On teachers’ work: Open the door & inspire others

Prompt number 14 in the #edublogsclub: Write a post that includes a “giveaway,” whether that is a lesson, a PDF, or something else. 

Open the doors & inspire others

This has to be one of my favourite things to do; share ideas and strategies to improve learning. As educators, we are not very good at boasting. I found this to be one of the greatest challenges when I left full time teaching to take up consulting.

In my adventures so far there have been good and bad experiences. I have written a number of posts about them and reflect often on how we can make a difference. I work hard as I know many of my colleagues do. We do, however, need more sharing in schools. Out in the cyber world, there are a myriad of websites and links to wonderful ideas and strategies for use in the classroom or for the professional learning of teachers. These are great, but I think the greatest of impacts come from colleagues who teach at the same school or neighbouring schools who open their classroom doors and invite others in to see, hear, experience and learn from each other. It’s time.

So, in the spirit of sharing or as the prompt suggests – ‘giveaway’, here are a few posts I’ve written about teaching and learning that may provoke further ideas and dare I say it – inspire you to try something different. If they do please let me know via the comment box below!

Reading from the outside in – A post about getting students hooked into reading

Playing the Picasso hook – Using visual imagery to provoke learning

Ma & Pa Kettle and other mathematical dilemmas – A post encouraging critical thinking in Maths

Teaching strategies that work for boys  – no explanation required

I wish my teacher knew, and other great reflections – a post about learning my students

Thanks for reading 🙂

Playing the Picasso hook

In response to the great #tlap chat had the other day led by @timneedles I felt compelled to write this post. Here goes…

creativity important

As an art teacher I have always pretty much approached my teaching through the visual arts lens. If I can find an art work or visual of any type to hook my students into the learning, it makes for a much more interesting lesson.

I’d like to share some of these ideas in no particular order.

Symbolisms in RE

One of my favourite paintings is Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini and his Bride (1434).15arnol

It is one of the most fascinating paintings with plenty of ways to interpret and discuss its content. I have used it as an introduction to Religious Education classes covering symbolism – both secular and religious.arnolfini_worked

I even used it in a job interview to explore leadership and commitment. You may even recall having seen it before – especially if you ever watched the opening credits of Desperate Housewives – I hadn’t, but the students had at the time and they are the ones who pointed it out. Have a look here. The show actually uses many works in their 40 second opening. I just thought of another introductory class just re visiting that clip!

With all artworks used I try and have it projected onto the wall so students can freely interact with it, come up to point and to explore it in detail. I back this up with smaller visuals in colour for them to have in their book and again on a shared platform so they can digitally manipulate or follow up any after thoughts.

Who is Voltaire?

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

dali'_voltaireA great way to introduce the tragedy Oedipus, written by Voltaire and first performed in 1718.

Bayeux – the Battle of Hastings

BayeuxI was asked to be a special guest in a junior History class that was beginning their study of the Bayeux Tapestry. Having just returned from seeing the real thing, I brought along the pull out book I’d bought which was about 1/4 the length of the real tapestry. We laid it out on the ground outside and then proceeded to place the students at intervals up the driveway to establish the actual length using a click wheel we borrowed from the Maths department. The students we astounded by how long it was compared to its width. They were then asked to take a lucky dip to collect their personal scene from the tapestry – their task was twofold, find out what is happening in the scene and come up with a modern twist. Hooked.

A little French Revolution?

Why not begin your study of Marie Antoinette using this?

The History Teachers website has many others. You can check them out here.

Who am I?

I like using Picasso’s portraits to introduce personal development sessions or introductory ‘get to know you’ projects. There are always two sides to everyone – reveal your true self through symbols, through poetry, film or anything else that takes your fancy.


Before we begin we discuss who we think this woman is, what her personality would be like,  how she’s feeling today and why. Or, we might use one another student produced revealing his ‘learner selfie’!


 Of course I could go on but I think you get the idea. Students love every opportunity to be creative in their own right and as educators we must endeavour to supply the time and space for them to be creative. In the words of Dave Burgess (the pirate himself) from his book Teach Like A Pirate, “Creative inspiration is constantly at our disposal, but we will never see it unless we actively and consistently attempt to create” (p 37).

My challenge to you: plan your next topic using a Picasso hook.

