Monthly Archives: February 2010

IB-PYP: Enabling children to develop ‘self management’ skills via ‘Essential Agreements’ develops confident students.

My school is a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate (IB). As part of the IB- PYP (Primary Years Program) we make ‘Essential Agreements’ about all areas of school life pertaining to staff, parents and students. My students have been developing ‘Essential Agreements’ about what they believe is important to them. Given support, these 4 and 5 year olds know what makes them feel confident and happy.

The notion of rules isn’t part of our classroom. These very young children were able to talk, question and develop agreements about how we will support each other in our classroom/school yard to be the best we can be. I think you’ll agree that our ‘Essential Agreements’ are positive and reflect a culture that enables students to develop self management skills.

We will ‘have a go’ at everything or ‘give it a crack’.

We will say well done to people when they do something good or try really hard.

We will always listen to the person who is talking.

We are good friends to everyone. We are a team.

We agree to be at the classroom ready to learn.

Looking out for each other is important to us.

We will always look after our belongings and bodies and pack up our things.

We may add to our agreements during the school year if needed. The children have illustrated an agreement each which are displayed in the classroom and referred to when needed. This week I’ll take photos of children role-playing each agreement for display and reflection. This approach really works!

Cheers Nina


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Best Practice must be Shared! Here’s some great practice shared by a colleague!

I just got an email from a colleague who has been reading my blog. I receive emails more than comments now which is fantastic. My blog is enabling me to make connections with some obviously very dedicated and wonderful teachers. It’s becoming a sharing community. Sue sent me an email and I have taken a little part of it to share and I’m sure she won’t mind.

‘Have you discovered ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson?  I became very familiar with the books by this author while in England.  Others are “Gruffalo’s Child” and Room on the Broom. There are quite a few, but I chose “The Gruffalo” to begin the year.   My twin  grand daughters (only 2 years old) were eager to quote huge chunks of the story, while I read to them daily.   I began my Preps this year with the focus on being brave and confident enough to approach new situations. I introduced the story and they just loved it.  By chance, it was also a great way of introducing rhyme to them, especially in reference to the content in Prep English on Line assessments rhyming words… snake/lake. They are now all making the same connection from the story. My Preps are now asking for the story to be read to them over and over again. Even the parents have commented how interested some children have become in books and are talking about a great story they heard at school.  You know how initially Preps rarely tell their parents what they have done at school! An excellent new DVD of the story (30 mins only) will soon be released for sale in Australia featuring voices of many well-known actors.  I obtained a copy while in England and the revised story, music and animation is amazing.’

Thank you Sue – You know who you are. I don’t know this book but I’m going to find it because I love the teaching ideas that you are developing. It’s interesting to note that we’ve both been teaching for many years and still have that enthusiasm and desire to learn and improve our practice. I’ve been completing the ‘English on Line’ assessment as well and it has been interesting to see how challenging rhyme is for young children. I wrote a post some time ago and thought visitors to this post might like to read it – follow this link : Young children are born poets: Why poetry, rhyme and chant is essential for all children but crucial for the struggling reader!

 Once again thanks for your comments and emails and keep them coming. Let me know if you’re happy to have your ideas shared.

 Cheers Nina


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PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – Differentiation – Preps (First year of formal education in Australia) – Language Experience: 5 days in and we’re composing! Student Led – Of course!

I said in my last post that I’d display a couple of photos of how I’ve set up our learning spaces in the classroom.  Space is tight, but it works.

This area is where we work on our reading and writing skills. Everything I need or the children need is in this space. They are learning quickly that where I sit, they sit in front of me. This allows the children to refocus for new learning experiences. It also gives them the opportunity to move and stretch. My space is limited, but I’ve been able to create these specific learning areas. I highly recommend teachers to try and organise different learnings spaces for the children. There is also a computer hub.   

This is our Big Book, oral language and numeracy area.  The white board is fantastic. The rest of the classroom has tables in groups. There aren’t many displays up as yet because we have only been back at school for a short time.

Our first Student Led Interactive Writing Session.

As a group the children have a collective knowledge of letters, we’ve looked at sentences, know they tell us something, have a capital letter, full stop and can be read.  They capably wrote their names in a colored texta down the side (removed from photo)  of their large poster sheet. We had talked about our experiences at school and as a group we came up with some class sentences for every group to ‘have a go’ at writing. Each child writes a word in the order of their names. Our sentences were, ‘I am at school’ and ‘I am in PD.’  I could hear them discussing the words, stretching them out, looking at the letter chart, working out how to write them and then ‘having a go’. 

The photo above shows the work of one group of students that I watched compose and write the two sentences. Their attempt at writing  ‘school’ is amazing. It will be wonderful watching their journey this year.

I’m using this strategy weekly, as I believe that this strategy combined with explicit teaching accelerates writing development. These children want to be writers!

I haven’t written many posts recently because I’ve been so busy setting up the grade, getting to know children and assessing.

Cheers Nina


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2010 The journey begins for a group of 4&5 Year Olds. Prep- The first formal year of education in the Australian school system begins. Follow our journey!

Yesterday was the very first day of formal education for 21 students in my Prep grade. They arrived with their parents, some grandparents and special others to celebrate the beginning of their 13 year journey (Prep to Year 12). After photos and goodbyes the parents and special others left leaving their most precious little people to start their journey.

Organisation and self management starts day one in our classroom. After settling the children, we talked about how we organise ourselves. Firstly, our belongings. The children produced their full schools bags and were shown where to put their lunch boxes, drink bottles, message bags, library bags and art smocks. They were then given a plain sticker to write their name on in bright colors. This sticker was placed where they will keep their bag. They will name all their books the same way. You will not walk into my classroom and find name tags pre made and placed. My children name all their belongings themselves and learn where they are to keep them. They had a name card to copy from if they were unsure. Most just wrote their name or something like it. It doesn’t matter because they know their sticker.

This morning the children arrived for their second day and promptly started unpacking their bag and placing everything where they were shown. Only one parent started to unpack their child’s bag and quickly stopped when I gently reminded her that her child knew where to put everything. These children are very capable of managing themselves when given the opportunity. The children will also be having an afternoon when they will invite their parents  into the classroom to show how we organise our classroom and how they organise themselves. I have also set up our classroom, which isn’t as big as my room last year with two distinct learning areas for the children to sit. They now know where ever I sit, they sit in front of me. This gives those restless young children an opportunity to move and refocus. This really does work and I’ll include some photos next week. Each area has a different focus and teaching aids ready to use.

Our day started with our reading of Big Books ( I have my favourites ) which involve movement and chant.  We looked at sentences, words and letters. As we are introducing THRASS as a strategy for teaching spelling, I introduced the chart. We started to get to know letter names and the sounds they make in certain words. Connections were being made, new words discovered and engagement was evident. These children are desperate to learn, they want to get going!

I asked a child want they really wanted to try and it was writing and reading. Perfect! We can do that… My teaching approach is Language Experience, so we talked about something we were all doing together and I got the answer I was looking for. They were all at school. I asked for a sentence. One child said, ‘I am at school.’ Once again this was the sentence I wanted. I then asked if anyone knew what an ‘ I ‘ looked like. Hands went up and a child came up to the board and wrote ‘I’. We were off and going strong. I showed them my hand signal for I and now they could read a word. The next word was ‘am’ , we stretched it out, listened to the sounds letters made in this word, looked at our chart, chanted it and had a think about what it might look like. They could tell me the initial sound ‘a’, so once again a child came up and wrote an ‘a’. As the children have had no handwriting lessons I urge them to ‘have a go’ and  write what they think represents the sound. It was interesting to note that the child looked at the THRASS chart. I introduced spaces between words, a capital letter and full stop. It doesn’t matter if they don’t remember, it’s the start and these ‘concepts of print’are explained over and over.

We continued until, as a grade we had written the sentence. Amazing! Their sentence was then put on a sentence strip, cut up and placed in our sentence strip board. This will be the first sentence in our first ‘Language Experience’ little book which will become a ‘take home’ book. We played games with the words which they loved. With technology at my finger tip, I was able to type their sentence for them to trace, copy and illustrate. They really needed some table time to complete a task and enjoy producing something for their ‘I am at school’ poster. Each child read the sentence to me. We’re reading and writing, problem solving and engaged.

‘ poster.

Cheers Nina

P.S Jacinta, if you read this post. I’ll be catching up soon and hope your first week of teaching has been wonderful.


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