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!

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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!

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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!

How?

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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