Category Archives: Resources

Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

Learning intentions and success criteria have been a big focus for the staff at my school over the last few years and now that I have been incorporating them into my lessons, I can really see what all the fuss is about.

Learning intentions are brief statements that explicitly describe what students should know, understand and be able to do as a result of the learning and teaching (Catholic Education Office, Melbourne).

Success criteria describe, in specific terms and in language meaningful to students, what successful attainment of the learning intentions looks like (Catholic Education Office, Melbourne).

Learning intentions have great potential to benefit students and their learning significantly. They remove any ambiguity and help to keep the lesson focused.

When teaching and learning are “visible” – that is, when it is clear what teachers are teaching and what students are learning, student achievement increases – John Hattie.

Learning intentions encourage students to:

  • understand exactly what they are learning to do in that lesson and what is most important
  • articulate their learning
  • self assess their work
  • stay focused

Tips to help you incorporate learning intentions into your teaching:

  • State the learning intention early on in the lesson.
  • The learning intention needs to be visible. It may be on your interactive whiteboard or on a poster in the classroom (particularly long term goals).
  • The learning intention should be referred to throughout the lesson.
  • The teacher should ask the students questions about what they are learning/doing throughout the lesson.
  • Begin the learning intention with ‘we are learning to…’
  • At the end of the lesson, provide an opportunity for the students to reflect on their work in line with the learning intention. For example, students may record or orally state sentences using provided sentence starters and a provided key word from the learning intention such as ‘today I enjoyed using a 30 cm ruler to measure the length of objects in the classroom.’

Further Information


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3Recently, HistoriCool contacted me with the hope of a review on my blog. Since the email I learnt that HistoriCool is Australia’s only magazine to engage and entertain kids with stories from the past in a fun way and it is aimed for students in grades 3-8.  Through my experience, I know that it can be challenging to find content about the past that is kid friendly, interesting and relevant to the curriculum so I couldn’t help but feel intrigued. The founder sent me two past issues of HistoriCool and access to the additional teaching resources alongside each issue.

The highlights of the magazines are as follows:

  • HistoriCool is available both in print and digitally.
  • Single subscriptions or bulk subscriptions are available.
  • It is a quality glossy magazine.
  • Interesting articles about current events are included (issue 18 has a short article which outlines Australia’s last 5 prime ministers in the last 5 years with other interesting facts).
  • Interviews with celebrities the children may know are included about their life as well as their thoughts about history (issue 17 includes an interview with Nathan Bazley from Behind the News).
  • Interesting articles which provide information the students may not learn at school are included (issue 17 had a great article about ballet through the ages).
  • There is content directly related to the curriculum.
    • Issue 18 has a fantastic article about Peter Lalor and the gold rush which I would have loved to have had when I was teaching Year 5. The article features great detail about the Eureka Stockade in kid friendly language and fantastic coloured pictures.
    • Issue 17 has a great article about colonial cruelty which includes a fictional diary entry from a lieutenant – it brings the content to life and is a great prompt for students to write their own!
    • Click here to take a look at a fantastic outline of the issues with the content they cover and links to the Australian curriculum for each issue. 
  • Terminology is unpacked with the use of glossaries at the end of articles and fun activities such as ‘what’s this artefact?’
  • Articles written by real students are included. Great inspiration for other students!
  • Puzzles and games (crosswords, spot the difference, quizzes and mazes) are included at the back of each issue which require the students to use the content in the issue in order to solve them.
  • Fantastic and inspiring quotes are provided at the end of each issue titled ‘words to live by.’

The highlights of the teacher pack are as follows:

  • The teacher pack is easy to download in a PDF format.
  • Lesson ideas are provided which include inquiry learning activities (KWL charts etc).
  • Links to fantastic online resources are provided (e.g. maps of the route of the first fleet, books with convict themes and videos relating to convict Australia).
  • Literacy and other activities to bring the content to life and encourage empathy are suggested.
  • Proformas ready to be printed and photocopied for students are also provided.

I am quite impressed with this magazine and truly believe they are worth looking into. I am most impressed and excited about their kid-friendly and rich content which can be used immediately in the classroom.

Interested? Click here to subscribe or here for a hard coy of the order form to HistoriCool and join the many thousands of readers who are enjoying HistoriCool’s engaging articles, hilarious cartoons and fun activities. 

You and your students can also follow @HistoriCool on Twitter! 

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Icebreaking Activities

TeamHello, readers of A Primary School Teacher!

My name is Matt, and I run the blog at Team Building Activities For Kids Central. Ashley was kind enough to let me share some of our activities, and I’m thrilled to present them to you—especially as the new school year begins!

The first few weeks of class can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a little intimidating: the students may not know each other yet, and when the children are a bit nervous, it can be difficult to move forward as a group. Here are some fun icebreaking activities to use at the beginning of the year—and anytime thereafter!

Activity #1: Snowball Fight!

