What every parent should know: The three reading levels

Term 2 is in full swing as children have settled into their new classroom and have developed their relationship with their new teacher. It is usually at this point that many parents want to know how they can help their child by supporting what is happening in the classroom. However, many parents feel quite anxious as their child moves up a grade as they find it difficult to understand what support their child needs. In this blog I am going to share a strategy that all parents can use with their child no matter what their child’s age.

imgresThis strategy is focusing on developing a child’s comprehension of a text and how they engage with the text. A text is any visual or written stimulus that a child is required to make sense of. It is important that they are given a variety of texts such as factual, fiction, and visual (eg advertising brochures) in order to have a deep understanding of how texts work and what they can learn from each.

I have named this strategy : THE THREE LEVELS OF READING

To see if a child truly understands what they have read they need to be able to answer questions about the text. These questions can be divided up into three categories.




Level 1 - Reading ON the line

on the lineThe answers to Level 1 questions are found ON the line of the text. This means that in order for the child to answer a level 1 question the child needs to go back to the text, find the answer and say it. This is a very literal level and requires simple comprehension skills.

Skills for this level: Remembering and Understanding

Question starters for this level: Who, what, where, when

Types of activities for this level: List, define, cite, define, retell, explain, describe




Level 2 - Reading BETWEEN the lines

betweenThe answers to Level 2 questions are found BETWEEN the lines of the text. This means that in order for the child to answer a level 2 question the child needs to go back to the text, look for clues that might help them answer it and form their answer with supporting evidence. This is an inferential level and requires good comprehension skills.

Skills for this level: Applying and Analysing

Question starters for this level: How and why

Types of activities for this level: Categorise, examine, demonstrate, dissect, implement, compare, contrast




Level 3 - Reading BEYOND the lines

beyondThe answers to Level 3 questions are found BEYOND the lines of the text. This means that in order for the child to answer a level 3 question the child needs to use the information from the text, their own knowledge and understanding of how the world works and apply it to form an answer. This is thematic level and requires high comprehension skills.

Skills for this level: Evaluating and Creating

Question starters for this level: What would it be like if …? What is another possible title for this text?, What would you do if…? How does this text connect with your life?

Types of activities for this level: Create, develop, generate, produce, imagine, justify, assess, conclude

It is important that children are asked questions from all levels no matter what their age. Many parents tend to stick with Level 1 questioning because it is simple but it does not give your child enough opportunity to develop their comprehension skills. Asking questions does not have to be a formal task that is done at the end when they are finished reading the text. Ask questions throughout to gauge their understanding and help clarify if needed. Get them to point out what they used to help them answer the question. Encourage your child to return to the text as many times as they want as it is not a memory test. Teaching comprehension skills will give them a solid foundation for reading and as a result help them in all subject areas.

If you remember nothing else from this blog, please remember this “Comprehension floats on a conversation”. Talk with your child about what you or they have read and ensure they really understand the purpose and ideas that are trying to be conveyed by the author.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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If you want to read more articles from this author please click on the links below:

10 ways to help your child to read

How to help your child form their letters correctly

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

 

10 Ways To Help Your Child Learn To Read

Reading is a skill that is developed over time. As parents and educators we are always looking for simple ways to help children learn this important skill while doing everyday activities.

The first thing I want to inform all parents is “TO PUT DOWN THOSE FLASH CARDS” Flash cards have no context. This means that the words are just said with no meaning behind it. Reading is about understanding language and knowing how language is put together. Flash cards do not teach either of these.

That said, it is important for children to learn simple sight words to help them read. These words are learnt best in a context (ie in a text). You can play many games with sight words to make it more interesting and engaging for your child.

If you want your child to have a deep understanding about learning to read, follow my 10 easy steps and your child will be well on their way.




1. Let your child see you reading

imgresChildren at a young age learn more through actions than words. Seeing an adult read is very powerful as children will realise the importance of reading to survive in our world.

 

2. Visit your library

imgres-1Let your child choose a book and read it together. Show them that reading is a wonderful skill to have that can open up many worlds to them. Show them books that you liked as a child and tell them why you liked them.

 




3. Enjoy reading with your child.

imgres-2Reading is part of many bedtime routines in households everywhere. Often due to this routine, reading is only viewed as an activity before bed by many children. It is important to grab a book at any time of the day and have fun reading it with your child. Laugh at humorous moments or change your voice for different characters.

4. Find rhyming words together

imgres-4Rhyming is very important when learning to read. It helps a child hear different sounds and consequently be able to write different words. Point out rhyming words when you have a conversation if any come up. Find rhyming words in texts you read together.

5. Play appropriate word and reading games with technology

imgres-5Children love using technology so why not find some educational games to play with your child that will help them learn about reading at the same time.

 




6. Set aside a place for reading

imgres-3It is lovely to have a comfortable spot in your house allocated to reading stories. It might be in a corner or on a big armchair. This makes the experience of reading more special for your child.

 

7. Pointing out words that begin with a certain letter

imgres-6Playing “I spy” or asking your child to point out pictures in a text that begin with a certain sound will help focus your child’s knowledge about phonics.

 

8. Ask children questions about the text they read

imgres-7Asking questions before, during and after reading a text is very important for children to build their knowledge about comprehension strategies. Asking questions like “What do you think will happen next?”, “What was your favourite part of the story and why was it your favourite?” and “Why did the character make that choice” will deepen their understanding about the text.

9. Read out loud to your child

imgres-8Children need to hear good phrasing and fluency when reading. All children under 12 years old benefit from hearing adults read.

 

10. Finding common words

imagesWhen you have finished reading a text, turn back to a few pages and ask them to point out some words for you.

 

If you endeavour to do some or all of these ideas, it will significantly increase your child’s success at learning to read. Children need to understand the importance and purpose of reading in our world before they can begin to do it themselves.

I hope you were able to take something away with you from this blog. Maybe you have a small child at home or a child who is about to start school next year that would benefit from some of these ideas.

Stay tuned to Creating A Learning Environment for the weekly blogs. Next week the blog will be dedicated to 10 ways to help your child with Math.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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The Best 8 DIY Costumes For Book Week

Book Week has arrived!! This coming week we celebrate books and all they offer. Most schools ask students to dress up as a favourite book character and participate in a book parade.

It is important to remember the main objectives of a book parade before you go off and spend a lot of money on a costume. The parade is an opportunity for children and their teachers to have some fun and get a little creative.

There are many home made costumes that I have seen over the years that are creative, inexpensive and do not require any sewing. Below is a list of 8 that I have complied that you may want to attempt.

1. Paper bag princess

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The Paper Bag Princess is a children’s book written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko.

The costume requires some brown paper, cut and stuck into a dress shape, a white long sleeve shirt, black tights and a small crown. You could put some face paint on to resemble dirt on her face.

2. Sam I Am

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Green Eggs and Ham is a best-selling and critically acclaimed children’s book by Dr Seuss, first published on August 12, 1960. Sam I Am is a character in this book.

The costume requires a yellow shirt, dark pants, red hat, cardboard sign that has “Sam I Am” written on it and a cardboard plate with green eggs and ham drawn on or stuck on.

3. Thing 1 and Thing 2

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The Cat in the Hat is a children’s book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr Seuss and first published in 1957. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are characters in this book.

The costume requires a red shirt with “Thing 1” or “Thing 2” written on while material or paper and stuck on. Blue or black pants or skirt with a blue wig.

4. Where’s Wally

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Where’s Wally? (known in the United States and Canada as Where’s Waldo?) is a series of children’s books created by the English illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of a series of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Wally is a character in the book that is hiding on each page.

The costume requires a red and white striped shirt, blue pants or skirt, red beanie and thick black glasses.

5. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree

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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a bestselling children’s book written by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert and published by Simon & Simon & Schuster in 1989.

The costume requires brown clothes, green cardboard leaves, brown or red cardboard circles and stick on letters. You can make a cardboard headband to wrap around the child’s head and stick the leaves onto the front part.

6. Heart card

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. The deck of cards characters are the guardians of the Queen of Hearts in this book.

The costume requires a red long sleeve shirt and pants, two pieces of white cardboard with red hearts painted on them and ribbon to stick the cardboard pieces together over the shoulder of the child.

7. Mr Men or Little Miss Character

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Mr. Men is a series of 49 children’s books by British author Roger Hargreaves, commencing in 1971. From 1981, an accompanying series of 42 Little Miss books by the same author, but with female characters.

The costume requires the child to wear a matching long sleeve shirt and pants in the same colour as the Mr Men or Little miss character. Using cardboard, the character is drawn and cut out. This is done twice to create a sandwich board.

8. Jack

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Jack and the Beanstalk is an English fairy tale. The earliest known appearance in print is Benjamin Tabart’s version of 1807. Jack is a character in this book trying to get money to buy food for his family.

This costume requires a brown long sleeve shirt and pants. You can make the beanstalk by stuffing newspaper into a pair of stockings. This is then painted green and light green paint added for some detail on the beanstalk. Wrap the stocking around the child and pin it to the clothes by using safety pins. The child could also have 3 golden eggs to carry and have his name attached to his shirt.

I hope some of these ideas have given you some inspiration to get creative for your child’s book week costumes. Involve your child on the decision making and the creating part of the costume. Children love being part of the process. Please remember, it is not about how expensive or extravagant the costume is. Book week is about celebrating all books and exploring all the wonderful characters that we are introduced to through books.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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The Celebration Of Books: Book Week Nominations

Book week is nearly here!! Each year, schools and public libraries across Australia spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators. Classroom teachers, teacher librarians and public librarians develop activities, offer competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading.

small BW promo logoThis year Book Week is being celebrated between  Saturday 22nd August - Friday 28th August 2015. Each year the Australian Book Council of Australia chooses a theme that will inspire children and adults to share their love of reading. This year the theme is “Books light up our world”. Book week this year is extra special as it will be celebrating 70 years since it all began.

 

In the lead up to book week, 6 books are nominated for the honourary title of book of the year from the Australian Book Council of Australia in their category. The categories are older readers book of the year, younger readers book of the year, early childhood book of the year, picture book of the year and the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. Books were shortlisted on April the 14th and the winner will be announce on Friday the 21st August at 12pm.

In this blog I will look at one book in each category that you may want to read with your child or children in your classroom.

Category: Nominated for Older Readers Book of the Year

Nona & Me by Claire Atkins

Nona and MeRosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas.

They are also best friends. It doesn’t matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life.

Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseperable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they’re in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena’s
gorgeous older brother Nick.

When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?

‘A fascinating book, beautifully told, with rich insight into a deeply Australian but little known community.’ – Jackie French

Category: Nominated for Younger Readers Book of the Year

Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks

Two WolvesAn old man tells his grandson that there is a battle raging inside him, inside all of us. A terrible battle between two wolves. One wolf is bad – pride, jealousy, greed. The other wolf is good – kindness, hope, truth. The child asks, ‘Who will win?’ The grandfather answers simply, ‘The one you feed.’

One afternoon, police officers show up at Ben Silver’s front door. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive home. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. But are they?

It doesn’t take long for Ben to realise that his parents are in trouble. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’. Now Ben gathers evidence and tries to uncover what his parents have done.

The problem is, if he figures it out, what does he do? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run?

‘Gripping and unpredictable, with a hero you won’t forget.’ - John Boyne, author of The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas

Category: Nominated for Early Childhood Book of the Year

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

pigcoverThis is a story about a Pug named Pig who finds it very difficult to share. A small dog is on hand to teach him all about sharing but it is not in the way that you would expect. Aaron Blabey has created many hilarious moments that can be appreciated by young children and adults.

“I defy anyone to read this picture book and not laugh. Hilarious.” - Sydney Morning Herald
“Pig the Pug had us chuckling from the title…(and) the final page had us in stitches. A book to return to often.” - The Weekend Australian

Category: Nominated for Picture Book of the Year

Rivertime by Trace Balla

RivertimeA gentle and beautiful book about slowing down and growing up, set on Australia’s Glenelg River and featuring a ten-year-old boy and his uncle. Trace Balla is often found sketching in nature, riding her bike with her son, dancing, and growing vegies in her garden in central Victoria. She works as an illustrator, community artist, art therapist, animator, and writer of songs and stories.

Category: Nominated for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Mary’s Australia: How Mary Mackillop changed Australia by Pamela Freeman

Mary's AustraliaMary MacKillop changed the course of Australia’s history.

Mary MacKillop watched Australia grow from a collection of small colonies into a nation - and she was proud of the country she had a part in creating. How did Australia change in her lifetime? And how much influence did Mary MacKillop have in shaping Australia?

  • Mary MacKillop is one of the most influential people in Australia’s history.
  • Mary MacKillop is well-known for being Australia’s first and so far only saint.

I hope you have found some inspiration in this blog to start reading one of these quality books with your child or class. Reading is a gift and should be treasured.

Next week I will focus on another 5 books that have also been nominated for the Australian Council Books of the year.

Happy reading everyone.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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What is the “best” way to teach reading to children who are learning English.

Welcome to my next blog about reading with children who are learning English.

Recently I have been involved in some professional learning about reading and what impacts on it. As part of the professional learning, I read a Chapter titled “Building Bridges to text” in a book called “English Learners, Academic literacy and thinking” by Pauline Gibbons. Below is my summary of this text and my own opinion on how to ensure that children who are learning English are able to comprehend the texts that they are reading.

In multicultural nations, like Australia, many children begin school with a very limited understanding about English. These children usually speak another language at home or have been looked after by their grandparents (who do not speak English fluently) while their parents work. These children have not been exposed to the correct structure of spoken English and therefore need a lot of assistance when learning to read English texts.

Not only do they find the concepts about print (how a text works eg front cover, left to right, read left page first) difficult to understand, but their field knowledge is very limited as well. Field knowledge is the understanding about our world and making connections through experience. This is an area that many children struggle with, not just children who have English as a second or even third language. The texts that beginning readers are given cover a variety of topics. The text could be about a circus, playground, airport, another culture, swimming lessons, farm, making bread etc. If children are not familiar with these topics, they will need a lot of assistance to build their field knowledge to enable them to comprehend the text.

Remember the most important goal of learning to read is for a child to understand what they are reading. Reading fluently is important and does relate to comprehension but most of the time parents focus on this at the cost of a child not understanding the text.

Approaches to teaching reading for children learning English

1. Traditional or phonics based approach

imgresThis approach focuses on the child learning all their sounds to be able to work out written symbols. An educator would start with individual letters, then simple sight words, then the sounds that are made with two or more letters. After they have gained confidence with this, they would move onto simple sentences that focus on repetition. All early reader texts rely on repetition.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the child is able to make few links to what they already know from their own language. Reading can become a very abstract process for these children as the sounds do not match their first language.

2. Whole language approach

imgres-1This approach focuses on the child learning about the whole text by recognising what type of text it is, predicting what the text is about and using their own knowledge about the subject to bring meaning to the text. Good readers draw on three types of knowledge when reading a text; semanic knowledge (knowledge about the world), Syntactic knowledge (knowledge about the structure of the language) and graphophonic knowledge (letter-sound realtionships). This approach aims to combine all these types of knowledge when trying to read a text.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the child may not be familiar with the texts subject or familiar with the structure of the language that will help them predict what the sentences will be about.

3. Interactive approach

imagesThis approach is the combination of the traditional and the whole language approaches. A child learns about predictive and decoding (working out) skills depending on the type of text being read. What an educator does before reading a text with a child is very important to how successfully a child will be able to read it.

4. Critical approach

researchingThis approach focuses on a child being able to question and analyse a text in which they have been exposed to. They learn that no text is “neutral” as an author always has a particular context and the reader also has their own context. This means that we all see things differently depending on who we are. Words such as discovery, invasion and colonisation all have a particular context that refers to one event.

5. Social and cultural approach

reading 1This approach focuses on the understanding that reading is a cultural and social practice. Each society places a different value on it. Some children come from cultures that value oral story telling whereas some value  picture books or factual texts or religious texts such as the bible. This approach guides the educator in selecting particular texts for a child and the nature of the classroom discussion around reading.

Not one approach has all the answers. As educators and parents we need to use all of these approaches at different times depending on the needs of the child. I hope this has given you insight into the many factors that influence the skill of learning to read, especially for a child who is learning English.

Please share this article with all your staff and parents to ensure we all have access to information that will help our children reach their potential.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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It’s report season! - 10 Facts That All Parents Must Know Before Reading Their Child’s Report

Welcome back to Creating A Learning Environment. I can not believe that it is nearly the end of Term 4. Where has this year gone? The end of a Semester, means a very busy time for teachers. This is the time where teachers use all their observations and assessments to provide a formal document about each child in their class, to reflect on what that child has learnt and developed over the two terms.

This blog will look into the world of “grading” for reports and give 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 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 use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

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

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

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Early Intervention Matters: Speech and Language Development

Welcome to my new blog series “Early Intervention Matters”. Through this series I will look at all the different services available for children and how each can make a big impact on a child. Each blog will have a different focus and will give useful information about which children would benefit from the particular intervention.

Early intervention is so important for children. It enables the child to start targeted therapy to work on skills that are underdeveloped. It is essential that parents work closely with day-care teachers and preschool teachers to establish if there are any concerns with their child. If in doubt, get them assessed by a professional. Children under the age of 6 are high priority for all paediatric speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

images-1In this first blog, I will focus on the importance of addressing speech and language development concerns. A lot of children begin primary school with a communication delay that has been undiagnosed. They may have trouble with their speech with includes their articulation or phonological skills, their fluency or their voice. They may have trouble with their language, which could include understanding others (receptive) or expressing themselves.

If there are any concerns with your child’s speech or language development, teachers will immediately request for an assessment to be conducted by a speech pathologist. There are a variety of assessments that can be done and depending on the findings, children can be “funded” to get extra support in the classroom. Unfortunately, most parents are in denial and do not want their child “labelled” with a diagnosis. Speech and Language issues are extremely undiagnosed because parents do not get their child assessed early and therefore their child will struggle in a formal school setting.

According to the American Speech – Language- Hearing Association the three goals of speech and language early intervention are:

1) Prevention: to hinder the occurrence of a communication disorder or delay by providing Early Intervention (EI) services to at-risk children and their families before an official diagnosis of a communication disorder is made.

2) Remediation: to provide EI services to children and their families who have already been diagnosed with a communication disorder or delay to decrease the long term occurrence or adverse impact that the communication disorder could possibly have on children later in life.

3) Compensation: to provide effective and functional communication strategies or intervention to children and their families with disabilities or impairment that is irreversible to increase the children’s quality of life.

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Does your child who is aged between 5 to 12 years old need to be seen by a speech pathologist? Look at the list below to see if your child is able to do these specific skills at each age. (This milestone checklist has been compiled by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association) If they can not do some of these, most teachers will strongly recommend a speech and language assessment.

 5 – 6 Years old

 Listening

  • Follow 1-2 simple directions in a sequence
  • Listen to and understand age-appropriate stories read aloud
  • Follow a simple conversation

Speaking

  • Be understood by most people
  • Answer simple “yes/no” questions
  • Answer open-ended questions (e.g., “What did you have for lunch today?”)
  • Retell a story or talk about an event
  • Participate appropriately in conversations
  • Show interest in and start conversations

Reading

  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Understand that spoken words are made up of sounds
  • Identify words that rhyme (e.g., cat and hat)
  • Compare and match words based on their sounds
  • Understand that letters represent speech sounds and match sounds to letters
  • Identify upper- and lowercase letters
  • Recognise some words by sight
  • “Read” a few picture books from memory
  • Imitate reading by talking about pictures in a book

Writing

  • Print own first and last name
  • Draw a picture that tells a story and label and write about the picture
  • Write upper- and lowercase letters (may not be clearly written)
  • Beginning to write simple sentences

6 – 7 Years old

Listening

  • Remember information
  • Respond to instructions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions in a sequence

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Tell and retell stories and events in a logical order
  • Express ideas with a variety of complete sentences
  • Use most parts of speech (grammar) correctly
  • Ask and respond to “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why)
  • Stay on topic and take turns in conversation
  • Give directions
  • Start conversations

Reading

  • Create rhyming words
  • Identify all sounds in short words
  • Blend separate sounds to form words
  • Match spoken words with print
  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences
  • Sound out words when reading
  • Have a sight vocabulary of 100 common words
  • Read grade-level material fluently
  • Understand what is read

Writing

  • Express ideas through writing
  • Print clearly
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Begin each sentence with capital letters and use ending punctuation
  • Write a variety of stories, journal entries, or letters/notes

7 – 8 Years old

Listening

  • Follow 3-4 oral directions in a sequence
  • Understand direction words (e.g., location, space, and time words)
  • Correctly answer questions about a grade-level story

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Ask and answer “wh” questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why)
  • Use increasingly complex sentence structures
  • Clarify and explain words and ideas
  • Give directions with 3-4 steps
  • Use oral language to inform, to persuade, and to entertain
  • Stay on topic, take turns, and use appropriate eye contact during conversation
  • Open and close conversation appropriately

Reading

  • Have fully mastered phonics/sound awareness
  • Associate speech sounds, syllables, words, and phrases with their written forms
  • Recognise many words by sight
  • Use meaning clues when reading (e.g., pictures, titles/headings, information in the story)
  • Reread and self-correct when necessary
  • Locate information to answer questions
  • Explain key elements of a story (e.g., main idea, main characters, plot)
  • Use own experience to predict and justify what will happen in grade-level stories
  • Read, paraphrase/retell a story in a sequence
  • Read grade-level stories, poetry, or dramatic text silently and aloud with fluency
  • Read spontaneously
  • Identify and use spelling patterns in words when reading

Writing

  • Write legibly
  • Use a variety of sentence types in writing essays, poetry, or short stories (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Use basic punctuation and capitalisation appropriately
  • Organise writing to include beginning, middle, and end
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Progress from inventive spelling (e.g., spelling by sound) to more accurate spelling

8 - 9 Years old

Listening

  • Listen attentively in group situations
  • Understand grade-level material

Speaking

  • Speak clearly with an appropriate voice
  • Ask and respond to questions
  • Participate in conversations and group discussions
  • Use subject-related vocabulary
  • Stay on topic, use appropriate eye contact, and take turns in conversation
  • Summarise a story accurately
  • Explain what has been learned

Reading

  • Demonstrate full mastery of basic phonics
  • Use word analysis skills when reading
  • Use clues from language content and structure to help understand what is read
  • Predict and justify what will happen next in stories and compare and contrast stories
  • Ask and answer questions regarding reading material
  • Use acquired information to learn about new topics
  • Read grade-level books fluently (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Reread and correct errors when necessary

Writing

  • Plan, organise, revise, and edit
  • Include details in writing
  • Write stories, letters, simple explanations, and brief reports
  • Spell simple words correctly, correct most spelling independently, and use a dictionary to correct spelling
  • Write clearly in cursive

9 – 10 Years old

Listening

  • Listen to and understand information presented by others
  • Form opinions based on evidence
  • Listen for specific purposes

Speaking

  • Use words appropriately in conversation
  • Use language effectively for a variety of purposes
  • Understand some figurative language (e.g., “I’m on fire!)
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Give accurate directions to others
  • Summarise and restate ideas
  • Organise information for clarity
  • Use subject area information and vocabulary (e.g., social studies) for learning
  • Make effective oral presentations

Reading

  • Read for specific purposes
  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Use previously learned information to understand new material
  • Follow written directions
  • Take brief notes
  • Link information learned to different subjects
  • Learn meanings of new words through knowledge of word origins, synonyms, and multiple meanings
  • Use reference materials (e.g., dictionary)
  • Explain the author’s purpose and writing style
  • Read and understand a variety of types of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry
  • Compare and contrast in content areas
  • Make inferences from texts
  • Paraphrase content, including the main idea and details

Writing

  • Write effective stories and explanations, including several paragraphs about the same topic
  • Develop a plan for writing, including a beginning, middle, and end
  • Organise writing to convey a central idea
  • Edit final copies for grammar, punctuation, and spelling

10 – 11 Years old

Listening

  • Listen and draw conclusions in subject area learning activities

Speaking

  • Make planned oral presentations appropriate to the audience
  • Maintain eye contact and use gestures, facial expressions, and appropriate voice during group presentations
  • Participate in class discussions across subject areas
  • Summarise main points
  • Report about information gathered in group activities

Reading

  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Learn meanings of unfamiliar words through knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Prioritise information according to the purpose of reading
  • Read a variety of literary forms
  • Describe development of character and plot
  • Describe characteristics of poetry
  • Analyse author’s language and style
  • Use reference materials to support opinions

Writing

  • Write for a variety of purposes
  • Use vocabulary effectively
  • Vary sentence structure
  • Revise writing for clarity
  • Edit final copies

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One of the limitations of many speech therapy services is the availability and flexibility of appointment times. Many parents find it difficult to juggle work, school and other commitments to make an appointment. We need services that can adapt to the ever changing society that we now live. A few speech pathology services are trying to be more flexible to allow more children to have access to this service.

“Modern Speechie” offers one of these services. It is an innovative and personalised speech pathology service operating in the Inner West of Sydney. It is a mobile service where sessions are conducted within the child’s home, child care or school setting. This enables the speech pathologist to tailor the best service that meets the needs of each child and their family. Sessions are available on the weekend; which is a big bonus for many families. To contact them directly you can go to their website http://www.modernspeechie.com.au/ or visit their Facebook page.

I hope in reading this blog, you realise the importance of early intervention for speech and language development for children. The next blog will focus on the service that paediatric physiotherapy can offer families.

Knowing this information is important for parents so please share the link so everyone can be well informed.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How To Read With Your Older Child

Welcome to the first blog in my next series focusing on the older child in Primary school. There is so much information for parents and educators on how to help children in the younger grades achieve their potential but it seems to taper off when a child reaches 9 or 10 years old. In this series, I aim to give lots of practical advice and tips to help parents of children aged 9 - 12 years old to be able to support the learning which is going on in the classroom, at home.

This first blog “How to read with your older child” will outline 5 ways that parents can support the reading development of their child. All children in the middle to upper grades of Primary school are given mandatory reading each night as part of their homework task. Most parents are at a loss, as to how to support their independent reader to ensure that their child is understanding the information from their more complex texts.

Like with a younger child, the love of reading needs to be the focus. Unfortunately as children get older, support for reading at home gets less and less as parents expect that children sit and read independently without any interaction. Reading is seen as a solitary task and any difficulties the child is having may go undetected. If they find reading difficult, especially comprehending what they are reading, they will begin to dislike this task and it will cause bigger issues in the future.

A great quote I always refer to is that “comprehension, floats on conversation”. This is very true for the older child. They need many opportunities to discuss the harder themes, more difficult vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that becomes present in their harder texts they are given to read.

Below is a list of 5 activities that you could do with your child when they have the homework task of reading for a specific amount of time. They are all engaging and aim to help your child have a better understanding of what they are reading. Maybe you can try these with your child every second night.

1. The child plays the role of predicator

images-1Whether your child is about to read a new text or start a new chapter, it is very important for them to be able to predict what could happen. This skill will give you an indication of whether they understand how texts work, can use information of previous texts or chapters to guide their thoughts and to see if they are understanding the plot or themes occurring in the text.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to tell you verbally what has happened (the events) in a previous chapter and what they predict could happen next.
  • Get your child to tell you what a character has been like in previous chapters and what they predict they could be like in the next one.
  • Get your child to give you examples to back up their prediction. Eg I predict the main character will get detention for not handing in homework because in the previous chapter the teacher said that if he forgets his homework again there will be consequences.
  • After the child has read a chapter, get them to come back and let you know if their prediction was right.

2. The child plays the role of clarifier

imgres-1As the child gets older they will be exposed to more challenging texts which will have a higher level of vocabulary. It is essential that children learn the skills to be able to work out what a word means by the context that it is in. A dictionary can also play a role, but we want the child to problem solve first and use it to check what they think.

Parent tips

  • Give your child a sticky note and get them to write down three words or phrases that they find difficult in the text while reading. After reading for the specified time, get your child to tell you the words/phrases. Encourage them to read the paragraph aloud to you that contains the difficult word or phrase and get them to have a go at explaining what it could be.
  • Get your child to try and put any difficult words in their own sentences to see if they understand what it means.
  • Have your child think of synonyms (words that mean the same) that the author could have used instead. Have a discussion with them as to why the author may have chosen that word. Eg despised instead of not liked.
  • Discuss any issues or difficult topics that may have come up during the chapter. It could be the emotions associated with a character dealing with a situation eg bullying, death, sickness, loneliness. Get your child to see the situation from a variety of character perspectives. A parent could ask them, why do you think the character acted like that?

3. The child plays the role of Questioner

Unknown-2Being able to ask a “good” question will give you an understanding of the comprehension skills of your child. A child needs to be able to ask questions that require a deeper understanding to answer them. Asking the right questions in life will indicate that the child knows his/her weakness and can get clarification to keep developing their understanding. Starting questions with “how” and “why” will encourage this deeper understanding.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to read a chapter aloud to you. After that, get them to read it again independently. They can then form 2 or 3 questions about the plot, issues or characters that start with how or why. Have a discussion about the chapter using the questions as a focus.
  • Encourage your child to research about a particular issue or topic that may come up in the text, relating to a question they have. Eg finding out more information about conditions in the depression that might impact of what people did to survive. This research could come about from a question like “Why did the main character steal a loaf of bread, when he knew he could go to gaol?
  • Encourage your child to ask two questions about why an author has used a particular format or character to convey a message. Eg Why does the author use diary entries in the book? Have a discussion about how authors have their own perspective and that impacts on how the text is written.
  • You can also answer their questions by referring to the text to show your child how you need to use what is written and your understanding about the world to form your answer.

4. The child plays the role of Summariser

imgresA child needs to be about to summarise the main points or events that occur in their text. They need to understand what is important and how it contributes to the purpose of the text.

 

Parent tips

  • Get your child to retell what they just read. Ensure that they give you lots of information as you have not read it.
  • Get your child to write a summary of the text that they have read that is less than 60 words. (a, is, I count as words). This will help them to become more succinct.
  • Get your child to explain the changes in a particular character during that chapter. Ensure they tell you how and why they have changed. Ask them how they are like that character and how they are unlike that character.
  • Get your child to tell you the purpose of that chapter or text. Why does the author include it or write about it. Your child needs to give evidence from the text justifying why they think that.

5. The child plays the role of Applier

imagesA child needs to be able to understand what they have read and use this knowledge to apply it to another aspect of their lives. This is a very difficult concept as it requires two steps for children to undertake.

Parent tips

  • After your child has read the chapter or entire text get them to write down 2 new facts they have learnt that they did not know before. Get them to share their discoveries with you.
  • Get your child to suggest ways that they can use their new understanding in their own lives. (eg Cyber bullying is a really big problem now - The child says to protect themselves from it they will not go on the internet after 8pm to reduce the risk)
  • Have a discussion with your child about issues that have come up in the text and how to solve problems if they do arise.

All Primary school children need to be engaged in three different reading experiences. The three experiences are modelled, guided and independent. When a child gets older (9-12 years old), they tend to be only involved in independent reading at home. We need to ensure as parents and educators, to give as many modelled and guided reading opportunities as possible to lay a really strong foundation of reading skills. Older children still need to hear adults read, as they will hear the fluency and reading strategies needed for more challenging texts. Read a variety of texts aloud to your child as much as possible. Continue to get your older child to read to you now and again and praise them for their developing comprehension skills.

I hope this blog has given you some practical ideas on how to continue to guide your child’s reading skills when they are older. Please continue to share, comment and spread the word about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. I really appreciate all your support and feedback.

Until next time …readwitholderchild

Kelly Pisani

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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

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