My Thanksgiving

Those of you who know me are probably aware that I am going to the U.S. this week. Funny story: in 2010, a case of mistaken identity ended up with my husband Matt being invited to Thanksgiving by a family we didn't know. A quirky reply email actually got a response - a real invite! Apparently the family who invited us appreciated Matt's sense of humour and thought he was worth inviting to the annual family gathering.

We couldn't actually go in 2010 and regretfully declined. For various reasons, we were also unable to attend Thanksgiving in 2011 and 2012. So we decided that 2013 was the year we made it to the U.S. for Thanksgiving. There are only 4 days now before we leave, and we are both in the midst of preparations.

Thanksgiving with an Australian class

As it is only Week 6 of Term 4 in Canberra, I will be taking Long Service Leave to attend Thanksgiving. I thought it might be nice for my class (who will be having a relief teacher for the time I am away) to learn more about the traditions of Thanksgiving. As it is something we don't celebrate in Australia, I was looking for activities they could do to learn more about it. My first place to look was Pinterest, but it didn't really hit the spot for me. So I looked next at TpT. 

Here's what I found:

Story of Thanksgiving Bracelet

This cute activity involves the teacher reading a poem, and the students making a bracelet using different coloured pony beads to represent the different parts of the story. After reading this, I had a better understanding of the Thanksgiving story. Plus it's a kinetic way of remembering the story of the first Thanksgiving. It's a lovely activity and I recommend you download it (plus give feedback).

The next thing I found was a mini unit:

Thanksgiving Mini Unit {freebie}

This has some cute cut and paste activities, plus initial sounds activities. My Year 2s will get a kick out of the cut and paste labelling activities. It has really cute graphics.

Finally, here's a PowerPoint presentation that I found that goes through some of the traditions of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Traditions -  A Fun PowerPoint Presentation

All of these amazing (and FREE) activities will be given to my relief teacher and my teaching partner to implement on Thursday 28th November, while I am enjoying a fabulous Thanksgiving meal prepared by our generous American 'family'. We are both looking forward to our trip and can't wait to meet our new friends.

I am feeling so lucky and thankful that I have amazing colleagues who put up with my crazy antics, and wonderful people over in the U.S who are as excited as we are to have our first Thanksgiving together.

Arts Festival

Yesterday was our school's first Arts Festival. Although I am really tired, I wanted to share some of the creations we made to display in this showcase of visual art, music, drama and dance!
There was so much going on yesterday it's hard to do it all justice. I'm going to concentrate on my little piece of the Arts Festival, and try to get some pictures of the rest of the celebrations for another post.

Each student needed to be involved in a performance of some kind (we did a dance video and a musical performance using percussion instruments and singing), display an artwork in the Art Gallery and have a lantern to hang from the rafters of our outdoor seating areas.

Artworks - Bug's Eye View

I took on the challenge of leading the art component, including the lanterns for both my class and my teaching partner's class. That meant I had 50 artworks and 50 lanterns to help students create... it was a close call, but with a lot of assistance, we made it in the end!

As it's Spring in Australia at the moment, I chose an artwork that I had copied from an art book while I was a prac student. It's called 'Insect's View of a Flower' and I can't for the life of me remember which art book it's from. I'm hoping I can figure that out to give the appropriate credit because it looked fantastic!

Here's a couple of the artworks hanging in the Art Gallery.

Bug's Eye View in pink and green
Bug's Eye View in yellow and purple
Bug's Eye View in green and red

To create this artwork, we first did a bit of observation of a flower. I had some fake gerberas that the students could have a really close look at. Then we decided where the middle of our flower would be. Imagining that we were insects or bugs zooming in to land on the flower helped us to make sure our flowers were really big. We drew petals, both large and small, then decided on our colours.

Starting with the middle of the flower, we tore coloured paper and glued it on collage style. Then we moved on to the background colour. Some parts were really tricky, but we managed it in the end. The petals were the last part to be collaged, then we outlined the petals with a permanent marker. As a finishing touch, I gave them a little sprinkle of silver spray paint to make them glimmer like they had dew on them. Finally they were trimmed, mounted and labelled (all 50 finished the day before the Arts Festival!) At the end of this post are some easier to follow instructions with some photos of the process.

