This post was created as part of Twinkls worldwide teacher wellbeing campaign, TeacherTruths. Head over to their Year of Wellbeing page to read others' stories and find out how you can have your say.
TeacherTruths: Supporting teacher wellbeing, one conversation at a time
After years of teaching, and I can almost guarantee that at least one night a week I come home and ask myself am I even a good teacher? What did I actually teach the kids today? Have my kids even progressed? Should I quit teaching?
Now surely I can’t be the only teacher in the world who has moments like this. Moments of absolute defeat that make you just want to cry and give up the job that you know you love and would be lost without? Surely if I am feeling this there will be others who do and new teachers starting out wondering if these feeling are normal! Well I’m here to say YES they are!
So I want to tell you the things that I think you need to know and remember as a new, future or present teacher. These are the things I wish someone had told me and that I need to remind myself on a constant basis. These are the feelings that you need to know it's ok to have.
You will cry
You will cry because you think you are a horrible teacher, because a student has the saddest life and you can’t fix it, because another staff member was kind of mean, or simply because every lesson you taught went wrong. Its ok to cry and let it out. But afterwards take a deep breathe, so something for you- take a walk, have a bath, cuddle your loved ones. Tomorrow is a new day!
All your lessons won't be perfect!
There’s nothing more devastating then planning what you think is an amazing lesson and then watch it crumble and explode as you teach it. This will happen often in the start and then it will progressively happen less, but it will always happen! Never be afraid to say this isn’t working and change it up mid lesson!
Never be afraid to say ok I’m going to make changes to that horrible lesson and try that again tomorrow. Some of my best lessons have been repeats that went shocking the first time!
How emotionally invested in your students you will become
You can never be prepared for the impact your students will have on you. You will love and remember those little faces long after they have forgotten yours. You will spend 6 hours a day with these kids for close to 200 days a year. You will feel proud of them, disappointed in them, you will wipe away their tears, share their laughter, hear their stories and guide them to be the unique individuals they are.
You wont like all your students.
As teachers we think we often have to like every student all the time, but we don’t. You wont connect with every child you teach, how could you? You’re only human! We are all individuals and some people’s personalities just don’t mix.
What you will do is respect them for their differences and appreciate them for these. Yes you might complain about them with a fellow staff member and then feel guilty about it! But in the end you are not going to stop that child from learning and your going to give them the same opportunities as the rest of the class. You just wont miss them as much when then move on to the next year level.
They won't all like you
This one can be heartbreaking as you try so hard to get them on your side. You give them extra praise, a bit of extra attention, but in the end it doesn’t matter they just don’t like you and that’s ok! They’re human and just like you they wont like everyone. You will treat them the same as the others and just have to suck it up. After all your not there to be their friend, you’re there to teach.
Occasionally your students will drive you insane.
Your blood will boil, you will raise your voice and there will be days when they just don’t listen to you. They couldn’t care less who you are or what you want them to do. Don’t take it personally -kids have so much energy, shorter attention spans and kids are just downright crazy!
Not all your students will reach benchmark.
This is tough, as we naturally want to make sure all our students succeed. It’s just not possible; some students will never be at the same level, as their peers! However, they will improve and succeed in a way that is amazing for them! Don’t judge your students based on what the expected level for their age is. Praise them for where they are at and what they can do, those achievements are sometimes far more rewarding!
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.
When a student who came into your classroom came at the start of grade 2 reading at a level 2 and is now at the end is reading at a level 22 celebrate! This happened to me, and the student and I jumped up and down we ran into the next-door classroom and told that teacher. We told every teacher we saw that day. We ran up to his parents and told them! Boy did we celebrate! These achievements are what make you want to do this. These achievements make all the crappy days you have totally worth it!
It’s ok to ask for help.
I still struggle with this one- I want to be super-teacher. The teacher we see who is in full control, organised to the extreme, has perfect behaviour management skills, takes on extra duties and still has time to have a life outside school.
