Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Spooky senses Science fun in the classroom

I love integrating units of work with seasonal activities. It keeps students engaged and allows for cross-subject discussions. 

Halloween is a great example of this because, even though it's only just gaining popularity in Australia, it provides an opportunity to discuss other country's celebrations and ways that the change of seasons are marked.

When I was growing up there was a game called Nelson's Eye that was played at parties and this is especially fun at Halloween when everybody is in full spooky mood!

I've created a variation on the old Nelson's Eye game so that my students can explore their five senses. I call it What's in the bag!

Here is what you will need to set up the game in your classroom:
  • a canvas or non-transparent bag
  • plastic resealable bags
  • senses flash cards (you can grab these for free at my store, just follow the link below)
  • various objects that are soft, squishy, noisy, hard, soft etc.. to place inside the plastic bags. Some examples I've used before are:
    • hard boiled eggs, mashed or whole (like an eye!)
    • boiled spaghetti (veins!) or hard uncooked (children will think these are sticks)
    • grapes (more eyes that go pop!)
    • wool (monster hair)
    • ice mashed or hard
    • mud (guts)
    • dried apricots (tiny brains!) 

How to play:
  1. Place 1 item, secretly in the bag. Don't let the children see what it is. Leave it in the plastic resealable bag otherwise you'll have a huge mess on your hands (or if you're game you can use a fresh canvas bag each time and just wash them after use).
  2. Pick one student to come to the front and place their hand in the bag. Discuss with the student which senses they are using by sticking the flash cards to your whiteboard.
  3. Asked the student to describe what they are feeling before guessing. This is a great opportunity to get students to discuss vocabulary for materials (soft, hard, long, short, round, square, squishy!)
  4. For the Halloween spin you could say "is it a witches eye?" and the children will all say "ugh yuck!"- but they are engaged! 
  5. After a while let the student guess what the item is and show them by pulling it out of the bag. 
  6. Repeat again and again until all students have had a turn.
  7. Reflect or brainstorm all the vocabulary you've used to describe the items inside the bag by writing them down on the whiteboard as you go along.
  8. Review the senses they used - could they see it? hear it? smell it?
If you'd like to grab a copy of these five senses flash cards just click the image below. 
If you enjoyed them, please leave a 4 star review.

You may also enjoy this paid resource.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Using brag tags to engage students in History and Geography

Have you heard of the new craze sweeping classrooms called 'brag tags'? 

Well they might not be 'new' to US teachers but here in Australia we're yet to get on board that brag-tag-train yet. However, I've found brag tags a really useful way to engage little learners in complex (let's not say 'dry') subjects such as Geography and History. 

I've used these little brag tags with Foundation through to Year 3 students and they are very popular (yes even in Year 3!). Students just love to find a way to show off to their peers and what better way than to prance around the playground with your achievement on your chest.

Preparing brag tags.
  1. You print out and laminate your brag tags and then punch a hole in them (don't worry you will use them year after year so it's time well spent). 
  2. Find a small container to keep them in so they are handy behind your desk.
  3. Purchase some lanyards (I got mine cheap from the dollar store but most places that supply stationery can provide them). I usually purchase one lanyard for each child but if you're planning on using brag tags for different subjects it can be useful to have a lanyard per subject.
  4. Create a small wall space for your lanyards to hang when students are not wearing them (such as when they go home) by assigning a student name per hook with sticky labels. 
The purpose of brag tags.

The aim of brag tags is to engage students with small achievable goals and, once reached, give them a brag tag to wear on their lanyard. 

I created some Geography and History brag tags to use with my Foundation Year students last year and, using a matching goal sheet, I would give out brag tags when students reached that academic goal.

For example, the Foundation Year Geography ACARA elaboration we were working towards was...

I can describe how places can be cared for.

Once I felt the student had mastered this elaboration, I ticked their goals sheet and awarded them a matching brag tag.

The goal sheets became particularly useful during parent teacher discussions. I would pull out the student's geography book and inside the front cover would be glued their goals for the whole year for that subject. I would use it as a reference point for discussions with parents about goals met and new goals we are aiming towards.

