Posts Tagged ‘inquirers’

Oracy and Reading

January 2, 2015

  1. Learning to read begins at birth as family members read aloud to their infants.
  2. Family members have an important role to play in their children’s literacy development by talking with them and demonstrating how print is used at home and out in the community.
  3. The only reason for reading is to construct meaning. (Reading does not require the production of sound, but it may.)
  4. Readers use a range of strategies to construct meaning. They draw upon the symbols (letters, signs, numbers, icons, etc) and the associated sounds of the language, the grammar of the language and the meanings of the language.
  5. Without meaning, the associations between letters and sounds can not be known. Meaning is required to make these associations clear. (For example,  no-one can read the word ‘lead’ using phonics alone.  Is it ‘leed’ or ‘led’?  The word must be in text which gives it meaning.)
  6. The teaching of phonics is closely related to the teaching of writing; and the teaching of writing is closely related to the teaching of reading.
  7. Reading and writing are inter-related and occur in every-day life practices. Readers read for many purposes: to be informed, delighted, challenged, amused, comforted, entertained and enlightened. In our teaching of literacy, the reasons for reading are highlighted, not forgotten.
  8. Reading and writing help children to understand their own world, but also introduce them to wider worlds, both real and imaginary.
  9. Real texts invite children to want to read.  They foster curiosity, passion, joy and wonder.
  10. Real texts include print-based materials and texts on-screen (eg computers, mobile phones, automatic tellers). Print-based materials may include signs in the environment, greeting cards and many other forms of print as well as traditional books. On-screen texts may include still and moving images, voice and music as well as printed words.
  11. Reading requires an understanding that no text is neutral in its opinions.  When authors create a text, their biases, points of view and prejudices are embedded.  Readers need to be aware of how a text positions them or persuades them to the writer’s point of view.  We call this critical literacy. (It is not ‘literary criticism’ with which it is sometimes confused.)
  12. Ready access to real texts in classrooms, school libraries and community libraries is crucial.  We believe it’s essential for school libraries to be staffed by trained teacher-librarians.
  13. Decisions about classroom literacy programs and assessment are best made on site by those working with the students.  Only then can literacy instruction be tailored to students with different needs.  Students learn in different ways  –  one size does not fit all.
  14. Valid, reliable assessment is a continuous process;  not a single event. The main purpose of continuous assessment is to inform teaching and improve learning.  It is the basis of the most effective communication with parents about their children’s progress.
  15. Teachers need to be involved in continuous professional learning. They need to be able to articulate their beliefs and explain their practices to parents and the wider community.

Tips for early and sustained oracy and literacy development

  • Children being expected to answer questions in developed phrases rather than just monosyllables, from nursery onwards.
  • Teachers giving more time for children to develop fuller oral responses to questions posed.
  • Teachers enabling children to pose questions of one another, in order once again that the children practise their sounds and speech patterns.
  • Direct and regular intervention/correction from staff in how children speak and pronounce their letters.
  • Volunteer staff and governors giving time to small groups of children in order to develop their conversation, vocabulary and basic social skills.
  • The development of structured and regular drama/acting opportunities in which children are expected to project their voice and practise speaking at length, with good eye contact.
  • The use of more music and rhyme to consolidate how children are hearing and repeating sounds.
  • The use of established EAL techniques (pattern, repetition, consolidation, elaboration) with children, particularly boys, whose first language is English.
  • The regular use of short dictations, across the curriculum, and with an emphasis on keen listening and high quality presentation of writing.
  • A focus on how children are actually holding a pencil/crayon and how they are forming their letters on a consistent basis.
  • The regular use of limericks/couplets/verses/short poems being set to be   learned by heart and for recitation in class groups; parents can be involved creatively in this.
  • Every opportunity taken by teachers and support staff to model and promote interesting vocabulary, orally and in writing/photos/images, to match age and needs of children.
  • An unashamed ambition and affirmative timetabling to increase the numbers of children in Year 2 achieving level 3, and level 5 in Year 6, in reading and writing – having fun with this, as with everything else!

Roy Blatchford. National Education Trust 2012.

