Survey: Best tools for learning

The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies have released the results of their annual survey into learning tools.

No surprises here. Actually, who on earth uses LinkedIn?

Top 100 Tools for Learning 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear Julie..,

Posted in Collection Development | Leave a comment

I’m on the ‘tube!

Massive thanks to Chloe and everyone else who was involved in making the latest episode of Hoppers TV – The one about reading!

Posted in Reading | 2 Comments

Identify the word that functions as a verb in a sentence

This post is part of a series relating to the Minimum Standards for Grammar and Punctuation in the NAPLAN tests. For the first post in this series, click here.

At Year 9 level, the students are expected to be able to:

  • identify the word that functions as a verb in a sentence

Verb Q

As you can see from the image above, the NAP have asked a question about parts of speech in the example test. Confusingly, despite suggesting that they may be wanting you to find the verb from their minimum standards, they have identified a word that can function as a verb and asked what part of speech it is playing in the example sentence. A verb? Hahahahahaha. No. So what is it then? Let’s take a look at parts of speech.

There are only eight common parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. Each category is further broken down. Comparatives (as covered in the previous post), for example, are usually adjectives or adverbs. I say usually because – here is the tricky part – words can be used as different parts of speech depending on context.

Take the example above. If you asked someone what part of speech ‘struggling’ is, their first answer would probably be ‘verb’. And, certainly, if the sentence is, ‘the eel is struggling’, it is a verb. When ‘struggling’ is put before ‘eel’ though (‘the struggling eel’), it becomes an adjective.

The key here is to make sure that the students are familiar with the language associated with grammar. When you are talking to them about their work, make sure you describe the word using its part of speech as its name, ‘You have used this verb well’, for example. This way they will be able to get an idea of whereabouts in a sentence a certain type of word will be and how some words change as they move about the sentence. If you want to learn more about the parts of speech, click here (this lists nine part of speech, not eight!).


Posted in Grammar, NAPLAN, Punctuation | 1 Comment


It is always nice to see the strategies that we teach in the news, but I guess that’s what happens when you base your pedagogy on well-researched, evidence based practices (basks in reflected glory).

The Conversation have just published an article on the benefits of note-taking and, particularly, the effectiveness of Cornell Notes in aiding information retention.

While note-taking is a very personal thing, the point that is consistent in the research is that effectively note-taking is a skill that needs to be taught.

If you want more information on the teaching of note-taking (aside from the above article), consider revisiting Part II, 6 in Classroom Instruction that Works (p.77). If you can’t find your copy, we have ones available for loan in the compactus (TR 371.102 CLA) in the library.

Posted in Note-taking, Pedagogy | Leave a comment

Collaborative Learning Structures

Collaborative Structures‘ has now been added to our OPAC with the cataloguing of this resource prepared by Alice Macpherson at Kwantlen University College.

I have no idea why this is freely available on the internet (and it may not stay that way so get in quick!) but at the moment you can access it by clicking the Link hyperlink (highlighted below) straight from our catalogue:



The structures are organised by their purpose – those that are best used for synthesis and evaluation are listed under ‘Group Activities for Synthesis and Evaluation’, for example. Each structure helpfully contains details about its objective, process and success criteria. Page 192 (confusingly labelled p.203 in the PDF) also has links to other resources which might be worthwhile.

If you are having trouble accessing the document, try refreshing the page. For some reason I get this message every other time I try to load it but that might just be a Chrome thing:


If you find any other resources that you think would support our collection, please let me know.

Posted in Collaborative Structures | Leave a comment

NAPLAN: How to teach to the test

This post is part of a series relating to the Minimum Standards for Grammar and Punctuation in the NAPLAN tests. For the first post in this series, click here.

The most effective way to teach students how to use grammar and punctuation correctly is to get them reading and writing. Through this reading and writing, teachers are able to provide constructive feedback and targeted instruction to help students develop. There is no way to effectively ‘teach to the test‘ that will improve the school’s NAPLAN results. As such, these posts are not intended to be worked through with a class.

What are they for?

If you can’t teach to the NAPLAN test, why write about the minimum standards?  The school has identified improvement in the Grammar and Punctuation section of the NAPLAN test (particularly at Year 9 level) as a goal. The school has also, correctly, stressed that teaching grammar and punctuation is a whole school issue. However, if teachers do not have a solid grasp of the rules of grammar and punctuation and their application then they will be unable to help their students.

If reading and writing are the key to improving grammar and punctuation, why focus on NAPLAN’s minimum standards? The reason I am using the NAPLAN minimum standards is because they form a good starting point to the vast area of grammar and punctuation. I am certainly not using them because they form a comprehensive curriculum – if you have been following the posts, many of the standards are not covered in the example tests and many of the questions are not looking at rules from the standards. They do, however, cover a range of basic grammar and punctuation principles.

How can these posts be used by teachers? Firstly, they are intended to educate teachers about grammar and punctuation – they are helpful for giving names to internalised principles.  Secondly, they aim to help teachers correctly identify the basis of a student’s error, explain the correct form and provide opportunities for the student to consolidate learning.

