Tag Archives: Language Experience

It’s not ‘glossy’, but it’s theirs… Language Experience ‘Big Books’ and ‘little books’!

Today Jacinta ( 4th year university teaching student ) took her Interactive Writing lesson to the next level. She made a ‘little book’ from their writing to be used in reading groups and for home reading. This time pictures were provided to support the student’s text. The children are still illustrating their ‘little book’  about our scientist visit where ‘pictures supporting text’ was a focus.

To support the children Jacinta made their little book into a ‘Big Book’ for big book reading.  Constructing a book from their writing reinforces the concept that writing is ‘talk’ written down.

Language Experience

‘What I can 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.’




Cheer Nina

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Language Experience Powerpoint- The Why? What? and How? of Language Experience!

NB: I’ve corrected the spelling mistake on slide 9!  Any others?  

This is my slideshow for a presentation I am giving focusing on Language Experience. A few slides have lost their clarity and I have had to substitute a number of photos for privacy reasons. After I’ve completed my presentation I’ll explain some of these slides via this blog. I’ve broken my presentation in to 3 distinct areas. The ‘why?’ is first, followed by the ‘what?’ and then most importantly I’ll be expalining my practice in the’how?’. As teachers, we get a lot of the ‘why?’ and ‘what?’, however, it’s the ‘how?’ which is often not explained and crucial to embedding new practice. Hopefully my presentation will address all three. The ‘how?’ has meant I’ve had to define my practice which is quite challenging. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

Cheers Nina

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Interactive Writing – Here I go again!

S5005922As I write my student’s reports I can’t help but reflect upon my teaching and my student’s learning. What can I do better and what is going well? My blog helps me to reflect on, and improve my practice.

Interactive Writing As A Whole Class Student Led Writing / Reading Strategy

Why do I keep writing about this strategy? My experience tells me that Interactive Writing as a teacher led small group instruction method is great, but whole class-student led Interactive Writing is powerful in terms of student learning.

 What I hear is as important as what I see. The conversations the children engage in while writing are fascinating. They understand the concept of prompting, not answering. They see that personal achievement and pride comes from ‘having a go’ and letting others have ‘a go’. Editing their writing becomes a natural progression of learning conversations. Celebrating each other’s efforts at the time of writing and during share time is a natural part of discussion. Cooperation and organisation is intrinsic to success, coupled with participation. Less confident writers are supported and active participants. Not bad for 5 and 6 year old children!

So what have I learnt from watching and listening?

Having decided to write about our excursion (a shared experience) we discussed what a sentence is and the simple grammar we would need to use. Then as a class we came up with a sentence. Sometimes I give a ‘freebie’ word, but on this occasion I didn’t. A ‘freebie’ word/s is negotiated with the grade e.g. they might choose Immigration Museum. The sentence the children came up with was, ‘We went to the museum on a bus.’

N.B – All groups are writing the same class formed sentence. This will be extended to personal group formed writing at the beginning of next term.

Their writing informs my teaching!

What I see and hear tells me:

    • Connection between speech and writing is developing
    • Writing conveys ideas / information
    • All can read back what they have written
    • Taught letter formations are transferring over to writing
    • Understanding of spaces between words needs developing
    • Conventional letters and groups of letters are being used
    • Simple punctuation- use of full stops & capital letters
    • Drawings support the text
    • Letter/ sound knowledge is developing well
    • Spelling of frequently written words is developing well
    • Most words of one syllable and regular spelling are spelt correctly
    • Is using phonological processes when recall isn’t automatic
    • Says the word to identify the sequence of sounds and letters as a strategy
    • Attempts to spell unfamiliar words (museum)
    • Relying heavily on letter-sound relationships





Please read my previous posts about Interactive Writing. The writing development is evident. Cheers Nina


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Language Experience: Introducing Language Experience in a Prep Class!

I’m excited and my Preps are reading! Below is a picture of our first sentence strip story board for the school year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Australian schools have just started the new school year, so we’re at the BEGINNING!

As a class, we talked about what school ‘looks like – feels like & sounds like’ and from our discussion the children derived sentences about school. We built up our simple sentence story over two days.

We read our sentence board story over and over, we looked at letters, discovered what a full stop is and does and we’ve noticed that there are big and small letters. We looked at the sound ‘a’ and the children learnt how to write this letter. Language Experience stories are fantastic for teaching beginner readers. The sentence strip board is an absolute must and was included in my Top 10 Resources (previous post).





This was made into a class ‘little book’ for the children to read and illustrate. As we only had two working days, we will practice our book next week for a couple of days. It will then become a ‘take home’ book and because the children have complete ownership of the language and have illustrated their book, they are confidently reading it.

As we’re ready to write our next sentence story, these cards will be removed and pasted onto a poster for future reading. We will continue to read our sentence stories over and over. Success builds success and this model works!




Just a quick post. Hope you find it interesting. Cheers Nina

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Guided Reading- From one Teacher to Another: Guided Reading in an Early Year’s Classroom!

I’ve had a number of teachers make contact looking for support and my advice is as follows:

1.      Read my blog!

2.      Visit other grades and watch a number of Guided Reading sessions and then most IMPORTANTLY ask to be coached! You need to ‘do’ to grow, not just watch someone else model, however, that’s a great place to start! I’ve coached others and been coached myself!

3.      Visit Utube and watch Guided Reading videos. There are many terrific videos made by real teachers for teachers.

Background – My Program

There are a lot of different views about when students should start Guided Reading or ‘what’ can be called Guided Reading. I am a purest, and by this I mean I follow the Guided Reading Model as outlined in the Early Year’s program, but feel free to call what you do, what you want!

As stated in my previous blogs, I do not start Guided Reading with students until they can read a RR Level 3 book at an instructional level. This does not mean that my students don’t read in groups, they do, I just call it Shared Reading or a ‘Round Robin’.

It’s my belief that children need to know a lot about ‘how books work’ before tackling Guided Reading. Developing oral language via Language Experience is where I start.

Children need to have the basic ‘Concept’s of Print‘ in place and I teach this via Shared Big Books, Round Robin and shared small book reading. We’re in training for Guided Reading from the beginning of the year. Children are taught at their ‘point of need’, so groupings are flexible and change according to student needs.

To stop children comparing themselves against others, I don’t call my groups colours or names. My groups are: My Group (teaching group on day), This Group, That Group, The Other Group & Your Group. Sounds confusing, however, it works and I’m into ‘things’ that work. Each group sign has a little icon and that stops me from being confused! It’s also really important that young children and parents value the learning process more than the reading level.

When bringing a group of children to the floor I like to use their names as it’s more ‘about them’. Grouping children according to assessment is another post itself, making groups seems easy, but if you want to maximise student learning and accelerate reading development its quite complex and requires detailed assessment. It’s simply not putting children reading around the same RR level together. (Another post coming soon) However, I will mention the following crucial assessment tip.

Important Strategy for forming Groups:

It is important that you keep completing Running Records on students until you find their first Hard level, and then drop back to their last Instructional level. This is their level for Guided Reading. There is often confusion among teachers about, what a child’s actual Running Record instructional level is? If this doesn’t make sense I’ll explain all in another post.

 Guided reading- Explained – A Teacher’s Explanation!

‘The goal of guided reading is for students to use (reading) strategies independently on their way to becoming fluent, skilled readers.

The steps for a guided reading lesson are:

Before reading: Set the purpose for reading, introduce vocabulary, make predictions, talk about the strategies good readers use.

During reading: Guide students as they read, provide wait time, give prompts or clues as needed by individual students, such as “Try that again. Does that make sense? Look at how the word begins.”

After reading: Strengthen comprehension skills and provide praise for strategies used by students during the reading.’


Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Heinemann Publishers, 1996

Guided reading
‘The teacher guides students as they read, talk and think their way through a text. The teacher selects a text at the students’ instructional level, prepares the group for reading by establishing prior knowledge of the topic or text types, and briefly introduces the text then guides the students through it. Periods of independent reading are followed by discussion and teaching. Central to a guided reading session are the interactions between the group members.



●The teacher becomes familiar with the text prior to taking a guided reading session.

●Select an appropriate text: unseen texts are generally used.

●Students require an individual copy of the text. Texts should be selected at the students’ instructional level, i.e. one that the students cannot yet read independently.

●The teacher identifies the supports and challenges in the text and selects teaching focuses based on the students’ learning needs.

●The teacher leads a discussion on the topic of the text and students’ related experiences.

●The teacher asks questions and makes comments to encourage students to read closely.

●Students briefly discuss the title and summarise the plot.

The teacher provides:

●meaning support by talking through the content or plot

●structure support by asking questions that model the language structures of the text

●visual support by discussing any new or unusual words that appear in the text

The teacher makes explicit the purpose and teaching focus of this reading, e.g. to examine a certain text type or to analyse a character.’

Extract:Sofweb – Teaching strategies to enact apprenticeship in classrooms


NB: Why I use PM Levelled Books for Beginning ? (Extract from previous post- My top 10 Resources) We are re-housing a number of PM 1-6 books at present into bags.

Why I Like PM Books for Beginning Readers!

I have no desire to advertise, but sometimes it may benefit others if I do talk about a particular publication that supports and scaffolds student learning. For student’s reading from RR Levels 1-6, I prefer to use PM books. Why do I like PM’s for beginning readers? PM readers introduce new vocabulary slowly, high frequency words are embedded into each text and are built upon at each level. The pictures support the text and the levels themselves are accurate. The topics are child centred.



Photo- PM Level 5 Text –  Standard First Year of School (minimum)

Assessment- Victorian Government Reading Benchmarks.

At the end of the year all Prep students are benchmarked. The minimum standard for Victorian school children is RR Level 5. The photo shows a Level 5 PM text. The aim is for the student to read this level text fluently. As stated this is the minimum and many students achieve higher levels.  The minimum benchmark for Year 1 (2nd year of school) is Level 15 and Level 20 for year 2(3rdyear of school). All Prep, Year 1 and Year 2 students are benchmarked.  (Data Collection and Evaluation in Victorian Schools Explained) The Video below has some great ideas.


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My Top 10 Teaching Resources for an Early Years Classroom-The Must ‘Haves’!


 PM Big Books

I have no desire to advertise, but sometimes it may benefit others if I do write about a particular publication that supports and scaffolds student learning. For student’s reading from RR Levels 1-6, I prefer to use PM books. Why do I like PM’s for beginning readers? PM readers introduce new vocabulary slowly, high frequency words are embedded into each text and are built upon at each level. The pictures support the text and the levels themselves are accurate. The topics are child centred.

As mentioned in previous posts, my student’s don’t start Guided Reading until they are Instructional Level 3. Children need to know about books and how they work before starting Guided Reading. For very early readers, I use Language Experience books and Shared Reading. 



Large Sentence Strip Board

Absolute Must! The sentence strip board is essential to my program. This is a critical ‘must have’ for all junior classes, not just Prep. Our Language Experience class made take home books are built from the text displayed on our sentence strip board. Once the sentence strip board is filled and a take home book is made, the sentences are pasted on to a poster and displayed for future reading. Re-reading our sentence posters regularly greatly assists reading development.    

 Mini White Boards

 Mini white boards are fantastic! My students love using them because they can be wiped clean. Children often feel more comfortable ‘having a go’ at spelling unfamiliar words when it’s not ‘pencil on paper’, I can only assume this is because it’s not permanent. They find using white board markers exciting, ‘ah…’ to be five again!  The picture displays magnetic alphabet letters. These are great for making words, ‘breaking and chunking’ (future post). I have a set of eight mini boards, which I protect with my life. Well, not quite, but I do love them!



 classroom-2009-0101The Changing Dice

How do I describe this?It’s a large cube/dice which has a plastic slip on each face. I can insert words, letters, sentences, and vocabulary for writing, such as who?, what?, why? and where? ,numbers and signs. The uses are limitless. This is a fantastic teacher’s resource and a ‘must have’!


 Magnetic Words

They come in a pack of 100 and include all basic sight words. When my students are introduced to a new word, I display it on the white board. It can be peeled off and ‘stuck’ into a written sentence on the board. The children can use them on their mini white boards as well. They can be written on with a white board marker e.g. what happens when we add a ‘magic e’ to a word? For example: Mat – mate




Small PM Readers.

We’re all subject to budget constraints, but I believe having as many Guided Reading PM sets from Level 3 to 6 is essential for developing young readers. They are great for other levels, but just like any diet, we want to have variety and there are other excellent books on the market. Read Chall – Stages of Reading Develoment (excellent overview)


I Love Dr. Suess!

 I have a collection of Dr. Seuss books that I read ‘over and over’ again. These books are popular with my Preps (and all children) and often make their way into my student’s school bags at the end of the day. In the easier books the vocabulary is phonetic, rhyme is integral and simple sight words are repeated. Dr. Seuss books are also wonderful for the older readers. Check them out, if you haven’t already!   


Teacher’s White Board

Let it roll! I love my roll around white board. It’s magnetic, can hold and display posters and can be rolled around. It’s just the right height for young children to use when they contribute and all children can see it clearly when sitting on the floor.






I have lego and a large lego board. I use lego in my Numeracy and Literacy program as well as Developmental Play, for example they might build a story set and act out a story they have read. My kit includes little people, wheels, small boards, windows etc. Buy a kit which includes the extras.


The Big Book Stand

I was very excited when I found an old rickety Big Book stand that nobody was using. With a clean and a blue Velcro board, it was ready to go! Having a Big Book stand allows me to have a Big Book area (previous post). It means that Big Books are on display and can be easily read by children. It’s about making teaching easier! Once again, it rolls, so I can move it out of the way easily if I need to.  

 Next Top 10 – Upcoming Post & Home Reading – My way!

I hope you’ve got plenty of money in the budget!

Cheers Nina



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Yes, I’m 5 and I can write!


On the very first day of school, I ask my Prep children to write. It’s the start of their writing journey and I want them to have a record of where their journey began. Some will get started quickly and others will sit there wondering ‘what on earth’ she is asking me to do! This is when I start talking about what writing is and why we write.



 I encourage the children to write their name, any letters they know or just put ‘something’ on their paper. After they have put ‘pencil to paper’, I ask them what their writing says. If they look at me blankly, I get them to tell me what they would like their writing to say and scribe.

 picture-0162From day one, I start talking to the children about ‘taking risks’, ‘having a go’ and that we read writing, not just books. This is a concept that we think children understand, but they don’t always. I PRAISE any effort, show my excitement and celebrate all attempts made by my students every time they write. When a student makes a ‘learning leap’ we do a ‘happy dance’. Preps love to have fun and they don’t have any ‘hang-ups’ about dancing! I want my students to develop a positive attitude to writing which hopefully will be life long.





At the end of semester 1, we have Student Led Interviews, where the children talk to their parents about their learning growth. They show pieces of writing that they have selected that display their development. I’ve found that, with preparation Prep children are very good at explaining their learning growth. To encourage this type of thinking, it’s important to develop the skills of ‘reflecting upon their learning’. We reflect each week formally and everyday orally. When a parent asks, what did you do today? I want my children to be able to answer. This is not a natural skill for most children and therefore needs to be learnt.





Please read my previous posts:

Very Young Children Can Edit: Develop criteria, hand over the responsibility and watch them grow.

Literacy – Inquiry Learning – Writing with Purpose!

The power of Interactive Writing as a model to accelerate writing development 

 Cheers Nina



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