19 June, 2015
by mrjohnson

Fun Classroom Game: Doggy doggy where’s your bone?

I played a fun game with kids in year 1 classes today. They loved it. It’s called doggy doggy, where’s your bone?

How do you play?

The class sits in a circle and the teacher chooses a dog to start to the game.

The dog, crouches in the middle of the circle and hides their eyes while the teacher secretly gives the “bone” to a random student sitting in the circle. The bone can be any smallish object like a pen whiteboard marker. I may get an actual toy bone for use in the future.

After the bone is secretly hidden behind one of the students they class sings “Doggy, doggy, where’s your bone? Somebody stole it from your home.”

The dog in the middle now asks “Who took my bone?”

The person holding the bone must answer, (but tries to disguise their voice) “I stole it from your home”.

The dog has three attempts to guess who took it. If the dog guesses correctly, they stay in and have another go. If they guess wrong, the person who had the bone gets a turn as the dog.

This video gives you an idea of how the song should sound.

18 June, 2015
by mrjohnson

Creative ways to Practice Spelling Words

Yesterday I came across some new ways (to me) to practice weekly spelling lists in class. The students chose which activity they would complete and they loved doing it. Much more fun than simply writing their lists! These were used in a Year 2 class.

  1. Make their words with play dough
  2. Make their words with by bending pipe cleaners into the shape of letters
  3. Write words using stencils
  4. Spell words using magnetic letters from a tub
  5. Or write words as usual

Simple but very effective.

I also found this fantastic resource of more ideas to make spelling fun. I especially like the yarn or wool words, reverse chalk writing (cover blackboard in chalk and use water with fingers or paint brushes to spell words out), build words with Lego or other construction blocks, and hidden spelling words (write with white crayon on white paper. When finished paint over the words and the words will shine through).

18 June, 2015
by mrjohnson

Subtraction Rap and Maths Hunt

I was in a fantastic Year 2 class yesterday afternoon who remembered their subtraction and regrouping with the Subtraction Rap.

After revising the subtraction with the rap, the teacher had left me 9 problems on small cards with a lion beside them. The students had to hunt for the lions which I stuck around the room and match the problem number on the card with the problem number on their answer sheet. They then wrote down the problem and worked it out. What a great way to put some fun into their maths problems.

Here is a Subtraction Rap video.

Here is an example of students and their teacher performing the rap in their classroom.

22 November, 2014
by mrjohnson

Keeping Students Interested During Lessons

Here are some ideas to keep students interested (or at least wake them up) during lessons:

Of course ideally, we keep students interested through well paced lessons, engaging content and activities, relevant material linked to the students own world and even a bit of interesting and slick delivery. But no matter how well these things are done there will be times when students just aren’t in the mood or start to drift off. Here are some ideas to recapture student attention when needed.

Rachel Lynette from Minds in Bloom blogged a wonderful list of 20 Ways to Keep Your Students’ Attention.

My five personal favourites from this list are (in no particular order):

  1. Desk Switch: Students have ten seconds (count down from ten) to find another desk to sit in that is in a different part of the room than his or her normal desk. Students stay in that desk for the rest of the lesson. Why? Two reasons, first switching desks gets them up and moving. Second, sitting in a different place in the classroom will give them a different perspective and wake up their brains a bit.
  2. Give each child a small ball of play dough to fidget with if you are doing a lecture-type lesson.
  3. Randomly and frequently ask students to repeat what you just said.
  4. Choose a fun word, such as “Shazam!” or “Bazinga!” Every time you say the word, students must use both hands to hit the tops of their desks two times and then clap two times. Say the word several times throughout the lesson. It will wake everyone up! – love this one. I can see students just waiting for the teacher to say the magic word so they can make a racket!
  5. If you have experience in theatre, improv, or just like to have a little fun, teach a small portion of the lesson with an accent or imitating someone famous. Another of my favourites. I can feel my Hagrid impersonation coming on already!
  6. If a lot of kids look sleepy, stop talking and write a simple command on the board such as: “Put both hands on your head.” The silence should alert day dreamers that something is going on. Follow up with two more written commands. Make the last one something with sound just in case a few kids haven’t caught on, such as, “Clap three times.” Continue with your lesson.
  7. Require students to take notes. Every so often, have them do a quick, related sketch in the margins. For example, if you are learning about Abraham Lincoln, give them 30 seconds to draw log cabin in the corner of the paper
  8. Let students know at the start of the lesson that they will need to write down three things they learned as their “ticket out the door.”

Ok, so there are eight. But they all so good I couldn’t cut it to just five!



17 November, 2014
by mrjohnson

Fearless – A Multimodal Presentation to Stimulate interest


This short video is intended to be shown to an audience (Year 1 level) to stimulate interest in reading the picture book in a whole class read aloud session. The script to this presentation is provided below.

“The post-modern picture book employs sophisticated text and graphics that draw attention to the compositional limitations of the traditional picture book, while at the same time undermining established conventions” (Sipe and Pantaleo, as cited in De Silva Joyce & Gaudin, 2011, p. 19).

Fearless is a high quality picture book with layers of meaning and superb illustrations which clearly meets this definition. A favourite with critics, it was short-listed for Book of the Year – Early Childhood by the Children’s Council of Australia (CBCA) in 2010, and won many other reader choice awards that year including Kids Own Australian Literature Awards (KOALA), Young Australians Best Books Award (YABBA), Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL Award) and Kids Reading Oz Choice Award (KROC).  Reader awards indicate that the text resonates very well with the audience and is culturally appropriate and relevant.

Fearless also matches the qualities of a picture book as explained by Ryan (2010): “something the children will find a rich experience, not only so they can find something to relate to personally- such as feeling, situation or character, but also they will want to share something about it with others. The familiarity shared with many students with a family with a pet will allow for full immersion in the discourse or “situated practice” (The New London Group, 1996).

While a dog whose loveable friendly personality may be at odds with his appearance will undoubtedly resonate with early primary year children, the character presents an excellent case to interpret, analyse and evaluate literacy (ACARA, 2013). Exercises in the lesson  explore the author’s and illustrator’s motives behind the story and how they “influence meaning making” through intertextual links (Anstey and Bull, 2006).

The printed text uses many of the five semiotic systems (The New London Group, 1996, Anstey & Bull, 2006) to reinforce or clarify meaning. Linguistic – short sharp words contrasting with long sentences. Visual –  text size, boldness, positioning and shape to enhance the meaning of words such as “big”, “small” and “brave”. Light-hearted fun scenes feature white backgrounds with black text and colourful illustrations, while dangerous scenes are represented on dark grey backgrounds with white text and darkly hued illustrations. Spatial – an illustration of Fearless falling down stairs is accompanied by the text “and made him fall down on his head” seeming to bounce down the stairs after him. Gestural – the illustrations give the people and animals personalities with identifiable expressions and body language .

In the role of meaning maker, a text participant level in the four resources model (Anstey and Bull, 2006), the reader discovers three examples of what Fearless is afraid of – the loud noises, kittens and brooms, a common pattern of threes in western narratives.

The multimodal project displays this narrative, providing three example heroes from the past to the present. Semiotics from the text are introduced in combination with appropriate movement, music and sound effects. The narration is deep voiced, with strong reverb and echo reminiscent of Darth Vader. The music features a strong wind-blown drumbeat while an image of semi-recognisable super heroes on aged film builds a stereotypical hero expectation of this new character the audience will meet. The format builds upon the intertextuality of a movie trailer.

The introduction of Fearless, where he is afraid of the dark contrasts strongly with expectations built. Gentle whining and playful music along with the change of voice of narrator alters the mood and establishes the theme of the inquiry unit. Later when the villain is introduced the music changes again to more a suspenseful and intriguing piece along with dark backgrounds and close up imagery. The audience has to consider possible other meanings of the text presented or as termed by Anstey (2002), become a “semantic critical” year 1 or 2 reader .

 The creation of the Multimodal text

Phase Description Semiotic systems used
The idea – where/how did your idea originate? A humorous introduction to the book character based around the idea of a movie trailer Setting up themes of representations of characters and presenting an unexpected point of view exploring the power of nouns and adjectives and associated expectations Visual and auditory – look and sound slick and professional to raise expectations of hero introduction. linguistic – vocabulary not always in alignment with imagery – development of semantic critical reading.
The script – consider the use of narration and dialogue where relevant Designed to appear unscripted and spontaneous to enhance the possibilities of what may happen Questions what constitutes a hero beyond the traditional representation Lingusistic – every day real life language
Characters and setting – who/what is involved and what will they look like/do? Where will it take place? Anonymous narrator interacting with the character and audience. Set in the world of the book characters. Visual and spatial – Contrast intro with main story. Dark and lined (conventions) versus space, white background, no lines or boxes. Indicating freedom, lack of containment, movement. Sequencing.
Choosing the shots eg. use of close ups; mid-shots; wide-shots; perspective – looking up or down at image. extensive panning to indicate movement and fluidity of thought and events change from wide to close up / light to dark to introduce villain Gesture – pans, zooms, transitions all signify movement, change and pace.Viewpoint – higher when possible for main character, lower looking up for danger.
Sound –   use of music, sound effects, dialogue, narration. Heavy music gives way to light amusing music contrasting expectations with actual book hero, music changes again to intimate danger with introduction of villain Multiple sound effects narration style to replicate surprise and real time unfolding of events. Auditory – music and effects to suit moods. Narrative expression. Volume louder in exciting parts.
Special effects eg day/night Old film effect in introduction dramatizes traditional concept of heroism spotlight animation to reveal main character in an unexpected way voiceover special effects to introduce in a movie style – graduates to normal voice Visual – colour, lines, authority

Audience – who is the audience of this text? How do you want the audience to respond? What have you done to capture the interest of this age/group?

Lower to mid primary school children. Aims to pique interest and desire to read the book Posed questions, produced in a way that children will appreciate, used humour, suspense and the unexpected. Intertextuality of a mimicking a movie trailer

Linguistsic – audience appropriate language and subject Spatial – white space for thought and pause – hero loneliness. Composition of all semiotic elements to reinforce pace, structure, meaning, enjoyment and experience .


Digital Story Transcript


Through the ages heroes have come to match our times. Hercules, Skywalker, IronMan and now – Fearless. Fearless… Fearless? Fearless?

It, it is a little bit dark just… just let me turn this on. I have a torch so… Oh! Fearless! Is that your? It is your.. ooooh, quick, light!

There. That’s better isn’t it?

This is Fearless everybody and he’s a very brave dog. But he is a bit afraid of the dark. Nevertheless, he has a great name hasn’t he? Unless of course he hears a scary noise and then… oh! He’s a bit afraid of scary noises, like a big bang from a car.

Still, he’s very brave, unless… He is a little afraid of kittens. But kitten can be quite scary sometimes. Can’t they?

Well, Fearless is very brave although he is scared of brooms! So he’s scared of the dark, of kittens and brooms. None of those things are very scary though are they?

Oh dear Fearless. Maybe we should call you something else? Maybe instead of Fearless, he should be Fearful?

Ut oh? Who’s that? I think it’s a bad man. And he’s in Fearless’s house! What will Fearless do? Will he live up to his name and save his family? Or can Fearless become a hero, just by being himself?

You never know who could become a hero .


Explicit Teaching Focus:

The multimodal text contrasts stereotypical heroes with “Fearless”,  a bulldog who displays human like expressions via his face and body language. Students will identify character attributes they find entertaining and discover the commonalities between anthropomorphic characters and human emotions, behaviour and relationships. (Literature strand).

Students will examine how texts present characters by using different language and word associations (Language strand). Matching names to dogs will explore how nouns and adjectives affect expectations of characters and stories, and how contrasts and similarities build information.

Students will demonstrate their understanding of how audiences react to texts by choosing their own name for “Fearless” and writing the expected reaction the choice will evoke from their reader by identifying word associations they have used e.g. synonyms or antonyms (Literacy Strand).


Time allocation for lesson: 40 mins


Resources required:

  • EWB and laptop to view multimodal presentation
  • Fearless” text by Colin Thompson
  • a photocopied picture of dogs (with names blanked out) from the text for each student
  • photocopied list of dog names for each student
  • a photocopied picture of the character, Fearless
  • students will need scissors, glue, pencils, blank paper or scrap books, exercise books.
 BEFORE – introduction to the literature


Content and strategies (sequence of learning)Seated in a class group to watch IWB

  • Build expectation / anticipation of lesson by via a movie and a picture book. “We will be meeting someone exciting today”.
  • View the multimodal text in a class group
  • Discuss parts of the multimodal text that entertained. Why?
  • Examine front and back covers of text. Expressions on face.
  • Briefly discuss the class’s impression of the character “Fearless”
  • Modelled reading of Fearless.


 DURING – explicit teaching of language related to the literature
Content and strategies (sequence of learning)

  • Whole class activity. Discuss Fearless’s Does it suit him? Why? Why not? Explain synonyms and antonyms. What makes Fearless unusual or different from most dogs?
  • Explain next activity.

Students at their own desks

  • Students cut out the names from the list and paste them next to the pictures of dogs they think the name best suits
  • Discuss choices made with individual students as walking around the classroom
  • Share observations at end of activity. E.g. “I noticed most of you decided the growling Rottweiler should be called Fang”. Discuss unusual choices and why they were made (intent).


