5 Great Reads for Teachers Setting Goals

There’s lots of information for student goal setting out there, but what if you want to set some goals as a teacher? Whether you’re beginning a new school year or just looking to turn over a new leaf and try something new in your classroom, here’s 5 great reads to help you set thoughtful, effective and productive teacher goals.

 
5 Great Reads for Teachers Setting Goals. A great collection of links for teachers beginning a new school year or a new term. Make effective goals to help your teacher growth. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Goal-Setting for Teachers - 8 Paths to Self Improvement

This comprehensive post from The Cult of Pedagogy is a great place to start if you want to set teacher goals, but you’re not quite sure what goal you want to set. Covering 8 different pathways teachers can explore, this post expands on these ideas and offers thoughtful goals - and a whole heap of resources - which you might like to explore. This would be the perfect place to start to set goals!

Setting Goals for a New Term

This is another great place to start if you’re not set on a particular teacher goal yet. This post explores some more traditional pathways in goal setting for teachers - from being more organised to improving student learning, with links for further reading.

 
5 Great Reads for Teachers Setting Goals. A great collection of links for teachers beginning a new school year or a new term. Make effective goals to help your teacher growth. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Setting Goals for Going Back to School

This post takes you through the WHOLE process of setting teacher goals - from visioning what you want to happen to creating a plan to achieve the goal. It’s a really comprehensive post, filled with really detailed and usable information. Sit down with some paper and pens to go through this one in-depth!

Back to School: Back to Learning

This article takes a set of steps for guiding student learning and explores how teachers can use these steps to guide their own learning and goal setting. I really like the way these steps make a circle, reminding us that setting goals is a part of life-long learning, something which we can follow through again and again.

School Leaders: Setting Realistic Goals with Your Teachers

This article is aimed at school leaders, but I think it’s a worthwhile read for all educators. I particularly like the idea of asking the right questions - to make sure we’re making goals which are truly effective. There’s a lot of other good information about intention and mindfulness when we’re goal setting, as well as looking beyond SMART goals. I’d recommend reading through this one a few times - then forwarding it to your own school leaders!

How do you set goals as a teacher? Leave a comment below!

 
 

Exploring Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom

Books which tell us the story from the perspective of one of the main characters can often have unreliable narrators - narrators you can’t quite trust 100%. These unreliable narrators can be fascinating to explore in the classroom - allowing us to take a closer look at the intentions of the author and what kind of person these characters are.

 
Exploring Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom. A quick look at first person narratives with unreliable narrators and how we can explore them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Unaware Narrator

Jamal in Boy Overboard (by Morris Gleitzman) is sure that he and his sister have arrived at a soccer match. Only to discover that he is terribly wrong.

Jamal is a character who often only has part of the story. He is forced to fill in the gaps with the knowledge he does have, but many times his conclusions aren’t right and he has to reassess and draw new conclusions. As readers there are times when we are aware that he doesn’t have it quite right (or we soon find out that is the case) and we have to assess whether we will believe his next conclusion, or treat it with a level of scepticism.

Morris Gleitzman writes a LOT of characters like this. Which makes sense because childhood often feels like this - like you have some of the puzzle pieces, but someone’s hidden the picture which helps you put them together.

Another great example of a character like this is Mothball the Wombat from Jackie French and Bruce Whatley’s Diary of a Wombat story. In this case, the illustrations soon let us know that the scratching post is a ladder and the furry enemy is really a doormat, so we find ourselves carrying two narratives through the story - the narrative in Mothball’s head and the narrative we can tell from the illustrations.

Exploring Unaware Narrators in the Classroom

These can be great fun to explore in the classroom because our own knowledge, experiences and schema may be able to help us fill in the gaps. Comparing what our narrators think is happening and what is really happening allows us to understand where our characters come from - whether they’re boys or wombats.

It also allows us to explore the intentions of the author. An author study on Morris Gleitzman books would be particularly interesting, looking at what information he gives his narrators before the events of the book, what conclusions they draw from that information when they’re in unfamiliar circumstances and what they learn going forward.

When we explore a character like Mothball, we can also look at the choices the author has made - the wombat understands certain terms like sleep, scratch and - of course - carrots, but hasn’t come up across concepts like garden beds, door mats or washing lines. Why has the author made those choices for our wombat narrator? How would the story be different if there were different choices?

The Deliberately Unreliable Narrator

Erica Yurken is the best thing since sliced bread. Or at least she is in her own mind. And in the stories she tells others.

Robin Klein’s classic novel Hating Alison Ashley is told from the perspective of Erica Yurken who constantly creates stories about herself and others to amuse herself, get herself out of trouble or to impress other people - including Alison Ashley.

If we just listened to Erica, we would probably be inclined to hate Alison Ashley ourselves. But there are things which make us question Erica’s trustworthiness - times when she gets caught out in her stories, times when she contradicts herself and times when we glimpse her through the eyes of other characters. The author knows that Erica is not reliable and wants the reader to know this too.