Students loved their brag tags and it became a bit of a battle to get them to take them off at the end of the day. I know some teachers let them wear them home, but you know you probably won't see them again. I just trained my students to hang them on their hook and, like Pokemon cards, they began to collect all of the geography goals one by one! I gave students a second lanyard for their history goals, which proved equally successful!

Brag tags are a win, win for teachers, students and parents alike!

You can grab any of my brag tags for HASS subjects here...



Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Year 1 HASS - new updates to ACARA

As with all things, changes are inevitable and the Australian Curriculum (ACARA) is no different. As I updated my Year 1 HASS packs to make them more tightly aligned to the ACARA elaborations, I was surprised to see some new elaborations have been inserted into the curriculum. It can be difficult to keep up with the changes to version 8.3 however, rest assured I have done the hard work for you!

What's new with the HASS Year 1 Packs?

Throughout the new packs there is a tighter alignment to ACARA elaborations, with the index at the front of the pack showing you which activities, slides and posters align with which elaboration. In addition, each elaboration has been clearly marked on each page inside the pack. This way you can plan your unit of work to suit your needs dependant on the number of weeks in your term or if you are a mixed level class. 

In addition, each worksheet has been differentiated for you as cut & paste, recording or a written response. This makes it easy for you to differentiate the materials within your class for non-writers, learning disabilities or EAL/D to meet achievement standards.

The new Year 1 HASS ACARA elaborations are as follows (see pictures):

Some of these 'new' elaborations are variations on old versions and some are similar to other subject elaborations.  The overall feel of version 8.3 seems to be an increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander themes and a merging of subject themes such as recycling (also found in Design Technologies for Year 1). Personally, I like the move back to an integrated curriculum as it allows room for project based work in the classroom across disciplines. 

Specifically, some of the new features in the HASS Year 1 packs are:

More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander themed materials. 

Click here to watch a video of how the new QR codes work in the updated packs.

Comparing weather from different places activities with matching teacher notes.

Exploring waterways, recycling and rearranging places.

What have people said about these packs?

Year 1 History Pack buyers have said...

August 5, 2017
So great that Australian teachers are producing resources that support our curriculum. I found your Geography pack very useful and this one looks like the same great quality. I am looking forward to using it.

March 18, 2017
Great for my Year 1, especially for differentiation.

February 5, 2017
This is one of the best units that I have seen. I love the photos. You have made it so easy...thank you.

September 20, 2017
Everything I need to cover the entire curriculum. Thank you.

Year 1 Geography Pack buyers have said...

August 8, 2017
Thank you - Love the new update with the QR codes!

September 21, 2017
Lovely posters! They look so great in my classroom - thank you!

September 16, 2017
This was a fabulous unit for the Year 1's and was great help in getting them ready for their upcoming assessment. 

July 30, 2017
You've sorted out the whole term's worth of Geography! Wish I had found this in week 1! Love it! Thank you!

July 10, 2017
Excellent resource - really cute graphics and comprehensive in terms of content.

You can also find both of these packs in the Year 1 HASS Bundle with some cute brag tags and learning goals sheets to match! 

If you have already purchased these packs, just click the links above and re-download the new copy for free! This update has also been applied to the HASS Mega Bundle so update yours now!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Foundation Year HASS - the updates!

As a teacher author, feedback is vitally important to me. Not only does feedback give you Teachers Pay Teachers credits, it lets me know if you are happy with my teaching product or if you'd like more or less of something. 

I read every piece of feedback and, as a teacher myself, I consider what I need to teach that particular subject. I like to go back every so often and update an older product to make sure it's aligned with the current Australian curriculum (ACARA). 

These last few weeks I have run a critical eye over two of my most popular products, to see how they align with the updated ACARA Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) version 8.3 for Foundation Year. 

I'm excited to announce both the Foundation Year History and Foundation Year Geography packs have both been updated to reflect the new curriculum and I'd like to quickly walk you through the improvements.

At the front of each pack is a table showing you how every activity, slide, poster or worksheet aligns with each of the ACARA elaborations. This makes it super easy for you to plan your unit of work and ensures you cover every aspect of the ACARA expectations. 

A great way to engage young students is through colourful posters. Dedicate a wall to HASS and rotate posters as you focus on different concepts. 

