Neat erosion experiment

As part of our current Unit of Inquiry into how the world works my class is looking at soil erosion. I love experiments like this that happen over a long period of time as each day the first thing the kids do when they come to class is take a look for changes.

You’ll need soil, some grass seeds, hot glue gun, string, plastic cups, at least three 1.5 litre plastic drink bottles,and board big enough to fit the bottles in.

Cut a hole in the top of each plastic bottles, glue it to the board making sure the top of the bottle is slightly over the edge. Fill with soil. Plant seeds in one of the bottles.

Day 2

Leave for a few days to allow the seeds to germinate.


Then fill another one of the bottles with sticks and bark. Leaving the third one with just soil.
Day 1

On the end of the bottles attach either plastic cups using string. The bottoms of drink bottles also work. The idea is that you want something to catch the water.
Day 3

Get the kids to water the plants each day using the same amount of water on each bottle. Over time you should start to see the effects of ‘deforestation’ in the cups with the soil bottle dirty and murk while the grass bottle should be relatively clean.

Day 4

My students used a pathon to notate their photos they took of the experiment and a variety of apps to organise their data.

Links you should be reading a bunch of

Summer Slide – thoughts on a different type of slump over the summer

Lady lifers sing about life in prison – women singing about life in prison.

Simon says “Give” – an 11 year old started a website for kids to give instead of receive on their birthdays.

How visual thinking improves writing – on using visual and words to develop communication

Be the punchline – make someones day a little more awesome

The busy epidemic is busy the new black? – slow down and enjoy the ride

Sketchnoting – making read alouds more awesome

“Ohh I have a important idea, should I put it in my bubble catcher?”

A bubble catcher is a place for an ideas to grow and form.

As the class and I were discussing the novel, Under the Mountain, one of the children had a thought he wanted to remember later.

“Yes of course what a brilliant way to keep track of your ideas..”


Since that day, it’s been like a light has gone off in my class’s head. The kids have started to jot ideas down without me asking them.

Better yet, they are using the principles of sketchnoting to help them remember key points.

During the read aloud, most of the class are now quite content to doodle away as I read the novel.

It’s now a ritual for my class come back from morning snack.

The kids gather their tools and sit on the mat. I read to the class while children while they doodle their thoughts and feelings about the book.


The best bit?

I didn’t ask the children to do any of this.

But what I do give the kids is time and space to explore their thoughts for each other before moving on.


Key points:

When kids lead learning, it becomes so much more powerful.

‘Downtime’ doesn’t need to look the same. Music and relaxation is one way to set the scene for learning. However listening to a story, doodling are also avenues to calming bodies and minds.

How else can we set the scene for learning after periods of play?

500 posts – Blogging isn’t dead but it does take take work

Another blogging milestone hits – 500 posts on this blog.

Year Page views Posts Comments
2011 31666 175 655
2012 57806 93 412
2013 88423 61 197
2014 92806 38 96
2015 43796 140 172

As I look back, I can’t help but look forward.

We live in a world where so much of what we experience is reduced to a small square photo on a phone. Forget long well-thought out posts. Attention spans these day 140 characters long, or a video or a picture that self destructs in a few seconds.

How many moments are we capturing both inside and outside the classroom with a view that they need to be retweetable, pinable, shareable?

Last year I felt like perhaps it was time to add my final post.

I never seemed to find the time to blog and what content I was posting wasn’t all amazing in comparison to the shiny pictures of perfect classrooms on pinterest and engaged students on twitter.

I was convinced that quick hits of polished content were king and blogging was dead.

This year I have had a creative second wind that comes with this daily publishing.

Some days are harder than others.

But through the process of creating content every day I remembered why it was I started blogging.

For the last 11 years, I have invited people from the online world into my life.

A  messy life that has not been styled for the purposes of that perfect, shareable picture.

There seems to be a dwindling number of edubloggers who are still offering that honest look into their classroom spaces, what goes well as well as what goes wrong.

Yes we need to hear about the days where you and the children in your class fly high but we also need to hear about the days where the demands of this job seem so overwhelming.

Because it’s on the worst of days that teachers, both fresh out of university and decades old, need to remember they are not so alone.

The best thing about living online is that there is always another chapter of the story to be written…

Cross Post: Final Course 2 project – #COETAILCON #coetail


Didn’t you ask for permission? You horrible, horrible, COETAILers. Don’t you have to ask permission before you go start creating stuff? How dare you do this?

How is awesome is that?

@jutecht – COETAIL grand supremeo

#coetailcon was my course 2 final project.

I had a vague idea of taking all the principles we learned about in course two and turning it into something that people could participate in rather than learn about with the hope that the teachers involved would think about digital engagement.

Living online there is always the pressure to add more.

Write a blog post, then add pictures, maybe a video, some sound, embed a slideshow.

At some point it all become too much to keep up with both as a creator and as a consumer.

We live in a world of so much content that being able to ethically condense complex ideas down to their essence is just as an important skill as the ability to create and remix content.

Hence #coetailcon

Over the course of the last week:

  • Coetailcon has connected participants in different cohorts, coaches and the wider education community.
  • Presenters still needed to acknowledge sources etc. to participate.
  • Rebecca Madrid picked up the format and used it in her class.

I hope the format keeps going.

Some things for next time:

  • Get my act together about planning, publicising and getting others involved in organising far ahead of time.
  • A shorter time frame?
  • A big thanks to the brave presenters (woohoo) and the community for swinging in behind it.

from Teaching the Teacher

On writing reports… There has to be a better way #rethinkreports

Today marks one of the best parts of term 4 for a teacher.

Finishing the first draft of reports.

Like most schools, the reports contain a mixture of check boxes and general statements in different subjects along with general comments and goals for the next year.

I started drafting my comments back in mid-April so to get to this point took a month. The reports then need to be proof-read, checked and the data entered into the learning management system.

That’s not counting the time in class I devote to assessing kids for the purposes of report writing and then analyzing those as sources of data.

It’s a lot of work.

And the worst part of the process?

By the time the reports are actually published in June, most of the statements will be out of date.

Each report represents months of work yet will be read for just 10-15 minutes. In an age where I can email, send pictures and videos to parents, I can’t help but wonder how effective reports are in furthering children’s learning.

The time that I could be devoting to creating interesting learning experiences and responding to needs is often swallowed up during report writing times on gathering data, analyzing it and then reporting back to parents.

There is one part of reporting I do enjoy, reflecting on how the child has progressed in the year in their learning and relationships. The problem with modern reports is that they keep getting longer as we break learning down into smaller and smaller fragments.

Are we losing more than we gain?

What if instead of pages of reporting there was just a paragraph and some examples of student learning through video, photos.

Is brief, more frequent, interaction preferable to the tomes we publish at the end of each semester?