Author Archives: F.H.

Anti-cool students in your classroom.

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I really struggle to finish a book these days. But part of my #18for2018 was to read 11 books and record them on GoodReads, so now I’m accountable.

A few months ago I downloaded Rosie Waterland’s ‘The Anti-Cool Girl’ onto the Kindle app on my iPad. I started it in December and finally finished it today (I’m not proud of how long it took me!!). The following thoughts come from my own head – I wasn’t asked to review this book, I haven’t been paid…blah blah blah. 

It gets into the deep nitty-gritty of life. The trials and tribulations of a child, through to an adult. It’s crude and honest…and not usually the kind of book I’d read, despite me being a huge biography lover.

What it brought home to me most though, was the focus on the ‘anti-cool’ students in our classroom. Rosie Waterland talks about her school experience, not being accepted by friends, being pulled out of class by welfare officers and spending time and time again in foster homes. Having parents and de facto parents who drank and smoked and did drugs at all hours of a school night.

How many of our students come to school sleep deprived because their parents were arguing late into the night? Or have no food for school…or breakfast…or dinner?

How many of our students are wearing uniforms that they’ve washed themselves, or maybe haven’t been washed in weeks, or have been worn by three older siblings and are now falling apart at the seams? Or maybe they dread a casual clothes day because all of their clothes are faded hand-me-downs or from Vinnies and out of fashion.

How many of our students cannot focus because they’re worried about which house they’ll be sleeping at, or how many people they might have to share a bed with?

If I took nothing else away from reading this book, it was that compassion is important.

All those classroom rules we have about being on time to class and coming prepared? They might not need to apply for some kids…as just getting to school is an achievement for them.

Those posters and advertisements we put in the school newsletters about packing a healthy lunch for your child? Probably just important to have some of that nutritious food in the staffroom for those kids who don’t have anyone to pack theirs.

Sometimes the rules don’t apply. Who are the ‘anti-cool’ kids in your class or at your school? Show them some compassion.

You can do anything…

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You can do anything…

Scrolling through Twitter this morning reading all of the updates from my teacher PLN who were heading back to work today to start the 2018 school year.

Today was the 29th of January – the first day of school for many, but at my school, our first official day was January 19th. In the last 10 days we’ve had:

  • 2 weekends
  • 1 public holiday
  • a return flight to Melbourne for a school conference
  • a collegial team-building Escape Room experience
  • a First Aid refresher course
  • meetings…timetable revisions…meetings…planning time…room set up time…meetings…more timetable revisions

As mentioned in this post, I’m teaching every student from Prep-10 this year across various Year Levels. I’m also the eSmart Coordinator & Digital Technology Mentor. I get asked by teachers to help with student iPads & passwords (luckily I’m the second-in-line for this task, thanks to our official IT guy), asked by office staff to help them develop a Google Form to collect data on this, that and the other, or to help update the school website…plus I run the school Facebook page.

This year, I have to learn to say NO.

  • No, I wish I could help, but I don’t have the time.
  • No, I don’t know how to do that.
  • No, that’s not a priority for me.

Or….can I just say ‘No’, without needing to justify it?

As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I saw this tweet from Pip Cleaves:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.01.58 pm

I saw this, saved it to my desktop and printed it. I walked straight to the photocopier, picked it up…and pinned it to the wall at my desk.

THIS.

Thanks Pip.

18 for 2018

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Inspired by the ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’ podcast, (Episode 147, here) I have developed my own list of 18 things that I want to try during 2018 – #18for2018.
The invisible task on my list is to focus on my work-life balance, so you may notice that the majority of these are based around my personal life, not my work/school life!

  1. Try a pottery class
  2. Start a compost bin/worm farm
  3. Go to the gym at least twice a week
  4. Ring my 2 best friends once a month (this should not even need to make it to the list, however I’ve been so SLACK!)
  5. Run 3km (not a huge achievement for most, but for this asthmatic, HUGE)
  6. Try one of the self-guided classes at my gym
  7. Read 12 books and document them on GoodReads
  8. Learn conversational French (as you may have read on my blog earlier, I’m teaching French from Year 1-8…oui oui!)
  9. Finalise all name changes from my wedding…
  10. Learn to make kombucha
  11. Run a DoTERRA oils class to teach others about the benefits of using essential oils
  12. Cull my old school supplies – at least the 4 boxes that I haven’t opened since leaving classroom teaching in 2015
  13. Send Christmas cards (in December of course)
  14. Commit to Meat-Free Monday, as much as possible
  15. Continue travelling
  16. Finish the Noah’s Ark quilt that I started while I was still at uni…at least 9 years ago
  17. Take time to appreciate the little things
  18. Walk Tess (my dog) at least once a week (setting the bar low, but aiming for more than once a week)

There you go! Now to place this list somewhere in my home so I see it often to remind me! If you feel like sharing your #18for2018, I’d love to see yours!

