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

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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!’

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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.


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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

Take Away Teaching Ideas #21

Apes to Zebras

By Liz Brownlee, Sue Hardy- Dawson, Roger Stevens

Yeah! Another new book on my shelf. Thank you to Kylie Watson for introducing me to this awesome book but also for creating these brilliant teaching ideas. I only added a couple of ideas.

I am lucky to work with Kylie at Dana St PS in Ballarat. In her Learning Specialist role Kylie and I collaborate about all things related to Mathematics. I am sure you will agree with me, her expertise is literacy too!

We decided to create our own A-Z of learning experiences for this book. Enjoy!




Annotate your thinking about the poem titled Koala.

Ask – What questions would you ask the authors of these poems.


Background knowledge – What do you know about the topic in the poem titled Emperor Penguin? How will you find out more information?


Categorise your thinking – Using the poem Paradox Frog research other amphibians that would fit in this species category.


Draw – Illustrate a picture that conveys ideas and feelings from the poem Gulls.


Express Yourself – Draw or use an iPad to take photos of the emotions you feel when reading certain poems. Why do you feel these emotions?


Figurative Language – Identify the figurative language within the poem titled Zebra.


Geography – Using the poem titled Quokka, locate on a map where they inhabit.


Hunt – Look for adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, or high frequency words in the poems.


I Wonder… – Wondering about the poem Bees or any other animals within the poems.


Jot down your thinking from the poem Otter.

Justify your selection of your favourite poem.


K-W-L – Create a K-W-L chart on the animal in the poem titled Spider.

  • What I know?
  • What I want to learn?
  • What I learned?


Label – Draw the animal in the poem titled Stick Insect and label the parts of the animal.

Listen to the author read the poems.

Liz Brownlee reads her poem Narwhal


Sue Hardy-Dawson reads Crocodile


Roger Stevens reads Tiger



Measurement – Use Giraffe poem to identify mathematical language used. Measure the height of a giraffe and compare to student heights.


Nouns – Write down the nouns you can associate with Whale poem. Can you think of adjectives to describe the poem?


Opinions – Discuss different options formed from the poem Hedgehog.  

Objects Collect objects to provide clues for a poem.


Purpose – Why did the author write this poem? Persuade, inform, or entertain.


Questioning – What deeper thinking questions can be developed form the poem titled Parrots.

Quick Draw – Quickly draw clues related to one of the poems. Can you buddy guess the poem?


Rhyming – Identify the rhyming words in the poem Grasshopper


Shape Poem Create your own shape poem to publish and share.


Survey – Use Survey Monkey to find out people’s favourite poem.


Synonyms – Write down all the adjectives you can see in the poem tilted Unicorn. Write down synonyms to match.


Text Connections – make connections from the poems read. They can be text to self, text to text or text to world.


Unfamiliar words – Identify and define any unfamiliar words which you come across within the poems.


Venn Diagram – Create a Venn Diagram including two of the animals from different poems.


Word Splash – Create a word splash of everything we know about the animal in the poem Tiger.


Y Chart – Create a Y chart for an animal in a poem; looks like, sounds like, smells like.




Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick


Take Away Teaching Ideas #20

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants

By Philip Bunting

View the story 


Visit Phillip’s website: https://philipbunting.com/


The people I meet and collaborate with is a major bonus of my work. In this edition I have had the pleasure of collaborating with a friend from WA! We were lucky to meet at AISWA professional learning opportunities in Perth.

Sarah Lilley is passionate about all aspects related to learning and is always willing to share how she transfers new learning into her classroom.

I truly thank Sarah for collaborating with me to create these teaching ideas for you! 



This book links to predicting, summarising, and making connections.

  • Predicting: Why do you think Phillip drew an ant inside the front and back cover? The labels on the ants are different why? Confirm or reject your prediction after reading the book.
  • Making connections: What objects do you use on pages 1 and 2? Where do you find them? How do you use them?
  • Predicting: Before you read pages 3 and 4: There are lots of ants on Earth. How many do you think there are?
  • Predicting: Before you read pages 7 and 8: What do you love to do? What do you not like to do? What do you think ants love to do?
  • Making connections: Pages 21 and 22: Connecting knowledge about using the recycling bins around the school with how ants naturally recycle. The idea of using a compost bin to help feed a worm farm and create better soil is also utilised by ants.
  • Summarising: Pages 22 – 26: Philip summarises the amazing feats of ants by using key words to explain the most important aspects of ant life: Love your family; Waste nothing; Always do you best for others around you.
  • Summarising: Create a matching game of terms, pictures and definitions.
  • Summarising: Create a table of what ants love and do not love. Create a table of information about yourself!
  • Making connections: Investigate another book created by Philip. Were you able to make text to text connections?


This book lends itself to writing to inform and vocabulary.

  • Vocabulary: What would you write in the caption on page 1?
  • Factual writing: Pages 13 and 14 explore the jobs that occur in an ant colony. It highlights the use of keywords (rather than sentences) to display facts. This would link in well with HASS concepts about community members and the jobs they do. An interview with Mum and Dad, or a member of the school community, could be the final outcomes.
  • Vocabulary: Pages 17 and 18: What is odorous? aromatic? pheromones? These challenging words lend themselves to using scents in playdough on the Sensory Table. Focus on how smells evoke memories i.e. What does this citrus smell remind you of? (making lemon slice with my Nanna).
  • Vocabulary: Pages 19 and 20: The words that have a lot of syllables/claps. Omnivorous, carnivorous, herbivorous. What animals are herbivorous?
  • Vocabulary: What words would you add to your classroom word wall with your students? How would you support them to use these words as writers?
  • Factual Writing: Write your own pledge/action plan in response to the message on the last page of the book.
  • Factual Writing: Create an image of ants by using your fingerprints. What ideas have you collected for your writing? What can you now write about?
  • Factual Writing: Observe an ant farm and jot down your observations to include in a factual piece of writing.



This is a great book to explore number, time, direction, mass, shape, and size.

  • Shape: What shapes can you see on the front cover of the book?
  • Number: What is the number on pages 3, 4 and 5?  How many zeros are in this number? What is the biggest number you have counted to?
  • Mass: On page 6 there is a picture that shows the weight of ants and humans. Heft a range of objects to find two objects of the same mass. Draw and label your objects. Weigh the objects using balance or kitchen scales.
  • Size: List words to describe the size of ants.
  • Direction: Pages 11 and 12, which explains how colonies are like villages is a great inspiration for teaching direction. It shows ants walking left and right and could be used for exploring positional language. Even though it is not a ‘birds eye view’, this page would also prompt the creation of a map of a village the students are familiar with; the classroom, ECC or school.
  • Time: Ants have powernaps. The sign says, ‘back in a minute’. What can you do in a minute? How will you record your findings?
  • Shape: The reduce – reuse – recycle symbol is three arrows. Where else do you see this symbol? How will you collect this data? How will you present your data?
  • Number: Ants have six legs. Can you find collections of 6 inside or outside? Photograph or draw your collections.
  • Number: Ants have six legs. Investigate the number of legs of other living things. How will you present your data?


A bonus social domain: Working as part of a team:

  • Pages 15 and 16 explain how ants work as a team. This video demonstrates how amazing ants can be when they have to traverse a gap.


This is such an engaging text – we thoroughly enjoyed planning these teaching ideas for you!

When you implement one of these ideas tag me in on your post! Sarah and I would love to see these ideas come alive! 😊



Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick


Take Away Teaching Ideas #19

The Pear in the Pear Tree.

By Pamela Allen

When John and Jane went out walking what did they see? They saw a pear in the pear tree. This humorous rhyming story tells of their attempts to reach the pear.





I am sure you will agree with me that Jazz has prepared so many opportunities to explore this story across the curriculum! Jasmine O’Brien is the Learning Specialist at Portarlington Primary School, Victoria. You can tell by this edition that Jazz is passioniate about linking literature across all areas of the curriculum. We both share a passion for mathematics. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to collaborate with Jazz on a whole school mathematics initiative at her school.

On behalf of us all – thanks Jazz for sharing your highly practical and engaging teaching ideas.




  • Punctuation (exclamation, ellipses, question marks, talking marks, full stops, hyphen)
  • Rhyming words (letter patterns and phonics)
  • Problem and solution
  • Fluency (using pictures to support reading)


Narrative writing-

  • Onomatopoeia
  • Dialogue
  • Author study- Writer’s crafts



  • Weight (hefting, balancing, mass)
  • Distance
  • Height
  • Informal and formal measurement

Problem solving:

  • Estimate, test, prove

Social and Personal Capabilities:

  • Team work
  • Persistence
  • Sharing


Teaching ideas:

In Pamela Allen’s story The Pear in the Pear Tree she cleverly uses a combination of simple sentences, questions, dialogue, punctuation, rhyming and onomatopoeia to engage her audience. This story explores desire, teamwork, problem solving, weight and luck. It is a fantastic story to unpack with students as it prompts lots of rich learning.

  1. Students to explore words for sounds. Students to play a ‘sound (onomatopoeia) heads up’. Students to hold up pictures of objects, things etc… (drum, wind, cow) above their head and their partner must make the sound for that item. The person must guess the object, thing or item. They have 30 seconds each. Most sounds correct gets to select first the card they wish to publish and make a class display for. Students to record all their sounds at the end of each round.

  2. Teacher to model how to categorise/sort rhyming words. Have students explore rhyming words in the story. Why did the author use rhyming words? What do they notice about some words when they rhyme? (the same letter patterns, blends that make a particular sound i.e. shout, out). What letter blends are different but have the same sound? (scare, air) Can you think of other words that rhyme but have different spelling patterns? Students to make a ladder of letter patterns to show as many words that rhyme as they can.

  3. Introducing problem and solutions. Write a summary using the prompts the problem was… The way the author solved the problem was…

  4. Students to write a sizzling start using onomatopoeia.

  5. Exploring secretarial skills in writing. Read Pamela Allen’s story and identify the many different types of punctuation. What does each one mean? Depending on level of learning make between 2 to 6 punctuation boxes (see below). Teacher to have students sit in a fishbowl. Give students prewritten sentences and have them sort each sentence into its correct punctuation box. Each student should explain why they chose the box i.e. this is a question because it begins with the word ‘how’ so it must end with a question mark etc… Students to then independently write sentences using their knowledge of the punctuation explored.

  6. Measurement (building mathematical vocab, connections and understanding through estimation and investigation)- Students to explore weight using informal measurement. Students to collect items from around the class. Students to draw a table with 5 columns (items, estimated heaviest, hefting heaviest, scales heaviest). See below. First lesson students to estimate and use hefting to find weight of items. Second lesson students to test their hefting with balance scales and give a reason as to why they think an item is heavier (it is longer than the other item). Another column can be added for formal measurement using scales as needed.

    Items Estimated heaviest Hefty Heaviest Balance Scales


    what is the reason?


    Pencil and cup Pencil Cup Pencil  



  7. Have students use various items (coat hanger, string, cups, ruler, cylinder etc…) provided by the teacher to create their own balance scales. Estimate, investigate, record, explain and prove the weights of items.

  8. Measurement- weight. Students to create their own catapult. They must collect 4 items to catapult. Students to estimate which one will travel further. Students to use a 1 metre piece of wool or string taped to the floor with a drawing of a pond at the end. Can my item make it to the pond? Students to write down a yes or no for each item and a reason why they think it will or will not make it to the pond. Students to test each item.

  9. Measurement- Using the catapult from the previous lesson students to measure distance. Students to choose 4 items to catapult. Students to decide how they will measure the distance (Unifix blocks, string with pegs, counters, measuring tape). Students to estimate which item will travel the longest distance and which will travel the shortest distance. Students to test, record and discuss.

  10. Problem solving- How would you reach the pear? Put a pear in the classroom out of the reach of the students. Ask students to estimate the height of the pear (is it a student and a half high, or 4 chairs etc…) Teacher to then use a piece of string to show the actual height of the pear. Students to be given the string to compare their measurements. Students to plan how they would get the pear in a realistic and safe way. Students to write a script with a team/partner and create a puppet play to show how their characters would get the pear.

In my Literacy Shop there are some teaching ideas for Pamela Allen’s books – check them out 😊


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick