With so much going on with bin schools, it is easy to discount the need for special events and activities. Teaching and learning strategies, together with data collection and analysis, are constant and almost totally preoccupying. The need for academic pursuits to be a key activity is unquestioned. It often seems that schools are so wired to testing, measurement and assessment that there is little time for anything else.

Schools become so busy responding to systemically imposed requirements and the academic imperative, that the fun part of education can be overlooked. Schools should be happy places. There is a danger that the overloaded curriculum will impose a ‘nose to the grindstone’ mentality on teachers and students alike. This is not helped by principals and school leaders feeling the need to everlastingly oversight school academic tasks at hand.

Including special days and celebratory opportunities into school calendars is important. These activities help in building school spirit. they draw students, staff and community members together. There are many special events from which to choose. They might include the following.

* School discos. One held toward the end of each term is a way of social celebration.
* An annual or biennial school fete brings people together and offers special fundraising opportunities.
* Celebrating anniversaries is a way of remembering school history and looking forward to the future.
* Organising events to celebrate the opening of new school facilities.
* Organising open classrooms and celebrating learning themes brings parent and community focus to the good things happening in classrooms.
* Highlighting book week including a costume parade of students dressed in the costumes of book characters.
* Special days celebrating science, maths and the cultures of children who are members of the student community.
* Highlighting student accomplishment during school assemblies. This might include class items, celebrating success in competitions and acknowledging sporting results.
* Taking part in the Tournament of Minds, ‘Lock up Your Boss’, Principal for a Day and so on.

A question of balance

Not for a minute would I downplay the academic priority of education. However, there is need for fun, enjoyment, camaraderie and days of relaxation to be mixed with more formal teaching and learning pursuits. These are the things upon which happy and memorable school days are based. They should not be forgotten.

From the Darwin/Palmerston/Litchfield Suns.


These are elements or points that have come up during quite some number of years in marking tertiary level assignments. They are observational and offered as issues students might consider taking into account.
* An introduction is helpful, particularly if it includes a rationale and order of presentation of facts or elements. Introductions set the assignment context, leading the reader into content that follows.

* A title page.

* A contents page – both are focussing attributes.

* Labelling sections and sub-sections.

* Paragraphs – not too long and ongoing.

* Clear referencing – Author(s) date (year) and page(s).

* Well presented papers are easier to understand and mark than ones which are tightly written with small font and single line spacing.

* Some assignments were written in landscape or horizontal style. Assignments need to be vertical.

* Take pride in work; pride becomes self evident.

* Avoid repetition of words in sentences, i.e, ‘that’, ‘this’, ‘student’, and so on.
If using i.e., show as ‘i.e.’,. not as ‘ie’.

* Try and avoid ‘etc’ within assignment text. It is more appropriate to use the words ‘and so on’, to indicate repetition or continuation of a particular thought.

* Use words rather than numerals to indicate numeric value, for instance ‘three’ instead of ‘3’, ‘twenty-one’ rather than ’21’. For a very long number, for instance ‘ one hundred and twenty six thousand five hundred and twenty six’, ‘126,526’ is the better and more concise option.

* Starting sentences with ‘It’, It’s’, ‘So’, ‘Is’ should be considered for context. These are generally not impactive words.

* When citing an authority, use Surnames rather than Christian names. ‘The research by Gray confirms…’ not ‘ The research by Henry confirms …’.

* Look out for possessives or ownership being vested in objects. ‘Australian classrooms are seeing growth in EAL/D student numbers’ should be ‘There is a growth in the number of ERAL/D students enrolled (or placed) in Australia’s classrooms’. Another example to illustrate: ‘The dictionary will see students get it right.’ Students use dictionaries but dictionaries are not the controlling influence. These aberrations often stand out or come to light with careful editing.

* Tenses need to be considered. There is a place for past, present and future tense. It is easy to place tenses in wrong places, for instance using past tense to indicate present situations and so on.

* Students ‘who’ rather than ‘students that’. ‘That’ is not a word fitting to the description of people.

* If including an introductory statement, indicate this to be the case. That enables the reader to differentiate between elements of the written paper.

* Leave decent margins (at least three centimetres) at each side of written text to allow marking comments to be added.

* Writers supporting their positions or arguments by reference to the literature that goes beyond curriculum documents (i.e. includes texts and authors) adds proof to the essence of background reading and research.

