Monthly Archives: February 2009

What is a family? What is a school? How does a five year old answer these questions?

Below is a summary of my student’s thoughts about families and schools. I’ve scribed their ideas as they were said. We will continue to add reflections as we continue our inquiry. I was impressed by how willing my student’s were to share their ideas.

I belong to family. What is a family?

-some families are bigger.

-some families look different.

-families have different coloured hair.

-families do different things.

-some dads and mums live in different countries but visit and talk a lot.

-some children live with their mum only and teddy.

-some children live with mummy, daddy, brothers, dogs, birds and ducky.

-some children live with just their dad, sister and brother.

-some families talk differently.

-some families speak different languages.

-some children live with a step dad and mum one week and a dad and step mum the next week.

-families are different.


I belong to a school. Why do you go to school?

-being happy, having fun and learning

-and listening to teachers too.

-so you can paint and have lots of books read to you.

-working really hard and doing your best.

-going to music and learning.

-going to the library.

-doing art in the art room.

-French: you can say bonjour.

-sport: running and playing games.

-you go to school to learn.

-you go to school to make friends.

-because mum’s work and can’t play, so you come to school to play.

-to learn to read and write.

-so you can make things.

-to play computer games.

-you go to the library.

-school is for little children.



Self Portraits- Just beautiful!

Cheers Nina


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Mandala Poetry: Perfect for Preps & students of all ages!

What is mandala?

The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community. 

Extract: Bailey Cunningham


Picture- Tibet Mandala

This form of poetry is great way for young children just starting to write to enjoy making poetry. Older children who struggle with poetry find this form of poetry non-threatening. The poem is created using the circular geometric shape of the mandala.



Our Prep Inquiry is outlined below:


Who we are

An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.

Central Idea

I belong to a family, a class and a school.


The children have helped to create a class mandala to display their understandings and reflections. Our mandala includes family photos, drawings, and statements that the children have made.  


The children will be creating their own mandalas where they are the central focus. The ideas that have been put forward by the children have been insightful.

The children have also been doing self portaits. I’ve included some photos because they’re beautiful.




Cheers Nina

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Why Blog? Who’d be interested in what I do all day? Well, I am!

I was sitting in my staffroom listening to a conversation about blogging. A statement was made:

Why does anyone bother with that and who’d be interested in what I do all day. I’m growing accustomed to this! I didn’t respond, but I should have said ‘I am’. I am interested in what my colleagues are doing. I am interested in teaching and learning outside my arena. Someone then said, Nina has an educational blog. Silence!


However, my colleagues are visiting my blog ‘on the quiet’. They’ve been speaking to me and asking questions. They want to know, for example, ‘what books I’m using’, how to get ‘interactive writing going’ and so on. I’m hearing my writing vocalised. That’s what this is about. I haven’t publicized what I’m doing at my school, but my readership among my own staff is growing. I can feel a shift in attitude. This is not about ‘intellectual property’, it’s about professional sharing.


My readership outside my school is certainly developing as I’m getting feedback and my blog is being recommended by other educational professionals working in schools-not necessarily teaching in classrooms.


Why am I writing this! I was talking to Jenny Luca, my mentor the other day and she mentioned a utube called ‘Did You Know’ and I thought ‘no, I don’t know’. I do now, and I have to say, all teachers should view this. I know teachers can’t watch it a school, but please watch it at home. It actually puts what I’m doing into perspective. I’m learning what I need to know to teach children this century-not next.


The Victorian Government Ultranet is coming and will revolutionize how we work as teachers. Recently, I learnt about elluminate – attending conferences virtually. This is not a vision for the future, it’s happening now!  I’m also a member of a ‘ning’, Working Together 2 Make a Difference. Who would have thought? I’m developing an ‘international mind’ and working collaboratively with education professionals around the world!


So… I encourage anyone visiting my blog to watch ‘Did You Know’. There is an education revolution happening right now that many teachers aren’t aware of. We live in exciting times!  


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Upcoming Posts: Mandala Poetry- Perfect for Preps & Forming Guided Reading Groups

Posts on their way! I’ve had a number of emails about forming guided reading groups, so I hope you find my post useful.

Cheers Nina

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Victorian Bushfires- Education warrior among the missing in Victoria bushfires

In my pevious post, I included an extract from research undertaken by Dr. Ken Rowe and Dr. Kathy Rowe into Auditory Processing. It was their research which led to this important assessment being included in our initial assessment of Prep children. Dr. Ken Rowe is among those who lost their lives on Black Saturday. 


Article from The Australian (February 12th)

THE man who led the charge against using whole-language methods to teach children how to read, Ken Rowe, is missing in the remains of Marysville.

A passionate advocate of the need to base educational policy on proven research evidence, Dr Rowe was last heard from on Saturday as the fires approached the town.

Dr Rowe and his wife, pediatrician Kathy Rowe, have a weekender in Marysville, where Dr Rowe had gone alone ahead of the fires.

Kathy said yesterday she was waiting to hear the fate of her husband. “I guess we cannot expect any news for some time considering the enormity of their task, but there is little doubt in our minds that he could not have survived,” she said.

Dr Rowe is a senior researcher with the Australian Centre for Educational Research, where he has worked for eight years, and has a strong interest in teacher quality and the processes by which people learn.

He came to national prominence as head of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, which called for a return to the direct, systematic teaching of phonics as essential for children learning to read.

The landmark report highlighted the need for teaching to be based on the evidence of rigorous evidence-based research. Dr Rowe was at the vanguard of advocating this approach in education.

Passionate is the word Dr Rowe’s friends and colleagues most commonly use to describe him. Education research consultant and longtime colleague Philip Holmes-Smith, who has known and worked with Dr Rowe for more than 20 years, yesterday spoke of his passion for education, particularly for helping schools improve their student outcomes; his passion and skill as a teacher; and his passion and commitment as a father of three sons.

“Unlike so many people in education who have a philosophy and determine what they’re going to do based on that philosophy, Ken couldn’t care less about that,” Mr Holmes-Smith said. “He evaluated everything in terms of what works and what doesn’t work.”

ACER chief executive Geoff Masters called Dr Rowe an “outstanding leader, researcher and thinker” in education.

Also missing is Rob Pierce, director of the Institute for Breathing and Sleep and the department of respiratory and sleep medicine at Victoria’s Austin Hospital.

Professor Pierce’s wife Jan is reportedly being treated for fire injuries at the hospital where her husband worked.


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Royal Children’s Hospital Auditory Processing-:Essential Assessment

Prep Assessment – First Year of Formal Schooling. Auditory Processing Explained 



As part of our initial Prep assessment we administer the Royal Children’s Hospital Auditory Screening Assessment as recommended. I often have parents watch their child’s initial testing and I find the responses to this test most surprising.

Parents often say, their child doesn’t follow instructions or doesn’t seem to hear. After having this assessment explained they realise that (normal scoring) young children don’t process information or words like adults and that they need to be more aware how they give instructions or how many they give at once. This is very relevant to our instructions as teachers. We need to be aware of our student’s abilities (boys & girls) to process information and structure our explicit teaching sessions carefully.


Auditory Processing Assessment Kit – Understanding How Children Listen and Learn

Royal Children’s Hospital


Extract Literacy, Behaviour and Auditory Processing:

Does teacher professional development make a difference? Please read or follow link to full article.


‘Auditory processing is important for literacy and behaviour. Children’s auditory

processing capacities are strongly linked to their initial and subsequent literacy progress, as well as to their attentive behaviours in the classroom.

Auditory processing screening and related teacher PD works! Data obtained from

administration of the AP screening protocols have strong predictive validity and utility.

The evidence indicating significant improvements in children’s literacy progress between ‘trial’ and ‘reference’ schools – for both ESL and ESB children – emphasises the importance of building pedagogical capacities in teachers as an integral part of their initial education and training, as well as via on-going professional development. Compared with children in the ‘reference’ schools, variations in literacy achievement progress for children in the ‘trial’ schools decreased significantly over a 6-month period, and beyond. In the absence of such screening and PD (in the ‘reference’ schools), the attentive behaviours of under-achieving boys deteriorated. Follow-up of ‘at-risk’ children is crucial.

Auditory processing screening by teachers was well accepted and recommended for

inclusion in School Entry Assessment procedures. Teachers strongly endorsed the value of the AP professional development, since many claimed to be unaware of typical variations in children’s auditory processing abilities and the implications for classroom practice. The screening for auditory processing at School Entry was well accepted by the teachers and the information gained in association with the professional development had a marked effect on literacy outcomes for the whole class. Furthermore, auditory processing ability at School entry was a strong predictor for both literacy achievement and behaviour, and the general effect of the PD intervention was particularly marked for ESL children and for boys’

attentive behaviours in the classroom.

Rue Wright Memorial Award paper

RACP Scientific Meeting 2005


The findings arising from this study have important implications for initial teacher education and training, as well as for teacher in-service professional development. Likewise, the findings should have important influences on shaping educational policy and practice for the early and middle years of schooling. In this regard, an important outcome of the study to date has been an Auditory Processing Assessment Kit produced jointly by the Department of Education and Training and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne (Victoria, 2001). The initial version was

distributed to Victorian government primary schools in the first week of February 2001. The kit contains audio and video materials designed to support early years teachers to administer the Auditory Processing Assessment Procedure as part of ‘Prep-Entry Assessment’ protocols. In particular, the materials consist of a step-wise procedure for assessing children’s auditory processing capacities, a teacher professional development component with background information, and practical classroom management strategies (as summarized above).

An up-dated version of this kit is currently being developed jointly by researchers at the Royal Children’s Hospital (Melbourne) and the Australian Council for Educational Research.

This version (expected to be completed by mid-June 2005) extends the AP screening protocols for use by teachers of students from the first to the tenth years of schooling (i.e., 5-15 year-olds).

The research work of neurophysiologists at the Australian National Acoustic Laboratories is worth noting here. In particular, the findings of LePage and Murray related to auditory capacity derive from otoacoustic emission tests on 3000 clinic-referred persons aged 2-80 years (see: LePage, 2002; LePage & Murray, 1998, 2002, 2004; Murray & LePage, 1993). [Note that an otoacoustic emission test measures the reaction time of an ear; i.e., how quickly the ear responds to streams of sounds such as speech]. Analyses of the available data indicate that although there is a notable decline in auditory processing ability with age for both males and females, after the age of four years males have significantly less ability than females to process auditory ‘streams’ of sound such as speech. LePage (2002) notes:

The overwhelming fact … is that from about the first decade of life the ears of boys are effectively older than the ears of girls. They process sounds more slowly and provide less information to the brain to be analysed. … We are saying that, given our findings, it is not reasonable to expect that boys, on average, will absorb class teaching material as readily as girls (cited in Commonwealth of Australia, 2002, pp. 104-105).’


Kathy Rowe


Jan Pollard

BSc(Hons) MEd MAudSA


Ken Rowe




Cheers Nina 


NB: Follow links to order . It’s easy to use and explained well. This is the most important initial assessment I administer and I highly recommend this for older students ‘at risk’. 


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The future: ‘u @ 50’ – Take A Look!

I received an email from a colleague today and was inspired by this video she urged us all to watch. Please watch!

My colleague wrote:

“At a meeting of the AARP (American Association of Retired People) they showed a video that was submitted in a contest by a 20 year old. The contest was Titled ‘u @ 50’. This video won second place. When they showed it , everyone in the room was awe-struck and broke into spontaneous applause. So simple and yet so brilliant. Take a minute and watch it.”

Cheers Nina

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Assessment (Initial) of Prep Children: Assessment Tools & How?

I wrote this post some time ago and my assessment of young students has changed. Now I use the PM Benchmark RAR and digital program for reading. The digital program is what we need as teachers. Follow the link above.

Our initial assessment of all Prep students (first year of formal schooling) is well organised and supported by the school. Our preps have Wednesdays off for the first five weeks of the year. Assessments are completed on Wednesdays with assessment interviews organised. All initial assessments are ‘one on one’ and comprehensive. Each assessment interview is 40 minutes. The parents can watch, drop off or wait outside. I leave this decision up to them.


Auditory Processing Assessment




This assessment identifies students who have auditory processing issues which may affect their learning. It tells me how many words a student can ‘hear and understand’ before understanding is lost. Students who score poorly on this assessment, need careful instructions and very close monitoring in the classroom. They may require further assessments and be identified as ‘at risk’.

Concepts About print – Letter Identification


This assessment tells me what a student’s alphabet knowledge is. I quickly find out which letter names and sounds they recognise.   

Concepts About Print


From this assessment I discover what a student knows about books and how they work. This assessment is extremely valuable as it tells me how ready a student is for reading. I use this information to plan my focus for Shared Big Book reading.

Phonological Awareness


Can a student hear an initial sound, pick out a rhyme or say another word starting with a sound? This assessment assesses a student’s phonological awareness.


Running Record




Early Numeracy Interview- On Line : Detour

All students read a Level 1 book. If they seem confident when reading a Level 1, we’ll try a Level 2. My aim is to find their instructional level if they can read. The level 1 book tells me if they can remember sentence structure, key words and how well they use the picture to support meaning.

Oral Conversation


My experience tells me that student’s who have poor oral language find learning to read and write tougher. When having a conversation, I’m listening to their sentence structure, vocabulary and depth of information.



Our initial testing for numeracy is the Early Numeracy Interview – Detour. The Detour is quick and assesses early concepts and counting.

Please let me know if you are using any other assessments that you find useful.

Cheers Nina


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Victorian Fires: Working Together 2 Make A Difference – A Ning! What’s That?

I’ve recently joined a NING- I’m learning again! This NING is special. I encourage all readers of this post to visit Working Together 2 Make A Difference and see what ‘educators working collaboratively’ is all about.

Working Together 2 Make A Difference

What is it?  Jenny Luca explains:


‘As educators, we try to encourage our students to see past themselves and take a wider world view. Depending on many factors, that can be relatively easy, or relatively hard. As we approach the festive season for many cultures, an opportunity presents for us to have a means of working together in a collaborative fashion to have our students realise that their efforts can be far reaching and effect others.25 days to make a difference has detailed her efforts to raise funds for various charity organisations throughout the year. She has had over 54,000 hits on her blog and has received media attention for her efforts. Now it’s time to let Laura know how her efforts have inspired others to do the same.

11 Year old Laura Stockman has been a source of inspiration for many throughout 2008 and now into 2009. Her blog, 11 Year old Laura Stockman has been a source of inspiration for many throughout 2008 and now into 2009. Her blog, 25 days to make a difference has detailed her efforts to raise funds for various charity organisations throughout the year. She has had over 54,000 hits on her blog and has received media attention for her efforts. Now it’s time to let Laura know how her efforts have inspired others to do the same.
The aim of this space is to detail the efforts of educators and their students who are doing their bit to think outside of themselves and raise funds for worthy causes. We encourage you to join this space, create a new page for your school and start detailing what you and your students are aiming to do to help others less fortunate than yourselves. Chart your progress on your page and we’ll see what we can achieve by working together to make a difference.

We originally set Dec. 15th 2008 as our end point for this ning site. We have realised that educators are finding this page via a variety of mediums and we are more than happy to keep it open and extending into 2009. Let’s see what we can achieve!

Laura has shown us that one person can make a difference. Let’s see what the sum total of all of us working together can achieve.

‘Victoria, the State I live in in Australia, has been hit by a tragic natural disaster that is affecting the lives of many of our country communities. On Saturday the 7th of Feb., bushfires, fanned by fierce northerly winds in 46 degree celcius temperatures, ravaged our countryside, leading to the deaths of 173 people. This figure is expected to rise to over 200 in the coming days as they gain access to affected areas and search homes. Native animals, livestock and family pets were other victims of this disaster.Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and some words of wisdom from Clarence Fisher, we’ll be setting up a paypal account to direct funds you raise to the Red Cross appeal that has been set up to support those affected. Create a page here and let us know your plans. We can support one another and link our schools to a common cause. Let’s show the world how the education community can use the tools at our disposal to connect and support one another for a common purpose.’

So how can we all make a difference? We would love to see our education community from near and far band together to support the communities in need. What is needed is money to help schools rebuild, families rebuild their lost homes and for communities to build the infrastructure needed that has been lost in these fires.

What can you do? Anything that will help your students to understand the need to help others when the situation is dire. Be it a sausage sizzle, free dress day, bake sale, whatever it takes to raise a few dollars that can be used to support others. In the next few days, with the help of Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and some words of wisdom from Clarence Fisher, we’ll be setting up a paypal account to direct funds you raise to the Red Cross appeal that has been set up to support those affected. Create a page here and let us know your plans. We can support one another and link our schools to a common cause. Let’s show the world how the education community can use the tools at our disposal to connect and support one another for a common purpose.

As I explained earlier, my ‘learning curve’ at present is huge and I’m beginning to comprehend just how important my this journey is.

Cheers Nina

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Language Experience: Introducing Language Experience in a Prep Class!

I’m excited and my Preps are reading! Below is a picture of our first sentence strip story board for the school year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Australian schools have just started the new school year, so we’re at the BEGINNING!

As a class, we talked about what school ‘looks like – feels like & sounds like’ and from our discussion the children derived sentences about school. We built up our simple sentence story over two days.

We read our sentence board story over and over, we looked at letters, discovered what a full stop is and does and we’ve noticed that there are big and small letters. We looked at the sound ‘a’ and the children learnt how to write this letter. Language Experience stories are fantastic for teaching beginner readers. The sentence strip board is an absolute must and was included in my Top 10 Resources (previous post).





This was made into a class ‘little book’ for the children to read and illustrate. As we only had two working days, we will practice our book next week for a couple of days. It will then become a ‘take home’ book and because the children have complete ownership of the language and have illustrated their book, they are confidently reading it.

As we’re ready to write our next sentence story, these cards will be removed and pasted onto a poster for future reading. We will continue to read our sentence stories over and over. Success builds success and this model works!




Just a quick post. Hope you find it interesting. Cheers Nina

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