Here in Australia we have access to so many fabulous mathematicians that inspire and support our current thinking about planning, teaching and assessing maths.

This week's blog comes from Paula's Place

At my school in the last four years we have had the privilege to work these people...

Michael Ymer
Andrea Hillbrick
Rob Vingerhoets
Di Siemon
George Booker

Here is a snapshot of each one. I would love to hear about who you have worked with in your school. 

Michael Ymer

He is clear, engaging and practical. His work allows an ordered space for great maths thinking to take place. 

Tips from Michael Ymer's Presentation - the set up is so important to running a great room

  • Set up the activity on a table at the front of the room - this is great for sharing the Learning Intention 
  • Have the children declutter their tables - prepare for great work habits
  • The pairs of children emulate the set up - this teaches responsibility and encourages the children to know where the equipment is for future problem solving
  • Fishbowl the activity for the class at one of the tables - this is explicit teaching and encourages questions about the learning
  • If there's an odd number of participants, one child will partner with the teacher BUT this "honour" is shared around the class
  • When using dice you roll for your partner and vice versa
  • use a slip mat (if the roll goes off the mat, the child whose turn it is can choose the number rolled

Andrea Hillbrick

Andrea is a dynamic presenter who works in many schools and brings this experience to her presentations.
Andrea worked on what planning looks like - how to use tasks to hook kids in, how to set up tasks that were part of real life and how to encourage love of learning to measure outcomes. 
She has a range of books that are very practical in any classroom. 

Rob Vingerhoets

Rob has made a huge impact on the way I plan and how I advise others to plan in our school. 

Rob has a genuine approach in supporting teachers to be realistic about the amount of planning we do. We all over plan and then get frustrated that we haven't covered what we plan. 
He promotes a six step plan to avoid doing this and in a nutshell it is like this...

Step One
Complete a Yearly Overview - in a grid record what is happening this year for each term. Add headings for what is your school focus and brainstorm under each one.

Term One
Term Two
Term Three
Term Four
Inquiry Unit


Literacy focus

Science focus


School events
Sports Day
Begonia Festival
Science Works
Arts Week
Christmas Fair
Days out
George Booker
Labour Day
George Booker
Queen's Birthday

Number & Algebra

Measurement and Geometry

Stats and Prob

Step Two
Then work out how many days exactly we have to teach for that term.
If we have a 10 week term = 50 days 
Then Rob suggests that we minus 10% for unplanned interruptions and revisions. 

Step Three
If you have 31 days left then you need to prioritise your topics to cover. Forget about going Monday to Friday - be flexible about time.
ie 10 for fractions and decimals, 5 mass, 10 on four ops, revision, mapping and time.

Step Four
On a grid in weeks allocate what you intend to do
Here is an example of brainstorming topics and a making as many real links as possible. 
Fairy tales - measure length of Rapunzel Hair, capacity of three bears bowls, location of bully goats gruff  

Step Five

The Fishbone Planing is for big units ie ten lessons.
Six out of ten lessons should be mixed ability and kids learning from each other and us collecting ongoing formative assessment.
We should be planning for open and closed tasks for all students.
The last 3-4 lessons is where do extension, reinforcement and support tasks - in ability grouping.
We should offer focus groups and kids sign up for them if they think they need.

Di Siemon

Di has an enormous passion for the 'Big Ideas' in Mathematics. Her work on number sense has driven the Scaffolding Numeracy - Middle Years work.
The misconception research she has undertaken has been useful in our planning.
We had a small team hear her last week.

George Booker

George spent two days with us and we focused on what additive and multiplicative thinking looks like. 

Through this we explored foundational concepts like subitising, trusting the count, basic number sense and how important the language in maths is. 

Over the two days we used unifix, Base 10 blocks and bundling sticks to explore early maths concepts and how to model this in more complex tasks for two and three digit equations. 

He is co author of this book that many Universities have as their core text.
This is the 5th edition.
We have found it beneficial for identifying misconceptions and planning for them. 

If you ever get the chance to work with these people - take it!

It gets to the end of a lesson. The activity is finished, or nearly finished. What do you do to close the lesson? There are so many options! At my school we call the final bit of our lesson 'Reflection' time. This can include sharing, answering revision questions, completing exit tickets, making anecdotal assessment notes, giving feedback. It's a fabulous, meaningful time of your lesson.

Hi, I'm Jem from Jem's Bright Buttons.

When I started teaching I thought the closure of the lesson was a time to just get each child to share one thing they did in the lesson. No follow-up questions, no feedback, no assessment. I tacked it on to the end if I had time, and if I didn't have time we just packed up and got our lunch. I've learned over the past few years that the last 5-10min of a lesson can be incredibly powerful! Your Reflection or Closure time for a lesson can impact on student understanding of the topic, how you plan for the future, and how they feel moving away from that subject/topic. It's a fabulous time to assess and to encourage valuable peer-to-peer feedback.

Searching on TPT or Pinterest there are hundreds of fabulous Reflection Tools, and I'm going to share some of my favourites.

