Starjump: Helping GAT and Learning Disability Students

In relation to my previous posts about gifted students and learning abilities I have come across an awesome website to aid parents in helping their child or children.

Star jump provides parents with analysis tools to identify signs of giftedness or learning disabilities. There are also some interesting resources for the kids to explore!!

At the moment it appears that the site is still under construction. However, once the designers are complete I look forward to seeing more of what they have to offer in the future.


Tips for creating a peaceful classroom

This set of principles for working with students in a classroom has been adapted by a couple of my friends in education. It provides a common-sense way of looking at teaching as a profession.

1. Have a genuine interest in your students. Greet students at the door. Learn about their culture(s). Offer praise and encouragement frequently.

2. Communicate classroom rules clearly. Enforce rules fairly and consistently. Consider each incident’s unique circumstances while making discipline-related decisions.

3. Be objective, no judgemental. Try to adopt the students’ perspective. Look at issues from a variety of perspectives.

4. Show that you are human. Be prepared to admit your mistakes. Use humour when appropriate.

5. Minimise the power differential in everyday communication. Avoid language telling students what they must, should or have to do. Instead explain the reasons behind your rules, requests and assignments so that students understand that these really are for their own good and safety.

6. Address problem behaviour directly and immediately. Unresolved conflicts and issues often recur. Addressing a problem early lessens the chance that it will arise again.

7. Take a collaboration approach. Maximise opportunities for student choice within the classroom. Consider the perspective that this our classroom, not my classroom. Actively solicit students’ opinions and perspectives.


** To all my followers and visitors:  my posts may become a little sparse as uni will be commencing again soon** Do not despair though, as whenever I have a chance I will drop by and keep this blog updated with cool hints, resources and my experiences.

Please continue to share your thoughts and like anything that you find helpful!

Coalition states sceptical on ‘reading blitz’

Rosanne Barrett and John Ferguson           From: The Australian  February 25, 2013 12:00AM

 JULIA Gillard has announced a new national “reading blitz” for all students between Kindergarten and Year 3 in response to falling literacy standards. 

Last year, 75,000 students failed to meet national minimum standards of reading in the inter-school NAPLAN tests.Poor results mean students are slipping internationally, with Australia’s Year 4 students placing 27th out of 42 countries tested in last year’s Progress in International Reading Literacy Skills test, an international benchmark of reading ability.The Prime Minister said without the plan, up to 150,000 students could be failing to meet the minimum reading standard by 2025.”Through this reading blitz we want to make a difference,” Ms Gillard said.

She said the plan would both grant students more opportunities after school and improve the economy in the long term.

“The evidence shows if you come out at Year 3 not reading well, you are very likely to come out of Year 9 not reading very well either,” she said.

“Which means you are very likely to end up an adult who never reads well, with all the consequences that has got with the jobs you can do and the jobs that are locked away from you.”

The funding will be directed to schools from every state in both the government and non-government sector that sign up to the intensive three-year program.

The schools would use the extra funding to identify and help struggling children.

Teachers will be encouraged to adopt evidence-based strategies such as keeping a running record of each student’s progress and teaching phonics, a method which involves sounding out words and letters.

State governments yesterday demanded the commonwealth stop intervening in schools and asked for more detail on federal Labor’s latest proposal to improve childhood literacy standards.

Amid an intensifying stoush over Ms Gillard’s Gonski school-funding reforms, conservative states staked their claim over schools.

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the Prime Minister’s latest announcement was revealed without consultation with the states, which implemented education policy.

“States run schools,” Mr Langbroek said. “It’s about time the Gillard government left education to the experts.”

Mr Langbroek said he would have welcomed the opportunity to meet with Schools Minister Peter Garrett to discuss the three-year intensive plan, but only learned about it through the media.

“Reading is vitally important and is the most fundamental aspect of learning,” Mr Langbroek said. “But once again, it is Prime Minister Gillard’s way or the highway.”

The Baillieu government, which has proposed its own model for education funding in opposition to the Gillard government’s plan, was also sceptical about the “reading blitz”.

“It should also be noted that in Victoria’s long experience of running schools and delivering education, ‘blitzes’ are never a substitute for long-term implementation of evidence-based education reforms,” a government spokesman said.

West Australian Education Minister Peter Collier called for more detail, saying the commonwealth had so far been “unable or unwilling” to reveal plans.

“We would hope the specifics on the reading plan will be available immediately,” Mr Collier said.


Are you listening..?

So often I hear stories about that one student, in particular, who will sit and listen, good, interact during the entire introduction to a task before putting up his/her hand and saying, “So, what are we doing today?” while everyone else groans and rolls their eyes.

This has led me to think about what makes for clear instructions and what are some ways that teachers can best communicate their intentions to students.

1.  When preparing for a lesson, think to yourself: How am I going to explain this?

2. Before you start giving any instructions, ensure you have everyone’s full attention.

3.  Break your instructions down into small, manageable chunks.  Avoid blurting out whole slabs of information as your students may just tune out.

4.  Deliver instructions in more than just one way.  Say them, and have them written on the IWB, and have some props to help you model it.  (The copy me technique is great for science and art activities).

