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 ūüôā¬†


Take Outs: Day 2 Evidence-based teaching summit 2016

University of Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina c.1350

University of Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina c.1350

Take a close look at the medieval painting above what do you notice?

Has anything changed in classrooms¬†today? Of course yes there are no devices, I’m speaking mostly about engagement – 24:1, only 6 paying any attention, the rest seem disengaged, with more than one having a little snooze.

Now how about this one?

Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-11

Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-11

Ron Canuel (CEA) opened Day 2 of proceedings giving us insights into the research done at CEA. He says that much of education has been hijacked by others and that it is indeed time we took it back. We certainly all know (I hope) that standarised¬†tests do not lead to improvement in the educational outcomes of students, however,¬†they do benefit real estate agents! According to Canuel – everyone wants to live in a catchment¬†area of what is considered a ‘good’ school (and no I’m not elaborating).

Oh and the second painting above? Well, Ron mentioned something that really struck a chord with me, he said that education change should look like¬†the Renaissance with a lot more emphasis on all subjects. School of Athens is how I imagine a classroom should be, collaboration, thinking, genius, excitement, movement, passion, reflection, ordered chaos —–> can you hear it?

26% & who are not dealing with school recommended reading from Daffydd Wiesner-Ellix (CBD Strategic)

26% & rising…kids who are not dealing with school recommended reading from Daffydd Wiesner-Ellix (CBD Strategic)

My next take out is about teacher quality. There is no measure for an effective teacher (Gary Marks, ACU). A teacher who may be effective in one classroom may not be in a different one let alone in another school. So where is the teaching profession heading? Tania Aspland (AITSL) argued that we could easily devise a how-to manual becoming an expert teacher the same as one might consult a how-to manual on becoming an expert golfer or tennis player. The first chapter in this manual would, of course,¬†be OBSERVATION and the STANDARDS provide us with something against which to measure our progress. So, where can we make the greatest impact in the context of our place and time (Neil Barker, DET) in schools? Can educators, as Susannah Emery (Curtin University) asks, be ‘quest givers’ given the strong attachment our current students have towards gaming? Perhaps the Teaching & Learning Toolkit presented by Tanya Vaughan¬†might just assist us in making the greatest impact happen in our classrooms, where they belong.

The highlight of the summit for me was meeting and sitting next to David Mitchell, Adjunct Professor (College of Educational Studies and Leadership), University of Canterbury, NZ. He delivered the final keynote address. Of course, while chatting at the table over the two days, I did all the talking about my research before it dawned on me just who he was – for those who don’t know his research is in diverse needs of students and inclusion and if you follow my blog you would know that my PhD is in special needs!!!!¬†I spent the night after the first day of the conference reading up on Dr. Mitchell and got my hands on an online copy of his book. I have since read a number of journal articles and will hold true to emailing him¬†to discuss his research, ask questions and gain first-hand insights as I journey through my PhD.

Dr. Mitchell also commented on my¬†note-taking so here I place the sketchnote I completed as he spoke…now I would have added so much more but I really enjoyed just listening. I think I’ve got enough for you to get the picture of just how much wisdom this man has offered me especially as I continue my PhD. I secretly hope too, that Dr. Mitchell might read this post one day and see it for himself for I was not confident to show him on the day.

Sketchnote -Dr. Mitchell's keynote

Sketchnote -Dr. Mitchell’s keynote


Question: Can Principals significantly influence learning in their schools? (Helal & Coelli, 2016)

Fact: 24% of ALL students and 40% of those who are disadvantaged are at risk of reading failure in Australian primary schools. The explicit teaching of literacy covering the BIG5 may assist (Kerry Hempenstall – Case Study presentation).


One more thing – Whilst Radmila Harding was a little apprehensive about being the very last speaker of the conference and wondered if there would be anyone left to hear her presentation I have to say it was engaging, and well I’m also going to say …¬†FUN! There were hands-on activities and videos to make us laugh… and so it ended… happily. The take home message not only from Radmila’s presentation but I think from the whole conference:

Let’s work collaboratively to build a team that won’t fall down so all may benefit and grow in their experience and journey of learning and living.

