Friday, October 18, 2019

Classroom Word Work Ideas for Busy Teachers

Differentiation has become somewhat of a buzz word in education but all students should be exposed to challenge in order to move from where they are to a higher level of understanding. These activities are useful to increase vocabulary knowledge.

An unusual word is chosen (either by the teacher or the student) from the dictionary or a library book. Choose according to ability level and interest. Use the student’s display pages as a wall display or  to create a personal reference dictionary.
Challenge the students to create a One Page Display of the word including :
·         Another word for the chosen word (synonym)
·         Meaning of the word
·         Opposite of the word (antonym)
·         Use in a sentence
·         Rhymes with…
Extra challenge ideas :
·         Challenge students to keep a tally of the number of times the class has been able to use the word correctly in conversation over the day.
·         Translate from English to other languages of students in the class and create a classroom dictionary.
Interesting links  to explore :

Using the code A=1, B=2, C=3… Z=26 challenge the students to find the highest scoring word they can find. Record the highest scoring word and leave in view with a sign saying… Can anyone beat it?  I start this off with a word that I have chosen and that can be easily beaten so that all the students can see the possibilities for themselves.
For a no preparation start use word  (23 + 15+ 18 + 4 = 60)
Extra Challenge ideas :
Vary the code so that all vowels are worth 5, and all consonants are worth 1. (Or whatever code you choose to use) and the challenge your students to find words that add up to a specific number. This activity could be used to support a vocabulary or math lesson.
You can download a free mystery challenge using the A=1 etc code from my TPT store: .
While you are there, check out other word work resources.

Play CLUE Words : Leader chooses a word and provides the following information…
·         Number of letters in the word
·         Synonyms or antonyms for the word
Players take turns to guess the word from the clues provided. Solver becomes the new leader. If a solution is not found then the leader identifies the word and chooses another.
Example of a student created game sheet. (We used sticky notes to cover the answers).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Reframing Gifted for Educators


Many of the myths about gifted students still persist in spite of the higher profile that the sector  holds as a result of changes in government focus. What have we learned from the last thirty years in New Zealand education? 
There has been talk about meeting the needs of gifted in education spheres for many of those years  but my contention is that little has changed for these students in the wider education community as a result. Talk is not enough. This has led me to reflect on what I believe to be the things that successful educators do to promote change for gifted students within their sphere of influence in the hope that others can learn from the already converted and successful.


Combine a can do attitude and the desire to find out what works for the students  they work with, beyond getting bogged down with identification issues.

Have  a plan that includes keeping up with cutting edge technology

Advocate for individuals and accept that there may not be school wide agreement but persist anyway.

Negotiate alternatives to keep students interested and on task while meeting the goals required

Give gifted students opportunities to focus on real world issues and interact with experts in their fields to find answers for themselves.

Evaluate own actions and work with the student and extended family regularly to make informed decisions

Is Face to Face a Dying Art?

Can you spare a moment to think about the world that today’s students face as the use of technology increases and the need for face-to-face interaction decreases? The art of informal conversation and the sharing ideas freely is in danger of being misinterpreted through digital means.
We can’t deny the importance and impact that digital platforms have had on communication but miscommunication is one of the major sources of conflict and the problem is increased because of the ease in which the communication is impersonal.
Communication is much more than just words. When a person shares personal views with another in a face to face situation then there are other ‘clues’ that can be detected, including body language, facial expressions, feelings, tone of voice and reactions. It is through these means that the participants can gain a deeper understanding with less chance of the misunderstanding engendered by electronic media… email, text messages and social media. It is my contention that discussion plays an increasingly important part in education if we are to give students the tools to create trust between people in dealing with life beyond the classroom.
1.Facilitated discussion:
Facilitator starts the discussion by sharing his/her view. (can be the teacher, but not necessarily).No interrupting. Facilitator chooses the next speaker who can speak and then choose the next speaker  or pass and choose who is going to speak in their place. Silence is permitted as a response but everyone is given the chance to speak. Once this has happened then move into open discussion.
At a predetermined time the facilitator stops the discussion and students work individually to respond in writing to one of the following (i have the statements printed on cards because they are used frequently in class)...
  • I think the most important point is...
  • I disagree because...
  • I am puzzled about...
  • I don't understand...
  • Something I have learned is...
  • I agree with that statement because...
  • A question I still have is..

Shuffle the cards and call on different students to read them aloud to the group before continuing with the discussion or concluding. Cards can be used to guage understanding of the topic or provide a starting point for further discussion 

2. Circle of Voices.
Start with an individual reflection on the topic of discussion. Allow 2-3 minutes for participants to marshall their thoughts. Then…
  • Start
  • Move around the circle in order.
  • Each person has up to 1 minute to give his/her viewpoint 
  • No interruptions are allowed 
  • Complete the circle before moving on. 
Once everyone has had the chance to speak, move into free discussion with the proviso that every comment has to refer back to something that was said in the first round circle of voices.