*When directly quoting from a source, begin and end the quote with speech marks, i.e.
” … “. It can be helpful to include quotes in italics as this offers clear differentiation between their words and yours. Quotes need to be embellishing and supportive, adding to the argument or position you are offering.
‘Develop’ seems to be a popular word for repetition within sentences. Again, a thesaurus for word alternatives can be handy. Other words also lend themselves to repetition because of their general or common use.
I hope the reader finds these pointers useful. When writing assignments I had a folder on the desk, with thoughts and suggestions on presentation ready to hand.


Henry Gray

18 September 2015

ASSIGNMENT PREPARATION -Thoughts for Tertiary Students


I want to offer the following thoughts for your consideration
1. Understand the assignment task

Take time to carefully dissect the assignment requirements. Skimming without dissecting the requirements can lead to misinterpretation of what the assignment is asking. That in turn can lead to the task not being completed as fully as required.

Following the question and dealing with its components as the paper is developed helps to ensure accuracy. Referring back to and re-reading the question and explanation periodically is wise. If unclear on any of the assignment requirements, e-mail and ask the course coordinator for clarification.
2. Setting

Careful introduction of the topic helps when it comes to the paper setting. That not only helps the evaluator but reinforces assignment focus and direction for the writer. Always look to write within a factual and contextual setting. This helps when it comes to the melding of theory with practice.

3. Headings and Layout

Many students are careful in using headings and sub-headings to introduce each section and sub-section of the assignment. That process offers clear guidance to the marker and also assists the writer keep clearly aligned with and focussed on the assignment requirements. It is a methodology I would recommend.
4. Text and Line Spacing

Many papers offered text in 10 point size, with single line spacing. That makes it considerably harder for the marker when it comes to reading, digesting and appraising assignments. The concentration required for actual reading can mean the marker has to go back over text, in some cases innumerate times, to try and gauge the meaning and accuracy of what was presented. My suggestion is would also ask that you consider 12 point rather than ten point text – although that varies because some fonts are easier to read than others.
5. Other Presentation Pointers

The following are thoughts and suggestions you may like to consider.
* Title pages added a stamp of professionality to papers presented.

A table of contents page is useful in pointing the reader to particular aspects of the assignment and enables the writer to show alignment of contents to each section of the assignment.

A synopsis or preface which outlines the purpose or content of the assignment in one or two short paragraphs is a strategy worth considering.

Pagination (page numbering) with student name and number imprinted as a footer on each page can be helpful. I would suggest christian and surname.

Where it is applicable, I would suggest including the work sample assessed and any markings and writing upon the document. Depending on assignment organisation this might be included within the text or added as an appendix. The sample if included allows the person evaluating your work to make reference to the documents from which analysis of student competence is drawn.

Appendices can be added as part of the paper if relevant to the adding of additional but not critical information. They should be referred to within the body of the paper in order to draw them to the attention of readers and evaluators. Don’t be tempted to add appendices as ‘fillers’ and provided to simply pad out the paper.
6. Editing

It is of critical importance that assignments are carefully edited before submission. After competing a paper, writers can be tired to the point of not wanting to do other than submit the assignment for assessment.

My thought would be that on completion and a quick reading of the paper, to leave it for a period would be wise. Then come back and go carefully through the paper section by section, checking for word usage, tenses, punctuation, paragraphing and sentence meaning. The following are further editing suggestions:

Have a critical colleague read through your paper offering editing suggestions. Offering a paper rather than ‘on screen’ copy for editing purposes would be preferable as the paper can be written over and returned.

Those who have partners might ask her or him to undertake editing duties. This is also a way of keeping those who are close, informed about study commitments and assignment undertakings.

Methodologically, two or three students could engage in a draft paper swapping exercise, sharing this important task.

Oral editing, reading the paper out loud to yourself, can help. I use this method when writing papers for publication and point many change needs out to myself.
7. Referencing

When referring to works within assignments, reference should include name and date (Brady & Kennedy, 2012). A direct quote should include the page or pages from which the quote is drawn being added (Brady & Kennedy, 2012, p. 146).

If citing a lecture or oral presentation by course coordinator, lecturer or tutor within assignments refer to them by title and surname. If drawing on them further into the paper, the surname suffices.

* In works cited or bibliography my suggestion would be title, context and date, for example, ‘ Kinston, Edward, ‘The Importance of Handwriting ‘ Lecture , Charles Darwin University
Collaborate, June 3, 2014.
When referring to an oral presentation, avoid christian name usage only. Surname or christian and surname is fine.

If in doubt about referencing, go to the guide offered by CDU on the subject. Correct referencing adds a stamp of professional authority to presentations.
8. General Thoughts and Observations

I am always impressed by the thoroughness and professionally apparent in assignments submitted by a healthy percentage of students. Pride in work is a quality teachers seek to instil in students, so pride in the presentation of one’s own work is an important ethic of practice.

