Take Away Teaching Ideas #31

An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids

Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling


I had the pleasure of travelling to Dimboola PS and collaborating with many teachers from the district. I was introduced to this amazing book. I loved it straight away – so many teaching ideas.  There are lots of questions in the book that you can investigate with your students.

‘An Aussie Year’ is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, covering our modern day culture, lifestyle and traditions. It’s pages feature trailing, meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations showing our five Aussie children at play, at school, at home, and enjoying their parts of Australia – from the tropical north out to our rugged west and beautiful Tassie.’



How far can you throw a Frisbee? How would you measure the distance?

How long does it take for ice to melt in the sun? Conduct an experiment.

What games do you like playing with tennis balls?


How do most students in your class get to school?

What can you create to celebrate Chinese New Year?

What could be your design of your backpack for school?


How could you promote Earth hour?

What could you wear on St. Patrick’s Day?

What colours and materials will you need to create a friendship bracelet?


What facts can you find out about a Bilby?

What are the ingredients and the method to bake ANZAC biscuits?


How many animals are presented on this page? What facts do you know about this number?

How will you order the animals by size?

How can you find out the most popular animal in your class?


What can you find out about Mabo Day?

What football team do you follow? What do you like about your team?

What materials will you need to create an artwork of a rainbow?


What is your favourite knock, knock joke? Practice it to present to the class.

What do you have in your lunch box today? Write a description for other people to guess the contents.

Where is the Great Barrier Reef? How would you travel there?


What dream time stories can you find? Which story is your favourite? Why?

What notes and coins would you need to purchase your favourite treat?

What can we use to make a model of a boat that floats?


What is wattle? Draw or photograph wattle. Can you describe it using your senses?

What is your favourite way to eat eggs?

What colours and shapes will you use to design and create your own flag?


What is an Akubra? Where can you research some information?

What message of thank you would you write to your teacher to celebrate World Teacher’s Day?

What is daylight saving? How would you use a clock to explain?

What fruit do you love to eat?


What is the significance of the red poppy? What artwork can you create to share this message?

What information can you find about National Recycling Week? What plans can you make for your family, class, or school?

What are your favourite animals to view at the zoo? Why?


What would be on your menu for Christmas Day? What will your budget need to be?

What is the average temperature for this month? Make comparisons to another country.

What present do you hope to receive at Christmas? Why?


Take care everyone!


Andrea Hillbrick


P.S. I am so fortunate to be heading back to Dimboola PS for another day of professional learning on Friday, 30th July 2021! Check out the details below, you may wish to come along!


What does a great mathematics lesson look and sound like?


Everyone will receive a teaching resource of the warmup games, hooks, rich tasks, engaging games, strategies to differentiate, reflection tools, websites and more!

Andrea will share these teaching ideas using objects, photographs, modelling, doing, and reflecting.

This day is highly interactive! Be prepared to get involved.

Together we will explore the following questions:

  • What is the structure?

  • How do I build in ‘mathematical talk’?

  • What are quality tasks?

  • How do I support my mathematicians to reflect?

You will need to bring along a small gift box with a lid as we are creating a number box!

Suitable for primary school teachers of mathematicians in Levels F-6

Email Greg for details and to enrol Greg.Sampson@education.vic.gov.au

Take Away Teaching Ideas #30

Pig the Pug

Aaron Blabey


Who can resist Pig the Pug and Trevor? Not me!

A big shout out to Stacey at Manor Lakes as I recently enjoyed sharing this book with her students.


Here are twenty ideas to take away!

  1. Introduce the book using picture of Pig the Pug to create a jigsaw for the students to solve.

  2. Shared reading of the text inviting the students to read the rhyming words.

  3. Create and perform a Trevor and Pig the Pug puppet show.

  4. Vote and then justify your preference of character – Pig or Trevor.

I use cups and sticks to vote.

  1. View below.


  2. Explore phrases: Flipped his wig. Pigs can’t fly. I won’t and I swear!

  3. Investigate the meaning of words: Selfish, scoot, swine, loot.

  4. Create a garland of words from the text. Display in alphabetical order.

  5. Create a Can/Has/Like Chart.

  6. Create an ‘I Spy’ jar using pictures from the text.

  7. Make Trevor or Pig using play dough and care for him. Keep a journal.

  8. View Youtube clip and then draw own Pig the Pug.


  9. Make a stocking Trevor the sausage dog. What other materials can you use?

  10. Write another Pig adventure. Follow up with reading Pig the Fibber.

  11. Write rules for Pig the Pug to follow. Make an instruction video.

  12. Add another animal to the story and write a different adventure.

  13. Write the story from Trevor’s point of view.

  14. Caption this! What is Trevor and Pig the Pug thinking and saying?

  15. Research the two dog breeds and compare. Use the precise vocabulary in a review.

  16. Investigate other dog stories!


My favourite is an Alison Lester book…

Added extra! Check out the teaching idea at:






Andrea Hillbrick

Book Club:

Have you joined yet?