New vocabulary cards have been added to both packs. Each with a child-friendly definition of each concept. 

This is my favourite aspect of the two new updates - getting some real-world photographs in these packs! Cartoons are great for colouring in or to decorate a colourful poster, but nothing beats images of real people and places to explain HASS concepts to young students. I use these photographs as a whole class discussion prompt to unpack the concept further. Often I use inquiry questions such as "Who is in this picture?", "What is this picture telling us about...?"or "Why do you think they do...?" which works to scaffold their thinking before we move towards written work. Studying photographs in this way, can also help students develop their visual literacy skills.

I have had many requests to make images more diverse with single parent families, same sex couples and different races included. I've listened and made the changes. Posters and photographs include different family structures and are more representative of your student's backgrounds so they can relate better to the concepts being discussed.

Both the History and the Geography packs contain some new QR code activities which link to videos they can watch in pairs or on their own. The worksheets have been designed to allow students to explain their understanding of the concepts shown in the videos and demonstrate their learning.

I'm very proud to have been given permission from the Torres Strait Islander community to use their flag in my materials and inside this pack, I'm pleased to say, I have provided a more equal focus on both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The new updates include, as part of the new ACARA version 8.3 HASS requirements, a greater focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and culture. In addition, I have included some teacher instruction sheets and a link to useful videos you can watch to help you integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into your everyday classroom practices.


If you already own any of these products - you can just click the link below and download the update for free! If you would like to purchase one, please follow the links below.

HASS Bundle Foundation Year Geography Unit and History Unit aligned to ACARA
HASS Geography Unit Foundation Year special places, features, mapping activities
HASS History Unit Foundation Year Family Histories and Commemorations
HASS Mega Bundle Geography and History Foundation, 1, 2 & 3 aligned ACARA

If you purchase the Foundation Year HASS Bundle you'll also get the History and Geography matching Brag Tags as a bonus!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Halloween Paper Bag Puppet Freebie

Halloween is a time to really let go and have some fun in the classroom with some fantastic craft activities. I've also realised the importance of dramatic play as a means to help students to come to grips with difficult concepts. 

Batty Bat

This freebie is the perfect way to practice a retell or tell a story for young students. In addition, the activity gives students the opportunity to practice their cutting skills! 

Monster Mash

I love it when a craftivity covers multiple disciplines! 

Oscar Owl

You'll also find these fabulous Halloween products useful...

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Bringing History to life with digital technologies

I love teaching History and I love using digital technologies (ICTs) to teach History concepts. However, for some teachers, the thought of trying to integrate digital technologies into their curriculum subjects can become overwhelming. In this post I'll show you where to start and outline the benefits of using ICTs to bring history to life in your classroom!

With the introduction of more 1:1 iPad and laptop classrooms, it's easier than ever to obtain access to ICTs in the classroom setting. Teachers who work in 1:1 classrooms know there are huge benefits to using digital technology for learning within the primary classroom. In fact, an independent case study of 6 Australian primary schools using 1:1 laptops, noted that students that used ICTs were more engaged, on task and better differentiated for than non ICT classrooms (Fluck, 2011). Using laptops is fine for upper primary students, who can type and undertake independent research, however, how do you integrate ICTs into lower primary?

Marrying ICTs with a subject such as History is easy, as long as you keep your references and materials focused around the Inquiry questions. Focused historical questions lead students to learn to find evidence to support a statement and this is where QR codes work perfectly with young students.

This is a new product from TechTeacherPto3 and you can see how the QR codes have been used with a scavenger hunt game to keep engagement high. The essential historical element of this activity, is the use of real photographs. Each QR code sends students to a photograph of a real historical item with notes on how each item was used. The recording sheets pose questions that get students to think more deeply, moving them towards higher order thinking, allowing them to create a response based on historical knowledge and understanding rather than guess work.

Try the QR code out below now to see how it works!

Here is another example of using QR codes from the Then and Now Interactive Notebook (also a fantastic way to engage students). The QR code links to a video on how telephones work, which allows students to see how items were actually used, thus allowing them to again think more deeply about how historical items have been replaced or remodelled since then.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Celebrating Father's Day in the classroom, when dad is not around?