We find another unreliable narrator in the Do Not Open This Book series from Andy Lee. Our narrator desperately wants us to stop turning the pages (because dreadful things happen to him when we do), so he’ll try anything to stop us - even turning the book around so we’ll turn the pages from back to front. The illustrations, eventual confessions and meta-knowledge of how books work allows us to know that our narrator is not the most trustworthy of characters - even if he’s only being unreliable to save his own skin.

A. Wolf is also just trying to save his skin in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. He’s found himself in jail and he wants us to know that it’s not his fault at all - it’s all because he needed to borrow some sugar.

In this case, it’s our own background knowledge - our understanding of fairy tales - which makes us question his honesty. After all - we’ve never heard this story before. But we keep reading to see how he’s going to justify his terrible crimes.

 
 

Exploring Deliberately Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom

The biggest questions we can ask in our classrooms when it comes to deliberately unreliable narrators is why do they behave like this? Why are they trying to mislead us - the readers - and what will they get if they manage this?

We can also challenge students to write first person narration like this. To consider what motivates a character and then have them tell a story where they work to convince the reader of something which may not be quite true. This works particularly well when students begin with well known stories like fairy tales and myths and try to tell the story from the perspective of the ‘bad guy’.

What unreliable narrators have you come across in your reading? Have you used a book with an unreliable narrator in your classroom? Leave a comment below.

 
 

5 Great Posts for Teachers Writing Report Cards

Are you deep in the world of report card writing? Are you procrastinating? Or are you simply unsure where to start? Here’s some great blog posts from other teacher bloggers to help you on your way.

 
5 Great Posts for Teachers Writing Report Cards. Check out these thoughtful and comprehensive posts to help you during report card writing season. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Bring a Successful Mindset to Report Card Writing

12 Top Tips for Report Writing Success

I adore this comprehensive blog post from Rainbow Sky Creations. It’s filled with thoughtful ideas, covering all aspects of report card writing from compiling data to the language you can use through to treating yourself at the end. There’s also some great mindset advice as you take on what can be the most stressful task of the year.

2. Keep Distractions Away

Teacher Tips for Writing Report Cards

This post talks about how to prepare for a report card writing session, minimising distractions from the environment around you and removing reasons to get up and move away from your desk. I particularly like the tip of using the support of your colleagues to assist you in report card writing.

3. How to Construct Thoughtful Report Card Comments

Practical Tips for Writing Report Card Comments

This is another thoughtful and comprehensive blog post, this time stepping through the process of writing valuable report card comments. It starts well before report card time, with the advice to use observations and notes from throughout the semester or year to guide report writing. I also love the advice to approach with compassion - a mindset which will make reports more valuable for all involved.

 
5 Great Posts for Teachers Writing Report Cards. Check out these thoughtful and comprehensive posts to help you during report card writing season. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. Rephrasing for Difficult Report Card Comments

4 Ways to Write a Good Report on that Difficult Student

This is a brilliant blog post for the report comments which just stump you. What I like best about this post is that it doesn’t just give you vague ideas, it gives you great sentence stumps and phrasing options which you can easily use in your reports. A great way to keep a positive spin in your reports

5. Have a Bit of Fun with It

How to Write Report Cards

A humorous look at the report card writing process. Complete with the very important steps of ‘procrastinate more’ and ‘panic’. I’m sure some teachers get through report card writing without hitting any of these steps, but for those of us who sometimes feel completely unstuck in report card time, this is a welcome laugh.

What are your must-dos for report card time? Leave a comment below!

Introducing Hating Alison Ashley

Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein has been a staple of Australian classrooms for decades now - and for good reason! This classic Australian novel still holds its own against more modern novels and is the perfect book to engage your upper primary readers.

 
Introducing Hating Alison Ashley. A look at Hating Alison Ashley, the classic Australian middle grades novel by Robin Klein - and why it's perfect for upper primary classrooms. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Hating Alison Ashley is the story of Erica Yurken - a Year 6 student with big dreams and bigger stories who finds her world turned upside down when the seemingly perfect Alison Ashley arrives at her disadvantaged school. As the story progresses, and Erica gets more frustrated with Alison taking on her position of ‘best student’ we see that Alison’s life might not be as perfect as it seems - and Erica might have a real direction to take her big imagination.

Why should you teach Hating Alison Ashley in your classroom?

1. It’s still really relevant!

There’s an occasional reference which seems a bit out of place in Hating Alison Ashley, but it’s still tackling themes and ideas which feel relevant to students today - our position in our class or school, friendships or lack of them, embarrassing families, dealing with teachers and of course - school camp.

Hating Alison Ashley gives students a launching point to discuss some of these ideas and what they would do if they were in the positions that Erica and Alison find themselves in throughout the story.