Check out the details at:


Join any time to receive all the teacher resources for each book during 2021!



Take Away Teaching Ideas #29


Written by Di Hickleton

Illustrated by Melanie Macilwain


View Di’s website – www.butleighfarm.com.au


I have had the pleasure of knowing Di for many years!

It is so exciting to have Di collect and generate engaging ideas from her beautiful picture story book and for me to share them with you!


Thank you, Di, for preparing the Take Away Teaching Ideas #29





So many questions could be asked …..…….

“What do you think the book is about?”

“Why would these animals be chosen for the front cover?”

“What other animals might you see on a farm?”

“Where do you think this farm might be?”

“Unusual name for a farm. Do you think the illustration on the back cover has anything to do with it’s name?”

“How do you think the animals might work together?”

“What things could animals possibly help with on a farm?”

“Why do you think there is a shovel on the dedication page?”

“What secrets could the animals have?”

“Is Murgheboluc a real place?”

Watch the Book Trailer:





So many questions and connections can be made throughout and at the end.

“What wonderings do you have after reading?”

Put questions, connections, and wonderings on sticky notes during and after reading.

Display and discuss.


“Is Butleigh Farm a real place?”

“Do you think the animals are real or made up?”

“Why would Di have put can you guess who else lives on Butleigh Farm? on the last page?”

“What might be this character’s name?”



Text to Self – share a story about yourself that is related to a story or character in the book.


Record yourself reading Butleigh Farm. Remember to read fluently, with expression and at a good pace.



Critique the book using the trait checklists below.

Use them for your own writing following through each of the traits.


“Does Butleigh Farm have a Bold Beginning?”

“Does it hook you in to read more?”

Compare it with other books.    Make an anchor chart.

Write a different beginning to Butleigh Farm.


Repeat for Mighty Middles and Excellent Endings


“Do the animals have personalities?”

“Which is your favourite?”   “Why?”

“Could you think of other words to describe the animals?”

Look at your own writing.

“Do you get a feeling that the reader will really know your characters?”


Look at the Meet the Characters page under Books on the website.




Make your own book trailer for a book you have written or a book you really enjoy reading.

“What are the important things to include?”


Make a class set of Character Cards.

“What are everyone’s likes, favourite food, favourite song, etc.


Research a farm animal.

Present a poster, PowerPoint presentation, etc about what you found out.

Include interesting facts, features, habitat, care needed, food, importance on a farm, etc.


Write a letter to Di or Mel telling them some of your questions or wonderings.


Bubbles and clouds – Using speech bubbles/ thinking clouds and pictures of the Butleigh Farm characters, draw a conversation between two of the characters.




“Look fast with your eyes and subitise”.

– apples on page

– windmill blades



e.g.     If there are 3 different types of farm animals in the top paddock with a total of 24 legs, what animals could they be and how many of each?



  • birds eye view
  • directions

Design a map of what your farm would look like and include if you had one.


Look at the Explore the Farm page under Books on the website.



  • perimeter
  • area
  • time – o’clock / half past
  • timelines

e.g.  – 6 o’clock – Bonnie barks at chook house

– 7 o’clock – Nanny comes outside

– 7:30am – Pa’s coffee is ready

“When do other daily events happen?”

“What times / routines do you have at home?”

“Would the animals have same bedtimes as you?”



2D – plan a farm (see above)

3D – build a farm (Lego, blocks, cardboard, nets)



by 1s, 2s, etc

forwards and backwards

  • apples (end pages)
  • windmill blades
  • flying birds
  • chickens
  • eggs
  • sheep in paddocks –

feet, tails, eyes, etc

  • fence posts
  • stairs
  • verandah posts
  • garden beds
  • flowers
  • spots on Nanny’s gumboots
  • stripes on Nanny’s top
  • fence palings on front gate
  • apples (complete book)
  • sheep (complete book)
  • shovels




“What machinery / tools would you find on a farm?”

  • how do they work?
  • what do they do?



– building animal enclosures – strength / waterproof / etc.



“What other animals could live at Butleigh Farm?”

“What would they need to be happy and comfortable?”

Design your own farm.

“What animals would you have?”

“What food would you have to buy / grow?”

