Category Archives: Teaching reflection

The Problem with Problem Based Learning is the Problem

This term I have started a new position at Ulverstone High school teaching grade 9/10 Mathematics, Science and Physical Education, having picked up a full time contract. I have started out wanting have a different approach to Teaching and Learning within my classes. Yet how is the best way to go about this. The science classes are currently finishing off group inquiry units with their personal interests guiding the points of inquiry. Both math classes are starting new units with a clean slate for me to put my spin on how I would like them to learn.

Previously I have taught mathematics from an Instructional design standpoint. I am up front of the class leading all learning instruction through guided examples then working through the chapter and questions within the prescribed text book. Following the work set out by someone else in the department usually the head of learning area. Whenever I have read an article about deep learning and teaching for a deep understanding in Mathematics this approach is the one that is not recommended. Problem based learning is the way to go, using this approach to drive student centred learning in the class and better, deeper, and often more engaged learning environment for students.

The problem for me with problem based learning is to find the right problems. I would like to use the textbook less, following the #ditchbook movement of not using a textbook. Does that mean not using the textbook at all or just not solely relying on the textbook. One lesson can use online based resources, another a few questions from a textbook, problems from other educators and classes. Math is not a subject that I was originally trained in so the depth of knowledge to what makes a good question or problem and how each unit should be structured don’t come naturally to me. So my problem is finding the right problem, one with enough challenge for all, creating the flow of learning and learning experiences.

Designing questions and then the learning sequence appear to be my biggest challenges going forward. What are the best questions to use, can i cover multiple desired learning outcomes through 2 or 3 well chosen questions? How many questions in a session and how should that lesson flow to achieve the best sequence of activities and learning for students. Another thought is unit length, this is a tough balance between the restraints of the school term and timetable, whilst attempting to provide enough time in all units for that deep learning.

Being a new approach to the way I lead my classes and construct learning experiences for students is a challenge but one I have wanted to attempt when given the opportunity again to have a full time teaching position. Student centered learning is an approach that I have read about in many varied contexts and is talked about through many tweets and blog posts relating to student engagement and higher learning outcomes. My challenge is to learn through this and apply my ongoing learning as I progress through the term to develop better practices and habits. I hope through use, practice and being better switched on to where I want the learning to go, I will choose better problems and construct good learning opportunities for my classes.


Take a photo for descriptive writing starter

This lesson came about after I had seen a few posts about using pictures as writing starters. These were using online pics or doing photography lessons then some writing. I thought I had seen this lesson but couldn’t find a link for it so I went ahead and created it. I had forgotten to bring some colouring pictures that I often used as a creative writing starter. Necessity sparked some creativity.

Students were asked to go outside with 10 minutes to walk around and find something interesting to take a picture of. This picture would then be the object of their descriptive writing task. The task required them to describe the photo they had taken in a letter that a blind person, who had previously been able to see, was able to form a mental picture of the picture from the description. Link to lesson.

These are 2 pictures I took whilst outside with the class.

At first many students struggled to be able to paint a picture using words to fully describe what they could see. It took a few revisions and guided feedback to form sentences that described shapes and colours of the picture. How it was positioned, shaped or interesting observations that could be made. Some really struggled to put words into sentences, there were some words but not enough to paint the full picture.

I believe this lesson provided the students with a varied learning experience. Most seemed to enjoy the challenge of writing and using iPads to take the pictures, and in some cases to write the words also. The task was suitable for all students in this grade 4 class, everyone was able to participate, and some wrote more words than others. They enjoyed being able to start the activity outside, some really taking the challenge to take and find a few interesting and varied objects to photograph. I will use this again with other classes in upper primary schools.


Simon Youd

the #reliefteacher

Colar mix as a creative writing starter

Stories and pictures

Stories and pictures

ColAR mix is an app that I discovered through listening to the @2guysshow podcast. One way that they suggested using it was as a starter for creative writing, an engaging tool to use as a hook into story/creative writing. Students become much more engaged and willing to creatively write a story, and after bringing their ‘picture to life’ the writing becomes so creative and varied.

I have used this a few times now in different classrooms all to a great sense of wonder and wows from the students. Last week was no different teaching a grade 5/6 class for the first time, they all thought this was cool. There were some very creative stories about their characters in the pictures. The students used their imagination and in most cases really let it run wild,  making some interesting fantasy reading for me. I managed to have a student who normally struggled with change, do the colouring in, and after completing a second picture actually write a few words. Here the learning isn’t done through AR but the students were highly engaged with the learning after completing their pictures. Generally the spelling was really well done also, with story construction being of a high standard.

I want to find explore and use further examples of augmented reality to enhance student learning and engagement. I believe that this technology has the potential in education to drastically change both engagement and learning.  QR codes are an easy place to start but I want to do so much more with this.

The @2guysshow website, 2 guys and some ipads, has a great article on various augmented reality applications, where and how to use them. What grade levels and subjects that so far they have been used for.

Simon Youd
The #reliefteacher

Reference/Work Record from Ray McMillan, Principal Roebourne District High School

Reference link:

During my year at Roebourne I attempted to be involved in as much as possible at the school. I had opportunities to work with a wide variety of people employed directly at the school, and also through the wider community connected with the school. I was able to attend and be involved in a variety of professional development and learning opportunities. I was given the responsibility of organising school carnivals, and coordinating teams and excursions for inter school events, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges given to me, and have gained some great experiences to use in future schools and positions.

Reference from Scott Cummings, Deputy Principal at Roebourne District High School, (my first school).

Reference link:

This is the item that I am most proud of from my first year of teaching at Roebourne The fact that my mentor and immediate supervisor thought enough of me to write this reference is very humbling and a great feeling of achievement.  We were able to work very closely with Scott being a great sounding board and guide,  providing me with direction and help when needed, and the odd redirection as required. This was a daunting, challenging position yet extremely rewarding with what I was able to achieve.

I felt that I achieved a lot for the year I was there, bringing in a structured curriculum whilst also succeeding in developing some great learning relationships with students.  I was given freedom to try new things and the support to resource the department properly enabling a variety of activities to be available for students. The opportunities I was provided with were great for a first year teacher and I really enjoyed the many challenges that arose. I strongly believe I left the school in a much better position than when I left, a strong curriculum focus in teaching, well resourced equipment, and the beginning of a filing system to build up records for the department.

The many trips I went on for excursions, professional development,  and carnivals providing me with a very quick but deep learning experience into planning and managing school trips. I was well supported by Scott and given more responsibility and opportunities as I learnt along the way. I learnt so much and had so many beneficial experiences in my first year that I will be forever indebted to his guidance, mentoring, and friendship throughout my teaching career.

Music Lesson, Grade 3-6, Relief


Picture source:

I used a music lesson I had used previously at other primary schools. Modified to include more instruments and have all students participating, a fun listening activity for students. I started with asking what two things do you always do with music, regardless of singing or playing any instrument, being making the sound or listening to the sound.

Each student is given an instrument, 2 of each type, shared around in a circle. Each type is played and students listen to the type of sound it makes, describing and matching the sound to other things, e.g bells equal christmas and jingle bells. One student is blindfolded and placed in the middle, then asked to find a particular instrument by listening to all sounds and picking it out.

Last time I did this I only used a few instruments and moved them around after blindfolding the one in the middle, this worked really well. The lesson went well at times, I found that the louder instruments overtook the sound and some students wanted to play overly loud. Having all students play and swapping instruments meant that everyone was involved all the time, yet it also lead to a lot of excess noise. The last class of the day listened really well and did not play overly loud, allowing for the nuances of quieter instruments to come through and be heard. Not sure how to control the music level with keeping everyone participating, those students that are inclined to loud talkers were loud music players.

Overall the students enjoyed this activity. I will use it again although the lower amount of instruments makes it easier to control the noise level, less students are participating at each stage. Behaviour management could be enhanced through the ability to have certain students miss turns on instruments for not following directions or participating properly.

One big win I had was with a couple of Autistic students, the aides said that normally they don’t participate in music, but this lesson they did, playing throughout and having a turn with the blindfold on. They were having fun and enjoying playing each instrument. This was well done for these kids and their aides were rapt that they could fully participate in this lesson.