Monthly Archives: February 2011

Day 12 of formal education for my Prep students (4 & 5 Year olds) – Independent Writing – Recount / Journal – Amazing!

I’ve written this post for the teachers new to Prep who have asked me  for support, and I’m always happy to do this. I always stress that I’m still a learner as well. I learn from others, professional reading and my students.  It’s day 12 of formal education for my Australian Prep students, and I’m amazed by their ‘have a go’ attutude. They are certainly displaying the IB – PYP Learner Profile – Risk Taker. Today I was amazed by their use of strategies, looking around the room, sounding long, saying short, prompting each other, referring to the alphabet tool cards and ‘thinking aloud’.

Today I modelled my own journal, using taught strategies, and ‘thinking aloud’. I asked my students for help, played ‘Hangman’ (without the picture) for some words to identify a missing letter / sounds, and referred to our tool cards.  I used spacers, and talked about capital letters. Our next inquiry will be: What is a capital letter? After writing my journal, I removed it. I want my students to write independently. To introduce the ‘concepts of print’, I constantly refer to the PM Emergent Writing Exemplar Big Books.

 Day 12 Journal Samples:





I’m using the PM Emergent Writng Exemplar Big Books to introduce initial concepts, but I’ll move on to PM Writing Book 1 later in the year & PM Writing 1+ for extension.


Our next writing session will be PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing. This is the strategy which I believe best supports young writers, and is perfect for older students.  There is no doubt in my mind that collaborative writing, where children use their collective knowledege to support each other makes a significant difference to student learning outcomes.

Cheers Nina

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The Reading Wall – Language Experience & Our new sentence!

This quick post was written in response to an email I received asking for a little more information.


The ‘Everyday Reading Wall’.

Today we started a new ‘Language Experience’ little book.  Having just completed our first book, it was time to start our ‘Everyday Reading Wall’. The reading wall is created from the previous class made sentences and read everyday. Reading  games are played using the vocabulary. As we write more sentences, and  create more little books, our ‘Reading Wall’ grows. 

What is a sentence?

Today’s question for the children was: What is a sentence?  I want my students to use their inquiring minds, so each day we have  questions to answer. The children are exposed to writing, and books everywhere in the classroom.  They looked at books, displays, and shared their ideas with each other.  Looking carefully at sentences ‘around them’, they came up with the following ideas which were shared with the grade.

A sentence says something.

A sentence is made of words.

There are gaps between words.

A sentence  can be read.

A sentence ends with a fullstop dot.

Our New Sentence

Today the children came up with a new sentence for our sentence strip board. Once we have four sentences, a new ‘Language Experience’ book will be made, and sent home to read. Using the children’s collective knowledge they collaborated as a grade to write the following sentence. We copied school’ from the reading wall. It was great to see the children referring to ‘words around the room’ for support.

The children sounded and stretched words long, and said them short. They ‘listened to their own voice as they sounded’, looked at the alphabet tool cards, and shared their ‘thinking aloud’. These are strategies I model everyday. What a wonderful attempt they made at writing the word learn. Once again writing spacers were used to create the gaps between words. These are magnetic spots for the whiteboard.

 Finally the children were given the sentence to trace. Having taught how to write an ‘a’ and ‘o’, I was interested to see how they formed these letters. I use the dotted Victorian script for this activity.

Hope this helps.

Cheers Nina


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Language Experience: Our first class made book, and a recount…

Young children starting their first year of school (Prep in Victoria, Australia)  have big expectations about school, and I don’t want to disappoint them. They want to learn, they want to be able to read, write, and know things about numbers. They want to explore the playground, make a new friend, and feel comfortable in their new environment … and paint a picture.

The philosophy behind the ‘Language Experience Approach’ underpins my teaching at this stage of the year.

What I 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.

The Language Experience Approach is powerful because it contributes to developing a strong oral vocabulary. It is well researched that children with good oral language find the path to literacy easier. All students draw upon their vocabulary when reading and writing no matter what level of schooling they are. 

