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

This 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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10 Ways To Help Your Child Prepare A Speech

Your child comes home from school and explains that they need to prepare a speech to deliver to their class in a couple of weeks. Where do you begin? How do you guide them to write and deliver the best speech that they can?

Look no further than “Creating A learning Environment’s” latest blog. In this blog, author, Kelly Pisani gives parents and educators 10 ways to help children prepare a speech. Remember if you find this article useful please share with all your friends and family.

Welcome to my next blog which focuses on 10 ways to help your child prepare their speech. Many parents feel overwhelmed when it comes to helping their child write and deliver a speech to an audience. It may be because of their own previous experience or that they don’t understand how a successful speech is structured and what presenting skills are important for a speech to be engaging.

Please find below my 10 best tips on preparing a successful speech:

1. Research the topic

researchingChildren are either given a topic, given a list of possible topics or given the opportunity to write a speech about anything they want. It does not matter how a topic has been selected but it is important for the child to engage in some research about it, to gain a deeper level of understanding. Work with your child to try and locate some factual evidence that supports their point of view. Adding quotes from well respected professionals, current statistics and current new headlines will give a lot of substance to their speech.

2. Know the purpose and who the audience will be.

Knowing the purpose of the speech will help you guide your child in achieving the aim of the task. Commonly in primary school, a speech is given to present an assessment, to persuade, to instruct, to engage, to enter into a public speaking competition or to entertain. The speech’s purpose may be a combination of a few of these. The speech should be written with the purpose in mind. It will influence what you put in the speech and how it is delivered.

It is equally as important to know the audience. Will it be said to children, to adults, to an external adjudicating panel or a combination of these? This will influence the type of vocabulary in the speech, the types of stories that should be said and the type of humour (if any) that could be included in the speech.

3. Structure of a speech and time limit

In most cases, children are given a strict time limit that their speech must be said in. If it is too short, there is not enough information in the speech and if the speech goes over time, it means there is too much content and it should be revised. Children need to say their speech in a slow, yet purposeful way. It is important that they are clear and use intonation in their voice to emphasis key points. Most children are nervous and rush through their speech. Encourage your child to say it slowly as their speech will have more impact as the audience will understand what is being said.

Most speeches should follow the simple structure of introduction, arguments with supporting evidence and finishing off with the conclusion. Use the time limit as a rough guide of how long each part should be. 20% of the time should be for the introduction, 70% of the time for the arguments with supporting evidence and 10% of the time for the conclusion.

4. Importance of a draft

assessmentsIt is essential that a child’s speech is their speech. It is very easy to “take over” and write what you believe they should say. You need to find a way of guiding your child, yet it is important that their ideas are directing the way the speech is constructed. Work on one part of the structure of the speech at a time. Writing a whole speech can be daunting so tackle a small section at a time. Ideally the introduction and conclusion are written after the main part of the speech has been written. Your child needs to understand that a speech can be modified many times. It can even be modified when they are practising their “finished speech” as something they said might not sound correct or flow properly. A speech is an evolution of ideas and children need to be encouraged to make lots of changes throughout the process of preparing a speech.

5. Eye contact

eyecontactGiving a speech is not the same as reading a speech. Many children do not focus on their presentation skills and only focus on writing the speech. Eye contact is essential to ensure the audience is engaged. If a child is not looking at the audience it can be seen, that they lack confidence, have not practised it enough or it can cause the audience to lose interest. If your child finds it difficult to look at people in the audience, encourage them to look at the hair on the audience’s heads. This way they can focus on the hair of people instead of their faces. The audience will not know that the child is doing it.

6. Engaging introduction

It is important that an introduction is engaging. The child needs to grab the audience’s attention from the second they start delivering their speech. With this in mind, we should not encourage a child to start with “Good morning …. or Good afternoon …” The first few words are vital to set the audience up for an engaging speech. If the introduction is written after the main part of the speech, the child will have a clear understanding of how to introduce it. How can we encourage children to write an interesting introduction? Your child may want to start with a story that emphasises what they are going to be talking about. They may start with “Imagine you are …..” or “By the end of this speech 500 people will …” or “Bang, woosh, whip …..” or ” I’ve got a secret …” There are so many ways to spark interest from your audience. After your child has said their story etc, then they can say their greetings to the audience. Eg Good morning adjudicators, peers and fellow competitors, today I am here to tell you about ….”

