Buckets, counters and the maths curriculum…

Our latest whole staff professional learning was based around mathematics. Our amazing maths leader introduced to a place value sound count activity. The activity involves using a tin bucket and some heavy counters (heavy enough to make a noise). First using three different colours of counters you create

sound count

 three separate stacks and give the counters different values. The idea is then that the students have to closely look at the stack of counters and (without counting) make a reasonable estimate of the total value of counters. We instruct the students to estimate using a range which really gets them to think about upper and lower limits of what they are looking at. We used the estimate-calculate-evaluate system for students:

Estimate – to form an idea of the range of the answer.

Calculate – to discover the exact answer.

Evaluate – share reasoning and effective strategies.


After estimating the count is then made. The counters are dropped into the bucket and students choral count the running total into the bucket. After some healthy discussion each year level in our school had a close at look at the Ausvels curriculum maps for mathematics. You can download any of the primary school standards below:

Curriculum Map Foundation

Curriculum Map Level 1

Curriculum Map Level 2

Curriculum Map Level 3

Curriculum Map Level 4

Curriculum Map Level 5

Curriculum Map Level 6


We then made adaptations to this activity to suit all levels of the maths curriculum from foundation to year six (and a bit above!) Below is a list of the some of the ideas we came up with. What this session really highlights is the incredible ability of open ended tasks to be adapted for all levels of the curriculum. With just one activity in less than twenty minutes we had an abundance of activity’s suitable for all levels of kids.

Some of the ideas:

  • Basic estimating and counting by ones.
  • Counting by two’s, five’s and tens
  • Counting by 50’s, 100’s and thousands.
  • Assigning counters financial value and counting with money.
  • Counting with decimals, fractions and percentages.
  • Assigning some of the counters negative values to help students understand the concept of negative numbers.
  • Using the activity to reinforce, measurement concepts, length weight etc.
  • Even measuring angles by assigning each counter a degrees value.

What other adaptations could you make to this activity?

Do you know any other open ended tasks that you have used that could be adapted to all levels?

Aussie Teacher Standards…

Today we sat down as a whole staff and led by our principal went through the our new (although we have been practising quite a bit of it already) Performance and Development process. The whole process that each teacher undertakes is based upon our schools teacher performance and development plan. This plan set out two main whole school goals. Currently our school’s goals are:

To improve individual learning outcomes for all students with a focus on literacy, numeracy and curiosityTo develop a student centered stimulating learning environment that motivates and engages students in their learning

With these over-arching goals we have then formulated a series of SMART goals. For more information about SMART goals visit my classroom blog here for a post about SMART goals. (Yes, we use SMART goals with kids too!). We then reviewed our schools performance and development plan. Which included SMART goals in each of the following four domains of teaching four domains (more info available here) :

1. Student Outcomes

2. Professional Knowledge

3. Professional Engagement

4. Professional Practice

Our whole teaching staff managed to read through the SMART goals that were set and discuss strategies that we can implement to achieve these goals. There was also a robust discussion about the evidence that we can collect to be able to validate our claims to have achieving all of our goals. This was a very interesting session and one that I feel we all left feeling a little more informed (or at least reassured) about the whole process. We found that a lot of our current performance and development practices are closely aligned with the future direction that we are taking, so in a way our journey is very much already on the way and we think we are travelling in the right direction.

There are some absolutely fantastic resources on the aitsl website including loads of information about the standards and what the requirements of teachers are. They even have a very well laid out smartphone/tablet app, where you can register an account and keep a record of artefacts of evidence and directly attach them to the aitsl standards. It also has illustrations of evidence for each of the teacher standards, it really is a great tool for any teacher in Australia and is well worth checking out.  Here is a animated video explaining the standards and a little of the research behind them:


The Aitsl website has loads more resources including a self assessment tool, which allows you to diagnose your current progress on each of the standards and gives you direction for individual goal setting.


What do you think of the AITSL Website? What is one way you could use the website to help you in our performance and development process?

Using technology to inspire writing…and more!



This post is just referring to an a Professional Learning session our staff attended recently on using ICT in the classroom. The session was primarily about using technology to inspire writing in the primary classroom. A lot of the ideas were taken form Lee Parky’s excellent blog http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.com.au/  I am a massive fan of Mr Parkinson’s work. He writes simply and his site is filled with imaginative ways to ‘camouflage learning’ as he puts it. Some of the ideas were also mentioned on http://www.literacyshed.com/ particularly the stuff about using music to inspire writing, which I believe Mr Parkinson also contributed to. Here is the presentation that was used during the session our staff attended:


Feel free to check out the two great sites I mentioned above and or use the presentation above for ideas.  I would love to hear from anyone that is using any of the ideas above or has any other great ideas as well.


Leave a comment below…Please.

