Saturday, 5 October 2013

Musings on play, choice and self-direction

At the moment I am on my 2 week break, so I have some time and energy to plan and revamp some of my ideas.
As I read about the Daily 5 and how important it is that children can self direct and choice their learning goals, I made connections with the wonderful Walker Learning Approach. If you're not familiar with it, here is a youtube clip...

Video - what is the Walker Learning Approach?

Here is the official website:

This is only my second year of teaching Prep (the first year of full time schooling in Tasmania) so it's been a steep learning curve, but wow, play is definitely a powerful tool! I have put a lot of effort into it this year by setting up topic based play areas such a post office, and giving children lots of open ended opportunities to play and discover and manipulate materials such a counters, blocks, magnetic letters, playdough and animal counters. It's amazing what the children come up with! I just cruise around the classroom with my camera and record their hilarious conversations!

If you're worried about bosses questioning a dolls house, lego, play kitchen or pirate ship in your classroom and saying that it's not "in the curriculum", well, my answer would be YES, it is! First and foremost, it's literacy! Oral language is CRUCIAL in the early years! The English Curriculum asks for rich, topic based vocabulary and speaking and listening skills.

What do you think? Do you still have time and support to have play-based learning in your classroom?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Curriculum Mapping

I am already thinking about next year! Call me crazy, but I think with all the demands of the new curriculum I need to work smarter and cut out the clutter! So here is what I am currently thinking next year's integrated units will look like. Next year Australian teachers will have to report on Math, English, Science, History and the new subject will be Geography. I will link Geography with Habitats and Weather. Each Term is 10 weeks, so I have planned for 9 weeks to allow for any interruptions. How do you plan for the upcoming year? Do you do the same thing every year or do you change it up a lot?

All about Me (2 weeks)
Science - Colours (2 weeks)
Science - Oceans (4 weeks)
History - My Family (4 weeks)
Science - Australian Animals (3 weeks)
Science - Healthy Bodies (3  weeks)
History - Life Long Ago (3 weeks)
Fairy Tales (3 weeks)
Science – Life Cycles (3 weeks)
Science/Geography -Weather (3 weeks)
History - Transport (3 weeks)
Science - Habitats (3 weeks)
Author Study (children vote)  (2 weeks)
Christmas (final 2 weeks)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Online Planning and Assessments

Has anyone used OneNote, Evernote or even the Digital Pensieve for Daily 5 for their planning?

I have just started using OneNote for my planning after attending professional learning session. I am keen to have my files and notes central instead of having so many binders and folders everywhere!

I would love to hear other teacher's experiences!

Monday, 30 September 2013


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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Term 4 Timetable

Every time I redo my timetable I worry that I am missing something out. It's so hard to fit it all in! So, I prioritise, decide upon the "non-negotiables" and just do the best I can.

For me, "non-negotiables" are -

  • read alouds several times a week, preferably daily (with all the decoding, sequencing, vocab and comprehension teaching snuck in!)
  • 20 minutes of phonics/handwriting explicit teaching each day (this has been shortened on some days so I will sneak it into Daily 5 mini-lessons instead)
  • reading time - aiming for children to be reading as much as possible
  • math needs to be 1 hour each day (this is mandated by powers above!)
  • time for the children to have hands-on, active discovery and play time
  • craft and creative time to assist fine motor and spatial awareness
  • This term I will begin trialing Daily 5. I only seem to be able to fit 2 sessions in each day, but I guess quality rather than quantity! I have allowed each "session" about 25 minutes, which would become 5 min mini-lesson, 15 minute D5 choice, then 5 min discussion time. I think this is developmentally appropriate for 6 year olds. Would LOVE some feedback from other teachers though!
Here is my weekly overview- 

Please visit Brooke at Teachable Moments because you can see her planning too! :) 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

End of term

Tomorrow is the last day of Term 3. Wow, it's been such a busy year and the students and I have all learned so much!

Next term I am going to work hard on taking more photos and blogging more because it's a great record of what works and what didn't for when I plan next year. Certain topics are worth building up and redoing each year, such as weather, insects and family history, particularly now that the Australian Curriculum is more prescriptive.