And yes there were enough people left who enjoyed it right to the end.

End of Day 2

Thanks for reading ūüôā

Day 1 – EBT reflection

Reading from the outside in

A new term usually signals a new text we have to ‘teach’. In many cases there’s a 90% chance that your students haven’t read the novel in advance and if they have, well, that’s a bonus.

Over the years I’ve tried lots of ways to try and get students involved with the class texts. I’ve sat in on meetings where teachers decide which novels their students should read in which year level and during which term. I’ve been in on discussions as to whether to allow the film version to be studied and what the sparknotes might have to offer.

I’ve had occasion to actually introduce novels in a few classes over the years with great success (usually as a CRT or while on a short term contract) even though I’m not a trained English teacher. This¬†is what I have to offer…

Reading the novel from the outside in

There are many students who don’t like to read, especially not books that are prescribed by their teachers. However, until we change our ways and actually allow the students themselves to choose their own novels ¬†– now there’s an idea – we need to find ways to engage them. We need to ‘hook’ them into learning.

Blue book

Blue book

For a student to connect with their novel we have to tease them into wanting to know more. Therefore I never begin with the Forward or the Introduction and nor do I begin at Chapter One. In fact, I don’t even do this in my own reading, which is probably why I was a little disappointed when the book I put on hold last week turned out looking like this (Blue book). I know I’m going to need to make¬†some effort in reading¬†it over the coming weeks (sighs). So what is it that would engage my students and I into reading a book? What’s the hook? For me it’s going to be the cover – front and back.

For this experiment, I’d like you to grab a novel or any book close by and follow the prompts while simultaneously developing a mind map by hand or using any¬†brainstorming¬†apps:

Here’s mine;

One version of the cover – ‘The curious incident of the dog in the night-time’

  1. Have a good look at both the front and back, and write down everything you see (use adjectives to really help describe what it is, e.g. 6 red cars and extend the mind map). This is even more interesting if your students have different editions.
  2. Ask questions of the students – What does the colour ‘red’ represent? Extend the mind map as students respond – red, love; anger…

    beginnings of mind map

    Beginnings of  a mind map

  3. What of the awards? Google and add info to mind map
  4. Keep going – accept all responses as students begin to engage with your questions. They may have some of their own. Ask.
  5. They may want to add colour or other images which they can draw or download.
  6. Now get them to read the blurb
  7. Who is the main character?
  8. What do you know about this character from reading the blurb? Explore further the idea about not understanding human beings. Do they know anyone like this in their own lives?
  9. What more have you learnt about the dog?
  10. Keep building the mind map…Are there any other characters mentioned? Who are they?
  11. What kind of novel is this? Mystery – who likes mysteries? Tell me about something mysterious…
  12. What mysteries¬†might the main character unravel in this novel?¬†Write a paragraph we can compare later…or draw a picture…or record your idea on your device…

Let’s find out what happens shall we?

And so only then do we turn to Chapter 1 – ‘It was 7 minutes after midnight.” #hooked

Try it; I’d love to hear how it goes.

The mind map can be updated, re-designed, discussed, and dissected as they go through the novel Рextending and comparing their first thoughts and developing ideas for later analysis. Some students might like to follow along using the audio version as they read through the book. Did you know that there is a stage production of the novel and even an overview?

So, how did you go with your book? Do you think this could work in your classes? Are you willing to have a go? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading ūüôā


You can’t teach what you don’t know

NeurotransmitterWelcome ūüôā

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  Рper

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 ūüôā

Preps, for heaven’s sake – I failed preps!

