Monthly Archives: August 2009

10 000 Visits: Thanks!

I’ve taken some time to re-read many of my posts and I can see my own journey. My teaching is changing as my learning grows…and that’s got to be worthwhile! My teaching has grown so much since my first post which I would totally re-write now, but I’m leaving it as it serves as a reminder of where I’ve come from. Please continue to visit, read my reflections, send e-mails, comment and most importantly challenge my ideas and share yours! I said in one of my previous posts that I would include some pictures of my student’s illustrations in their little Language Experiece book about the CSIRO visit. Here they are!




I love the detail the children are putting in their illustrations. They know that their pictures will help others read their book.

Cheers Nina

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Yes, its Maths! It’s still Language Experience & its a great time to extend vocabulary!

Taking every opportunity to extend and use a child’s vocabulary is an important part of the Language Experience Approach and any classroom program. Extending an older child’s language is equally crucial. Many of the wonderful teaching experiences which are child centred and engaging should be embedded into all year levels.

Last week my Intern (student teacher- 4th year) Jacinta did a fantastic measurement lesson that not only had the children exploring measurement but building language. The children had to predict if a toy car travelling down a bumpy ramp would go further than a car travelling down a smooth ramp. They tried the car ramps and then used string to measure the distance. To find out how long each string was the children had to measure using informal units. Some children used little teddies, some used unifix cubes and others used round counters. They discovered that you have to choose a consistent measure e.g. same size teddies and counters.

The photos display the different words the children came up with to describe their measurement. Take a look at the lesson photos and you will see the children’s language used in the class recording. All words are excepted, some children used fun slang and others used mathematical language.




Cheers Nina

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Language Experience – PrepD Interactive Writing – 5&6 Year Olds Leading Learning

This week the CSIRO visited my school to run a ‘hands on’ session with the Prep children on the ‘Science of Toys’. Sean, our very ‘cool’  fun CSIRO scientist ran the session and had the children engaged from the moment he spoke. If he wasn’t a scientist, I’m sure he would be a comedian. He knows I’m writing this and I hope he reads it. Thank you Sean for making science so real and fun for this group of students.


The children had a wonderful experience and were very keen to talk and record what they learnt. Interactive  Writing -student led was the strategy of choice to extend the children’s understanding and record this experience. The children’s writing was then made into a little book for the children to read and illustrate. Conversation and discussion about their shared experience was used to revisit the vocabulary the children would need. The children were given their ‘freebie word’ (read previous posts) and asked to write 3 – 4 linked sentences. Extending the children’s writing and using ‘coloring words’ – adjectives, is a focus for this group of young writers. My Intern (4th year university teaching student) has planned and led this whole process. Her planning and teaching has been outstanding! ( Jacinta, I know you read this blog – so well done – ‘You make me proud and humble!)




Interactive Writing

-jointly composing a large print text on a subject of interest to the students

-sharing responsibility for the recording at various points in the writing.

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.

Source – Sofweb

The children have been illustrating their ‘little book’ which will become a ‘take home’ book. Having talked about how important illustrations are to support meaning, the children have been taking great care to make sure their pictures will help others who read their book. This also reaffirms the importance of looking at pictures when reading to scaffold meaning. I’ll include photos of their illustrations in a future post because their drawings are amazing! Why? They understand the importance!



I’ve included links to some great research articles about Interactive Writing which is an essential element of the Language Experience approach.

Cheers Nina

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Should I blog? Is my practice good enough to share? My Reflection: A day out with the ‘big kids’!

Yesterday, I presented ‘Language Experience’ to a group of teachers completing a Literacy Leader’s course for my region. What did I learn? Heaps! Even though these teachers may not have seen holes in my practice, after this day, I did. I left with many questions ‘reeling’ in my head. Things like: Should I have said this or that? Do I do ‘this or that’ properly and even should I have been standing up there at all? So… where do I take these questions I now have?

It became obvious to me, that even though I know a lot, there is still so much to know because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. As I’m nearing the end of my career (the last 10 years), do I decide to keep going on as I do, or do I decide to go back and review, relearn and share?