Today we did a quick "experiment" to explain the precipitation part of the water cycle. I saw it on pinterest but don't have the credits, so big apologies! Simply, a cup of water, squirt some shaving foam on top and then some drops of blue food dye. The "rain" falls through the "clouds". This is then a great language experiences for some writing!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Wonderful Weather

Here is a quick update with some photos of our weather unit!

It's the last week on Term 3, which means that we are 3/4 the way through the year! Wow!

This week I have been super busy-

  • doing Running Records on all my students (keeping the rest of the class purposefully busy whilst doing these time consuming but important tests is a challenge!)
  • starting Guided Math rotations - and LOVING it! 
  • lots of weather and season related arts and crafts and science! 
  • integrating Geography into my weather unit ready for next year when Australian teachers need to start assessing Geography
  • watching our class tadpoles grow!
  • and on the weekend I took my own little family to see the Tall Ships Wooden Boat Festival - replica sailing ships from the early explorers - amazing!

Hope everyone is having a great time! x

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Photos of our learning this month

Here are some photos from the past couple of weeks. Lots of play-based learning with the pretend cafe, shop and Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. I also took photos of the anchor charts we made - they aren't very pretty because I usually make them with the children (but I guide them!) I hope everyone is having a great week - I am off to finish writing reports now!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

We're going on a bear hunt.

One of my absolute favourite read-alouds is "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen.

Here is what we did after reading it. The children were able to refer to this to help with their writing. I also snuck in some ordinal numbers (cross-curricular links - love it!)

Friday, 19 July 2013

Activities for the Emergent Stage

The emergent stage is ...

“The student knows some number words but cannot count visible items. The student either does not know the correct sequence of number words or cannot coordinate the words with items.” (DENS p.8)

also defined as...

These students recognise that numbers may be used to signify quantity. They use words like smaller and bigger and same. (First Steps Mathematics) 

Here are some ways that you can teach children who are at this stage:

  • tie a laminated number card to a shoelace. The child threads on the correct amount of beads
  • play dough mats with number and pictures and instructions such as "make 5 red apples to go on the apple tree"
  • card games which require numeral and amount matching
  • dice games
  • hopscotch
  • counting songs
  • cooking 
  • pegs on a number card or number line card
  • building blocks (make a tower that is 5 blocks tall)
  • putting small items into egg cartons or ice cube trays (using plastic tweezers will help those pencil grip skills at the same time)
  • musical instruments like drums and xylophones - count the beats
  • foam or magnetic numbers
  • farm animal toys - use green square pieces of fabric as "paddocks" and write a number on each paddock. Children put the right amount of animals on each paddock
  • Same activity can be done with fish toys and blue circles of fabric
  • placing teddy counters (any counter actually!) into 5 frames and ten frames
  • car stickers - cut black strips of card for pretend roads and label each road with a number. Children stick the right amount of cars on the "road" . Possibilities are endless for this! Fairy stickers with rainbow coloured ribbons? 
  • fruit kebabs sticks - skewer cut fruit or grapes 
  • ants on a log - celery sticks filled with peanut butter - put 5 "ants" (sultanas!) on the peanut butter
  • candles on cupcakes (either real ones or use craft sticks and playdough "cakes")
  • play outside! Use leaves, sticks, gumnuts, pinecones and shells for counting! Sort, collect, make patterns. 

There are hundreds of ways to do this. Just be patient, creative and sneak in the vocabulary at every opportunity. 

Please share your favourite Emergent number ideas. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Early Number Sense - Stages of Development

I have been reading Developing Efficient Numeracy Strategies Stage 1 to help me to plan my math lessons better.

