Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Prac Teaching category.

More than just a New Year’s resolution

This year will mark a four year anniversary that I’m not overly proud of. In 2012, I headed out to my first teaching position, optimistic and ready to spread the word about the power of technology and the importance of developing a wide PLN to support best practice. And a year in, I fell off the wagon completely. As I enter my fifth year in the classroom, I’ve realised that it isn’t just about my teaching, or the learning of the students in my class, or even in my school. It isn’t about my faculty, or even the staff at my school. I have cut myself off from so many valuable resources, so much valuable input and so much support, and it hasn’t been until I’ve come up for air, so to speak, that I’ve been able to realise that a great deal of the inspiration I took with me out to my first teaching post was the feeling of contributing meaningfully to a community.

This year, I’m not just making it my New Year’s resolution to reconnect with my PLN, be active on Twitter and blog regularly, I’m also including it as a goal in my PDP. I want to rekindle the fire I once felt when issues surrounding the education industry were discussed and reclaim my own thirst for knowledge. One of my passions, in particular, was the support of Pre-Service Teachers, and I think that with the additional experience I’ve now had, I can offer them far more practical guidance and help.


Call for Participants in Pre-Service Teacher Networking Project: Mentors

In-service teacher or educator of any flavour? We want you. #pstn is a project designed to introduce pre- and early-service teachers to online networking (more detailed info here). It uses a non-traditional mentor model – mentors are not allocated to participants on a 1-to-1 basis. Instead, we’re looking for a pool of mentors to interact, respond and guide on a completely ad-hoc basis, contributing what you can when you can. There’s no minimum or maximum time commitment and no requirement to be anyone’s ‘go-to’ person. It’s essentially just a committment to welcome a new group of people to your PLN and provide them with support.

To get involved, follow our How To Play getting started guide (it’s the same for both mentors and participants). Initially, joining the Hootcourse is all you’ll need to do to confirm your participation before the project kicks off in late February.

Dragging the universities up to speed.

As many of you who read my blog or follow me on twitter would know, improving teacher education is something I am keenly interested in. I have previously blogged about the need for increased technology integration and more emphasis on developing a supportive PLN during Preservice, and boosting the self efficacy of early career teachers. in addition to this, many of you will also know about the research being conducted with mentoring Preservice teachers on twitter with some lovely people from my PLN.

Recently I was asked to help out with a project at university that a lecturer of mine is running which would indicate that some people out there in higher Ed are hearing the call to provide these essential ingredients in Preservice teacher education (with the exception of course of @sthcrft @rellypops and @djplanner – who are already all over it).

I have been asked to reconstruct a website to be used in the methodology course to educate Preservice teachers at macquarie uni in English and literacy, and is also available to those teachers and interested parties who aren’t enrolled at the uni but can register for free. Ideally, the site will soon be open access, but as a free provider of resources, links, apps and forum space for interaction between teachers and Preservice students, the project already holds a lot of potential.

The value lies in not only the provision of these resources, links, apps, programs etc which encourage teachers and students to become more familiar with technology and comfortable using it in their classroom, but also an evaluative component which directs users to the most valuable sections of said resource/app/site/blog and tips on HOW it will be useful in the classroom. In my own experience of exploring technology, I’ve found that the most valuable blogs are the ones which provide this evaluative element rather than just lists. I think it also encourages and models reflective practice-if you have to justify it’s importance, you have to use those higher order skills yourself and hopefully promote them in your students.

I am finding though, that narrowing down the possibly millions of resources and apps out there which are potentially useful for English teachers is a mammoth task. I am planning to model best practice here (and show others the power of technology in collaborating and producing valuable resources) and ask my PLN for their assistance. The more teachers who help out, the greater the potential will be for this site to provide support and ideas for teachers in your school, and because it is university endorsed, it will hopefully mean that it is given more credence than sites run by commercial organizations (though the money-hungry nature of universities often concerns me!) and that it will pave the way for an increased technology component in many other Preservice courses!

Please, if you have any suggestions at all which will assist teachers with English, drama or literacy (at any level) contact me on twitter (@LaurenForner) or leave a comment below. I look forward to working with you all!

