Category Archives: teaching adventures

Getting students to talk about pages in a textbook

I try to get the students to talk through their understanding and ideas as much as possible. Some days I’m more successful than others.  It can be challenging to deal with long text book passages and making the info on those pages ‘stick’. The other day I tried a new activity, I call it Study Group Tabata. Tabata It worked well. It is roughly based on Ron Ritchhart’s MicroLab and allows students to talk through new information from a textbook, and then work towards answering a central question. It can be adapted to any subject.

  • Aim of the task:  To understand a complex issue (in this case Gleichschaltung in N*zi Germany) and then answer a central question (“How successful was Gleichschaltung?”)
  • How: Break down the complex issue into elements. (In my case, political parties, trade unions, regional states: This was based on pages and topics in the textbook)
    • Activity:
        • Groups of three.
        • Student 1 discusses subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 2 discusses same subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 3 summarises subtopic 1 and highlights the key issues and knowledge. Student 3 could be a note-taker too.

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Building an argument tower with thesis, antithesis, synthesis

Today we built an ‘argument tower’ in class. The idea was found by my colleague Sara, on this AP Word History blog, written by Jonathan Henderson. There are also a few Tweets about “argument towers”.

I used the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis‘ argument structure to help students construct an effective paragraph or essay. You can also use “Contention – Example – Evaluation” etc. Works for English, Philosophy, Geography or any area where students have to argue something.

What’s needed: Continue reading

Revision Twister

This worked well with my small IB History class. The students created the questions and ran the game themselves. It’s a bit gimmicky, but they had fun and hopefully it was a bit of a break from the endless practice essays and note taking at the end of the year.

Questions can be found here

And PPT with circles (PPT smart art) here: Revision Twister PPT Continue reading

Russian Revolution in Paintings, Ivan Vladimirov

Ivan Vladimirov was a Russian painter who specialised in battle painting and documented many Russian military scenes through out this turbulent time in Russian history. He painted scenes in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877, the Russo Japanese war of 1905, the 1912 Balkan war, the First World War and then the Russian Revolution and its Civil War aftermath. Vladimirov spoke English, spent time in London and Paris, and by the time the Russian Civil war broke out in 1918, he was 50 years old. Continue reading

Tuning In: Online Post-it notes with Google Drawings

Today I used ‘Google Drawings’ to create online post-it notes for a tuning in / predicting activity: it was quick and effective.

  1. Create a Google Drawings canvas. Open the share settings and make sure everyone can edit.
  2. Adjust the size of the canvas. I made mine the size of an A3 sheet of paper.
  3. Create one textbox with the desired text, then duplicate that textbox for the amount of students in your class.
  4. Go to and create an easy to share shortlink. Mine was: “”

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How to be an Essay Writing Jedi Ninja (Poster with Canva and Thinglink)

Over the years I have honed my essay writing teaching skills and I’ve distilled it to 5 top tips:

  • RTBQ
  • TEAC
  • Signpost
  • State and Evaluate
  • Find the golden thread

Rather cryptic, I know, but my students know what it means. I made a poster using two cool sites: Canva and Thinglink. Canva is fantastic for making professional looking posters and Thinglink adds an interactive element to images and text. Hover your cursor over the image below to see the explanation of my cryptic but very good essay tips.

Hexagon learning: making and justifying connections

This week I tried hexagons with my students. It worked really well.hexagon

The beauty of following inspiring educators on Twitter is that you benefit from their ideas and knowledge. I first saw Hexagon learning on @jivespin’s blog, which led me to David Didau, NoTosh, SOLO (HookEd), Chris Harte and TheLearningGeek. All explain how these versatile hexagons encourage deeper thinking and rich conversations in the classroom. Hexagon learning can be used in ANY subject and for any topic.  Continue reading

Concept Based Learning

I am very interested in Concept Based Learning. I believe it is vital that in our crowded curricula, we have a clear framework that encourages deeper thinking and connections between disciplines. 

Below is my presentation for the Teachmeet at the State Library of Victoria. It is a short overview of how Concept Based learning fits in with other curricula, frameworks and pedagogies (of which there are so many!).

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SOLO Taxonomy

solo intro

I have introduced SOLO taxonomy to my Year 7 students when we started the Rome Project. This is a inquiry based unit which encourages students to think like a historian and formulate their own answer to the question: “What caused the break-up of the Roman Empire in 476AD?”

The students really seemed to get it and referred to the different stages during their research. This is one of the resources I used to explain SOLO to the kids:

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Using Tech in History Teaching

Inspired by SAMR, getting ready for #histedchat and driven by the need to create work for my class due to my absence for an MYP planning meeting, I have created a Cold War task that relies heavily on the use technology.

It’s almost the end of the year in VCE Unit 2 20th Century History and that means that we are approaching the collapse of communism.
I could always put on a PPT but that is boring, teacher centric and it doesn’t necessarily teach them anything. I also need the kids to be doing the work because I will be absent.

So here is the task I designed: Continue reading

Notes from an MYP Humanities Workshop

I attended a three day MYP Humanities (Category 2) workshop in Melbourne, 24 – 26 Sept 2012. Below are my personal notes. I am sure there are many more elements that I missed or should have written down, but these are just my take-aways. As usual, I met some wonderful people. Special thanks to Jessica, Lana and Alexia; my ‘table mates’, such a privilege to work with them.

Monday 24th of September 2012
Day 1

Session 1

New Criterion: difference between KNOWLEDGE and Knowing and Understanding.
Going from a noun to a verb. Continue reading