20 Ways To Help Your Child Learn Their Sounds

Sound Collage

Welcome to my third blog in the series “Literacy in the Primary Classroom”. In this blog I focus on how educators and parents can use games in their home and classroom to help children learn sounds successfully.




Learning the sounds that letters make in our alphabet are the building blocks to writing and reading. Children need to have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the relationship between the letter and the sound.  This will give them a solid foundation to learn to read and write efficiently.

Children begin learning sounds before they start primary school. They may know the sound of the letter that begins their name or the sound of a letter of their favourite toy. As you have probably already gathered from my previous blogs, I do not encourage parents and educators to only use flashcards to help a child learn a concept. Learning in context is the best way that children learn anything. It needs to mean something to the child in order for them to store the information in their brain.

Enabling your child to learn their sounds in a fun environment is pivotal to their success. There are so many quick games that the child could play independently, with a sibling or a parent which gives the child a meaningful learning environment to learn their sounds successfully.




It is important for your child to be exposed to lowercase and uppercase letters. Children need to learn that we mainly write in lower case letters and only use uppercase letters for the beginning of a sentence or beginning of a proper noun. So many children begin school writing their entire name using capital letters. Please discourage this as it is a very hard habit to break.

Once children have learnt most of the sounds of the alphabet, they need to be exposed to sounds that letters make when they are together. For example phonic blends like ch, sh, ar, ou, er and ing.

Below is a list of 20 sound games that can be played at home and at school. Not only do they give your child an opportunity to learn their sounds but they also are fun and engaging learning activities. All these games are versatile so you can use single sounds or more complicated sound patterns in the games depending of your child’s needs. 

1. Hammer sounds

HammerPut a sticker of a letter on each block of wood. Have a mystery bag that has objects that begin with each letter. Have the child put their hand into the bag without looking and pull out one object. The child needs to say the name of the object and say what letter it starts with. They can then hammer down the corresponding letter on the wood while making the letter’s sound.




2. Padlock sounds

PadlocksHave a variety of padlocks with matching keys. On each padlock, put a sticker of an object. Write the beginning letter of the object on the corresponding keys. Lock all the padlocks and put in a tub. Mix up all the keys as well. The child must look at each object, determine the starting sound and use the correct letter key to open it. Ensure that the child says the correct sound for the letter.

3. Musical sounds

musical soundsWrite all the sounds on different pieces of paper and spread around the outside of a large table. Get you child to use their finger or a toy to move around onto each letter while the music is on. When the music stops, the child must stop on that sound. They must say the name and sound of that letter (or letter pattern)

4. Plastic egg match

lettersoneggsUsing plastic eggs, write the lower case and upper case letter on each half of the egg. Take all the eggs apart and mix them up in a tub. The child can match all the correct halves back together while saying their name and sound. (There are many plastic eggs in the shops at the moment due to Easter)

5. Paper plate sounds

fb1cabdd2b26c35d78711e1baee6f9adUsing a paper plate, write all the upper case letters around the outside. Have the matching lower case letters on single pegs. The child must match all the letters/sounds together while saying the letter names and sounds.

6. Sound catch

WaterFill up a small container with water. Write the letter/sounds on ping pong balls. The child must use a net to catch a ping pong ball and say the name and sound before putting it into their fishing bucket.

7. Shaving cream tray

c563165f34fc9fc6d7b8f5431f6edbf6Fill a mini cupcake tray with shaving cream. Gently put a piece of paper on each with a letter/sound written on it. The child must say the letter sound and name before they can push the piece of paper down to the bottom of the cupcake tin. Children love squashing the shaving cream. This has always been a successful game for me.

8. Toy match

matchtoysWrite letters/sounds all over a large piece of paper. Have a collection of little toys that all begin with one of the letters/sounds on the paper. The child must put each little toy on the corresponding letter/sound while saying the name and sound of that letter.

9. Simple sound board game

17eb72ea5d54cc1397b0c5613fa95f40Make up a simple snake like board game that has all the sounds that your child is working on. Have a little toy to be the player’s piece. The child rolls the dice and moves that many spots. They must say the letter name, sound and a word that begins (or has it in if you prefer) with that sound before they can have another turn.

10. Sound Popcorn

soundpopcornWrite the letter/sound on outlines of popcorn and put them in a popcorn bag. The child needs to choose a piece of popcorn and put it on their popcorn paper template in the correct spot (or colour in or cross off) while saying the name and sound of the letter.

