Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Commemoration or a Celebration; do your students know the difference?

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

The Australian Curriculum (ACARA) Knowledge and Understanding for History Year 3 (HASS) states that students should explore both celebrations and commemorations in places around the world. 

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

However, to do this they first need to understand the difference between a commemoration and a celebration. Have you ever stopped to think about this yourself?

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

For example, ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day are very clearly a commemoration and NOT a celebration. In Australia we hold commemorative assemblies, lay wreaths and contemplate and remember those that have died. We do not 'celebrate' their deaths, we commemorate them.

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

Birthdays, on the other hand, are quite clearly a celebration (although in a sense we are commemorating the birth of somebody, it is traditionally known as a celebration). During celebrations we eat special food (birthday cake), sing special songs (Happy Birthday), give presents (birthday presents) and play games. Once you start to develop a strong understanding with students about what a celebration is, it then becomes clearer to see what is NOT a celebration (such as ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day). You may, however, have students in your class who do not celebrate birthdays due to religious reasons. It's always worth discussing this with your students well in advance of any 'birthday' activities.

Interesting fact: did you know that Remembrance Day in America is known as a celebration of war veterans rather than a commemoration of the end of World War 1?

So ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day are clearly commemorations and Birthdays are traditionally a celebration. What about other special days?

Diwali is a great example of a celebration and ask any child in your class who celebrates this special day and they will be so excited to tell you all about it. I always ask who celebrates Diwali and then ask them to come to the board so we can explore if this special day is a celebration or a commemoration. Make sure you have brainstormed the two terms and found the dictionary definition before starting. Do you eat special food? Do you sing special songs? Do you give gifts? Do you play special games or perform special dances? Let your students tell you all about their special day. 

Saint Patrick's Day is another special celebration for anybody of Irish heritage. In Ireland it is a public holiday and celebrated as the national day but elsewhere around the world it is a chance to celebrate all things Irish. If you have any students with Irish heritage you can discuss this with them as well. 

Students LOVE talking about their special day and it makes a fantastic 'show and tell' activity throughout the year.

Once you have established what the two terms 'celebration' and 'commemoration' mean you can do a sorting activity (you can find the one pictured below available here) and when completed, ask students to brainstorm other commemorations and celebrations. It's a fantastic open-ended task to get students to find out the what, when and why of seasonal celebrations around the world or in their community. 

Year 3, history, hass, social studies, commemoration, celebration, sort, paste, activity, activities, australia, australian, anzac day

Sunday, 15 April 2018

How I leave school at 3 pm...and you can too!

I am one of those teachers that leaves school at the same time their students do. I know not many do this as I've seen the looks from the teachers who are sitting at their desks as I walk out, still ploughing through a huge pile of marking. I get the comments of 'I don't know how you do it?' so I'll let you into my secret. This is how I manage to leave work at 3 pm when school finishes... and there is no magic to this trick either, it's just down to hard work. 

1. I arrive early. 

Yes, while other teachers are sleeping in or grabbing that cup of coffee on the way to work I'm already there. I do have before school care for my children, which I highly recommend to any teacher - you really can't do this job without it, especially if you're a single parent family. 

Morning time is THE best time to get work done. It's quiet. Nobody bothers you. The copy machine is free from a line up or you can get your copying into the pile to be copied first. There are no knocks on the door from parents who 'just want a quick chat' and no other teachers asking you questions. It's peaceful and calm and you can really get your head straight. First thing in the morning I work backwards from the things I HAVE to get done first. For example, if I have reading groups first I prepare all the materials and set them out, then work out what I need all the way through till break. At break time I can sort things out for the middle and last session. Once the lesson materials are set up I write up what is happening today on the board for my students and sit down at the computer to do my admin. This is when I respond to emails. 

2. I don't do small chit chat

This sounds harsh but I just don't have the time. I do have some chats with other teachers but they are very short and I'm usually on my way somewhere. If my classroom is near a 'chatty teacher' I keep my door closed. Okay, it's anti-social but I want to do my work and leave by 3 pm so sacrifices have to be made. 