Thoughts from outside the box on promoting the development of preservice teachers

On my mammoth trek out the the DEC offices on Wednesday, I had time to reflect upon the teaching and learning process which is involved in gaining an education degree, and thereafter finding employment in the education sphere. As usual, being the cynic that I am, the first thing which stood out to me was the complete removal of our university course from the realities of teaching. First of all, none of us were given any information about our DEC interview (we weren’t even told about the DEC information day that was held at the uni) despite the fact that it is compulsory to gain employment in the education sector and our practical experience reports are completely geared towards their presentation to the DEC.

Secondly, upon reading the selection criteria which is used by the DEC to assess candidates, I realized that the majority of my answers to the possible questions I could be asked were not gained from university study, but were instead a result of information I’ve been given, resources which have been shared with me, or areas which I have been directed towards researching myself via my PLN on twitter. I felt so well prepared for the interview that I didn’t even need to rehearse, write myself notes or “study”, I felt confident in the wide knowledge base which was a result of so many wonderful and experienced teachers sharing their experience with me virtually.

I think Twitter (and social networking with other professionals in general) needs to become a compulsory part of any education course in order to get pre service teachers into the habit of sharing resources with others, seeking assistance, and constantly innovating and being inspired to try new things and take risks with their students. Right now it seems to be something which is covered in technology subjects at university, but needs to be integrated into mainstream methodology subjects.

I have been considering how this could be facilitated, and thought perhaps the NSWIT model could be used here; “mentoring” in this model could include online mentoring, for example an experienced teacher (and experienced tweep) could take a preservice teacher tweep under their wing, and introduce them to the ways in which they can use twitter effectively in their professional development. This way teachers who are currently stretched for time can still offer their expertise to others, and recognition can also be given to the potential of social media for professional development.

And then I was thinking, hey! Perhaps this is something we can facilitate ourselves!

If you are an experienced teacher, I would love to hear how you would you feel about being part of such an arrangement?

What’s next?

Thursday marked the end of my practical teaching placement, and though I was sad to leave my wonderful classes and the friendly staff, I can’t help being excited about what comes next.

After learning so much from the students I taught, and developing such good relationships with them, I have come away with the sense that I am so lucky to have found something I love doing. The rewards of teaching are immeasurable, every day I have countless stories, have laughed many many times, and am guaranteed to have learnt something about knowledge, the students, learning and teaching, or even myself.

I am thrilled to bits to be moving to a rural school, and have my fingers crossed that they will allow me to develop some of the skills I have been “hazed” into, namely technology in the classroom and Project based learning.

There is part of me which is chomping at the bit, raring to go, asking, What’s the next challenge?

Resources: HSC Advanced English, Module C: History and Memory

Recently I have had to complete resources for Module C: History and Memory using Levertov’s poetry and The Rabbits as a related text.

I have uploaded the resources I developed here, as I put so much work into them it would be a shame if they weren’t used! I know it is too late this year, but hopefully in the years to follow they will be useful!

1. Drama activity: introduction to representation, history and memory. (instructions and handouts)

Drama Activity module C

artists resource worksheet

historians resource worksheet

2. Creative writing task (link to wiki): instructions on the wiki itself – http://moduleccreativewriting.wikispaces.com/

3. Related Text and Thesis statement resource involving prescribed and related texts. Can be used for other texts with a few tweaks.

Update: Students as Teachers

Over the last 2 weeks, my Year 9 class have become teachers. Read my previous post for the details.

Students came up with some excellent ideas, including cartoon strips, group stories and the use of graphic organisers. Unfortunately, two groups were unprepared on the day they were required to teach, which led to me having a chat about the importance of organisation and time management to learning effectively.

On Monday, they wrapped up their teaching sessions and were given some time to reflect upon two questions:

1. What does it mean to be an effective teacher?

2. How do I learn best?

Some of the replies the students came up with are as follows:

An effective teacher is; a teacher who knows how to get everyone involved and concentrated. Someone who makes it fun, which is a good way for students to keep it in their heads. An effective teacher understands the subject they are talking about and ensures that the student does too.
How do I learn best; I learn best normally by reading things. When the information is organized well I can keep it in my head the way it was shown to me. I think that’s why I learnt alot from the theme group. They wrote a definition on the board and wrote up different things in a way…

I think to be an effictive teacher means that you get your message across, in a fun and enjoyable way. I think i learn best through group work and class discussions. If i enjoy an activity it is more likely for me to pick up on the information and it is more likely for me to remeber it. I enjoyed the plots group activity because it got the whole class involved and conveyed the message effectively whilst still being enjoyable and funny.