2. Erica Yurken

Erica knows she is smart. She knows she is the best thing her school has ever known. But maybe, just maybe, is there a possibility she isn’t quite as smart as she thinks she is?

Erica is a brutally real character. She’s funny and smart, but also super frustrating at times. She narrates the story, so we see it from her point of view, but sometimes she gives us just enough information to wonder what the story would be like if someone else was telling it.

Erica in the book also makes me wonder what she would be like as a teenager or an adult. She’s an incredibly memorable character, and it’s definitely worth the time exploring her closer.

 
 

3. The other real characters

Hating Alison Ashley is filled with characters who feel real - from Alison Ashley who looks perfect but has a less than perfect family life to Barry Hollis who does all sorts of terrible things - but seems to be looking for read friendships as much as Erica is. Erica’s family includes her super embarrassing younger sister and strangely absent-but-there older brother who live in dream worlds as much as Erica does as well as Valjoy, who is just the right amount of terrifying. The teachers are also a delight to read - feeling incredibly real as they take on super challenging tasks each day. Then there’s Lennie - Erica’s mother’s boyfriend - who comes in to save the day at just the right time.

These characters elevate the story, allowing students more areas to explore and discuss. Is Erica fair to Lennie? Is Barry Hollis really misguided? What skills do you need to be a teacher at Erica’s school?

4. The novel is really accessible - but has room for deeper exploration

Hating Alison Ashley isn’t a particularly long novel. It would be possible to read the book fairly quickly, either with students reading alone or a mixture of along reading, teacher reading and guided reading. It’s set in a fairly familiar setting - an Australian school in an Australian suburb - so students already have some background knowledge as they step into the world. The writing is good - but it isn’t overwhelmingly complex. It’s easily a novel every student can engage in reading.

But the themes allow for a wide range of explorations for more advanced readers. Unravelling Erica as a character can be an in-depth task on its own! Students can also compare characters, look at the choices made throughout the book by the characters and the author, look at how Erica relates to the people around her and engage in creative tasks around the book.

Have you read Hating Alison Ashley with a class - or as a student? Share your experiences in the comments!

 
 

Exploring The Girl With a Mind For Math in the Classroom

The Girl With a Mind for Math is a beautiful book from the creative team of Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley. Telling the story of Raye Montague who pioneered new ways of designing ships in the US Navy, this is a must have book for the classroom - and one which can be used in a number of different lessons.

 
Exploring The Girl With a Mind for Math in the Classroom. Explore this picture book memoir of the amazing Raye Montague by author Julia Finley Mosca and illustrator Daniel Rieley. This blog post explores why it's great for the classroom and a range of teaching ideas as well as a free resource. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

This is the third book from Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley (and the team at The Innovation Press) focusing on the life and achievements of great scientists. The Girl With a Mind for Math introduces us to Raye Montague who was just a young girl when her grandfather took her to visit a submarine, inspiring her to one day design ships just like it. However, Raye was born into the segregated south of the USA, and as a black girl she would have to fight to get the education she wanted to get. Her persistence and hard work and the support of her family over a number of years helped her finally achieve her goal and allowed her to bring new design ideas into the US Navy.

Why is this book important?

Told in relatively simple rhyme, A Girl With a Mind for Math allows readers an accessible insight into the world of a remarkable mathematician. With the extensive additional material at the end of the book, adults reading with children can help them gain an even deeper understanding of Raye Montague and the importance of her work, as well as the systemic barriers she faced as she worked to achieve her dream.

Picture book memoirs and biographies can be used across a wide range of grades. Young students can bring illustrations and words together to discover new worlds, while older readers can experience the story and gain background knowledge to support further research without having to wade through material often designed for adult readers.

This is also a story we should all know, but may not. Raye Montague was named a ‘hidden figure’ of the US Navy; someone whose contributions may have been overlooked or not remembered or celebrated as much as they should have been. Her achievements would be extraordinary for anyone - to design a ship by computer in less than 19 hours even though she had been given a month to work on it - but they are especially noteworthy as you learn the story of what she had to do to learn the skills she needed to achieve this feat.

 
 

Ways to Use The Girl With a Mind for Math in the Classroom

The Girl With a Mind for Math is a great book to share with your students or to add to your classroom library. But you can also use it for a range of teaching moments.

Explore machines used by the military

Often times when we think about the military, we think about those who fight in the armed forces. But it’s worth taking a little time to look at what happens behind the scenes and the machines which are used to assist the military. Some of these machines have become famous in history (like the aircraft of World War 2) and it can be interesting to look at how these were designed, how they worked and how they changed the way battles were fought or life was made safer for armed forces.

The Girl With a Mind For Math is just a little insight to that behind the scenes work - there are many scientists, mathematicians and engineers who have worked for the military to create machines!

