Friday, April 22, 2011

PBS Autism Now Series

PBS is America's ABC 'equivalent' Network and has recently produced a six part series on Autism. Each clip runs for approx 15minutes and gives updated analysis and insight into this puzzling disorder.

Autism now affects 1 in 110 American children, similar to Australian statistics.

You can visit the website here for more detail and all available clips.

Part One: Introduction to Nick and Autism as a whole-body experience

Part Two: Autism Prevalence | Why are the numbers of children with autism increasing?

Part Three: Autism's Causes | The rise in autism numbers has caused a surge in research to find the causes.

Part Four: Autism Treatment | School systems often bear most of the burden of treating children with autism through educational tools.

Part Five:
Adults With Autism

I also need to insert a warning here that the comments section of YouTube may contain nasty language although I believe the comments have been disabled in this case.
This video content is intended for general interest and information only. This article is not entirely a reflection of my schools or my own personal views on autism although I hope it it will inspire some thought and understanding in our community.

Monday, April 18, 2011


This year ANZAC Day falls right at the end of the NSW school holidays;
of course we will commemorate the day at our annual ANZAC Day assembly, however this year it will held on the first day of Term 2!

Unfortunately that leaves us very little time to remind our students of the ANZAC story and to answer the important questions that so many students seem to have.

So I have pulled together some interesting resources your child may like to explore if they wish to deepen their knowledge about ANZAC Day and the Australian contribution to war.

Firstly, I have found this very simple explanation of ANZAC Day which makes it very easy for us all to understand! The (gulp) wikipedia entry can be found here.

The amazing 'Australians at War' website is perfect for a Year 5 or 6 student to explore.

'What Happened to Smithy?' Is an interactive history mystery game where the player explores and discovers more about the famous Australian, Charles Kingsford Smith.

There are also the 'Symbology' games (army, navy, airforce) where the player has to use their knowledge of military symbols and code breaking to complete a successful mission. An online 'war aptitude test' is also available where players can test their knowledge.

The Australian War Memorial has an excellent 'Kids HQ' website where online activities are available for students to explore.

There is also this terrific 'Soldier's Slang' website where the language of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli is explored and explained.

An explanation of the 'rising sun badge' that all members of the Australian Forces wear can be found here.

Here is a New Zealand TV article about a school student that became involved in the commemoration of ANZAC Day. It focuses also on the contributions of Pacific Islander people to war.

Here is some actual footage of Gallipoli from the Auckland War Memorial Museum, along with dramatic music and explanations in text!

I also need to insert my warning here that the comments section of YouTube may contain nasty language - you may like to check before showing footage to your child.

A list of books about ANZAC Day can be found on the goodreads website (although they are generally aimed more at younger children, some wonderful illustration though!)
A more thorough list of ANZAC Day books (including adult titles) can be found here.
Some books for young adults include:
- Scarecrow Army: The ANZACS at Gallipoli by Leon Davidson
- A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French

On ANZAC Day we wear a sprig of Rosemary to commemorate the day, an explanation can be found here. If you have some rosemary at home, you should bring some sprigs along to wear to our ANZAC assembly!

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day trip to Kirribilli

The first real day of holidays and my head is still at work! Well, not really, I wanted to get some exercise so decided to walk from my flat in Potts Point to the Sydney home of our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The name of her residence is 'Kirribilli House.'

I had no idea that the walk from my flat to Kirribilli was almost 9km (Thanks iPhone!) Here are some photos from my walk, I hope it helps to out you into the right frame of mind for our upcoming Government unit.

I started out by walking through The Botanical Gardens. There is lots of school holiday activities happening here, but I recommend taking a self guided walk with your family.
Of course the first thing I saw of interest were the cockies, who were busy making a mess out of some trees.

A new sculpture has recently been installed, eventually lots of trees will be growing out of it to make a 'wave like' structure. Worth a look!

So I continued on my way to Kirribilli, walking across the Harbour Bridge. When I got there I noticed these Hills Hoists right near the Harbour, how very Australian.

When I got to Kirribilli House, the first thing I was greeted by was a 'Keep Out!' sign.

And there it is - Julia Gillard's house!

The nameplate outside of Kirribilli house.

My legs now very tired, I ended up catching the ferry back to Circular Quay from Kirribilli, I even got a little seasick on the trip (very typical of me!)

I do believe that Kirribilli House has an annual open day, it seems to happen around September or October of every year, you just have to keep your eyes on the internet as it is not heavily advertised.

If you'd like to visit the area yourself, it is definitely good for a walk around and there are lots of parks and cafes to stop by in for a rest. I also bought a few cheeky Easter Eggs from Coco Chocolate, definitely recommended!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Art Nation: Julian Meagher

To enhance our recent unit on Identity and our Visual Arts component of creating a self portrait I thought I would share this clip I watched today on ABC's Art Nation.

I particularly like this clip as it not only discusses why Julian chose a career in art over medicine, but has a number of excellent shots showing how he mixes and applies paint to the canvas to create tone and depth in still life objects (vases).

This clip also shows what it is like to have your own artist's studio (a little dream so many of us have!)

How the 2011 Japan tsunami happened

It was an interesting moment in my teaching career when the recent earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan. Of course, many of my students' questions were beyond my comprehension!
This 47 minute documentary explains the science behind Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami. I can really recommend watching it, I can see from the YouTube comments that it has been shown in schools around the world.

I think the benefit in watching this presentation with your child could be that it demystifies some of the 'it's magic!' thinking that comes along with such world events... (I wont even start on how often students ask me if I think the world is ending!)

If you do let your child watch the documentary make sure you are around afterwards to answer any questions or quell uncertain feelings (although the focus here is scientific.)

PS I just have to insert a warning here that I have no control over YouTube comments and you may see some nasty words there if you're not careful, you may need to have a quick check first if you're worried your child might see unsuitable words in the comments section.

Ebony's home after the quake.

For a first hand personal account, an old high school buddy of mine - Ebony (living and working in Japan), wrote about the quake and tsunami so eloquently here. It may be interesting to read a more personal reflection after viewing the more clinical, factual side of things and (I believe) it is suitable for your child to read.

52 Suburbs

I grew up in the 1980s on the outskirts of Sydney in an unfashionable but well-intended suburb called Menai. When I was at Primary School, my Mother didn't work (yet) and had only just learned to drive; so school holidays were a chance for my sister Kathryn, my Mother and myself to get out and discover our city.

Each school holiday Mum would fill our Mitsubishi Colt with free petrol from Dad's work and would take us to suburbs all over Sydney, just to experience and discover for the day. Paddington markets, Cabramatta for noodles, early-morning Bankstown to watch horses train, Liverpool for Country Road outlet shopping, Brighton-Le-Sands for pancakes and the best children's parks, Chatswood for Asian stationary stores, Palm Beach where we grumbled all the way and cooled our feet in the water after a long, non-airconditioned drive.

Discovering my own city was so much fun and made such a contribution to my understanding of Australia. I truly have my Mother to thank for that, I still don't have a lot of time to go back and rediscover many of these places. I learned how to use a street directory and developed a sense of time and distance, so much more meaningful than relying on 'the pages in the textbook.' In other words, I began to see the world outside of myself.

I found a great blog this morning, called '52 Suburbs.' The author visited and photographed one Sydney suburb per week and documented their discoveries. Yes, Randwick is featured!

Perhaps you may like to spend some time discovering our city this holiday...

(The short, less self-indulgent point of this post: this could be an excellent resource to assist with your child's understanding of the diversity of Sydney!)

Friday, April 8, 2011

NAPLAN Information

NAPLAN Exams (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) commenced in Australian schools in 2008.

This Year NAPLAN Testing occurs in Week 3 of Term 2 (Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 May), and students in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 are tested.

If you would like further information you can visit the NAPLAN website, and there is also a special 'Parent information page.' Further information can also be found at the ACARA 'Nap' webpage.

Some parents like their child to try out some practice tests and some past exams can be found here on the NAPLAN website.

A whole wealth of resources are available to assist with NAPLAN preparation although this is by no means essential.
The most popular online resource is the 'Excel Test Zone,' and I occasionally reach for the 'NAPLAN revise in a month' text produced by excel. They are easily purchased at book stores and post offices but can also be purchased here.

NAPLAN tests skills in literacy and numeracy that are developed over time, through the school curriculum. In short, it takes a snapshot of your child's progress at certain points of their education.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Art of Persuasive Writing

We are currently winding up our Stage 3 focus on Persuasive Writing (Exposition Writing). Some students have expressed a desire to continue on with their practice - good news, considering NAPLAN is in Week 3 of Term 2 and we commence class debating shortly!
Here are two videos I have shown my class, in Stage 3 I believe writing tends to 'fine tune' in many of my students rather than develop at a rapid pace.

I hope you enjoy, the second clip is much more technical however it is actually written and presented by an 11 year old girl who has appeared on Oprah to discuss her writing gift.

Maths: Improving Volume

In our recent 7.01 diagnostic test some of my Year 6 students were identified as having an opportunity to improve in the area of volume.

Here is a link to the BBC Skillswise 'Volume' website.

I really like BBC Skillswise because the website offers a factsheet that introduces each concept, then provides printable worksheets and an online quiz.

BBC Skillswise offers assistance across all strands of mathematics and is definitely worth a closer look.

Foundation Handwriting Links

Handwriting is an area of concern for many parents, and Stage 3 is often the 'last chance' students have to consolidate their skills and develop fluency. At this point, some parents decide that they would like their child to get some more practice outside of school.

Believe it or not each state in Australia has a different font for students to master! In Sydney we follow the 'NSW Foundation Style.' In the words of the NSW Board of Studies, in Years 5 & 6 students aim to 'develop a legible and fluent handwriting style.'

A quick solution is to buy a foundation handwriting text for your child to work through. The good news is these are quite cheap, generally under A$15! With internet shopping, it's not just the teachers that can get their hands on the bargains...
- Handwriting for Nsw Book 5: Go With the Flow by Colleen Graham
- Handwriting for Nsw Book 6: A Stylish Hand by Colleen Graham

I have found a free download of the font here, which may be helpful for creating your own worksheets, or your child may even like to use it in their assignments or presentations.
- download it (usually by 'right clicking')
- once downloaded find it on your computer
- double click on it and when the window comes up select "Install Font"

"Poets don't draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently." Jean Cocteau

SBS Global Village

Over the last two days we have been watching a story about Chinese Education presented on SBS Global Village. (Episode 2070 & 2071 'Chinese School.')

The students really enjoyed comparing and contrasting their learning experiences with those portrayed in the program, and I think a few students came away feeling a little more appreciative of their Australian education experience!

This is an excellent program overall for Stage 3 Children, the aim of the program is for the audience to discover that the world really is an amazing place! Typically each episode airs Monday-Friday at 5:30pm.

You can visit the SBS Global Village website and watch previous episodes here.