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.

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!

Using Primary Sources in the Classroom when Exploring Anzac Day

As we explore Anzac Day in the classroom each year, we might seek new ways of presenting familiar events and stories. One way to take a closer look at the history of Anzac Day is through presenting and exploring primary sources. But where can we find primary sources around Anzac Day and how can we use them in the classroom.

 
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day. A look at what primary sources are, where to find Anzac Day primary sources and exploring 3 particular primary sources. A Galarious Good blog post
 

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are documents, images or artefacts from the time period in question. They provide ‘on the spot’ information about the events and the people involved.

Primary sources can include photos, diary entries, newspaper reports, physical objects, government documents, advertising and interviews.

Where to find primary sources for Anzac Day

When exploring Anzac Day, most attention turns to World War One, particularly the events at Gallipoli. However, students can also explore the Second World War and other military involvements, including in Korea, Vietnam and modern peacekeeping and conflicts.

One of the easiest ways to access primary materials - especially news reports and photographs - is online. Many state libraries and museums have online collections, as well as organisations like the Australian Army. These documents can be displayed with projectors, used on tablets (especially the PDF booklets) or printed out for students to explore.

As well as the big museums in Australia, smaller local museums and historical societies may have primary sources for exploration. These collections might not be as big as the larger institutions, but might have connections with the local area of your students.

Libraries are other good sources of local history material. They may have photographs, newspaper articles or documents to explore, but may also have books which have collected photographs or documents together.

Finally, it’s worth seeing if the families of your students have any primary source material they can bring in to explore. Families may hold onto medals or photos of family members, or have letters or postcards or other primary source material like service records which they have collected over the years.

 
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day. A look at what primary sources are, where to find Anzac Day primary sources and exploring 3 particular primary sources. A Galarious Good blog post
 

How to Use Primary Sources - Three Examples

Below I’ve chosen three World War One primary sources to take a closer look at, including some discussion and response ideas. These sources are all available online as of March 2019.

Recruiting Posters

You can find these resources at the Australian Army website

This collection of 10 recruiting posters gives students an insight into how the government and the army went about recruiting men to volunteer for World War One. The tone of the posters ranges from ‘come along and help out some friends’ to ‘you are pretty horrible if you don’t come and fight’, as well as asking young men to be proud of being Australian and of being part of the British Empire.

Students can explore the different images and words used on the posters and consider why those images and words might have been chosen. They can also explore what the reactions might have been to these posters. Students can also compare these posters to more recent armed forces recruiting posters - what’s the same between now and then? What’s different?

Students might like to use these posters to formulate questions about the war. Why did most of them say ‘God Save the King’? Why is the date for Australia Day so different? Who is this Earl Kitchener who is often quoted on the back? What are some of the items shown in the illustrations?

Students can also engage in research related to these posters. Why was so much recruiting required? What happened to men who didn’t volunteer to go to war? Did the Army use similar techniques in World War Two?

The John Lord Collection

You can find these resources through the Museum Victoria website

This is an extraordinary collection of primary sources - from war diaries to leave passes and many photographs. John Lord was 19 years old when he enlisted to serve in World War One and he served from June 1915 until after the end of the war. He took or collected a number of photographs and souvenirs which he brought back to Australia. You can read more about him at the Museum Victoria website.

Students might like to browse through the entire collection to get a better overall picture of the experiences of John Lord, or they could focus on one image like Extreme Right of Anzac which shows Australian soldiers standing on the edge of a cliff at Gallipoli. Students examining the photo will get a good understanding of how steep the cliffs were at Gallipoli and why it was so difficult to move around. They can also see the different types of clothing which was worn by the soldiers and make inferences about what they were doing at the time.

 
Museums Victoria: Extreme Right of Anzac Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day

Museums Victoria: Extreme Right of Anzac
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom When Exploring Anzac Day

 

Students can use the collection to create a page which tells a story of World War one, using a range of photographs to illustrate it. They can also choose a photo or two to write about or they can create pieces of artwork inspired by the photographs. Students might also like to explore the war diaries to create a short piece of writing about what it was like to be in World War One.