11. Sound water spray

waterspraysoundsUse chalk on a blackboard or pavement to write the letters/sounds that your child is working on. The child must say the correct name and sound of the letter before they can use the water spray to take it away.

12. Bulldozer sounds

bulldozersoundsMake a track for a bulldozer to go along. You can use tape, lines on a piece of paper or lines in the sand. Have the child use their bulldozer to pick up the letters/sounds along the way. They must say the letter name and sound.

13. Matching spoons

spoonsWrite all uppercase letters on the tip of coloured spoons. Write all lowercase letters on the base of clear spoons. Mix all the spoons up and the child must put the a clear spoon on top of the matching coloured spoon to make a pair. They must say the name and sound when they have formed a pair.

14. Scavenger hunt

scavenger huntHave all the letters/sounds written on separate pieces of paper. The child must search the home or classroom to find an object that starts with each letter/sound. They place the object on the letter and continue until the 10 minute time limit is up. Then they have to say all the sounds they were able to find and the ones they could not.

15. Treasure hunt

treasure huntHide letters/sounds in a sandpit or in the soil. The child must dig around to find all the hidden sound fossils. (you could write the letters on dinosaur bone shapes). The child would then say all the sounds they have found.

16. Alphabet toss

alphabettossWrite all the letters/sounds on balls or beanbags. The child picks up a ball or beanbag, says the name and sound and tries to throw it into one of the baskets in front of them.

17. Alphabet hide

alphabethideandseekWrite all the letters of the alphabet on different blocks of Duplo. Hide them around the house or classroom. The child must find them all and correctly order them in an alphabet tower. They must say the name and sound of each letter.

18. Feed the Monster

Feed-the-Alphabet-Monster-466x1000Make a monster out of an empty wipe container. Have all the letters/sounds written on pieces of paper. The child feeds the monster the letters (letters written on old bottle caps) and the monster makes the sound of the letter they are eating. The child can be the voice of the monster. Alternatively this can be a two player game. One child feeds the monster, the other is the monster who makes the sounds.

19. Dice game

dicegameMake a template similar to this image. The child rolls the dice and colours in the first sound in that row. They must say the letter name and sound. Before the game starts they need to guess which row they think will be coloured in first.

20. Sound I spy

Phonics-I-spy-discovery-bottle-game-680x915Put a variety of objects in a bottle. Write their corresponding letters on a sheet. Fill the rest of the bottle up with rice or sand. The child shakes the bottle around and when they find an object they must say the first sound of that object and cross the letter off on their sheet. They need to cross off all letters.

It is important that children engage in meaningful learning experiences in order to gain the knowledge and understanding about a subject matter. Have fun with your child as they begin to learn their sounds. Always try to point out letters in our environment to make connections for your child.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information about incorporating some interesting sound games at home and in the classroom. Playing these games will help your child learn their sounds in a fun and meaningful way, instead of just using flash cards.

Until next time…

Kelly Pisani

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20 Ways To Help Your Child Learn Their Sight Words

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Literacy in the Primary Classroom”. In this blog I focus on how educators and parents can use games in their home and classroom to help children learn sight words successfully.

When children begin Primary School they are usually given a list of sight words to learn each week. Sight words are the frequently used words that come up in beginner reading books. Children need to learn these words by sight as it is very difficult to use sound knowledge to work out these words.

In order to be a successful reader in the early years of Primary School, children need to have a good recollection of high frequency sight words. The first 100 sight words are listed in the following table:
th[8]Teachers use sight words in all literacy activities in the classroom. Children learn these words in context in a classroom. Learning in context is the best way that children learn anything. It needs to mean something to the child in order for them to store the information in their brain. Sight word practice is commonly set as a homework task. Unfortunately most parents get the child to just read the words on the sight words list given and believe that this will enable the child to learn their words. There are so many quick games that the child could play independently, with a sibling or a parent which gives the child a meaningful learning environment to learn their sight words successfully.

Below is a list of 20 sight word games that can be played at home and at school. Not only do they give your child an opportunity to learn their sight words but they also are fun and engaging learning activities.

1. Memory game

memoryCut up cardboard or paper into rectangles and write each sight word on two of them. After all sight words are written, mix them up and turn them over so you can not see them. The child turns over two cards and reads the sight word on each. If they pick the same word they can keep the pair. If they pick two different words, they need to turn them back over and try to remember where each word is.





