5 things I want my pre-service teachers to know

Of course, if you’ve been following this blog you already know that one of my professional goals was to teach pre-service teachers and that this semester I am privileged to have my own tutorial group of 29 students. Given the large number and the course outline which stipulates that they must prepare and deliver a 30-minute lesson first to a couple of Year 7 students in a school -you can read about that here – and then to their peers during our tutorial time over 6 weeks it leaves me very little time to review or give feedback out loud. Our sessions are all about getting everyone a turn to deliver their class, while feedback is provided in writing or sent via email after the sessions. I have to say, there has been much learning in these sessions and as second year students they have done a great job!

Next week the students are due to go out on their professional practice rounds and so there will be no tutorials scheduled for two weeks after which there is only one more session for the semester aaarrgghhh!

Hence this blog post. I really want my pre-service teachers to know the following:

1. Relationships



All of you have delved into this area at some point in your peer teaching session but I cannot stress it enough for when you are teaching and learning students. It does not take much to learn your students and does get easier the longer you remain in the most rewarding of all professions. However, sometimes we forget, especially when our own baggage comes in with us into the learning space. I have always said and will continue to do so – when going into your learning space, leave your baggage outside as there will be no room for it given there are between 25 and 29 other pieces coming in. Please remember that those students come into the learning space with needs, some with more needs than others, but they always need to feel safe, to be respected, to be loved (you know what I mean here) and for you to believe they can and be prepared to show them how.

2. Aims & Objectives

SMART goals

SMART goals

There is a clear difference between aims and objectives but they are constantly running into each other. Your aim (usually only one) is what you hope to achieve or the overall big picture item. The objectives are the steps that need to be taken to achieve the aim. In other words long- term plan and lots of short term plans to make the journey more enjoyable, less stressful and more achievable. Objectives usually begin with verbs – doing words. I encourage you to use the S.M.A.R.T goal process in developing them.

By the end of the lesson/class/week the students will be able to….(now list the objectives based on SMART).


3. Information overload

MacMeekin's infographic on Blooms 'revised' Taxonomy

MacMeekin’s infographic on Blooms ‘revised’ Taxonomy

So you are about to plan and teach a class -how much information is enough? By information I mean knowledge and skills. I think you can never have enough knowledge and skill but one can only digest certain amounts at particular times. This is mostly true if you are ‘feeding’ them the information. I want to remind you that you don’t have to have all the knowledge nor do you have to give them all the answers. I’d like to see you take more risks and allow time for students to explore a little more and hence develop their own skills and knowledge. Consider practical applications to encourage your students to think, to evaluate and to analyse. Why do they need to know this? How will it help them in the future? These are sometimes really hard questions to answer especially when there is a set curriculum to get through. Don’t be afraid to accept any teaching moments that occur BUT be wary you are not leading them down the garden path. Incorporate into your lessons some Bloom’s Taxonomy – you don’t have to do it all, all of the time but we do have to move from just receiving and regurgitating knowledge for testing and then forgetting all about it. Create ‘fun’ ways for them to seek, find and apply.

4. Learning activities



While it is important for students to develop collaborative skills, there are many who don’t enjoy it, feel they have nothing to offer, or take advantage of the others and choose not participate. Sound familiar? As a pre-service teacher you need to build a repertoire of different ways you can get them to collaborate without saying, “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”  Sometimes it’s important to allow them time to think on their own or perhaps with just one other peer. The way you ask is also crucial  – let them know there is no one answer – I always like to say for example, “What do YOU think of ….?” ” Can you give me an example from your own experience ….” “What does your partner think of ….” These types of questions don’t require correct answers because it’s their opinion and these are the types of queries that help build confidence and lets them know that what they think is important and they are encouraged to share it if and when they wish. Can you think of ‘fun’ ways to group your students without exclaiming the dreaded “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”? Why not share them below so we can all begin filling our tool box. 

5. Thinking scaffolds

FAIL - First Attempt In Learning

FAIL – First Attempt In Learning

Every student has different learning needs and every class is different and I understand that this can be quite overwhelming for any teacher but most especially for pre-service teachers. Don’t be intimidated by this, remember what I said; each of your students needs to feel safe in your classroom, a place where it’s okay to make mistakes and that learning is challenging (this is good) but there are plenty of scaffolds you can use to help them get to the goal. Providing scaffolds my dear pre-service teachers is not the same as giving them the answers or making it easier -they are different kinds of challenges that don’t overwhelm students and burden them so they give up. Think of it this way…there is treasure on the other side of a deep, deep forest and each student will take a different path through that forest to reach it. Some students are armed with sickles and make their way quickly only having to stop when the trees are very thick to re-think their options. Other students take their time and discover little entry points here and there and follow the paths, stopping at lookout points along the way to take photos, others plunge into the forest without a plan and soon find themselves lost and without supplies, another lot of students stand at the clearing, too frightened to attempt the journey in case they are discovered as imposters as they haven’t a clue where to begin. These are the students in your class; there might even be others. Scary isn’t it?



Everyone will learn, eventually, you just have to help facilitate and encourage that learning through scaffolds. It is always a good idea to begin with a plan, ask questions -both open ended and closed and discuss some scenarios. “What would you do if…?” “What options do you have?” “Which option would you be willing to try? Why?” “What do we need to …?”

Step by step graphic

Step by step graphic

You may give them some tools to use to clarify their thinking – my favourites are graphic organisers and there are hundreds of websites and apps you can use just google it and see. I also think that if each student had a chance to discover which 2 or 3 were their favourites they could use them over and over when they needed to plan out their thoughts.

There are, of course, many more things I would like to tell you but taking my own advice in information overload, I’ll leave that for another time.

Finally my dear pre-service teachers, remember teaching and learning is meant to be ‘FUN’ don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now get out there and make a difference!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Lava lamps, origami, magic and many more pre-service teacher adventures

This year I am very excited about having my own tutorial group of 2nd year pre-service teachers. Our adventures began just four weeks ago and since then we have been busily exploring what it is to be a teacher and a learner. They are an interesting bunch of students coming from all different backgrounds and for the most part quite enthusiastic, although at times I think I’m more excited than they are! I love teaching. I have said it many times.

Having the opportunity to work with pre-service teachers has been one of my goals for many years. I want them to experience the same passion I have for teaching and I hope that this semester I can share some of my experiences with them so that they may come to love teaching as much as I do. I hope I can instil in them the essence of learning. They have the key to the future of education and I hope they use it wisely.

So while the first few weeks of tutes were all about theory, standards, their own experiences of schooling, their favourite teacher and a little boys’ Ed thrown in for good measure, this week was all about practice.

I just had the privilege of watching my tutorial group fully engage a class of Year 7 boys in a 30-minute session. My pre-service teachers were waiting on the pavement outside the school when I arrived. Nervous but excited. They had come with bags of tricks, coloured paper, bottles filled with oil and water, laptops containing presentations and videos to shares.

work in progress -homemade lava lamps

Work in progress -homemade lava lamps

The Year 7 boys we were to teach seemed anxious but ready for action. Each pair had 30 minutes to ‘teach’ a couple of students. They prepared a wonderful array of learning and the boys seemed to be lapping it up. As the lesson began the pre-service teachers showed no signs of their initial nervousness. Fourteen round tables, two teachers and two students on each totally engaged in learning and teaching.



A couple of groups displayed their plane making skills while others engaged in different aerodynamics feats.

time to see if it works

Time to see if it works

One group learnt magic tricks while others ventured into the world of critical thinking and music.

Making magic

Making magic

Teaching Chinese with music

Teaching Chinese with music

Boys on another table were experimenting with volcanic eruptions using Oreo biscuits. Another mixed a concoction of water, oil, food dye and alka seltzers to make homemade lava lamps. There was some history, space exploration, mathematical calculations, geometry and a whole lot more. The session flew by and in no time it was gone.

3-D geometry

3-D geometry

“One minute to go folks!” I call out. “Oh no,” says a student in the corner, “Quick! Let’s have another go!” he calls as they take one last shot at getting the plane to spin.

A round of applause goes out to my class and to the students and teachers who supported us at De La Salle College. I look forward to seeing these same pre-service teachers in action with a class of their own, approaching it with the same apprehension but feeling themselves ‘hooked’ as their students’ faces come alive with curiosity.

Teachers are not born great – they become great.

Be great teachers.

Thanks for reading 🙂

4 ‘cools’ I found out …

This week I spent a day with a bunch of teachers taking time out of their well earned holiday to attend my sessions on ‘Getting Boys Engaged in Learning.’ There were quite a few who attended the face to face sessions and then even bigger numbers who logged in, on live stream. It was a great day for me and I’m hoping that participants took away something they can use. I got some very positive feedback from many of them and even one who took the time to post her thanks on this blog!