Uncover other under recognised people of STEM

Students can go for their own search for STEM people in history who should be well known but aren’t. They might like to use their research to write memoirs or create museum displays or can even create a website or podcast series to share their discoveries with others. It can be a great way to explore research skills as well.

Explore some of the themes of the book

There are so many themes to explore in The Girl With a Mind for Math. Students can look at some of Raye Montague’s defining characteristics such as persistence and hard work, compare these with other examples from other people or reflect on how they can use these skills in their own lives.

Older students might like to explore discrimination and how it can impact the lives of people historically and today. The book gives several examples of discrimination faced by Raye Montague; students can also examine other notable people and the challenges they faced due to discrimination.

Download a Freebie for The Girl With a Mind for Math

Want a free resource to go with The Girl With a Mind for Math? Galarious Goods was thrilled to create an Interactive Timeline, along with additional questions for teachers to use, for students to set out notable moments in Raye Montague’s life. This is a great way to get an overall understanding of the book, and a good starting place for a more in-depth exploration.

You can see how the resource goes together in this video!

 
 


Have you read The Girl With a Mind for Math? Have you used it in your classroom?

 
 

Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and Resources to Help You

With all the noise around politicians, elections, campaigns and promises, it can be tempting to tune it all out. However, in the classroom it is our job to teach about elections to ensure we have informed voters in the future.

 
Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and a Wide Range of Resources to Help You. This Blog post looks at why to teach Australian elections and offers a range of blog posts, websites and resources you can use to teach them effectively. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Voting is Part of the Curriculum

The Civics and Citizenship strand of HASS in the Australian Curriculum includes a number of outcomes connected to elections and voting. From learning about the role of voting in a democracy to learning how voting works in Australia, students are expected to gain a wide understanding of voting and elections through their lessons in the classroom.

It Helps to Prepare Informed Citizens

Australia has compulsory voting which means most of your students will be required to vote one day. As well as understanding the way campaigning works and the responsibilities of voters and elected officials, students need to understand the mechanics of how voting works and how votes are counted. The more informed students are about voting, the more likely they are to be informed voters as adults.

 
Why We Need to Teach Australian Elections - and a Wide Range of Resources to Help You. This Blog post looks at why to teach Australian elections and offers a range of blog posts, websites and resources you can use to teach them effectively. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Blog Posts, Websites and Resources to Help You Teach Elections

Blog Posts

Elections in the Classroom - 7 Tips for Real Learning with Minimum Controversy
Teachers should always take care to teach government and elections without bias, but this is particularly important around election time - the last thing you want is to appear on the front page of a newspaper because a student or parent took objection to your views. This blog post offers a range of ways you can teach elections in an interesting and factual manner without inviting controversy

7 Things You May Not Know About Government in Australia
This post is a collection of facts about government in Australia and is a great starting point for students exploring Australian government and Australian elections.

Australian Election Myths (And Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding of Elections)
Unfortunately there is a growing collection of myths about voting in Australia - it’s so bad that the Australian Electoral Commission is having to run advertising to warn people about misinformation. This post explores a number of commonly held myths and provides teaching ideas and further links for teachers and students to explore.

Why We Should Explore Compulsory Voting in Our Classrooms
Many people know that we have compulsory voting in Australia, but do they know about the history of compulsory voting and the senator who introduced it? This post contains some of that history as well as other teaching ideas to explore in the classroom. This is perfect for students exploring the features of Australian democracy.

What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them?
When we look at election campaigns, we are usually dealing with political parties. This post offers information about political parties and how you can teach more about them in the classroom.

What are Election Policies? (And how can we teach students about them?)
As well as political parties, many students will come across election policies and campaign promises from candidates. This blog post takes a closer look at policies and how we can better understand them.

Websites

Resources

The Elections in Australia resources are the most comprehensive look at Australian elections. These resources include a mini unit which looks at different elements of voting and elections in Australia, posters, word wall cards and research tasks.

You can also use the Run Your Own Preferential Election resources to get a better understanding of preferential voting in Australia and how preferential votes are counted. Word Wall cards are also available for this topic.

There is a duo of resources for Year 6 students looking at the responsibilities of voters and the responsibilities of elected representatives. This is an excellent way to look at what is expected of voters and the people we elect to lead us.

Australian Electoral Process and Running an Australian Election takes Year 5 students through the elements of Australian elections including secret ballot and compulsory voting.

If I Was Prime Minister is a fabulous book by Beck and Robin Feiner. There are two available book studies for this book: one for Year 2, 3 and 4 students and another for Year 5 and 6 students.

Finally, students can explore their own feelings about compulsory voting with a persuasive writing task asking students to take a position for or against it.

What are Election Policies? (And how can we teach students about them?)

In the first part of this blog post, I explored what political parties are, why they are important and how we can explore the differences between different parties and their values.

In this post I’m going to take a closer look at election policies - or what different political parties are promising - as well as some ideas for exploring election policies in the classroom.

