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    Term 4, Week 7

    November 7th, 2010

    All Levels

    Over the past two weeks you have assessed your learners’ ability to read key words.  Now you need to communicate this information!  Send a copy of the assessment sheet home so that parents can encourage and help their children further.  Also remember to file a copy for each child so that next year’s teacher will know where to start with each one.

     Level 1

    In the classroom this week: This week’s Talking Story is all about exercise.  Physical activity gets our hearts beating faster and oxygen pumping through our brains.  This helps to give children more energy and keeps them more alert during lessons.  Many schools do not give enough attention to P.E. and games.  You don’t need special equipment or training.  Think about the games you played as a child.  Did you play Stuck-in-the-Mud or Open Gate or Tag or Hide-and-Seek?  I still see children playing “Elastics” and skipping and Hop-Scotch in the same way that I did at primary school.  Some people believe that playing these games is a waste of precious teaching time… But try it for yourself and see how much more focused the children are when they have had a chance to expend energy in a fun way.  They also learn to take turns, to co-operate as a team, to win and lose graciously, to support and encourage each other and to have fun!

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 1 Advanced, “Bend and stretch”.

    Level 2

    In the classroom this week: Print out the classroom activity – It has the template for the spider in the Talking Story.  Your kids will have a lot of fun cutting this out and following the pictorial instructions for assembling their bouncing spiders!

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 2 Advanced, “Let’s make a spider”

    Level 3

    In the classroom this week: The printable classroom activity contains a template and instructions for making the Climbing Clown that the Talking Story is based on.  This clown really does climb up the string!  Try it and see for yourself!

    In the computer lab this week: 

    Talking Story – Level 3 Advanced, “Make a climbing clown”.


    Term 4, Week 1

    October 6th, 2010

    The fourth term rushes by in a blur of assessments, report-writing and end-of-year events and parties.  But don’t forget we still have two months’ worth of wonderful Talking Stories and great learning activities. 

    This week, send home the key word assessments that you did with your children at the end of last term.  This keeps parents up to date with their children’s progress and shows them what revision is needed this term.

    Level 1

    In the classroom this week: Send home Grade 1, Term 4 letter. Send home key word assessment from the end of last term. Send home Level 1, List 3 key words for this term.

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 1 Advanced, “The beetle and the butterfly”.

    Level 2

    In the classroom this week: Send home Grade 2, Term 4 letter. Send home key word assessment from the end of last term. Send home Level 2, List 4 key words for this term. (2 pages)

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 2 Advanced, “Lost!”.

    Level 3

    In the classroom this week: Send home Grade 3, Term 4 letter. Send home key word assessment from the end of last term. Send home Level 3, List 3 key words for this term. (2 pages)

    In the computer lab this week: 

    Talking Story – Level 3 Advanced, “Weather”.


    Term 3, Week 1

    July 7th, 2010

    We’re back at school after the looong winter holiday.  Don’t take a few weeks to gear up – get off to a cracking start!  Your children are well rested and ready to learn.  Take full advantage of this first week and capitalise on your children’s eagerness.

    Level 1

    In the classroom this week: Send home the following information:

    1. Grade1 Term3 Letter to Parents 
    2. Level 1, List 2 Key Words 
    3. Individual assessment of key words from the end of Term 2

    Read the parent letter carefully before sending it.  You may want to make a few changes to individualise it.  You could also copy and paste it onto your school letterhead. 

    You are also sending home the second list of key words that Grade 1 children should learn.  If you have systematically followed the Talking Stories blog advice, then by now you will be delighted with the progress your Grade 1 children are making!  This term you should continue sending home Talking Stories reading books for children to enjoy with their families each week.

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 1 Intermediate, “Bath time”.

    Level 2

    In the classroom this week: Send home the following information:

    1. Grade2 Term3 Letter to Parents
    2. Level 2, List 3 Key Words
    3. Individual key word assessment from the end of Term 2

    By sending home a copy of their child’s assessment sheet you are providing clear information on individual progress.  This also enables parents to give focussed help to their children where necessary.

    You are also sending home the third set of key words that Grade 2 children should learn.  Remember to keep sending home a reading book each week this term.

