Monthly Archives: August 2011

Add this to my Top 10 post… The Visual Timer

I don’t advertise products in my blog, but I do share resources I find support my classroom program, and children. The resource I’m sharing is a visual timer clock. I use it to set a start and finish time for different activities, or to gently remind a student to stay on task. They love it! It also gives  children a sense of time. Time is a challenging concept for young learners. How long is one minute, ten minutes? Is it a long time or short time?

Cheers Nina


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The Leadership for Community Engagement Program funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Southern Metropolitan Region

This year I’ve been part of the Southern Metropolitan Region Community Engagement Project. As a participant of this project, I’ve been looking at different ways of engaging school community members at my school. The focus of this project is communication and leadership, and I’ve particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with other participants working in different fields within the community e.g. physiotherapist etc.

Last week we had our graduation celebration at a local golf club which included a final presentation of my project. Having the opportunity to engage with, and learn about other professions working in the community has been integral to the success of this project.

Included in our sessions has been the opportunity to listen to three significant and esteemed leaders in their particular fields. The presenters gave wonderful and very personal insights into their career successes and challenges. Being able to listen to these personal reflections in a small group forum has been wonderful, and an opportunity that not all have.

I’d also like to thank the leaders of this project Dr. Anne Kennedy and Dr. Elizabeth Mellor for their expertise, continuous advice, stimulating discussion and humour. To my fellow participants, thank you for the great discussion and many laughs. You’re all leaders!

This project will be offered again in 2012 by application, and I would encourage those eligible to think seriously about applying for the 2012 program.

Cheers Nina

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Rick Wormeli – Differentiation in the Classroom

So who is Rick Wormeli?

‘Rick offers a wealth of experience having worked as a middle grades teacher, human growth & development teacher, and staff development educator. He is also an educational consultant to National Public Radio, USA Today, and the Smithsonian Institute. Rick has presented at the White House, has appeared on Good Morning America, and has worked with school districts all across the country. He is also the author of Meet Me in the Middle and Day One & Beyond.’

It’s always great when I receive a comment via email or in response to a post. I’ve been reading Rick Wormeli’s research and watching his videos on differentiation in the classroom for some time now. Rick has left a number of comments attached to the post; What is differentiated instruction? I’ve included one of Rick’s comments in this post because Rick has included a link to a number of his videos and support material. I’ve put these videos in my favorites and would recommend everyone to do this as well. I’ve shown Rick’s videos to colleagues and have witnessed a number of ‘aha’ moments.

‘Wow, a 4 a.m. mind-tornado! This is thrilling, actually. Sometimes we can see the farthest, at least intellectually in the quiet, darker moments of night or early morning. Carolyn’s material is certainly compelling and practical, I’m glad you’re using it. She’s a well-respected friend. If you want to explore more ideas on assessment and grading when differentiating, I posted a number of videos at, each about 5 to 10  minutes long, discussing the more controversial issues. These are meant to be a companion for my book, Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Everything at the Website is free, however, so you don’t need to have the book to use the videos. There are even study guides for the books that are free for the downloading at the site that you can use independent of the book to guide teacher and leader interactions with these topics. Let me know if you have more questions or Pearls of Wisdom! — Rick (’

Thanks for reading and commenting Rick. It is appreciated!

Cheers Nina

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Week 4 – Journal Writing: Preps – Victorian 5 & 6 Years Olds

The PM Writing Exemplar Big Books are essential to my writing program. The children are focussing on extending their writing to include a title, sequence of events and personal comment. Writing about Saturday and Sunday to sequence their recount is enabling my students to extend their writing and provide detail.

I’ll be extending this to include orientation during the next weeks. Deconstructing a number of recounts to identify items for an editing checklist will also be completed. The editing checklist needs to be constructed by the children after a number of collaborative group sessions for relevance, understanding and ownership.

A number of children are now writing on dotted third lines. During the next few weeks all children will move to using dotted thirds. At the beginning of the year the children use plain page scrap books, then plain lines are used before moving to dotted third lines. The children do not necessarily finish each book, as lines are introduced as part of a developmental continuum. The children’s personal comments tend to be the same at present,  thus constructing a personal comment will be a teaching focus a long with writing an exciting title.

Cheers Nina

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Story Maps & Comprehension – Prep (5 & 6) Year Olds

Story Maps are a great comprehension tool for young learners. For this activity the children were read Little Red Riding Hood. These children were familiar with the text, having heard the story before. After reading the story to the children as a written text, not as a picture story book, the children were asked to draw a detailed map of Red Riding Hood’s journey representing the main parts of the story.

When their map was finished, they completed an activity where they were instructed to identify and draw in detail the beginning, middle and end of the story.

The children had previously completed this activity using the story, Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen. Allowing the children to draw and talk about the story enables them to display an in depth understanding of the text, which can be limited by asking them to purely write. The children were engaged in the task.

Child One:

Child Two:

Child Three:

Story Maps: Who Sank The Boat by Pamela Allen

The space below each picture is where the teacher or child can record. I always read a text a minimum of three times before completing this activity.

Cheers Nina

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The Fresh Air Fund needs your support!

I often receive requests from organisations asking me to support their cause. I have chosen to support the Fresh Air Fund and am sharing an e-mail I receieved.

Hi again Nina,

I wanted to reach out to thank you again for helping to spread the word over the past few months about the Fresh Air Fund’s need for host families. With your help, we’ve been able to find 650 of the 850 host families we need. Right now there is just one week left for us to place the remaining 200 children with a loving host family for a Fresh Air experience that can change lives. I was hoping you could post on Nina’s Arena to keep the issue alive in the minds of your readers and followers.



‘THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2010, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.’

Cheers Nina

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Moderating Writing is Essential – A great activity for teachers which encourages targeted discussion.

Today I led a writing moderation session with a group of teachers. Moderating writing is time consuming, however, it is an essential component of assessment. Teachers were asked to bring six writing samples from their class. These samples could represent the range of standards, or a random selection. After visiting the English Continuum P-10 Writing Developmental Overview, the teachers were asked to read each sample, discuss and place the writing as a continuum. The samples were not placed according to progression points / Victorian Essential Learning Standards at this stage.

Once the continuum was completed, teachers were asked to read, discuss and match samples to progression points. The discussion was excellent, with some samples requiring detailed examination. There were some changes made to the initial placement of writing samples after referring to the writing developmental overview.

I have asked this group of teachers to complete the same activity with their year level team. After placing the samples according to the developmental continuum,  discussion centered on the teaching points evident in samples that would need to be taught to move each group of students forward.

Link to  P-10 Writing Continuum.

Cheers Nina


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