On professional learning

Today, as I sit here engaging with my current online course on supporting people who have Autism Spectrum Disorders, I am reflecting on how important professional learning is for teachers. I am really enjoying learning more about understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders and how to support the students in my classes who have them. I, as a graduate teacher, know that I have far less experience than other classroom teachers when it comes to a number of areas and so am constantly seeking professional learning opportunities so that I might increase my capacity to provide excellent education to my students.


One of the first things that we learn at university as teachers is that we need to be lifelong learners because lets be frank, the world and society are constantly changing and we need to be prepared for that change. People do research and complete studies that show different views on learning to our own that might actually be more effective than what we have been using and so of course we need to find ways to incorporate this into our practice. I am a firm believer that my professional learning will never stop. There is always a new way, a more effective way, or a more up-to-date way to teach something, assess a skill or conceptual understanding, or even keep our data so that it is more accessible to us when reporting time comes around. I know for certain that in this area, I would love to learn the beautiful art that is mail merge!

So… what professional learning are you undertaking at the moment?

What do you think is essential for teachers to know?

Have you come across an awesome new teaching strategy lately?

I’m a REAL teacher!!!

So the first term of 2015 has been a complete roller-coaster ride. I completed my final teaching rounds, a full term internship at a local school. I learnt a lot, I improved my teaching, and I had a wonderful time in a new learning environment.

Most of all, I enjoyed finalising what is the foundation of what will be the rest of my life of teaching. I am so happy that my degree is done and I can finally go out and do what it is that I LOVE and what it is that I am made for… TEACHING!


I was pleased when my exit interview was completed and I was able to scratch the ‘pre-service’ off my university name badge!

I am so glad that I made the first step to enroll (secretly) in my teaching degree three years ago because now I get to do what I am truly passionate about! I have a lot of new ideas that I have tried and tested and am looking forward to sharing them here on this blog, and seeing what others might think. Moving forward, I am excited about the collaboration that will come from connecting with other teachers online and seeing how I can learn new things and try new ways of experiencing concepts with my students.

Now to get a job! I will be doing some relief work and hopefully securing a contract for term 3… wish me luck!!

Starting off the year

So it has been a wonderful summer holiday break here, the first I have had in a while as I usually do summer school for uni. But now that I am no longer studying, I enjoyed a wonderful holiday with the family which we all enjoyed.

I will be doing an internship in Term 1 which counts as part of my placement dates for my teacher registration, and now its time to start thinking about school again and starting off the year with a bang! I’ve been looking at games and lessons to get to know the kids and help them to settle into the new classroom.

wheelchair sign oval

One lesson I am planning is a photo scavenger hunt. This is a game that we used to play back when I was in youth group in high school. We would get these sheets with awfully obscure photos on them and we would have to go around the town we lived in (which was quite small) and we would need to find where all the photos were taken. The group to get the most correct answers won – I’m pretty sure the only prize was bragging rights, those photos were always so difficult to decipher

fan control classroom    playground bolt  volleyball net

At the end of last year I decided to give this a go with the class as an end of year activity. I went around the school and took a bunch of photos that were slightly obscure and had the kids go around in groups finding the answers. The kids really enjoyed it and it went really well, so this year I am re-framing it as a get to know you, team building, kind of game so that the kids can learn to collaborate when they are solving problems. They will also get to have a go to take their own scavenger hunt photo which will get put up in the classroom and the other kids will need to figure out where they were taken.

canteen tile

What kind of activities are you doing to start the year off?  I’d love some tip offs to some great getting to know you lessons for my students.

Books I love…

Using literature in the classroom is seen by many an expert as fantastic practice for creating context for lessons. Personally, I love to read to children. This might stem from my absolute love of reading to myself, but I also love the look of excitement, anticipation, or interest on children’s faces as you add expression into stories. You can bet that if you walked in on me reading Harry Potter, I would be doing an old, breathless, man’s voice for Dumbledore.

