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



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

Welcome to my next blog series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This is a series that will focus on common parent issues that teachers of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 children face everyday. The series aim is to give parents more information about each area of concern and offer practical tips to ensure that these concerns do not become an issue in your household.

One of the biggest issues that is often brought to the teacher by a parent of a 5-8 year old child is the concern about what reading level their child is at. Many parents worry that their child is significantly below another child in their class or not moving up levels as fast as they should. The first thing that teachers want to shout from the rooftops is “Parents, stop obsessing over reading levels!”

A reading level (whether it be a number, colour or letter, depending on the book) indicates to the teacher what type of reader the child is. A child could be a beginner reader, emergent (developing) reader or an independent reader. The level is usually displayed at the front or back of the book. A reading level is given by a teacher who has conducted a “running record”, which is a reading assessment tool.

Below are 10 facts that teachers want parents to know about reading levels

1. Do not look at the back of the book

LeveledreaderIt is interesting to teach Kindergarten in the first term. Not for all the obvious reasons but rather to observe the way parents use reading levels as a way of competing against each other. At the beginning of first term in Kindergarten, children are given reading books and are happy to read them with the teacher during a guided reading session. They take them home at the end of this session to practise reading with their family. In Term 2 it all starts to change. When children are given their new reading books, they flip their books to the back to see what level they are on. The children say comments like “yes, I am on level 3″ or “My mum said I should be on a higher level than this” or “Level 3 again!” It is these comments that change the idea of what reading is about. It moves from reading for enjoyment and a chance to practise reading skills to a tool for parents to compare their child against other children. As a parent, it is important not to show your child your interest in the number, colour or letter but focus on the reading skills that your child is developing.

2. The book should be easy

reading 1The book that comes home should be easy for your child. Reading at home should be an opportunity for your child to practise a smooth clear reading voice. Reading for them at home needs to be enjoyable and not a time for struggling and arguing. Parents can ask lots of questions while their child is reading to check that they are understanding the story line or facts of the text.

3. Read the book many times

reading 2Many parents are concerned that their child has had the same book for a few nights or a week. They inform the teacher that they can read it easily and require a harder book. Teachers want the children to feel that reading is easy at home. Harder texts are given in the classroom under the guidance of the teacher. They do not want a child to believe that it is so difficult. Praise the child for how they read. Emphasise how smooth their voice is or congratulate them on working out an unknown word. Reading a book each time, can be a different experience. Have a different focus for each time you read it with them. You could focus on the use of punctuation one time, working out unknown words one time, the story line one time and what’s in each picture another time.

4. Staying on one level for a long time

Parents voice concerns about their child staying on a level for a long time. Teachers need a child to be secure (very competent) at a level before moving on. Being secure means that their reading voice is smooth and fluent, they can read a variety of texts at that level, have a variety of reading strategies they use to work out unknown words independently and they have great comprehension of the text. Children need to be exposed to both fiction and non fiction books at each level. Non fiction books tend to be harder for children as the vocabulary is more demanding. Lots of exposure to non fiction texts will help your child increase their vocabulary.

5. Reading strategies

images-5A child needs to develop a variety of reading strategies to work out unknown words in texts. While listening to your young child read, try to encourage them to work out the word independently. Informing your child of the word straight away will not develop their reading skills. Many children can not move to a new level as their undeveloped reading strategies will not support them at a new level. For further information about reading strategies refer to my previous blog “How to read with young children: Reading strategies”

6. Do not compare children

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, children are no different. Each child develops their reading skills at their own pace. A parent’s concern about a child’s reading level can be due to the fact that another child in their class is at a reading level much higher than their own child. Most children when they are learning to read have times where they move up levels quickly and other times when they plateau for a while. As long as they are making progress and their teacher is happy with this progress there is nothing to worry about.

7. Do not compare teachers

teacherAnother main issue that teachers face daily is the constant comparison of classrooms. As each child is different, each teacher is different as well. A teacher has their own idea of the most effective way of teaching reading, therefore some focus on moving up levels, some want to ensure a child is really secure before moving them up and some want the child to have more exposure of different texts at that level before moving up. Your child will have to work with all different types of people in their life so it is important that your child is given that opportunity with each teacher they have. As a parent you may not be completely happy with how the classroom is run but have faith that the school ensures that all teachers are working to the best of their ability for each child. If you have a real concern about a teacher, always approach them first for some clarification.

8. Comprehension

Unknown-2The most important part of reading is to be able to understand what you have read. So many times I listen to beautiful oral reading from a child, who is able to work out unknown words easily and pronounce all words correctly. However, they are unable to answer questions about what they have read. Moving up levels too quickly may cause more harm than good. A lot of children’s comprehension strategies are undeveloped as the focus has always been on how the child sounds. Parents need to ask lots of questions starting with “why” and “how” about the text. Having a discussion about what has come up in the text is invaluable for a student’s comprehension.

9. Children going backwards

Over the school holidays it is very common for a child to go back a few levels in reading. During the school holidays they are not having their targeted reading sessions at school, getting new readers and working on new strategies. Give your child a few weeks to get back into the routine of school before approaching their teacher about reading levels.

10. Assessing Reading levels

Teachers are constantly assessing reading levels of each child in their class. They observe how the child reads each guided reading session and writes notes about that child for the next reading session. They conduct “running records” regularly to give the appropriate levelled text. A running record is when a child reads a text at a particular level and the teacher records all the mistakes and self corrections the child makes. Using a few calculations, the teacher will know whether the text is too easy, correct or too hard for the child.

I hope this blog has given parents more insight into the world of reading levels. Teachers want parents to focus more on how a child is reading than what the reading level is. The more focus a parent places on a reading level the more focus a child places on it. Encourage reading for enjoyment and open their eyes to a whole new world inside books.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

10 ways of giving your child a head start.

littleboyWelcome to my third blog in the series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year” In this blog I focus on what parents can do with their children at home to give them a head start in Preschool, Kindergarten and Year 1.

As we begin the new school year, I continue to be amazed at the vast difference in the abilities of children in my class. There is such a huge range of academic skills, gross motor skills (large muscle), fine motor skills (small muscle) and social skills. These skills are the cornerstone of what makes a successful student at the beginning of the school year. Even though teachers will work on these skills throughout the year, students who have a good grasp of them before starting school always have a head start in their education. The children that have these skills are more independent, motivated and ready to learn.

Below are 10 skills that parents can work on with their child at home to give them a great foundation for learning.

1. Ask questions

Unknown-2This may seem like a simple one but so many children start school not being able to answer questions. Many children are not given the opportunity at home to describe their thinking or work out simple problems, so when they get to school and they are constantly asked to give their opinion or what they think the answer to a problem is they simply become withdrawn. The classroom is full of questions, full of problem solving and a platform for students to ask more questions. Therefore children need to be exposed to this type of learning way before they begin schooling. There are 4 main ideas to remember when incorporating questions into your home environment. The first one is that the use of “how” and “why” questions require a deeper understanding of what ever the child is doing. (e.g. Why do you think the rock sank to the bottom of the water container?) The second one is that questions need to be asked during a child’s play and not just at the end. (e.g. Why have you decided to stick that paper on the side of the box) The third one is that questions do not have to have just one answer. (e.g. Why do you think you need to eat healthy food?) The last idea is that questions lead to more questions. If your child has given you an answer think of a new question that builds on what they just said.

