This episode unpacks what you can do to bring your CAFS classroom to life! From making connections with your students,
to including them in examples and transforming your classroom. 

I share with you strategies and practices that I have adopted over the last 16 years to bring my CAFS classroom to life and have my students wanting to come back lesson after lesson. 

Show Notes 

Tools to Promote CAFS Successfully
Glossary of Key Words


Kagan Structures
The Resilience Project
Year 11 Acronyms
Year 12 Acronyms

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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

Kelly Bell: Hi, I'm Kelly Bell. Welcome to The Learning Network podcast. I guide Community and Family Studies teachers newbies and experience through best practice to improve knowledge, increase empowerment and alleviate stress. To help you and your students to make meaningful connections across the course.

I will share strategic and purposeful applications from my 16 years experience in the classroom that I have adopted to increase student motivation, enjoyment, engagement and results.

Together, we will grow and transform your CAFS crew to the next level without impacting your safe and well being in the process.

To join my free how to improve writing and fast track results webinar. Head to So tune in get inspired and let's connect, learn and grow together.


Hey everyone, and welcome back to episode number four of T

he Learning Network Podcast. In this podcast episode, I share with you about what you can do to make some tiny little tweaks to really bring your CAFS classroom to live things that you can do in a physical space but also with your students working together in cooperative learning groups.


I also share with you what you can do to actually bring those examples to life in your CAFS classroom to the students have a meaningful connection to the course. Today we're talking about building stronger connections with our students and what it might look like in our classroom.

So there are four main areas and I really believe that we can start to build some really meaningful and deep connections with our students. It's all about the relationships that we build and we strengthen with our kids. So showing a genuine interest in their life is highly crucial to building that relationship.


So what this might look like in the CAFS classroom are simple things like asking the kids how they are. I know that sounds really basic, but what we can start to do is just to get a gauge of how they're feeling that day, that lesson, that week, to then be able to help them and support them in our CAFS classroom. This can also look like asking them after the weekend what they did on the weekend, without kind of prying into their personal life, but maybe finding out about how they went in their dance concert or in their soccer Grand Final or something about them in general that they're interested in, they really love and are passionate about.

You might have heard a story that they've shared with you in the CAFS classroom, then might ask them about that. It might be something that they share with with you about their family, or it might be something that is affecting them at that point in their life in terms of their wellbeing, just a general check in with our CAFS kids is really important.

Honestly, I think we've become so fast paced, we dive into our classroom, and we forget to really check on the wonderful, amazing young people who are sitting in front of us, our kids really matter. And if we show a genuine interest in them, their wellbeing and them as a person and their interest, they're going to work with us and for us. So when it comes to them taking risks, or when it comes to them getting some feedback from you, or giving each other feedback, they're going to be much more open to that sharing once we have built that connection with the kids.


The second thing is really about showing an interest in them as a person, as a student with all these other things in mind. So showing genuine interest in them, where they are, what they're doing, how they are, but also genuine interest in what they like and enjoy.


So this might be something that you could start to do when you do a team building activity. Or you might get the kids to share, okay, let's quickly walk around to a couple of you. What is your what was your favourite thing that happened over the weekend, or something like that, so that we can get an idea of what they feel that they're interested in, what their strengths are, what they feel proud of. And again, that can feed to into those other conversations that we'll have with our kids throughout the day throughout the lesson and then throughout the week.

Of course, all these really helps you build those strong relationships with the kids, they get to know you on a more personal level. At the end of the day, we are people and most of us came into teaching because of the kids, the kids light us up, they why we're here. So showing a genuine interest in them is really important to building those connections.

The next thing is showing an interest in asking them about their life. So you know who is in their family who who do they actually live with something a bit about their family dynamics. Obviously our course lends itself to that anyway, the kids will start to talk about that with examples and discussions in class but what we can start to do is get to know their family a little bit. 


They might have shared a story with you, maybe about their mom who has just gone to hospital had a procedure or their little sister starting kindergarten or whatever it might be. Just asking them genuinely like we would when meet each other, how they are or how are their family members if you know something about their family, which isn't too private, obviously about their family dynamics that they have shared with the general wider class, you might like to use that as an example.


So if you know that there's some sort of blended family situation, or if you have a particular student in your class without calling them out, you might say, a young person who who lives with his grandmother. You might know that there's someone in your classroom who has a grandmother, and they're living with their grandma, they're not living with other family members, they can \see themselves in those examples. And they can start to see themselves that you should show a genuine interest in care in their life.


So it could be about dynamics of the family, it might be living situations, like our different family structures, maybe we might talk about choices in other things.


So just bringing that family into the examples that we provide in our classroom, again, building that relationship with our kids. The other thing that you might like to start to do is to involve the actual community in which the young person resides.


So if you know the location where they leave, most kids are open and honest, you might talk about where they actually live; do you guys remember on that particular park, or that particular service that's around the corner from the shops. You start to involve the kids into the classroom, you bring the kids into your classroom, you open up their world. Because it's not just those four walls or that screen in a virtual classroom, it's really breaking down those barriers and getting the kids to see themselves in your examples in their classroom, and that you're actually connecting with their life. These can look so many different ways.


When we talk about the services available for families, for communities for groups, we can start to bring in some of those examples and the kids will start to open up some of those. In terms of your own personal stories, you need to be really mindful. There are many teachers who love to share, and of course not to share, but it's really important to just keep some of those private conversations, private experiences, to yourself. What you might like to do is talk about yourself in a third person, you might say I have a friend or I have a family member who has done this, this and this. Of course, it's completely okay to have guest speakers as teachers, but again, they might like to be really mindful about how they're talking about their personal life. Of course, check with your head teacher or your coordinator or your principal about how that might look in your CAFS classroom.


We want to open our CAFS classroom, we want it to be really meaningful and connected. But we also want to make sure people's privacy is maintained.

The other thing that you can start to do is bring all those little things into the case studies you provide in your class, remove yourself from case studies, but then talk about those within your classroom.


So I'm one of four, I might talk about that my parents were divorced when I was 19, I could talk about that and use that as an experience. I obviously won't pry too much into that or go into too much depth, but I could talk about blended families and connections and the importance of roles and all those sorts of things that start to come into those connections across the course. So using examples, using cases and scenarios that the kids can actually connect with, whether it be about people in the classroom, or the students in the school without actually saying their name.


So if you're talking about homeless people and you know that there's a number of students in your school who are homeless, you can say that to the kids, the number of young people in our school who are homeless and living in a refuge, are they living in a shelter, or they're couch surfing? This is not just something that people who we see in the media or people who live in a hostel that might be in remote or city parts of whatever location we're in, this is actually happening to us right here in our school. Without obviously talking about the student per se, and then that sort of thing.


So there are some ways that we can start to build or break down those barriers within our classroom. Again, many of us don't like to share personal stories. And of course, I'm not saying that you would be using yourself in that third person but use your family, use friends, you know other people. Other case studies, I suppose, to really bridge that gap between the textbook and the syllabus.

And the notes we have for the kids or the Google slides we are providing to them, it is that personal connection that is so important in our CAFS classroom. And honestly, it is the difference. This is why I think we continue to teach our course because it is so relatable to life.

The kids also have to connect that to the syllabus and have to have really strong connections and have really good writing structure and interest a Glossary of Key Word, but from a personal level, it is amazing what our course offers.


The other areas that I want you guys to start to think about are things that you can do within that physical space in your CAFS classroom to really break down the four walls, break down the actual physicality of our classroom, bring it to life. We all like to live in lots of nice spaces and have, most of us, really lovely homes, let's make our CAFS classroom like a little home, like a little place for the kids feel very welcomed and feel very invited.


I've spent a lot of money in the past on making my classroom really inviting. And I don't know, it's just something I've done, but over the years I've become a lot more creative with what that might look like.

So there's something at home that I no longer use and I think my CAFS class might benefit from it, then I'd bring it in or if I see like a garage sale or see something at Kmart, those of you who have worked with me before, you'll know that I try to bring my CAFS classroom to life.

Gone are the days that our kids sitting in rows or single seats, it is about lifelong learning, working together in collaborative spaces. And look, that's what we do, that's where we're human, we naturally do that. So I think it's important for us too, um, hopefully replicate some of our classroom like that.

It might be something simple that you could do like throwing up a few posters, and I've got lots of resources that I've provided to you guys for free that you could use it as a starting point, if you don't have those links, I can provide that too. But some posters in the classroom, some quotes, that sort of thing, laminate them, pop them up, even if you have a virtual classroom, you can start sharing those with your kids.

I know, during COVID, we often did that, we tried to have some sort of quote in the beginning of the week, or really fun click to finish the week on so the kids still had that connection that they had, that safe learning space. What it might also look like is getting a little decorations, or might be adding some greenery to your classroom.

Of course, if you have the budget, both personally and as a faculty to do this, that is all well and good. If you have a physical classroom to yourself, you are one of the lucky ones, not many of us have had that opportunity. I did at a previous school, which I feel super, super grateful for. And what I was able to do in that classroom is opened up a world for my kids, where they felt so invited, and so happy and so so welcomed.


And I would often have other colleagues and other kids talk about that, "Aw Miss, we love our class, love your classroom, it's so inviting, it's so happy." And that's what I want it to be because it then reflected on what was happening with the kids, they then felt really happy to be there and look forward to coming to class. If you don't have a classroom to yourself, team up with a colleague and work together, it may be creating that space with the minimal budget that you have. I'm talking just little things that you can do; plants, maybe a little corner where they can chill out in, like a mindfulness corner or something like that, it might be again Kmart, you could give yourself a budget like $50 $40 and say, 'Okay, with this money, what am I gonna do to just improve my classroom just that little bit.'


And of course, if you have the faculty budget to do that, it could be something seemingly something simple as buying a whole pack of Textas or pencils or some stationery for the class and post it notes, just so the kids can access those really quickly.


Or you might know decide to put other things up around the classroom, we're really lucky and we have lots of things that are quite affordable these days to use and if we don't have the finances, we just need to be thrifty and be really creative with what that might look like. And of course using things around the classroom, bringing things in from home that might just make the classroom a little bit more inviting than what it is, than that grey or that black or that brown or that blue that we often see in our classrooms.


The other thing that you might like to start to do from a social sense is maybe incorporate some cooperative learning groups. If you have never come across Kagan structures, the way Kagan run cooperative learning will blow your mind. It's a bit Primary School-ish but something that I've really loved for most of my career really. If you just Google 'Kagan structures,' there's fantastic ways of setting your kids up in cooperative learning groups, with different levels, that sort of thing.


Not just group work for group work sake but the kids really have a role to play within that group. And it really has broken down some of the barriers that I've always had my CAFS classroom. They start out, and I wouldn't send them into cooperative learning groups straightaway, but they might have their friendship groups, but that's who they just sit with the whole time for two years. Let's break down those barriers, let's really build that CAFS classroom as a really positive learning space for the kids to really work together. Because at the end of the day, when we come to the HSC, it's about the kids and their results and our average, not necessarily about each particular student, not the high fliers by themselves or the low ones by themselves, but the kids building together as a class is really important.


Something else that you could do is just maybe incorporate a 'get to know you' or a team building activity, that's perfect for beginning of the time, or resetting ourselves in the lead up to something else to something new in terms of emotional stuff.


Setting goals is always been part of my classroom, whether it be physical, virtual using Google Keep, a physical goals board or whatever it might be, for the kids to articulate to you as their class teacher, you're going to be with them for two years, what their goals are and how you're going to support them in achieving those goals.


The other thing might be a really good emotional thing like creating some sort of Gratitude Journal or some sort of journaling in your CAFS classroom. And it might be journaling about content like a learning log, with What have I learned today? What's been the most, valuable thing I've taken away from today. That sort of thing really involves the kids.


The last one is a spiritual connection across your CAFS classroom. And that might look like I'm incorporating some sort of mindfulness in our CAFS classroom, maybe getting the kids to come in as you're setting up if you're setting up some resources or setting up your data projector or an activity, you might get the kids to come in, grab a colouring sheet or something in your classroom or they might just be present at their desk, you might put some quiet music on, for them then just to chill and just to calm down before they actually start learning.

We know the power of mindfulness now, many of us teach 7 to 10 PDHPE and if you're in the TAS faculty, I'm sure you've heard about mindfulness before. There's lots of resources out there about mindfulness for young people. The Resilience Project, by Hugh van Cuylenburg is amazing. I won't go into it but he has some really good resources for kids as well.


The other thing you might like to do is maybe have some quotes or something around your room. If you're in a religious school, you might have a sacred space where you have a Bible or a cross or something like that. But the kids can have some time or some prayer space, whatever it might be.


The other thing I've shared with you guys for a little while now is a gratitude jar. So using a gratitude jar, and getting the kids to write down what they're grateful for once a day, once a lesson, once a week, once a month, something for them to really just reflect. All you need is some post it notes, and some sort of prompt and a pen. And then the kids write down what they're grateful for, they pop it in the jar, and then they've they've done the little gratefulness activity for the day or the week, whatever might you might like to do.


The other thing that you could do is get the kids to work together in those groups to build on their strengths and possibly their challenges. So when we're working those cooperative learning groups, getting the kids to possibly just provide some sort of 'get to know you' activity within that. And I think at the beginning of the term is perfect for that. Again, we're so rushed. We're always talking about business, we're always, push push push with the kids. But I think once we take that step back with our kids, we can start to really benefit from some of these strategies, to build those connections across our class, to really build on those relationships and cooperative learning, having that physical space, and that positive environment is so crucial to our kids. They will want to be there, they'll want to come back lesson after lesson after lesson because you have provided such a rich and meaningful and connected classroom.


I would love to hear how you connect your CAFS kids in your classroom and please share on socials what this might look like for you. 


Our professional discussion topic for the week is to chat and share with me about how you're going to transform your CAFS classroom and bring it to life. Is it going to be including some quotes and some posters in your CAFS classroom, maybe a little bit of greenery? I'd love to hear what you have to say. And maybe you can send me some sneaky pics on social media and tag me @thelearnnet.


Thanks for joining The Learning Network. I'd love to hear what connected with you most about today's episode, take a screenshot and tag me on instagram and facebook @thelearnnet. If you'd like to know more about my courses, MasterClasses, Coaching and Mentoring and CAFS Membership, you can DM me over on Facebook or Instagram or head to 


Don't forget to stay connected by subscribing to Apple Podcasts or Spotify. And if you love today's episode, I would be so honoured if you could please leave me a review. See you again next week.

Let's continue to connect, grow and learn together to make a huge impact on the students we teach.

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.