Category Archives: Teaching Strategies

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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10 Ways to Transform Your Teaching

1619648_10152989218839268_1464629793034054793_nI recently wrote an article for ACEL e-Publications about the importance of authentic learning. In the article, I discuss authentic learning being overused in many blog posts, tweets, articles and staff meetings; however, it is often presented very vaguely with little to no specific examples of what it actually looks like in a classroom.

Therefore, in the article I go into detail about ten practical and achievable examples of how you can ensure your students are immersed in meaningful authentic learning experiences. The ten examples are listed below.

  • Google Hangouts and Skype
  • Twitter in Education
  • Design Thinking
  • Valuable Opportunities
  • Start an ICT Club
  • Blogging
  • Student Voice
  • Digital Technologies
  • Timetabling
  • Physical Space

Click here to subscribe ACEL e-Publications.

 What do you believe is essential if learning is to be authentic?

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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.


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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?

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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.


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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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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

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