Shared Reading: An Effective Instructional Model

Basis for Shared Reading Model

The shared reading model was developed by Holdaway (1979). It builds from the research that indicates that storybook reading is a critically important factor in young children’s reading development (Wells, 1986). The storybook reading done by parents in a home setting is particularly effective (Strickland & Taylor, 1989). However, in school, in most cases, a teacher reads to a group of children rather than to a single child. The shared reading model allows a group of children to experience many of the benefits that are part of storybook reading done for one or two children at home (Ferreiro & Teberosky, 1982; Schickendanz, 1978).

The shared reading model often uses oversized books (referred to as big books) with enlarged print and illustrations. As the teacher reads the book aloud, all of the children who are being read to can see and appreciate the print and illustrations.

Repeated Readings

In the shared reading model there are multiple readings of the books over several days. Throughout, children are actively involved in the reading (Yaden, 1988). The teacher may pause in the reading and ask for predictions as to what will happen next. Because many of the books include predictable text, the children often chime in with a word or phrase. Groups of children or individual children might volunteer or be invited to read parts of the story. Through repeated readings and the predictable text, children become familiar with word forms and begin to recognize words and phrases (Bridge, Winograd, & Haley, 1983; Pikulski & Kellner, 1992).

Purposes for Rereading

The repeated readings of the same story serve various purposes. The first reading is for enjoyment; the second may focus on building and extending comprehension of the selection; a third might focus attention on the interesting language and vocabulary; a fourth might focus on decoding, using the words in the selection as a starting point for teaching word identification skills (Yaden, 1989).

Benefits of Shared Reading:

  • Rich, authentic, interesting literature can be used, even in the earliest phases of a reading program, with children whose word-identification skills would not otherwise allow them access to this quality literature.
  • Each reading of a selection provides opportunities for the teacher to model reading for the children.
  • Opportunities for concept and language expansion exist that would not be possible if instruction relied only on selections that students could read independently.
  • Awareness of the functions of print, familiarity with language patterns, and word-recognition skills grow as children interact several times with the same selection.
  • Individual needs of students can be more adequately met. Accelerated readers are challenged by the interesting, natural language of selections. Because of the support offered by the teacher, students who are more slowly acquiring reading skills experience success.
  • Concepts, Strategies and Skills Needed to Become Effective Readers
  • Functions and Value of Print
  • Perhaps the most important concept that children need to develop is what is frequently referred to as the functions of print. When children understand this concept, they have begun to understand that printed language is related to oral language, that print is a form of communication, and that print and books are sources of enjoyment and information (Brown, 1991; Heath, 1982; Schicken- danz, 1978; Teale & Sulzby, 1989). Children who do not understand the functions and value of reading are unlikely to become successful readers.
  • Oral Language and Listening Skills
  • Oral language is the critical foundation upon which reading and writing build. Glazer (1989), Strickland (1991), and Teale and Sulzby (1989) have all discussed the critical importance of oral language as it relates to beginning reading and writing. Learning the meanings of thousands of words and developing an understanding of the way words are ordered to make sense (syntax) are extremely complex processes that take place in oral language development and transfer to reading and writing. Cognitive activities, such as understanding cause-and-effect relationships or chronological order, that are established through listening and communicated through speaking are the same cognitive processes used in reading.
