How broadening my PLN through Twitter has improved my teaching

It has been almost a year since I started to more actively broaden my Professional Learning Network through Twitter and I have to say that the results have been enlightening and amazing. My teaching has greatly improved and as a result, my students have benefited. Over the past year this is what I have used to enrich my teaching:

Twitter. Before joining Twitter, I thought how on earth could this help me as a teacher? I am really not interested in the daily updates of Taylor Swift and Bieber. Boy, was I wrong! As someone once wrote, Facebook is for making connections with people you already know and Twitter is for making connections with people you wish you knew. When I finally joined Twitter, I realised that many highly intelligent and non-movie star people tweet as well. In fact, teachers are on Twitter and not only do they tweet, but they actually share their ideas to everyone! What’s more, if you  have a question and post it to Twitter, someone out there will read it and respond with something useful!  Since joining Twitter, I have participated in a variety of twitter chats, gained valuable ideas from teachers within Australia and around the world and heard about great apps to use.  I experimented with the app Tellagami due to Twitter and this is such an amazing app to use! Through twitter, I heard about the Student Blogging Challenge, Quadblogging, #kchatap, #ozprimchat and TeachMeets. I cannot recommend it more!

Twitter exposed me to the Student Blogging Challenge and Quadblogging. These blogging activities have not only provided a more meaningful context for my students to blog and thereby improve their literacy skills, it also enabled my students to connect with students around the world and for me to form positive connections with teachers.

Twitter alerted me to Teach Meets. I first heard about Teach Meets through Twitter, where teachers meet up face to face. I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to engage with teachers from a variety of schools and to be around those equally excited to be learning and sharing ideas related to teaching.

How has Twitter improved your teaching? Do you recommend any other ways to broaden one’s PLN? 

Making Mistakes (on purpose) in the Classroom

I recently participated in a twitter chat where it was discussed how important it is to model not knowing the answer to everything and making mistakes. It made me reflect on the fact that I need to do this more in my teaching.

Recently in maths as a tuning in activity, I wrote the statement of 2 groups of 4 but I drew 4 groups of 2 like this:


4 groups of 2

We spoke about what was wrong with my picture. I said things like, but this is 2 groups of 4 as there are 2 dots and 4 groups. It was great to see them fired up and hearing their reasoning such as:

  • Your picture is not right because you have 4 groups instead of 2 groups.
  • Your picture is not right because each group has 2, whereas you should have 4.

My students really enjoyed ‘correcting’ my misconception and it was great to hear their reasoning. They said things like “But you’re a teacher and you’re making mistakes!” I responded by saying, “Even teachers can make mistakes. Thanks for teaching me and correcting my mistake.” This activity got me thinking that I should do this more often in maths, where I pose a problem which I know to be wrong, but I pretend that it’s right and get the students to articulate why it is incorrect.

What type of mistakes do you make on purpose in the classroom? How have your students responded?

Extending Year 1/2 Students in Place Value with Decimals

I have some Year 2 students who are working well past the Year 2 Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards for Place Value. These are students who are confident with working with numbers into the millions. As a result, I decided to extend them by teaching them about decimals. It helped that they possessed a solid understanding of fractions, so I could connect this to decimals.

Firstly, I used a pro forma from Nelson Maths to connect fractions to decimals:

Decimal tenthsWe spoke about what each square represented. I asked ‘What is one of these squares called?’ Students answered ‘One tenth’. We then spoke about how the line in fractions (eg 1/10) means divided and when we put a fraction into the calculator we get another number. Students put 1/10 into the calculator and got 0.1. They did this for 2/10, 3/10 and so on and each time they shaded this on the pro forma writing 1/10 and 0.1 beside each shading. They began to understand that decimals were another name for fractions. However, one student whose understanding was not as solid as the others, recorded in his book 0.3 is 1/3 and 0.4 is 1/4 besides his shading.

In the following session, these students modelled decimals using place value mats that had tens, ones and tenths. We used straws to represent the tens and ones. We used a rolled up piece of play dough (the same length as a straw) cut into tenths to represent the tenths. My students chose a decimal to make and they wrote both the decimal and fraction name underneath their model. They took photos on iPads to show me their work, which looked like this:

Modelling decimals

I found these Nelson Maths based activities to be really helpful when introducing decimals and my students all felt comfortable modelling and describing the decimals they made by the end of the numeracy sessions. It was also valuable to connect the known (fractions) to the unknown (decimals) when teaching decimals.