    In the computer lab this week:

    Talking Story – Level 2 Core, “The sweet machine”

    Level 3

    In the classroom this week: Send home the following information:

    1. Grade3 Term3 Letter to Parents
    2. Level 3, List 2 Key Words (2 pages)
    3. Individual key word assessment from the end of Term 2

    Your children should be able to read quite confidently by now.  Strengthen their LOVE of reading this term.  Encourage them to visit the local library, and remember to keep sending home a reading book each week this term!

    In the computer lab this week: 

    Talking Story – Level 3 Core, “Chickenpox”


    Term 2, Week 1

    April 15th, 2010

    Level 1

    In the classroom this week: Communication with parents is the key theme for this week.  Send home the following information this Friday:

    1. Grade1 Term 2 Letter to parents + Jolly Phonics Sheet
    2. Key Words, Level 1, List 1 
    3. Individual alphabet assessment from the end of Term 1

    Read the parent letter carefully before sending it.  You may want to make a few changes to individualise it.  You could also copy and paste it onto your school letterhead.  The letter tells parents that you have covered the alphabet in Term 1 and assessed which letter sounds each child can recognise.  You are attaching this assessment and the Jolly Phonics sheet so that parents can help their children with the letter sounds that they didn’t know.

    You are also sending home the first list of key words that Grade 1 children should learn, now that they know the alphabet.  We’re making fabulous progress on the road to reading success!  This term you should begin sending home the Talking Stories reading books for children to enjoy with their parents.

    In the computer lab this week: Revise computer lab rules and the procedures for logging on and opening Talking Stories.  Let children choose their favourite story from last term.

    Level 2

    In the classroom this week: Focus on strengthening parental involvement in children’s learning.  Do you have parent interviews at the beginning of term?  Use the opportunity to talk about developing a culture of reading in the home.  Send home the following information this Friday:

    1. Grade2 Term 2 Letter to Parents
    2. Key Words, Level 2, List 2 
    3. Individual key word assessment from the end of Term 1

    The letter reminds parents that you have now revised and assessed all the Grade 1 high frequency words as well as learnt the first set of Grade 2 words.  By sending home a copy of their child’s assessment sheet you are providing clear information on individual progress.

    You are also sending home the next set of key words that Grade 2 children should learn.  This term you should see real progress in reading.  Keep up the good work – don’t let the pace slip at this crucial stage!  Send reading books home each week to encourage parental involvement and a love of reading.

    In the computer lab this week: Revise computer lab rules and the procedures for logging on and opening Talking Stories.  Let children choose their favourite story from last term.

     Level 3

    In the classroom this week:  This is the week for clear communication with parents.  Send home the following information this Friday:

    1. Grade3 Term 2, Letter to Parents
    2. Key Words, Level 3, List 1 
    3. Individual key word assessment from the end of Term 1

    Each week send home Talking Stories reading books for children to share with their families.  It is SO important for children to have access to reading material outside of the classroom.  Encourage parents to join a library and to read themselves!

    In the computer lab this week: Revise computer lab rules and the procedures for logging on and opening Talking Stories.  Let children choose their favourite story from last term.


    What’s the most important success factor in education?

    March 25th, 2010

    Research shows that parental interest in their child’s education is the single most powerful predictor of achievement at age 16.
    Tony Richardson, Executive Director, Strategy and Communications, Becta

    Tomorrow the South African school holidays will start.  How can you encourage parents to play a more active role in the lives of their children over the coming weeks? 

    Here are ten ideas to get you started:

    1. Go to the beach or dam or climb a mountain or go for a long walk in a beautiful place.  This won’t cost much, it’s healthy and it gives time for meandering conversations.  You will learn what’s on your child’s mind and have unpressured time to share thoughts and ideas.
    2. Visit your local library together, each take out a book and read it!  It’s important for children to see their parents reading as this provides a model for them to follow.
    3. Switch the TV off for one evening.  Let your child choose how to spend the time together.
    4. Play a board game or a card game together. 
    5. Draw or paint a picture at the same time as your child is drawing or painting.  Sit at a table together.  This is surprisingly relaxing and fun!
    6. Cook or bake together or plant some seeds together.
    7. Go to the local park and kick a ball around or play on the swings!  Buy an ice cream.
    8. Use your cell phone to have a text conversation with your child.  You may be surprised at how different this is from a normal conversation.  Children  and teenagers often use text messaging confidently and express themselves better using this medium.
    9. If you have bicycles, don’t leave them rusting away… Go for a bike ride together.
    10. Have a treasure hunt.  Hide a small item and then write lots of little clues that will have your child scurrying from one place to the next before finally finding the treasure.