The truth is that teacher doesn’t exist! We are all struggling in our own little cycle of not asking for help. So please ask for help, others want to help you- it makes them look like the elusive super teacher (at least for a moment).
Stop comparing yourself to other teachers.
You have your style, your way of teaching that makes you unique. If your students are learning to the best of their ability then what makes you any less of a teacher than other staff members? There is always going to be someone better but you are always going to be striving to improve. Be the best you can be!
Teaching is amazing.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It gives me more joy than I realise. I often feel down and question myself as a teacher but walking into that classroom every morning and having those beautiful, crazy kids run up and say good morning and start telling me a thousand different stories at the same time truly puts a smile on my face. Their silly little jokes and those cheeky, challenging ones that always have a special spot in your heart make me just feel so happy.
I shouldn't doubt whether or not I am a good teacher, my students tell me everyday that I am. They tell me by their smiles as they walk in the door, by asking what are we learning today, by saying ‘yes’ when I say its reading time or maths time, by saying learning is fun and by saying thanks for a great day Miss Keating when they leave. They tell me everyday when they trust me with their deepest secrets, their worries, their dreams and future goals. Their parents tell me when they say they their child loves coming to school now and they never did before. My fellow teachers tell me when they say I love your room or what an amazing activity I’ll have to steal that.
So with all these people telling me these positive things I guess its time that I to say to myself I am a good teacher.
And so are you- don’t forget to tell yourself it more often!
Looking for a fun STEAM project that focuses on science, engineering and art?
Look no further because Water balloon Parachutes are it!
These lessons were done with 1/2 students however could be done with any age group! We completed this over 3 lessons with 1 for research and design, the second for construction and the third for testing.
Firstly we learnt more about parachutes using one of my favourite science Youtube channels SciShow Kids.
Next it was design time. Students were asked to create a design that included what materials they were going to be using. I create a board to show the students all the resources they could use. As I held STEAM in this room with other year levels and lots of different materials and resources this helped the students know exactly what was available to them. It also helped them when creating their plans.
-Finally the exciting day of testing came! We had had prior discussions about how some would be successful and some would fail and as our tests proved this was certainly the case! Students dropped their parachutes from a height of roughly 2 meters. The students whose 'pilot' (the water balloon) survived got to try again and see how many times they could have a successful flight. At the end we had a go at dropping water balloons with no protection to see if the size of the water balloon would impact its survival rate. It was great to hear the students predictions which included that the larger ones would pop as they have more water, the smaller ones are lighter so are less likely to pop and the answer I was fishing for, the surface tension of the smaller ones is less than the big ones!
These lessons were so much fun and I can't wait to do it again in the coming years!
This resource follows a families trip around Australia.
Created for students in grades 3-6 it involves problem solving using time. It allows students to practise and consolidate their skills in reading and using timetables, elapsed time, converting time and more!
This activity has a mixture of simple and challenging tasks to suit varying student capabilities.
We are very lucky to have these fantastic robotic kits at our school.
This term in STEAM I gave my 3/4 and 5/6 students the chance to pick a kit and see what they could build. Some were more successful than others and some required resources I didn't have on hand (such as rock salt) to make them move, but it was great to see the cooperation between the students and them all working together to create a final product.
This type of construction and following directions is not my strong point! I can do it when I really focus but what I think is fantastic about these kits is giving the students full control and allowing my self to work along side them, show them I was learning too and allow students who were fantastic at robotics, lego etc to step up and share their skills with us!
Don't be afraid of doing lessons like these- work together, its great for students to us modelling real learning, failure and persistence.
Here are some images and videos of what they created!
Coles minis are back! With their crazy popularity among students why not use them to create fun lessons, activities and warmups to further engage your students in literacy, maths and general classroom behaviour!