Lanterns - Hot Air Balloons

My next project was the lanterns. I did a quick Pinterest search for ideas, but ended up falling back on a favourite show from my childhood years - Art Attack!

Ages ago, I printed instructions on how to make a hot air balloon model from the Art Attack website. It's undergone a substantial change since then, and I can't find the link to the original project.

Here's a photo of how they turned out.

2H & 2L hot air balloon lanterns

Inside the 'baskets' (which are just fancy baking cases from a $2 store) there are LED candles. The hot air balloons just looked gorgeous when it went dark! 

2H & 2L lanterns at night

These were quite tricky to make, and thanks to a wonderful parent helper, were all made in time!

We needed card, split pins, wool and baking cases to create these hot air balloons. I made a template and photocopied it onto coloured card. The students needed to choose three colours and cut out their shapes. Then we used a pencil or pen to punch a hole in the top to put our split pins through. That was very tricky, and I ended up doing quite a lot of them for the students. Once the split pin was in, we started on the basket. Thanks to my aforementioned parent helper (who is super amazing) we came up with a great way to attach the baskets. The Art Attack instructions mentioned using sticky tape to attach the bottom of the balloon together, but we found that using a hole punch to make a hole, then threading the wool through worked much better! The excess wool could then be used to attach the basket. A piece of wire went at the top, and hey presto! Hot air balloon lanterns!

It was an amazing event to be a part of, and I was so proud of my Year 2s and their creative endeavours. The festival has been received well by the parent community, with many complimentary emails coming through via the principal and the deputy principal. It was great to see all the children with their families, eating nachos from the Kitchen Garden or enjoying a sausage sizzle, exploring the fort that the Year 5 students created out of old polling booth boxes, drawing on the netball courts with chalk, sharing their art in the gallery or sculpture garden, showing off their singing, dancing, drama or musical prowess on the main stage, or enjoying the multimedia presentation that included claymation, dance videos and a rendition of "I like to Move It" featuring the staff.

I hope you have enjoyed my little slice of a much larger pie!

Edited to add: 

Instructions for making "Bug's Eye View Art"

  1. Observe a flower. We used fake gerberas.
  2. Sketch your flower onto A4 paper.
  3. Tear brown or black paper to collage the centre of the flower.
  4. Once the middle is done, tear your chosen colour for the background. I've got orange for the background and blue for the petals.
  5. Glue on your background.
  6. Glue on your petals.
  7. Once your paper is completely covered, use a permanent marker to draw the petals.
  8. Lightly spray paint with silver (optional)
  9. Trim the art. I took 1.5cm off each side to mount it on A4 black card.
  10. Display!

Mosaics Revisited

Last Wednesday, I went back to visit my old school. Tracey, my lovely ex-teaching partner and mosaic guru, invited me back to help teach some of the parents mosaicking techniques to create a mural for an outside planter box at the front of the school. We used pictures that the students created inspired by a beautiful Ngunnawal (local indigenous group) story. 

Here are some 'in progress' photos of three of the four panels we were working on. (I can't use some of my photos because they identify people.) 
There will eventually be twelve panels in all, telling the whole story around the planter box.

Before the evening started, I was taken to the wall where last year's mosaics were displayed. These mosaics were the ones that Tracey and I frantically finished in the last week of the year, and I unfortunately was not there when they were put up. Here's the original post about the mosaics.
Here are the pictures I quickly snapped while I was there.

Giant flowers, Toadstool House and the elf

The butterfly

The snail with more giant flowers (He's still my favourite!)

I was impressed with how fantastic the mosaics looked on the wall, as well as some of the little finishing touches on the paintings. It looks like the fantasy garden we envisioned last year!

This visit to my old school has re-inspired me to start my own mosaics at my new school. I'm thinking I'll start small, and work my way up to a larger project. Stay tuned for my first solo attempt at creating a mosaic with my students.

This term so far...

Let's face it: schools are busy places. We have just finished Week 7 of Term 3, with only 3 more weeks to go. It has been a hive of excitement in Year 2, with plenty more to come.

Literacy and Numeracy Week

Week 2 was Literacy and Numeracy Week. My school chose to celebrate this by having a 'Poem in our Pocket'. Each class chose a poem or wrote a poem to share with their buddy classes. We chose A.A. Milne's Sneezles to share with our buddies. I chose this poem because of the delightful made-up language, which linked to our novel study on The BFG by Roald Dahl. We studied and practised the poem, then read it aloud to students in Year 1 and Year 3. The loveliest part of this was the amount of students who came into school with more A.A. Milne poems to share with the class after our 'Poem in our Pocket' was shared.


This isn't really school related, but something else that kept me busy this term! At the end of Week 3, I was an exhibitor at  Canberra's Lego BrickExpo. It was on the 10th and 11th August this year, and was incredibly fun! As my first time as an exhibitor, I was nervous that no one would like my models, but it was thrilling to see children and adults alike enjoying all the interesting details. I was lucky enough to work with two other new exhibitors who are incredibly creative and talented. Here's a few pictures of our huge glow-in-the-dark Monster Mash model. Unfortunately, it was too hard to get good photos with the lights off...

My part of the model is the castle on top of the mountain. You can't really see the back, but in the base of the mountain is a secret laboratory where a crazy scientist is experimenting on a monster.)

Professional Development - Kath Murdoch

In Week 5, I was lucky enough to be chosen to go to a PD on inquiry based learning run by Kath Murdoch. I learnt so much about inquiry learning, and had a few misunderstandings corrected along the way. I'm planning to share more about the PD in a later post. I also have to share with my staff at a staff meeting (a prospect that terrifies me).

Book Week

We held Book Week celebrations in our school in Week 5. Along with a fantastic Book Week character parade, we had a Scholastic Book Fair. It was exciting to see everyone (even the teachers) dressed up and getting so enthused about reading and books. There was also a colouring-in competition for those artistically inclined students.

Grandfriends' Day

At my school, we hold a special morning for our grandfriends (grandparents and older relatives or friends). In Year 2, we invited the grandfriends in to draw a portrait of their grandchildren while the students drew a picture of their grandfriend. We also showed off our learning in our portfolios and gave them a tour around the school (making sure they visited the Scholastic Book Fair in the process). After a special morning tea in the gym, we invited the grandfriends to the hall where we had set up a concert to showcase all the amazing things the students do.  My teaching partner and I were the MCs for the concert (which I was incredibly nervous about) and introduced performances from the Year 5 and Year 6 bands, the junior and senior choirs, as well as some multimedia presentations of animated haiku poetry and claymations. It was a great day, and many of our grandfriends were raving about the students' creativity and talent.

Father's Day

In Australia, the first Sunday of September is Father's Day. This year it was September 1st. The Friday before Father's Day found us celebrating with a 'Snag your Dad' sausage sizzle breakfast. The dads were treated to sausages and an art gallery of dad pictures in the gym. The variety and creativity was incredible, considering we were all using the same theme! I sent my students home with their portraits to give to their dads on Father's Day.


Week 7 saw us walking around the school's oval to raise money for our Kitchen Garden program. It was a glorious day, the sun shining and everyone's spirits were high. I wore my pedometer and did as many laps as I could, walking with the students. We walked for over an hour, and by the end we had some very tired students!

Year 2 Assembly

Yesterday, the whole of Year 2 hosted our first assembly for the year. As there are about 75 students in total, we tried something a little bit different. Usually, students are given a script and speak their part using a microphone. As we wanted to give all of our students a chance to have their moment of fame, my teaching partner pre-recorded each student saying a word or phrase using his iPad. After all the recording was done, he then edited the whole lot together to create a movie. It certainly was a novel approach to making sure all students were presenters during our assembly!

That's our term so far... Next week we have a Year 2 excursion and Learning Journey. After that I'm hoping we'll have a quiet last two weeks of term!!

The BFG: Dream Jars, Dictionary and a FREEBIE

I'll start off with a warning: I love children's literature! One of my all time favourite authors is Roald Dahl. I just love the wonderful characters, the quirky made-up language and the tales of small children overcoming insurmountable odds. I really enjoy sharing my love of these tales with my classes. We started reading The BFG last term, and we are really enjoying hearing about snozzcumbers, frobscottle and the most amusing by far, whizzpoppers


If you have never read The BFG, here's a synopsis
We are up to the 14th chapter: Dreams. In this chapter, The BFG describes the dreams to Sophie. There are two main kinds of dreams, Golden Phizzwizards (good dreams) and Trogglehumpers (nightmares).

After reading this chapter, we created our own dream jars filled with either a Golden Phizzwizard or a Trogglehumper. Here's a photo of our dream jars all displayed on the window together.

The BFG Dream Jars by 2H
Some of the dream jars were filled with interesting dreams. 

A golden phizzwizard
A golden phizzwizard
A trogglehumper 
A trogglehumper

The class had fun creating dreams and writing them on the labels on the dream jar. Then they drew a picture of one part of the dream. My lovely LSA (Learning Support Assistant), Kaye, mounted the dream jars on coloured paper, and laminated them. She even gave the golden phizzwizards a little gold glitter!


I have uploaded the Dream Jar template to Google Docs and you can get it here. On the template is a 'label' for writing the dream, and a space for illustrating part of the dream underneath. I would love to see how others use it, so feel free to share a link to your blog with how you have used or displayed your dream jars. :)
(This is my very first freebie, all hand-drawn. I'm hoping I'll be able to create more to share at a later stage.)

Our BFG Dictionary

We also started our own BFG Dictionary. There are so many made-up words in The BFG that we needed a place to collect and define some of those words. Here it is:

Our BFG Dictionary with pictures from The BFG and some of the made-up words.

F is for frobscottle and flushbunking

W is for whizzpopper, winkles, Wigglish and wraprascal

Some of the definitions we inferred from the text, others we came up with by ourselves. We had fun making up the definitions of these words! Our dictionary is a work in progress, and we continue to add to it as we read through the book.

I hope you enjoy reading The BFG as much as I do, and create a few definitions or dreams for yourself!

Writer's Notebook and Evernote

It has been quite a while since I last updated this blog. We have been busy, busy, busy at school to the point where I have so much I want to share, but not enough time to share it... oh, the dilemma!


Recently, my two teaching partners and I have started to use Evernote to collaboratively create and share lesson plan ideas. To set this up, at least one of you needs a premium account to invite the others to use the shared notebooks. Once that is done, you can all edit and see the notebooks wherever and whenever you want. When inspiration strikes, one might say.
So here's a screenshot of our shared Evernote notebook:

We can add text, images, links and photos of our Evernote Moleskine notebooks to this notebook and access it from our phones, tablet PC or iPad (I'm the Android user, the odd one out...), desktop computers or our Smartboards. 

Writer's Notebook

At the beginning of the year, we were using an A2 size sketchbook as our sample Writer's Notebook where we supported the unpacking of the seed. It did the job, and it was thought that the students could look through it when they wanted to review previous seeds, but it wasn't big enough and students were constantly moving from their seat to see the ideas that were written there.

My teaching partner was leading most of the Writer's Notebook sessions, as I am still developing my confidence and questioning strategies, but one morning I decided I was going to jump in and do it. Not only did I do it, but I decided to use Evernote to capture my seed ideas and put them on the Smartboard!

As you can see from the previous picture, I have collected water droplet seeds for the Week 3, Term 3 Writer's Notebook lesson.
Here's a closer look:

After collecting images to use as a seed, I decided on the image with the ant carrying a droplet. The students were also keen on the spider with the rainbow droplet head! Once the seed was chosen, I copied it into Smart Notebook on my Smartboard. I used a Y chart to unpack the seed with the headings: see/feel, think and wonder. There were a lot of interesting 'wonderings'!

The following week, my teaching partner decided to do a seed of picture showing a fair play situation, which was also added to Evernote and then used on the Smartboard. 

So that's how we use Evernote to help us organise our Writer's Notebook seeds. The table of all the graphic organisers we use to unpack the seeds is glued into the front of each student's Writer's Notebook. We have used Y charts quite a lot, plus started using Questions, Comments, Words/Phrases. Previously, I have used a Describing Wheel (see my previous post: What is a Writer's Notebook?)

That's it from me. As you can see, I am still learning and developing my confidence with Writer's Notebook. We are exploring new ways of organising and presenting it. I'm sure it will continue to evolve as the year goes by.

Thanks for visiting,

Bec :)


On the first day of stand-down (AKA school holidays), I went into school. Yes, I went to school on my first day of holidays. I wasn't the only one! I went in to re-arrange my classroom.

We are in the midst of a cold Winter here in Canberra. It's freezing! (The other day when all the Year 2s were out skipping to practise for Jump Rope for Heart it was 3 degrees centigrade. 3 degrees!)

My classroom has an external door that we go in and out of all day long. It opens several times through the day, and the gusts of frigid wind that blow through my classroom are enough to make an Inuit shiver.

To make matters worse, it opens at my floor space, where my Smartboard and my mini whiteboard are. I sit trembling with cold each time the door opens, and I can't imagine how cold my students are.

So, with this in mind, I decided to change the orientation of my teaching space. It's still at the front, where my Smartboard is, but now we are no longer huddled around a frequently opening door, but snuggled in near my teacher's desk. Not 100% perfect, but it should get us through the rest of Winter.

My previous classroom set up is here: Classroom Photos: Start of the Year. You can see from those photos the glass door that is the antagonist in this post.

Here are my 're-arranged' photos:

The classroom space (complete with my handbag!)

Teaching space with Smartboard, mini whiteboard and my teacher's desk hidden behind.
The infamous door (with the birthday cake display).
I guess I'll just have to wait until we return to school to see how well this arrangement works. For now, I'm pretty happy with it. There's a few areas that would benefit from a bit of colour... that's something I can work on during this 2 week break.

I hope everyone enjoys their Winter break. Stay safe and warm. Until next time...

Paper Plane Flight School

On Friday 21st June, we had our Paper Plane Flight School for all of Year 2 (approximately 75 students). Basically we took an investigation from the iMaths program (Investigation 7: Up, up and away) and made a fun day of it. The first step was to organise themselves into groups of three or four and then follow a procedure to create 2 types of paper plane, a dart and a glider. We then asked the students to create a modified plane. Each group ended up with 3 paper planes to fly in the flight test area (our school's gym).

After construction the of the paper planes came the testing. We took our flight school cadets to the flight test area and allowed them some practice flights before the real testing began. The planes were flown, essential data was documented and further testing commenced. 
Paper Plane Flight Test Area
Coincidentally, our Paper Plane Flight School was held on the same day as the school's Pyjama Day to fund-raise for Missing School. Which I hope explains the interesting attire of the students (and teachers!) in this photo. At this stage, at least one test flight had occurred, with the cadets then using metre rulers or trundle wheels to measure the distance flown.

In the end we had three test flights for each plane, with a total of nine test flights. Each distance was measured and recorded on the data sheet.
Now that our testing is done, the next job will be to graph the distance of the flight of the planes using a column graph.
Throughout the construction, test-flights and data recording, there were many skills the students needed to use: following a pictorial procedure to create paper planes, gross motor skills of accurately throwing a paper plane in the direction you want it to fly, measuring skills (using both a metre ruler and a trundle wheel), estimation and data collection. We covered several content descriptions from the Australian Curriculum for Year 2: Measurement and Geometry: ACMMG037. Statistics and Probability: ACMSP048, ACMSP049 and ACMSP050

We saw groups that worked well together (took turns and ensured everything was fair) to groups that needed a lot of support to achieve a successful paper plane flight.
In the end, all cadets were successful and earned their 'wings'. On Monday, we will see if they can use the skills we taught them to graph the flight of their planes. It was great to see students having fun and using many different skills without even realising that they were 'learning'!

Mentoring Preservice Teachers

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Recently I have been incredibly busy - both at home and at school. Due to this, I haven't had a chance to post about my teaching intern and the things I learnt about mentoring along the way. As this was my first time mentoring an intern, I felt like I was learning so much alongside her.

Teaching Intern

During this term, I have had a preservice teacher from the local university complete her teaching internship. I had a bit of an 'old teacher' moment when I reflected on the length of my internship (8 weeks) and the 4 weeks that are expected now. It seems like a short amount of time, but we made the most of it.

The Beginning

My intern was very proactive and ensured that she came in to visit the school before her internship commenced, meeting the deputy principal, myself and 2H.  She wrote a note to introduce herself to the 2H parent community and actively sought programs and planning documents to assist her in 'getting straight to work' when she started. It was great to see her interact with the students in my class in such a positive manner during her observation days and she got to know their names really quickly.

Teaching her own lessons

After much discussion between the two of us, she jumped straight into teaching. I did formal observations of her lessons, basing my comments on the Quality Teaching model. After her lessons, she was very reflective and thoughtful, often adapting her lessons based on her own feedback. It was interesting to get her to tell me her ideas on how the lesson went, but found myself telling her how I thought her lesson went, and what I would have done. Often, I would say to her that she had done just what I would have, and then we reflected together on how we could improve the lesson. 
The new framework for mentoring preservice teachers is about assisting them to come to their own conclusions by asking the right questions. When I went through the internship program, the mentoring teacher would tell you what they saw and how they would have done it as an example of 'best practice'.

What I learnt from my intern

It's very simple: the way I do things is not the only way. I guess I already knew that, but it was good to have a reminder. She did things in her own way, and still achieved the learning outcomes she had set for the lesson. 
I learnt that I needed to be so much more organised than usual, as I needed to give her time to mull things over.
Allowing someone to reflect on their own practice and supporting them with the right kind of questions is more effective than just telling them how to do it. Most interns and preservice teachers are reflective and know what went well with their lessons and what needed to be worked on, to the point where they are perhaps overly critical of themselves. As someone who is quite critical of myself, I learnt to focus on the positive and look for ways to improve a lesson rather than dwelling on the 'negative' things about my lesson.

The End

At the end of the 4 weeks (which whizzed by!) it was sad to see my intern go. She was someone I could quite comfortably team-teach with and a vibrant personality in my classroom. She had taken on the class as her own, and I could tell she was sad to say goodbye. We covered a lot of content and skills during her internship and I wish her all the best for her teaching career.

Any thoughts on mentoring? Feel free to share your ideas.

What is a Writer's Notebook?

What is a Writer's Notebook?

Good question! I was thinking the same thing when I first arrived at my new school. 
The 'official' notes I was given describe a Writer's Notebook as a book:
  • in which writers unpack individual ideas as seeds for writing and shape those ideas into a topic and text type,
  • designed to collect personal thoughts, ideas and observations,
  • that allows you the opportunity to explore topics of interest and passion,
  • where you can unpack your thinking explicitly by using graphic organisers,
  • that provides a structure to investigate and choose appropriate text types,
  • that supports you in making decisions about your writing because you have ownership of topics and text types,
  • that provides authentic assessment opportunities, as you are choosing a text type to suit your audience and purpose,
  • where you have the freedom to decorate the cover.

After reading all that, I felt that I understood the concept a little better. I tried my first Writer's Notebook lesson.

The seed I chose was a picture of Mothball, the wombat from Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French. 

The graphic organiser I chose was a describing circle. We unpacked the seed and thought of words to describe Mothball.

My 'Mothball' Describing Wheel

My intention was to start a class diary with our class wombat, Walter. Unfortunately, Term 1 rushed by so quickly that we weren't able to start it. I've got my fingers crossed that we can start this term. 
The students in my class will have the opportunity to take home Walter with a diary to describe his adventures in. In previous years, students have also drawn pictures of Walter and taken photos of his crazy antics. One student even took Walter to Cirque du Soleil with his family!

After that first attempt at Writer's Notebook I felt a little flat. Did I get the lesson right? Did the students achieve the learning outcomes? Hell, what were the learning outcomes?!? I set Writer's Notebook aside and focused on what I knew I could teach effectively.

Observing Writer's Notebook

My new teaching partner reignited my interest in Writer's Notebook yesterday. I had the opportunity to watch him as he presented the 'unpacking' of a seed. As we are focusing on Narrative writing and Fairy Tales, I chose a picture of a giant. It was fascinating watching him work the crowd (two Year 2 classes sat transfixed in front of him!) and really hone in on ideas from a simple picture.
I took notes while I watched him. I loved some of the things he said to them about Writer's Notebook:

"From the seed, an imagination tree will grow."
"It's a Writer's Notebook - which means anything you write will be RIGHT!" (I giggled at that one..)

We used a Y-chart to unpack the seed of the giant. My teaching partner showed everyone how to rule a Y-chart in their notebooks. He then proceeded to share some of his ideas on a large demonstration notebook.

Here is my Writer's Notebook:

My 'giant' Y-chart

After unpacking the seed, it is customary to do some form of writing on the right hand page. As our classes are still learning about Writer's Notebook, my teaching partner directed the form of the writing (narrative). As I understand it, the senior classes tend to unpack the same seed then select their own text type.

Don't laugh at my attempt at writing, usually Writer's Notebooks are very personal, and you have to ask permission to view someone's notebook. (Which is why I am using my own work and not one of the student's notebooks.)

My narrative response to the seed

Next week, I have the opportunity to observe another colleague teaching Writer's Notebook to the Year 2 Enrichment class. I am anticipating another fabulous lesson that I can base my teaching on.

Where to next?

My new teaching partner and I have scheduled time together to teach Writer's Notebook to both classes. After two lesson observations, I'm going to attempt to lead the next Writer's Notebook session to implement what I have learnt.

Have you ever used a Writer's Notebook with your students? Or are you like me, and have never heard of it? 

Thanks for visiting!

Jack and the Beanstalk

In the last few weeks of Term 1, we read several versions of Jack and the Beanstalk. We used Making Connections with Deep Meaning by The Teaching Reef to connect with the stories. For the Text to World connection, my class decided they wanted to grow their own beanstalks.

As we were also studying procedural texts, we made a procedure out of planting our beanstalks.
While searching Pinterest to find further inspiration for my lessons on text connections, I came across this.
Inspiration: Beanstalk Castles - Lessons from a Teacher

As soon as I saw it, I knew my class would love to make castles in the clouds for their beanstalks. I found a clip art clouds and castles, printed them onto coloured card and collected cotton wool and skewers. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be at school when my students created their castles, but I did see them when I popped into school the other day to organise things for next term.

2H Beanstalk Castles
Here are two of my beanstalks complete with castles. I think they look fantastic!

So I guess my original lesson went off on a tangent, following the direction my class took. Ultimately, they still learnt something (procedural text) but I find it interesting the twists, turns and tangents we go on when we are following the students' interests. 

What teaching tangents have you gone on when following the interests of your class?

That's it from me for the moment. Thanks for popping over for a visit!

Last Day of Term 1

So, today is the last day of Term 1 for 2013. What was I doing on the last day? 
I got laryngitis and a chest infection in the last week of term. I only went to school on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and felt really guilty about it. My new school sends home student portfolios at the end of Term 1, and mine weren't ready to go. So on Wednesday afternoon (after struggling through the day without a voice) I collected 24 folders and 24 sets of work, photos and general evidence on how great my class is and set about using my days off to put it all together.

I popped into school at lunchtime today (having been told by the doctor not to speak) and delivered all the portfolios to their owners. I felt much better about myself after that was accomplished!