    What else can parents do this holiday?  Add your own ideas.  Print these suggestions and send them home with your end-of-term letter or school reports.


    Lovely Literacy Learning

    March 9th, 2010

    I sneaked around Bridgeville Primary School today and took these pics:

    Two Grade 6 learners using some waiting time to enjoy a book together – spotted as I walked past an open classroom door…

    One of the ever-patient, ever-friendly Help2Read volunteers, working with a happy learner in a quiet spot…

    A class lesson on conjunctions, using the interactive whiteboard…

    Another of the amazing Help2Read ladies working tirelessly with individual children each week…

    And these two photos were taken last week:

    Look at all these eager Foundation Phase parents attending an evening meeting after a hard day at work – so that they can learn how best to support their children in literacy and numeracy at home…


    Some of the parents acted as ‘living visual aids’ as everyone learnt the actions for every alphabet sound, the Jolly Phonics way!


    Seven years in school and still can’t read!

    February 21st, 2010

     A few days ago I was asked to visit a South African high school to help teachers with some strategies to improve reading levels.  I was shocked to discover that between 10 and 20% of children entering that high school cannot read a single word.  A further 60% of these learners were reading at a very weak level.  This is an ordinary school.  I had just spent 15 minutes chatting with a lively class of Grade 10s – ordinary, intelligent kids.  How is this possible?

    We cannot blame the poor teachers for all the ills of society.  Socio-economic status and parental involvement are the two greatest indicators for academic performance in learners.  But this should spur us on to do whatever we can to help these kids overcome barriers and difficult circumstances.  Every child matters!

    So let’s start in the Foundation Phase.  I have heard and read about many different methods of teaching children to read and write.  There is no shortage of experts telling us how to do it!  Sometimes it can get quite confusing trying to apply different methods or follow the latest trend.

    Essentially, teaching someone to read is not difficult!  For a moment, just think about how you would teach reading if you were on a desert island without resources.  Where would you start?  What would you do next?  Sometimes we get so caught up with our methods and documentation that we can overlook the obvious…

    Start with the alphabet…. sounding the letters, not naming them (‘a’ as in ‘pan’ not ‘pane’).  Then build small words with these letters.  Let children have a go at building some of their own words – writing them down.  Then let them try a sentence on their own.  To begin with they will probably just write the intiial sound in each word… with a few extra sounds here and there. e.g. ‘I w t the pk.’ (I went to the park.)  Then you can write the sentence out for them to copy correctly and draw a picture.  It’s that simple!  Done regularly, together with the learning of key words (and lots of other reading activities) children WILL make progress in reading and writing.

    Which key words should you teach children?  In any language there are some words that are used more often than others.  We call these high-frequency words.  If you want a child to be able to read story books independently, then clearly you should teach them these words first - so they will recognise more words on the pages of story books!

    I have selected and sorted all the high-frequency words for you in the Talking Stories package.  I’m introducing them week by week on this blog.  First your children must have mastered the alphabet.   Then you can teach them to read the words in the lists I have given you. 

    It may seem a bit boring doing a letter sound each day and following it up with the same kind of worksheet or practice at writing the letter.  Similarly, it may sound tedious doing a list of key words each week and using them for a simple spelling test on Friday…  But this is EXACTLY the sort of repetition and reinforcement that is needed at this stage.  You can use easy games (I spy; guess which word I’m thinking of; find the matching words…) to liven things up a bit.  But please don’t give up!  Keep at it day after day; week after week. 

    The most important thing of all is that your heart is in what you’re doing.  Do you walk into your classroom with a spring in your step and expectancy in your heart?  Do you believe that your children will learn something new today?  Do you look at each one with love and compassion?  If you can answer “Yes” to these questions, then I am confident you have what it takes to get your children reading fluently!


    Four Steps to Success

    January 29th, 2010

    Do you remember the Talking Stories “Four Steps to Success?”