 AFTER – children demonstrate language knowledge acquired during the explicit teaching using literacy skills to create texts
Content and strategies (sequence of learning)Students at their own desks

  • Distribute pictures of Fearless to paste into books.
  • Students are to make up their own name for the bulldog.
  • Students will be encouraged to think of a name that will create an emotional reaction with the audience e.g. make then laugh, or be scared, or feel safe.
  • They are to write down the name of their choice and explain what reaction they expect people to have when they read the name they have chosen (intent). Is the new name a synonym or antonym or neither?






This is an excerpt from what could be an in-depth unit of inquiry. Further studies could follow Bloom’s Taxonomy with activities such as constructing a story map (remembering), retelling the story from a different point of view (understanding), designing questionnaires or surveys for the class about their own pets (analysis), criteria lists for what makes good pets, presentations about pets and character traits (evaluation and creating), Cheng & Honeybourne (2010).




Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013). The Australian Curriculum v3.0. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/English/Curriculum/F-10

Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2006). Teaching and learning multiliteracies : changing times changing literacies (pp. 19-55). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Retrieved from https://usqdirect.usq.edu.au/usq/items/9ac78785-fa0b-6fdb-10ca-d48006e59a40/1/Anstey_2006_19.pdf

Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2010). Curriculum leadership: an electronic journal for leaders in education. Helping teachers to explore multimodal texts. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/helping_teachers_to_explore_multimodal_texts,31522.html?issueID=12141

Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1999). Further notes on the four resources model. Reading Online, 1-20. Retrieved from http://www.readingonline.org/past/past_index.asp?HREF=/research/lukefreebody.html.

The New London Group (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies : designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66 (1), 60-93. Retrieved from EJS database.

Anstey, M. (2002). More than cracking the code: Post modern picture books and new literacies. In G. Bull, & M. Anstey (Eds.), Crossing the boundaries (pp. 87-105). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia. Retrieved from: https://usqdirect.usq.edu.au/usq/items/fa0b424d-6e04-aa78-60bd-c952387b4e11/1/Anstey_2002_87.pdf

Cheng, C. & Honeybourne, S. (2010). Exploring the 2010 CBCA Short List. Newton, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association. Retrieved from: http://www.petaa.edu.au/docs/cbca-guides-full-text/2010F_Guide.pdf?sfvrsn=0

De Silva Joyce, H., & Gaudin, J. (2011). Words & Pictures: A Multimodal Approach to Picture Books. Putney, N.S.W: Phoenix Education.


[Please note: Although the movie contains several images from the book, most images are cropped or single images taken from collages or larger images. Therefore the total book shown is well within the 10% copyright allowance.]


langugae model for mathematics

14 November, 2014
by mrjohnson

Writing in Maths

Writing isn’t something many of us associate with maths. But when I think about it, it’s a great way to show understanding of concepts and procedures.

When teaching mathematics as a language, doesn’t it make sense to also write about it?

langugae model for mathematics

Language Model for Mathematics

I studied at USQ and the lecturer at the time Romila Jamieson-Proctor taught the language model for mathematics, stepping students through a process of:

  1. Student language
  2. Materials language
  3. Mathematics language
  4. Symbolic language

I believe this is an excellent system as diagrammatically represented here.

I will write a detailed post on this system in the future.


I was inspired to write about language in mathematics after seeing @SteveWyborney’s series of Twitter posts on the topic.

Steve Wyborney on Twitter @SteveWyborney

Steve Wyborney on Twitter @SteveWyborney

Here is what Steve posted.

Step 1: What do you notice?

step1Step 2: Another opportunity, to think, to write, to extend.

step2Step 3: Followed by…


Step 4: One more opportunity to write after thinking deeply.


This really opens the access to students intimidated by Maths but who have confidence in their English or language skills. Thanks Steve.

Steve has a blog at www.stevewyborney.com.




14 November, 2014
by mrjohnson

Primary School Maths Activities and Games

Primary School Maths Activities and Games to reinforce Learning




Bottle Top Multiplication

Thanks to Tara for this idea. Tara says:

The Math fact is on the outside of the top, the answer is on another sticker on the inside.  The kids put them all outsides up and sit in a circle.  They chose one, say the fact and the answer, then check.  If they are right, they keep it, if not it goes back in the pile.  They really loved this.


Addition and Subtraction

Reindeer Dash. Free game for addition and subtraction played on a board. 2 players. Need print outs and some counters.