I was just thinking…

When I was at school in the seventies and eighties, teachers had a pretty good standing in the community. We didn’t tend to make a big fuss about how they could’t teach, or how they didn’t always ‘perform’ for us. We pretty much had similar bullying issues as now but we didn’t have to deal with social media as the kids do now. The whole world didn’t get to have a say, it was just between us. I personally had some pretty awful experiences at school, nothing like the stuff that happens now I admit but to a pre teen at the time it was pretty big. Thankfully I also had some pretty great ones.

salami sandwichI can laugh now, at the many times I tried to hide the salami sandwiches from my friends but was always found out because they could smell them. “Yuk! What’s that?” they’d ask, “It stinks!” Nowadays they’d gladly swap their vegemite sandwiches for one! Or how about the times I wore a dress over jeans and was laughed at – now it can be quite fashionable, and yes my hem was above the knees! Then there are the memories of being called four eyes because I wore glasses due to a lazy eye – which, by the way, was operated on when I was 5. In that same year I travelled back with my parents to Italy for three months. The surgery actually took place after we returned, thanks to my perceptive paternal grandfather who noticed my eye move while staying on the farm. After all that, I presented at school again only to find that my long absence and my failure to understand or speak very little English meant a repeat of preps! Preps for heaven’s sake, I failed preps!

My next memory of school troubles me to this day and is one of the main reasons I work in education. 

a_girl_with_glasses_by_christdyspidey-d65wedjIn Grade 1, after¬†repeating preps, I was often kept back after school because I didn’t know my reader. The teacher would have me sit in a corner and ‘read’. She never really assisted me and I never really understood how to go about teaching myself to read English – you see I knew how to¬†read simple Italian words but that’s phonetic so more easily done than English! That in hindsight, meant I wasn’t as dumb as I was made to feel in school. Every night I would be sent home to ‘learn’ my English reader. That was of no use really as both my parents were Italian! My mother knew some English at the time but I ¬†don’t think she understood that she needed to ‘teach’ me how to read in English. I have vivid images of one particular reader about a tiger in the jungle and most probably I could have explained the reader orally using the visuals BUT that didn’t count. I simply couldn’t read English and the teacher had no idea how to engage a student who presented as ESL. I tried.

Thank goodness for Grade Two; enter Mrs. Longmuir. Now, she understood. I soon developed, through sheer hard work and many more failures and disappointments,¬†skills in reading and writing and worked my way through till I finished 4th in my Grade 6 year level! I’ve got a book with a certificate and $10 to prove it! Well, I spent the money in 1976 but I still have the book on world stamps! Now don’t let the topic bother you. It is in fact a beautiful book, bright orange cover, with the reproduction of a gorgeous art nouveau style female figure similar to the image below. (They were obviously aware of my drawing abilities.) I really adored this book and I remember drawing images from it at the time.


Secondary school had its highs and lows; the lows I won’t dwell on but it’s during this time, in Year 9 in fact, when I decided I wanted to become an art teacher. I wanted to be just like Zacher! One thing led to another and I found myself teaching art in a wonderful little girls’ school in Fairfield, NSW. I loved Rosary High. The school closed in 1990 and was re-established as Mary MacKillop College in Wakeley the next year. Sadly, I left at the end of 1989 (my family needed me back) and returned to my hometown of Melbourne where I continued to teach in Catholic schools. And, here I am after 27 years of teaching, still loving it and still wanting more. I thoroughly enjoy working with staff in schools, delivering professional development sessions¬†face to face and on line and I really enjoy working with individual students, exploring different strategies to help them establish successful study skills. I have also relished the opportunity of being able to complete a minor research thesis in 2013 but I do miss teaching secondary students. Hopefully¬†opportunities will come where I can spend some time in different classrooms, while still consulting and completing some more research.

Ideally I would love for everyone to experience success but not without knowing and accepting that failure, whilst debilitating, is a great way to learn.¬†Michael Jordan said it well;¬†‚ÄúI can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.‚ÄĚ

I’d love to hear your thoughts or perhaps some of what you experience(d) at school; feel free to comment below.