#1 Open ended questions
This is a simple math idea that can be used over and over again. It can be used for small groups or for whole activities. Because of the student choice involved it can be easily differentiated to suit the whole class or changed to suit a small group of students by simply changing the values of the products or the number of products being purchased.
#2 Create your own math problem
Have students choose items and create a math story or math problem using them.
For example: I went to Coles and purchased toothpaste for $3.00, weetbix for $5.00 and hand sanitiser. If all together my shopping cost $10.50, how much was the hand sanitiser?
#3 Shape sort
Have students sort the minis into groups based on their shapes
This one is simple use them as fun counters for games or math lessons!
Speaking and listening
#5 Ask a question warm up activity
Students stand in a circle and the teacher chooses a Coles mini.
Students each have a turn asking a question about the item.
Questions can not be repeated and can be as simple as why do people buy it? Or more complicated like how does the manufacturer decide on the packaging?
The activity is over once each student has asked a question.
If students have not thought of a question yet they are allowed to pass once, however if they think of one after saying pass they can call it out even if it is another's turn.
The purpose of the game is get students brains active and develop students speaking and listening skills. It is perfect as a brain break game or as a warm up before literacy sessions.
#6 Whats an adjective for the mini- warm up game
#7 Creative writing
Students choose a Coles mini and have to use the mini as a basis for their story.
The teacher can facilitate this further by giving students some story starters such as
- The day my mini (one chosen) came to life...
- Oh no! I turned my teacher into (Coles mini chosen)...
- My adventures in finding the magical (Coles mini chosen)...
#8 Up Level it
It paThe teacher chooses a Coles mini and writes a boring sentence involving it such as;
'I used the soap to wash my hands'
Using our Up level it resource students use VCOP to up level their sentences to make it more creative.
This resource can be used with students of all ages and abilities as it is easily differentiated based on their writing ability, extent of their vocabulary and knowledge of sentence structure. It is the perfect activity to do in mixed ability pairs so that students can work together to grow their vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure.
Below are example of two different ability levels with the same sentence.
#10 Describe it to me - warm up game
Students pair up and are each given a Coles mini.
Not showing their partner the mini one student describes the mini to the other, describing its appearance, how to use it, taste etc to see if their partner can guess the mini.
Students then swap.
This activity can also be done as a version of 20 questions with the whole class.
Students can ask descriptive questions such as;
does it have a green label?
can it be used in the laundry?
would you describe the taste as pleasant or unpleasant?
#11 Information reports
#12 Behaviour management- reward system
Download, print and display our Coles minis reward chart.
Students receive Coles minis for positive behaviour, achieving class or personal goals etc.
Students get to stick them onto the reward chart and work towards achieving a certain goal set by the class.
Download our free behaviour charts for Coles minis by clicking on the image of the version you like below.
#13 Sorting/ pairing tools
This works fantastic if you have doubles of certain minis.
Hand out the minis randomly and students find the person with the matching mini to be their partner.
Alternatively you can say the person who has the bananas is partnered with the person who has the toothpaste etc.
This was such a fun and interactive way to develop and consolidate my students basic understanding of using coordinates.
I created a giant grid on the floor and the students were immediately intrigued and engaged!
First we started with a simple game of students telling me what object was in the coordinate I called out, then I called out an object and they had to name the coordinates of it.
We also used the grid to play a version of battle ships. I wrote down 6 corodinates on a piece of paper and the students took it in turns guessing where the 'ships' were. If I ran out of paper before they got them all I won and if they got them all they won.
This was a great activity to play as a warm up game to a lesson and as a activity to play when students were eating their recess or lunch.
A great way to see my students understanding of coordinates when I was calling out objects, was to get them to write them on their iPads. We used iPads as whiteboards quiet frequently but the same result can be achieved with just using students sized whiteboards.
Design and research
The creation process
Bee-Bots are a fantastic piece of technology for children of all ages!
There are so many various uses for them across all areas of the curriculum.