2. Sight Word Dominoes

sightworddominosCut paper or cardboard into rectangles and draw a line across the halfway mark. Write two sight words on the card; one at each end. Ensure that you use each sight word a couple of times. Get your child to start matching the domino cards together. The child must read each word before they put it down.

 

 

3. Sight Word Car Park

sightwordparkingMake a mini car park for your child to park their toy cars in. Write a sight word in each car spot and get the child to read it before they park their car in it. You could also do this on a larger scale if you have room outside. Using chalk draw up some large car spots with sight words written in each. Your child can ride their bike, scooter or ride on car in each spot.

 

4. Scavenger Hunt

sightwordhuntWrite all the sight words on post it notes and stick them around your house or backyard. The child needs to find all their sight words and stick them on the sight word clipboard. They must read them before they stick them on.

 

 




5. Bingo Game

sightwordbingoMake bingo cards with all the sight words and get your child to either read out the words for the family to play bingo or have a bingo card and mark off the words that are said. The player that has all the sight words on their card crossed off first is the winner.

 

 

6. Cupcake tray sight word

throwgamesWrite one sight word on each patty case. Put all the patty cases in the muffin tin. Have your child throw a small object into the tin. The child must read the word of the patty case that the object landed on. The object of the game is to be able to throw an object on each patty case.

7. Sight word fishing

sightwordfishingMake a little fishing rod with a magnet on the end. (use a ruler or stick with a string attached). Have all the sight words written on fish cut outs and attach a paper clip to each. (the magnet will attach to the paper clip) The child needs to catch a fish and read the sight word on that fish. They continue to catch fish until all fish have been caught.

 

 




8. Leap frog

SightwordwalkWrite out each sight word on different pieces of paper. Get your child to be a frog and leap onto each paper. They need to read each sight word that they leap onto.

 

 

9. Basketball dribbling

dribbling sight word gameHave your child dribble their basketball around each sight word on the ground. They must read each word correctly then they can shoot for goal. A parent could also call out a sight word and the child could dribble up to that one and back again.

 

10. Soccer Sight Words

Sight-Word-Soccer-A-fun-way-to-move-and-learn-while-you-are-practicing-sight-or-spelling-wordsHave the child go around each cone that has a sight word on it. They must read the sight word before progressing to the next one. You can set up the cones in different arrangements so they need to read the sight words in different orders.

 

 

 

11. Beach ball fun

beach ball 1Write sight words all over a beach ball. Throw the ball with your child and get them to read the words that their thumbs are touching.

 

 




12. Plastic spoons

sightwordspoonsWrite all the sight words on little pockets. Split each sight word up on two plastic spoons. When all the sight words have been written on the spoons, put the spoons in a big pile. Get the child to put the correct spoons in each pocket and read each sight word as they complete it.

13. Plastic Cups

sightwordcupsWrite all the sight words on plastic cups. Get the child to read each one. If they are successful, they can start building their sight word cup tower. When the entire tower is completed, they can throw a ball at it, to knock it down.

 

14. Matching pegs

sightwordmatchWrite all sight words on large pop sticks. One word on each stick. Write all the letters of each sight word on each peg. Get the child to make each sight word by pegging the correct letters onto the pop stick.

15. Water bombs

sightwordbaloonsWrite each sight word on a water balloon and if the child reads it successfully they get to throw it.

 

16. Sight word hopscotch

sightwordhopscotchDraw up a couple of different hopscotch outlines. Write a sight word in each box. The child needs to read each sight word as they hop or jump on it.

 

 

17. Simple board game

sightwordboardgameDraw up a simple board game that has circles or squares for a player’s piece to move onto. Use a dice to instruct how many spots a player’s piece will move. The player must read the sight word that their player’s piece lands on.

 

 

18. Fried eggs

002Draw many fried eggs and put a sight word on the back of each. When the child reads a sight word they can pick it up with an egg flipper and flip it the correct way.

 

 

19. Fly squat

sightwordsplatWrite each sight word on a piece of paper or cardboard. The child has a fly squatter and hits one of the words. They need to read the word that they hit and they keep that one. Whoever has the most at the end of the game wins.

 

20. Pop stick sight words

SightwordpaddlepopsWrite each sight word on a large pop stick. On three of the pop sticks, write “try again”. Put all the pop sticks in a large cup that is not see through. Each player takes a turn to pick a pop stick and read the sight word. If a player picks up a “try again” pop stick they have to put all their pop sticks back. The first person with the decided number of pop sticks is the winner. (If you only have a few sight words, you could write each multiple times)

It is important that children engage in meaningful learning experiences in order to gain the knowledge and understanding about a subject matter. Have fun with your child as they begin to learn to read the high frequency words. Always try to point out these words in our environment to make connections for your child.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information about incorporating some interesting sight word games at home and in the classroom. Playing these games will help your child learn their sight words in a fun and meaningful way, instead of just using flash cards.

If you have found this blog useful why not check out our other blogs that all focus on different educational topics.

Are you a helicopter parent?

20 great ways to learn multiplication facts

What K-2 teachers want parents to know - Reading Levels

Until next time…

Kelly PisaniSightwordscollage

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Literacy in the Primary Classroom : Lower Case Letter Formation

lowercaseletters

Welcome to my new series focusing on literacy in the primary classroom. Over the next few weeks I will focus on the different aspects of literacy and give lots of practical tips for parents to employ into their home to develop their child’s literacy knowledge and understanding.

assessmentsThis first blog in the literacy series will focus on the correct formation of letters.  Although technology is embedded into everything we do, handwriting is still an essential skill to have in today’s society. Handwriting is a fine motor skill that can be developed through a variety of activities. It is strongly advised to hold off introducing the formation of letters until these pre-writing skills are developed. Below is a list of 5 pre-writing skills that your child should be able to do before learning how to form letters.

1. Drawing lines from top to bottom.

LinesChildren need lots of opportunities to draw straight lines going from the top to the bottom. This is an important skill for letter formation that they need to grasp before forming a single letter. This pencil movement is used often to form many letters. These letters are; b, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, p, r and t. Children not only need to draw straight lines from top to bottom with a pencil but with many other tools. For example paintbrushes, crayons, chalk, sticks and fingers.




Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lots of lines from top to bottom across the page. After they have done that, they can use the lines as stems for flowers and draw petals on each.
  • Have the child draw lots of lines from top to bottom with chalk on the pavement. After that get your child to draw circles on each to turn each line into a lollipop.
  • Have the child paint lots of lines from top to bottom. After that, have them paint a line on top of them all from left to right to create a fence. They could paint a cat walking  on top of the fence.
  • Have the child draw lines with crayon from one sticker at the top of the page to a sticker directly under it at the bottom of the page.

2. Drawing circles starting from the ‘2’ position on a clock

clock[1]Drawing a circle is another important skill that the child must be confident with before introducing letter formation. This pencil movement is used often to form a few letters. These letters are; a, c, g, o and q. We want to encourage a child to start their circle from a ‘2’ position on the clock and go in an anticlockwise direction until they get back to the ‘2’. Therefore their pencil would go past the 1, then 12, then 11 etc until they get back to the starting position to complete their circle. We want them to start from this position so it will be easier for them to continue to form a letter without taking their pencil off the page when they are ready for letter formation. For example, to be able to add a line to a circle for an ‘a’ or a tail to a circle for a “g’.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lots of circles on a piece of blue paper. These circles can become bubbles in an underwater scene. They could cut out underwater sea animals to stick on their page.
  • Have the child draw a small circle in the middle of the page and get them to keep drawing larger circles around the smaller one.
  • Have your child trace around circle shapes, such as bottle lids while always encouraging them to start at the right spot (‘2’ on the clock)

3. Using tools other than pencils

circlesChildren need to practise pre-writing skills using a variety of tools. We need a child to start with a thicker tool, like a paintbrush and make big movements with this tool. As they become more confident, a child could move onto chalk, thick crayons, using their fingers and then pencils. They need to be able to make large movements first and then develop their fine motor skills to be able to make smaller and more controlled movements with a tool. It will be hard for a child to use a pencil at first, so by using thicker tools, the child will be able to start practising these pre-writing skills from a younger age.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have a child trace chalk outlines of lines and circles with a paintbrush
  • Have the child paint circles, lines (zig zag, left to right and top to bottom) and spots with their fingers.
  • Have the child use a variety of tools (paint, chalk, crayon and pencil) on a large piece of paper. They can trace over lines and circles or try doing dot to dot lines.

4. Multi-sensory play

Marble in Sand[1]Children learn best through a multi sensory approach. This means allowing the child to discover skills and concepts through a variety of sensory methods. Pre-writing skills can be developed through this method very successfully. Children should be encouraged to use their sight and sense of touch to develop the fine motor skills required to learn letter formation.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child draw lines and circles and any other writing patterns in the sand with their finger
  • Put some paint in a zip lock bag and put it on a flat surface. Get the child to use their finger to practise writing patterns on the outside of the bag. The paint will move around depending on where they press.
  • Have the child practise writing patterns in the dirt with a stick

5. Holding the pencil correctly

pencil1The correct pencil grip needs to be encouraged, not forced from the age of 4 years old. Children younger than this need to explore holding a variety of tools in their own ways before the correct pencil grip can be taught. Forcing a child who is younger than school age to use the correct grip before they are ready, can cause more harm than good for their development of fine motor skills. Children need to hold the pencil with their thumb and index finger, while the middle finger is used for support under the pencil. We can call these fingers the tripod fingers so when ever you ask your child to check their pencil grip ask them if all of their tripod fingers are in the correct spot.

Parent tips to encourage this skill

  • Have the child hold something small in their hand, like a tissue to prevent the fingers that are not being used from moving
  • Use a pencil grip to encourage the correct hold when the child is younger. You can also get triangular pencils that also do this job.
  • Have the child do lots of finger exercises with the thumb, index finger and middle finger to strengthen their small muscles eg roll small play dough balls using these three fingers and making a pinch pot with clay.

Teaching letter formation for lower case letters

When teaching letter formation, it is a great idea to introduce letters that have a similar formation to help the child understand direction and pencil movement. Below is the oral instruction you can say with your child when forming each letter.

lowercase-and-capitals-prev[1]

1. Round Letters (a, c, d , g, o, q, s)

a (around in a circle and down), c (around in a circle until the 5 position on the clock), d (around in a circle, up and down), g (around in a circle, down and tail), o (around in a circle), q (around in a circle and down), s (around in a small half circle, then the opposite way)

2. Straight Letters (b, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, p, r , t)

b (top to bottom, up and around), h (top to bottom and hump), i (top to bottom, pencil off to dot), j (top to bottom and tail), k (top to bottom, up, oval and diagonal stick), l (top to bottom), m (top to bottom, hump and a hump), n (top to bottom and a hump), p (top to bottom, up and circle), r (top to bottom and half hump) and t (top to bottom, pencil off for line left to right)

3. Curved Letters (u, v, w, y)

u (smiley face and top to bottom), v (diagonal down and up), w (smiley face and smiley face), and y (smiley face, top to bottom and tail)

4. Different letters (e, f, x, z)

e (left to right, up and around), f (half circle, top to bottom, pencil off for line left to right), x (diagonal line from top left to bottom right, diagonal line from top right to bottom left) and z (line left to right, diagonal down to bottom left and line from left to right again)

When a child first learns how to form letters they need to continually revise this skill on blank paper with no lines. The introduction of writing letters on lines comes much later when a child is competent at forming each letter.

lower-case-letter-formation-i3[1]

We can use the analogy of sky, grass and soil to help the children remember what lines each letter is written on.

The grass letters are: a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z

The sky and grass letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, t

The grass and soil letters: g, j, p, q

When a child is learning to write letters correctly, exposing them to as many varied experiences with different types of mediums and tools will enhance their learning immensely. Children do not learn the formation of letters by pencil and paper only. Be creative and let them explore lots of techniques.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and you can take away some practical tips that will help you guide your child in forming lowercase letters accurately. I would like to end this blog with a little rhyme that I always say with my Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 classes to help them to remember some important tips before they begin to write.

1, 2, 3, 4, Are my feet flat on the floor? 5, 6, 7, 8, Is my back nice and straight? 9, 10, 11, 12, Is my pencil correctly held?

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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What K-2 teachers want parents to know: 10 small concerns which can turn into big issues

Welcome to my third blog in the series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This blog aims to give parents information about 10 areas of concern that teachers spend so much of their time dealing with. These may seem like small issues but they do cause a lot of stress for the classroom teacher and without intervention can turn into big issues. I encourage you to read the list and see how many of them may be relevant to you and your child.

1. Child coming late most days

KidsRunning-Backpacks[1]This is a hard issue for a teacher to tackle as it involves asking the parent and child to be more organised in the morning. Teachers understand that on the odd morning there are situations that cannot be helped which leads to a child coming late to school. Unfortunately some children are late nearly every day. They miss the morning routine and beginning of literacy or numeracy. A child usually walks in sheepishly and has to figure out what they should be doing. Most times the teacher needs to stop what he/she is doing and explain everything again for the child who comes late. This wastes valuable teaching and learning time at such an important part of the day. If a child is late 15 minutes every day it could account to them missing the equalivalent to 50 hours of precious literacy or numeracy learning for the year if they are never away any other day.