2. Write using lowercase letters

Many children begin school writing every letter in their name in capital letters. This confuses the child as a capital letter needs to be written for the beginning of a proper noun or start of a sentence. Teachers will need to ‘undo’ their previous learning and teach them the proper way to use letters. This is a hard habit to break so parents are encouraged to only get their child to write a capital letter for the beginning letter of their name.

3. Pencil grip

pencil1Parents need to encourage a child from the age of 4 to hold the pencil correctly. This is a fine motor skill that needs lots of practice and encouragement. We need a correct pencil grip to become a habit, to enable letters and numbers to be formed correctly and easily. An idea for you to do with your child is to get them to hold something small, like a rolled up tissue in the fingers that do not touch the pencil. When your child is learning to write have them do lots of lines from top to bottom and circles. These skills are prewriting skills and should be mastered before attempting to write letters and numbers.

4. Using scissors

using scissorsSo many children start kindergarten never holding a pair of scissors. Many parents feel that scissors are “too dangerous” and therefore their first experience of using them are when they are 5 or 6 years old. Using scissors is another fine motor skill that needs to be experienced from 3 years old. Children need to use these small muscles in their hands to develop them. They need to be encouraged to put their thumb in the top hole and to keep their hand straight. They need to move the paper around and not the scissors. You could put stickers around in a circle and get your child to cut through the middle of them by moving the paper around.

5. Tying shoelaces

shoelacesTimes have definitely changed and the importance of tying shoe laces seems like a skill of the past. Many children have velcro sport shoes and school shoes so they never need this skill until they are in upper primary. It is sad that many 8 - 10 year olds do not know how to tie their laces. Even though it takes a lot of time and patience at the beginning tying shoe laces need to be encouraged as it is another fine motor skill that develops the smaller muscles in their hands.

6. Shape orientation

When children are exposed to shapes at school many sit up, with a big smile and say I know everything about shapes. Unfortunately many of them have only had a very limited exposure to the concepts of shapes. Most parents say that their child could identify a circle, triangle, square and rectangle very easily. A very large percentage of children only identify equilateral triangles (a triangle with all three angles and sides the same) as being a triangle. When they are shown an isosceles triangle (2 sides the same and 1 different) or a scalene triangle (all three sides different) they say that it is not a “real triangle”. We need to ensure that children are exposed to many shapes in many orientations so they are able to have a solid understanding of what a shape is.

7. Count forwards and backwards 

CountingChildren need many opportunities to count objects. Children who have a strong sense of “one more” and “one less” before they start kindergarten have such a big head start in Mathematics compared to other children in their class. Children need to realise that there are numbers after 100 as well. Parents can encourage a child to start at a higher number like 43 and count forwards or backwards. You do not always need to start at 0.

8. Have different experiences 

Children need to experience our world so they build their knowledge and understanding of how our world works. It also increases your child’s vocabulary which will help them to read. Giving your child different experiences does not have to be expensive. Most children who start kindergarten have never been on a bus, train or boat. Organise to take your child to the post office, library, police station, fire station and airport. They will learn so much from these experiences and it will help them to have a deep knowledge about these subjects.

9. Knowledge of print concepts

readingHaving an understanding of how texts (books) work gives your child a big advantage when starting school. A child needs to know how to hold a book, where the front of the book is, where a person starts to read from, knowledge of reading from left to right, understanding of letters and words and the use of pictures to support the text. For tips and advice for teaching print concepts to your child, refer to my previous blog “How to read with your young child: Print Concepts”

10. Independence

images-2Children who are independent have great problem solving skills and coping skills. This allows them to be very successful in the classroom. Children need to have lots of opportunities to develop their independence through the toddler and preschool years. For tips and advice for encouraging your child to become independent, refer to my previous blog  “Are you a helicopter parent?: Teaching independent skills”

Being “present” in your child’s life gives them the best start to their education. A parent is a child’s main teacher and this role should not be taken lightly. A teacher’s main goal is to “guide” not to inform. Let your child learn skills and information for themselves through the opportunities that you expose them to.

Hope you have enjoyed this series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year”. We hope we have given you some food for thought from the three blogs and offered some practical ideas that you can implement into your household.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Are you a helicopter parent? The parenting method taking the first world countries by storm.

Welcome to my second blog in the series “How to create a successful home environment for the new school year” In this blog I focus on the negative effects of the well publicised form of parenting: Helicopter Parenting.

Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe a method of parenting that involves constant monitoring of a child’s experiences. The use of the word “helicopter” describes the parent’s behaviour of hovering above their child through their play, behaviour, sport and educational experiences.

A ‘helicopter parent” of a toddler may always direct what their child plays with, gives them limited alone time and constantly ensures that all activities that the toddler engages in are educational. In primary school they may constantly be up at the school speaking to the class teacher, ensures that their child gets a particular teacher or coach, selects the child’s friends and is extremely involved in homework and school projects.

There are several problems with this style of parenting:

1. The child develops low self esteem and confidence

The child will believe that they are unable to complete tasks without parent assistance. They do not believe in their own ability as they have never been given the opportunity to problem solve.

2. Low coping skills

The child will not develop their own coping skills to be able to cope with loss, disappointment, or failure. Parents who are always fixing their child’s messes or removing obstacles that might cause any discomfort for their child inhibits them from learning this vital skill.

3. High anxiety

The child will become very anxious when they are presented with a situation which they are not familiar with and that would require them to work out problems on their own. They will not like to be in a new environment where there are lots of unknowns.

4. Undeveloped life skills.

A ‘helicopter parent’ who is always assisting their child in everyday skills will inhibit that child in developing their independence. They will not develop life skills at the same rate as their peers as they are never given the opportunity to practise these skills independently.

So how do we ensure that our children become resourceful, resilient and equipped for our world? We need to land those choppers and follow these 9 simple ideas to combat helicopter parenting.

1. Take 17 seconds

When your child is frustrated or finding it difficult to solve a problem, wait 17 seconds before interfering. Children need to experience frustration in order to think of a solution. By interrupting prematurity you do not allow your child to have the opportunity of developing their problem solving skills.

2. Chores

choresAll children from 2 years of age need to contribute to the household. There are a variety of chores that children can do depending on their age. A child needs to learn the importance of hard work and working cooperatively with others.

3. Failing

Children need to experience the feeling of failure. Whether it is a bad result from an assignment, getting in trouble for not bring their instrument to class or coming last in a running race. It is up to the parents to explain that this will not be the first time that the child will feel disappointed and upset. They need to work out a way to make them feel better and learn from their mistakes.

4. Getting dressed

clothesA child needs to learn this essential skill from a young age. From the age of 2 years old a child should be able to put on and take off their underwear, pants, loose fitting shirts and shorts. Although it is faster for a parent to assist, a child needs time and praise to master this life skill.


5. Sibling arguments

fighting shirtIn every household that has more than one child there is probably not a day that goes past without an argument between the siblings. This is a normal part of development for children however what we do as parents can influence the rate of development. Children need time to work it out themselves. We can not always be the umpire but be there if they want some help. The help is in the form of suggestion so the child still has the control of their own actions. When all else fails you could always try the shirt in the picture to force your children to work it out independently.

6. Putting things away

put away clothesEvery person in a household needs to be responsible for their own things. If you get it out you need to put it away. This is not only for toys but should also apply to clothing. A child as young as 2 years old will be able to put away their own clothing if the drawers are at their height.