3. I don't eat in the lunch room

I eat in my classroom most of the time for a number of reasons. Firstly.. back to point 2.. one way to avoid chatting and wasting time is to avoid the lunch room. My time and energy is precious so I'll just work through lunch thank you. I know this is bad practice works. I eat my lunch and respond to any new emails. 

4. I respond or send emails as soon as I can

Before school or during break is a great chance to respond to emails. If you don't respond quickly they will really build up. The minute something happens and I need to contact a parent I do so almost immediately. If the students are busy writing I do my emails quickly. I've had some really important, urgent emails sent midday and if I hadn't looked till the next day I would have had huge problems. Check your emails frequently and this nips the workload in the bud. 

5. I mark during class time as often as possible

It's not always possible but I mark homework before students arrive (they have to place it in the box the day before). I mark quizzes as we go and I get students to switch books as often as possible to mark and give feedback. Not only is this a good time-saving idea for me but it's really useful to get students used to giving constructive feedback (of course this depends on what grade you teach). I rarely take marking home and when I do it's usually the end of term exam and I mark it over the holidays.

6. I'm preparing to leave during second break

I usually have a duty first or second break but before duty I pack my bag and leave out only the things I need for the last session. Emails are checked and responded to and marking finalised and put away. I also make sure any copying is in for the next day and generally get organised. This way, when the bell goes, I dismiss my students, turn lights off etc.. then I can head home. There is rarely a parent waiting to chat as I usually sort issues out via email beforehand but if there is, that is the only thing that might hold me up. Parents usually make a time to see me though and I usually make that time before school if possible. 

Alright, I know what you're thinking 'keep this up and she'll burn out!'.. I won't actually as I leave school by 3 pm, collect my children, help them with their homework and make dinner. I then get the evening to myself to do as I want. On the weekend I do my planning (Sunday is planning day) and I plan for the whole week. 

The key is getting organised and cutting out the small talk. I'm a mother first, teacher second.

What are your thoughts? How do you manage your time at school?

Friday, 13 April 2018

Meet some Australian Curriculum specialists

If you're struggling with a particular curriculum area (let's face it, we all have our areas we need to improve upon) then let me give you a guiding hand. The following teachers are also teacher-authors and are specialists in their subject area. They know what works and what doesn't work in the classroom and can give you lots of help and advice on areas you might be struggling with, or where you might be looking for particular resources for a subject. Take a browse below, follow their store to see when new products are available or sign up to their blog to keep abreast of the latest curriculum news in that subject area.

History, Geography, Social Studies & Civics and Citizenship (HASS)

Foundation - Year 3

An example of their HASS products...
HASS, history, geography, civics, citizenship, social studies, australian, curriculum, foundation, year 1, year 2 year 3, teaching, resources, techteacherpto3

I have specialist qualifications in History and Digital Pedagogy and I have a passion for making history and geography fun for early years students. Previously I was employed by the Queensland Museum in their Social History Department to create displays and curate and so I bring a wealth of historical experience to my teaching products. I love making teaching products that are fun, bright and most importantly engaging. Teaching history and geography should be fun! Let me take the worry out of your planning as ALL of my teaching products are aligned directly with the Australian Curriculum (ACARA).  

Year 4 - 6 (Civics)

An example of their Civics products...

Civics can seem like a dry subject at times, full of older people in grey suits. But recent current events have shown how important it can be for young people and how they can get involved. I'm a firm believer in lessons which explore the ways government impacts the lives of students; in using a range of learning experiences to encourage thoughtful engagement with civics now and as they grow up into adults. It can help them change the world!

Years 4 - 6 (History)
Aussie Star Resources

Visit their TpT store, Website or Blog

 An example of their Year 4-6 History products...

The Australian History curriculum has some really important topics for upper primary students but they can be a bit 'dry' and boring to teach. Aussie Star Resources is dedicated to designing Australian History teaching resources that are age appropriate, meaningful and curriculum aligned. We thoroughly research every resource and check regularly to make sure it is meeting the curriculum so that you can be confident your planning needs are met. Your history lessons can be hands-on, fun and engaging!


Foundation - Year 1

An example of their Science products...