2. A child having many days off school

bermuda-family-holidays[1]School is very important and children learn the value of education through the emphasis that parents place on it. It seems like it is an epidemic at the moment; that so many children take extended time off from school for holidays and regular time off for many other trivial reasons. Teachers understand that parents can be restricted to when they take holidays or some events come up that require all the family to attend but education must also be seen as equally important. It is very difficult for a child to have an entire term off school and try and “catch up”. One piece of advice for parents who are taking their child for an extended holiday is DO NOT ASK FOR WORK. This seems like common practice but it is very unfair on the teacher. They not only have to set work that the child can complete independently but also has to mark all the work once it returns. More often than not the child does not complete most of it because they are busy enjoying their holiday (which they should be doing). Instead of asking your child to do “school work” get them to keep a journal of their holiday and continue reading each day.

3. If you want to speak to a teacher, make an appointment

teacher-meeting-467x267[1]Making an appointment to speak to your child’s teacher is so important. For every type of profession, if you need to discuss anything with them, you need to make an appointment. Education should be no different. An issue that your child is having requires the full attention of the teacher and having a scheduled time allows the teacher the time to provide evidence and give the correct information. Asking the teacher questions regarding your child while the teacher is on playground duty or teaching in the class is not the appropriate time for obvious reasons. Get your child to give the teacher a note requesting a meeting. Indicate on the note what you would like to discuss in the meeting so the teacher can bring any related information or invite any specialist teachers to attend that could provide additional support  for your child.

4. Lunch boxes

Lunch boxThe lunch box has significantly changed since I went to school. Not only in physical appearance (with compartments, ice packs, heat packs, cutlery and wipes) but in what food (or amount of food) goes into them. Teachers of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 children all want to scream “STOP PACKING SO MUCH FOOD” Children are given a few varieties of fruit, a few packets of chips or biscuits, food bars and treats and this is only for morning tea. Children spend all of their morning tea and lunch time eating. Children need to run around and be active. They will not starve in the 6 hours of school, so two pieces of fruit and one sandwich (or equivalent) will be sufficient. Encourage your child to only drink water and always ensure they have had breakfast before coming to school.

5. Excursions

images-4Excursions are a great way for children to have the opportunity to learn from seeing and doing. There are many great excursions starting from Kindergarten that will help to enrich your child’s knowledge and understanding about a topic. Usually most excursions require parent helpers as there is a smaller limit of children to adult ratios when outside the school grounds. Most parents would love the opportunity to come and they are even prepared to take a day off work for it. Unfortunately schools can not take all the parents who are interested. Most excursions require 2 - 3 parents per class to satisfy legal requirements and fit in buses and to go on specific tours which are restricted by numbers. Teachers will try to be fair by picking names out of a hat or use some other way of selecting the parents. Have a discussion with your child when you receive the excursion note and explain to them that you will write that you could come but you might not be picked.

6. Home life

images-4In order for the teacher to do the best for each child in their class they need to know the whole picture of each child. All families are different and families will go through tough times at some point. It is important that teachers are aware of a change in the child’s home life which may impact on them at school. The teacher does not need details of the situation (unless you feel the teacher should) but a quick discussion helps the teacher immensely when dealing with the child at school. Situations in the home life could be a recent breakdown of a relationship, death of a family member or friend, a life threatening illness or a tragic event.

7. Two sides to every story

upset boyThere will be times when your child comes home from school upset about something that has occurred. As a parent it is very difficult to see your child upset. It is important to listen to what your child has to say and get them to come up with some ideas to fix it. Even children in Kindergarten can be given this responsibility. If they haven’t spoken to their teacher, encourage them to. Try not to go up to the teacher before the child has seen them about the issue (or give them a few days to go and speak to the teacher and if they haven’t, encourage them to write a note to the teacher) We want children to be problem solvers and learn how to deal with problems efficiently. There are times, however, that a parent needs to intervene. Parents need to understand that they have only heard part of a two sided story and to try and not make judgements based on one side. Throwing around terms like “bullying” can be dangerous. Always remember that the people we are dealing with are children and that they are learning about our world and how to behave in it. If you are unhappy with the response of the teacher you are within your rights to request a meeting with the Principal to discuss the issue further.

