For the love of language, teach poetry


I have been thinking about all things poetry over the past few weeks as I prepared a full day course on teaching poetry for the Centre for Professional Learning. Teaching  lessons about poetry and writing poems with a number of students has refreshed my love of poetry. Poetry is the perfect text to explore in any classroom. Why? Poems come in all shapes and sizes. Think about songs, raps, riddles, tongue twisters, bush ballads: there is a type of poem for every student to enjoy. Many poems are quite short but packed with ideas and emotion. This means they are accessible even for reluctant readers. Explore using poems in guided reading and literature circles. The poems above were written with two of my grandchildren and remind me of the value of choice. Allowing students to write about what they choose promotes ownership of the text. Parker isn’t at school yet so his diamante poem came from a conversation we had about his favourite animal. As he is currently interested in animals he brought lots of ideas to writing about his favourite animal. I just asked questions and scribed his answers. So if you have avoided poetry, my suggestion is give it a go and have some fun in your classroom!

Digital Storytelling and resources for History

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 1.37.55 pmVirtual reality and history… who knew it was so easy! We are very excited about a course we are contributing to in the first week of Term 3. The daughter of a TRIO member is in Australia for a short time and has agreed to share her expertise in digital storytelling and resources for History with teachers through this CPL course. Clare is a historian currently working at Warwick University in England. Just the planning has been eye opening to us and shown us resources that are amazing and will be useful for English as well as history. The course is being offered at Surry Hills in week one of term 3 on Wednesday 20th July.  This course will be  presented jointly by Dr. Clare Rowan and Kate Cameron.  Kate is one of the writers of the NSW History Syllabus so we will really be working with the experts!

Story telling is fundamental to history and digital story telling equips students to use 21st century skills to communicate their understanding of the past. Digital storytelling is a highly motivating way to address a range of syllabus outcomes. The course will focus on the middle years, Stages 3 and 4 but we feel it is a course suitable for anyone interested in teaching history and as a one off opportunity, not to be missed! To register please go to CPL





TRIO really enjoys working with  the Centre for Professional Learning, which is part of the NSW Teachers Federation.  In term 3 we will be travelling with CPL to both Parkes and Lismore as well as working in Sydney.

The courses we are doing with the CPL in term 3 are as follows:


Monday 25th July, Exploring problem solving and working mathematically K-6

Tuesday 26th July, Teaching students to write imaginative, informative and persuasive texts K-6 using the English Syllabus

Wednesday 27th July, Spelling and the NSW English K-6 Syllabus


Tuesday 16th August, Teaching Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary for the NSW English K-6 Syllabus

Wednesday 17th August, Exploring problem solving and working mathematically K-6


Monday 22 August, Teaching Visual Literacy K-6

Wednesday 24th August, Improving your pedagogy with assessment in the English K-6

Monday 29th August, Teaching Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary for the NSW English K-6 Syllabus

Wednesday 31st August, Implementing the cross curricula priorities in the maths syllabus K-6

Surry Hills:

Monday 12th September, Implementing the cross curricula priorities in the maths syllabus K-6

Tuesday 13th August, Improving your pedagogy with assessment in the English K-6

If you are interested in attending any of these courses register with the CPL at



The power of talk

Discussion is worth a 1000 worksheets

I remember the days when a quiet classroom was a good classroom. However silence is not always the best learning environment. Teachers frequently think that their best tool of the trade is a worksheet. There may be a place for using this tool occasionally but the more I read the English syllabus two important points become apparent.

Talk underpins learning. Even in Early Stage One students are asked to express an opinion about texts read and to give reasons for what they like and dislike in texts. There is an expectation that students respond to what they hear, read and view. As students learn to engage in conversation they can build on the ideas of others and so their initial understandings change and develop. We want students to be able to accept different points of view and be challenged by the thinking of others in order to synthesise new ideas.

There is an expectation that students become increasingly sophisticated analysts of written, spoken and viewed texts. Understanding that texts have different layers is a difficult concept in itself. In order to explore and understand a text thoroughly students learn to unpack the layers of author’s purpose, the intended audience, how visual and written information work together to make meaning as well as the literal and inferred meanings in a text. By Stage Three this reaches the sophisticated point of being able to address how a text is positioning the reader.

Unpacking these layers in a text is best achieved through structured conversation facilitated by the teacher building on students’ understanding. Everyone’s understanding grows through rich talk about text.

Recently an anonymous comment appeared on a course evaluation. ‘Conversation is worth a thousand worksheets.’ I couldn’t agree more! As teachers of every grade we need to hone our skills of facilitating classroom talk that is rich and meaningful.