– Sustainability!



“Do you think Mel has captured the animal’s characteristics in her illustrations?”

“Would you change how they look?”

Do some sketches of the animals.

Explore different mediums to create unique characters for your illustrations.

“Could this book be illustrated using only 4 colours like in Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion?”

Explore using different colours.

“Does it change the feel of the book?”



Butleigh Farm can be used for many specific teaching focuses. Check out the extensive list of examples below.

Finally …………




Enjoy and take care.


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching ideas #28

Here We Are

Oliver Jeffers

One of my all-time favourite books and authors!


View the story here:


In this edition I have explored the book as a mentor text for writers. I have listed the trait, goal with page number and evidence within the text.



  • The topic is narrow, clear, and manageable.


Front Cover:            Here We Are Notes for living on planet Earth.


Page 3:                    It is a big globe,

                                   floating in space,

                                  on which we live.


  • The pictures enhance the key ideas.


Page 13:                 Labels on the body illustration

                                           Brain (for thinking)

                                           Heart ( to pump your blood)


Page 15/16:            Illustrations of the people



  • It has an introduction that is an “attention grabber”. The reader is interested in reading on.


Page 3:                 Well, hello.


Page 6:                 So let’s get started with a quick tour.


  • The conclusion leaves the reader with resolution.


Page 31:              Make sure you look after it,

                              As it all we’ve got.


Page 37:             You’re never alone on Earth.



  • The reader feels “connected” to the writer.


Page 2:               *Probably not to scale


Page 3:                Well, hello.


Page 28:              Just remember to leave notes for everyone else.


Word Choice:

  • The words are specific and build understanding.


Page 13:             Labels on the illustration


Page 30:            7,327,450,667 and counting.


  • The selection of words should help the reader see, feel, hear, taste, or understand.


Page 8:               hot, pointy, cold, bumpy, flat, dry, wet


Sentence Fluency:

  • The writer chooses words that sound good, and the writing is easy to read.


Page 30:              It looks big, Earth.

                               But there are lots of us on here.

                               So be kind.

                              There is enough for everyone.



  • Punctuation is accurate and appropriate.



Page 11:                Though it can get pretty complicated


Page 32:             Now, if you need to know anything else



  • There is an alignment between the text and visuals.


Page 17:                They come in even more shapes, sizes, and colours.


Page 21 & 22:       Things can sometimes move slowly here on Earth.


Page 35:               …you can always ask someone else.


Have fun exploring this text with your writers!


Andrea Hillbrick

NEW FOR 2021:

Book Club:                                  Join Up Now!  

The second teaching resource was emailed on 17th of February 2021!

Check out the details at: https://andreahillbrick.com.au/shop-online-resources/book-club-2/

Join any time to receive all the teacher resources for each book during 2021!

Take Away Teaching Ideas #27

Back to School Tortoise

Lucy M George


Happy New Year Everyone!

Every time I share this story the audience LOVES the ending! An awesome book to share on the first day of school with colleagues and students.


The story is about a tortoise who is afraid of going back to school. The tortoise is being brave and resilient, with a surprise at the end!


View the story below:



Real Thing:

Investigate, observe, draw, feel and create a tortoise.

Check out the ideas at this blog!



Sensory Tray:

Collect objects and present them on a tray so the students can use the five senses to gain an understanding of the story.


Picture match with the objects in the text such as the objects on the breakfast table.

Explore the mathematics about breakfast:

  • What time of the day is it?
  • What do you do before and after?
  • How many things do you eat?
  • What is your favourite breakfast food?
  • How much does your breakfast cost?


Make an alphabet book related to the story or your first day/week at school. Did you include mathematical terms?


Words around us:

Match the words from the text to environmental print in the classroom.

Add words from the story to the classroom word wall. Use the words in your writing.


Count words:

Rewrite a sentence/s from the story for the students to count the words. The students put a counter on each word.


We are going on a T hunt:

Tortoise begins with ‘t’! Provide each student with a letter ‘t’ attached to an icy pole stick. Search for the letter in the classroom, in books or in students’ names.


What’s in the box?

Inside the box is a tortoise mask. What animal do you think is in the box? The animal is the main character in our story. Read the factual clues to help you make a prediction.

If you would like these clues for this learning experience send me a request via email: andrea@andreahillbrick.com.au


Do the book:

Act out being the tortoise wearing your school bag.

Using a clothes basket move like a tortoise.


Create a sound scape for the story. This involves the students using musical instruments or everyday items to create sound effects for pages in the book.


Picture Retell:

Retell the story by sequencing the images.


