Monthly Archives: May 2009

Twitter: You’re No One if You’re Not On Twitter! or so they say. Come on – follow me! @ninadavis

Here I am telling my young adult (makes me feel better when I stress young ….and I was obviously very, very young when I had her) daughter about Twitter.  And her words were, ‘I can’t believe you’re on Twitter before me!’ Ha! So the young are not the only ones out there twittering, face booking and MSN-ing! The world is changing! and I’m @ninadavis. I’ve got a massive 12 followers. I have noted that some people have thousands, but I’m sure I’ll have many soon. So far, my tweets have been to myself ,or so I thought, until I realised that my recipients have been receiving. Jenny Luca sent me a message that said, ‘You’re not talking to yourself, I can hear you!’ The lights came on at that very moment and I think (hesitantly) that I understand Twitter and I think, just maybe, this could be fun!

So follow me and I’ll follow you – sounds like a song doesn’t it. I’ll keep everyone posted on my Twittering, following, twhirling and followers. Next problem: Can’t get this Twhirl ‘thing’ to work or my photo to show!

Cheers Nina  ( Love this utube ) Update29 following  me and I’m following 52. Obama twits- amazing!

Additional Comments: Its Tweets not Twits!  Latest Stats: 42 following me and I’m following 63.


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Moderating Student Writing: Sofweb VELS Writing Support Assessment Videos- Check them out!


Our very busy classroom! A place to learn, talk, laugh,create and explore. I was talking to a colleague the other day and she said, she knew a teacher who once said, it’s a classroom not a lounge room when someone commented on the state of her room. Well, my room is a classroom!

I’ve been asked to moderate some student writing to assist a teacher with her assessment. This is when I stress that we are obligated to get this right for our students and for our own accountability as teachers. So, what do I do?

NB: For the purpose of this post VELS Level 2 will be used.

VELS Level 2 Standard Writing

‘At Level 2, students write short sequenced texts that include some related ideas about familiar topics. They write texts that convey ideas and information to known audiences. They select content, form and vocabulary depending on the purpose for writing, and describe the purpose and audience for their own and others’ writing. They use appropriate structures to achieve some organisation of the subject matter. They link ideas in a variety of ways using pronouns, conjunctions and adverbial phrases indicating time and place. They accurately spell frequently used words, and make use of known spelling patterns to make plausible attempts at spelling unfamiliar words. They use capital letters, full stops and question marks correctly. They reread their own writing and use a range of editing resources to revise and clarify meaning. They write upper- and lower-case letters legibly with consistent size, slope and spacing.’

I’ve highlighted the skills that  come up in conversations all the time and they are, ‘ but they haven’t used capital letters, full stops or question marks correctly all the time and they haven’t spelt all frequently spelt words correctly. They can’t get Level 2.’  We’ve all heard this and some teachers will argue that this is correct.

This is when I would like to ask but usually don’t, ‘what have your conversations with the child told you about what they know …. and have you looked at the writing assessment support videos in the Sofweb site? To be truthful, most time poor busy teachers haven’t looked at the videos or don’t even know they exist!

I’ve found (and not everyone) that teachers often look for the empirical (testable – yes or no) indicators to help them assess writing.  It’s often easier to look at what a student can’t do than question what they can. I find out what a student can do! When unsure, I ask questions. The writing draft will not always tell you what a student can do or understands.

What to ask?

Go to Sofweb – Writing Assessment Videos for each VELS level. Read blurb below. These videos are very brief and won’t take much time to view. They also have a copy of the video text which are great to read. These videos show how to assess and what questions to ask.

 ‘This series of writing videos are presented to support teachers to make consistent and accurate judgements of students’ progress in writing, against the writing dimension of the English Victorian Essential Learning Standards. The videos depict student-teacher interactions, which highlight typical student behaviours that reflect the writing standards and progression points. They may be viewed to generate professional conversations about student learning and to report on student progress.’ Source: Sofweb

This is a great resource and really does show the power of teacher-student discussion. Assessing a student’s writing is much more than looking at samples. It does involve teacher judgement! These videos also help to explain some of the ambiguous language in the Standard statements.

Cheers Nina


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Literature & Maths: Not Chalk & Cheese! The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: A fun way to teach the days of the week.


‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s book written by Eric Carle, first published by the World Publishing Company in 1969. The winner of many awards, it has sold 30 million copies. It is highly popular and has been praised for its use of easy-to-read words which makes it good for teaching young children to read. The book contains 225 words and large, colourful illustrations. It follows a caterpillar as it munches its way through a variety of edibles such as ice cream, salami, watermelon, one slice of Swiss cheese, and a lollipop before it finally pupates and emerges as a beautiful butterfly. The story teaches counting to 5, the names of the days of the week, and about different types of food. The caterpillar’s diet is a fictional fantasy but the story does introduce the magic of the metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. It is widely regarded as one of the best childrens books ever written.’  Information Source: Wikipedia

This book is a favourite with young children and an excellent resource for teaching the days of the week, the order of the days, simple number words and counting to 10. I used this story to introduce the days of the week and their order, but they learnt so much more. We read the story, looked at the words and came up with tricks to help us remember them. We sang the days of the week to the ‘Adam’s Family’, played our card game and then  illustrated each day matching Eric Carle’s illustrations. (see picture) 











Just a quick post – There are so many great activities on the web that are based on this book. It’s worth taking the time to have a look. I found a lovely sequencing activity that I plan to use.


Cheers Nina

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Interactive Writing – Here I go again!

S5005922As I write my student’s reports I can’t help but reflect upon my teaching and my student’s learning. What can I do better and what is going well? My blog helps me to reflect on, and improve my practice.

Interactive Writing As A Whole Class Student Led Writing / Reading Strategy

Why do I keep writing about this strategy? My experience tells me that Interactive Writing as a teacher led small group instruction method is great, but whole class-student led Interactive Writing is powerful in terms of student learning.

 What I hear is as important as what I see. The conversations the children engage in while writing are fascinating. They understand the concept of prompting, not answering. They see that personal achievement and pride comes from ‘having a go’ and letting others have ‘a go’. Editing their writing becomes a natural progression of learning conversations. Celebrating each other’s efforts at the time of writing and during share time is a natural part of discussion. Cooperation and organisation is intrinsic to success, coupled with participation. Less confident writers are supported and active participants. Not bad for 5 and 6 year old children!

So what have I learnt from watching and listening?

Having decided to write about our excursion (a shared experience) we discussed what a sentence is and the simple grammar we would need to use. Then as a class we came up with a sentence. Sometimes I give a ‘freebie’ word, but on this occasion I didn’t. A ‘freebie’ word/s is negotiated with the grade e.g. they might choose Immigration Museum. The sentence the children came up with was, ‘We went to the museum on a bus.’

N.B – All groups are writing the same class formed sentence. This will be extended to personal group formed writing at the beginning of next term.

Their writing informs my teaching!

What I see and hear tells me:

    • Connection between speech and writing is developing
    • Writing conveys ideas / information
    • All can read back what they have written
    • Taught letter formations are transferring over to writing
    • Understanding of spaces between words needs developing
    • Conventional letters and groups of letters are being used
    • Simple punctuation- use of full stops & capital letters
    • Drawings support the text
    • Letter/ sound knowledge is developing well
    • Spelling of frequently written words is developing well
    • Most words of one syllable and regular spelling are spelt correctly
    • Is using phonological processes when recall isn’t automatic
    • Says the word to identify the sequence of sounds and letters as a strategy
    • Attempts to spell unfamiliar words (museum)
    • Relying heavily on letter-sound relationships





Please read my previous posts about Interactive Writing. The writing development is evident. Cheers Nina


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Guided Reading: Forming Guided Reading Groups? Part 1!

I dedicate this post to Jacinta (my 4th Year University Intern) and Jo. I hope this answers some questions and doesn’t totally confuse you!   I’m rewriting this post – come back and visit in September!

Hmmmm! You’ve completed a Running Record/s for each student in your grade, observed each reading, listened to each re-tell a text and answer text related questions and completed a Concepts of Print assessment or at least the reading focused assessments. Now comes the hard part, forming effective Guided Reading groups which are targeted to the learning needs of your students. If you teach Preps, please do not rush into this. Language Experience is the key to long term literacy development.

 My way!

Start with the analysis, don’t look at the book level yet, that will come later. Identify students who are using Visual, Structure and Meaning (VSM) and group these students together at this stage, then group according to students using mainly Visual, and then those using Visual and Structure. Reading for meaning (M) is the key and the goal for all readers.

 Cambourne (1988) states that good readers:

-know that they should work actively and deliberately towards making sense of (comprehending) what it is they are reading

-are aware when comprehension is not occurring

Now look at students using VSM and refer to their Reading Level. To ensure that you are teaching at their zone (Zone of proximal Development) continue assessing until their first Hard text, then drop back to their last Instructional Level. That is their reading level. A student might read Levels 3 Easy, 4, 5, 6 Instructional and 7 Hard. The student’s reading level is 6. There is often confusion among teachers regarding this point and some might disagree with me.

Now for example, you have a group of 9 students at different levels using VSM. Too many for a group, but you could form 2 groups.

Guided Reading groups should group children who have similar skills and needs. This is very different to same reading level. Having said this, let’s say that 9 children have been identified as using VSM and range from Reading Levels 4 to 15. What information do I draw from my experience? What informs me?

It’s time to start looking at their comprehension and what you already know about each student from your observation and other assessments. Teacher judgement is always needed when grouping students, you can’t rely on a Running Record assessment totally. Having a ‘sense’ of when a student is ready to have a ‘learning leap’ is also essential and I believe this falls under teacher judgement.

N.B There are always exceptions but my experience says:

Children tend to move slowly through Reading Level 1-5.

Children move quickly through Reading Level 6 – 10.

Children tend to move slowly through Reading Level 10 – 15

Children tend to move quickly through Reading Levels 16 – 20

So what should a Guided Reading session contain?

Explicit teaching focused on group need.

Links to prior knowledge.

Reading Strategies / features of text

Discovery of text meaning – comprehension

Level of Guidance – depending on group need

Cheers Nina

 Recommended Reading

Clay, M. (3rd Edition 1987). The Early Detection of Reading Difficulties. New Zealand: Heinemann.

Kemp, M. (1987). Watching Children Read & Write. Melbourne: Nelson Australia.

Rowe, G., Lamont, H., Daly, M., Edwards, D. & Mayor Cox, S. (2000). Success with Reading & Writing: helping at-risk students 8-13 years. Victoria: Eleanor Curtain Publishing.

I’ve reposted Lego Guided Reading  (utube)


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5000 Hits and Going Strong:Amazing!

Amazing! When I started my blog, I thought I wouldn’t have many hits. I’m suprised, so keep those emails and comments coming! Cheers Nina


Dinner in Bayeux, famous for the Bayeux Taspestry and close to the D Day landing sites which my son and I visited. A beautiful Italian restaurant. Hmmm!

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Explaining Death to Young Students-Waterbugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney

Last week one of my students experienced the death of a family member. To support the child, after a discussion with the parent, I said I would choose some stories to read. After searching I decided to read this wonderful story. Many of the books were too explicit to use at the moment. The children discussed the story with every child’s thoughts valued. To some it was just a nice story. After speaking to the child the story was targeted to I was surprised that she understood the message. This is a really lovely story for young children and explaining death. I also used this to ‘ kick off’ thinking writing and have included some more examples of their writing. Please take the time to read the story. I’ve included a link to where you can purchase this book, as I believe every school should have a copy in their teacher resource library.

Waterbugs and Dragonflies

Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in awhile one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another. “One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?” Up, up, up it slowly went….Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return…

“That’s funny!” said one water bug to another. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second… “Where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. “I have an idea”. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”

“We promise”, they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broke through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings…The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: “The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…

“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least, I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air…….

From: “Waterbugs and Dragonflies : Explaining Death to Young Children”
by Doris Stickney


Cheers Nina

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My Prep Report – Water Bugs and Dragonflies

Prep Report May 2009



Developing the concepts & skills needed to be a confident and capable learner is evident in our planning and classrooms. Promoting a ‘love of learning’ underpins all that we do.


The Early Years Program is the foundation of our classroom planning. Assessment is driving our teaching and learning with student’s needs being targeted. Strategies such as Guided Reading are being introduced along with shared Big Book reading, Modelled Reading, Round Robin reading and Independent Reading as part of the student’s daily program.

Comprehension – Reading for meaning is our constant driver with children being asked to retell events, ask questions, make statements about texts and respond to what they have read or have had read to them in a variety of ways i.e. creative – performance or visual arts, written etc… Differentiation is evident in our planning documents allowing children to be working in their learning zone.

Writing and developing a passion for writing is part of our daily classroom program. Children are given opportunities to write every day. Sounds are reviewed constantly with our program extending to blends, three letter words, common words and spelling rules to targeted students or as a planned teaching focus. Strategies are taught within the writing session through targeted groups or when responding to individual needs. The Early Years teaching strategies i.e. Shared Writing, Modelled Writing, Guided Writing, Interactive Writing and Independent Writing are developing or being introduced to our Prep students. Developing student’s letter formation (handwriting) is incorporated into our daily program.




 Our planning for this term is comprehensive, targeting initial concepts and understanding needed to extend learning. We are collecting and learning about data, the concept of chance, days of the week, number to 10/20 and beyond, exploring time, introducing addition and subtraction, and ordinal number. Oral counting and automatic response are incorporated into our daily program to develop thinking skills. The Early Years strategies are being introduced in our classroom i.e. planned focus and targeted groups ensuring that individual learning needs are met and children are learning in their zone.


Our Transdisciplinary Theme in our current inquiry is ‘Where we are in place and time’. Our central idea is ‘documenting personal histories allows us to reflect on and celebrate who we are and where we’ve come from alongside ‘we all have our own personal histories and traditions. The children are very engaged in this inquiry. Thank you to ……….. for coming in and speaking to our Prep students about history. This talk set the scene and the students have been busy discovering about themselves and others. This week the Preps are going on their first excursion to the Immigration Museum. Parent support has once again been wonderful.

In my last post I talked about the wonderful responses my preps wrote about the text Water Bugs and Dragonflies. I have included a number of samples in this post.

Cheers Nina

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The Writing Rich Classroom: I’m in my first year of school and I can write. Do you want to read it?

It’s the beginning of second term and I’m excited or should I say relieved! I’m whitnessing all my Prep’s writing confidence and ability leap forward. My ‘talk and write daily’ philosophy is working, combined with good Early Years practice i.e. Guided Writing, Interactive Writing, Modelled Writing, Shared Writing and Independent Writing.

I keep re-posting Interactive Writing because I truly believe it is a key strategy for early writers.

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 texta 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. Read my earlier posts!

Below are some snapshots of my student’s writing taken randomly. The development and range in the grade can be seen, but they’re all on their way forward. This week we started what I call ‘real thinker’s writing’. This was a response to a text ‘ Water Bugs and Dragonflies’. I wanted to know if my preps (5 & 6 year olds)  could record their ideas. Journal / Recount writing becomes very comfortable for young children and can ‘stop’ them ‘moving on’ , if other writing opportunities aren’t given. Children can fall into the cycle of writing ‘ I went to the ….’ over and over. I was amazed by what my student’s wrote and will include photos in a future post. Here are some examples of their journal writing.



Sample 1: I stayed home. Sample 2: On the weekend I went to my cousin’s house. Sample 3: On the weekend I went to get some tyres.



One of my students brought their writing to me and challenged me to tell them what it said. I read it and they looked at me in wonder. The connection between writing and reading was made for this 5 year old. This student said, ‘you read it’ ( still with an amazed face). My response was, you asked me to!

Cheers Nina


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Web 2.0: Do you know what that is? Web 2.0 for ‘Newbies’

The KnowledgeBank Portal is coming. What does this mean for teachers? I’ve just finished reading about KnowledgeBank: Next Generation and about the KB:NG Project who’s role will be to deliver policy on the appropriate and effective use of Web 2.0 technologies.

That’s great, but there seems to be a missing step and that is educating teachers on what Web 2.0 actually is and how to use it- full stop! I’ve been educating myself on Web 2.0 applications (with the help of Jenny Luca as a mentor) and have found that many teachers simply don’t know what  Web 2.0 is, yet alone how to use it appropriately.

I’d be interested to hear if others disagree  or agree with me. Just like students, teachers need explicit instruction on Web 2.0, so they use the applications confidently and in a sustained manner. By this I mean not as a ‘one off’ , but as a planned part of the curriculum.  I’m trying to do all sorts of things, but am often let down by equipment or programs. I’m hoping that this will change for me in the future.

Found a great utube- Web 2.0 for Newbies

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