Resourcing the curriculum – The Spanish Conquest of the Americas

“When the Spanish reached the valley of Mexico in 1519, they were amazed at what they saw.” – Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. London: Hamlyn, 1992.

Next semester we will begin to look at the Spanish Conquest of the Americas in history at Year 8. The starting point for all resources is, of course, the Victorian Curriculum. But you would be forgiven for looking for something more interesting or approachable. Alternatively, you can go straight to the source as RZI intends to do and wade into 420 pages of primary material. Whichever way you start, there are ways that the library can help you in regards to resources and skills.

The Spanish began visiting the Americas many hundreds of years before ClickView. I don’t even think YouTube was a thing back then. And even though our compactus was probably already full by 1492, I don’t think anything about the ‘conquest’ has made it in there since. So where to start?

On the shelf

The library has a small collection of books on the Americas that are mainly located on the shelf at 972 (History of the Middle Americas).  This includes books that cover pre-Columbian life, the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan.

Because there are so few of these, we can’t rely on each student getting their hands on one. But we can provide them with photocopies on relevant chapters (under copyright, we are allowed to make copies of one chapter or 10 per cent of each work).


The next best thing (because we pay for access to it) is Britannica Online. Students can access this from school or home using the link in Simon. The good thing about Britannica is that you can select the level (Primary, Middle or High) of information being retrieved.


Our kids will be way ahead of us in googling this. They will search for ‘the Spanish Conquest of the Americas’ or they will jump right in with the assignment question or some keywords (probably names).

We will need to come up with some clever tasks that will require them to do something with the information that they find if we are to avoid ctrl+c, ctrl+v answers. Once again, the curriculum can be of help here, along with Bloom’s question stems.

Flip it


To get the kids interested and give them some background information, as well as to teach skills throughout their journey, we can provide them with content that they can watch from home. This allows them to chill out with their headphones on after school with a legitimate excuse and makes us on hand to help out while they do their homework in class.

Aside from the huge amounts of content on this topic on YouTube and the Khan Academy, there are videos on the subject available on ClickView. Check out this video on the Waldseemüller map, for example. Skip to Chapter 10 to begin at Columbus’s big mistake.

Blood and guts

While elements of this story are undoubtedly gory, there are many ways to interest the students without labouring this side of it – they were real people who were sacrificed after all.  Pre-Colombian societies had some marked similarities and differences between other indigenous cultures including Australia’s. This can be an opportunity to explore where the came from and when and how they got to the Americas as well as an opportunity to explore: the notion of ‘civilisation’, myths attached to indigenous lifestyles and the way these came about.

The subject of how to manage first contact between societies is also still very much an issue. Finally, the way that we are explaining and contextualising colonisation is a big news item in Australia today but is it an issue in the Americas?

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Hop. Book. Chat. E02 has dropped.

Twice as long is twice as good, right? Our second episode, Adaptations are the New Vampires, is twelve minutes of pure auditory joy about books that have been, or are about to be, turned into movies. Steven Spielberg, Suzanne Collins, John Green – no one is safe. Listen below.


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Q: What makes an excellent presentation?

A: Body language and visuals.

If you have the time, watch this clip. Not just because Amy Cuddy is a terrific speaker and someone you can emulate but also for the message that your body language is critical to how you are perceived by others and how you are perceived by yourself.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Her advice? Strike a powerful pose for a couple of minutes before you do your presentation.


While you’re at it, TED have a whole playlist dedicated to public speaking here (Sebastian Wanicke suggests letting your hair grow out a little, wearing glasses and dressing up slightly more than your classmates, which, since talks are next week and you’ll all be in uniform, will be a bit challenging but I guess you could try tucking in your shirt).

It is all an act

Silliness aside, presentations are, in essence, a performance – so try to pretend that your talk is being delivered by a super-confident expert to a bunch of enthralled fans. Stand up straight, make eye-contact with your audience, smile, speak clearly and vary your tone to match what you’re saying and maintain interest.