In addition to providing HASS products, I also provide Science resources that are aligned to the Australian Curriculum. My experience in Science stems from my time as a specialist vocabulary teacher for 4 years, where I spent time unpacking key terms in the Science curriculum for students using the STRIVE program (exploring Tier 2 words). After consultation with my HASS customers, I was asked to produce similar science resources for Foundation to Year 3 and at present I have Foundation and Year 1 Science units available within my store (posters, worksheets, activities, instructions, vocabulary cards, QR codes and more!) with Years 2 and 3 to follow soon. 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Foundation - Year 6

An example of their STEM products...
stem, maths, mathematics, science, engineering, technology, teaching, lessons, unit

STEM is the current BUZZ word in education but what does it mean for you as a teacher? STEM is a broad subject area that can daunt some teachers. Where to begin and what to cover? Developing a STEM curriculum for Foundation to Grade 6, I have navigated the Australian Curriculum to bring my students and customers the most practical, up-to-date and hands-on STEM lessons and activities available. Speaking at the Improving STEM Conference and the future Digicon conference, I have been recognised as a leader in STEM education in Australian Primary Schools.
My motto is - Inspire students to create what they can imagine.


Foundation - Year 1

Visit their TpT Store, Blog or Facebook

An example of their Maths products...

Finding activities that meet curriculum standards while being developmentally appropriate for little learners can be tricky - particularly in maths where concepts are sometimes abstract. I love to plan small group work that involves games, fine motor tasks, movement or hands-on elements to ensure children are engaged during their learning. Let's make maths exciting and fun!

Year 2 - 4

An example of their Maths products...

Here at Rainbow Sky Creations we help Aussie teachers by making awesome, curriculum aligned resources to inspire you and making learning feel like magic for your students. One of our main passions is providing Maths resources that are hands-on, engaging and easily differentiated to meet the needs of different learners in your classroom. Through our collective two decades of teaching, mostly in Years 2 - 4, in two countries and across a couple of different Australian states, we have built up an amazing collection of ideas, tips and tricks to teach your students to love and enjoy Maths. Our philosophy is to keep it simple, fun and easy to implement, allow students to solve problems and explain their learning. 


Foundation - Year 1
Mrs Strawberry

Visit their TpT store, Blog or Facebook

An example of their English products...

Look no further for fun, engaging and unique literacy activities and resources for Foundation and Year 1 students. With over 12 years of experience in early childhood, my absolute favourite thing to teach is literacy. I love watching my students learn and play, without even realising they are learning! All my products are tried and tested in my own early childhood classroom.

Year 2 - 6

An example of their English products...

I've been teaching primary for over ten years, with experience in both special education and mainstream settings. I'm currently teaching on a part time basis in a Melbourne school for children with learning needs, while also working with a university in Melbourne providing support and guidance to pre-service teachers as they complete their degree (at the moment I'm working with students to develop their skills as literacy teachers). I love everything about teaching literacy, and my classroom is rich in children's literature and engaging learning activities.

MUSIC (Curriculum aligned for the classroom)

Foundation - Year 6

An example of their music products...

We are two teachers who combine our passion for singing, teaching, and writing, with our backgrounds in the creative and performing arts, to create professionally produced, curriculum-aligned songs. The songs follow outcomes and learning sequences of curriculum documents, and integrate classroom learning across key subject areas. They provide complete teaching/learning tools that actually SAVE you time, enhance and support student learning, PLUS solve the problem of what to do for school assemblies! (Lesson materials included in most song packages).

Special Education

Foundation - Year 6

Visit their TpT store, Facebook or Instagram

I have had the privilege of working across a variety of Special Education settings for 8 years now, in both Primary and High school settings, as well as at Aspect. In 2014 I completed my Masters of Education, specialising in Special Education, with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Behaviour Management and Twice Exceptional students. I love working with other teachers to create the best learning environment for all students through great routines, quality programming and engaging learning activities.

Occupational Therapy

Foundation - Year 6

An example of their Occupational Therapy products...

As an Occupational Therapist, I promote hands on, differentiated learning to enable students to connect with their learning in a meaningful way. Using multi-sensory activities encourages engagement in a complex topic whilst developing building block skills in the early years; These essential skills include scissor skills, finger and hand strength, and visual perception (essential for reading and writing).


An example of their library products...