EDIT: You can read the entire book here!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am researching the stages of development that learners progress through. I attempted to compare the Stages in this book with the more recent research in First Steps in Mathematics: Number

Developing Efficient Numeracy Strategies
(Count Me in Too) Developmental Stages
First Steps in Mathematics
 Number Map of Development
“The student knows some number words but cannot count visible items. The student either does not know the correct sequence of number words or cannot coordinate the words with items.” DENS p.8
These students recognise that numbers may be used to signify quantity. They use words like smaller and bigger and same.
(FS states that this typically occurs between age 3-5. DENS does not give an age/grade level)
“The student can count perceived items but not those in concealed collections. Perceptual counting includes seeing, hearing or feeling items.” DENS p.8

Children at this stage “consistently apply the one-to-one principle of matching one number word to each item … they rely on counting by ones and always begin at one”. DENS p. 75.
Matching Phase
This students use one-to-one relations to share and count out.
They use numbers as adjectives to describe amounts of physical objects.
Can orally count to 10 or more.
“The student can count concealed items but counts from one rather than counting on. Has a “figurative” notion of numbers and does not need to count perceived items, but counts from one to construct a number in additive situations”. DENS, p. 8
 (no similar stage)
Counting On
“The student can use advanced count-by-one strategies. Counts on rather than counting from “one”, to solve addition tasks or tasks involving a missing addend.” DENS p.8.
Quantifying Phase
These students use part-part-whole relations for numerical quantities. (decomposing)
Counting on and various strategies are used. Students don’t need to count from one.

What do you think, wise teacher friends? Does this look right to you?

Each day I am going to focus on one stage and post some teaching ideas! Please comment and share your ideas too! (Maybe I will attempt my first linky! What do you think??) 

Tomorrow I will blog about the EMERGENT stage. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

A new book in the mail AND a crafty sort of day!

Can it get any better?
A new book (another math one!) and a craft project completed!

Here is the book. I went to a conference last month led by Peter Sullivan and it was fabulous. So I ordered the book and I am going to dedicate one maths lesson a week to his problem solving approach.

Sorry about the glare! It's written by Peter Sullivan and Pat Lilburn who are both big names in maths teaching, plus it's published by Marilyn Burns/Scholastic.
The blurb says:
"I have $36 in my pocket. What bills and coins might I have?"
"How many different shaped rectangles can you make using 12 square tiles?"
"Thought provoking questions, like the ones above, can transform classrooms into dynamic learning environments. Open-ended questions, coined 'good questions' by Peter Sullivan and Pat Lilburn, pompt children to think creatively and critically. This useful book helps teachers define good questions, offers tips on how to create their own good questions, and includes a wide variety of questions for use in the classroom. Organised by subject area and grade group."

I am looking forward to using this book. Even better, several teachers from my school went to this conference and we have all be talking about it and experimenting with the approach.

Now, onto my craft. Yesterday I was at the local craft superstore and as I was wandering around I found a wooden cube, designed for photos. It was marked down to $5. Score! I had been planning on making or buying some story cubes for a while, but wasn't sure what I could use to make them with. I know some people use milk cartons but I didn't think they would be sturdy enough.

This was better. I am going to use it during Show and Tell time with my littlies. I only allow them to bring a book for Show and Tell time and last term I had let them ask each other questions about the books. Unfortunately, their questions were limited to "Do you like it?", "What is your favourite colour in it?" and "Where did you get it?". Most of the time the answer would be a mumbled "I forgot". Sigh. So it is time to model and teach how to ask a good question about a book. This links well with my upcoming focus on comprehension strategies. The cube has 6 words which I will use to frame a question. The words are: character, setting, emotion, start, problem, end. (I couldn't fit the word "beginning" in!)

Here are some photos - super easy! And I apologise - my OCD self is upset because the cube actually had a slant on one side so it isn't very straight and symmetrical. Also, if I made it again I would type and cut out the words instead of using stickers because I think it would be neater.

I used scrapbooking paper, black electrical tape, clear contact and glue. It SHOULD without 6 year olds handling it!

Feel free to use this idea! The possibilities are endless!

Professional Development - Teaching Effective Numeracy Strategies

This is what I am reading right now.

