LisaHillSchoolStuff's Weblog

'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for December, 2008

Violence in schools

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 16, 2008

On the same day that we learned that a 15 year old boy had been shot dead by police in Melbourne, we learned that the government plans to reduce the time that unmanageable students can be suspended from a maximum ten days to just three, and then only after an exhaustive process involving regional staff.  A new code of conduct is due to take effect from next year under the Education Department Blueprint.


Whatever the rights and wrongs of the police shooting, if that boy were still alive he would have been back in school this week under the proposed rules.  3 days suspension is not enough to set processes in place to protect staff and students from irrational and violent behaviour by disturbed young people such as these.


No wonder parents choose to send their children to private schools where they have autonomy to make sensible decisions in situations such as this.

Posted in Opinion | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Boys and learning

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 9, 2008

Ian Lillico is an educator with a special interest in boys’ learning. On his web page Boys Forward he lists a number of strategies of relevance to the library program for our all-boy classes.

  • Since boys have a strong need for ‘territory’ my practice in assigning boys to sit at a particular group table for the year is a good one.  However, my rule has been that students can sit at any seat, as long as it’s at the assigned table, and most students like this flexibility.  Next year however, I might try assigning a specific seat for boys in all boy classes to see how that impacts on their sense of shared ownership of the library…
  • Boys need to communicate before writing, (and writing tends to be a problem area for many boys) so I shall try increasing the opportunities for discussion using modelling and shared planning activities for project work.  I already use his strategy of allowing ‘think time’ and in all my classes  and often have students talk to the person next to them to answer my questions.  I usually ask them to tell me what their partner has said so that both the person speaking and the person whose ideas are being relayed feel that they have had a turn.  However I think I do need to encourage students to expand on their ideas more – maybe podcasting some responses would be motivating? An action research project would confirm for me whether this increases their writing output or not.
  • Lillico also says that all writing activities for boys should include the use of teacher prepared templates or scaffolds, and that boys need to be told how many lines or pages to write.  I need to make sure that all the rubrics we develop for project assessment includes this information in future.
  • The recommendation that there should be ‘more interactive class teaching through the use of audio-visual instruction, CD-ROMs and the whole range of current multi-media tools’ is a key element of our new strategic plan.  We’ll be blogging too, next year, (when I figure out how to build it into my classroom practice as a routine activity!)
  • Some other ideas worth investigating include increasing time on task in short, intensive activities (though this occurs by default in the library since the lesson is structured to begin with a story to capture students’ interest, then borrowing (a physical activity involving walking about) and then a task at tables, which is usually about half an hour.  Perhaps I could try splitting this into two 15 minute bursts?
  • I don’t use quizzes much in my library program, because my preference is for open-ended learning, but Lillico says that boys like them – especially if there is a small prize – so it could be worth a try in some contexts.  
  • I also like Lillico’s suggestion that ‘all classes …  should devote a proportion of each lesson (at least 15%) to reading’.  This could include reading in pairs and shared note taking under given topic headings.  (We do a lot of note-taking using templates in our non-fiction library units). Structuring tasks so that they begin with shorter,  more closed tasks, which lead on to ‘more challenging, open-ended tasks’ within the same project would bring opportunities for success at the beginning.
  • beowulf

  • I don’t agree with Lillico’s recommendation that teachers abandon topics if after ‘explicitly explaining the relevance and attempting to integrate new concepts into existing ones, no relevance can be found’.  gawainSometimes students need to be introduced to new topics before they see the relevance, and this is especially true of literature.  I doubt if many of my boys thought that the ancient stories of Beowulf or Gawain were relevant beforehand, but they loved these stories, and could see the relevance of the moral issues once they had heard them.  The trick is to lure them in right from the beginning…

Posted in Learning and teaching | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Pearson Freeware PD Session 2

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 9, 2008

Let’s digitise our classrooms!  This  session was all about podcasting, and it was  really good fun!

Why podcast?  Well, it’s interactive, creative and it develops 21st communication skills in a very motivating way.  Like other forms of digital storytelling, it’s cheap, and you can have a global audience for you or your students. (That’s great if you run global projects as I do each year with the IASL Bookmark project).  However it’s not just formal links like these that give students a buzz…one of our younger students was delighted to show his contribution to the 2JE Shining Stars class blog to his relations in Russia – and receive a comment back from them!  Imagine how faraway relations would love hearing a podcast complete with sound effects and music?  It’s so easy to do…

Teachers can also use podcasts as a learning resource.  What makes a good one? Podcasts should be short (2-3 mins) and entertaining.  To enhance the podcast, add fun background sounds for your podcast eg applause.   SoundSnap has a good range and good quality, and you can search for a sound and download it. 

Of course teachers need to consider the time commitment, their audience, audience and style, not to mention managing the learning setting (headphones, iPods etc) but accessing information via podcasts is very motivating for some students, especially non visual learners.  Schools can also link a podcast to a digital school community newsletter.

How to do it:

  1. Prepare – you need to make a plan first so that you know what you’re doing….
  2. Record your short piece using Audacity.
  3. Add SoundSnap  sound effects.
  4. Add Sony Super Duper Music Looper music.
  5. Add effects e.g. alter volume of different parts (see Effects menu in Audacity; the Time shift tool moves different sections of the file to different places e.g. to add a title)
  6. Edit with Audacity (free) for Windows; Mac Users need garageband.
  7. Save as project if you want to edit it.
  8. Save as mp3 file (use Export).
  9. Upload audio into your intranet file store or distribute feed URL .

  flipcam1You can also record direct from a webcam or from Audacity, and then link through the school blog or wiki. 
 Other things to play with are Flip Cams which are cheap and easy for kids to use, and they have a built-in USB connection to plug straight into the computer with no need to upload them with a lead.  Inkscape is an open source drawing tool to explore as well, and  Podomatic is free too. Blabberize will let you make a picture ‘talk’ – add a picture, manipulate the mouth, add in the podcast and the kids will love it. It’s a little bit fiddly getting the mouth just right…

We had so much making our podcasts that we ran out of time for Wikis, but Paul talked about how they were different from a blog.  It’s more collaborative – users can add to it and edit whereas blogs they can only comment. You can collaboratively run a timetable so that you can coordinate activities. Ideas and problems can be shared within an organisation without meetings e.g. add your occupational health and safety concerns to the wiki. You can invite certain people to join the wiki, including students, setting different levels of access e.g. as an administrator, editor, writer, reader, page level (view one page only). PB Wiki will automatically create email addresses for students if necessary.

Of course Cyber safety is vital but don’t let fear of student misuse block access to a powerful tool… Teachers need to  build in prerequisite skills before allowing internet access –  see the Cyber Quoll cartoon as a resource for covering these issues with students.  It is essential to build in guidelines that are clear and negotiated, and develop Netizen class agreeements.  Get the students to sign off on them so that they recognise their responsibilities on the net.  At Paul’s school students have to write in the Cyber Safety Wiki about what they learned from Cyber Quoll…

Many thanks to Paul Mears for a great session:) – there’s lots for me to play around with in the summer holidays!

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