What every parent should know: The three reading levels

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


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

I have named this strategy : THE THREE LEVELS OF READING

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

Level 1 – Reading ON the line

on the line

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

Skills for this level: Remembering and Understanding

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

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

Level 2 – Reading BETWEEN the lines


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

Skills for this level: Applying and Analysing

Question starters for this level: How and why

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

Level 3 – Reading BEYOND the lines


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

Skills for this level: Evaluating and Creating

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

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

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

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

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

10 Great Mother’s Day Ideas for Kids

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and what better way to show your appreciation for your mum than a handmade gift especially for her. In this blog we have put together 11 great, simple and inexpensive ideas that will inspire your child or the children in your class to make a beautiful gift for the special lady in their life. These ideas can also be adapted for grandmothers and aunties as well.

  1. Handprint Bouquet 
handprint bouquet

What you need: Different coloured paint, paper, ribbon,  glue

Method: Children dip their hand into the paint and make four handprints on the paper. When it is dry, paint a heart in the middle of each and paint a stem from each to the bottom of the page. Attach a bow to the stems to make it look like a bunch of flowers.

This would also work well for a large Mother’s day card or on a canvas to make an original artwork.

2. Handprint Poem


What you need: a computer, paint, white paper and a piece of coloured paper.

Method: Choose a Mother’s day poem or type an original poem on white paper. Trim 1-2 centimetres on each side of the white paper. Children dip their hands in paint and make a few handprints on the white paper. When dry, stick the white paper on a coloured piece of paper.

3. Photo Collage

collage of photos

What you need: camera, printer, chalk, computer

Method: Children can draw a variety of backgrounds on the ground with chalk. The child then lays on the ground and you take a picture of them. You can arrange the photos together as a collage and put them in a frame. You might even write some text on it saying “Happy Mother’s Day 2016”

4. Tissue paper flowers

tissue paperflowers

What you need: coloured tissue paper, pipe cleaners, scissors

Method:  Cut tissue paper into squares according to the size of flower you want. ( I do 15cmx15cm) Put 12 squares together (one coloured or multi) and do a fan fold. Tie a pipe cleaner around the middle ensuring there is a long stem. Round the edges of the tissue paper while folded with scissors. Open up one layer at a time and fluff up the tissue paper.

5. Mother’s Day Card 1


What you need: Card stock, Markers, colour paper, string or ribbon, glue

Method: Do a tri fold with the card stock. On the front page write the word “MUM” and stick coloured pieces of paper that have been ripped off the larger paper. On the second fold, stick a coloured piece of paper and write “I LOVE YOU” on it. Draw a heart on the third fold and fill it with ripped coloured pieces of paper. Underneath the heart write “TO PIECES”. When finished, close the card and tie ribbon or string around it.

6. Mother’s Day Card 2


What you need: cardstock, coloured pieces of cardboard, scissors and markers

Method: Fold the cardstock in half. Cut a variety of circles of varying sizes from different coloured cardboard. Cut strips of cardboard for the stems. Cut a square or rectangle and stick on the front ensuring you leave the top side open. Assemble 3 flowers using 4 coloured circles. Glue the stem on each flower and glue stem in vase. Write a Mother’s Day message on the inside.

7. Candle art

candle decoration

What you need: White tissue paper, coloured markers, hairdryer, baking paper, candle

Method : Children draw pictures and/or write words on the tissue paper that has been cut a little smaller than the candle. (be careful as tissue paper is delicate) Hold the tissue paper on the candle and wrap a larger piece of baking paper around it. An adult needs to hold the hairdryer on each part of the candle until the tissue paper melts into the wax of the candle. This will take a couple of minutes. When complete take off the baking paper and the image is now on the candle.

8. Footprint art


What you need: Canvas, paint, marker

Method: Children put their feet in paint and make two sets of footprints on the canvas. Use green paint to make a stem for each and put some leaves and grass on the artwork. Using a marker, write a Mother’s Day message. Wait for it to dry before wrapping it up.

9. Pot plant art


What you need: Terracotta pot, acrylic paint, baking paper and newspaper

Method: Put newspaper on the table and put baking paper on top. Turn a terracotta pot upside down and place in the middle of the baking paper. Squeeze the paint down the sides of the pot. Do not remove until it is completely dry. The baking paper will easily come off with the extra dried paint on it. Add a plant and you have a beautiful gift for Mother’s Day.

10. Child blowing kisses


What you need : Canvas, Photo of child, paint, coloured paper

Method: Take a picture of the child in a kiss blowing position. Print photo and cut out around child. Paint the background of the canvas and wait until it is dry. Stick photo in corner of canvas. Cut out little hearts using a variety of paper. Stick hearts on the canvas from the mouth of the child going upwards.

Hopefully some of these ideas have set your creative juices going. On behalf of Creating A Learning Environment, I would like to wish all mothers a wonderful day on Sunday full of special memories and lots of kisses.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Open letter to parents – The damaging craze sweeping our primary schools

Dear Parents,

I am concerned. Actually, I am very concerned. There is a craze that has filtrated into most primary schools that is having a negative affect on your children. It’s survival relies on your vulnerabilities and insecurities. It has even made its way into the life of children at preschool and daycare.