While we’re talking about your audience, make sure that you have them in mind when you write it. Think about what they would like to know about your subject and how you can inform, persuade or surprise them.

What’s that behind you?

Your talk should be accompanied by a presentation that contains enough information that your audience can predict what is coming next (and foresee an ending) and get back into it if their attention drifts. Fifty words per slide is about right.

If your talk is accompanied by visuals, make sure that they are high enough quality that they won’t look blurred or pixelated when projected onto a screen; free from watermarks; and, accompanied by a caption describing what they are and where you got them from. Even better, make them yourself.

Practice, practice, practice

Last of all, make sure you practice your talk heaps of times before giving it.

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A+ for research

With oral presentations coming up, you will need to be pretty dynamite at research in order to stand out from the crowd.

I have chosen (…made up.., ok, stolen…) the topic: Young people should be allowed to drive younger. This is obviously insane. Young people are terrible drivers and, for a range of reasons too great to mention, will be a greater danger to themselves and almost everyone else alive if they are allowed to do so. Luckily, you don’t need to agree with your contention to do a good presentation.

If you want poor results, just ask the question

To gauge the internet’s feeling about this, I waded in by asking Google: ‘Should young people be allowed to drive earlier?

This was the least productive of my searches but, due to the magic of the internet, even bad searches can get good results.

The first answers were totally irrelavent, a couple of hits about elderly drivers, a couple of hits from lazy kids asking debate sites the same question. I’m not after the unfiltered thoughts of internet users, I want a broad overview from a professional writer working for a publisher with a reputation to manage. The sixth result was just that. I was delighted to find an article about lowering the driving age in the UK (“…controversial…”) but then disappointed and a bit surprised to find out that they don’t have what’s known as ‘graduated licences’ (think L plates) and were thinking about lowering the driving age to 16. Bummer.

Keywords and quotation marks

The article mentioned accidents. I thought that would be a good direction for my research so I tried the keyword ‘accidents’ plus the phrase ‘”teenage drivers”‘ (in inverted commas because I only wanted results about teeneagers). This confirmed that teenagers are also horrible drivers in the US. But maybe they are better here in dot au.

Site restrictions

To isolate information from australia I added ‘’. This returns only pages with an .au URL (accidents “teen drivers” You can also do this to get .gov or .edu (or even .pdf for that matter) results. Alternatively, you can remove certain sites by putting a minus in front of them (accidents will no longer return commercial sites, for example). For more awesome search operators, click here.

Unfortunately this confirmed that teenagers are terribly dangerous here as well. I am going to have a tough time making people think I am a good person while arguing that teens should be allowed to kill themselves and others earlier. But maybe if they were shackled to an adult while they are learning, they would be safer (defeating the whole, ‘teens want to be more independent argument’ but anyway…).


I searched for ‘rates of accidents for L-plate drivers’. It turns out that this statistic is not so easy to find. In hindsight, I probably should have searched for ‘accompanied’ drivers or tried to find the terminology that road safety authorities use to describe that relationship. I did however find this neat graphic:

L Platers

My argument is going to need some more work so now I am going to try to find some evidence that stretching the time young drivers spend with a licensed driver increases their safety and then work backwards from there.

Research can be a bit of a twisty-turny process but it can also be the most fun and interesting part of an assignment. Hopefully using these tips will make it moreso!

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Introducing – Hop. Book. Chat.

Jessica Holt, English teacher extraordinaire, and I have just created our first podcast! It’s called ‘Hop. Book. Chat.’. The first episode, Dragons are the New Vampires, is six and a half minutes about dragons in YA fiction. Listen here:

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I recently put out a call to various people and groups on Twitter for recommendations for booktubers. Booktubers, contrary to what you may think, are not literary rhizomes. Now that I have that root vegetable joke out of my system, here we go.


There are multitudes of perky bookworms on YouTube talking to the camera about books that they have read, books that they intend to read, books that they have on their bookshelves (and how they are organised), and challenging each other to impossible questions (Only read your favourite twenty books or only read new books for the rest of your life? Whut!?).