A number of students use a rubric when analysing the work piece being assessed. Others chose a narrative approach. The choice always belongs to the student. However when choosing the narrative approach it is important that assignment elements do not become so embedded within the general text, they are hard to find.

When writing, try to avoid too many repeat words within a short space and even within the one sentence. For example, to use the word ‘assessment’ repeatedly within two or three sentences following one from the other, is overdoing that word. Consider synonyms. To that end, a thesaurus can be handy.

Avoid singular and plural confusion, for example “while the student did well, they did not spellcheck words.” The ‘student’ is singular (one) while in the sentence ‘they’ is plural (more than one).

The issue of word length comes up frequently. My suggestion is to check with the unit coordinator to ask for clarification if necessary. It would be wise to check before commencing assignment writing tasks.

Be proud of your assignments. Rather than throwing papers away after a time, my suggestion would be to preserve papers. Electronics makes this easy. Preservation on a USB stick would be one method of saving data.

Papers I wrote for degree courses as far back as the 1970’s are still in existence. Interestingly, from time to time I have a need to refer back to this data because it is still informing of things I need to undertake or recall.

All the best for continuing success with your studies.


Henry Gray

September 18 2015


I write onto ‘The Conversation’ which encourages readers to respond to issues. There are some who indulge a little at times through poetic expression  and responses. These might be specific or for fun.

The following have been published on conversational threads or on ‘The Conversation’ blog.

A little away from a purist educafrtional theme, but a change in direction is sometimes warrranted. This after all is my 150th post.



Ant hands out
Grasshopper, hands out.
Call that equality?



Bad language should be taboo.
It is not good for me or you,
Event though we might be wild
To swear in hearing of a child.

It takes but little for to see
Said child wil copy you and me.
Bad words we utter without fear,
Response to child is a thick ear.


There was an alluvial miner from Quorn
A gold nugget he was going to pawn
His wife she found out
Gave him a sound clout
‘You waster’, screeched she, ‘I am gawn’.




Birth to

Death there is

An intervening mortal period.

Of life starting with womb

Awakening and following that human.


Threescore years

And ten more

(Sometimes longer these days)

The mortal traverses the earth

Reaching toward the pathway’s end.


Almost before

It started out

The cycle of life

Ends, as the planet’s occupant

Returns to the eternity of sleep.


Google is good?
Google IS good
Without ‘our’ Google
We’d be under a shroud.

You’ve opened our eyes
Informed our days
Praise be to Google
For cutting through haze.

You’re a fantastic search engine
‘Thank you’ I say
For shining a light
Down the Information Highway.



Google is here yes Google is here
Always assisting life’s pathways to clear.

Better than most search engines I say
Google has unveiled the Information Highway

For us to spurn Google t’would be at great cost
Without Googles help the world would be lost

If you are lonely in singular state.
Turn to your Google and find you a mate

Students at uni shout hip hip hurray
Google helps us research our assignments each day

No matter who, no matter where
Our companion Google will ALWAYS be there.


Work each day
As much as you can
But don’t let long hours
Lead to the ban
Of time with your family.
Relaxing each night
Is important you know
Without that shared time
Your life will wither, not grow.


The NEW world they think and say
Nothing new its old to me
Ancient people before our time
To call them ‘new’ does not chime
With rhyme or reason
So I say
It’s all old, so old
Put ‘new’ away.

Don’t accept onus, me or you
They could teach us a thing or two.
Together all, mortal, alive
We have to make the world survive.
No excuses, them, you or me
We share responsibility.

Google is our shining light
It brings cyberspace into sight
Without it’s index we would all suffer
We would never get enuffa
Understanding of what’s on line
T’would make us grizzle, whinge and whine
Yes, Google surely makes our day
As we walk the info highway.


It is wrong, nay wicked and sad
To bully your peers, is evil and bad
Playing at God through your power base
Miscarries position. It is a disgrace
To denigrate others with innuendo and joke
Will backfire on bosses who wicked jibes poke
Into the faces of those who are training.
On you derision, not respect, is raining.


Gambling is evil
Gaming a sin
A vile, repulsive addiction
Lets the Devil come in

It destitutes families
And ruins good lives
Exploding of families
Husdands lose wives

Children surrendered by fathers
Who say ‘family no way’
I cast you aside
To gamble each day.

A fortune you lose
Your inheritance waste
Your brain is a muddle
A blob of black paste.

The road leading to hell
Is a sad, lonely trek
But you care not a whit
For your life is a wreck.

