Teach Tip Tuesday: Take a break from work each week.

In this digital age it is easy to be switched on to work every minute of everyday. This week’s tip is to ensure that you switch off entirely at least one evening a week.

Switching off entirely means no pinteresting, tweeting, facebook posts or blog reading that is related to work in any way.

Mental health and work life balance for teachers is exceptionally important. There are usually no breaks during the day and we are expected to keep working until the job is done and if we are honest with ourselves it is never done. This is why it is so important to consciously switch off from work to keep the balance.

5 Tips to switch off

1. Switch off from social media one evening a weekimages

With many teachers following blogs through facebook, instagram, pinterest etc it is easy for work to creep into the most of your feeds. Soon enough we see an idea that we like and we are working again. Alternatively to switching off from social media have accounts that are for personal and for work, this way you can intentionally look for work ideas and can be removed from them when you wish to be.  Continue reading

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It’s a Breakout! Having fun with Consolidation.


At the end of last term I wanted to do something fun with my year 9 math class that allowed them to consolidate the work that they had done throughout the term and also develop their ability to problem solve and work in teams.

I did not just want to do a worksheet or like so many of my students ask watch a video.

A few months ago I was researching through my professional learning network (PLN) ideas for games that other teachers do to help their students revise. Mainly I was looking for online platforms that were suitable for this purpose however during these conversations it was suggested to me by Kelly Hollis (@Hobson_k) that breakouts were a great way to do this. My response was “what’s a breakout?”


What is a Breakout activity?

A breakout activity is essentially an activity where students need to solve problems or puzzles to unlock a series of locks to open a box.

If you have ever completed an escape room the idea is quiet similar except that students are trying to break into a box rather than escape a room.

There is a video of some students attempting a breakout activity here.

Benefits of a Breakout?

  1. problem solving
  2. creativity
  3. team work
  4. logic
  5. persistence
  6. engagement
  7. ….. and many more

Setting up for a breakout

There are companies that sell breakout kits if you want to purchase one straight out. Personally I found them a little expensive you can buy one here.

My Classroom Breakout

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Share the Plan

In the spirit of the start of the term this week’s Teach Tip Tuesday is about getting your students and parents on the same page as you from the start of the term.

This week’s tip: Share your term plan with your students and parents. 

I love the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Fail to plan plan to fail

I think this is also true if you fail to share the journey that you are planning for the term with your students and parents. Let them share in what is coming and also be able to take ownership of completing the work that they might miss due to planned and unplanned absences. Each term I share my overall term plan which includes: topics, videos, additional activities, exercises to complete, key assessment dates and scheduled interruptions with both my students and their parents. Having all of the stakeholders on board at the start of the term with what they need to do is certainly a plan for success. Follow the link here to see an example of the planning that my students and parents receive. Plan 1 / Plan 2

My top suggestions on ways to share your plan:  Continue reading

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Teach Tip Tuesday: 5 Tips to get the most out of your commute time.

Many teachers including myself commute to work each day. I commute 30 minutes each way to my school everyday. That’s 5 hours of time lost per week. Have you ever wondered how you can use this time productively? There are some days that this time is great for reflection, chilling out or other non work related activities for sure but making use of some of this time can help to ease your workload or stress levels.

5 Tips to utilise your commute time


1. Listen to POD casts to access learning.

I enjoy listening to technology podcasts to update my tech knowledge. Maybe you can even record your own podcast.

Some PodCasts that you might like to listen to:

2. Set your tasks for the day.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Blogs to follow for Flipped Learning

This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday encourages you to read widely and enjoy the many educational blogs available through twitter. Even though the blogosphere is full of educational material finding ones that reflect our current educational system can be a struggle.

Below you will find 5 blogs by teachers that are successfully flipping their classrooms in a range of subjects in Australia. Don’t be fooled they don’t just write about their flipped classrooms, they share a range of teaching insights that any teacher may be interested in. Click the links to check them out.

Teach Tip Tuesday- 5 Flipped Teaching Blogs You should read


1. Joel Speranza

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Tips to manage your inbox

In the last 5 years as, schools grow and the job of the teacher becomes more complex the amount of communication sent via email has increased substantionally. On some days teachers can get upwards of 50 emails. Assuming that it takes you one minute to peruse each email that is almost an extra 60 minutes of work a day that didn’t exist previously. Usually that 1 hour doesn’t include the actioning of the tasks generated in those emails.

In the digital age where we no longer move to each staff room to have a conversation how can we make managing our emails on a daily basis easier and less time consuming?

Many schools have requirements to check and action emails twice daily.

This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday gives my top 5 tips for keeping my email under control.

1. Set specific times during the day to check and respond to emails. 

Which time of the day works best for you? Is it the beginning of the day or the end? I like to check mine at the beginning of the day when I’m fresh and can try and integrate any tasks into that days schedule. If you are required to do A twice daily check try for a mid day check just in case an item needs to be actioned immediately.  Continue reading

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Computer Games as a Tool for Revision

I have long been a user of computer games for revision. Whenever I make the time to make the games students love them.

I looked for articles to support conclusions that I have drawn in my own classes about the impact of using computer games as a tool for revision on student results and I found very little that really focused in on this aspect, especially recent published articles.

In a time where we are being encouraged to incorporate technology meaningfully into our classes I think that it is time for a number of case studies to be conducted. If your a PhD student in education maybe this could be something up your alley and I would be happy to help by adding data to your study.

Anyway…. Using computer games as a revision tool for me has always encouraged my students to engage with the content, help with recall and repeated content engagement. Also dont forget that they also provide instant feedback to students about their understanding.

