Skills That Require No Talent – Work Ethic

This is my second post in the series of ‘Skills That Require No Talent’. Last post, I discussed the importance of being on time. In this week’s post, I discuss Work Ethic.

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A screen-shot of a Google Ngrams chart showing the prevalence of these two terms in books from 1900 – 2010.

Work Ethic is something that is often discussed but what does it actually mean to have ‘Work Ethic’. The term was even used in the mainstream until the mid 1950s. Strangely enough, the term is often linked to Protestants- as in ‘protestant work ethic’ – coined by the sociologist Max Weber in 1904. Weber’s thoughts were that a protestant work ethic is a moral code in which workers demonstrate their righteousness through diligence in their work.

But how might this look in 2016 and beyond. These days, work is often more (or less in some perspectives) than a calling and more of an ability to be useful. Since the Industrial era, man has been able to improve his/her social status through usefulness and strong work ethic; climbing the ladder and driving his/her own destiny and success.

We also have the added conflict of’ finding balance’ and ‘slowing down’. Does ‘climbing the ladder of success’ mean that we need to spend endless hours at work?  How does one ‘climb the ladder’ and keep a healthy work-life balance?

Whitmore (2015) suggests here that work ethic is developed through 7 elements: professionalism (including your dress), respectfulness (grace under pressure), dependability (and stability), dedication (aim for ‘outstanding’), determination (solve problems), accountability (take responsibility) and humility (acknowledge others). These require no extra time on a worker’s part. Others (Jenkins, 2016; Young, 2016) mention integrity, discipline and persistence.

Let’s keep the conversation going. What are the most important factors of work ethic for you?


Ten Skills That Require No Talent – Part 1 – Being On Time


Earlier this year, I posted an image entitled ‘Ten Skills That Require No talent’. It went gang-busters so I thought I’d flesh out some of the ideas.

Being on time

Being on time is harder now more than ever. Yet it should be easier – we have so many tools at our fingertips to help us be organised. Trying to predict the traffic, getting the kids dressed, getting your spouse to move faster than a tortoise… it all adds up to you being late. So how do we ensure we get where we need to be on time.

  1. Value Others – Remember that the time of other people/person you will be meeting is just as important as your time. He/She/They have also battled against the odds to try and ensure that you aren’t waiting around for them. Time is precious and valuing the time of others let’s them know that they are precious, too.
  2. Get organised ahead of time – If you aren’t sure where you are going or how long it will take to get there, search it up on Google Maps the day before and then add on 15 minutes for parking. Factor in how long it takes the kids to get ready and set them a timer giving a reward for those who can beat the timer. If you all get to your destination on time or early, you can use the time to have a play.
  3. Be prepared the day before for a morning meeting – I like to place my clothes in the bathroom the night before so I don’t waste time choosing my outfit when I’m trying to get ready to go. It’s helpful to have any meals you need with you prepared the night before, too.

Hopefully, these 3 tips will help strengthen your ‘being on time’ muscles.


Algorithmic Thinking + Literacy = ?

Since attending the GAFE PD at Sacred Heart a couple of weeks ago, algorithmic thinking has been on my mind (yes, I am a total nerd!). I attended a session with the fabulous, Dr Rebecca Vivian that focused on how to implement algorithmic thinking in practical ways.

We’ve been studying number patterns in Mathematics so this workshop was brilliant timing, allowing me to implement ideas straight away. We’ve also been focusing on writing information reports. An idea began to boil in my mind… what if instead of designing success criteria, students could use algorithmic thinking to create a flow chart for a successful information report.

I decided that I would attempt this task through Literacy Rotations. This meant that while other students were engaged in their specific rotational task, I could explicitly teach students in small groups about flow charts and the symbols… and it would link with the algorithmic work we were doing in Maths… even better!

I distributed to the students a template of the flow chart symbols (an example of the symbols but my example was much simpler) accompanied by an information report work sample (from ACARA work samples) which we’d previously studied and labelled.

As a small group, we then worked through the symbols and their meanings and I modelled how they might start their flow chart (Are you writing about something people will want to read? Yes? No?). In their small group, students then continued these draft diagrams. Here’s an example of a starting point.

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A flow chart for a successful information report.

From here, students began using the drawing tool in Google Docs to create flow charts that could be added to and adjusted more easily. Check out the example below:

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The start of a flow chart using Google Docs.

