The (Very, Very) Big Wet!

People who know me (including all the students who have ever been in a class of mine) know that I’m a nerd for numbers. Well, here are 3:

221, 352, 361.

These figures represent the total amount of rain, to the nearest millimetre, that fell during the winter months (June, July and August) of 2013 in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, respectively. Here’s another number:

478

Like the aforementioned trio, this number also represents millimetres of rainfall – this time for Kununurra Lakeside, where I happen to live. However, even though it’s substantially bigger than the other 3, this measurement wasn’t accumulated over 3 months. Or 1 month. Or, for that matter, even a single fortnight or a week.

It’s for 48 hours.

To be precise, the 48 hours from about 9pm last Wednesday night, through to the same time on Friday. Locals say they’ve never seen so much water in such a short period of time. One of our bus drivers, Keith, reckoned it was the most water he’d seen in his 45 years in town. Mr Teddy Carlton, an elder of the Miriuwung Gajerrong people, said he’d seen nothing like it in the last 50 years.

Needless to say, the town and the school copped an absolute drenching! I’d suggest that any day you can jump in a kayak and paddle down one of the main streets is a particularly wet one:

 

 

 

 

 

And when the roads look like this it’s easy to understand why attendance at school on the Friday was as low as it’s been in my time here:

Barringtonia

 

 

 

 

 

For those who did make it to school, they got to see a lovely river running straight through the school yard:

And just in case the SD iPhone footage was a bit grainy for your liking, here’s some stuff that was shot a wee bit more professionally that’ll show how much water was around the place:

Needless to say, the amount of water though the town and the school caused a few headaches on Friday, not least of which was the encroaching water level lapping at the doors to blocks of the school. Fortunately, due to a swiftly executed action plan, we were able to ensure the movement of parents and children from lunch until home time was as organised as possible. Our front office staff coped amazingly well with a deluge of parent and community enquires, and we were able to get all children home, including those who’s route was cut off by water up to 1m high.

School was more or less back to normal today, apart from a bit of surface water around the place and a fair few kids missing. A decent proportion of our students come from communities outside of town, and with names like Crossing Falls, Molly Springs, Emu Creek and Cockatoo Creek you can probably guess that with all the water around the place those communities are still cut off from town. As the water recedes, we should get our full compliment of kids back into classrooms. Until then, all eyes remain on the BOM radar, because if that current tropical low that’s been hanging around the Territory comes our way, we might be getting seriously wet all over again!

(And for those of you who, like me until last year, hadn’t left the city to have a crack at a teaching stint in rural Australia, it’s episodes like this that richen one’s experiences – both the school and life varieties!)

Keith Moon? Tommy Lee? Behaviour Management?

Here’s the best thing that happened to me today:

I’ve got this young bloke in my sub school, for now let’s call him Mike (not his real name). Mike’s in Year 4. Mike is well known to all staff and students at school, mainly for his high behavioural needs. You see, Mike doesn’t have a lot of boundaries in his life outside of school. Subsequently, when Mike attends he can be quite a handful with his behaviour. Even though our paths cross regularly (as Mike’s individual behaviour management plan dictates) and I usually have to be the bad cop, I like Mike and I’m pretty sure Mike likes me too.

Mike’s not too keen on specialist subjects. Since we only have Art/Phys Ed/Music/Library once a week it’s difficult for the teachers of those subjects to build rapport with Mike. As a result, I’m often called to lend a hand during those lessons if Mike’s behaviour has escalated to the point where it’s impossible for the teacher to deliver his/her lesson to the 23 other kids in Mike’s class. When you factor in that today was the first day back following two weeks of school holidays (largely unstructured for Mike), I wasn’t surprised at all to receive a message saying that Mike wasn’t too keen on doing the right thing during Music in Period 4.

When I caught up with Mike just outside the Music room he had just yelled and swore at the teacher and kicked a wheelie bin over. He’d also decided to take his shirt off and was rather agitated about the whole experience of being in Music. Mike probably thought he was going to get a serve from me or taken to the office or whatever. Instead I got out my phone and asked him if he’d ever seen a 1.32m barra. I then showed him a pic of one (caught by another young bloke and a mate of mine on the holidays) and then we talked for a bit. I told him I had a go at catching mud crabs during the holidays; He told me he got a turtle and a salmon when he was out bush; I showed him a picture of a 5 metre salt-water croc we saw on a tour boat; He told me that it was really only little and that he’d hunted (and caught, apparently!) much bigger before. 

