When a school has and owns its culture…

There is so much written about schools and culture, but do schools really develop and nurture the culture they vocally support?

I’ve just finished teaching at a school which has and owns its learning culture.

The culture is driven, valued and student centred. This school knows who they are and their purpose. Yes, it’s an IB school, but not all IB schools have moved this far on their journey. It takes special courage to hand over a large amount of responsibility to students and it does not happen overnight either.

What makes me say that?

The students at this school are inquirers. They inquire across the curriculum with opportunities to inquire in all learning experiences. Inquiry is not a timetabled event three times a week, it is embedded deeply into the ethos of the school and its curriculum delivery.

This doesn’t mean that the curriculum isn’t planned, in fact it’s the opposite. The curriculum and documentation is highly developed.

What I know

We need to look further than students standing patiently in lines. We need to look at what’s happening in the classroom and programs in our schools. This school really does enable students to learn from their successes and mistakes. Both are valued as learning experiences.

Below is a student reflection. This student was new to the school this year and his reflection has a powerful message!

At …….. you can work where you’re at and not feel bad. If you are struggling you can still have fun and learn. I didn’t want to go to school last year and now I really want to. You are not as controlled and can choose and I choose to make good choices.

 Cheers Nina



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Behaviour Management & SHIFT- One teacher’s perspective…


I’m frequently asked questions about behaviour management by graduate teachers. This is a huge issue for teachers and always has and will be. This post is not about students with disabilities.

There’s a lot of pressure placed on teachers to have students beautifully behaved and quietly working. 

Remove this from your mind and think long term because there is no such thing as the perfect student, perfect teacher or perfect classroom.

However, a teacher does need to have a strong set of values or beliefs about student behaviour which is supported by the school philosophy and that’s the reason I love working in IB schools.

Most classrooms are made up of students of similar ages but this does not mean they are emotionally or socially at the same stage in their development. As teachers, we know this! Classroom management is about knowing each student as an individual, including their background. Behaviour management is part of each student’s learning plan and there is no one method which will work with all students.

One size will not fit all!

Equally students need to be given opportunities to learn from their choices, even if those choices are not the best. Understanding this means you can start thinking about your impact as a teacher.

It’s also about the individual and not the whole class. Many students are managing themselves well. Identify those students and make sure they know that you know. This group may feel forgotten and they can be your greatest support.

Once you’ve identified those students who require support with their behaviour management you can start developing your strategic plan. I look for the behaviour which needs immediate changing first and this means you may have to ignore some other behaviours, but never ignore aggressive or antisocial behaviour.

My goal is for students to change their behaviour for themselves and not for me.

If it’s just for one teacher, it’s not sustainable change. The impact is low. Students need to own their behaviour and change their behaviour because they feel benefit and need. Changing their behaviour themselves will improve their self-esteem.

The Shift…

When a student’s behaviour starts to change I call this the SHIFT.

The shift is when the student starts to make appropriate choices in their day and this is when your quiet personalised feedback has impact. Making  note of any behaviour change or good choices made by a student is important for targeted  feedback to the student. This shows the student that you are really seeing the positive from the negative.

Behaviour change is slow, however, if you want behaviour change to be ongoing, sustainable and owned by the student, you need to be prepared for this.

It’s said that it takes six weeks to change a behaviour and form a new behaviour so don’t expect long term change overnight. It’s also much easier to establish this at the beginning of a school year.

What I don’t do…

  • I do not use stickers nor do I have a bag of goodies. I use feedback.
  • I do not put a misbehaving student’s name on the board.
  • I avoid disciplining the whole class.
  • I avoid keeping students in at recess.
  • I do not give learning tasks as a punishment. 

What I do and am…

  • I plan teaching and learning to meet the needs and abilities of individual students.
  • I do put a daily quote on the board and this might be something a student or teacher has said. It does not have to be a famous quote. I don’t draw attention to the quote but it always amazes me that the students do read them and comment. They will remind me if I forget to write one.
  • I do give feedback to students about their behaviour choices.
  • I have students set personal goals.
  • I am very resilient and patient.
  • I am an observer.
  • I am by nature a positive person. I believe all students can become responsible for their behaviour with support.

Cheers Nina




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Working with Mark: Mentor Text- Be a Better Writer by Steve Peha

be-a-better-writer-2Last year I started working with Mark and I have to say working with a Year 11 student has been an opportunity to explore the secondary English curriculum. I chose to use Steve Peha’s Be a Better Writer as my mentor text. Steve’s book can be used from early primary to adult despite being recommended for Ages 10 to 16.

I’ve been working with Steve, who has shared many amazing resources with me which I have shared with others. Steve would like me to co-write with him as he believes this is the kind of book/paper teachers want. Wow… I consider myself a teacher not necessarily a writer but if I could contribute something to a paper which actually changes how a student thinks of themselves as a writer and reader then I should.

One year ago I started working with a very bright student who struggled to get his thoughts on paper and I am so pleased to share these results one year later.



I’ll be catching up with Mark next week to start breaking down Steve’s chapter on Better Sentences.

Cheers Nina

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‘The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.’ Robert John Meehan

My friend and colleague of many years Angela Stockman is now going to be working with teachers and communities to start their own Writing Studios. I’ve been learning from Angela for a long time and watched and read with great interest the work she has been doing with young writers. Angela shares her learning with all and that is special. Angela made an announcement today and I am delighted for her.

Well friends, I’ve been called to travel down a brand new pathway as I continue this writing studio journey of mine. The good news is that I’m beginning to realize the vision that launched the WNY Young Writers’ Studio ten years ago: starting this summer, I will be helping school districts, community leaders, and even nonprofit agencies launch and sustain their very own writing studios within and well beyond western New York.

Equally, Steve Peha has received another award for his book Be A Better Writer and once again I am incredibly pleased that Steve and his wife Margot are receiving recognition for their amazing work. I’ve been using Steve’s work for many years. Visit Steve’s site Teaching That Makes Sense.

I manage with Steve Australia Writes with Steve Peha Facebook group where Steve shares his work and responds to questions from members. To access the group you will need to request membership.

Steve Awards.GIF

Cheers Nina



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Steve Peha: Integrated Literacy – Love this! Please read… ‘Integrated Literacy is a framework for K-12 instruction that leverages the complementary nature of reading and writing to make learning easier for kids and teaching better for teachers.’ Steve Peha

This document is excellent and one I think teachers should read. The diagram is simple, yet very effective. Reading and writing are being taught separately and I understand why this is happening, but believe there’s a real need to make links between reading and writing explicit and this document does. Steve’s headings below are fantastic and headings I would introduce to students.

  • Writing Community – Reading Community
  • Writing Process – Reading Process
  • Writing Strategies – Reading Strategies
  • Writing Applications – Reading Applications
  • Writing Quality – Reading Quality
  • Writing Connections –  Reading Connections

Steve Peha Integrated Literacies.JPG


Link to full document above… Integrated Literacy is a framework for K-12

Steve has a Facebook group called AUSTRALIA writes with Steve Peha. Steve is sharing many wonderful resources and answering teacher questions. He’s also working with teachers in Australia and actually visits classrooms via Skype. It is a closed group so you will have to join. Here is the link:


Cheers Nina

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Hand over the control! PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing: June 2012 – (5&6 Year Olds)

This post has been read many times recently. This is a wonderful strategy and can be used by any age. All contribute, it’s student led and encourages all writers to have a go.

Nina Davis -Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing sessions enable me to roam, listen to conversations and question my student’s understanding of concepts and skills. I’m able to question individuals and groups about the strategies they are using to compose their text. Their feedback is enlightening and I’m always surprised by how well they articulate what they are doing, the strategies they are using and their collective knowledge of punctuation and composition is evident. I’m always looking for the transfer of explicit teaching foci.

Recently my students took their parents on a Student Led Tour of their learning and we decided to write about the tour.

I’ve written about this strategy numerous times in my blog. To read more simply type PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing in the search box. I firmly believe this strategy scaffolds, supports and accelerates my student’s writing.

Cheers Nina

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Week 8 – PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing: The strategy which supports and accelerates the writing development of young writers!

Sometimes a post gets read more than others. This is an oldie about a fantastic strategy which I would start week one of Prep/Foundation. Student Led Interactive Writing for all ages and stages.

Nina Davis -Teaching & Learning in the Australian primary classroom

The key is students working collaboratively, sharing their learning, prompting each other and using skills and language used by teachers. Each student is engaged in the activity and committed to contributing with the support of their peers if needed. Groups can be structured to support children if needed or to extend children.

The Process:

Each child is identified by a color and all are given the opportunity to lead a group. Teaching leadership skills concurrently is essential. The children are given poster sized sheets to write on and colored markers. All students record their name down the side of the paper in their chosen color. This enables the teacher to assess the writing development of individual students.

I use PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing to assess and plan my weekly writing foci. It’s interesting to note that my students’ independent writing improves rapidly.  As with independent writing I’m looking for…

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