This continues to be a work in progress and these flow charts will develop as we continue to delve deeper into interesting and effective information report writing.

Scavenger Hunts with Google


Today I tried something quite new (what a surprise!) and it was also quite complex. After reading Stephanie Perretta’s blog about Creating Self-Checking Scavenger Hunts with Google, I gave it a go myself. Stephanie has set up the resources for a first-timer so beautifully – thanks, Stephanie. Her instructions are so detailed that, for once, I had to read through something in a systematic way in order to accurately replicate the process.

Since we’re studying the Order of Operations (AKA BIDMAS, BODMAS, PEDMAS, BIMDAS etc.) and it’s a fairly linear process, I decided to create my scavenger hunt around this topic. I also wanted to add more than YouTube clips for remediation, too – this required some trouble shooting as I also wanted to use PlayPosit and Brainpop.

QR treasure hunt 2
A student completing a Brainpop PEDMAS game.

Setting it up was quite a process and, for once, I knew I actually had to test it myself as there were so many variables in play. Luckily, I did as there were a few aspects that didn’t quite “add up”.

However, not everything went exactly to plan but I’m a life-long learner with a growth mindset. Thus, I reflect on my experiences and work out how I can improve them next time;)


I set the QR codes in place the afternoon before –  ready for our lesson after recess on the following day. Then, at about 2.45pm the day before, a student came up to me saying “I found this QR code on the ground.” Annoying. I then had to search through the classroom to find where it may have been missing from.


I had prepped the students about the scavenger hunt just prior to the session. After recess, the first thing I did was provide students with a rubric and ask them to self-assess their knowledge of each aspect so far. I then asked the students to add a Chrome extension – The QR Code Extension – via an announcement on our Google Classroom page. Following this, students were free to scan in the QR code (strategically placed on the back of the rubric) and complete the first quiz.

QR treasure hunt
A student scanning a QR Code to go to the next quiz.

Here’s where things got a bit crazy. I didn’t consider that from that point at least half the class would be going to one site (the next question) and the rest would be going to the second site (the remediation for Q1). This had many students waiting around and also resulted in QR codes going missing.

We troubled-shot (?) through this quite quickly though and then we were off. There were a couple of other speed-humps though that I’ll navigate more carefully next time:

  1. Students neglected to actually press ‘Submit’ and therefore, they got confused and just started following friends around.
  2. Students neglected to return QR codes to their hiding place which meant that QR codes went missing.
  3. Some students didn’t watch the remediation videos which meant that they just re-did the final quiz until they finally chose the correct option rather than learning how to do it accurately.
  4. I neglected to mention that PEDMAS, BODMAS and BIDMAS are all the same thing which confused students.
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Students remediating with Khan Academy clips.


I’m going to start our Maths session explicitly teaching BIDMAS (order of operations). Then students will pick-up where they left off in the scavenger hunt.

On Wednesday, we’ll debrief the whole process in our class meeting so we can make it better for everyone next time.

Thanks again, Stephanie Perretta, who inspired me to think outside the box.

Classroom Redesign 101

The start of 2016 allowed me a great opportunity as I was starting in a new class space. I had decided early on that I wasn’t going to set up the class space for my students as I believe strongly in the “Third Teacher” principle.


It was hilarious on the first day of school to see the students’ and parents’ faces whilst looking at the the desks and chairs neatly stacked up and the walls bare. What was funnier was how tentative they were about entering the space… I felt like I was mustering cattle to get people in there!

The only thing up on the walls were photos of the students and teams I had randomly placed them in.

We started the morning in Circle Time. I love starting with Circle Time as it’s a great way to connect as a whole group. We played a few “ice breakers” and then split up into our teams.

I handed each team an article about effective learning spaces. I’ve created a Blendspace of these articles that you can see here –  Learning Space Design Blendspace (NB. Normally, we would have had laptops on day 1 so I would have asked teams to conduct their own research using the SOLE framework). In their teams, each students read the article and then chose 1 word, 1 phrase and 1 sentence to highlight and to share with their team.

I then split the teams into expert groups in which they shared their different articles. Each member of the expert groups took turns to share and take notes on the various articles and research.

I enjoyed the way that my students were informed about what makes effective learning spaces prior to them beginning to ideate.