Doughnut Discussion
This is a useful way to allow everyone to have a chance to have their say and be heard, allowing for cross pollination of ideas so everyone is not  listening to the same speaker. At the same time.
Divide your total into two even groups.( If the number is uneven in the class then the teacher makes up the numbers to that both groups are equal in number.)
First group makes a circle.
One student from the second group stands behind each person in the centre ring.
TURN to face each other and TALK..
After a set time, stop.
Either the INSIDE ring or the OUTSIDE ring then moves clockwise for three places and faces a new person and the discussion starts over. Moving on for three places reduces the likelihood that the points made by the speaker have already been overheard by a neighbour.

Snowball discussion
Allow time for individual reflection on the topic to begin with
Form into pairs and share reflections
Pairs into quartets
And so on
This is a useful way for everyone to ensure their views have be heard as they move from small to large group or class discussion.
For discussion topic starters try  a conversation cube.

Statement – Question – Swap
For young students to distinguish between statements and questions. Students work in pairs.
Student 1 chooses an everyday object and makes a statement about it. (Can be as simple as..This is a
Student 2 asks a question about it. Then they swap over.

Statement – Question - Analyse
Older students can be encouraged to refect on the kind of questions that are asked to provoke discussion. They can design their own categorising system if they wish (eg. Fat/ skinny questions) or use Blooms taxonomy and aim for questions that encourage higher oder thinking.Work in groups of 3 and allow time afterwards for students to discuss questions that provoked thought.

Student 1
Student 2
Student 3

Choose an object and make a statement about it.
Ask a question about the object
Respond to the question or make a comment about the type of question asked
Student 2
Student 3
Student 1

Make another statement about the object
Make another statement about the object
Respond to the question or make a comment about the type of question
Student 3
Student 1
Student 2

Make another statement about the object
Make another statement about the object
Respond to the question or make a comment about the type of question

To assess how well your students interact with each other you could try this fun activity…

Friday, January 4, 2019

Welcome to 2019

My focus for January is getting ready for going back to school with a bunch of suggestions for saving time. Starting with a brand new challenge 

This is an activity with a difference. There is a hidden twist with plenty of followup opportunities for discussion that will engage students in critical thinking about their learning. A great way to start the new year and give teachers insight into the new class.                                                                           

The word work bundle is a no prep set of activities for fast finishers, small group work or whole class lessons based around literacy devices. Ideal for middle school and early secondary to give practice to common concepts. All the answers are included.                                                                                                    

 Mystery mini units are best sellers from my store and there are lots to choose from. Mini units can be purchased individually. There are mysteries to suit certain days of the year as well. Why not visit and browse for Valentine's day?

and some math freebies from other sellers for your math class.

Happy New Year. Enjoy! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Just a plate of rocks.

A teacher affects eternity. No-one can tell where their influence stops.

I'd like to tell you a story,,,
On my desk in my classroom, many years ago, I kept a dish of rocks. I am fascinated by stones because of the colours and patterns in them. They weren't precious stones. They were just a collection of rocks. The kids in my class sometimes asked me about them and I loved to share what I knew about rock collecting  but in reality I kept them there because they grounded me and on a day from hell I could look at them and know that there was life beyond the classroom and it would pass.
Fast forward 25 years.
I chanced to meet up with a former student from that class and I asked about his life nowadays. He told me that he was a geological engineer  and then dumbfounded me by saying that it was my fault he had gone into that line of work. He explained further...
Do you remember the plate of rocks you always had on your table?  And the kid who was always asking questions about them? Well, that kid was me and we all knew that if we were having a bad day and you looked at the rocks then somehow they made things better. I knew then that I wanted to work with rocks because they could withstand anything and so I studied geology at university.
And I thought it was just a plate of rocks!

Here's a suggestion for you...
Have something in your classroom that you are passionate about.
Something you can look at and feel that there is life beyond the classroom.
Something with special meaning to you.
The only proviso is that it needs to be child friendly!

Put it in place as soon as you get back to school.
- a painting
- a family/ animal/ place  picture on your desk
- an item from something that you collect
-a book that you love
- flowers from your garden

Be prepared to share your knowledge and passion with a child who asks about it but it is there for YOU, not for the class.You will probably never know the influence you have had on the future, but it will be positive because enthusiasm is contagious.

These days I sell original resources online through would love you to visit and follow my store to be updated as new resources are added.