Best of all is that when you read to children, you model reading and what good readers do to create meaning in a text. But kids can get all kinds of further understandings from shared reading as well.

The book I love today is one of my son’s favourites and our copy of this book is very well used with many a fold and crease in the cover, and many a tear in the pages from reading it to him when he was very young.

The Very Blue Thingamajig - Narelle Oliver

(Image Source)

The Very Blue Thingamajig (2003) by Narelle Oliver is a lively, colourful, and imaginative story of a ‘thingamajig’ that is just a little bit different from the other thingamajigs and it gives some great opportunities for counting along the way.

This book has the underlying theme, of course, that being different — or developing differently to others — doesn’t necessarily make you strange or unlovable. It also shows numbers in lots of interesting ways such as ‘two lots of two‘ and ‘an odd number‘ which helps kids to see numbers as not just one, two, three…. all the way to infinity, but develops other definitions of numbers (which means they will develop deeper understandings of them). This is great for developing number sense in younger learners.

I love this book for its alliteration and onomatopoeia ‘hideously hard horns‘ and ‘clicky clacky claws‘ and others all help kids to really visualise the way the very blue thingamajig looks and gives young learners an experience with the different tools that authors use in their writing (and that they can use in their own writing too!!)

The book is also just FUN to read. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have read this book with my son. I look forward to sharing it again in the near future with a classroom of kids who are excitedly glued to its story.

Some cool activities you could do after reading this book include:

  • Having students draw their own thingamajigs,
  • Having students write numbers in different ways than using their counting number, and
  • Have students write interesting sentences using alliteration and onomatopoeia and accompanying them with an illustration that illuminates its meaning.

There is a bunch of online lesson plans that you could use for this book as well.

What is your favourite book this week for young learners? I would love for you to share some great book-inspiration with me!

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Brain Breaks…

Do you use them???

I am currently writing a research proposal assignment on the use of Brain Breaks – physical activity breaks during lessons – and I’m finding it really interesting. I read a lot of information about the use of physical activity breaks and the cognitive improvement that others have noticed when incorporating physical activity into the daily work pad and classroom routine during my Physical Education course last year and I find it really interesting.

I have found a lot of research that advocates the use of these physical activity breaks stating that they will help students to;

  • Maintain focus in long lessons,
  • Increase achievement levels,
  • Develop greater use of executive function, and
  • Increase physical fitness.

I am a big fan of physical activity in the classroom. I can’t sit still for an hour, and I certainly don’t expect my students to, and the use of these breaks is a great way to give students the opportunity to refocus and also just plain give them the opportunity to move!

What I am seeing, mostly, is that physical activity breaks should be implemented in the following ways;

  • As a contextualised activity that compliments lesson objectives;
  • They should be at least 10 minutes long;
  • Making sure that the activities are planned and not just completed ‘on the fly’; and
  • Ensuring breaks are inclusive of all students’ activity levels and abilities.

These are a great start for my own classroom, but I am wondering what others’ experiences are with using physical activity breaks are in their classrooms and would love others to share their thoughts with me.

Do you use physical activity breaks?

Do they work toward giving students the ability to refocus, making lessons more effective?

What are some activities you have used in the classroom for this purpose?


Teaching Fractions Using Games

So I have been doing a bit of research on teaching fractions using games lately and I have discovered a great game (adapted from one I found in a textbook) that has offered so many teachable moments, and really helps with developing conceptual understanding as well as competency with fractions procedures.

teaching fractions using games

The game I am talking about is Colour in Fractions. I found this game in its original form at the end of Clarke, Roche, and Mitchell’s article 10 Practical Tips for Making Fractions Come Alive and Make Sense. I changed it (only slightly) so that it made sense in the context of my lesson, and I have used it again in different contexts too. So here’s how it works!