A note of warning though…. I have generally found that these types of games only really help students effectively review general content understanding and fluency, most of the platforms suggested below do not provide a suitable platform for student to engage with more complex problems that can have multiple methods of achieving a solution or multiple solutions.

Here are 5 different online platforms that you might like to check out.

Online Games for Revision (1) Continue reading

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Teach Tip Tuesday: 10 Ways you can use Mini whiteboards for in your classroom

A few years ago I discovered mini whiteboards,  a versatile piece of equipment that can be used by students for almost anything.

There are many suggestion on Pinterest about how to make your own but we buy ours from Modern Teaching Aides: a pack of 30 boards for $40 see the link here.

Today’s Teach Tip Tuesday gives 10 suggestions for using them in your classroom.

1. Warmup activities

Whether you are using them in maths for short quick questions, English to check spelling or comprehension or diagrammatic responses for science. There are two key benefits to utilising whiteboards in warmup. Firstly, students can provide you with instant feedback about their understanding of the content in the warmup so that you can plan how to adjust your lesson necessary. Secondly, students feel less pressure when writing responses on a whiteboard as incorrect responses or mistakes are easily erased. Whiteboards are an especially good strategy for encouraging the have a go mindset.

2. Problem solving activities

Students usually make many mistakes when working towards a solution for a unfamiliar or complex problem. Using a whiteboard encourages students to begin and erase when they think of a better way to work the problem. Once again the whiteboards with their easy erasability encourage the get started and have a go attitude that we need to develop in our students.

3. Class questions and responses / Q&A / Ask and lift

Whiteboards are a great tool for conducting Q&As in class and getting immediate feedback on student responses.

4. Reference examples

Often student ask questions in class and need to refer back to it as they work. Mini whiteboards offer a ready material to record examples for the students to refer to.

5. Write and wipe

Great for practising any item that students need to recall instantly. For example spelling, times tables, rainbow facts, definitions etc.

6. Brainstorming

Use whiteboards to brainstorm new ideas, prepare for assessment, order thoughts for writing tasks etc. whiteboards can be easily used for individual or paired work. Need a copy of your ideas for later; take a photo and store it for easy reference.

7. Exit cards

Get students to construct their own exit cards on their whiteboards and tick off their progress for the lesson. Students might also produce an answer to a question as their exit out of class.

8. Pictionary

Use for vocabulary review. Students have a list of word and use pictures to describe the word that their partner needs to guess. You can make it harder by making students use examples and non examples just like the Frayer model.

9. Peer tutoring

Get students to show their peers how to solve a problem. Show a student how to write a particular piece of text highlighting the appropriate text features.

10. Think pair share

Do you use mini whiteboards in your class? How do you use them? Please share in the comments below or share on our facebook page.

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How should we prepare for Senior ACARA 2019?

In 2012, QLD introduced the new ACARA syllabuses across all core strands and primary and junior secondary year levels. Many of us were excited by the challenge ahead and other more weathered souls were apprehensive of how we would face the many challenges it would present. I was lucky enough that my education department developed comprehensive resources to help guide us through our first year until we could refine based on what we had learnt. In 2017, we are still adjusting and learning how best to implement the curriculum, 5 years to achieve what is still not perfect and what will likely need further refinement in the years to come does not necessarily bode well for the further changes to high school curriculum. QCAA logo

In 2019, QLD will introduce the new senior ACARA syllabuses across all subjects. This time I am one of those apprehensive leaders patiently waiting to understand the full scope of how it will all work. ACARA

If you have been following for a little while you might have noticed that I like to plan and with so many unknowns planning is hard. With the introduction of these new syllabuses not only will teachers will be faced with a change in content breadth and depth in many subjects but the way that we assess our students and determine their exit scores is going to change from how it has been for the last 30 years (The OP system was introduced in 1987).

One of the most concerning changes for teachers in mathematics and science is that 50% of a student’s result will come from an external set of exams at the end of year 12. Unlike systems in other states this exam is not expected to be used as a scaling tool for the other 50% of a student’s result. While the emphasis placed on the mathematics and science end of year assessment is substantial, other subjects contributing to an ATAR will have at least 25% of their results determined by the final piece of assessment in year 12.

Why is this so concerning? In QLD students sit only one external exam in senior, this exam is the QCS (Queensland Core Skills Test). Where this experience differs from the new format is that how students perform on this test does not directly impact their individual achievement. QLD students have never been trained to sit for an external exam nor do they know how to prepare for it.

Even though the introduction of these syllabuses has been delayed by one year I am still concerned and have questions about the following 5 points:

1. Time

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Teach Tip Tuesday: 5 tips to complete that impossible task. 

Do you have a job that you keep putting off? It’s too hard, too complicated or you just never get around to it?

I get these types of tasks all the time.  I just can’t get started or don’t know where to start. This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday gives you my top 5 tips to getting that task off your to do list.

5 Tips to Completing Your Impossible Task

1. Break the task down into small task so that they seems manageable.

A task that you don’t know how to start is usually made up of many small task. Split your task in 5 smaller tasks so that  you can get started.

Each year I have to construct my departments junior profile database. It isn’t a particular hard task but it is time consuming. There are currently 5 of these that need to be done. Instead of trying to complete the whole database at once this year, I focused on completing small parts so that they task didn’t seem as overwhelming.

2. Work on the task with someone else. 

When getting started is too hard or the task is complicated, pair up with a colleague so that you can use your collective intelligence to make a dent in completing your impossible task.

I have a task that I have been putting off for months because it just seemed too big. I decided to form a PLC with a colleague of mine and we smashed out the first part in under an hour. Two brains (or more) are better than one. Continue reading

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