Can’t you make it more interesting? To me it’s like I’ve heard it all before.

Yesterday I spent quite a while making a new infogram about what Year 12 students must do over the Term 1 holidays. Before I publish these types of things I always seek my daughter’s opinion on the points  – she being in Year 12 – I find it is very important that she thinks it is worthwhile putting it ‘out there’. Well last night I got a response that I was not expecting – you can read it in the post heading…

I must admit, I was offended. I did try to explain how important it was but to no avail, so I just shut down and watched some mindless TV prior to one of my favourites on a Wednesday night – I love “The Good Wife” – are you shocked?

parmiggiano sauceAnyhow, back to the point, I can be easily distracted, and am especially good at procrastinating with work although this tends to be an advantage for my family as I mostly procrastinate and avoid ‘work’ by cooking. BTW I have already prepared a Calabrian parmiggiano sauce for tonight’s dinner!

Fight it – back to topic at hand. So now after I’ve had a chance to think I’d like to propose 7 ‘interesting’ points that I hope will inspire Year 12s and in fact any student to ponder during the term break.

You’re tired. Tired of early wake ups, tired of trudging your way to school, tired of attending and listening to blablablabla lots of work to do, blablabla here’s the homework, blablabla SAC coming up next week, blablabla in preparation for SACs you need to … blablabla. Tired of coming home to do more work, prepare study notes, watch this video, read that text, complete these exercises, study, study, study. Am I warm? Okay then, why not take a break? Yes I know, your teachers have said that you need to do at least 10 hours of work over the holidays – and for Year 12s that’s for EACH subject! So that means 50 hours of homework /study, over 10 days, not counting the weekends, that’s 5 hours a day on average. So let’s break that down:

  1. 10 days = 240 hours (not counting 3 weekends x 2 days in each = 6 days, 144 hours free).
  2. 24 hours in a day minus 5 hours of homework / study = 19 hours free
  3. 19 hours free, let’s say, 10 hours sleep = 9 hours per day free
  4. 9 hours a day for 10 days = 90 hours free
  5. 90 hours over 10 days to work, travel, socialise or just lounge around, finally…
  6. 144 hours (weekends) minus 40 hours (per day) average sleep time (or less cause you are too busy raging) + 90 hours (week days) over two weeks = 194 hours free over the term break – and yes it does include lunch at Nonna’s house on Easter Sunday BUT the Easter Monday public holiday makes up for it, so no complaints!
  7. If we do the calculations for time over the last term, that is 10 weeks of school (50 days, actually less due to staggered start times, and a public holiday or two) but essentially 50 days x 24 hours = 1200 hrs. School’s in for 7 hours (8:30am-3:30pm) a day for 50 days = 350 hours, Year 12s should be doing at least 3 hours of homework / study a night, 3 x 50 = 150 hours. Calculating an average of 8 hours sleep per night over 50 days = 400 hours. That means 1200 minus 350, minus 150, minus 400 = 300 hours free, not including weekends over the 50 weeks. So you only had 300 hours during weekdays over 50 weeks of the term BUT you get 194 hours free over two weeks during term break. Get the picture?

Okay, was that a bit more interesting, something you haven’t heard before?

Good! Now … let me spell out your 6 MUST DOs for the holidays…that is… if you WANT to do well in VCE / HSC at the end of the year. If not, well enjoy your holidays but don’t blame the system if you don’t achieve your best, whatever that might be + effort = satisfaction. Dreams + No / little effort = Disappointment. I’ll let you choose…

Here’s the infogram I prepared yesterday
6Mustdosovertheholidays title=

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 🙂

“Very informative, presented so well. Enjoyable”

“Teaching a room full of learners the same thing in the same way over the same time span with the same supports and expecting good results from all students has never happened and never will.” Tomlinson


Last week I facilitated a couple of workshops on working with non funded students. They were well attended, interactive workshops with a mix of teacher and education support staff  who were very eager to share their expertise and experiences with colleagues and other staff from different schools and sectors. One school even sent their whole education support unit!


