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

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My Retirement, and LisaHillSchoolStuff is retiring too.

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 12, 2015

Well, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and taken retirement.  It’s been a great career, but the time has come!

This means that the LisaHillSchoolStuff blog is retiring too.  I don’t intend to add any new content or reviews, and I won’t be responding to comments, but I won’t be deleting the blog in case readers still find it useful in some small way.

I will, however, still be blogging away at the ANZ LitLovers blog, where you can find reviews and news about Australian and international contemporary and classic literary fiction.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported this blog by taking the time to comment or subscribing to it.  This affirmation is what has kept me going when I sometimes felt that nobody was reading it at all!

Best wishes, and thank you all,



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New unit Year 5&6 Fame! (Biography)

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 16, 2013

I’ve just uploaded a new unit for Years 5 & 6: it’s called Fame (Biography) and you can find it via the Goodies to Share page.

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Review: Chook Chook, Little and Lo in the City, by Wai Chim

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 14, 2013

Chook Chook - Little and Lo in the CityChook Chook Little and Lo in the City is author Wai Chim’s follow up to Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets.  It’s a nice little story exploring the perennial themes of family and identity as Mei has to learn to adjust to a new man in her family when her mother marries again.  I wanted to take a look at it because it’s the first children’s chapter book that I’ve come across, that’s set in contemporary rural China.

When I was a child, I devoured a whole series of ‘twins’ books.  I can’t remember the name of the series now, but these twins travelled the world – and I gained a glimpse of lifestyles in other countries.  This kind of reading is great for children because while it transports them to another world, it shows them that people are basically the same all over the world.  Children are less likely to grow up as adults insular and hostile to the Other if they have ‘met’ the Other in their reading.  For me, the test for books to meet this goal lies in the balance between depicting the ‘exotic’ culture and the familiarity of everyday life.

Chook Chook, Little and Lo in the City passes this test.  It’s the simple story of Mei, who keeps two chickens (Little and Lo) as pets.  She lives in a village with her widowed mother and her older brother Guo, and everything is fine until Mum marries the one-eyed butcher, bringing his son Bao along as a younger brother for Mei.  The cellar built as a shelter in case there is a typhoon is suddenly filled with smoked pigs, and Bao – who shares a room with Mei – snores, keeping her awake at night.  There is more unwelcome change when Guo leaves for the city of Guangzhou.

You can see even from this short summation that there are aspects of Mei’s life that are different to the life of an Australian child.  Very few Australian children live in villages; ours is a nation that lives clustered on the eastern seaboard in massive cities, and with the exception of hobby farms, farms here are massive concerns not small holdings.  With Medicare a long-established health insurance system in our country, it would be rare indeed to meet someone with only one eye.   When Jin finally acquires a prosthetic eye in preparation for the wedding it is noticeably ill-fitting, whereas here in Australia such a disability would be almost impossible to detect.  Houses here don’t usually have cellars – and if they do, the cellar is for wine, not for smoked pigs!

But the difference that most children will notice is that Mei shares a bedroom, with her new brother Bao, and Guo has to sleep in the living room.

Not long after the wedding, Jin and Bao moved into the farmhouse. Bao and I shared the room that Mum and I used to sleep in, while Ma and Jin took the only other bedroom.  Guo sectioned off part of the living room for his bed.

The house felt very, very small.  (p. 13)

Most Australian children reading this must surely get a glimpse of how privileged they are by comparison, but it’s not heavy-handed.

Aussie kids will identify with Mei being an independent young girl who’s not afraid to set out for the city to find her brother, but the character of Cap is a different matter.  He is an orphaned street kid, dirty, hungry and neglected.  His father was in the military, but now that his parents are dead there seems to be no one to care for him.  In this story he gets the opportunity to show how clever he is and is rescued, adopted into Mei’s family and sent to school, but sensitive young readers will wonder about how precarious life can be in countries without a ‘welfare safety net.’

