australian education

Hi Skwirkers! Coming up on the 26th of January is Australia Day. Skwirk explores Australia Day to help develop students’ understanding of its history and customs.

Jump on to the Skwirk Facebook page to tell us about your favourite Australia Day classroom activities.

History

Australia day commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove on the 26th January, 1788. The First Fleet arrived on 11 ships, with about 1000 people on board. The fleet was sent to Australia to start a colony. This colony was made up primarily of prisoners. These prisoners committed mostly petty crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread or fraud.

The first ‘official’ Australia Day was held in 1801 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to mark 30 years of European settlement.

How do people celebrate?

Australia Day is a nationwide public holiday. It is celebrated across the country with official and unofficial events and firework displays. Some people host barbeques, others play a round of cricket and others go to the beach. A lot of people also like to dress up on Australia Day with clothes that have the Australian flag on them.

Australia Day or Invasion Day?

When Captain Cook landed in Australia he declared the land ‘Terra Nullius’, which means land belonging to no one. Cook decided that because of the way the Aboriginal people lived it was not their land. The Aboriginal people did not show their ownership with fences or markers, like people in Europe. Cook decided that the British could colonise. This decision led to Australia’s Indigenous people losing all their rights to the land. The fight for land rights is still going on today. This is why some Aboriginal people chose not to celebrate Australia day as it was the day the Europeans took their land. A lot of them see the say as ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day’.

Useful teaching and learning resources

Free downloadable resources

Simply click on the links below to access the free resources we have created on our TeachersPayTeachers account.

Skwirk resources

Log into Skwirk to get access to online resources (don’t have an account? Subscribe now or start a free trial). Once you have logged in, click on the links below to access each chapter.

Great Australia Day books

Check your local library or book shop to find the following books, hand-picked by Skwirk teachers.

  • An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the life of Australian Kids – Tania McCartney
  • A is for Australia – Frane Lessac
  • Why I Love Australia – Bronwyn Bancroft
  • Are We There Yet? – Alison Lester
  • My Place – Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlin
  • Meet Captain Cook – Rae Murdie
  • Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo – Alison Lester
  • Wombat Stew – Marcia Vaughan
  • Possum Magic – Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
  • Waltzing Matilda – A.B (Banjo) Paterson
  • The Rainbow Serpent – Dick Roughsey
  • My Country – Dorothea Mackellar
  • Where the Forest Meets the Sea – Jeanie Baker

Engaging Videos

Students love watching videos! The following videos on Australia Day are engaging and educational.

Are you confused by the NAPLAN test and its purpose, how to assist students in getting through without undue anxiety, or are you hunting for information on student preparation and resources? This time of year we get a lot of questions from teachers, parents and even students so we thought we would put together a quick guide to prepare you in the lead up to the 2016 NAPLAN.

You may have already entered the labyrinthine NAPLAN website, only to become completely disoriented and emerge much later feeling frustrated, dazed, and none the wiser. There really is so much helpful information there, but sifting through it can be very time-consuming and ultimately, somewhat overwhelming. NAPLAN, though, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so we might as well become familiar with it, like it or not, for the sake of our students. Hopefully, this will help to clarify a few significant details for you, including whether or not NAPLAN tests can, or should, be studied for.

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What is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

Every May since 2008, around a million school students in years three, five, seven and nine, have gathered their collective nerve and poured into exam rooms across Australia to sit our biggest standardised test of literacy and numeracy – NAPLAN. The tests are divided into Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy.

Put simply, this test measures what students have been learning already in school. There is no pass or fail grade, but given the subject matter is very broad many students worry about meeting the challenge when they have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for the tests. There is no actual course of study for it and according to the NAPLAN website, there is no benefit to be gained by trying to study for it by drills or too much targeted practice, because of the purpose of the test.

What NAPLAN Is For and How Results Can Be Used

In a nutshell, the test is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses in students’ abilities, so that parents and teachers can respond individually and the government can act on any apparent problem areas, by addressing them in the curriculum. The marking criteria are available on the NAPLAN website so you can see what features are under scrutiny, if you have a bent for grammar, literacy and maths.

Schools and teachers may get a clearer indication of the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and make whatever adjustments they deem necessary to lesson content and methods to improve students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. That means, scrutinising which errors were made by a particular student, then working on areas of weakness, as well as locating strengths and extending them to a higher level. Individual student’s scores are ranked nationally, so teachers, students and their carers, are free to compare their placing with those of others.

Are test results connected to in-school assessments and grading?