I also went to school to drop off a gift to my current teaching partner. He was given a term-long contract at my school and it was his last day. The Year 2 team gave him a bottle of red, a card and a great picture book called The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.
If you haven't read it, it's a fabulous book! My teaching partner seemed surprised, but pleased that we would think of him on his last day.
Settling in to a new school has been a very steep learning curve for me. It's bizarre to think that 10 weeks ago I had no idea what I was stepping in to, but now I've learnt a lot, including:
  1. Ask a lot of questions. No really, ask so many that people will get annoyed with you.  
  2. Accept that you are not going to know the ropes instantly. Everyone knows you are the newbie, and they will give you allowances for that. Having said that, refer to dot point 1.
  3. Rely on your teaching team. They are not going to think you are incompetent just because you don't know how the school runs. Again, refer to dot point 1.
  4. Realise that it takes time to settle in, and allow for that. I have spent my entire term chasing my own tail, thinking that if I just get this list of things done, I'll be on top of everything. However, my list of things to do was so long I actually stopped writing it! I have at least 5 years at this school, I'm not going to be an expert in one term!
Having said all that, things that others find incredibly simple and take 5 minutes to complete, take someone who is new about 30 minutes.
It makes me realise why so many people would ask me what I deemed to be simple questions at my old school. To me, who had been there for several years and knew the school inside and out, it was simple. To them, it was an incredible maze of confusion and frustration. Now I'm on the other side, I hope I was as helpful as I could be, because now I am the one relying on others to point me in the right direction.

So, to the people at my old school, who were always helpful and knowledgeable, who did things to make my life easier; thank you! Tracey, who was quite possibly one of the most inspiring teachers I've ever had the pleasure to work alongside. Nicole, who administered the IT situation at our school so competently, including making life so much easier for all of us with student passwords (seriously the hardest thing about computer lab time!). Christina, whose energy and dedication to her students was incredibly motivating. To the whole Junior Team, whose support I couldn't have done without. To all these people, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the ones who make dot point 3 so easy to follow!

To my new colleagues: I'm sorry for asking so many questions! Be prepared for the barrage of questions that will be fired at you next term.

Looking towards Term 2, we have so many things to do and learn. Hopefully next term I will have more photos to share. During the next two weeks my plans are: find my lost voice, plan with my new teaching partner and the rest of the Year 2 team, and make sure I do some fun stuff with my 'spare' time.
Wishing you all a relaxing stand-down. Don't work too hard!

Classroom Photos: Start of the Year

Moving to a new school is always a daunting task. After five years in the same place, I managed to accumulate a vast array of 'important' papers, folders, books and teaching resources. I also inherited quite a few things from teachers who were retiring or leaving the profession. This created quite a lot of stuff which needed to be moved from my old school, transported to my home where it could be sorted and organised (or recycled, given away or binned) and then finally moved into my new teaching space.

Here are photos of part of the sorting process and the mess it created. Yes, that's right, two rooms in our house were filled with my teaching junk (as my husband calls it).

So, once all the sorting and re-packing was done, I had to take it into my new school. At my new school, I have no teacher office to store all my things in. To make up for this, the lovely staff at my school found a barely used cupboard and moved it to my room just for little old me! I felt very spoilt!

Here are my 'before' photos of my teaching space before I had a chance to move the furniture.

 My apologies for the bad lighting, both sides of my teaching space are windows (I only have one wall). As you can see, there was a lot of furniture stacked for the end of the year and it all needed to be moved and arranged. On one side of my room, there's windows out to a little courtyard. On the other side, there are more windows which overlook the Junior playground area.

These are my 'during' photos. I'm not finished setting up my room at this stage, because I like my students to have input about how they would like the room to look.

I made the tissue paper pom poms after being inspired by this tutorial on Schoolgirl Style. I love looking at the photos of all the inspirational and eye-catching classroom designs. After getting some style advice from Melanie's site, I decided my theme this year would be stars with blues, yellow and a splash of red. I thought I'd keep it simple this year, and try something more adventurous next year.

So that's it from me at the moment. I'm getting organised for our Parent Information Night on Tuesday. I know as the new teacher I'm going to have a lot of curious parents visiting, so I'm keen to make my teaching space as beautiful and welcoming as possible.

Thanks for 'visiting' my new room and be sure to pop back to see the final result.
Bec :)