Teaching students to listen – with Whisper Phones!

Literacy is so much more than reading and writing, with listening being an important component as well, as has been recognised in both the US Common Core Standards and the Australian National Curriculum.

Not surprisingly, this is one area that students really struggle with. Yes, they can often listen, but actively listen and then respond to what has been heard takes practice and is a skill that needs to be taught.

Listening also goes hand in hand with writing – The old saying of ‘if you can’t say it, then you can’t write it’ is definitely true, especially for those students who have speech impairments or issues with their verbal communication.

Often when students are reading aloud, they take for granted what they themselves sound like. To practice this valuable skill, I made some whisper phones (with the help of my handy hubby!)

These simple gadgets allow students to slow down, sit quietly and listen to themselves read.DIY whisper phones3

As the name of the item suggests, only a whisper voice is required, allowing for a whole class to read undisturbed. As students have quiet reading time, whether it be for designated ‘read to self’ time or perhaps after lunch play for relaxation, they are given the opportunity to read a text of choice to themselves and actively listen to the way their own voice sounds.

I learnt how to make them myself from this site.

While this link is US based, I found it did cost me significantly more here in Australia, with each phone costing about $4 each. I purchased all of the materials from Bunnings (60 elbows, 5 pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe cut into 3 1/2 inch lengths, a pot of glue and duct tape for decorating). The whisper phones however are extremely durable and will last for many years to come without needing to be replaced or repaired.

Due to the nature of the whisper phones being used close to student’s mouths, I clean them twice a year. As they are made from industrial plumbing pipe pieces, they are easy to wash in buckets of warm water and disinfectant and then left out to dry. A capful of Dettol is amazing for keeping the germs at bay. It’s also useful to have some Dettol wipes on hand just in case there’s some spit happening from excited students!

I store my whisper phones in a handy tray at the front of the room that students can easily access and then put away themselves.

DIY whisper phones2

My students LOVE using the whisper phones. These are a definite fun ‘go to’ device that is simple, but extremely effective. I’ve had older classes borrow my class set for struggling students and the feedback has been amazing. Concentration has increased and focus on the read word has improved plus the students enjoy using them. Win win!

I would strongly recommend you having a go at making your own. Even a small set of 6 to 8 for small group work or a station task would be invaluable.

Integrating Technology Made Easy

Christmas Day of 1987, I’d just turned 9 and had been begging ‘Santa’ for a computer. They were extremely expensive back then and you needed to fast forward and rewind a cassette tape to load data (even pre floppy discs!). Aaah that high pitched ‘eeeeeeeee’ noise brings back memories. Well the day arrived and I was so excited! By dinner time the next night I had the back casing off it with a screwdriver I’d found in my dad’s shed and had analysed the inner workings. The look on my dad’s face was priceless when he walked into my room.

Somehow I managed to put it all back together, and got it all working perfectly again. From there my love of all things computer related began.

Over the years I have been teaching my students various computing tools and programmes to assist with their learning. 15 years ago the ‘big’ thing to use was word processing, which then progressed into creating brochures in Publisher and PowerPoints. These days the curriculum refers to sharing ideas and now in the age of interactivity, this translates into areas such as skype, coding and showing students how to create apps/programmes themselves to demonstrate their learning.

I love using QR codes. I’ve been using them for a couple of years now and have taught them from reception (5 year olds) up to year 7. The result is always the same – a sense of ownership over the task, delight at having an instant response and a sense of achievement when students create their own. From there I progress onto teaching students how to make their own and embed it into their work.

When talking to my colleagues I was surprised at how many have never heard of what a QR code is, let alone used one. Next week I am putting on an after school workshop for my school’s staff and to coincide with this, I have created a handout entitled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to QR codes’. (Click on the image below to download your own free copy!)

FREE A beginners guide to QR codes








If you’ve never used them either – you must download this free handout. It explains what a QR code is, what they are used for, how to make your own and ideas on how to use them in your classroom. Included is a mini lesson plan on how to introduce them to your students, along with a one-page step by step pictorial on how to create your own. It’s explained so simply that even your students could follow it to make their own.

Go on! Have a go!!!

Looking for more ideas for using QR codes? Check out our growing Pinterest board.

TTFT – Create a random picker jar

Tuesday Tip for Teachers: It’s very easy to constantly call upon the same students each time to answers questions (you know the students I mean – the ones with their hands always up ready to volunteer an answer?) Put a new twist on it and make yourself a random popstick tin / jar. Simply write the name of each student on a popstick and then paint the ends with a cheap nail polish. I place the popsticks into a tin with the colour end upwards, then when a student has been called upon I flip it over to hide the colour. This works amazingly well for choosing students to work together, selecting someone to answer a question or even choosing a group of students to participate in a certain activity first. Students understand that this is a fair system and over the years I have discovered that they genuinely do appreciate it being used.



Student Birthdays

It’s always hard during the year with seasonal celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, accommodating for individual student’s beliefs and backgrounds. Growing up, birthdays were always genuinely special days in my family. They were days of love and being consciously aware that you were valued. Because of this, I enjoy acknowledging a student’s birthday and making sure they know that they are a valued member of our class.

I wanted ‘my kids’ to receive a small token gift from me to make them smile and realise that I did indeed know it was ‘their’ day. When you have a large class, it is very easy to spend a fortune. (Ok hands up who’s made this mistake – I’ve got both up right now!). It doesn’t need to be this way. I regularly get huge smiles with a simple ‘good morning birthday boy/girl’ when students arrive, however I do like to present students with a token gift just from me.

One of my favourite things is bubbles! I love bubbles! I buy a pack of 24 mini bottles from the discount store for $5 (at approx 20c per gift that’s a bargain!), then I simply attach a little tag and I’m done!

FREE Student Gift Brithday Tags






If you would like a copy of the tags I use, simply click the picture above for your free download. I’ve included a variety of tags for you to choose. I’d love to hear how you recognise student birthdays in your class!



Wow! Welcome to the new look Imaginative Teacher!!!!

The original site began all the way back in 2002 when some of my colleagues approached me asking for copies of ideas and resources I had made for my own students. Having only graduated from university two years prior and having spent those years working full time across multiple grades, I was happy to share. After all, great educators do indeed share pedagogy and ideas!

After much contemplation and many frustrating hours teaching myself how to set up a site, I began the original site www.imaginativeteacher.com. Holy moly! What a learning curve that was! So as of today, we have now evolved! Today I change direction – 13 years on one path is long enough. So my original venture is growing, evolving and maturing; just like I have in my last 15 years on my teaching adventure.

Please do come on the journey with me as I look forward to sharing my new blog with you!