Sunday, 29 June 2014


I've just finished reading 'Tales from Moominvalley' a collection of short stories by Tove Jansson featuring her quirky Moomin characters. I'm also going to re-read Mark Twain's 'The Prince and the Pauper' during the break. I'll develop some short unit plans for both books to start the term with.

Wet start to the holidays

We've had lots of rain this last week and the tanks are full at school. There were lots of kookaburras around. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Robin Hood

First day of the winter holidays and 23 000 Blog views!
Click on this LINK to go to TPT to find my just completed Robin Hood unit.

Last day of term Two

A relaxing final day of term. We finished off some unfinished tasks this morning ( Photo of the Billy Goats Gruff dioramas below) and Celeste finished her stay at Glen Park by making cup cakes with the kids. 

During the break I have to update our OHS documentation, update  policies' organise some excursions and term 4 camp and prepare units of work for term 3. there is also Network tweeting to do and I have an appointment to review my 2014-15 performance plan. 
It might be a bit hard for the 'untrained eye' to see but our beans are starting to pop up.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Visit to Kirks

 We went to Kirks Reservoir for a BBQ lunch and a wander around. The kids seemed to like getting out and about- we'll have to do it more often. Celeste my student teacher was great, she cooked the sausages while I did my teacher bit and took them for a walk to the reservoir and had a chat about how it was built. After 2 .....and for some 4 sausages! We went for a stroll around the lovely gardens and Celeste took them for games before we went back for school.

The grade 6 kids finished off their towers and they look great. They also created story maps for Robin Hood and information reports about the Plantagenet kings. 

Tomorrow is the last day of term. We'll watch the recent version of Charlotte's Web now that we've finished our EB White unit, Celeste is planning to do some cooking ( muffins) and we'll finish our Three Billy Goats Gruff dioramas. There will be reports to hand out, Celeste to farewell and her assessment to email off to Uni. We finish up at 2:30 and I have school council for half an hour and then I can start my winter break. (I think I'll need about 5 days up at work these holidays plus whatever Steve needs me to do ( updating our school's computer network) and some relaxing with a book time.

Go to this site to read an interesting article about the effectiveness of professional school counsellors. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Making Swords

One of my grade 6 girls started making a sword today. She was doing a great job until she started sticking the 'jewels' that were supposed to go on the hand guard, onto the blade? Anyway, we'll see how the others go with there's tomorrow. They also started painting their castle turrets.
It was another gloomy and wet today. I hope it is a bit better for our trip to Kirk's tomorrow. I popped in tonight and checked out the BBQs ( Hooray they are free! ) and the toilets ( ALWAYS check the toilets) and everything is fine. In fact the rain has freshened everything up.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Celeste helping with the dioramas.

Wow- what a wet, miserable, windy day. Yes winter is certainly here in Ballarat.
I hope it settles down a bit before Thursday when we're off to Kirk's Reservoir for a BBQ.
My grade 1 and 2 are working on their Billy Goats Gruff diorama. Celeste, my student teacher is working with them and showing lots of patience and skill. I'll miss her when she finishes up on Friday.
Photos below

My grade 6 kids watched the Errol Flynn Robin Hood and loved it. ( It is the best!) They are creating a Venn diagram comparing the film and the Howard Pyle book ( There are loads of differences) They are also using our new information report format to create an information report on the 3 Plantagenet Kings. ( They're getting the hang of it so I will have them using the scaffold without me helping them next term.)

Monday, 23 June 2014

Billy Goats Gruff Diorama

The castle models the grade 6 kids built are drying out nicely and we'll paint them.
I created a bridge for our Three Billy Goats Gruff diorama

My grade 1 girl is starting her diorama today and will finish it off tomorrow. With the help of my student teacher she created a great troll using air dried clay.
The grade 6 kids finished danger scales for Robin Hood and tomorrow we'll watch the old Errol Flynn version of the story ( the best version) and then complete a Venn diagram comparing the two.

The Federal Opposition today has followed the lead of the South Australian and ACT Governments in saying that any funding going towards a future chaplaincy program should be spent on non-clerical welfare support in schools if schools choose to do that. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Rural Education report leaks

This morning there was an interesting 'leak' from the government in the Sunday Age about the long delayed rural education plan . I'm sure it will see the light of day before the election and probably some short sighted people in marginal rural electorates will be duped by it. I was involved with the first Rural Education Framework in 2010 which was airbrushed out of history 'Stalin style' within months of the coalition coming to power. ( It was the most decisive thing the Coalition did in education for about 2 years)
The Auditor General's report which I posted on in May was damning of their efforts or lack of effort and of the long delayed report which he must have seen.( I wonder if they went back to the drawing board after he released his report? He was scathing of it.He said it wouldn't be 'robust enough') 
One of my biggest concerns is that some unnamed consultancy company has written it without any of the stakeholders apparently being......well...consulted!
If you put rural principals, teachers and parents in a room and get them to list what needs to be done in rural education you will get an avalanche of ideas. Was this done? When? Who was involved? The last rural education framework had a lot of stakeholder input.

