Throughout first term SNC has been inquiring into Evolution. Not just Evolution in the biological sense but by the much broader definition of “incremental change over time”. Through this lens we have examined such questions as: Who were prehistoric humans and how did their intelligence compare to ours? When did civilization begin? How have plants helped shape our planet? And many things in between.

This term we will continue to look at Evolution this term, peering deeper into the ideas that spark the curiosity of the learning community or broadening our scope to encompass other areas of the curriculum.

Below are some of the questions that students have generated this term.


Thinking Like A Mathematician

Finally, our first post of 2017!

As always, it’s incredibly busy coming up to speed each year, introducing new students to our learning community, and getting back into routines. But now we have a moment to reflect, celebrate, and share progress so far.

Inquiring into new maths concepts, and continuing to develop maths skills, has gotten off to a solid start, so let us share with you some of what we’ve been up to.

One of the important concepts in mathematics that we belive in, is the ability to apply different strategies to solve problems. One great strategy, and one that underpins so much of our mathematical understandings, is “looking for a pattern”. You see patterns (a repeated design or repeated sequence), everywhere you look! And so we want students to be seeing patterns when they are inquiring into maths.

This is one of the things Mathematicians do, and we can certainly  all “think like a mathematician”.

Another thing that mathematicians do is ask “What if…?” questions. For instance, “What if I changed a rule in this pattern, what difference would that make?”. This is where deep thinking and deep investigation and deep inquiry takes off!

Today, one group of students modeled a problem, collected data, and began organsing the data to find a pattern. The problem was in a story format:

I was camping by a lake at the weekend and there were some lucky people who came to camp on the island in the middle of the lake. It must have been a couple of families because there were 8 adults and 2 children. Trouble was that their boat was missing. I helped them hunt around for it, but all we could find was an old canoe. We tested it and found that it could take the weight of one adult, or one child, or two children. At first it didn’t look like the canoe would do the job, but they figured out how to use it to cross the lake. Could you figure it out?

Students solved this by modelling it with concrete materials, by drawing a diagram, and by acting it out. All great strategies! It turned out that 33 trips across the water were required in order to get everyone across. Can you work out how?

However, we recalled that thinking like a mathematicians means that we could then ask: “What if we change one aspect of the problem? What would we find out”. We decided to change the number of adults involved in the problem. In groups, students replayed the problem with a different number of adults each time. For the chosen number of adults in the problems, students found out how many crossings it took.

So now we had some raw data that we could organise in a meaningful way to see what we could learn, and especially what patterns we could find. If we’re really clever, perhaps we can soon find a generalisation that can be turned into an algebraic equitation! (But maybe we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves… )

At the same time, another group of students has started looking at the patterns of animals as they roam around Earth. Some websites are available that allow you to see the GPS tracking of various animals that has taken place. It’s surprising how far they have wondered.

So what sort of maths can we draw out of information such as this? Are there any patterns? Can we think like a mathematician and ask “What if…” questions?

We shall see… Stay tuned…

Spelling Workshops

This term we have introduced some short and sharp spelling workshops in addition to our normal literacy lessons. These workshops are designed to target spelling by increasing the profile and practice of a range of spelling techniques. These groupings are fluid with the intention of up skilling selected who can then filter the information on as experts. This practice reliably supports the students who have a need of a small intensive group arrangement because it gives them the ongoing practice that comes with being a teacher and expert to others.

Literacy is a language in it’s own right and as a semi-phonetically based written language, English is incredibly challenging to learn unless you use ALL strategies cohesively.

The strategies that best support reading and writing are centered around the following structures:

Phonetic – The attachment of a specific sound to a letter or a combination of letters.

Phonemic- The identification and awareness of separate sounds within a word.

Phonological- The identification and manipulation of units of oral language such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes.

In addition to these structures, visual recognition, repetition, comprehension and an understanding of grammar and punctuation help to form a strong foundation which supports and enables students to extend themselves, successfully predicting the spelling of unknown words.

In the gallery below you can see the current group identifying words within words on the board and also some of the self editing and memorizing techniques in their workbooks.


Looking Into Literacy

This being a brand new blog and all, we thought you might like to have a peek at some of the literacy happening in Su Nei Cieli.

Narrative is by far the most popular form of writing and even more so with young people! Teachers across the universe are besieged by mountainous piles of workbooks filled to bursting with never ending adventure monologues, ever so slightly reworked fairy tales and re imagined video games!

And so the three teachers met, all covered in webs                                                                           And dust and ink from centuries of marking.
They kicked over their chairs and gasping for air cried                                                             
“These drafts are sending us barking!!!”

“As mad as we are, this has gone too far.
Student drafts going on, on and on!
Where’s the beginning? The middle?
The conundrum? The riddle?

We must focus on planning for greater understanding
of the publishing world at large
We want detailed story boarding and vocabulary hoarding,
Character profiles and a thickening of plot.
We need evidence of thinking, editing and linking
In draft one, and draft two and draft three!
And once the drafting is done, we shall publish at once!
As professional as we can be.

So there you have it, our hearts set on narrative.
This last bit’s not part of the rhyme!




Ethics Inquiry

Next year, the Victorian Curriculum will be introducing the teaching of Ethics as a subject. Our school is lucky to be one of schools who will be contributing to the Department of Education’s knowledge of the teaching and learning of Ethics as a subject. As a result, we have begun our Ethics Inquiry to best determine how to teach and most importantly assess Ethics.

Our Ethics Inquiry began with a bang! Students were asked to create groups or “countries” based on the colour of their clothing, create a secret handshake, come up with five group values and design matching passports. Each group is assigned to a certain area within the room which they cannot yet leave.

“But where are the ethics?” you ask.

Well consider the wildfire of conversation sweeping through our Learning Community! Groups of students forming allegiance, others rebelling against the majority, students debating decisions and plotting escapes to more favourable countries.

And shall I tell of the bone shuddering noise made when the political structures for each country were being designed? The entire building shook with the roar of the republics, the justifications of the monarchs, the crumple and tear of the democratic voting papers, the shaking fury of the dictatorship and the simmering rage of the oppressed.

Or, shall I tell you of the whispers of civil war as breakaway groups plot against the governments, of the clandestine recordings of our spy network or of the sidelong gazes that cross borders, fraught with promise and hope?

The exploration of ethics is not supposed to be a comfortable experience. By shrinking the world into one small room and the population into a small group of people it is our hope that, faced with the very real challenges of today’s world, experiencing the discomfort, uncertainty and reasoning of solving the ethical dilemma, our students will begin to develop and consolidate their own ethical behaviours and apply them to an ever broadening range of contexts.

Alas, at this point in time, there is little more I can say except for this: The road ahead may be fraught with danger.  A notorious government will be disbanded and exiled, fleeing across the border. But where will they go? Who would want them? And how are they going to get anywhere without their passports?

Click on the images below to view the gallery