  • All children who enter kindergarten have some foundation of oral language skills that can serve as a foundation for their reading and writing. Oral language skills can be expanded and further developed through listening activities, especially the reading aloud of stories, and eventually through reading experiences (Galda & Cullinan, 1991; Glazer, 1989).
  • There is a strong, significant relationship between listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Listening to stories is an excellent vehicle for expanding oral language patterns, for extending thinking skills, and for building vocabulary (Eller, Pappas, & Brown, 1988; Ellery, 1989; Leung & Pikulski, 1990).
  • Understandings About Language
  • To grow as readers and writers, young children must develop other understandings about language, often referred to as metalinguistic awareness. They must, for example, develop a concept of what a word is, both printed and spoken, and know how it is different from numbers, letters, sounds, and sentences. They must learn that print is read from left to right and from top to bottom (Downing, 1989; Yaden, 1989).
  • Learning Letter-Sound Associations
  • To grow as readers and writers, children must also develop an understanding of what Adams (1990) refers to as the alphabetic principle. When first introduced to print, children often think that the printed word is a concrete representation of an object. For example, they expect cat to be a longer word than mouse because cats are bigger and longer than mice (Ferreiro & Teberosky, 1982; Schickendanz, 1989). Instead, they need to develop the idea that spoken words are composed of identifiable sounds and, further, the idea that letters of the alphabet represent those sounds. In order to develop an understanding of the alphabetic principle, they must become familiar with letter forms (Adams, 1990; Barr, 1984; Schickendanz, 1989) and with the idea that spoken words have identifiable sounds in them — referred to as the concept of phonemic awareness (Adams, 1990; Griffith & Olson, 1992; Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988; Tunmer & Nesdale, 1985).
  • Importance of a Rich Literacy Environment
  • All of these understandings and skills need to develop in classrooms that present a rich literacy environment, one filled with books, posters, art, children’s work, and so forth (Morrow, 1989).
  • How Young Children Become Readers and Writers
  • The research in the area of emergent literacy suggests that the roots of both reading and writing are established in the oral language experiences of very young children (Glazer, 1989; Strickland & Feeley, 1991).
  • Home Experiences
  • Children learn much about reading and writing as pre-schoolers by observing the reading and writing that occurs in their families. They then begin to reading and writing as part of their home experiences (Heath, 1983; Taylor, 1983). They come to realize that the print that is part of their environment communicates messages that fulfill a variety of important functions.
  • Modeling Through Storybook Reading
  • Recent research clarifies the extreme importance of reading storybooks to young children both at home and in school. Very early, children begin to imitate that reading — at first by relying exclusively on picture clues and memory. With increased experience they begin to focus on the information that print conveys (Snow, 1983; Sulzby, 1985; Teale, 1987).
  • Early Writing Forms
  • Research has also shown that young children are strategic in early forms of writing. They begin by using scribbles and progress through increasingly accurate representations of the relationship between letters and the sounds for which they stand. As children think about how to represent the sounds of words through their writing, they are building skills that will be useful for reading as well (Barnhart, 1986; Dyson, 1985; Teale & Sulzby, 1986

