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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