Our Class Galaxy.

Our Galaxy
Click to enlarge.

Patrick Troughton (The Second Doctor) said it best:

“I always grow a beard when I’m out of work, and you can tell how long I’ve been out of work by the length of my beard.”

Similarly; I update my blog regularly when I’m out of work, and you can tell how long I’ve been out of work based on my updates. That said, let me share with you an activity I do with my class when we’re doing space as a unit of work.

space bottom
A different angle.

This is a galaxy made by my Year 4/5 class on a backdrop they also made with chalk art. The materials needed include:

  • Styrofoam shapes,
  • Coloured paint,
  • Skewers,
  • Fishing line,
  • Adhesive wall hooks,
  • Black cardboard,
  • Coloured chalk,
  • Ziplock bags; and optionally
  • Fixative.

During our space unit, we looked and studied different aspects of our galaxy. When it came to this activity, I decided to let the kids either create their own planet or recreate a known planet. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures for each step, so you’ll need to use your imagination for those missing areas where a picture would fit in nicely. 🙂

We started off creating our planets as they’ll be the messiest and need time to dry. Everyone drew a basic draft picture of what they wanted their planet to look like. This was a simple guide so no one would be staring at their object blankly when it came to the painting time. Once this was done, the kids chose a shape based on a selection of shapes that I bought from a craft shop. Most where spheres, but I also got a few blocks as I knew what some of the students would be likely to do when given a free choice.

With paint handed out, paint shirts on, and newspaper layed everywhere I skewered each of their shapes so the kids had something to hold on to while painting so their fingers didn’t get messed up.




To let our planets dry, we stuck them, still attached to their skewers, into buckets of sand. While they were drying, we moved onto our backgrounds.

To make the backgrounds, we used black cardboard, chalk and a ziplock bag. In the spirit of pictures speaking a thousand words…

step 1
Step 1: Heavily rub chalk around the front of your asteroid design.

 step 2
Step 2: Using your clean finger, smear the thickly rubbed chalk downward to make the asteroid’s tail.

step 3
Step 3:
Add a second, lighter colour to the middle of your asteroid for extra design.

step 4
Step 4:
Crunch two pieces of white chalk together to sprinkle your ‘stars’ around the picture.

step 5
Step 5:
Firmly pat down (not rub or smudge) your stars so they stay on the cardboard. Alternatively, you can use fixative here to keep them on the page. I’ve never used fixative, though.

final work

With all of our backgrounds made, we stapled them together on out display board. When doing this again, I’d recommend taping them together from behind so they stick together better and give a better effect. As you can see from the first two pictures at the top of the page, when using staples, you can see the board behind them. Put in the extra effort and tape them together so you can’t see the board.

Now it’s just a matter of hanging the planets in front of the galaxy background. I did this using adhesive hooks and fishing line.

An elaborate web of fishing line anchored by adhesive hooks.

It’s not pretty, but you could hide this ‘behind the scenes’ work with black crepe paper lightly stewn over the top if you wanted.

When completed, you get this.


 Enjoy. 🙂

How To Lock an iPad App.


This week, while working with Year 1/2, I had literacy rotations set up with two separate iPad stations running. One station had rED Writing and the other had Chicktionary – both very relevant, engaging and entertaining apps for a ten (10) minute rotation period.

While working with my ‘teacher group’ during the first rotation, I noticed some of the kids at the iPad stations – who thought I couldn’t see them -pressing the Home button and trying to get into something else. One of the kids approached me claiming the iPad was broken. At that time, I explained to the class that I had locked it so no one could go off-task. Once those few individuals knew they couldn’t get into any other apps, they began the prescribed activity.

So, here’s how you lock (enable Guided Access) an app on the iPad.

Step 1: Go to Settings and open Accessibility.


Step 2: Open Guided Access.


Step 3: Turn on Guided Access and set a passcode.


That’s all there is to setting up the locking (Guided Access) function. Now, how to use it…

Step 1: Open up your desired app to the point that it’s on its main menu.

Step 2: Triple-click your Home button.


Your app window will shrink a bit and the outside border will fill with a few options. On the top row, you’ll see two options; Cancel and Start. Press Start to lock this app. Now the app is locked. You can’t get out of it by pressing the Home button or even the power button. By default, the volume control is also disabled.

The three options on the bottom row do the following, from left-to-right:

  • Allow the use of the power button and/or volume control.
  • Disable the entire touch screen, so you cannot touch or interact with anything. This is good for movies; and
  • Disable the rotation function.

While on this menu, you can draw circles around areas of the screen you don’t want the kids to interact with. Be it something too easy or advanced, additional menus or those cursed in-app purchase buttons on free apps.

To unlock (turn off Guided Access) your app, triple-click the Home button again. At this point you’ll be greeted with a passcode screen.


Remember that passcode you set in the Guided Access menu? Input it here. This is another layer of security so everyone keeps on task even if they catch on to the triple-click function.

This is a great function for iPad use in the classroom. When you see your iPad groups’ heads down working, you know they’re on the set task and haven’t wandered off elsewhere. Simple peace of mind.

The Calendar.

Based on a conversation I had with one of our Stage 1 teachers this week, I made this calendar for SMART Notebook.

calendar preview

Each month has its own page. The days are mixed up below the calendar so students can put them in the correct order.
The calendar fields are left blank in case you want to type your entries in, or handwrite them via the SMARTboard’s pen.
The weather icons rotate and the season icons spin when touched.

This was made to aide with the morning routine for the younger grades.

I hope you can get some use out of this.

MiPad Station.

This is my iPad station in my classroom this year.

  iPad Station 01
From the front.


iPad Station 02
Artsy angled shot.