Father's Day. The day when children all over the nation celebrate how wonderful their father is and the contribution they make to their lives daily. 

Sadly, for some students, Father's Day is a day for sadness. A day when they suddenly feel 'different' to other children in their class. Family separation, divorce, estrangement or even death can mean some children are without their father on this special day.

As their classroom teacher, how can you be inclusive and yet still sensitive to the needs of these children during Father's Day celebrations?


Check your school online data system to see if both parents are around? Ask all students if they will be making a card for dad this year? If in doubt, ask the parent or guardian contact listed in your school records. There is nothing worse for a child without a father around, to be forced to design a father's day card/craft when they have nobody to give it to.


Adapt Father's Day crafts and resources to include grandfathers, uncles or other male role models or even consider making a card for mum (who is doing double-duty at home!).

What do you do to keep Father's Day inclusive in your classrooms?

You'll find some fun activities that are inclusive of different family situations in each of these packs.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Should you use worksheets in your classroom?

I'm going to break ranks here. I'm going to stand my ground and say proudly that I love a good worksheet! Let me correct that, I love a GREAT worksheet.

Alright, before you crucify me, let me explain my logic.

I'm writing this blog post in response to numerous teacher conversations I've overheard that go along the lines of:

"death to worksheets!"


"ugh...then she pulled out a worksheet..."


"goodness she uses so many worksheets in her class, what's wrong with her!"

Now I'm not saying all worksheets are bad, nor am I saying all worksheets are good. However, let's take a moment to explore the good, the bad and the ugly of worksheets.


A good worksheet is one that challenges students and the best worksheets are the ones that move students from lower to higher order thinking. Let me refer back to my tried and tested old friend Bloom's Taxonomy to demonstrate.

A well set out and informative worksheet is one that allows students to move towards understanding, applying and analysing (don't contact me, I'm Australian, this is how we spell it). The best kind of worksheets really push students to evaluate and give them the opportunity to create.

Good worksheets work for teachers as well. They provide teachers with inspiration and direction on how to teach a new subject and give experienced teachers a refreshing outlook on how to structure content to learners' needs. They also provide valuable feedback to teachers and parents as a moderation tool.

A great worksheet guides your students through your lesson and suggest ways of teaching the content in an age appropriate way. A set of great worksheets allows for differentiation, particularly with younger students, giving them options to cut and paste, draw or write a response to demonstrate what they know.

I've often scoured the internet for activities and sheets on particular topics and have stumbled upon a fantastic idea embedded within a worksheet! High quality worksheets are like gold dust and worth hanging on to for years. Visit any experienced teacher's office and you will find a handful of precious "I only have one copy!" worksheets they return to year after year because they are so effective in assisting students to break down a subject. 


Alright, we're here. Yes you're right. There are A LOT of bad worksheets floating around the internet (and in some older textsbooks in some cases!). 

The rules for bad worksheets are the reverse of good worksheets. 

Worksheets should be fairly self-explanatory. Obviously, young students will need guidance to complete a worksheet. However, a good worksheet acts like a graphic organise to extract thoughts, put them in order and create something new (Blooms higher order thinking). Bad worksheets make little or no sense to students when used independently. 

Worksheets should be used as a learning tool NOT a teaching tool. The moment a student is given a text book (often the same as a printed worksheet) or bunch of worksheets to complete independently, they will zone out and they have lost their purpose as a tool for building conceptual understanding. Some students will love independent quiet time with a worksheet, however, the goal should be to build on concepts already taught, not to teach them.


Well I'm not one to judge but... 

My personal pet peeves for ugly worksheets are:
  • fancy borders: they often get chopped off in photocopying and take up too much room, they just aren't necessary
  • fancy lettering: those cute fonts often don't work for young students, keep them clean and clear for copying purposes
  • colour elements: anything colour is a bit of a no no for me as we don't have colour printers in our rooms
  • photographs: this comes back to only having a poor quality black and white printer available in my classroom and photographs don't print well
These are just my thoughts. I'd love to know what you think? Do you ever use worksheets? When do you use them and for what purposes? What do you consider an 'ugly' worksheet? Leave your comments below.