In this episode, I get to share with you my foundations for building success in Community and Family Studies using all of my knowledge and experience and expertise in this course. I share my 5 strategies for success and what you can do to set your CAFS students up for success, right from the very beginning! There are some small tweaks that we can make as CAFS teachers, that can make a HUGE difference to the way we do things in the classroom with our students. These strategies are going to improve your students' performance and results in CAFS.

Show Notes 

Check out the PDF that I have developed for this episode where I share with you my 5 strategies for success in CAFS.


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The Learning Network

Since 2004 I have been teaching PDHPE and Community & Family Studies. I love learning. It lights me up. I am so passionate about supporting you to be the best educator you can be.

My Purpose
To grow a lively and connected community, where Community & Family Studies teachers can network, learn and share with each other.

My Mission
To build on the knowledge, understanding and skills of Community & Family Studies teachers to set their students up for success with confidence.



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Show Transcription

Hey, I've been asked this question before, “What can you do to set your students up for success right from the very beginning?” And let me tell you, after 16 years of being in the classroom and professional learning, doing lots of things around New South Wales to help CAFS teachers and their students, there's not one main thing that you can do to set your students up for success. It's a combination of different things. It probably wasn't until a couple of years ago that I formulated some sort of plan of attack to what that actually looks like. I remember starting at a new school and no one knew who I was. I moved from Sydney to the Central Coast and I hadn't taught my particular students before, and they were quite shocked by some of my comments and my teaching and learning practices, which are very different to what they might have seen in their junior school. They got a bit of a shock when they came to my CAFS classroom where things looked a little bit different; things were exciting, things were engaging, things were not like your traditional classroom. Textbook work didn't really happen, which contradicts the fact that I am the author of two textbooks. I feel very lucky and privileged to be part of that, but I wouldn't really set textbook work because I would have my students up and moving, discussing things, sharing their ideas with each other. I would have lots of things happening in my classroom, it was very dynamic and I still like to try to operate like that today.

If I'm ever joining your Year 12 CAFS class inside one of my MasterClasses. When I did come to this particular school, I decided that I needed a bit of a prop. So I went to our local Coles and saw this mixing bowl which just so happened to be one of my favourite colours, pink, and a spatula that was aqua. So now my brand colours are pink and aqua. I actually decided to take these into the classroom and say to my students “I want to set you up for success, but there's a recipe to that, there's a recipe to your success. And I'm going to unlock or unpack what that actually looks like in the CAFS classroom using all my experience and expertise in the classroom and the different experiences that I've been really fortunate to be part of.” They looked at me and I could see what they were thinking: “What the hell is she? Who is this teacher?,” but I said, “Trust me, guys, trust me on this. You'll see at the end, that there is always a method to my madness.” I got the spatula and the bowl, and I started to unpack what I thought was really the key to success in our course. 

That was probably about four years ago that I did a particular activity, and I repeat the same sort of thing. So, what are some of our secret ingredients we want to be working towards? We need to have a really clear PEEL paragraph structure. We want to make sure we unpack the Glossary of Keywords. Those things have become second nature in my CAFS classroom now. I would say to my students, “These are actually what I want you guys to come away with. This is what we're going to build on right from the very beginning, right from Year 11 all the way through to 12. Rather than wait for you guys to get to Year 12 and trial time, or even before the HSC, I'm going to show you what success looks like at the end and everything I do in your CAFS classroom is going to be setting you up for success in Year 12.” And I think because I was working at a senior school, it wasn't really until that point that I kind of went, hang on, all the things I've been doing are great. They're really good. They're engaging. But is it actually setting my kids up for success at the end? Or are they just fluffy activities? Or are they just fillers? Or are they unmeaningful strategies? So I started to unpack what that really looks like. I've created a download for this PDF document, which unpacks what this looks like for me. I call it my 'Steps to Success in CAFS.' It steps you through a pathway to success for your students. It all starts with having a good team culture, working with your students to build on ideas, working together and collaborating as a group.

So in my particular CAFS classroom, for my 16 years of teaching, if you were to peek in or to do a little bit of a walk past, you'd see lots of things happening in my classroom. Really dynamic, really fun, really engaging, bright and colourful, lots of quotes and posters, that sort of thing. Fun things in the classroom, maybe a plant or two, things to make my classroom really inviting. You'd see my students interacting together in collaborative learning groups, or cooperative learning groups, which I became so passionate about from my old school, a Sydney all-girls Catholic school. We did some training in cooperative learning, the Kagan structures, and I absolutely fell in love. I became obsessed with learning so much more about it that it just became second nature in my classroom. I would be doing lots of cooperative learning, lots of collaboration, building that really good culture in my CAFS classroom. Even in my Junior PDHPE classrooms and Senior PDHPE classrooms, that culture always existed. Establishing that, and showing my kids that pathway to success, from the beginning was really important. Explaining "This is what success looks like, this is what you can do, this is what you need to do, this is how you would unpack a really good response." I would get my kids to have a look at what the end game is going to be. For example, with my Year 11s, showing them a Year 12 exam and saying, “Okay, let's hop onto this website, let's see an exam. Let's see what it looks like. We have three hours, five minutes reading time, 20 multiple choice questions, 55 marks for our Cores, and then we have an Option at the end,”; really showing the kids where they're going.

I then think, really the next part about my recipe to success is having a clear knowledge and understanding of the CAFS content. So there are five main areas that I want to unpack with you guys. As I said to my students when I first started at this school in 2018, "There are five main things that I want you guys to come away from our CAFS course with, and there are five ingredients to succeeding in CAFS." A good CAFS student KNOWS these five ingredients so when I started The Learning Network I decided to create a visual to represent that. The first one is really knowing and understanding your syllabus content. The syllabus will only get you partway through, the syllabus will always be there, the content will always be there, but what you really need to start to do is to develop skills with your students. So creating a good clear understanding of the syllabus by displaying it or possibly having a copy on the kid's desk. All their notes, all of our resources are related to our syllabus content, everything is geared towards that. So by having a learning intention success criteria at the top of the page or a Google Slide showing the kids the success criteria for whatever activity we're doing, we're showing them the learning intention and the success criteria.

But what we're also doing is explicitly showing the kids the ‘Learn to, Learn about,’ having everything aligned to the ‘Learn to, Learn about’ and, of course, all of our activities geared towards that Learn to. At the end of the lesson, many of our students or teachers can go back and say, "Hang on, did that actually align with that ‘Learn to’ or that ‘Learn about’? Or was it just a filler? Was it just a filler activity?" That was busy work for our students, getting them to fill out a worksheet that we've created, which is just, you know, filling the blanks, or is it getting them to write class notes into their book? Was that application? I'm a huge advocate for application with knowledge and understanding of our syllabus, rather than just writing notes. Again, I'll say it again, and again; what that looks like in the classroom is getting the kids to write fewer notes, but more application, getting the kids to sit back and go, “Okay, let's actually apply our understanding to that content.” A hands-on activity, where they can get in there and get dirty and actually apply what they're doing to their real-life context, or to a situation that we've developed as a result of that. And, again, all their assessment tasks are geared towards knowledge and understanding. Many of our assessments are, again, not time fillers, but may not be explicitly linked to our outcomes or what we want the kids to actually come up with in our lesson. So that's the first one: knowledge and understanding of the syllabus content. Displaying it, having lots of different copies, making sure the kids really know it, mapping everything out, colour coding the syllabus, making sure they’re checking for understanding all the way through.

