Day Two of Book in a day took place today – and after two days of immersing our Yr 9 students in an intense writing process where their creativity flourished and enthusiasm was evident I am certainly more than content.

Over the last two days I have been a part of a project that engaged our students entirely. Even during phase one of the project I read to the students in order to model positive reading practice as I read to them with sincerity and shared with them my love of literature. What was even more satisfying was having students arrive at lunch time for purely voluntary reading sessions. We lifted the barrier of stifled creativity and formed the world of Animal Farm within the walls of Our Barn!

Our reading network was supported by teachers through the practical tool of google doc. I discovered this to be one of the most manageable and incredibly basis tools to effectively respond to students as we ensured their understanding of the key issues in Animal Farm were fostered and commented on. It is no secret now that I was Napoleon and I know that I am so impressed with the way I was able to observe the students in my online care improve their writing skills.

If this wasn’t satisfying enough my class was so engaged as we continued to learn about ways to develop imagery in our creative writing pieces though various literary devices. Today, I was privileged to see my young Napoleons meet their group members (unveiled this morning!), tackle the stimulus, undergo planning and the collection of our stories entitled * Thunderstorm: A Collection of Short Stories on the Use and Abuse of Power. in order to produce their amazing work.

Again, Year 11 Advanced English were invited to come and mentor for one period and they were able to provide invaluable feedback to our students. This system certainly benefited all students involved and really brought English to a whole school level – bridging a gap between senior and junior English students. I was also so pleased to see our acting Principal visit and support our students.

One element we added yesterday was the drop box on our moodle where students were expected to upload their final group product – their book – AS WELL AS their individual contributions. This effectively ensures that all students certainly were actively participating in the project today and were not cutting and pasting from the internet.

Again, I would like to share some samples of brilliant work with you. I managed to work with each of the students in Year 9 over the last two days and I have been struck by their insight, creativity, organisational skills and ability to work under collaboratively under pressure. As I dismissed my crew today I commended them and recognised each of them as accomplished and published young writers. They are remarkable.


Today when I arrived at school a strangeness filled the air. Today was to be DAY 1 of “Book in a Day” with our Year 9 Project Based Learning students. Yesterday I announced that it would be Boxer – the embodiment of loyalty, Squealer – the manipulative and Mollie – with her unfailing pursuit of freedom that would undergo the task set before them. Each student needed to accept the challenge to work in an intense environment where they would need to plan, collaborate and compose one short story surrounding the central thematic concern allocated to them derived from Animal Farm. This short story would in the end be part of a compendium of short stories called;

Twilight: A Selection of Short Stories on the Brink.
(beautifully entitled by Brad Horsburgh)


We also gave them guidelines for time frames for when they should be completed their planning in order to meet the overall deadline. I was so impressed with the work the students were producing as a team! They were keeping each member of the group accountable which can sometimes be neglected in the classroom. After they had established their plot outline, key characters they wished to introduce, setting it was time to write. Students were also required to make subtle links to the stimulus video designed by Dean Groom. This was achieved through detailed description with close attention paid to similes, metaphors and personification in order to create imagery which is absolutely essential to successful creative writing.


Another level that we incorporated into the proceedings from today was to have one Year 11 Advanced class come and mentor the students two hours into the day. Shereen D'Souza kindly brought her class who were extremely helpful and enthusiastic to the hard working Yr 9 boys. This offered an opportunity for another 'voice' to provide feedback and offer advice to these young writers who were beginning at this stage to feel the pressure!

This group worked remarkably well on a number of levels. Planning strategies, time management, clear message and consistent narrative voice. A collaborative and well polished submission from Year 9 students which met all of the requirements of the task!

It's also important to acknowledge that we kept technology to a minimum throughout this project and during today. The students used google docs to effectively share their work in progress (1000 words each) that needed to combine to form the overall short story. They had already mastered using this tool in phase one of the project that I mentioned yesterday. In addition to this, each group allocated a graphic designer to become familiar with the program they needed to publish their work in - saving their work into a pdf format using indesign and finally uploading using lulu.

In the final hour of the day it was a joy to see each student beaming with a sense of accomplishment! There certainly was agreement in the air as we confirmed our room was indeed filled with accomplished young writers!

I am really excited about where things are going with Year 9 at the moment, especially in Social Studies. Our PBL projects seem to be targetting the interests of our students and I am watching them develop even further as the young writers I saw emerge during the blogging that occurred throughout the GreenUp Project.

With this project, we considered two mandatory skills that every student should master – reading and writing. We adopted a Phase 1 – Reading & Comprehending with a focus on the core text Animal Farm followed by Phase 2 – Creative Writing. This time it was important to me that all teachers actively provided feedback to students using google docs. The students were able to select their online community using our school moodle site where we gave them options for groups of Napoleon, Squealer, Snowball, Mollie, Moses and Boxer. We ‘sold’ the group by using blurbs beautifully composed by our new recruit Brad, that in many ways introduced the characters the students would meet throughout Animal Farm as well as bread crumb key issues that might arise in the novel. The introduction for Napoleon was:

“Napoleon emerged from the farmhouse, wearing both his medals, with his nine huge dogs frisking round him and uttering growls that sent shivers down all the animals’ spines.”

“Napoleon was now never spoken of simply as ‘Napoleon.’ He was always referred to in formal style as ‘our Leader, Comrade Napoleon,’ and the pigs liked to invent for him such titles as Father of all Animals, Terror of Mankind, Protector of the Sheepfold, Ducklings’ Friend, and the like.”

A wise man once said, ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Is it ever just to have a single person have absolute control? Why is power so seductive? Does it bring out the best or the worst in people?

Choose Napoleon to explore notions of power, control and the corruptive influence of absolute power.

From here, the facilitator of the group was able to set reflective tasks where they could monitor the students understanding of the text throughout their google doc as well as provide feedback on overall structure, spelling and grammar. Having a group of 23 as your responsibility was entirely manageable and the teacher could even set extra work and share the one document among all of their “Napoleonites”

CHAP 3 + 4


It is great to see our numbers growing and that everyone is engaging with the key concepts of Animalism. Old Major of course was very influential in planting the seeds of equality in the population of Manor Farm. It was of course.. ahem.. it was sad to see him pass but this just means that the need has risen for new leadership and new ways of achieving goals…

Please show me that you have understood this by answering the following questions. This is more than just comprehension – show me that you clearly are understanding the issues that are occurring and of course make observations on other characters. Remember always, that we Napoleonites are naturally equipped to take this farm to new levels!

How are the ideals of Animalism sacrificed in Chapter 3?

What is the impact of the Battle of the Cowshed? Why is it significant in Animal Farm’s history?


What grew more satisfying was to see students engaging with the text and I was able to provide immediate feedback:

In my opinion if Old Major had been alive, to witness the relationship between these two extravagant pigs, he would have kicked himself. He would have thought, after all the explanation that he gave about: the way rebellion should work, we have these two pigs fighting to become a leader. This is all happening after he told the animals- “In order to achieve something we all must work as a team”. Excellent quote and reference to the text!

I think what we managed to achieve with MANY thanks to Dean Groom was to lower the ‘tech’ requirements in this project and have the kids read and write! By using google docs, it allowed for a manageable and very practical wasy of sharing work and providing feedback to our students.

Of course the next phase was to demonstrate creative writing skills – which will be assessed in the School Certificate AND the HSC – through Orwell’s excellent writing style. My class came up with some FANTASTIC work as we added our to our narrative building blocks.

In order to establish an awareness of description, we firstly considered our bland sentence (as a class):

“The tree grew in the playground”

We revisited our similes, metaphors, personification and adjectives so we could effectively ‘paint a picture’ using skillful imagery that is formed as a result of incorporating these literary devices. Each student completed the modifications of adding each technique at a time and I was simply astounded! Year 9 is incredible!

Our next step was a collaborative task which was to continue the narrative that began:

I opened the door and there before me was

The most impressive submission was entitled “The Beast”.

I opened the door and there before me was the most majestic animal I have ever seen. Its mane was as glorious and as bright as the sun in the morning sky. The glossy fur that laid upon its body was smooth as a freshly picked rose petal. Its stance as prestigious as the Queen of England. Its legs carries the courage of 90 brave soldiers put together. Blood was leaking from its recently killed prey, off its razor sharp teeth as his eyes gazed with rage. Still this threatening beast had the beauty of the Mona Lisa.

Each of the responses to this task provided me with evidence that my Yr 9 students had certainly demonstrated creative writing skills. We added to our narrative building blocks – setting, structure, characterisation, plot development and enjoyed a number of learning activities that saw the students continue to refine their writing styles.

I am really looking forward to the final product this week – Book in a Day – we are ready!

I have had some students request that I compose a ‘final blog’ on greenup, and I am afraid to disappoint them yet I feel that I won’t re-visit the site for a little while.  I am still on a high after the success of the project and am currently organising ’round 2′ of the final presentations.  The students were so engaged and enthusiastic, so I feel that the next step is to continue fostering the writing skills that each student was developing over the four weeks of the project, but how?

I really enjoyed the online learning environment that supported the action that took place in the classroom and at home!  But I would now like to see the boys writing what they would like to write about, a “Young Writers Initiative” but I need a more adventurous name!  I am planning to offer this as an additional program to interested students who I certainly believe will wish to be involved.

I’d like to see the multi-layered effect come into play.  Teacher support at school but also by creating a supportive network as an online community of learners.  So will this only be open to Year 9?  Everything has a beginning I say, and then we will see where it grows!

Greenup 2145 reflections

(above I have hyperlinked my blog on greenup so you can view student comments if you like!)

My week in review

I learned this week how important it is to clearly state the expectations of the project from the outset – this way I know that you will know what it is you must achieve within the next four weeks! I learned that it is important to set goals in order to make progress and that combined with strong individual work ethic AND effective group work, you can reach them!

During the development stages of this project I learned how important it was for me to be able to seek assistance from others and actually DO what it was that I expect you to complete – using different elements of technology that are specified within your project. I feel that it is good teaching to be able to model and scaffold tasks for you.

I have been SO impressed with the many students who are constantly blogging and growing as reflective writers. I love seeing you ‘switched on’ as you cover the skills and the content. I love the ‘newness’ that I am seeing as you are completing the task! I am also seeing the benefits of the 24/7 open lines of communication which has become an essential element of the PBL learning environment.

So the next step for the week ahead is really learning and understanding the geographical issues that are highlighted in the international news break and the memo that arrived yesterday in our classes! I can already see students openly sharing resources from the research they have been completing and I would love to see students present some tutorials in the week ahead to ensure the understanding of these issues are clarified

and the learning continues to grow…

As I reflect on the last week of teaching during this project, I can’t help but be over joyed at the way in which you are each growing as young writers who are also displaying a keen interest in the content of this project. I have also been delighted to watch our online community of learners continue to grow as each of you share your thoughts, ideas and information with each other.

I can certainly see the benefit now of scaffolding activities for you to complete during the project and I continue to see you respond to the structure that we are providing. I am also enjoying providing ongoing feedback to you and am grateful for the support and assistance of other teachers who are continually contributing to this project.

I learned how to use voice thread effectively this week, as a way of providing feedback through the critical friends process with particular focus on your blog posts. I have also seen the value of having insights from a wider education circle and am so appreciative of the national and international voices who are contributing here too!

For the week ahead, I really believe that my knowledge of the geographical issues that this project addresses will increase dramatically – particularly after the impressive tutorials today that were led by you – our students.

and now it’s my turn…

So I feel like I am constantly reminding boys to blog – either that or commenting on some of the blogs that continually impress me. I finally arrive at remembering it is my turn to stop and reflect on my experiences during this last week of the project.

I am impressed on a number of levels. Firstly, the way I see everyone making progress with the geographical content within this project – which I must admit is quite complex! I am struck with something most rewarding though, as I am seeing each of you gain and increase your knowledge of facts but in addition to this, I am visibly observing your understanding of these issues and how they impact on us and our local environment. This is incredible to watch online and in the classroom!

Secondly, I am so impressed with the young writers that I am reading here online. I have been an avid reader from week one of the project and have been captivated all the way to where we find ourselves now. I now see full sentences, correct spelling, improved grammar, punctuation – as an English teacher – I am over joyed as I have seen your literacy levels improve remarkably.

There is a little sadness though, creeping into our greenup space. I am noticing the blog titles (which have also come a long way!) beginning to read with words reminiscent of finality. At the same time, I am also seeing the anxious tones in your blogs as you come to terms with the fast approaching deadlines.

I am left waiting in eager anticipation as I prepare to watch the unveiling of final products!!!!

so what next

It’s quite intriguing when a student asks, “Miss – why haven’t you reflected on last week yet?” This happened today. Strangely enough, if I had a diary, I guess I should have turned it over for demerit. Instead, this learning experience goes beyond that. For me it serves as a reminder that what we have created here is a community of learners who operate both actively in the class room and online. A community of learners who have grown accountable for their own contributions and in turn for those around them. For me – this is one of the most rewarding aspects of being your teacher.

I consider this project and the demands that it placed on you. I ask myself, “Did I expect too much?” The answer that returns however is that “Even if I did, you have exceeded all my expectations.”

Over the last weeks, I have read the most interesting blogs on how researching environmental and geographical issues have impacted on you – our teenagers who walk the streets of Westmead (post code 2145) each day to arrive at school and again to leave at the end of the day. You spend 5 out of 7 days in Westmead so no matter what way you look at it, you are certainly contributors to the environmental factors you have researched and understood. This is evident in the way you proposed solutions for problems you have perceived and recommendations you made to ensure sustainability. This is an incredible achievement and I believe that many of you have embarked upon a life long learning experience of ensuring you make the right decision to ensure the continuation of greenup2145.

Your dedication and commitment over the last weeks has not gone unnoticed and I found the presentations yesterday and today most impressive. I would really like to wish the representatives from our class all the very best for the presentations that are taking place tomorrow afternoon!

Overall, I am looking forward to a promising future for Westmead! I believe we are in your capable hands. I just hope you accept the challenge to continue the good work!

Here I am…

This my first official post. That sounds like a student who is blogging for the first time and that’s me. Throughout the current project that I have been running at school, greenup2145.ning.com I have realised that I need to seriously log-on to the world of education that my students have been exposed to – through the wonderful assistance and guidance of Dean Groom.

Firstly, I have always known that my vocation lies in teaching. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher is to see the joy in your students as they are actively engaged members of the learning process. I have always liked the idea that although I have answers, I don’t have all the answers. I enjoy how my current involvement in PBL at my school allows for me to express this through my teaching methods in the classroom and beyond.

This does not mean I sit back and make the kids do all the work! That would lazy, unprofessional and not the moral way of achieving a consistent income! Instead, hard work in planning what I desire the students to achieve is paramount. This is not only for my Year 9 PBL students, I also try and incorporate this style of teaching into my other classes because I wish for my students to be life long learners who leave my classroom with knowledge and understanding that they have arrived at themselves (with some help from me!)

So where did the project greenup2145 come from? A hard working bunch of teachers attended the intense training offered in Grand Rapids, Michigan during June 2008. I was under instruction to prepare a project that accommodated the current integration of English (my favourite subject) and Geography (a subject that at the outset was lost on me.)

I was driven by the will to create something that the kids would love. Fortunately, working collaboratively with Dean Groom, Gavin Hays and Sak Vuki we entered the world of ning and a project was born! For me, a project requires multi-layered yet conceivable expectations and for me this needed to provide engagement and a system that fostered motivation as well as constant feedback from teachers.

To be honest, I would not have been aware of the world of opportunities that ning contained had Dean not made me aware of it. So with that as our platform, an entry document of an international news break (read by some authorial American voices!) and a secondary entry document of a “memo” that outlines the specific requirement of the task we were off!

I still remember being somewhat hesitant and approaching Dean is his office with the concern of “I don’t know what this project will look like”, he assured me “that was the beauty of it.” (If you know Dean you’ll know that’s not one of his sayings but it was words to that effect…)

And now the project is drawing to a close and I am so overwhelmed (in a positive way!) at the support we have received from many educators across the globe. I thank you sincerely for your support to me over the web – but also for encouraging my students who have progressed as young writers and citizens who have gained a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the geographical issues they were researching. They were given a voice that went beyond the classroom and you, my friends in education, allowed that to happen.

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