Sunday, 17 January 2016

Australia Day Giveaway and Link-Up!!!

Australia Day - a National Public Holiday celebrated on January 26th that marks the anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, with present day celebrations reflecting our diverse society and landscape.

The day is usually celebrated by having a good old fashioned BBQ with friends and family, and if you're close to the coast and the weather is fine you'll find the vast majority of the population at the beach! Head to this site if you would like more information on Australia Day.

In celebration of this great country I am privileged to call home, and to make you a part of these celebrations, I am hosting a giveaway where you could WIN one of 4 prizes - the first being the Australia Activity Bundle (which can be purchased through my TpT and DBT stores), as well as the Exploring Australia, Australian Gold Rush and the Australia Activity Matrix thematic units.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to share your Australian themed resources below!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Back-to-School Australian Teachers Giveaway

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays (and for those back at work I hope you've had a positive return). 

My colleagues over at the Australian Teachers blog have got together to host a giveaway where you could WIN one item from each of our stores (up to the value of $10, excluding bundles) and make your own fabulous back-to-school pack!

You can enter once a day to increase your chances - make sure you tell all your teaching buddies too!
To enter - just go and follow all our stores. (Links are within the rafflecopter)
The winner will be announced on the 25th January on our blog and Facebook page.

Be sure to check out each of our blogs for some great posts about setting up classrooms, preparing for the new school year and other teaching tips and tricks!

You've got to be in it to win it!!! Good Luck!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Teaching 101: Behaviour Management

Behaviour Management... it can be one teacher's strength, yet an area of weakness for another. But the research is pretty clear - "good classroom management has been consistently associated with academic achievement and increased on-task time" (Bender & Mathes. et. al. cited Konza, Grainger & Bradshaw. 2003. p42).

There are many behaviour management styles out there - perhaps you lean more towards the Group Management styles such as the Assertive Discipline Model or the Jones Model? Maybe you take a Behaviourist approach that arose from the work of Skinner? Or you could attempt to modify a student's behaviour by changing they way they thing based on the Cognitive Models?... Perhaps your management techniques stem from the Psychological or Needs-Based Communication Models from Dreikurs, Adler, Balson and Glasser?... Or maybe you are eclectic in style, and use Bill Rodger's approach of incorporating several different approaches according to the needs of you and your students?

But is any one style better than another? Personally, I feel it comes down to YOU - you are ultimately the one who is in control of HOW to take charge of the class. After all, you are the adult and the one that will be caring for the students' emotional, physical and academic needs.

During the first few days and weeks at school, the most important lesson you teach may be how to behave at school - teachers who communicate rules and expectations clearly regarding desired behaviours, have more successful students (Konza. et. al. 2003. p63). Before school commences, make sure you spend some time thinking about your expectations and designing a plan to help students meet them - coming up with a plan with how the complex mix of individuals within your class is not only going to learn, but survive, is an important part of establishing an environment which will limit problem behaviours. Your classroom discipline plan should consist of 3 components:

  1. A set of classroom rules;
  2. Positive recognition for those who obey the classroom rules; and
  3. A hierarchy of consequences for those who choose to disobey the classroom rules.
So let's break down these components:

