Sunday Showcase 15/02

Oh my goodness – I’m so sorry I’m finding it difficult to stick to my posting schedule!

I’m not sure what it is at the moment, because for the first time in 3 years I’ve actually got some time up my sleeves on the weekend because I’m not having to do the second-half of all my planning. Maybe it’s because I’m just so relaxed and chilled out?

Okay, so today is probably more a combination of my Five for Friday and Sunday Showcase posting ideas, but it’s definitely Sunday (not Friday) and I thought I’d just show you a sneak peek of some of the things I’ve been up to in the last few weeks, both teaching and non-teaching related!



I’ll start off with some personal stuff that’s happened:



On Saturday two very good friends of mine were married at the very beautiful Marybrooke Manor. Despite some early rain (a good sign!) it was a truly lovely day. Beautiful service, fabulous picnic-style buffet lunch. Lots of friends and fun! (Also, a fun opportunity to dress-up, too!)



I tidied my little workspace. It may not seem like much, but trust me, it is!

Moving on to some school-stuff…

Slide3For the first 5 Wednesdays this term, I’m running the Early Years Literacy and Numeracy interviews. I’ve run the EXACT SAME interviews every year for 6 years now. It’s very informative about what my students know at the start of school, but I can quote BOTH interviews, word for word, without looking at the script now. 😉

Slide5During the first week of school we had a chat as a class about our school values (Care, Respect, Cooperation and Integrity). I think the kiddos did a wonderful job identifying what it means to show respect to others!



I bought these cute hearts on strings when I was in Toronto from Dollarama. So glad I did – they were a big hit with the kiddos on Friday for our ‘Love Day’. We made Love Bugs (which are not 100% finished just yet, but will be soon) and read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose and Love, Splat and had a magnificent day.

And now on to some of my crafty/planner-related stuff…

Slide6My Valentine’s themed planner pages for last week. It was a lot of fun to work with blues and pinks. The little laminated card was made from a print that you can download from Studio Calico.

Slide7I am determined – DETERMINED, I say! – to get into the swing of Project Life this year. I think I’ve found the perfect way, by combining a self-paced photography challenge I’m doing from A Beautiful Mess with PL to document my life.

Slide8I attempted to make my very first card using stamps and watercolours. It’s not perfect, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?



And my most recent obsession has been making bead necklaces. I just want to keep making more and more (but honestly, I’ve got about 10 hanging on my wall the moment – what am I going to do with them all?!!).

So that’s a bit of what I’ve been up to. I’d love to know what you’ve been doing. Leave a comment and let me know so I can catch up with all my wonderful online friends!

Until next week, have a lovely weekend! ❤







Teaching and Assessing Quality Comments

Some of you may be aware of the great series of posts on educational blogging written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano of Langwitches. As a follow up to her series, she’s proposed a blog post or comment audit meme for educators who use blogging in their classrooms. Having been tagged by the lovely Kathleen Morris, this is my response.


Earlier this year I was involved in a project by the Innovation and Next Practise division of the DEECD on Contemporary Literacies in the Early Years. I’ve blogged a bit about it over the last few months, including some information about the activities involved.

The biggest activity that I ran throughout the project, however, was our class blog, which ran from the start of Term 3 until the end of the year.

I was teaching a prep class, which heavily impacted on how our class blog was run, and how students were involved in the process. When I started the blog – the first official classroom blog in my school – I wasn’t sure about the involvement and participation that I would get from the school, from the students or from the parents.

Suffice to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the whole process. I had a couple of families that took it on board and enjoyed having a blog that let them know what was happening each week, and encouraged their children (or was it the children encouraging the parents?) to also share the experience and to write messages jointly or independently.

I’ll admit that my initial goals were more around participation rather than extended comments on the blog – and when I consider that I was working with 5 and 6 year olds that was already setting the bar high. My expectations for students quickly increased, and the bar of higher quality comments was raised as a result as well.

That said, my students are beginning writers in their first year of primary school. And that’s important to keep in mind.


While I was the primary author of the blog posts – which primarily included information about the school week learning outcomes and upcoming events – we also jointly constructed posts as a class about significant lessons or activities that were important to my students, which was great for modelling different text types and writing for an audience.

The biggest part of the blog that students were involved in were jointly constructing comments left on our blog. I was often the ‘typer’ and as a class we would brainstorm the different things we wanted to say in response to a comment left on our blog (usually from another student in the class, or a parent).

For this we had a list of things to keep in mind when replying. This was in the form of a poster that we kept up in the classroom and included the following points:

– Address the author of the comment (eg. ‘Dear X’ or ‘To X’ or ‘@ X’).

– Thank them for leaving a comment/write a compliment.

– Answer any questions they asked.

– Ask questions for more information.

– Write who the comment is from (eg. ‘From Prep G-5’).

– Check with an adult or teacher before posting.

Letter-writing is one of the text types that we teach in Prep and forms the basis of how I demonstrated to my students to write and respond to comments – comments, after all, are really an informal (or formal, depending on your purpose) letter to another person.

We also referred to our Prep 5 Star Writing rubric (which was a very clear link for the preps between physical writing with a pencil and typing on a computer):

– Capital letters

– Full stops

– Sound out words

– Spaces between words

– Write in a straight line


1. Millicent’s comment

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 5.33.05 PM

Modelling points:

– Used an appropriate greeting

– Began with a question specifically related to the person they’re writing to

– Attempted to use full stops and some capital letters

– Ended with a question

Mini lesson ideas:

– Revision of capital letters for names and titles, and the beginning of a new sentence

– Remembering spaces between words and the end of sentences

– Use of clear paragraphs

– Proofreading with an adult

– Overuse of :):):):):)

2. Tae’s comment

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 5.33.44 PM

Modelling points:

– Used an appropriate greeting

– Complimented recipient

– Remembered full stops

– Signed comment

Mini lesson ideas:

– Capital letters for names and ‘I’ and at the beginning of a new sentence.

– Lots of ‘compliments’ – expand on ideas or ask questions.

– Overuse of random letters (eg. ooooooo)


In her response to the Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme, Kathleen Morris said that higher quality comments and posts do not automatically come with age.” I agree, whole-heartedly. I don’t think anyone at my school (except me) expected that students would be able to comment on a blog, or even talk about what a blog is, let alone ask to leave comments (independently) during writing times.

For the students who’ve been interested – and interest in blogging and writing comments is essential for students to be successful.

My students’ motivation for blogging increased dramatically when they started to see their friends and parents leaving comments on blog entries. Whenever I posted a new entry we’d discuss it as a class, likewise whenever there was a new comment left on our blog we’d read it as a class (or sometimes the students who left the comments would read their own comments – very exciting for 5-6 year olds). Then we’d construct responses together, which allowed for a great opportunities for whole class mini-lessons on capital letters/full stops/sounding out words/etc. We’d also discuss how to sequence ideas and/or questions.

For individual students leaving comments, feedback was mostly conducted one-on-one with a discussion about why the errors would need to be fixed, where students might go to find words they weren’t sure how to spell, etc. If their comments were written in the classroom we’d conference and fix errors on the spot.

They also learnt a lot from each other. More confident students would help their peers construct their responses. It was also two of my girls who informed the others how to make a smiley face 🙂 appear in posts.


I’m still new to blogging with students, and I may have bitten off more than I could chew by starting to blog with Prep students. That said, I feel it’s been very successful and has had enormous benefits for my students.

You are welcome to visit my 2011 classroom blog to see more examples of my students work over the last 6 months.


Anyone is welcome to write their own evaluation on blog posts of comments, and I highly recommend you visit the Langwitches Blog for more information.

I’d like to tag the following people to complete their own audit (if they choose):

Bec Spink (@MissB6_2) See Bec’s response here.

Cass Burgess (@CassBurgess)

Marie Kennedy (@marieck26)

Surpassing Expectations

photoAs much as I love to ‘dream big’ in regards to using technology with my students, I’m also relatively practical about the fact that my students are 5 and 6 years old. When we first started blogging I didn’t really expect my students to write comments on our blog – I thought their parents would.

And I do have a few parents who love to leave comments on the blog, along with their children.

I also have a few truly inspiring students who want to push their own boundaries.

One student in particular just blows me away. She’s 6 years old and regularly writes comments from home and recently started asking to write comments at school. During our last two Investigations sessions (aka Developmental Play) she’s busily replied to 2 comments on her own. The first was a reply to another student, and when she’d finished typing we sat down together and corrected spelling and punctuation and talked about formatting.

The second comment she wrote, today, just highlighted how much students can achieve independently. Earlier in the week she left a comment on our blog about our recent Gelati Day at school. I sent her a reply, but she saw it for the first time this morning. She read my reply aloud and then talked about what she wanted to write in response. I left her alone to do her typing for about fifteen minutes and when she was finished we went back through and looked at the spelling/punctuation/etc.

I was just blown away by her enthusiasm.

And no, independently she doesn’t have the skills yet to always use punctuation, capitalisation or formatting. She is developing great sounding out strategies (and if we’d left her work it would have been readable) for spelling. But she’s 6, and she’s learning and I think that’s the most amazing thing of all!

Why I Celebrate Halloween

On Friday 28th October, my class celebrated Halloween as “Spooky Friday” in our classroom. (We decided to celebrate the Friday before the actual Halloween because the actual date fell on the day before the Melbourne Cup – and we were planning Melbourne Cup activities.)

Yes, I know I’m Australian, but I’ve always celebrated Halloween with my family and my students had been asking me since the start of Term 4 – and I think it’s important to allow students (especially very young students) the opportunity to have some themed-fun days. It also afforded us a great opportunity to talk about how different countries celebrate different events, and how sometimes those events move all around the world.

Halloween is being a lot more popular in Australia. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I know that many of the students at my school were having Halloween parties and going trick-or-treating in groups – and I think that’s brilliant. It’s encouraged a lot of community spirit in our school’s area!

Below you can see some photos of the (very simple) decorations for our classroom – lots of spooky ‘eyes’ watching us from around the room, a giant spiderweb on the floor, Halloween lanterns, and streamers.

There’s also photos of the Prep Pumpkin Patch Portraits that we made and decorated in our own styles!

I hope (those of you who celebrate it) had a wonderful Halloween!

Halloween Decorations on PhotoPeach

Prep Pumpkin Patch Portraits on PhotoPeach

What did you do to celebrate Halloween?

Learning from Experience

voice-threadToday I introduced my students to VoiceThread. We used it to reflect on their favourite part of our recent school concert extravaganza: You Can’t Stop the Beat.

Teaching such young students, I find that you can explain and explain all you’d like, but it’s only through real life examples and experiences that a lot of my students start to understand what we talk about as a class.

For example, before they recorded their reflections, the listened to my example and we explored how to record a comment. We talked about the need for each student to use a clear voice and to keep a check on their volume. We also talked about the importance of the other students keeping their voices down and not banging pencils and chairs against tables while someone was recording.

One-by-one, students explored the process of planning what they would say and recording their thoughts.

The results? Mixed.

We had quite a bit of background noise, and a lot of my students are very softly spoken, so even with the microphone some were quite difficult to hear.

I don’t see these results as a loss or a waste of time – over my first two years as a teacher (and a prep teacher at that), I’ve learnt the importance of having a go over having a ‘perfect’ final product. What my students produced today was a great example of a first time product that we can improve.

We had a GREAT discussion following our time listening to all the voicethreads. We started with Yellow Hat thinking (good things), Black Hat thinking (things to be improved) and finally Green Hat thinking (improvements, etc). The ‘good things’ were quite generic with students complimenting those students who spoke clearly and loudly. However, it was the Black and Green hat thinking that I loved and am so proud of my students for:

Black Hat:

  • Talk a bit louder.
  • Only talk when it’s your turn.
  • Some people have to speak out louder.
  • You have to be quiet when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Don’t shout when it’s not your turn.
  • Don’t call out when people are recording.

Green Hat:

  • We can take a laptop into the corridor where it’s quiet.
  • Take it outside.
  • We can use a different classroom.
  • We can take a computer to the hall.
  • We can use Mr Jackson’s (our AP/ICT teacher) room.

Finally, we reflected on alternative ways to record our reflections (technology-based and not). We can:

  • Talk and record our voices.
  • Write them down.
  • Type it up on the computer.
  • Put it on a piece of paper.
  • Use a digital camera.
  • Record on an iPad/type on an iPad.
  • Use a phone.
  • Use an iPod.
  • Use an iPhone.
  • Show on a TV (photos/video, by plugging devices into the TV).
  • Use a video camera.
  • Draw a picture.
  • Make a poster.

I’m quite pleased with the results, because it really highlights how far they’ve come over the last term. Their thinking has expanded and the level of teacher prompting required during this discussion was quite minimal. Part of the Contemporary Literacy project that we’ve undertaken requires the ability of students to critically reflect on the use of technology – and alternatives to using technology and they’re really starting to show that understanding!

How do you use VoiceThread in the classroom?

Isabella’s Garden, Pt. 2

Earlier this week I made a post about Isabella’s Garden, a beautiful picturebook written by Glenda Millard, and illustrated by Rebecca Cool.

I also talked about an art activity that I’ve used following a reading of the story, using torn bits of coloured paper to create a landscape image in the season of the students’ choosing. Below, please find examples of students work from 2011.

Isabella's Garden

View more presentations from stefgalvin

I also promised to share a photo of my Book Week Parade costume – Sunday Chutney!
IMG_0237Alas, I cut all my hair off the Saturday prior to the parade, but other than that I was quite happy with my costume!
How was your Book Week? (For those who celebrated it!)

Who would you dress up as for a book parade?