A Down Under Bonanza

Why does time travel so much more quickly when you are on holidays? It doesn’t seem possible that Australian and New Zealand teachers are already due to head back for the new school year.  But we are!

In the hopes of making the transition from sleep ins and morning coffee to alarm clocks and playground duty a little less stressful, a group of Aussie and New Zealand TpT sellers has joined forces to organise the TpT Down Under Back to School Bonanza sale!

There are different bargains to be had on each of the three days of the Bonanza sale from Tuesday 19 to Thursday 21 January. You can visit the participating stores to check out what great discounts they have on offer each day.  

To help you easily locate my special discounts for the sale, I have created a Down Under Bonanza category at the top left of my Teaching Treks store that will feature different deals on different days. You will find a similar category in many of the 28 participating stores.

I hope you bag a bargain and find some terrific new Australian and New Zealand stores to follow! Of course the sale is not just restricted to Aussie and Kiwi teachers and we’d love to have teachers from all parts of the world join in the fun.

Below is the home base for the sale with more information, links to all of our stores and the chance to win one of two $70 TpT gift vouchers! Just click on the image below to be magically transported! Deals start Tuesday 19 January.

3 under 5 Tuesday
Way Down Wednesday
2 for 1 Thursday

Happy Back to School Bonanza Sale!

Christmas in Australia

Christmas in Australia is hot... and that pretty much sums it up!

It's summer time in the Southern Hemisphere when Santa flies in so most Aussie traditions seem to have developed because of our climate. Heat waves and dramatic thunderstorms are the order of the day in the lead up to Christmas season. While many Australians might sing about a white Christmas, the closest they'll come to seeing one is an afternoon hail storm!

On Christmas Day the temperature is often in the nineties (or the thirties for those of us who speak celsius :) ) and it sometimes even nudges a hundred degrees. It makes sense  then, that salads and ice-cream are popular choices for Christmas lunch, although some Australians like a traditional roast with all the trimmings no matter how hot it may be!

It's also no surprise that the beach is a popular destination for Christmas holidays. The kids have six weeks off school on their summer break so a lot families head off to the coast for some sun, sand and surf.

Many Aussies get together to sing Christmas carols under the stars at night. Thousands of people turn up to big concerts, called Carols by Candlelight, that are held in towns and cities across the country. Some are televised and watched by millions of people.

You might like to check out my Christmas in Australia Pack, which has 45 pages of festive fun - all with an Aussie twist!

I hope you have a wonderful festive season and enjoy the traditions that make Christmas a special time in your part of the world!

Color Therapy - 7 Great Reasons to Let Kids Color

Sitting in the doctor's waiting room a few weeks ago, I made a fascinating discovery. On the counter were some coloring pages filled with patterns, and a sign urging adults to try the latest in stress relief techniques. This probably isn't news to you because apparently coloring for adults has been a worldwide craze for some time now.

So it seems I must have been living under a rock, because this craze was news to me!

But it's hardly a secret to teachers or parents that the simple art of coloring calms children. It really is a soothing process. If young people enjoy the focus and attention to detail involved in coloring, it shouldn't be a surprise that older people find it just as soothing and enjoyable.

I have seen the magic that coloring can work in the classroom. I would never have believed twelve and thirteen year old boys would enthusiastically tackle a coloring activity, albeit a fairly complex patterned exercise, unless I'd seen it myself. It proved to be a simple yet effective way to help everyone calm down after the inevitable rough and tumble of lunchtime football games. For a short time after breaks, I would read our class novel and the kids would listen and color, and we all loved it.

1. Coloring is a simple strategy to help relieve stress and anxiety. Perfect to use before or after tests and other stressful situations that arise. Great for settling down time immediately after play breaks.

2. Coloring focuses attention. Staying between the lines and paying attention to the detail of a pattern requires focus. Helps fidgeters to focus and listen to a story or class novel. 

3. Coloring provides some good old technology free time! No screens, no devices, no electronics...

4. Great for early finishers! A challenging coloring page in their desk provides incentive for kids to complete a task without time wasting.

5. Coloring is versatile. Mix it up a bit! Challenge the kids to select only one color and use different shades of that color on a complex pattern. Get kids to highlight one section of the picture through the use of warm and cool colors. Have children discuss and observe patterns, then design their own masterpiece to color!

6. Coloring and focusing on staying between the lines develops fine motor control.

7. Coloring is fun. No pressure, no competition. Gives kids gives lots of opportunities to experiment with colors, explore patterns and express themselves simply.

With these great reasons in mind, I thought I'd try my hand at creating some seasonal calm and stress relief for the classroom. I had lots of willing volunteers at home to de-stress with some coloring therapy!

And a freebie to help de-stress you!

Happy coloring!


Procrastination, by any other name, is an art form. And quite clearly it is an art form I have mastered. I excel at procrastinating in so many areas of life, I think I could probably write and teach a course in it. But not today. Today I have to do all the things I started thinking about a few weeks ago that need to be done by tomorrow.

I'm sure there are benefits to being a master procrastinator but I have yet to find them.

This blog is a perfect example of my expertise in putting off till tomorrow what I really should be doing today. Not thinking about it. Not worrying about it. Just doing it! I think I have achieved seven blog posts in five months which is a fairly abysmal effort.

I know New Year's resolutions don't work for me. I have never been able to stick to a New Year's resolution in my life. I do have a hazy recollection of a resolution about being committed and writing a blog post once a week.

