The first term of 2013 finished last week coinciding with Easter and it’s time to reflect on my year so far. This year I’m teaching a junior grade made up of grades 1 and 2. After a number of years teaching a Prep grade, following on with a junior grade was a logical move for me as an educator. Having said this, I’ve been around long enough to have taught all levels of primary education a number of times.
Time changes best practice and I’m working with a colleague where I’m definitely the learner. The teaching of maths is my personal focus this year. Last week, I was able to be a part of one of my colleague’s math sessions, and as I love being in the ‘learner’s seat’, it was enlightening. I have so many questions!
Each year I find something to inspire my personal professional development. It doesn’t always mean attending out-sourced costly professional development. I have the mentor in my own work place!
Personalising Learning: My favourite words – I need help or I don’t understand….
Setting the scene: I want my students to understand that being a learner is about taking risks… Recently, we discussed brick walls.
Learning Walls and Personal Walls
Analogy: Our learning is just like a brick wall. What happens if some of the bricks are missing or not placed properly? What makes a wall strong?
They knew instantly! The beauty of this analogy is the children know you can take out wobbly bricks, position the brick again and make a strong wall. You just have to know which bricks are wobbly. That’s why pre-assessing knowledge and sharing results with children is important. They also explored their personal school/ learning wall and how to keep this wall strong. It was a great topic for the children to write about. How can I keep my brick wall strong?
The PM Sounds in Words – will love using these…
The PM Sounds in Words series explores phonological awareness in a meaningful context, in a PM context. It enables children to become aware of the sounds made by many regular letter patterns that can be found in high frequency and interest words. The series enables children to hear the sounds, say the sounds, read the sounds and write the sounds. There are four PM Sounds in Words sets; each set comprises 10 Little Books and 1 Big Book with IWB software. Cengage – Nelson
We’ve recently purchased a set of the PM Sounds in Words Big Books and I’m looking forward to using them to support my classroom program. I’m a huge fan of PM and have written many times about the PM Writing Genre Big Books. I’ll be writing about how I use these in my classroom in future posts. If you’re looking for further information contact Christine Manns firstname.lastname@example.org for expert advice.
My program from day one is Language Experience and Inquiry based and as I have stated in earlier posts I get going quickly. The Victorian Early Years structure (future post – My Way) is introduced formally late in first semester, however, all elements of Early Years are used within a Language Experience program.
Big Books (future post) are fundamental to my everyday program. I start drawing my student’s attention to simple punctuation and through repetitive reading of our favourite Big Books, children start learning how we use punctuation quickly. We spend a lot of time discussing: What a sentence is? How it starts and how we know a sentence has stopped? We look at commas, exclamation marks and question marks from day one (Concepts of Print). Learning is my classroom is about a child’s ‘point of need’, not age or grade level. Yes, assessment drives my program but it’s about finding ‘where to go’!
Later in the year I start intoducing children to the concept of 1st draft, edit and publishing. Published writing needs to be correct. I believe children need to know why they are expected to do something. Displaying examples of the process including explanations is essential. The children can refer to the display and visiting teachers/parents can clearly understand what is being taught.
Editing – Formulating Criteria for Writing Genres
Children aged 5-6 are capable of formulating criteria for writing genres. This is a strategy which is used with all class levels, including secondary students. The photo shows a writing checklist that was prepared by the children after developing writing criteria for punctuation. As a WHOLE class we deconstruct good quality pieces of writing. I use examples from the CARS & STARS books because they are carefully published and have age appropriate content.
After deconstructing a specific piece of writing e.g. a letter, the children talk about what they see is specific to a letter e.g. young children will notice that a letter starts with dear and that there is a date. This is the start of formulating and recording our criteria. The criteria are then used to make a checklist which is referred to when writing. The first checklist shown in the photo above is very simple and made by 5-6 year olds (Preps) after completing this process.
Once the checklist is developed students refer to it when editing their writing. (See photo) This strategy improves the quality of the children’s writing dramatically.
The photo below is an example of a display in my classroom. You’ll notice that a checklist is attached. Hope you find this post useful. Cheers Nina