Excite your students about the text using a tortoise puppet. The students can retell the text aloud using the puppet.


Text to self-connections:

When have you been brave? How did you feel? What helped you?


Text to self connections:

How do you feel about returning to school? What advice would you give Mr Tortoise?


Text to text connections:

Was the tortoise brave in this story? What was the same in the two stories? What is different? Do you know another story that had a brave character?

View the text below:


Innovate the text:


What would be a different ending to this story?

What other animals could be in the story? How would it change the story?

Can you rewrite the story as you as the main character?

What could be a different setting, problem, and resolution for Mr Tortoise?


Launch your 100 days of School count! Begin with a display of ten empty tens frames. Add an adhesive dot each day!

Create a survey to find out everyone’s favourite lunch at school. Graph the results.

Research the differences between a tortoise and turtle. How will you share this information?


Have a great start to your school year!


Andrea Hillbrick


NEW FOR 2021:


Book Club:

Have you joined yet? First teaching resource will arrive to you on the 17th January!

Check out the details by clicking on the link below.

Join any time to receive all the teacher resources for each book during 2021!


Upcoming Webinar:  Writer’s Notebook

During the webinar Andrea will:

  • Explore key ideas related to generating and collecting ideas in a Writer’s Notebook.
  • Investigate four detailed lessons plans with images of examples
  • Provide strategies to differentiate
  • Share HHH – Hillbrick Handy Hints!

Each participant will receive a teaching resource with four detailed lesson plans and strategies to differentiate. The lessons are designed to be implemented the ‘very next day!’

Take Away Teaching Ideas #26

Harry The Dirty Dog

By Gene Zion

Pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham

It’s a family affair!

My family are the world to me! They are also a pivotal part of my business. Chelsea and Emma drive the online and design elements of my business. They are both so talented and generous. I am so blessed.

It is a thrill that my granddaughter Emma has collaborated with me to create this edition for you. Emma has just completed her third year of teaching training. As you can imagine I am so proud!


Harry is a white dog with black spots who hates to take a bath. One day he gets so dirty he has black fur with white spots Where’s Harry?


This engaging story was first published in 1956. It is an all time favourite of mine!


Enjoy a video of the story.


Watch Betty White reads the story.



I wonder why Margaret the illustrator only used four colours in the pictures.

Harry has a double letter in his name. I wonder how many words you can find with double letters.

Harry was a little dog with black spots who liked everything excepthaving a bath.  Everything is a compound word. I wonder what compound words you can find in books.

I wonder what you like to do and not like to do! Make a T chart to share your preferences.

I wonder how Harry and his family may have been feeling throughout the story.

Harry can do tricks. I wonder what tricks you can do. Make a short video to share your tricks.

I wonder if you have a story to share one time that you got very dirty!

I wonder what message you gained from the story.



Speech captions for Harry throughout the story.

Sound effects for the different settings in the story – train station, tip truck…

Your own story about Harry. What adventure does he get up to?

A story to show the problem and solution of this story.

A math game! Draw an outline of Harry. Collect a dice and counters. Roll the dice three times. After each roll to add the counters onto Harry. The counters are Harry’s spots. How many spots altogether?

A bird’s eye view map of Harry’s adventure. Where did he go?

An alternate route for Harry to escape from being washed.

A timeline to capture Harry’s adventure.

A procedure on how to wash a dog.



Using white paint on black cardboard and black on white cardboard to create a picture of Harry.

Washing muddy animals. Mix up some mud, dip in some plastic animals and wash in some soapy water. How did it feel? What did it smell like? What happened?

By researching an animal that you would like to have as a pet.

Other animals that have spots. What facts did you find about these animals?

By surveying your friends and family about their favourite animal with spots.

The two other books about Harry. What is the same and different?



This book was first published in 1956. Where do you find the publication year in a book? Investigate books in your classroom. What did you find?

Other books that the pictures are created by Margaret Bloy Graham. What did you find?

Harry plays tag with the other dogs. Investigate the number of dogs on the page.

  • How many ears altogether?
  • How many legs altogether?

What else could you count and share?

Mixing detergent and water to make bubbles.


Would you love a teaching resource for an awesome book emailed to you once a month?


Sign up for 2021 Book Club





Sending my best wishes to you and your families.


Andrea Hillbrick


Take Away Teaching Ideas #25

Giraffe Problems

By Jory John

RECONNECT is a word that I have used a lot this year! By implementing my webinars, I have been able to reconnect and collaborate with so many colleagues. It has been an opportunity to share my current thinking and insights with educators in Australia and beyond!