This week my preps are illustrating and reading their first Language Experience book. This will be taken home, and read as part of my home reading program. The message I give parents is, it’s not glossy, it’s theirs, and it’s an important book. The book is created from sentences we are developing about a common experience, and starting school is the most obvious content choice for our first book. I started exploring Language Experience three years ago, and how I implement this has changed. It’s now about ‘less waff’. Is ‘waff’ a word?

As sentences are created they are written on sentence strips and placed in a sentence strip board. Once four sentences are created, a little book is made. Once the book is made, the sentences are removed from the board and glued to a large sheet of paper, prominently displayed, and read everyday. This strategy works!

Today the children wrote their first journal. They have learnt about using a  writing spacer to use between words. Introducing the writing spacer this early in the year is new for me. They are also using a spacer between each word, instead of using one counter and moving it each time. I think this is a better strategy for this time of the year. Each child also has access to an alphabet sound card, and it was great to see these being used. It’s still early in the year, but have a look at their independent writing – sensational!



What a fantastic start these young writers have made. The last sample reads: I went to my nanas. I hope you enjoy seeing my student’s progress recorded this year. This is their 8th day of formal education!

Cheers Nina


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Day 6- First year of formal education in Victoria, Australia for my 2011 Prep students: 4 & 5 year olds. PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – Collective knowledge combined with collaboration is powerful!

Day 6- First year of formal education in Victoria, Australia for my 2011 Prep students: 4 & 5 year olds.

It always surprises me how much these very young children collectively know. One might know an ‘a’, another can write it! Some can hear the beginning sound, others the end sound. This week I introduced PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing and they loved it. Each group had an alphabet chart for reference, and spacer counters for between words. Before writing, the children looked closely at the Emergent PM Writing Exemplar book to find out what a sentence is, what made a word, and how we end a sentence. I made a list of the attributes they noticed.

Here are their ideas

 Letters make words.

Some words have more letters.

Letters have a sound and name.

Words make sentences.

There’s a dot at the end. The dot stops the sentence.

There are spaces between words.

 Some letters are big, some are small.

Armed with this knowledge, the children were put into random groups of 3/4 students with a leader chosen. All students will have a turn at leading a collaborative writing group. The leader is responsible for making sure children write their name down the side in their own color, and write their word of the sentence in name order. As this is the only time I allow the children to write in texta, it’s very exciting!

The children each write a word of our class sentence on their large sheet of paper. The sentence was: I am at school. I introduced ‘prompting’ with some success to these beginning writers. Prompting means the children are able to help, but not tell. This takes a while for the young children to understand, as they want to share what they know. However, I was absolutely amazed by how quickly they got going, and how well they collaborated, shared and supported each other! Amazing…


Cheers Nina


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The Leadership for Community Engagement Program funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Southern Metropolitan Region jointly with Noah’s Ark Inc.

Last week I attended my first session of the Leadership for Community Engagement Program funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Southern Metropolitan Region, Victoria, Australia, jointly with Noah’s Ark Inc.

Part of this program is to undertake a research project focussed on improving community participation in local services for young children and families. It’s also about leadership, and the qualities of an effective leader. Each participant is given a mentor for the duration of the program.

After arriving at the venue and having lunch, I met my mentor for the program. The mentors were invited to speak to the group about leadership, and what being a leader meant to them.  Rather than mention individuals names I’d like to list the ideas presented. We have been asked to reflect while we learn, and as this is my space to reflect I hope you enjoy reading what I’ve been learning!

 Leadership in a List

Being a leader is different to being a manager

It’s about finding solutions

Having courage and confidence

Being able to influence others

Speak a common language – find the common language so you can move forward


Enablement- moving barriers

Encouragement- encourage others to ‘think big’

Leave the profession in a better state

Deliver to every child, family

Deliver transformational change and coach how to measure change

Don’t shy from anything – get in and learn

Respect, listen – understand

Not a deficit model

Be capable of ‘unlearning’

Give others a voice and act on what they want

Empower others to solve problems – can’t fix it all


Flexibility is a key to being a leader – without flexibility you will impede innovation

Inspiring, innovative

A leader enables you to take risks – from this you gain experience to put into other aspects

Link with others

Partnerships- respectful – work ‘side by side’ with others

Spend time to tease out ideas

Put in structures which support collaborative practice

You can do great work in spite of the system

Do yourself out of a job!

Build a ‘treasury’ of good practice to help with evaluating actions – a way of capturing things which have been learnt – a way to demonstrate impact of changes and improvements

Slow down, think carefully

Think about how you bring people on board- what happened? Why?

Education- Lead families, lead teams, build the strengths of other people

Look for the difference- make service innovative for people

Listening to hear

Not being judgemental

After listening to each leader/mentor ,we reflected as a group on the items listed above. We also noted the following:

Mentors – feel an obligation to help others

Learn from your mentor: What does the mentor do that is supportive?

Each mentor had a different leadership style

All are successful in different ways

All confident in what they do

Believe in what they’ve done

Conviction of what they’ve done

So what is my project? Any ideas would be welcome.  I’d also  like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Elizabeth Mellor and Dr Anne Kennedy for a great start to the program.

Cheers Nina

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What makes a school ‘high performing’ or an ‘improving school’? The Adaptive School – Garmston & Wellman 2009

On our first day back at school for the year we met as a whole staff to welcome in the 2011 teaching year, and also for staff development. We were given an extract titled ‘The Elements of Professional Community’ taken from The Adaptive School by Robert Garmston and Bruce Wellman -Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc (2009).  After forming expert groups we were asked to read and share one of the following areas.

  1. Compelling purpose, shared standards, and academic focus
  2. Collective efficacy and shared responsibility for student learning
  3. Collaborative culture
  4. Communal application of effective teaching practices and deprivatized practice
  5. Relational trust in one another, in students, and in parents
  6. Individual and group learning based on on-going assessment and feedback

My notes were extensive, but I’ve managed to put my learning into a number of dot points. I’ve also borrowed the book to read further.

  •  Schools need a strong academic focus to ensure conversations about teaching and learning are targeted and drive instructional improvement.
  • Collective efficacy enables group members to believe that they can carry out and achieve goals. Teachers together and individually believe they can overcome obstacles to reach goals.
  • In ‘high performing and improving schools’ collaboration is the norm. This is not contrived. Teachers work together sharing expertise on teaching and learning, review data and have a shared responsibility and desire to improve instruction.
  • In ‘high performing and improving schools’ deprivatized practice is valued. Teachers visit each other’s classrooms, to observe, coach, mentor and solve problems.
  • In ‘high performing schools and improving schools’ there is a shared understanding of instructional practices and a coherent instructional approach.
  • ‘Trust is the glue that binds communities, classroom communities and parent communities.’ The four elements of relational trust are: respect, competence, personal regard and integrity.
  • In ‘high performing and improving schools’ teachers are constantly learning and reflecting to improve student learning and teaching practice.

I intend to support these via my actions this year. My goals this year are around connecting, sharing, collaboration and effective listening.

 Cheers Nina

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International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme Asia-Pacific In-school Workshop: Assessment in the PYP.

Teachers in Victoria, Australia use the first three days of the school year for Professional Development. My school completed the International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme Asia-Pacific In-school Workshop: Assessment in the PYP. Our presenters were David and Bec.

‘Assessment is integral to all teaching and learning. It is central to the PYP goal of thoughtfully and effectively guiding students through the five essential elements of learning, the acquisition of knowledge, the understanding of concepts, the mastering of skills, the development of attitudes and the decision to take action’ (MTPYP, 2007)

The two days were engaging due to a mix of thinking activities, videos and discussion. Discussions centred on the ‘principles of assessment’, assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning.

Our professional development also included ‘the impact of sharing learning intentions’ with students, ‘the impact of process success criteria’ and ‘assessing for improvement’. We also spent time discussing and building our understanding of authentic assessment, and the ‘Backwards by Design Process’

And finally we spent time understanding reflective thinking, purposeful rubric development and the various types of conferences.

I’ve included this video shown to us: Take a look and have a laugh! It’s about curriculum.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank David and Bec for a fabulous two days. 

Cheers Nina


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