With a background in Primary Education and Teacher-Librarianship, teaching students how to use the library is my passion. My ready-to-go resources are the perfect tool to help teach library skills in a hands-on and engaging manner. I enjoy creating lessons based on picture books, creating exposure to and a love of Australian authors.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

7 Easy Easter Egg Ideas For Your Classroom #Kmarthack

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

Kmart has these super cute plastic Easter Eggs in tubes (I found them in green/blue and pink) so be sure to grab them quickly before they pack up their Easter goodies!

I was thinking of some fun ways to use these in the classroom and brainstormed several ideas I thought I'd share with you PLUS give you a lovely Easter freebie you can use with them!

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

1. CVC Words/Sight words

Download this CVC Short A Freebie (only available on my blog), print and cut the CVC word sorts and place one into each egg. Students open the egg and sort the CVC word into the correct spelling using the image as a guide. You can differentiate this by removing the image and/or removing the vowel. 

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

2. Word Families

I wrote directly on the egg with a permanent marker and you will need to snip these egg attachments on the side with scissors so the egg can spin around. Students can record their answers in their work book or see how many words they can make with the eggs and try swapping tops and bottoms of the egg shell around to see if any other word families can be made. 

3. Opposites

This activity will work best if you split the tops and bottoms of the egg shells up so that they can't just match the colour but have to read the word. Write opposite words on each top and bottom of the egg shell and let students match them up. Run a timer and make it a fun competitive game in class!

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

4. Matching upper case with lower case

Write upper and lower case letters on tops and bottoms.. mix it up a bit by changing colours to match and also don't always write the upper case letter on the top egg shell.. challenge your students a bit. Great fun activity to do with a timer as well!

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers

5. Contractions

Write the words in full on each top and bottom of the egg shell and then get students to write the contraction of a piece of paper and place it inside the egg shell and close it up. Get another student or work in teams to check the answers by hatching the eggs.

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers
6. Rich vocabulary

Extend your students' vocabulary by writing an 'everyday' word on the front of the egg and getting students to write on pieces of paper, as many different synonyms for that word and them place inside. You could pass the eggs around the room and get students to place their answer inside without looking at the other answers. Then do a check and count at the end. Repetitive answers don't count for points but you could award 2 points for each answer that is a great synonym for that particular word. Great to use with any 'said is dead' activities!

classroom, idea, easter, egg, sight word, words, english, language, arts, cvc, kmart, kmarthack, kmartaustralia, australia, teacher, blog, aussie, teachers
7. Geographic Features

Yes. I actually came up with a HASS game for these eggs can you believe it! Features of the classroom - write as many as you can (as with the game above) and place inside the egg. Same with features of the beach and you could use library, playground, supermarket etc.. this gets students used to the term 'features' and the concept of describing places. You could mix things up and place the wrong features in the wrong eggs.. then get students to open and discuss or find the correct egg (good timer activity for the whole class where they run about looking for the correct egg to place the correct term into). 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Using Dramatic Role Play To Teach Numeracy and Literacy Skills

role play, dramatic, numeracy, literacy, prek, kindergarten, grade 1, year 1, grade one, teaching, teacher, resources, printables

Dramatic Role Play is a fun way for students to fill an afternoon. After all the heavy teaching of the first two sessions is over, I would let my students race into our home corner and 'play' for the afternoon. Only problem is, play needs to be 'learning through play'.. ssssh don't tell the students that though! I thought I'd share how I set up my home corner so that students can keep working through their curriculum required knowledge and understandings, whilst letting off steam and playing which is, let's face it, the best way to learn! 
dramatic role play, numeracy, literacy, skills, curriculum, integrated units

There as so many pins on Pinterest with some absolutely beautiful dramatic role play set ups that you can really go to town with this (I always compare working in Early Years to wedding preparations...there really is no limit to how much you can spend!). However, if you're not fortunate enough to have a husband who happens to be a builder, who can whip up a supermarket set up with working sink etc..  then you'll need to improvise with tables, chairs and shelves. 

If students are truly to own this learning area they need to be part of the set up process. I usually set up the key components such as tables, chairs and bookshelves etc..  and sometimes I'll place some toys in or around the area to demonstrate how those areas can be used (e.g. food on shelves, play money in the tray) and then let the students do the decorating. Sure - it won't look as nice but the students will have OWNERSHIP which I feel is more important. 

Here are some labels I use (available in my store) which you can print, laminate and then let students place around the learning area.

dramatic role play, numeracy, literacy, skills, curriculum, integrated units

Next, I get clever about working smarter not harder (Prep teacher's motto!). 

dramatic role play, numeracy, literacy, skills, curriculum, integrated units

I assign tasks within the learning area based on areas the students need to work on. Remember this is the perfect opportunity to differentiate that learning and do one-on-one observations with students, to see if they are demonstrating that skill. Once they are 'playing' I sit at the back of the room and watch particular students and do my tick and flick checklist of curriculum learning objectives to be met. You can also record this method in your student data differentiation discussions with your line manager, as it is directly meeting the students learning needs. Examples below come directly from ACARA Foundation Year. 


Role Play: Cashier

Learning Objective: Understanding that each object must be counted only once, that the arrangement of objects does not affect how many there are, and that the last number counted answers the 'how many' question. 
Example: The cashier will be required to count one-to-one correlation with items on the table (or conveyor belt depending on how fancy your learning area is). 

Learning Objective: Identifying the number words in sequence, backwards and forwards, and reasoning with the number sequences, establishing the language on which subsequent counting experiences can be built.

dramatic role play, numeracy, literacy, skills, curriculum, integrated unitsExample: The cashier will need to add the amount required and express that to the customer. They will also be required to establish how much change to give them. However, subtraction is difficult for students at this age so what you're looking for is that use of numbers used in a sentence. Do they understand how to sequence the numbers (forwards) when adding the total etc?

Role Play: Customers

Learning Objective: Developing fluency with forwards and backwards counting in meaningful contexts, including stories and rhymes.
Example: The meaningful context here is real-world scenarios of shopping and using money. Do they have enough money? How much do they need to buy things?

Learning Objective: Understanding and using terms such as 'first' and 'second' to indicate ordinal position in a sequence.
Example: Encourage students to make a shopping list using first, second and third terms. Then observe students collecting items from the shop in the correct order. Do they understand what these terms mean? You can also set up your shop with the terms as signage such as 'First: take a basket. Second: select your groceries. Third: take your groceries to the cash register and so on'. 


Role Play: Cashier

Learning Objective: Learning that language varies according to the relationship between people (such as shopkeepers and customers).
Example: How do students talk to each other when role playing? Do they take on the correct tone of customer and shop keeper? Have they seen this in action and if so do they understand why we take a polite and formal tone with customers?

Role Play: Customers

Learning Objective: Learning to ask relevant questions and to express requests and opinions in ways that suits different contexts.
Example: Do they know how to ask for something that is not in the shop? Can they demonstrate how to form a sentence correctly in order to get the correct response? Can they use 'how' and 'why' appropriately to get what they want from the shop keeper?

dramatic role play, numeracy, literacy, skills, curriculum, integrated unitsLearning Objective: Understanding that texts can take many forms, can be very short or quite long. 
Example: Making shopping lists is a great activity that students can do to make strong connections to real-world learning experiences. I find it useful to create vocabulary cards, laminate and bind them with a ring tab so that students can copy the spelling down (having pictures with the words helps as well). 

In addition, I let students create brochures for their supermarket. This addresses both numeracy and literacy skills through the creation, writing and pricing of goods in the brochure. Templates for brochures can be found in my store here or you can you make some up with plain paper and let students get really creative!

Humanities and Social Studies (HASS)

HASS elements can be easily interwoven into your ACARA checklist of observations once you have let your students explore their supermarket set up, such as:
  • what are the features of places (supermarkets have trolleys, cash registers etc..)?
  • why do places have those features?
  • where are features placed (e.g. why is the checkout at the front of the store and not the back)?
You can even get students to practice their map makings skills by mapping the learning corner and listing/labelling the features held inside!

The opportunities for integrated learning with dramatic play are endless. You can find all the resources needed to set up your own classroom supermarket here including play money, shelf labels, shopping lists, brochure templates and shop signs. Hunt around in charity shops for baskets and toy food and you'll be amazed at what you'll find!