Posted in Learning

My teacher was a poor speller – so what?

Two days ago, my sister tagged me in this photo from Sunrise on Facebook:

Screenshot 2015-01-03 10.48.37

Based around a spelling test that no teachers got a perfect score, it raised the question that maybe getting into a teaching course is too easy.

I replied to my sister, on my teaching high-horse, that I disagreed. I was a brilliant speller, spelling words like restaurant and rhinocerous in Prep (proven by the fact that my mother has kept my spelling book all these years!). My Year 3 teacher was a terrible speller. I recall her asking me constantly to help her correct my classmates spelling in their writing. When writing on the board, she would often ask for my input when spelling trickier words.

As I thought about this it got me thinking. Was she really a bad speller? Was she trying to get me to feel important or trying to extend me? Was she differentiating her teaching so that I wasn’t getting bored? I learnt a lot from that teacher – she inspired me to become a teacher. It is purely her influence on me that brought me to the idea of teaching.

English is a really hard language, even for those for whom it is their native tongue. Why are we judging the ability of teachers based on one area of learning? I couldn’t guarantee that I could get all of the words right on that test, nor am I sure that I would pass a test on division and fractions.

Sure, spelling is important. Despite this, there are other factors that influence a teacher’s ability – how about their nurturing disposition? Their passion to make a difference? Their love of children and learning?

So what if a teacher is a poor speller? What is important is that the students are still learning.

Posted in Learning

What do you value?

Today our school had a PD day, part of which was focused on “Valuing Safe Communities”. 

At one point, this discussion point was raised:

Students and children will attend their school or site more regularly if…

A colleague commented that we have quite a high number of absences due to families regularly taking days off to have extra long weekends and holidays during the school term. It is this a question of them valuing us, as teachers or as a school?  Often it isn’t because a child feels unsafe or undervalued that they are constantly going on holiday.  I added the point that it is the parents who make the decision and I wondered if we should be asking the parents if they are valuing the school and the effort that educators make?

I was presented with this response by our PD facilitator:

Not one single parent values this school. They only value their children.

He continued to say that parents are only interested in doing what’s best for their children. If there’s something at the school they don’t agree with, they either complain, or switch schools. 

It was hard to sit there and hear that ‘NO’ parent in this school values us. I’m not even a parent, let alone a parent with children at our school, although there were at least half a dozen staff sitting in the room who are.  Thankfully our school receptionist spoke up and said that she disagreed. To which the facilitator resulted in a resounding “No”. In her position as a receptionist, she receives many phone calls from disgruntled parents requesting a meeting with someone or another, but she also deals with prospective families. She went on to say that so many families have such great respect for our school and they don’t always stay just because of their children.  Her comments were met with silence.

I couldn’t help but put my two-cents worth in. I was educated at a Lutheran high school (same denomination as our school) up until Year 11. At the end of each year from Year 7 to Year 11, my parents and I investigated the other schools in the district. They weren’t happy with a lot of things at the school. I was happy to a degree, but also happy to move if I needed. Being a school that was closely associated with a church, my family valued that connection – the focus on the church in conjunction with education. They valued the school and the teachers who helped me. Of course they valued me – I am their daughter. But when you choose a school for your children, surely you have to look at the whole school – the motto, the ethos, the values that underpin a school. Not just the classroom or teacher that your son or daughter will have. Not just the subjects that they will be taught. It’s more than that.

It gutted me to hear that somebody is out their saying that no single parent values our school. It doesn’t make it overly encouraging to get out of bed in the morning and try to make a difference.

Do you feel valued? Do you think families at your school value the school, or just their child?

Posted in Learning, Technology

What is success?

In my Year 4 class, we have been using the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. For Life program. It’s a program based on resilience in children and I have found it fantastic so far (we’re just over half-way through the 10 week program…which has turned into 14 weeks based on time/excursions/absences…etc).

This post isn’t about the program exactly, but about certain components that trickle through into adult life.  

The ‘R’ in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. stands for “Remember to Relax” and to introduce this to the students, one of the activities we did in class (and the teachers did at their facilitator training day) was ‘Milkshake Breathing‘. It’s all about recognising the emotional responses that your body can have and how to best deal with them.

Today I had a student come to me after lunch asking me “What can I do when my milkshake breathing isn’t working?”  He’d had a fairly rough day – brought about by his low self-esteem and equally low resilience – and I was so proud of him for seeking help and sharing his feelings with me.

We talked over a few things and I sent him home with some strategies and had a chat to his dad at the end of the day. It was when I was talking to his dad, he mentioned a trait he had seen in his son:

“He wants to be perfect at something the first time he tries. He doesn’t realise that that is impossible.”