NAPLAN results do not impact upon your students’ school grades or class placement. Individual schools conduct their own assessments for those and NAPLAN is completely unrelated.

What’s Included:

For the Writing component, students will be given the same ‘writing stimulus’ from which to complete their task, and to date, they have always been directed to write one of two text-types, either a Narrative or a Persuasive text. These forms might sound daunting, but children use them all the time. ‘Narrative’ simply means ‘story’, and what child hasn’t used persuasive language when engaging in pester power, or listening to a politician or radio advertisement.

These two genres (Narrative and Persuasive writing) are selected because they are the most suitable for showing what skills and ability a student has and they are deemed essential for successful communication at a higher level, thus improving the students’ opportunities in life.

It’s important to give your students ample learning opportunities for both of these different text-types in order that they can be familiar with the standard format and conventions required for satisfying the task requirements.

The numeracy component assesses problem-solving ability and reasoning across three key learning areas: numbers and algebra; statistics and probability and measurement and geometry.

Preparing for NAPLAN

Students do not need to study for the test but ideally they should be prepared for it. That means, engaging in everyday practice in the areas that will be tested, (literacy and numeracy), and becoming familiar with the test format. The knowledge being tested is developed over time, so it’s simply impossible to ‘cram’ for a NAPLAN test. Completing practice tests beforehand makes it easier for students to go in with an understanding of the format and the kinds of tasks they will be asked to do. Most schools now offer students a practice test, (usually just the test from the previous year) within the fortnight prior to testing.

You could buy expensive sample practice-test packages online and books full of NAPLAN study tasks, but the highest advantage is most likely gained by focusing on everyday curriculum requirements and using the free test samples available on the NAPLAN website via the following link:

According to the education specialists who manage NAPLAN, the best way you can assist your child to prepare for the test is to support them well in gaining and increasing their literacy and numeracy skills. The links included above and those below, are for Australian websites that aim to do just that:

Another valuable resource is the online learning platform, Skwirk, which is used in homes and schools. Skwirk offers an enormous opportunity for students supporting literacy and numeracy across the board, while catering to different student’s individual learning styles. Although it does not specifically target NAPLAN, the underlying learning principles are the same as those sought in the testing and students are able to easily access engaging content across all areas of the NAPLAN testing components.

What is the worst thing that can happen if a student fares poorly in a NAPLAN test?

Some significant areas of difficulty have been pinpointed, enabling parents and educators to assist them towards clarification, understanding and move towards a fully functional use of those areas. And remember, the test scores don’t only indicate what a child can’t do, but show us what they have mastered, and provide records of their ongoing progress.

Felicity Wright has taught High School English and English Language for fourteen years, during which, she worked extensively on the range of state and national skills tests including NAPLAN. Now, Felicity works as a freelance writer.

Currently teachers, parents and home educators can subscribe to Skwirk using the discount code NAPLAN for a 20% discount off all individual subscriptions. Offer ends 12th May.

Skwirk came to my School at the beginning of last year, showed everyone in a staff meeting how to use Skwirk. The comments after the meeting were so positive because we were all able to just jump on straight away and not worry about questions we might have had because they were already answered! The presentation didn’t go for long and the members from Skwirk were very enthusiastic about their resource that really does save teachers a lot of time!

I have used Skwirk for just over a year now and it has helped me to differentiate for all of my students. I had a class last year that required more one to one teaching. I really enjoyed it because I could see how much they were benefiting from resources such as Skwirk. I created lessons using the lesson editor; I would copy a Skwirk chapter and add my own questions into the lesson catered to my student’s individual needs. It saved me time because the information is already there, the wording is age appropriate and using the lesson editor makes it so much easier!

One of my students in my class last year was working above and beyond year 5, as I had access to all years of Skwirk I was able to move him up a stage using the calendar tool! By allocating specific content to my students they were able to be at the correct stage of learning. My student was also unaware that he was receiving work above his grade level, I found that this stopped the bullying and stigma created when a child is known to be achieving higher than others. The same thing goes for my students who aren’t up to the year 5 level as well. I had a group of students who I felt were only up to year 4 content so during our lessons they would be working on another part of the topic where they were more comfortable with the content.

My students love Skwirk as they can customise their Avatar, earn points which correlate to their classroom reward and they can use it at home! I find that there is less academic stigma within my class during our computer sessions as everyone has their own work to focus on!

