Edublog Award Nominations

Every year the Edublog Awards celebrate the best of educational blogging around the world. Educational blogging has taken off worldwide and is a great way for teachers, students, and school communities to share their thoughts and resources with me. Here are just a few of the people that we would like to Nominate for Blogging Awards for their outstanding sharing and inspiring.

Best Student Blog: MEAOW @ Josie’s Blog:
Josie started blogging last year and in her first year of blogging wowed us all.  She not only was nominated for Best Student Blog, she came runner-up in the Edublog Awards 2012.  She has kept up her blog with enthusiasm gaining fans around the world. Her posts are always well thought out, engaging and beg you to join in the conversation.  What more could you ask from a Blog?  I look forward to seeing where this amazing little blogger blogs from in years to come!
New Blog: 3/4AB Lonnie:
These grade 3/4 students have very enthusiastically started up a new blog in Term 3 this year and we look forward to watching it grow and develop in the coming year.
Ed Tech Blog: Teach Gen Now:
Kat, Matt and Simon are three enthusiastic teachers from Victoria who come together to run PD’s as well as keep up with newsletters and resources for teachers.  Kathleen Morris is no stranger to the edublog awards winning multiple categories every year.  A gem!

Best Class Blog: Mr Avery’s Class Blog:

Mr Avery and his class of enthusiastic bloggers always share their amazing learning with the world.  I love checking in on what they are up to. Inspiring.

Best Teacher Blog: What Ed Said:

What I love most about Edna Sackson blogs and email updates is that she seems to share the exact thing I am looking for or need to hear at the exact time.  Thank you for all your sharing and inspiring!



Plan B

Just when you sink into the routine of teaching, knowing what grade you are teaching, getting ready for the new year… that is when it always hit… BAM!  Change, change, change.  As generally a chilled out person, I can normally find myself going with the flow… the thing I hold onto the most… is to always have a PLAN B!  When things aren’t working… don’t keep going with what is NOT working, get creative, come up with a PLAN B.

This is also a skill we need to model and pass onto our students.  Make our frustrations open and let them see us problem solving.  One frustration these past two weeks came from an online timeline program that looked amazing.  It got great reviews and recommended in Educational circles.  We tried and tried to make it work, but still no avail even after emails and feedback forums.  So instead of wasting anymore of learning time with Diptity, I modeled problem solving and found out through their forums among other frustrated teachers about Whenintime and within two minutes, a new timeline was created and events loaded.

PLAN B to the rescue and a great new internet resource found.

How have you had to adapt and change this year?

Apps for Education

I always get asked about good App lists for iPads. There are many floating around the educational internet.  I have kept various lists over the years, but thought it would be helpful to put them in one place.  Working with Post Grad Students this week at Deakin gave me the perfect excuse to create a Prezi on Apps in Education.  I decided to group them into Multiple Intelligences categories as a way of neatly organising… although I quickly learned many of them do not fall into neat boxes.  So enjoy putting them into learning style boxes or break the rules and use a musical app for a linguistic learner… Go on… I dare you!

P.S I also added some classroom management apps as they make my life easier and hopefully yours too…

What are you favourite apps to use in the classroom?

Where do you find out about new apps?


As I posted about here we have modified the CAFE and Daily 5 in our Literacy block for Grade 3/4s.  The CAFE/Daily 5 has been the perfect fit for me as a teacher as well as being the perfect transition for our students from the Early Years Model that our school operates in grade Prep-2 into the Literacy block of the Upper Primary School.  Students still have structure and support with reading, but are given freedom and independence to set their own goals and work on achieving those goals.

Our school is unique in our open plan learning areas, TRIBES culture, team teaching, Grade 3/4 focus on blogging, 7 Steps to Writing Success Program, and the use of 7 school ipads. When planning our timetable we took all this into consideration and broke the CAFE/Daily5 Literacy Block into 5 Components.

PART 1: Community Circle– We are a TRIBES school and as part of our learning community, the whole school begins the day with 15-20 minutes of a Community Circle.  The topic is either selected by students or the teacher and every student has an opportunity to share or has the right to pass (and come back to again!).  In terms of CAFE/DAILY 5, we use this time as a focus on oral language and speaking skills.

PART 2: Whole Class Blogging Focus:  We look at our latest posts and comments. We learn how to write quality comments and posts. We explore other class blogs and student blogs. Students break up into small task teams that take an area of the blog that they wish to improve and brainstorm ideas and plan posts to invigorate that idea. Student Bloggers are given time to work on their student blogs.

PART 3Whole Class Reading Focus: We use this time to introduce of reinforce a reading strategy based on the CAFE Model.  Students spend the time learning a strategy and then practicing that strategy in a task or in their “Good Fit Books”.  We have our third teacher reading with identified students that require additional support and one to one reading time.

PART 4: Daily 5: As a team, we decided early on that we would like to give the students a chance to do the Daily 5 independently and give them real choice. We thought we would trial them and see if they could chose appropriate tasks and to see if the learning outcomes were being met. I am happy to report that the students have FAR exceeded our expectations on both accounts.  Their are a few things that we feel made this a success:

1) Explicit teaching of all areas of the Daily 5 and regular conferencing to ensure their needs are being met.

2) Reminding students of purpose of Daily 5. Before we start the Daily 5 each day, we meet with both grades of students and ask them to share their goal with a partner and share what they plan on working on to improve that goal today.  They share the two tasks they are going to complete before we run the Daily 5.  We find this assists the students in getting on task quickly and allows students who wish to do EEKK (reading together) a time to pair up.

3) Accountability! We have charts that they have to fill in each week with what activities they have chosen. They complete these at the end of each CAFE and teachers regularly check them and ensure students are mixing up their activities and meeting tasks set for their goals.

4) We run the Daily 5 in two 15 minute sessions (timer is used!).  Students stay on one of the 5 Daily 5 Tasks for 15 minutes and then swap to a second task.  The options for Tasks are….


* Read to Someone: EEKK (Elbow to Elbow Knee to Knee). Students work in the classroom area sharing the reading of a book with a partner. Students can pair off with any level reader and chose any type of book.  This has led to many students teaching students this year, which has been inspiring to watch. It has also led to a culture of sharing good series or novels that students have enjoyed and sharing their love of that book with their partners.

* Read to Self: Students Read silently to themselves with a “Good Fit Book”.

* Word Work: We run the Soundwaves Spelling Program across the Grade 3-6s on a Friday.  Students are allowed to work on spelling homework this time.  We also have a Word Work station where we leave worksheets on whatever topic we feel students need extra practice with.  We base this on their previous week’s writing.  Worksheet topics include handwriting, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes, etc.

* Work on Writing: Students are invited to leave comments on our class blog, other student blogs, or other school blogs during this time.  During our Blogging session we will sometimes highlight comments that should be responded to and ask for volunteers to reply to their comments.  Students that are drafting posts for our blog are invited to use this time to so as well.  Student bloggers are also invited to use Work on Writing to work on their own student blogs.

*Listen to Reading: Students are invited to use ipads to listen to stories apps.  We like to use the most interactive story apps we can find to make the learning as engaging as possible.  Students can also chose from a list of websites on our blog that also provide listening to actors/actresses or authors read their work.

TEACHER’S ROLE: During the DAILY 5 time, when students are on independent tasks, the two classroom teachers are conferencing with students by setting new reading goals or checking in on their existing goals.  Classroom teachers are also conducting small groups focus lessons.  These lessons consist of students that are all working on the same goal.  We meet and discuss goal and practice something related to our goals. We have the added bonus of a floating teacher who checks in with students as to what goal they are working on, why they have chosen the topic they are on, and reports back to classroom teachers.

SILENT READING: After lunch all student across the school spend 10-15 minutes of Silent Reading which also supplements our CAFE time giving students a further opportunity to practice Read to Self.

PART 5: Writing: The first half of the focus this year was on the individual 7 steps.  We spent two weeks explicitly teaching each step. The second half of the year is focus on writing many different genres whilst implementing the 7 steps into our writing.


How do you integrate technology into your literacy block?

How have your students responded to choice in their literacy block?



Changing with the CAFE Literacy Program

First of all an apology for missing an entire term of blogging here.  It was an insane term and this blog unfortunately took the back burner, but HERE I am and with a post I have been planning for quite sometime.


I first heard of Daily 5 and CAFE from Uni friends, but when I saw Kathleen Morris and Kelly Jordan from 4KM and 4KJ using it, I knew it had to be a good thing! I spoke with both of them and followed Kelly’s blog posts.  So when on the first day of term I saw the CAFE book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser sitting on my principal’s desk, I snatched it and immediately knew it was the literacy program I thought my grade 3/4 students needed.  I knew it would take a lot of tweaking as our school operates differently to a lot, but I was up for the tweaking challenge.

Things we had to consider when adapting CAFE program:

– Team teaching 

– Open Space classrooms

– Timetable and specialists

– How much freedom I was willing to give students

– How to build routines and trust

– I work .8 and how would I continue on my day off

– Student Feedback

I jumped straight in in Term 1 and muddled my way through as I ordered the Daily 5 book.  I started a Pensieve (a individual conferencing journal that is pivotal to the success of this program) and tried my best. I was slightly blinded by enthusiasm at first and really had to stop and take stock of my consideration list.  And when I was truly honest with my teaching, I realised that my considerations were a thorn in the side of the CAFE.  It was hard to do Daily 5 in my grade and not the other grade 3/4. I felt I was trying to take “my” students to do things, when our school operates more on the collective responsibility of students.  It was jarring with our ethos. I also found that the timetable and specialists were only allowing me one or two days at the CAFE over a full week, and one of those days falling on my day off.  Here is a look at my first attempt to run CAFE… It was MESSY!

I didn’t give up! I went to my fantastic team and asked for their help to make some CHANGES. Change is hard, and especially hard for us teachers who run by routine… I am beginning to realise just how important being open to change is to teaching though! So from little things, big things GROW… My team teaching partner came on board and the whole school helped to coordinate timetable changes to allow our grades 2hrs uninterrupted in the mornings 4 days a week! We changed specialists, we changed our spelling morning from Thursday to Friday to accommodate my day out of the classroom to not fall on a CAFE day. With some unexpected staffing changes, we also gained a third teacher to assist us during CAFE times! Bonus! We all sat down every week and changed, modified, adapted, tweaked and considered all of the above.  We also listened to the students, checked in with them, noticed when they were working well and what we needed to do to facilitate that.

All in all, CHANGE is GOOD and we now have a CAFE that operates like this…

 As I have stated before we are a TRIBES school and begin everyday with community circle, which we adapted into the CAFE program.  Then the two grades split for blogging and reading strategies and then swap.  These run for 10-15 each depending on how much time we think students need on writing that particular day.  Students meet to discuss goals and tasks for day and move off independently into DAILY 5 activities. We gather again for writing at end of session. We moved the independent reading portion to the 15 minutes after lunch.

Change is hard! It is easy to go into school and re-hash what was done the previous year and the year before that.  It is easy to take a prescribed formula from any book, teacher, or Department initiative.  But do those formulas meet your students needs? Do those formulas support your core beliefs as a teacher?  Do they match the school’s ethos?  What needs to CHANGE to consider these important factors?

This IS a post to promote the Daily 5 and CAFE, as I wholeheartedly believe their program is an easy to follow, manage, maintain, and most importantly their program is positively benefiting our students.  This is ALSO a post to honestly look at the journey it took me and a team of teachers to CHANGE the formula to suit our students.  And we hope we never stop changing…

I promise, in my next post I will go into the nitty gritty details on how the DAILY 5 and CAFE operates in the classroom.

How have you adapated programs in your classroom?

How does change affect your teaching?



Why I adore DropBox…

I had heard about this DropBox place and never really assumed it had any use in the classroom.  I had an account and had received some large files from my Dad at some stage, but that was about it.  Little did I know this program would help me manage a more effective classroom.  At the moment I am using it for writing samples.  I am also using it for anecdotal notes in everything from Maths to Integrated Studies.

Here is my Set Up…

* I have a DropBox account. I have it on my computer and the iPad app.

* I have a folder for each student.

* I set up an account with DropItToMe called  The students have a simple password and upload any file with one click and it comes straight to my DropBox straight away.




* Once students have dropped a file to me, it appears in my DropItToMe folder in DropBox.

* From here it is a simple right click on your mouse/trackpad to get these options and then move student to their named folder in one click. 

* Now annotating student’s work and returning it to them is the next layer that I hope to add… I am setting up student emails this term through the school.  I will annotate student work on iPad in GoodReader App.  You can access DropBox through GoodReader.

* Then I will use the newest DropBox feature, which is to share a file through a URL.  After getting the student’s work URL link, I will then email the private URL to each student with their work and they will to be able to view and download their work back from me.  Another option is to have a public class DropBox folder where all student can access.

(This is the theory, I will let you know how it works in practice in Part 2 of why I adore DropBox).


Reasons I adore DropBox:

* Teaching students a skill of the 21st century- sharing and uploading files to the “cloud” is where the world is headed.

* Don’t have 53 USBs being waved in my face to retrieve work from.

* Don’t have to worry or stress about printers not working.

* Using my iPad for anectdotal notes in the classroom and being able to share these notes back and forth to computer.








* Have a way to seamlessly annotate and return student work on from computer to computer- much more 2012 than printing, annotating student work on paper, and students having to re-work it on computer.

* I can take pictures of their handwritten work on my iPad and then send the image to DropBox where I can check their work samples at any time I need to without carrying home 27 writing books.



* I believe it will make report commenting for writing unbelievably easy.  I will let you know in a week or so after reports are due!

* Saving some trees!

Why do you love DropBox?

How are you using DropBox in the classroom?

Quality Commenting and TRIBES

Our school is a TRIBES school.  Being the first TRIBES school in Australia, it is very heavily embedded in everything we do from planning to relationships with students and the community.  If you have not seen or heard about TRIBES, I would highly recommend visiting a school that implements it and signing yourself up for a TRIBES PD.  Even if your whole school doesn’t do TRIBES, one classroom is a great start.  Hands down the best PD, course, or learning experience I have had in my life was the two TRIBES trainings I have done: Tribes Learning Communities and the Artistry of Learning.

So when it came to blogging, I knew the TRIBES Agreements of: Mutual Respect, Attentive Listening, Appreciations/No Put Downs, the Right to Pass and (Personal Best and Reflection) would have to be embedded in our commenting as well.

Kathleen Morris and Kelly Jordan have a great poster that we have used for the past year and provided a great start for our students in blogging.  This is an excellent resource, but I knew our students could create something more tailored to their approach to blogging keeping in mind the TRIBES agreements.  We set about brainstorming how the agreements fit into our commenting and came up with this list of quality commenting agreements ….

Less publicised yet MOST educational feature of New iPad!

Having used my darling husband’s iPad 1 and our school’s iPad 2’s, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of iPad 3 before I spent the money on my own iPad. I was interested in the better camera capabilities and the better screen.

There is no doubt that when you pick up the New iPad (apparently it is not called iPad 3.. ha!) the first thing that strikes you is the clarity of the screen. It truly is “brilliant! In every sense of the word.” Zooming in on pictures, playing videos or animated apps is a new experience.

But educationally does this far better visual experience make a difference? Probably not.

There is one feature, however, that is not publicised much at all.  In fact it is the last thing Apple mentions on its website tucked under all the other whizz-bang features.  I think this slight improvement could make a huge educational impact.  It is the Dictation feature.  On iPad 1 and 2, I used Dragon dictation for this sort of feature, or within apps such as Sound cloud or Posterous. But there is no need for dictation apps anymore, as literally anywhere there is a typing pad screen, the dictation function is available: writing notes, contacts, update twitter, and any apps!

This will make for seamless dictating possibilities for reluctant writers, for extending early finishers, for debating, for persuasive writing, or for language learning.

I am looking forward to trying out some dictations this week and will report back in.  Just wanted to make a case for an iPad 3 if you were still hovering on the fence between the cheaper iPad 2’s.  I think the money is well spent on the iPad 3’s features, especially the dictation feature.

Any other features of the iPad 3 stick out for you?  How have you used Dictation in the classroom?

The Limbo Land Between Permissions and Blogging

Limbo Land is when you are roaming between having set up your class blog the best you can (hopefully using the guidance of @kathleen_morris here) but you are not ready for it to reach its full potential due to permission forms and paperwork! I just thought I would offer some things I have done in the past few weeks whilst in Limbo Land… please add to the list.

* Paperwork

Nobody likes it, but permission forms are required for students to use blogging platforms to share their work, post pictures, etc.  Writing a clear permission form is key so parents know what they are signing up for.  Are they signing up for work being shared? pictures? An explanation of what blogging is also accompanies my permission forms, which @kathmorris kindly shared with me and I expanded and changed upon to suit my school and students.  This should include the benefits of blogging and a basic introduction to blogging.  Information sessions are another important part to getting blogging up and running.  Blog-uage is another language for a lot of people, so explaining in person what a blog is, the purpose, and how their child’s learning will improve from it is vital. Checklists to ensure all students have blog permission forms back in are extremely important especially if dealing with a large volume of students ( for example a specialist area where the whole school might have to respond).

* Inclusion 

Obviously we can not build up a safe online space, if the our social/emotional space in the classroom is not also safe.  This means building a community of learners that feel safe and secure to share and collaborate with each other. We are a TRIBES school, so inclusion activities are our highest priority at the moment. We begin each day with community circles.  These past few weeks we have worked on the Tribes agreements, Ideal classroom activities, T-shirt outlines where students draw dictated areas about their personalities and life in certain areas on a paper t-shirt, I like my neighbor who, and appreciation pictures. This week also saw us build a strengths wall in the classroom where each student has chosen a strength card to suit them and then we will move to some goal setting for strengths they wish to develop…. which brings me to….

* Goal setting!

What do I want to achieve out of my blog?  So until I have all permission forms back, I am working on my goal for this term 1 2012. My goal this term and probably term 2 is on writing really GREAT comments.  I blogged with these students last year on our Spanish blog. It was a great start to blogging for us all.  My goal for 2011 blog was to reach out the the families so they could continue their Spanish learning at home, and just to get them excited about blogging. 

I feel that went really well, and that goal was achieved.  BUT I felt sometimes that the comments had area for improvement!


With only an hour a week with the students, I did not have the time to go into commenting in detail, so I am delighted that this year I can do that.

* Writing

I will of course be using guidelines such as this to help students learn how to write a really GREAT comment, but until the blog is up and running THIS is not an authentic writing task.  So, I had to come up with something more creative.  Enter the mailbox:

At the start of the year, I wrote a letter to all my students.  I told them about myself, and my family.  As a writing tasks, all students wrote me a letter in return telling me anything that they thought I should know about them.  It was a wonderfully insightful activity!  After they wrote the letter, I felt that so much of themselves went into the task and I could not leave them unanswered.  I also thought, what a great opportunity to model that letters/comments deserve a response.  Therefore, I responded to each and every letter and placed this letter box out as a means of opening the lines of communication, having students practice writing to me, practice responding to letters.  I also opened with Dear and From, and even after week one they were also doing the same in the notes I received in my post box.  At the moment, I am not sharing students’ notes/letters with the class or modelling responses, but more modelling the fact that if someone puts the time and effort into writing a letter, a response is best etiquette!  I am also modelling the structure that I hope to see in their commenting.

* Visiting

We have been visiting other blogs at every opportunity, just to show students what other classes are doing and getting them excited about working with other classes.  I have also spent this time introducing myself to other teachers via Twitter and on their blogs in an attempt to develop some blogging buddies and global collaboration partners.  The power of Twitter amazes me (so if you are not there, get there!), within a day I had more classes to collaborate with than I had the means to do. We have already set up a Flat Stanley project which will begin this coming week.


What else do you do when you are in Limbo Land between fake un-permissioned blogging and real life blogging??

Enage me! A 10 step Guide for Grads

Well if you didn’t know yet, I might as well tell you one of my secrets, I LOVE PREZIS!  And I love talking about becoming a teacher.  So a Prezi about becoming a teacher is like peanut butter and banana… they belong together.

While tutoring on the Graduate Diploma of Primary Teaching at Deakin with @kath_morris, I made this Prezi to share with my students. Compiling such a list was extremely reflective and made me forever grateful for the teachers and friends I have met on my path to becoming a teacher.  It made me grateful for the inspirational teachers and principals I am lucky to work with.

So this 10 step Guide for Graduates became a list of inspirations of things in my first year teaching in Australia that were memorable and worthwhile. It also became a list of minor frustrations, things that I wish someone had forewarned me about!  Some of these warnings may have been useless perhaps, as it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.  But, I thought I would share with other graduates out there some of what I learned, and feel free to pass on to share with graduates you may know.  I hope even if one thing strikes a chord with a Grad, it will add to the inspiration pile and help avoid more in the frustration pile.


What advice would you pass on? Anything else you would add to the list? What things helped you starting out?