Newspaper Article - Rejoicings in Australia

You can find this article and the transcription on the Trove website

This news article from The Age in November 1918 demonstrates how the people of Melbourne celebrated the end of World War One. It’s a particularly descriptive piece of writing, allowing the reader to get a good idea of what it might have been like to be there.

Students might discuss why the celebrations were so joyous and what some of the issues were around the celebration. They might also like to rewrite the article in the style of a modern newspaper or search for images which might accompany the article. Students can also write a short piece from the point of view of a young person who might have been there during the celebrations or a time traveller from today who went back in time and got caught up in the celebrating.

This primary source is also a good example of some of the difficulties with using Primary Sources. The original newspaper can be difficult to read and the transcription has some errors. Students can talk about how mistakes might be made when using primary sources or how primary sources may be shaped by the people involved with them and their biases.

Whether it’s posters, photographs or articles - or journals, artefacts or official papers - there’s a wealth of primary source material related to Anzac Day, allowing teachers and students to take a deeper look at an important commemoration in our country.

3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove is a book packed with great language and enticing pictures - making it perfect to read to an audience. It’s no surprise that it was chosen as the 2019 National Simultaneous Storytime book, and it’s sure to be a classroom read aloud staple for years to come.

But what else can you do with this great book? And what can you do if you’ve only got limited time and resources to explore it? Here’s three easy ways to explore Alpacas with Maracas when it’s your classroom read aloud book.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Make Dance Patterns with Maracas

The whole book Alpacas with Maracas is an invitation to get up and dance. While maracas are perfect for this, any shaking percussion tool - from bells to shakers to dried beans in containers - will also allow students to explore the patterns in movement and rhythm.

Students can start with a good old fashioned dance party. Once you’ve read the book, you can invite the students to move like Macca and Al, shaking their musical instruments and getting their groove and move on. You can follow this up with talking about how dancing makes you feel and why people might dance.

Students can also explore shaking to a beat. You can clap out a rhythm for students to follow, explore 4/4 time, explore what happens if you skip a beat or play with different groups of students playing at different times in different parts of the room. Your school music teacher may be able to help you come up with some interesting patterns to explore as well!

Finally students can explore making dance patterns by moving their maracas in different ways. Students can move their maracas (or shakers or bells) up and down, diagonally, to the left and right and in front of them. How can they use these directions to make up a dance routine? And how could they write it down or draw it for other students to follow?

2. Explore the Vivid Verbs of Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas is FILLED with wonderful words including some lovely verbs. Students can find the verbs throughout the text, using them to create a poster of great words. They can also act out the verbs that they find, working in small groups to share them.

Another way to explore verbs is to look for synonyms for some of the verbs in the book. Students might like to start with an easy verb like dance and see if they can brainstorm as many synonyms as possible. You can display these brainstorms in the classroom for students to refer back to in the future.

Students can also use the lovely language of Alpacas with Maracas to create their own stories. It might be a continuation of the story of Al and Macca or their own creation.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

3. Reflect on the Character Lessons

There’s some lovely character lessons in Alpacas with Maracas, perfect little ideas for students to reflect and build on.

Al and Macca are great friends - they work together, they complement each other and they look for ways to find happiness together. This is a wonderful lesson for students to reflect on, thinking about what makes a good friend and what good friendships look like.

Macca and Al are also persistent They try so many different talents when they’re looking for the right talent for the show. Even when they fail - and they fail quite spectacularly - they get back up to try again. This can lead to a wonderful discussion about persistence and what it can look like when we’re persistent at something which is difficult. We can also talk about trying different approaches to reach a goal - Macca and Al have a goal of being in a talent show, but they need to try different approaches to make it in there.

Macca and Al are also great losers in Alpacas with Maracas. They are the perfect representatives of ‘it doesn’t matter if you lose as long as you give it a try’. Students can discuss what it feels like to lose at something and what a good loser looks like. They might even like to role play some ways to be a good loser.

Are you looking to explore character lessons with your students? This free download includes three character ideas your students can write or draw about.

 
 

Alpacas with Maracas is a wonderful celebration of movement, music and having fun. It’s a great book to bring into your classroom and well and truly worth exploring a little more.