Here’s just one more for those who doubt that art can be used in pretty much EVERY subject

Mona’s Golden Rule

Mona_goldenI’d love to hear about your ideas so drop me a line – photos would be great too!

Thanks for reading 🙂


Pimping my PhD thanks to #TLAP

Over the last 6 months or so my twitter feed has been pirated – don’t panic – I don’t mean by hackers  – I’m tlaptalking about Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap) – pirated. Almost every other day there is a tweet chat discussing #tlap -the book, the pirate, the pirate’s wife, the energy, the passion, the adventure into unchartered waters, the educators who follow, who model, who teach with a renewed vigour, a re-kindled flame, a spark, even an eye patch, a pirate hat and a full pirate outfit! Classrooms are being re-decorated, students running to class not wanting to miss anything, enthusiastic and ready to learn, eagerly willing the next lesson that cannot come quick enough! The sub title of the book reads “Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life an as Educator” and guess what? It actually has! One only has to visit any of these twitter hashtags to get the picture – #tlap, #bfctlap, #sstlap. There are also a few book reviews happening including one of my favourites run by #aussieED #bookclubED.

It was only yesterday that I was on chat about the book that I happen to ask my PLN (twitter talk for Personal Learning Network) whether I could use #tlap motivations and ideas for my PhD and so that was when I decided to ‘Pimp my PhD’. I spent most of the night thinking about it – lucky it was too hot and humid to sleep  – and this morning here I am – in words from the Pirate himself “bringing it”!

Here’s what I think…

Passion – “We are not passionate about everything we teach” (p. 3).

I’m definitely passionate about my area of research  – special needs – it comes from deep within and is a personal experience of mine from my early years at school. You can read about it here. I so want to make a difference to the experiences of these kids in schools, especially for those who are not funded and those who come to school with a feeling of self-doubt and a nagging pit in their stomach – actually that’s probably most kids. We as educators really need to know our students – I don’t mean know them by name or what they look like but really know them – what they like, don’t like, how they learn, why they learn – to me teaching is not about delivering content – it’s about relationshipsget this right and the rest will fall into place.

Immersion – “An instructor who is fully immersed in the moment has a special type of intensity that resonates with great power in the classroom, regardless of the activity” (p. 16).

I have to say that I could be way more immersed in my study – no that’s not true, I mean more immersed on a more consistent basis. You see I’m easily distracted – now I hear you laughing out loud – especially those of you who know me well. Actually, just a minute – I feel a distraction coming on now….

Rapport – “If you’re paying attention to what excites them, you can connect with them almost instantly” (p. 20).

In my experience, there are many classrooms where excitement is scarce and it becomes all about getting though the content, or preparing for the test. As part of my research I have been investigating the idea of action research. Just the thought of doing it gets me really excited. I love active participation, intervention. In fact my whole teaching career has been about just that – how can I intervene so that the best learning can happen? I think this is one of the areas I would really like to investigate further. My initial idea centres around intervention. I’d really like to test my theories about lack of communication and collaboration, scarcity of appropriate PD for BOTH teachers and teacher aides (learning assistants) to attend together and a lack of consistency in appointing same aides with teachers are at times impacting on the learning of special needs students. I’ve been cautioned against this due to a vested interest in the success of the invention but I really feel that I could contribute to the body of knowledge with my study. And isn’t this what research is all about?

Ask and Analyse – “The ability to manipulate questions to make them even more effective is crucial…” (p. 35)

Actually I have already taken steps to ask about the possibility of incorporating action research. Now I just have to begin analysing why, how, what, where and when. I have already been challenged a number of times about my initial research questions – you see these are the core motivators. If I can get these nailed then I truly believe things will fall into place. What is it I would really like to investigate? Is there room for ‘creativity’ in academics? I know the answer is YES but sometimes I wonder…everything always seems so serious…

Transformation – “If you feel your message is important, and I do, it is worth the effort to go to any lengths to make sure it is successfully delivered” (p. 56).

Well, if the above quote doesn’t say it all for a study then it’s best I just put it away and get on with something else. Rest assured I’ll be breaking some rules about research AND I’ll be having fun on the way, along, no doubt, with many disappointments, frustrations, failures and the like. I am realistic as well as optimistic.

DUECOMEnthusiasm – “I pride myself on flat out bringing it whether I’m teaching a class of students or leading a seminar for teachers” (p. 66).

