Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Foundation Year HASS - the updates!

As a teacher author, feedback is vitally important to me. Not only does feedback give you Teachers Pay Teachers credits, it lets me know if you are happy with my teaching product or if you'd like more or less of something. 

I read every piece of feedback and, as a teacher myself, I consider what I need to teach that particular subject. I like to go back every so often and update an older product to make sure it's aligned with the current Australian curriculum (ACARA). 

These last few weeks I have run a critical eye over two of my most popular products, to see how they align with the updated ACARA Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) version 8.3 for Foundation Year. 

I'm excited to announce both the Foundation Year History and Foundation Year Geography packs have both been updated to reflect the new curriculum and I'd like to quickly walk you through the improvements.

At the front of each pack is a table showing you how every activity, slide, poster or worksheet aligns with each of the ACARA elaborations. This makes it super easy for you to plan your unit of work and ensures you cover every aspect of the ACARA expectations. 

A great way to engage young students is through colourful posters. Dedicate a wall to HASS and rotate posters as you focus on different concepts. 

New vocabulary cards have been added to both packs. Each with a child-friendly definition of each concept. 

This is my favourite aspect of the two new updates - getting some real-world photographs in these packs! Cartoons are great for colouring in or to decorate a colourful poster, but nothing beats images of real people and places to explain HASS concepts to young students. I use these photographs as a whole class discussion prompt to unpack the concept further. Often I use inquiry questions such as "Who is in this picture?", "What is this picture telling us about...?"or "Why do you think they do...?" which works to scaffold their thinking before we move towards written work. Studying photographs in this way, can also help students develop their visual literacy skills.

I have had many requests to make images more diverse with single parent families, same sex couples and different races included. I've listened and made the changes. Posters and photographs include different family structures and are more representative of your student's backgrounds so they can relate better to the concepts being discussed.

Both the History and the Geography packs contain some new QR code activities which link to videos they can watch in pairs or on their own. The worksheets have been designed to allow students to explain their understanding of the concepts shown in the videos and demonstrate their learning.

I'm very proud to have been given permission from the Torres Strait Islander community to use their flag in my materials and inside this pack, I'm pleased to say, I have provided a more equal focus on both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The new updates include, as part of the new ACARA version 8.3 HASS requirements, a greater focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and culture. In addition, I have included some teacher instruction sheets and a link to useful videos you can watch to help you integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into your everyday classroom practices.


If you already own any of these products - you can just click the link below and download the update for free! If you would like to purchase one, please follow the links below.

HASS Bundle Foundation Year Geography Unit and History Unit aligned to ACARA
HASS Geography Unit Foundation Year special places, features, mapping activities
HASS History Unit Foundation Year Family Histories and Commemorations
HASS Mega Bundle Geography and History Foundation, 1, 2 & 3 aligned ACARA

If you purchase the Foundation Year HASS Bundle you'll also get the History and Geography matching Brag Tags as a bonus!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Halloween Paper Bag Puppet Freebie

Halloween is a time to really let go and have some fun in the classroom with some fantastic craft activities. I've also realised the importance of dramatic play as a means to help students to come to grips with difficult concepts. 

Batty Bat

This freebie is the perfect way to practice a retell or tell a story for young students. In addition, the activity gives students the opportunity to practice their cutting skills! 

Monster Mash

I love it when a craftivity covers multiple disciplines! 

Oscar Owl

You'll also find these fabulous Halloween products useful...

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Bringing History to life with digital technologies

I love teaching History and I love using digital technologies (ICTs) to teach History concepts. However, for some teachers, the thought of trying to integrate digital technologies into their curriculum subjects can become overwhelming. In this post I'll show you where to start and outline the benefits of using ICTs to bring history to life in your classroom!

With the introduction of more 1:1 iPad and laptop classrooms, it's easier than ever to obtain access to ICTs in the classroom setting. Teachers who work in 1:1 classrooms know there are huge benefits to using digital technology for learning within the primary classroom. In fact, an independent case study of 6 Australian primary schools using 1:1 laptops, noted that students that used ICTs were more engaged, on task and better differentiated for than non ICT classrooms (Fluck, 2011). Using laptops is fine for upper primary students, who can type and undertake independent research, however, how do you integrate ICTs into lower primary?

Marrying ICTs with a subject such as History is easy, as long as you keep your references and materials focused around the Inquiry questions. Focused historical questions lead students to learn to find evidence to support a statement and this is where QR codes work perfectly with young students.