None of this gentle depiction of a different kind of life would work for young readers, however, if the story were not engaging.  Didactic books do not work for today’s kids.  But Mei’s adventure in the city is hilarious, because she takes the chickens with her.  They cause all kinds of scrapes including helping to foil a robbery and faking a TV appearance.

What pleased me, however, because I’m alert to stereotyping in children’s books, is that the book positions China in transition.  The rural lifestyle is still simple, and by our standards, poor.  But Guo’s decision to further his education is prompted by his (now dead) father’s awareness that things must change, and Guo needs to learn new ways of farming that are more competitive.  Jin the butcher explains that everybody needs to be flexible and adaptable in the modern world:

‘I’m going to learn about farming. Your ma’s going to teach me, Guo’s going to teach me, you’re going to teach me.’

I couldn’t help snorting.  ‘But you’re a butcher.’

‘So? I can learn.’ Jin had a dreamy look on his face. ‘I want to learn from your father too and not do just one thing.  We can be a new type of family. We’re not farmers or butchers, but good businesspeople who do a lot of different things.’ (p. 138)

The computer on the university professor’s desk may be old, and nobody’s got a mobile phone to ring Ma to tell her that Mei is safe, but China isn’t standing still.

A word about the design: this book is for independent readers so there are no pictures apart from small drawings foreshadowing content at the beginning of each chapter, but the book-cover is a water-colour painting obviously created just for this book.  It’s charming, and it’s relevant to the story – and it makes me wonder how it is that publishers can afford to do this for children’s books which sell for $12-$15 but get by with those awful stale stock images on book-covers for adult books which sell for twice the price.

I think that able readers will enjoy Chook Chook, Little and Lo in the City.  Highly recommended.

Chook Chook – Little and Lo in the City

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Attributing sources…

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 22, 2012

I’ve been notified today that I need to attribute the source of the new AC and AusVELS templates that I’ve developed under the Creative Commons licence it has.

“Reproducing the F–10 Curriculum (but not the AusVELS logo or VELS logo), is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia (CC BY NC SA) licence.

So: please note that any templates or units of work on this site which include any reference to VELS, AusVELS or the Australian Curriculum are hereby attributed to VELS, AusVELS or the Australian Curriculum. 

All the work that I have done on them is freely given, one professional to another, and may be copied, shared or modified as much as you like, but you’d better attribute the VELS, AusVELS or the Australian Curriculum bits if you do.

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Please, say thank you!

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 19, 2011

In the last week between 200-300 have visited  this blog each day, most of them accessing the resources I have shared for Book Week.

None of them have bothered to say thank you.

It’s a bit disheartening.

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Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 13, 2011

Thanks to Sue Tapp for sharing this link on Facebook:)

Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos.

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ICT PD: Digital Portfolios

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2009

Here I am Harrisfied PS with Heather Carver again, this time learning about Digital Portfolios.

This is the wiki we’re using…and this is the site for digital portfolios.

We started off by playing with MindMeister to tease out the issues: this is probably a useful thing to do with staff so that concerns are aired and dealt with.

What’s the point of digital portfolios?  Check out the introductory video

  • to have an ongoing digital record of work that can include the student’s use of Web 2.0, graphics, video, podcasts, images etc.  They can use MovieMaker, PhotoStory, blogs, wikis etc
  • depending on where it’s saved, a digital portfolio can travel from school to school when students transfer

Heather says there are  four main purposes:

  • to demonstrate learning
  • to assess learning
  • to guide learning
  • to reflect upon learning.

To demonstrate learning

  • explains and displays what’s been learned in a unit
  • constructed while elearning is taking place
  • aligned to the criteria for the unit

Reflective portfolios

  • Often done as you go along
  • what was learned
  • how tasks were approached
  • what could be improved
  • often aligned with personal learning goals
  •  contains a variety of file types
  • reflective commenatary over a whole year or long period of time

For guidance

  • usually done by teacher or support person, gathering info about what to do for a student
  • examples of failing to meeting learning or behaviour goals – articles of work, video, audio etcFor assessment

For assessment

  • The ePortfolio IS the assessment,
  • it proves that the stduent has achieved the goals
  • often has an audience other than the student, teacher or parent.