What now?

If I ever work out how to explain how to identify the word that functions as a verb in a sentence then I will finish the next post in the series. If you would to look more closely at grammar and punctuation in the curriculum, here is the English scope and sequence document from ACARA. And if you want to learn more about grammar and punctuation yourself, read more and write more.


Posted in Grammar, NAPLAN, Punctuation | Leave a comment

Identify the correct form of a comparative adjective in a sentence

This post is part of a series relating to the Minimum Standards for Grammar and Punctuation in the NAPLAN tests. For the first post in this series, click here.

At Year 9 level, the students are expected to be able to:

  • identify the correct form of a comparative adjective in a sentence

There are no examples of this in the example test so it is hard to predict how they would assess it but the rules for forming comparative adjectives are below.

There are three ways to create comparative adjectives:

1. Those that are formed by adding -er (e.g. tall, taller)

Comparative adjectives that are formed using -er are adjectives that have one syllable or adjectives that have two syllables and end in -y or -er. I wouldn’t start a fight about it but technically this means that the comparative form of clever is cleverer. There are some tricks to spelling these which are covered here.

2. Those that are formed by adding ‘more’ (e.g. chocolaty, more chocolaty)

When the adjective has two syllables but doesn’t end in -y or -er or has three syllables, the comparative adjective is formed with ‘more’.  Not only does ‘difficulter’ sound silly, it is also technically wrong.

3.And irregular comparisons (e.g. bad, worse)

Some words just like to be different. In the case of comparative adjectives, there are about 12 that are used commonly. Some of these words change completely in comparative form (like: good, better) some of them use different comparatives when applied to particular meanings of words (farther can only be used when something is removed to a greater extent by distance, not by time; further can be used for either sense, e.g. ‘The pool is further/farther than the squash court’, ‘The swimming carnival isn’t before the athletics day, it’s further into the future’). There is a table of irregular comparisons on this page.


On a side note, if you think the grammar and punctuation discussion at this school is hostile, count yourself lucky you are not posting on the Expat Korea ESL Forum:

Expat Korea



Posted in Grammar, NAPLAN, Punctuation | 2 Comments

Plagiarism-proof assignments

Bloom’s taxonomy can be used to prevent students from using copy and paste to complete research assignments.

Consider the following assignment:

  1. What are the three types of waves?
  2. In more detail, describe a longitudinal wave.
  3. What is wave interference?

As these are factual questions that access the knowledge level of Bloom’s taxonomy, there is very little the students can do other than copy and paste. It is impossible to answer the first question correctly ‘in your own words’, it is nearly impossible to correctly answer the other questions without using the same words as your source because you are not asking the students to do anything with the information.

In addition to plagiarism, these questions also promote a shallow understanding of the topic.

Bloom's Question Stems

Using question stems from higher up the taxonomy, you can make it difficult for students to take information directly from the source and you can create a deeper learning experience because you are asking the students to do something with the information.

In addition to this, choosing questions from a range of levels in the taxonomy creates a more effective assessment tool by allowing you to see how far through an assignment each student is able to get.

As a result, you might create an assignment like this:

  1. What are the three types of waves? (knowledge)
  2. Use arrows to illustrate the motion of a particle in a transverse wave. (comprehension)
  3. How could you create wave interference in a tank of water? (application)

NB: It is very important that the source of information that you are providing for the students clearly covers the information that you are expecting the students to provide in the assignment. If it doesn’t you will need to change the source or change the question.

Posted in Bloom's, Plagiarism | Leave a comment

Identify the tense of a short passage

This post is part of a series relating to the Minimum Standards for Grammar and Punctuation in the NAPLAN tests. For the first post in this series, click here.

At Year 9 level, the students are expected to be able to:

  • identify the tense of a short passage

It is worth noting that the example test does not ask the students to read a sentence and specify its tense. Rather, the test asks students to complete a sentence by choosing from a range of tenses. As such, it is not important for the students to know the names of the tenses (if you would like to know more about tenses yourself, however, there is this rather interesting article here). Here is the example question.


In this question Naplan have gone easy on the students in two ways. They have used three distinct tenses – the students just need to distinguish if the comments have happened, are happening or will happen rather than deciding whether they were going to happen as opposed to having had happened at some time in the past, for example. They have also given the students a clue by using a plural noun (‘His comments…’) indicating that the answer will involve the plural form of the verb (this is called subject-verb agreement and has been covered in a previous post).

As such, you can eliminate ‘is’ and ‘was’ as they conflict with the number of the noun. This leaves ‘were’ and ‘will be’ or past progressive and future progressive. Putting the verb ‘made’ from the context sentence into the answer sentence reveals that we are talking about the time that the comments were made, hence, ‘were interesting’ (past progressive). I have tried this strategy with a few examples in my head and it seems to work so feel free to share it with the kids.

If you find fault or know a better way to predict tense based on context, please let me know. If you feel like you have black-belt skills in tense recognition, put yourself through this test.


Posted in Grammar, NAPLAN, Punctuation | 1 Comment