Oh poetic form
Whenst have you gone?
Were you but fleeting
A few weeks at best
Before those who rejoiced in your introduction
Became palled
At the notion of routine,
Fearing Friday
Coming ’round too rapidly,
Causing the thought of poetic chime
To be revisited all too quickly.

So too, it is with life
New ideas bring rejoicement
But quickly that subsides
As what is new becomes routine
Visiting obligation
That can become unpalatable
No longer fun filled
But more an obligation, a drag.
Fie upon us for so often
Grasping initiatives
But for fleeting minutes
Before letting go
Consigning what was
And what might be
To what is
The WPB.
And again
Ad infinitum
Mr Prime Minister

Your call
You will
Always be wrong

Way you
Can be right.

Always know
Better that
You, the answer.

Is no
Straightforward way
You can find

You will
Be criticised
Until you lose.

He who
Takes your
Place, will wear

Lampooning, ridicule.
You know
NOTHING is right.

Salve their
Consciences, because
All they can

Do is
Criticise, mock
For they
Have no answer.

Forever endure
For there
Is NO solution.


More thoughts that may be helpful.

So many teachers and educators give of their time and talents in out of hours, voluntary activities supporting students and their schools. They go the extra mile and deserve thanks and appreciation.


School atmosphere is precious. It can be built but not bought. It’s establishment comes from hard work. Without dedication it can be easily lost.
Schools are like weather maps. There are highs and lows. Principals are like unto the forecast. There is a need to disperse the lows and bring on the highs. Maintaining optimal atmosphere is challenging.

Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.

Building a school’s reputation takes time and effort. It requires the focus and concerted effort of staff. It is added to by the contribution of parents and students. And it can be so easily lost.

Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.



As a principal, educational leader or teacher, make every effort to know your students and give them every opportunity to know and appreciate you. Knowing and speaking to students by name is a must.


Teachers  should “model” for their students. This extends to include dress standards maintained by teachers in schools.

In my opinion it would be a good thing if the state and territory departments work to establish dress codes for teachers which were mandated. At one stage that used to be the case in some of the states.

With the passing of time departments have vested confidence in teachers that they will dress appropriately and according to standard setting. For most teachers follow a reasonable and sensible dress code, there are some who don’t enter in the correction.

Correcting teachers by advising on dress standards can be difficult and embarrassing. Where practicable it is advisable that female teachers should be spoken to about dress standards by a female member of the senior team. Likewise if mile teachers need advice that is best offered by a male member of the senior staff (if indeed there is a male in the senior leadership cohort).

I believe that the teacher dress does not need to be “over the top”. Neither should people dress scantily or inappropriately because this let’s the standard of our teaching profession down quite badly in the eyes of the public. Whether we like it or not, members of the community do talk about the way we dress and comment on our general behaviour and deportment.

Recently (2014) the New South Wales Department of Education introduced minimal standards of this for teachers which will be regulated in that state. This may have been because of a need for this issue to be addressed. Whether other departments will follow in a similar direction remains to be seen. It is to be hoped however, that teachers will dress in a way that shows their respect about profession so that regulation is not necessary.

I believe at the end of the day, teachers are modelling and setting standards for students. That is something we need to do in a respectful and empathetic manner. While it may be considered not proper to talk about these sorts of things the way we dress and our quality of deportment as teachers is certainly something that students and the public take into account when considering teachers and the profession.

Education is exciting, often because of the chance to innovate and try out new ideas. However, it is important to consider and study the merit of new ideas. ‘Reform’ and ‘initiative’ are words often overdone.

Education that bounces from one new idea to the next, to the next in rapid succession, can present a destabilising and hard to follow classroom experience for children. There seems no end to the plethora of ideas, approaches and priorities that come along.

It is important that schools and teachers apply a filter to suggestions of change. The pros and cons of issues need to be considered. To grasp at something new for the sake of its novelty is unwise.

Schools and staff who take and consider ideas and change suggestions are wise. This is where the value of collaboration and conversation comes to the fore.  Within every group, there are those who want to run with change, others who prefer dialogue and careful consideration and a third group who dig in and avoid change at all costs. from this delightful mix, school organisation evolves.

