All In A Picture

I like to start new topics or themes we have in the classroom with something to inspire students, whether this be a book, piece of music or a picture. Pictures can tell a thousand words so I was very happy to find Tag Galaxy thanks to Twitter.


Tag Galaxy creates a 3D planet made up of flickr photos, using specific tags.

Tag Galaxy

To start your Tag Galaxy you will need to enter a tag word (search word).  This will create a planet for this word that is surrounded by related tags.  Choose as many tags you would like and simply press on the centre of your planet to jump to the final product.


Instantly you have created your own planet of Flickr photos.  From here you can spin the planet and select specific photos and their description or use the arrow to look for more images.

Students have enjoyed using Tag Galaxy to find inspiration for writing, creating galaxies for them to gather ideas for their settings. It was also a great introduction to our Commonwealth Games theme of India.  We were able to see quickly and clearly the animals you might find in India.

How do you think you could use Tag Galaxy in the classroom?

How do you use Flickr pictures in your classroom?


I am always on the look out for different strategies to teach spelling and I thought I would share a few that I use in my classroom.

Wordle is a wonderful tool for spelling.  It is a particularly good way of having children practise new spelling patterns.  Wordle works by inserting a number of words or text into a cloud.  The more the words are used, the bigger they become in the cloud.  This allows children to practise the correct spelling of words when they need to repeatedly enter the word.  When learning a specific letter pattern I have children enter words and take a screen shot of the final product.  This gives them a great refernce to look back at when writing.


An alternative to this is Tagxedo, which makes the clouds in different shapes.

Along the lines of repitition being a tool for learning spelling, I was taught these two tricks at a PD many years ago and they are both popular in my classroom.

1. Using a tricky word (commonly confused words or those with irregular spelling) of the week children are given a small piece of paper.  They need to write that word, with correct spelling, as many times as they can in 1 minute.  The competition certainly gets them motivated and it is always amusing to see how small they can write their words!

2. Writng a silly story using the same letter pattern.  Give children a time limit to use as many words from the same letter pattern as many times as they can in a story.

I went to the station to begin my vacation.  It seemed the whole nation was there so it was a commotion.  I stepped forward with caution to find a weird creation. It was some lotion with an addition sign.  With some ambition I went to information to ask about it.  The man said it was a formation of portion.

After spending some time in the UK, I did some profession development with Pie Corbett, who has some wonderful spelling activities.  One that I always pull out when teaching compound words is to make a silly story by turning the compound words around.

I went to get the papernews along the pathfoot.  Mum gave me her baghand, which she had got from her boardcup.  On the way I played some ballfoot but got an achehead.

I was recently shown Google scribe. This website predicts the word you will write from the letters you are entering.  From the first entry a drop down menu appears with a list of words you may be using.  Although not specifically teaching spelling I find this is great for children who have spelling difficulties which impedes their ability to write.  It has been wonderful to see reluctant writers proud of what they have written and to see that these children have good writing structure, something I may not have seen if they were asked to write a paragraph.


What games or activities do you use for spelling?

What are your thoughts on how spelling should be taught?

Please leave a comment.

First Time Twitterers!

Last week a friend had her first experience with Twitter.  It came late at night and after what I fear was an hour of yelling at the TV during Q&A!  So of course her first Twitter came with the hashtag #qanda.  The following night over dinner I couldn’t talk enough of how good Twitter has been for me.

Today I see her curiosity has got the better of her as she jumped onto Twitter once again.  Although I am sure she felt the same as I did when I first started – what do I do now?

I had heard so many people talk about how wonderful Twitter is for educators and I had an account for about a year before I started using it.  Now it is the first place I go to ask a question or share ideas.


So where to start!

I first started by reading Sue Waters and Kathleen McGeady’s wiki and blog posts about twitter.  These are both great for Twitter newbies and this was where I really found out what Twitter was all about.

Here are my tips for First Time Twitterers:

Start Simple – I started by following some news outlets to get a feel for how Twitter works.  This is also an easy way to get updates of the news throughout the day. (It was through Twitter I was able to get the news straight to my classroom that Australia had its first female Prime Minister!)

Write a bio – You will have the opportunity to write a short bio about yourself in the profile section.  When I follow someone I always check the person’s bio to make sure they have a connection to education. And please add a photo or avatar.  The little default bird makes people think you don’t know how to put a picture on!  It also makes it easy to recognise your tweets.

Ask a question – you need to get yourself out there.  This is a great way to get responses from like minded people, especially if you use a hashtag that is relevant to you. If you know people on Twitter, get them to send a tweet to introduce you.

Use a hashtag –  A hashtag is the keyword that will allow people to search a specific subject. It will be a word with the # symbol in front of it (#hashtag).  You can also search for hashtags, which will help you to find like minded people.

Get yourself a desktop application –  I use Tweet Deck on my computer and Twitterific on my iPad.  Simply this is a place to organise your tweets and it keeps all of  your searches in the one spot.  Also if Twitter is blocked at your school this usually allows you to access it.

Build up your following list – A great way to start is to follow people from their blogs.  You will find as you start to add people they will also start to follow you, especially as you become more active.  This is how you build your personal learning network. You can add searches to your Twitter application and from here you can easily find people who are tweeting the same things as you.

In Australia, for Victorian teachers, you can search the hashtag #Vicpln and #Ultranet to find teachers.  You can also check out this site for a list of education hashtags across the world,  Education Hashtags. For Victorian tweeters there is also a list of DEECD teachers who use twitter.

Look for Twitter Buttons – You will see many different buttons on blogs and webpages.  This is an easy way to start follwing someone. Or if you have a blog put a button on yours. You will probably find many of your favourite sites have Twitter accounts.

Get Twitter Buttons

Safety First – always remember that your tweets are out there for all to see.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking your handle doesn’t give your identity away.  Your name will appear next to it!  If you want something to remain between you and the person you are sending it to, write a direct message.

What are your experiences of using Twitter?

Leave a comment to add any tips you have.

Weekly Websites

Initially when I wrote this post I called it International Websites, thinking that the two I chose were from the UK.  When I thought about it though I realised that I don’t actually use many Australian sites! I am not sure of the message this portrays, whether they are not there or I that I don’t chose to access them.

So I am now on the look out for some great Australian websites, that could turn into my weekly website.

If you know any please leave a comment to share the ones you use.

Do you have those favourite websites you use in the classroom which you always keep coming back to?  The trusty favourites you look at every time you do your planning?

After spending four years teaching in the UK I was able to utilise some fantastic resources they have. And even now, back in Oz, I still turn to these websites every week.

My first point of call is Primary Resources.  It is a site full of activities, prinatbles and IWB resources that is organised into subject areas.  Key Stage 1 covers children in Prep to Grade 2 and Key Stage 2 covers Grade 3-6.


I especially like the PSHE section as it mainly looks at SEAL, a program written to implement social and emotional aspects of learning.  I use a lot of these ideas for circle time.

Obviously some of the worksheets will need to be altered as they use UK speak but this is where I first look for PowerPoint presentations.  For those who use Smartboard software there are heaps of files for this too.

Ambleside CE has a number of activities and flash games for the classroom.  This week I used the Look, Cover, Write, Check activity where I typed in the words I wanted the kids to practise and a giant hand comes over and covers the word while you write it.

Look cover write

I also use the function machine, which was made by year 4 students using Spreadsheet.  If you choose the machine to do random functions the kids can guess what the operation is.


The site is broken into literacy hour and numeracy hour and is easy to find anything you need.

Do you have a favourite international website you use in your classroom?

What is your favourite resource on the website?

Leave a comment to share it!