Anyway, today I have outdone myself and it's all due to a deadline. I have written not one, but two, posts in one day. Nothing short of a miracle! I knew I was due to write a post for a collaborative blog today and the only thing that kept me on track was the deadline. It also made me feel incredibly guilty about this neglected blog - thus post number two!

If you'd like to check out my post on reining in your inner control freak in the classroom, please head on over to Who's Who and have a look. There's a link to a freebie, too.

Could deadlines be the answer to my procrastination problems? It sounds promising enough to trial anyway... So I have decided I am going to make Monday 'Deadline Day'. A blog post a week. Every Monday. But maybe I should start next week?

March already?

How can it be March already when I haven't written a blog post since January? Clearly my New Year's resolution about regular blogging has not panned out terribly well.

March in Australia is Autumn, cooler months, a relief from the interminable heat of summer. Well, in theory, that's the case but it's certainly not the reality in this part of the world. Teachers and kids  endured temperatures of 93 degrees (34 C) and 102 (39 C) on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Will the 'people in charge' ever agree to install air-conditioning in all classrooms? I guarantee that quality learning time would increase and there'd be many happier teachers and kids in classrooms! But enough whinging (for now)!

When I'm not complaining about the heat, I do enjoy some of the fun celebrations around this time of year. The end of Chinese New Year festivities and the all the fun of St. Patrick's Day would be two that spring to mind. I always like to incorporate these celebrations into my classroom as a fun and easy way to teach appreciation of different cultures. I hope these freebies help you do the same!

Thinking Treks - Activities to Avoid Window Gazing

Summer in Australia… I have vivid memories of sitting at my school desk, gazing out the window and imagining I was somewhere else in a bid to ignore the stream of sweat trickling down my back. Three o’clock couldn’t come fast enough! Sometimes I still have days like that! Installing air conditioning in classrooms that regularly reach temperatures well over 33° C (about 91° F) would certainly improve learning (not to mention my temperament) but that’s another story!

My worst ‘drifting off’ moments were almost always during traditional chalk and talk lessons when the teacher stood out the front and we sat and dutifully listened, or at least pretended to! I know I still have the same tendency, especially during professional development sessions, and have to keep check on my wayward thoughts so I don’t mentally wander off. This is not a reflection on the presenters of PD, rather it’s an observation about my sadly limited inability to maintain focus.

I think most teachers are all too familiar with the glazed over look that descends on a class when they are absolutely certain something is going to be boorrriing. One of the things I’ve tried hard to do during my teaching career is to keep those glazed-over-window-gazing moments to a minimum. I love to see kids truly engaged and excited about what they’re learning.

The Thinking Treks products I've made are based on some of the most successful activities I've used in terms of student engagement and enjoyment. Not a window gazer in sight! Socially mediated learning using open ended tasks lends itself to deep learning in a range of different contexts and subject areas. Here are links to sample Thinking Treks if you're interested in learning more.
Christmas Thinking Treks Sample


My Top 'Scariest Teaching Moment'

In the spirit of Halloween and all things scary, my first blog post is an ode to the very real, but rarely mentioned, scary side of teaching. My scariest moments have an Australian twist, which is hardly surprising considering where I live, and most tend to involve animals. The old show business adage, ‘never work with children or animals’, might just be appropriate in the teaching profession, too. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult for teachers to avoid working with children! J

My Top ‘Scariest Teaching Moment’

Picture this: a clear moonlit night, about 40 exhausted seven and eight year olds tucked into their sleeping bags, a circle of tents pitched in the grounds of our little country school, embers glowing softly in the remains of the camp fire.

Our overnight camping adventure had been a huge success. Earlier that evening, as the kids sat around the fire singing songs, a koala had wandered through the circle of tents and climbed a small tree nearby, seemingly quite content to sit and watch us and causing great excitement amongst the children. Well, to be honest the teacher was actually the most excited because she was a city girl and these country kids were used to seeing koalas around their homes in the bush. Koalas weren’t an uncommon sight in the school grounds but they normally slept high in the gum trees during the day.

I sat enjoying the peace and marvelling at the breathtaking display of stars that you really only ever see outside the city limits. Poet Banjo Paterson’s words resonated, ‘and at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars’.

And then I heard the noise. A loud growling, grunting noise that made every hair on my body stand to attention. Within seconds, all was quiet again. Being a panicker by nature, I panicked. Was a child having a croup attack? I ran from tent to tent, shining the flashlight, checking the children, feeling enormous relief that they were all sleeping soundly, then pacing anxiously around the perimeter of our camp and peering into the darkness beyond.

The noise began again. It lasted longer this time, probably a minute or more. It sounded like a lion’s roar but obviously I knew we didn’t have lions in Australia. My thoughts raced. Was it a wild animal? Were we safe? Would I have to open the building and phone for help? (Hard to believe, I know, but mobile and cell phones had yet to be invented!) I ran to my teaching partner’s tent and woke her up, babbling about growls and dangerous wild animals and croup attacks.

As soon as she was awake enough to understand what was happening, my colleague was highly amused. Marty, a farmer’s wife and veteran teacher, had lived all her life in the country.

“Have you never heard them before?” she laughed. “Your dangerous animal is an amorous male koala letting the lady koalas know he’s here! I thought everyone knew about koalas grunting loudly in mating season!”

Well, no, clearly I didn’t. But I do now. My top scariest teacher moment – being terrorized by a lovelorn koala!

Check out this short video to share my terror! :)