Monthly Archives: October 2009

Consultation & Quality Leadership – What makes a ‘great’ school ‘great’?

Yesterday I went to the DEEM briefing outlining how to read school survey data related to Drug Education and Student Wellbeing. I went last year and was wondering if this session would be a repeat of last year. However, this year we spent quite a bit of time looking at school leadership.  Leadership models were introduced and as I haven’t really done much leadership PD, it was all new. I actually found this aspect of the briefing really interesting.

When looking at the data, the key points highlighted for me was that everything goes back to quality teaching, engaging programs and effective leadership. You can have an ‘OK’ school, but when you have all three combined you’ll have a ‘great’ school. Research also says engaged students, quality programs, effective teachers and good leadership results in improved school learning data.


This is my notes from yesterday’s briefing. It shows three models of consultation/leadership. The first model shown has squiggly lines that go nowhere. This represents talking and never getting anywhere or making a decision. The second model represents following the steps 1-2-3… or just doing the process. The model represents change that is totally driven with no reflection. The third model displays learning. It’s a curving line that goes from a to b. Decisions are made and consultation has happened.


Sorry about the photo quality but I’ll explain each. These are consultation models. The first one shows a straight line from the leader to the staff members. This represents no consultation and is an autocratic leadership model. The second consultation model displays the leader in the centre and the staff around the outside. The leader basically goes off to different staff members indivdually and asks each their view on something and then reports what was said to the next staff member. Most staff in this model agree with the leader who can direct the responses. The third and most successful consultation model has the leader talking to a group of staff, brainstorming, discussing and asking for feedback. Throughout my career, I’ve seen each of these models in play and am familliar with all.

What have I learnt? I’ve learnt that quality leaders consult well and make informed decisions and that quality leadership is essential for a ‘great’ school. Thanks Lynne and Donna for an informing morning. And to all you leaders out there… What type of consultation model do you really use?

Cheers Nina


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Using my student’s writing to inform teaching and learning. Where do we go from here?

Angela Stockman ( a Literacy Coach in America) left a great comment on my last post asking me what I have taken away from the children’s writing which will inform program planning. I decided to write a post identifying the learning needs of my children. These needs will direct my planning.

Where do we go from here?

I have just reviewed my class writing samples based on the story Lazy Ozzie. There are a number of teaching needs that appear to be consistent across my grade. These teaching needs will direct my next fortnight’s whole class focus segments, where key learning needs are explicitly taught. Other learning needs will be taught to small groups of children needing extension or groups needing to revisit simple key skills and concepts. I also spend part of each writing session roving and working with individual students ‘at their point of need’. A number of my identified needs will be addressed during reading activities.

The Learning Needs:

Conventions of Spelling

  • Frequently occurring patterns of letters such as ‘ing’, ‘ow’, ‘ou’, ‘er’
  • Using more complex phonic conventions to spell words e.g. words that have the same sound pattern.
  • Looking at words with particular sounds e.g  farm, off, photo
  • Introduce common contractions- his, he’s, did not, didn’t  etc…
  • Review consonant diagraphs – ‘tr’, ‘ck’, ‘th’, ‘sh’
  • Ck Rule- Use a ‘ck’ when it follows a short sound of the vowels e.g. duck
  • Magic ‘e’ -When you have a word like mice the ‘e’ makes the word say its second sound e.g. cage
  • Ed & ing- If the last three letters of the base word are consonant-vowel-consonant double the last consonant before you add an ending that begins with a vowel e.g. swimming

 Writing Strategies

  • Continue to have students read back writing  ‘at the time of writing’ and at a later date
  • Checking writing for correct letter formation, spaces between words, use of full stops
  • Using commas, e.g. on the horse, on the cow – and lists
  • Reading writing to others  and reading back to self to make sure their writing makes sense
  • Checking spelling to make sure known sight words are correct
  • Continue using a simple plan – thinking about what I want to write, clearly defining a topic, adding detail to a topic, understanding concept of first draft, sequencing ideas to make sure they have a beginning, body and end using the ‘hamburger model’.

 Ideas Communicated in Writing

  • Expressing an opinion
  • Using high frequency words relevant to the topic – vocabulary building
  • Using a dictionary, creating personal dictionaries for our Inquiry topic
  • Identifying the main idea and subordinate ideas in texts.
  • Writing multiple sentences that relate to a chosen topic – Inquiry topic


I’ve asked Angela to look at my identified teaching and learning needs and add anything she thinks I have missed and there will be many. I’m always looking for feedback as I see myself as a learner and I often think I’m missing something obvious. I’d love to work with a coach.

Cheers Nina


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Lazy Ozzie – Extending writing: Building oral language is crucial to writing development!