The morning sessions began with a quick discussion of the roles of teachers and education support staff and then covered specific learning disabilities with which students may present in schools. Many students who have experienced these learning difficulties are not funded but the impact it has on their learning and ability to work effectively in mainstream classes is similar to those who are funded. These difficulties can lead to withdrawal, behavioural issues, anti social behaviour and low self esteem. Our role as educators is to help these students overcome or compensate for their learning difficulties, funded or not. Below is a representation of Dr. Sheldon’s Horowitz‘s idea of the basic psychological process used in understanding and using language. His explanatory videos are great, easy to follow and well explained.

Specific Learning Disabilities


I then presented some strategies and ideas that can be used in the classroom to assist the students with learning difficulties in accessing the curriculum. I believe that if we take the time to assess what the students know and then plan a variety of activities that take into account learning preferences, abilities and readiness of students, our classes would be more engaging not just for those with difficulties but also the mainstream cohort as well as those students who display particularly well developed strengths in specific areas.

Differentiation and modification

The day continued with a focus on differentiation and modification. What is the difference? It is surprising, based on my own experience in schools, that many teachers and education support staff have a limited understanding of these two methods. I often come across so called ‘modified’ tasks where the teacher has simply removed the last few questions on the test or asked that the student completes every second question. This folks is not modification. I have found however, that teachers implicitly do differentiate their curriculum but may not be aware of the many more ways this could be done so all students are engaged in deep learning.

The ‘guru’ of differentiation is Carol Tomlinson. Her premise is that there are essentially 3 P’s in differentiation i.e. Presentation, Process and Product.


  • How are you going to teach it?
  • What do you want the students to know and do?


  • How will the learning be done?


  • How will the students demonstrate learning?

When modifying work for students, teachers and education support staff must take into account the abilities, readiness and learning preferences of the child. Before modifying work for any student, especially those who are not funded, the school should seek permission from the parent. In some cases the parent will not give permission, and while this is disappointing, teachers must abide by this decision although they can make extra efforts to ensure the child has access to a differentiated curriculum. This is one where by the delivery of content is varied, and accommodations such as more time, different settings, choice in presentation and response are offered.

handsSimply, the difference between differentiation and modification comes down to the expectation of work to be assessed. In differentiation there is no change to the assessment criteria or rubric but a modified task requires us to make changes to the assessment criteria. In all cases, modifications are instructional or test adaptations that allow the student to demonstrate what he knows or can do, but they also reduce the target skill in some way. So if a student is provided with a modification, generally it will lower the performance expectations. It often reduces the learning expectations or affects the content in such a way that what is being taught or tested is fundamentally changed.

When planning for either differentiated or modified tasks, there are three questions we must ask ourselves:

  1. What do I want students to know?
  2. What do I want students to understand?
  3. What do I want students to do?

Collaborative task

The afternoon was dedicated to activities that allowed the participants to use their own assessment tasks, or mine, to make accommodations or modify based on student profiles that I provided. We then came together and discussed our learning.

boy2-1ne7o1bStudent Profiles

The day ended with an example of what I think a student profile should contain so that informed decisions about the student’s individual learning can be made.


While two out of 53 participants thought the workshop was too focused on education support staff and one thought it more valuable for early career teachers, overall, the feedback was very positive (see below) and many participants took away ideas and strategies that I hope they have begun implementing in their classes. For me it’s always about the students, so anything extra we can do to improve their learning experience is very worthwhile and very rewarding for us as educators.

“Jo touched on many ideas that I can share and implement at my school.” Anita

“Wonderful & engaging presentation” Anon

“The course was quite informative, found out about a few strategies which can be easily applied at our workplace.” Claudine

“Very informative, presented so well. Enjoyable” Anne

“Very relaxed and informative conference.” Anon

“Presentation was very comprehensive and information was very beneficial to my teaching.” Anon

“Excellent speaker. Fantastic, useful info/strategies to put into classroom practice.” Debra

“A great presenter with lots of ideas, hints, etc.” Alexandra

Many thanks are extended to all who participated last week in Geelong and at the Mulgrave venue!

If you’d like to learn more, why not register for the workshop delivered through Critical Agendas. I’ll be running similar workshops in Geelong on May 29 and Bulleen on June 6.

Drop me a line, or comment below. I’d very much like to know what measures you take to support non-funded special needs students at your school.

Thanks for reading! 🙂