8. Encourage your child to be tolerant

wpid-boy-hiding-face[1]We live in a world where the value of tolerance is diminishing. As adults we are put in many situations where we are surrounded by people who are very different to us but we still need to be able to work with them. We need children to realise that they do not need to be best friends with everyone in their class but they need to be able to work with everyone. Everyone comes from different home situations and it is sometimes difficult for the teacher as they can not inform other parents of the terrible home life a student that is causing issues has. I have worked with many children who are sent to school in dirty clothes, paint still on their faces from the day before, no food and who have been left at school as no one has picked them up. Please let your child know that some children do not have all the wonderful things that they may have or a family that loves them as much as you love your child. Sometimes we need to excuse a particular child as they do not have a loving family to look after their best interests and they just do the best they can to get by. If we all had a bit more tolerance, the world would be a better place.

9. Hand in notes

14716277[1]Teachers spend a lot of their time chasing children who have not handed in notes. Notes are important as they are usually giving permission for your child to attend an event that is happening in the school. Please make the job of the teacher easier and return notes by their due date.

10. Helping in the school

reading 2Helping in the classroom as a parent reader or in helping in the canteen  helps the school so much. This help benefits so many children in the school community. Although most parents are fantastic, there are a few that spoil it. Sometimes having a certain parent to help creates so much more work for the teacher that the teacher would rather have no help. Some parent’s motives for helping in the room or school are harmful to other children. Some parents want to use this time to have a discussion with the teacher about their child, want to find out the levels of all the children and where their child is placed and some just want to observe and provide information to other parents. Make sure before you decide that you will help, that your motives are good. Do it to help the children in the class.

I hope you have found this blog an interesting read. There are many other small teacher concerns that exist in classrooms that I haven’t written about.  If you have any other ideas please add a comment as I would love to read them. I am looking forward to hearing other teacher’s and parent’s perspectives in regards to their thoughts and experiences.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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What K-2 Teachers want Parents to Know - Grades on Reports

Welcome to my second blog in the series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This is a series that focuses on common concerns that parents of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 students have. This blog looks into the world of “grading” for reports and gives parents information about what they need to know before they even open their child’s report.

New South Wales Primary schools send student reports home twice a year. The first one being at the end of Semester 1 (End of Term 2) and the second one at the end of Semester 2 (End of Term 4). The report’s aim is to give parents information about their child and give the parent an understanding of whether their child is meeting benchmarks for their age.

Reports can cause a lot of mixed emotions for many households. It can be a time of celebration of a child’s achievement or a realisation that your child is struggling to meet the expected level of a particular grade. With all situations, reports need to be used as a conversation starter between you and your child and between you and your child’s teacher.

Below is a list of 10 facts that all K-2 parents need to know before they read their child’s report.

1. The Board Of Studies - What is a KLA?

BoS%20Logo[1]The Board of Studies is the governing body for the implementation of teaching and assessing of students in NSW. They are responsible for setting the core curriculum that is being taught in schools and regulates how much time is allocated to the teaching of each KLA (Key Learning Area). A Key Learning Area is a term used to name a particular area of study.  There are 6 KLA’s in Primary School. They are English, Mathematics, Human Society and Its Environment (History), Science, Creative Arts and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some schools may have the addition of Religious Education as their seventh KLA. All these KLA’s need to be assessed by a child’s teacher and a child is given a grade for each of these KLA’s on their reports.

2. Time allocation for each KLA

KLAsSchools are restricted to how much time they can allocate to the teaching of each KLA. Teachers must assess each child for each KLA in the allocated time per week. In Primary school the time allocations are; English (25%-35%), Mathematics (20%), Science (6%-10%), HSIE (6%-10%), Creative Arts (6%-10%), PDHPE (6%-10%) and additional time for Religious Education, assemblies etc (up to 20%). As a general guide 6%-10% is usually 1.5 - 2.5hrs in a typical teaching week. Many infant classes use combined units to incorporate a few KLA’s in the one learning experience.

3. Stages in Primary Education

children readingThere are 4 stages in Primary Education. Early Stage 1 is Kindergarten, Stage 1 is Years 1-2, Stage 2 is Years 3-4 and Stage 3 is Years 5-6. There are many different types of schools within NSW. Some schools operate in year groups and some schools operate in stage groups. Some schools operate in single classrooms while others have open learning (a few classes work in their own space in a large room). All students are different and they thrive differently in different environments. All schools are bound by the same curriculum, time allocation for teaching each KLA and grading responsibilities, however, schools can chose the best way to deliver the teaching and learning experiences to their students.