I think an effective teacher is someone who knows what they are talking about to the extent of them being able to teach without looking down continuously. A good teacher also needs to be able to improvise when something goes wrong. Control of the students is also a vital part to being an effective teacher.
I prefer it when the students do not teach because they cannot control their peers and I think that they play favourites. Also a maturity factor comes into play to distinguish those who take learning and teaching seriously from those who think it is just for fun. Noise does not allow me to focus which impacts my learning abilities. Working independently and occasional group work and teaching the class is the most effective way of teaching in my opinion.

Obviously, the peer teaching was not enjoyed by everyone in the class, and didn’t play to everyone’s strengths. But most of the students appreciated the way in which this taught them about what it means to teach and how difficult it is to provide a quality learning environment for every student in a class. It also taught them a lot about their own learning due to the spectrum of activities the groups used.

If I were to do this exercise again I would pay close attention to:

-classroom management issues (when students are teaching): students need to come up with how they will deal with certain behaviours and set expectations for students in their teaching plan (unfortunately this was an oversight on my behalf!). One way to combat this might be to break the class into small groups and have a peer teach each group.

-finding a balance between teaching, fun and assessing knowledge: some students just did quizzes or crosswords without actually teaching students the information first. This led to students disengaging because the didn’t know the answers and the groups didn’t explain the answers completely either.


Learners becoming teachers

As part of our Horror Unit, Year 9 English Extension are going to be teaching each other about the element of the horror genre in which they have become “experts”. They have been working in friendship groups in class over the last 2 weeks to become experts in either plot, theme, setting, style or characters, and have watched ‘Psycho’ to get examples for the way in which each of these elements are used in the horror genre. Now they must share this expertise with other members of the class.

In order to do this I have shared my own processes with the class, going through the steps I take and the factors I take into consideration when I am teaching them something. This not only gives students a scaffold from which to develop their lesson, but also encourages them to reflect on the teaching and learning process and their own learning style and goals. Attached is a link to the webdoc I used to scaffold their preparation of their resource. Webdoc is a great tool for this exercise, as you can embed videos, sounds, images, webpages, and applications in a document, and then embed the document in sites like edmodo.

They are required to either teach small groups or the class as a whole using both a discussion and a teaching resource. The discussion ensures that the class are able to have an input into what they are being taught and suggest things which the group may not have thought of, whilst the resource ensures that all students will have access to the information-even those who are not present on the day. I have explained to the class that this is an important consideration in teaching because everyone must have the same opportunity to access the information.

I am thoroughly impressed with how creative these students have been, and I will be using some of their teaching ideas myself in the future! Here are just a few of their brilliant ideas:

-Creating a Facebook group as a way to ensure all students receive the information

-Making a cartoon to explain how intertextuality is used in horror films

-Making a crossword to assess students’ prior knowledge

-Making graphic organiser to stimulate class discussion on the similarities between characters in different horror movies.

-Making a Prezi to ensure all those away are able to access the information

-Designing an activity in which the class completes the horror story to draw on their existing knowledge of plot in horror movies.

As a bonus, students have all been on task, engaged, and actually excited about this activity! It is a great way to embed teaching of presentation skills, teaching them to use new web apps (we had mini-tutorials within groups of how to use Prezi and Toondoo, and one group has discovered a crossword making app which they want to share with others), and getting them to appreciate the different skill sets each group member brings to a group.

They have also discovered that worksheets are “boring”, and so perhaps will be able to take this knowledge into other classes and transform their learning experience.

Stay tuned-I hope to get them to write a blog post on the activity for my blog! And I will definitely be sharing the resources they come up with too!

A great week in the classroom!

Thought I would take the opportunity to rant about what a GREAT couple of days I’ve had in the classroom-maybe it will balance out the negativity of some of my other posts!