Some of the thought bubbles that were printed in the Age this morning sound interesting but it won't work if you dump a pile of 'reforms' on over worked and over stressed small rural schools ( I'm sure big secondary schools like Bendigo would cope) and expect them to just adopt and adapt. It has happened before. And as the Auditor General said it was ad hoc and improvement was undocumented and not measured. Have they established base-line data for rural schools             (Including  individual schools! And discussed specific improvement targets with them?) Will they be capable of measuring change? ( They haven't in the past!) 

The regional offices have been gutted and the Network structures torn down so who will support schools to make the changes needed ( Big colleges in rural cities will cope but those of us in small schools will find it 'challenging') What support will they offer?
 Will there be funding for regional consultants dedicated to supporting schools and networks of schools? Realistic timelines?  Money for CRT release, planning days, PD? Support to collate data and measure improvement? Some attempt to restore the shattered TAFE system in rural Victoria?  A serious attempt to end DEECD's one size fits all mentality especially when it comes to unrealistic red-tape requirements and unachievable targets like LOTE provision in rural Victoria, ( progress was starting to be made on DEECD understanding that not all schools are like those in the leafy eastern suburbs of Melbourne but that all got washed away over the last 3 years) Will there be genuine technological support to help schools to smoothly and consistently  connect to the outside world ?( a one teacher rural school like mine should have got video conferencing equipment years ago without having to buy it ourselves! and do they really think kindergarten kids can sit down and learn from a teacher or somebody on a TV screen and is that what we want our kids to have to do? )
Or will it just be a grab bag of half thought out 'initiatives' on somebody's performance plan that will gather dust and blow away?
I guess we'll read about it first in the newspapers.
It will be interesting to see what they suggest when it is finally released.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Another busy Saturday morning

Nearly the winter solstice. It was very dark out this morning when I set off to work. 
I took the opportunity to check out the new round about on the Bungaree/ Daylesford Road. Hopefully that will end some rather nasty accidents we've had there in the past. The grade 6 castle turrets are drying nicely. I'm cleaning and preparing for the next week (Last week of term 2) today but also putting the finishing touches to the reports ( now that the printing 'bug' has been sorted) and writing our community newsletter to be printed off this week and distributed during the holiday break.

At work on Robin Hood

The grade 6 boys finished their turrets today. They should dry over the weekend and we can paint them.

We completed our castles information reports as well as sketches of a castle entrance ( I found a 'how to draw it' on Pinterest) Below is also a photo of some of our other completed tasks for Robin Hood. I've also started reading Howard Pyle's version of King Arthur and the Round Table.

The new router box was installed yesterday. The lads did an excellent job but what an eyesaw! I'll have to watch my head on it! another great example of the Department's one size fits all mentality.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Clay turret

The grade 6 kids started making clay castle turrets today. I provided them with a template, ( I found on Pinterest) tools and air-dry clay and they got to it. Below are some photos I took of them at work.
I'll take some photos of the finished product next week.
I'll also add detailed information about making them in my Robin Hood unit.
I have also taken some photos of some Information reports we have written using Steven Graham's scaffold for writing information reports. ( Refer previous posting)
See below Wicked report, swans and spiders.

Images of our castle reports we are working on will be posted tomorrow.

Free, Secular and Compulsory

The High Court of Australia has ruled that the Commonwealth's funding of religious chaplains in government schools is unconstitutional.
With people power funding behind him a Queensland farmer Mr Williams, won his challenge over the validity of that law.

"It always seemed totally inappropriate that a program could be put into public schools on no other basis than the largely unqualified people that were going in, with the only proviso being that they be religious," he said after today's ruling.

The main question examined in the case was whether the executive government had the power to fund such programs directly through local organisations.

The states backed Mr Williams in both of his High Court challenges over concerns the Commonwealth was using the mechanism to bypass them. the irony is that the commonwealth will probably get around the decision by funding the program by giving the states a bucket of money to do it.

The government will plough on and the Opposition vowed to work with the Abbott Government to ensure the chaplaincy program can continue.

"The Opposition stands ready to work with the Government to ensure that the Commonwealth can act and provide payments in such a way in the future," Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor said. The Rudd Government originally supported the Howard Government program to placate the seemingly influential Christian lobby which Howard and Costello openly converted.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Christine Milne says she is pleased with the ruling, saying the current arrangement made little sense given recent budget announcements.

"With the Abbott Government cutting $30 billion out of education, [injecting] $250 million into the school chaplains program, made no sense at all," she said. I couldn't agree more.

the AEU  is calling for funding to be redirected elsewhere in schools.

"What our students need are expert trained school counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers," he said.

In this year's budget the Federal Government scrapped funding for non-religious counsellors, who made up about a quarter of all participants under the program.

The previous Labor government allowed secular student welfare workers to be funded under the scheme, but the Coalition reversed the decision and will only pay for chaplains. For this reason alone the opposition should withdraw its support for this bizarre program which has no place in 'free, secular and compulsory' state schools.

Watch this space for further developments.

Refer to this story from The ABC about Kew Primary School stopping their Access Ministries Religious Education classes:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Playing outside

Another busy day today. My grade 4 kids made some swan nests today. they glue gunned straw, stones and twigs together and sat a swan on it. The finished product looked good( refer below)

The girls ran around outside today playing a 'survival game' ( refer to the 'camp site' below) It is great for them to build cubbys, camp fires and traps. They play well together and play safely. ( In bigger schools they freak out about kids 'playing with sticks') It is funny listening to them ( I don't get too close because I don't want them to feel self- conscious ) because they talk with American accents. ( Maybe they get that from watching too much TV) 

Yeah 22500 views

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Robin Hood

We're half way through the Howard Pyle version of Robin Hood. Most chapters seem to be about him recruiting new 'merry men'. So far no sign of Prince John and Maid Marion. I Might read another more well-known version once I've finished the Pyle version later this week. I have also started his version of King Arthur and the Round Table as an afternoon serial.( Must see if I can find a good abridged version of Ivanhoe) I'll take some photographs of their work tomorrow but below I have an image of one of my grade 6 girl's book about growing up in the Middle Ages. She did a great job. I like the ribbon she added to each page and the black and white images she found. She tried to make it look authentic by painting the paper with a water color wash. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Finished Swan Boats

My grade 4 girls finished off their swan boats and did a fantastic effort.
The swan boats are a tourist feature of Boston and are featured in EB White's The Trumpet of the Swan. I didn't give the kids any guidance about what I wanted them to do other than to print off some photos of the boats and provide them with swan outlines, cardboard sheets and tubes, glue guns and other bits and pieces. They came up with all the ideas for making the boats.

We are about half way through reading Robin Hood. Today the grade 6 kids finished some shields with appropriate coat of arms. They did a terrific job.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

EMA to end

More than 200,000 students in Victoria - nearly a quarter of all primary and secondary students in the state - receive the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which the state government is going to axe at the end of this year.

EMA recipients receive between $150 to $300 to pay for everything from book packs, to uniforms, to school camps.

In some schools in Melbourne but also in the country the EMA payment is a huge benefit to parents and schools. ( I know it was a significant help in rural communities during the drought when rural incomes fell and many families found themselves needing government assistance. ) In the past there has been a high number of Glen Park parents receiving the EMA. Some have handed the money directly to the school ( recent changes had half of it go directly to the school anyway) and some used it to buy uniforms. ( I remember one family used it to buy school shoes every year.)

 Many schools use it to support vulnerable and disadvantaged students. Some schools have a high cohort of those students. For example St. Albans PS in Melbourne has almost four out of five children that come to the school are recipients of EMA and need that to help their basic educational needs( The Hockey horror budget will create more of those children)

In other schools the EMA ( which is usually signed over to the school) is used to pay for uniforms, book lists, fees and stationary items.

The EMA is a relatively small part of Victoria's $5.9 billion school budget.But when Victoria signed up to the Gonski reforms last year they decided to remove funding going directly to students and put it into schools based on need.The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) said that was a big mistake.

"General money flowing into schools is not targeted money going to children who absolutely need it to be able to attend and participate in school," VCOSS CEO Emma King told the ABC last week.

"So there's a really significant issue here, while Gonski might be flowing into schools, that in itself doesn't provide targeted assistance to those who need it." the sad fact is that only a fraction of Gonski funding will eventually find its way into government schools. Glen Park hasn't seen one red cent of it.Victoria's Education Minister Martin Dixon said when Gonski funds start to flow in July the state's neediest schools and students would be much better off.( Hopefully the AEU and VCOSS will be monitoring this)

The Government said even with the EMA cut, schools would have $170 million in additional money to help disadvantaged families.This change doesn't come into effect until the start of next year. Apparently they will be releasing information to schools about the changes this week. But until those questions are answered, parents and principals will remain concerned. It has not been well publicised by the Department since last year ( especially for those who have English as a second language) and it won't be noticed by many families until they actually come up at the beginning of the year and start asking to use their EMA for book lists or to pay fees.

EB White stories teaching ideas

We are just about finished our unit on EB White stories. Finished reading The Trumpet and the Swan on Friday and the kids are working on their swan boats at the moment.
This is a LINK to the TPT site where you can download my teaching ideas.