How often do we as adults give up the first time we try something? Through Art Costa’s Habits of Mind and our F.R.I.E.N.D.S. program, I feel that my class is understanding the value of persistence and attitude towards learning.  

But that’s what happens in the classroom.

What happens outside the classroom is that teachers search for something on the Internet – can’t find it and give up. Other teachers have a difficult child and can’t seem to get through to them to make improvement – and then they give up. Over the last two years, I have witnessed many staff plan an amazing lesson using technology, only to have the server go down, the power go out, a website is blocked, or the students “don’t get it” – and they give up.

If I gave up every time the technology in my lesson failed, I wouldn’t be a good role model to my students. I have asked students to chat to their partner while I fiddle with a cord, email for tech support, find another website that does the same thing… it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t prepared for my lesson – it means that I was able to be flexible. There have been countless times when I have quickly Googled how to export work that a student has done from one place to another, or asked a student in my class how to un-invert the colours on an iPad screen! Yes, I’ve planned my entire lesson around a video clip that we needed to watch at the start of a lesson…that was taken down by Youtube. We survived – I talked, the students listened and then we found another way around it, without the video clip.

There should still be something to talk about in your lesson without technology. Always.

success elevator

I showed the image above to my students (remember, they’re only in year 4) the other day and we talked a lot about what it meant. We talked about working in pairs, with one student treating the other as the ‘elevator’ and just going along for the ride. We talked about how when you take the stairs, a task takes longer – you don’t instantly get to the ‘top’.

How do you get to the ‘top’? Do you require instant success?

Posted in Learning, Technology

Technology Tuesdays – Skype

Yesterday I held my final Technology Tuesday session for Term 3. The topic was Skype, which I use quite regularly in my classroom. Being 4.5 hours from Adelaide and 6 hours from Melbourne, we don’t get the same range of guest speakers that other schools may get in larger cities. I find that Skype can be fantastic for this, as it allows the students to still talk to an expert – and their teacher isn’t an expert at everything!!

I have also used Skype to chat with authors, such as Wendy Orr when my class read Nim’s Island. To actually ask the author about the book, instead of guessing what she was thinking or where she got her ideas from, was an amazing opportunity. Sharing lessons and projects with classes at other schools is such a powerful tool as students can see what other children their age are doing and how the quality of work can vary. At a conference recently, I was introduced to the concept of Mystery Skype, which I am excited to try very soon!

I use the Skype Education website, and you will need an account. The website is full of teachers and lessons to connect with, but I also connect with possible Skype-ists via Twitter.

For people that came to my Skype session, I created a very basic handout which you can find here. It just showcases a few examples of how I have used Skype in my classroom, which are all featured on my class blog.

Posted in iPads, Learning

Is it worth it?

This year, we introduced 1:1 iPads across our Years 5-10 students. Our school decided to implement such a program at the request of our School Council, wanting us to increase our technology and ‘keep up’ with other schools. A class had trialled iPads. Our tech support team had developed confidence in the area of Apple devices. Class sets of iPads were purchased for the lower years. Professional development was offered to all staff. Documentation and information was written, edited, and rewritten. All staff purchased their own iPad. More professional development was offered to staff. Information evening were held for all parents of the school.

Our rollout was in stages.

Term 1 – Years 9 & 10 students.
We dabbled, dipped our toes in, as we stumbled upon issue upon issue. Student behaviour. Consequences, or no consequences? Staff trying to introduce iPads meaningfully. There were breakages, inappropriate usage and the beginning of device addiction. PD was offered to staff on a variety of apps, behaviour management strategies for the ‘connected classroom’ and app sharing sessions. All staff were asked to allocate one of their SMART goals to an IT-related goal. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students – we answered their questions and offered advice.

Term 2 – Years 7 & 8 students.
Armed with more knowledge and loophole awareness, the next cohort of students were introduced to iPads as a learning tool. Student behaviour was still an issue. The question of consequences was still an issue. Games in class – appropriate or inappropriate? The issue of screen time was being raised, so we set about asking teachers to record their students in-class iPad usage for a 2-week period. Nothing extreme – Year Level, Subject, Approximate percentage of class time iPads were used, and maybe the app/apps they used. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to ease their fears and reassure them that technology was something that our school values.

Term 3 – Years 5 & 6 students.
Our knowledge as a staff is becoming stronger and there are less and less loopholes for the students to find. Students behaviour regarding iPads is less of an issue. Consequences are becoming tighter. There is a no-gaming policy unless it clearly relates to class work. Screen time is still a concern. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to tell them how successful our initial roll-out had been and what we have learnt from it to try and improve it for their children.

After two terms of iPad use, we surveyed the teachers and the Year 7-10 students on their iPad use at school. The results were fascinating. After such eye-opening results, my principal requested that we survey the parent community as well. The results were indeed fascinating, but for less positive reasons.

Some of the main concerns were that their child was now not interested in school since the iPads were introduced. The issue of screen time seemed to be on the tip of every parent’s fingers as they typed their negative responses into my Google Form. Other parents were frustrated that they seemed to have taught their child more about the iPad than the teachers at school.

Funnily enough, we have run PD sessions on integrating the iPad effectively. The SAMR model has become so frequently referred to at our school that I am sure I dream of it at least once a week. The issue of screen time was a factor that we wanted to address, hence our request of staff to record their usage for a two-week period. Out of all the staff asked (at least 20), only 5 responded. How could we present that information to parents?

After nearly 3 years of being involved with the iPad program and imminent technology rollout, the responses I read from our parent community made me wonder, “Is it worth it?”

  • Is it worth putting so much time and energy into trying to inspire other staff to try something new on their iPad? Or use an app a second time, to build confidence?
  • Is it worth running optional technology sessions for staff to try and reach their SMART goal, but then have nobody turn up?
  • Is it worth holding parent information nights to present information and try and teach them about the world their children are moving into, only to have parents whinge behind our backs on an anonymous survey?

Sometimes, no matter how much you are supported by your leadership team and how passionate you are, you still wonder “Is it worth it?”

Posted in iPads, Technology

Technology Tuesdays – iPads for Assessment

Today’s Technology Tuesday session is about using iPads for Assessment purposes in the Early Years.

It is an amalgamation of two of my previous posts, Evernote and RRCalc.

Evernote can be a tricky app to master, but I found that when I set it up on my computer, the iPad app became a lot easier to use.  It allows me to have a Notebook Stack for my class, with each student having their own Notebook. Within each student’s Notebook, I have created Notes for different categories.  For example, in Brad’s Notebook, I have 3 Notes so far – Behaviour, Maths and Literacy.

I have created a handout for the session, with links to videos which help explain how to use Evernote in conjunction with the RRCalc, to keep track of reading progress.  The handout can be found here: iPads & Early Years Assessment.

Other apps that I use for my assessment are

  • Numbers – like an Excel Spreadsheet, with a different sheet for each topic (Spelling Results, PAT Maths, Project Partners etc).
  • Record of Reading – very similar to the RRCalc, but this app allows you to photograph the running record with the words to follow along.
  • Skitch – I will often photograph a rubric in Skitch and then annotate for various students. There’s probably a much easier way…I’m still learning and trying!
Posted in iPads, Learning, Technology

Technology Tuesdays

During Term One I attempted to run “Technology Tuesdays” at school to help assist staff to integrate technology, in particular iPads into their planning, teaching and learning. Other schools have “Techie Brekkies” which I feel is a great idea, except the part that means I would have to get up early. After school works better for me!

I had grand plans and ideas. But as the term wore on, there was very little interest in the after school sessions. 

Following a staff survey about iPad use at school, I decided to give Technology Tuesdays another go for Term Three – with a few adaptations.

A term schedule – These sessions will only be held on Tuesdays that we do not have a full staff meeting. Our meeting nights are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but there isn’t a meeting scheduled for every staff member each Tuesday. I’m also going to add the schedule to the school calendar and invite staff to attend. To see what my plan is (so far) for Term 3, have a look here: Technology Tuesdays

Options – I’ll be uploading the content for each session here, onto this blog. That way, if staff can’t make it – there’s always the option to catch up later! Which leads me to the third adaptation…take-aways.

Take-Aways – Although I’m trying to reduce my paper usage, I’ve learnt that staff love to have a piece of paper with instructions on it to take home and look at later. Yes, I know they can take a photo of it, or just take notes on their iPad, but it can also work this way too! Because I’m aiming to create independent staff members my handouts will be more like step-by-step guide so staff will hopefully be able to teach themselves. The handouts will be uploaded here in the blog post here each week.


The first Technology Tuesday’s topic is ‘Twitter‘. I’ve designed a 3-Level Challenge for staff, ranging from beginner, to novice, to expert. These Challenges were based around @mrrobbo‘s 14 Day Twitter Challenge, but adapted to suit my school and the staff who work there.

Feel free to use or adapt! Perfect for anybody new to Twitter as a PLN (Professional Learning Network).

Twitter 101: Twitter Level 1

Twitter Know-How: Twitter Level 2

Twitter Extra: Twitter Level 3

BONUS – Twitter + AITSL


I’d love to hear about your success stories about staff PD for ICT use at your school!
Posted in Learning, Technology

Students teaching students!


I had a student complain to me today, “Miss T, I can’t get my work done because everybody keeps asking me for help”. We were working on our weekly Genius Hour project. This particular student is creating a blog with step-by-step guides on how to do various things on computers – edit your background in Powerpoint, add a hyperlink to a Powerpoint or Word document, etc.

The 4 students who were working in the same area as him had identified him as an expert and were constantly asking him questions of how to do things on their blog: “How do I change this sidebar?”, “How do I add a hyperlink to my blog post?”, “Can I have a picture as my background?”.

I told him that it’s an honour to be asked, but agreed that it can be frustrating to be constantly distracted. I asked him how he could help them without having to go over to their computer each time. Within a few minutes, he had given each of his peers his blog address, so they could read his step-by-step guides for themselves. It helped to answer some of their questions and allowed him to continue his work. Did they still ask him questions? Of course! But after our conversation, he viewed it as feedback on what his future blog posts might be about – “How to insert pictures into blog posts”, “How can I get a map on my blog?”, “How can I take a picture of what’s on my screen and put it into my blog post?”.

This student has blown me away with what he has already done and what he plans to do with his blog. He is already a teacher in his own unique way and I am so very proud that his peers view him as an expert and respect his advice and guidance.

Check out his blog, Cool Computer Things – you never know, you might learn something!

Posted in iPads, Technology, Web 2.0

App of the Week#7: Socrative Teacher

Screenshot 2014-03-24 17.56.47

What is it?

Socrative is an interactive assessment tool, where teachers can create quizzes to check for understanding. It is a web 2.0 tool, or an iOs or Android app.

Why should I download it?

Socrative allows you to create a variety of quizzes to use as formative or summative assessment. Not only can it check for understanding, but the program emails you a copy of the results in a spreadsheet format – all scored for you!

What do I use it for?

Socrative can be used as a teacher-paced quiz or student-paced, catering for students of all speeds. It can be used as a team activity with groups of students, as an ‘exit ticket’ assessment, or as feedback. Creating a quiz allows you to choose multiple choice questions, short answer questions or true/false questions, to allow for the maximum amount of feedback you require. Teachers will need to download the Socrative Teacher app, whereas students will need the Socrative Student version. All students need to know to access the quiz is the ‘Room Number’, which you as the teacher create when you sign up and create an account. For more information, click here to visit the Socrative website.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to Socrative Teacher in the App Store.

This post is the seventh in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

Posted in iPads, Technology

Apps for Early Years Literacy

One of my colleagues came to me today to ask me about Haiku Deck. Simple question, simple answer – took no time at all. But while she was in my office she asked me if there were any other apps that she could be using in her classroom.

She is confident in using Haiku Deck and Educreations. Great start. She’s confident, her students are confident, but she realised that she needed to take another step.  As the Junior Primary unit have just introduced the Soundwaves spelling program, I showed her how to use the app Popplet to help students segment into their phonemes and graphemes. I found this idea from the Conversations in Literacy blog, via Pinterest. Even though the blog shows how to break words into syllables, this is also perfect for the segmenting stage of Soundwaves. Popplet is not a strict Literacy app, but for this purpose – it creates the boxes automatically and can be easily photographed to record students’ learning. We only have Popplet Lite at my school, but there is a full version you can pay for.

My colleague’s class is also looking at recounts and retells in Literacy. I showed her the app Tellagami – it suits the purpose of retells really well. If retelling the story using their own voice, students only have 30 seconds of talk time. This is a big point to make to just include the most important points. If students are capable of typing in their retell of the story, they only have 420 characters to type. Personalising their Tellagami, or their character, is all part of the fun – using photos as a background, changing their voice etc. These Tellagami’s can be saved to the camera roll as a video, or emailed.

The final app (or collection of apps) that I showed her were the Collins Big Cat Reading apps. These apps have 3 options – Read to Me, Read by Myself or Story Creator. As most storybook apps, the main function is to read the story, or have it read to you. My favourite function on these apps though is the ‘Story Creator’ option. This allows children to retell the story by building the whole book. From choosing the background to the characters, students can recreate the story and even record their own voice as they tell you exactly what happened in the story that they were reading!

I left work with a very happy colleague this afternoon. I was pretty happy too. People are asking for help and happy and grateful for advice. Small wins 🙂