4. Outcomes

teacher assessingEach KLA has outcomes that address a particular concept in the area of study that is related to what stage level the child is at. Teachers assess whether a child has not achieved, achieved or has gone beyond each outcome at the particular stage of each KLA. A teacher must look at the child’s achievement across all the outcomes in a KLA that have been taught and then communicate that to the parent and child in the form of a grade for that KLA. An example of a Kindergarten outcome in Mathematics is “Counts to 30, and orders, reads and represents numbers in the range 0 to 20”

5. Kindergarten grading

reading 1Kindergarten is the only grade in Primary school that does not have “Grades”. Teachers generally communicate a child’s achievement in relation to them achieving an outcome or working towards an outcome. This is their first year at “formal schooling” and being it is its own stage, grading does not commence until the children move into Stage 1.

6. What does a “C” mean?

Grade AThis is an area that causes the most stress to parents as the meanings of grades have changed a lot since they went to school. Most parents want their child to receive an “A” but many parents do not realise how difficult it really is to receive an “A”. A “C” is given to a student who is meeting all the requirements of that stage level. They are able to work efficiently in the classroom and achieve all benchmarks at that stage. Most students, as a result, will receive a “C”. Even though some parents are not happy with their child’s “C” for a KLA, it actually informs them that their child is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing.




7. How a teacher grades

assessmentsGrading is not an easy task. Many students can be on the border line of two grades. Two students could receive a “C” for a KLA but one could actually be a high C (nearly a B) and the other could be a low C (just higher than a D). Even though each grade could have such a big spectrum this is not written on the report. A teacher must use all the assessments completed, written evidence in work books and their own observations to give one grade for an entire KLA. They must look at everything that has been taught during the Semester and the contribution that the child has made to group tasks, individual tasks, projects and class discussions to get an overall achievement level.

8. Student’s strengths

littleboyParents may find a grade unjust for their child if their child may be particularly gifted in an area of that KLA. For example, If a child is a particularly gifted skier and they receive a “C” for PDHPE, their parent may believe that this grade is not a reflection of their child. What the parent does not realise, is that within each KLA there are many strands that need to be taught. In PDHPE there are several strands. All health modules, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Sports, and Active Lifestyle. This child may be gifted in Skiing but that is only one sport out of many that may or may not be taught within the school. They may achieve at a “normal” level with all other sports and their understanding of the theory component associated to PDHPE, so their average grade for all areas of PDHPE is a “C”. This is reflected in all KLA’s.

9. Report Comments

ParentsreadingReport comments can be particularly difficult for a teacher. They are restricted by how many characters they can write and also how they are allowed to describe different learning attributes of a student. The best advice I have for parents is LISTEN in your parent-teacher interviews. This is a time where teachers can go into more detail about your child and show you examples of your child’s work. They can suggest specific activities you could do at home with your child that targets your child’s area of weakness. Always attend the parent-teacher interviews as they usually offer so much more information than a grade on a paper.

10. Working out a plan

parentteacherPrior to reading a child’s report, a parent generally has a good idea of their child’s academic ability. If you have concerns about your child’s rate of development and reading their report supports your thoughts, speak to the child’s class teacher about it. Just because a child is struggling it does not always mean that they will struggle for the rest of their educational journey. Work out a plan with your child’s teacher about the next steps that you or the school will undertake to identify what your child’s additional learning needs may be. This could include going to a GP, having a speech or hearing assessment or having an observation survey completed by an OT or specialised teacher. Early intervention is the key, so the earlier you identify the extra needs of your child, the more success your child will have. Always book a date for the next meeting with the teacher in order to discuss what has been completed since the previous meeting.

Grades of an A,B,C, D or E enables parents to have a small insight into the academic abilities of their child. Teachers encourage parents to not just use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

If your child has special needs and you and their teacher believes that “no benefit” will come from your child reading all “E’s” in their report, you can request to have a report with no grades and just comments. The special need’s teacher at your school can offer more information about this idea.

Reports cause a lot of stress for children, parents and teachers. Always remember to use reports as a way of starting communication with your child about their strengths and weaknesses at school. Try not to compare their grades with their peers or with other siblings. Use it to get your child to set some academic goals they want to achieve before the end of next Semester.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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