How To Play: This game is an excellent way to get students to interact and to learn a little bit about each other. To prepare for the activity, get a piece of white paper and draw two lines on it, so that the page is divided into thirds, and then Xerox it. Give each participant a piece of paper, and have them add their name to each section. Then, in the first section, have each student list something he or she is excited about; in the second section, have the student write something he or she is nervous about; and in the third section, have each student add something that he or she would like to learn about during the year.

After all the students have scribbled some answers, have the students tear the paper into thirds along the lines they’ve drawn (you can have them use scissors if you’ve got them around). Then have all the children crumple the paper into snowballs, and at the count three, throw them in the air (the kids LOVE this step!). Each of the students finds a snowball, un-crumples it, and then finds the person who wrote on the paper so that they can discuss the answers.

Quick Tip: You can change the questions to your liking—if you sense that the kids might be shy or not know what they want to learn about, you can ask them to list a favorite animal or a favorite TV show. Also, as the year goes on and kids learn more about each other, the questions can become more in-depth (such as, “What was your favorite vacation?” or “What’s your favorite memory?”).

Why the Game Works: Everyone loves a snowball fight! The game is a great way to let students who may not know each other loosen up a bit and find out some things about their classmates. When all works well, you’ll have students bonding over their answers.

Activity #2: The Trust-Building Obstacle Course

How To Play: Have students pair off into groups of two. The goal is to have the first student verbally instruct the second student how to get across the room and pick up an object—while the second student is blindfolded! Students set up a very basic obstacle course in the classroom, and can arrange chairs, or put out bean bags, or set up small castle made of building blocks—or whatever comes to mind. Making an obstacle course can be a game in itself!

Quick Tip: To add a competitive element to the game, organize the students into teams and see which team can cross the room and pick up their item the quickest.

Why the Game Works: The activity is GREAT for trust-building, and it’s an opportunity for classmates to interact in a totally new way. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for spectators! One word to the wise, though: be careful of any rascals who might lead the blindfolded participant astray!

Activity #3: The “What Is This?” Sensory Table

How To Play: This is a great indoor activity, and it takes a little bit of prep, but the students usually bond over the experience. The game is pretty simple, and it’s mostly about the experience. Instructors arrange bowls holding items that have very particular tactile qualities, such as Cheerios, dried beans, rubber bands, rice, paper clips, or feathers. Kids close their eyes and are brought to each bowl, and have to use their sense of touch to figure out each object. To make sure that students don’t ruin the surprise, you can set a piece of paper or cloth over the bowl before each student arrives at the table.

Quick Tip: To mix it up a little, you can create a “Smells Table,” and include items that have particular smells. Cut bananas, coconuts, mint, fresh-baked bread, and cut grass are all good options—but just be careful if you’ve got any students with allergies!

Bonus Tip: Most of the time, the kids guess which item is in each bowl. For a neat reversal, allow the students to choose the items that are put into bowls, and have the instructor guess. Kids usually have a great time trying to stump the teacher!

Why the Game Works: The activity provides a bonding experience that kids can discuss. Most will have never had to use their other senses to determine an object, and the riddle can be a ton of fun.

Finally… Have Fun!

The most important ingredient in any activity is enthusiasm—so enjoy them, and enjoy the school year! Thank you, Ashley!

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Using QR Codes in the Classroom

QR codes (quick response codes), alongside iPads and iPhones, are becoming increasingly popular. We see them everywhere from commercial packaging to advertisements. You can create QR codes using free apps such as QuickMark and QRReader or websites such as Unitag (click here for a YouTube video I have created explaining how to use Unitag). QR codes can be scanned and take you to a website, show text, a video and so much more – providing an interactive experience.

The excitement and motivation a simple tool can elicit in students is incredible.

QR codes have great potential to enhance learning and motivation in the classroom. They can simply change a simple task to something more exciting or create entirely new possibilities. Below is a simple list of ways that I have and/or endeavour to incorporate QR codes into my teaching.

  • Students receive questions to answer and the QR code provides the correct answer.
  • Students research a topic and create a poster using QR codes to present their information.
  • Rather than students typing in a long URL provided by the teacher, they can simply scan the provided QR code.
  • Create interactive displays and posters in the classroom – if they were simply written they are unlikely to be read by the students.
  • Questions and answers are embedded in separate QR codes which are placed around the room for students to scan and match the question to the answer.

Click here for 40 interesting ways to use QR codes in the classroom by Tom Barrett.

Click here for an article from Edutopia about using QR codes to differentiate instruction.

There are also many products on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can purchase with QR codes already on them. Click here to read about some. 

In the YouTube clip below, Karen Mensing provides some great ideas for the use of QR codes in the classroom.

How will you incorporate QR codes into your teaching?

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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.

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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? 


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Presentation Tools

I really believe that it is important for students to present their work in a variety of different ways. When the students are introduced to new tools they become excited and motivated to present their work. Every student prefers a different method, giving them a choice encourages them to produce their best work.  The variety of activities encourages the students to use their talents and use relevant 21st century tools.

At the moment, my year five class is studying rainforests. The students have been given many ideas to present their tasks, including the following.


How do your students present their work?


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