What am I worried about? TUTORING!! I realise this is going to open a can of worms as many of you will swear by this service for helping your child. There are many aspects of tutoring that I strongly oppose. I hope to outline some of these in this letter and give you a clearer understanding of how children learn. I am finding more and more of you are turning to tutoring in order to “help” your child and what is more shocking is that many of you feel it is necessary to send your preschooler to educational companies to “prepare” them for school. I am annoyed with societal pressures and companies that are causing stress among you all in order to persuade you to signing your child up for these tutoring courses. I am really quite furious that you are pushed into thinking that your child is not ready for school? How ridiculous that you are being preyed upon and feeling that you must spend money to ensure your child is being given the best opportunities to learn. These are the 5 things I do know and I encourage you to read them carefully and form your own opinion.

Children and rote learning


Children do not learn through rote learning. Now I hear you saying “Thats how I learnt” but was it really learning? You did not learn concepts but you learnt processes on how to solve problems. You did not know why you did certain things but you just did them anyway as that is how you were taught. A prime example is the “borrow and payback” method most of you learnt when solving subtraction problems or the wording of “9 doesn’t go into 7” when solving long division problems. The problem with most tutoring companies is that children are taught processes and not an understanding of concepts. They are taught quick methods that get the right answer but they can not understand how they solved it, therefore not having a deep understanding of the concept.

Children learn in context


This follows on from my first point. Children need to learn concepts in a meaningful context. There is so much research out there supporting the idea that children learn so much more from the conversations they have with others than while doing drill and practice type activities. These drill and practice type activities are focused on in tutoring programs. For younger children it may be learning sight words and times tables. Where is the link for these children to the everyday world. If the relationship between the concept and your child’s world is the most important aspect to a deep understanding why is it not even considered in these tutoring companies? Why are sight words being learnt with flash cards instead of within a text? The answer is simple. Tutoring companies are looking for quick fixes and a surface level understanding to “help” your child. As a result your child will need “tutoring” for a VERY long time as they will never get a deep understanding and therefore can not apply their knowledge to a variety of problems.

Learning needs to be individualised


The learning must be centred on your child’s learning style and interests and this is something that the “one size fits all” model of tutoring is unable to do. Most tutoring companies try to “tutor” more than one student at a time with the same activity. No consideration is taken about a students prior knowledge, what they need to help them build a strong foundation or simple how they learn. Many children do have learning difficulties and unfortunately no matter how many tutoring sessions you pay for, your child will not improve if the learning style is not being taken into consideration.

Worksheets = Ridiculous


I had to write the word ridiculous on this one as many of my close colleagues hear me say this word a trillion times a day. What I believe is the most ridiculous idea is getting many students to complete the same task that does not allow for difficult thinking. What is the purpose of educating a child? It is to guide them from a place of confusion to understanding by not telling them but providing the tools to help them get there on their own. Filling in a worksheet is basically busy work. I hate them and they have no place in the classroom or home. Tutoring companies love a worksheet. Remember their idea of learning is to practice and practice until it becomes perfect. I challenge this notion as I believe that practice and practice makes permanent. Teaching children how to complete 100 of the same problems with different numbers or words does not help the child become perfect but it does permanently alter the use of strategies as they believe that only the one that has been shown is the correct one. We all know that there are many ways to solve a problem and it is important for each child to come to the realisation that some strategies are more efficient than others on their own.

Tutoring preschool children


Please, I beg you all to save your money and let your kids be kids. Children learn through their social interactions, games, conversations and at a time of need basis. I want to share an example with you to drive this point home. As an adult, you are probably sent to many work seminars, professional learning courses or training sessions. How many of you actually come away saying that all the information was relevant and that you can put it all to use right now. Probably not many of you. We all learn at a time of need basis. We will learn the information when we need it. It makes sense doesn’t it? Therefore a child will learn letters, numbers and the periodic table when they need to. Before going to school, there is no need for them to write a letter or read a sign. In saying that, some children are naturally interested it reading and writing but their questions should guide their learning. Too many adults assume they know what children need to learn but if they are not ready to learn or do not need to learn it for that particular time in their life how would they gain a deep understanding of that concept. All that a Kindergarten teacher wants from children when they first start school, is that they have good social skills, are keen to learn and have independence. The rest will come through meaningful learning experiences.

What do you do if your child is struggling in a particular area? The best place to start is to ask your child’s class teacher. They may suggest some activities to do that is specific to your child’s need. All parent’s have the ability to help their child and if they feel a little uncomfortable or out of their depth, there are many teachers that offer private lessons to help give you ideas on how to help your child. Unfortunately you can not just pay money and assume that your child will be “fixed”. It does take hard work and does take a long time.

I never want you to feel pressured to get tutoring for your child. Research, ask for help and consult a professional to help your child overcome a gap in their learning. Put your wallet back in your pocket and do not start sending your child to tutoring.

Kind Regards

Kelly Pisani

Information and advice to help your child in school- Part 3

In this week’s blog we focus on another 5 educational concerns that parents have and offer advice and practical solutions to try with children at home.

1. How to help your child write a speech


The article below 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. Click on the link below to read the tips in the article.

10 ways to help your child write a speech

2. Building resilience in children


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 practise 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.

15 ways to teach resilience to your child

3. How to read with an older child


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 the article below, there are 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.

Reading with your older child

4. Teaching science to children


Science is a key learning area that is not taught well in Australian primary schools compared to other countries. Maybe this is the result of many teachers not having a deep understanding about scientific concepts or that parents place a higher emphasis on numeracy and literacy concepts. Regardless of the reason, it is our role as educators and parents to ensure that children are having the opportunity to conduct a variety of science experiments which will help them form a strong understanding about the world around them. Below is a link to an article which shares 10 science experiments that all children will enjoy.

10 Science experiments that children should conduct

5. Helicopter parenting


Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe a method of parenting that involves constant monitoring of a child’s experiences. The use of the word “helicopter” describes the parent’s behaviour of hovering above their child through their play, behaviour, sport and educational experiences. Interested in seeing if you are a helicopter parent? Click on the link below to read more.

Are you a helicopter parent?

This blog concludes our information and advice series. Stay tuned for another exciting blog series starting shortly.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Information and advice to help your child in school – Part 2

meaningful tasks

We started our blog series,”Information and advice to help your child in school” last week. This week we have Part 2.  In this week’s blog we have put together 5 insightful articles from Creating A Learning Environment that will help parents with support, advice and tips to ensure their child is reaching their potential. The articles cover a variety of topics in order to give specific assistance to all parent’s concerns.

1. Reading Levels


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

What K-2 teachers want you to know: Reading Levels

2. Addition and Subtraction


Children need to have many opportunities to problem solve using mental strategies before they are exposed to more rigid, procedural strategies. We want our children to approach each Mathematical task creatively and critically. The link below shows addition and subtraction strategies that will benefit your young child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s problem solving toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve a number problem successfully.

Teaching Mathematics to Young Children: Addition and Subtraction

3. Reading strategies

reading 2

Teaching children about reading strategies is equipping them with tools to solve reading problems. Using reading strategies effectively will help children become confident, fluent and expressive readers who develop a love of reading. By clicking on the link below, you will read about effective reading strategies that will benefit your child.

How to read with your child – Reading Strategies

4. Print Concepts


In order for children to read they need to know how a book works. This is what teachers call “Print Concepts”. Most children are expected to know about some of these concepts prior to starting school, while others are developed through Kindergarten and Year 1. In NSW schools, children are tested on their knowledge of Print Concepts at the beginning of Kindergarten, end of Kindergarten, Year 1 and at any other point for “at risk” readers (children not meeting benchmarks). It is important for parents to have a good understanding about Print Concepts in order to help develop their child’s understanding of them. Most parents refer to print concepts while reading to their child without even realising it. Below is the link to the Print Concepts article.

How to read with young children: Print Concepts

5. Place Value


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

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

Teaching Mathematics to Young Children – Place Value

Hopefully these five articles has given you some guidance and understanding when helping your child grasp literacy and numeracy concepts.

Next week, Part 3 of the series will be available with another 5 educational articles to help parents.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

Information and advice to help your child in school – Part 1



We have started our newest blog series this week. The title of this series is “Information and advice to help your child in school” In this week’s blog we have put together 5 insightful articles from Creating A Learning Environment that will help parents with support, advice and tips to ensure their child is reaching their potential. The articles cover a variety of topics in order to give specific assistance to all parent’s concerns.

1. Sight words

All children are asked to learn sight words to support their developing reading skills. It is important that children learn these words in context (within a text) as well as playing games to reinforce their memory of these words. Click on the link below to read more about learning sight words.

20 ways to help your child learn their sight words

2. Times tables

Once the child has a clear understanding of multiplication, it is then time to learn all their facts. Most teachers set a particular times table per week that the children must revise. Below is a list of 20 ways to help children remember multiplication facts.

20 ways to help children remember multiplication facts.

3. 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. Below is a list of 30 activities your child can do to strengthen their fine motor skills.

30 ways to develop fine motor skills: Early intervention matters

4. Handwriting

Although technology is embedded into everything we do, handwriting is still an essential skill to have in today’s society. Handwriting is a fine motor skill that can be developed through a variety of activities. It is strongly advised to hold off introducing the formation of letters until these pre-writing skills are developed. Below is a link to pre-writing skills that your child should be able to do before learning how to form letters and how to form each letter correctly.

Literacy in the Primary classroom: Lower Case Letter formation

5. Learning Sounds

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. Below is a link to 20 fun and inexpensive activities that you can do with your child to learn their sounds.

20 ways to help your child learn their sounds

Next week, part 2 of the series will be online with another 5 articles that will give parents information and advice on various educational aspects.

Until next time…

Kelly PisaniClick here to email this post to yourself or a friend