Over the last few days I have seen my year 11 class really knuckle down and get serious about poetry analysis. Despite my lame attempt to engage them with a home made AFL ball, the students produced mind maps and analysis paragraphs exploring the Australian Voice this week. They worked in groups to formulate thesis statements to guide their writing, and developed analyses which demonstrated just how far they had come in the last year.

What I was really stoked about was the way in which they have developed synthesis skills-something which is towards the top of Blooms hierarchy. It really challenges the assumption that students in standard English can’t produce sophisticated writing. We also spent a bit of time yesterday reflecting upon their writing style, including what they did well, what they found hard, and some of the ways I can provide more support for their writing. Students went away with a task to set personal goals for their writing, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

My year 9 class this week also wowed me with their creativity and enthusiasm for their group products; they came up with some brilliant ideas to stage a performance of ROMEO AND JULIET for a modern audience, including puppeteering, using shadow, and elaborate set design.

A couple of groups were also working hard to source a real world audience for their performance (sadly I have not heard back from any of the “real world” audience I contacted-clearly don’t hold enough weight in the education sphere!) discussing who they knew that was involved in theatre.

Let’s hope the momentum continues!

Student creativity rife in Romeo and Juliet unit

I have been blown away by the creativity displayed by students in this unit thus far, and thought I would share some examples with you all out there in the virtual staffroom.

The Sing a Sonnet task (which I have posted in the unit blog post) brought out some wonderful adaptations of Romeo and Juliet’s sonnet in Act 1. Students were required to keep the structure and rhyming pattern of the sonnet, whilst adapting the language and the imagery/symbolism used in the poem. Particularly impressive examples are posted here:


(Romeo and Juliet are chatting on facebook)

Romeo: I have a bad reputation but can I poke you               

              On this wall, but what of your reactions

              My messages sent every minute anew

              To clarify my rash actions


Juliet: my friend, you worry too much

           Your simple words show your feelings

           Poke me, it is not a harsh touch

           Poke wars are not uncommon dealings


Romeo:  if poke wars are common, isn’t messaging too

 Juliet:  it is indeed with people known well


Romeo:  aren’t I known well enough, so please do

               If not my love filled words will not be so swell

 Juliet: I will only reply if the message warrants


Romeo:  then they will never be abhorrent




Romeo- Your hand is like a Pottermore account that I am not skilled enough to acquire.                                  

A girl like you is more valuable than the elder wand                                                                                                 

To make an unbreakable vow with you is my desire.                                                                                                                 

May I have the honour of meeting you at the pond?                                                                                                                                                                                                           .                                                                                                                                                                                            

Juliet-Romeo you are totally skilled enough to get a Pottermore quill.                                                                                        

Because you keep trying to get the magical quill shows much dedication.                                                               

For wizards hold their wands with incredible  skill.                                                                                                                                                  And holding a wand builds up much love and admiration.

Romeo- We both have wands so why don’t we make an unbreakable vow.

Juliet-Wands are for magic not for declaring love.

Romeo-Magic is an awesome thing just like our time together now.                                                                              

Please make this vow with me my turtle-dove.

Juliet- You do not need my wand to make a vow with me.

Romeo- Please grant me your wand so we can be bonded for all eternity.

(Makes unbreakable vow)


I also asked students to design a graphic organiser to organise their analysis of each Act of Romeo and Juliet which we had discussed in class. Every group of students came up with an organiser which demonstrated a very complex understanding of the concepts and issues in the play, and also mapped the relationship between elements of the play such as character, plot, themes, stagecraft and language. Students submitted these on paper as they found this easier, so I am unable to upload them here for you to marvel at.

One group with whom I was particularly impressed with designed their graphic organiser as a world map (‘All the world’s a stage’!) and used colours and their knowledge of different countries, seas, and various geographical features to demonstrate various aspects of the play and relationships within the play.

Another group designed their graphic organiser as a snakes and ladders game, using the symbolism of the snake and ladder to indicate whether a relationship between characters was positive or negative, and also to indicate the techniques which are associated with the downward spiralling events of the play.

Other graphic organisers included a tree, a garden and a series of arrows inside arrows.

The take home message for me was that it is astounding how creative kids can be when you let them organise their own knowledge. I would almost bet that their conceptual understanding of the play and the elements of drama is more sound than it would be had they not been involved in categorising and organising the information themselves.