How have you taught decimals in the classroom? What issues have you faced when teaching decimals?


Update: the function on tellagami where you can type what a character is to say and they read it aloud is no longer free 🙁

Recently I used the iPad app called “tellagami” with my Year 1/2 students and they loved it!

“Tellagami” is an app that can be used to make videos. This is how it works:

  • Students need to choose a background. They can choose from the ones on the app or take a picture of their own.
  • Students need to choose a person to talk. They can choose whether the person is male/female, what they look like (hair colour, eye colour, clothing).
  • Students then need to record their own voice or choose a voice on the app. There are many different voices to choose from, both male and female sounding voices.
  • The “tellagami” needs to be saved to appear on the iPad’s photoroll.

At my current school, we teach students resilience through the program called “You Can Do It!” or “YCDI!” This term, our YCDI key is “Organisation”. In groups of two or three, students were tasked with choosing a background in the classroom of an area that shows organisation and choose a person on the app to speak. Some students took pictures of their lockers, the book corner and the whole class sitting on the mat. They then practised saying how this demonstrated organisation. Next, students recorded their voices.

I saved these videos onto the iPad’s photoroll and then uploaded them to schooltube. My students loved seeing their work showcased as a video and it made teaching organisation much more engaging!

How have you used “tellagami” in the classroom?

A Tale of Two Blogs – The Benefits of having an Open Blog

I was recently asked what are the benefits of blogging and found myself having so many wonderful things to say about it.

Blogging is a fantastic learning tool and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of utilising an open blog in the classroom and will compare it to the private/closed blog I initially used.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.48.53 AM

Photo credit:  via

The main benefits of the open blog (comments are moderated by me and there are guidelines based on this) are:

  • Students’ literacy skills improve. They learn how to answer questions posed in the blog and by other people, respond to others in a respectful manner, pose their own questions and navigate around the features of an internet website.  They have also become more adept at typing and some students know how to copy and paste their typed comments in the event it is not sent.  At the start of the year, I wrote most of the blog posts and replied to most of the comments. Now my students can comfortably reply to anyone who writes on the blog and I provide less support.
  • Students are engaged.  Students love seeing their work and that of their peers. They love being able to read and respond to events and things that they have been a part of. I provide class time for my students to write comments, but more than half of my students also voluntarily respond to the blog at home.
  • There is an authentic audience. Often the only people who read student work is the teacher and themselves.  Using this blog, students are creating work and writing comments for a real audience. Using widgets like ClustrMaps shows students that people around the world are looking at their work. Siblings, parents, parents from other classes and other teachers in the school have viewed the blog and some have even commented.
  • It is used as a vehicle to teach internet safety. The blog is a great way to teach cyber safety and the importance of being safe online.  My students know that anything we write on the internet can be seen by the whole world and as a result, we must be very careful about what we choose to include. They know that surnames, addresses, email addresses and specific details are not things they should publicise.
  • It can be linked to all areas of the curriculum. The fantastic thing about having a blog is that it can be used to share student work, reflect on a specific unit in maths, reflect on our learning, share school excursions, and so on. The possibilities are endless!
When I used a closed/private blog last year, this is what I found:
  • Students were not engaged. When I asked students if they wanted to write a comment, the majority of my students were not interested. This could be due to the fact no work or photos were displayed so there was little they could relate to.
  • There was no authentic audience. As it was private, it meant the students could not access it at home to show their parents. Other teachers within the school could not comment and people from around the world were not able to view it.
  • It could not be used as a vehicle to teach internet safety. As it was closed, I could not say to my students “We need to be careful about what we write on the internet because anyone can see this.”
  • The failure of the closed blog almost made me give up the idea of having a class blog, but after seeing some amazing open classroom blogs, I decided to persevere. And I am glad I did!
Before starting my classroom blog here I had no experience with blogging and had never attended any PDs. What I found most useful was looking at fantastic classroom blogs like this and simply googling anything I didn’t know. For example, I wanted to insert a page and didn’t know how so I simply googled “how to insert a page on edublog.”
There is still so much more about blogging that I would love to learn!
What are your experiences of using a class room blog?