The iPad station is made up of two wooden dishracks I purchased from eBay for $AU18.00, as well as a ten point power board that I also purchased from eBay for $AU30.00. The two dishracks are blu-takked to the table to stop them from sliding apart.

iPad Station 03
A closeup of the power board between the dishracks.

I put the iPad Station sign on the front to hide the power board from a frontal view. You can still see it from above, but it’s less noticable.
The iPad safety rules are stuck to the board with velcro, so I can move them around whenever needed.

Not bad for under $AU100.00. 😉

Measurement with Kindergarten.

This week, I’m working with Kindergarten (it’s their second week of ‘big school!) and we’re looking at the first steps of measurement – mainly short, tall, shorter than, taller than, etc etc.

As part of this introduction, I’m using a SMART Notebook file I put together that is themed on the Angry Birds.


preview low res
A preview of most of the slides.

Inside the Notebook file is the cut and paste Publisher document. It includes three birds, The Blues, Chuck and Terrence and relates to the final slide where the kids are asked to colour, cut and paste (motor skills), then glue the three birds in order from shortest to tallest.

On top of using the interactive presentation above, we’ll be defining short and tall, and what makes something short and tall by comparisons. There will be hands-on activities using blocks of varying sizes and the usual manipulatives you’d encounter in this type of lesson for Kindergarten.

iPad Rulez!

At the recent Get Connected session held at The Junction Public School, I noticed some iPad rules on the wall of Miss Chaffey‘s classroom. I decided to put my own spin on their design.

When put together.

When pulled apart.

The ruler sitting beside it is 40cm (15.7″) long. If you’re interested in using this in your own classroom or school, I’ve attached two files – a PDF of the final design and an editable Publisher document so you can change the wording to best suit your school / classroom.

I always ask my kids to turn wifi off after using the iPads. Because of this, both versions come with an alternative top in the event you always keep wifi on at school. The orange top has the wifi rule and there is a blue top to match the top segment if you want to keep wifi on.

Get Connected.

Get Connected4

Quick update before school goes back for everyone in New South Wales.

Laura Chaffey and myself organise and present at a technology-based, professional learning session named, Get Connected. We’ve created the Get Connected website to use as a collection of resources from each session, and as a source of reflection.

There’s not much more to add, really. As new Get Connected sessions are organised, they’re posted on the home page with all details of presenters, topics and other relevent information.

So if you’re willing to travel to the Newcastle region of New South Wales and are interested in some technology-based professional learning, you need to Get Connected.


getconnected mainpage



Christmas Decoration Art/Craft.


 The demonstration decoration hanging from the classroom projector.

Last week, Mrs Westwood and I were looking at some Christmas art and craft ideas. There was one picture of an item in a book that didn’t have a template available, so today I made it. Chances are this particular template is available everywhere, but I haven’t found it.


 Some work samples from Year 3.

The template can be downloaded as a PDF file by clicking on the image below.


As you can see, the template is two pages.
The first page is the template itself. Decorate how you desire, cut along the dashed lines and fold the top to the bottom to make a circle. Each of the cut sections should line up with one on the opposite side, so just glue these together.
The second page contains an optional image for the ‘dangly bit’ (as the kids called it) in the middle. The circles on the bottom are for anyone who want to have something they design to hang in the middle and are sized nicely for this area.

Once everything is designed, decorated and glued together, you just need to tie some ribbon(s) to the top and you’re done.


Do You Accept the Terms and Conditions?

This week, I sat my Year 4 students through a Reading and Comprehension exam. All tables were to be cleared of everything besides two writing utensils with drink bottles on the floor.

I handed out the exam sheets face down and instructed everyone not to look under it. When they were all handed out, I displayed an enlarged version of the top part of the exam paper on the board and ran the kids through rules and expectations – emphasising the reading of all questions carefully before attempting any of them.
When I finish by stating the time limit is ten minutes, I add that I have seen students finish this exact same paper in less than two minutes, so ten minutes is more than enough.

Once everything has been said, I set the clock and let them go.

During the first five minutes, I’d get a lot of questions asking if they really need to poke holes through their paper. I reply to this with, “It’s a comprehension exam, how are you comprehending the instructions?”
A few minutes after that, I heard my first meek chicken noise. Heads turned curiously in the direction from where it came, then they’d all look at me. I ignore it.
I’ve now started collecting a few completed sheets, and near ten minutes in, I got my first, “AWWWWW!!!!!”. Followed closely by a, “Awww, what the – ?!” then some chuckles.

exam preview

Once everyone was “finished”, I let the kids tell each other (as they do) that they only needed to do question one, then I’d step in and conclude by giving a serious talk about how we’re living in a digital world of End User Licence Agreements (EULA), terms and conditions and regular software updates that ask you to agree to ‘fine print’ before you can use it and how important it is to know what you’re doing and agreeing to before jumping in blindly. I pointed out that if you poked a hole in your exam paper, drew a moon or stars, drew a boarder or made a chicken noise, you didn’t read the instructions properly… even after having them read and emphasised to you. Just because something looks familiar and important, things are not always as they seem.

Some may argue that this “exam” is a waste of time and/or a waste of time on students in Year 4, but I disagree. Listen to what kids do these days and you’ll learn that they are, or can be, involved in programs and services that have a ‘click here to accept’ option somewhere along the line.

Here is the original, editable version as a Publisher document. Remember, it’s a Publisher document, not a Word document.
Now all you need to do is drop in your school logo, name, motto, change the term and year and you’re done. If you’re from outside New South Wales, Australia, you’ll need to change the logo in the top left corner to your local equivalent.

Enjoy. 😉