1. Developing Classroom Rules:

There are some 'rules about rules' that will establish a set of workable and realistic rules/expectations etc. in your classroom. Ensure that whatever grade and subject you teach, you set aside time at the beginning of each year, and sometimes each term, to set up and revisit the classroom rules. And remember, you don't have to call them rules - some other titles could include Classroom Expectations, Our Class Contract, Our Agreement, Rules to be Cool, Code of Conduct, Miss G's Class Code, or whatever your students can come up with.
  • Develop the rules collaboratively: Most models of classroom management acknowledge the need for students to have some ownership over the rule, reward and consequence decision-making process. YOU are ultimately responsible and therefore have the final say in what will be included in the class rules, but this provides an opportunity for your students to see that you are willing to collaborate with them and will give them the opportunity to be heard.
  • Make Rules Reasonable and Enforceable: The expectations should be achievable otherwise you'll be spending much of your precious teaching time trying to enforce them. For example, a rule of 'No Talking' is simply not reasonable BUT there should be a rule or expectations about the level of noise permitted during various learning situations.
  • Match to your School's Policy: Ensure that your classroom rules are consistent and aligned with the school's policy. This also helps to ensure that there is a consistent set of expectations across the school and that parents and visitors are aware of them.
  • Short and Sweet: Rules and expectations expressed positively provide direction as to what should be done i.e. it is more useful to say "Listen when other people are talking" rather than a general "No Talking" rule. Having rules stated in a positive tone also means that when you comment on someone for doing the correct thing, it sends a message out to others about what you expect them to do.
  • Connect Rules and Consequences: Just as students should be involved in the creation of class rules, so too should they be involved in creating the consequences. Ensure that you provide direction on appropriate consequences and that they are in line with the school's policies. The consequences should also have increasing severity for repeat negative behaviours.
  • A Few Good Rules: Three to five should be sufficient, just ensure they're general in nature. You will need one to cover talking in class, another for movement in the classroom, one addressing how students should get the attention of you or their peers and some safety issues.
  • Teach and Revise: Read through the rules at the beginning of each day, or lesson, for at least the first two weeks. Refer to them regularly and ensure that you apply them consistently. Ensure that you discuss your rules, consequences and rewards so that everyone understands them and what they mean in practice - practical examples may need to be given, especially when working with students with special needs. 
  • Reinforce Consistently: You need to reinforce the rules consistently, especially in the first few weeks or you'll have wasted your time. Each time a student infringes the rules/expectations/code, reference should be made to the relevant rule.
  • As Pretty as a Picture: In Primary School, rules should be made up and displayed prominently. You could also make up a contract style form that students, teachers and parent sign to reinforce the importance and level of expectation - don't establish them and then forget about them. This ensures that students, their parents and anyone coming into the classroom is aware of the rules that are governing the behaviour in that class. If you have a secondary class, discuss and create a set of expectations with your students, then write them in the beginning of their books and refer to them at the beginning of each lesson, and as necessary.
  • An important caveat: It is every teachers right and responsibility to develop clear and explicit guidelines for behaviour without input from the class if there is a situation or group of students that is particularly difficult. They should still be discussed, and refined as needed, but you should provide strong guidance and control.

2. Positive Recognition:

"Catch them being good" is what positive recognition is all about. Lee and Marelene Canter believed that positive recognition of those doing the right thing will encourage and motivate other to choose the appropriate behaviour. They also believe it will increase self-esteem and creates a positive learning environment and established positive relationships in the classroom.

It is also ideal to have a whole class reward system set-up. This would allow the class, as a whole, to earn reward points for on task behaviour. When a predetermined number of points is earned the whole class is rewarded with a special prize of event. If an individual student's actions are impacting upon the whole class' attempt to earn reward points, they can be placed on a personal incentive program that offers more frequent rewards, and means the class is given points when he/she reaches the interim goal.

3. The Hierarchy of Consequences:

Classroom consequences are designed to represent what happens in the real world - if you disobey the rules of society, you will receive a consequence to match the inappropriate behaviour. The Canter's believe that is important to establish a clear set of classroom rules, consequences and rewards so that students realise that the classroom is not an exception.

It is important to remember that these are not punishments but a natural outcome to the behavioural choice of the student. The consequences should be something that the student does not like, but are not embarassing and physically or pshychologically harmful.

It is also important to remember that every day is a new day! Each new day brings new opportunities to learn from the previous day's mistakes. The teacher should begin administering consequences from the lowest level to provide students with a fresh start (that is, unless the behaviour and actions of the students demand action at a school level).

It is recommended that the class discipline plan be taught using the following steps:
  1. Explain WHY rules are needed;
  2. Teach the rules;
  3. Explain how positive recognition can be used;
  4. Explain why consequences are needed; and 
  5. Begin immediate recognition of those who follow the rules.
Along with the classroom rules, you should provide your students with clear examples of how you expect your students to act towards you, other students, other members of staff and visitors to the school and classroom. These types of cues help students understand the decent, responsible behaviour that is expected not only in your classroom, but by the wider community. You can do this by:
  • Listening to students
  • Teaching them how to behave
  • Disciplining respectfully
  • Use positive before punitive strategies
  • Providing choices
  • "Nipping it in the bud"
  • Not over reacting
  • Staingy calm
  • Avoiding secondary behaviour
  • Always following up
  • Being on their side
  • Always rewarding appropriate behaviour.

For more information on the The Canter Model of behaviour management, also known as the Assertive Management Model, check out this presentation I created for a subject in my Masters Degree. It should provide you with a good overview of this model, as well as links to other management models. 

So what does the Canter Model look like in a classroom...

