Monthly Archives: January 2009

Young children are born poets: Why poetry, rhyme and chant is essential for all children but crucial for the struggling reader!


Introducing my 5 – 6 year old (Prep) students to poetry is part of my daily program. Poetry engages young children, particularly when they can join in. Poems, rhymes, raps, finger plays and chants are important in all classrooms, but crucial to young children learning to read. Rhymes allow students to make predictions. I find that the children, who have difficulty predicting a text, have a ‘tougher’ journey learning to read. For this group of children poetry, chants and rhyme are essential. These are the children who find a Reading Recovery Level 1 book challenging. The book might read, I am in at the park, I am at the zoo, I am at the beach, and even when the language is repetitive and patterned, the structure is not remembered.

The resurrection of poetry, rhymes and chants in classrooms supports the important role they have in developing the language skills of young children. 



For example rapping is a cultural phenomenon, and involves movement, it’s clever, ‘cool’ and fun. My preps love rapping – its poetry!


Just for the record:

One of my favourite authors for young children is Dr. Seuss. I read these books to the children until they can recite the stories off by heart. The children love these books and take them home to read e.g. Green Eggs and Ham. The language is phonetic,

contains simple sight words and they can remember the rhyme. Have as many in your room as you can, and read them ‘to death’.





The displays are for the children to make reference to when writing, to celebrate their work and to provide parents with information. Writing an explanation of what has been done in ‘child speak’, and placing it with the display, ensures that when the display is looked at, the focus of the viewer is not just the beautiful pictures but the




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Very Young Children Can Edit: Develop criteria, hand over the responsibility and watch them grow.


My program from day one is Language Experience and Inquiry based and as I have stated in earlier posts I get going quickly.  The Victorian Early Years structure (future post – My Way) is introduced formally late in first semester, however, all elements of Early Years are used within a Language Experience program.

Big Books (future post) are fundamental to my everyday program. I start drawing my student’s attention to simple punctuation and through repetitive reading of our favourite Big Books, children start learning how we use punctuation quickly. We spend a lot of time discussing: What a sentence is? How it starts and how we know a sentence has stopped? We look at commas, exclamation marks and question marks from day one (Concepts of Print). Learning is my classroom is about a child’s ‘point of need’, not age or grade level. Yes, assessment drives my program but it’s about finding ‘where to go’!


 Later in the year I start intoducing children to the concept of 1st draft, edit and publishing. Published writing needs to be correct. I believe children need to know why they are expected to do something.  Displaying examples of the process including explanations is essential. The children can refer to the display and visiting teachers/parents can clearly understand what is being taught.

Editing – Formulating Criteria for Writing Genres

 Children aged 5-6 are capable of formulating criteria for writing genres. This is a strategy which is used with all class levels, including secondary students. The photo shows a writing checklist that was prepared by the children after developing writing criteria for punctuation. As a WHOLE class we deconstruct good quality pieces of writing. I use examples from the CARS & STARS books because they are carefully published and have age appropriate content.

After deconstructing a specific piece of writing e.g. a letter, the children talk about what they see is specific to a letter e.g. young children will notice that a letter starts with dear and that there is a date. This is the start of formulating and recording our criteria. The criteria are then used to make a checklist which is referred to when writing. The first checklist shown in the photo above is very simple and made by 5-6 year olds (Preps) after completing this process.

Once the checklist is developed students refer to it when editing their writing. (See photo) This strategy improves the quality of the children’s writing dramatically.





The photo below is an example of a display in my classroom. picture-018You’ll notice that a checklist is attached.  Hope you find this post useful. Cheers Nina

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Literacy – Inquiry Learning – Writing with Purpose.

  I find that to build and accelerate the writing skills of young children and actually students of all ages, opportunities need to be given for students to record purposefully. Journal writing is a favourite of teachers in the Early Years and although important, I don’t believe recounts should be used by themselves for assessing a student’s writing progress.

Children need to write in different styles naturally and with purpose. Journal writing tends to become stilted and doesn’t challenge young writers by the end of their first semester at school. I call it ‘nuts and bolts’ writing.

Inquiry Learning and Language Experience partner each other perfectly, because how can you inquire without being exposed to real experiences? How can vocabulary be built if it’s not linked to real experiences? How can we expect children to write well without building vocabulary? This is why many young children struggle to write – their oral language and experience are limited. It is also why I believe oral language development is critical to becoming literate. It starts from birth.


Language Experience: Real Learning!


“What I can think about, I can talk about.”

“What I can say, I can write.”

“What I can write, I can read.”

“I can read what I can write and what other people can write for me to read.”


Strategy: From day one of Prep I start building vocabulary. I put a word on the board e.g. start and ask the children to come up with words of similar meaning. At the beginning of the year my Preps would come up with one word, possibly two if I was lucky. By the end of the year my students were consistently making lists of ten or more words of similar meaning to my initial word. There has to be a psychological term for this which I can’t name, but it’s related to developing the thinking skills and potential of young minds. It is, however, understanding that young children 4-6 years at the beginning of Prep have brains like sponges and a natural curiosity which needs harnessing. picture-008  


I’ve added some photos of Inquiry writing samples from our Inquiry into Sustaining our environment- What is living and non-living?- Term 4.  As our school has the sea ‘on our doorstep’ it was natural to start with Moondah Beach. Ben (my students called him Ben-Ten) from the Dolphin Research Centre was heavily involved in our Inquiry. Having an expert to lead ‘hands on’ learning experiences was wonderful. picture-036


Why Borders?

The children design a border for each learning reflection as Lane Clark states that children are more inclined to remember information when they use a border. I would also state that I’m not including the best but the average standard in my class and it is the students own reflection and recording of their learning.

 I hope you enjoy this post. I’m still learning how to respond to comments. I actually replied to one person three times. That might sound interesting but it was the same reply from me three times. Ummmmm! Cheers Nina

Real Experiences: sea-visit-054sea-visit-014 


Vocabulary: Our Muralsea-visit-2-0091


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The power of Interactive Writing as a model to accelerate writing development

picture-0231‘Interactive writing involves the teacher and small groups of students jointly composing a large print text on a subject of interest to the students and sharing responsibility for the recording at various points in the writing.

Teachers quickly record the words that students know how to write, and engage students in problem solving and recording the words that provide challenges and opportunities for new learning. This eases the transition to independent writing by:

·                     making explicit how written language works

·                     constructing words using orthographic and phonological knowledge

·                     producing a text that can be read again.’




My Way- Student Led – The Beginning!

It’s wonderful to see Prep students (first year of formal education in Australia) work cooperatively in groups to produce a piece of writing within the first few weeks of school. They may not know all their sounds, but with an alphabet chart/pictures for reference and whatever prior knowledge they bring, writing skills are quickly developed and extended. This is a powerful teaching strategy.

Each child has their own colored pencil and writes their name down the side of the sheet making it easy to see a child’s progress. Generally, I have groups of 4/5 students selected randomly. At the beginning of the year the sentence is provided after class discussion and is related to a shared experience e.g. I am at school. Teaching children to prompt each other without giving the answer is taught during Interactive Writing. By the end of Term 1 the compilation of a writing piece is totally formulated by the group.

Let me know if you would like more information and I hope the photos help.


The writing standard of my children was amazing thanks to this strategy and Language Experience (more later).  Cheers Nina    





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