Circle Time at B.S.P.S

We have known about the benefits of Circle time for awhile and like all the great things we learn it is important that we regularly have revise and refresh on the things we have previously learnt. That is why today’s session with Marg was so great. She took us through the benefits of circle time and then outlined a couple of really useful activities that can be conducted in circles.

Why Circle Time?

We discussed that many of of our students have hectic mornings, with the rush of getting to school every morning some students never even hear anyone say the simple words of “good morning” said to them. By starting the day in a circle it gives everyone a chance to be both heard and acknowledged.

The circle is a great tool some of the key features of a circle that we came up with as a staff were:

-It allows really good eye contact, everyone can see everyone else.
– Everyone is equal, there is no front, back or middle.
– it encourages everyone to get involved, there is much less opportunity for kids to opt out of an activity or discussion.
– Less opportunity for distraction, when you are in a circle the is no desks, or supplies to play with all that is in front of you is everyone else in the circle, your chances of engaging everyone are greatly increased.
-There are no corners!

Activities to lift the mood!

As discussed earlier many kids are coming to school after the craziness of getting dressed, gobbling up breakfast, packing their schoolbags, dropping siblings off at schools etc. Many students can turn up at school feeling pretty flat and not necessarily excited about coming to school. We practiced quite a few different activities that have the potential to lift’ students in the morning. Here is a summary of some of the circle activities that we were shown:

The name game: A really simple activity all that is involved is students saying their name and we go around the circle, this can then timed to add a little bit of a competitive nature to it. It can be reversed etc. This activity allows all the students to hear each other’s names regularly it was remarked that there is times where students actually have been around each other in classes etc and that still they don’t know each

other’s names, this game eliminates this.

Change spots if…
An old BSPS favourite you simple sit in a circle and start with a a statement, for example: change spots if you play a musical instrument. It gets kids sharing information about each other without even thinking about it. After you have done this a few times all of a sudden everyone in the class knows heaps about each other, helping to build a great classroom culture. Take a seat away and leave a student in the middle for a friendly competitive edge.

Wilson McCaskill Games

Marg also mentioned some of Wilson McCaskill’s great work on using games to promote social and emotional wellbeing in students. Here is a video of one of Wilson’s games (Picadilly Circus) that can be used in a circle:


Good morning and high five!
This one allows everyone to be acknowledged by someone in the morning, quite simply all you do is to turn to your neighbour say good morning followed by their name and give them a high five. This pattern continues around the circle until it gets back to the start. The high five component encourages eye contact, because quite often high fives are conducted at eye level.

Ways of ordering the circle.
If there are no directions as to how to sit in the circle what we will find is people sitting in friendship groups, this has the potential to devalue the circle. There are different ways you can order the circle, these are some of the ways we can come up with:

  • Hair colour
  • Size of shoe
  • Distance from the home to school
  • What time you went to bed and stayed there
  • Distance from birthplace to current location
  • Birthday

There are probably hundreds of other ways you could order children in a circle, ones we probably stay away from are height and weight as some kids are a little sensitive about these areas!

People Dominoes
This activity involves finding connections with each other. So if two people find a connection with each other for example they both play soccer then they can stand next to each other, then one of the two must find a connection with someone else in their group. At first you are likely to get a lot of physical attributes like we a re both wearing a blue jumpers, after doing this activity a few times kids will open up and start to form deeper connections with each other.

Great Texts for Circle time:

Marg went through some great texts to use when teaching social and emotional wellbeing in students and suggested that circles are great places to share these texts.

How to lose friends

lose friends


Teacher Resources:




Understanding Feedback: The 4 Levels

When teaching and learning are “visible” – that is, when it is clear what teachers are teaching and what students are learning, student achievement increases. John Hattie’s idea is something that our school has become very aware of over the last two years and we have started to embed what we think are some really fantastic practices all aimed at making all of us teachers really aware of what and when learning is happening, making it ‘visible’.

We have studied Hattie’s work on the factors that make the biggest impact on student achievement. One of these high impact factors has been feedback in the classroom. (Read an article by Hattie on feedback here) More specifically feedback that students and teachers are recieving whether it is from the teacher, from fellow students or even feedback that they are giving themselves. The feedback that the teachers is recieving is vitally iomportant here as this sort of feedback is the feedback that is informing teachers whether or not their students are learning and or what areas they are lacking in.

Today we have taken a close look at some of the work from Hattie’s excellent book “Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning By John Hattie (Routledge, 2012)” on feedback. Hattie talks about 4 levels of feedback.

It seems that there is a time and a place for all four levels of feedback (self feedback or praise is questionable though, Hattie discusses this form of feedback as having virtually zero impact on student achievement). But generally it is desirable to move from task orientated feedback, to process to perhaps the most effective form of feedback being self regulation.

