Monthly Archives: November 2009

15 000 plus visits: Who’d have thought anyone would be interested in what I’ve got to say!

My previous post was about my journey this year into Web 2.0. It was also posted the same day I reached that magic 15000 visits to my blog. I think this evidences that people are interested in what happens in classrooms around the world, and in their own backyard.  Thanks for visiting!  Stats: 116 posts & 155 comments!

Cheers Nina

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A Teacher’s Journey Into A New Universe: Web 2.0

Mentor: Jenny Luca  

Focus/Goal Current practiceWhat do I know? Area for improvementWhat do I want to find out? InquiryHow will I find out? ActionWho, What, When, Where ResultHow will I know when I get there?
Web 2.0Creating and joining 3 PLN to support my Web 2.0 journey Very little How to establish a network where sharing of knowledge and resources is a key driver. Connect with educators globally. Mentor Discussions with mentor. When 3 PLNs are established.Educators PLNTwitter PLNWT2MAD PLNVarious Wikis/Networks
Using a wiki to support teaching and learning Very little How to create a wiki, contribute to other wikis. Mentor & PLNs Set lesson with mentor Established a wiki & contributed to other wikis.
Understanding Blogs Nil – Have read other educators blogs regularly. How to setup a blog and manage a dashboard and all widgets etc… Mentor & support from established PLNs. Set meetings with mentor. Established a blog using WordPress. Regular readership/ RSSFeeds & emails-comments. Easily manage Dashboard.
Using Social Media to support classroom practice.  Twitter , Nings  Very little. How social media can be used in schools PLNs & Mentor Mentor & experimentingPLN support. I understand and can use social media to support my teaching practice. Twitter network & membership of 2 Nings
Use Web 2.0 to research best literacy practice.Look at overseas coaching practice – teaching and learning New York has established coaching practices & Early Years Literacy Practice. Best practice – literacy Through comments on my blog, PLN & social media Mentor & Support networks Established a working relationship with a coach/teachers online.Sharing research/ reading & practiceComments on work, questions & directs further reading. Sharing her coaching practices.
Introduce something Web 2.0 to my staff. What will be useful? How something Web 2.0 can be used to support staff Through my Web 2.0 journey. PLN – Current media & reading. Introduction of something new or something used for a new purpose. A Wiki for a PLN.

Above is my Professional Development Plan for Web 2.0,2009. This is one of the documents I presented as part of my school review. It doesn’t look  like much, but I can assure you that for me it’s been huge. I’ve certainly been on a journey. What a ride, bumpy and all over the place in the beginning. I have achieved all my goals… and then some. I have acquired a new language and the confidence to move forward myself. Jenny Luca has been a fantastic mentor and I think the fact that I have achieved all my goals supports that.

Jenny has shared her knowledge with me and many others and I also thank her for that. One year ago I knew very little and now I know, how much I don’t know and more importantly what I don’t know. This may not make sense to everyone, but I’m now skilled enough to actually understand how much more I have to learn and where I want to take my learning.

I am able to ask the right questions and understand the answers most of the time. My confidence has developed to the point where I’ll have a try at anything. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something new or seek help. I have been amazed by the educators who have shared their knowledge with me. That concept of ‘intellectual ownership’ hasn’t existed.  I  understand what 21st Century teaching and learning should ‘look, feel and sound like’ and I am ready to take this step. So once again, thank you Jenny! Oh yeah, there have been times when I’ve questioned what I’m doing, but when I reflect I am so pleased that I can relate and communicate in this new world.

Cheers Nina  Ha, I can’t get this chart to sit nicely on this post. You just can’t have it all!


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International Baccalaureate PYP: Respect – Prep Brainstorming & Mind Mapping: 5 & 6 Year Olds are Switched On!

Respect:  What is it? How do we show it? Why do we need it? When do we use it? We have been looking at our school attitudes. One of our attitudes is respect and today we started unpacking what it is and how we show respect in our actions. We’ve talked about respect many times and used the word many times but we haven’t focussed on it specifically. The children worked in small groups to converse, collaborate and record their collective thoughts. Large sheets and textas were provided for the children to record ideas. Large sheets allow young children to have room to stand and work together.