After a little while, I suggested we have a go at going back into Music. He said that he’d like to. So he put his shirt back on and we went in to the Music room. The Music teacher, realising that Mike probably wasn’t going to join in the recorder ensemble, asked if we’d like to play the electronic drums for a while. We said yes. And then for the next 20 minutes Mike bashed out a whole heap of beats, and released a fair bit of tension at the same time. I took a Vine of him, shared hear as a manually looped YouTube clip. Mike was pretty happy with the results when I showed him: Afterwards we did two pages of his CVC words English workbook, which was more work than he’d done in the 3 hours before Music. Then I went back to admin duties and he went to lunch.

Making connections, winning over, building rapport. Whatever your terminology for it, I experienced a bit of it with Mike today. Relationships are everything in this job – Without them, the prospect of education for kids like Mike barely exists. Even with the exponential growth in the use of ICT in schools, it’s the people-type skills that are important as ever.

And just in case you wanted to see the 1.32m barra (aka ‘horsefish’) or the 5m salty (Brutus the Croc from Adelaide River, NT), here they are…

photo (1)photo (2)

Oh, I don’t know, I’ll choose C!

Each day I come across a variety of education-related websites, videos, infographics, texts and blogs which get me thinking about my role in education both in the present and the future. On occasion, something will jump out and hit the mark perfectly, like the video below.

Created by a Year 8 teacher in the US, Why We Need Common Core: “I choose C.” will have all teachers who watch it reflecting on their practice, and asking themselves what are truly the important elements of a student’s education. For those unaware, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is essentially the American equivalent to our own recently implemented Australian Curriculum. As you’d expect, both systems have a heavy emphasis on 21st century learning, but I love this sentence which is straight out of the Common Core’s mission statement:

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

Upon watching the video you’ll understand what it means.

BTW, this video was created with the excellent but recently-closed xtranormal.com. If you like the look of it and you’re thinking, ‘I could make a video like that to transform some content I’m teaching’, then check out goanimate.com. If you’re keen to get your younger students making their own vids, ABCYA Animate is a great option too.

Thanks to ICT principal whiz @Stephen_H for sharing the vid in the first place via Twitter.

Twipps for Tweechers….

…aka Twitter tips for teachers.

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again here – the beast of all networking tools (social, professional or both, as desired) is the most powerful way that us teachers can connect to others across the world. Mantras of teachers past such as ‘My classroom is my island’ and ‘You have to attend PD in person to learn anything new’ no longer apply.

Still, when I try to softly explain the benefits of being involved in such as vast professional network, many of my colleagues will tell me ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘I don’t get all those @ and # symbols’. Well, a fine fellow from edudemic.com, Jeff Dunn, has created this infographic to help you along.

(And once you’ve signed up for an account, you could start following @edudemic to receive little morsels of goodness, just like this one, daily!)

twitter

Wouldn’t we all love to be in this guy’s class!

Roald Dahl concluded his children’s novel – Danny the Champion of the World – by telling us that what children want, and deserve, are parents who are sparky. I’d suggest that Dahl’s decree could be extended to another group of people who have the ability to shape the lives of today’s youth – teachers. When one thinks back to their favourite teacher, sparky would likely be among the adjectives used to describe them.

Which brings me to this clip I came across the other day. An obviously creative and talented educator who delivers the hook to this lesson perfectly. If we teachers find this inspirational, imagine the effect on the students. Sparky indeed!

 

My (Brilliant) Place!

In 1989 I was in Year 3, and I can distinctly remember my class teacher, the delightful Mrs O’Dea, reading this to us. Chances are if you’ve been in an Australian primary classroom post-1988 (whether as a student, a teacher or both) then you’re familiar with it too. The word ‘iconic’ probably doesn’t do it justice:

MP book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nadia Wheatley’s My Place was a staple of so many classrooms because it facilitated learning across multiple curriculum areas so easily. Indeed, a search for ‘My Place activities’ this afternoon yielded these notes, which perfectly illustrates the point. But fast forward to 2013 and our current world of IWBs, BYOD and 1:1 ICT and the burning question is: Is My Place still relevant enough for today’s kids to enjoy?

Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. And we have the ABC to thank for it…

Now, under normal circumstances I’m pretty good at finding Web 2.0 bits and interactives that relate to the curriculum I’m teaching – I can mostly thank Twitter for that. However, in this situation I’ll happily admit that this one has, until recently, slipped through to the keeper. In fact, it was a colleague at KDHS who was using it with her Year 2 class that got me on to it. Lucky for me I happened to pop in for matters unrelated. Thanks, Hollee!

My Place over at ABC3 is, quite frankly, brilliant. Just as the original book did, it traces one living space and it’s inhabitants in inner-city Sydney from before European settlement up to  the present day. They’ve packed a heap of features in so, just like in Wheatley’s classic, you can check out different facets of what life would’ve been like through ten year intervals:

MP before 1788 MP1788 bed

MP 1968 living

MP2008 bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s plenty of things to click on, tangents to explore and facts to discover. The texts are pitched to a primary-aged audience in a simple, easy-to-read voice. Games and quizzes help to keep the material interesting for students, and the amount of content is so vast that I could barely see any student navigating they’re way through the entire site. For those who are familiar with the 2009-11 ABC TV production of the same name, you’ll see the clear links between the two media.

 

Waruwi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what about links to an Australian Curriculum which has only been active since My Place was first launched? As well as multiple English content descriptors that could be hit by teachers who are able to use the site’s content to meet the needs of the year group the teach, the most obvious links are to the History curriculum. Here’s but a snapshot of some of the Historical Knowledge and Understanding content descriptors, by year level, that the site would be an ideal resource to assist with (taken straight from the AC, I’ve only included a max of two per year level for brevity’s sake, but I’m sure you get the idea):

Year 1:

Differences and similarities between students’ daily lives and life during their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods, including family traditions, leisure time and communications.

Differences in family structures and roles today, and how these have changed or remained the same over time.

Year 2:

The impact of changing technology on people’s lives (at home and in the ways they worked, travelled, communicated, and played in the past).

Year 3:

The importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to a local area.

The role that people of diverse backgrounds have played in the development and character of the local community.

Year 4:

The diversity and longevity of Australia’s first peoples and the ways Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to Country and Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) and the implications for their daily lives.

The nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and others, for example, the Macassans and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example families and the environment.

Year 5:

The nature of convict or colonial presence, including the factors that influenced patterns of development, aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants (including Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) and how the environment changed.

The role that a significant individual or group played in shaping a colony; for example, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, humanitarians, religious and political leaders, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Year 6 (this is actually the Year 6 level description):

The Year 6 curriculum moves from colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a nation, particularly after 1900.

In addition, there’s a multitude of Historical Skills content descriptors that My Place would be perfect for across the grades. Here’s just a few:

Sequence historical people and events.

Locate information related to inquiry questions in a range of sources.

Identify points of view in the past and present.

Identify questions to inform historical inquiry.

 

Oh yeah, and then there’s the little matter of ensuring you weave the first cross-curriculum priority – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures – through your teaching. Tick, done.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that my History programme from last year would’ve been far superior had I known about My Place at the start of 2012. If you’re an Australian primary teacher who’s reading this and it’s the first you’ve heard of the online My Place, make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Now, I wonder if dear old Mrs O’Dea, who must be in her 60’s these days, has stumbled across it just yet…

Grammar Goofs??

Good grammar is important, particularly if you’re off to a Grammar Rodeo:

Grammar rodeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I love how there’s a Simpsons reference that can be inserted into most conversational topics…)

But on a serious note, there’s a discernible relationship between the proliferation of social media and the declining standard of grammar across cyberspace and indeed the real world. Each incorrectly used homophone and poorly placed apostrophe results in one’s message losing both credibility and effectiveness, and given that the purpose for writing is to convey messages, surely it follows that bad grammar is counter productive to the whole point of writing in the first place!

Thankfully, the lovely chaps at copyblogger.com (via inspirationfeed.com) have produced this nifty infographic for us all. Behold the 15 grammar goofs that are to be avoided at all costs when writing. I think you’ll agree that its a great tool that their showing off hear – its certainly had an affect on my grammar and it might help you’re grammar to!

(Bonus points if you can correctly identify the number of grammar goofs in the italicised phrase above…)

grammar-goofs1