Check out my next blog entry in which the students start ideating.

What’s Worth Learning These Days? – Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Part 4

This is a massive question. Naturally, I begin by considering what is unnecessary. Funnily enough, they’re often the pieces of content that parents tell me should be taught more; handwriting, algebra, long division, Ancient Egypt, etc. Isn’t our curriculum full of enough boring subjects?

It seems that the more commonly boring a subject is, the more the general population considers it to be vital for education. I’ve never had a parent say to me, “Why aren’t my children learning to code more?” or “When will you be teaching Robotics?”

In Educating Ruby, Claxton et al. organises the curriculum into 3 parts; Utilities (self-evidently useful ie. read a newspaper), Treasures (culturally and contextually important learning ie. Democracy and Exercise-Machines (processes that help students to develop capacity or learning habits ie. logical analysis).

The questions still remains, what, then, is worth learning these days? Perhaps we might start by considering the real-world practice of the curriculum aspects. Who will use this? When will people use this? How will they use this in the future? Why will this be used? Where will it be used?

Our students also need to be considering the real-life application rather than just complicitly following along. One school gives every student a joker card at the beginning of each term. During any lesson that term, each student may “play their joker” upon which the teacher must explain the relevance of the lesson.

Claxton et al. also states that an Inquiry-based approach to learning is vital for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s engaging
  2. It’s accelerating
  3. It develops habits of mind

… as long as it is structured and supervised and scaffolded.

I’ll finish this entry with the authors’ quote on why Growth Mindset and Collaborative Learning are vital inclusions in the curriculum:

By the time they start school, many children have already started to value looking good over finding out.

I want my students to value learning above all else.

Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Competence and Character

One aspect I find difficult to teach is character. What I mean by this is that I love teaching about character but actually giving students the skills to develop their character is a whole other ball game.

Something I’ve blogged about a lot is Austin’s Butterfly and how I play that clip to every new class. I love Austin’s craftsmanship. I love that he did 6 drafts. The students love to see his progress and how skilled he became through persistence.

“You taught me the pleasures of craftsmanship. I used to be a slapdash, but now I take real pride in producing work that is as good as I can make it… I don’t want to let others down, but, more importantly, I don’t want to let myself down. It’s not about determination; it’s about being careful, and thinking about what you are doing, and taking time to reflect and improve, and going over your mistakes and practising the hard parts.”

Educating Ruby, p.133

So, what is it that children really need to learn? Educating Ruby (p. 153 – 158) states that children need:

  • Self-protection
  • Intercultural empathy
  • Financial management
  • Sexual understanding
  • Practical labour
  • Science
  • Statistics
  • Scepticism
  • Talking clearly and confidently
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Navigation
  • Cookery
  • Horticulture
  • Caring for others and things
  • Religion
  • Relationships
  • Morality
  • Self-presentation
  • Driving
  • Leisure
  • Fitness
  • Relaxation
  • Attention
  • Craftsmanship

The text implores each one of us to consider which of these should be taught, when and to what age group.

In the next section, the text reminds us of how contagious mind-habits are; we pick up the mental habits of others so easily. It is vital to ensure that we collaborate with others who have strong ‘habits of mind’. When students can get the grades without employing resilience, independence and self-discipline (not obedience); they are less likely to be successful in life (according to Paul Tough).

Learning is often a collaborative rather than (or as well as) a solitary venture, so the inclination to be a good sounding board to others, and the ability to give feedback in a respectful and useful way and take criticism yourself without getting hurt and defensive, is also needed.

Do you, as a teacher, teach 3D shapes or First Farmers or Colour Theory that extends your students to ask deep questions and conduct deep thinking? How can you make your students less dependent on you? How can you facilitate a safe mistake-making environment?


GAFE for Comprehension

In my previous blog post, I wrote about using Google My Maps to demonstrate comprehension of a text.

This post will be about taking that comprehension to a deeper level using Google My Maps and Screencastify; a Google extension.

If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that my class have been plotting locations from the text they’ve been reading in Google My Maps. They have also been adding important information to those points of interest  – what the characters in the story did in this place and the historical significance of that location.

Their next challenge is to combine all this together to create a screen recording. Students need to:

  1. Read the chapter
  2. Plot the locations on their map
  3. Add the historical significance information to that place’s description
  4. Add images to the description
  5. Add in what happened to the characters at this location in the description
  6. Taking turns, read the chapter aloud whilst using Screencastify to record their reading whilst scrolling through their plotted points on Google My Maps.

You can see my example here:

Google My Maps

I look forward to my students taking on this new challenge.

Google My Maps and Comprehension

We all struggle to implement Professional Development learnings into our current practice. This year, I’ve been determined to integrate what I’ve loved from PD sessions as soon as possible… next-day possible… if that’s possible.

At a recent Google summit, I had the pleasure of being in a workshop in which we learnt about Google My Maps. In Google My Maps, you, as the teacher, is able to create a base map and share it with your class. At our school, we have embarked on using Google Classroom which makes our sharing pretty problem-free.

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‘What would one even use this for?’ I hear you ask.

We’ve been reading a text called The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaardner. It’s an amazingly deep and thoroughly researched narrative in which the characters travel back in time from Oslo to Bethlehem. This is a perfect example of how students can use their comprehension skills to plot out the movements of the characters via Google My Maps.

I started by reading the text aloud and having students notate the direct references to places and times. I then modelled how to plot these places on Google My Maps. Following this, I created a series of layers; one for each reading group for them to add their locations and information.

Map with Layers

Once groups were competent at plotting direct information, we were then able to use our inferencing skills to look deeper into the text. Notice this excerpt from the text:

As they ran, they looked down on a cluster of red timber houses that Epheriel explained was a town called Kungalv. “That means ‘Kings Rock’ and the town was given that name because the Scandinavian kings used to meet here to counsel together. One of them was Sigurd Jorsalfar,” said the angel. “Jorsalfar means the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and Sigurd was given that name because he had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where Jesus was born.”

To fully comprehend this piece of text, students must understand the following:

  • Kunglav is a cluster of red houses
  • Kunglav means ‘kings rock’
  • Jorsalfar means ‘pilgrimage’ and that’s how Sigurd Jorsalfar got his name
  • Sigurd was a Scandinavian king who met at Kunglav
  • This is significant because the group are making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Throughout the text, there are also examples of having to piece together separate sections of text in order to fully form the meaning.

In the next reading session, groups not only had to plot the places on the map, but they needed to use their comprehension to write information about the place from the text.

In this image, you can see that a description of the place and a couple of images have been added.
In this image, you can see that a description of the place and a couple of images have been added.

Next, I plan for students to conduct some pre-research about some of the history before reading their excerpt.

Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Part 1

Upon recommendation, I’ve been reading a book entitled ‘Educating Ruby’ by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas. The book is not only a call to action about modern learning but demonstrates research about effective pedagogical practice – the Roms, the Trads and the Mods.

The Romantics believe that children will blossom if we leave them alone. The Traditionalists seem to believe that all would be well if we had lots of old-fashioned grammar schools teaching Latin and algebra. Trads like to keep things simple, even if their beliefs are damaging or wrong. The third tribe is the Moderates, which includes the vast majority of people who work in or care about education. Where the Trads are simplistic and pugnacious, the Mods like to think and tinker (or ‘thinker’, as Michael Ondaatje put it).” An excerpt from this blog.

I thought it might be helpful to collate some of the golden tidbits from this book to remember.

Chapter 1. Call For Concern

  1. We must encourage risk-taking

Many of our students are risk adverse having lived a molly-coddled life wrapped in cotton wool in which failure is unacceptable.

“How different my life might have been if my school (as many do now) had deliberately nurtured my appetite for adventure and a tolerance for error.” Tom Middlehurst, Head of Research at SSAT

2. We must encourage parental engagement

So many teachers are fearful of parent engagement, concerned that parents will “judge” or that their involvement might deem their teaching powerless.

“…the effect of parental engagement over a students’s school career is equivalent to adding an extra two to three years to that student’s education.” John Hattie, Director of AITSL

3. Finding a meeting point for all stakeholders is vital.

Those behind cried “Forward!”

And those before cried “Back!”

And backward now and forward

Wavers the deep array;

And on the tossing sea of steel,

To and fro the standards eel;

And the victorious trumpet-peal

Dies fitfully away.


Essentially, there is a call for concern. But, these authors are preaching to the converted. One of the reasons I chose to read this book is to have an empirical basis for my concerns about the lack of progression in education.