Game Board (you can find a copy of it here, I laminated mine so that it can be reused),

A normal 6 sided dice,

Whiteboard or coloured markers (do not use permanent markers)

A sock (for cleaning the board off after you have used it).


How to Play:

1. Each player will begin with one game board and a marker.

2. Taking turns, each player will roll the dice twice to create a fraction. This can be differentiated based on students’ ability and learning goals. You can create the fraction in the following ways;

  • Use the two numbers to create a proper fraction, regardless of the order the numbers were rolled,
  • Use the two numbers to create a fraction in the order they were rolled – this will produce both proper and improper fractions.

3. When the fraction has been identified, the player will colour in this fraction on the game board. This can be done in any way that you like, so if half is created, the student might colour in 1/2, 2/4, or 3/6. If a player cannot colour in their fraction on their board, they will pass their turn to the other player.

4. The first player to fill their board will win.

Changing it up…

You can change up this version of the game to highlight the size of different fractions by having the players colour in what is left out of a whole. So for example the player rolls 1/4, the player needs to figure out what will make a whole (so 3/4) and colour this in instead.

Why it works

The student is having fun, and they are using their fractions in context. I played this game with a grade six student who thought it would be boring, but the student was begging to play it again, because it is fun! The game is a great warm-up activity to use prior to problem solving in a lesson. It gets the students thinking and reasoning in a fractional sense.

You can discuss your key questions when you are playing the game… for example – “So what other parts of the board might you be able to fill in with this fraction?” “Why did you colour in that fraction? How do you know you are right?” Give students the opportunity to reason their answers, and they will show not only that they can identify fractions, but they will be developing deeper understandings of those fractions as they play.

You can cater the game to the needs of your students.

Students might be working on improper fractions – you can make sure their fractions are created using the lowest number rolled as the denominator.

Students might be working on concepts relating to the size of a fraction – you can make sure they discuss the equivalent size of the fractions to each other, or you can make the students use the remaining fraction (that is left over from what was rolled on the dice).


So what are your tried and true fractions games?

I have started a board on pinterest to start collecting! Please share with me in the comments, on Facebook, or on Pinterest.🙂


So What is Teaching 2.0?

What is Teaching 2.0? Well that is a good question!

My research and study into how children learn, and my experience with my own children and those I have taught has shown me that kids are just different to when I was one. The children who are in classrooms, those who are our learners — they are 21st Century learners.

21st Century learners need….

The needs of 21st century learners are vast and varied.(21st Century learners’ needs are vast and varied).

The kids in our classrooms have a diverse set of needs and creating learning experiences that will meet these needs is what I have called Teaching 2.0.

Teaching 2.0 is creating learning experiences for modern classrooms and meeting modern learners’ needs.

  • Using technology,
  • Catering instruction to student interest,
  • Embracing inquiry into real situations,
  • Having children ask questions about the world,
  • Having children use deep thinking in real-world tasks,
  • Giving children independence and individual tasks and goals,
  • Having children work together in collaborative ways,
  • Tackling real issues in meaningful ways,
  • Using a variety of interesting resources to keep kids’ attention,
  • Using skills in context, and
  • Solving problems.

Teaching 2.0 is about ditching cookie cutter lesson plans and catering learning to the learners!

  • Thinking about diversity,
  • Assessing student abilities and understandings,
  • Bridging the gaps in student ability and understanding,
  • Asking students what THEIR goals are,
  • Giving opportunities to learn in different ways,
  • Giving opportunities to be assessed in different ways, and
  • Engaging students’ interests.

Teaching 2.0 is about meeting the curriculum, not just giving students busy work.

  • Making sure every learning experience has a curriculum link,
  • Ensuring that professional obligations are met, and
  • Integrating the curriculum so that students can learn skills and concepts in contexts that make sense.

I have created this blog to share different methods and resources with you. To try these things out and see if they are effective. To learn as we go as lifelong learners. To have the input from others; to reflect and to collaborate.

So share with me…

What is Teaching 2.0 to you??