5.  Have students repeat the instructions back to you.  Ask a student to recap the instructions so they are repeated again for everyone to hear (and in ‘child-speak’ or different wording, which might make them more accessible for some students).  Students could also turn to a partner and recap the instructions or come up and write them onto the IWB.

6. On Homework tasks, provide some written instructions.  That way, nobody can come back the next day and say that they can’t remember what to do.  Or, in the interest of saving paper, put a copy of the instructions on a class blog, so that students know where to go if they need help.

7.  Praise students who are following the instructions and doing the right thing.  Positively reinforcing the behaviours that you want students to develop works wonders! (Programs such as Class Dojo now exist to serve this purpose).

Sounds like some good ideas for teaching and learning in the 21st century!



The Blog

WordPress is an elegant solution for education professionals looking to create a website for their class, and today we’re excited to announce the launch of Classrooms. Whether you need a group blog for your high school history project, or to keep your 3rd grade students’ parents up to date about the next field trip, you’ll find the solution here at

Get up and running — fast

We know you’re busy educating the world’s young minds, so we’ve made the site creation process as easy as 1-2-3: Register your site, customize your theme, and start posting — that’s it! No more excuses about how the dog ate your homework website.

Connect and collaborate

We’re all about engaging discussion. Invite students to post their thoughts on your latest lecture and submit their reaction papers as comments. Or maybe you just need a place to get the word out about class happenings — turn off…

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Why Writing With Our Hands Is Still Important

Had to share this although there was no re-blog icon that I could locate (the blogger is not on WordPress):

I first noticed something was off when I went to pay my rent one month. The window for a timely online transfer of funds was closing, so to get the money to my landlord in time, I’d have to do something unusual. I took out my checkbook, grabbed a pen and started writing the date.It felt weird. My hand cramped a little, churning out numbers and letters with the slightest – but still noticeable – discomfort. My handwriting sucked. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t actually written anything by hand in a long, long time. Just a few years earlier, I kept a paper journal by my bed and would buy three-packs of Moleskin notebooks for brainstorming, sketching and jotting things down. What happened?

Over the course of the last four or five years, several little computers have found their way into my life. Bit by bit, my professional and creative existence made the transition to an entirely digital universe. At my old job managing digital publishing for a newspaper, the iPad soon replaced my spiral notebook in meetings. Then I left the print world to work on the Internet full-time. I could even sign my freelance contracts with my finger on an iPad.

Who needed paper? Isn’t the future amazing? Look, more tweets. Wait, what was I saying?

Our Pixel-Based Lives

Before long, my documents, journal, blog post drafts and photos were living in some cloud-based repository that was readily accessible from any of my devices, at least one of which I kept by my bedside (supplanting the paper journal, magazines and alarm clock with apps). Instead of keeping a “to do” list on paper, I tapped important items into the Reminders app on my phone, which automatically synced with my iPad and laptop, each of which would then buzz with a notification at a time and even place of my choosing.

It’s all pretty miraculous if you think about it. But while this digital transformation introduced heretofore inconceivable levels of convenience and productivity into my life, some things can get lost in all that digital noise. At the very least, I should be able to comfortably write the goddamn date.

Keeping One Foot In The Analog World


When I first met my girlfriend, we would cowork from cafes together. Even though she runs a popular local blog in Philadelphia and spends much of her time on the Internet, I noticed that she hadn’t taken the digital plunge quite as deeply as I had. As I typed away on my laptop in the cafe, periodically referencing a propped up iPad, she closed her MacBook’s lid and cracked open a Moleskin notebook and started writing down important-looking notes. She even had a paper-based planner, eschewing the cloud-synced, location-aware multi-device wonders of iCal and Reminders in favor of something decidedly more old school.

By this time, I had already resolved to hand-write things more often. And when I did, I found I was better able to focus on the task at hand, far away from the dinging notifications, crowded inboxes, social status updates and ever-proliferating browser tabs. Watching another digital citizen put a pen to paper and get things done just as effectively, if not more so, just confirmed what I already knew: Life wasn’t meant to be lived entirely in some company’s cloud. And when it comes to productivity, we need more than apps.

The Science Of Writing Vs. Typing

A few years back, there were a bunch of stories in the press about the science of writing things by hand. As it turns out, our brains work differently when we form letters with a hand-held implement – and we learn more effectively than when we type. This makes total sense. I’ve long noticed that when I’m writing in a paper journal, it mentally feels different than when I’m typing out my thoughts on a computer. I thought it had something to do with the more focused nature of paper vs. connected devices. As it turns out, there’s more to it than that.

Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. 

Meanwhile, a series of studies conducted in the last few years have indicated that students learn more effectively when they form letters and shapes by hand as opposed to doing so digitally.

Technology has a way of augmenting our imperfect brains and making us more productive. Personally, I still prefer to have a notification ding with a reminder to do something I committed to several days ago. In some ways, all this tech does enhance our increasingly complex lives. It makes it easier to navigate, harder to lose track of things, more convenient to stay in touch and nearly effortless to discover new places.

But just like it’s still nice to curl up with a book made of trees or play a vinyl record, there’s still room for the analog in our productive lives. Sure, that IFTTT recipe connecting your Evernote account to Dropbox or Gmail looks awesome.

But don’t forget to pick up a pen from time to time.