Comfort Zones are for sissies.

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In 2018, I will be pushed waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone. Why?

I was asked by my Principal a few months ago if I’d be interested in running a STEM class. While I’m not 100% behind the concept of running STEM as a separate class because I feel that it should be fully integrated, due to needing an additional elective for Year 7/8 and a few other staffing conditions, I said yes!

This means that I’ll be teaching a STEM elective for a composite Year 7/8 class. There are 3 different 7/8 classes meaning that I’ll teach the same content for Term 1, 2 and 3 to the groups as they rotate through and then Term 4 will be different, as students opt-in to the elective of their choice in the final Term.

For the Year 9/10 class however, student opt-in to it from the beginning, so I have them all year. This is where it gets a bit scary. Year 7/8 content I feel like I can handle for the most part…but Year 9/10? My High School Science skills are fairly limited and rusty beyond all belief and regarding High School Maths…well, I can add numbers and work out angles and percentages…that’s all I need right? I’m not so stressed about the Technology & Engineering aspects, so that’s my little comfort factor.

To fully push me out of my comfort zone beyond all belief, I’m teaching French. FRENCH.  From Year 2-Year 8. To be honest, I accepted the request to teach it (I had the option to say no…) and I am excited about it, but it’s going to be a steeeeeep learning curve. I know a few French words, like crêpe, baguette, croissant…but they are all foods, which surely can’t take up the entire curriculum? French podcasts, here I come! Plus apps, puppet shows, comic strips…eeeek!

 

Teaching something out of your comfort zone next year? Let me know!

And good on you – the world is a better place for taking on a good challenge!

Coding with Blue-Bots and Bee-Bots

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This year I’ve been doing a lot of work with Lower Primary in regards to Digital Technology, especially with Blue-Bots. A Blue-Bot is similar to a Bee-Bot, however it has enhanced functionality by being able to be blue-toothed to a device and connect to the BlueBot app. You can read about some of the similarities and differences here.

We bought some of these transparent pocket mats from Modern Teaching Aids so that we could create our own mats for the students to code the Blue-Bots around – I found blocks for Rosie’s Walk, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Gingerbread Man all from the Sparklebox website, for free. I simply found the matching picture book on our library shelves and sat the book with the cards and the mat so that students could arrange the cards in the mat wherever they liked and then read the story. As they read, or after they read, they take turns to code the Blue-Bot to move to each part of the story pictured. Great idea for using during narratives or retells for Literacy!bluebots

For Maths, there are these Coding Challenge Cards. I like to ask my students to estimate what shape the BlueBot would draw/make with the given instructions, then test if their prediction was correct! I also found these cool Bee-Bot rulers for using Bee-Bots or Blue-Bots for measurement activities in Maths.IMG_4626

This set of resources is courtesy of the Teach YourChildren Well website and is easily adaptable for many different year levels. It has a huge range of challenges and our Year 7 & 8 students used them and referenced different angles on the map, terminology such as ‘as the crow flies’ to determine difference distances travelled and distance conversions using a variety of given map scales. These devices aren’t just for Primary kids!

My students have also loved creating their own mazes for the Blue-Bots to travel through –  a fantastic opportunity for them to explore width of tracks, estimating how long it should be and the types of materials they should use. They used building blocks, stationary, Lego…so many different things!

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I’d love to hear of any other ideas you’ve used with your Blue-Bots or Bee-Bots!

Please note, I have not created any of these resources myself, but have given you the link to the original source!

Setting up your classroom!

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As we approach the end of another school year, my mind immediately jumps to the beginning of next year and what I’m going to do differently, or keep the same…new posters or furniture arrangements, what apps we need on which iPads…

I’m sure I’m not alone.

However for the last 2 years I haven’t had a classroom to set up and I won’t have do do it for 2018 either. But it got me thinking about all the different classrooms that I rotate through and the types of things I would be focusing on as a teacher – if I was staying in the same room, or moving to a different one!

