Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day 2015!

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22nd, aiming to raise awareness for environmental protection. The event was first celebrated in the United States of America in 1970, and today is celebrated in over 190 countries around the world. 

Being such a widely recognised event, there are endless activities for all ages. The Earth Day Network provides "The Climate Education Week Toolkit", which is a free, easy-to-use, and has ready-to-go resources with everything you need. The Toolkit includes a week’s worth of lesson plans, activities, and contests for K-12 students that meet Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core (and would also easily meet Australian and other countries standards). Each day covers a different theme related to climate change with two highlighted activities handpicked by Earth Day Network for your use.
If you just want some simply, fun activities head to Pinterest -a teacher (and stay-at-home/home-schooling parents) best friend! You'll find a tonne of activities, from simple find-a-words and colouring-in pages, to science experiments and writing activities. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Mummy/Teacher Style

It's a fine line to look professional as a teacher and yet be comfortable in your clothes, knowing they could end up with paint, glitter, chalk, texta or bodily fluids on them! The same goes for being a Mum - you want to maintain your sense of style and look put-together, but you don't want to wear you're epensive labels for fear of having them ruined by your little one! 

With a start to the cooler months here in Oz (bye-bye shorts, hello jackets!) I've turned my attention to my Autumn/Winter wardrobe. While we don't get REALLY cold days here in Wollongong, our days can start off quite fresh, so the key is layering. After having my two boys, my wardrobe has been thinned out due to weight, size and shape changes, so I'm always on the lookout for items that are versatile and can be worn at home; doing the grocery shop; jumping around at Gymbaroo; and running around at the local park whilst maintaining a sense of style and sophistication - and can also be worn to work in the classroom!

I have always loved a good chambray shirt - a chambray dress shirt even more! Thanks to Allison over at Utterly Organised I came across one of this beauty at Coles - for $29!!! What a steal! Like Allison, I was aiming to purchase one from Country Road but who could pass this bargain buy up! I will be using this purchase as an everyday/classroom item - at $29 I don't care what ends up on it! I'm hoping it washes and wears well (time will tell - stay tuned!)

The shirt-dress is good because:
  • it's comfy, yet stylish
  • can be dressed down or up
  • flattering - the waist tie is great
  • a good length - I'm 176cm (5'9") and I was amazed at the length! Can be worn with or without tights/stockings
  • Sleeves can be rolled up or down 
  • Great for breastfeeding mums as it is button-up
While I was there, I checked out the rest of the Coles "Mix Apparel" range and picked up two basic stripped shirts - one long and the other medium sleeved - perfect for the cooler months.These will be great layering pieces that could be paired with my puffer vest, a nice blazer or cardigan, or worn on their own with a nice scarf or necklace.

Monday, 6 April 2015

ANZAC Day resources

There are some topics that are difficult to approach with young children - war is one of those topics. But thanks to some fantastic authors and illustrators we are able to share stories and discuss the topic of war in a gentle way that educates and enlightens our children to something that is generally an unpleasant and sometimes unspoken topic.  

ANZAC Day (April 25th) marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. 

ANZAC stands for: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 
To find out more about this important national occassion, head to the Australia War Memorial site.

After seeing a lot of requests on social media sites for books and activities to use with students to teach them about ANZAC day, I started researching the best books and activities for teachers to use for various age groups/year groups.

Storybooks for Preschoolers, Kindergarten, Year 1 & 2 students (Infants):

Author: Phil Cummings

Illustrator: Owen Swan
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, March 2013
Suitable for ages: 5+
Anzac Biscuits is a story that goes beyond the experiences of soldiers. It shows the private moments of families who are left behind to worry about their fathers, brothers, uncles and sons. Laid out over alternate pages, Phil Cummings cleverly tells two stories simultaneously. A young man fights a war on the other side of the world while his wife and daughter bake Anzac Biscuits for him.

