July 25

Independently choosing Learning Teams from now on

If you have checked out our Collaboration page, then you know about how our teams work in my classes, if not, here is a quick summary.

That was a brief summary. Now for some change in practice.

To begin with I am in charge of how teams are constructed and I choose the combinations of students so there is a constant mix of gender and ability. I do this for the first two terms.

At the end of last term, each team member completed a personal reflection sheet on how they saw themselves with their organisation and team skills so far. They rated themselves either Never, Sometimes or Always, then shared their reflections with the team. The team discussed each member’s in turn and negotiated their placement with a T in the category.

On the first day back for term three, I asked the students what qualities/skills/behaviours they thought they would like to see in a team member. They came up with a comprehensive list.

I asked them to compare this list and to look back at their own checklist from the previous term.

Were there things they were super confident in? Were there some things they needed to work on or could put extra effort into? Were there some things they were struggling with? Did we have perfect students?

How could we support everyone to become the best they could be?

I was now in the process of handing over the negotiating of team members to them.

Criteria for selection

Not with someone from the previous team.

Select a member from the opposite gender that you can work with. Once you have a pair, find another to make a team.

Have three things that you will support each other with. How will you do that? Record this in your team books.

Reminder about the language of negotiation.

It was important to model the process of asking and negotiating. Being proactive as opposed to waiting. What happens when you don’t get the answer you thought you would? What could you do?

Once that was completed the students found their record books and team books and begun sorting out their new teams for weeks 1-5.

It was interesting to see them take control. They were a little hesitant at first, but as some modelled actively seeking out suitable team mates and sitting down to compare checklists, others soon followed. There were some students who forgot to bring their lists and couldn’t complete this stage, so by default, they became team members and could sit down to sort out their support strategies.

Teams could also select any table, should it still be available.

Once they had completed their recordings, they set about writing a common set of rules. We have been working on being clear in statements saying what, why and how we want things. They are really becoming good at this.

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Checkout this round of team rules. I love the variety and explicit nature of their expectations.


Once the rules have been negotiated and recorded, they proceed to the regular morning tool check. As it is the first one of the week, they also choose a focus for the week again being clear as to what, why and how.

These children have come a long way from their first attempts at this process and continue to build their skills in actively listening and engaging in collaborative team work. I was very proud of them on the first day back.

Your turn to think

How did you feel about selecting your own team this term?

What do you think about your new team?

How will you make sure you do what you said you would do?

Would you prefer Ellen to create teams? Why? Why not?

D you have any suggestions for teams or team work?

What type of team criteria would you like to see?

June 12

Camp Illawonga 2017

We were busy packing on the weekend. There was a lot to bring to school!

Mickey courtesy of Tumblr

Week six had finally arrived. The day we had been waiting for since we started in grade three.

We were going …. Camping!


Most of Mrs Woolford’s year 3/4 class would be joining our excited campers. We left our families for three days and two nights. Would they survive without us? They would just have to be brave. But it was okay if some parents needed extra hugs good-bye.

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We had a long two hour journey to get to Camp Illawonga in Swan Reach, which would be our new home for the next few days. Thankfully the coach had comfortable seats and seatbelts.

Map from Illawonga home page

The road trip was fabulous, but travelling made us hungry, so we stopped to stretch our legs, have a bite to eat and of course have a little playtime. Angaston was the perfect place.

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Another short ride, well sort of …… and we were soon settled into our dormitories at camp. Our class was on lunch duty so it was straight to work. Yum … Tacos.

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Mark, the Camp Leader, gave us a lot of information and instructions about being safe for our stay and expectations around the camp site. Soon it was back on another bus for a short ride. We were crossing the Murray River on the punt to visit The Murray Aquaculture Centre. This was an interesting place where we learnt about almond farming and yabbies.

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That was fun because we also had a challenge  to see which team would catch the most yabbies. Yabby catching sounded simple enough, but there were some tricks to learn…… patience.

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The girls were Yabby catching heroes, how did they do it!

The sun was going down, and it was getting cooler, but there was still so much to do… more duty groups for tea.

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After our delicious meal, we went into the gym for some outrageously exciting fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the still camera!… But trust us, we worked up an appetite for a yummy supper with twisting and jumping, turning and rolling, hanging and falling…… before it was time to hit the sack. We had a huge day planned so we needed our beauty sleep.

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Some of us slept soundly. Poor little Scarlett.

Up and at em, the next morning was quite eerie. A mysterious fog crept in, it threatened to hide the sun… but we found it.

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Lucky the Sun burnt off the fog by the time we were ready for our river cruise. We needed our floatation devices before we could walk down to the boat.

While we went on the cruise, the other groups went on a caving expedition and a Safari ride. We would all rotate activities throughout the camp. Once again, I left the still camera behind for the cruise… but I remembered it for the ride to the caves.

Those hard hats were fabulous protection, without them I think we would all be a little shorter!

After that adventure we had a short bushwalking to a HUGE river red gum. That tree was so big we just fit around it! We had enormous fun building Tepees with all the twigs and sticks lying around.

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Each time we visited the river, it meant a short but steep 400m walk down a gravel path… naturally we had to walk back up too. That was tiring, luckily Ellen makes us do fitness each week so it was a piece of cake.

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We needed to get back to camp quickly, as we had to get ready for an exciting adventure at Sunny Dale sheep farm.

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What a whip cracking great time we had. We really earned our tea that night. In fact some us sang after supper! Karaoke was so much fun, we have stars in the making. Stay tuned for the videos.

It was a perfect night for a camp fire.. but oh,we forgot to sing a Letter from Camp! Still the planets were smiling for us in the night sky. Then of course the marshmallows needed toasting… yum.

Time for bed, it was a big day indeed and it isn’t over, there’s more to come. To bed!

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Getting up wasn’t that easy, lots to pack and clean up before breakfast and be ready for our last activities. I missed the Safari ride, but I did managed to check out archery. We had some bullseyes. Bravo.

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All too soon we needed to pack the bus and say our goodbyes to Mark and the team. Camp was the best. Three cheers for Illawonga.

We reckon it was sad to leave, but we were glad to get back home to our loving families too. Thanks to our brave Dad, Shane Brow who gave up his time to help with the boys and group C.

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Dear Families,

Apart from a few sore tummies, there were no problems just loads of fun and learning. Thank you so much for allowing me to borrow your precious ones for those few days, we have some wonderful memories. Stay tuned for some great videos the kids will be working on. I might have a go too.

Warm regards, Ellen

April 23

Farewell Mr Potter

Sadly we have had to say goodbye to our beloved sports teacher Mr Trevor Potter. He has decided the time was right to retire.

Many years ago, not long after I began working at Grange, Trevor and I decided to team up together with our respective classes and created what we affectionately called The Eisenpot Unit. We had a great time establishing lots of collaborative practices, many routines and practices which I maintain today, had their beginnings in the Unit.

Now anyone who knows Trevor, knows he likes to talk, that was indeed the case way back then, so to curb his monologues, I would at times perk my own voice up and over do the patronising singsong, happy voice. This irritated him, but achieved our objective in stopping him, so we could get on with things. So when we were asked to send a video message to Trevor, I knew exactly what memorable thing we could do.

Check out our message.. There were no rehearsals, I just asked the kids to answer me based on my questions, and to respond in exactly the same way as I said them.

We had fun.

Trevor’s farewell message from Ellen Eisenkolb on Vimeo.

What would you like to say to Mr Potter?

How do you feel about Mr Potter leaving?

What will you miss most?



April 2

Harmony Day – Everyone Belongs

This year Ellen was at a maths conference and missed celebrating Harmony Day at Grange. But Thankfully Mrs Tunney our relief teacher captured some of the events that our class were involved in.

Traditionally we transform the school by simply changing the colour of our clothes. The colour for Harmony Day is orange, so we could wear orange for the day. If we did, a gold coin was donated which we send to support our World Vision sponsored child.

We had an harmonious assembly where classes shared work about diversity, tolerance and inclusivity. Australia is our home and like our class, there are many nationalities that live together. Harmony then, becomes an important concept to understand and practice.

We all worked hard to write acrostic poems using the ideas from our brainstorm on how to let everyone belong. We were able to decorate and publish them before Mrs Tunney put them up on display.

Giving people compliments and acknowledging the kind and helpful things they do is an important part of showing respect. Lending someone a hand when they need it is a simple act, but very powerful.

The class was asked to trace around their hand and write a message of gratitude  when someone included, helped or supported them.

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Once decorated, they passed their messages on.

I hope you enjoyed the activities on the day. Happy Harmony Day everyone.

Somethings to think about.

What did you think about the events of Harmony Day?

What things have you done to include others?

How has someone helped you out?

Do you think we should celebrate Harmony Day? Why or why not.



December 13

End of Year Celebratory Team Lunch


Tuesday is traditionally Party Day here at Grange Primary School. A time for classes to have their end of year class parties and have a fun day. Given we are a class that works together, thinks together and acts together. This day was not going to be an ordinary class party!

Ellen actually doesn’t do “class parties”, instead this was a chance for teams to get together to organise a festive shared lunch. To be a collaborative effort it meant that there was lots of negotiating, discussing and organising. As our school doesn’t endorse red foods, the menu needed to be healthy and foods that all team members could eat. Mind you as it was also a celebration, one red food per team was permitted (choose wisely).

There was lots of decision making as they realised planning menus can be tough, some members had allergies or were fussy eaters. Now they know the dilemma parents regularly face! This was also not a time to put demands on parents to cater, food needed to be organised or made by the students too.


Being nearly Christmas, they could bring decorative utensils, write up menus, placemats and bring other festive additions. I challenged them to turn our room into a festive restaurant. They were brilliant with their division of jobs and all teams worked well together to assemble a great healthy lunch with a spectacular Christmas theme.


We had won the Golden bin award for keeping our yard area tidy the week before, so we started the day using the sports equipment for some out door fun. But it was a really hot day, so we ended up back in the cool for some of our favourite co operative games.

  • Door Keeper ( that was a new one)
  • Prisoners and Guards
  • Freeze frame
  • The Queen of Hearts is dead!
  • Countries

Oh what fun they are we were in stitches at times. Then it was time to set up. Teams were very busy working collaboratively together. Take a look.

We even asked a neighbouring teacher to judge their efforts and he found it very difficult as the creative spirit was every where. So we decided everyone was a winner today.

After a quick efficient cleanup and our lunch play we settled back to watch the BFG.

Congratulations my lovely elves you did a fabulous job working , thinking and acting together. I am proud of you the best shared lunch by far.

What did you enjoy the most about today.

What would you do differently?

If you could change the movie which one would you pick.