There are 5 main reasons I enjoyed the day. The first is that I got to meet and chat with some dedicated educators who really enjoy their vocation and the other 4 reasons are because I found out some very ‘cool’ stuff.

jigsawCool 1: I asked participants to share some ideas about what methods they use to group students. The best idea had to do with jig saw pieces. I love it! Here’s how I interpreted it:

  • Simply grab different pictures / photos* and cut each one into jig saw shaped pieces, (depending on how many you would like in a group)
  • Distribute pieces randomly amongst the students
  • The students then have to find others who have the matching pieces that make up the relevant visual. They then become a group.

*As an extension of this idea, I thought that perhaps the image could be related to the task they will be doing as a group and if the pieces are two sided the instructions or outline could be printed on the back, once they put it together, they can begin the task.

notes appCool 2:  The notes app on iPads and iPhones will type what you say when you hit the microphone key on the keyboard. If you activate the Speak Selection button in Settings/General/Accessibility and then highlight text it will even read it back to you. I’ve been playing with it for ages and it is very accurate.#

# Of course when I went to share this new found phenomenon with my youngest, she already knew all about it and added, “My mac does it too!” GRRRRRRRR fancy not telling me this earlier!

Cool 3: This is more a personal thing that made me happy: there were three participants over the day who had previously attended another one of my workshops and had come back for more! Thanks folks! 🙂

mocking brid bookCool 4: One participant mentioned that her colleague who taught next door was having problems engaging the students in quiet reading sessions so instead of ‘making’ them just read, the teacher challenged the students by asking them to turn their books upside down and then try reading. This strategy not only re-engaged them with the reading but even though they read less, the students actually retained a lot more of what they had read.+ How cool is that?

+ It has been suggested that the more we challenge ourselves in thinking and learning the more information and skills we retain.

As I write this I have just logged out of a live stream session myself, similar to the one that I was holding above – it’s a great way to learn and saves the hassle of driving in, especially on wet and dreary days like today. And …you can stay in your pjs, in your bed or laid out on the sofa to participate. That folks, is yet another cool!

TLN runs many sessions on line. Why not see if any interest you here.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Please feel free to add your thoughts below.

You can’t teach what you don’t know

NeurotransmitterWelcome 🙂

Let’s learn a few things about the Logic of English

Did you know…?

  • English words DO NOT end in i, u, v or j

That’s why ‘boy’ is spelt b-oy and not as the sound suggests b-oi

  • C softens to an ‘s’ sound after e, i and y, otherwise we say ‘k’

think about it in terms of the word ‘circus’

  • a, e, o, u usually say their names at the end of syllables 

think paper, pa  – per

we use double letters to shorten sounds in syllables, for example, sound out pepper, pep – per, otherwise we would pronounce it ‘peper’ pe – per

  • one of the most misspelt words is ‘miscellaneous’

now let’s think about it as we apply the rules above;

mis  cel  la  ne  ous

mis (all good) cel (why is it an ‘s’ sound? because of the ‘e’) la (a says its name at the end of a syllable) ne (e also says its name at the end of a syllable) ous (ou is a phonogram, both letters together make this sound). Does that make more sense now?

Cool, right?

Want to know more?

Watch this Logic of English video

Do we teach this to our students? Could we? Would it make a difference to our understanding and development of reading and writing and would it improve spelling? Let me know what you think, click below and leave a reply.

Thanks for reading 🙂

5 things a ‘new’ teacher should remember

4-set-clear-expectationsCongratulations! You’ve made it through uni, got yourself a job in a great school and you’re ready to change the world! Here are five things to remember:

1. Latch onto the best teacher in the school – don’t worry about knowing who that might be, the kids will tell you – learn from her, watch her teach, watch him interact with his colleagues, watch her when she goes out on yard duty, speak with him often, ask her plenty of questions, share your ideas with him, learn from her.

2. Get to know ALL your students as learners. Find out what they know, how they like to learn, how they feel, ask them questions and allow them to do the same. Be aware of those students with special needs, especially those who are not funded.

3. Create a positive classroom environment in which the students feel safe in taking learning risks, having fun and developing to their full potential.

4. There are 5 tips I suggest you try as the first step in building a relationship with your students.

5. Always, always make every effort to return work to students by the next class, with plenty of feedback in regard to what they did well and what needs to improve for next time and HOW to go about it. Therefore if you have multiple classes of same subject and year level, make sure you stagger the assessment tasks and remember that not all assessment need be formal – watching, listening and recording your observations in your diary or planner is also useful.

So, prepare, prepare, prepare and remember that if you’re not enjoying the class, neither are they. I wish you well, let me know how it goes, feel free to comment below or contact me if you would like to learn more.

Thanks for reading 🙂