 
 

Different Types of Government (And How We Can Teach Them)

As our students learn more about government, it is vital that they understand the different types of government. This isn’t always easy or straight forward, though. To make it a little easier, here’s some of the main types of governments - and some ways to approach them in the classroom.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Types of Government

There are a number of different types of government which we can explore in the classroom. These include

Democracy

Democracy has been formally used as a type of government since Ancient Athens. The general premise of democracy is that the ‘people’ (usually restricted to people with citizenship who are over a certain age) get to decide on the rules and laws of the land - or they get to choose who makes the rules and laws of the land.

Democratic principles mean that everyone is seen as equal and everyone is required to follow the laws - however, in practice there have been times when those in power have treated others poorly (and restricted their ability to make decisions) to maintain power.

When we talk democracy in the classroom, we usually talk about voting - either voting for representatives or representatives voting for the laws we have to follow.

Dictatorship

In a dictatorship one person, or a small group of people, control the population and the rules and laws of the land. This is usually done by force, especially with the backing of the military.

Feudalism/Monarchy

A monarchy is a system of government headed by a single person - a monarch - who is usually part of a ruling family. Monarchs might have power to make laws or might be the figurehead of an elected government, but their right to be the head of the government is usually accepted by most of the citizens and they don’t need to use force or restrict the freedoms of the citizens.

In feudalism, there was a system of hierarchy - the person at the top had the most power, a small group of people below them had less power, the bigger group of people below then had less power again - down to the peasants with the smallest amount of power.

Communism

The ideal of communism is equality for everyone - a system which should especially benefit workers who have historically done the work while others have received the rewards.

However, in reality, it is very hard to maintain complete equality and communist leaders have often maintained power - and ‘equality’ - using the same forceful tactics as dictatorships.

Empires

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, many European countries went out of their way to ‘collect’ nations around the world - creating large empires. They might settle their own people in the countries, promote local people to act as leaders or just rule the country from afar, but they always held ultimate control over the countries - even from the other side of the world. Many times the European countries wanted resources from the countries they ‘collected’.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Why is it important to learn about types of government?

As we learn more history, we begin to understand how important it is to understand different kinds of governments. We can get a better understanding of World War Two when we understand dictatorships. We get a better understanding of the American Revolution and the partition of India and Pakistan when we understand Empires. We understand the suffragette movement better when we understand democracy.

Political history and political background is not always the most interesting part of history and it can be hard to teach. Learning the basics of the types of governments can allow for deeper teaching and make the information more accessible to students.

Understanding types of governments also allows students to understand how decisions are made. As future adults, understanding government allows our students to be better involved in them. Students can approach that part of adulthood with more confidence and will be better informed against misinformation campaigns.

Understanding different types of governments also allows us to move towards better types of governments. It helps us to understand why gerrymandering can lead to uneven representations or to understand why some people have difficulties with the ideas of quotas. For our students, it helps them get an understanding of what fair and unfair might look like when it comes to political systems and helps them to campaign for better representation as they get older.

 
Different Types of Government and How We Can Teach Them. A look at a range of different types of governments, why it is important to learn about them and how we can teach them in an engaging way for our students. Perfect for social studies and government teachers and students. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

How can we teach different types of government?

One of the best ways to teach different types of government is to find the stories that go with them. Students may not remember dry definitions of Ancient Democracy, but they might remember the story of the painted rope being carried through the Athenian Agora to mark the clothing of Athenian men who weren’t quick enough to participate in votes. Stories of life under dictatorships are common and are very helpful in giving students an understanding of that life. Stories of different monarchs through history - and their powers (or the lack of them) can also demonstrate monarchy.

The different types of governments have a direct impact on the people who live in them. That makes the stories more relevant and more powerful to our students.

Another way to teach different types of governments is by going visual. Creating diagrams or 3D representations of the different types of governments requires students to take a deeper look at them and to show a clear understanding of the different kinds of governments.

As a teacher, using diagrams to teach can also be useful. Students can record them in their book next to their writing, observe video versions of diagrams or use markers or figures to move around diagrams to get a better understanding of the types of government.

Finally, students can get a better understanding of the types of government through analogies. Using things which are an everyday part of the lives of students can make the abstract ideas much more real. Students can create ‘what if’ scenarios for classrooms or schools or the playground, experiment with what might happen if different types of governments ruled the classroom or apply different types of government to their favourite books or television shows.

Different types of government might seem like a dry topic at first glance. However, a closer look shows how important it is and how we can help our students understand it in fun and thoughtful ways.

Exploring Australian Picture Books About Weather

Australia is well known for its wild range of weather - the drought and flooding rains. Already in 2019 the country has experienced floods, fires, an ongoing drought and the threat of a cyclone. One way to explore this weather in the classroom is through a range of picture books which highlight different weather conditions - using these picture books to help us to get a deeper understanding of this weather and its impact on Australians.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Flood, Fire, Cyclone and Drought by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

These are probably the best known picture books about extreme weather in Australia. Starting with Flood - a story of the 2011 Queensland Floods - these creators have built a powerful collection of text and illustrations which bring the events and the impacts of natural disasters in Australia to life.

Although these books are part of a series, there are little individual differences which are interesting to discuss as students compare and contrast the books. Two of the books are very clearly linked to specific events - the 2011 Queensland Floods in Flood and Cyclone Tracy (which hit Darwin in 1974) in Cyclone. Fire and Drought are more general - a look at natural events which can impact large areas of the country year after year.

One of the ‘must-do’ activities with these books is to explore the author and illustrator notes to look at the intentions of the creators as they come into the work. For both of the creators, there are personal elements or feelings to these creations and they have strived to create their work to show not just the events and impact of the disaster - but the way people come together to help and rebuild during and after the disaster.

Another great way to look at these books is to look at what is happening ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ - to explore the heavy stillness of the air in the heat before of fire or the endless days of rain before the waters being to rise in flood.

 
 

The House on the Mountain by Ella Holcombe and David Cox

This beautiful book - probably best for middle primary and upper primary - takes us through a story of a bushfire which rages into the mountain home of the narrator and destroys her family house. It looks at the race to escape the fire and the fight to rebuild life afterwards - including looking at the emotional impacts of the fire.

The author includes a powerful author’s note about her own experiences with the Black Saturday bushfires, where she lost her home and her parents. This may or may not be something you wish to share with your students (depending on their age), but for older students it might be interesting to explore the author’s focus on regrowth after a fire. This is an interesting aspect of extreme weather which can sometimes be forgotten as journalists and other story tellers begin to move away from natural disasters in search of the next story.

A House on the Mountain would also allow for an excellent timeline activity, tracing the events of the story - and how the narrator feels - through from before the fire to the rebuilding after the fire.

All I Want for Christmas is Rain by Cory Brooke and Megan Forward

This Christmas book is also an excellent look at drought for younger readers. Jane lives on a farm and wants rain for Christmas to break the drought. Jane believes that Santa is the perfect solution to the drought. This book highlights the difficulties of drought, the impact of a lack of rain on the environment and the people who work in it. It’s a particularly good introduction to drought for younger students.

There are a number of different activities which you can do with this book, including looking at what happens when there is a drought. Students can list some of the things which Jane highlights as issues, combining it with some videos of drought to enhance their understanding of drought.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood

This is a really gentle look at the impacts of drought - comparing a visit from a friend from one summer to another. As you progress through the book there are little mentions of how things are different, how things are harder.

This is a great book to use for looking at inference. There’s many places where the narrator just gives a little bit of the story, without fully telling the reader about the worry and concern they are experiencing. Even hearing that his friend will travel for seven hours gives the reader a little clue about the difference - the divide - between their life and the life of his friend.

The comparisons between one year and another is another things which students can use when talking about weather in the classroom. What is it like before a weather event? What is it like after a weather event? This could apply to floods and cyclones as well as drought.

Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft

Big rain is coming . . . but when? This lovely book, best suited for younger students, explores the anticipation of waiting for rain when it’s really, really hot. My favourite part is when the clouds gather, but it still doesn’t rain.

This is a great book for working on prediction, with its easy, repeating structure. Students can also use it as an example of what it’s like to wait for something - whether it’s rain or something else in their lives.

Big Rain Coming is also good for exploring what happens before it rains - whether it’s clouds gathering, a wind picking up, or even the sound of rain moving towards you. The beautiful illustrations also offer room for exploration, especially looking at how colour and lines are used to create a beautiful world. Students might like to compare this with some of Bronwyn Bancroft’s other illustration work as well.

 
Exploring Australian Picture Books about Weather. A look at a range of Australian picture books which bring the diverse weather of Australia to life. Plus how these books can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle and Maggie Prewett

The children of Mrs White and the Red Desert are working hard to clean their house so they can entertain their teacher. They want to show her why their homework is grubby, but as she arrives a red dust storm also comes along, giving them the perfect demonstration.

As well as the dust storm at the centre of this book, there’s some lovely other exploration of weather. We hear about hot desert winds and the pitter-patter of rain. We see that the weather is a daily part of life, that is races around (and through) the house and soothes the children to sleep. And that it has an impact on the lives of the children when they are away from home.

This is another great book for inference - we don’t see what happens at school before the teacher comes to visit, but we can infer it. We infer how the dust storm destroys the dinner.

We also see what the impacts of a dust storm can be. Students can explore pictures of dust storms - both in the cities and away from the cities and discuss what the impacts of dust storms are during and after the storm. They may also like to explore the weather conditions which make dust storms more or less likely.

Mustara by Rosanne Hawke and Robert Ingpen

This is another book about a dust storm, but in this storm two children are caught in the middle of it, without warning, with a camel to protect them. Mustara is a historical fiction, giving a few glimpses into a different world of explorers and the use of camels in exploring inland Australia.

The historical fiction aspect of the book gives students another area to explore - what other weather events impacted people in the past? What other stories do we know of big weather events? Students might like to compare accounts of weather from the past with more recent accounts of weather and talk about how people deal with weather the same or differently.

 
 

Assessing and Addressing Waiting in Your Classroom

For many children, waiting for their classmates to finish working so they can move on is a frustrating - and frustratingly common - occurrence. Researcher have even found that some students spend as much as 50% of their learning time waiting for other students.

How can we assess the waiting in our classroom? And how can we address it so our students are learning as much as possible?

 
Assessing and Addressing Waiting in Your Classroom. Do you have students who are always finished early? What do they do while they wait for other students. This blog post explores why you should assess the waiting of early finishers and how to avoid frustrating waiting time. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

1. Be aware of the waiting in your classroom

It’s hard to address waiting in your classroom if you’re not really sure when or where it’s happening. Classrooms are busy places and it can be hard to be sure what is happening unless you’re making a point of focusing on it. Keep a record of what waiting happens over a week. You might want to record

  • The inevitable waiting. Waiting for assemblies, specialist teachers, technical equipment to work, students to line up to return to class or move around school. You can do things to reduce some of this, but there’s always going to be some waiting - and it’s ok for your students to know this.

  • Which students are finishing early. Some of the students might tell you if they finish early, others might just finish and wait. Keep an eye out for them, or ask your students to let you know if they finish early.

  • If there are students who are finishing with the rest of the class, but they probably could be finishing quicker. If students have become accustomed to getting more work when they finish early, they may have learned to slow themselves down to avoid the extra work. These students can be hard to spot, but keep a note of any suspicions you have. Especially look out for students who are inserting ‘non-work’ time into their work time and still finishing on time - although their interruptions might be distracting, it might be their way of delaying their finish.

  • Students who are finishing early, but could probably be working at a higher level. It’s good to have a record of who might be ‘rushing’ through the work and may need some slowing down strategies and thinking time.

  • Which subjects have more waiting time. Are students waiting more in maths? Or reading? Do you have lower number of students waiting when you do handwriting? Make a record of this to help you plan future lessons.

Be kind to yourself. If you get a lot of information it can be overwhelming. But it’s ok to pick one or two areas to work on first. It’s also ok to come back and undertake this reflection at a later time - especially if you’ve made changes. You may see some great improvements and you might also find some other areas to work on.

2. Plan to differentiate - combat waiting before it begins

The best way to avoid frustrating waiting in the classroom is to plan for all your students to be as engaged in learning as much as possible! This kind of differentiation is not always easy, though. Here’s a few things you might like to include in your planning.

  • Pre-assess when you can. If you’re approaching a new concept in reading, mathematics or science, it may be useful to offer a short pre-assessment. This allows you to see where students already have a good understanding of the concept - and where there are gaps in knowledge. The work can then be targeted to the students in your class for the best learning for all of them, and it may help you put together some temporary groups to work together.

  • Plan to use open-ended activities with different possibilities. Open-ended activities are a great way to allow all students to be engaged and show understanding of a concept. For example, instead of (or as well as) offering a page of maths problems where students add 10, ask them what happens if they add 10 to different numbers. Students can practice their skills and find patterns.

  • You can also offer students a range of activities to complete - nominating which ones are ‘must-dos’ and which ones they can choose to do when the ‘must-dos’ are completed. (You can read more, and get free resources from this great post from Top Teaching Tasks)

  • Think Sideways. What is the learning outcome? What would it look like if students dug a little deeper into that outcome? For example:

    • if the class are doing addition problems, the students who have finished can explore matching the addition problems to ‘turn around’ subtraction problems

    • if the class are reading an information sheet, the students who have finished reading can find the most important vocabulary (and rank importance?) or create a diagram of what they have read.

    • if students are working on reading sight words, the students who have finished can work on adding new letters or swapping letters to make different words

Try to make as many of your differentiated activities transferable to other activities, while still being effective. Creating a ‘tool-kit’ of differentiation for quick finishers will make it easier to make it part of your planning.

 
Assessing and Addressing Waiting in Your Classroom. Do you have students who are always finished early? What do they do while they wait for other students. This blog post explores why you should assess the waiting of early finishers and how to avoid frustrating waiting time. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

3. Be Prepared for Surprise Finishes

As prepared as you might be, you’ll probably still have time when students finish early. Here’s a few things you can try to work with that

  • Develop a classroom culture of ‘is it my best work?’ This allows all students to demonstrate the best work they can possibly do in the classroom, but also gives quick finishers something meaningful to do when they have ‘finished’. Going back and revising work is an important skill for all students to develop. Ask students to find 3 areas where they can improve their work and ask them to reflect on why they think those areas can be improved. It is possible that they won’t find anything, but it’s important for them to know that even adults (such as authors) go back and revise and improve their work - and a thoughtful way to use time.

  • Ask students how they would explain the concept or how to solve the problem to someone else. They might create a written piece, a drawing, a diagram, a verbal explanation - even a podcast or a video of their explanation.

  • Ask students to create their own related problems. If they’ve finished all the comprehension questions for a chapter, what questions would they ask? If they’re finished with a fractions problem, how would they create one? This allows you another way to see the depth of their understanding, while being meaningful work.

  • Keep reading and games on technology as a last resort. If there’s really no other way to fill in the waiting time, you may need these to turn to. Think about setting a time limit on them (assess when you’ll be moving other students on) so students know when they need to put the book down or turn off the game. And make sure there’s time in your schedule for all students to enjoy the games or reading time so there’s no resentment building against those fast finishers.

5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca)

Have you met Macca?

He’s an alpaca! And the star of the great Macca the Alpaca picture book series by Matt Cosgrove. These books - four at the moment, including a Christmas book - have jumped into popularity (and many homes and classrooms) since the first was released in 2017.

We love Macca - and we think he’s great for the classroom. And here’s a few reasons why . . .

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. There is so much to learn from the illustrations

While picture book illustrations are often important to get the most out of a story, in the Macca books they’re super important. Often the word we need to finish the excellent rhyming structure is there, in the illustrations, not to mention the important image clues which help readers decode and comprehend what is happening on the page.

You can use this while exploring why illustrations are so important to tell the full story in a picture book. Students can explore matching text and illustrations to make sure they have the best combination or explore how the story might change if an illustration was changed.

Students can also explore the style of illustration, looking at how lines are used to show movement and how different fonts are used in the text. Again, they can question what would happen if it was different - without the lines and the different fonts, would the story feel the same to the reader?

2. The books are funny

There’s this lovely slightly frantic and slightly absurd humour in the Macca books, whether it comes through the joy of how Macca will outsmart the bully llama or the inevitability of the Christmas crackers creating chaos and creative present gifting.

In the classroom, it would be interesting to look at why the books are funny - is it seeing alpacas doing things that alpacas don’t usually do (or do they?) or does the humour come as the author builds anticipation for what is going to come next.

Students can also explore writing their own Macca stories. What would happen if Macca went travelling? What would happen if Macca opened a store? What would happen if he had to take those nephews and niece to school . . . .?

3. Macca is Nice

We have our fair share of selfish (but lovable) characters in picture books (looking at you Pig the Pug and Mothball the Wombat!), but Macca is just nice. He wants to defeat the bully, but does it with brains and kindness. He wants to win the competition, but is happy just to dance with the winners. He really, really wants to give his friends the best Christmas ever.

Looking at Macca’s qualities is a great classroom activities - and a great way to compare the different Macca books. You can create a comparison table for the class to fill in as they read the different books, or different groups could read each book and describe all of Macca’s great qualities to share with the rest of the class.

Students can also explore what lessons we can learn from Macca. What does he do that makes him a good role model? And how can we apply those lessons in our own life. This is a great way to explore qualities like giving to others, being creative and being persistent.

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. The Macca books encourage our students to move

Encourage them to move? But they’re books! Students sit down to read and listen to books!

But the Macca books are full of movement - and you can use this in your classroom. Macca uses all kinds of movement to defeat Harmer. He and Al try so many different ways to share a talent before dancing with their maracas. And those naughty little Alpacas move in all the wrong ways.

This is perfect if you would like to integrate dance into your literacy lessons. Students can explore different kinds of movements and what they might look like as dance steps. And then they can put those movements together to create their own dance sequences.

Students can also integrate this with physical education, designing an obstacle course which Macca and Harmer might compete over - and then setting it up and trying it out themselves!

5. Who doesn’t love alpacas?! (and the other creatures)

Alpacas are all the rage at the moment - and it’s not hard to see why. The Macca version has lovely big eyes and eyelashes, those great ears, and - thanks to the magic of books - he’s not going to spit at us! We also meet a number of other creatures in the Macca books - either directly (a llama and yaks) or indirectly (Al’s pirhanas or the cuddly sloth).

Students can research these animals and compare the real life versions with their book counterparts. They can explore why we really love some animals while other animals remain unloved. And they can use Macca and his friends as characters in other work - what happens when you have an alpaca as part of a maths problem or a sloth as part of a music lesson?

 
 

5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers: Part Two

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

Note: While this blog post is aimed at teachers in Kindy/Prep/Reception, Grade 1 and Grade 2, many of the ideas are adaptable or applicable to older grades as well.

3. Expand Their Vocabulary

Like background knowledge, vocabulary is something you develop with more time, more reading, more conversation, more exposure to different experiences and . . . well, more time. Asking 5, 6 or 7 year olds to automatically have the same vocabulary as older students is a tall ask.

While many of these young gifted readers have wide and varied vocabularies, it’s very possible that they have gaps in their vocabulary knowledge or that they are missing vocabulary understanding when it comes to particular subjects. While they can continue to grow their vocabulary through reading, it’s important to provide opportunities for students to see vocabulary as something you can work on, something to strive to improve at.

Parents of gifted readers will tell you that it’s incredibly frustrating to see sight words or high frequency words come home which are well below the level of their children. These are often accompanied with instructions to ‘learn them’ to ‘laminate the cards’ or to ‘check Pinterest for fun activities’. While these are excellent ideas for students who are learning these words, they leave parents of gifted readers wondering whether their child is being catered for at all, and what possible alternatives there are to sight word activities.

Offering a vocabulary list instead of sight word list is an easy way to differentiate this kind of homework (or school work) for gifted students. Like sight words, you can offer a few easy activities - look up the word, write a sentence with the word, see if you can spot the word in a book, draw the word - for students to complete in the classroom or at home. You can find or suggest additional ideas through Pinterest or extend students with ideas like using folding resources.

You can also help young gifted readers to extend their reading by teaching them how to look up word definitions in a dictionary. Students can develop the skills of finding words, looking at multiple definitions and (at times) looking up more words so they really understand the definition. This is a skill they’ll be able to use for years to come!

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

You can create or find vocabulary templates (or teach students to draw up their own) so students can engage in vocabulary work at a range of times.

To find vocabulary lists, search online for a few years above the grade level of your students (this is where testing will assist you in knowing what level your gifted readers require) - there’s a lot available! A number of subject lists are also available.

To teach dictionary skills, see if you can work with a range of teachers across different grades to put together a small group of students who would benefit from learning these skills. If you have a teacher-librarian, they might be able to put on a little workshop for the students or you may be able to work with your Principal or Curriculum Leader to release a teacher to teach dictionary skills.

4. Support their Reading Choices

This one is especially important when it comes to school libraries. Many, many young gifted readers have experienced the deflating experience of visiting the school library only to be told, ‘No, you can’t borrow that’.

When questioned, various reasons are given for this refusal: the book is too hard (even if the student has borrowed harder books previously); they can’t comprehend it (even if they have other books in the series at home); the subject matter is too old for them (even if parents have given permission); it’s just school policy.

If it’s school policy, then it’s bad policy - designed to dull a love of books and libraries (which should be enjoyed as the magical places they are). As a teacher, I recommend finding out whether your school has a policy like this and whether it should be updated to allow for the fact that some younger children read harder books - or that their parents are happy to read harder books to them.

As for the other reasons, they usually stem from a lack of knowledge of the student (that’s where you - as the teacher who knows the student - can step in) or concern about parent reaction. One teacher librarian told me that her school solves that issue by asking parents for blanket permission, then recording that permission so students don’t have to ‘re-ask’ every year.

Getting to know the books in the school library allows students to explore a really wonderful range of books in a place where they are regular visitors. If you don’t have a school librarian, or your school librarian is reluctant to recommend books suitable for your gifted readers, consider finding an older ‘reading buddy’ from a higher grade - someone who loves books and reading and will share some of the delights of the school library with your students.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

Keep an eye out for advanced readers - anyone who might be reading more than picture books - before you start library borrowing. A quick note home to parents can help you get parent permission. You can then note this on a note you attach to the library box or basket or a tag attached to the child’s library bag. This way, you know who has permission at a quick glance.

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for young gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

5. Differentiating Your Classroom Lessons

A gifted reader with excellent decoding skills will not be served with lessons purely aimed at decoding. And while some phonics lessons are excellent for spelling, constant repetition is also unhelpful if the gifted reader is already understanding and applying those lessons.

However, busy work - asking a gifted reader ‘just to read their book’ or to just do -more- of what other students are doing, isn’t respectful to the student either. They have a right to learn to the best of their potential - just like any other student in the class.

When it comes to differentiating for the gifted reader, it’s important to know where they can continue to learn (it all comes back to the testing!). Do they need to learn comprehension skills which help them with texts on unfamiliar subjects? Do they need to extend vocabulary knowledge? Should they begin to explore responding to texts through reviews or reader reactions? Or could they learn more about sentence structure and grammar so they understand why a sentence works - or doesn’t work?

Vocabulary and comprehension skills are two places where you can differentiate for students. If the class is concentrating on reading a particular book, you could ask gifted students to ‘insert’ or ‘substitute’ a range of provided words into the original text and to work out where they would be effective (a great way for students to apply their vocabulary understanding with words they have previously defined). You can also provide deeper thinking questions for students to reflect on while the class is reading particular books.

Retelling stories in different ways, creating questions for stories or other texts and asking ‘what if . . .?’ questions are all ways that students can extend their thinking about stories. And sometimes differentiation can be as simple as using correct terminology as well as easier wording when talking about sentences - pointing out that descriptive words are also known as adjectives provides a framework for students as they explore sentences in more detail.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

This can be the hardest thing to make work in a busy classroom, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Remember that differentiation doesn’t always need to be a whole new lesson - it’s ok to repeat activities like writing reviews (even adult book reviewers improve by repeating this!), creating questions, finding effective words in texts or asking ‘what if . . . ‘ questions. And sometimes differentiation can happen just by offering an alternate text.

When you’re planning, ask yourself if there are any skills your gifted readers will need to explicitly learn - whether it’s how to write a review, use a dictionary or what a verb is. You may be able to work with teachers of other gifted readers to make this one group during literacy rotations, or you may be able to work with one or two gifted readers during silent reading time or individual learning time. And remember, even if your gifted readers are working on self-directed work - make time to check on their understanding and to show them that their reading is valued in your classroom.

Have you read Part One of this post? It covers testing and offering a range of texts and is a must read!