 
What are election policies? (and how can we teach students about them?) A government and civics themed blog post exploring election policies, how they're made and how we can read them. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

What are Party Policies?

Every political party creates a set of policies - goals for different areas of government which are shaped by the values of the party. These policies might be very general - we are aiming to promote penguins - or very specific - we are aiming to use government money to build statues of penguins around Australia.The parties who have a better chance of winning seats in an election are more likely to have specific policies - because the voters will expect them to turn the policies into laws if they win the election.

During an election campaign, political parties may release, discuss and promote these policies. They might talk about how these policies are different from the other parties, talk about how they are going to pay for these policies or talk about how these policies will create a better country or state.

The party policies combine to make the party platform - the goals the political party will aim to achieve if they win government.

Lesson idea: Students can brainstorm some general policies for their school and then see if they can make them more specific. So ‘air-conditioning the classrooms’ may become ‘work with the P and C to come up with fundraising ideas so we can air-condition at least three of the classrooms next year’. Students can then discuss whether general or specific policies are more helpful for voters.

How are Party Policies Made?

There are a number of ways policies are made. Sometimes party leaders might make up policies as they go. More commonly, though, policies involve political parties identifying issues which people care about or problems which need to be solved, then working through a process to develop a policy which would solve the problem or address the issue.

The process often asks political parties to think about any potential issues which would come up if the policy was turned into laws. For example, a policy to promote penguins might sound great in theory, but additional tourists travelling to visit penguins might put penguin habitats in danger and it would definitely mean more traffic on the roads. Political parties have to work through all these potential problems in their policies to create the best policy possible.

Lesson idea: Provide students with a list of possible school policies and ask them to consider the implications of these policies. They might like to create PMI charts or other ways of exploring the policies.

 
What are election policies? (and how can we teach students about them?) A government and civics themed blog post exploring election policies, how they're made and how we can read them. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

How Can Regular Citizens Understand Election Policies?

This is possibly the hardest part! Political parties often release a lot of policies before elections. They want to use these to convince voters to vote for them. So many times they are written in a way which is very persuasive and this can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Some political parties might use their policies to be negative about other parties. Other political parties might use their policies to show that they are very serious - which means they include so much detail it can be hard to understand what the policies are. And some policies are just down-right confusing if you don’t understand complex tax systems!

There are a few ways we can get through to the nitty-gritty of policies though:

1. Try to rewrite them in your own words.

Your own words will include less of the persuasive language used before elections. By writing out some of the policies from different parties in your own words you can get a better idea of what those policies are and how they compare with other policies.

Students can easily explore this in the classroom. By rewriting the policies and removing persuasive language, they can explore how persuasive language is used in election campaigns. They can use this knowledge to create their own persuasive statements.

2. Compare policies with the values of the political party

The political party will have a set of values which they follow. Usually policies are created in alignment with the values of the political party. If they don’t seem to align, it’s worth exploring why that is the case. It’s possible that the policy is more complex than it first seems!

Students can work on these comparisons in groups. They can also try to match policies to different political parties, or create their own political parties with different values and decide what kind of policies would suit each set of values.

3. Compare policies with speeches

It’s always good to explore primary source material. In many cases politicians give speeches which look at what they believe and why they believe it’s important. They might also give speeches which give more information about different policies - these are a good way to take a closer look at policies and how they align with what the politicians are saying.

Then how do I work out who has the BEST policies?

Honestly, that really depends on what you think is most important. The best way is to spend a little time reflecting on what is most important to you - jobs, education, penguins?

When you have determined what is most important to you, you should look for whichever political party has policies which best match with what you believe. It’s unlikely that you’ll get an exact match, so you might need to determine which is the closest on the most important and be more flexible with less important beliefs.

Lesson Idea - Students can be provided with different aspects of school life and school decision making (like types of lessons taught, school events, uniform decisions, food in the tuckshop) and determine which one is most important to them. Students can use this information to write the kind of policies they’d like to see at school.

Read Part One of this post - exploring political parties - here

What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them?

A few weeks ago when I crowdsourced some election myths for this post, I was asked an interesting question by a Year 5 student: How do you know the difference between different political parties and what they are promising?

It turned out to be such a good question that I’m going to devote two blog posts to it! Today, I’ll be exploring political parties themselves.

 
What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them? A look at political parties in Australia and how we can create effective lessons to teach this sometimes complex topic. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

What are political parties?

Political parties are groups of people who believe in a set of values and ideals. They group together with the aim of winning elected positions at federal, state or local elections.

Members of political parties help to shape policies, vote to choose candidates for elections, help campaign for their political party and celebrate (or commiserate) after elections. Many Australians don’t belong to political parties, but might generally support one or another of them.

While the people in political parties share similar values, they don’t all agree all of the time. Party members, including MPs and Senators, might have strong disagreements about different party policies or ideas. However, these disagreements are usually worked out in party meetings and often aren’t argued in public. Australian political parties are known for having this ‘tight discipline’ which means that MPs and Senators from a certain party usually vote for that party in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Sometimes political parties with some similar values work together in a Coalition. Meanwhile, MPs or Senators who don’t belong to a political party are called independents.

Lesson idea: Students can develop their own political party. They should think about what kind of values are important to them, then create an advertisement convincing people to join their party.

Why are political parties important?

Political parties are important because they help groups of people work together to get people elected and to create laws and policy which promote their values. But there are other reasons why political parties are important.

In Australian federal politics, the political party (or coalition) which has the most elected MPs becomes the Government. This means they can choose ministers, develop policies, implement laws and run government departments. They also choose the Prime Minister.

Because the political party chooses the Prime Minister (and not the people of Australia), the ruling political party can change the Prime Minister anytime they want to (as we have seen a lot in recent years). This means any elected member of the ruling political party might become Prime Minister . . . This might be another reason for voters to choose a particular political party.

Lesson idea: Students explore how Prime Ministers are chosen - and discuss what qualities a good Prime Minister should have. Students can turn this discussion into a ‘job application’ to find an excellent Prime Minister.

 
What are Political Parties, Why Do They Matter and How Can We Teach Them? A look at political parties in Australia and how we can create effective lessons to teach this sometimes complex topic. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

A Quick History of Australia’s Political Parties

In the early 1900s, Australia had three main political parties. The Protectionist Party wanted tariffs and taxes on imports into Australia to protect Australian products and jobs. The Free Trade Party wanted to get rid of taxes and tariffs to allow everyone to share in the wealth of the country. And the Australian Labor Party represented workers groups (or unions) to make sure that workers had fair pay and safe working conditions.

Over time, many political parties have come and gone in Australia. Some of them held positions of power in the Australian parliament, while others may have had a few elected members (or none) before dissolving. The Australian Labor Party is the only surviving party from the original big three.

Lesson idea: Students explore which Prime Ministers represented which party in the early 1900s. They can look a little closer at what policies they promoted and what kinds of laws were put in place.

Today’s Political Parties

Today there are still three main political parties who form government - but they’re a little different from the 1900s.

The Australian Labor Party still aims to represent workers and unions. They also describe themselves as a social-democratic party, which means they think the government should step in to promote social justice through social or economic means.

The Nationals Party is the second oldest party in Australia, founded in 1920. It aims to represent farmers, as well as people who live outside the big cities in Australia. The Nationals often work to make sure that people outside the cities have the same access to services as the people in the cities. They work in a coalition with the Liberal Party of Australia and share some - though not all - of the same values.

The Liberal Party of Australia was formed in 1944 after a meeting of organisations which opposed the Australian Labor Party. Their goal was to form a party based on individual freedom and personal choice. As part of this, they supported (and continue to support) free business - believing that business is the best way to create national and individual growth and wealth. They work in coalition with the National Party.

There are also a number of minor parties (or smaller parties) in Australia. At the moment, the biggest of those is the Australian Greens, a party which grew out of the environmental movement, but now works to develop policies around the environment and integrity, fairness and decency.

There are a number of other smaller parties who run in elections and have one or two elected members. These often change as their popularity grows or falls.

You can get a better understanding of different parties by exploring their values - what ideas they think are most important.

Lesson: Students can create a diagram showing the different political parties in Australia. They might like to research to discover what the core values of the parties are and if they’ve changed since the parties were first formed. Students can use these diagrams to highlight the differences between different parties.

In part 2, I’m going to take a little look at what political policies are, how to examine them, and how to tell the difference between them. Click here to read more now.

Want to read more? Try . . .

5 Things You Need to Teach Year 4 Civics and Citizenship

The Year 4 Australian Civics and Citizenship curriculum introduces students to some really important concepts - helping them understand the influence of government, laws and the communities they belong to on their everyday life. But what do teachers need to know to make these lessons more effective?

 
5 Things You Need to Teach Year Four Australian Civics and Citizenship. An overview of the Australian Civics and Citizenship HASS outcomes with teaching ideas for busy teachers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. What is Government?

Year 4 students are asked to explore local government and the services of local government. But before students can effectively tackle this subject, they should have some understanding of what government is.

This may seem like a fairly simple concept, but like many simple concepts it can be hard to define clearly for our students.

You may like to start by gauging student understanding. Ask students to write or draw what they think government is or to engage in a think-pair-share while defining government. Students can work collaboratively to create a collage showing what government is or can interview each other about what they think government involves.

Students may also like to add to their understanding of government as they spend more time learning about local government.

2. What does your Local Government Involve?

The local government outcome is a great way for students to take an introductory look at elections and at how government plays a role in everyday life. But there’s a number of things which you can do to make this more successful.

It’s possible that you live in a different local council area to your students or that your students live across two different council areas. This means you may need to do a little research on a different council area and some of the services which the local council offers.

It’s worthwhile getting in contact with your local council as you are planning your lessons. They might have educational materials which you can use in your classroom or they might be able to suggest excursion opportunities or aspects of the council which you may not have thought of. You might also be able to get a guest speaker from the local council - many local councillors engage in school visits and might be happy to speak with your students about the services offered by local government.

Another area of your local government to explore is the local libraries. You may be able to take students there as an excursion, and librarians are often available to show students the many services available through the libraries and through library websites - all services offered by local governments. (They might even have teaching materials available!)

 
5 Things You Need to Teach Year Four Australian Civics and Citizenship. An overview of the Australian Civics and Citizenship HASS outcomes with teaching ideas for busy teachers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

3. The Difference Between Rules and Laws

Another Year 4 Australian Civics and Citizenship outcome asks students to explore the place of laws in their life and how laws differ from rules.

As you approach these lessons, you might like to collect examples of rules which students might encounter. From school rules, to classroom rules, to household rules to shopping centre or play centre rules - although students see these daily, they may not have really examined them.

As they examine them, they can start to understand how rules differ from laws. The difference between rules and laws is another concept which can be simple, but can be complicated. It’s worthwhile spending a little time to write down your ideas on the concept to get them firmly worked out as you plan lessons and learning experiences for your students.

Students can also build a ‘growing’ definition of rules and laws - adding to or refining their understanding as they work through lessons on the topic.

4. Identity - and how it is shaped by different things

The Civics and Citizenship curriculum asks students to explore how their identity is shaped by the groups they are part of. This is a rather complex topic - what is meant by groups? What is meant by identity?

One way you can prepare to teach this topic is to take a moment to reflect on your own identity and how that has been shaped by groups. Some of the groups you belong to may not have much of an influence on your identity - my family background is Scottish, but other than an interest in visiting Scotland one day, it doesn’t have a massive influence on my day to day life. Other groups you belong to might make a daily impact on your life - my immediate family group prioritises dinner time, so we cook dinner and eat together almost every night - this is a group which has a big impact on what I do every day.

Reflecting on your own identity can help you plan a way for your students to explore the groups they belong to and how those shape their own identities. Students may be surprised to discover how many groups they belong to - from groups connected with their heritage, groups connected to their religion, groups connected to their family, friendship groups, school groups and activity groups. You can also explore other groups in your community - especially cultural, religious and activity groups.

5. Symbols and Traditions

As well as exploring groups in the community, Year 4 students are asked to reflect on the symbols and traditions of these groups. This might include ceremonies, activities, anthems, poems, school songs, colours or logos.

You might like to spend some time collecting examples of symbols and traditions before students start exploring these topics. This might include the logos, colours and uniforms of local sports teams; uniforms, mottos and school songs from local schools; traditions of local religious denominations or traditions of military or returned service people groups.

You can present these symbols and traditions to your students, asking them to reflect on why they might be important, why they may have developed, what they say about the groups and how they influence identity.

Looking for comprehensive Year 4 Civics and Citizenship resources? Explore the Year 4 Civics and Citizenship Complete Bundle and the Mini Units, Assessment Tasks and Word Wall and Poster resources which make up the Bundle.

Australian Election Myths (And Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding of Elections)

As elections approach in Australia, people begin to talk about voting. And while this talk is sometimes about policies and personalities (and sometimes about democracy sausages), sometimes misinformation creeps into the conversation.

How does this impact us as teachers? Well, teaching civics is part of the Australian curriculum. And teachers are in a unique position to arm their students with accurate information - the kind of information which will make our students more informed when the time comes for them to vote - and less likely to fall for misinformation when it comes up.

 
Australian Election Myths and Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding. Mythbusting misconceptions about Australian elections and voting in Australia and teaching ideas to help students be better informed. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Myth: A blank vote is a vote for the government
Reality:
A blank vote is regarded as an informal vote and counts for no candidate

Myth: If you don’t like anyone, you can cross them all out and write that you don’t want them. A new election will be held if a majority of people vote like this
Reality:
Crossing out candidates and writing on the paper will make the vote informal and it will count for no candidate . . . but it also won’t trigger a new election.

The myths which lead people to informal voting are probably the most dangerous (and the most likely to be promoted by groups looking to interfere with elections in Australia). An informal vote happens when a ballot paper is not filled in correctly. This might mean that the voter has ticked or crossed instead of numbering, written their name on the ballot, not filled in the ballot at all or hasn’t completed the vote under the requirements of the election.

In the 2016 Federal Election, about 5% of House of Representative votes were informal, with about 1.25% of voters leaving them blank, 1.25% of voters numbering incorrectly and about 1% writing slogans or protests on the ballots. While these votes do not count for any candidate (and do not trigger a new election), these votes are totally legal. Compulsory voting requires voters to have their names checked off and to put their ballot paper in the box - but secret ballot means there are no ways to check - and no punishment - if the voter deliberately submits an informal vote.

So why should we correct this myth? People trying to make a protest vote might not understand that preferential voting is designed so the majority of voters get the candidate they dislike the least. By voting correctly, you have a much better chance of getting the candidate you dislike least. It’s a protest against the ones you dislike the most!

Teaching about informal votes: Informal voting is more likely to happen if there are a lot of candidates running. You can work with your students to discuss why this might be the case - and to create a campaign of strategies to help people vote correctly when there are a lot of candidates. Students can create posters or leaflets with their strategies.

Myth: A donkey vote doesn’t count as a vote
Reality: A donkey vote is a perfectly valid way to vote - and why candidates want their name on the top of the ballot paper!

A donkey vote happens when someone votes ‘down the ballot’ without thinking about it - they number the first box ‘1’, the second box ‘2’ and so on. Because every box is numbered it counts as a valid vote. The first candidate on the paper gets the first preference, the second candidate the second preference (if required) and so on.

People might donkey vote if they don’t care who wins, if they don’t understand how the voting system works or if they’re lodging a protest vote. However, a voter might look like a donkey voter - but honestly be voting the way they want to vote! (Especially when there’s only a couple of candidates)

The electoral commissions in Australia work really, really hard to put the candidates names randomly on the papers. There is a double blind draw (they draw once to decide the order the draw will go in and then draw again to work out where the candidates go on the paper). The person drawing the ballot is - indeed - blindfolded (leading to some interesting and not terribly flattering photos of ballot draws!)

Teaching about donkey votes: Investigate the ballot draw system with your students - you might even be able to find video of a draw online. Ask students to create diagrams to explain the system. Or ask them to create their own better system of creating a ballot draw. Students can also explore why we don’t use other systems for the ballot like alphabetically or in the order candidates are registered.

 
Australian Election Myths and Teaching Ideas for a Better Understanding. Mythbusting misconceptions about Australian elections and voting in Australia and teaching ideas to help students be better informed. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Myth: How to Vote Cards must be followed
Reality: How to Vote Cards are just guides

Myth: Preferences aren’t Important
Reality: Preferences can matter a lot

Whenever an election approaches, there’s a lot of discussion about How to Vote Cards. These are the cards which volunteers hand out as you walk into the voting booth. Candidates create them to try to convince people to vote for them - then for the people they like the most (or dislike the least).

But, even if you like a particular party or candidate, you can definitely preference your vote (vote 2, 3, 4 etc) any way you like. The how-to-vote cards are just guides. The surprising thing is that a lot of voters have no idea how they will vote until they turn up - so those cards can be influential!

Preferences are important though. Preferential voting can be difficult to understand - and it’s a whole blog post of its own! - but preferences can change the results of elections. It’s a system which allows the majority of voters to elect the people they dislike the least. It’s a little strange, but the preferences allow us to have a greater say about who represents us and which party is - or isn’t - in charge.

Teaching preferential voting in the classroom - You can find a resource with a closer look at preferential voting at the Galarious Goods store and the Australian Electoral Commission also have a video about preferential voting. Students can create diagrams or their own videos which explain preferential voting.

Myth: It’s not worth voting in my seat, the same person always wins
Reality: While some seats are ‘safe seats’ there are still benefits to voting.

It can be a real pain to get all excited to vote, only to see the same person - who you don’t like - get elected each time. It’s enough to make you wonder why you bother to vote when you live in a ‘safe’ seat.

A ‘safe’ seat is a seat which is likely to be won by the current candidate (or the same political party). However, there are examples of safe seats going to other candidates. Sometimes this might be because local people are tired of being a ‘safe’ seat and seek their own candidate (like in Indi in 2013); and sometimes a change in boundaries and population, as well as political changes can be enough to change the seat (like when the Prime Minister, John Howard, lost his own seat in 2007). When this happens, the votes are usually pretty close, so it’s definitely worth voting.

Voting also influences political funding. When a candidate gets more than a certain percentage of first preference votes, they are eligible for election funding. This can be especially helpful to smaller parties.

In almost all state and federal elections (Queensland is an exception), you’re voting for an upper house as well as a local representative. These votes are often closer, and a small number of votes can make a real difference, so these votes can help make changes, even when you’re in a safe seat.

Voting is also one of the responsibilities of being an Australian citizen. It’s a chance to become better informed, to have a say . . . and to get yourself a democracy sausage or two.

Teaching about voting in the classroom: Explore the campaign in Indi for independent representatives. It’s a fascinating story about voters having a say. You can also explore more about the responsibilities of voters with this resource from Galarious Goods.

Have you heard any myths about voting in Australia? Make sure you leave them in the comments below.

Find more information about voting at the Australian Electoral Commission website

A huge thanks to Mel, Heidi, Skyler and Kate for their help in uncovering election myths!