In my first ever teaching position, I'd set up the student's desks so that they were sitting independently. I created a seating chart that had them sitting in alphabetical order, boy-girl-boy-girl (I was lucky I had a fairly even mix). I made them line up before entering the class before school and at the end of each break. On my first day we sat down together and created a set of class rules, consequences and rewards, and went through these every day for the most of the first term!!!! At the beginning of every lesson I made sure to be explicit in what I wanted them to achieve in the allocated time. And I didn't waver  in my expectations or the rules/consequences for certain students - I had a boy who was on the Spectrum in my class - up until this point (half way through Year 4!!!!) he would chuck a tanty and get out of doing any class work. Unfortunately he got me as his new teacher, and much to his dismay, I didn't give in to his shenanigans. While I provided assistance for him to complete his work, the expectations on him were the same as the rest of the class - as were the consequences. He soon learned, and was completing all tasks and assessments - he even got up and did a speech in front of the class!!!!!!!!!! (That was my first memorable teaching moment!).

Don't confuse being assertive with being power hungry - the assertive teaching style is about:
  • Knowing your students;
  • Developing warm relationships with them;
  • Stating your expectations clearly;
  • Developing a clear and concise classroom discipline  plan that is fair and reasonable;
  • Recognising and rewarding those who choose to follow the rules and do the right thing; and
  • Consistently applying consequences when rules are not followed.
Rules exist in every social situation and group - they just may not be explicitly stated.  Students need to understand that they need to abide by rules or there will be consequences. And don't be afraid to show students that you mean business from the get-go. You will earn their respect, and once that happens you will be able to relax and start having fun with your group!

I'd love to hear what behaviour management style works for you and what strategies you employ in your classroom.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Teaching 101: Setting up your classroom.

So you've landed your first teaching job! Congratulations!!! But now reality is setting in and you can see the seemingly endless tasks that need to get done before the kids walk in to your class on Day 1! So where do you start? Setting up the physical space is the logical place, as this is where all the magic happens - but after trawling through Pinterest you're overwhelmed!!! As someone who has set up a new classroom 4-5 times in as many years (and in as many schools!!!!!), here are my tips:

Your classroom is where you'll be getting to know the individuals that you'll be educating, where they'll learn a thing or two (hopefully) and where they will get to know you! The organisation of your classroom directly affects how students behave and learn and it sends a message to the students, parents and anyone who enters your classroom. Through furniture, books, desk placement, learning stations and general organisation you can communicate the values and 'tone' for your class. To create a positive classroom environment you are going to need to consider the following: desk arrangement, equipment placement and decoration.

Desk Arrangement:

"Seating arrangements which allow the teacher to see the faces of all students at all times have been associated with increased academic engaged time" (Askew. 1993. et. al. cited Konza, Grainger, Bradshaw. 2003. p25). 

When considering the arrangement of desks/tables, you will need to ensure that it meets the needs of your students and compliments your teaching style. Tables in rows, small clusters, large group and U-shapes all have their advantages and disadvantages; each will encourage certain behaviours and discourage others. 

Single Rows
Single rows are useful for teacher demonstrations and independent table work. This is a more formal style of seating arrangement, and encourages less students-to-student interaction. I HIGHLY recommend this style in the first few weeks of teaching your new class as it allows you to easily engage with eye-to-eye contact with all of your students, provides easy monitoring of students and is recommended until students learn to develop greater self-management skills.

 U-Shape desk arrangements offer students the chance to engage in eye contact with one another and group discussions can be facilitated, but the distance CAN mean that there will be less chances of private conversations. Tables can be easily moved for group work when necessary, yet seating plans can still be implemented.

Double Rows

Doubles Rows, of groups of tables where students are facing each other provide more opportunity for student interaction and talk - while some lessons require this type of interaction, off-task interaction is more likely to occur and it can be harder to gain eye contact with students. This layout ensures that students don't have to physically turn around to see the board or teacher.


 Clusters, or work station arrangements, require students to have a high set of self-management skills. It is a great set-up for creating a cooperative or 'group' feeling amongst the class. It is harder for a teacher to engage eye-to-eye contact with all students and monitor student activity, and students loose their individual space, which can be an issue for some students. This arrangement is NOT RECOMMENDED if you have a difficult class or management problems are an issue.

Some things to consider when deciding on desk placement:
  • Make sure ALL students will be able to see you and the board from their desks;
  • Allow aisle space so that you can work with individual students if required;
  • Create as wider walkways as possible so you and the students can move around the room easily;
  • Place centres, work area tables and storage around the perimeter of the classroom;
  • Consider where students will keep their personal belongings;
  • Where will student notebooks, folders, stationary etc. be kept and how will it be accessed.