7. A powerful conclusion

microphoneGet your child to think about what they want the audience to take away from their speech. Is there a clear message that they want everyone to think about? This is what they need to include in the conclusion. Asking questions in the conclusion can be a powerful way to encourage the audience to think about the content that has been delivered. The last sentence is the most powerful. Usually I encourage a child to pose a question eg What will you do when you are faced with this choice? or give a reminder to the audience eg “Next time you throw rubbish in the ocean remember all the lives that you are endangering” There is some debate, whether you need to thank the audience for listening. I always discourage this as I want the audience to remember the last thing that has been said and I do not want it to be “Thank you”

8. Using gestures

Adding some gestures throughout the speech will add interest for the audience and also help the child emphasise key points. Over using gestures can make the speech turn into a dramatic performance. The general rule is one gesture per 30 seconds. Gestures could include using fingers when counting, palms out when asking a question or moving one hand when saying a key point.

9. Use of palm cards

It is important that your child knows their speech. If they want people to listen then they need to be engaging. Constantly looking down at palm cards makes it difficult for the audience to stay focused. The palm cards should be used as a reminder for your child for the next part of the speech. We call them palm cards because the speech should be written on small cards that fit in the palm of their hands. Business cards make the best palm cards for speeches. Ensure that the palm cards are numbered to make it easier to check they are in order.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

In order to get better at anything, we need to practice. Children should practise in front of the mirror in order to evaluate their eye contact, gestures and posture. A child needs to stand still, project their voice and practise with a microphone (if this is what they will have to do when it is time to deliver their speech in the classroom or competition) Have them deliver their speech in a variety of environments and in front of many different family members.

Public speaking is an essential skill that our children need. It will give them confidence, help them to structure their ideas and be able to give their opinion in a clear and concise manner.

I hope this gives you lots of useful tips and that the information is clear enough for you to be able to put this advice into practice the next time your child tells you that they need to prepare a speech.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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13 School Holiday Adventures To Have With Your Child In Sydney

It’s the beginning of school holidays in less than a week! Teachers are cheering and parents are groaning. Most parents are starting to think of some activities to do with their child that will be both engaging and fun.

Sydney is a great place to spend the school holidays with your children. I have complied a list of 13 treasures of Sydney that would offer lots of fun and engagement for all children and more importantly not break the budget.

  1. POWERHOUSE MUSEUM

pwerhouseLocated in the old Ultimo Power Station building adjacent to Darling Harbour, the Powerhouse Museum is the flagship venue of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). Its unique and diverse collection spans science, technology, design and decorative arts, engineering, architecture, health and medicine, fashion and contemporary culture.

With a strong focus on creativity and curiosity, a range of 12 permanent exhibitions at the Powerhouse is complemented by a changing program of temporary exhibitions and displays. There are regular tours and demonstrations, performances, workshops, forums and other special events held throughout the Museum.

The Wiggles exhibition in the museum is carefully curated so that adults are as entertained as children. While children dive into free-form play or are engrossed with high-tech interactive exhibits, grown-ups will uncover the amazing rise of The Wiggles and what’s kept them strong for so long.

All your family’s favourites are here – there’s a room dedicated to each of The Wiggles and the things they love. Plus there’s Wags The Dog, Henry the Octopus, Captain Feathersword and Dorothy the Dinosaur.

Opening times

Open Daily 10:00am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adult : $15

Child (4-15yrs) : $8

Children under 4 : FREE

 2. SYDNEY OBSERVATORY

A visit to this spectacular state-listed heritage site, night or day, is a memorable experience. Sydney Observatory is home to Australia’s most accessible telescope domes, with modern and historic instruments to safely view the Sun and other stars, planets and astronomical objects. At 1.00 pm daily the historic time ball drops, just as it has done since 1858.

Other features include the Sydney Planetarium and 3D Space Theatre immersive astronomy experiences, and the new East Dome, which has a ground-level accessible telescope.

