Monthly Archives: October 2014

A-Z of Playdough Recipes

Imagine! 42 different playdoughs that look, smell and even taste differently! When I was a child playdough was a fun to play with substance, but the taste! It left you spitting and retching. Take a look at these new recipes. Just click on the flavour that appeals to you and start making your dough. Imagine the delightful smells through your house as your children play with this, and no more worries about toxic amounts of salt. Enjoy!


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Filed under Arts and crafts, Young Learners

3 Great Classroom Apps

Check out this article by Cristina DeCarbo who was a guest writer on Corkboard Connections. She shares three great apps to use with Upper Primary students. I’ve tried them out myself and can’t wait for the opportunity to use them in a class.

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Learning Spaces

A very interesting task we were required to do as part of our learning this year was to produce a multi-media piece of work with the purpose of selling a learning space upgrade for a school renovation. We needed to look at current trends in education as well as technology and innovation.

You can see my presentation here.

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Filed under Course Work, EDFD459

Boy Overboard

As part of curriculum writing in my previous job, I was required to come up with new and interesting ways of attacking English learning and enrichment, but maintaining the company’s professional image at the same time. This is one such item that I came up with. The beauty of this unit was that it fell totally in line with the course work I was doing at the time. So I submitted my work, and then after marking and grading was complete, I submitted it to my boss for use with our upper Primary students. I love it when two or more purposes can come together so well.

Remember, the students this is aimed at already spoke English to a degree (or Singlish at it is better known) and therefore needed more attention to grammar features.

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TESOL – A Starting Point

As globalisation increases, there is a strong likelihood that with the classes we teach there will be at least one student who is learning English as an additional language. (EAL) Some of you might refer to these students as NESB (Non English Speaking Background) or one of many other terms. As a starting point and a guide for teachers to know where to go next or even what to do first, I have created a PowerPoint as a “what to do?” guide. Feedback on this is welcomed and valued.


Filed under Reading, Young Learners

100 Years of Public Education – Bonshaw Public School

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Bonshaw Public School, taken 1972.

Over this past weekend I attended my old Primary school’s centenary celebrations. I’ve been lucky, in a way, in that I have managed to maintain some contact with my old school through ongoing relationships due to having family in the village. Once the last of our family left the area though, this changed and I lost contact.
I attended the school from 1972 to 1978 as a student, and then returned as a teacher in 1989. Honestly, within that time frame there had been little change to the school physically, or even culturally. The school was still a multi-cultural school with students from a variety of backgrounds in attendance, just as it had been when I first enrolled. The only difference was that the school had shrunk from a two teacher to a one-teacher school, due to changes in farming and the loss of the lucrative tobacco market.
This, of course, was the Centenary of Public Education at Bonshaw School. Prior to 1914, since 1882 at least, school in one form or another had been available to the local residents. One of those original schools is now the front building, where my father went to school. The second building was added in 1962. It was extended with an extra classroom for classes in 1972.

Bonshaw Public School taken 2014

On Saturday, I was amazed when I entered the classroom. I had first been to the library, where physically, little had changed. It was rearranged slightly, but no real difference was evident. Entering the classroom was different. When I had started school in 1972, we sat in rows by our grade and no one was allowed to sit elsewhere. There was a chalkboard at the front of the room for the teacher, and small chalkboards at the rear for students, as well as a small wet area for cleaning up after painting. The floor was wooden. An old box type radio hung on the wall and we used it for our weekly session of “Let’s Join In” singing. We had a sand tray table, and the room was marginally decorated with displays, mostly of the teacher’s own work, designed to stimulate. I always loved the painted windows.
Now, there is a huge change. The primary classroom is now a kind of AV room, with an interactive whiteboard, photocopier, sound system and other such items. There is also a range of other equipment, readily on hand for lessons.
The main classroom blew me away. Here was an actual classroom, putting into place almost everything we had been learning about in our classwork for EDLA459. It was as if the teacher had been a student of this course in the past.
Apart from displays in circular patterns, everything was laid out almost straight from the “textbook”!
I was astonishing to see that so much attention to detail had been applied by one person in pursuit of the best possible learning space within a given physical area.
Group learning spaces have been catered to, as have comfort areas for various individual learning styles and activities. There is a bank of computers along one wall as well as there being an Interactive White Board at the front of the room (it was the rear when I was there) with a large conventional white board and a wall mounted tv.
Wall spaces were well organised with lots of informative posters and select pieces of children’s work, but there was no evidence of the children having created any of the displays.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the classroom from when I was a student or teacher there, but I do have an external picture illustrating some change.