Okay, the second thing is naming and applying the Glossary of Keywords. And if you’ve followed me for a little while, whether it be in The CAFS network, The Learning Network or The Learning Network Collaborative, you guys would know this is one of my pet peeves or something that I'll get my soapbox about: naming and applying that Glossary of keywords is one of the unsung heroes of all HSC courses. The Glossary of Keywords guides the way our students are going to answer particular responses. So instead of just relating to content in a response, the kids need to show the marker they have knowledge and application of those words. I think we've done a big disservice to some of our kids in the past when we haven't unpacked these words for them. I see it in my Year 12 CAFS MasterClass sessions, I talk about this Glossary of Key Words in all my PLs. What this lack of understanding might look like is a student unpacking a question, and not addressing the Glossary of Key Words, they might just 'describe' something which asked them to 'explain.' They're not addressing the Glossary of Key Word that goes with that question. What developing understanding looks like in the CAFS classroom is showing the student from Year 7 what that understanding is going to be. Having that key awareness of the Glossary of Key Words from Year 7, all the way through to Year 12 is something that is missing in our classrooms, not just in CAFS, but in PE and all of our ATAR courses. Really having those Glossary of Key Words taught from Year 7, and I literally used to teach my students evaluate, analyse,’ I used to show those words, and show it to them and unpack it with them. So trust in the kids, they will know what to do. And if you show them and guide them through, throughout that process, they will be able to really show you those Glossary of Key Words.

The second thing is really getting the students to learn and recall them. So I think, I think that's probably one mistake I made for way too long, probably for about the first three years of teaching CAFS, I had had this really dingy classroom, and I had the words in the back of my classroom. In big fluro pink letters, I had all laminated. I loved my laminator and I had CAFS written on the back. And I thought it was so good that I was able to keep teaching my kids that Glossary of Key Words because I had them on the wall. What I didn't do was actually show them how to unpack them, how to actually break them down, how to use different language to prove to the market and to show the marker that we're actually applying their understanding to that Glossary of Key Words. So don't be like me, make sure you get the kids to actually have a really clear understanding of what each of these words are.

Inside my signature course Strive, which helps students to fast track their results and improve their writing in CAFS. I actually unpack each of the Glossary of Keywords, the main ones in CAFS for you and your students to really show you what it takes to teach it. Each of them, like a step by step guide. Scaffolds templates, sentence starters, little cards I've made up inside Strive, I literally unpack what that looks like. So the next stage is really demonstrating the Glossary of Key Words to the student. So it's all well and good to teach them they exist, for the kids to recall them. And I think that's one thing my students did well, in my second year of teaching CAFS. They could recall the words, but they didn't actually know what they meant. They couldn't actually show me or demonstrate it to me. So I became so, you know, so obsessed, I suppose, with really knowing these, unpacking them and looking for words to really show my students what it actually looked like. And I think once, once I started to do some PL across New South Wales, it was looking at what I needed to do to up my game. I kind of knew when I first started teaching that, you know, different, those, each of the words meant different things. But I didn't really know what it actually looked like in the classroom, and what I could do to show the kids how to unpack each of them. So it is about being a bit vulnerable about putting yourself out there and actually showing the kids how to unpack that particular word.

And honestly, if you're starting on your CAFS career, and you have no idea what the Glossary of Key Words are, and if your teachers may not have done that at school very well. And trust me, there's lots of schools still across New South Wales, highly experienced CAFS teachers, who aren't actually teaching these words explicitly. It's kind of like they think the kids know, but they may not. So getting the kids, to actually apply them in lots of different contexts is really important. And I think, I hope I do a good job of that. I know I definitely show teachers how to do it. And I definitely show CAFS students how to apply that, their Glossary of Key Words, and repeat that step. So this is how you do it, this is how to unpack it, here is some way to show and to prove to the marker you're actually doing that word, you're actually analysing, you're actually making a judgement, you’re actually justify, you're actually proposing different reasons. So showing my students how to actually apply those words, in lots of different ways, has been one of the things that I've been, you know, really lucky, I suppose, to develop those skills, because the kids really don't need to know that.

And the next part is really showing the kids annotation, what that actually looks like, let's find it, show me where are you actually applying that Glossary of Key Word? Are there any judgement words in there? Have you shown that clear connection? Are you showing a significant relationship? No, okay, well, you haven't actually used a glossary of Key Word. So in my GLUE acronym, if you guys have seen that before, it is my way of basically breaking down a good response. So looking for that Glossary of Key Word is where it would be in green, there's no green in there, that means you actually haven’t addressed a Glossary of Key Word, you're missing out on crucial, crucial marks with your students. And I'll show you how crucial those marks are inside Strive we really unpack each of these words really explicitly.

Okay, the next one kind of goes without saying, but again, I have to say it out loud, it’s really obvious; PEEL structure. And you might know it as XXXY seal to triple xe, lots of different things have been floated around before, but whatever your way to teach paragraphing to the kids, it's just an obvious structure with clear elements that really get the kids to unpack a response. Now this needs to be displayed in your classroom. And not just in your classroom. But in your 7 to 10 PE or TAS space, getting the kids to kind of become really familiar with how to write a paragraph is so so crucial. Again, I think it's a missing ingredient. Again, I think it's something that we take for granted. But we also, the kids also forget, and I don't think we focus on it enough, when they come from primary school, their primary school, really unpack how it's done well and the kids are kind of, you know, they come out of their seats all ready and raring to go when they're coming to Year 7 Often I don't know if we dumb it down a bit, we we kind of dumb things down a lot for the kids and we forget that they've learned all these skills in, you know, kindergarten to six, that we don't then build on that in Year 7.

So I think really having that clear PEEL structure is so important. So having that point really clear, clearly stated, making sure you're then elaborating on that point. I know that in lots of American resources, the second point is really about explain. Now, we know, as it is an ATAR course in HSC, courses like CAFS, we know that “explain” is actually a Glossary of Key Words. So it's cause and effect, I think, including this part about elaboration, let's elaborate on that main point, is really what we're looking for. We're not looking for the kids to have an explanation in every single answer, but we want them to have a really clear elaboration in their answer in their paragraph, and then showing evidence, evidence and examples to actually prove your point and supporting the main argument and then linking it back. So linking it back might be creating a transition from your next point or from your last point. Or if we are writing a number of different paragraphs, we might be having a clear link to wellbeing, that type of thing, for our option in Part C only. Part C only is where we would have that link to wellbeing but that clear PEEL paragraph in every single paragraph that the kids are writing is really, really crucial.

Okay, the other secret ingredient group that leads to success in CAFS is building on this point about wellbeing. So where do I start with this, I'm not really sure because there's been a bit of a history about wellbeing in our course. And we know that it is the umbrella that much of our course under and I absolutely love this concept of wellbeing. I personally live and breathe it, maybe not the whole economic wellbeing, but you know, just that balance of your life is really important. I think showing the kids that concept, but also making them aware that, you know, life is lots, life has, has lots of twists and turns. But it's important to come back to ourselves, and to really work out a way forward and to work out what we can kind of do to improve all areas of our wellbeing and have some sort of balance at some point. We all don't have, you know, the grace of days every single day, but hopefully, getting the kids to show, show that that balance is important.

So wellbeing in CAFS, kind of, is the umbrella of our course, as I mentioned. But in a past exam specification, the kids actually had to talk about wellbeing in every single question. I don't think for Research, but in our Parenting and Caring section and our Groups in Context section, we had to link it all back to wellbeing. Now that's not the case anymore. And there are many schools that are still teaching that to the kids that you have to actually link to wellbeing for every single part of your HSC. Guys, that's not the case anymore, you would see it in the marking guidelines, it's not the case. And I think this is a big misconception across our state, that wellbeing has to be embedded all the way through, it is only where it's applicable. And it’s only in Part C of our option. I could talk forever about that. And I'll probably do literally a whole podcast episode about embedding wellbeing, and what that looks like in the option, but it's so important that we do teach the kids it, so including a number of different aspects of wellbeing. And showing that clear relationship between the aspects, I think is a really great thing and HSC markers will look for that. Do you have a really extensive understanding about wellbeing or have you just tacked it on or thrown it in, and that impact is either positive and or negative? And what does this really look like in the classroom? It can be sharing this, sharing this particular rubric with the kids, your rubric from your option in Year 11, getting the kids to actually, you know, work on this particular skill in Year 11. So looking for an opportunity to assess like this in Year 11 is really important. And I think that's probably one of my biggest regrets, I suppose in teaching Year 11, but I've definitely been advocating it to you guys to have one part of your assessment.

So your three part assessments; many of you guys have your exam at the end, but possibly, maybe task number one or two, getting the kids to actually link a particular part to wellbeing is really important to set them up for success for that option. Showing the kids the marking guidelines, and I do this inside my Year 12 CAFS MasterClasses, again, to reiterate the importance of including wellbeing in the option. And of course, teaching this explicitly, all the way through the option is really important.

Okay, we have our next one. Another secret ingredient to success is really about using specific examples in our students' responses. So things that are unique, unique to their context, very different, that stand out to and from the crowd that might link back to different scenarios or situations or case studies, possibly linking to families and communities. But also thinking outside the box. We want our students to have really unique and varied examples. And I think I even came up with a bit of an acronym for that so SUAVE, if I can remember rightly, Specific, really Unique Applied so the actual application of that. What else? You AV, I think Varied, and then maybe Explicit, but having really SUAVE examples, really different examples that stand out from the crowd, is something that I have been advocating to both my students, when I was in the classroom, but also for you guys, in any of my PL but also your, with your Year 12 CAFS MasterClass students. So really getting the kids to unpack what that looks like, is really important and giving them lots of strategies and lots of things that they can actually use in and around the classroom to work on those examples. And what I've been saying to students most, more recently, is that three step removed, so remove yourself from the situation and then just talk about someone in the third person. So you might say a young individual who is living with their grandmother, well, that could be them living with their grandmother whatever, or young person who is experiencing mental health issues their most significant unmet needs might be x, y, and z. So again, taking themselves out of the situation, don't say I or me, or my sister, my brother, my uncle, you'd get the kids to just remove themselves from the situation. There are so many different situations and scenarios that you guys can talk about inside Strive I also show you lots of different places that you can find those to really build on the kids understanding of that is one of those things as well.

So that basically unpacks my five little secret ingredients to success in CAFS and what does it really look like to set your students up for success, it’s building on that, actually teaching them that, showing them that really clear out paragraph structure, working on that, making sure the kids actually get it right from the beginning. If they don't get it right from the beginning, you're then kind of steering them down, you know, the wrong path. You want them to actually look at their, you know, their PEEL paragraph structure from the beginning. And I remember working at the senior school, probably for about four weeks on that, really getting the kids to kind of go back to basics and strip back the content and really look at that clear PEEL paragraph structure. Glossary of Key Words is highly important, as I mentioned before, and I think, I think, again, it's something that I'll stand on my soapbox and talk about a lot, because I get to see it, the students don't include it. And they really missed out on crucial marks because they're not actually addressing the keyword that they need to, need to actually address.

So please let me know if there's anything that you'd like to ask about my foundations for success in CAFS. And some of those sacred ingredients that you might be working towards. Thank you for listening to this week's episode “Behind my Foundations for Success in CAFS.” I can't wait to share with you more tips and tricks about our beautiful course but also join lots of amazing teachers and educators in this space, and also some guest experts. I've created a PDF for you for this particular episode. If you head to, you can grab that there.

Want to work with me one on one?

In my CAFS Coaching and Mentoring, I develop a session or series of sessions that are created with the unique needs of your school and context in mind that are completely tailored based on your experience, stage and journey in
Community and Family Studies.

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I acknowledge and pay my respects to the
traditional custodians on whose land I walk, work & live.
This land was and always will be the land of the First Nations People.