Dear Parent, a note about supporting your child’s learning…

Brainstorms and Mind maps

To get the learning juices flowing, your child may benefit from creating brainstorms about the topic. Brainstorms are different from mind maps because they allow all thoughts to be recorded and then organised later. Mind mapping links ideas which are relevant to the topic being explored. These activities engage the whole brain. The brainstorm starts with a key word in the centre and ideas that spring to mind are arranged as seen below. This can be done as a group activity or individually.


Whatever comes to mind should be written down and discarded afterwards if irrelevant. It can also include visuals. The child then has some simple ideas which can be taken to the next step. One example could be forming simple sentences with the words so as to extend the meaning and relevance of the keyword. The chart could be used as a study reference at a later date.

This brainstorm could also be extended into a more complicated thought process which I like to refer to as the mind map. Here ideas are linked and expanded upon as needed. This promotes deeper thinking.

Mind mapping is an extremely effective way of note taking especially for visual learners who like to be creative. They can easily be transferred onto the back of the ‘dunny’ door or onto small cue cards for review when travelling to and from school.


Another innovative way of taking notes is to place them horizontally instead of vertically. I first saw this at a study seminar held at my school and decided to test it out on my students. This is most effective for many left ‘brainers’, although it works for others too.

Our brain can recall knowledge more easily when it is placed in a similar pattern to the way we read and write – that is, left to right. Our brain can easily recall around four to five major points running down the page, but a myriad of facts when written across the page. Let me explain:

If your child was asked (and I hope this does not occur often) to summarise Chapter 3 of their Science text book:

Firstly I would recommend that they are immediately provided with a highlighter pen and pencil! Children should be encouraged to highlight only key words NOT whole slabs of information. Then I would encourage them as they read each section to take notes like this:

 summaryMajor Fact ( up to 5-6 max going down the page – across filling in minor details about major facts can go as long as is necessary, without going overboard). The child can colour code the facts so that major facts may be red while minor ones may be blue then green. This will assist the brain in differentiating between major and minor facts on recall.

If your child prefers the computer, one of the best on line apps for brainstorming and mind mapping is PADLET.

Another app I recommend for assisting with thinking is Tools 4 Students and at only $1.29 it’s worth every cent!

 Thanks for reading 🙂

Things don’t always work out


Well, we missed out on Europe again..long story…so I thought that it best I get on with what I love doing aside from travelling, i.e. teaching and learning.

I’ve been reading up on special education and in light of the up-coming professional learning day I will be running for Critical Agendas in November (details to follow), I would just like to make some comments especially in regard to non-funded students in your classrooms. In some cases there will be an aide in your class, their main duty will be to look after the needs of the funded student and fair enough too, but in most schools we assume that the aide will also make time to assist other students who supposedly have a learning issue that is not “bad” enough to warrant any funds.

In reality though it makes it very difficult for all parties, teachers, students and aides to be able to fulfil such a task of ensuring  this does happen, especially given time restrictions, lack of professional learning and the reality that many teachers are not fully aware of the learning needs of each of their students.

To adequately meet their needs, there must be a willingness and availability to work as a team in developing quality teaching and support for teachers and teacher aides. It is important to allocate time for them to attend relevant professional learning sessions and to discuss and make appropriate and realistic modifications to existing curriculum no matter the cost.

Over the next few months I will be carrying out some research on the nature of the relationship between teachers and teacher aides. Very little research has been carried out on relationships between the teacher aide and the teacher in the context of their interactions and collaboration involving the on-going physical and mental care as well as the academic and social learning of the students for whom they are responsible. The aim of my study is to explore the nature of this relationship. I hope to be able to develop and present my findings in order to build a theory and then use that to offer relevant and meaningful strategies so that all students will ultimately benefit from an even better quality of teaching and learning.