The best vehicle?

  • Sometimes an ePortfolio can simply be a folder on a server containing samples of work comprising an archive or aggregate of work done over time.
  • Software solutions inlcude PowerPoint, PPT templates, Foliomaker, (school licence needed, a bit more expensive per child) edcube (school licence needed, about $900 p.a.).  Be wary of the time spent on doing these things – can over-ride learning time.
  • ONline tools: LMS,(Sharepoint, Moodle – Learning Management system)  Google Apps, Mahara (Heather’s fave), Wikis, Blogs, Websites.  The advantage is that kids can work on them at home.  Beware: the school’s internet bill can be huge. 

 It’s important to secure ePortfolios so that they can’t be deleted, either accidentally or on purpose, by the student or someone else.  If using online tools, strict protocols need to be in place for cyber safety.

All schools should have a copy of Digital Portfolio Resources CD.  Also available on ePotential.

Decision: how much time should be spent on these?  Who does them? How often?  Teachers and students need a set of rules to ensure safety, security and consistency between classes.

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Down to earth, and on-site support

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2009

After yesterday’s excitement at the ICTEV Conference, it was back down to earth…

I like to think that I can instal, trouble-shoot and generally solve my own IT problems, but when it comes to networking it is just too hard for an amateur.  WiFi, Ethernet, and all that stuff? Call in the experts, especially if you want to do tricky things like networking two or three home PCs so that they will print to a printer in a different room on the other side of the house…

The printer concerned is a Canon LBP660 and although it’s old enough to have come with floppy installation disks, it’s actually a very good printer.  Fast, trouble-free and you can load a lot of paper without it jamming.  Alas, the cartridges are very expensive, and so I was a bit dismayed when I upgraded my PC and it wouldn’t talk to the Canon just after I had bought two new cartridges.   I had XP on both computers, the new and the old, but could not solve the problem by downloading new drivers so I reluctantly set off for that large office supplier that has put all our other local suppliers out of business, and bought another B&W laser printer to go with the new computer. (It’s an ok Brother HL-217OW but its paper tray is ridiculously small – why do they design them like that?)

We try to be green chez Tim and Lisa, so we set up the old computer in a spare space in the sitting room with the Canon attached.  So Tim has been to-ing and fro-ing between his office on the other side of the house and the Canon – because it is the best and quickest for printing out his work documents – and of course we did not want the cartridges to go to waste.  But it’s a pain, mucking about with USBs and all that, so we called in aboc IT consulting and all our problems are solved.  We can print all over the place now, to the Canon, the new B&W  and we can do it from any computer and our little netbooks as well (so that when I take notes or blog posts at PD I can print them straight out now, instead of having to fool around with those pesky USBs).


aboc IT consulting is efficient, effective and affordable.  It has an impressive carbon reduction policy and specialises in small business support. Highly recommended!

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Deadly Vibe Poll

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 25, 2008

MPPS staff, please take a moment to complete this short poll about the use of a resource that is sent to our school. Thanks.

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Edna, the Australian Education Network

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 3, 2008

Edna (the Australian Education Network) is that network that all teachers want, and probably don’t know exists. 

You sign up, provide details of your interests and projects etc, and then join ‘communities’ that are interested in the same things.  (There are options to keep this info private, shared only with colleagues or registered users, so it’s pretty secure if you don’t want to tell the world about yourself). If you join a community,  then posts from members of the same community show up on your home page.

You can also add colleagues that you know, rather like adding Friends in My Space or Facebook.  Indeed, it’s rather like a Facebook for educators, but (a-hem) more focussed on education.

I’ve joined a number of communities: libraries, e-Learning and eLearning (somebody goofed, so you need to join both), curriculum planning, history teachers, podcasting, Wikis and SLAV – it was through the Wikis group that I found the excellent video about how to make a wiki in my previous post.

Anyone who’s interested in learning Web 2.0 should check it out.  Forums like this are very useful, but they only work if people make them work.

NB Apologies if you’re reading this twice: I’ve also posted it to my other blog because I think it’s so important! 

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