The author of this edition is one person I was so excited to reconnect with. Deb David is a passionate educator who loves all things about learning. She works as a part of an amazing team at St Albans’ Primary School. Meeting up with Deb again has been a bonus!

Thanks, Deb, for introducing me to another new book and creating these ideas for us all.

Edward the giraffe can’t understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He’s tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes–honestly, anything you can think of, he’s tried. Just when Edward has exhausted his neck-hiding options and is about to throw in the towel, a turtle swoops in (well, ambles in, very slowly) and helps him understand that his neck has a purpose, and looks excellent in a bow tie.





You can view the story below:


Watch Michele Obama reads it aloud:



Our readers can:


Predict: Before reading make a prediction of what this book could be about. What could a giraffe problem be? Justify your prediction using your prior knowledge and clues from the book. After reading, revisit your predictions.

Compare and contrast: Use a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences between Edward and Cyrus. You can easily make a Venn diagram by overlapping two paper plates.

Make Connections: Make a connection to yourself from the book. When has a friend helped to cheer you up or when did you cheer a friend up? How did it make you feel?

Investigate words: glorious, accomplished, delectable… create a word splash of interesting words used in the book. Write the words on cards and sort them. Set the challenge to try and use one new word every day when talking to their classmates. Add the words to your classroom interactive word wall.

Explore the author’s purpose: An author always writes with a purpose. What do you think Jory John’s purpose is? Is there a lesson we can learn from Edward and Cyrus?

Infer: We are never told where this story is taking place. Where do you think it is? Justify for answers using clues from the text.

Search for synonyms: gander, stare, glimpse and gaze are words Jory John uses instead of the word “look.” What other words could we use instead of look? What is the difference between glimpse and gaze, or gaze and stare? Why would the author choose those words over look? Write the words on cards and order them from glimpse to stare discussing the subtle differences/shades of meaning between the words.

Make a text to text connection: Read Jory John’s Penguin Problems. How are the two books the same? How are they different?



Research: What do you know about the animals in this book? What would you like to know? Let’s use websites and books to discover some facts!

Engage writers by:

Text innovation: Draw your own giraffe neck (use page two as inspiration). How would you describe your neck? It’s too wiggly, too bendy, too curly, too straight, too zany.

Factual writing: Write a description about the appearance of a giraffe. What interesting words would you use to describe its neck, its patterns, the way it moves?

Text Innovation: Edward’s problem is his neck is too long, Cyrus’ neck is too short. What type of problems would other animals have? Think, pair, share to generate ideas and students create their own narrative.

Personal Writing: Edward’s mother said he should be proud of his neck. What does it mean to be proud? What are you proud of?

Persuasive Writing: Would you rather have a long neck or a short neck? If you had a long neck for the day what would you do? How would you persuade others to have a long or short neck?

Exploring word choice: Cyrus describes a banana as ‘delectable.’ Using the 5 senses, what other words can we use to describe a banana. Don’t forget to use the book to see other words Cyrus uses.

Small moments: Revisit Cyrus telling Edwards about his week long, banana dilemma. Have you experienced a time you had to wait or a time when they had to persist with a problem?

Procedural writing: At the end of the story Cyrus and Edward wear a bow tie. Write instructions to their friend the zebra on how to tie a bow tie.


This book is a great springboard to launch into mathematics investigations:

Measurement: How long is Edward’s neck? What can we use to measure it? Provide students a picture of Edwards neck and record how long it is using a range of informal/formal units. Don’t forget to estimate before you measure! Extra challenge: compare it to your neck. What is the difference in length?

Using a tie, identify, measure and record the length of objects. What did you find out? How will you share your thinking?

Patterns: Edwards tries to dress up his long neck. Design a patterned scarf, tie or bow tie for Edward’s long neck. As a class, create a tally of the different patterns used – stripes, shapes, colours. Don’t forget to make a bow tie for Cyrus too!

Cyrus the turtle has an attractive shell. What shapes can you see? What patterns can you make using the shapes? How will you share the patterns and your thinking?

Positional language: Edwards wants to hide his neck. Where could he hide? Behind a tree, in a ditch… The mathematicians create their own Edward and hide it in different parts of the classroom. Photograph to make a class book. The mathematicians write about Edward’s location.

Classifying: List all the animals that appear in the book. How could we classify them? How can you represent this data? As a tally, graph, table?

Problem Solving: There are 12 animals featured in the book. How many legs might there be all together? Show your thinking in pictures, numbers, and words.

Time: Edward wants to ‘hide until the sun sets.’ When does the sun set? How long does Edward want to hide for? What other phrases can we use to describe the length of time?

