Category: Teaching and Learning

Parent or Friend?

When I was a kid there was absolutely no doubt of the answer to the above question.  Your parents were your parents, the adults who ruled your life.

It was they who made the big decisions, they who set the boundaries and they who imposed the punishments.

I knew my parents would always be there if I needed them, but I don’t remember thinking of them as my friends until I was an adult myself.  They were the adults and I was the child.  Their job was to grow me into an adult who could fit easily into and, hopefully, contribute to society.

There was never any doubt over where the “line” was or what would happen if that line was crossed.  I had a very secure childhood.  I knew what I could do, how far I could push the limits and what the consequences of my actions would be.

In my adult life  I applied this logic to my teaching practice.  I believe one of the basic requirements of life is to feel safe.  By establishing boundaries and routines for children, we provide them with security.  They know what is going to happen and when.   

Every child will push and push until they find the limits of what is acceptable.  They need to know where the “line” is.  Even tiny tots will do this.

Parenting is not an easy business and a good deal of gritting of teeth and deep breathing is required.   Yes, they will “hate you”.  Yes, you will be “the worst parent in the world”. I was for several years in the nineties when my daughter was a teenager…especially when it came to boys calling on the telephone.

Ring Ring:  Hello

Caller:        Is Katey there?

Me:            Yes, she is.   Hanging up. Daughter rolling eyes.

This would usually be repeated two or three times before the young man got the message.

Ring Ring:   Hello

Caller:        Um, hello, Mrs G. This is Matthew.  Is Katey there, please?

Me:            Why, good evening, Matthew.  Yes, she’s right here.

My rule was that any boy who did not have the manners to greet me was not going out with my daughter.  She couldn’t understand my thoughts then. She does now.  My job was not to be her friend, it was to be her parent.

Kylie Lang wrote an interesting piece on this subject in our Sunday newspaper this weekend.

Click here to read it.  I would be interested to know your thoughts.


Cubby Houses

When I was a kid, I always had a cubby house of some sort.  It was my own little space where I was queen.  Sometimes I would graciously allow my brother or my cousins to come in to my cubby house. The only reason for that was that I knew they had their own cubbies that I would want to visit.

My cubby house was where I stashed my second best treasures. I wouldn’t keep my top level treasures there because of the afore-mentioned visitors to the cubby, all of whom were likely to pinch one’s treasures if they had the least opportunity.

My cubby was a place to read in peace, a place to eat the sweets bought with the weekly allowance, a place to dream big dreams and a place to escape from other people – something I quite enjoyed – and move into a fantasy world where everything was perfect.

My favourite place for a cubby was in my bedroom or in the playroom.  Image  I would gather up bedsheets, table cloths, pillows etc and drape them from the furniture to form a secret hide-out or smugglers cave.  These cubbies had a tendency to collapse and fold in on themselves just when you least expected them to and were not resistant to bombardment with stuffed toys or tennis balls.

The obvious solution to this was to build a cubby under the dining room table.

Image A blanket or two draped over the table so that it reached right to the floor made for a dark, mysterious cubby that required the occupant to use a torch when in residence – perfect for ghost stories designed to scare the pants off little brothers. My cousin had his chemistry set in his under-the-table cubby until there was a slight mishap with some smelly substance that rendered Aunty’s dining room uninhabitable for nearly a week.  Thereafter he was banned from cubby construction in the house.

My cousin and I were known to be, um, shall we say, mischievous and inventive?  Our achievements in the field of treehouse building were the stuff of legend.  This picture from the local newspaper of a treehouse built by some kids reminds me of the tree houses that Greame and I built all those years ago.

Image    Of course, in our minds, it look more like this one from The Swiss Family Robinson movie.  I loved that movie.  It encouraged me to learn how to weave banana leaves into mats, roof coverings and curtains.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any coconuts so I never had a go at creating any of the wonderful water lifting machines.  Greame did suggest tin cans but I rejected that idea out of hand…it had to be coconuts.


One weekend when I was about eight years old, we went to a drive-in movie.   There, for the princely sum of two shillings, patrons could enter the monthly draw for some really fabulous prizes.  Drive-in movies were the in thing back then and the huge parking lots were filled for every movie session.  Anyway, on this particular occasion, the first prize for the raffle was a cubby house – gasp!  It was spectacular.

Image       It looked something like this one.  I loved it on sight.  Dad bowed to pressure and purchased some tickets, giving me the chance to own this dream house.  Being me – the eternal optimist – I assumed that since I had a ticket, I was bound to win that house. I started collecting interesting items to display in my new  cubby house. I created artworks for the walls and even made a letter box similar to the one in the picture so that my parents would be able to communicate with me when I had moved into my new dwelling.  I was devastated when I learned that I had not won the cubby house.  I had been so sure that it was going to happen.  I had seen myself in that cubby house.  I cried myself to sleep for a week.

But, as I was to learn much later in life, the Universe moves in mysterious ways.  My father, wonderful guy that he was, had already purchased the necessary materials to build me a cubby house.  Maybe it wasn’t quite as fabulous as the raffle prize, but I loved it with all of my youthful heart.  It looked a bit like this, but it had a proper door, complete with a handle and even a peephole.  There was a ladder attached to the side so that I could climb up onto the roof if I wanted to be a pirate pacing the deck or a princess in a high tower.


My cubby didn’t have flower pots hanging outside. It had my own personally designed flags flying proudly. was all mine.  My own place to do with as I wanted. Dad didn’t paint it. He left that to me.  He asked me if I wanted shelves in there.  Of course, I wanted shelves.  I asked him if I could have a lantern.  He bought me a camping lantern power by batteries.  Smart man, my dad, imagine what I could have done with a kerosene lamp!!!!   He put a camp bed in there for me so if I wanted to sleep in there I could.  It was just wonderful.

My Dad was the best.  He understood the need for a little girl to have a personal space in which to dream and create worlds of wonder.  He didn’t try to impose his own ideas on me.  Other than the initial construction, he allowed me to create my own place.  It gave me a position in the world that was of my own design, still within the bounds of parental control and safety but isolated enough to give me a taste of independence.

A cubby house is a base for creative play, a fortress of solitude, a refuge, a place to be in command.  It is, in my opinion, an essential part of growing up.



What if I Fail?



There’s no doubt about it, watching your child fail at something is hard.  You know they are trying really hard but they still don’t make the team or get 100% for spelling.  You watch them and your heart breaks for them.

Children even see failure in not having anyone to sit with at lunchtime or not being called on when they raise their hand in class.  That sense of “I’m not good enough” can start very early in their lives.

Henry Ford’s statement “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently” reminds us that failure provides us with the opportunity to re-evaluate and to try again with the extra ammunition of experience to support us.

I guess we have all heard “Practice makes perfect” or “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Whilst I would amend the first statement to ‘Practice makes for Improvement’, I do endorse the second.   It is through trying and failing, possibly repeatedly, until some measure of success is achieved, that our children learn about patience and perseverance, two key factors for success.

So how do we help our kids through the inevitable failures that they will face?

Talk with them about how they are feeling as a result of being unsuccessful.  Reassure them that what they are feeling is okay and help them to find acceptable ways to express those feelings.

  • Talk with them about how they are feeling as a result of being unsuccessful.  Reassure them that what they are feeling is okay and help them to find acceptable ways to express those feelings.
  • Remind them that you are proud of the effort that they have put in and the positive attitude they have shown.  Tell them that you value these two things just as much as, maybe even more than, a win.  Make sure they know you love them no matter what the outcome.
  • Keep expectations realistic….for both of you. 
  • Have a discussion on strengths – the things you notice about your child that you see as positive characteristics. Remind them that nobody is good at everything.
  • Be a positive role model.  When you experience failure of any sort. Remember that young eyes and ears are recording your reactions.  How you deal with failure is a major lesson for your children.  It is okay to tell them that you are disappointed or sad and important to show them how you go about learning from the experience.


Everyone will fail at some time in their life, but it is how each of us deals with that failure that sets us apart from our peers.  Treating failure as a learning experience may seem a difficult task, but as previously stated ‘Practice makes for Improvement’.





Great Ideas from Rachel Lynette

Here are some terrific ways for students to show what they have learned.  Thanks for the list, Rachel.   Rachel’s blog is   Go and have a look, all you teachers and home schoolers.  You will find some really interesting ideas.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

72 Creative Ways for Students to Show What They Know


As we all know, students already get plenty of tests, so why not let your students show what they learned creatively? Whether your students are reading independent books or your class has just finished a unit on space or pioneers, a culminating project can really cement that learning. Here are 72 fun and creative ways for your students to show what they know:

  1. Create a poster
  2. Make a PowerPoint Presentation
  3. Design a model
  4. Make a shoebox diorama
  5. Use a three-panal display board 
  6. Make a timeline
  7. Create a board game incorporating key elements. 
  8. Write a poem
  9. Write and perform a skit
  10. Make a TV or radio commercial
  11. Make a collage
  12. Make a mobile
  13. Create a test about the topic
  14. Make a word search
  15. Make a crossword puzzle
  16. Write a report
  17. Create a flow chart or diagram
  18. Write an interview of a relevant person
  19. Ask and and answer key questions
  20. Write journal/diary entries
  21. Write a postcard or letter exchange
  22. Create a scrapbook
  23. Create a photo album
  24. Make an instructional video
  25. Give a presentation
  26. Create an interactive notebook
  27. Create a set of task cards 
  28. Make a pamphlet or brochure
  29. Write a newspaper article
  30. Perform a puppet show
  31. Hold a debate
  32. Hold a mock court case
  33. Create an episode of a reality show
  34. Create a game show
  35. Have a panal discussion of “experts”
  36. Compose a rap or other song
  37. Use a Venn Diagram to compare two aspects of the topic
  38. Design a comic strip about the topic
  39. Create children’s story about the topic
  40. Create a map
  41. Write a fable or myth about the topic
  42. Create a help-wanted add and a letter/resume to answer it
  43. Write a text message dialogue relevant to the topic
  44. Write a series of Tweets relevant to the topic
  45. Create a Facebook wall relative to the topic
  46. Create a Pinterest board relative to the topic
  47. Start a blog
  48. Decorate a box and fill with relevant objects
  49. Create a foldable
  50. Create a flip book
  51. Create a Cootie Catcher
  52. Create a cereal based on the topic (cover a cereal box)
  53. Assemble a time capsule
  54. Create several bookmarks about different aspects of the topic
  55. Write a recipe relevant to the topic (good for showing causes of an event)
  56. Do a newscast
  57. Write an acrostic poem
  58. Create an internet scavenger hunt
  59. Write an advice column with several problems related to the topic.
  60. Create flash cards or trivia cards
  61. Create a cheer relevant to the topic
  62. Make a short documentary film
  63. Create a museum exihibet
  64. Create a Top-Ten list relevant to the topic
  65. Create a video game
  66. Make a “Choose Your Own Adventure” 
  67. Create a mini book with one fact/idea per page
  68. Create a glossary of relevant terms
  69. Make a paper chain with a different fact for each link
  70. Make a flower with a different fact for each petal
  71. Write a handbook or instruction book
  72. Create a newsletter