This term, whilst teaching STEAM, I allowed my Prep and 1/2 students to go a bit crazy with Bee-bots as a end of term reward for all their hard work.
The students were given 2 tubs filled with thousands of icy pole sticks and told them to create mazes to code their Bee-Bots through. What transpired was a Bee-Bot city! My students started joining with other groups and before we knew it we have giant classroom size mazes that the students were trying to code their Bee-bots around. It was fantastic to see the cooperation between students, the sharing and kindness the showed and how well the helped each other to ensure their Bee-Bots were successfully coded.
My Story is a fantastic app that can be used in many different ways across all curriculum areas. Below are 5 different ways I have used MyStory with students fro Prep to grade 6.
This lesson was completed with Prep students who had their grade 6 buddies helping them as it was their first time using the app.
The students were asked to make a My Story showing their understanding of the numbers 1-10 (and higher if time permitted).
The students were asked to create a slide for each number that included them writing the numbers using the drawing tool and the number in stickers or photos.
Once completed the students were able to share their My Story with their parents using the app Seesaw.
As a tool for teachers
Open ended math questions
I have used this opened ended question many of times using blocks, farm animal toys, work books etc. This time I mixed it up using My Story.
On the board I displayed the slide above.
Students took a photo of this and it became the first page in their My Story.
Each student or pair of students was given a number that was differentiated to suit their learning abilities.
The students had to create as many slides as they could showing that around of legs in various ways.
We had a discussion about how all animals had all their legs and none had any mutations giving them extra - there is always on student who will try it!
The students loved this activity and once again it was an was one to share home on Seesaw.
This activity can be adapted to suit students personal interests such as wheels on vehicles, legs on insects etc.
My Story is great to use for publishing writing and it one of its most common uses.
It allows students to put each paragraph on a new page, allows them to add their voice reading the text and allows them to add images, drawings, pictures and stickers to make into an actual book.
If you add the students voice over you can save it as a movie is a fantastic way to share their work with families.
Demonstrating mathematical understanding
Using My Story as an assessment tool is a great way to keep track of students understanding of many different concepts. I frequently use this in numeracy lessons to allow students to demonstrate their understanding of an activity or concept. They can show me in numerous ways with various numbers and be able to share their work with myself and their families.
At home this app can easily be used on computers, iPads or smart phones. My nieces love to play on my phone (what 3-6 year olds don't love technology?) and this is the app they are allowed to use. The first time my niece who was 4 used it I was amazed! Within half an hour she was recognising the sounds that s and a could make and was able to work through the app independently.
I have also recommended this app for parents with students who are struggling readers to help them practise their sounds at home, with those parents raving about how easy it is and how they feel it has helped their child's reading and understanding of sounds improve.
This app does cost however it is well worth the price! At times it also becomes available for free- so keep a look out. If you are looking for a free option the computer version is for you!
For more information about this app check out their website by clicking here
Please note we were not paid for this review or asked to do it we simply wanted to share this great app with you!
Developing a growth mindset in my students is something that I strive to achieve each year. I actively teach them about being resilient and accepting failure as a positive over a negative. I encourage my students to make mistakes and challenge them to step out of their comfort zones because if we are always right and always do what makes us feel comfortable how are we going to learn?
The Lego Learning Pit I have displayed in my classroom helps give students a visual reminder of this and allows them to track their learning progress when things are challenging. It allows them to rethink their learning process and consider different ways or tools they can use to find an answer to their problem or to develop their understanding of a task.
Being in the Learning Pit is not a negative thing and it is something we celebrate. EVERYONE must go into the put at some time. Sometimes its a quick visit to the bottom of the pit before we can climb out the other side, other times it can be weeks. Everyone will go in and out of the pit at different times. What makes your time in the pit useful however is trying out various tools to overcome your challenges. We have the 5 B's that give students tools to assist them.