Reflection wheel

Last year I came across this Reflection Wheel (I'm almost certain it's by Kath Murdoch, but I can't find an original source for it). I had it on display in my classroom and I would use it as sentence starters for our reflection. I recorded student reflections in our Learning Journal. It helped students create meaningful responses about their work - so instead of saying "I did a colourful drawing" I could encourage them to say things more along the lines of "I tried to get my letters to be the same size". The focus of the reflection was on the learning intention and success criteria, rather than the activity.

10 Minutes Tops

My school has been lucky to work with an educational consultant for the past couple of years, and she created an awesome set of reflection tools that we use regularly. The resource is called 10 Minutes Tops. Andrea Hillbrick is a wealth of knowledge on reflecting, and her Reflection Pinterest Board has some fun ideas. A couple of my favourite 10 Minute Tops reflections are:

Buses: where am I on the bus? If students are really confident with the topic they are at the front of the bus, if they're still figuring it out they are at the back of the bus. The one below was after a lesson on odd/even numbers and you can see that nearly my entire grade felt they were confident about odd/even numbers, which meant my following lesson was harder, and moved to the 'next steps' and application of odd/even numbers.

World wide: where would I use this skill in the real world? This connects their classroom/content learning with the broader applications, so they understand the purpose of their learning.


Asking summarising questions is great too. I often ask "What did we learn?" so that students have to articulate the main point of the lesson, or what they took away from the lesson.

Wondering Questions are a great 'exit ticket' style reflection. After doing an introductory lesson for our Inquiry each student wrote an 'I wonder...' question about our content. This informed my lesson planning, and students were able to show how they had connected with the learning.

Rubrics and ratings

When I started group work we created a list of behaviours that each group should be following. At the end of group work we look at the list and give our group a score out of 5 for each point - it's like a rubric on group work and gives me an idea of how each group is going. We did this last week and I discovered most groups thought they did a poor job of "using quiet voices" so it became our whole class goal for the next group work session.

Learning goals

Does your school have student learning goals? We do, and I love them! I regularly use Reflection time to get students to share what they have been focusing on for their learning goal. A few of my students were learning to read 5-digit numbers so, as a quick assessment, I wrote out some 5-digit numbers on the board and had each student read a couple, when they did it successfully they could colour in one of the boxes on their goal card. It was great for sharing success in learning and for students to encourage each other with their learning goals.

Rating effort

I love reflecting on student effort! My school has a focus on linking effort and achievement (we've looked at Growth Mindset, Effort Ratings, Goals, etc) and this is the Effort Chart I use.
Students have to explain what sort of effort they put in for the lesson, and if it wasn't Green Effort, they come up a with a plan to improve for next time. I've seen some wonderful Effort Charts on TPT, and I think it's a great tool for students to articulate how they should be working and contributing in a lesson.

Peer feedback

Peer-to-peer feedback is also a wonderful tool to use during Reflection time. A colleague told me recently that she is using 2 Stars and a Wish during Reflection time so that her students are practicing giving positive and constructive feedback. Her class are doing an amazing job, they are the preps at my school (5/6 year olds) and the practice they are getting now giving feedback will improve throughout their schooling.


During all of these Reflections I have my anecdotal record book (which is a set of crosschecks) nearby so I can record student responses and achievement, based on learning intentions and success criteria. Their responses during Reflection time can often show some wonderful evidence of learning, and often how they are connecting their learning to prior knowledge.

I hope I've given you some ideas that you can add into your Reflection time at the end of your lessons.

If you're looking for some more tools to use as part of your Reflection time check out the iSurf store on TPT. This is their reflection tools for maths (which can be used in other subject areas) and it's fantastic!

Enjoy reflecting on learning with your students!

Hi everyone, it's Christie from My Mum, the Teacher 

As we head into cold and flu season, I thought I'd share my tips for casual teachers, especially those just starting out in this area of our industry. 
Getting that phone call for your first casual teaching day can be exciting yet daunting all in the same moment. Being a relief teacher is probably the toughest teaching job going - you're expected to walk into a classroom full of students you don't know, teach them, keep them safe and engaged.

The following information about being a casual or temporary teacher can be found on the DEC website:
  • As a relief teacher you are employed on a day-to-day basis replacing permanent teachers who are absent or participating in other activities.Reliefl teachers are paid a daily rate, based on years of training and experience, which is loaded to include a component for sick leave and vacation pay.
  •  As a temporary teacher you are employed full-time for four weeks to a year or part-time for two terms or more. Temporary teachers receive most of the entitlements of permanent teachers, including annual salary, on a pro-rata basis.
  • Engaged to provide release for permanent teachers who are absent or participating in other activities, relief and temporary teachers ensure that a positive and challenging learning environment for students is maintained. They are responsible for providing proper and adequate supervision of classes or areas assigned to them, ensuring the safety and well being of students at all times.
  • Your role involves:
  • knowing your lesson content well
  • preparing lessons;
  • providing homework where appropriate and follow up the homework;
  • participating in whole school activities;
  • performing any rostered playground duty; and
  • contributing to school or faculty activities, special events, excursions or meetings.
While being a relief teacher can have its benefits, including providing a new or returning teacher the
opportunity to gain vital classroom and teaching, flexibility and the opportunity to gain professional skills when working towards obtaining a permanent job, it can, however see many teachers' leave the profession before having their own class due to difficulty in managing student behaviour. To ensure that you don't end up in that position, I am sharing the following strategies that I have gained during my own experiences, as well as from reading and talking to other teachers:

Have a survival plan:

Make sure you arrive at the school as early as possible (I aim for an hour before school commences). Introduce yourself to executive, administration and other teaching staff, especially those who will be in surrounding classrooms to you. While prior planning is important and schools that provide sufficient warning will be rewarded with a better prepared teacher and a less disruptive day, unfortunately that is not always possible. It is vitally important that you have a range of planned activities in your teaching bag - make sure you have things for each stage/year, ability and subject as well as a range of reward and behaviour management strategies that align with the school's policy.

Check school procedures and policy:

Once you arrive, ask about school policy on discipline, rewards (class points, school points, use of sweets etc.), removal of students and also whole school and class procedures - this could include lining up at the end of each break/bell time, eating time in class, procedures for sport/music/art etc. Also ask about what is expected of teachers when on playground duty and how to enforce rules. 

Check on students with special needs, behavioural and emotional needs:

Some students may have medical conditions that you need to be aware of, and asking about these things tells the school you are 'on the ball'. You should also ask if there are any specific learning needs in the class, students on behaviour contracts and how to cater best for these students.

Familiarise yourself with the classroom, school grounds and class program:

Once you get shown to the classroom you'll be in for the day (or the classes if you're in a high school) set up your equipment and then familiarise yourself with the layout of the classroom and where equipment can be found. Hopefully the class teacher has left work for you to work through with the students with detailed instructions of where to find equipment, classroom procedures, class jobs etc. etc. If there is no work for you, get out something you have and make time to get any photocopying done and organise any equipment you'll need. Then go out and get acquainted with the school grounds and some of the students.

(***If you think there will be an issue with seating then create a seating plan for your time with the class. It is often worth isolating the more difficult students in strategic positions rather then allowing these students to sit together and create havoc).

Establish a timetable for the day:

Check out this great example of a class timetable by Ms A.
A written or visual timetable on the board demonstrates that you are prepared and have a plan. This could be the usual class timetable or something you have created to work with your planned activities. A timetable will also help students who have ASD, processing disorders or poor time management skills prepare for events the day.

Gaining initial attention and respect:

This will be your hardest skill to accomplish, especially in a new setting where you don't have the luxury of knowing students' names and circumstances. Demonstrating an assertive but pleasant manner will show that you are in control and aren't going to be duped.
  • Establish expectations: It's not always possible to have a class discussion about class rules, but a few minutes spend establishing your expectations will be time well spent.
  • Build in a class reward/mystery element: A built in reward or surprise will keep the class motivated, even if you follow the regular class timetable. Place it strategically, generally towards the end of the day (or lesson) and try and make it something that the students will really enjoy e.g. one hour to play board games; an outdoor game; listen to their favourite music etc. Write this on the board with the timetable, but don't give too much away - just write MYSTERY PRIZE or SURPRISE. 
  • Establish routines: This is where you can refer to the class routines or create your own. Use or create a class job list, explicitly state how you want students to enter and exit the classroom, how they can get your attention etc. Read more about classroom routines here.

Get to work!:

Academic engagement is the biggest factor in preventing disruptive behaviour. If you don't understand the work left by the classroom teacher then use your own grade appropriate activities - try not to use time-fillers (check out our DBT stores for some great activity packs and fun games). Plan your whole day around a story or activity and make sure you mark any work!!!!! 

Concluding the day:

Always try to finish the day on a positive note - despite of how tough your day might have been! Try to identify a positive incident, student or group from the day. 

Leave relevant notes for the teacher:

Ensure you mark any work done by students throughout the day and leave relevant notes regarding significant events or child behaviour (good and bad) that occured. Make sure you check in with the admin staff, executive staff and the teacher doing casuals on your way out.  

Teaching can be an extremely rewarding career - and at the same time a challenging one. At the beginning stage of your career you are finding out who you are, what your style and strengths are (if you don't know what your teaching style is, take this quiz to find out your teaching and learning style and this quiz to find out what type of teacher you are) and how to use these to work with a group of students you may or may not be familiar with. I hope these strategies help you prepare for your entry (or re-entry) in the world of teaching and give you strength and confidence in yourself.

For more information about surviving as a casual teacher, here are some sites for your to peruse and I highly suggest joining the Facebook groups as they're a great form of support and help:

Survival Kit for Casual Teachers - Ocean View Learning Centre

Relief Teaching Activities - Australian Curriculum Lessons

Relief Teaching Ideas Community

Casual Relief Teachers in Australia

Surviving Casual Teaching

Konza, D., Grainger, J. & Bradshaw, K. (2006). Classroom Management: A Survivial Guide. Social Science Press: South Melbourne.

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