Not exactly easy bed time reading, but very, very helpful. This year all teachers at my school have to choose two areas in which they want to develop their professional knowledge. Either the principal or the assistant principal mentors us and we do some research in our classrooms. One area I wanted to focus on was early number skills. I noticed that some of the little people in my class just weren't understanding the curriculum so I wanted to look at the developmental stages and see where they were truly at. I knew that I was teaching them out of their Zone of Proximal Development. As we all know, the curriculum doesn't fit everyone!

So I have assessed all my class (individually) using the SENA test which is part of the Count Me in Too program. Aussie teachers may know what I am talking about, but basically it checks numeral identification, forward oral counting, backward oral counting, counting objects with 1:1, addition strategies, subtraction strategies and multiplicative strategies. My next step is to analyse the results, put the children into focus groups and then teach according to their needs.

Easy? Yup. Haha.

I'll be sure to share my learning as I go.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

50 posts!

Well, this post is number 51! I am hoping to share lots more ideas with you all, become more techno-savvy, and increase my followings.


Well, because the more followers I have, the more feedback I get, and the more creative ideas I can get! And THAT is why I love blogging!

For a completely random, but happy photo, here is my darling kitty cat. Her name is Daisy and she is a ragdoll. (sorry about the red eyes!)

Nominated for a Liebster Award for Blogging!

Thank you Kylie from Miss Smartie Pants for nominating Kindergarten Blossoms for a Liebster Award. 

Kylie says: " The award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The meaning of the Liebster Award comes from a German word meaning sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. How lovely is that!! Building a blogging community is a wonderful way to connect with other teachers and bloggers and help spread the word about these new bloggers/blogs. "


Now, to accept my nomination, I have to answer a few questions,  post some random facts about myself and then nominate some more new bloggers and ask them some questions too! 

Now, here are the questions that Kylie asked me with my answers.

1. Happiest moment of your life?
Wedding day and births of my children. 
2. Most amazing vacation?
Palm Cove, near Cairns. GORGEOUS!
3. Favourite classroom item?
Give me a good storybook! 
4. Something you could not live without?
Ohh, my laptop! 
5. Favourite ice-cream?
Old English Toffee
6. Any hobbies?
Blogging of course! Reading and learning to sew. 
7. Favourite unit to teach?
Every year with this age group I do "We've Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen. Lots of art, drama, oral language and sequencing. 
8. Proudest moment of your life?
All those little milestones that my children achieve make me proud. However, that is THEIR work, not mine. So for me, I felt very proud when I completed my Graduate Certificate in Literacy. I worked full time that year, had two young children and travelled 2 hours a day. Completing that work was a challenge in many ways. 
9. Favourite colour?
Depends on my mood! I love teal and purple lately. Those lovely peacock colours!
10. Best present you have ever been given?
Framed print of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss".
11. Blogging is... a great way to learn and get inspired! 

Some random facts about myself...

  • I am left handed.
  • I can read 3 novels a week, more during school holidays!
  • I like cooking.
  • I lived in the UK for 2 years as a child.
  • I love to draw. 
Ok, now I am off to find some new blogs to follow, nominate and share with you! 
(I actually found it REALLY hard to find some new blogs that fit the criteria because Kylie had already nominated my favourite new bloggers!) 

HERE WE GO!! 5 Great new blogs for you to look at! 

Whilst I have your attention, I'm also going to point out Kylie at The Down-under Teacher has this fabulous list of Australian bloggers if you are interested. I know sometimes it's helpful to get local ideas, particularly for seasons/money/native animals!

Thank you for reading my post! It was a LONG one! 
Tomorrow I will contact all the nominees and ask them some questions! Blogging is all about sharing, and I am super excited to have had the opportunity to share with you! 

EDITED to add the questions for the nominees!
1. What is your favourite part of the school day?
2. What sort of car do you drive?
3. How many hours a week do you dedicate to blogging?
4. Do you have a Teachers Pay Teachers shop?
5. Do you prefer sweet or savoury treats?
6. Are you left handed or right handed?
7. How many children are in your class?
8. Do you wear nail polish every day?
9. Do you like gardening?
10. Do you find time for exercise?
11. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

:) Keep smiling everyone! x

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Linking up to talk Phonics!

I am linking up with Castles and Crayons again to talk about Phonics in my classroom.

Phonics is an area I am passionate about. Two years ago I did postgrad research on the British "Letters and Sounds" program after analysing the results I know how valuable 20 minutes a day of explicit teaching is.

That said, I have had to revamp my methods this year. Having a profoundly deaf child in my class has made me think about how to teach spelling in new ways to cater for her needs!


I use a mix of Letters and Sounds , Spalding Method and a smattering of the Reading Recovery methods that I have come across.

I introduce the 5 phonogram cards that we will be practicing for the week. 2 cards will be new sounds and 3 will be ones they have already learnt. This helps with review and retention. I show the card, say the sounds and the letter name, and then show the class how to write them. The Spalding Method is very particular about explaining the writing process of each letter (eg. start and the 2 o'clock for a, c, g, o, s, d, q). Then I will past the cards around the circle, one at a time. Children need to say the sound as they pass the card to the next person.
Then we brain storm some words that contain the new sounds. I might have some pictures/objects to help them.
Finally we read a poem from this kit Smart Phonics. This poem will be an independent reading task later. The poems are laminated and I can use dry erase markers to underline sight words, rhyming words and of course the focus sounds.

I show and read the cards again. Children echo me.
Then we head to our desks and write the sounds in our handwriting book along with 2 words for each sound. Children underline the focus phonograms in red pencil.

For example, their notebook page might look like this:

ow cow slow
oo foot pool
sh wish ship
ee feet sheep
er her better

Again, lots of talk and visual aids to help them to make connections and see patterns. I also use this time to talk about rules and syllables.

Again, show and say the sounds and children echo. Then I use the magnetic letters to demonstrate blending and segmenting of words which contain the sounds. I try to get as much children participation as possible and keep the lesson moving quickly. Once we've practiced a dozen or so words, we do some sound substitution, eg. change feet to meet, etc.

Same as Tuesday, but with the sounds in a different order and with new words.
Then a quick few minutes on the mat to do some base word building using one of the words we wrote. Eg. wish - wished, wishes, wishing. (This is particularly for the Grade 1s in my class who need to start learning this!)

This time the kids have a small piece of paper and have to write down the phonogram just by listening, NOT seeing the cards! Then we mark them altogether. This is just to create some accountability for them. I put a sticker on everyone's paper and praise them for good listening and remind them that listening and thinking about sounds helps our writing and spelling.
Then we read the weekly poem again and children read with me if they can.
Finally, a quick syllable sort using all the words that we have studied during the week.

That overview is NOT the only phonics that I do. That's the whole class bit to ensure that every one has been exposed to what the curriculum requires. I also do a lot of small group work to reinforce the learning. Small group time also lets me differentiate better. Since I have a Prep/Grade 1 composite consisting of 5-7 year olds, there is a lot of differing abilities. Some little treasures are still at the alphabet sound/symbol stage. Some are ready for CVC work. Some are up to blends, digraphs, etc.


1 have 5 groups. I see each group twice a week.

I tried Daily 5 last year but this group needs something different, plus I don't have enough books for the children to have 5 each all week. So this is what works for me, this year, with this group.

First, we have 20 minutes for spelling group time. Children only do one job a day. It's all I can fit in to be honest!! The jobs are:

  • Words Sorts (a bit like Words Their Way)
  • Spelling Games
  • Word Families (onset/rime activities)
  • Sight Words (Make, Match, Stamp, Write)
  • Work with the Teacher (I read their guided reading book with them and do some decoding based activities  such as blending and segmenting and Elkonin boxes. We do some interactive writing as a book follow up.

Then we switch to 20 minutes of reading group time. The groups are the same as the spelling groups. The jobs are:

  • Computer (Starfall)
  • Reading Corner
  • Sight Words Games
  • Poem (they get a photocopy version of the weekly poem, colour in the focus sound/letter and then decorate it)
  • Teacher group, which is a guided reading session with a comprehension/strategies focus rather than a decoding focus.
So, there you have my Phonics lessons, VERY briefly! I hope it makes sense! 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Winter holidays!

