Saturday, 20 January 2018

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

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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!

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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). 

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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?

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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. 

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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?

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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

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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.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Easy goal setting ideas for students of all ages

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Setting goals is an essential skill all students need to work on in order to keep them engaged and focused. Most children are keenly aware of academic areas they need to work on, just ask any school age child what subjects they love and which they hate and why. 

Last year I began goal setting in the first week of school, primarily in order to establish areas where THEY felt they need work. I can easily see grades and work achievement standards from the previous year's data but I could not evaluate the student's own perspective on areas they needed to work on and why - without this goal setting activity.

I'm going to show you two examples of goal setting activities you can do with younger or older students, both of these are available in my Goal Setting Pack for 2018 (this will be updated each year).

Younger students

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For students in Foundation to Year 2, you will need to keep the focus on ONE specific goal. Students will mostly likely select 'maths' or 'reading' but you will need to guide them to something specific and measurable such as:

I will learn my times tables up to 10


I will learn all of my yellow sight words

Keep the goals short but attainable in a reasonably short space of time.

Next, how will students know they have reached their goal? What will success look like for students in your class? Will they move up the reading wall? or get a certificate from you to take home? You will already have an idea of how you will celebrate success and this is where you can explain it to students. 

The rocket creates a fantastic wall display and you can top it off with the additional signage provided in the pack. 

Older students

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For students in grades 3- 6 I recommend the flip book contained in the Goal Setting Pack for 2018. Here are the steps I would use to talk students through the different stages.

My Goals
As above, get students to be specific about their goals. Last year I had a student who said "I want to get a C in English!" this was what she had actually been told by her parents. However, what does a C look like? This is where you will need to guide the student into curriculum specific areas such as:

I will write in complex sentences.


I will use noun groups when writing descriptive sentences.

This gives students a very specific goal to work on. I suggest getting students to think of ONE English, ONE maths and ONE other goal (this could be getting on a sports team or joining a club and doing well).

Strategies I will use
How will they achieve their goals? Here you will need to give your students lots of examples of the ways in which they can reach their goals within your classroom/school setting such as:

I will read for 15 minutes each night.


I will ask for help with my maths homework if I do not understand it.

These are strategies you can keep referring back to all year "remember when you said you would come and ask me if there were parts you did not understand of the homework?" - refer to flip book.

Reaching my goals
How will students know they have reached these goals? Improving their grade is the most obvious way but you will need to structure some tangible ways they can show they have achieved their goals such as giving them an award at parade, classroom recognition on the writing wall... etc.

What will success look like?
Don't let students skip this step and write 'happy' in the boxes. This is THE most important step. They need to visualise what success looks like, sounds like, feels like. Yes they will feel 'happy' (here is your chance to force them to expand their word bank!) but what will success sound like? Cheers? Claps? Mum and Dad saying 'well done' ? Only your student will know what incentive they will need to drive them on towards their goal.

You can download the Goal Setting Pack for 2018 here and it comes with both the rocket flip book, standard flip book and wall sign.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Behaviour Management In Your New Classroom

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You’ve just graduated. You’re super excited to start your new teaching career. You are busting to get
into your new room and decorate like crazy, plan lessons and get to know your students but where to start?

Having a behaviour management plan should be your first priority in any classroom. How will your students know what the rules are and how to follow them?

Different year levels will require different expectations but there are many key behaviours that students should be following, regardless of year level:

Whole body listening

Young students will need to be taught what this looks like (sitting still, legs crossed, eyes on the
teacher, hands and feet to yourself, mouth is closed). 

All students will appreciate a visual reminder but young children need daily reminders of what whole body listening looks, feels and sounds like. Posters are great examples and a gentle reminder at the start of each lesson is a good practice to get into such as:
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"Look at this picture of a little boy. He’s showing some great whole body listening. His eyes are OPEN, his mouth is SHUT, his hands and feet are TO HIMSELF, his legs are CROSSED."

I often get students to chant the key words so we’re all on the same page before any lesson starts. Don’t forget to use that positive behaviour management reinforcement when you see a student doing the right thing:

"oh wow look at Suzie sitting there so beautifully. Her back is straight, her eyes are on the teacher, her hands and feet are to herself and her mouth is closed. She’s showing some great whole body listening."

This is a 100% surefire way to get every child in that room to lift their game. It works every time.