7. Putting on shoes

ShoesTeaching a child to put on their own shoes will save a lot of time in the future. Use a sticker that is cut in half so children can quickly identify which shoe goes on which foot.


8. Pack own bag

A child needs to be responsible for packing their own bag. They need to know what they need for each day. They could have a visual checklist to remind them what they need for each school day.

9. Handing in notes

notesHaving a spot in the home for all school notes will help the home be very organised. It is up to the child to give notes to the parent and give any notes to school. If they forget, it will need to come down to a “life lesson”

I would like to finish this blog with a quote from Ann Landers.

” It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do themselves, that will make them successful human beings”

Please share this blog to combat the rapidly increasing parenting method of “helicopter parenting”. It is so prevalent in schools today that our children are suffering as a consequence.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

10 ways of making your home more organised for the start of the school year

The 2015 school year has started already! The christmas holidays and celebrating the new year seem like a distant memory. Starting something new, like a new school year, always brings mixed emotions. Feelings of excitement and anticipation blended with anxiety and apprehension. Children often experience all these feelings as they begin their educational journey, either in preschool or kindergarten or as they start a new grade. As parents and educators we can assist children to make this transition period run as smoothly as possible.

Welcome to my next series of blogs titled “Starting off the school year successfully” In this first blog, I want to focus on the importance that organisation has in making the transition to a new school year very successful. The following 10 organisational ideas can be used for children who are starting preschool to children in high school.

1. Dedicate an area in the house to organise school items

organised areaTo eliminate the stress of searching for missing school bags, hats and school shoes, make a place in the house where your child puts their school items as soon as they walk into the house. You could also have a basket for your child to put any notes they receive in it and a basket where they can put their lunchbox so it can be restocked for the next day. Hooks are a great idea to hang school bags, library bags and sports bags on. Each hook could have a label for each child in the family or class.

2. Organise a place to have the uniforms for each day

organise clothingSave time searching for parts of uniforms by organising the weekly uniforms on Sunday night. Have an allocated place for the school uniform, sports uniform, extra curricular outfits and all the shoes that accompany each outfit. Encourage your child to get this ready as part of their back to school routine on Sunday night. You could also allocate a spot next to the uniforms for any equipment (like an instrument) that the child might need for a particular day.

3. Have a visual “chore” list

chore listIt is important for your child (no matter what age) to contribute to the daily running of the household. It is up to every family member to have an active role in the household to keep it running successfully. Having a visual board to keep track of chores completed for the day will help everyone in the house know what still needs to be completed and by who. Children need to see that we all need to work together in order achieve things. The chore list would be made to reflect the age of the child. The example on the left would be for a young child. You could have a checklist for an older child.

4. Have a family recharge station

recharge stationThis is practical for two reasons. The first being that there is a central location where all device chargers are kept so it easy to charge a device. The second reason is probably a more important one. The recharge station is located in the centre of the house, therefore it encourages children to place their devices at the recharge station at night and not in their bedroom. Today in our society, we have a huge problem of children not getting enough sleep due to the overuse of devices at night and as a result they lack concentration and perform poorly at school the next day.

5. Pack the school lunch the night before

Incorporate packing the school lunch into your child’s night routine. They need to be responsible for selecting a healthy lunch and snacks that they would eat the following day. They need to put it in a spot that will be easy to grab the next morning. They could also prepare their water bottle and place it next to their lunch so everything is together.

6. Organise the school lunch supplies

pantryAfter purchasing items from the supermarket for school lunches, divide the snacks into individual portions. Organise all these snacks in an area of the pantry so they are only used for the school lunches. Keep them in a box or basket to make it easier to get in and out of the pantry. You could also do the same with fruit by dedicating an area or crisper drawer to the school fruit snacks. Your child can then pick three snacks to add into their lunch box each day.

7. A dedicated homework area

homework stationThis needs to be in a central location of the house. It needs to be stocked with all the supplies that could be needed to complete homework. For example glue, scissors, calculator, ruler, pens, eraser etc. Have a time set that all children in the house need to be at their homework station so the home is very quiet. All televisions and white noise to be turned off during the designated time. Have a set duration (e.g. 30 minutes - 60minutes) that the children need to be working for and then any other homework can be finished off after dinner.

8. A box with compartments for small things

compartmentsHave a box or basket that has dividers in it to organise the important smaller items in your house. These items could include keys, sunglasses, wallets and phones. Have it in a central location so it is practical for all family members. This will make it very easy to locate these items that often go missing in busy households.

9. Have a family calendar

calenderA family calendar is essential to keep track of all the comings and goings of a busy household. It helps children to visually see what is coming up on what day and what items they may need for that particular event. Children thrive on knowing what to expect next, so a family calendar will help children plan out their week. Each family member could be allocated a colour so it is easy to see what each member of the family has on for each day.

10. Plan the dinner meals for the week

menusPlanning the dinner meals for the week will help you save a lot of time and money. You will only need to do one shop to get all the groceries you need and you will not throw out food that you have not used. Knowing what food to make on each night helps give you time to be with the children to talk to them about their day or to help them with their homework. Allocate quick and easy meals to nights that there may be a lot of extra curricular activities on. Get your child involved in the meal preparation or setting the table. Have a chart to show the family the meals of the week and you could allocate who will help you prepare each meal.

An organised house helps eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress caused by lack of planning. Organisation is an important skill for children to develop and it is essential that they are active participants in contributing to the organisation of the household. This will ensure that they have every opportunity to be successful as they begin their new school year.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog about how organisation can help to make the start of the new school year successful. I hope you have found all the tips and ideas useful for you and your family. My next blog in this series will be focusing on tips to create independent children.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Teaching Mathematics To Young Children - Addition and Subtraction

Children need to have many opportunities to problem solve using mental strategies before they are exposed to more rigid, procedural strategies. We want our children to approach each Mathematical task creatively and critically. 


Welcome to my third and final blog in the series “Teaching Mathematics to young children”. In this blog I aim to educate parents on the effective strategies that children need to learn to solve addition and subtraction problems. I also want to highlight the negative effect algorithms have on young children. (An algorithm is the strategy of using a set of rules and set procedure to solve a problem)

In my experience, most parents tend to focus on one strategy to help their child work out an answer to an addition or subtraction problem. It is usually the “Algorithm Method” as this is how they were taught to solve these problems when they went to school. Unfortunately teaching this to a child too early does more harm than good.

Why we do not teach an algorithm to a child under 10 years old?

I have coached many different types of sports for a long time and I always encounter the same problem as a coach no matter what sport it is. Children want to work on a harder aspect of the game before they are ready to. In basketball, the children all want to shoot a “three pointer” when they first start. In order to do this, they do not use the correct shooting technique. They just throw the ball and hope for the best. This incorrect technique will need to be “unlearnt” in order for them to develop their shooting skills in the future. This is harder than learning it the correct way from the beginning.

While teaching students addition and subtraction, I encounter the same problem. Students have constantly been exposed to algorithms as a method of solving problems without understanding the concepts behind the algorithm. They have learnt how to solve the problems as a procedure instead of what is logical and what makes sense.

Teaching a child how to use an algorithm too early will encourage your child to learn a procedure by rote learning (learning something off by heart) instead of understanding what they are doing.