Author: Margaret Wild
Illustrator: Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, January 2013
Suitable for ages: 5+
After a library is burned down during the war, a young boy and his father keep the last surviving book safe in a treasure box. Even though they had fled their home, and the boy had lost his father and was too weak to carry his suitcase, he kept his promise to keep the book safe.
The Treasure Box starts with visions of war but symbolises identity, nationality, survival, hope and perseverance.

Author: David Hill
Illustrator: Fifi Colston
Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand Limited, March 2012
Suitable for ages: 6+
The powerful story of one man’s fight in the trenches and the little messenger dog who saved him. Young soldier Jim McLeod waits in the trenches of World War I for the order to attack the enemy. With him are his friends, and Nipper, the messenger dog. When they charge across no-man’s-land, Jim is shot and finds himself face to face with an enemy soldier.

Authors: Susie Brown and Margaret Warner
Illustrator: Sebastian Ciaffaclione
Publisher: Little Hare (Hardie Grant Egmont), April 2012
Suitable for ages: 6+
Lone Pine touches on battle and the loss of lives, but its main focus is to show how a pine tree and its scattered pine cones have connected families, generations and countries through memorial and remembrance. Lone Pine is the combination of emotional text and wistful illustrations. It is the true story of the pine tree that currently stands in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

Author: Sally Murphy
Illustrator: Sonia Kretschmar
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, March 2012
Suitable for ages: 5+
Henri lives in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux. Billy lives in Melbourne, Australia. These two little boys, who live thousands of miles away from each other, share one story that unites Villers-Bretonneux and Melbourne in history. A moving and inspiring story of World War One.

Author and Illustrator: Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, March 2008
Suitable for ages: 5+
Set during World War I, 'Simpson and his Donkey' is a child friendly story about the difficult topic of war and the heroes that arise from it.

Author: Catriona Hoy and Bejamin Johnson
Publisher: Hachette Australia, February 2008
Suitable for ages: 4+
This is a simple and emotive story that shows how war service can bring generations together. It is a story of a young girl who participates in formal Anzac Day events with her father and grandfather. Readers walk away from the book with a strong need to remember and pass on the stories of our national servicemen and women. My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day includes a detailed foreword about Anzac day and the ode.

Author: Jack O’Hagan
Illustrator: Andrew McLean
Publisher: Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia), February 2014
Suitable for ages 7+
The lyrics of well-known Australian song,"Along the Road to Gundagai" convey the hopeful and optimistic thoughts of a soldier as he fights in WW1. This picture book adaptation features beautiful illustrations- some wordless- that alternate between the soldier’s reality and his dreams.

Author: Mark Greenwood
Illustrator: Frane Lessac
Publisher: Walker Books, February 2014
Suitable for ages: 7+
This is the extensively-researched story of Midnight and her rider, Lieutenant Guy Haydon, who were part of the Australian Light Horse’s Charge on Beersheba in October, 1917. Frane’s rich and remarkable illustrations compliment this very touching story.

Storybooks for Year 3, 4, 5 & 6 students (Primary):

Author: Kerry Greenwood
Illustrator: Annie White
Publisher:  Scholastic Press, March 2014
Suitable for ages: 8+
Kerry Greenwood shares her father’s story in a heart-warming tale of two mates who are initially excited about their post, but soon realise that their friendship is paramount in helping them get through the terror of fighting at Gallipoli. The story is quite detailed and lengthy, but is supported by a range of stunning water-coloured illustrations and sketches of personal sepia-coloured photographs.

Author: John Schumann
Illustrator: Craig Smith
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, February 2014
Suitable for ages: 10+
Craig Smith brings John Schumann’s confronting war-themed song to life with illustrations rich in meaning and emotion. The text and illustrations will undoubtedly give parents and teachers much to discuss with children, in particular the human cost of war.

Author: Martin Flanagan
Illustrator: Ainsley C. Walters
Publisher: One Day Hill, December 2011
Suitable for ages: 9+
'Archie’s Letter' effectively combines personal recount and primary sources to provide children with a comprehensive and heart-wrenching account of one soldier’s war experience.
Archie, a teacher and a writer, kept records of his experiences in letters and poems during World War II. He wrote poignantly about working under Japanese rule on the Burma Railway, disease, abuse, death and working alongside ‘Weary’ Dunlop.
Archie’s children noticed that their father was different from other men. Quiet and withdrawn he would deal with his grief without inflicting hate on the ones around him. In 2002, Archie met with an elderly Japanese woman who wanted to know the truth about World War II. She helped him to forgive the Japanese for their wrong doings towards him and his friends.

The Horses Didn’t Come Home
Author: Pamela Rushby
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Suitable for ages: 10+
This is the harrowing tale of the horses that bravely fought with the Australian soldiers in the Battle of Beersheba. It is a part of Australia’s military history which is not widely known.
The story is shared between two characters - Laura is at home in Australia, and her horse was sent to the Middle East to be used during World War I battles. The second character is Harry, a soldier fighting in the Battle of Beersheba with his sister’s horse, Bunty. Harry sends many letters to Laura, and never shields her from the truth. It is in a poem written by Trooper Bluegum that she learns the fate of her horse.
The Australian soldiers won the battle with the help of their loyal steeds. Ultimately the horses would not be given the respect they deserved though. Deemed too expensive and difficult to return home to Australia many were killed and others were sold to English and Indian armies. Many devastated soldiers, including Harry, illegally destroyed their horses to ensure abuse and torture would not come their way.
Pamela Rushby credits her inspiration and research sources. She provides a glossary for readers and a background to the story at the back of the book.

Activities for Preschoolers, Kindergarten, Year 1 & 2 students (Infants):


Activities for Year 3, 4, 5 & 6 students (Primary):



And for all age groups, making ANZAC cookies is always a great activity. For your littlies, you could do a cut and paste step-by-step procedural activity, and for your lower and upper primary students you could have them cut and paste the recipe in order or find their own and write it out.

I hope this has been helpful. Please share any other resources you really like doing with your students below.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

World Autism Awareness Day - April 2nd

Happy World Autism Awareness Day followers!

Today, and the whole month of April, is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding for Autism Spectrum Disorders. This year, instead of asking everyone to go blue, you are encouraged to dress in bright colours and celebrate the spectrum! 

If you want to know more about Autism, watch this interview with Temple Grandin - a leading expert and advocate for in understanding and celebrating Autism.

And here, Kermit the Frog explains and demonstrates how to think visually - a frog way ahead of his time!

Here are some great sites that provide activities and tools to help raise awareness and understanding for ASD:

Colourful Lava Lamp Sensory Bags

Sensory Bins

Autism Speaks - Puzzle Piece Project

Apps for Autism

I hope you have a wonderful day, and month, celebrating the spectrum!
#coloursforautism #celebratethespectrum

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Yummy Mummy Cookies... for the whole family!

Last month I was invited to review the New Zealand Totally Devoted range of cookies - how could I say no?!?!? I am always on the hunt for healthy snack alternatives, not only for my boys for also for myself and hubby! 

Whilst I am neither pregnant or breast-feeding at the moment, I wanted to share this product because I remember what it was like to have 24/7 nausea for the first 20weeks of my pregnancies, and I breast-fed both my boys and would have LOVED to have a healthy and easy snack such as this around as sometimes you just didn't get a chance to sit an have a healthy snack, let alone meal. 

Myself and my family tried the Family Cookies (which provide a healthy snack for the whole family), the Clever Cookies (which aim to improve memory and brain function) and the Pregnancy Cookies (which aim to relieve morning sickness and nausea) - and they were a HUGE hit! They were fresh, tasty and filling - very important for a snack food for a busy young family. I also believe that they would be great from those suffering morning sickness/nausea as I can distinctly remember not wanting to eat much other than biscuits and chips (carb laden food that's not overly nutritious) and these are a healthy biscuit that is sure to hold that sick feeling at bay. 

Kelly, the founder of The Yummy Food Food Company, decided to bring these New Zealand born goodies out to OZ and share them with Australian mother's and families. The range is dairy, wheat & preservative free and are packed full of nutritious 100% natural ingredients, specially researched and selected to help breastfeeding and pregnant mums to either assist in increasing milk supply or decreasing the symptoms of morning sickness.

