Innovative Learning Environments Expo 2
Mercure Centre Ballarat, Tuesday 24 August, 2010.
Developing and living an educational rationale. What does it look like in action?
Nichols Point Primary School
Introduction: This podcast is brought to you by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria.
Speaker 1: We are not really like standing up here and talking so we brought the kids to do a fair bit of the talking for
us. So this is student leadership team. We have Louis and Georgie, they are our vice-captains. Then I
have Delaney and Phillip up this end, they‘re our junior school council presidents, and Conchy and Tom,
they are our school captains. So we are going to throw to the kids a fair bit during our presentation.
Today, we are talking about developing an educational rationale. What you are seeing up here on the
screen is a bit about our, our history. We came from a school that was 100 years old nearly to the day
when we moved into our replacement school which was just out of town. Our school was, being 100 years
old was very traditional, and it was full of portables. We had, I think eight or nine portables and we had a
date for our building to be completed - December. So they took all our portables away but our building
didn‘t get completed, so we didn‘t actually know where we were going to go at the start of school year in
2007. We thought we want to run deal campuses there for a while. Anyway, we got in but it was just like a,
it was still a building site. I don‘t know how we got on with work site for now. Actually it is pretty difficult.
We had no playground for the first six months. That‘s what basically like when we got in there. We had to
use the old school site. We had no car park for nearly 12 months. So we parked over at the old school, we
parked at the church and walked the kids to play at recess. It was too hot in summer to walk them over
there at lunchtime, but we were all on lunch duty, every day, all day basically. Same at the end of the day it
was really unsafe, because our cark park wasn‘t done, our pick-up wasn‘t done, so we had to walk the kids
over this little channel so we had all these teachers out in orange vests, walking kids to cars. So it was, I
guess for us it was one way to build our teamwork, build our team capacity, while we had to do that. And
also, you can imagine trying to shift a school that was 100 years old or how teachers are good orders
someday. And some of us we have these big skips and we said to the teachers you need to chop stuff out
of here. If you are not using it, get rid of it. But no, they brought that half bottle of ink that spilt all over our
new carpet. They brought you know half of paint, that sort of stuff. They just couldn‘t throw stuff out.
When we got to the new building though, there wasn‘t the same amount of storage so they ended up having
to throw it out. So our journey, of course, of course we had to come up with some way of working in this
environment because we had gone from a traditional to an open, flexible environment. I wasn‘t part of the
planning chain, and Graeme really wasn‘t that much either. So what, what we found really quickly was that
our teachers, who were involved in the planning weren‘t committed to an open flexible environment. Let‘s
go to that next slide. They weren‘t committed to that. They thought that they were just going to get a brand
new building, with fantastic resources but they were going to shut all the doors and teach like they had
always taught. So for the first few months we let them think that and then we started to discreetly try and
train the up for this environment. And we started talking to them about how it was actually, what our vision
was and how we thought it should look. If we could just get going, Josh. So that is sort what is our
environment was like when we got there. Some of these shots are the newer ones so you probably don‘t
see so much of the furnishing but you can see on the walls at the top there. They were like operable walls,
they open and shut. That is how we sort of started. We started with a, our school wasn‘t quite built big
enough. We had more kids than we had space. So we had to try and get three classes into two spaces.
So we put our five-six teams in that space initially and we thought that would work really well. We thought
we had a really good experienced team of teachers with one graduate, that would work, but they really
struggled with that, that group of teachers, and they actually were trying to build a classroom in what we
had is a breakout space which is what we thought should have been a free-flowing space. So very quickly
we did a turn-around. At the time Fiona was our three-four co-ordinator and she said to me, ―I want to make
this space work.‖ And so I said ―have a go at it‖.
Fiona: I took on a team: Louise, myself and three other staff, one was with that one…. Within those three
teachers, one was an old teacher who had taught for a number of years, and he remained sort of in a more
singular classroom on his own initially, to start off with, and there were three classes that went into what we
call a double-space. So this space made for two classrooms. It was a space made for two classrooms, and
we put three classes in there. We struggled at first. I won‘t lie to you, it was hard work. We had to make it
at the end of every day to work out what our action was for the next day. So it took a while for us to get a
bit ahead of ourselves as to what the classroom was going to look like. We had to go right back to square
one with the kids and what does this classroom look like, sound like, feel like? We had to do Y charts. We
remained with the traditional structure of every child having a table and chair. So there was all these kids in
this space. Georgie, do you want to talk about that because you were in that classroom with us. What was
it like when we first moved in?