Displays:

  • Do you have a designated wall space for different subjects? Where do you display anchor charts for various subjects? Or key terminology?
    I am a big believer in visual literacy around the classroom, including word walls, a ‘maths dictionary’ wall and I’ve recently introduced a VCOP wall into one of the classrooms I teach in. In the past, I’ve also had a ‘Wall (or Window) of Fame’ for any students who are featured in our newsletter or local newspaper – I simply cut out the article and blu-tack it to the area – a great way to showcase students and make them feel important. Birthday charts are also a way to help students feel valued, as well as a way to remember and plan for any birthday cupcakes that may be brought it!
    I also like to include very clear instructions and guidelines. These posters from First Grade Glitter and Giggles were used quite often in my class, to avoid me repeating myself.
    A few other things to consider: are you going to display a visual timetable for each day, or have a classroom helper display?

Door:

  • Do you have photos or names of all students at the entrance to your class?
    I always had some sort of theme to my class, so in the past I’ve created door labels with their names and our class logo, or ones with their photo. I’ve used similar labels for their lockers or bag hooks and if using set seating, I’ve attached labels to desks.
    If your class has a name, for example the Year 2 Rainbow Fish, I always display that on the door too!

Stationary:

  • Where will your students keep their stationary and books?
    My students have often had their own pencilcases with everything inside. The problem I often found is that even though parents were asked, they didn’t get everything labelled and things went missing and suddenly I had 8 kids in my class without a pair of scissors.

    Sometimes I had pencilcases just for coloured pencils, textas and crayons and I kept the greyleads, erasers, scissors and gluesticks in a communal area for all students to access. I found this worked really well, as students were required to work together to keep all the resources clean and tidy for the whole class to use. Depending on the grade level, I’ve also had tubs on tables with coloured pencils, textas and crayons too, so there were no pencilcases in my classroom at all.

    I created book covers for each of my different subjects (usually an A4 size) and on the first few days of school, we spent a few minutes here or there colouring them in, so that students could personalise them. If students wanted their books covered in patterned contact, I simply attached it to the front of their book using a piece of clear contact. Unfortunately the ones I used to make were made using Microsoft Publisher before I used a Macbook, so here are some other ideas I found.

Notes from home:

  • Where will you collect permission notes, or late slips?
    I used to just have a pile of notes that I’d collect and then potentially lose them. I made myself a little mail box, so instead of giving notes to me, students would just slip them inside and I’d collect them all at the end of day when I wasn’t doing 20 other things and could deliver them to the office without getting distracted!
    I found that it was also important to designate a box in the classroom for Library Book Returns, so that if students brought their books back before our allocated day, there was somewhere to keep them safe.

 

Hope you’ve found this helpful – comment with any extra ideas that you have for helping set up a classroom!
(I could go on and on, but nobody likes to read a whole essay!)

Directed Drawing for Digital Tech!

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In Year 1, our Integrated Studies topic is all about creativity, specifically about robots and the creative elements that they have.
One of the first tasks was to draw exactly what I told them to. I was very vague with my instructions, only telling them the shape – but not the size or position, which meant that no drawings actually looked like a ladybug at the end.

I then asked students to draw what they thought a robot looked like, trying to use shapes that they we brainstormed so it would be easier to describe later. Then the students wrote a set of instructions to direct another person as to how to draw their robot.


I told them that I would share the instructions with other students and classes and then we could compare their robots with the original robot drawing!

The 3 Little Pigs…STEM Style!

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This term in Integrated Studies, our unit in Prep/1 is Topsy-Turvy Tales, with a focus on creativity.

Last week we watched Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs and then I read the story from a book. We listed the similarities and differences between the 2 presentations.

We started talking about the ‘materials’ instead of ‘building stuff’ that the pigs used and talked about mathematical terms such as strong, weak, light and heavy. I’d seen lots of STEM-based ideas on Pinterest about getting students to build houses for the 3 Little Pigs and using the hairdryer as the Big, Bad Wolf.

Yesterday, students worked in pairs to build a house to protect one little pig from the hairdryer wolf. I provided the following materials:

  • a blue placemat (the house was required to sit on top of this placemat)
  • a toy pig per pair
  • plastic cups & plates
  • Strawbees
  • coloured magnetic rods
  • craft sticks
  • wooden skewers
  • cotton buds
  • pipecleaners
  • straws
  • coloured paper
  • rubber bands
  • cellophane
  • PVA glue
  • sticky tape

How does STEM fit into this activity?

S(cience): we talked as a group about how strong different materials are, what they are made of (plastic, wood etc) and which materials may blow away in the ‘wind’ from the wolf
T(echnology): following the building, students used Flipgrid on their iPad to reflect on their finished structure
E(ngineering): there were lots of questions such as ‘How can we make this stronger?’, ‘What else could we use instead?’, plus comments such as ‘This doesn’t bend or stand up straight like we need it to’.
M(athematics): students needed to make sure that their given pig fit inside their building through informal measurement, plus lots of chatting about how high the walls should be and how tall the pig was.