My Preps (5&6 year olds) have been using strategies to extend their writing. I read the wonderful story about Lazy Ozzie to them this week. It’s a repetitive text combined with a story. Just perfect for this task. The children were asked to retell the story read to them or write their own Lazy Ozzie story. I’ve been doing this activity since the beginning of the year and I’m thrilled with their efforts. I’m a huge supporter of Language Experience and believe that this approach/philosophy about how children learn has extended the ability of all children. I don’t believe it’s this cohort, as the writing of so many children in my grade is wonderful. Their reading and writing has developed from activities implemented daily which build oral language. Interactive writing, both student led and teacher led has also played a huge role and is one of the main strategies of the Language Experience approach.

Student 1.





Student 2.



Student 3.





Student 4.



I could keep on posting my children’s writing samples because they are wonderful.  If you have time read my previous posts from the beginning of the year and you’ll see how their writing has developed and the scaffolding strategies used a long the way. 

Cheers Nina 

P.S  I also am amazed that editing has become a natural part of the writing process for many of my students.


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The Educator’s PLN- A personal learning network for educators…and it’s global!

I’ve joined a new ‘ning’ – The Educator’s PLN. I can see so many great people to connect with, learn from and ‘yes’, I’ll share where I can as well. There’s an ‘Aussie’ Group within the ‘ning’ and I’ve joined this group as well.  The PLN contains some great websites to visit, blogs and videos to watch.

Having a supportive network is important for me, because so many things are new. I need to have educators who are prepared to help me when I come up against a ‘brick wall’, which is often. People ask me ‘if I have a life?’. Yes, but I watch very little TV. Think about the hours some people spend watching TV. I believe my time spent using social networking to connect and learn is time well spent… and it’s social in its own way.

I’ve made contacts all over the world. Its made me realise how small the world really is and that our role as teachers is really the same no matter where in the world we teach. Now that’s profound!

Cheers Nina

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The Dophin Research Institute Incursion: Ben 10 from the institute is a Prep Hero!

This week we had a wonderful incursion. Ben 10 (named by 2008 Preps)  from The Dolphin Research Institute visited 2009 Preps to introduce them to the hidden treasures of Port Phillip Bay. The children were captivated by Ben’s passion, excitement and incredible knowledge about our bay. They watched amazing ‘snippit’ videos, built a rock pool and learnt about the food chain and what happens when the food chain is disrupted.  Use the link and visit their website and consider having Ben visit your students. Ben works with students of all ages. Ben 10 knows his picture will appear here. S5006578

Our next excursion with Ben 10 will be to our local beach for a ‘hands on’ exploration of  Moondah Beach rockpools.

Cheers Nina   & thanks Ben!

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Watch TC09 – What a wonderful way to celebrate the last day of school. Year 12 Toorak College 2009

I’ve just visited Jenny Luca’s blog to look at her school’s video put together by the Year 12 students to celebrate their last school day of Year 12. We hear so many negative reports about ‘muck up’ day, well, take a look at the video the students put together. Their video is amazing, clever and reflects the talent of young people.  In terms of technology these students could be our teachers.

Cheers Nina Congratulations to Toorak College’s Year 12, 2009.


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Mind Mapping with Preps – 5 & 6 Year Olds and I’m not out of my mind! Well…

I’ve been looking forward to introducing Mind Mapping to my Preps. They need to know how to build ideas and organise their thinking as much as the  older children. I’ve started with a very familiar topic – school. We brainstormed the branch titles and decided on Friends, Learning, Inquiry and Leaders. As a grade we are always talking about leadership, our learning, being a great friend and our Inquiry. It’s important for Preps to understand the complexities of school and the journey they are making. They love getting out their early work books and comparing them with what they can do now. I love the conversations they have and the sense of satisfaction that is obvious on their faces.

To help organise their thoughts we discussed using colors for each branch. This is our first go at Mind Mapping and I am very pleased with their  attempts. Mind Mapping will be a great tool to use for our inquiry into living and non living things. This is my second year in Prep and they are teaching me so much. The most important thing I have learnt is not to underestimate their capabilities.

I’ve removed the friendship section of these Mind Map as I don’t include my school name,  student names or photos in my blog.

Cheers Nina






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Wiki – aholic: This could be my ‘thing’!

My wiki journey has begun and I’m now a member of 5 wikis. I’ve even made 18 edits to one. Now, before anyone gets too excited many of those edits are my visits back into the page to correct things. Ummmm! I’ll get there. I have already learnt so much. My school wiki has had many of my staff join which is great. The issue is, at such a busy time of the year, I have to keep the momentum going. 

Susie an SMR Ultranet coach has joined our school wiki and is willing to share our journey. Getting teachers to play in a wiki is the start. Building confidence with Web 2.0 is the key and I know because I have been wearing L Plates all year. If teachers can use Web 2.0  tools, I know it will cross over to classrooms. Embedding these tools into our curriculum will strengthen student engagement and we know that students engaged in learning do better.

Thanks for following my journey. Visit my previous post and read the comments. Collaboration and support is an essential component of successful change.

Cheers Nina  This You Tube explains it all!  Oh, and thank you Jenny Luca for teaching me.


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Adventures in Wiki-Land: Don’t let me near your wiki!