Now let’s look at the addition and subtraction strategies that will benefit your young child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s problem solving toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve a number problem successfully.

Strategy 1 – Split strategy

A child “splits” up a number into their place value to add or subtract quickly. For example 45 + 23 = . The child would be encouraged to add the larger place value numbers first as this is the logical way that our minds work. In their mind they would add 40 and 20, which would equal 60 and then add 5 and 3 together to make 8. The final step would be to add the two totals together. 60 + 8 = 68

Strategy 2 – Jump strategy

A child “jumps” from the stated number forwards or backwards depending if the problem involves addition or subtraction. For example 45 + 23 = . The child would be encouraged to put the 45 in their head. They would then jump 2 tens forwards to make the number 65 and then jump another 3 forward to make the number 68.

Strategy 3 – Compensation strategy

A child rounds a number to make it easier to calculate. They then adjust the answer to compensate for the original rounding. For example 97 + 63 =. A child would round the 97 to 100 in their head. They would then add 100 and 63 together to equal 163. Then they take away 3 to compensate for the addition of 3 at the beginning of the problem solving. The answer would be 160.

Children need to have a solid understanding of addition and subtraction strategies before they use algorithms to solve problems. Introducing children to algorithms after they have this solid understanding will allow them to develop their number sense, make fewer errors, have strong mental computation (mental problem solving) and require less “reteaching” of concepts. As parents and educators, we need to encourage children to explain how they solved a problem mentally. This will enable a deeper understanding of the concept to occur.

Many parents inform me how much they disliked Mathematics when they went to school. They always throw around terms like “borrow and pay back”, and “a number doesn’t go into another number”. What do these terms actually mean? We need to be clearer in our own understanding of Mathematics before we start assisting our children. We need to make sure that our children have a positive experience of Mathematics. We can do this by teaching them for understanding and not just learning procedures like many of us were taught. These procedures have a place in solving problems but it should not be used as strategy for young children until they have a solid understanding of the concept of addition and subtraction which comes around 10 years of age.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. We have loved writing our series “Teaching Mathematics to young children”. Our next series will be available next week. The three part series will be titled “How to make the new school year successful for your child” It will provide a lot of tips for parents to enable you to provide the best learning environment possible for your child.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Teaching Mathematics to Young Children - Place Value

Focusing on children having a deep understanding of concepts in Mathematics when they are young, will set them up to be successful problem solvers and critical thinkers in the future.

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Teaching Mathematics to young children” In this blog, we look at the importance of “place value” in contributing to a child’s number sense. This blog outlines the growth points (see my previous blog for a definition of growth points) that children go through to achieve an understanding of place value.

Place value is the understanding of “where” a digit is in a number and knowing the value of it. For example, in the number 6 023, the place value of 2 is “tens” and in the number 2.43, the place value of 3 is “hundredths”. A solid understanding of place value allows the child to read, write, order and interpret numbers confidently.

Below is a list of the growth points of “place value” that children should move through and parent tips of how to support their child at home to achieve a given growth point.

Growth Point 1: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting single digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 1 digit numbers (1 – 9), be able to write them (number reversals are fine eg The numeral 2 is written backwards), can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 6 cars for the number 6. This growth point is usually achieved between 4 – 6 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

  • Play the game “memory” with some numeral cards (numbers) and dot cards (dots on a card to match a numeral).
  • Make towers with blocks (1-9 blocks) and get the child to write the corresponding number on a post it note to stick in front it.
  • Ask your child to collect a specific amount of objects that they roll on a dice. (eg if they roll a 4, they have to get 4 balls)
  • The main focus is getting the child to recognise the name of the number, what the numeral looks like and to show how the number is represented (show amount with objects). This is called the number triad. All three aspects must be taught together so the child learns the relationship between all of them.
  • The adult and child can walk around the house with post it notes and count things they see. (objects between 1-9). After they count it, help the child to write the number on the paper and stick it up next to object/s. Eg write the number 4 next to the light switch that has 4 buttons.
  • Mix up all the numeral cards (1-9) and ask the child to put them from smallest to largest. You can include dots on the card so they can see it is increasing. Also expose your child to the terms; lowest to highest and ascending order. Then mix it up again and ask them to order the cards from largest to smallest. (or highest to lowest or descending order). Ask lots of questions about how they knew how to do it. If they can explain, it shows a deep understanding and knowledge of the concept.

Growth Point 2: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting two digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 2 digit numbers (10 – 99), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 37 cars (shown by 3 rows of 10 cars and 7 cars by themselves) for the number 37. This growth point is usually achieved between 6 – 8 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

  • The child must gain the understanding of tens being their own value of 1. Many children still consider the tens as large collections of ones. (For example 30 needs to be seen as 3 tens and not 30 ones) Parents can help this concept by making bundles (tens). Use paddle pop sticks and get the child to make bundles of 10 and wrap an elastic band around them. You could count these bundles by tens with the child. Explain to your child that this is a ten as there are 10 in it.
  • Play a bundling game. The child rolls a dice and collects that amount of paddle pop sticks from the middle. They roll again. Once they have got ten paddle pop sticks they use an elastic band to make a bundle. They keep rolling and making bundles until they get to 99. Once they get there, when they roll the dice you could go backwards. They will have to separate a bundle when they need to take away ones but they have no more ones left. Constantly ask your child what number they have made and write the number on a paper. (ask before each roll) You want them to make the connection that for two digit numbers, the first numeral represents how many bundles (tens) and the second numeral represents how many ones.
  • Play ordering number games. Give your child a variety of two digit numbers (about 10 of them) to peg up on a piece of string in ascending order. (make sure you use all the different terms for ordering as mentioned above). Then mix them up and get them to peg them up in descending order.
  • A lot of children when they start to write two digit numbers write the numerals in the wrong order. (eg fourteen is written as 41) This error shows that a child does not have the understanding of the place value for writing numbers. They make the same error when they read numbers.
  • The ‘teen numbers’ are particularly difficult for children as they are said differently to how they are written. (children hear the eight first in 18 and write it with an 8 then a 1) We need to do lots of work on teen numbers with our children. Play lots of games where the focus is reading and recording teen numbers. (eg get the child to start with a teen number, roll a dice and you decide whether they have to add or subtract (try to get them to stay within teen numbers), the child needs to make the number, write the new number and say it. The child rolls again and you can choose again whether they add that amount or take it away. – Remember to use bundles as we want them to know that the first numeral represents tens.

Growth Point 3: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting three digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 3 digit numbers (100 – 999), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 136 to be shown as 1 hundred, 3 tens and 6 ones. This growth point is usually achieved between 8 - 10 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

  • To continue on from the two digit numbers, hundreds need to be seen as having a value of 1 and not a very large collection of objects.
  • Many children who begin writing 3 digit numbers always write them as they hear them (eg 326 is written as 30026) To help this concept, you could continue to play the bundling game and show them that 100 is 10 bundles together. You can call this a mega bundle. Start the game at a high two digit number. Focus the child’s attention on having a zero for the tens when the number has just gone over 100 or 200.
  • Play a game focusing on the role of zero in a three digit number. Give the child 3 numeral cards, one being a zero and get them to chose an order. Once the child has chosen an order get them to make that number with equipment. Then ask the child to change the order of the numerals and get them to make the new numeral. Ask the child if changing the order of numerals in a number makes a difference?
  • Play a 3 digit recording game. Tell the child a number and get them to type it into a calculator. Press the clear button. Then tell them another 3 digit number. Make sure you include numbers with a zero. (harder numbers are 316, 204 etc)
  • Play an ordering game. Give the child a variety of 3 digit numbers and he/she puts them in ascending order or descending order.