Ordering: Research the heights of different animals. Order them from shortest to tallest. Discuss all the vocabulary we can use to describe height. This could be a good opportunity to discuss why we say the giraffe has a long neck instead of a tall neck.

Number: Edward has a bundle of scarves. Collect a bundle of materials. How many is in your bundle? How will you share your total and your thinking?


Enjoy and stay connected,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #24

Dharma the Llama

By Matt Cosgrove



I feel very honoured to introduce Janette Colbert to you all. Many moons ago, Janette and I worked closely together at Beaconsfield Primary School in Victoria. She continues to be a passionate teacher! The beauty of our profession is the many friendships you develop over time. I am happy to present the teaching ideas created by Janette and I – ENJOY!


I adore the way Matt writes and illustrates. His books have been great seeds for my Writer’s Notebook and to develop comprehension strategies. This book is my favourite! I adore the character Dharma – but I also LOVE reading books and flowers. (Maybe a text to self connection)

Listen and view Matt introduce Dharma:


Listen to and view Jessica Mauboy present this fabulous story as a rap:

I think this is a great initiative and once you hear this rap….you love the story even more!

  • Looking at the front cover what shapes can you see? What could you draw using these shapes?


  • Study the end papers inside the front and back cover. What clues do they give us about the story? Can you create end papers for your own story?


  • On the title page, how many butterflies do you see? Activate your prior knowledge. What do you know about butterflies? Why do you think Matt include them in this illustration?


  • Explore the rhyming words in the text by selecting four words and make a Think Board of rhyming words. Put one word in each section of the Think Board and brainstorm as many rhyming words as possible to fill each section.


  • Go on a print walk and select words you love! Can you show the meaning of the words using colour, size, and shape?


    • Dharma loves to read both fiction and nonfiction books. After reading Dharma the Llama, read a nonfiction book about llamas. Compare and contrast – how are the two books similar? How are they different?


    • What are your favourite fiction and nonfiction books? How would you promote these books?


    • Go on a punctuation mark hunt! What did you find? How are you going to show your findings?


    • Dharma’s books all have titles with a twist on real life stories. Think of your favourite book and give it a llama twist for its title. Create a new front cover for your book with its new title and yourself as the author. Create a new back cover, including a blurb for your book.


    • Dharma declares ‘X marks the spot!’ Create a pirate map using a birds-eye-view. Use your best pirate voice to explain your map!


    • Follow instructions to make a pirate hat like Dharmas. Make a short video for someone else to follow.


    • Use the colours of the llamas in the story to create your own pattern – how many elements can you include?


    • Dharma made her own rope ladder. Make your own creation out of rope. Write the instructions as a procedural text that someone else could follow. Create a class book for everyone to try!


    • Make Ooblek and put objects in it to recreate the llamas stuck in the mud. Explore the properties of Ooblek – what makes it tricky for objects to get out? How is this similar to mud?


    • Create a new adventurous way for Dharma to save the other llamas – she tried a rope ladder, a vine swing and hot air balloons as an astronaut. Illustrate and write your solution.


    • Make a list of all of the bold words in the book. Categorise them as verbs and adjectives.


    • Create a list of everything that you would need to throw a party. Use a shopping catalogue or online shopping to find out the total cost of your party.


  • Create a map that shows all of the adventures of the llamas. Use a map key to show important features on your map.


  • Collect data in response to the question- What animals appear in the book? how will you present your data?


  • Make a list of all of the titles of the books Dharma reads. Survey your family and friends or classmates to find out which book they would most like to read. Present your survey findings as a graph of your choice.


  • Use the activities of the llamas to create a daily timetable – include the times they started and finished each activity.


  • Dharma wears a chin of flowers around her neck. Have you ever made a daisy chain? Try it out! How long is it? How many flowers did you use?


  • Dharma loves to read anything, any time and anywhere! What do you like to read? What is your favourite spot? Create a profile about yourself and share.


Happy World Teacher’s Day everyone!


Andrea Hillbrick




Take Away Teaching Ideas #23

Why I love Footy

By Michael Wagner

You can view Michael reading the story at HERE 


To take advantage of all a book has to offer I implement a Teacher Book Walk!


What is a Teacher Book Walk? (TBW)

We implement a ‘walk’ through the book together -with a colleague or in a team.

Implementing a TBW helps us consider all the learning opportunities presented in the text:

  • Teaching writers
  • Teaching readers
  • Teaching mathematicians
  • Teaching investigators

During a TBW, we consider all components of the fiction or non-fiction book:

  • front and back covers
  • content/words
  • illustrations
  • diagrams
  • headings
  • table of contents
  • labels
  • speech captions
  • thought bubbles
  • font style and size
  • end pages

We use what we have discovered from the TBW to make connections with the needs and interests of our learners.

How do we implement a TBW?

  1. Select a small selection of books.
  2. Read a brief overview of each book. This book is about…a synopsis for books can be located online.
  3. Select one book to implement a TBW.
  4. View or implement a read aloud of the book – become very familiar with the book.
  5. Walk through the book and consider each feature or page.
  6. Identify a learning opportunity and share.
  7. Make links to your learners, to teaching strategies and to the curriculum.

It is amazing what you discover when you collaborate to identify quality teaching strategies through exploring quality texts!


Check out my TBW for Michael’s engaging story I Love Footy!


If you get a chance to implement one of these ideas tag me in on your post!

I would love to see these ideas come alive! 


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #22

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Do you know I have had the privilege of working alongside an award-winning author?

Let me introduce you to Jodi. I am fortunate to have collaborated with Jodi on several projects at Forest St PS – Teaching Writers, Writer’s Notebook, and Inquiry Learning.

This is a treat as Jodi has created this edition of teaching ideas about her own book. Thank you, Jodi, for the brilliant collection of ideas. I cannot wait to use your book again with one of these ideas!


Check out Jodi’s website at :




Mallee Sky lends itself to all facets of comprehension.

Predict Look at the front cover, read the blurb on the back to gather clues and use any prior knowledge you may have to predict some events that might happen in this story.

Visualise Listen to a few pages of Mallee Sky without looking at the pictures.  What did you see in your mind?  List and describe.

Connect Text to Self: Have you ever been to the Mallee, to the country or to a farm before?  What did you notice, what happened, or what did you discover?

Text to Text: Does this book remind you of another book you have read?  How and why?  Explain the connections you have made.

Text to World: What does this book remind you of in the real world?  What connections can you make to things you have read about, seen on the news or learned about in TV programs?

Infer Feelings:  Look at the illustrations of each character as the story progresses, e.g: Dad on the verandah surveying his crops, the students at school when they hear the rain and then when they get to dance in it.  Can you infer how each character is feeling in those moments?  What clues from the pictures and words did you use to make these inferences?

Infer Consequences: This book highlights the devastation drought can have on communities.  Why is farming essential?  Why does it matter if the crops grow or not?  Infer what might happen for the broader community if crops don’t grow.

Infer Cause and Effect:  What happens to the land when it doesn’t rain?  What happens to the land when it does?  Use the book to confirm or disconfirm your inferences.  Prove it!

Summarise After reading, summarise the key events that happened in the story in your own words.

Synthesise What did you know about farm life or drought before reading Mallee Sky?  What do you know now?

Question After reading this story, what are you wondering now?

Analyse Notice the descriptive words and language used throughout the text.  List some of the descriptive words and phrases.  How do they make you feel?  Why do you think I used those words in my book?

Critique Did you like Mallee Sky? (Of course you did!!!)  Explain why, or why not.

Write a book review of Mallee Sky.  Use a five star rating, and explain your rating in your review.



Mallee Sky is a great children’s picture book to use as a mentor text to study several aspects of the craft of writing.

Figurative Language Imagery:  Authors use words to paint a picture in the readers’ mind.  Look at examples from Mallee Sky, e.g.: As days pass, blue gives way to welcome grey while paddocks turn to carpets of green beneath the leaden sky. Practise using descriptive words and phrases to bring your setting to life.  Make sure you provide enough detail that your reader can visualise your setting in their mind.

Metaphor – Authors use words or phrases to describe something that isn’t literally true, e.g.: “When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”  The sky isn’t literally bleeding or on fire – but the colours of the sunset remind the reader of these things.  Find the metaphors in Mallee Sky and practise writing your own.

Alliteration Authors love to use alliteration; that is, starting several words in a sentence with the same letter. Find examples of alliteration in Mallee Sky, e.g.: The scrub sighs, still and thirsty.  Now pick a person, object or place and practise writing your own sentences about it, using alliteration.

Similes:  Similes compare two things.  Choose objects from Mallee Sky and write similes for them, e.g.: The silos are as tall as a giant.  The sun is as hot as fire.  The sky is as blue as the ocean.

Personification Sometimes, authors give an object or thing human characteristics or actions.  Mallee Sky is full of personification, e.g.: The wind is too hot and tired to raise more than a whisper through the eucalypts. Find an object around the room and write sentences, giving it human characteristics or actions.

Show Dont Tell! Instead of writing direct statements about a character, place or event, show the reader with actions, feelings or descriptions.  In Mallee Sky, we know that it is hot and dry, but I don’t state this, directly, I show it with my descriptions, instead.  Try writing sentences to show your reader the following:  It is hot.  It is cold.  He was scared.  She was tired.  But there’s one catch:  You’re not allowed to write hot, cold, scared or tired!  Show by describing actions, feelings, thoughts and descriptive words or phrases.

Language Use and Word Choice: Emotions Authors use words and phrases to make the reader feel something.  Find words and phrases in Mallee Sky that elicit powerful emotions.  Choose an emotion, e.g.: angry, sad, excited and surprised.  Write sentences to show how your character is feeling.  But, one rule:  You are not allowed to use the words “angry, sad, excited or surprised”. Instead, use descriptive words or phrases and show these emotions in your character’s actions, thoughts and words.

Sensory Images Mallee Sky taps into our senses.  Find the pictures and words that help you to visualise, see, feel, hear or smell the landscape.  Write your own sensory poem about your favourite place, tapping into the senses.

Sizzling Starts: Read the first page of Mallee Sky.  Practise writing your own sizzling starts to draw the reader in.  Start with a sound, some action, some dialogue, or describe your setting using show don’t tell.  Just don’t start with “One day!”

Compare and Contrast: Write how the harsh landscape of the Mallee compares with the place you live, or another place you have been.

Convince Me:  Mallee Sky features the seasons of the year.  Imagine the seasons have an argument one day about which season is the best and why.  Don’t forget to add lots of details about each season’s reasons!

Themes:  Research the themes of drought or climate change.  Write an information report on your findings.

Place:  Authors write about places they know and love. I love the Mallee, as it is my home. That’s why I decided to write a book about it. Write about your favourite place. Why do you love it?  List all the reasons with lots of description and detail.



Mallee Sky has wonderful links to Mathematics, especially in terms of temperature, location, mapping, distance, size, colour, counting, the list goes on!

Size:  Find three objects in the book.  Draw each object.  Compare the size of each object.  Which is the biggest?  Which is the smallest?  Which would weigh more?  Explain your thinking.  Label each object with a size word to describe it.

Sort and Classify:  Choose six objects from Mallee Sky, e.g.: dog, boy, dam, galah, tree, Dad.  Draw each object.  Now cut them out and sort them into your own categories.  Why have you sorted them this way?  Is there another way you could sort them?

Colour:  Go on a colour hunt in Mallee Sky. Count the colours.  List the colours.  Sort into bright colours, light colours, dark colours.  Create a picture of your own landscape using colours.

Shape:  Find objects in Mallee Sky that feature different shapes, eg: the silos, cars, utes, houses, bath, etc.  Draw the shapes.  Label the shapes.  How many sides do each shape have?  How many corners?

Make your own picture using shapes.

Build one of the objects from Mallee Sky out of Lego.  Count the number of bricks you needed to make each object. Measure it.

Counting:  Go on a house hunt.  Count the number of houses in the book.

Count the number of silos in the book.

Count the numbers of vehicles.

Count the number of birds and animals.

Count the number of mailboxes.  What number is on your mailbox?  How many different numbers can you make with the numerals on your mailbox?  What is the highest number?  What is the lowest number?  Order the different numbers you have made.

Graphing:  Make a pictograph showing how many birds, cars, houses, mailboxes.

Temperature:  The Mallee is a hot place. Sometimes, it gets up to 49 degrees in the summer, and Minus 5 in the winter!

Research temperatures in the Mallee.  Compare the temperature in the Mallee today, with the temperature of your town.  Find the difference.

Pick a place.  Research the daily temperature using a weather app or website.

Graph the temperature over a week including the highs and the lows.  Interpret your graph.  What was the highest temperature? What was the lowest temperature?  What was the average temperature?

Location / Distance:  Find where the Mallee is on a map.  How far away is it from your town?

Look at a map.  Find your town, and now find the town Beulah.  List all the different towns between.  Write a set of directions to get there.

Time:  If it takes one hour to drive 100 kilometres, how long would it take you to drive to the Mallee?

If it takes 2 hours to walk 10 kilometres, how long would it take you to walk to the Mallee?!

Measurement:  The Mallee is a dry place.  Research the rainfall in the Mallee over the last week.  Find out monthly average rainfall.  Find out the yearly average rainfall.  Compare the rainfall of the Mallee to the rainfall in your own town.  Find the difference.



Thank you to Tracy and Naomi for the stunning photo of the silos.

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick