Miss Galvin Learns

February 22, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

A Bright Idea for Handwriting


Thanks for joining the Bright Ideas Blog Hop this month.

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post about the handwriting bags I was using with my class and it’s one of my most popular posts that I receive comments and emails for.


Today I thought I’d share the revised version of my Handwriting Bags for my brand new class of Kinder/Foundation/Prep kiddos.

These are bags full of handwriting goodies that the kids keep in their chair bags so that they always have the tools they need ready to go.


I start with a large ziplock bag to pack all the goodies in. This keeps everything neat and tidy and stops little pieces from being lost. Also, because the bags are clear, it’s easy to work out WHO dropped WHAT on the floor.


What’s included in the bags:

  • 1 mini whiteboard
  • 1 A4 laminated handwriting page –  this has our school’s handwriting font (Vic Modern Cursive) in upper and lowercase letters, plus a larger version of their name to practise correct letter formation.
  • 1 little tub of playdough
  • 1 whiteboard marker
  • 1 piece of Magic Eraser sponge


The play dough is there for warming up little fingers. I have quite a few kiddos with very poor fine motor skills this year and I intend for them to use the play dough for the first minute or two.

The mini whiteboards are normally used during whole class instruction, where students record the letter under focus and can then hold the board underneath their chin so I can see how everyone’s going. (Also, it’s a bit easier than having everyone argue about coming up to the teacher’s board to practise writing their letters.)

The A4 laminated pages are usually for warm-ups or early finishers to practise forming each letter correctly, following the arrows provided in the tunnelling font for Vic Modern Cursive.

The Magic Eraser sponges are AWESOME at cleaning whiteboard markers off both whiteboards and laminated sheets and I can buy a couple of packets, cut them up and have really inexpensive erasers for everyone.

Thanks for stopping by this blog hop! I’d love to heard your ideas for handwriting, so don’t forget to leave a comment below. I’d also love for you to stop by my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for more bright ideas!

For more bright ideas, don’t forget to visit these wonderful bloggers and leave them some love!

February 19, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Thoughtful Thursday – Growth Mindset



This week I (and all of the teachers in my school’s local mini-network) attended a professional development session presented by Maria Roberto, titled:

Embracing the “F” Word
Using FAILURE to build resilience and motivation at school.

I have to say that, from all of these BIG group professional development sessions that have been run, this one was very interesting.

It is based on Carol Dweck’s research into Fixed and Growth Mindsets in students, and I think it has a lot of implications for teachers.

Basically, the premise is that a mindset is a belief system that is specific to each individual person, and is not something we’re born with, but something that we learn. Every mindset has its own set of rules, and is based on what you believe you are and are not capable of achieving.

Dweck’s research into fixed and growth mindsets in students focused on the specific feedback given to students who were given the same basic non-verbal IQ test: praise for intelligence (“You are so smart!”) and praise for effort (“You must have worked really hard.”). She then tracked student results in subsequent (more challenging) tests, where students who were praised for intelligence struggled to answer the harder questions and students who were praised for effort persisted in answering the harder questions even if they weren’t sure of the answers.

Students with fixed mindsets often find it difficult to move beyond their comfort zone, for fear of not appearing “smart” or for appearing to “fail.” They’ll go to lengths to hide or conceal mistakes. Students like this are at risk of becoming non-learners because they never take those responsible risks.

Students with growth mindsets engage in problem solving, put in effort and work through tasks despite failure. They push beyond their comfort zones and look at failure as an opportunity to increase learning.

I loved that we were given a list of fixed and growth mindset language choices, because as a teacher it’s super easy to simply (and well-meaningly) tell a student, “Wow, aren’t you clever,” because it’s quicker than, “Wow, I love how you put so much effort into answering your questions today.” But when you praise effort you’re encouraging students to persist even when they’re not super-confident.

I had a perfect example today in the classroom with one of my new little kiddos. They’ve only been at school for 11 days, and today we wrote a shared sentence and I had all the students have a go at copying it down. It was a very short sentence about their art lesson and was primarily used as an example of a complete sentence. One of the little boys sat there the whole time and wouldn’t attempt to copy ANY of it down because he was terrified he would do it wrong. Nothing I could say during the lesson would convince him that all I wanted him to do was have a go because he’d worked himself up so much.

Afterwards I pulled him aside and he’d written down the first three letters from the sentence and I told him that I was really proud of the way he’d had a go at the first few letters (and they were legible and neat, so I was super happy anyway) but we had to have a big chat about taking risks and remembering that it’s not making mistakes that makes teachers sad, it’s when students don’t have a go because mistakes are a learning opportunity, not something to be ashamed of.

At the end of the conversation I think he was considerably happier and was talking about going home and looking at words in his books and having a go at copying them down to practise and get better. (Can you imagine how happy this made me? Especially seeing a much happier expression on his face when he realised he wasn’t in trouble? Gosh!)

But, for the curious the words that you might hear coming from students with a fixed mindset include: must have, always, forever, all the time, every time, should, can’t stand it. (I can’t stand it! I must know the answer.)

Words for a growth mindset: sometimes, often, maybe, may, might, at times, occasionally, for now, frequently, (and the most important one) yet. (Sometimes I have the right answer. Sometimes I make mistakes. I may be able to solve this problem. I can’t solve this problem yet. I don’t know the answer yet.)

All of this is a super simple summary of the hour-long talk that I heard earlier in the week, but if you’re interested in looking in to it, or even being able to download a free .pdf full of lesson activities for using failure to build resilience in students, check out the ReachOut Professionals page – simply sign-up (it’s free) and look under the Professional Development tab for the Embracing the F Word download.

You can also see a TED Talk by Carol Dweck, titled The Power of Believing That You Can Improve.

Obviously, this extends beyond teaching and students, but I think it’s a timely reminder that our words (as teachers) do affect our students. We are very fortunate that we are able to influence and support our students in developing a growth mindset just by changing the way we praise them for their efforts.

Thanks for sticking around for this rather wordy post!

What professional development have you done recently that really inspired you?


February 17, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Twitter Talk Tuesday

Title-TwitterTalkI don’t know how many of you use Twitter (if you do, leave me your username below!), but I love to use it for professional reading.

It’s similar to how I use teacher blogs to get a peek at what other teachers around the world are doing, or the new ideas they’re trying, or just the good old tips and tricks that work really well for them. I do find on Twitter, though, that teachers tend to post links to articles or blog posts with more of a professional learning spin to them, and I love that.

So, today I’m going to share a couple of the links that I’ve loved reading this week. Hopefully you’ll get as much out of them as I did!

11 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers – I loved this article because it corresponds so much with my own teaching philosophy. There’s not single point in the article that I don’t agree with or think is pertinent to teaching. This is a great article for all teachers to read, but I think it’s especially important for teachers new to the profession, or people considering the profession. Teaching is amazing, but it’s not easy.

Top 3 Podcasts for Teacher Professional Learning – I’m a public transport user, and I love listening to things on my ipod/iphone when I’m travelling. This year one of my goals is to get back into listening to podcasts because I do love to listen to people talk about things they’re passionate about. This blog post has links to 3 podcasts for teachers and I think this is also a wonderful way to get in some extra professional development without having to set aside time or money to do it. Listen to them in the car, put them on while you’re doing housework, etc!

What Is The Best Thing You Can Do To Prepare Your Child For Learning The Alphabet? – I bet if you’re a teacher you can answer this one straight away, but as a Prep/Foundation/Kindergarten teacher articles like this really stick with me because it seems like such a simple answer, but not everyone knows how to support their pre-readers. This is a great (short) article for parents.

You Are What You Wear – This one’s not a teaching-related article, but it’s certainly something that teachers need to be aware of. How does society typecast boys and girls, based on clothing? Parents and teachers know that toys are very rarely enjoyed just by the gender that they are designed for, and the same holds true for clothing. Well worth a read, if you’re up for it!

15 Mistakes New Teachers Make (and What I Learnt Making Them) – Another really fabulous article, and one I can definitely relate to. Teaching is a steep learning curve, and all of the points here are incredibly valid. Have a read and share with any new teachers you might know.

I hope everyone’s had a wonderful start to the week. Leave your Twitter username below, or follow me @stefgalvin. And if you’ve read anything that’s resonated with you this week, I’d love for you to drop the link to it in a comment!




February 15, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Sunday Showcase 15/02

Oh my goodness – I’m so sorry I’m finding it difficult to stick to my posting schedule!

I’m not sure what it is at the moment, because for the first time in 3 years I’ve actually got some time up my sleeves on the weekend because I’m not having to do the second-half of all my planning. Maybe it’s because I’m just so relaxed and chilled out?

Okay, so today is probably more a combination of my Five for Friday and Sunday Showcase posting ideas, but it’s definitely Sunday (not Friday) and I thought I’d just show you a sneak peek of some of the things I’ve been up to in the last few weeks, both teaching and non-teaching related!



I’ll start off with some personal stuff that’s happened:



On Saturday two very good friends of mine were married at the very beautiful Marybrooke Manor. Despite some early rain (a good sign!) it was a truly lovely day. Beautiful service, fabulous picnic-style buffet lunch. Lots of friends and fun! (Also, a fun opportunity to dress-up, too!)



I tidied my little workspace. It may not seem like much, but trust me, it is!

Moving on to some school-stuff…

Slide3For the first 5 Wednesdays this term, I’m running the Early Years Literacy and Numeracy interviews. I’ve run the EXACT SAME interviews every year for 6 years now. It’s very informative about what my students know at the start of school, but I can quote BOTH interviews, word for word, without looking at the script now. ;)

Slide5During the first week of school we had a chat as a class about our school values (Care, Respect, Cooperation and Integrity). I think the kiddos did a wonderful job identifying what it means to show respect to others!



I bought these cute hearts on strings when I was in Toronto from Dollarama. So glad I did – they were a big hit with the kiddos on Friday for our ‘Love Day’. We made Love Bugs (which are not 100% finished just yet, but will be soon) and read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose and Love, Splat and had a magnificent day.

And now on to some of my crafty/planner-related stuff…

Slide6My Valentine’s themed planner pages for last week. It was a lot of fun to work with blues and pinks. The little laminated card was made from a print that you can download from Studio Calico.

Slide7I am determined – DETERMINED, I say! – to get into the swing of Project Life this year. I think I’ve found the perfect way, by combining a self-paced photography challenge I’m doing from A Beautiful Mess with PL to document my life.

Slide8I attempted to make my very first card using stamps and watercolours. It’s not perfect, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?



And my most recent obsession has been making bead necklaces. I just want to keep making more and more (but honestly, I’ve got about 10 hanging on my wall the moment – what am I going to do with them all?!!).

So that’s a bit of what I’ve been up to. I’d love to know what you’ve been doing. Leave a comment and let me know so I can catch up with all my wonderful online friends!

Until next week, have a lovely weekend! <3







January 30, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Five for Friday (Jan 30th, 2015)




My Mum is growing these beautiful sunflowers and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them!



At the moment I’m obsessed with eggs for breakfast. This is a weekend treat though, because I don’t have time to cook eggs in the morning before I run out the door!



This week school commenced for the year here in Melbourne. These Summer holidays marked the LEAST amount of time I spent in my classroom before teachers returned from break (a grand total of ONE DAY ONLY). This is a really quick shot of how my room is set up for this year. I’ve somehow managed to make the room feel bigger just by moving some things around.



I moved my reading corner this year. With a whole class of Foundation students I didn’t have a need for all my chapter books, so they’ve been boxed up. Plus, I put away a whole stack of books just to try and declutter the classroom a bit. That said, on the opposite side of the room I have a whole shelf of the books that I tend to use for read-alouds – mostly school-themed books, phonics books and Australian authors.

I have to say, this reading corner proved very popular with the new kiddos today.



Today was the first (half) day for my kiddos. I always take photos.

And yes, I know I’m supposed to call them ‘Foundation’ this year but that just DID NOT sit nicely in my little chalkboard sign. Do I feel bad? Not so much!

Especially not when the kiddos’ photos turned out pretty cute!


What was the highlight of your week?


January 25, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin
1 Comment

7 Art & Craft Projects

First off, congrats to Nicole S for winning the $10 TpT voucher. Please check your email for your prize!


Today’s Sunday Showcase is actually a suggestion/request from one my Facebook followers, Rosie. She wanted to know if I taught art in my Prep/Foundation classroom, and if I had any lesson suggestions.

I have a confession: last year I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked of our art/craft activities, but I have gone through my photos from the last few years and pulled out a few examples.

Art at my school:
At my school we’re very fortunate to have Art as a specialist subject, so once a week my students have a 50 minute session with one of the art teachers. (This year we happen to have 3 teachers teaching art part time, with one – very awesome teacher! – who is in charge of Foundation art.)

Any art and craft that I do within the classroom is extra and fun because I love art and craft and I think it’s important for students to have extra exposure. Plus, it also encourages fine motor development, as well as consolidating the basic art skills students are learning in art.

Things I tend to focus on: lines/patterns, colour and colour-mixing, using a variety of media, how to use tools like pencils/crayons/markers to get different effects, cutting/scrunching/tearing/punching paper, etc.

Obviously, with our youngest students, we’re not talking Amazing Artwork (although, let’s face it – it is ALL amazing artwork) – but we are talking developing little artists who are confident in producing a piece of work. To that end, a lot of encouragement is really important.

I don’t consider myself an expert, by any means. I just love finding ideas for my classroom that are easy to implement and that can be tied in to a Reading or Maths focus, because let’s face it: finding time in the classroom is hard. The better you can integrated your lessons, the more successful they usually are.

Some of my class art and craft activities:


One craft activity we do regularly in our reading sessions is a ‘sound craft’ (we have a phonological awareness program we follow, so we do have a sound focus each week). I love using Pinterest to find ideas for these letter crafts and then usually use PowerPoint to create some templates for students to cut out and piece together.

This encourages scissor-skill development, and a bit of puzzle piecing, too as they work out where all the pieces.


Using coloured pasta is a great way to create artwork with different mediums. I’ve used it to create the rainbows (below) – which are great for any work on colour or for a sound focus on ‘r’ or anything else you can think of. I’ve also used them for creating patterns in maths, as well as picture frames. They have a unique texture and look about them (including being three-dimensional) and it takes a step back from the usual ‘noodle necklaces’ (which I do love!) to create a different kind of piece. An alternative to dying the pasta would be to either paint or spray paint them.

Using pasta also teachers students to think about how much glue they need – how much is too much and what is not enough.


This particular piece was used for International Dot Day (based on The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds). He has fantastic books for stimulating discussion on art with students, because the characters in his books are all very self-conscious of their art and work through that feeling to develop confidence.

For this task all students were given 6 blank circles to decorate using a variety of lines, patterns and colours that we discussed as a class. This time I chose the medium – crayons – but in the past I have used water colours, regular paints, glitter, markers, etc. Students had to cut out their circles (fine motor), cut them in half (maths) and then trade one half of each circle with a different person in the class to create 6 new and different ‘dots’. We used black backing paper to make the colours pop!


This art piece was done after reading The Lorax with students, and focused on colour, paper tearing and scrunching. Students were given a blue backing page and a selection of coloured paper on their table to share and had to tear a foreground and background colour for their hills. (They did need a bit of help tearing all the way across the page, but they determined which colour was required wear and some did have a good go at tearing their own paper.)

We used popsticks decorated to look like Truffula Trees and students then tore and scrunched tissue paper to create the Truffula Tufts.

I have used similar techniques for art projects (ala the paper tearing) for book responses to Isabella’s Garden and For All Creatures by Glenda Millard, as well as for a maths activity response to Perfect Square by Michael Hall.


Eric Carle is perhaps my favourite author to use as inspiration for artwork because, quite frankly, the ideas are endless. This particular piece was inspired by Mr. Seahorse.

Students painted their own backgrounds using sponge rollers and blue and green paint. They also painted a page using brighter-coloured water coloured paint, which they then used to cut out their seahorse shapes. (There were some seahorse templates, but most chose to attempt their own!) Finally we added cellophane ‘seaweed’ over the top, and students had the choice to glue it flat, or twist it, or scrunch it, etc.

Obviously, you could use similar techniques for ALL of Eric Carle’s books. I also like using this technique to create student-painted papers for ‘Spring’ pictures early in Term 3, too.



Every Remembrance Day I do some form of Poppy craft with my class. I believe it’s very important to teach them about both Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day and why it’s so important to remember those who have gone to war to keep our country safe. These make really wonderful displays.

We have painted coffee filters, torn and scrunched tissue paper and finger-painted poppies over the years.


My final example for today is a piece of artwork we did using newspaper to create a different feel, inspired by the book Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon. (This is a truly beautiful book – definitely have a read if you haven’t!) It was a Shortlisted book a few years ago so we did this for Book Week.

Students were asked to consider their background – light blue on dark blue background, as well as what they might see in the night sky. They used metallic pastels to create the stars and moon. They had to consider the heights of their buildings – what would it look like if they were all the same? What would it look like if you had some tall and some short buildings? They also had to consider the position of the Herman and Rosie figures. Finally they had to add detail to their buildings and you can see how each student did something a little bit different!

Thanks for reading this super long post! I hope you got something useful from it. If you’re interested in seeing more artwork from my classroom, let me know in the comments, and feel free to ask any questions. This year I aim to be a bit more on top of photo-taking with my class!

If there are any other topics you’d like me to address on my blog, please leave them in the comments – I love suggestions. I’m definitely more than happy to take them!

Enjoy your weekend!


January 23, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Five for Friday – January 23rd, 2015




My last weekend in Ontario, I went out to Niagara Falls with my friend and her family. It was the first time any of us had been to see them and it was just gorgeous. (Also slightly dangerous for me because I have no ice-feet!) I think it would be amazing in the Summer, but – as cold as it was – I think it’s truly a spectacular sight in Winter. I mean, just look.





We also stayed the weekend in the area – more specifically, we stayed at Niagara-on-the-Lake at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast. We spent the afternoon walking around Queen Street – they had the Ice Wine Festival that weekend – and then went to out to the lake. Also stunning!




This year I picked a word for my year. Kind of like a New Years Resolution (but I don’t do resolutions). But this I can do. My word for 2015 is create. I figure it has applications outside the obvious and it’s something I can live up to.

I got this beautiful word art from Colleen Attara, who makes wonderful word art pieces out of recycled plastics.



Yesterday I started piecing together my Teacher Planner for this year. I’ve added in my beautiful new dividers and if you’re interested in seeing how I set it up, let me know!



While I was away I finished and uploaded a Developmental/Dramatic Play activities pack. My kinder-aged students are involved in three developmental play-based sessions each week and the activities in this pack are ELA and Math activities based around the theme of a ‘Cafe’ set-up. Check it out on TpT!


See you guys on Sunday! Enjoy your weekend, my friends!


January 22, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Back to School Bounty Giveaway!

Hello friends! I’m back on home soil after 24 wonderful days spent with my best friend in Toronto. I have that lovely bittersweet feeling of enjoying being home, but being sad that I had to say goodbye to some people that I love dearly. But, the wonderful thing about living in this day an age is the awesomeness of Skype and FaceTime!

I’m interrupting my scheduled blogging program to share a fun giveaway that some friends and I are putting on to celebrate the start of the new school year here in Australia!

So, to all my Aussie friends – this post is to cheer you up as we embark on a brand new year. To anyone who’s not starting the new year now, there are still PLENTY of wonderful things for you to win, so do join in the fun!

My friends and I have teamed up to give you a chance to win 2 fabulous prizes!


All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For those of you who are new to my blog, or those of you who missed this last year, here’s a fun freebie for you – a Valentine’s Day class book that coordinates perfectly with my Start Write Away pack included in the ELA giveaway!

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.01.57 am


Finally, you have the opportunity to win a $10 voucher for TpT! Simply complete the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and don’t forget to check out the other fabulous blogs involved for a chance to win other vouchers, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’ll see you all tomorrow for my Five For Friday post!   Sig_NewBlog2014

January 11, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

GoNoodle Sanity Savers Linky

I’m linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin’ It In Kindergarten for her GoNoodle Sanity Savers linky!

You all know how much I love GoNoodle, right?!!


Fav GoNoodle Brain Break… is definitely I Like to Move It. Mostly because this was the dance that my class did to be involved in GoNoodle and Zumba Kids’ collaboration video last year and they were SOOOOO excited to see themselves dancing alongside many other schools in an online video.

My happy place… is anywhere where I can sit and read a book without interruption, or where I can sit and write. Both de-stress me pretty quick.

My guilty pleasure… is buying waaaay more craft supplies than I need. I like to bounce around different crafts so I’ve got bits and pieces everywhere. But just like I need time to read and write (see above), I also need time to craft!

Keep calm and… think happy thoughts. Being positive is key. (I’m trying to remember that!)

Don’t forget to head over and see all the other posts in the linky and join in, too!

Happy weekend!


January 10, 2015
by Ms Stefanie Galvin

Five for Friday (Jan 9th, 2015)


I’m linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another week of Five for Friday!

Technically speaking, this is a bit of a round-up of my first two weeks in Toronto:

1. Snow


Where I’m from? It’s currently Summer. And I’ve only ever previously seen slushy snow or ice, so this is a novel experience for me. On this particular day we’d been out for a walk to a cafe and had to walk back in the snow and all looked like snowmen.

2. Royal Ontario Museum


We went to the ROM. I’m totally a sucker for dinosaurs and great displays.

Also, still fairly new at doing touristy things with a nearly-two-year-old in tow. Her favourite word on outings like this seems to be ‘Wow!’ Yep, totally agree!

3. Ice Hockey


Went to see my first ice-hockey match, the Maple Leafs vs. Washington.

4. Ripley’s Aquarium


This was FUN! I love aquariums, and the set-up was really fantastic.

Also the word ‘Wow’ featured heavily. :)

5. CN Tower


We went for lunch at the 360 Restaurant (moving restaurant!) for lunch after the aquarium. Awesome food and views… until the snowstorm kicked in. And even then it looked very cool from up there!

I hope you all had an amazing week!