or be offered at a similar or cheaper price. As someone not into marketing this is all very new to me.

The payment factor - Basically, you get diddly-squat for your ideas. Unless you pay a yearly fee of $59.95 the fees on sales are ridiculous, but at the same time, until you start selling items you don't want to fork out $60! With a basic membership you pay 40% in fees + 30 cents per item. So... on a $1 item you keep 30 cents!

The Drawcard

I have really enjoyed playing with my resources and creating something I'm proud enough to put out there. I'm having fun experimenting with my ICT skills again and expanding my knowledge in this area. I find myself thinking about it quite a bit and considering which resources I might choose to upload. I've had some great new ideas flowing and the kids in my class are benefitting from my enthusiasm. It has also motivated me to share my creations with other teachers in the school. You can see my store here.

As I said at the start, I didn't go into blogging with the intention of making money. Nor does it seem likely that I will make anything of value through this endeavour. However, if it makes my resources more accessible, doesn't become a drain on time, and helps me to develop my creativity, ICT skills and produce better quality classroom resources for my students - then what have I got to lose?