Term 2 has ended. We are officially halfway through the year. Eek! I still have so much to teach them!

It will be lovely to have 2 weeks of no alarm clock!

Today I slept and slept and slept. I think that I am getting a sick. Typical!  It's also incredibly cold here and I can see snow on the mountain from my bedroom.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My first Linky!

I am linking up with Castles and Crayons to talk about my morning work!

After reading her post, I realised that my routine is quite different, yet typical for Australian classrooms.

The first bell goes at 8.30am and this is when students and parents can come in and get settled. They play with their friends, show their parents around the classroom, and organise lunch orders. They bring in their Home Readers ready for swapping. At 8.55 the music plays over the PA system announcing pack up time. The bell goes at 9am and children quickly settle on the mat.

First up is attendance. In my class we do this in sign language (Auslan) with the help of our Auslan interpreter for one of my students. Then I check for lunch orders and two children will take lunch orders and the attendance sheet up to the office. Next I go through the day's schedule (I have visual prompts) and talk about what day, date, seasons, etc. Sometimes I have a sentence on a pocket chart that we read together and sometimes we sing a song. Then we do Show and Tell, where 4 children each day bring a book to share with the class. Some teachers allow anything to be brought in, but I don't feel comfortable with the random bringing in of toys (which could get lost!) and I want to link all learning time with the curriculum. It's also a better way for me to get to know about what the children are interested in. I often guide units of work around a book that children have really enjoyed! For example, one child bought a book about sharks in and the whole class loved it so we studied sharks for science. Twice I have had children bring Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs in, so for history we will look at May Gibbs.

By about 9.15 the children are beginning to get a bit wriggly so it's time to get them started on Guided Reading, which lasts until 10am, when we stop for a quick reflection, fruit/water break and a story. Then we do Spelling work until 10.50am recess time.

So morning work for my class is based around oral language, social skills and settling in and preparing for the day.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Splat the Cat

My first post from my galaxy tab!
Last week we read the wonderful Splat books. The class loved them!
We made a craft and wrote procedural texts. Take a look!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

What a busy week!

Well, what a busy week! Reading Groups and Spelling Groups are working well and children are much more settled and on task now that they understand the routines. I will get some photos ready soon.

For Numeracy, I have been working on subtraction. Lots of my littlies just aren't ready yet though. They are able to do it with the concrete aides or number lines but they need lots of support and practice. That's okay though - at least I  know where I need to start and how I need to help them!

Today we had a lovely parent come and talk to the class about his job - a veterinary pathologist. It was a fantastic way to end out unit of work on Pets. He even bought in a sheep stomach for the kids to look at! Nice and gross :)

Monday, 27 May 2013

Emergent Numeracy Skills

I have a bunch of students who are in the very early stages of understanding number. Yes, they can orally count, but subitising and trusting the count? Nope. They need to physically touch and count all.

So one of my goals this year is to better understand the developmental stages and to research exactly how to reach these children and how to guide them to the next step. Ideally, I would like them all to be confident with subitising and trusting the count ready for place value in grade 2.

I am using the Count Me In Too resource and the Professor Di Siemon research.

Here are a couple of photos of number work we did last week:

Ways to represent 7

Representing 8

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Wizard of Oz

We read a picture book version of the Wizard of Oz and then watched the classic Judy Garland movie. The kids LOVED it!
It was a great way to introduce the concepts of character and setting.

For this artwork, I divided up a large piece of cartridge paper in quarters using masking (painters) tape. Then in each quarter the children drew a different setting using oil based pastels. There are a lot of colour themes in the book! Glinda's castle is pink/red, Emerald City is green, the Yellow Brick Road, and the Rainbow.

Then a dye wash over the drawing. Peel off the masking tape. Ta da!

Bilby Photos

Here are the photos I promised (a loooong time ago!)
The bilbies in the burrow are precut cards found at a local cheap store (a pack of 10 for $2). 
We also did some comparing and contrasting of bilbies and rabbits using a venn diagram.