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The First Paperless Classroom

The First Paperless Classroom.

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Using the 8 Ways in Planning Lessons


At first glance my reaction to this was, “Oh no! How am I going to incorporate this?” After sitting back and thinking about it, I realised that it’s not imperative to incorporate every single one of the 8 ways, but rather to use them as a guide for overall planning. If used judiciously, and wisely, these 8 ways give the teacher the opportunity to plan effectively for all learning styles within the class. My realisation was that this is not something onerous, rather it simplifies the planning process. Instead of scratching my head and staring blankly wondering how to cater for the different ways of learning that there most definitely will be in an average class, I can now plan with a purpose, knowing that I can spread my lessons over the learning areas that cater not only to Aboriginal students, but to ALL students that I teach.

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. (2009). Retrieved from

Image retrieved from:

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8 Ways of Learning

I really enjoyed reading about the 8 Aboriginal ways of Learning. It’s very insightful and I’m sure it is very much an eye opener for many teachers to see it presented in such a way.

The Best Aboriginal Pedagogy section gives a clear indication of how to use Aboriginal perspectives to present core aspects of teaching units rather than as peripheral stories of ‘fun’ anecdotes that do little to include the Aboriginal students a teacher may have in the class. Of particular interest was the way in which each school, of varying groups of Aboriginal peoples interpreted and adapted the 8 ways for their own educational purposes. There is a strong link between the seen aspects of Aboriginal culture and the unseen, deeper knowledge. It’s more than just a presentation of artifact or stories, it’s more about the deeper understanding of lore and culture and practice of these that gives relevancy to the perspectives that teachers are including in their lessons. Educators must be aware of the restrictions of knowledge between genders. There must be a balance between the handling of secret knowledge and the non-sexist climate that schools must have.

Of particular interest was the guide for displays of Aboriginal Culture:

  1. Story
  2. Learning Maps
  3. Non-verbal objects and items
  4. Symbols and Images
  5. Land Links
  6. Non-linear information
  7. Deconstruct/Reconstruct community profiles
  8. Community Links

The 8 Ways philosophy has begun to be interpreted as a way to observe 4 key aspects of local Aboriginal culture, namely:

  • values
  • systems
  • protocols
  • processes

and the integration of these into the local school system.

What is important to remember is that this is a very generalistic guide and that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it come to implementing the 8 ways into a classroom.

Of greatest interest to me personally was the Personal Identity Reflection Questionnaire at the end of the website. Did you try it? If not, here it is for all to try. It’s a very challenging experience, if you answer it completely honestly. It shows that there is “a strong link between culture and the way people think and learn”. (Your Identity Map –

The Questionnaire

1. Ways of being. 

Where do you belong? Who do you belong to?

How do you know that something is real?

List some categories of the things you know are real in this world.

From the following sets, select the land orientations you feel most comfortable with:

Saltwater / freshwater
High ground / low ground
Hills / plains / ridges / mountains / coast
Open country / forest
Wet / dry
Red soil / black soil
Sand / dirt / rock
Warm / cool
Fur / feathers / scales / fins
Wood / rock / earth / wind / fire

Where are your ancestors from and how do you connect with them?

How are you accountable for maintaining relationships with ancestors, people and the environment? (What are your personal consequences for damaging these relationships?)

How will the knowledge you have learned in this life be passed on, and to whom?

What things in your life-world must change, and what things must always stay the same?

2. Ways of knowing. 

How did you know the answers to the questions so far – how did you learn these things?

Sketch a diagram of the way you solve problems. What shape does this take for you?

When you access knowledge from memory, what form does that take in your head? (e.g. images, sounds, print, language, shapes)

What are the stories that have had the biggest impact on how you relate to the world around you? (Might be books, films, oral histories, fables etc.)

What symbols are most meaningful for you? (e.g. crucifix, tag, icon, flag)

How do these symbols inform your life and work?

What sorts of things do you know implicitly, without having to be taught?

Do the answers to any of these questions make you want to change any of your answers back in section 1? (Because our ways of knowing shape our ways of being.)

3. Ways of doing. 

Do you learn new knowledge best with others, for others, alone, or for yourself?

Do you internalise new knowledge through dialogue, reflection or both?

Do you achieve learning outcomes at the end of a process, or during the process?

What are the signs you look for to know if what you are doing is right?

What does it usually take for you to change your mind about something?

What tools do you use for teaching and learning?

What are your main cultural practices, your ways of expressing your culture (e.g. singing, sport, events, rituals)? How do these cultural practices impact on the way you do your work?

4. Ways of valuing. 

What is truth?

What would be your top three rules for living? Top three for learning?

What is the most important thing in the world to you?

How did you learn your values? Where did they come from?


Now, track back through your responses and find the points that relate to:

  1. Stories and histories
  2. Knowledge pathways/processes
  3. Unspoken/instinctive/ancestral knowledge
  4. Metaphors and symbols
  5. Land and place
  6. Non-linear/contradictory/irrational/creative ideas
  7. Wholes vs parts / Macro vs micro / Communal vs independent
  8. Family, community, cultural base

These points relate your identity to the 8ways framework. Match these with the 8ways diagram and reflect on your identity within this framework (starting top left with story sharing, then working anti-clockwise).

Overall, it must always be remembered that this is a guide across many Aboriginal cultures and by no means is a complete representation of all, or any Aboriginal Culture.

As part of the reflection its important to examine how we can, as teachers, incorporate these aspects of culture into our teaching for all students who have the whole cross-section of learning styles. We must remember not to stereotype our Aboriginal students by the mere fact of Aboriginality. Being Aboriginal isn’t a guarantee of having Aboriginal learning styles.

For me personally, and this must not reflect on other Aboriginal people in any way, my Aboriginality is only one facet of who I am. I have German heritage, I have British, I have Arab, Russian, Spanish, French and I have West African background. I can talk about percentages and genetics, but the fact remains that I am of very mixed background and that makes me an individual. It rankles me when people. upon hearing that I have Aboriginal heritage, give the all knowing “Ohhhhh!” exclamation, as if that explains everything about me. How little they know. So we must treat all of our students as individuals and ajust our teaching to cater for ALL learning styles and remember to be culturally sensitive and, most importantly, inclusive in our teaching of Aboriginal culture.

As an anecdote….

From 2004 to 2006 I was the AERT at Narrandera High and Primary schools. My background is Anaiwan/Kamilaroi from northern NSW. I was expected to teach Wiradjuri language classes in the schools. The students knew that I’m not Wiradjuri and questioned me on every word meaning and pronunciation. I was an outsider trying to teach them about themselves. This is where community contacts come into play.

Involving community, especially Aboriginal Elders as part of the learning process is vital. It gives authenticity to the teaching if the involvement follows the 8 ways and is not just a fun distraction from other lessons. Keep the elders involved. Get the whole class used to having cultural components in everything you teach. Make the cultural aspect as equally valued a part of learning as every other part and cater to all learning styles wherever you can.

All works refer to: 

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. (2009). Retrieved from

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Textured Art: Cinnamon Painted Apple Craft for Preschoolers

This is a fantastic, multi-sensorial activity for introducing the first sound, ‘a’ for ‘apple’.

Quick warning!  This one can get messy, so make sure you either cover your surfaces or have your children paint in an area that you won’t mind a little mess 

Now, if your children love painting then they are going to love this craft!

Not only do they get to paint, but adding the texture to their artwork makes it all that much more fun.

To create this delicious smelling apple, you’ll need:

-Red and Green Paint (I used regular craft paint)
-Paper Plate
-Card Stock
-Brown Construction Paper
-Something to paint with (you could use any regular paint brush but to make this painting a little more unique, I used some silicone marinade brushes)

Pour your red paint into a cup or bowl and mix in a teaspoon or two of cinnamon.  Don’t add too much!  You don’t want your paint to turn into a paste.

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Go ahead and give your children a brush each and let them go to town painting their paper plate.  Whatever room that you’re painting in is going to smell AMAZING!

While their plate is drying, use the green paint along with a sheet of card stock to help your child make their hand print.

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Use your brown construction paper to make a stem for your apple and once all of your paint is dry, cut out your green hand print to use as a leaf.

Using glue or tape or staples, have your child assemble all of the pieces of their apple.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 1.10.46 PM

As it dries, your cinnamon will smell much stronger and the texture that it adds makes a fantastic sensory experience as well

And now you’ve got yourselves a super simple craft that was not only fun to make, but smells great!

Enjoy making it! Imagine how a classroom full of these is going to smell.

As a variation you can make other fruit/vegetables using various spices from your kitchen: cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, star anise, rosemary, thyme, curry and so on. You could even add essential oils to the paint. Apple oil for apples, orange oil for oranges. The list goes on. Think of the wonderful smells you can introduce into your classroom, introducing vocabulary on a number of different levels.


Filed under Phonics, Young Learners