Growth Point 4: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting four digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 4 digit numbers (1000 – 9999), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral. Eg 4561 to be shown as 4 thousands, 5 hundreds, 6 tens and 1 one. This growth point is usually achieved between 9 - 12 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

  • To continue on from the three digit numbers, thousands need to be seen as having a value of 1 and not a very large collection of objects.
  • Ask your child to write down a variety of 4 digit numbers that you say to them. Ensure you say lots of numbers with a zero in them. (eg 2016, 4510, 5003)
  • Ask your child to read lots of environmental print that has 4 digit numbers. (prices of furniture etc)
  • Get your child to make up an imaginative shopping trolley filled with items from a catalogue. (find a catalogue with many items that all cost a four figure amount) After your child has chosen many items ask them to order them from the most expensive to least expensive or the other way around.

Growth Point 5: Extending and applying place value knowledge.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able use their knowledge and understanding of place value to solve challenging mathematical problems. This growth point is usually achieved between 10 - 13 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

  • Expose your child to lots of word problems that involve place value. (eg What number is 6 hundreds more and 3 tens less than 8722?)
  • Get your child to roll the dice 4 times. Each time they roll it represents a numeral in a different place value. (Eg Roll One= 3, Roll Two = 4, Roll Three= 3 and Roll Four= 6. The number would be 3436) Ask the child lots of place value questions about this numeral. Eg What is 10 more, 10 less, 100 more, 100 less, 1000 more, 1000 less, 20 more etc)
  • Begin to expose them to decimals. Show them lots of prices in supermarkets and explain that anything before the decimal point is a whole and anything after is part of a whole. Introduce terms such as “tenths”, “Hundredths”, “Thousandths”. Explain to them that the addition of the ‘th’ at the end of the word means it is smaller than 1. (This concept is further developed in other growth points)

Place value is a very important element in understanding ‘number’. It is often assumed that a child has a good understanding of it, but when specific questions about place value are asked, many gaps in their understanding are discovered.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the second blog in my series “Teaching Mathematics to young children” as much as I have enjoyed writing it. The final blog in this series will be focusing on the development of a child’s understanding in addition and subtraction.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani


How To Teach Mathematics To Young Children - Counting

Asking the right mathematical questions at the right time to your child can make the difference that enables deep learning to occur and a solid foundation for other concepts to be built upon.

CountingAs a primary school teacher, I am often asked many questions about the best strategies to use when helping a child with mathematics or about what mathematical concepts to focus on with a child to get them to have a deeper understanding of mathematical content. There is a lot of information about teaching mathematics to a young child so I thought I would cover a couple of topics through three blogs in a series titled “How to teach mathematics to young children”. This is the first blog of the series focusing on “Counting”.

Number sense is very important for children to be able to effectively and efficiently work with numbers to solve problems in their everyday life. Counting is one part of number sense and it becomes a very important skill that assists children to solve problems.

Children’s early numeracy (mathematical) development can be described using ‘growth points’. These can be thought of as “steps” on a learning journey. Each “step” is a growth point that a child must be successful at before moving onto the next. They move through the growth points to achieve a deep understanding of that particular domain. (eg counting, place value, additions and subtraction, multiplication and division)

Below is a list of the growth points of counting that children should move through and parent tips of how to support their child at home to achieve a given growth point.

Growth Point 1 - Rote counting to at least 20

This growth point is about the child being able to count forwards independently to at least 20 without making mistakes. (skipping a number or saying the wrong number) It is hoped that most children are able to do this before starting Kindergarten; however most children are unable to do this. Giving children many opportunities to count in the early years gives them a big advantage when they start school.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Give your child many opportunities of hearing you count forwards in your everyday life (eg counting the fruit you put into a bag at the green grocer or counting the number of cars in a line in the carpark as you walk back to your car)
  • Point out numbers in environmental print (print used in everyday life) eg number plates, house numbers on letter boxes, digital clocks, phone numbers on advertisements)
  • Sing counting songs (5 little ducks, 10 green bottles)
  • Read counting picture books (Ten little ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Counting kisses by Karen Katz)
  • Play counting games e.g. The parent and child take turns saying a number. You could include more people in the game when the child gets more confident with their knowledge.
  • Don’t always stop counting at a number ending with a zero (10, 20, 30, 40 etc) Start at 0 and finish at 35.

Growth Point 2 - Confidently counts a collection of around 20 objects

This growth point is about the child understanding that each object represents 1 and confidently uses this knowledge to count a collection of objects. A lot of children find it hard to organise their collection in order to count it correctly. Most children usually keep their collection in a pile and try to point to each object while counting; however they will miss counting some objects or count objects twice using this method. Our focus should be getting children to organise their collection to make counting the objects easier. By moving the object to another space when it has been counted, or setting up the objects in rows or lines, it will help the child to successfully count them. To achieve this growth point, the child must be able to count at the same pace as they point to the object. (Many children count slower than their finger pointing to the object) This growth point is usually achieved between 4 - 7 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Give your child many opportunities to count different objects for you (e.g. Ask the child to get 5 potatoes for you to peel, ask them to count how many necklaces you have, ask them how many toy cars they have)
  • Play simple board games to get your child moving their player piece the amount of spots on the board that the dice tells them eg snakes and ladders, trouble (when your child gets good at this encourage them to try and tell you the number on the dice without counting them. This is called subitising and it is important for ‘number’ understanding)
  • Play guessing games with your child. For example, put some (13 - 25) toy cars in a bucket and ask your child to tell you how many cars they think are in there. Then get your child to check by counting them.
  • Practise arranging objects in different ways and get your child to investigate which ways are the easiest to count. (moving objects, placing them in rows, placing objects in a line) You can demonstrate how you set up the objects.
  • Play matching games (eg Matching the collection of objects to the numeral or matching pictures of objects with their numeral)

Growth Point 3 - Counts forwards and backwards from various starting points between 0 - 120 and knows numbers before and after a given number