This is a new product from TechTeacherPto3 and you can see how the QR codes have been used with a scavenger hunt game to keep engagement high. The essential historical element of this activity, is the use of real photographs. Each QR code sends students to a photograph of a real historical item with notes on how each item was used. The recording sheets pose questions that get students to think more deeply, moving them towards higher order thinking, allowing them to create a response based on historical knowledge and understanding rather than guess work.

Try the QR code out below now to see how it works!

Here is another example of using QR codes from the Then and Now Interactive Notebook (also a fantastic way to engage students). The QR code links to a video on how telephones work, which allows students to see how items were actually used, thus allowing them to again think more deeply about how historical items have been replaced or remodelled since then.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Celebrating Father's Day in the classroom, when dad is not around?

Father's Day. The day when children all over the nation celebrate how wonderful their father is and the contribution they make to their lives daily. 

Sadly, for some students, Father's Day is a day for sadness. A day when they suddenly feel 'different' to other children in their class. Family separation, divorce, estrangement or even death can mean some children are without their father on this special day.

As their classroom teacher, how can you be inclusive and yet still sensitive to the needs of these children during Father's Day celebrations?


Check your school online data system to see if both parents are around? Ask all students if they will be making a card for dad this year? If in doubt, ask the parent or guardian contact listed in your school records. There is nothing worse for a child without a father around, to be forced to design a father's day card/craft when they have nobody to give it to.


Adapt Father's Day crafts and resources to include grandfathers, uncles or other male role models or even consider making a card for mum (who is doing double-duty at home!).

What do you do to keep Father's Day inclusive in your classrooms?

You'll find some fun activities that are inclusive of different family situations in each of these packs.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Should you use worksheets in your classroom?

I'm going to break ranks here. I'm going to stand my ground and say proudly that I love a good worksheet! Let me correct that, I love a GREAT worksheet.

Alright, before you crucify me, let me explain my logic.

I'm writing this blog post in response to numerous teacher conversations I've overheard that go along the lines of:

"death to worksheets!"


"ugh...then she pulled out a worksheet..."


"goodness she uses so many worksheets in her class, what's wrong with her!"

Now I'm not saying all worksheets are bad, nor am I saying all worksheets are good. However, let's take a moment to explore the good, the bad and the ugly of worksheets.


A good worksheet is one that challenges students and the best worksheets are the ones that move students from lower to higher order thinking. Let me refer back to my tried and tested old friend Bloom's Taxonomy to demonstrate.

A well set out and informative worksheet is one that allows students to move towards understanding, applying and analysing (don't contact me, I'm Australian, this is how we spell it). The best kind of worksheets really push students to evaluate and give them the opportunity to create.

Good worksheets work for teachers as well. They provide teachers with inspiration and direction on how to teach a new subject and give experienced teachers a refreshing outlook on how to structure content to learners' needs. They also provide valuable feedback to teachers and parents as a moderation tool.

A great worksheet guides your students through your lesson and suggest ways of teaching the content in an age appropriate way. A set of great worksheets allows for differentiation, particularly with younger students, giving them options to cut and paste, draw or write a response to demonstrate what they know.

I've often scoured the internet for activities and sheets on particular topics and have stumbled upon a fantastic idea embedded within a worksheet! High quality worksheets are like gold dust and worth hanging on to for years. Visit any experienced teacher's office and you will find a handful of precious "I only have one copy!" worksheets they return to year after year because they are so effective in assisting students to break down a subject. 


Alright, we're here. Yes you're right. There are A LOT of bad worksheets floating around the internet (and in some older textsbooks in some cases!). 

The rules for bad worksheets are the reverse of good worksheets. 

Worksheets should be fairly self-explanatory. Obviously, young students will need guidance to complete a worksheet. However, a good worksheet acts like a graphic organise to extract thoughts, put them in order and create something new (Blooms higher order thinking). Bad worksheets make little or no sense to students when used independently. 

Worksheets should be used as a learning tool NOT a teaching tool. The moment a student is given a text book (often the same as a printed worksheet) or bunch of worksheets to complete independently, they will zone out and they have lost their purpose as a tool for building conceptual understanding. Some students will love independent quiet time with a worksheet, however, the goal should be to build on concepts already taught, not to teach them.


Well I'm not one to judge but... 

My personal pet peeves for ugly worksheets are:
  • fancy borders: they often get chopped off in photocopying and take up too much room, they just aren't necessary
  • fancy lettering: those cute fonts often don't work for young students, keep them clean and clear for copying purposes
  • colour elements: anything colour is a bit of a no no for me as we don't have colour printers in our rooms
  • photographs: this comes back to only having a poor quality black and white printer available in my classroom and photographs don't print well
These are just my thoughts. I'd love to know what you think? Do you ever use worksheets? When do you use them and for what purposes? What do you consider an 'ugly' worksheet? Leave your comments below.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Year 1 Geography with QR Codes

I'm constantly reviewing my products and listening to your feedback. In particular, I've been exploring the use of ICTs with Geography (stay tuned for my blog post about using ICTs with HASS soon). I've been looking for ways to make my HASS packs more authentic and relevant for students so have started to refresh some of my older products. 

