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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

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

smallsize

 

 

 

 

 

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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

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.

images

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

imgres-5

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

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

15 Ways To Teach Resilience To Your Child

In such a fast moving, busy society where we demand information straight away and do not want to wait for anything why is it so important, more than ever before, to teach children to be resilient?

Welcome to my next blog “15 ways to teach your child to be resilient”. In this blog I look at the reasons why resiliency is so important to a child’s development and ways parents and educators can help their children develop this important skill in life.

So many children in schools have an undeveloped sense of resiliency. It is at an epidemic level compared to the past decades. Why are so many children of this generation unable to display inner strength to deal with everyday challenges that arise and have under developed coping skills? Research tells us, that it is due to the lack of opportunities that children are given to practice this skill when they are young.

As parents and educators we want our children to be happy, successful and have a strong sense of personal worth. We want them to aim high and reach their potential. Unfortunately this can be confused with giving our children everything and doing everything we can to protect our children from undesirable feelings of despair and stress.

We need to give our children many opportunities to practice coping skills when they are aged 2 - 12 years old in order to set them up for a solid emotional foundation for the older years. We need to expose them to challenges that allow them to practice these developing skills.

Below is a list of 15 challenges that we can use to help our own children or children in our class develop their own resiliency.

1. Do not aim to accommodate their every need straight away

imgresSometimes in life our needs can not be met straight away. There are times that we need to wait for food to be prepared or wait for transport to take us somewhere. Children need to learn how to wait for things even if they believe they are dying of starvation.




2. Children need to serve others 

imagesSometimes it feels like everyone has a “every man for himself” mentality. Children need to learn that there are many people in this world and the world does not revolve around them. (wise words from my mother) It is very hard when children tend to be the centre of everything in their family. They are the most special gifts for parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. Encourage children to let others have a turn first or give other people food first before themselves.

3. Waiting without entertainment

imgres-1Think about when you were a child. If you went to a restaurant and had to wait for food after your parents had ordered it, how did you cope without an entertainment device? (ipod, ipad, DS). Or when you were driven by your parents for 20 minutes in the car, how did you survive not watching a movie in that time? We all survived and are well adjusted adults. Some of us anyway :). Children can only learn to wait if they are given opportunity to wait.

4. Do not eliminate all risks

imgresEliminating every possible risk that may pose a danger to your child will do more harm than good. Children need to assess the risk, problem solve and accept responsibility for their actions. If you take all the risks away they will not get the opportunity to practise these skills.

5. Children need to give

imagesIt is important that children understand that material possessions are not essential to happiness. This sentiment contradicts what advertisements are trying to convey to our children. Encourage your children to regularly give some of their clothes and toys to the less fortunate.

6. Problem solving skills

imgres-2When children come to you with a problem it is important that you help them work out the solution instead of just telling them what to do. Children need to have many opportunities to go through the problem solving process in order to understand how to solve problems successfully. Pose lots of questions to your child to guide them through this process.

7. Do not rescue your child straight away

imgres-3This is an area that most parents find difficult to do. Let your child get frustrated when they can not do something, so you are able to talk about how they are feeling and what they can do about it. They need to experience these emotions in order to learn how to deal with them.

8. Children need to help younger children

imgres-4Children need to be given many opportunities to help younger children. They could help with doing up shoelaces, reading a picture book to them and helping the younger child solve their own problems. This will help children develop their leadership skills and realise that all people are different and require different things.

9. Do not provide all the answers

imgres-5We need children to be able to discover answers for themselves. Children need to learn how they can answer their own questions through research and collaboration with others. Sometimes parents need to say to their child “I don’t know. Maybe you could find out and come and tell me what you found” to encourage their child to work it out for themselves.

10. No interruptions when adults are speaking

imgres-6Children need to learn when it is okay to talk and when they need to wait before talking. So many children are allowed to interrupt conversations that they learn quickly, if they are loud, they will get the desired attention straight away. You can work out a simple way between you and your child, so you know that they need to ask you something while you are talking. When you have finished the sentence, you then can turn to them and encourage them to say “Excuse me” before asking you something.

11. Do not give in

imgresIf you have set an expectation ensure that you follow through with what you have said. Children need to learn that there are rules and consequences if you do not abide by them. Eg If you said that your child must turn off the television after the show that they are watching has ended, then make sure this happens.

12. Identifying emotions

imgres-2Children need to learn to identify the emotions they are feeling. Read lots of books that deal with a variety of emotions and discuss how the characters handle these emotions.

13. Children need perspective

imagesChildren need to realise how fortunate they are compared to others. Give older children the opportunity to volunteer at a charitable organisation to gain a perspective about their own reality.

14. Allow your child to fail

imgres-3Children need to experience failure to learn valuable skills. Children who are always successful have not developed their coping skills when a stressful situation arises. One simple way is to beat them at a game that they really want to win. Help them work through their feelings and encourage your child to have some positive self talk sentences to get them through their disappointment. eg It is only a game.

15. Model resiliency

imgres-4Actions speak louder than words. Model the behaviour that you want your children to display in everyday situations. Have lots of conversations with your child about your own emotions and how you cope with stressful situations.

Children who are resilient become very adaptable adults. They have a strong sense of worth and are able to learn from mistakes and look forward to the future.

I hope these 15 ideas will help guide you in assisting your children in becoming resilient. Please share this blog if you believe it offers some interesting food for thought.

Until next time …Resiliencecollage

Kelly Pisani

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

10 Facts About Primary School Homework That All Parents Should Know.

Welcome to my next blog in my new series “Current issues a primary school teacher faces”. In this blog I focus on homework from the perspective of a teacher and convey 10 of my concerns with homework which many parents may not be aware of.

images

Homework tasks are varied a lot between schools. Some schools have policies regarding how much homework is given while others are dependent on the classroom teacher. There may be set tasks for the week or fortnight for all classes in the grade or each class might operate quite separately. Whatever the set up, most teachers share the same concerns regarding it. Below is a list of 10 concerns that I have as a teacher that I would like to share with you all.

1. Homework is given to satisfy parents

Most parents still believe that the education system is the same as what it was when they went to school. They are happy with what they learnt at school and hope that their child gets the same type of education that they did. With anything, as time goes on, things change as we begin to know more about that subject. We know so much more about the optimum learning environments and how children learn compared to ten years ago. I do not believe that traditional homework fits into our new understanding about children’s learning. Some parents however, still want homework as they believe it is an important aspect of education.

2. Marking homework takes precious time away from the learning.

If homework is set, the expectation is that it should be marked. If children have spent time working on something that the teacher has given, it is only right that the teacher sights it. When does the teacher do this? There are two ways that this usually is done. Either as a whole class or after school has finished. I see a problem with both, to be honest. If it is marked during class time, it cuts into the precious learning time of the students. If it is done after school, it cuts into precious planning time of the teacher. Teachers need this valuable time to ensure that the next learning experiences in their classrooms are meaningful and targeted to their students’ needs.

3. Homework can not be targeted to each child

Teachers can not be expected to set homework tasks that are specific to each child. The learning experiences that are specific to each child are done in the classroom under the instruction of the teacher. Many homework tasks are quite pointless to some children as they find the tasks too easy or too difficult. What is the point of homework in the model of “one size suits all”?

4. Parents requesting more homework

Children in today’s primary school work harder than ever before. Every minute needs to be accounted for. I find it hard to fathom that parents request more homework when their child is already working a 6 hour day, completing many after school activities and completing set homework tasks. When do the children have time to play outside in an unstructured format or help with the family chores?

5. Homework can turn into busy work

Homework tasks tend to be revision of learnt concepts. Revision is important if it has a purpose. EG Need to know multiplication facts to answer a mathematics problem. If children are churning through pages and pages of information for no real meaningful purpose they will forget the information as quick as they have learnt it.

5. The relationship with the learning inside the classroom

Many parents believe that homework gives an insight into what is happening in the classroom. This may be true in some cases but most tasks are set due to them being easy to mark, the child can complete it independently and the tasks can be completed within 30 minutes. I believe parents can support the learning that is happening in the classroom through better, more meaningful ways. Borrow a novel that you can read with your child, that has content related to what they are learning about or take them on your own excursion on the weekend to a place that will support the topic they are learning about. Most teachers give out a term overview so you will know ahead of time what they will be focusing on.

6. Homework for the whole family

I have heard of many parents expressing their hatred when it comes to homework. The main reason is because it causes so much stress in their family due to the child not wanting to do it or the child getting frustrated with a parent because they cant understand what to do or the lack of time to complete homework. Is this really the atmosphere we want in our homes at night after not seeing each other all day? What benefit is homework really bringing to the families of our students?

 7. What is important for homework

Children need to be encouraged to read and have a love of learning. If your child is particularly interested in a topic, they will develop more skills by conducting their own research into it then completing set tasks that are not linked with anything else. If your child is having difficulty with a concept, consider how to make the learning experience meaningful and your child will develop quickly. Your child needs to have a variety of experiences. This is what should be important.

8. Question the amount of homework

As a teacher I would LOVE parents to come and negotiate the amount of homework given to their child. Schools generally have a basic format per grade that satisfies parents and teachers. Discussing the amount of homework in Primary school gives you more control about how your child will be set up for the year. I believe reading every night and working on a personal project should be enough for all 5 - 12 year olds.

9. Preparing for Highschool

Many parents want their child to have a lot of homework in the upper grades in order to prepare them for high school. We need to think about what is the purpose of education. Is it to always be preparing for the next stage of education or developing children’s concepts in the present? We need to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills and understanding of the world and I do not believe that a large amount of homework supports this notion.

10. Let the teachers do the teaching

Time and time again I hear parents complaining about not knowing how to teach a particular concept to their child that has come up in their homework, as the method that they have been taught at school is no longer focused on in the 21st century classroom. Although homework should be revision, many children still need parents to help answer tasks. As a teacher, I would prefer to set reading tasks and a special project that the child is interested in for homework and leave the teaching to me in the classroom.

Many teachers view homework differently. I believe it is time that parents take a stand against ridiculously large amounts of homework that does not benefit their child. As a teacher and parent I worry about the busyness of our lives and I want children to be able to be children. They have their whole lives to be adults so why are we pushing so much onto them at a young age. Let us focus on giving our children meaningful learning experiences and not piles and piles of busy work.

I would love everyone to share my blog to encourage parents and teachers to ensure that our children have time to be children.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear your thoughts on homework in primary school.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend

 

20 Ways To Help Your Child Learn Their Sounds

Sound Collage

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




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

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

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




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

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

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

1. Hammer sounds

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




2. Padlock sounds

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

3. Musical sounds

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

4. Plastic egg match

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

5. Paper plate sounds

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

6. Sound catch

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

7. Shaving cream tray

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

8. Toy match

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

9. Simple sound board game

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

10. Sound Popcorn

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

11. Sound water spray

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

12. Bulldozer sounds

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

13. Matching spoons

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

14. Scavenger hunt

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

15. Treasure hunt

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

16. Alphabet toss

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

17. Alphabet hide

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

18. Feed the Monster

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

19. Dice game

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

20. Sound I spy

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

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

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

Until next time…

Kelly Pisani

Click here to email this post to yourself or a friend