Me too! And I’ll also add that I would bring it to anything else I’m doing!

So…“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney Company.

Thanks for reading 🙂

“An adventure into uncharted waters”

This blog post has been coming along very well in my head for the last week. I have finally had a chance and some peace and quiet to actually get it out of my head, similar to Professor Dumbledore’s pensieve, so I can share it – see what you make of it.

twitterI read a tweet the other day that someone had woken up on Monday morning after the #aussieED chat on Sunday night still thinking about the topic of BLOGGING. I have to say it was a fabulous chat and so fast-moving I could hardly keep a handle on it and I have to admit that I too, woke up Monday morning and Tuesday and even this morning thinking about it. Why do I blog? Well, it’s pretty clear on my twitter handle that I blog to think out loud, to learn and to communicate. This is absolutely true but I also blog to write. I love to write, I love to read, which makes me want to write – although I also love to cook. In fact, I’ve said it before on this very blog and elsewhere that I cook when I’m procrastinating – funny that – even my family knows I do it so when they see five different meals happening at the same time or embellishment of dinner with dessert, cakes etc then they really know I’m avoiding work. That is, ‘other’ work like writing, doing research, preparing presentation for my workshops etc. When I was working full-time in schools everyone knew when it was reporting time – lots and lots of food to eat – even my brother, married with kids, knew he could get stuff to eat anytime during June or November! Oh, and one last thing, I also like to blog to escape from academic writing  – it’s so much easier because I don’t have to keep re-visiting every sentence to make sure I referenced correctly, nor do I have to read 20 journal articles and 3-4 books before actually constructing a piece of writing!

Only today I sent off my second musing to my supervisors. I just thought that instead of hitting the journal articles and books again I could take time out to, well, just write. After all it’s going to take them a while to get back to me I’m sure, or at least I hope it does because I sent off 2700 words! I’m very proud of that effort I have to say, especially with all these other distractions around me.

Once sent and before beginning this blog I went searching for a couple of ideas and follow ups I had noted of over the last week. One of the things on my list was actually next week’s #aussieED topic: teach like a pirate. That’s when I discovered Dave Burgess‘s video on you tube. It was terrific and I recommend it –  so if you’ve got 16 minutes AFTER you finish reading this – take a look. triple Venn

There were two main ideas I picked up from the video, aside from the fact that it was very engaging and the maths he does, well that blew my mind…you can see for yourself in a minute. One of the points that I am going to share with anyone who’ll listen was his idea of linking teaching to a triple Venn Diagram (see my interpretation right). Burgess says that teaching without content, well that is totally unacceptable not to mention how you wouldn’t have a job if you didn’t, that aside, he claims that without the content you would just be a babysitter, really. Techniques and methods are next, these are what you pick up on PD, at uni and even reading blogs like this one! But, the most important part of this triple Venn is the presentation circle. How will you present the class so that students will want to learn, will engage fully and will be itching to get to every session? For me, it reminds me of the 3 Ps in Differentiation, well one of the Ps anyway – how are you going to teach it? Burgess explains in the video that this circle needs a lot more attention, that there needs to be a lot more ‘talk’ about the presentation aspects of teaching, I’m with you on that one Dave!

It is, in actual fact, the place that encompasses the other two circles – you’ve got the knowledge now how to get them to understand, to do, to see, to feel, to hear and to think. Burgess explains that one of the ways to go about preparing yourself for the class is to ask questions. He himself then goes into this fast paced monologue where he gives examples of the types of questions he asks participants in his workshops – you might have to run that part of the video slower – I had to! What’s important though is that you ask questions. Burgess gives credit to Mr. Matera here who asks his students to give him five words that best describe the lesson as a way to evaluate how he went. Burgess then flips this idea and suggests that we each begin the planning of the presentation by writing down 5 words you would like your students to use to describe your class, then simply look at your lesson and ask yourself; “Would my students say those words based on this?” The rest is up to you. This becomes the reality of your lesson and this is what is meant by teach like a pirate – to go out into uncharted waters, to take the risk, to venture out into the unknown. And so my questions to you are… Do you teach like a pirate? Are you a passionate educator? Share your story below.

BTW, if you have a twitter account please join us Sunday night for the #aussieED chat – free PD – fast paced and totally engaging! Now you can watch the video.#assieED chat

Thanks for reading 🙂