This growth point is about the child being able to start from any number between 0 - 120 and count forwards from that number and backwards from that number confidently. They must also be able to identify what number comes before and what number comes after each number. Achieving this growth point helps the child with the “count on” strategy in mathematics. For example if a child had 23 apples and a friend gave them 4 more, they could start with 23 in their head and continue counting four more (24, 25, 26, 27) instead of starting at 1 and counting to 27. Children are exposed to lots of language in mathematics and it is important they understand the terms, more and less and before and after to achieve this growth point. This growth point is usually achieved between 6 - 8 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  •  Focus on counting which moves from one decade to another (e.g. Asking your child to start at 45 and count forwards by ones. The focus is to see if they can go from the 40’s to the 50’s confidently. Then ask them to start at 45 and count backwards by ones. The focus is to see if they can go from the 40’s to the 30’s confidently).
  • Constantly use lots of terms to ask the same counting question. Children need to be exposed to as many mathematical terms as possible in order to answer questions. Some children get ‘stuck’ on a growth point as they do not understand a particular mathematical term. (e.g. Tell the child to pick any number between 30 - 120. Once they have picked a number, say 67 ask them what is one less or the number before or what it would be if you took one away, or what it would be if you subtract 1. The child needs to understand all these terms. Then you could ask them what is the number after, or one more, or add one or plus one)
  • The biggest error that a child usually makes to keep them from achieving this growth point is knowing the numbers beyond 109. So many children will say 120 after 109. It is important for children to see the numbers in a line (not a table that is usually on posters) so they realise that numbers increase in size as we count forwards. So many children only have experiences of counting up to 100 and this really limits their abilities. Even though we as adults recognise the patterns of numbers children do not. Encourage your child to start at 105 and count forwards or 116 and count backwards. Get your child to make the number 109 with blocks and 120 with blocks and show them that there are many numbers between.
  • Allow your child many opportunities to make numbers over 100. Children need to know numbers in a triad. They need to know what the numeral is, what the name of the number is and what the amount of the number looks like. A lot of parents and teachers take away the maths equipment too early and this creates a lot of set backs to children’s mathematical development. Encourage your child to prove their understanding with equipment.

Growth Point 4 - Can count from 0 by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s

This growth point is about the child recognising simple number patterns by counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. We need to help the child realise that we count by these patterns to make counting quicker and more efficient. We need children to learn how to choose the the most efficient type of counting for each situation. For example if we had 11 pairs of socks, we could count the socks by 2’s or if there were 6 bunches of 10 flowers, we could count the flowers by 10’s) This growth point is usually achieved between 7 - 9 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Get your child to watch you count objects during your everyday life by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. You could also get your child to do it with you. (pairs of socks when doing the laundry, counting how much money you have in coins - 10 cent pieces or 5 cent pieces)
  • Rote count by 2’s, 5,s and 10,s in the car, or on a walk and any other time you have quiet time with your child. Make sure you always go past 109.
  • Write out a number line and get your child to colour in all the numbers that you say when you count by 2’s. You can do the same with 5’s and 10’s. Try not to use a table (where numbers are in rows and after each decade the numbers start a new row) as children need to see that numbers are linear (increase in size as a pattern) We have a lot of children who say that the number before 39 is 29 as it is the number on top of it in a table.

Growth Point 5 - Being given a non zero starting point, count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s

This growth point is about the child using their knowledge of number patterns to count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s starting from a number that is not usually in the rote learnt pattern. For example the child can start at 4 and count by 5’s. (4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29 etc) They need to be able to count by these patterns in both a forward and backward direction. This growth point is usually achieved between 8 - 10 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Practise saying number patterns with your child by saying one number each. Make sure you start at a number that is not normally in their rote learnt pattern. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern.
  • Write out a number line and get your child to colour in all the numbers that you say when you count by 2’s from a number that is not normally in the rote learn pattern. You can do the same with 5’s and 10’s.
  • Get the child to continue patterns that you have written down. Eg 86, 76, 66, 56, 46, _____,  ________, ________
  • You can expose your child to the concept that there are numbers that are smaller than 0. Talk about temperatures in cold countries that can get to minus degrees. A thermometer is a number line that goes vertical instead of horizontal.

Growth Point 6 - Can count from a non zero starting point by any single digit number and can apply counting skills in a practical task.

This growth point is about the child being able to count by 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s and 9’s from any number. They can confidently count forwards and backwards by any of these number patterns. They also need to be able to use this skill and apply it to solving mathematical problems. It is important that children are able to communicate how they solved a problem in order for them to have a deep understanding of it. This growth point is usually achieved between 9 - 12 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Practise saying number patterns with your child by saying one number each. Make sure you start at a number that is not normally in their rote learnt pattern. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (Count forwards and backwards by 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, 9’s)
  • Ask your child questions about multiple numbers before and after a given number. (e.g. 3 more than 124, 6 less than 133, 8 after 89, 9 before 121)
  • Practise counting negative numbers. (For example start at 3 and count backwards by 4’s. : 3, -1, -5, -9, -13, -17)
  • Make up mathematical problems that require counting to solve it. (Eg There were 6 tables at a wedding. One table had 9 people on it and the other tables had 8. How many people altogether?)

Growth Point 7 - Counting using fractions and decimals

This growth point is about the child counting by numbers that are less than a whole. They can confidently count using fractions and decimals. For example they can count by halves, quarters, fifths, sixths, tenths etc. They can successfully count forwards and backwards using fractions and decimals. This growth point is usually achieved from 10 years old to the beginning years of high school.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

  • Practise counting by fractions with your child. Talk about pizzas or cakes to give them a context (a real life situation) You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (half, one, one and a half, two, two and a half, three) or (by fifths - one fifth, two fifths, three fifths, four fifths, one, one and one fifth etc)
  • Practise counting by decimals with your child. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (count forwards by 0.6 starting at 0.7 : 0.7, 1.3, 1.9, 2.5)

The main focus of teaching your child mathematics is having lots and lots of conversation about it. Mathematics is very literacy (English) based and in order for your child to succeed they need to have a deep understanding of many mathematical terms. We have moved on from textbooks and rote learning that we experienced when we went to school to having a focus on children learning concepts for a deeper knowledge and understanding of mathematics.

I hope you have found this first blog in the series “How To Teach Mathematics To Young Children” useful and informative. The next blog will be about The growth points of place value, which is another domain that has a large impact on a child’s number sense. I hope you have been able to work out what growth point your child is at in counting and have found the strategies that you can do with your child useful to help them move onto the next growth point.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog about counting. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani

What to read with your child

Exposing children to a variety of texts in both fiction and non fiction categories will enable them to understand that all texts have a purpose. Children need to have knowledge about the purpose of an author to have a deep comprehension of the text.

littleboyWelcome to my third and final blog in the series “How to read with your child” In this blog we focus on different texts we should be exposing our children to at different ages. This exposure will help build a solid foundation for your child in knowing about text types in our world and as a result give them more opportunities to develop their understanding about reading.

It is very easy to get into the habit of just exposing your child to picture books and story based books. There are so many wonderful story books out there that offer so much to a child. Even though these are extremely important, there is a whole other genre of reading that many children are not exposed to before school. Non fiction texts or Factual texts are very important to beginning readers. These texts give information about our world and are written in a different structure compared to fiction (story) texts. We need children to be exposed to all types of texts in order to give them a solid foundation in literacy.

Another aspect of reading that will be referred to in this blog is “Environmental Print”. Environmental print is simply the print of everyday life. It could be signs, advertisements, labels or logos. For beginning readers this print can help the child understand the purpose of letters and the use of letters in words.

A description of what to read to a child of a particular age and parent tips for that age group are listed below.