Grab a free teacher trial, click here. For the month of June teachers can get 25% off an individual teacher subscription with the discount code ‘blog‘ (that’s a saving of over $35)! Or request a school wide quote (only $6 per student currently) by emailing the Skwirk team: teachers@redapple.com.au

Find out more about Skwirk:

Ashleigh Graham

Primary Teacher WA​

As a teacher, I know too well just how expensive it can be to purchase quality, relevant resources for my students. If you are fortunate enough to be allocated an allowance by your school for purchasing teaching resources, this budget is usually minimal at best and is often a rare luxury. For most teachers, quality teaching and learning resources are an expensive but necessary part of their occupation, more often than not requiring them to dig into their own pockets to pay for them. For this reason, teachers have many important criteria that they adhere to when selecting quality resources to supplement their teaching practices. This will include but is not limited to: resources that are Australian and curriculum oriented, comprehensive and value for money, easy to read and follow, fast and simple to access, engaging and appealing to students, differentiated and suitable for a range of learning styles and abilities. This is where Skwirk, the online interactive learning platform, is a teacher’s best friend and a highly valuable all-in-one learning tool. So how does Skwirk save teachers and schools money? Here are just a few ways:image2

  • Skwirk’s resources are national curriculum aligned and created by experienced educators

Skwirk currently encompasses over 18000 educational resources across subjects such as Mathematics, English, Science, Geography, History and Commerce. These resources include over 2000 animated ebooks, 1000 educational videos, 1000 interactive activities and thousands of podcasts, images, pop quizzes, exams and printable worksheets. Furthermore, these teaching and learning resources are created by experienced teachers and link to the new Australian curriculum codes. With this comprehensive collection of quality, diversified resources all located in one secure location, it is very cost-effective and saves teachers and schools money by decreasing the need for multiple resources.

  • Skwirk’s resources are accessible across different technologies

10502536_620336494730231_7737354430165643814_nThe Skwirk teaching and learning resources can be accessed anytime from home or in the classroom. They can also be utilized across different technologies, including tablets, laptops, projectors and interactive whiteboards. Being able to incorporate Skwirk’s resources into a variety of lessons at any time is not only really convenient but reduces the cost associated with providing individual print material to each student to support the learning program.

  • Skwirk’s resources can be customized according to student or classroom needs

Teachers have a responsibility to ensure that all students are catered for in their classroom. This involves implementing differentiated content and teaching methods to suit the various learning styles and abilities. Skwirk’s resources are suitable for students from foundation/ kindergarten to year 10 and enable the teacher to select content, games, assessments and other resources from either their class’s own year group or differing year groups to accommodate the diverse learning abilities in a classroom. Teachers can also assign individual students specific work without the student/s realizing that the work is from another year group. In addition, the range of relevant and interactive resources available on Skwirk caters for differing learning styles including the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learner. This means that teachers and schools do not need to purchase additional resources to meet the varying student needs. Skwirk provides a positive, differentiated learning experience for every student.

  • Skwirk listens to feedback to provide quality and comprehensive resources

Not only does Skwirk continually encourage feedback from teachers, parents and students, they use this input to ensure their resources are relevant, up-to-date and in line with educational standards. This means that teachers and schools do not need to continually up date and replace their teaching resources which is often a costly and time-consuming exercise.

Once you spend money on resources covering different subjects and different materials, it can end up costing hundreds of dollars per student. Skwirk offers all subjects and resources at $6 per student! That’s $6 for a student to access Curriclum relevant Maths, English, Science, History and Geography material, all in one place! I can’t think of many better deals then that. For these reasons alone it is evident why Skwirk is one of the leading educational websites and provides great value for money. Grab a free teacher and school trial by clicking here.

Written by Rachael Ingram, primary school teacher K-6

Alternatively email us asking for a quote, teachers@redapple.com.au

 

Early literacy learning in the modern classroom has been redefined with emerging digital technologies and the ease at which information can be accessed. The increasing use of technology in our everyday lives impacts greatly on literacy instruction and the role of the teacher.

Skwirk, the online learning portal which provides educational resources for foundation (kindergarten) to year 10, supports children in developing fundamental early literacy skills in the current digital age. Early literacy skills do not only entail the development of traditional fundamental knowledge and skills of the past print media world, including reading, comprehension, writing, phonemic awareness and spelling. In today’s society, it is critical that children from an early age are taught computer and technology basics to become confident, informed and safe users of technology. Skwirk not only provides opportunity for the development and consolidation of literacy skills with curriculum aligned resources but at the same time, young children are learning important online skills including how to navigate through a site, use a keyboard, mouse and touch screen technology. Skwirk promotes the interrelatedness of literacy learning and is therefore a valuable learning tool for early learners.

There are a number of ways that Skwirk supports the development of early literacy skills.

  1. Skwirk provides a multi-sensory learning experience

The resources in Skwirk for stage 1 (K-2) provide a highly interactive learning experience for young children. There are over 300 dynamic and engaging animations and games in Stage 1 that teach key concepts such as spelling techniques including sounding words out, breaking words down into smaller parts or blending sounds. In the Skwirk English section for stage 1, there are 9 units of essential early literacy concepts covering more 55 topics. In each topic, the animations and games encourage active participation with the use of questioning techniques, simple instructions, rich, meaningful language, engaging graphics, and interactive games, requiring student participation. In addition to the animations and games, there are also ‘read alongs’ which provide the written text or script for each animation. Students, particularly younger ones, enjoy the variety of multi-sensory games Skwirk offers. Skwirk’s resources encourage enjoyment for learning and when a child is engaged, it is well-documented that they are more likely to retain information and grasp a clear understanding.

 

  1. Skwirk supports a range of learning styles

Skwirk caters for a wide range of learning styles by encompassing a variety of methods to suit different learners. Younger students are more visual learners requiring colourful, eye-catching images and entertaining sound. Skwirk recognises this and uses bright, quirky characters and funny sound effects to engage their young audience. These multi-sensory educational games/ activities stimulate learning by engaging students on many levels, helping them to learn by using more than one sense. Unlike traditional teacher instruction which typically only engages two senses: sight (visual) and hearing (auditory), Skwirk accommodates the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touch) learning styles. With the kinaesthetic learner, they prefer to ‘move and do’ in order to learn. They perform best in a learning environment where they can interact. Skwirk’s incorporation of interactive technology such as flash animations, interactive buttons, and drag and drop technology appeals to the kinaesthetic learner. For example, stage 1 students can develop their literacy skills by using the mouse or their finger to hover over a word to hear it read, click on a noun or verb, drag sentences to place them in order, clicking on the initial or end sounds in a word. Early learning of essential literacy skills is more effective when all three learning styles are engaged.

 

  1. Skwirk encourages a self-directed and self-paced

Skwirk allows children to complete games and move through the resources at their own pace and according to their individual needs. Within a classroom, there is a vast range of abilities and needs in literacy learning , particularly in the early school years when children enter formal education with such substantial variation of prior knowledge and skills in reading, phonemic awareness and writing. With Skwirk resources, the learning is individualised. Students are able to select literacy concepts or topics they would like further practice in and attempt these until they have master them. By allowing students to select games and work at their own pace, Skwirk encourages children to have ownership and can take responsibility for their learning.

With the multi-sensory learning experience, the range of learning styles and individual needs Skwirk caters for and the curriculum aligned interactive resources, Skwirk is a powerful online learning tool that can foster the development of early literacy skills and provide a positive learning experience for young children.

Teachers you can get 20% off Individual Teacher access until the end of March with the discount code ‘literacy’. Click Here to get started!  

Teachers/schools/parents, get a free trial to Skwirk by clicking here. 

Written by Rachael Ingram, primary school teacher K-6

As a teacher, I have taught in various high schools for 17 years. I, like my colleagues am constantly evolving my teaching pedagogy, looking for engaging, interesting and fun ways to challenge my students. One approach is getting onto the technology for learning wave! Every teacher knows that technology can be a powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students. There are many websites that teachers can direct their students to use to research the content but the list becomes endless!

Every teacher knows that technology can be powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students

One such site was Skwirk Interactive Schooling, which was a useful tool for both teaching and learning. The benefit of using Skwirk is that the content is specific to the Australian state-specific syllabus and is written clearly and concisely for students to understand. I came across Skwirk when my school subscribed 2 years ago and was impressed by its clear layout of the units of work the students need to learn. Consequently, I started to incorporate Skwirk into my teaching last year and I would like to take this opportunity to make suggestions on how the learning objects can be used in classroom teaching and learning.

1. Each chapter usually has animations or videos which are designed to help students understand concepts being taught.

These animations can be used to cater to individual learning styles. This may include students who learn better with visual presentation rather than reading the content. Teachers can put together some questions based on the animation that students can answer. The animations are a great way to introduce the concept to the class. A short animation will always gain student attention and after the animation has finished playing the teacher can follow up with a class discussion or learning activities.

2. Students can apply their learning to the content in the chapter with different activities.

For example; a comprehension or worksheet can be designed. The current offerings of worksheets and many more in the pipeline are important learning resources for students to both gauge and apply their learning. Students can also work individually or in groups develop a multimedia presentation such as a PowerPoint, webpage, podcast or a short video. The student laptops issued in public schools enables students in Year 9 or above to make use of voice recording and webcam as well as video editing software. This is a powerful means to enable students to construct and develop knowledge to aid and enhance their learning.

3. Each Skwirk chapter also has a quiz, which consists of 5 or 10 multiple choice questions.

Students can complete the quiz after they have read the chapter. They can complete the quiz as many times as they like until they score 100%. The advantage of the quizzes is that students can go through the course at their own pace while giving the teacher time to assist students one-on-one. At the end of the unit of work, there is a final exam, which can be used as a form of assessment.

I hope this brief article gives teachers some ideas on how Skwirk can be implemented in the classroom as a teaching and learning resource.

‘DANIEL KING is a classroom teacher with extensive experience teaching Commerce.’

Singlemum.com.au has a look at Skwirk online, with SingleMum’s own Miss Six taking it for a test drive…

When I first sat down at the computer with my Kindergarten-student daughter to have an introductory look at Skwirk, I had allowed myself some time to help guide her until she felt she was able to navigate it herself – so much for that plan. I was immediately rendered redundant by her squealing “I want to do it myself Mummy, it’s easy!” whilst mugging the computer mouse – another “Skwirker” was born. Wandering off to make myself a consoling mummy-isn’t-entirely-useless-really coffee, I then strayed back to quietly observe just what it was that had her so hooked from the get-go…

Skwirk

Skwirk (pronounced “Schoolwork” said really, really fast, for those of us in the know) is basically, a parents educational-support dream…

An online program that actually follows your child’s Australian school curriculum to a “T”, right through primary and on to secondary school. It’s kind of like your child’s own private online tutor!

The Skwirk system is split into “Stages”, with Stage 1 being Foundation (Kinder) to year 2, Stage 2 covering Year 3 and 4, and so on. Your child’s login-in profile is based upon their educational Year, and the main menu of subjects that they are presented with upon log-in covers all of the main subjects on offer for their Year at school, according to the current Australian curriculum.

In our case with Kinder, the main menu offered the expected Reading and Maths, but also Human Society and It’s Environment and Science too – just as they do at school. Once your child clicks the subject that they like, they are offered a more detailed selection of different topics, which in turn offer options such as “Read Along” (a colourful article-type page with lots of bright cartoon illustrations), an “Animation” (a short cartoon clip) or a game.

Big, easy to read and click buttons make the usability of this program a real winner for the computer-beginner…

with logical, easy-to-follow step by step progression through the subjects, and an encouraging “everybody wins in the end” philosophy for the games and puzzles.

Certainly for the Kindy kids one of the major draw-cards would have to be Skwirk’s cute “Animations” – short tutorials cunningly disguised as cartoons, complete with wacky sounds that engage and entertain. The clever “carrot and stick” format has each Animation ending with the reward of a fun game to play – again with it’s own lesson built in – a double bonus!

Skwirk

For the later-Stage primary kids, there’s still the same winning format of Animations and other features, with additional Quizzes, Projects, Videos and even Exams. A points system provides further incentive to learn, and for the parents a separate log-on reveals a reporting facility that lets you see how your child is progressing along the way.

The Secondary School Stages offer, again, a syllabus-specific variety of subjects. All this within a media-rich learning environment that serves as an excellent resource and support for students as they move towards those most vital of educational years. Here, as in the other Stages, Sqwirk comes into it’s own as a great learning advantage.

All-in-all, Skwirk is a valuable learning tool, and a highly relevant supplement to Australian school curriculum.

Back at Kindy level, it’s easy to see that little kids regard this introduction to online learning as a lot of fun, and that can only be a good thing. It’s hard not to feel smug with your sheer parenting genius (said with tongue firmly in cheek!) as you watch your kids laughing and giggling their way through puzzles and games that can’t help but support them in their school work. Indeed, Skwirk is so valued in our household now, that Miss Six bargains for extra Skwirk time as a treat, and all I can say about that is – nice one, Mummy!

Get a 25% discount to Skwirk in September. Use the discount code ‘education’ when subscribing. Click here to get Skwirking!

The Skwirk program is used by teachers, students and parents Australia-wide. For further information on how you can access Skwirk for your child, you can visit www.Skwirk.com, or telephone Skwirk on (02) 9438 3637.