The power of Acrostic Poems


An acrostic poem is a composition where the first letter on each line spells out a related word or phrase. You are probably familiar with acrostic poems in relation to names using adjectives to describe the person. My kids sometimes compose them for me on special occasions such as Mothers’ Day,








Acrostic poems can also be used as a learning tool. For example, let’s take the word LEARNING. Place each letter on a separate line;









Then, each letter becomes the first letter of your word or phrase to do with learning. Hence,





New experiences




An acrostic poem can also take other forms. Some allow the first letter to come anywhere along the word (as in MOTHER above) or line, for example, 

This school has improved the LITERACY skills of its students by exposing them to a wide range of age appropriate books.

While acceptable, I much rather the challenge of leaving the letter as the first of each word or phrase.

I enjoy challenging my students to compose more detailed acrostics although this task is easily differentiated to suit the learning needs of individual students, with a little added challenge.

I find they are a great way to introduce letters and words.

A is for APPLE… (remember all words must relate)

Apple juice


Pink ladies



Challenge them to write or say whole sentences;

Apple juice tastes better when the

Peel is removed before juicing.

Pink ladies are my favourite fruit to eat for

Lunch, although I also like to

Eat granny smiths, but only in my grandma’s apple pie!

It can be quite a challenging task for older students, easily incorporated into the learning or used as a revision tool.

For example, last week’s topic in my Foundations class was Social Theories. Here’s one I prepared earlier (hehe)

Acrostic Poem – Social Theory

Why not have a go yourself or challenge your students. Acrostics poems do not have to rhyme, but hey, that’s an added challenge if they’re up for it. The words and phrases can stand alone or create a running commentary. Be creative! I would love for you to share some of the compositions or ideas you come up with.

Thanks for reading 🙂 


Aspire Day – my first face to face in 2 years

Back to school

This week I nervously fronted up for my first face to face experience in over two years. It was a session with approximately 100 Year 11 students who were taking part in what the school called Aspire Day. My task was to inspire them into thinking about where they want to be and what steps they might take to get there. Students have been in lockdown for the best part of two years, dealing with issues at home, with their own sense of wellbeing while also trying to keep up their education via online learning. That meant no practical classes as such, no experiments, except perhaps watching you tube videos, no physical education classes, no team sports and definitely very little time spent in person with their mates or other family members aside from those they live with.

So too did teachers.

Since returning to onsite learning this year, many schools have continued and even bolstered activities to do with wellbeing for both students and teachers. Aspire day at this particular school was one such way to bring students and their homeroom teachers together to celebrate, reflect and plan for the future. 


While I was nervous for the first few minutes, once I got into it, well, it’s like riding a bike as they say. I so enjoyed being with the students, moving around the auditorium (at a distance of course). It almost felt a little unreal. So many faces looking at you directly, at least for the most part. At times some of them would close their eyes, flop down into their chair, become distracted around their mates, but hey, so would I after so long in front of a screen. It didn’t bother me as I had most of them in my sights, lots of nodding and smiling and recognition amongst the 100 strong crowd. Some even giggled at my jokes every now and then and raised their hands to respond to questions I asked. And, just because their eyes were resting, didn’t necessarily mean they were not listening. I’m an optimist after all. Plus, I asked them how they were feeling and they did say they were tired. All good.


Year 11 responses

I also asked them where they see themselves in five years’ time. This is a tough question for many of us, let alone a bunch of very tired 16-17 year olds. Still, it was interesting to read their responses. Among one or two, ‘no idea’ responses we did see some very positive forward thinking: ‘successful’ (whatever that means), ‘builder’, ‘owning my own business’, ‘university’, ‘business marketing’, ‘having a full time job’, ‘rich’ to list a few. My favourite was ‘in New York’! Along with these, there were also a few concerning responses. Not surprising but worth following up by their teachers. I won’t share these here.

That said, I was reassured that after what we have all been through, and will continue to experience, our students are a shining light. They have dreams and hopes. We never gave up on them and all that hard work trying to keep them on track has and will continue to pay off. After all that’s why we teach, yes?

I so enjoyed the session and am looking forward to many more opportunities to visit schools and work with both staff and students. 

Thanks for reading 🙂

What is teaching ready?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been marking Teaching Performance Assessments (TPA) submitted by my 4th year pre-service teachers (PSTs). I have to say nothing in marking has given me more pleasure than reading and assessing PART 1 where they share their context, student group, lesson plans and mentor feedback, and write about their experiences on placement, and what this may mean for their future learning. In a few weeks this latest group of PSTs will complete their studies and hopefully most of them will be out there making a difference to children’s lives.

Every TPA I read was unique, every student had their own way to present and every subject & topic was different. I was enthralled with some of the strategies they used to engage the students from primary, secondary, international, and special schools. This cohort of PSTs are what the Chief Examiner calls ‘bipedagogical.’ They have experienced both face to face and online teaching (no need to explain why). They have experienced the same trials and tribulations as many of my colleagues, moving from one to the other sometimes within hours due to sudden lockdowns. It got me thinking…

The ‘bipedagogical’ teacher

What does it mean to be teaching ready?

Lots and lots and lots of hard work.

Today, it’s not just about the subject or unit you’re teaching. Expertise in these areas is, of course, important but before you get to share this, it is imperative to establish a safe and secure learning environment where you can build relationships with students and understand the contexts from which they come. I’ve shared some ideas about building relationships before here and here. My PSTs on the whole recognised how context affects learning. It means you need to prepare and cater for a diverse range of learners, your learners, in this classroom or in this learning space. It’s pretty daunting coming into an online space with a group of students you’ve never met before from a school you may or may not have visited in person and work with a mentor whom you’ve only recently met.

I often mention to my PSTs that they need to always be carrying a great big bag around (metaphorically of course – as we teachers know, we already have enough ‘stuff’ to cart around), which they can fill with strategies for teaching, learning and reflecting. Every time they see, hear, feel and think of an idea they can use in teaching and learning, they have a place right there into which they store it for that off chance they just might need it in the future. And they will. Even I bagged a few new ones for myself as I was reading through their TPAs. 

The strategy bag

Though these strategies might already be in that bag, somewhere, I might not have used them in a while, or it might be that my PSTs thought about it differently or presented it more creatively than I have thought to do. 

I wanted to share just two that I really liked. 

The first is around questioning for feedback. Think about how you ask your students if they had enough time to finish their task and the connotation that has on them as a learner. “Have YOU had enough time? This type of question might make them feel inadequate or slow if they haven’t completed the task. But what if we turned the question on its head? 

“Have I given you enough time?” What does this question say to our learners now?

The second strategy is an ICT tool called ‘Pear Deck’. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t but it sounded good, so I looked it up. The tech allows you to turn presentation slides like PPTs into interactive activities for your students or anyone else for that matter, so they can actively engage with the learning. Here are 20 ways to use it. My PST used it in his Year 10 English class to have students work as a group or individually at their own pace, responding to questions. Their responses come to your screen where you can give immediate feedback, and can also be shared anonymously on the slide projector for the whole class to discuss.

So, what is teaching ready? Well, for me there’s a list;

  • it’s building relationships,
  • being reflective
  • understanding context,
  • learning how students engage,
  • having expertise in your teaching areas,
  • planning explicitly for teaching and learning
  • understanding how to give and receive feedback for learning,
  • be willing to learn things yourself and …
  • loving it all!

Thanks for reading 🙂


Day 10: Berlin – the process of coming to terms with your own history.

Let’s wrap this up eh?

Shall we do Berlin today?

I think so.

Travelling from Verona, via Munich, we arrive at Berlin TX on the 8th July, 2016. From there a bus and train ride to Alexanderplatz, the centre of East Berlin where we were greeted by a summer downpour ☔️ which lasted only as long as it took to run into a convenience store to buy an umbrella! We stayed at the Park Inn overlooking the plaza where there was a wine and food festival happening. We ate and drank very well that week!

Our interest in WW1 and the Western Front was covered in a couple of posts earlier here and here, but we are also very much interested in all things WW2. While in Berlin we booked multiple walking tours to find out as much as possible about Berlin, and about the Holocaust. We were not disappointed. I highly recommend these walking tours. We used Insider Tours but there are many others. 

Berlin Wall, My journal, 2016

At the wall, 2016

It has not always been pretty for Germany. Memorials to those times are prevalent all over Germany, the Topography of Terror, is one that bears witness to these. Germany is the only place that is ‘working through a process of coming to terms with its own history’ still. Kollwitz’s Pieta’ (AKA ‘Mother with her dead son’) provides the focal point within a monochromatic room behind the columns of the Neue Wache building, otherwise sparse, the open sky peeks through the circular opening directly above it. The eerie Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, consisting of 2711 grey slabs ranging in height from 20cm to just over 4.5 metres. As you walk through you are engulfed in the grey, you feel lost and alone and melancholic. You just want to run, run, run, to escape, but where is out??? Is it enough to dedicate such a memorial? Will anything we do be enough? 

Memorials of the Holocaust – My journal 2016

Hitler’s bunker now filled with concrete and covered by a dirty, unkept carpark surrounded by public housing  – is that enough? Visiting the many concentration camps, not only in Germany but in many other places, to remember, to pray, to weep. For those who have visited them you know there is not much to say. You arrive with angst and anticipation, courageous even, and while you think you’re ready – you are most definitely not. I wasn’t. I was overcome even more so than at the Western Front. I could hear their screams in the silence. I could hear their silence.

Sachsenhausen Concentration camp

Nothing prepares you. It is after these particular experiences that my journals save me. Once I get back and even sometimes on the way home to our hotels, my journals are where I put my emotions. I tear paper, sections from brochures, I scribble and draw, scratch and write down things I heard said, feelings I felt and memories I must never forget. It calms me. Then I can sleep and be prepared for the next day. Without my journals I am spent.

It is only then that I can find sanity in amongst all the madness.

Museum Island, Berlin – Queen Nefertiti (c. 1340BCE)

After the madness

It was after one of these walking tours that we decided to spend some time on Museum Island. There were two specific exhibits I needed to see with my own eyes. Queen Nefertiti, ‘the beautiful one has come’, stands in the centre of the room at the Neues Museum, surrounded by glass and visible down the centre of a series of open doorways. I fell in love with her. 

The second was the Ishtar Gate, I mentioned in an earlier post. “Simply stunning” is all I wrote next to an image in my journal. I was obviously overwhelmed at its impact. You certainly are dwarfed and to be able to walk right up to it and view its detailed stone work was worth it. It was getting very late and they were closing but I was happy to have seen these most wonderful pieces of history.

Last drinks in Berlin, My journal, 2016 – Cheers!

And so it ends

Alas our 10-day holiday journal adventure has come to an end. Without my journals, my travels would be a litany of endless photographs of people and selfies, artworks and architecture, streets and villas, monuments and landmarks. Pictures and photographs are worth 1000 words. They can be interpreted and discussed, and prompt the most wonderful of stories. Using visuals is a wonderful creative process that I use constantly in my teaching, but the journals are a culmination of the emotions experienced; nothing could replace them. 

Thank you for reading my holiday posts and a special mention to those who took the time to engage with comments and clicks. I do hope you enjoyed the travels. I know I took great pleasure in traveling through my journals again, especially in this time of uncertainty. Perhaps I could do it again some time soon. I have many things I did not share. Some I never will, but still…

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 9: I think Verona & Venice are the go today

Joe and I outside the Arena, 2016

In 2016, Joe and I joined our colleagues at the Western Front for the 100th anniversary, but before this we made a couple of pitstops including Verona and Venice.


So on the 6th July we left our family in Calabria, taking off from Lamezia to Rome and then onto a connecting flight to Verona. We got there okay but our luggage decided to have a sleep over in Roma!!!

Luggage tags – don’t ever throw out your luggage tags. This was the only way I finally got my bags back!

We loved Verona, we stayed at this beautiful B&B (Art & Breakfast), literally around the corner from the Arena. We bought tickets for AIDA the next morning because another couple also staying at the B&B had been the night before and recommended it. Best show they’d ever seen! They were so right. “Spectacular sets, amazing lighting, great atmosphere! [Aida] is Amneris’s slave, the king’s daughter and is secretly in love ❤️ with an Egyptian General named Radames. ❤️He loves her too ❤️”

Aida at the Arena di Verona, My journal 2016

During our stay in Verona we invited friends Mauro and Franca, who drove from Casole d’Elsa for the day. We stayed as their guests in the town on a previous trip. It was great to catch up with them! We had lunch at Romeo’s place – yes really, that Romeo, Juliet was just around the corner 🤣❤️ We saw her just before lunch. I really loved Verona and all it had to offer.

Lunch, My journal 2016


The first time we visited Venice was on our family trip in 2007. Venice was just a last minute addition.

“I cannot believe that I had not put Venice on our list. If there is one thing everyone must do, it is to go there and have a gondola ride. It was magnificent, very beautiful and peaceful. Everyone loved it and at €100, was worth it!”

24 April, 2014

“A very comfortable taxi ride to Milan Central €12:50 and then a couple of hours in a Frecciabianca and we found ourselves in the ❤️City of Love ❤️.”

25 April 2014 – ANZAC DAY

We’ve been to Venice a few times and it never ceases to amaze. That morning, we paid our respects to our own diggers in Piazza San Marco at the raising of the flags ceremony.  We then boated out to Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands. We watched glass blowers creating amazing work on Murano, lacemakers weaving their magic on Burano and visited a tiny little church from the Middle Ages at Torcello!

“Brightly painted houses, legend says that the town of Burano – a fishing village, once had its houses painted in different colours so the fishermen would be able to easily find [them] … when returning … in the dark. Well known also for its beautiful lace and yummy biscuits called bassolá.”


My journal 2014

“I liked Burano the best.”

I do hope you’re enjoying the holiday journal. Just one day left. Hmmm, I wonder where we’ll go for our final stop? Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading 🙂