New-school Collaboration with Old-school Resources

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

I feel like I’m constantly swimming against the tide of independence. It would be so much easier if I could just do things myself. It would save time. It would save energy. It would ensure that I never have to be uncomfortable and that I can have everything my own way.

Ahhh… the pitfalls of collaboration. In a collaborative environment, no one out-ranks anyone else. Everyone’s ideas are important, valid and useful. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes more than tolerance; it takes acceptance. It takes letting go.

How can we avoid our tendency to take our load and “do it ourselves”?

We have to constantly and strategically build collaboration into every part of anything the team does. At first it may seem forced but after a time, it will seem natural that we seek each other out when we create something for the team.

Last week, we had a team planning session for our next Integrated Inquiry. Before I even had any weight on my ideas for the unit, I ensured that we had discussed our ideas as a team.

“I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished in this country was accomplished collectively.” Golda Meir

I set up an old-school piece of butcher’s paper and organised it into the sections of the Integrated Inquiry. I provided everyone with post-it-notes and markers. I asked someone to give an introduction about the genesis of the inquiry and reminded the team about Bloom’s Taxonomy, Habits of Mind and Gardiner’s Intelligences.

Following this, we spent 10 minutes brainstorming on post-it-notes. This was the outcome:

Work In Progress
Work In Progress

Whilst this was occurring, we had someone (not a member of our team) pull together some of the discussions and ideas into ‘Big ideas’ and ‘Key Questions’. This person was able to be completely unbiased as he wasn’t teaching the unit. This gave us a crucial insight into our joint perspective on the concepts. This is what he came up with:

Developed by an independent witness
Developed by an independent witness

These posters are now displayed in our collaborative work space and may be added to at anytime before the formal programming document is developed.

It the end of the session, everyone felt like they were integral to the team, to the process and to the Integrated Inquiry unit. Everyone felt validated. Everyone is now on the same page.


How to use Flipped Learning, Blendspace, Moodle and Edmodo seamlessly

At Northern Beaches Christian School, we use the Flipped Learning model for homework [note: we are currently reevaluating the use of the term “homework”]. Currently, we call Flipped Learning “pre-learning” which is not correct but helps our parent community to get an idea of how homework has changed.

In Stage 2 (3rd and 4th grade), we set specific days in which students should engage with the Flipped Learning material. For example, we set the Grammar activities on a Wednesday prior our Grammar lesson on Thursdays. We have been finding that as our students engage with the Flipped Learning content closer to our lesson, the more they are able to engage in deeper discussion.

We use Blendspace via Moodle to deliver our Flipped Learning resources. The students login to our portal, click on the term, then learning area and then the week. This link takes them to the Blendspace for that week. Here’s the Blendspace I put together for reading this week –


Once students engage with this material, they are encouraged to write a question on our class’ Edmodo wall. To avoid the “I get it all and I don’t have a question” scenario, we encourage students to ask a variety of questions:

  • A genuine question from where you “got stuck”
  • A question someone else might have
  • A question to check the comprehension of others

Here are some screen-shots of Third grade responses. They speak for themselves.




The next day (today), I display these questions on the screen and we discuss them prior to reading groups. I also model some of these ideas when I’m reading aloud.

Not seamlessly. Symbiotically.

Visible Thinking and Maths

Last week, we had the most phenomenal Numeracy session in Year 3 and it was all because of Visible Thinking.

Visible Thinking was developed by Harvard’s Project Zero and aims to assist students to make their cognition (usually invisible) visible. Not only does Visible Thinking develop and grow students’ ability to deepen their thinking about learning and metacognition but it leads students to be more conscious of their thinking.

For more information on Visible Thinking and associated routines, go to .

Prior to the lesson, students had conducted a “National Testing”-type assessment online through Mathletics. After analysing the data and spying a few consistent misunderstandings about Stage 2 Numeracy concepts, I collated a list of questions that could be thought about more thoroughly. I then printed these questions onto A3 paper and spread them around the space.


During the lesson, each student (in triplets) was given 3 post-it-notes for each poster. They were required to write each of the following on each post-it-note in response to the numeracy problem given:

  • I see… (what do you see? a graph? a title? an algorithm?)
  • I think… (what do I think the answer will be? why?)
  • I wonder… (thinking beyond the question – ie. I wonder how many students they surveyed.)
photo 1 (1)
Which is an angle?

Students then arranged each post-it-note into each category and discussed their responses to the problem. If they had different ‘I think…’ responses, students were encouraged to discuss and justify their position.

The A3 poster was then passed to the next triplet. The new triplet discussed the previous responses and added their own.

I think the fraze [sic] (phrase) DOES NOT is important.

                                                                                                           Response from a Year 3 student.

The process continued until each triplet had responded to each numeracy problem. We then debriefed as a whole class by focusing on the problems that had the most discrepancies in responses.

If you were rolling a 6-sided dice, which outcome is impossible?
If you were rolling a 6-sided dice, which outcome is impossible?

All students agreed that although the process was tiring, it was helpful. I’m going to ensure I do it every time.

If you buy two items at $3.40 each, how much change would you get from $20?
If you buy two items at $3.40 each, how much change would you get from $20?

Skype and the Wider World

The world is an increasingly smaller place. Yet, the more I explore it, the larger it seems to be. As our world gets larger, it’s sometimes difficult to know our part in it. What do I have to contribute? How can my gifts help others? I am constantly confronted by the need to help my students know what’s going on in the world, wonder about it, recognise the similarities and celebrate our differences.

Earlier this year, we shared a video story with our 5th/6th graders about a student their age living in Syria. It showed his desperation to attend school and his frustration that the current situation stops him from getting the education he deserves.

Here is the story from ABC’s Foreign Correspondent:

Ibrahim’s War

After watching this documentary, our students desperately wanted to find out more. They wanted to help Ibrahim. “Perhaps we could send him some books…” mused one student. “Does he have access to the Internet?” they asked. (NOTE: We did attempt to contact Ibrahim through Foreign Correspondent but it was not to be).

This got me thinking about the technology at our finger tips. Skype is a fantastic tool for connecting with others. Naturally, it lends itself to connecting classrooms as well. I went to a Teach Meet in a couple of months ago where I listened to a PLN colleague share how he skyped a class in Turkey whilst his class were learning about WW1 and Gallipoli. How about that for adding in a real-world connection. There’s a lesson those students will never forget!

Heard of Mystery Skype? This is an initiative by Skype Education in which classes can Skype each other and by a series of questions, establish the classes location (well, that’s just step 1). The learning from this could be endless.

Make 2014 the year for spreading tolerance, understanding and acceptance.