Monthly Archives: September 2009

Wow! A link to me in another blog – Angela Stockman’s post: The Connected Literacy Coach

This is exciting for me… I’ve been reading Angela Stockman’s blog  for quite a while and have always come away having learnt something new. Today I read her new post – The Connected Literacy Coach and below was my name as a link to my blog. I’ve been identified as a thinker, and apart from feeling quite humble, I’m so pleased. I’d rather be a ‘thinker’, explorer and learner than an ‘expert’ anytime. Take a look if you have time- follow this link to Angela’s blog post – The Connected Literacy Coach.

Cheers Nina

P.S. I’ve just followed the links to other ‘thinkers’  identified by Angela … certainly worth your time bookmarking them all.


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Wiki – aholic: A lesson with my mentor – Jenny Luca!

Today I met with Jenny Luca to learn how to set up a wiki and work it properly. Why? The more I’ve seen and heard, the more I’ve realised what an excellent space this would be as a resource for our Literacy Professional Learning Team. It can house the minutes of our meetings, project information, links to other resources and will be accessible to all staff who join the wiki. This will save paper, e-mailing and provide the opportunity for others to add to the space. It’s set as private, but can be controlled by elected organisers.

I see great potential for this wiki as a genuine resource space for this team. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come on my Web 2.0 adventure. I’m learning quickly, have command of the vocabulary, am familliar with most tools and… I’m not afraid to take risks. That sounds like the learning behaviors we want young children to experience!  

We’ve been on holidays in Victoria, Australia and return to school next Monday. I’m looking forward to introducing the wiki to the literacy team and I’m hoping they’ll ‘give it a go’ and take this as an opportunity to learn something new.  Thank you Jenny for your fantastic mentoring!


Normandy, France: A lovely little hotel I stayed at! – April 2009.   Cheers Nina


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What is the purpose of evaluation? Short but Sweet!

Today when I was making my coffee at school, I saw for the first time a quote that a teacher had put on the wall for us to read. It was one of those ‘light bulb’ moments when you read something that makes total sense!  So much so that I’ve decided to share it!

We must constantly remind ourselves that the ultimate purpose of evaluation is to enable students to evaluate themselves. Educators may have been practising this skill to the exclusion of the learners. We need to shift part of this responsibility to the students. Fostering students’ ability to direct and redirect themselves must be a major goal – or what is education for?    Arthur Costa, 1989

Cheer Nina


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Preps (5&6 Year Olds) can reflect upon their learning: Toys designed by Preps!

As part of our inquiry ‘Toy Story’, the children have been designing and making their own toys. To support this we have been teaching the Primary Science ‘On the Move’ unit. The children have learnt about how toys move and what makes them move.

To celebrate their success and to give our students the opportunity to share their understanding with others, the Preps held their own Toy Expo this week. Parents and students were invited to question and admire the designs and toys. Visitors were requested to bring a gold coin donation with the money collected being given to the Salvation Army. The children raised $ 214 which is fantastic. When I told my students how much the Preps collected, there were gasps! One child said he’d never seen so much money!

Our Toy Drive has been equally successful with four huge boxes filled to capacity with all sorts of toys. My school is part of a very special and giving community.

Once the children had finished their toy and design brief they were asked to reflect and write about their toy. I also completed a teacher reflection which they were very keen to read. I was very pleased with their reflections. Have a look at the photos below!











The children have loved this inquiry and have realised that they can make a difference in the lives of others through Service Learning.

Cheers Nina

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5&6 Year Olds Can Develop Criteria for Editing. Hand over the responsibility!

Why? & When?

Last year, I decided to develop editing criteria with the children to provide them with a checklist to support their editing efforts. Editing should become a natural part of writing, not a completely teacher driven and controlled process. Writing is a process and there are many models used by teachers. I’ve discovered developing criteria with older and now younger children works best. It’s about handing over the responsibility to the learner.

Having developed criteria with older children, I decided to use the same process with my younger students. I’ve heard teachers talking about ‘dumbing down’ things. It’s not ‘dumbing down’, it’s making teaching and learning relevent the learner’s needs. The children have nearly finished three/quarters of their first year of formal schooling  i.e. half way through 2nd semester for international readers. They know a lot about writing, can write, can read and understand and use simple punctuation and audience. These initial concepts need to be in place for children to maximise the benefit from introducing criteria based editing. This process needs to be child understood and owned!


Children need to explore an appropriate piece of writing. I selected a simple piece of writing from CARS Book A which I know is true to form. The selected text contained many of the features I wanted the children to notice i.e. talking marks, commas, capital letters etc… I read the text to the children and we discussed the text. I  introduced the word ‘text’. The children were invited to share the reading of the text. Many of my students were able to independently read the provided text.

N.B. I use cheap large sheets of paper for children to record their thoughts in collaborative groups. Large sheets enable children to have space to write and space to stand. It solves some of those problems when children are standing in each other’s space.

Each child was given a copy of the text to explore individually. They were instructed to identify what they thought a good piece of writing needed to contain. They were very industrious and excited when they found and marked spaces etc… Conversation is crucial, hearing the children discuss what they had identified is enlightening and an appropriate time to engage with students, gather prior knowledge and understandings in order to differentiate future teaching and learning tasks / opportunities.




It is interesting to note that this student circled ‘orange’ because it is an adjective-‘coloring in’ word. This child articulated this, and as tmy students have been learning about adjectives, seeing the transfer of what has been taught is fantastic. Some children also circled ‘action words’ or ‘doing words’ which was interesting because we have only looked at these briefly as a class.

I can’t stress how important it is to rove and listen to student conversations, recognise their understanding and question children individually to inform  teaching and record  learning. The word ‘Tim’ was circled by this child because the student knew that names need capital letters. Some children knew about ‘talking marks’ even though they have only been addressed informally to the grade, and individually at a student’s point of need.

When the children finished looking at the text individually, they shared and recorded what they found in collaborative groups. Groups then shared what they found with the grade while I recorded their findings. The text didn’t contain exclamation marks (‘make it louder marks’) so this was added to the list because my students had been taught about their use and were using them.

The checklist will be used initially for Interactive Writing both teacher and student led. When the children are familliar with the criteria and checklist use, the checklist will be attached to all independent writing. I should also note that now is when I start formal conference appointments with feedback given to children in terms of personal learning goals. Young children are really receptive to contructive feedback and want it! They desire future direction.  Using Guided Writing with specific learning goals to meet identified groups is crucial.

Please read Very Young Children Can Edit: Develop criteria, hand over the responsibility and watch them grow. , a post I wrote about how I introduced this in previous years.

Cheers Nina   

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The Science of Toys: Professor Bunsen- Language Experience & Literacy

Our inquiry this term has been a fantastic springboard for literacy, science and numeracy activities. As part of our program, we had Professor Bunsen visit to show the science in toys. He instantly captures the children’s curiosity with an array of experiments. Students are involved as observers and participants. The experiments were appropriate for this age group, fascinating and ‘awe inspiring’. Proffesor Bunsen is ‘full on’ from the moment he starts. The children were totally engaged and as a consequence of this are developing a wonder for all ‘things’ scientific.



Another great opportunity for collaborative writing came from this shared experience. The children worked in small student led ‘Interactive Writing’ groups to write a passage about Professor Bunsen’s visit. One group worked with Jacinta (4th year university intern) in a teacher led ‘Interactive Writing’ group where specific teaching and learning goals were planned.

Interactive Writing – Teacher Led Strategy

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 (source: SOFWEB)


Language Experience ‘little books’ made from collaborative writing activities are an essential component of a Prep reading program. My own action research has established this. These books can be used for reading groups and because they are written by the children about their experiences they can relate to the content and read them. I have found the use of  ‘little books’ improves reading.



Publisher is used to make these ‘little books’, which are simple and quick to construct.

Cheers Nina

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Moving on up! Extending 5&6 Year Old’s Journal Writing: Children planning before writing!

Taking journal writing to the next level is the learning goal for this group of students. The focus has been extending the student’s journal writing by introducing scaffolding /planning  structures which help the children sequence their ideas.

The children usually write their personal journal on a Monday after a weekend, so it was a natural progression for the first scaffolding strategy to involve the days of the weekend. This starts with the children writing about Saturday and Sunday with the inclusion of a ’rounding off’ sentence or finishing sentence. Included in teaching sessions has been an introduction to adjectives or ‘coloring in words’ to ‘brighten up’ their writing by making  their writing more interesting. Adjectives are ‘creeping’ into to the student’s writing as transference from teaching sessions is embedded.

This week the students were introduced to another scaffolding plan based upon questioning. This simple plan involved the children writing one or two words for when?, who?, what?, where?, how? and why? A picture representing each question has been put in the plan to remind children what they have been asked to do.


Jacinta (4th year teaching student intern)  introduced the plan using a big dice with when?, who? etc… on the sides. She rolled the dice and then modelled her own journal for the children. It is really important that the children know that the plan must only have one or two words per question. This was the first time the children have used a formal plan and it has helped the children who find extending their writing challenging. It has provided a scaffold for their ideas.


The children will keep using this plan as it has helped them to organise their thoughts. A number of children wrote 2 pages of organised text and most wrote at least a page. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that these children are 5 or 6 years old and in their first year of formal schooling in Australia.

Cheers Nina

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Literacy to Numeracy: Conversation driven play based learning!

Hefting and measuring weight was the focus for this learning experience. The children were read the story, ‘The Tale of the Turnip’. Teacher led discussion centred on how they hefted the enormous turnip. As part of our focus on measurement the children started to think about how to weigh different items. Jacinta my 4th year university Intern planned the lesson which involved the children lifting two items at a time to establish which was heavier. They worked in small cooperative groups predicting the order of various objects from lightest to heaviest. Then the children informally weighed the objects and checked their order. They worked as teams, discussing their predictions and then their actual findings. One student was overheard saying ‘one was big, but it was lighter than a small one’.




To finish the session each group shared their findings. All student reflections were recorded using the student’s language as said. Here are some of their thoughts…

‘The bucket was heavier than the book because the book didn’t have many pages’.

‘When you put a pencil on the book it makes it heavier’.

‘When something was heavy my hand went down’.

‘The drink bottle wasn’t very heavy but to make it heavier you would fill it to the very top’.

‘Jar was heavy because it was very full of counters. Without counters it wouldn’t be as heavy’.

‘The container was heavier than Bob Builder but the book was heavier than the pencil’.


This is a photo of Jacinta Matheson (4th year universityIntern) in action. My recent posts have reflected upon and showcased Jacinta’s planning and teaching practice. The children’s learning is in capable hands. Congratulations Jacinta!

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It’s not ‘glossy’, but it’s theirs… Language Experience ‘Big Books’ and ‘little books’!

Today Jacinta ( 4th year university teaching student ) took her Interactive Writing lesson to the next level. She made a ‘little book’ from their writing to be used in reading groups and for home reading. This time pictures were provided to support the student’s text. The children are still illustrating their ‘little book’  about our scientist visit where ‘pictures supporting text’ was a focus.

To support the children Jacinta made their little book into a ‘Big Book’ for big book reading.  Constructing a book from their writing reinforces the concept that writing is ‘talk’ written down.

Language Experience

‘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.’




Cheer Nina

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PrepD Interactive Writing: 5 and 6 Year Olds – Linking sentences, using adjectives and ’rounding off’ passages! The essential strategy weaved into the Language Experience Classroom!

Today is the first day of Spring and my children’s writing is blossoming! Interactive Writing – Student Led was the strategy selected for the children to compose a text about our recent school sports – a shared experience. Interactive Writing is an essential strategy used in the Language Experience classroom. So what growth is shown in their writing? What can I see that will inform my planning for the class as a whole,  small groups with common needs and for individuals?

N.B. Each child writes with their own color with names recorded down the side of the sheet. Children write in the order their name is written. Names have been removed for privacy reasons.


Discussion of text for children Green and Red. For example, this sample tells me that child Green is reversing ‘s’ and still has some confusion with capital letters. Using ‘e’ on the end of the word to change the vowel sound needs to be continuously revised for all and particularly child Green. A focus on ‘ck’ would be beneficial to all students and will be planned into a writing session. Have a look at how child Green spelt vortex. What a creative attempt – ‘4 tex’. I could read it!  Other great attempts: fantastic – fantastik, time – tim, discus – dissck, metre – metar, relay- rheelay, last – lust.

My students are ‘taking risks’, using adjectives ( coloring in words ) and extending their writing to 3/4/5 sentences. There is lots to celebrate here, and it is transferring to their independent writing!  The Early Years strategies – Modelled, Shared, Guided, Independent and Interactive Writing ( teacher & student led ) when strategically planned into a weekly program scaffold writing development.


When looking at this writing sample, I can see some terrific attempts at spelling vocabulary. Great attempts: blue – bow, green – grni, didn’t – didt (tricky final sound represented). When looking closely, it is obvious that child Green needs to revise forming a lower case ‘n’ as this is evident in many words. I’m always pleased to see ‘self driven’ editing that develops as a natural process of writing. These children are 5 & 6 year olds in their first year of formal schooling and every now and then I have to remember that! They just amaze me with what they do! Their conversations when writing are incredible. My 4th Year University student teacher overheard one child say ‘ we need to put in an adjective’. That sort of discussion among young children excites me!




This strategy supports young writers as they share, refine and practise taught strategies whilst writing.  The writer has the support of other children to prompt when needed. It’s sensational! I have written many posts about this strategy and if you go back to the beginning of my blog you can see their writing  journey. Just put Interactive Writing in the search box and take a look! Cheers Nina


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