The first product I've updated is my Year 1 Geography Pack and here are some of the new additions I've added to the pack.

Firstly, the pack has now been split into three files which have been zipped together. 

File One - vocabulary cards, worksheets and activities.
File Two - colourful posters on the concepts covered.
File Three - photographic slides of real people and places.

In addition, the worksheets now have QR codes. Student can complete the worksheets and scan the QR code to get some clues as to the location being discussed. There are also QR codes on how places are used. 

Note: Most of the QR codes link to Google Drive. If you don't have access to Google Drive in your school then you will find the photographic slides file most useful for discussing these concepts with students as a whole class. I have set the QR code links so that your students do not need to log in to Google Drive, however, some schools do not allow access so please check before you begin any class activity.

Lastly, one significant addition to this pack is a very clear alignment with ACARA Year 1 Geography in the index. This way you can see which materials in the pack cover the relevant Knowledge and Understandings. 

If you have already purchased this pack, please go back and download the new and updated file for free here.

As always, if you have any feedback, requests or questions please email me

Sunday, 30 July 2017

3 Quick and Easy Ideas For National Science Week

National Science Week (12 - 20 August 2017) is the perfect opportunity to bring a whole school celebration into the early years classroom and undertake some fun hands-on activities. What makes Science so much fun to teach is you can actually see the cogs whirring and your students' eyes light up as they perform experiments on different materials.

To help you through Science Week I'm going to show you some of my favourite activities for early years science, point you in the direction of some great free and paid ideas and, as always, show you how to align these activities to the Australian curriculum (I don't know about you, but I don't have time to wander away from the curriculum too far during my teaching week). 

As always, make sure you review the Scientific Method with your students before beginning experiments (you can download a free set of posters on the Scientific Method by clicking here).

1. What is waterproof?

I love explaining the concept of 'waterproof' to young students. It's always fascinating to see what they think will or won't be waterproof. I usually start with a discussion about what materials are made from and work towards undertaking an experiment with paper hats. The challenge I set students is - can you make a hat out of paper that will keep your partner's head dry (i.e.will be waterproof?). This activity ends up being a LOT of fun with students making paper hats and spraying water on them or, if you can take the activity outside on a hot day, using a watering can over their heads to test them!

Instructions for making some great paper hats can be found here.

Connections to the Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year Science - Objects are made of materials that have observable properties.

2. Measure the weather.

For this activity you will build a weather vane and record your observations in a journal. This is a nice idea to build on a Monday and then record observations each day in a weather journal, leaving Friday to reflect on what you have learned.

Watch the step by step tutorial here or click below.

Connections to the Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year Science - Daily and seasonal changes in our environment affect everyday life.

3. What are the traditional ways of interpreting the changing of the seasons?

One elaboration within the Australian Foundation Year Science curriculum, seeks to get students to investigate and reflect on how Aboriginal peoples have traditionally identified the changing of the seasons. This also fits in nicely with the new HASS curriculum on exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders perspectives on community and place.

Exploring a story such as Tiddalick the Frog, is a fun and interactive way for students to understand weather and seasonal concepts such as drought and flood. I always enjoy creating some art pieces on Tiddalick to go with this activity as well.

There is a wonderful video of Tiddalick the Frog available here or click below.

Connections to the Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year Science - How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of time and weather explain how things happen in the world around them.


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Ten ways to survive, when your teaching team fails to work cooperatively

When a teaching team fails to work cooperatively, how do you survive the school year?

Teaching, as with any workplace, is filled with highs and lows, big personalities and uncooperative people that you must deal with on a daily basis. The following stories come from chats I've had with my fellow teaching friends. I felt this issue was rarely discussed among teachers and needed to be said.

When your team rocks!
When you work in a powerful team of teachers that are not only cooperative but are as excited about teaching as you are it can be an uplifting experience. Good teaching teams support and encourage each other. They share ideas openly and debrief, pick apart and dissect what worked and what didn't. It can be the most exciting time you can have as a teacher and one where you feel like you are growing and learning more than ever.