Here is John Hattie talking about feedback in the classroom:

We had a chat as a staff and came with some examples of the different forms of feedback, check out some of the things we came up with:

2014-04-30 18.10.28 2014-04-30 18.10.36 2014-04-30 18.10.39

We are now going to use our discussions as a springboard to take our knowledge into the classrooms and be very aware of the feedback our students are recieving. If you would like to explore feedback with some reading here are some fantastic resources for you to have a look at:

enriching feedbackvvl hattie

Further Reading from the Review of Educational Research on Hatties work available here

What sort of feedback do you see and hear the most?

What are some of things that you can do in your classroom to enhance the effectiveness of feedback that students are receiving?

Visible Learning

I was fortunate enough to have attended the second session of a three part Professional Development program entitled Visible learning on last week. I thought I might take the opportunity to reflect upon some thing that I took away from the day. This might re-ignite this blog a little bit. We will see.

Firstly Visible learning is based upon the extensive research of John Hattie which culminated in the publication of his two visible learning books which is available to purchase on amazon and other online locations. Some of the major messages behind his work seem to me as a transparency of the learning process so that everyone is aware of what is going on in the learning process. Students need to be aware of what they are learning (using learning intentions) and need to know how they will know when they achieved the learning intention (success criteria).

At the PD last week they showed a couple of clips from a Stonefields school a school outside of Auckland NZ and their school has been structrued heavily around what Hattie suggests are the things that make the biggest difference in student learning. ALthough this clip is not one they showed on the day I found this clip of some kids from Stonefield School. Check it out…




Stonefields has invested a lot of time into developing a shared language of what good learning is. The students are all fully aware of where they are at in the learning process and what is needed to take them to that next level. They employ a variety of learning strategies to help them achieve that next level and are supported by very purposeful and carefully considered feedback form not just their teachers but also each other.

We are now charged with collecting evidence in our school to investigate; if we have visible learners in our school, the degree to which we have passionate and inspired teachers in our school and to identify possible areas for improvement in our school.

I am sure we have many areas to improve but we have across the whole school in all classes the language of Learning Intentions and success criteria driving our teaching. I know that this approach is becoming ‘the norm’ in many schools.

Does your school use approaches from Visible Learning?

What impact has Visible learning approaches had on students?



Using Twitter for communication

Hello there readers (because I know there are a lot of you!)


I am trying again to get this blog up and running. I thought I would post something so here it is. Recently we set up a twitter account for our Primary School. So far we have found it a very useful tool for keeping parents and our wider school community informed of important announcements, events and just general news. In our area while the overwhelming majority of our parents carry around smartphones most of them have not been introduced to the twitterverse, we only have around 40 followers in a school of close to 600 students.

Despite this we think it has been very useful we setup a widet on our schools website so that all our tweets are sent straight to the homepage which is averaging about 150 unique views per week. So going by this we think that our tweets are getting read and appreciated.  Using twitter in this way also makes updating our website a slightly less daunting prospect. Our twitter ID is @bourchierps please feel free to follow if you would like to know what our school has been up to.

Do you use Twitter in your school?

If so, do you have any advice in successful implementation?



New URL= New Committment

Welcome to my latest attempt at starting a teacher blog.  I have tried before but because I lacked the comitment of maintaing it with regular posts etc it sort of fell by the wayside. I think I have become better at maintaining our classroom blog: http://oneclass.global2.vic.edu.au/ so because of this I think it might be time to have another go at a teacher blog. If i can work out a way to get a lot of visitors I am sure that I will be motivated to maintain it.


Do you have any ideas about how to effectively  maintain a classroom and a teacher-centric blog at the same time? (I might need some advice!)

Class Webpages using Sharepoint.

Our School uses Microsoft Sharepoint to build it’s public website. Sharepoint also is used for our internal intranet and our class webpages. The advantage of Sharepoint is supposedly the ease of sharing documents. The ability to store large amounts of information on Sharepoint is primarily why we use it.

Once you get to use to the navigation and manipulation of it it can be easy to use. At the moment our class websites are setup so that they require student login and there is no option for parents to have their own log in.

Despite its limitations I believe that Sharepoint can be good way to communicate with parents and students, it is a matter of having content on the site to encourage students to log in and add value to the learning experience they have at school.  Sharepoint also has its own blogging function so it is perfect for practising blogging with students.

Does your school use Sharepoint, any thoughts?

Some thoughts on the Ultranet

I am in the middle of completing a glog about different ways that technology can help bring schools and homes closer together.  In this post I will comment briefly on the Ultranet. The Ultranet is a Department of Education initiative that is designed to be a complete secure learning management system for victorian schools and homes. Each teacher, student and parent is provided with a unique username and password and can login to the ultranet to find information about learning tasks, assignments, and activities related to the topics covered in class.

I really enjoy the collaborative nature of the Ultranet. Teachers can share activities, lessons and ideas with each other even if the two teachers have never met and are teaching somewhere completely different.  The department website has some useful information on the Ultranet

I would love to hear your thoughts about the Ultranet and it’s future in Education in Victoria.