Category Archives: Teaching Strategies

Education Technology Hits and Hopes

Take a look at this great article in The Australian Teacher Magazine (@OzTeacherMag) about education technology hits and hopes that I was lucky enough to be a part of! Click here to download  the magazine on your iPhone or iPad (it’s free!). Also, be sure to follow Summer Howarth (@EduSum) on Twitter.


1 Comment

Filed under ICT & Technology, Teaching, Teaching Strategies

Inspiring Creativity in Our Students

Children are naturally curious, so where does it go as they grow older and what can we do, as teachers, to inspire it? Mathew Green wrote that classrooms and schools should be the most innovative, creative and, in many ways, ‘non-realistic’ places in our society. Click here to read more.

This is a great YouTube video about how Bates Middle School made a difference by incorporating the arts across all subject areas.

It is our job to foster the curiosity of our students and not squash their imaginations. So how do we do it? Take a look at the list that I have come up with to integrate art and creativity into education.

Provide the students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning as they complete the following.

  • Take photos of their work and annotating it (e.g. take photos of angles around the school and label them).
  • Drawing (e.g. draw a treasure map with directions, including a right angle, acute angle and obtuse angle).
  • Painting (e.g. research the layers of the rainforest and the animals that live in each layer and paint it).
  • Creating a comic strip (e.g. illustrate what you just read using a comic strip).
  • Devising a play (e.g. devise a play about a Bible story).
  • Writing and performing a rap (e.g. devise a rap of a multiplication table that you need to practise).
  • Creating and recording an advertisement (create an advertisement for a product and include its net mass and product mass).
  • Writing a creative story (e.g. write a story involving the planets).

Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys are a great resource to inspire creativity and encourage students to use their imaginations. There are 20 different keys which encourage students to think about what they are learning in different and creative ways. I use the Thinkers Keys as warm ups in many of my lessons. Click here and here for more information and resources.

The YouTube video below sums up why integrating art into education is important.


 How will you integrate art and encourage creativity in your classroom?

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Teaching Strategies

A Learning Journey

Every student has a learning journey, but who is in charge of that journey? When you think about a great teacher, what comes to mind? A teacher who cares, excites, motivates and inspires? What about a teacher who allows students to control their own learning?

Generally speaking, as teachers, I think we tend to want our classrooms to be neat and tidy and our lessons and teaching to be the same way.  However, the quote below rings true.

Edutopia 2

Teachers usually aren’t risk takers, however our students are. Our goal should be to have our students coming to school and feeling excited about what they will discover and find out that day. We want them to be curious about where their learning will take them.

Edutopia 1

I was lucky enough to attend a professional development day with Tom Barrett who spoke about an exciting approach to learning. Click here to find out more about Tom Barrett and NoTosh. Put simply, the process begins with teachers teaching the content – immersing students into a unit of work. Think about the titles you give to the units of work. ‘Gold’, ‘Antarctica’ – sound familiar? Create a title that excites and propels the students into a state of curiosity. Once the content has been covered, the students can use their new found knowledge to explore something that interests them.

Ben Johnson has said it perfectly “ yes, there are times when direct instruction is necessary, but only to be able to do something with that knowledge or skill, but a great teacher devises learning experiences that force all the students to be engaged much like being in the deep end of the swimming pool.”

Once the content has been covered, the focus shifts to what the students can do with that knowledge. Students jump into the driver’s seat and complete tasks in order to discover what they want to do with their knowledge and devise their own questions. Tom Barrett provided ideas for students to become problem finders, as opposed to problem solvers, such as encouraging students to devise questions beginning with ‘how might we…’. Once a specific question is chosen, ideas are generated by the students in small groups in an activity called ‘100 ideas in 10 minutes’ – which is exactly as the title suggests. The students then research and/or create according to their question and ideas. Click here and here for more activities and information.

Who knows what the students will come up with? Whatever it is that they want to do with their knowledge – it will be authentic. Learning is doing and true learning takes place when the students are interested, excited and in control.


