Tag Archives: teaching writing

celebrating reading and writing on International Literacy Day

readilearn: Celebrating reading and writing on International Literacy Day

Tomorrow is International Literacy Day. It has been celebrated on 8 September for over fifty years. The purpose of the day is to remind the international community of the importance of literacy and to eradicate illiteracy around the world. It values literacy education for young people the world over. This year’s theme is Literacy and skills development and focuses on the integration of literacy with other skills to enhance people’s lives and employment opportunities.

In our early childhood classrooms, the focus is always on the development of literacy. A strong foundation in both reading and writing enables children to be more successful learners at school and independent learners out of school. It provides them with skills essential to full participation in and contribution to our world. While we may not be ostensibly training them for future employment, the literacy skills they learn in early childhood form the foundation upon which that learning develops.

The idea of integrating literacy development with other skills is not unfamiliar to early childhood classrooms. The most effective approaches focus on teaching skills in meaningful contexts rather than in isolation.

In celebration of International Literacy Day this year, I have uploaded some new resources to the literacy collection. As with other readilearn literacy resources, the focus is on teaching literacy skills in context.

Continue reading: readilearn: Celebrating reading and writing on International Literacy Day

Sharing circles

On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.

In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.

In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.

reading

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.

The one rule is:

  • Everybody reads without interruption.

This means:

  • Nobody talks
  • Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
  • No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)

It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.

I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:

  • Tell the book’s title and author
  • What it was about
  • What they liked about it, and
  • Read a small section to the class

I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.

If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of reading

A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.

Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.

Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.

If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of writing

Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:

  • “I feel happy when …”
  • “When I lose a tooth …”
  • “On the holidays, I …”
  • “I think children should be able to … because …”

discussion circles

Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.

These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.

Thank you

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it!

This week over at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines. Look at local, regional or global news.

Now if there is one thing I have noticed about “the news” over the years, it’s that the news reported in the media is generally bad. Often the stories are meant to alarm or frighten. I think it must be easier to control a population through fear. A little scaremongering may go a long way.

Although the song is called It’s Good News Week, it doesn’t have much good news to tell.

I selected a few headlines (expressly for my purpose) from a recent Conversation:

  • The role of water in Australia’s uncertain future
  • The scariest part of climate change isn’t what we know, but what we don’t
  • Stop, go back, the NDIS board shake-up is going the wrong way
  • We’re overdosing on medicine – it’s time to embrace life’s uncertainty
  • Australians less likely to survive home ownership than Britons

“They” can do it with Education too:

  • Is your child less likely to be bullied in a private school?
  • Uni drop-out rates show need for more support, not capped enrolments
  • The slide of academic standards in Australia: a cautionary tale
  • The absurdity of English spelling and why we’re stuck with it

F

All of these headlines state the existence of a situation or condition as irrefutable, like falling standards and failing students. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with headlines such as this one from the Conversation nearly two years ago:

Lost for words: why the best literacy approaches are not reaching the classroom

In this article Misty Adoniou attributes the failure of some Australian children on national and international literacy tests to their lack of exposure and experience with standard English – they do not speak standard or “school” English at home. Adoniou says that is up to teachers to improve the language used by students and to make their understanding of correct usage explicit. However she says that many teachers do not have an explicit understanding of English and, as a result, are unable to teach it to their students.

 

I’m not sure how true that statement is. However, what I do like about this article is the advice Adoniou gives about teaching. She says that “all our teaching about language must be done in context and in the course of achieving real outcomes.” I couldn’t agree more.

Daily news – learning in context

In fact, from their first weeks of school I was explicitly teaching students about language and literacy using a strategy I borrowed and developed from the ubiquitous “show and tell”. I called this strategy simply “News”, and found it to be a powerful tool for teaching the skills of both reading and writing.

Its strength came from the familiar context, the connection to children’s lives and the importance it placed upon them. The teaching could be adjusted to suit different stages of development, to reinforce learning for some and extend the learning of others. For me, as teacher, it was a powerful learning tool. I was able to gauge children’s developing strategies, understand their needs and identify next steps for learning.

How it worked

Talk

A few children each day would have the opportunity to share their item of interest or “news” with the class. Class mates could ask for additional information or clarification if they wished.

Compose

We (teacher and children) would collaboratively compose a report, initially just one or two sentences, of what had been shared.

Write

I would model the composition and the writing process, rehearsing what to write while involving children in thinking about what to write and how to write it. How much they were involved, and the detail of language and skills discussed could be easily adjusted to suit their development.  There was always ample practice and repetition, in a meaningful context, for children who needed more time; and discussion of strategies and ideas to extend the most advanced students.

Some of the writing strategies children were learning include:

  • Composition or rehearsal before writing
  • Directionality of writing
  • Translating conversational language into written language
  • Changing first person spoken text into third person written text
  • Identifying letters used to spell the sounds of language
  • Awareness of punctuation
  • Tenses, past and future, depending on what the children shared
  • Rereading to ensure message is correct and what to write next
  • Proofreading and editing
  • Identifying the main idea through choosing a suitable headline

Read

After the news was written, we would read it together to ensure it was correct and the child was happy with the way the news had been reported.

The text could then be used for developing a number of reading skills, for example:

  • Recognising words by sight
  • Noticing similarities in spellings, or differences in spelling of words with similar sounds
  • Punctuation and its effect on reading
  • Comprehension and grammar: who, what, where, when, and (sometimes) why
  • Reading with expression

Share

Each day I would print up the news for the children to take home to share with their family. It was a great first reading experience – about them, their friends and their families.

While this is only a brief overview of the strategy, the learning that can take place using children’s own language is obvious. Used as one small part of a rich literacy focused and literature-based classroom environment it is a powerful teaching tool. One day I will explain the strategy in detail so that others can use it too.

Flash fiction

But back to the headlines and Charli’s challenge.

Over recent years I have noticed an increased use of ambiguity in headlines and the introduction of (attempted) literary expressions into the body of articles. I have drawn on that for my flash. I hope it works.

 

Bridge plans in jeopardy

She scrolled through the headlines, searching …

Minister passes over bridge in favour of tunnel

Minister fails to dig himself out of tunnel fiasco

searching …

Minister reveals hand on bridge impasse

Minister’s tunnel vision blocks bridge improvement

searching …

Minister jumps from bridge over tunnel plans

Talks with Minister over bridge collapse

searching …

Bridge closure forces Minister’s hand

She was sure she had heard something … it must be here … why couldn’t she see it?

Scrolling … scrolling …

“Finally,” she sighed.

Bridge players wanted, Tunnel Street Community Hall, Wednesdays 10 am!

 

A Day in the Life

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.