The Innovative Teaching Challenge

I came across this challenge by A.J. Juliani and thought I’d give it a go.  I am also currently following the #hackyrclass challenge by Claire Amos at Hobsonville Point Secondary School which I am also following closely.  Each have topics emailed to you to challenge your teaching and thinking in various ways.  The #hackyrclass first challenge is to look at the Growth Mindset idea.  So with this in mind I am trying to be more open to trying new ideas out in my lessons and trying to instill this concept in my students by getting them to try new things in our lessons.

Anyhow, my focus for this blog is the innovative teachers challenge’s first task.  Which is to look at how offering our students choices in their learning can be helpful in getting your students to be more innovative.

Choice in PE

So over the past few days I have implemented this in a couple of ways.  Firstly as a PE teacher, rather than giving a one sized fits all warm up at the beginning of my lessons, instead I offered three choices for my students.  I explained this at the beginning of two lessons with year 10 students over the past few days, and off they went.  What initially surprised me was that students chose an option which I thought they would choose the least.  The second thing I noticed was that there were a number of students participating in each of the three options.


So in the second of my two classes who I did this with today, I asked at the end what they thought about the warm up and about having choice.  They all agreed that they liked that opportunity.  They also liked that I had provided options with and without equipment.

Out of the three choices one was left open, in other words to get the students to create their own warm up.  There was one criteria that it must get their heart rate up.  Both times I have done this the students who chose this third choice showed at the very least understanding of the criteria, which obviously shows some understanding of the concepts around Heart Rate.  But more importantly I think it also shows innovation.  The two different groups of students who chose to create their own did so in very different ways.  The first went off and did something completely different to the other two choices.  The second group combined the elements from the first two choices.  I have found this really interesting.

Choice in Health

Over the past year I have been playing with PBL (Project Based Learning) and trying to implement this successfully in my classrooms.  In addition to this I have been working to increase the use of technology in my classrooms for everyday learning (not just assessments!), as my school is moving towards 1:1 devices.  I have had varying levels of success with this and am continuing to explore and develop my use of this further.

The way I have applied this idea of choice in my Year 10 Health class at present follows the PBL in many ways.  I have introduced my topic with a bit of a ‘hook’ and varying brainstorms to gauge current knowledge and now offered my students options for what they want to produce for this topic.  The mediums of presenting are their choice, however the topic I have left the topic itself fairly open for them to follow an aspect of that topic that interests them.  The options given can be seen below on our class page.  Further details on this mini unit lesson plan can be seen below.  So far I have done lesson one and it is interesting how the students have reacted so positively.  Will see how it goes!

Wellbeing Yr 10 – Self Esteem 3 lesson mini unit.

Lesson 1 – Brainstrom What is self esteem.

  • Create a table, what things affect self esteem positively/negatively.
  • Watch ad –  This is just being shown now
  • Discussion amazing for a 50 year old to look as stunning as that e.g. what photo shopping has gone on?  What messages do these adds give us as women?  Etc
  • Introduce task (not an assessment task for me but could be)  Focus is on health promotion, promoting positive self esteem in wGHS/wider community?   They get to choose from one of the tasks.  They can do as individual or pair or group but what is produced needs to be comparable to the number in the group.
  • I get them to choose which task and who they might be working with and start to plan what content they need to research/ or want to put into this product.

Lesson 2-3 – in computer lab if non byod or as per normal if byod in classroom.


Classroom Management for BYOD – My Top Tips

I would like to start this post by saying that I am in no way an expert in this topic, and in actual fact I have only been teaching my two year nine BYOD classes for two terms so far this year. So I am purely going to share what classroom management strategies I have put in place to help my classes get and stay on task.

  • The 5 minute Rule
    Initially when I arrived in term two, I am sad to say that I got played!! The “I can’t get connected”, and “the wifi isn’t working”, enabled my students to get away with doing very little work. So I came up with the 5min rule. Basically, if students can’t connect within the first 5minutes of the lesson, they are to put their device away in their bags and get paper out to work on or use an offline method for recording their work. This fixed the problem instantly.

During this particular term our non BYOD classes had a workbook so as a backup I gave every student a booklet and they were to bring this to every lesson also (in retrospect they could be stored in the classroom)!! I think in future, in an effort to go more paperless, creating 2-3 bound paper copies of the activities in the unit is a better fix. And for any tasks that require the Internet e.g. a youtube clip, I have allowed students in this position to use my iPad or group together with another to share their device.

    Now this term really comes from my rowing coaching background, however it seems to work well in the classroom as well, much to my surprise. Traditionally a lot of teachers might have said pens down in order to get students attention, so this phrase is used in the same way, to get students to stop working and listen. In iPad only schools I have read that some teachers use the phrase “APPLES DOWN”‘ which means to place your iPad face down, therefore making it impossible for students to play with it rather than listening. I really like this, however it didn’t suit our mixed device school. So ‘hands off’it was. When I introduced this to kids, it was important to make very clear what I wanted them to do, like any classroom management strategy, clarity on expectations is essential. I expect my students to stop typing, take their hands off their devices completely and to look at me. I have always used the phrase “Eyes this way”, and this seems to fit well with Hands Off.


  • Edmodo for Workflow                                                                                         Last year I experimented with using Facebook as a means to communicate with my students and as a way to send them additional information. However this year, I have moved to using Edmodo. It has so many more functions that make it an invaluable tool in my teaching of byod classes. Ability to post notes/messages, Internet links (which can include google drive docs, Dropbox links, YouTube etc), Actual documents, online self marked quizzes, polls, calendar and so much more.  It also has communities (groups) for our own pd which has yielded some great resources and sharing from all over the world.


  • Consistency in Procedures
    It took me most of a term to get this one really sorted when I realised something quite substantial. Students who are in our BYOD pilot classes (in its first year of the program) are not necessarily adept with technology. This was a major assumption! Obviously parents had a significant impact on decision making with regards to opting into these classes. So once I had this aphifany (which should have been far more obvious to me), I realised I actually have to teach technology as well as Health and PE! When I had figured out what I wanted my students to do, it was far easier to clearly plan for teaching these skills within my lessons. For example, I decided all students would use a google doc as their book. Getting all students to have set this up in folders in their google drive and shared with me was a significant achievement! (due to such a wide variety of ability with technology)

Some would suggest that students should select the app or program that best suits them, however without students having experienced many different types they are unable to make effective decisions about which to use. Obviously I provide activities within lessons where students have some choice on what to use, however for their main set of notes I have found the google doc to be the best. One of my goals throughout the year is to expose students to using different apps/websites to do various tasks and also to provide opportunities for students to share things that they find useful.

So my procedure with my class is now this.
* sign onto the wifi.
* open edmodo
* open the lesson that I have given them the link to (a view only google doc usually)
* copy this lesson
* open their google book (i encourage them to use the internet rather than the apps.
* paste in their lesson and get started if there are self directed tasks at the beginning.
* students also know to copy the most recent lesson at the top of their google book rather than the bottom, that way if you want to check their work you don’t have to scroll through everything to get to the most recent work.

Having this procedure means students don’t muck around when they arrive and if as a teacher you are coming from the other side of the school, they can get started without you. Using a procedure helps to make those expectations far clearer and the start of your lessons smoother. Whatever your procedure is, make it clear and repeat those expectations until they have gotten the hang of it.

  • Technology Mixed Ability Groups
    After the afore mentioned aphifany I also started to use mixed ability groups a lot more. This enabled the higher ability students to help those with little technology experience and keep them more on track with the lesson. One tool I use is the Team Shake App which will randomly select groups of any number for you. You can also identify ability levels of students and it will create groups where high and low ability students are spread amongst the groups. I use this in PE (practical setting) and for classroom activities as well. A fantastic time saving app (ipad app).

Please comment on this blog if there are strategies that you have used and find really useful in your BYOD classes.