Some thoughts:

* Discuss issues with colleagues and also be a sounding board for them.
* Read and research new initiatives.
* Make a list of the pros and cons relative to change in teaching approaches.
* Discuss ideas with people who may have trialled them.
* Make the subject one for discussion at unit meetings and possibly whole staff
* Consider whether changes will build on what has gone before, or whether
they will mean starting all over again in particular areas. There is a lot to be
said for ‘steady state’ or incremental development.
* Take into account budgetary implications of change. Programs that are resource           heavy can finish up costing schools a lot of money.
* Consider if change addresses major learning needs or if it is simply about        embellishment or ‘prettying the edges’ of learning; is it about superficiality or

Change ought not be resisted by habit. Neither should it be blindly accepted for change’s sake. Consider new ideas on their merit including thinking, reading and discussion with others.

Importantly, consider that change builds on what has gone before. To throw out everything that has been developed, using change as an excuse to ‘start all over’ would be the extreme of foolishness.



Teachers and educators should always consider how their contributions and efforts can benefit and enrich student learning outcomes. What they can do to build the school collegiate is also important.

It seems that the thrust of education is toward developing opportunities for students to progress  through  the practise of technology supported learning . Devices from electronic smart boards to computers, iPads and other devices are front and centre. More and more schools are developing a “bring your open device” policy when it comes to technology. It seems that the children are increasingly immersed in technologically focused learning.

There is a place for technology in our schools. However if devices replace teachers  it will be to the detriment of education. The best learning outcomes are achieved through direct interaction.  When using computers and iPads, children can easily log out of learning and go onto some amusement or games application.

Approach to lessons and learning needs to be based on time and organisation. There needs to be a patterned and ordered approach to  learning.  Taking teachers out of the equation and replacing them with computer controlled programs, detracts from education.

The emphasis in the NT is toward Direct Instruction (DI).  Concern about poor educational outcomes has lead to a revival of this instructional method.  “The Direct instruction strategy is highly teacher-directed and is among the most commonly used. This strategy is effective for providing information or developing step-by-step skills. It also works well for introducing other teaching methods, or actively involving students in knowledge construction.” (Instructional strategies online, Saskatoon Public Schools)

Explicit teaching, lectures, drills, specific questioning, demonstration and the guiding of listening, reading, viewing and thinking are direct instructional practices. DI is about close interaction of teachers with students to enhance teaching and learning opportunities.  Computers and iPads by their very nature can put distance between students and teachers. If their use is not carefully managed they can become a distraction.

A very important part of teaching and learning is the way body language and facial expression impact on classroom outcomes. Teachers can sense confidence about what if being taught through student responses. Similarly, students can sense how their teachers feel about work being completed. Shared personal contact within classrooms is a very important part of learning. Computer based education does not allow students or teachers to appreciate body language or facial expressions.

Technology has its place in education as a support to learning. However classroom focus should be about interaction between teachers and students. Replacing teachers with computers will impact negatively on the quality of learning and educational outcomes.



Indigenous Education in the NT has been a matter of prime focus for many decades. While there have been some successes they have not been uniform or consistent. Initiatives, reforms, suggestions and new ideas come through in what seems to be an endless succession of reports. These reports go back to the 1960’s.

The most recent of these is the Wilson Review on Indigenous Education released in 2014 with a view to implementation from the beginning of 2015. However, some of the key recommendations in this review have, in times past, been initiated, developed the discarded. This means that many “new” ideas are not new but revisitations to what happened in earlier times.

The idea of newness comes about for several reasons.

* The rapid and constant turnover of teaching staff is a key factor in the provision of indigenous education. Teachers appointed to community schools often stay for months rather than years. There are exceptions but turnover and staff movement is generally the order of the day. This is very destabilising and does little to convince those living in communities of educational values and benefits.

* Very little is recorded to confirm what programs are in place. Too often incoming staff are confronted by a blank page. They start all over when it comes to progressing education because there is nothing to show what progress has been made. School policies, reports and documentation are generally scant. Sometimes records are non-existent.

* The question ‘education for what’ is very real. While the value of literacy and numeracy cannot be argued, students are discouraged because employment prospects within their communities are bleak.

* The concept of “reactive leadership” has become ingrained in indigenous education. Principals and school leaders wait for things to unfold and are not sufficiently a part of the developmental process. They lead from behind. This reluctance may be due in part to the politicisation of education. Principals are frightened to take initiatives in case they are reprimanded for over-zealousness, lack of consultation, or mistakes they might make.

These issues can cause distress. The fact that education so often advances no further than Genesis 1:1 is anathema. For things to be forever “in the beginning” is discouraging, raising community questions about the value and worth of education.

Direct Instruction teaching methods and a keen focus on eliminating truancy indicate that some progress is being made. Too often that motivation sputters and fades. Over time, remote education has followed a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ pattern of development. That irregularity will continue unless and until those with stake and interest in Indigenlous Education are in sync with each other.