Georgie: When we first moved in it was really squishy and it was really hard when moving around classes because
we had our lockers under our table. So if you were sitting in someone else‘s seat and they came in from
another class to get something that you have to move back so they can get their stuff and then move
forward again and it was really distracting so…
Fiona: And it took a long time to train the kids that the seat you sit in is not your seat. That took a long time. So
with that we took the lockers out from under the tables and put them in the trolley bays. So that was our big
challenge was train the kids this space was everybody‘s. It is just not yours and the seats are not yours and
if someone else comes and sits at it, it‘s okay. So that was our big challenge. Towards the end of that first
year, we did a trip to Mawson Lakes in South Australia. It was the only place we could find that had an
open learning environment. We found, we‘ll go back to that in at sec….yeah.
Speaker 1: We‘ll just get back to how we actually did that, that first year. I just want to show you that educational
rationale, but to be honest with you, we didn‘t have this at the start. Cups and I had a vision of what we
thought it should look like. We‘d done a lot of research when we worked in the secondary system and we
were trying to get some money to do that. We weren‘t successful but we sort of had an idea of how we
wanted to make it work. So that is just our educational rational and you‘ve got handouts with all this stuff on
it. And as I say before, the teachers that had been a part of the planning they weren‘t committed to this.
They just wanted wall. What I would just like to show you now is just our attitudes to school surveys. So
you can just see why we did what we did. We were sort of recognised as a fairly good school in our district
but in reality, it wasn‘t as great once you go in underneath it and had a look at it. And that is how our
attitude to school survey was in 2003 and 2006. It really is not mind blowing, it is you know, there is a lot of
areas of concern. That 2005 student safety is appalling. Our old setting, the kids all played separately
because the yard wasn‘t big enough for them all to play together. But the teachers were really comfortable
with that. They liked that, but then of course we get to a new setting and we are big enough that we can all
play together that threw up some challenges.
I‘ll just show you now what our attitudes to class, that‘s 2010. The bottom one obviously, so you‘ve got four
years there and you can see now that we are fourth quartile for everything and we are really starting to
maintain that now. So we, we talked to the kids about this and we think that obviously what we have done
works. The kids are telling us that works. If we just go to our student learning data, that‘s our aim data and
you can see we‘ve got a huge tail. We had really good results in P-2, I remember when I was applying for
the position at the end of 2005 and I got the data and I thought, ―gee, we are blowing people out of water in
P-2.‖ And then I looked at 3-5 stuff and I thought something is not working here. Clearly something wasn‘t
working there. We have got a really big tail and there‘s not much up top. And that‘s number, and very
similar again in reading. I think we got Josh have we? Yep, reading, very similar. And then that‘s our
NAPLAN now in 2008, 2009. And as you can see we are pretty proud of that. And the same in, what have
we go reading and writing next, is it? Writing.
So again on reading. So we reckon that whatever we are doing must be working. So I just wanted to show
you that so that when we talk about our journey you can see that we have been able to shift data. I guess
we had a lot of challenges now about maintaining that and still improving on that. While we talk about this
stuff, I‘ll let you know we‘re no experts here. We puddle along a bit, you know where it‘s like that old dog in
the pond, we‘re paddling pretty fast trying to keep our heads above the water for a lot of the time. We do
make mistakes. We do get kicked. We just get up and we keep on moving because we really believe that
what we are doing will work and we‘re starting to see those results now.
So year one, Fi started to talk about that. Graeme and I were both new to the school - Graeme came
halfway through 2005, I came in 2006, which, well we were still on the old site but knew we were getting a
new building. Fi came in 2007. So we found that it was really important to build that leadership chain.
Cups and I are good mates. We‘d worked together for a long time before we got to Nichols Point in the
secondary system. Graeme was a secondary principal. I‘m a primary teacher pretending to work in the
secondary system for 10 years. So we sort of knew how each other thought and we didn‘t have to waste
time trying to work out protocols on how we will be going to work together and how we wanted this to look.
We knew that before we started. You know we talked, we looked a bit of research, used a lot of Richard
Elmore more back then, you know there wasn‘t a lot around. We couldn‘t find schools where they were
doing what we wanted to do on a consistent, high level and not across the whole school. They had, there
were some schools and Fi will talk about Mawson Lakes in South Australia where they had one building
working the way we wanted to work but the other buildings were traditional, even thought that were built so
that it could be open flexible environments. So we started off and we created non-negotiables with our staff
and we talked about the internal windows being clear. We have a lot of windows in our school. So we
talked about them being clear. So you couldn‘t get into a space and fill it with posters and make your own
castle again. One day, a teacher tried that and he was just and he was an older gentleman and I just went
up and said, nah, our non-negotiables were windows were clear and I just pulled them all off. That, as a
team, that is what we decided. And as I say team, that was the staff. But when they were deciding that
they didn‘t realise how hard it was going to be. We decided to have the doors and walls open more than
they were closed. So we didn‘t say keep them open all the time. We said have them open more than they
were closed. We wanted people to start investigating and practicing team teaching. How is that going to
look? Because everyone has a different perception of how team teaching‘s going to look. What your role is
in that team so we did a lot of work around team teaching and we made hard decisions around staffing and
We weren‘t afraid to change and we just said there before in that year one, we thought we had the right
team that was going to try and use that double space with the three groups in it. Clearly, within a month it
wasn‘t the right team. So we just changed it. Talked to all the staff, got them on board and just changed it.
You‘ve got to be able to make those decisions and just try and go with the flow a bit which is what we did
and you can see they‘re just example of what looks like. Sharon and Em down the bottom, we‘ve got an
experienced teacher there with the graduate. We tried to look at, we started off as Fi said with that
traditional furniture for that first year. We did not have enough money because obviously when you‘re doing
a building project and you see all these cuts and all of a sudden there is no money for that second
basketball court that we really wanted. So we had to [inaudible grab money from other places. So we sort
of were pretty limited. We took our furniture that we had for, some of nearly hundred years I reckon, over to
our new school and tried to make that work. We looked at ICT engagement. We started with, we had a
new computer lab that the school partly funded. We weren‘t entitled to that, so the school partly funded that
part of the building. It is sort of right in the centre so we tried to set that up.
Fi is a curriculum guru. So she looked a lot at the curriculum. We were pretty poor on curriculum. We, we
hadn‘t really unpacked VELS that well. So we sort of, going back on what the two speakers spoke about
before, you know that importance of actually having a curriculum. The year before in 2006 I had worked
with the staff a lot around assessment and Fi came in, worked a lot around the curriculum. Okay, jumping
in. We looked at our teaching teams, talked to our staff about what their strengths and weaknesses were
and what their interests were and we tried to team them up a bit in that way. We created links across the
levels - the levels of the school. We were pretty traditional and we had our infant units and you know, God
help if you went down there to grab a piece of paper that you needed or a camera or something, same with
the middle and senior units, so we try to create opportunities where we shared. It actually was a whole
school sharing stuff. We started to explore enquiry learning and there you‘ve got the kids there that were
these kids, when you were in Grade three or four, they were our experimenters with enquiry learning and
they did this project. Does anyone want to talk about that? Yeah, Louis, thank you.
Louise: When we were in grade three we teamed, we go into little groups and at school we have house teams, we
have Watson, Deakin, Reed and Barson. And we got in little teams of them and we had to try to come up
with a design for our team flag. So up there are all of the finished designs and we also went up on the
internet and learned about what are all the symbols mean and put them together.
Speaker 1: Yep. Thank you, Louise. We also, Cups and I talked to all of our staff pretty early on and we created a
3x3x3 feedback process, I guess you would call it and these are just some examples of really early days in
2007, that‘s the year we moved in. There were different components of the 3x3. There was building
leadership capacity, building school capacity and building teacher capacity. This is just an example of Fi‘s
and of course she talks there about all of a sudden we realised we didn‘t have team charters in our units
and in our teams on how we were going to work together. So one of Fi‘s things that she wanted to talk
about was developing team charters and also that she‘s got there the links between P2 and 3-4
professional readings and the need for professional dialogue. We weren‘t really great at that.
Fiona: Now, the professional dialogue was minimal when I arrived at Nichols Point. The teachers like we said
were in their own little alcoves. There was hardly any conversation about the teaching and learning that
was happening in our classrooms. It began to evolve when the three-fours moved into that double learning
space, and at the end of the day we talked about what had happened in our classroom that day, what
learning took place, what learning was going to happen the next day. So that was probably the beginning of
our professional dialogue when we started to record some of that so we knew where to do next.
We had, really had to talk about the curriculum and what was being taught. There was still a lot of themes
going on, the dinosaurs and the toys and things were happening down lower. So the, it was really evident
once we started talking about teaching and learning that staff didn‘t know their curriculum content. They
just didn‘t know what they were supposed to be teaching. So that was where we did a lot of work on VELS
and pulled it apart and what you should be teaching. The enquiry with the flags was the initial exposing staff
to, this is what enquiry can do, this is what students in enquiry learning can achieve rather than the themes.
Speaker 6: This is just a sample of Dan‘s. Dan was in Fiona‘s team in that 3/4 team. One of the things he says we
were doing there as a school was supporting risk-taking and of course he was a part of that because we
took the risk on shifting those guys into that different space, areas that we need to get better at he was
talking about their communication and their planning. So we hadn‘t actually ever planned together. We had
always planned separately. You know, you had your class of 20, 25 and that‘s who you plan for. And then
the other one we have here is Kay. Kay was one of the best graduates I have ever seen. And Fi had her in
her team and Kay talked about things like flexibility. You know she had come out of uni and she expected to
have her own classroom as you do when you go to uni. You expect to have your own little castle and that‘s
yours and you feel pretty safe in there. That‘s what Kay had expected and we threw her into this
So she talked about there the flexibility and our environment and things that we need to get better about
was the professional learning relate to the enquiry and our planning and organisation because as Fi said
they were meeting every night. We hadn‘t worked that how to get there. At this stage, 2007, we were only
doing it with one team by the way. The rest were struggling with keeping their doors open more than they
were closed, keeping their windows clear. But we were trying to get some success, so the success would
feed off each other. So that‘s where we were going there. And we took them all on a road trip. Fi took their
team first on the road trip over to Mawson Lakes. Costs us a few bucks. They had a couple of nights over
there but they came back, and then we changed things. So in 2008, we looked at changing things. We will
just flick through these – we just had the team charters. We just had a sample team charter. And also the
personalised learning. We started goal setting. We hadn‘t done that before either. So we started to play
around a bit with that. You guys would already be, sort of, a lot further along than that. So we‘ll sort of skip
through that a bit. And then when they got back from Mawson Lakes we had these beautiful alcoves in our
school and Cups and I spent thousands on this fantastic furniture for the teachers, and they had this
beautiful desk and a hutch but they were all working separately because that‘s how the school was
designed. Then they went to Mawson Lakes and they saw a setup where the teachers all had their desks in
the middle of the learning space. So Fi came back and said we don‘t want those hutches anymore. We are
going to put our desk altogether in the learning space. We now have every alcove does not have a desk in
it. Every alcove, kids use and all the teachers desks are together and right in the middle of the learning
space. So you can be teaching in a space and there is no teacher‘s desk there. You don‘t need it. They
are all together and we have just got some examples here of this is our grade four team…who have got the
messiest desks, but that does not matter.
VIDEO Ambient class noise
Speaker 10: And what we started to do, the year before we had tried to think about whole-school literacy and whole-
school numeracy, but we didn‘t get it across the whole school. So we will continue in that journey and over
there you can see we‘ve got the writing first steps, reading first steps, sound waves. Those programs now
in 2010 took til 2009, but they now run across our whole school. So the language for the children is the
same across the whole lot. But again we started slow. We didn‘t try and introduce it right across
immediately. We started differentiating the curriculum. Fi experimented with that but still again only in 3-4 in
2007, 2008 we went to 3-6. So we were actually grouping the kids according to their levels so the kids
move around now, every hour on the hour by 2008 in 3-6. So they were, they had learning groups for Math,
for writing, for reading, and for spelling. So they had a home group who they went to for 10 minutes in the
morning and then they went off to their learning groups. So they could have had, you know, a different
teacher from their team of teachers. So these kids in 5-6, there are four teachers in five, six. They have a
different teacher for their home group teacher who might be different from their Maths teacher and their
reading teacher. So we started that across 3-6 in 2008. That timetabling, I laughed when I talked about
timetabling before because that became a real issue because as you know as a primary teacher you did
your own timetable. And you were just have to slot in your specialists and as long as you have your
required amount of numeracy and literacy, it was okay. Well in ours, we actually give the teachers their
As a leadership team we develop the timetable and we give it to the teachers. We also give it to the kids or
give it to the kids‘ parents. And it‗s everywhere because we have to teach Maths in grade 5-6 all at the
same time, reading all at the same time. Otherwise, we can‘t group the kids. So that became a bit of a
challenge. Also, we needed to make sure that the teachers, if we want them to work together and plan
together, we had to give them time to do that so we tried to create their APT time at the same time. That
was diffi—that was easy at the start but as our school has grown that has become harder because now we
have five 1-2s and they only have three hours of APT. So we have to think outside the square and become
pretty innovative in how we, how we do that now. But at the start that part was pretty easy. Did you, any of
the kids want over on how you group Conchy, Tom or Phillip?
Conchy: We‘re grouped from where our progression point is in our report. So if we are at the expected level we will
be in that group so we know what we are learning. So it‘s not going to be too difficult and it‘s not going to
be too easy for us. It is at our level.
Speaker: Yep. Thanks, Conchy. We looked at our webpage because we sort of started to see that we needed to
attract teachers. We were losing teachers pretty rapidly. A lot of teachers were having babies. A lot of
teachers didn‘t like what we were doing even though our staff opinion survey didn‘t show that, but we were
struggling and that was okay. We didn‘t want to recycle within our community of schools. We wanted
people from outside our area. So we looked today at webpage. We added an additional key selection
criteria when we advertised which was all based around team work and working in these environments. So
it was that demonstrated capacity to work with colleagues, to continually improve teaching and learning
including the ability to work effectively as an accountable member of a collaborative team in an open flexible
learning environment. So we decided we didn‘t have time to con teachers that this was a good idea. We
needed teachers to apply at our school who wanted to have a go at this. So we have got to the point now
where when we advertised, the teachers actually come in and work with us first. Those that are shortlisted
then we have an honest conversation with them. If this is what you think you would like to do, come to the
interview this afternoon. If it‘s not, that‘s okay because there are other schools out there that will pick you
up. So pretty honest and open about that because we don‘t have time on the stop and talk people into this.
We keep on moving. Yep? So we then we are getting to year three of our journey which was last year and
we were finding that with assessment and reporting it was really hard because as a home group teacher
you might not have taught any of your kids for Maths so you couldn‘t write a maths report for them. Fi, did
you want to talk about that?
Fiona: We worked out very early on when the 3-4s moved into the double space that we were trying to write
reports on kids we hadn‘t actually taught. So we had to come up with a way that made our reporting system
easier, because it was very stressful for the teachers to work out which the kids they should be reporting on.
So we got to the point where if you teach these kids you report on them. So whether that spelling, reading,
writing or Maths, if you teach them you assist them, you report on them. So we now have got to the point
this year we have been trialling these for the last couple of years. In our planners now we actually indicate
on our planners when assessment will take place. So that is consistent from P-6. Everyone must put in
their planners what assessment would take place at the start of term one and term three. We have
planning days every term but at the start of term one and term three we put a planner together for what is
being assessed and what‘s being reported. So we are thinking reports right from the start. We then
indicate, so for example in Math, so we are going to report on subtraction, so the tasks that the teachers
come up with that are going to be assessment tasks must come with an assessment criteria so the teachers
can easily identify very quickly whether those child can do those things. Down the bottom we have added,
we started adding this last year but we did not have the areas of improvement. So again this year we‘ve
improved our criterias. These report statements are on every criteria. So once you ticked up the top
whether the child can achieve those things you then select the appropriate report comment that will go into
the child‘s report down at the bottom and highlight it. You will also highlight an area for improvement or
write a new one if what‘s there doesn‘t suit. They then go into the child‘s learning portfolio. Every child in 3-
6 has a learning portfolio. They go in there for all parents to see. Parents are welcome to come up and look
at the learning portfolios anytime. The kids then know where they are at with that assessment task. They
will see that report that‘s highlighted, report comment that is actually reported in June or December. There
are no secrets, no surprises. That is, that‘s your assessment.
Speaker: We also looked at students‘ legs and goal setting. We obviously keep getting better at those because the
kids are getting better at those because they start in prep and everyone does those. We‘ve just got a few
examples of what they look like and stuff.
VIDEO [inaudible classroom noise]
Speaker: So what the kids do is they set the goals. They actually have to collect evidence which is what was shown
in this picture. So that‘s just some samples of those. We have also been playing around with digital
portfolios. We had sort of a ‗no holes barred‘ approach initially and the kids loved it because they could put
whatever they like in, to a certain extent, didn‘t you? And they use to waste a bit of time. So now we have,
this is just a template, we haven‘t actually brought a student with us but we‘ve now created the template for
the kids and one of them said last night over dinner that this is much better. Who said that? You know
Tom, is that you Tom? Conchy? One of you said that.
Conchy: It might be me. Maybe.
Speaker: You Conchy was it? What did you say? Because--
Conchy: I said it was better because we actually know what we can‘t and can put in and we are not just putting in
whatever. It‘s actually about our learning and not just about whatever.
Speaker: And we looked at, we had, we had our literacy across the whole school. We hadn‘t really nailed numeracy
good enough so we spent a lot of money last year and we bought Nelson Maths and we were, you know,
we were doing all the early years testing and stuff but nobody was really using it too much to drive their
teaching. It got done then it got put away. So we now across the whole school, use the Nelson assessment
kit. I am not if people are familiar with that and are using that. We have found a huge difference using this.
We pre-test the kids. We teach them and then we post-test them and we share this with the kids. So this is
just a grade 1-2 one and you can see on the left-hand side all the areas of red which means the kids didn‘t
get it. Yellow they‘re starting to get it and green they get it. The teacher taught that, really explicitly
planned and taught that, told the kids that we wanted to green. You can see there on the right-hand side,
those tests, which is a different test, most of the kids have got it.
So and she wasn‘t wasting time teaching the areas that were mainly green for her pre-test because there is
no point teaching that. We knew the kids already knew that. The kids that had green, you know, in that first
column well there is no point teaching them about identifying groups of 10 because they already knew that.
So all of a sudden she was able to group within a group. She already had a group that we had, you know,
with similar learning needs, but then obviously in that she was able to then group within that group and
that‘s been something we‘ve been working a lot on over the last two years, and we‘ve found great
excitement around that because I can go into those classes, those learning spaces when the teachers are
sharing this and I can say to the kids, ―wow, how did you do that?‖ and they can tell me exactly how they
went from red to green. They can tell me they were on Mathletics because their teachers had set a course
around the area that they need to improve. They could tell me about Smart Kiddies and what their courses
were. And what their homework had been around that. And they were really keen to get better because we
showed them. We showed the big kids as well. There is no secrets in our school. The kids don‘t pick on
each other. If they see someone that is all red, let‘s help that person. So there is no, I guess it‘s open. The
kids know exactly where they need to get to. Just wanted to talk to you, I showed you the student attitude to
school survey. We think we have improved so much in that area because of ICT and also some other
engagement things. So we are just going to give you some samples of that. Josh here started
experimenting with the Wii he bought, the school bought a Wii for Josh to have in his 1-2 class. And he
started teaching the students…….
Josh: Yes. Some of the things I started looking at when I started teaching was how to engage the kids in their
learning. So I started researching things we could do and we found that the Wii was a really good tune-in at
the start of Maths, it really engaged them at the start but it sort of carried on throughout the rest of the
session in there. They were just excited about Maths and I think that‘s really powerful. We‘ve started using
netbooks especially in 3-6 but they‘ve started to filter down to the P-2s as well. Just as another way to
engage students in their learning. Other things we‘ve tried are the DS consoles with the brain training
activities. That was similar to the, to how we use the Wii in the classroom as a tuning session right at the
start but with the DS it was more one-to-one. They had their own they could work on. And we just found
the students are excited to come to class. They are excited to come to Maths, or reading or whatever it is
and I think if we can get them excited then I guess what we can do with them is limitless.
Speaker: Yeah. And we will just show you what, in a moment what Josh has been doing with our ICT this year
because he‘s now taken it to the next level.
Speaker: That picture there is Josh‘s green room that he set up after a visit to Silverton. We had a pretty ordinary
green room originally and Josh‘s now set up that one.
Josh: Some of the things we looked at doing was trying to engage kids in their learning. So we started creating,
we recorded a news program [music playing, inaudible…]
Voice 1: Hi. Welcome to the Capture. We‘ve got another great episode. We have some new pretty. And back to
Voice 2: Hi. I‘m Jane Danna
Voice 3: I‘m Joyce Crystal for the news.