In the style of the genre, here is a list of them in no particular order and with no consideration for continuity or respiration:

The Little Book Owl reviews a range of books but mainly talks about books for older readers. Check out her tips for overcoming reading slumps – another common booktube topic. Kellie’s Reads is a fun channel that covers, well, what Kellie reads. Love the jingle. Watch her review of The 5th Wave here. Books with Dylan is another Australian YA booktuber. His channel covers the regular stuff and Dylan is handy with the camera and soundtrack too so there is some interesting non-bookhaul/TBR/shelf tour stuff as well (like this bookshop tour and this…ummm….shelf art?). Kat from Katytastic seems to have an accent but then, so does everyone from the internet so who knows where she is from. Watch this funny video on the stages of book grief. Classic. Raeleen (AKA padfootandprongs07) talks really quickly and works in a bookshop so she knows her stuff. April (Aprilius Maximus)’s favourite book of all time is Jane Eyre. Solid choice. Michelle (Lovely Girl Reads) doesn’t seem to be posting anymore (none for months) but her channel led me to A Zombie Book Tuber. Check out this chocolate themed post. Which led me to Becca the Book Reviewer (slaying that series here). If you want to get shouted at by someone with way too much energy (and why wouldn’t you?), you can’t go past Xtine (polandbananasBOOKS). She has been at it for a really long time. Sasha Alsberg makes abookutopia. See what 14yo her thought of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg here. booksandquills covers gothic novels here including the spooky The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which can allegedly be read in 53 minutes (and she didn’t like, find out why). Love triangles, dystopia and lethal touches in this video on guilty pleasures from PeruseProject. And Bookish Thoughts, jessethereader, emmabooks and last but not least Tiernan Bertrand-Essington (AKA The Book Tuber) who doesn’t just review books but also gets to chat to authors like David Levithan, Ransom Riggs and Rick Riordan!).

CyberSafety WARNING: If you are thinking of getting into booktubing, consider your privacy settings carefully. There are heaps of people trolling around the internet looking for someone to upset. And being told by a stranger that they don’t like your hair (or worse) might be the last thing you need when you just want to let people know which books you like.

Posted in BookTube, Review, Uncategorized, YouTube | 1 Comment

Britannica School – Student Access

We have a subscription to Britannica so that students have access to easy-to-find, high-quality reference material from school or home.

From School

Students can access Britannica at school by navigating to the Online Resources page from the Library page on the school website (hopcross > Library > Online Resources) or by clicking this link.

Britannica Navigation


This should take them directly to the levels page where they select the level of information they need based on their reading ability. This link only works while at school.

From Home

The link above only works while the students are at school. From home, students can access Britannica through Simon. The link for Britannica is located at the bottom of the School Links box on the left-hand side of the page under the Library heading (highlighted below).



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Digital Airheads

We have known for some time that the assumption by Prensky that kids born after a certain year are born computer literate is bunkum. Unfortunately, this hasn’t yet translated to an effective formula for teaching computer skills as this article in today’s ‘paper’ notes.

The article reports on ACARA’s assessment that ICT literacy has fallen significantly between 2011 and 2014 based on students’ performance of certain tasks (pictured).



Whether these are the skills that we should be testing seems sketchy. So to, we might ask which programs the students are asked to use carry out these tasks and whether they have become less relevant.

Nevertheless, as teachers it is crucial to have fluency in what we are expected to teach. As a result, it is probably worth: working your way through this list, making sure you can do everything on it and possibly creating a little repository of how-to links to help students learn and develop these skills.

Posted in NAPLAN | 1 Comment

The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex – mental illness and the missing chapter

Spoiler Alert: this post contains spoilers. Big time. Read the book first.

I have just finished reading The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams. It is a fantastic book based on the real-life theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the NGV in 1986. Williams has done terrific work researching the events, as she expands upon in the acknowledgements. Her work is amazing, but is it fair to Estelle (the protagonists mother) or to those with mental illness?

