Writing in ES1 with mentor texts!

Writing in ES1 takes on many forms…from drawing to experimenting with print…to writing an actual message using letters and words. This journey for children varies immensely and to assist them on becoming the best authors and illustrators they can be we have recently been exploring some mentor texts.

Some of the texts we have used include:

“SUPER MUM” was used to support the students in understanding that some sentences can be brief and repetitive. The students then could add to the sentence a word or group of words to describe their mum –

My mum has X-RAY VISION!

My mum is STRONG!

While the book “Pearl Barley and Charley Parsley” helped the students to unpack what really great friends look like, sound like and make you feel. This also served a dual purpose in that it connected to the school pillars of ‘witness’, ‘manage’ and ‘relate’ to assist the students in becoming more skilled in their social interactions and building friendships.

 

The students used the text as a basis for creating messages informing others about “really great friends”. To begin the writing process the modelled writing task was based on the students response to what “really great friends” might do eg invite others to play, share their toys, help each other. This became a reference point for the students to refer back to during their own independent writing time. The students were also able to use words from around the room, the word wall, word cards and alphabet cards to support their writing.

The other texts were used to explore the use of “onomatopoeia” words and these generated some very interesting messages. The students especially enjoyed “BARNYARD BOOGIE” where many different onomatopoeia words were incorporated within the text including speech bubbles. Over the space of a week the students added to a growing story about a cow during modelled and shared writing. Each day we would reread the story to ensure that the next part of the message made sense. From this interest we created a list of onomatopoeia words which we continue to add to as we read more texts and this is displayed near the word wall for students to use. The exciting part of using these mentor texts was watching the students all trying to add their own message through drawings and writing. Many incorporated speech bubbles of their own and onomatopoeia words eg MOO!

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When I reflect on how the students have progressed with their writing since Term 1, I know they have come such a long way and yet there is still so much more to discover…each child’s journey is totally unique and with support from teachers, their peers and the wonderful mentor texts they will continue to explore and grow as writers and illustrators!!

One child’s journey thus far…

The progression from drawing, to labelling, to forming a simple sentence and then to becoming a confident writer can take a relatively short amount of time or it can take a much longer time span…what is important is the idea of seeing yourself as a writer and someone who can share a message. We need to encourage our students to take a risk and expose them to a large variety of mentor texts.

What is your favourite mentor text to share with your students? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finishing the term well in ES1…

Its hard to believe that 11 weeks of learning and discovery have now come to an end. On Monday morning after ES1 Navy led the whole school in prayer, our principal encouraged the students to “Finish the term well!” I paused to ponder on how it actually began and the journey that has unfolded thus far. When we began this term there were so many new components for ES1:

  1. New staff
  2. New students and families
  3. New buildings

The increase in  numbers required a new approach to everything we did from playing and learning within the classroom to outside in the playground. Last year we finished the year with 29 ES1 students and 2 staff, while this year we began with 86 ES1 students and 4 staff…so what happened?

We have become a very comprehensive team of 4 dedicated Early Childhood teachers who seek to meet the needs of the individual students through observations, play based learning and programs that are constantly changing to reflect the ever changing skills and abilities of the students we work with. We begin our day with purposeful playing that enables the students to take control and drive their own learning. So far in ES1 we have a Police Station, a Post Office and a Doctor’s Surgery across the 2 learning spaces that students explore and interact with. On any given morning all 86 students are free to move around the 3 ES1 spaces (2 classrooms and outside COLA) to follow their interests and build new friendships across the entire stage. This has been a gradual change over the term and the students are really enjoying the freedom of choice. Many of the students like to begin the morning being very active outside playing with balls, building with the large blocks or even painting on the concrete with water. Other students have a favourite space inside whether that be the writing table, role play area or even the play dough table.

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So life at school has continued to evolve and change….as a staff of 4 we meet for “professional learning” once a week with our stage leaders who support us every step of the way in our own professional journey of discovery. We have also connected with the staff from our early learning centre, CELC, to look at how to have a natural progression of tracking students growth and learning through play from the early years through to ES1 and beyond (Pre-post school where students will have 15 years of learning and growing). Other resources that we have been provided with have included articles to read and then  unpack and discuss as a team. From here we then meet to share our own observations of students, evaluate the program and then work on where to next for learning and programming. Did I happen to mention that we also meet once a week on a Monday for whole school staff meetings and professional learning……yes we are busy but oh so lucky to have colleagues who are nurturing, supportive and collaborative! Oh, I also forgot to add we had Peer Review for ES1 at the end of this term where we presented 2 KLA’s (Creative Arts and Religious Education programs) within a group of 4 schools to show how we meet NESA outcomes.

Now for the new buildings

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Last year we had 3 learning spaces, now at the end of term 1 we still have these learning spaces plus 3 levels in the NEW HUB…on level 1 is Stage 1 and soon to be Year 7 (space opens in the beginning of Term 2); level 2 you will find Stage 2 and the staff room; level 3 is Stage 3…..we remain very happy in the existing ES1 spaces as we eagerly await the new School of Foundations building (the footings and foundations have begun this term). In saying this we have been working on managing our time and routines to assist the ES1 students move from our buildings through to the HUB where they are picked up in the afternoon. We are slowly improving and the students are learning to manage themselves and take responsibility for their own belongings.

So whats the next step in our ever growing plan…….streamlining routines and implementing effective transition times……but I will elaborate more in my next Blog!!

So did we “Finish well”?……I believe we did and each student has shown growth and change over the last 11 weeks…reflect, evaluate and move forward…..

A new year….focus on learning in ES1!

A new beginning for ES1 has meant an increase in staff and student numbers…..more than doubled in fact!

What this simply means is there are now 4 Early Childhood teachers working together to program and implement a focused, play based program for 86 students (this figure will change as families move into their new homes and students begin at our school in Term 2- we belong to a new growth area in Sydney, Australia called Marsden Park). The students are placed into 2 class groups and have 2 teachers that observe and plan for them on a daily basis. The structures within these spaces vary dependent on the learning taking place: small focus groups, shared and modelled reading/writing groups, needs based grouping, mixed ability groups (so that students can be the peer teachers and leaders of their learning).

PLAY is still a driving force behind the teaching and learning of students in Early Stage One. This year we are incorporating our speaking and listening together with our focus on writing (drawing and story telling as a beginning step) based on meaningful experiences. Our 6 Pillars have also had an impact on our planning and implementing of play experiences. We are ensuring that we encourage and support our students to work on communicating/collaborating. Next term we will increase this to focus on relating to others and managing themselves.

 

One of the outcomes for the students this term is-

Identify positive ways to initiate, join and interrupt conversations with adults and peers;

Indicators include –

Students can

  1. Engage in conversations using their own experiences
  2. Communicate easily with familiar people and initiate conversations in group settings
  3. Interact and engage with teachers in conversation
  4. Use appropriate voice levels, eye contact and body language
  5. Listen attentively for long periods of time – have consistent use of eye contact when listening

Communicating is something we do on a daily basis and children need opportunities to develop and practise these skills while working and playing in games and situations that also require them to be collaborative.  Children will become more confident when given positive models to work from and feedback as to what was working and how they can improve.

We begin our day together playing for 20 minutes where the students are the leaders and drive their own learning. They work on their skills to communicate, collaborate, problem solve and build friendships. This term the children have been extremely interested in dressing up as police officers so we have built a Police station within our classroom to enhance conversations and provide more role playing opportunities. The children have been busy writing messages to each other and recording if anyone needs any help with finding missing items or animals!Role playing police

Our Police Station evolved from my observations of group of boys running around the classroom shooting at each other to us sitting down and having a conversation about what their game was all about. From this conversation I realised that the boys thought police only shot at “baddies” all day long. So we all contributed to the discussion of what police officers may do during the day and then the boys made suggestions about what a police station would need…….play is a powerful tool for learning.

How have you changed your classroom to meet the needs of your students?

New year…..new focus for learning!

Why is play so important?

After a new beginning in a brand new school that values and celebrates the “whole” child its time to PAUSE…….EVALUATE………QUESTION……..where to next?

A question that we keep asking ourselves is “How can we make the learning look different and have meaning for each individual child?” The answer that continues to resonate is allowing our students to learn through play.

So that is our “where to” next perspective, enabling our students to learn through purposeful playing that connects to enhancing their social emotional skills while supporting and challenging their oral communication development. A major challenge has always been providing enough time for the students to explore their chosen activity and build on the play observed. Add to this the quandary of meeting all Key Learning area outcomes and so the problem solving begins….pushing the boundaries so that as children move from an early childhood setting into school, the classroom setting and program reflects the needs and natural curiosity of each child!Playing in term 4

What might this look like in 2018 and what will we need to do?

At St Luke’s Catholic College, Marsden Park we are already achieving so much due to the flexibility of our learning spaces and the ability of our staff to take a risk and try something new! Being a role model for our students is very important and allowing them the freedom to grow and learn while encouraging autonomy are essential ingredients towards creating “life long learners”. In a previous blog posting called “Connecting purposeful play with speaking and listening” I shared how we had connected playing with our schools 6 Pillars of learning and social skills. Our new challenge is to rethink how we present and encapsulate play into the daily learning so that there is a flow on from the early childhood settings where children are used to accessing a variety of learning centres on a daily basis to an Early Stage One classroom where we have a Focus 160 perspective (English 100 minutes and maths 60 minutes EVERY day) to consider. One new perspective being considered is incorporating modelled/shared writing into the actual play time and children will pause during their play to gather in a play space and record a message about what is happening. The students will then return to their play and have more time to add to the play occurring around them and have access to writing materials so as to record their own message. Remembering that at the beginning of the year drawing and painting is a form of writing and a way of recording ideas and thinking. Writing may be taking place in the block and engineering space or dramatic play………the solutions are endless……..but we need to keep pushing the boundaries because the way children learn are so diverse and unique. Play is serious learning!

Why play?

Giving children a voice is essential to a successful play based program so we will begin by observing, interacting with our new children and communicating with them so as to learn what they are interested in and how best to meet all their needs.

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So many skills can be developed through play!

 

 

 

 

 

Will play always look the same?……..probably not……….will it evolve?………..most definitely………..will we make mistakes?………..yes because that is our evidence that we are trying……….will we learn from our mistakes?

Well you’ll have to come back next year and find out………learning = infinite possibilities!

At my school children will learn how to be responsible global citizens, how to think creatively and critically, how to communicate and work collaboratively, a school that fosters imagination and innovation.

Fun, learning and innovative thinking…CODING in ES1!

When you hear the term “coding” what do you immediately think about?

Word Cloud CodingMinion coding picture

Something that requires hard thinking?

An expertise in Mathematics or Science?

Well in ES1 we are incorporating coding across the curriculum from Literacy activities to Mathematics to Science and Technology……we are all learning, both teachers and students alike.

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We began our journey of coding with exploring how BeeBots could be used in a variety of contexts and as it connected so well to the Mathematics strand of Length (describes and compares lengths and distances using everyday language MAe-9MG) we used them to measure lengths and distances both on the carpet space as well as paper grids. The students were given a word problem to solve:
Help the BeeBot robot reach its flower. How far did the BeeBot travel?

The students also worked collaboratively in small groups to think critically and creatively about how they could add complexities to their grid map with structures or barriers that the BeeBot had to be programmed to move around. The students were extremely engaged in these learning opportunities. It was at this point that our school began investigating the types of robotics that would best suit each year stage within the school setting. For ES1 we decided the BlueBots would enable students to consolidate skills already learnt but would add an extra element of challenge with connecting the BlueBot via the iPad and BlueBot app. Mapping that not only encouraged problem solving skills but enhanced opportunities for further developing communication and language skills.

 

Coding can also happen without using the actual BlueBot.

During developmental play the students were given the opportunity to code using the key arrow cards and help Rosie find her way home. The students were given picture cards to assist in the retelling of the story together with the actual book “Rosie’s Walk” by Pat Hutchins.               

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Adding the direction cards to show how Rosie can move along the map to get home.

The cards enabled the students to plan a sequence of steps that they could alter and change as they communicated with each member of their group to achieve their goal. “Rosie’s Walk” combines reading, speaking and listening together with mathematical language and concepts about position.

This learning experience was followed by the students combining the cards with the robot. They had to transfer  the sequence of the cards to the BlueBot to see if their code was successful in getting their bee from one point on the map to the other. This is still a skill they are currently working on and the opportunities these failures and successes present are invaluable for building resilience and problem solving.

We are also incorporating coding and BlueBots with our Science and Technology unit “On the Move” where the students are solving the driving question:

How can you design a map that helps the BlueBot move around, stopping at a minimum of 4 stations to learn how objects move and get to his school on time?

The students are working in small groups and began by firstly communicating their ideas and referring to a blank grid map. Then after communicating they began working collaboratively to record their ideas on the maps. There was a lot of innovative, creative and critical thinking happening. Some groups needed support with allocating roles and responsibilities. This is the first draft and our next lesson will begin with each group presenting their draft to the class for some peer feedback.

Learning really does equal infinite possibilities……….FUN, EXPLORING and PLAY! 

 

Sharing, reflecting and leading in ES1.

As we near the end of Term 3 its time to pause and take a moment to reflect and share the importance of giving students the opportunities to voice what they have discovered about themselves as “learners”. At my school this year instead of the traditional parent teacher interviews, we explored and implemented student led conferences.

There were lots of questions and hard thinking about what that might look like across all stages of learning………and for me, especially ES1. The first step was to match the 6 pillars, with the stage outcomes and learning tasks that the students had worked on during Semester One of this year. Then an integral part was having picture cues that allowed the students to stop and reflect how they were progressing with their overall efforts and learning.

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It was important to use student friendly language such as “I can” statements that enabled the students to firstly reflect and then evaluate how they felt they had  achieved within that outcome/pillar. They then had to prove that their choice of faces were correct by providing evidence either through their actions, verbal responses and their recorded work (assessment tasks as well as KLA work books). After completing the self-evaluation sheets each child had 3 strengths and 1 area to work on highlighted and ready to be presented to their parents during their student led conference.

Parents attended an information night prior to booking in for the student led conferences so that they understood the process, what to expect and how best to support their child during the conference……..a new beginning for families!

The students viewed a video that showed what happened at a Kindergarten student led conference and then practiced so that they knew what to do both with actions as well as words. We added picture cues as reminders.

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Picture cues for the students to refer back to during the student led conference

What did I discover? These conferences empowered my ES1 students in a way that I had never imagined possible! The students were able to articulate what the faces meant and explain the task they were reflecting on and then share their evidence. Even those students who are quiet participants in the classroom took control of the conference and proudly shared with their parents about their strengths and what they wanted to work on. Harry, student led conference

So if you ask me do I have leaders in ES1 the simple answer is YES! Students need a voice and in student led conferences they have a unique opportunity to share what they are good at and highlight what they know is something to work on.

Connecting purposeful play with speaking and listening!

As we know ‘play’ is serious learning for children so it makes sense then to make important connections between playing and oral communication skills. The Early Stage 1 English syllabus enables this through the following outcome statements:

  • Communicate through speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing and representing
  • Think in ways that are imaginative, creative, interpretive and critical
  • Express themselves and their relationships with others and their world

So what does that look like in my classroom?

Developmental play in ES1-

There are 5 activities planned for developmental play every day and the students choose a different activity each day that allows them to build on their communication skills of speaking and listening. Each teacher has a focus group of students to work with on a daily basis to enable them to develop and consolidate their oral language. Other students who are good role models for speaking and use of vocabulary are included within these activities. The planned activities are based on the individual needs of the students within the class and are rotated on a fortnightly basis. In this way students can improve and consolidate their learning opportunities and use of oral language from the first week. There are times that we change elements within the activity to challenge the students and extend their critical thinking and their ability to work collaboratively. There are 10-12 minutes provided to complete the activities and at times the students will negotiate for more time so that they can test out their creations or complete their task…..all part of the learning journey. We also reflect on our learning and make connections to our 6 school pillars of learning.

These 6 pillars of learning link directly with the Across Curriculum Documents of the Australian Curriculum. We have also embedded them into our developmental play program to show how they link to all our learning and syllabus documents.

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Programming format for developmental play.

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  One of the activity and sign in sheets for developmental play.

 

 

 

 

Every day we are working on our speaking and listening skills……..

Every day we are learning the value of play and how it connects to assist us with being creative and critical thinkers, to communicate and work collaboratively, manage ourselves and relate to others!

 

 

 

We are all life long learners and play is part of that journey……….where is your journey taking you to?

 

 

 

Connecting Student Learning to Professional Learning!

Today we began Term 2 with a staff development day and reflecting on our ourselves as professional learners. Sometimes it is too easy to focus solely on our students and forget that we also need nurturing and opportunities for enhancing our love of learning.

So what did I learn?

The importance of identifying student’s strengths and areas of need across our 6 pillars of learning (based on Learning across the Curriculum) , English and Mathematics. These strengths and  needs will drive our professional discussions and planning within the Early Stage 1 program. Next, in conjunction with my grade buddy, we then created our very own professional learning plan to enable us to meet these needs. We began by setting a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) for each area and then developed strategies to best assist our students to move forward with their learning. We considered what professional knowledge we needed to develop, how we needed to change our professional practice and/or what can we professionally engage in? (PK, PP & PE – NESA). Lastly, we developed success criteria to enable us to see what the student learning would look like and provided a time line to evaluate and reflect on how all the learning was progressing-  student and professional.

The last part was choosing one SMART goal and unpacking it from an individual perspective which will be added to our literacy learning/data wall. This makes the learning far more visible and allows that direct link between student learning and my own professional learning.

Where to next?

My focus for student learning is to extend their writing skills – “Students to work independently to record sounds they hear in words and use keywords to provide more detail to their story.” So for me professionally, I will be investigating ways to best support the student’s learning through articles, websites and texts such as “The Writing Book” by Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsey.

Time to explore and learn……..

 

University vs experience

A fabulous reflection on ‘beginning teaching’……so easy to make connections to these thoughts and emotions!

First time blogger!

Did university prepare me enough for my future teaching profession?

The first term of the year has flown right by! Whilst Kindergarten embraced their first term at a brand new school, along with stages 1-3 in February 2017, it was my first term of teaching altogether as a new graduate! The question is, did I feel university completely equipped me for my future teaching profession?

I believe the answer is no, university did not prepare me for all aspects of the teaching world. Until you are put in certain situations and experience it for yourself it is hard to know what to expect just by completing 3000 word essays. I believe it is all about the practical experience, which enables us to grow and extend to be the best possible teachers we can be for our 21st century learners.

My first term so far has been incredible, exciting, overwhelming…

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In the beginning

Taking a leap of faith entails trust……..in my case “trusting” in myself, the people I work with and the students in my class who rely on me to provide the guidance, stimulation and opportunities that will enable them to be the best learners in a next generation school. This blog will be a way of showing my professional and personal growth as a life long learner in 2017 and beyond!

The beginning is always the students, getting to know them as individuals and finding out their interests, strengths and areas of need. Once we have the data then we can begin to build a framework that will best support their learning within the classroom setting. My immediate learning is focusing on literacy and how best to group students so as to meet their needs for reading and viewing, writing and representing, speaking and listening. All three aspects of the curriculum are of equal importance and therefore will be discussed and shared within this blog.

Today I’m reflecting on writing and representing and how diverse that looks in Kindergarten. From those students who are still learning how to draw recognisable pictures to tell a story and other students who are learning to write compound sentences based on what they have drawn. We need to remember that making marks on paper is the first step to experimenting with print and over time with lots of opportunities to practise, students become more confident authors and illustrators. As a source for learning is the book “What’s Next for this Beginning Writer?” which gives ideas, information to enable meaningful and purposeful modelled and shared writing lessons. I have enjoyed reading the first chapter of this book and would recommend it as a tool for learning for other teachers as well.

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This week in Kindergarten we have been focussing on improving our drawings to ensure they tell the whole story which will engage the reader. We have even counted how many parts of the picture we would need to make the story more interesting. After our writing time we are learning to ‘check in’ with a partner for some peer feedback and go back over our success criteria. Our star, star, wish concept for feedback is still a work in progress but there are definitely changes happening with students being able to prove how they have been successful with their story writing.

What resources do you find the most useful when planning effective modelled and shared writing lessons?

Writing and reflecting an ongoing cycle!