1 Comment

Filed under Student Learning, Teaching, Teaching Strategies

Lighting the Literacy Fire!

On Thursday 8th August, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar conducted by Jill Eggleton. She was incredibly inspiring and spoke about lighting the literacy fire. In this blog post I hope to share some of the knowledge and ideas that were presented about shared reading and guided reading. Hopefully, you will feel as inspired as I do!

  • As teachers we need to ask ourselves what we are doing that is not essential. We must eliminate these so that the necessary can shine.
  • The biggest challenge of all is to create a love of reading in our students – not just school time readers, but life time readers. I love sharing this quote with my students from J.K. Rowling - “if you don’t like to read you haven’t found the right book.” 
  • Jill really emphasised that children need to understand what they are reading. For example, we can’t assume that they are visualising as they are reading.  
  • If students are not reading the punctuation, then they are not understanding the text.
  • We need to be extending and enriching the students’ vocabulary. As they read, perhaps they could add words to a book or a Google Doc under specific headings. For example adjectives, adverbs etc.
  • We need to cater to each child’s individual needs and encourage them to read for enjoyment.
  • Our aim should be that once we finish reading a book to our students, the words dance in their minds. When we read a book to our students, we should read it in one go, not stop and pull the book apart as we go. The students will lose interest and lose the magic of the story.
  • Novels should not be used for guided reading.
  • Teachers need to be asking high order questions as opposed to low order questions.
  • Who asks most of the questions in class, the teacher or the students? If it is the teacher, then isn’t the teacher doing most of the thinking?
  • If you have fluent readers in your class, then you must dig deeper.

Broad Question Types

  • The answer is in the text or illustration.
  • The answer is not in the text or illustration, the reader uses background knowledge. 
  • The answer is in the text or illustration but the reader needs to think and search. 

Higher Order Questions

  • Do you think the plan will work?Why/justify your answer. 
  • What do you know about the character? How?
  • What do you think might happen next?
  • What picture do you get in your head?
  • What questions could you ask the character?
  • How did you feel, why?
  • What do you think she/he has learnt?
  • Were your predictions correct, why/why not?
  • Can you see any adjectives, adverbs…?
  • What other books have you read that have been about (insert topic)?
    • Activity to follow: students write a story about (insert topic). 

Comprehension Strategies (each strategy should be covered throughout a guided reading program). 

  • Predict
  • Justify predictions
  • Make inferences
  • Ask questions
  • Make connections (text to self, text to text, text to world)
  • Visualise
  • Summarise
  • Give an opinion
  • Justify opinion
  • Clarify vocabulary
  • Main idea
  • Author’s purpose and point of view
  • Skim and scan
  • Compare and contrast
  • Analyse and synthesise
  • Evaluate ideas and information
  • Find evidence to support thinking

It is essential that the right types of resources are used. The books need to allow the students to dig deeper – they must sound good. Providing our students with the skills to learn is more important than providing them with knowledge. I love this quote Jill shared – “we too often give students cut flowers when they need to grow their own plants”.  There is so much research supporting reciprocal reading.  Click here and here for great resources from Jill Eggleton

I will leave you with more wise words from Jill. “We need to motivate our students to learn. We should  read aloud to them every day – being read to should be like eating a delicious chocolate”. Click here and here for online stories to read to your class.   

Click here for more information about Jill Eggleton and her resources. Listen to Jill herself in the great YouTube clips below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literacy, Resources, Teaching Strategies


Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

I came across this website and it spoke about having purpose in life. Having a purpose in life is important. The website explained that purpose helps us to be happy and fulfilled. Without purpose life doesn’t have a focal point and the end product is an average life and an average existence.

The article described people who are in tune with their purpose as people who truly feel like they are alive and when they talk, they make everything seem so exciting and interesting. On the other hand, people who do not have a purpose are often negative, complain and feel unsatisfied and uninspired. The website listed the following five benefits that may be felt when you have a purpose in life.

  1. Meaning and fulfillment
  2. Unlimited flow of drive and passion
  3. Instant focus and direction
  4. Freedom from things that do not matter
  5. Success

Isn’t this what we want our students to feel when they are learning? 