Age Group : Babies to 2 years old

This is the time when a child’s language is emerging. They are experimenting with different sounds and working out how to put sounds together to make words. This is a stage of rapid growth and learning and it is essential to give a child in this stage as many opportunities to develop their communication skills as possible. A child in this age learns through play. One aspect of play is reading. Simple non fiction (fact) texts are great to read with your child. Encouraging your child to point to objects on the page (or a parent points) and naming that object will help a child learn new words. Reading simple stories that are repetitive will help develop your child’s understanding of how our language works.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Spot books by Eric Hill
  • Five Little Monkey’s Jumping On The Bed by Eileen Christelow
  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  • Are You My Mother? By P.D Eastman
  • That’s Not My … Books by Usborne Children’s books
  • Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Baby’s Very First Little Book of Farm Animals - Usborne (Publisher)
  • Spot’s Fun First Words by Eric Hill
  • Babies - Baby Einstein (Publisher)

Environmental Print

  • For a child closer to 2 years old you can encourage them to find their name on objects (drink bottle, lunch box)
  • Focus on the letters of their name and the sounds they make. (Their name is important to them, therefore learning about it can be very motivating)
  • Shop names - Pointing out the names of shops to the child

Parent tips

At this age children need to be involved in a lot of conversation to develop their communication skills. This can occur successfully during reading time with your child. While reading a farm book together, try getting your child to make the sounds of the different animals when you point to them in a book. Talk to them about the animals and what things they do. For a child closer to 2 years old, point to the name of the animal (e.g. cow) on the page and tell them that it says the word “cow”. With a fiction book, encourage your child to read the book with you. You need to read the book many times for the child to remember some of the words. (especially the end word of rhyming sentences)

Age Group : 2 to 4 years old

This stage will see your child move from saying two words together (mum’s car, big ball) to complex sentences. It is another stage of rapid growth and learning. Children in this age group becoming increasingly aware of the world around them. This is an ideal time to point out all the environmental print around them. Children in this age group are interested in “why” things are the way they are, so using this thirst for knowledge with reading non fiction (fact) texts will help them make meaning of our world. They become very interested in story lines and how a problem is solved in the story. Children will begin to “pick up” how our written language works, but by pointing some features out (eg letters, words, punctuation) it will help to form the beginning stages of reading.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

2-3 year olds

  • Can I cuddle the moon by Kerry Brown
  • Koala Lou by Mem Fox
  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
  • Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Brown Bear, Brown bear, What do your see by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr

3 - 4 year olds

  • Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen
  • Belinda by Pamela Allen
  • Alexander’s outing by Pamela Allen
  • Goodnight moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • From Tadpole to Frog by David Steward
  • From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Legg
  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Gerald Legg
  • From Egg to Chicken by Gerald Legg

Environmental Print

  • Reading their name in a variety of situations (finding their name tag amongst others, finding their painting with their name, their name on a piece of clothing)
  • Signs in the environment (toilet signs, carpark sign, speed limits, own street sign, number plates on cars, stop signs, crossing signs, packets on food)
  • Reading shop names (Kmart, Coles, Woolworthes, Post Office, McDonalds)

Parent tips

  • While going for a walk, encourage your child to say the names and sounds of letters on number plates
  • Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
  • During reading time read a few invitations that you have received for different celebrations. Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is the party?, where it is?, Who is it from?, What is an RSVP? When is it?
  • During reading time read a few cards that you have received for a particular occasion. (birthday, christmas, christening) Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is their message?, who is it from? What is common in most cards?

Age Group : 4 to 6 years old

Children in this age group are usually in daycare, preschool or Kindergarten. They are getting exposed to lots of texts and environmental print in their educational setting. An educational setting can open up a whole new world to children with a variety of new and exciting texts. The home environment can support this by using lots of environmental print and reading a variety of texts during reading time. It is said that in order for a child to learn something new, they need to have 200 “hits” at it. This means that a child needs to have at least 200 different reading experiences before they are even ready to start reading. This is the important stage to ensure that they are getting a variety of quality learning experiences about reading prior to beginning “big school”. It will give them such a good start to formal education.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox
  • Shoe’s from Grandpa by Mem Fox
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr Suess
  • Animalia by Graeme Base
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Oxenbury

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Books about the weather
  • Books about animals
  • Books about our body eg senses
  • Books about People eg occupations

Environmental Print

  • Reading their name in a variety of situations
  • Reading shop names
  • Reading traffic signs
  • Reading packages of groceries
  • Reading number plates
  • Reading advertisements

Parent tips

  • Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
  • Get family members to send simple letters to your child. Read them during reading time. Also look at the envelope and talk about the features (stamp, address, return address)
  • Read simple poetry with your child
  • Make a poster with your child using information about a text they are reading. You can write most of the words. Include labels and diagrams as this is a very important aspect of texts. Explain to your child how to read them.
  • Do activities about the fiction (story) books that you read. Do a craft activity, Draw a picture of the main character, role play the story, change the story to have a different ending. These activities will help a child comprehend the story and help with sequencing events.
  • Use labels around your house to increase the “environmental print”

Age Group : 6 to 8 years old

Children in this age group attend primary school  and are in the infant grades. These are the most important years in your child’s education as they lay the foundation of learning for the next 13 years of schooling. Even though the children attend school, there is still so much that the parents can do at home to give their child the best opportunity to reach their potential. Children receive levelled reading books as their home reader from school. A lot of parents focus on the reading level of the book rather then what reading strategies their child is or is not using. (See my previous blog for more detail about reading strategies) The reading book that comes home should be “easy” for your child. Its purpose is to encourage your child to read with fluency and expression. The readers (reading books) that come home will be from both fiction and non fiction genres. They may include information reports, letters, stories, recounts and poetry.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess
  • Alexander and the very horrible, no good, very bad day by Judith Voirst
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Early chapter books

  • 1 - Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
  • 2 - Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
  • 3 - Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
  • 4 - Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
  • 5 - Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
  • 6 - Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic Corporation)
  • 7 - Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
  • 8 - Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  • 9 - Frankly Frannie by AJ Stern
  • 10 - The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
  • 11 - Agatha: Girl of Mystery
  • 12 - Keena Ford by Melissa Thomson
  • 13 - Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • 14 - Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee,
  • 15 - Roald Dahl Stories

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Books about transport
  • Books about landmarks
  • Books about planets
  • Books about history

Environmental print

  • Reading words from a word wall (wall full of words in a classroom)
  • Reading words on signs, diagrams, labels
  • Reading words around them to help them with spelling them

Parent tips

  • Get your child to read instructions of how to do something e.g. how to put together something or reading a recipe
  • Get your child to make their own books. This will allow you to know if your child has a great understanding of how a book work. (Eg A factual book about a particular animal. Does it have a contents page?, page numbers, title, author, glossary)
  • Visit your local library often and borrow a variety of books
  • Encourage your child to read anything they write to you.
  • Share a chapter book with your child. Read a chapter a night during reading time.

Age Group : 8 to 10 years old

Children of this age are beginning to read harder texts on more complex topics. The fiction books they read have more complicated story plots as well as many sub plots. Some children can sound like they are reading quite well but they actually have low levels of comprehension (understanding what they have read). It is important that we do not rush children onto harder books without having the comprehension to match. Asking lots of questions and having lots of conversation about the book can really improve a child’s comprehension. A lot of children read chapter books at this stage but sharing a picture book with harder themes can have many benefits. Discussing themes and issues with your child that appear in a picture book of chapter book helps their knowledge and understanding of the world. At this stage children need to have lots of experiences with factual texts to become efficient at locating the correct information. This will help their research skills for projects they are working on for all subjects.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Suess
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • The True story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  • Prince Cinders by Babette Cole
  • An Ordinary Day by Libby Gleeson

Chapter books

  • The Croc Ate My Homework by Stephan Pastis
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja by Marcus Emerson
  • Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis
  • Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  • The Alice Stories: Our Australian Girl by Davina Bell
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Specky Magee by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon
  • Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman
  • Our Australian Girl: Lina at the Games (Book 3) by Sally Rippin and Lucia Masciullo
  • Do You Dare? Bushranger’s Boys 1841 by Alison Lloyd

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Websites
  • Newspaper articles
  • Encyclopaedias (online)
  • Dictionary

Parent tips

  • Have a copy of a chapter book for yourself and your child (Borrow copies from the library) Read one chapter. (Take turns at reading paragraphs or read the chapter in your heads) At the end of the chapter have a discussion about what was read. Ask some questions to your child starting with the word “Why”
  • If a particular theme or issue comes up in a text, discuss with your child and then do something proactive about it. (Eg Refugees - Donate clothing or money to an organisation that helps refugees in Australia). Be as creative as you can.
  • Help your child highlight the important information from a website about a topic. Discuss why some facts are important and others are there to give more information about the topic.