Obviously, the latter! You’re never too experienced or too knowledgeable that you can’t learn from others. So why am I sharing this? Yesterday, I was sharing my practice, but as part of this process I got to listen and learn from others… and when I was defining my practice for my presentation, I realised I was ‘unconsciously skilled’. I’ve thought about applying to be a ‘coach’ and now all I can see is why I still need to teach.

My practice needs more development and refining. I need to have a better understanding of the pedagogy behind the teaching of literacy, as my ‘thinking and understanding’ and ability to express the pedagogy behind or beneath ‘best practice’ just isn’t there yet.

It was a privilege to have the opportunity to work with and listen to Helen, an experienced and knowledgeable coach/educator speak. I know she shared more with me than I did with her, but that’s why she is a coach. I also realised after spending a day with her that although gaps were probably ‘jumping out’ at her, she didn’t voice this.  And then… when I listened to Anita clarify practice throughout the day, I realised that I should be part of this group of learners, as a learner.

To blog or not to blog? Yes, I’ll continue to write because I have good practice to share. However, I am rewriting a couple of posts with deeper pedagogy in mind. I’m going to ‘up’ my professional reading and go back and review basic practice. When I introduce Guided Reading soon, I’m going to go back to what I learnt ten years ago, pull out the old ‘hard copy’ Early Years manuals that I can find in the school and reread. If you read this post I hope it encourages you to keep reflecting on and improving your own practice.

Cheers Nina



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The 21st Century Teacher!

Lots to think about! Cheers Nina

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Language Experience Powerpoint- The Why? What? and How? of Language Experience!

NB: I’ve corrected the spelling mistake on slide 9!  Any others?  

This is my slideshow for a presentation I am giving focusing on Language Experience. A few slides have lost their clarity and I have had to substitute a number of photos for privacy reasons. After I’ve completed my presentation I’ll explain some of these slides via this blog. I’ve broken my presentation in to 3 distinct areas. The ‘why?’ is first, followed by the ‘what?’ and then most importantly I’ll be expalining my practice in the’how?’. As teachers, we get a lot of the ‘why?’ and ‘what?’, however, it’s the ‘how?’ which is often not explained and crucial to embedding new practice. Hopefully my presentation will address all three. The ‘how?’ has meant I’ve had to define my practice which is quite challenging. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

Cheers Nina

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Interactive Writing: Small Group-Teacher Led and Whole Class-Student Led – The transfer of learning!


I keep coming back to this teaching strategy because I believe this strategy not only accelerates writing development but also provides support for less confident young writers.  Interactive Writing is normally a small group; teacher led writing strategy which is also powerful.  My desire is to make teaching in my classroom ‘student led’.  Very early in the year (see earlier posts) I start whole class student led group Interactive Writing. My role is to watch for transfer of learning and listen to my student’s conversations that describe their learning.

As mentioned, my students have been trained to prompt and I now hear my teacher’s voice and language being used by this group of 5 (and now a few 6) year olds as they support each other. I overheard one student quietly help another stretch out a word using my words.

I’m always looking for the transfer of ‘what has been taught’ into their Interactive Writing and then as individuals into their personal independent writing. I’ve included photos that I believe display that transfer is taking place. The children have been extending their writing and sequencing their thoughts. I have planned modelled writing sessions and shared writing sessions that have focused on developing these skills. 

To extend their skills I have  incorporated photos of their Interactive Writing about a shared experience completed this week into this post. I allow the children to have one ‘freebie’ word which they negotiate as a grade and I might add that they have become very selective about the word they choose. Before we write about a shared experience, we talk, discuss words, and revise punctuation we might need to learn. At the beginning of the year all Interactive Writing groups write the same class derived sentence. Now groups have been encouraged to write three linked sentences of their own, formed and negotiated by their group.

When they are completing their own personal independent writing they are encouraged to expand their ideas and are now writing more informative pieces.