Student voices inaudible
Jake: So this was our first attempt to do something like this so it wasn‘t very long. We didn‘t spend a lot of time
researching it and working on it, we just wanted to get in there and have some fun. So from there it has
come a long, come a long way, so students now use storyboards and they plan. There is a lot of work that
goes into this as well. But still it is something really exciting for students to do. Other things we have tried
is to try and use music more now in my teaching as well and so we have done an enquiry unit on our school
values and to try and make that more exciting for the kids and more real. We came up with a school rap
song that they composed themselves.
Jake: So what we did with that is that we just wanted to provide an opportunity for the students to do, to do
something that was a little bit more authentic I guess. And when we want to talk about our school values
we can always refer back to the song and the students know it and it was just really, it‘s just really fun and
exciting I think.
Speaker: And we all started our Friday afternoon activities. We started them pretty early on with grade 3-6 and now
we are doing that across the whole school. And we won‘t show you footage of that because we are running
out of time but we get the community members in and we do things like Tai Quando cooking, fun with
fabrics, sign language. All those sort of things, computers, publishing group, claymation, sporting activities.
The kids chose what they want to do. The teachers chose what they want to teach according to their own
personal interests. So if you are really passionate about knitting, you offer knitting group you know. So it‘s
also about acknowledging what the teachers‘ interests are there. You would have noticed as you have
seen some of the footage that some of our furniture‘s changed a bit. We‘ve gone a lot less traditional now.
We have a lot less tables and chairs in our school now. We don‘t have traditional learning set-ups at all.
Kids choose where they are going to work best depending on the tasks. So when we started slow, we‘ve
been able to build up and that has been now all driven by teachers and kids. We just wanted to show you
the TV screens, I said to you before how we had the alcoves now that they‘re solely for the kids. And we‘ve
actually putting flat screen TV so the kids can hook up a netbook and look at a bigger screen. That‘s from
prep all the way through grade 6 we have these flat screens. So that‘s just the boys here, Louis and Phillip,
you‘re on super cups pass here.
Speaker: And then we‘ve got a bit of an interview with these guys.
Josh: It‘s also a great way for teams to work. The netbook screens are very small so these three boys in grade 3-
4 are working together so it‘s a great way to, for bigger groups to be able to share these screens.
Louis: We like using the TVs in the alcoves as a way of sharing learning with the teachers and our peers.
Philip: It‘s a good way to express it to the other people, your friends and that, can share on the big TV so they can
all see what you are doing.
Speaker: We also set up a sport enrichment program. You can see there the young photo from the paper the gyms
get work-out on Thursday and then the footage of the kids in the gym we have to find a fair bit of money to
set that up – it was a store room. So we had to empty the storeroom and find a place for all the stuff and
set that up. These kids now have opportunities to do a fitness program before school, four days a week
and one day after school. It‘s a vision of a teacher, one of our teachers came and said ―I really want to do
this, how can we make this happen.‖ So we made it happen. This year…did anybody wanted to talk about
the fitness gym talk?
Tom: The fitness gym is, it‘s great because we get local heroes like the local sporting heroes from basketball and
stuff and they teach us like tips and tricks and stuff. And, yeah, each three weeks we get taught a different
sport and we also do like fitness so we might test our fitness at the start. And then, see if we‘ve improved at
the end and yeah, it‘s really fun.
Speaker: Then they have break after that.
Tom: Yeah, like a snack.
Speaker: Yeah. A snack then go back to class. We‘ve also introduced iPods this year, well Josh has. So it has gone
from the DSes now to the iPod Touches and we just got a little footage of that.
Students discussing iPods [inaudible]
Josh: We also have a before school reading program. And for some children it is something they avoid as much
as possible. They don‘t like to come in and read. So what we‘ve done is to try to get as many books onto
the iPods and get those kids reading on an iPod instead. And it‘s starting to get them excited about
reading. They start to like reading. They develop a love for it and then they are happy to go read a book.
So this student here. Now, we can‘t stop him from reading which is really cool.
Speaker: He‘s in grade 2 and he hadn‘t really been to school in three years of his life. He lives away from home and
came pretty rough around the edges. And now, through technology, Josh has, it makes me go cold to see
that Josh‘s been able to get him there skipping to school in the morning to pick up an iPod to read a book.
Josh: I think it gave us a chance to break down some barriers between us because he was so excited to come in.
He didn‘t feel standoffish from me or anything like that and we could talk about reading and he got really
excited, and I got excited, and I think it has been a really positive experience for us both.
Speaker: We also started mentoring this year. We picked that up from Silverton Primary School. I‘m not sure, we‘ve
only got five minutes, whether people have been to Silverton? What we do with our mentoring is every
Monday morning. We started assembly early now. We have assembly that these kids run and then we
have mentoring and every person in our school that works on a Monday has a mentoring group, cross-age
groups and it‘s all about wellbeing and engagement, safety for the kids. We‘ve also, Fi has just started up
learning mentors which, someone wants to explain learning mentor? Delaney ?
Delaney: Yeah. We have a learning mentor and any day of the week in the morning we can go see one of the
teachers, normally Miss Arnold and we look at our progression point. And it is above the expected level, we
try to maintain the same level that it is. And we try to keep improving.
Speaker: Thanks, Delaney. What we might do now just to finish off is just to show you a video of a day in, a typical
day at Nichols Point Primary school that Josh and the kids have put together. And the kids might just talk
about that ….
Georgie: Every Monday morning we have an assembly that us four captains run and then we invite students and
teachers up to tell us what‘s happening around the school and what they‘ve been doing. And then we hand
out awards every week so there‘s workers of the week who work the best, artists of the week and
everything. We do a catch-cry every Monday which is something that the captains do to help people keep
the yard clean or shut the doors and everything so if there‘s things people aren‘t doing we make them do it
with a catch-cry.
Speaker: Who prepares all the workers of the week Georgie?
Georgie: The captains prepare the workers of the week. We do that, yeah, we send an email out and the teachers
emails us back with all the people they want. And then type them up, print them out and laminate them and
cut them up every Thursday afternoon.
Voice 2: In writing, we normally, half the time we use our netbooks and half the time we write. So when we use our
netbooks it‘s mostly typing up and finishing work or finding out about information if we are going to do an
information report. And when we are writing it out …
Speaker: Keep going. Keep going.
Voice 2: And when we are writing in our books we normally write narratives or something else and we present it to
our present peers and teachers. We have the publisher process. We start with planning and organising,
then a draft copy. Then you get it checked by an author circle, you go back and self-edit it then the
teachers edit it for you. And then you go fix it and then you publish it.
Voice 3: There‘s two groups in reading which is where you are, at reading and in your groups you focus on what
you‘re, basically different types of reading methods and the, so there‘s like synthesizing and skimming and
scanning which each week we focus on which is very good which we can basically learn what the method is
so we can use when we are working and –
Speaker: And you do lit circles?
Voice 3: Lit circles, yeah. We do lit circles where we read a book, half a book a week. And then we do a think, mark
and a role and we are in a small group with an adult we share what we think of the book and what our
opinion is about it.
Conchy: For Maths, we split up into our learning areas. So if you are good at Maths, if your progression point is
above the expected you might you to Mr Holly‘s Maths group which is the highest. And then, wherever you
are learning is in that area you will go to.
Speaker: What kind of things do you do in maths?
Conchy: In Maths we do Mathletics, Smart Kiddies. We also have homework that we have to do every week and we
just do some worksheets as well.
Speaker: If you don‘t do your homework what will you do?
Conchy: Iif we don‘t do our homework we don‘t get to do Friday afternoon activities.
Speaker: I‘m not sure whether anybody has any questions for the kids, the kids are certainly we are happy to take a
few questions if anyone has any. We couldn‘t get SMS up and running here. No one knew how we could
get, how we can get the website and can go from there. I‘m sorry about that. Does anyone--? We are no
experts, we‘ve made a lot of mistakes. You‘ll see in your package that there are some tips and some traps.
There were a few little, little traps. But I think the biggest tip is leave your ego at the door when you walk
into school, don‘t take yourself too seriously. But take your job really seriously. Get on with your kids and
get on with your staff and just have a go because it does work. But it works, this works for us, it may not
work for you but there may be things that you can take away from there that you could implement next week
at your school or start looking at next year or you might already be doing it and we could be fortunate to
learn from others because we certainly don‘t have the answers but we just play around a bit and we think
we eventually will get there. Thanks for your time.
Emcee: Just as Jo has been honest with, with potential employees coming into Nichols Point Primary school, so she
has been with us today in sharing the expertise and the journey that you‘ve all been undertaken. Please
join with me again in thanking both Jo, Fiona, Josh and students.
Close: For more information about the topics discussed in this podcast, please visit the Department of Education
and Early Childhood Development‘s website, www.education.vic.org.au