    1. Read the story in class.  Make it come alive for your children!  Read with lots of expression and use simple props as visual aids.  Be really dramatic: sit on the floor or stand on a table if it grabs their attention… wear a funny hat… use the accentuated expressions of a mime artist… run from an imaginary mouse… wear a tiara and  behave like the queen… do whatever the story demands to make it memorable and fun! Highlight important or difficult words from the story.  Explain what they mean and write them on the board.  Point out high frequency words or alphabet sounds that you are teaching at the moment.
    2. Use the Talking Story in the computer lab.  Let the children work through the story and interactive activities at their own pace, seated two to a computer.  Make sure all the headphones are working and the sound on the computer is turned to maximum.  It’s important to encourage independence and resist the urge to have the whole class chanting the story as you control their computers.  The whole point of having individual workstations is to allow children to work in an interactive way that is individually paced.  Some children may like to hear/read a page twice; confident readers might read the story without using sound support.  That’s fine!  Our aim is to get them to read and enjoy reading. The three interactive activities are differentiated so that the first one is the easiest and the third one a bit more difficult.  Most children will complete the story and at least a couple of activities during a one-hour lab session.  The activities provide lots of animated rewards and encouragement to support children in getting things right.  We don’t want to catch them out!  One of the underlying principles of Talking Stories is to “catch them in” and help them to learn by providing lots of positive reinforcement.
    3. Complete the worksheet in class.  When you get back to the classroom after your session in the computer lab, follow up the work by giving each child the companion worksheet for their Talking Story.  They have already had the opportunity to read the story and to extend their understanding using technology.  Now they should do some written work to reinforce their learning.  Apart from letter formation, handwriting and spelling, they also need to learn to be fluent and creative in writing.  Encourage them to use the blank back of the worksheet to re-write the story in their own words and draw a picture.
    4. Take the reading book home!  I can hear you groaning already… “The books will get damaged… they won’t come back at all… we can’t afford to replace them…”  But how will children learn to enjoy reading unless we help them to establish a reading culture in the home?  Make sure the books are covered in plastic; teach children how to look after them; provide every child with a carrier bag to use as a book bag.  Reading a book one-to-one with a loving adult at home is a nurturing experience that we must do our utmost to encourage!Ten tips for parents in reading with their children

    Term 1, Week 1

    January 5th, 2010

     

    To help you make the most of the Talking Stories software and books I have compiled a complete year plan that will enable you to cover every story (and touch on every assessment standard of the home language curriculum) during the course of the school year.  This assumes that you have one session per week in your school computer lab.  I will also provides tips, ideas and worksheets for classroom use.

    Each week I will post an update on this blog, with resources for each level.  Click here: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 or on the tabs at the top of this blog to find an index that will build up as the weeks go by.

    Due to the growing number of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in Foundation Phase classrooms, I also hope to provide a weekly link to a brilliant IWB resource for your class.

    Please, please provide feedback and ideas of your own.  Let me know if this blog meets your needs.  Share your own links to excellent literacy resources.  Stay in touch!

    Here we go for Term 1, Week 1:

    Level 1

    Harness parental enthusiasm right at the outset:

    Grade1 Term 1 Letter to Parents + Phonics sheet

    If you have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom, here is a fabulous and colourful story about Jack’s first day at school. Use it for whole class story time – the children will love it!http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/misc/stories/jacksbigday/

    Level 2

    Get your parents involved from Day 1!

    Grade 2 Term1 Letter to Parents + Phonics Sheet

    If you have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom, then here is a great story to use on the first day back at school. It’s about a big, orange school bus. Perhaps it’s a Golden Arrow bus!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/razzledazzle/stories/theschoolrun/

    Level 3

    Here’s an easy way to encourage parents to help you with revision:

    Grade 3 Term1 Letter to Parents + Revision Sheet

    If you have an interactive whiteboard and internet connection in your classroom, then here is a terrific, interactive story for you to enjoy with your class on Day 1. It’s called “The Big Beastie Thing.” Learners will love selecting the missing words and watching the animated characters leap about. The web address below will take you directly to the story. Have fun on your first day back!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/razzledazzle/stories/bigbeastiething/