Goals for learning

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.27.02 amI was energetically working out at the gym yesterday when this sign flashed onto the screen. It resonated with my thinking about learning goals for students and the power of being explicit. It is an important step in facilitating the growth of student agency or independence to help the students in our class understand the next most important step, for them, along the learning continuum of reading, writing, spelling or maths. However, knowing your goal without unpacking how to achieve that goal is literally wishful thinking. For me so much of our success as teachers comes back to being explicit.

In the gym the coaches check in with us regularly about our progress, the correct use of the equipment and answer any questions we might have. We need to touch base frequently with our students. By engaging in meaningful conversation around their progress and providing feedback, we maintain the momentum for students to successfully achieve their learning goals.

On the look out for new books?

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 2.12.13 pmHave you seen Finding Winnie written by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall?

Did you know that this book, published in 2015, won the 2016 Caldecott medal?

Did you know that there was a real bear called Winnie and the Winnie the Pooh stories are based on the real bear?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions then I have a great new book you might be interested in reading and sharing with your class. Finding Winnie has three distinct parts. Firstly the story of the real bear called Winnie and then a second story about the creation of Winnie the Pooh. The last part of the text is a collection of old photos and  other artifacts that relate to both stories.

I think this is a real find! It might even make some interesting connections with History and the use of sources and the ‘reading’ of visual images like photos.

Goal Setting

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.12.44 pm

As the new school year starts teachers everywhere are gearing up to get the best out of their students. The catch cry is improved student learning and I have never met a teacher who didn’t want the best for the students in their class. As I  reflected on this idea I have been challenged by a sign up at my gym. (Yes, I can hear you laughing but the TRIO  team are all keen members of a gym!!!) The gym wants me to have a goal to motivate me into a more healthy lifestyle. The reasons the gym values goal setting are much the same as why we should be inspired to set appropriate learning goals with our students.

  1. Goals help you be who you want to be.
  2. Goals stretch your comfort zone.
  3.  Goals build confidence.
  4. Goals help turn the impossible into possible.
  5. Goals lead to feelings of satisfaction.

These are good reasons for any of us to set goals but especially good reasons to set realistic learning goals with our students to ensure they are successful life long learners.

(Adapted from What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens by Beverly K. Bachel,

copyright © 2001. )

Thoughts to start 2016


A TRIO of old chooks was the photo on my birthday card from one of the TRIO team this January. We had a good laugh but I have reflected on the chooks and I feel proud to be part of a TRIO of old chooks. What is there to be proud of you may ask?

First the idea of a TRIO or a thinking partner or a community of learners. sharing ideas and especially our classroom successes and failures keeps the conversation real and keeps our grounded in the practical not just theoretical. The expectations for a teacher working in a classroom are very high and we all need a group or a partner to debrief with and share our current thinking.

Secondly, ‘old’ could be an insult but I substitute ‘experienced’ and feel proud to have been passionate about my choice of career for many years. this doesn’t give me the right to say, ‘We have always done that this way!’ or ‘I’m too old to write a program’ but I can bring a well rounded point of view to stage discussions, I can support new teachers in my school and offer them a range of ideas to address student outcomes.

Lastly:  ‘chooks.’ I’ve watched hens in action and they are intent on the tasks of finding food and laying eggs. They  know their purpose and invest energy in achieving it. What is our purpose as teachers? We have a mandatory syllabus and are engaged in the task of improving student outcomes. Two things are crucial to our effectiveness, understanding the syllabus and programming to outcomes from the syllabus. How well do you know the syllabus and how are you going to  teach with passion and purpose this year?

Teachers matter!


TRIO was excited to celebrate World Teachers’ Day at a lunch organised by the Australian Education Union today at Darling Harbour. We enjoyed good company, great food and inspiring speeches from Michele Bruniges, Stephen Dinham and Susan Hopgood. The message: teachers matter! The speakers spoke about change in education and improving student outcomes. The magic ingredient is teachers! Teachers and professional learning were both cited by the speakers as key components of ongoing student improvement.

Conscious competence

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.34.30 amMy new phrase of the week is ‘conscious competence.’ TRIO had a great day yesterday at a CPL course organised by the NSW Teachers’ Federation. As always we shared the day with teachers who had travelled far to attend and share in the discussion about visual literacy. We all acknowledge that we live in a visual world and so unconsciously we ‘read and absorb’ visual messages all day but everyone present learnt how to be more ‘consciously competent’ in unpacking how visuals are composed. We unpacked the language of the syllabus and some visual literacy terminology. There was a sense of excitement by the end of the day as teachers prepared to leave with lots of ideas to use in their classrooms. To support teachers unpacking what the NSW English syllabus has to say about visual literacy, TRIO has produced a set of ten posters and a list of the texts we use to introduce visual literacy vocabulary. If you are interested in looking at these resources click on the titles to go to the resource section of the TRIO website.