After the groups were given time to brainstorm and record, each group shared their ideas with the class. Ideas were then noted as a class mind map. This helps the children organise their thoughts so they can clearly see how their ideas connect to each other. We then matched our school values to each branch of the map. We’ve been unpacking  the IB values all year and I think their understanding is developing well.

Tomorrow, we will write a whole class essential agreement for respect as it is such an important attitude. I know it’s nearly the end of our school year in Australia but my Preps are  switched on at this time of the year. I wish we had a little more time…

I’ve included some photos of their brainstorming sheets and our class mind map. We are still adding to our mind map.

This is ‘risk taking’ writing. I wanted the children to feel they could write all ideas without fear of errors. This activity was about collaborating and recording collective thoughts. Our mind map is developing well and I love the fact that on the ‘why?’ branch we recorded ‘good Australian’. We’re still developing this branch of our map. Mind maps are excellent for young children because they are very visual. I really enjoy listening to the children discuss their ideas and they way they accept all other ideas.

Cheers Nina


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Using Interactive Writing as a Scaffolding Strategy.

Interactive Writing student led is a time I use to roam, listen to conversations and question understandings. Today I was able to question individuals and groups about the strategies they were using to compose their text. Their feedback was enlightening and I was surprised by how well they articulated what they were doing, their strategies for spelling words, their collective knowledge of punctuation and composition. I’m always looking for the transfer of explicit teaching. I love that the first sample has includes questions written and answered by the children.  It also shows an attempt by a student to write carbon dioxide ( spelt cuben-diyokside by the student) and take a look at ‘sensational’. The children have to compose the text, work in groups, prompt but not answer and accept each others attempts. Tomorrow each group will review their writing and make corrections after completing an editing checklist. They will then read and share their writing with the grade. All texts will be typed for the children to read and illustrate.

Cheers Nina The names of the students are written down the side. The children write in the order of their name and use their own specific color. This allows me to track an individual’s development. This is the only time I allow the children to write in texta – and they love it!

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A 5 turned 6 Year old’s journey into written literacy: One child mapped for a year…

I’ve decided to map the writing development of one child in my class for a year. It’s interesting to look back and see the learning leaps made throughout the year.  What moved this child forward? What made this child’s writing accelerate or slow down? Take a look and see if you agree with my comments. The children have been looking through their books and are amazed at what they now know. I’ve said many times in my blog- Language Experience, Interactive Writing: teacher and student led combined with a clear explicit planned teaching focus have made the difference.

I’ve briefly annotated this child’s journey below.

Below: This is the first piece of writing and what a great place to for this student to start. This child has begun to draw some  shapes and was able to talk about the picture. This is imitating writing. There are what looks like some strings of letters and a picture which isn’t shown. The child knows that writing is written down and has been a real risk taker by having a go. This is certainly something to celebrate.

Below: This student is now using some letters which match sounds. Sometimes whole words are represented by the first letter. Common sight words can be seen and this child was able to read back there writing at the time of writing.

Below: This student is now beginning  to write words with beginning and end sounds in place. Some high frequency words are spelt correctly. Vowels can be seen in words, but they are not always the correct ones.  There is a mix of lower and upper case letters evident, however, I can clearly see words and can read this sentence quite easily. The concept of a sentence having a capital letter and full stop is not yet in place.

Below: This student is now writing words the way they sound. The student’s known sight vocabulary is developing and this is evident in this writing sample. The concept of writing from left to write is not in place. There is still a mix of capital and lower case letters evident. This child’s phoneme knowledge is developing well. Strategies such as stretching out words are being used well.

Below: Spaces and the concept of left to right is not in place, however, this student is well on the way to becoming a capable beginning writer. There are some wonderful attempts at spelling unknown words i.e. party and weekend. Fullstops and capital letters still need to transfer to this child’s writing from explicit teaching sessions. Using Interactive Writing sessions is a great time to focus on these progression points.


Below: This student is beginning to leave spaces between words and is spelling  many high frequency words correctly. Capital letters and full stops are not evident yet. Left to right is developing well and the correct use of upper case letters and lower case letters is developing. I can easily read this child’s writing and the student is able to read their writing at the time of writing and at a later time.

Below: This student is now using simple punctuation marks. More than one sentence is written, however, left to right recording is not established when composing a longer text. This writing piece includes lots of information and can be read back at the time of writing. Written literacy skills are developing well. I have found that writing control lessens when children start composing extended recounts. The task of writing down their thoughts overtakes their attention to detail. Full stops are evident and this student is totally engaged in the writing process.

Below: The student’s writing has refined again. Left to right recording is evident. Spaces are developing, although this is hampered by large letter formations. Capital letters and full stops are being used correctly. Vowel sounds are being used correctly, ‘sh’ is established, some capitals letters are inserted incorrectly and the magic ‘e’ is known. This student’s writing displays the transfer of explicit teaching into text. The student now displays control when composing a longer text.

Below: Using a simple plan to scaffold sequencing has been introduced. Good attempts at spelling unknown words are being made, spaces are used correctly between words as well as simple punctuation. This student’s writing is developing well. Content is relevant to the plan. Letter formation is developing well and letters are placed on lines.

Below: The writing below has been sequenced well and follows the simple recount planner developed with the children. Capital letters are evident, letter formation is developing well and self corrections are made. This is an impressive piece of writing for such a young child.

Below: This child can spell most words correctly, however,  phonetic  spelling is still being used for more complex vocabulary.  Punctuation marks are being used correctly most of the time. Capital letters and lower case letters are in the correct place. This child is writing two to three pages of reasonably well sequenced writing. The child is still representing the word I as (i). Sometimes I just have to wait for the transfer of explicit teaching into a student’s writing. It’s better to wait, rather than push a teaching point. ‘Going deep’ and ensuring new learning is connected to prior understanding is crucial for young writers. I want the transfer of explicit progression points to be meaningful for the child. I also want the student to be able to articulate their learning.

Below: The student is now reviewing their writing after the draft stage. A checklist developed by the children after looking extensively at good writing samples is being used to check and change their writing. Endings such as ‘ed’ need to be taught explicitly. Using a checklist developed by students is a great writing scaffold tool, but it must be developed after a student inquiry into what good writing looks like and needs.

Below: The editing checklist is now a natural part of the writing process. In fact, the concept of writing as a process in now embedded. The use of a small (i) for the word ‘I’ is a common error across the grade  and was dealt with in a number of explicit teaching focus sessions. The use of ‘ing’ is evident and sentences are informative and well-formed. The child continues to write 3-4 pages and loving being an author. This child has now developed a passion for writing and that’s special!

Below: Joining words were introduced in a series of explicit teaching sessions and are being used, although not correctly. Exclamation marks or ‘yelling marks’ have been used to place emphasis. Common sight words are spelt correctly most of the time with some more complex words spelt correctly. The use of ‘sh’ to represent the final sound in a word is now being used correctly. ‘Th’ is established and used at the beginning of words. The student is now building their knowledge and skills quickly. New knowledge and old knowledge combine to form new understandings at a rapid rate. Guided Writing is a great strategy to use with this student at this stage to address individual learning needs.


Below: Writing is progressing well and explicit teaching is transferring to writing. The child is now able to direct their learning needs and will be asked to present ideas for a focus session.

Below: This child’s letter formation is developing well, with letters being placed on the line. The word ‘and’ is still used as a joining word incorrectly at times, but overall this student has made wonderful progress. The letter ‘p’ needs to sit properly on the line and this will be dealt with formerly with all students.

I am very pleased with this child’s writing development. I can see many teaching points which I will need to include next week in explicit teaching sessions. We’ll be looking at joining words again because the use of joining words isn’t embedded in this child’s practice. A number of students are using joining words correctly within their complex sentences.

Guided Writing addressing individual needs is my strategy of choice. There are four weeks left for this child in my grade and then this student’s first year of formal learning in Australia will be complete. Using the strategies outlined in this post/blog in a Language Experience classroom enables children to engage in authentic and meaningful learning. Building oral language is also crucial to writing and reading. Children need to be constantly introduced to new vocabulary. Extensive research tells us that students with poor oral language find the journey into literacy a lot tougher.

I’ll be adding more to this post from time to time as I reflect on my teaching and learning.  There are so many areas I need to review in terms of my teaching, but it’s this very aspect of teaching that keeps me enthused and motivated.

Cheers Nina


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One can dream… my perfect job!

Ah! What would be my perfect job in education?  Well, I am passionate about my role as a classroom teacher. I also love sharing and feel I have something to contribute to others. I love to trial new teaching and learning ideas and see what impact they have on student learning.  I get so much from witnessing children’s growth emotionally, academically and socially. So my ideal job would combine both, time in the classroom at my school and time working with teachers at another school – four days in the classroom and one day as a coach. I wouldn’t expect others to do what I’m not doing myself. What a shame this job doesn’t exist! Maybe, its time for a career change.

You can only dream… Cheers Nina

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Nina’s Arena – What brought you here yesterday? I’d love to know…

Yesterday I had over 200 hits on my blog. I usually average 40 to 100 a day but 200 is fairly rare. When you write a blog, you know what countries people come from, what searches some people have made, but that’s about it. Two hundred hits is astounding and I’d love to know what people were reading.  I have no comments left by visitors, but ‘hey’ thanks for visiting and I hope you found my blog interesting. I’ll never know!

Cheers Nina

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The Dolphin Research Centre: Exploring the rockpools at our local beach with Ben 10.

It’s a ten minute walk down to the beach from my school and how lucky we are to have this wonderful environment at our door step. Ben from the Dolphin Research Centre is passionate about our bay and his knowledge of the creatures that live there is amazing. Our students are very fortunate to have the opportunity to listen and explore with Ben. Ben introduces life in the rock pool, explains how to explore rock pools safely and how these amazing water spaces support small creatures. The children are totally engaged and have returned to school with many wonderings to explore and answer.

I’ll be following our rock pooling adventure with a Student Led Interactive Writing session. Our focus will be using adjectives and joining words. Keep visiting!

Cheers Nina

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Prep (5&6 Year Olds) writing- What a journey!

Student Led Interactive Writing and small group Teacher Led Interactive Writing are the best scaffolding strategies for writing in my opinion. However, I can evidence this by the development of my Prep student’s (5&6 Year Olds in Australia) writing this year. These strategies are intrinsic to the Language Experience Approach. If you type Interactive Writing into the search box in this blog, you’ll be able to see the many posts I’ve written about this strategy this year.

 ‘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 • producing a text that can be read again.’ Sofweb

Taking this strategy to the next level – student led has also had an enormous impact, as the students have complete responsibility for the composition and organization of their text. They know how to prompt and use strategies normally used by the teacher. Handing over the responsibility always has its concerns; however, working in groups where cooperation is essential is important for young children. I have included pictures of today’s journal writing. I can see the transfer of  explicit teaching, which is something I’m  always on the look out for. Today in our focus discussion prior to writing, it struck me just how much these children now know. The children also guide our focus choice, and today one child asked if they could have the ‘apostrophe of ownership’ explained again. Wow!







 I have included only one page from each of these children. Some children wrote four pages of organised text while most wrote one or two pages. Editing has become  a natural part of the writing process and to the support the children they have a writing checklist that they use each time they write. This checklist was formed by the children after extensively looking at good writing samples.

I have included many samples here. These samples display the skill range in my grade and have been randomly chosen.

Cheers Nina ( Still writing reports)


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If I were wearing her shoes now… my 4th Year Intern is employed!

I am posting this news, because I’m just so thrilled for Jacinta Matheson, my 4th Year Intern for ‘putting her hat in the ring’ and being a successful applicant for a teaching position. Jacinta will start her first teaching job at a school not too far away from mine in 2010.


Jacinta has been outstanding in every way and has featured in this blog numerous times. It has been such a pleasure working with her this year. This has been a relationship where learner and mentor have learnt together. I feel a bit like a mother bird here, but Jacinta is more than ready to leave the nest and fly on her own, infact I think she’ll soar.

My advice to Jacinta has been the same advice I’ve given to my Preps. That is, grab every opportunity you can, be a part of everything, contribute and learn. I’ve also given advice that I haven’t shared with my Preps and that is don’t make the mistakes I have. Jacinta has the capabilities and personality traits needed to be a school leader in the future. She may not want this for sometime, but it will happen…and I may have to go crawling to Jacinta for a job one day, so Jacinta when you read this, remember to be kind!

Cheers Nina

P.S I still expect you to read my blog next year. Ha!


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