Address: 1003 Upper Fort Street, Millers Point

Opening times

Open Daily 10:00am - 5:00pm

Cost

Day visits are free.

Regular 30 minute tours include the planetarium, 3D space theatre and telescope domes. These tours cost a small fee.

  1. Australian Museum

australianmuseumThe Australian museum has many exhibitions that children will be excited to explore. These exhibitions include, Dinosaurs, Birds and Insects, Minerals and Australia. A dedicated “Kidspace” area and “Search and Discover” area will keep children busy for hours.

Opening times

Open Daily: 9:30am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adult : $15

Family (2 adults + 2 children) : $38

Family (1 adults + 2 children) : $23

Child (5 -15 years) : $8

Children under 5 years : FREE

The Australian Museum is located on the corner of College Street and William Street in central Sydney, just across the road from Hyde Park and opposite St.Mary’s Cathedral.

4. Maritime Museum

 maritimeThe Australian National Maritime Museum began collecting maritime artefacts long before it opened its doors in 1991. The National Maritime collection contains a rich and diverse range of historic artefacts and contains over 140,000 objects.

Collection themes are based on Australian’s changing relationship with the maritime environment, its seas, coastlines and inland waterways, and aims to reflect the maritime history and contemporary maritime experiences of all Australians.

The museum aims to preserve, make available, develop and disseminate information relating to Australian maritime history and as a result each item in the National Maritime collection is digitised in our collection management database. A selection of these have been made available for members of the public to search.

 Treat the kids to a fascinating day of learning opportunities combined with thrilling adventure! Climb aboard real-life tall ships, warships and a submarine, engage in interactive displays, and take part in hands-on kids activities held during the week, on weekends and school holidays.

 Opening times

Open Daily 9:30am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adults: $27

Child (4-15 years old) : $16

Child (Under 4 years old): FREE

 5. Featherdale Wildlife park

 featherdaleYou can hand feed a kangaroo, wallaby or emu - or enjoy a face-to-face encounter with one of our friendly koalas - amongst one of Australia’s largest private collections of Australian native animals and bird life.

 

Featherdale’s facilities include:

  • Café
  • Souvenir shop
  • Shady picnic areas with BBQ’s

And it is ideal for young and old with the Park level throughout and baby changing and disabled facilities also provided.

Address: 217 Kildare Rd, Doonside NSW 2767, Australia

Opening times

Opening Daily 9:00am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adults $29.50
Child (3-15 years) $16.00
Student / Pensioner $23.00
Senior $20.50
Family (2 adults/2 children) $83.00
Family (2 adults/1 child) $69.00
Family (1 adult/2 children) $56.00

 6. Aquarium

 aquariumSEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium offers entertainment for young and old alike. Walk underwater through over 100 metres of glass viewing tunnels and see Australia’s marine life like never before! Come within inches of huge sharks, rays and turtles and see some of the remarkable marine and freshwater animals that Australia is famous for, such as the platypus, barramundi and Little Penguins.

As you walk around SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium you’ll be taken on a journey through Australia’s wide and varied aquatic habitats, from the southern river systems that make up the Murray Darling Basin to the colossal Great Barrier Reef in the north.

Opening times

Open Daily 9:30am - 7:00pm

Cost

Online Prices via Sydney Aquarium website

Adult (16yrs+) = $28

Child (4 – 15 yrs) = $19.60

(Under 4yrs = Free)

7. Taronga Zoo

tarongazooTaronga Zoo is just 12 minutes from the city by ferry, with breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and free shows and keeper talks throughout the day.

There’s always plenty happening at Taronga Zoo.  With over 4,000 animals to see, over 20 keeper talks and shows a day, tours, events & concerts, there’s always a new reason to visit Taronga Zoo.

 Opening times

Open Daily 9:30am - 4:30pm

Cost

Adults $46.00
Child (4-15 years) $26.00

Child (Under 4 years)       Free

 8. Sydney Hyde Barracks

 hydeparkbarracks​This museum tells vivid stories about what it was like to be a convict, or to be an orphan shipped across the world to make a new life. You can lie down in a hammock, try on leg irons and convict clothes, find rats and the rubbish and treasures they pulled under the floor to make their nests, and hear stories about the people who have lived and worked here. Follow the ‘Rats’ Trail’ through the museum to collect historical clues and receive a stamp at the front desk.

 Audio tours are provided free with admission in English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Italian and German. We also offer regular free guided tours, which take about 45 minutes.

Address: Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Opening times

Open Daily 10:00am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adults        $10.00
Child (Under 15 years)          $5.00

Family (two adults + two children)  $20

 9. Calmsley Hill Farm

farmCalmsley Hill City Farm is a farm based attraction, close to the heart of Sydney, a place where children and adults can enjoy a variety of exciting shows and exhibits. Get up close to a range of native and farmyard animals. Bring your own picnic lunch, or use our electric BBQ’s to cook your own lunch while you enjoy our beautiful grounds.

 Address: 31 Darling St Abbotsbury NSW 2176

Opening times

Open Daily 9:00am - 4:30pm

Cost

Adults $25.50
Child (3-16 years) $15.00

Child (Under 3)                FREE

  1. Jewish Museum Sydney

jewishmuseumVisitors to the Sydney Jewish Museum are fascinated as much by the story itself, as by the way it is told, with its emphasis on excellence of design and technology.

Within eight exhibition areas, visitors confront life-size sculptures and dioramas, examine original documents and newspapers, and interact with multimedia displays.

Free guided tours take place at noon on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Address: 148 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW

Opening times

Sunday to Thursday = 10am - 4pm

Friday= 10am - 2pm

Cost

Adults $10.00
Child $7.00

 11. The Justice and Police centre

justiceandpoliceThe Justice and Police Museum was originally the Water Police Court (1856), Water Police Station (1858) and Police Court (1886). Restored to their 1890s character, the building’s heavy blocks of sandstone, spiked gates, winding steps and corridor of cells reinforce the museum’s themes of crime and punishment and law and order.

The museum features a magistrates court, a recreated police charge room and remand cells, a gallery of mug shots of Sydney’s early criminals and an array of spine chilling weapons. It also showcases weird and wonderful relics from notorious crimes such as the Shark Arm Murder, the Pyjama Girl Case and the Graeme Thorne Kidnapping, as well as many original objects associated with such legendary bushrangers as Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall, Captain Moonlight and Ned Kelly.

Opening times

Saturday and Sundays = 10am - 5pm

Cost

Adults $10:00
Child (Under 15 years) $5.00

Address: Corner Albert and Phillip Streets, Circular Quay, Sydney, NSW 2000

12. The Sydney Museum

sydneymuseumA modern museum built over and around the remains of Australia’s first Government House, the Museum of Sydney celebrates the people and events that have shaped the character and soul of this city. In 1788 Governor Phillip chose this site for his official residence. It quickly became the centre of the colony’s administrative and social life, and an important focus of first contact between the Gadigal people and the colonisers. The next eight governors also lived here, and as banquets and balls, the business of government and family home merged, the public and private lives of the colony’s leading citizens played out. Today, through a diverse and changing program of exhibitions and events, the Museum of Sydney explores the stories of this city from its origins to today, while the remains of the original building can be glimpsed through glass openings in the museum forecourt and foyer.

Opening times

Open Daily - 10:00am - 5:00pm

Cost

Adults $10:00
Child (Under 15 years) $5.00

Address: Cnr Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney, NSW 2000

13. Live Concerts

 Most clubs put on concerts or children’s activities during the school holidays. They usually sell tickets for a lower price to make it affordable for parents. One example of this is Concord RSL. They are hosting a “FUNKY BUGS” concert on the 2nd July 2015 at 10:30am. The concert is aimed for children 1 – 12 years old and is 45 minutes in length.

Adult tickets:              $5

Child (1 – 15 years)   $10

Child (Under 1 year)  FREE

Purchase tickets through “Try booking” – www.trybooking.com

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I hope these 13 activities will help you enjoy some quality time with your children during the school holidays in Sydney.

Until next time …schoolholidays

Kelly Pisani

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30 Ways To Develop Fine Motor Skills: Early Intervention Matters

Welcome to my next blog in the series, Early Intervention Matters. In this blog I have complied a list of 30 activities that will help children develop their fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are small movements that are achieved by using the smaller muscles in the hands. Some of these skills include cutting, doing up buttons and handwriting. Highly developed fine motor skills will influence the speed and accuracy of the task performance.

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills are very important for children to be able to successfully complete many everyday tasks. These tasks include dressing themselves, opening lunch boxes and writing. Children who have good fine motor skills are generally more confident in their own abilities and have the appropriate independent life skills compared to children who have underdeveloped fine motor skills.

Fine motor skill difficulties can present as:

  • Avoidance
  • Misbehaviour when it comes to particular tasks
  • Inability to use scissors
  • No interest in pencil skills

According to “Therapies for Kids”, Occupational Therapists can work with children of all ages and their families, to help enhance skills necessary for their everyday life including playing, getting dressed and handwriting. Occupational therapy may also include making changes to the child’s environment such as their school or home to help the child be more independent.

Below is a list of 30 activities that will help children to develop their fine motor skills. These are all inexpensive activities that only require items that can be found around the home. These activities would be great for children to complete at home or in the classroom.

1. Using a water spray bottle

waterspray

 

 

 

 

 

2. Putting straws in a colander

strawsincolander

 

 

 

 

 

3. Cutting different patterns

scissors

 

 

 

 

4. Threading fruit loops on pasta

Fruitloopthreading

 

 

 

 

 

5. Dropping pom poms down tubes

PompomdropJPG

 

 

 

 

6. Making a felt button chain

Felt Button Chain 9

 

 

 

 

 

7. Using a pipette to drop water on lego holes

Pipettedrops

 

 

 

 

8. Balancing lego on the side

balancinglego

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Putting toothpicks in small holes

toothpicks

 

 

 

 

10. Pouring from one container to another

pouringonetoanother

 

 

 

 

11. Sticking beads into play dough and getting them out with a pincer grip

beadsinplaydough

 

 

 

 

12. Putting elastics on a container

elasticsoncontainer

 

 

 

 

 

13. Using an eye dropper

eyedropperjpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Picking up objects with pegs

pegpincergrip

 

 

 

 

 

15. Putting paper clips on paper or plastic

Paperclips

 

 

 

 

16. Balancing marbles on golf tees

marblesontees

 

 

 

 

 

 

17. Putting buttons in a small rectangular hole (also you can put money into a piggybank)

Buttonholes

 

 

 

 

 

18. Opening padlocks with keys

keysandpadlocks

 

 

 

 

 

19. Threading shoelaces and tying them up

shoelaces

 

 

 

 

20. Putting different lids on bottles and containers

bottleandlidmatch

 

 

 

 

 

21. Drawing while laying on the ground

drawingupsidedoen

 

 

 

 

 

22. Feed a tennis ball some food

feedatennisball

 

 

 

 

23. Using a hole puncher

holepunching

 

 

 

 

24. Peeling stickers off

stickers

 

 

 

 

 

 

25. Cutting up play dough sausages

cuttingplaydough

 

 

 

 

26. Putting nuts and bolts together

nutsandbolts

 

 

 

 

27. Weaving pipe cleaners on a drying rack

weaving

 

 

 

 

28. Threading with nature

threadingwithnature

 

 

 

 

 

29. Name dot painting with cotton buds

Namedotpaintingjpg

 

 

 

 

30. Mashing play dough

mashingplaydough

 

 

 

 

These 30 ideas will help children to be engaged and enthusiastic towards developing their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are essential for your child to be able to perform everyday tasks. If you have any concerns with your child’s fine motor development seek an opinion from a qualified paediatric occupational therapist.

Please share this blog if you have found it insightful and if you believe it offers practical information that you can implement at home or in the classroom. Remember to email a copy of it to yourself for reference later on.

Until next time … 30 ways to develop fine motor skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Time allocation for each KLA

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

3. Stages in Primary Education

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

4. Outcomes

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

5. Kindergarten grading

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

6. What does a “C” mean?

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

7. How a teacher grades

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

8. Student’s strengths

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

9. Report Comments

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

10. Working out a plan

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

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

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

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

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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