The Breast-Feeding Cookies contain all natural ingredients like fenugreek and fennel plus more which are reputed to help you increase your breastmilk naturally and help promote healthy lactation for breastfeeding mums.
The Pregnancy Cookies contain all natural ingredients like ginger and chia seeds which may help to reduce the effects of morning sickness and many of the other not-so-comfortable effects of pregnancy. These cookies though may also assist anyone pregnant or not who suffers from nausea, indigestion or other sensitive stomach conditions.
The Clever Cookies contain ingredients shown to help increase blood flow to the brain to improve memory (so great for 'mummy-brain') and the Family Cookies make a great healthy, immune system boosting treat for the whole family and are great for school/kindy lunchbox snacks.

Follow the links above to learn more about this great product! They will be a staple in my cupboard for a healthy snack, and I'll be sharing these with friends who are soon-to-be and new mums!

(PLEASE NOTE: This is not a paid review).

Friday, 20 March 2015

#GoGinger Anti-Bullying Challenge

Today, March 20th, is National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. 

Bullying and violence are ongoing issues that affect countless Australians annually – in fact 1 in 4 Australian school students reported that they were bullied in the previous year.

There are some brilliantly unique initiatives happening to raise awareness this year, and one of these is Buderim Ginger’s fiery new social campaign The #GoGinger Challenge. The nation-wide campaign will ask Aussies to take a stand against bullying by snapping a selfie with a ‘Tinge of Ginge’ (this can be anything from a ginger cat to a ginger wig) and posting it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #GoGinger and #BullyZero

The more people that participate in the campaign, the more money Buderim Ginger will donate. If over 100 people participate, Buderim Ginger will donate $1,000, over 500 participate and they will donate $1,500, and if over 1,000 people, Buderim Ginger will donate $2,000 to the anti-bullying charity Bully Zero Australia Foundation. The Bully Zero Australia Foundation is an organisation that works to provide support for victims of bullying and their families.

Why is Buderim Ginger supporting this? Because it’s no secret that it can be a tough world out there for Gingers, who have unfairly been misrepresented on throughout history. From every day stereotypes to being on the sharp end of teasing and name-calling, gingers have been labelled everything from fiery-tempered, and promiscuous to evil and treacherous.

The challenge will run until 20th April, giving entrants one month to participate, the #GoGinger Challenge will help raise awareness of the cause, and every photo will provide much-needed donations to support Australian victims of bullying and violence in a way that is uniquely ginger. 

Want to know more? Check out Buderim Ginger's Facebook page or Website.

(This is NOT a sponsored post. I am passionate about anti-bullying).

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being a casual teacher

It's a hard gig being the casual/relief teacher - probably the toughest teaching job going!! You're expected to turn up to a school (if you're lucky you're familiar with it, the staff and students) and take over a class of students for a day. Sometimes instructions, management tips, class and school rules as well as programming and lesson plans have been organised and left for you to follow - but more often than not, you walk into school, are shown what room you'll be in and... that's about it. You're left to sink or swim! 

I've been fairly lucky in my teaching career to pick up contracts for a year at a time - but in between having my boys I have done my fair share of casual work and temp blocks, and in some pretty tough schools and neighbourhoods. Being part of a Facebook group for Casual and Relief teachers has prompted me to write this blog that provides some of my tips, tricks and essentials for surviving the life of a casual teacher:

Pre-packed wheelie-box and teacher bag
Those early morning calls can catch you off guard, and the last thing you want to be doing is running around trying to collect resources for the class you've been allocated. Generally I have my wheelie-box in the boot of my car loaded up with the following:
  • Teacher's bag - You can read more about my "Thirty One Utility Organising Tote" or Teacher's bag here - this is the best bag I have ever come across! Trust me, you'll want one! 
  • Casual Teachers Daily Diary - this will be your best friend. You can write your own plans in there, write in what you did during the day, note down student names, issues you had, resources you used etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I photocopy  my daily plan and leave it on the teachers desk.
  • Variety of casual teacher activity books - have a number of books that have a variety of activities that can accommodate a variety of ages (including pre-school and up to year 7/8). Sometimes you just need to make up a booklet of activities that can be used when kids are restless or finished their set work.
  • Bank of games -if you're only on a class for a day, you don't want to go in with just worksheets (you won't get many calls back no matter how desperate the school is) and the kids will revolt! A bank of indoor and outdoor games will provide movement breaks and a chance for the kids to prove themselves, behaviour wise.
  • Supply of Stationary - ensure you have a set of different coloured Whiteboard markers and an eraser, pens, lead pencils, rubbers and sharpeners, coloured textas, crayons and pencils, sticky tape, stapler, hole punch etc. You will be surprised at how many classrooms you'll turn up to where you can't find any stationary (or none has been left for you). 
  • Toiletries bag - stock up on the essentials to ensure you have everything you need handy - in mine you'll find hand sanitiser, tissues, deodorant (no one wants to be "that smelly teacher"), hair ties and bobby-pins, perfume, hand cream, lip gloss, suncream or a tinted moisturiser (I like Natio's 50+), tampons and pads (no one wants to get caught out when AF shows up unannounced) and probably the most important thing - Panadol! (No explanation needed). Some other things I include in my bag are mascara, powder and a nasal spray/inhaler and cough lollies in winter.
***NOTE: Just be careful with deodorant and perfume if you're going into a Special Education setting, as even the slightest scent can be detected by these children and trigger sensory issues. Same goes for hand creams, lip gloss, hair sprays etc.
  • Rewards - I usually have a variety with me including raffle tickets, marbles, small prizes and lollies. Some schools discourage lollies/junk food as a reward so always have something else up your sleeve. And remember, discuss your expectations, rules, rewards and consequences at the start of the day as this will set the tone with the kids.
  • Name labels - this is more for your own sanity, especially if you've got 3 Chloe's, or 2 Jack's in your class! You can use sticky labels which come in a roll, or get some old business cards and get the kids to decorate them then pin them or stick them to their shirt or desk.
  • A Hat - It doesn't have to be fancy or in style, but it should be comfortable and provide some cover from the rays - you will almost always have a duty, or you may well have to cover for the PE teacher, or get called in to help out at a carnival. It's also good to set the example - if the kids are expected to wear a hat, then so should we.
  • A water bottle - It is very important, especially in an Australian summer, to sip throughout the day to maintain moisture - not only for your general health but also your voice! 
Createl's CRT Weekly Planner

A variety of activity books to cover all ages and all interests.
Some other things that I've learnt over the years:
  • Have a bank of 'teacher appropriate outfits' ready to go. Secondary teachers can often wear nice skirts, tops and shoes but as a casual Primary teacher you're best off going safe with a nice pair of flats, nice pants or shorts and a nice top - when you get that call in the morning you aren't informed if your class will have PE, music, art, swimming etc. so play it safe and go with something smart, comfortable and versatile. If you're working in a Special Education setting you'll need shoes and an outfit that you can run in, as you will be chasing after children, even if it's only in the form of play. For more information on appropriate attire, check out this post which provides links to the DEC's employee dress code.
  • Be prepared to travel. I drove an hour each way for a job one year. While it may seem tough and costly, you will have work and the opportunity to learn and be part of a staff is invaluable.
  • Invest in relevant and useful literature and resources. Some of my favourite books are often found on my bedside table and in my teacher bags. The following books are my go-to texts and ones that are well-used. I can highly recommend these texts.
    • Behaviour Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom - Beth Aune, Beth Burt & Peter Gennaro
    • Classroom Management: A Survival Guide - Deslea Konza, Jessica Grainger & Keith Bradshaw
    • Teaching Children with Reading Difficulties - Deslea Konza

I hope you have found this post helpful. If there is anything that has helped you as a casual teacher, please share in the comments below.

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