SIDE NOTE; I often seen new teachers keep young children sitting on the floor for far too long. Young children have a limited attention span so 5-10 minutes at the very most should be spent sitting on the floor listening to instruction, after that you’ve lost them. Short sessions on the floor before a hands on activity is great but keep it short and to the point then move them off to the activity and return to the floor when done. Be tuned in. As soon as you feel the students shifting in their spots you know it’s time to move it along.

What about older students?

Older children still need this rule reinforced but as they are not sitting on the floor anymore the behaviour example needs to be modified (not doodling, not reading a book while the teacher is teaching, not talking while the teacher is talking etc…). Personally, I’ve found team points work wonders with older children. I divide children into table teams and award points for positive behaviour. Very rarely do I take points away but sometimes it’s necessary:

“John is really showing me that he is listening as his eyes are on me and he’s ready to learn so I’m going to give his team 2 points” 


“Sally you gave me the correct answer but sadly you shouted it out so I can’t give you any points for that/I’m going to have to deduct 1 point from your team”. 

This really works with older children who have more self-control and they are hugely competitive in upper primary so I highly recommend this. 

One year I had a class that was amassing a huge collection of points for their teams but I had never even discussed what a reward was with them! They just loved collecting points and beating the other members of the class! 

Calling out

This is a really annoying trait that some students have and younger children often have limited self-control when it comes to waiting their turn. Calling out can start with one student and, if not nipped in the bud, can spread like wild-fire to other students and this is how problems with behaviour management occur. 

When motivated, students will do nearly anything! There are a few simple but effective ways to stop calling out in class such as the positive behaviour management model of point scoring for teams (as mentioned above) or simply ignoring such behaviour. Sometimes, however, ignoring bad behaviour only makes it worse and the student behaving this way will only enjoy the peer attention. 

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Remember location, location, location!

Just your location in the room will nip bad behaviour in the bud. Standing near a chatterer when you’re teaching is a good idea or locating yourself near the table of the shouter means you can gently use your body language to close them down and focus on those that are doing the right thing.

Sometimes I feel 90% of our job as teachers is behaviour management. However, it is true what you’ve been taught at Teacher College. Get the behaviour management right at the start of the year and you’ll be on top of your game all year long. NB: Actually I’m pretty sure they said ‘Don’t smile till Easter’ but whatever works for you!

You can grab these bright and cheerful classroom rules here.

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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The first hour of the first day

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It's the first day of your new school year.

The first hour in fact.

If you're new to teaching you're going to be filled with excitement and apprehension about what the day will hold.

If you're an experienced teacher you will undoubtedly have your own special bag of tricks to delve into and some teachers hold hard and fast to what activities they will do within the first hour.

There are definitely some 'must do' activities for the first hour, such as introducing yourself and packing boxes of goods away. Lots of 'get to know you' games are fun, as are team building activities.

However, experience as taught me that the first hour on the first day is possibly THE most messy and fiddly time to try and do any introductions or group games. Last year I had at least 3 students enter, set up at their desk and then realise they were in the wrong classroom and moved again. I had lots of new students to the school who were lost and so arrived a little late and many, many, many parents that wanted to have a 'quick chat' with their child's new teacher.

I'd like to share with you a little something that I found worked perfectly for the last few years that is easy for students to follow and independent tasks to work on whilst you set up the room, talk to parents and arrange/rearrange confused students into the correct spot.

Before students arrive I place a template on each desk so students can create their own name plate. This gets things moving nice and quickly and nervous/anxious students can start work on something right away.

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Students just LOVE personalising something to go on their desk early in the year and this is going to help you enormously with behaviour management (nothing gets a student's attention quicker than using their name!).

I also get students to complete a get-to-know-you sheet which we immediately hang on the wall in the classroom. Students like to work on these all week so I let them work at their own pace, complete and hang on a spot on the wall when they are ready.

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In addition to being fabulous and constructive 'busy work', these activities allow you to see student's skills first hand within minutes of them starting work. Do they rush? Do they need time to perfect their work? What type of learner are they? Last year I had a perfectionist who simply would not be rushed. I also had a student with a 'messy nature' who struggled with hand writing all year long. It's great to get to grips with your students early on, so this year - why not give these activities a go and let me know in the comments below how you went?

You can find these activities in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, where you can also find this fantastic freebie for Goal Setting!

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