A critical discussion about the current concerns in the public education system

January 1, 2015

The purpose of this document is to encourage a critical discussion about the current concerns that teachers are dealing with in the public education system. I am a practicing primary school teacher in a state system so consequently the emphasis is on early childhood and primary education; however I am sure that many of the issues raised have implications for the middle years of compulsory education – Grade 5 to year 9. While the concerns outlined below are mainly those of teachers I also encourage anyone who has an interest in public education and pedagogy to participate with their comments.

Any discussion about education and attempting to define its meaning and purpose for our children and society proposes the need to provide an analysis of our society. That we live in an age of mass production should be a given but what then are the implications for our educations within a mass-culture? Presumably we must also talk about education generally as mass-education for the masses. I have an idea that an educator’s aim is to encourage each other to be autodidacts. Where we are able to learn for ourselves and learn from each other. Who educates the educator?

Finally, before you proceed a point needs to be emphasised.

The following article is informed by the following assumptions.

  • That the primary objective of public education is to promote and foster wholistic human development of the individual while understanding that human beings are fundamentally social animals.
  • That there should be a constant focus on understanding how we learn. How we learn is a question we should always keep asking and attempting to define. In this regard we need to ask who is asking and for whom? We know something about human cognition from a scientific point of view but there is increased interest in a holistic understanding of learning and teaching, and consequently that good personal relationships make a significant contribution to effective teaching and learning.
  • That ‘life long learning’ is an essential characteristic of human beings’ development. That education should be directed toward developing our capacities to educate each other and ourselves in the manner of the autodidact. It should not be seen in the negative sense of constant retraining to meet the changing demands of the corporate economic and political system.
  • The role of the teacher is then not to reproduce the next generation of ‘wage slaves’ ready to provide their labour power for the benefit of capitalists and their ‘enterprises’. We need to be able to critically appraise the prevailing industrial model and the corresponding transference of its ‘values’ into the public education system.
  • Standardisation through systemetised testing; terms such as value adding; line managers; classroom management are contrary to the previously stated aims of education in that they are management tools which have little to contribute to teachers’ pedagogical concerns or the social and emotional development of children and adolescents in the positive sense. overtly about building cooperative caring teams are an – language such as communities – communities of inquirers
  • That Citizenship – benign and abstracted from contemporary circumstances- for what a parliamentary democracy a participatory democracy? – what does empowerment, taking action, making a difference mean? Service charity etc
  • The Victorian Governments Blueprints for Victorian Government Schools, The Victorian Essential Learning Standards and the Principles of Learning and Teaching provide the framework for effective teachers, and teaching and learning. The Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority supports integrated and inquiry approaches that supports this holistic understanding of learning, education, and our purpose as teachers.
  • In addition to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards and the Principles of Teaching and Learning the approach provided within the series Primary Connections produced in collaboration with the Academy of Science: Linking Science with Literacy using the ‘5Es’ teaching and learning model; Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate, supports the understanding that we learn best when we are allowed to work out explanations for ourselves over time, through a variety of learning experiences structured by both learners and the teacher. Making sense and meaning of our experiences and connections between new information and our prior knowledge in relation to the natural and cultural worlds is the intention of this content framework.

Teaching is most rewarding when there are opportunities to provide for, and participate in learning experiences with students. Younger children particularly enjoy time in the garden when they are digging, collecting and sharing their observations with their peers and teachers. Older students can be more difficult to engage when they have not had the opportunity of these early playful foundational experiences.

My observations and experiences with children in such learning environments convince me that when we allow possibilities for exploration, experiment, observation and questions students generally become, and are, actively engaged in learning. A young third grade boy, unsettled and made anxious by his first two years of ‘schooling’ elsewhere, remarked to his mother, “It doesn’t feel like work because it is fun”. Described as experiential learning, this approach provides the means for serious but ‘playful’ engagement in the learning process and the childrens’ self-development and self-understanding as active learners with an emphasis on the social context. Emergent and integrated inquiry learning and teaching relies on an ongoing, evolving dialogue, a narrative constructed over time by the collective, or community of students and their teachers.

Accepting that knowledge is socially constructed means that purposeful, and meaningful engagement with ideas and concepts is only possible when they connected to, and are built out of our own experiences. If we accept that learning is the struggle for knowledge then we need to then accept that teachers need to provide a learning environment and situations that provide students’ with the possibilities, and the means, to construct knowledge for themselves. Because knowledge is socially produced childrens’ ideas become particularly meaningful when they are shared with others and have arisen out of common events and shared experiences.

Because knowledge is socially constructed and reconstructed the way we learn, and gain knowledge of the world does not change fundamentally as we progress from infant to adult. What does change is the degree of sophistication of our understanding of elements, processes, and the complexity of our conceptual descriptions. Our subjective commonsense, everyday beliefs and opinions are invalidated or validated as we seek to discriminate by finding evidence for objective judgments.

This is also the case for teachers’ professional development. Leading the evolution of a program that provided for students’ participation in a kitchen garden, and developed their appreciation and involvement in the surrounding natural environment, was key to fruitful and meaningful engagement with these learning process precisely because they were central and common experiences for both students and teachers.

Understanding teaching practice as an imagined continuum, as an evolving project, benefits from being alert to opportunities provided by the It has been through of an inquiry approach for the evolution of a student-centred, emergent, and integrated curriculum that evolved Given the many demands of classroom teachers’ time and other issues around ‘covering the curriculum’, careful attention must be given to building connections between concepts and activity in all these areas by demonstrating how they can be developed in an integrated way and arts program

An example of this was the evolution of my students’ mould project. During one of our forays into the garden we had plucked from it a very large squash. The children were amazed by its size and we set to weighing, measuring, drawing and writing about it. We had also noticed that the skin had been punctured. Over the following weeks we observed that mould had begun to grow over the puncture mark. The children continued to observe and record the changes that were taking place over time. Many weeks later our large squash had been reduced to a small, hard, and unrecognisable disc about the size of a fifty-cent piece. These observations provided no end of discussion and speculation. Questions and hypotheses abounded as we struggled for plausible explanations. This all lead to further mould experiments and back into the garden of course to discover even more about life within a compost bin.