I mentioned in an earlier post that  I have been learning how to start and contribute to a wiki. Last week I joined two new wikis. I was granted membership and decided to start contributing. The wikis I joined have been set up by the Victorian Southern Metropolitan Region Ultranet coaches.  My adding things to wikis is interesting because ‘I really am a learner here’. For my first contribution I planted a video right in the middle of the front page of the peninsula wiki and had no idea how to move it. All I can say is I’m a learner and to others take the plunge, don’t be frightened to ‘have a go’ as there is always someone with the skills to fix anything that goes wrong. I received a lovely email welcoming me to the group and some instructions.  My video has moved to an appropriate part of the page and I now know how to move things and make tables. Just those few things I have learnt will enable me to organise the wiki I set up at school. 

Have a look and join if you teach in the SMR.  Cheers Nina


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Prep Report: An outline of Term 4 and brief review of Term 3- Where is our teaching and learning heading?

Program of Inquiry

Last term as part of our inquiry ‘Toy Story’, the children designed and made their own toys. To support this we taught the Primary Science Connection’s ‘On the Move’ unit. The children have learnt about how toys move and what makes them move. This was complimented buy two incursions focusing on toys- Sean from the CSIRO and Professor Bunsen.

We also looked at the socio-economic aspect of toys. At the beginning of our Inquiry, Captain A  from the Salvation Army visited the children and spoke about how she helps families and how toys can bring joy into the lives of children who have very little. It was a powerful talk and these very young children understood and showed great empathy.

To celebrate their success and to give our students the opportunity to share their understanding with others, the Preps held their own Toy Expo. Many parents and students came and asked questions or admired their designs and toys. Visitors were requested to bring a gold coin donation with the money collected being given to the Salvation Army. The children raised $ 214 which was fantastic.

Our Toy Drive was equally successful with boxes filled to capacity. On the last assembly for Term 3, the Prep children presented the collected toys and money to Captain A  from the Salvation Army.
Eight Prep students (from across all grades) spoke at assembly. During the term a total of thirteen Prep students presented information at assembly. This is an area the Prep Team is keen to develop. The local newspaper came and photographed the children with Captain A which was wonderful. The Preps have been supporting the Salvation Army for a number of years.

The central idea for our Inquiry this term is ‘Living things have certain requirements in order to grow and stay healthy’. The lines of inquiry which will define the scope of our inquiry into the central idea are:

  • Sorting living and non-living things
  • Characteristics of animals and plants
  • Needs of living things

Our program follows a series of lessons planned using the e5 planning sequence. The e5 program consists of lessons which are designed to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. The children will be exploring our local beach and school ground in order to discover the answers to the following questions.

What do we already know about living and non-living?

What is living and non-living?

What do living things need in order to survive?

The Dolphin Research Organisation will be conducting a series of lessons. B who worked with our students in 2008 is returning. His lessons will include developing the children’s’ understanding of the needs of living things taken in the classroom, followed by a ‘hands on’ exploration of the rock pools at our beach. Initial base-line data has been collected to enable the children’s understanding to be assessed during and at the end of the Inquiry.


This term we will continue to develop our student’s writing by incorporating strategies which scaffold composition i.e. the ability to plan, edit and strategies which enable the children to extend their ideas. Interactive Writing – teacher and student led, Shared Writing, Modelled and Guided writing are being used across the unit. Sharing ideas as a team is valued and wherever possible this is happening.

Reading, comprehension and text analysis is incorporated into our Early Years Program. Our program emphasises the importance of reading for meaning, with all students across the unit being delivered a program which develops the skills necessary for deeper levels of comprehension. The context of what is read is discussed, which then leads to discussion centred upon characters, mood, setting etc… Oral discussion and group activities are used along with individual responses to text. Guided Reading, Modelled Reading, Shared Reading and Read Aloud teaching strategies are incorporated into planning and programs. Student reading development is regularly assessed with teachers working collaboratively to cater for different groups across classrooms when required.

Opportunities to broaden student vocabulary are incorporated into programs. Conversation as a grade and in small groups is intrinsic to all learning situations. Opportunities for children to talk to a wider audience are incorporated when relevant to our classroom program.    


Our numeracy program this term will build upon our students understanding of Chance, Data, Patterns, Sorting –Venn Diagrams, 2D Shapes, Location, Time, Money, Mass, Volume and Capacity. The program will also cover number facts to 10/20 and beyond, doubles and near doubles to 20, addition and subtraction to 20 plus. Open ended activities have been planned to cater for the needs of different students.  The Early Years Numeracy instruction model is implemented in classrooms.

General Discussion

The Prep students are completing the new ‘Online English Interview’ assessment. This appears to be a very worthwhile assessment tool but is also a time consuming assessment program. We are trying to implement this assessment with as little disruption to our teaching program; however, it is inevitable that there will be some minor disruptions if we are to assess each student within the timeline provided.

Once again the Prep Team are looking forward to an exciting ‘jam-packed’ term. Transition will be an important focus as we prepare our students for the Junior Unit in 2010.

The Prep Team

Cheers Nina – I hope you find this interesting.

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