Monthly Archives: April 2011

Term 2 – Week 1: PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing (5 & 6 Year Olds – Ist formal year of school)

On Thursday, Prep D had two teachers visit to spend part of their day with us.  Sue and Nicole from the Mount Dandenong area came to see PD  run a PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing session. It’s always great to have visitors and I was very proud of my students. This was their second day back at school for the term! I was also a little anxious about whether they would remember the procedure and use taught strategies. They did!

Our Language Experience sentence was: We write everyday at school.

I’d like to thank Sue and Nicole for the wonderful gift they gave PD. The children and I love the book.  The Troll by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts

Cheers Nina

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Just what I didn’t want to read! Old-School plan to give literacy a lift… ‘Hmm’, so that’s the answer. No, it’s not!

Having read, and digested the Herald Sun’s (April 17, 2011 p18-19) special report, ‘Old School plan to give literacy a lift’, I’ve felt the need to respond, and I’ve chosen my space to respond to this one…

Teachers may find articulating ‘whole language’ challenging, as it’s not a term ‘bandied’ about in our profession. It’s said, but always requires clarifying even to those ‘within the know’. What you will hear is teachers discuss a ‘balanced’ literacy program. So what does this mean? A ‘balanced’ literacy program recognises the need to provide a ‘varied diet’, a collection of experiences, and explicit teaching for young learners.

Young learners require different approaches within their whole program of instruction to ensure their individual learning needs are met and deep understanding is achieved. This is possibly the best descriptor for ‘whole language’ I can articulate.

Teaching phonics is important within a ‘balanced’ literacy program. The teaching of phonemes, graphemes, consonants, short vowels, rimes and phonograms are essential for children to understand, and use our alphabet, and are… documented learning outcomes in our state curriculum. Victoria has a lot to be proud of!

To teach a program which places greatest or total emphasis on phonics, will not give ‘literacy a lift’ in my opinion, balance will!

We often use the term ‘barking at print’, and this refers to a child which can read aloud fluently, but has very little understanding of what he/she has read. This I see as a huge problem, as parents with aspirations for their children to be wonderful readers, can see fluent ‘reading aloud’ as achievement, the ‘holy grail’, and the harder the book, the bigger the words, the better.

These parents are often presented at a later stage of their child’s schooling with a student achieving lower than expected comprehension levels. And this begs the question, why do we read?  You can answer this for yourself, reflect! I’m hoping here, that you’re thinking about the importance of deep comprehension, the pleasure reading can give, developing a love of language, or to learn about and understand our world! Decoding is a skill, comprehension is the goal.

I have responded to this article because I am passionate about literacy acquisition.

Cheers Nina


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Communication and Leadership – Can they ever be separated? Anthony Semann: Director of Semann and Slattery- Research and Consultancy Service.

A number of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet, and listen to Anthony Semann when he presented at 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, of which I am a participant.

Anthony’s presentation focused on communication, and referred to a number of theorists, however, it was his personal experiences, and anecdotes which ‘grabbed’ my attention. There were so many ideas presented, and I’m sharing the ideas which made me reflect.

Rather than write this formally, I’ve decided to record the points I found significant for me. Others present may have taken away different thoughts, as we all take on new learning at our ‘point of need’ and construct our knowledge differently.

Anthony’s Ideas, Quotes and Anecdotes:

  • Leadership has to be contextual; it has to relate to your communication. Timing your communication is crucial. All good intentions put aside, we need to think about timing. ‘Windows of time offer us a gift’, and we need to look for these ‘windows of opportunity’.
  • Anthony also spoke about a mirror, and what we  see in a mirror. How do we look to others? Is the leadership driven by ego? Thinking of ‘a mirror’ reminds people of what other’s see, as you need to care about what people think about you – to be heard!
  • When communicating, you can control what you say, but not what is heard … you can question to clarify.
  • Positioning yourself to be heard – passion can take over. How can you communicate with integrity? Integrity is vital to high level communication. ‘No knowledge is neutral’.
  • In our meeting structures, we don’t always ‘create a space’ for communication. A lot of the communication is a ‘dump’ of administration etc. ‘ Cull agendas! Talk about pedagogy and good practice…’ Everyone can talk, otherwise ‘it can be discrimitive’.
  • Question yourselves: Does my communication and body language serve me well?
  • How should leadership look like in your sector? What do we want from our leaders? How will we know the impact or effectiveness of our sector’s leadership? Anthony brought up the notion that there is a ‘dark side’ to leadership, and that we can all slip into this. Don’t!

How would you answer these Identity Questions?

  • I am a leader who desires….
  • I am a leader who finds strength in…
  • I am a leader who is fearful of…
  • Understand the ‘intentionality of leadership’. Truly develop an understanding of the effect your communication has on you, and the impact you have on others. Think of the ‘human spirit’. Understand Emotional Intelligence. ‘It’s not what is said, it’s what’s not said’. This is something we all need to reflect on…

A leader serves by making / giving:

  • Freedom
  • Agency
  • Power

Anthony used the words of Heifetz & Linsky 2009,

Both your survival and your success depend on your skill at reaching a true understanding of the varying perspectives among the factions. Learn from their stakes and fears. As social workers say, ‘Start where people are at.’. . . After hearing their stories, you need to take the provocative step of making an interpretation that gets below the surface. You have to listen to the song beneath the words.”  

  • He also introduced a pie graph to us made up of 1/3 the Head, 1/3 the Heart and 1/3 the Hand. Think, Feel, and Behave! He reminded us of ‘talk to me, not about me, make people accountable for their actions, voice and ask yourself as many questions as you ask others. Leaders need to put ‘feathers in other’s backs, not take away. Put a feather in someone’s back each day, so they can fly’.

And finally, ‘Trust, and be life-giving, not life depleting and when you’re having success share it!

Anthony knows that I’m sharing his presentation here, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for giving those who attended such a valuable insight into communication and leadership.

To answer Anthony’s initial question: Leadership and Communication – Can they ever be separated? The answer is clearly ‘no’!

My finishing comment is: Anthony’s messages relate to all communication in life, not just that of leaders! 

Sorry this took so long to post, Anthony! Thanks again!

Cheers Nina

Addition: Have been reading Mark Walker’s Blog – excellent article on Leadership. Link:  Worth spending some time in his space.


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Week 10- Last week of Term 1: We’re writers! Independent Journal Recount

The first term has finished for this wonderful group of eager, and engaged young learners. I still can’t believe how quickly this time has gone. The Australian school year has four terms, with approximately ten weeks in each term. It was lovely to  hear  a number of my students say they didn’t want holidays, and were disappointed there was no school next week.

Starting school for these very young people is ‘huge’, and I need to remind myself of this. Dealing with new situations is taxing for all, add this to establishing new routines, familiarizing themselves in a new environment, being independent and mixing with many new children, and adults. Add learning into this mix, and we can all see why they actually do need ‘time out’ for a break.

This post displays a range of writing from my grade. I’m very proud of their achievements, and will spend some time mapping ‘where to next’.

 To my Australian colleagues, I hope you enjoy your holidays.

Cheers Nina  :)0I0=;  What do you think of my new tag?


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Week 9 – First Year of Formal Education in Australia: 5 Year Olds – PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing.

In one more week, these five, and ‘a few’ recently turned six-year olds will have completed their first term in a Victorian (Australia) state primary school. Prior to their first year of school, these students have come from a variety of settings. These include, kindergarten, child care, no kindergarten, or an Early Learning Centre. Their ‘prior to school’ experiences are very different.

PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – Week 9  (N.B. Please read previous posts written about this strategy for instructions.)

Our Language Experience or ‘common experience’ sentence for this session was: On Friday we are going on a school bus. The children are using a number of strategies to support them whilst writing. They rely on and frequently refer to an alphabet tool card, spacer counters and alphabet posters displayed. They have a number of word attack strategies such as, chunking, looking for smaller words, sounding long, sounding short, prompting and ‘think aloud’.

Cheers Nina

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