Teachers need to know why they are teaching what they are teaching and students need to know what they are learning and why they are learning about it. 

Take a look at the following YouTube clip that further explains why knowing ‘why’ is important (I was shown this video on a professional development day at the beginning of the term)

If teachers constantly ask ‘why?’ when creating lessons, and think about the purpose of each lesson, the lesson will be meaningful. Teachers will be passionate about what they are teaching, they will focus on a specific direction they want the students to move to, disregard things that aren’t important and  be successful.

Teachers often assume that the students know the purpose is regarding what they are learning but that isn’t always the case. If you asked your students why they are learning what they are learning, what would they say? “The teacher told me to”? If students know why they are learning what they are learning and have a say in what they can learn more about, their learning will be meaningful, they will be fulfilled, they will be motivated, have direction, discard the things that don’t matter and learn.

Give it a go, ask yourself and your students ‘why?’.

ID-10079655Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching, Teaching Strategies

Compliment Wall

I came across this great blog post about ‘student shout outs’. The post was about encouraging students to share positive statements or compliments in an anonymous way. It inspired me to create a compliment wall for my class. I provided the students with a card with a student name on the top. The students were instructed to silently write an anonymous compliment about that person. Once they had written a compliment, they were to put their hand in the air and I would take their card and give them another. This process was repeated until each card had a number of compliments.

It was great to see the students writing positive things about students they may not be close friends with and it was even better to see their faces when they read the compliments on their card. Each day we pass the bulletin board several times and it reminds the students to make others smile and read positive things about themselves.

I now ask the students to share how they made someone smile each day. It’s so important to promote a positive environment where the students encourage and support each other.

How do you promote a positive environment in your classroom? 

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching Strategies

Task Cards

Teachers Pay Teachers is such a great site! It allows teachers and educators to upload resources they have made and sell them to teachers. I have found so many great resources that I have been able to easily implement in my classroom. Rachel Lynette is one of the stores on TpT that I love. She has created fantastic resources that are incredibly useful, particularly her task cards.   They are sets of cards that are ready to be printed, cut out and laminated and come in all kinds of topics. Here are a few examples of how I have been using the task cards in my classroom.

1. Guided Reading

  • As I hear a group of students read each day during guided reading, we focus on a particular reading/comprehension strategy, e.g. author’s purpose, main idea, inferring  visualising, predicting etc .
  • Using the text the students are reading, we discuss the strategy.
  • To conclude the session I read out a couple of the task cards pertaining to the strategy and the students practise the strategy.
  • This is the students’ favourite part of the session.

Visualising Task Cards

   Author's Purpose Task CardsMain Idea Task Cards

2. English – Text Types

  • During term 1, the students have been learning about persuasive texts.
  • Persuasive texts require cause and effect relationships
  • Once the students had gained a good understanding of cause and effect relationships, I introduced the cause and effect task cards as a warm up.
  • I read out the task card and I selected students to identify the cause and effect.
  • They then worked in their table groups to come up with a sentence using cause and effect words to put the cause and effect together. The students get very excited and try to use different cause and effect words each time.
  • Click here for the cause and effect poster I handed out to each table group (it looks good when printed on  coloured paper and laminated).

Cause and Effect Task Cards3. Spelling

  • I have some students who are struggling to learn their spelling words each week.
  • One guided reading group uses the spelling task cards to practise their spelling words.
  • The task cards provide a variety of interesting activities that the students can choose from.

Spelling Task Cards

I’m really looking forward to implementing the mathematics task cards into my future math lessons! The possibilities are endless!


How do you use Rachel Lynette’s task cards? 


Filed under Resources, Teaching, Teaching Strategies

10 Useful Web 2.0 Tools

I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting web tools that have the possibility to be used in meaningful ways in the classroom. They do not only provide the opportunity for learning to be fun, but inspire students to show creativity and enthusiasm in the classroom.

Here is a list of some great tools that I have either used in the past or that I am excited to use in the future!


Turn your photos, video clips and music into a great video. A great idea to brighten up your blog posts and best of all, it is fast, free and easy!


Wordle is a word cloud generator. It can be used by students as an activity, as a display in your classroom or a whole class activity at the beginning and/or end of a unit.


A great communication tool to present your ideas in an exciting and new way. Useful for any presentation, from staff meetings to introducing a topic to your students. Click here for an example on a previous post.


Easily create stories ready to share, read and print. Create one to share with your students and challenge your students to publish their stories online.


A fun and interactive way for students to create timelines.


Students can create their own online magazine as an activity or an assessment.


Students are able to turn their words into a 3D animated movie.


Students can create their very own comic strips to illustrate their knowledge.


Teachers can create a video to explain or reinforce a topic and get their students to illustrate their knowledge on any topic. Click here for an example on a previous post.

Photo Peach

Easily create interactive slideshows with your photos.

Have you used these tools before?

Have you come across any other useful web tools to use in the classroom?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Leave a comment

Filed under ICT & Technology, Resources, Teaching, Teaching Strategies, Web 2.0 Applications

Creativity and Imagination

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Australian children’s author, Libby Gleeson. I was looking forward to Libby’s visit to Australian Catholic University and her humbleness, passion and knowledge truly inspired me.

I took a few things away from her visit, including:

  • writing a book is not an easy process
  • even the best of us have feelings of uncertainty and doubt
  • if we look beyond stories we can find hidden messages, e.g. human truths
  • illustrations in books often show what is in between the lines
  • narrative is fundamental to the way we think
  • teachers need to:
    • encourage writing and reading
    • challenge students
    • encourage students to ask ‘what if?’ and play with ideas
    • ensure students know it is okay to make mistakes
    • encourage students to take risks, question and imagine

In order to encourage writing, Libby suggested allowing time for students to write creatively. This may be describing or writing about an image, completing sentence starters or oral story telling.

Writing about an Image

Students may be provided with an image and they are given time to respond to it in any way they choose. The students may describe it, write a story about it, put themselves into the image … the possibilities are endless.  The images may range from insects and animals to landscapes.

Sentence Starters

Students may be given time each day to complete creative stories in a journal that begin with a provided sentence starter. Here are some examples:

  • If I could fly, I would …
  • When I grow up …
  • If I was an animal, I would be a ____ so I could …
  • Two boys were called to the office …

Oral Story Telling

Students may be given time to share a story with a peer. It might be about their weekend, something they remember from when they were little and so on. The teacher may choose to provide the students with sentence starters.

These activities and much more can be found in Libby Gleeson’s book for teachers, ‘Writing like a Writer’ (I can’t wait to get my copy!).

The following quotes really point out the importance of creativity and imagination that creative writing and stories can support and inspire.

  Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein

Creativity is not a talent; it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate, profits. – Edward de Bono

It is definitely something for teachers to think about.

Do you read to your students and allow them to write creatively each day?

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources, Teaching, Teaching Strategies

Project Based Learning

We have all heard about project based learning, but what exactly is it? Take a look at the following useful videos that provide great explanations about project based learning.

As teachers, we always need to be looking for new and exciting ways to teach our 21st century students to the best of our ability. Project based learning is one way we can do exactly that.

Project based learning allows students to:

  • come up with a solution to a real world problem
  • be inspired and engaged
  • research their topic
  • work collaboratively
  • develop confidence
  • work independently
  • use the knowledge they gain
  • use technology in the classroom
  • solve problems and think critically
  • present their findings and solutions in a variety of ways

Teachers need to:

  • develop a clear purpose for the project
  • carefully design the project
  • pose challenging questions
  • support collaboration
  • measure the intended learning outcomes in an effective ways
  • model problem solving strategies
  • use real life problems

Click here for more information about PBL and click here, here and here for amazing PBL ideas and resources!

Have you used PBL in your classroom? Are you interested in using it? Let me know what your thoughts are about PBL!


Filed under ICT & Technology, Teaching, Teaching Strategies