When your year level team sucks.
Have you been in a year level that is full of jaded teachers? Not only are they unwilling to share their ideas but they are reluctant to consider new ideas. In this team, new ideas are to be avoided at all costs. Information is not shared and fellow year level teachers rarely know what is going on - these golden nuggets of information are closely guarded by the Year Level Head who is often nowhere to be found. Everybody moans and hates their job. Everybody hates parents and the kids are frequently called 'dumb'. Moderation rarely happens and when it does you find out everybody approached the assessment differently and none of you have marked the same way. This is a poor functioning team but what can you do? Often you're not in a position to complain to the Principal and it is more than likely they already know what is going on (they see more than you realise). Does this scenario sound familiar?

What can YOU do?
Firstly, there is very little you can do within your team to change the dynamics. Sometimes it helps to find a co-worker you can share ideas with but sometimes the team environment is so toxic this only makes things worse. So you bunker down, close the door and stop trying to get involved. Regardless of how this impacts on your growth as a teacher, the main concern is how do you protect your mental health until your work situation changes?

Whilst pinning the other day (see my boards here), I stumbled upon this pin and as I read it I realised it could be used as a step by step guide to how to survive a toxic teaching environment. Let's take a look...


1. Don't give advice unless asked. This is brilliant advice but one I totally suck at so I'm still learning. I often fall into the trap of nodding and agreeing with a moaning co-worker then jumping in to give advice. Advice is seldom often asked for and when offered can appear preachy. Wait for your co-worker to ask for advice and then tell them you'll think it over and get back to them. This will stop your discussion appearing bitchy or gossipy in, what is already, a toxic work environment. 

2. Leave the room if you can't be quiet. Yep another one I'm really no good at but I'm learning to hold my tongue. When you come from a teaching team that is open to discussion and airing problems it can be confronting to move to a team where opinions are judged with high suspicion. One of my closest teaching pals is an expert at holding her tongue and I am trying to be more like her.

3. Focus on yourself and what you should be doing, not what they are doing wrong. They didn't teach the curriculum as agreed - let it go. They did a different assessment than the one discussed - let it go. Remember, you're in a toxic work environment and self-preservation is paramount. Concentrate on what you do and do it well. Leave karma (or admin) to catch up with lazy teachers. Which falls nicely to number four...

4. Let them experience their own choices. Chances are admin are fully aware of the lazy teacher, the poor Year Level Head or the bad group dynamics at your school. Principals see and hear everything, even if they don't tell you. Eventually admin will gather enough dirt on these teachers and either split the group by moving teachers to new year levels (or new schools!). Chances are you might move to a more productive team and get your teaching mojo on again. 

5. Stop focusing on their behaviour. When a team member appears reluctant to new ideas, won't share ideas or refuses to work as part of a team, remember the behaviour is often a consequence of other issues. Perhaps they used to share their work all the time before a fellow teacher took credit for their work? Perhaps they are having a terrible time at home and are feeling too low to be cooperative at work? Whatever their reasoning for their behaviour, recognise that there are factors beyond your control at play in their behaviour and don't take it personally. They probably have never seen a good teaching team in action before.

6. Remove the kids before it becomes unsafe. Okay this one didn't, at first, feel like it applied to team teaching but then I realised the way poor team teaching impacts on the students. Students, like all children caught between quarreling parents, see and hear EVERYTHING. They see the look you give another teacher (you know that eye-roll of 'they're at it again'). They hear the tone in your voice when you say "oh okay, nobody told me that was happening today!". It all impacts on their self-esteem like the child of a divorcing couple (Am I worthwhile?) and it all goes home to their parents (You'll never guess what teacher X said about teacher Y!). Whatever discussions develop, keep the students at the forefront of your mind and keep the fallout to a minimum for those in your class.

7. Don't nag them about their responsibilities. This one falls under the 'let it go' criteria again. They haven't run the assessment the same way - yep just let it go. See point 3, 4 and 5 above.

8. Only help when asked. Even in the bad team environment, where I keep my door closed to prevent the bad juju vibes entering my classroom, I will invariably hear a knock on the door at some point. Teachers, when desperate, will seek help and just use it as a chance to demonstrate to your fellow team member, the benefits of cooperative team teaching.

9. Compliment what they ARE doing well. This can feel like Mission Impossible but when the difficult team member actually does something well, don't hesitate to compliment them. They will be shocked at first, then suspicious (what is she really doing?) but they might, just might, repeat that good work again. You use positive reinforcement with your students, so why not try it on your teaching team? It might not improve their behaviour but it may just help you see some good in their work rather than just focusing on the bad.

10. Let yourself off the hook, it's not your problem! I really love this last one. At the end of the day, their behaviour, their teaching, their students are their problem. You can't control everything but you can control how you react to it so take a deep breath - gather your fabulous lesson plans and say "not my circus, not my monkeys" and focus on your own students.

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