When I first heard of the learning pit by James Nottingham I was instantly excited to use it in my classroom. I searched the internet for the perfect one to suit my teaching classroom and my style. After not being able to find it I created my own- by hand, cutting each Lego brick out individually. After seeing the reaction from people on our Instagram page I decided to create a a digital version to share with others.
Well did they go crazy! We have sold over 200 copies of both our Lego and Cactus versions and are so excited to help students all over develop positive growth mindsets.
The Learning Pit has been one of the most successful tools for changing students mindset that I have encountered and used. My students are much more resilient, much more confident in making mistakes and willing to take on challenges more freely.
Check out our Learning Pits here
For more information regarding Learning Pits and the research behind them head to
Our school uses Big Write as part our writing program and within that there is a big focus on VCOP.
VCOP stands for Vocabulary, Comprehension, Openers and Punctuation.
I have seen great improvements in my students writing since using Big Write and particularly in focusing on students incorporating VCOP elements into their writing.
Up Level it enables students to take simple sentences and 'up level' them to make them more engaging.
Students choose a simple sentence and using VCOP elements up level it to make it more engaging and creative.
This can be used as a independent activity, a classroom competition, VCOP activity or as a warm up to a writing session.
As the students progress in their understanding of VCOP, improve in their writing and use the activity more their sentences become more engaging and they are able to compose them more quickly and efficiently.
This activity can be used across all year levels and differentiated based on your expectation from each students writing abilities.
Check out some of my students amazing up levelling using the resource!
As the new school year gets closer, my anxiety is growing. I know that I am a great teacher- sounds arrogant? Yep! But I’ve had 8 years of students, parents and other teachers telling me it, so why not embrace it!
My anxiety is based on a number of things and when talking to my teaching friends I realised a lot of people worry about the same things.
So here are 7 things as teachers we often worry about and some thoughts and advice to help put your mind at ease.
We are always trying to create fantastic games that our students will find engaging, whilst practising the skills we have taught.
We have created a number of number based maths games that are perfect for whole lessons, lesson warm ups, independent activities in math rotations and even early finisher games!
Check them out and don't forget to share a photo with us of your students using them!
I love a good writing prompt that encourages my students to want to write!
I try to use a variety of media types to engage my students and get their imagination and creativeness following!
Below are 20 different movie clips, images, websites and question prompts you can use with your students of any age to create an amazing writing lesson!
It is now our first point of call when we need to find any resource and with over 118,000 pages of resources, we more often than not find what we need and more! Plus all activities are curriculum aligned!
Here are 10 Teach Starter resources we love using!
We have been working on persuasive texts this term and my students are loving it!
It is my favourite genre to teach as it can be so much fun and the students can get very creative with it!
Being a 1/2 class we start with a basic structure that all the students use- introduction with their thesis, 3 arguments with sequential language (firstly, secondly. thirdly) and a conclusion that relates their thesis and summarises their arguments. We also discuss the use of basic persuasive language and using punctuation to enhance the writing.
As it is getting closer to christmas I got my students to write a letter to Santa persuading him why they should be on the 'nice' list. My students used the app PicCollage to publish them and Seesaw to add their voices reading their letter.
There were some fantastic responses! We shared them with our parents using Seesaw and they absolutely loved them!
Here are some for you to enjoy
I love using open ended questions and challenging my students to use various strategies and problem solving skills to find answers in maths.
Today I used one and had a fantastic math lesson! All my students were engaged and focused on getting as many answers as they could. They were also have great discussions about what strategies each was using and lots of peer teaching on how to add money was going on! One of those lessons that makes you as a teacher feel very successful and just proud of your students!
I wanted to share the lesson, as it was simple and easy to do at any time!
I had a fellow teacher tell me about a game she had played where she put 3 coins in her hand and asked her students to ask questions to work out what coins she had. I loved the idea and wanted to take it further so I developed the below open ended question.
Here are 5 ways you could use this app in your classroom;