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Surprisingly(!) none of the pigs were affected by the ‘wolf’s’ blowing! Some of the houses were more 2D than 3D though, so today we talked about the features of a house that protect people – like walls and a roof! The pair who used a cardboard box to simply place over the top of their pig weren’t supposed to use a cardboard box either – they pinched it from the cupboard!!

Pretty sure the teacher had the most fun too…using the hairdryer to blow down houses was very cool!

Diving into Scratch Jnr!

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Earlier this year, I excitedly mentioned to my colleague @erinlucie that there was an iPad app as a prelude to the coding application Scratch. I whipped my iPad out and opened the app, only to find that I had NO idea how to use it and couldn’t seem to make anything happen/move on it. Fast forward a few months and I have since used the Scratch Jnr app twice. By myself, for about 10 minutes each time. However, it’s loaded onto all of the iPads in Prep-6 at our school, so yesterday at lunch two of my Prep students opened it up and asked me how to use it.

Following my basic instructions, this is what was produced by a very excited 5 year old.

Let’s talk about how basic my instructions were. They went something like this:

Me: Hey, do you think we could make the cat by giving it some instructions?
Her: Ok.
Me: The green flag is the button that makes the cat do what we tell it. So we need to click on the yellow button, to find the green flag button. That tells the cat to start moving.
Her: I found it and I pressed it but it didn’t do anything.
Me: We need to drag it next to the grey cat outline. Now that we have the start button, let’s choose a direction for him to move. Click on the blue arrow and drag an arrow down to connect to the green flag button, just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Aaaaaaand, that was about it. Seriously. The most technical terms I used were ‘instructions’, ‘button’ and ‘drag’. I didn’t even mention the words ‘coding’, ‘blocks’ or ‘algorithm’, that will be the next lesson. After telling the cat when to stop moving (by finishing the instructions with a red ‘stop’ button), she pressed the green flag at the top to start the movements – she was stoked!!

After this, we inserted a background: “Click on the picture of the sky and grass”. Then we added a second character and discovered that by clicking on the paintbrush next to it, you can edit the character’s colours! The final part that we added was some talking – a simple speech bubble – I did the typing, she did the talking!

Today in the Prep/1 class, we all opened up Scratch Jnr and had a go. We followed some instructions step by step (the same ones as yesterday) and then they had some free time to explore the app. Within 2 minutes, a student had discovered how to record her own voice to add it to her instructions. Here’s what we ended up with – the last one is the one I made after talking about the miracle of Jesus calming the storm – I’m pretty proud of the 10 minutes I spent on it and the kids even got to add the sound effects!!

Please don’t be afraid to give it a go! I’m bursting with ideas as to how I can use this in my Term 4 Integrated Studies program – creating narratives and fairytales!

Slow-motion videos with 6 year olds

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Last week I had the brainy idea of teaching my Prep/1 class how to make a slow motion video in our digital technology time. Why? It seemed like something that could be fun, looks at logical thinking and step-by-step processing, as well as integrating some teamwork!

To start, I modelled it. I chose 2 plastic animals from the toy tub, sat the kids in a circle around it and showed them what the iMotion app looked like on their iPad. I showed them how to press ‘New Movie’ and press the ‘finger’ button (for manual image capture, rather than on a timer) and then I asked each of them one at a time to move the little frog a tiny bit closer to the dinosaur. As each child moved the frog, I took a photo. After 15 photos, the frog was at the dinosaur! I talked about stopping – pressing the stop button TWO times, and then how to watch the video. The kids were so amazed that I could speed it up, or slow it down.

I let them go off in pairs, armed with an iPad to share and a range of toys to create scenes to capture. It had varying degrees of success, ranging from tantrums due to partner arguments to not being able to keep the camera still, stealing toys from other groups, or taking photos of our partner’s body as they moved the toys.

Yesterday, I came armed with 3 different mazes drawn on A4 paper. This time, they had to place an object at the ‘end’ of the maze and move another object from the ‘start’ to the ‘end’. Here’s what we got: (the last one is probably the most successful, but bear with me!)

Lessons learnt:

  • Think about some sort of tripod – some kids can’t comprehend the concept of keeping the camera still…fair enough, they’re only little!
  • When exporting the final product, make sure it’s at a speed that is easily viewable
  • Talk about not rushing the photos so that nobody’s arm/face/back/nostril is in the way
  • Explain how to turn the iPad up the right way, so the video isn’t upside down!

Not bad for our second attempt! Hopefully we’ll be able to use this knowledge to demonstrate how plants grow….or some sort of sustainability focus!