I’m always looking for the transfer of taught skills being embedded into my student’s writing. The following examples are a selection of writing displaying growth in my classroom. I am thrilled by my student’s writing development and believe Interactive Writing- small group- teacher led and Interactive Writing- whole class student led, combined with modelled, shared and guided writing interwoven into the weekly classroom program, is the key element in developing the writing skills of young children. That’s a big statement, but as it’s my post I can say it!









Where to now? Developing my student’s letter formation through some fun activities will be incorporated into their weekly program. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing!

Cheers Nina

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Introducing the Venn Diagram to Preps (5 Year Olds)- Toys: Push, Pull or Both

Today my intern ( 4th Year Teaching Student) taught a lesson from the Primary Connections- ‘On the Move’ book. This lesson looked at toys and how they move. She had a collection of different toys that the students played with to see how they moved. Could they be pushed or pulled or both? 

After ‘hands on’ play with the toys the students discussed how each moved. They then put the toys into groups according to how they moved. ‘Hula’ hoops became the outline for a large Venn Diagram which was explained to the children. A Venn Diagram is a fantastic tool because it is very visual and clearly displays differences and commonalities.


I’m still working on my Language Experience posts which will be up shortly. Cheers Nina

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The ‘why?’-‘what?’-‘how?’ of Language Experience (& Play Based Learning): The Prep Classroom-5&6 Year Olds

I’ve been asked to co-facilitate a day of the Literacy Leader’s Course for my region.  Specifically, I’m speaking about the Language Experience Approach, my understanding of this approach and what it sounds like, looks like and ‘is like’ in ‘real’ practice- my classroom. I’ll be sharing my planning for this session here.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to share my passion and maybe even motivate others to start or continue their journey. Why has putting this session together been so challenging? Basically the ‘what’ is easy and as teachers we are constantly being given the ‘what?’ The ‘why?’ isn’t hard either because the ‘why?’ is based on research into best practice.

Like everything it’s the ‘how’ that is difficult to explain. I’ve had to basically describe and define my teaching practice as I am what is known as ‘unconsciously skilled’.  Language Experience is not clearly defined as classroom practice anywhere. There is a lot of research and ‘bits’ of practice, but not a ‘how to’ model or manual in terms of a ‘whole’ literacy approach. My job is to provide this.

I have decided to define Language Experience as an ‘Interwoven’ approach to teaching literacy. I’ll be posting my ‘why?’ what? and ‘how?’ soon. Thanks for visiting and if you have something to share with me – email.


Cheers Nina

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Design & Technology in a Prep Program- Inquiry learning: Toy Story

Prep Students are only limited by the limits put on them by others. Young children can do amazing things as long as they clearly understand what they have to do!

Our current Inquiry is Toy Story.

The Central Idea is:

Toys have changed over time due to technology.

The lines of inquiry that will define the scope of the inquiry into the central idea is:

Technology has changed toys over time.

Toys are made from a variety of material and in different ways.

Socio-economic access to toys.

Last year we did this inquiry and were amazed by how the children responded.

 To date:

Today the children had an introduction into the socio-economic aspect of toys. We arranged for a member of the Salvation Army to come and speak to our Preps about why some children don’t have toys. The children listened attentively and caringly to the Salvation Army Captain. From this it was decided that the Preps would have a Toy Drive and ask the rest of the school to help. Last week these same children participated in the Feed Melbourne Campaign and learnt about why some children come to school without breakfast. These are very young children who are already developing a sense of how they can make a difference in the lives of others.

Soon we will be starting to design and make our own toys. To support this we have been teaching the Primary Science ‘On the Move’ unit. Last year this was an immensely successful and enjoyable learning task. I have included photos of a child’s design brief and toy completed last year. The children actually followed their design to make their toy. We made the experience as authentic as possible.

To celebrate their success and to give our students the opportunity to share their understanding with others, the Preps will hold their own Toy Expo. Parents and students are invited to question and admire the designs and toys. A request for a gold coin donation is given, with the money raised given to the Salvation Army along with the collected toys.






Cheers Nina


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