Writing a book is hard. In weaving a plot and creating relatable characters it is impossible to make everyone happy. Williams’ work has gone a long way to bring the theft to life but along the way she has misrepresented mental illness in a fundamental and unsympathetic way.

Estelle’s condition

Estelle is undeniably psychotic. My very limited and hasty research into psychosis indicates that this is a possible (although extremely rare) consequence of a tragedy, such as the loss of a son. The information in this article indicates that psychosis affects about 1% of the population worldwide.

Williams does not go into the specifics of Estelle’s mental health so it isn’t possible to know if she has schizophrenia before her son’s death or if her psychosis is the result of his death. If the former is the case then it is tragic that someone suffering such a loss, while also being at the mercy of a terrible condition, should be left to cope with such little support. If the latter is the case then it seems more likely that she is suffering from Brief Psychotic Disorder in which case the events of the novel are extremely unlikely – recurrent episodes are very rare making her an atypical sufferer of a rare subset of a rare condition.

Mental illness in the book

Estelle is framed as the villain in this book. She is characterised as having created her situation through her mindset and being unwilling to change it. Her brother Moritz is the most damning (although finding anything positive written about her in the book is a challenge), telling Rafi, “She’s always been a shit mother to you. She never stopped thinking about Tonio long enough to see what she had right in front of her.’ In fact, Estelle is not responsible for her condition. Her condition is responsible for her behavior.

Estelle is not deliberately obsessing over her son, she is delusional. Delusions are false beliefs that are resistant to logical or rational information – in this case, the belief that she is being haunted by a folk-tale of a horse-headed woman who drowns children. Sure, the characters live in a less enlightened time in regards to mental illness but we don’t. Authors can choose to frame conditions in sympathetic ways while maintaining historical authenticity.

The missing chapter(s)

Williams’ book is missing the chapter or chapters that let Estelle off the hook for being a person suffering from delusions. She isn’t responsible for them and her life up until the conclusion of the novel has, and will continue to be, ruined by them. It is fair to say that Rafi would be pretty upset about the impact of her mum’s condition on her life. It would be equally fair for Moritz to be unhappy about it. It would certainly be fair for Penny to be overcome by anger and resentment about it. It is not fair for her to be called a ‘psycho mum’, a ‘crazy person’ or a ‘shit mum’ to a contemporary young adult audience without the context above.

Perhaps the book could have included a post-script about mental illness. Perhaps there could have been chapters that show readers Estelle’s point of view. Or maybe the book could conclude with notes on her court case absolving her of responsibility due to her mental state.

These may make the book longer and more complicated but also fairer. Without the literary talent to write such additions, I am just putting this post here to draw attention to this side of the story.

Posted in Reading, Review | 1 Comment

ClickView Online – Sharing and Embedding

ClickView have done away with the School Bag (which is ace because it didn’t work particularly well anyway) and moved online. This means that teachers and students will be able to access ClickView content at school and at home directly from the web or from an app made for their chosen device.

Along with greater accessibility, the move creates more features for teachers to use in finding content and making it available. One such feature is improved sharing.


After logging into ClickView using your T/O and network password, you can access our video library using the menu on the left-hand side of the screen (‘Hoppers Crossing Digital Video Library’). This will take you to the collection that you used to search using the ClickView Player on your desktop. Videos can be both played from here and shared.

The share tab (pictured above) allows you to create clippings from videos so you can show in class just the content that you want them to see. You can also share this link with the students and they can view the content in their own time. Once you have edited the video segment using the sliders, you can share that clip by copying and pasting the text in the Link to this video field.

Sharing a Video

Consider a lesson you are creating on the Pyramids. You would like something to get the kids talking about why the pyramids were built. All you need to do is:

  1. Find a video,
  2. Isolate the clip you want using the sliders or typing in the start and end time; and then,
  3. Copy and paste the link into your presentation, add it to your lesson material on the N: or email it to your kids:

Pretty exciting, huh?

Embedding a Video

You can also embed a whole video into a PowerPoint presentation using the embed code provided at the bottom of the share tab.

Posted in ClickView | 2 Comments