Saturday, 17 February 2018

Exploring the Geographic features of special places with your early years students

early years, prep, foundation year, year 1, grade 1, first grade, geography, social studies, mapping, features, curriculum

I've enjoyed teaching Geography to Preps (Kinder) for many years and thought I'd share some ideas I use teaching Geographic features of special places from the Foundation Year Curriculum.

What is a feature?

A feature is something that is distinctive to a person, place or thing. 

For example: your eyes are a feature of your face, a desk is a feature of a classroom, a runway is a feature of an airport.

As with all teaching, start with what the students know. Get students to draw their face, then label and record their features. Explore the features of the classroom (chairs, tables, windows), the features of their library (books, tables, seats) and the features of other places such as supermarkets (trolleys, checkouts, food).

Practice observing, recording and labelling these features over and over again and the students will start to understand the term 'features' plus they will get some practice observing, recording and labelling (a process that is used in nearly every subject from Science to Maths). 

What is a special place?

early years, prep, foundation year, year 1, grade 1, first grade, geography, social studies, mapping, features, curriculum

A special place is a place that is special to a person or group of people because they might have special memories there or it might hold religious or cultural significance (this term 'significance' is used over and over again throughout the HASS curriculum from Prep to Year 6 so you may as well start to use it with the students and get them familiar with it!).

Bring in a photograph of your favourite place and discuss why it is special to you. Make a comparison between an 'everyday place' like the supermarket and your 'special place'. 

Discuss culturally significant places such as Uluru or religious places such as churches. What makes these places special to some people or groups of people? Brainstorm the answers with students so you eventually have a list of what makes a place special. You can keep referring back to this anchor chart when you ask students '... what makes this place special?'. By the way, I am terrible at making anchor charts by hand so have created this free download for you, should you want to use it in your classroom!

Encourage students to bring in photographs of their special places and create a wall display in your classroom. This also fits in nicely to the History curriculum with regards to events that are special to families (such as holidays). 

Now what?

Now the fun part! Now you can take students exploring! 

Ask students where a special place might be in the school (they will undoubtedly say the playground) and run it through the test of 'what makes a place special?' before you decide to go there. 

Pair students up and give each pair a piece of paper and a clipboard. Tell the students that Person A must describe the features of the special place and Person B must draw them on a map. After a while students can swap roles. This encourages 'think, pair, share', keeps students focused (hurray for 'allowed talking time'!) and stops students from going off track. Of course, you'll want to pair your high and low students together but both will get an opportunity to write/draw and give oral descriptions. 

Once you have finished your observation  of your special place, return to the classroom and pull up each example the students have created. Let each pair discuss the features they found. The added oral element will encourage students to be accountable for their work and will help build their conceptual understanding of the key vocabulary used.

Where to next? Prepositional language!... to be continued next fortnight!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

How QR codes can create a seamless digital classroom for you

QR codes, ipad, ipads, digital technology, school, students, technology, icts, primary, teacher, teachers

You're trying to integrate digital technologies into your classroom in a seamless way, but when you do get access to the school iPads, you don't know what to do with them! Your early years students can't find the website you want them to go to and they can't remember their password anyway! Does this sound like you?

Never, in the history of teaching, have teachers been expected to do more work with digital technology without the access to adequate resources.

So what can you do to seamlessly integrate digital technologies into your classroom?

I'll let you into a little secret - QR codes!

If you're familiar with barcodes on products in the supermarket, then you already understand the concept of QR codes. You scan the code with a QR scanner (visit the App store to find free apps for this) and it takes you to the website, image, picture etc.. that you want your students to go to. 

Okay, so some of you are familiar with QR codes but did you know you can create your own QR codes?

Yes, that's right. No more writing website addresses on the screen. No more http://...anything anymore!

How can you use them in your class?

Here are just a few ways I use them in my classroom:

1. Quickly accessing that regularly used website. It could be Mathletics, Reading Eggs or just an online dictionary. Copy and paste the url into the QR code generator and save the QR code. Copy and paste the code into a word document many times, print and cut, then give to students to stick inside their English/Math/Homework book for quick reference.

QR codes, ipad, ipads, digital technology, school, students, technology, icts, primary, teacher, teachers

2. When you want your students to visit one random website as part of a lesson. Create a QR code (as listed above) and save to your computer. With your computer plugged into the whiteboard, display the QR code and let your students scan the code from their desks.

QR codes, ipad, ipads, digital technology, school, students, technology, icts, primary, teacher, teachers

3. To show parents examples of student work. Save student work samples into a Google Drive document (one folder per student) and create a shareable code for that folder by clicking the three little stars on the top right hand corner (as shown below). 

QR codes, ipad, ipads, digital technology, school, students, technology, icts, primary, teacher, teachers

That then becomes your url and copy and paste this into a QR code generator. When you have parent/teacher meetings, stick the code to your student's folder and scan for parents, so they can view their work as you talk. Even better still, print a copy of the QR code so that parents can take it home and review their child's work in their own time! (Note: you don't need a Google Drive account to access the files via shareable urls but you will want to make sure the files are not editable). 

Those are just a few ways you can use QR codes to help you in the classroom. Can you recommend some others below in the comments section?

If you'd like to try one of my QR codes, scan the image below and you'll see how they work.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

4 Fantastic Chinese New Year Classroom Activities

chinese new year, china, cultural, celebration, foundation into first, classroom, activities

Chinese New Year (16th February 2018) is a fantastic opportunity for students to explore other cultures and traditional celebrations. 

The Australian History Curriculum encourages the exploration of other cultural celebrations:

Foundation Year
How they, their family and friends commemorate past events that are important to them.

Year 1
How the present, past and future are signified by terms indicating time, as well as by dates and changes that may have personal significance, such as birthdays, celebrations and seasons.

Year 3
Days and weeks celebrated in Australia...and celebrations and commemorations in places around the world such as Chinese New Year.

There are some easy ways to bring this celebration into your classroom, to not only keep your classroom inclusive, but there is nothing nicer than bringing that HASS curriculum to life in a fun engaging way. History is not boring folks!

One: Make Chinese hanging lanterns

These are so easy to make. You can find the template in my Chinese New Year pack or watch the directions in this video. Once they are strung together across the classroom they look fantastic!

chinese new year, new year, china, celebration, lantern, craft

Two: Make Money Envelopes

Again, super easy to make and the students love them. You can discuss the significance of the red envelopes and how much money is usually given by visiting this website. I have used the envelope template inside Chinese New Year pack but you can use regular envelopes and colour them red. Obviously your students can't place money inside them but they can make some money (either Australian dollars or use Chinese currency on them if you'd like to explore that). You can also integrate these into maths rotations if you want to take the experience further in your classroom!

chinese new year, new year, china, chinese, money, envelopes, red
Three: Chinese New Year symbolism posters

Students love to colour and teachers love a colouring activity that has meaning, so incorporate both with this free Chinese New Year Colour Page. You can use this website to explore the symbolism and the meaning with students or you'll find the Chinese New Year flip book a useful tool for taking students through the celebration in more detail.
chinese new year, china, new year, free, download, colouring, coloring, page, 2018
Four: Chinese Dragon Art Work activity

Explore the use of warm and cool colours in this simple but effective colouring activity. Show students how to colour the image in warm colours and the outside in cool colours. Once it is complete these make fantastic wall displays in the classroom or around windows.
Chinese new year, china, chinese, art, activities, activity, warm, cool, colors, colours
Learning about China can be so much fun! If you have students with Chinese connections, why not ask them to bring an item from China in for a show and tell or better still, bring some Chinese food in to share! Most students and parents are so excited to share an aspect of their culture with their school friends and it makes for an exciting History lesson as well!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

New teachers: 5 things you need to know before you start teaching

teaching, teacher, teachers, back to school, teacher tips, newly qualified teachers, new school, teaching career

As a new teacher or a student teacher, life can be super exciting and filled with promise. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer but not everybody can survive the first few years of teaching. However, if you come with the right expectations and mindset you'll succeed and here are my 5 tips for you before you start your first post:


Okay, so I'm not going to patronise you here and assume you think teaching is a bed of roses but if you're not clear what I mean by hard work let me explain. Teaching is busy! Juggling a thousand things busy! It will stress you out by how busy it is and at the end of the day you'll be beyond civil conversation you'll be so tired. Few jobs require you to juggle quite so many things 'at the same time' (other professions are of course demanding but teaching requires all of your brain power at once to multi task nearly all day). Most mornings for me are speaking with up to 30 children at one time (late assignments, homework missing, somebody doesn't feel well etc) AND parents who have arrived to discuss an 'urgent' issue right then. You are in demand all the time by everybody.


Yes it's not 9-5 (if you didn't know that then go back to Go and do not collect $200). You'll be at work from anywhere from 7.00 am and won't leave until after 4 pm (after meetings that is and if you're super organised!) and when you get home you'll probably put in another 3 hours of lesson preparation and marking. Most weekends will be spent marking or creating resources. Sundays will be a thing of the past, left to enjoy over school holidays. I'm not even counting all the time you'll be mentally trying to 'fix that child' in your class (showers seem to be the place where I problem solve!). You're on salary now and there is no 'overtime' so learn to manage your time wisely. 


Teachers are not, on the whole, respected by the community. Parents' expectation will be high if you're at a good school and if you're in a disadvantaged school you'll find it hard to find the parents at all. Education is an expectation for children and that expectation begins and ends with you the teacher. We know that's not correct and it's not fair but that is, sadly, the way society is moving. You'll be expected to work the impossible with students and that's okay but not always realistic. Be the best you can be and let the rest sort itself out. 


You became a teacher so you could have that positive influence in a child's life and make a difference. However, your first few years of teaching will slowly reaffirm for you that you can't save them all. There are children that don't bring lunch, don't do homework, have a bad attitude, turn up late, turn up tired, are over stressed and generally falling apart. All you can do is try your best and remember you're not the only adult in their life, you might be fighting some very challenging circumstances at home. Go easy on yourself. Try your very best and hope the best for that child as they move on to a new teacher at the end of the year. Don't beat yourself up if you feel they didn't achieve all that you felt they could. You may have had a more subtle influence on them than you realise.


It does get easier the longer you teach. Multitasking will be easier and you'll have ready answers for parents with those questions at the start of the day. You'll learn to be kinder to yourself for making mistakes and you'll stress less at the start of each school year. You'll start to build yourself a teacher toolbox of ideas, resources and emotional reassurances that will help you get through each day. Stick with it and ride out those difficult first few years and you'll be in a job you'll enjoy for the rest of your life! Teaching is addictive! Why? Because you do make a difference!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

How to get your school to pay for all your teaching resources!

teachers pay teachers, teaching resources, teachers, teacher, download, school, resource, resources, primary school

It's the start of a new school year and you're wondering how you're going to fit all that planning in?

Creating engaging resources takes time and aligning them to the Australian curriculum can take even longer! You might visit Teachers Pay Teachers but why should you spend your own money, shouldn't your school pay for resources?

Did you know that your school can register to become a Teachers Pay Teachers account holder?

Here's how it works:

Step One

Step Two
Click "I'm a Teacher" button and download the handout.

Step Three
Talk to your administrator to register for an account (it's free!).

Just think, no more awkward conversations about sharing resources!

No more expense at the teachers end!

Plus, just think how impressed your administrator will be that you're sourcing the materials for them!

Click here to find out more about Teachers Pay Teachers school accounts.

If your school is interested in purchasing resources, but you are not part of a Teachers Pay Teachers friendly school, then download the TechTeacherPto3 brochure and take along on your Student Free Days to discuss sharing the licence with your co-workers. When you purchase one resource yourself you can get extra licences at a reduced cost so everybody can get their own copy!

You can also visit the TechTeacherPto3 website at

Saturday, 6 January 2018

What does it mean to your students to be Australian?

Australia Day (26th January) is the perfect time to celebrate what it means to be Australian. 

The definition of Australian is

a native or inhabitant of Australia or a person of Australian decent

Our schools are a microcosm of Australian society and, if your classroom looks anything like mine, many students are either born overseas, speak more than one language or dialect or have parents/grandparents who were born in a country other than Australia.

As an expat myself, I see Australia as a land of opportunities and a place my children can live a happy and healthy life and Australia Day is an opportunity to celebrate our adopted home. 

So what does Australia Day mean to you and your students? How will you celebrate the lead up to Australia Day in your classroom?

Many teachers say they don't have time for seasonal celebrations in their classrooms due to an over crowded curriculum, however, Australia Day sits so nicely with the Australian Curriculum (ACARA) you'd be crazy not to invest some time in it. Here is the one celebration that ALL your students will participate in first hand!

Foundation Year HASS - How families celebrate events (family events of significance)
Year 1 HASS - Celebrations in the local community (exploring and sequencing)
Year 2 HASS - Exploring local history (places and events of significance)
Year 3 HASS - Aspects of life in the local community (exploring the difference between a celebration and a commemoration)

One text that I particularly love is Meme Fox's I'm Australian Too picture book, as it explore what it means to be Australian in a way that young children can easily understand.

You can listen to an excerpt here...

I've also created some activities to go with the text here

It's particularly important that lots of different ethnicities be shown in art work around Australia Day, so I've included a multicultural image for students to colour (these make great wall displays in a classroom). 

colouring page, coloring page, color, colour, australia, australian, day, techteacherpto3

Some of the concepts covered in the book are a fantastic starting point for discussions about what it means to be Australian.

If you were born outside of Australia, you can still consider yourself Australian

The characters in the book state that they were born within and outside of Australia - yet they are still Australian. Discuss who was born within Australia and outside of Australia. Do they feel Australian? Why? What does it mean to be Australian?

map, mapping, activity, literacy, geography, techteacherpto3

Your grandparents might have been born outside of Australia, but you're still Australian

The characters in the book go on to state that their grandparents were born outside of Australia and how their life has changed moving to Australia. This is a great time to explore family trees and this makes a perfect homework task. 

family tree, activity, students, primary, student, family, australia, techteacherpto3

People from all different states and territories in Australia call themselves Australian
For students who were born in Australia and do not have immigrant parents or grandparents, this is the time for them to shine! Where have they lived in Australia? Why did they move to the state or territory they are in now?

mapping, map, activity, students, activities, primary, school, teachers, techteacherpto3

People move to Australia to live for lots of different reasons.

Younger students might struggle with the concepts of war or famine but this book nicely takes you through the immigrant children's lives and how much better they are now. Older students (Year 6) can use this as a point of discussion about reasons for immigration.

"Australia Fair is ours to share"

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Do your students know what Advance Australia Fair means? Do they know and understand the lyrics? I love these doodle pages and have used them a few times to explain difficult concepts to students - they make the perfect colouring page.

You can find all these activities in the What does it mean to be Australian? Activity Pack, based on the book by Meme Fox I'm Australian Too.

My favourite Australia Day Picture Books

australia day, australia, picture books, books, children, foundation year, stories, primary, school, teaching

Australia Day 26th January and is a fantastic time to bring a whole country celebration right into your classroom. What is a celebration and how do we celebrate? These questions form the basis of the Foundation Year History curriculum embedded in the new Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS). What a perfect time to use real-world experience and bring this exciting celebration into your classroom with some fantastic picture books!

Here are my tried and tested favourite picture books to use in the lead up to Australia Day.

I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox

Mem Fox explores what being Australian means to children across the country, including where they were born and the experiences of immigrants. This book gives a fantastic insight to multicultural Australia and teaches children that 'being Australian' means sharing our wonderful country! 

You can read my blog post on this text here and you'll find a companion pack to it here.

This is Australia by Miroslav Sasek

This is such a fun book with great art work. It covers what it was like to grow up in Australia and looks at places of significance around Australia with each state covered. This book fits beautifully with Year 2 and 3 HASS exploring places of significance.  Students could create cut and paste from magazines to create similar illustrations of life in Australia.

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney

Five Aussie children play, go to school and explore parts of Australia in this sweet and, long over due, book about growing up in Australia. Use this book explore what it means to be Australian and live in Get students to bring in photographs of their travels around Australia and write a matching piece about why this is their favourite place.

A is for Australia by Frane Lessac

This book is perfect for the start of the Foundation Year when you are exploring the alphabet letter by letter. Travel around Australia and look for places through A to Z. Tie this book to your alphabet exploration each day.