For teachers’ creating interest in the mundane, everyday world, could at first appear uninteresting. However this story alerts us to what it actually means to ‘localise’ the curriculum, and as well provide meaningful learning that connects to, and builds on childrens’ experiences. The complexity of any curriculum framework can be made manageable by uncovering the interrelationship of knowledge and skills across the three strands and sixteen domains in regard to VELS. It is critical to appreciate that the development of any program that involves cultural change within a community takes time. It requires bringing everyone involved on the journey with you.

Understanding the intention of any curriculum framework as defined by education departments is an absolute given, but the significant challenge is the interpretation of that ‘abstract’ framework into one that is localised and gives meaning to the term authentic learning and teaching for both students and teachers.

A ‘localised curriculum’ must meet both the education department’s and the school community’s expectations. It is necessary to continually remind ourselves that the purpose of the teacher, and teaching, is primarily to provide opportunities for meaningful experiences, and carefully introduce and develop substantive content in an engaging way for students. It is difficult to improve teaching practice personally and generally when it is compromised by misinformed parental expectations, and demands to satisfy political and commercial agendas that have little to do with the welfare and education of students.

Negotiating the daily demands of creating a productive and engaging classroom program with the students’ involvement provides the educator with rich learning experiences too. My ongoing participation in subject associations, the Teacher Environment Network and the Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools have all reinforced for me the evolving nature of the educational process for both students and educators, and the importance of collegiate teams and peer-to-peer learning in this regard.

The Classroom as a Community for Inquiry

July 18, 2009

The classroom as a community of inquirers and learners.

Inquiry learning begins from the premise that we are, by nature, inquirers and thinkers. The Community of Inquiry is an approach which develops the practice of the Socratic method: this means that a stimulus or a provocation is provided to the community which then stimulates thought and dialogue. Dialogue identifies for the community those concepts that are central and common to us all, such as fairness and beauty; while we take for granted a common belief or definition, we also find that they are contestable concepts. Socratic dialogue assists to build the skills of thinking about thinking, argument and reflection. Dialogue allows students and the teacher the space to explore our own and other minds. Developing these skills is the intention of the philosophical community of inquiry as promoted internationally and nationally, by the various associations of Philosophy with Children in Schools.

Children’s psychological and cognitive development

Even though we still know very little of children’s psychological and cognitive development, our understanding has grown over the past few decades. In regards to education there is a large body of work that discusses how children construct and reconstruct knowledge. This approach is known as constructivism and it is a dominant theory that informs learning and teaching today and it is generally associated with the appreciation of child development as a continuum, a spiral, rather than a series of independent stages of development. Holding the metaphor of the developmental spiral, imagine also that our embodied minds travel through four-dimensional space, and, as we do so, we encounter resistance with nature and each other. We therefore seek solutions by asking questions, we imagine other possibilities, we try to change the circumstances that cause us discomfit.

•    One question for me is, can we assume that curiosity, and wonder, awareness, consciousness, and thinking, and a general desire for understanding are present in the baby to the grave? If so, the elements that change along the continuum of development supply the ‘complexity’ of conceptual understanding and knowledge.

Essentially, constructivism understands that knowledge is socially constructed and defined by our relationships. Consequently, there is an emphasis on the quality of the relationships between students, teachers and peers. I like to describe this collaborative thinking as the ‘meeting of minds’. Classroom instruction is not only defined by the teacher transmitting facts but by all members of the classroom thinking and communicating together: thereby learning by thinking; imagining possibilities; seeking opportunities; the means for a particular end; evaluating and reflecting; thinking about their thinking and coming to a common understanding. This approach requires a classroom environment which is safe for all to express their thoughts, explore their concerns and questions, and learn what it means to take responsibility for and manage their own and each other’s learning. Such a classroom is often defined as a  ‘democratic classroom’.

Learning to be a learner: Maturity and imagination.

An important aspect of children’s development is developing our mutual understanding of the importance of collaborative thinking and learning. Engaging with each other’s minds in dialogue assists in constructing our personal and social experience and gathering knowledge of the world around us in a meaning and purposeful way. This approach is based or modeled on the conception, and development, of a community of scientists as a community of inquirers. A community of inquiry pays as much attention to cognitive development, that is, thinking and related skills, dispositions, habits and ‘thinking tools’ as to physiological development and tool use. My engagement with children in the classroom in all its variety is about getting to know each other as ‘people’, as ‘humans’ and as learners learning together. I think understanding our ‘human-ess’ is essential to making sense of ourselves, and each other.

A critical aspect of effective teaching and learning is respectful relationships.

Assessment in such a classroom environment involves a matrix of ‘objectives’ broadly categorised into three parts, Assessment OF learning, Assessment FOR learning, and Assessment AS learning. Assessment AS learning is the dominant field and is intimately connected to our human, and personal, social and cultural relationships. It is about imagination, thinking, and reflection.
When assessing children’s performance, it is important to consider the learning environment, and as well have an understanding of our psychological and physical development and their interrelationships.
Ten assumptions about children’s development when thinking about assessment and reporting:
•    Students are always watching and observing what is going on around them.
•     Have inquisitive minds.
•     Grow and develop at varying rates.
•     Learn best when they engage in meaningful activities.
•     Need to be exposed to a variety of experiences to allow learning outcomes to be achieved.
•     Need a supportive environment to develop self-understanding and to understand others.
•     Respond to praise and recognition.
•    Engage in individual, and collective experiences involving ‘risk-taking’ and problem-solving.
•    Develop the means of making their own and collective connections, conclusions and judgements.
•    Need to repeat activities so as to explore possibilities refine skills and reinforce learning.

The following is an account of of my classroom practice over one year.

Sociability – interpersonal and Personal relationships  – Civics and Citizenship.

Grandparents Day was a great morning. The day just buzzed as children proudly talked about their work and the different things they do at school. From observation, there is a real affinity between these two generational groups. Initially, our morning ran much as we would do on any other day. Our guests joined in, keen to ask questions of the children and contribute themselves. There was no shortage of willing presenters to explain the various projects we have pursued over the year. Our grandparents were very impressed with the combined talent and maturity demonstrated by all the children. It would be great to see grandparents even more involved in the school in the future.

We have investigated how we can contribute to improving water quality. A major focus throughout the year has been around our concerns about water. We have begun exploring the natural water cycle and system of Transpiration and as well, the way we transport and use water. These understandings have been developed by applying their knowledge to understanding our connections to the local Plenty River and along with experiences of meeting with engaged adults, the Friends of Plenty River and the local councils Water Watch officer who is also a participant in the local Teacher’s Environment Network.

Guardians of the River is how the class defines itself in relation to their explorations of the Plenty River. Other literacy and numeracy strategies have been developed through the Litter Campaign and by reading the Jennie Baker story “Where the Forest Meets the Sea”, and researching, sharing experiences, writing songs and planning and developing an animated story about litter and the Plenty River. Others began writing a story using the structure of “One Drop and a Million More” which describes nature’s water cycle.

Numeracy and Literacy

Ukulele and the formation of the ‘BUGs’, the “Briar Hill Ukulele Group”. There is clearly much musical talent and a desire to perform, which I hope will be developed over the coming years. The children had great fun designing their bugs and transferring their designs to their T-shirt. Their debut concert at the Spring Fair was a cause for delight and was one of the highlights of the year. Learning the ukulele has stimulated discussion about how we learn and the need for practice, effort and motivation. Apart from the challenge of learning a musical instrument, the program supported our learning and singing of the song “Botany Bay”, which provided the stimulus for an exploration of child convicts and transportation, and the occupation of land and settlement of the early colonies. This theme arose out of a story about the gold rush and the Ballarat diggings. We also explored the different media used to tell stories: in this case we watched the Australian children’s animation, ‘The Little Convict’ by Yoram Gross, and we read, compared and exchanged ideas about the book of the same name.

Creating an animated story using the stop-motion software on the Mac computers has been a literacy focus over the semester for some Children. Rachel Bishop introduced the Jeannie Baker story, ‘Where the Forest Meets the Sea’ and the story structure provided a model for the class to create their own story about the Plenty River litterers. Planning for the story introduced concerns about plot, character, and sequence. The children had to develop their ideas, organise their storyboards and come to agreement about how each idea would connect to make the overall story, truly a team effort. Discussing and making their own animation was also supported by our visit to the Pixar exhibition at the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI). This visit assisted in our appreciation of constructing stories and story telling, and as well supported their process in creating their own animated story. Earlier in the year we had read the Judith Wright novel ‘The Dingo King’. Supporting activities around this story explored how writers used descriptive words to ‘paint’ pictures for us to imagine. In their reading and writing activities we have looked at how our choices of words and character are important elements of a good story.

Environmental Education for Sustainability activities have connected to literacy and numeracy in the classroom. Numerical understandings have been applied and reinforced by collecting rubbish, sorting into categories, and counting rubbish in the playground. The rubbish was later washed and used to make dramatic symbols supporting their ‘put litter in the bin’ message. Children wrote and performed songs that further promoted this message. In the classroom, they have used their graphing knowledge to develop comparative data. Their anti-litter campaign and the Plenty River and water use will continue to be a focus next year. Our visit to the Rethink Center (Banyule Council’s recycling centre) allowed us to see how these ideas are used in recycling rubbish where it is sorted ready for the manufacture of different products. The continued drought and the difficulties of growing plants and maintaining a garden in these conditions have been recurring themes. The children have planted gourds, pumpkins, zucchinis and corn and sunflowers as well.  In the classroom, we have been observing and recording the conditions and variables that affect the growth of moulds.

Scientific and philosophical understandings.

Scientific and philosophical understandings allow fascinating comparisons to be made between different forms of living things and their own mutability of form. I hope to continue this line of investigation next year as one of our big ideas. The development and application of these understandings will inform their environmental studies as they apply this knowledge to the science and lore of cooking, and their work of cultivating the garden, and as well, to the natural cycles of the garden.

Weighing, measuring, supermarkets and commercial packaging. It is important to see literacy in all its dimensions, such as imaginative, speculative and historical writing and as well the use of non-fiction, informational and commercial texts. Our visit to the supermarket was a stimulus for a number of different activities and projects in numeracy and literacy. They have begun looking at type-faces, choices of colours, size and placement of words and the relationship those things have to imparting a message. Explorations of packaging and nutritional content lead us to look at weighing and measuring. I would hope to continue these activities as part of their health program. Another emphasis this year has been the practising of the structure of algorithms and process. We have been developing our understanding of multiplication and multiplicity concepts, beginning with repeated addition. We have also been revising adding and summing, the relationship with subtraction, which is finding the difference between two numbers. Division, fractions and time have also been introduced.

Spelling strategies have been a particular focus especially as the students grapple with words that are not obviously phonetic in the way many three-letter nouns are. There has been a focus on the different ways of writing the same sound and how two or more vowels clustered together are used to denote one sound but also indicate a change in meaning and use. Everyone received a spelling journal for use in the classroom and as an element of their home reading activity. The purpose has been to encourage them to focus on the increasing complexity of English words and spelling.

Words and their meaning have been an element in our literacy and numeracy studies. We have been using reference materials such as atlases and dictionaries to connect language to the comparing of size and measurement and the understandings we need to make meaningful comparisons. Examples of these included the very tiny baby, born premature weighing only 318 grams – or, as the children discovered, 1½ cups of dry rice. The news story about the squid that was washed up on a Tasmanian beach was used as a stimulus for a measuring and comparing activity. By measuring themselves, they worked out how many of their body lengths were equal to one giant squid of seven meters. These stimuli were taken from newspapers where the same information is often presented in a variety of ways – text, photographs and a comparative diagram. Each element introduces new information that can be comprehended only according to its form, that is, the written, the visual and the diagrammatic. This layering is an element in what is called ‘multiliteracy’, which explores the connections between the different modes of delivering stories and supplying information.

In these ways, we have experienced how numeracy depends on language capacities.  Inquiry learning encourages their acquisition by establishing a classroom grounded in mutual respect sustained by shared knowledge. During 2007, we set out to achieve a love of learning. This letter locates the formal report in the ethical and pedagogical environments that make sense of assessments.
Peter Curtis, 19/12/07

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