Tuesday

Handwriting

Whilst on prac my classroom teacher challenged me to lead a lesson in handwriting. My initial thoughts were that this would be easy as I consider my own handwriting to be quite neat. However with handwriting on the brain, I quickly noticed how different my style of handwriting was in comparison to the style that the classroom teacher would demonstrate. Thus I began to do some research...

Despite the growing influence of technology handwriting is still an essential skill for students to master. The National English Curriculum  states that students should learn correct posture and pencil grip, how each letter is constructed including where to start and the direction to follow, and to write letters clearly in a script of consistent size.The NSW K-6 English Syllabus contains similar information for teachers, telling us that when teaching students about handwriting we need to include correct pencil grip and body position, the appropriate and correct formation of letters in the alphabet, and writing letters in uniform size. 

In accordance with the NSW K-6 English Syllabus students are currently being taught to hand write in the NSW Foundation style. In kindergarten my students should have developed and practised the basic skills of handwriting, such as pencil grip, good posture, and the correct handwriting movements that form the lower and upper case letters. By mid to late stage one, the students should be familiar with the correct formation of most letters of the alphabet and write clearly in straight lines from left to right using letters of uniform size, shape and spacing. 

Immediately I knew that my classroom teacher was working towards developing these skills with  her students. All of their work books contain lines which the students must write between to promote uniformity of the size of the letters and I had observed many students placing their fingers between words to ensure spacing when writing.

Armed with this information, I thought about my year one students and the problems that I had encountered with their handwriting. The first things that came to mind were the formation of letters and pencil grip. Frequently students complain about having a sore hand and arm from writing by lunch time, and after learning myself about the correct formation of letters I could immediately identify this as an area needed for improvement. Thus I planned my lesson around these two skills.

Learning handwriting requires much modelling and demonstration by the teacher therefor lessons are largely to do with direct instruction (Pinsker and King 2001). Direct instruction usually refers to lessons in which the teacher explains, demonstrates skills and then has the students practise (Killen 2007). So that I could demonstrate effectively I made a smartboard resource (can be found in the useful links and resources) that included pages from the students' workbooks. With this I modelled what I required from the students and then they could repeat this in their own workbooks. I also found an excellent short You Tube video on correct pencil grip and had the students re- model this in front of me.





My lesson went for around half an hour and followed a model put forward by Pinsker and King (2001). The first five minutes included a finger warm up to strengthen and prepare for the fine motor skills required for handwriting. The next five minutes included the You tube video on correct pencil grip and an introduction of the letter R. The remaining twenty minutes involved the students practising in their work books, keeping in mind the correct pencil grip, and then concluding with the days most improved hand writer presenting their work to the class.

In the end my lesson went really well and I got positive feedback from my colleague teacher. As I reflected upon my lesson I thought that through it I demonstrated Element 4.1.5 Use a range of teaching strategies and resources including ICT and other technologies to foster interest and support learning and Element 3.1.1 Demonstrate the capacity to identify and articulate clear and appropriate learning goals in lesson preparation from the NSW Institute of Teachers Professional Teaching Standards.  Take a look at these samples I took from my students' workbooks...



References

ACARA (2010). The Australian Curriculum: English. Retrieved from           http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au
Board of Studies (2007). English K-6 Syllabus. Sydney: NSW Board of Studies.      http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Killen, R. (2007). Using direct instruction as a teaching strategy. In Effective teaching strategies: Lessons from research and practice, (4th ed.), (pp 101- 124). Thomson Social Science Press.
NSW Institute of Teachers. (2006). Professional teaching standards, Retrieved 4 February, 2009 from http://nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/Main-Professional-Teaching-Standards.html
Pinsker, J. & King, S. M. (2001). Targeting handwriting year 1: Student book. Glebe: Jane Pinsker and Blake Publishing
Pinsker, J. & King, S. M. (2001). Targeting handwriting year 1: Teacher resource. Glebe: Jane Pinsker and Blake Publishing

Monday

Choosing Literature For your Classroom

The classroom teacher I am currently working with at my practicum school challenged me to choose a big book and plan a lesson around it. Eager to embrace the challenge, I readily accepted and being the bookworm that I am, I had a million different ideas in my head. However when I tried to plan my lesson I found that many of these ideas were completely inappropriate to use with a stage one, year one class. I must have read twenty different books without being able to make a decision, so I decided to find out how to level literature.


Fountas and Pinnell (1999) argue that texts need to be levelled in terms of their complexity and difficulty. In classrooms today, you will find what are called levelled readers. levelled readers are books specifically written for specific levels of difficulty and complexity. At the beginning of each school year students are tested and matched with readers that meet their current level of ability. Students are then able to progress as their level of reading proficiency increases. However other literacy experts (Stoove 2007) will argue that these levelled readers do not meet the criteria of children's literature.


Unfortunately children's literature is not levelled at all and so it can be difficult for teachers to gauge a book's level of difficulty. Thanks to Fellowes and Oakley (2010), here a few guidelines teachers can follow in order to select appropriate literature for their classrooms:


Search for texts that have; cumulative structures and predictable parts- students can make connections between the oral sound of a word and its written form as they can predict what will happen next thanks to repetition and, texts that use rhythm and rhyme


In order to develop comprehension it is important to select texts where students are able to make connections between what they are reading and their prior knowledge. It is also important that the text is matched to the readers interests. Consider the following:


How familiar are the students' to the content of the text?


What is the students' prior knowledge?


What is the structure of the text?


Will the text be of interest to the students?


Is the vocabulary and complexity appropriate for the students?


Is the length of the text appropriate for the activity?


Fortunately with the swing towards literature in the Australian National English Curriculum there are a online resources being established for the purpose of levelling literature. Lexiles are graded numbers given to books so that teachers can easily select texts appropriate for their grade level. Check out http://www.lexile.com/ !


Teachers need to take care when selecting texts for their students. I followed these guidelines and came across a fantastic book called 'Inside a Barn In the Country' by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. It met all the criteria that was suggested by Fellowes and Oakley (2010) and it was relevant to the students own farm like animals on their properties. In one word: SUCCESS!


References


Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language, literacy and early childhood education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press


Fountas, I. C. & Pinnell, G. S. (1996). Guided reading: Good first teaching for all children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann


Stoove, T. (2007). Levelling the reader, levelling the book. Synergy, 5(1), 32-34.

Friday

Literature for Literacy: The National Curriculum


‘The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English paper’ (National Curriculum Board 2009) defines literacy as the ability to use and produce a wide variety of multi- modal texts to meet the contextual demands in varying situations. Put simply, there is a lot more to literacy than just learning to read and write.

As teachers, we need to be aware of the foundational knowledge students have when they first step into our classroom. Students, from a wide range of home and community backgrounds, will come together in our classroom and bring with them a vast range of experiences with language (National Curriculum Board 2009). The Australian National Curriculum is being developed in such a way that out of school experiences with text and language will become valid ways of communicating and will be the basis for further learning about language, literacy and literature.


According to Professor Peter Freebody (as cited in ACARA), there will be a more intense focus on literature in the Australian National Curriculum. This focus will encourage teachers to examine texts more closely and discuss with each other which texts are best to use in their classroom.


video


The identification of literature as one of the key elements to the National English Curriculum highlights the importance literature has to play in the development of language. With a shift to a more focused approach to literature in the primary setting emphasises its role in the development of students’ ability to think, reason and grow in logical and ethical understandings and applications (Fellowes and Oakley).



Hancock (as cited in Fellowes and Oakley p. 472) defines children’s literature as
“...literature that appeals to the interests, needs and reading preferences of children and captivates children as its major audience. Children’s literature may be fictional, poetic or factual, or a combination of all of these.”


Education should provide students with the knowledge and skills to become valuable individuals within society (Drucker 2010). Children’s literature draws the reader into a world created by the author and is free to respond in their own way (Fellowes and Oakley 2010). By doing so good literature can teach students about the world we, human beings, create and the morality by which we live (Pullman as cited in Nicholson 2008). When children read, as adults do, they can find reflections of their own lives and also come to better understand the lives of others (Nicholson). Through literature children are not only developing literacy skills such as vocabulary and text composition and purpose they are also learning about themselves as individuals and the world in which they live i.e. Values, morals etc. To further extend this idea through literature children are learning how to use their knowledge of language to communicate their own thoughts and feelings about life.

References


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. English. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/English/Rationale


Drucker, H. (2010). The importance of teaching literature. Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/100744.aspx


Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language, literacy and early childhood education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.


The National Curriculum Board. (2009). The shape of the Australian curriculum: English. ACT: Commonwealth Copyright Administration.


Nicholson, C. (2008). Fiction for children and young people: The state of the art. In Goodwin, P. (Ed.), Understanding children’s books: A guide for education professionals (55-64). London: SAGE Publications.






Thursday

The Beginning

Teaching is the only profession I have ever really seen myself being any good at. I'm passionate about helping young learners become the best people they can possibly be despite what Today's world may throw at them. It is important to me that I become the best possible teacher I can in order to provide my future students with the opportunities they deserve. Watch this space and journey with me on my quest to becoming a primary school teacher!