A Good Reason for Absence

I am caring for my terminally ill father.  It is a full time job at the moment and so, I am not teaching.  I haven’t had time to even think about this blog let alone log in and post on it.  My mind is filled with other things.

While I am here, I want to draw your attention to a particular type of student that you might just have in your classroom.  This student is a “student carer”.  It isn’t what it sounds like.  This student cares for, or contributes to the care of, a parent or sibling.

This student’s day starts very differently to her peers.  Where most students wake up and gets themselves organised, leaves the house and attends school; this student wakes up and before thinking of themselves they are engaged in caring for another.  They wake up their parent or sibling, assist with meal preparation and feeding, administer medications, and contribute to household chores.

Their home is not designed around the student, but the person this student cares for. There might be a padlock on the fridge, rails in the bathroom, walking aids in the corner, a hospital bed in the living room.  The other adults in the house (if there is one) are not focused on your student, they are focused on the sick or injured person.  The Student Carer may spend school nights sitting in emergency rooms, or wake up to an empty house and a note telling them that the adults are at the hospital.  It might be hard to launder their uniform because their are too many sheets, towels and clothes belonging to the unwell person that need to be cleaned. School work and school rules are not a priority in their home.

The parent might do the best they can to fulfil the role of parent, however this is hard when so much responsibility sits squarely on the shoulders of the child.  Freedom is a dream in this home.  The rules of adult/child relationships are turned upside down.  Nothing in this student’s world works the way you might expect.

Often, these students are strong, and you might not know what is really happening at home.  Often, caring for the sibling and parent is not acknowledged in the home or in the world outside the home.  It might be that the adult doesn’t want to admit that they need help, or that life has been this way for so long that the student doesn’t know that life could be different.  It’s just the way it is.

As a teacher, how do you support this student in your classroom?

  • Acknowledge that life at home is challenging.
  • Discuss the situation with the student in private, be open and honest.  Negotiate deadlines for assessment and homework assignments.
  • Be sensitive to the difficulties that the adults in the situation are facing.
  • Remember that you are not a counsellor or doctor.
  • Seek help from relevant people in the school and refer the family to community services that can assist them.
  • Set clear boundaries and reduce responsibilities of the student where you can.
  • Remember that relationships with adults are very different for this student and adjust accordingly.

Do you have one of these students in your classroom?

How do you adjust to support them?




I believe that the SHIFT ELearning blog might just be finding inspiration from me!  Here is a recent post from SHIFT which explains some brilliant statistics about the wonders of micro learning  which is taking the corporate world of staff development by storm.  Enjoy reading more reasons why I’m right!



Chunking for Learning and Differentiation

Chunking is a simple idea.  The teacher breaks information and processes into smaller chunks that are easier for students to digest.  Reviewing each chunk before moving on to the next, also helps students to both remember and connect various chunks, eventually forming a big picture concept or entire process. This fits into Design Question 2 in the Art and Science of Teaching (click here to read more about this).

The curriculum documents we use already has chunks within subjects, concepts and processes.  When a teacher does their own planning s/he chunk the curriculum into units, weeks and lessons.  The best teachers chunk their lessons into manageable portions as well.  This chunking is a simple idea but a difficult skill to master.

Chunking is also an important teaching strategy for differentiating instruction.  Some students need to work on larger chunks while others need to work on smaller ones.  Some students may need to revise some chunks more than others.  Some students need more opportunities to rehearse a skill or steps in a process.

When assigning tasks for students (whether it’s a practice task, informal note taking or assessment task) chunking makes the task more accessible and achievable.  This is especially true for students with special learning needs.  Michelle from Teach 123 posted about an easy strategy for chunking assignments, click here to check out all the details.

folder cut in sections

Cut flaps in the front of a manilla folder so the student can see only one section of the task sheet at one time.



I love this folder idea and I know I will be using it in the next few weeks with my students.   Closing the flaps over completed work allows the student to focus only on the work at hand.  For some students this would minimise distractions and help them focus.  Other students may benefit from being able to see how much work or how many chunks they have already completed.  It gives them a sense of achievement and the confidence to continue.  A piece of card moved down the page to reveal one question at a time could work just as well as a folder with several flaps.


Exams spilt into separate pages.


A colleague of mine gave her students in a secondary maths class one page of the exam booklet at a time.  Instead of students being presented with a 5 page booklet with an overwhelming number of questions, students worked through 2-5 questions and had a short break before moving to the next page.  Students were also allowed extra time to complete exams and dividing the exam into smaller sections helped them to better manage their time.

Chunking new information into smaller pieces is “just good teaching” and many pedagogical frameworks include this facet of teaching.  This “good teaching” is even more important when working with students who have learning difficulties.  Students who experience any of the following difficulties will benefit from chunking strategies in teaching and modifying tasks.

  • Working Memory Difficulties
  • Executive Function Deficits or Delays
  • Receptive Language Difficulties/ impairments
  • Intellectual Impairments/ Disabilities
  • ASD

mel lit coach signature



Tips for Improving your Visuals

Today I’m sharing an excellent article from Shift E Learning.  This particular article is about Maintaining Visual Consistency in eLearning materials however, you can certainly apply these principles when creating materials for your classes.  Whether constructing a single worksheet or an entire workbook, keeping these principles in mind will improve the overall look of your materials.  Consistency in these things helps students to navigate class materials quickly and easily.  Students with learning difficulties that affect executive function will benefit from consistent class materials.  Students with autism wll also appreciate visually consistent materials as they will know what to expect.  Check out the article to see how you can achieve a visually consistent format for your course materials AND how this will help you to highlight important information effectively.

Reading this article can definitely count for 30 minutes of professional reading time!

Happy Teaching

mel lit coach signature


Supporting students with a low starting point

This is a great post with tips for working with low ability students. Embrace the principles of growth mindset and instill them in your students. Success is possible and your students can experience it regardless of their starting point.

Class Teaching

sbo3Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by Deputy Leader of Mathematics Shane Borrett.   Last year Shane taught a Y11 class, all of whom had a very low starting point in maths.  At the start of the year, they were all fairly demotivated and were underachieving.  They had slipped into this cycle:


Where this cycle starts and so what causes the low motivation in the first place, is a point for discussion, but for a variety of reasons, these students had low motivation.  As a result, their effort was low and so they achieved poorly – gaining the label ‘low ability’.  Furthermore, the students had enough self-awareness to realise that they were achieving poorly and didn’t like it.  Their response?  Avoid further failure by disengaging and not trying – the fixed mindset.  So, this underachievement results in low confidence in maths, which then in turn, compounds their low motivation.  And so…

View original post 741 more words