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‘APPY AS – Notes For My School Presentation

February 1, 2015

The Abstract: You don’t always need to download an app from the iTunes Store. The following web-based apps are free and iPad-friendly. When selecting these apps, I focused on opportunities for creativity and thinking in the Early Years Classroom.


A great tool for practising basic number facts, or vocabulary terms. No need to print off: the boards load and are marked off online. This screenshot is of a BingoBaker board I made up when teaching the ‘aw’ sound in a spelling lesson. However, when students themselves create items and write the clues, then the learning gets even better.

I usually have this running when the students first arrive in the morning. They can can contribute to the whole-class thinking on an issue, or just let us all know what they have been up to on the weekend. I have also found it great for small-group writing, where we take turns at creating the sentences.

Deviant Art is a large online community for the sharing of art. Although the sharing aspect is not suitable for young students, their MURO drawing space is great. Images are saved easily to the iPad photo album.

This screenshot will give you an idea of the drawing space, and my ‘train’ sketch.

There’s so many good things to do with the simplest of drawing apps, even those which use only two colours. This one saves easily to the iPad photo roll.

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In the first example,the young student can write a number sentence to match. In the second example, the question may be asked, “These are half of the shapes. How many might there be altogether?” However, this is not really much more than an digital worksheet – unless the students create the pictures and word puzzles themselves, for their peers.

A nice collaborative tool which shares easily, I can see this being used with brainstorms, tallying, venn diagrams. Below is the screenshot of the Venn diagram I aim to use in the workshop, getting us to share our collective thinking to compare Julie (Bishop) to Julia (Gillard).

If you want your students to do more than play drill-and-kill apps, but you are not able to choose alternatives in the iTunes Store, these web-based apps might get you rethinking. It’s not about what happens ON the iPad, but what happens BECAUSE of the iPad. The learner, not the app, produces the thinking. Have you tried out any of the above web-based apps in your classroom? Tell me your stories here in the comments. And let me know of any other web-based apps that you have used successfully.

Dear @aimee_gale

May 18, 2013


Hi there Aimee

In response to your tweet asking for maths investigations around addition and subtraction in Year 3/4, here are a few ideas of mine:


No, I haven’t tried this one out yet, but I came up with the idea for you in the gym this morning. Now, every AFL-loving student knows instinctively how long 50 metres is. So, the challenge is: Find objects in your classroom which can be lined up to make a length of 50 metres. Sounds a bit daunting? Then make it collaborative. After a while the students might tire of measuring items such as pencils and chairs by themselves, so maybe they can ‘trade’ the measurement of items with classmates. This is a pretty big running total to record, so the use of a spreadsheet to create a running total could be good. Sure, the spreadsheet is doing the hard yakka of the addition and subtraction maths – until the final total. To get this exactly at 50 metres, students must estimate, round-off, guess-and-check, to get their precise total.


I used to do this with mini tins of spaghetti in tomato sauce, and used plastic drop-sheets for the operation. Now I stick to plain boiled spaghetti for less mess and more maths. A good group activity, each group receives a big spoonful of cooked spaghetti, measures it all and totals it up to find out who has the most, measured in centimetres.


Create a table which shows the distance between different locations in the school.

Investigate Olympic long-jump records to work out the difference between the lengths jumped each year.

As tall as a giraffe: which students in the class would need to stand on top of each other’s head to be exactly the same height as a giraffe?

Last of all, there is an excellent activity in First Steps Mathematics called ‘Broken Ruler’. Students measure the length of objects with a section of a ruler to really think through their addition and subtraction. In the photo you can see one copied from the First Steps in Mathematics Measurement book.

Photo on 2013-05-18 at 13






Cheers, and thanks for giving me a reason to blog!


Oral Language, Mathematics and iPads in the Grade Two Classroom

October 4, 2012

This slideshow was created from the panels of my poster prepared for the Australian Computers in Education Conference, ACEC2012 in Perth, Western Australia, October 2012.  My poster was in the form of a giant comic strip comprising these images. It was the culmination of my teacher-inquiry into how oral language and mathematics could be utilised together to enhance learning – with the help of mobile technology.

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Postie Letters: enhancing Reading and Writing in the Daily Five Classroom

August 16, 2012

You often find out about a great book to read through a friend.  In our Grade Two class, we have a daily routine called ‘Postie’.  Letters are written and read recommending a good-fit book to a classmate. The Student of the Day becomes the Postie and gets to deliver the letters to others.