The best gift you can give your child is a variety of experiences. It is wonderful to read about different aspects of our world, but for a child to experience these things first hand is remarkable. This will help them build their own connections and will help them to bring their own experiences into their reading. Share your love of reading with your child. Show them how we can be taken into another world with a story or learn some fascinating facts with a non fiction text.

I have really enjoyed writing this series of blogs about “How to read with your child”. I hope it has given you a lot of insight into the skill of reading and possible ideas to do with your child.

My next series will be about “Mathematics and young children” My first blog will be about the stages of counting. I am sure this will interest a lot of people.

Keep liking and sharing. I am so thankful for all your support.

Until next time ……

Kelly Pisani

How to read to your young child - Reading Strategies

Teaching children about reading strategies is equipping them with tools to solve reading problems. Using reading strategies effectively will help children become confident, fluent and expressive readers who develop a love of reading.

children readingWelcome to my second blog in the series “How to read to your young child” This blog outlines the strategies (or tools) that children need, to decode (work out) words that they are unsure about while reading. All these strategies need to be developed to enable the child to become an efficient reader.

In my experience, most parents tend to focus on one or two strategies to help their child work out a word. These are usually “Sound it out” or just tell the child what the word is straight away. Unfortunately neither one is helpful to the child!!

Why we never say “Sound it out” to a child

“Sound it out” was a familiar statement used by many teachers and parents in the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s. It requires the child to look at each letter in a word and say the corresponding sound. The English language is a complicated one. There are many spelling rules that we follow; however, there are many exceptions to these rules. It is a phonetically irregular language that doesn’t always follow the expected pattern.

Consider the word ‘rough’ - How would a child sound this word out? If they did, it would sound completely different to what the word really is. Then there is the other problem of letter patterns changing their sound from word to word. If you think of the ‘sound chunk’ ough; does it have the same sound in the following words; thought, dough, through, drought?

“Sounding it out” really confuses beginning readers and struggling readers. It is not a successful strategy in working out unknown words.

Why we do not tell the child the word straight away

Usually if a child cannot “sound an unknown word out” the parent resorts to telling them the word. This really limits a child’s ability and offers them no alternatives to problem solve the word for themselves. What happens if you were not there? Would the child have any idea as to how they could work out the word?

Now let’s look at the reading strategies that will benefit your child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s reading toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve an unknown word successfully.

Strategy Number 1: Look at the picture

Encourage your child to look at the picture to help them work out what the text might be. In simple books, the texts match the pictures exactly. As the books get more complex, the pictures still relate to the text but they do not always show everything that is written in the text.

blue sheep

Text relating very strongly to the picture – excerpt taken from “Where is the Green Sheep” by Mem Fox




This is one of the first strategies that your child should become an expert at. Many parents tell me that they cover the picture when their child reads so the child doesn’t “cheat” by looking at the picture. Looking at the picture is a very efficient problem solving strategy for beginning readers. If a child is reading and gets stuck on a word, tell them to look at the picture carefully and try reading the sentence again.

Tip for parents: Do a picture walk through the book with the child before reading the text. This means you talk about each picture with your child and you may focus your child on a particular aspect of the picture that will come up in the text. This will emphasise to your child the importance of pictures in a book.

Strategy Number 2: Get your mouth ready

This strategy is another great one for beginning readers. Using this strategy with the strategy of looking at the pictures will help your child think of a word that makes sense in the sentence. Getting your child to make the initial sound with their mouth will help the word “pop” out if they are reading in a smooth reading voice.

For example if the sentence is “A sheep lives on a farm” and your child is stuck on the word ‘farm’, encourage them to make the first sound of the word (f) with their mouth and it may just come out if they are listening to what they are reading. If they have stopped reading, give them the instruction to get their mouth in position to make the first sound and then tell them to have another go at the sentence and this time try not to stop.

Tip for parents: Encourage your child to read like they talk. A lot of children resort to a “robot type” reading which stops the child from understanding what they are reading as it is very disjointed. You want them to read, like they are talking so when they come to a word they don’t know and they get their mouth ready to make the first sound, it will usually just come out.

Strategy Number 3: Does it make sense?

The main goal of reading is for the child to comprehend (understand) what he/she is reading. They constantly need to be reminded that if they read something that doesn’t sound right, that they need to have another go at reading it. Parents can help with this by asking them if what they read made sense. By the parent repeating what the child said , they will be able to hear that what they said does not make sense. This is a strategy that develops over time as their reading ability improves.

Tip for parents: Record your child reading on your phone, iPad or any other recording device. Let your child watch it and ask them to comment on what they did well and what they could do better. Children love watching themselves and this can be a powerful tool to teach them how important it is to listen to how they read while they read.

Strategy Number 4: Sound chunks

This is a strategy used to help the child look at the entire word to see if they can use any prior knowledge they have about the sounds that letters make together or prefixes (letters added to the beginning of a word e.g. un, dis, in) or suffixes (letters added to the end of words e.g. ed, ing, less) Parents can help the child locate these in an unknown word.

Parents tip: Always try to get the child to come up with the word by asking the right questions. This will lead them to ask their own questions to themselves while reading if this is a common practice that you do with them. For example “Do you notice anything at the end of the word? ”

Strategy Number 5 : Little words in a big word

A lot of words in our language are made up of smaller words. Children can look for known words in a larger word to help them work out the entire word. Using this strategy with the “Does it make sense” strategy can help your child  work out a word.

Parents Tip: The child needs to have a good knowledge of sight words (words that are rote learnt by sight) to be efficient at this strategy. Practice sight words often with your child and encourage them to find them in texts that they are reading. Examples of sight words are; I, am, in, on, look, like, here, there, is, it,

Above all, reading needs to be enjoyable. If you find that your child is struggling on every second or third word, the book is too hard for them. We want children to be challenged but also experience a sense of accomplishment. Too often I hear about the arguments family’s experience to get their child to want to read each night (or day). Give your children time to develop their reading. Pushing harder books onto them too early will do more damage than good.

When a child finishes reading a book make sure you praise them for using some strategies to work out unknown words. Flick back to the page or pages that they worked out a word on and show them what they did again. Emphasis how proud you are of them that they are working out words independently.

If your child has tried to work out the word by using different strategies and they were unsuccessful, the parent can say the word and ask the child to reread that sentence.

Thank you for taking the time to read my second blog from the series “How to read to your young child”. I will be finishing off this series next week with my blog “What to read with your young child”

If you liked this blog and found it informative and useful please share it with your friends and family. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani