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

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 #20

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants

By Philip Bunting

View the story 


Visit Phillip’s website:


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