Don’t read anything into this – I just love the song

#Edublogsclub Prompt 18 asks us to write a post that uses art, music, or poetry. I’ve decided to cover all three in this post, just because…


As an art teacher, I very often use images in teaching and learning. In fact, many of my posts already speak about how I use visual art in my practice, in various subjects and workshops. I love taking students and workshop participants on journeys using art.

I caught the incurable travel bug about ten years ago and have since taken off many times, mainly to Europe. In our family, we have a rule about travelling – one may re-visit a place again and again but there must always be the addition of a visit to a new destination on every trip. We also have this other little rule – what you buy you carry – oh and one last expectation – that one will maintain a journal while away.

Over the years my own journals have become places to which I escape during the times when I am not able to travel. They do not so much describe the places I visited or the things I saw but they hold my thoughts, emotions and learnings. Many times I represent these emotions through drawings and colour and add text only where necessary. The text is usually constructed using letters carefully torn from flyers, magazines and newspapers at my disposal. While I’m away I love returning at the end of each day and pouring my experiences into the pages of my journal.

Sea of Galilee, Israel


Battle of the Somme, France WWI



I’m not big on poetry, I don’t think I have ever written a poem as such but I have encouraged students to do it via a visual prompt and the last time I did it my students created some wonderful writing.

Poetry prompt (image credit: Good vs. Evil by *ArtAnda)

The angel inside us (written by Yr 8 student)


What then of music? Well I can’t say I have a favourite band or artist but I do love certain songs that mainly happened a long time ago, like this one:

Don’t read anything into this – I just love the song. For me, it’s about realising dreams, moving on but never forgetting from where we came.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

Boys have this thing…about learning: My NBEC2015 experience


NBEC tweets, diary, progam and pen

National Boys’ Education Conference (NBEC) at The Kings School in Parramatta, NSW.

Monday 5th October 2015

This afternoon I was fortunate enough to attend the pre-conference session at The King’s School. There were two sessions; the first facilitated by Dr Ed Dixon on Cognitive-Kinesthetics. Ed is a Canadian boys’ learning expert. His workshop was very much a hands on participatory and ‘fun’ way to spend a couple of hours. Boys need to WIN in our classes, using movement, game, humour, challenge, mastery and meaning can improve boys’ motivation. According to Dixon, these are the 6 secrets of boys’ learning.


Janus -past & future

The second session explored the idea of Character Education. Dr Steve Middleton (The Kings School staff member) presented the double faced Janus figure from ancient roman tradition who looks to the past and also to the future. He spoke of the need for a personal development and awareness of self that helps develop the character of boys.

I want to see you game boys,
I want to see you brave and manly,
and I also want to see you gentle and tender.
Be practical as well as generous in your ideals.
Keep your eyes on the stars
and keep your feet on the ground.
Courage, hard work, self mastery, and intelligent effort
are all essential to a successful life.
Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual
and of nations alike

– Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday 6th October

Dear Diary,

Today was the first official day of the conference.

Tim Hawkes (Headmaster of The Kings School) opened proceedings and officially welcomed delegates this morning: “Boys bring an energy and purpose to [schools]”

Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer) then mesmerised the crowd with his story; I couldn’t bring myself to take my eyes and heart from him, he was so magnetic. He had beautiful movements, wonderful expressions and his whole being in those shiny black shoes seemed to float around the stage arms raised and then clasped beautifully at his waist. He spoke of his childhood in impoverished China, being selected to learn ballet, his journey to America, through to his current responsibility as a husband, father and Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet. Li’s honesty, integrity and dignity never faltered throughout.


Li Cunxin


My take home message; Our lives are not based on how long we live but on how we live our lives.

He encouraged us to raise our boys’ potentials to allow for the journey, to enjoy every step of the way and to keep aiming higher and higher. To work hard to realise what we are capable of and then some.

Professor Donna Cross had a hard act to follow but she delivered a powerful session looking at new social behaviours online, particularly the positive and negative impact on boys’ mental health. There were a couple of comments she made that really stuck with me:

  • teacher well being reflects student well being
  • we assess what we value and value what we assess (a plan for NAPSEL National Assessment Program for Social and Emotional Learning)s
  • on and off line for the young is seamless
  • boys on line gambling increasing at a quick pace
  • Adultelecence
  • “alcohol does to your brain what rain does to newspaper”
  • losing /watching weight more prevalent in boys 60%:55%
  • males less likely to seek formal help but will go to parents and friends -they are less likely to tell teachers!!

We then broke out into Lightning sessions where I chose to follow through with Relational Learning – 4 fast paced presentations about learning boys, relationships, enjoying school and Drama.

Dr. Simon Breakspear who presented a lively keynote on designing deeper learning in this digital age led the ‘siesta’ session. We cannot learn from someone else, says Breakspear, our learning must come from within. We must be more human, stop asking questions that can be answered using Google and Siri and start learning by doing.

Then into workshops again, did I tell you my head was pounding? This session was a little disappointing not because of what I chose but simply because the time was cut so short the presenter didn’t have a chance to get into the nuts and bolts and then it was time to leave.

I will remember this though:

P: “Oh you’re a secondary school teacher? What do you teach?”

T: “Children.”

And it still continued this first full day with Maile Carnegie and Joel Solomons holding the fort talking Google and educating the future. 




The highlight was the presentation of the new program Expeditions built on inspiration of Google cardboard. They encouraged us to launch the boys into the magical ‘learning’ years to come.

Wednesday 7th October

Dear Diary,

I’ve literally just returned from the National Boys’ Education Conference (NBEC) at The Kings School in Parramatta, NSW. I mean literally -I am sitting in my hotel room at the desk my husband has been hogging for the last three days. He’s not back yet from work in North Sydney!

I’m feeling rather calm at the moment though yesterday my head was pounding. Many of the delegates seemed tired on the way out today but for me, I was feeling okay. Not sure why, maybe it’s because I’ve been before, and knew what a great learning experience it is or maybe I don’t have that anxiety of many of the delegates who have already flown out, left the hotel, rushed to the airport or driving home in time for school tomorrow. I feel peaceful. I feel I have lots to talk about and lots more to follow up.

Thursday 8th October

Dear Diary,

Sorry, never got to finish the blog, dinner and drinks were waiting! Now on my way out to the airport so…



Friday 9th October

Dear Diary,

Back home now and just catching up on my adventures this week. The second and final day of the NBEC conference was just as good as the rest.

6 secrets

6 secrets of boys learning


First up this morning was an Ed Dixon comeback who revealed the 6 secrets of boys learning one at a time. This was followed by some more Lightning sessions, this time I attended the one on Mental Wellbeing – 4 power sessions including one facilitated by Glen Poole who attended and maintained a live blog during the conference. You can catch that one here.

The highlight of my day was the visit to the Prep School to watch the boys learning differentiated literacy.


Puppets for literacy learning


The two classes of boys were in ability groups working with three teachers and one teacher aide in an open plan learning space. There was activity going on wherever you looked. They were all learning and teaching fairy tales; in particular the story of the Three Little Pigs. There was a myriad of tasks through which the boys would eventually rotate from puppets telling stories, boys describing characters on Popplet then writing sentences, others completing writing tasks, building houses using Lego and colouring in pictures before ordering them to re-tell the story.

Wednesday’s ‘siesta’ session was the Workshops. I chose to attend Jill Sweatman‘s workshop “Fry my chips -not my brain!” She discussed the latest research in brain and education that looks at creating the right kind of environment to enhance learning.

And finally as at the beginning we come full circle; Tim Hawkes took to the stage for his last plenary keynote as Headmaster for the NBEC (he retires end of 2016). As always he gave a wonderful, dramatic and engaging session centred on ‘Who we are and what we say.’

Who are we? He asks.

We are Patrons, Professors, Prophets, Parents and Priests. We must be all these things to our boys. Teachers live forever, a little of us remains forever with our students, our children, our boys.

And so ended NBEC2015.


Thanks for reading 🙂

Learning from autistic children

As promised:

This week’s post is all about Craig Smith’s demonstration session – “Learning from Autistic Children in Supporting Boys to Really Learn” at the NBEC.

Craig’s presentation was very inspiring and made me want to get out there and try these strategies not just on kids with autism but on kids generally. I think that what he had to offer would be most beneficial for ALL kids.

kids with ipadsCraig presented a wonderful journey through a program used at Autism Spectrum to engage autistic kids in learning. It focused on knowing how to best support the kids in everything they will face throughout their schooling. He explained that because these kids have poor communication skills 90% of the data presented is taken in visually. They need a focused interest and for it to be successful it needs to be something they are interested in. For this reason Craig says that the iPad is the tool that can help bring the teacher to the student. This is supported by research that you can read more about here

One study in particular reports the following:

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) (2013) recently undertook research to investigate the effectiveness of using iPads for developing core competencies in students with ASD. The researchers also reviewed the teachers’ perspective on the usefulness of the technology. The results identified that teachers reported that the iPad is a useful pedagogical tool which is valuable as a motivational device for learning and increasing class inclusivity. The findings showed that student educational goal achievements can improve when compared to what the teachers would expect when using traditional teaching methods. The results showed that student achievement levels improved more than teachers expected in:

  • o Behaviour goals–increased by 67% (30students)
    o Communication goals–increased by 45% (58students).For more information on this project, please see the media coverage about Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) (2012) Proloquo2Go app trial here.

The main message here in getting autistic kids more engaged is  VISUAL – VISUAL – VISUAL.

imovie-110310-1Craig then explained a wonderful program they run where the goal is to make a movie. The kids have to plan, design, film, make trailers and posters to advertise their movie using iPad apps including sketchbook, storyboard strip designer, iMovie, Final Cut Pro among others. This project got kids shining, one success story is that of Jackson Miller who loves music and  entered one of his songs in Triple J’s competition. He came second!!!! He likes being famous so click on his name to listen to some of his terrific music mixes.

The boys also used iBooks and iBooks Author to make an iBook teaching others what they know. This is challenge based learning where kids can work at their own pace and develop as learners in their own right.

Evernote and Penultimate are also good tools because they are less inhibiting than paper and for autistic children this is great because they can wipe the board clean and start again. TalkBoard is also an excellent tool as it turns your iPad into a communication aid and visual prompt board and you can easily use your own pictures and symbols to personalise the app.

Craig encourages us to see the iPad as a blank canvas. Remember though that we need to show our kids how to best use the apps – oh wait – maybe they could probably teach us that!

So those of us who have iPads in schools and there are many, why not try some the apps and get autistic kids buzzing and while you’re on it why not get all kids buzzing!

logoASAFor more information on autism visit their website’s facts sheet page.


Have a great week 🙂