‘Postie’ started as my letter to a reader. I would write to a student who I thought needed a bit of help choosing a ‘good fit’ book for reading.  Choosing books that I enjoyed myself, I wrote to tell the reader what it was about and why I thought they should read it.

Things changed when the students themselves started to write the letters. I had not asked them to do this, and it has never become a required task.In the photo, Chanel is carefully reading my letter to her, and following the structure as well as choosing the vocabulary for the letter.  It’s something we do because we love writing, we love reading, and we want others to also.

To write a successful Postie letter, the writer has to explain why this book will suit the reader. To this end, children have been referring to the CAFE menu used in our Daily Five literacy system. Now we talk more about the strategies on the CAFE board, thinking about them and matching them to reader friends.

There are regular writers’ workshops with ‘Postie’ letter writers, where three or four students work with me to improve their letters.  Together we have created a ‘Bump It Up’ chart. This chart displays the work of three writers, and annotates the desired features shown in their Postie letters.

Monique shows our ‘Bump It Up’ chart to her mum.

The three samples chosen are from a range of writers, demonstrating ‘doing well’, ‘getting there’ and ‘starting off’. This enables students to aim at ‘bumping up’ their writing to the next level by referring to the visible examples.

The magic?  It’s all about connecting the reading and writing. It’s about purpose and audience in writing, and enabling choice. It’s about becoming more knowledgeable about the reading process and using this knowledge to help a reader. And it’s a pretty nifty way to create a book review.

“You are not just bumping up the person who reads the book.  You are bumping up your own writing.” Zoe

“The letter improves if you add more detail to your sentences.” Isabella

“When you do Postie, you are actually bumping up both your reading and their reading because you have to know what a good fit book is for them.” Madison

“You have to make your letter interesting.” Jema

Postie from brette lockyer on Vimeo.


July 21, 2012

Thanks to the suggestion from my online colleague Jasmine Dwyer, – @jasminedwyer – I revisited my Philosophy of Teaching and Learning to see if it needed an update. The world has changed. Does my Philosophy reflect that? Jasmine suggested I use a “I used to think…but now I think…” framework for the comparison.  I have summarised my changes here.

I used to think that reflecting was a personal process. Now I think it is more powerful when done with others, both face-to-face and online.

I used to think that the path to professional development was via further formal study. Now I think that I have many more opportunities, especially from my online connections. However I have come to realise that I need to engage with others outside the teaching profession to discover other viewpoints about matters I don’t know about – yet.

I used to think that friendships were only face-to-face. Now I think online friendships are also rich and sustaining.

I used to think that research papers and official curriculum documents were sacrosanct. Now I think I need to question, interrogate and compare different sources of wisdom to ensure my own is continually evolving and challenged.

I used to think that assessment documents such as reports were for the parents. Now I think they are also for sharing with the child.

I used to think that my students could learn from their own community. Now I think they can learn from their global community. And learn with them. And teach them.

I used to think that collaborative skills were taught to enable children to contribute to society. Now I think it’s more about developing thinking through working together.

I used to think that gender equity was an important issue. Now I think that I need to add to this: there are also other forms of equity – or inequity – that I need to consider.

I used to think that the sharing of food was an important part of the day in the Early Childhood Classroom. Now I think it’s too hard.

I used to think that fine motor skills development was about cutting and drawing. Now I also think it includes keyboarding practice.

I used to think that environmental print was only in the classroom. Now I think it is also in the shared online spaces we create together.

I used to think that there were 25 teachers in our classroom. Now I think that there are far more, due to our online connections where other children and adults have also become our teachers. We have also become their teachers.

I used to think that duty of care was about watching children work and play safely at school. Now I think it’s also about working and playing safely online, at home and at school. I also now think that I cannot ensure their safety by myself and I need to form a positive partnership with families to do this.

I used to think that their was no place for competition in my classroom. I am still thinking this one through, as I realise how much my students have to gain through online game-based experiences.

There is much in my Philosophy of Teaching and Learning that has not changed, most of this framed around my respect for the child as an independent, inquisitive and capable learner.  Has your philosophy of Teaching and Learning changed lately?


January 22, 2012

In blogposts and via Twitter some teachers report that the Daily Five routine is often ‘tweaked’ to suit their classroom constraints. Less apparent is the ‘tweaking’ that is done to match a teacher’s pedagogy, their beliefs about how learners learn and how teaching works. If you believe that the eye and ear work best together in the reading process, then you may set up the ‘Listen to Reading’ activity to ensure that the students are looking at the words as they are hearing the words. If you believe that the teacher only must conduct all small groups focusing on fluency, you may like to reflect on why you believe this and how it affects your students’ learning. The smooth running of the Daily Five machine in my classroom, such a beautifully organised literacy system, might just lull me into omitting my questions: WHY do I use it, why do I modify or ‘tweak’ it, and do these ‘tweaks’ improve the literacy learning?


This question was an important part of the discussion at AISV with Rosalyn Muir and her colleagues. I say yes for three reasons: the Daily Five and CAFE books centre around real reading and real writing, with no worksheets or iPad drill apps mentioned. The Daily CAFE book guides the teacher to actively teach literacy – this certainly helped me to lift my teaching game. The Daily Five book is very prescriptive about setting up the literacy classroom, describing routines, book selection, systematic assessment – all helpful to the graduate teacher.

My words of advice to the graduate teacher: follow the recommended five-week setup period closely, as detailed in the Daily Five book. Subscribe to The Sisters’ members-only materials for the first 3 months, as it’s helpful to access their videos to get a better idea of what they are talking about. Connect with other teachers using the Daily Five, via blogs or Twitter, and request an online colleague to mentor you throughout your Daily Five journey. Don’t be in a rush to be the perfect Daily Five teacher: improve your literacy teaching craft by focusing on one aspect per term, for example conducting writing strategy groups. If you encounter opposition to the Daily Five within your school, go quietly about your business of teaching the Daily Five without using the title. In this day and age of shared teacher learning and collaboration, it’s hard to imagine but in-school colleagues may talk negatively about your efforts to try something new as if it’s some sort of cult!


Have you ever noticed that some of more capable students love doing lower-order tasks and enjoy drill-based games? Are they avoiding the hard work of thinking? The Daily Five routine can easily accommodate this – if the teacher permits or prefers. I question the use of set reading comprehension tasks, writing prompts, spelling tests in the Daily Five session, as I believe these limit choice and therefore student independence. The greatest literacy potential of the Daily Five lies in the students themselves employing oral language in higher-order thinking opportunities: making a book promotion video for peers, a group reflection on the best way to learn your spelling, giving feedback to a friend as to why you love their rich sentences. Student involvement and initiative in the mini-lessons and strategy groups can make all the difference. The Daily Five session can be rich student-centred literacy rather than ‘schooly’ routines that control students nicely.


It is a difficult job managing classroom time so that the Daily Five is a relaxed student-choice-based routine. Many Daily Five teachers conduct separate literacy sessions for class blogging, word study and Writers’ Workshops. The explicit teaching in these separate sessions is the ideal moment to model problem-solving in literacy, impart expert literacy knowledge and to raise the bar on what is expected from students. I have decreased the length of time of my explicit teaching, to maximise the time students themselves spend on actual reading and writing during the busy day. One effective way of decreasing time while maximising effectiveness is to prepare explicit lessons beforehand, screencasting using screen recording tools and iPad apps. The Daily Five system has been a great way for me to examine and increase students’ daily reading time.

It is also a tough job allocating time to student Inquiry. A prescriptive -and effective – literacy system such as the Daily Five takes time, and it’s very easy to proritise these lessons that ‘work’. I have struggled with the smooth integration of our class Inquiry learning into the Daily Five. It hasn’t been enough to supply the Daily Five readers with books about cultural celebrations when conducting an Inquiry on this. The only way I have managed is to put Daily Five sessions ‘on hold’ for a few weeks whilst the Inquiry takes centre stage. Isn’t literacy a useful toolbox that is essential to Inquiry?


Any literacy system I use must be interrogated, to keep my eye on the ball of my students’ literacy learning. How do I interpret and then ‘tweak’ a literacy system, and is this based on how I learnt and succeeded at literacy when I was a young learner? Am I aiming for a quiet, controlled classroom and somehow then omitting the foundation stone of good literacy – oral language, and also the power of collaboration? Am I meeting the needs of all my students? Please post your questions in a response to this post so that I may continue my interrogation of any literacy system that I use.


January 18, 2012

In my Grade Two classroom over the last two years I have utilised the Daily Five, a literacy learning system created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. Although this system has worked its magic with my students, I am never complacent about anything going on in my classroom and have continually questioned the Daily Five – namely WHY and HOW. My interrogation has occurred in my personal journal, on Twitter – often joining in the #D5chat discussion. It’s also been a part of my coffee conversations with friendly colleagues Michelle and Robyn. Last week, Rosalyn Muir from AISV invited me and Michelle to attend an afternoon with her colleagues to discuss the Daily Five. Ongoing conversations with my wise friend Jasmine Dwyer have prompted me to record my questions and thinking here.


Similar to the EYL, Daily Five operates in ‘rotations’, or time periods of about 25 minutes. Usually, EYL sessions offer no choice: each student has to rotate through all activities during the session, whereas Daily 5 students choose which activity they will do. Absent from both systems is the element of the student choosing how long they participate in an activity. Both systems halt or interrupt a student’s work after the set time, and often I wish that this was not so. I believe that in some instances young learners can decide how long they themselves need to spend on a task, being in the flow of enjoyable, sustained practice. However, the element of choice in the Daily Five is one cause of the eager reception by students each day.

The more choice, the more chaos. The EYL rotations just require students to move together to the next activity. The Daily Five transitions can take up valuable learning time while students are making their choices.  The five-week set-up period for the Daily Five, where routines and behaviours are learnt and practised, enables the teacher to fine-tune organisational decisions to maximise learning time. All literacy teachers make organisational decisions, whichever system they employ. We have to question whether these decisions are to suit the teacher’s need for control and convenience, or to enhance rich, natural, relaxed student learning.

Both systems contain explicit teaching through teacher ‘focus lessons’. Hopefully these will be centred on students’ current needs, rather than ticked boxes on a mandated checklist. Explicit/Systematic/Responsive can make a powerful focus lesson, whatever literacy system is used.


The Daily Five system requires each student to maintain a personal library, or ‘book box.’ There is a huge emphasis on learning the skill of choosing a ‘good-fit’ book, and peer recommendations are a large part of the selection process in my classroom. Many mistakes are made, and the greatest difficulty lies in explaining to parents that their child may occasionally bring home a book that is not a ‘good fit’.  I advise to remind parents of an old favourite title that may be on their own bookshelf or coffee table and suitable for home reading practice when the book from school is just not right. The ‘good fit’ box encourages independence, delight, repeated reading, meeting new reading challenges – NOT learned helplessness.

Whereas the student appreciates a title recommended by a teacher, it would be a real shame if the element of student choice was eliminated from the personal libraries. It’s all about loving what you read, thinking about how you read, and organising yourself for success. In my classroom, the element of student choice means that the classroom library is not necessarily organised by reading level. Sorry, you won’t find the purple dot books all together. Therefore I have to allow time for students to select books on a regular basis. I also have to know and actively promote all the books in my room. Basal readers? Yes, they do have a place if they are an appetising read and worth promoting.

I recently visited a Grade 5 classroom where the students each had a personal library box on their desks. The titles were revealing: a pretty homogenous selection of Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Andy Griffiths titles.  All great reads, but I had the feeling they had been purchased by the students’ families all from from the same supermarket shelves. The Daily Five doesn’t insure against limited reading material. Whatever the literacy system, I must choose wonderful. With the help of my indispensable librarian, my mission is to flood the classroom with a wide range of material, so that they may come to love tasty, challenging, thought-provoking literature.

Other choices to be made by the students? Increasingly, I am involving my students in decisions based on their ideas. Each Daily Five session usually includes a focus lesson created by a student. Collaborative work evolves as the school year progresses: yes, as long as we can all work and you show Daily Five behaviours, you may write or work on words together. Our Bring-Your-Own-Device Classroom enables some students to choose different ways of practising their literacy. Guided reading and writing groups have benefited immensely from involving student choice, allowing students to invite friends to create their mini-learning community on the day. No, we’re not all reading and writing at the same level, but the Daily Five and CAFE model allow students access to the language of thinking about the strategies they use.


My writing contains a thread about choice, emphasising the relaxed, independent, joyful literacy going on in my classroom. I could interrogate any literacy system and adapt it to suit the learners in my room. The elements of the Daily Five are a ‘good fit’ for me, but I have a niggling undercurrent: I have discussed two aspects of literacy systems via the Daily Five, namely teacher organisation and student learning.  I feel I have left out a discussion on which students benefit the most, which students’ needs are ignored, which hierarchies or priveleges are maintained – all by the decisions that I make in my literacy classroom?  Hmm, another time.


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