Student Placement:

When you begin the year or term, seating students in alphabetical order and/or in a boy-girl/boy-girl order will give you the opportunity to establish control over the class as well as the chance to get to know your students. Once you feel there is a good sense of control and self-management by students, you can start letting them choose who they sit with - this gives ownership and responsibility back to the students. If they muck up, then they loose the privilege of sitting and working with their friends.

Changing the seating is an excellent way of re-establishing control or when you want to establish new working patterns when commencing a new unit of work. 

Equipment Placement:

Before rushing out in the post-Christmas sales and buying a tonne of stuff on sale, check with your school with what equipment and resources you'll have access to. You may have a SmartBoard or you may have to stock up on the chalk and whiteboard markers! You may have access to a class set of iPads or laptops, or you may have to book in time at the computer lab. Contact your supervisor or grade partner and see what you will be getting and what you need to get yourself.

The next thing is to then consider HOW and WHEN you'll be using each piece of equipment or resource. You may want to store certain things out of the way for occassional use, such as art supplies, maths supplies and sports equipment. But other things you may to have out on display and within easy reach for you and your students, such as notebooks, books in your class library, and stationary items such as rulers, a sharpener etc.

Organising your equipment is just as important as organising the students'. Your first year will probably seem the hardest because you'll be creating lessons from scratch and establishing your style. Create a filing system that will hold your programs, lessons, worksheets, assessments and extra materials. This filing system will offer two benefits: you'll be able to draw and add to them as needed, and you'll also be able to access them quickly and easily if you or a colleague are planning the same unit. 

Finally, locate the electrical outlets, internet point and technological devices such as projectors in your room so that you can decide where to store and best utilise the equipment - the location of your desk may depend on where the connection for your computer and the projector is. 

Room Decoration:

As a new teacher, you may feel pressured to prove yourself by creating an elaborate looking room with some bright, bold and unique room decorations. BALANCE is the key here! Create a room that is visually appealing and stimulating but doesn't take up your valuable planning time or creates a distraction for students. 

Bulletin Boards are a great way to create wonderful visual displays in your room - but remember, they should serve an instructional purpose by illustrating a lesson concept of display students work relating to the unit being explored. Consider the following to get the most out of your wall space and boards:
  • Plan what will go on each board. Take measurements and gather materials you will need (i.e. borders, paper, velco dots or tacks etc.)
  • Have several boards to house permanent displays and important information such as class rules, class jobs, the calendar, rewards, behaviours, schedules and announcements, birthdays etc.
  • Consider using one or two boards as areas for maths, literacy or a unit of work, but leave the rest to display student work.
If you want to get some room set-up and decoration inspiration, check out The School Supply Addict as she's put together a great selection of some amazing rooms, and check out my Classroom Displays Ideas Pinterest board for inspiration.

My next blog in this series will focus on Behaviour Management, so be sure to come back and see what strategies work for me, and read about others that may work for you! And remember, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Welcome to 2016! The Year of the Monkey

I hope everyone has had a wonderful break during the festive season, however your celebrate! Whatever happened in 2015, happened! Let's look forward to 2016! An exciting year, full of possibilities and promise.

For some fun, I thought I would share some information and resources to celebrate the Chinese New Year! And what a cheeky year it's going to be... 

The Year of the Monkey

The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (/shnng-sshyaoww/ ‘born resembling’), is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years. In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Your Chinese Zodiac sign is derived from your birth year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. See the years of each animal below or use the calculator on the right to determine your own sign. Those born in January and February take care: Chinese (Lunar) New Year moves between 21 January and February 20. If you were born in January or February, check whether your birth date falls before or after Chinese New Year to know what your Chinese zodiac year is. You can find more information here.

To begin exploring the wonderous world of the Chinese Zodiac, use the FREEBIE below to explore the twelve animals represented in the Chinese Zodiac with students.
Chinese Calendar

Chinese New Year Activity Book:

This is a fun activity pack for Pre-K to Year 2 where students design a booklet where they can creatively write, illustrate, and color-in information about the year of the monkey! They also discover their own Chinese zodiac and research fun information about their animal (personality traits, lucky numbers, lucky colors, and best-suited careers).
Chinese New Year 2016 Activity Pack

Monkey Craft Activity:

Here is a cute Monkey Craft activity for you to do with your students. You could search Pinterest for other Paper Plate animal craft activities if you wanted your class to make the animal of the year in which they were born.
Cute Monkey Craft Activity

How to draw a Monkey:

Here is an awesome video giving step-by-step instructions on how to draw a monkey. There is also a printable version on the website. This would make a fun-tastic wall display in your room or hallway.

These activities would be great beginning of the year tasks. What activities do you use at the beginning of the year?