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Phonemes and Graphemes

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When first learning about teaching phonics it can be challenging to wrap your head around how it all works.  For teachers who are used to teaching with letter names, it can be tricky to know what a ‘sound’ is and what it isn’t.  So, here are some fundamentals of sounds and letters to help get you on track.

Firstly, it is important to call things by their right names and to teach these names to students. 

There are 44 phonemes in Australian English - 24 consonant phonemes and 20 vowel pho…

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The Value of a Quality Program

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Imagine going to the hardware store knowing you need to fix the mould in your bathroom. You look for ‘mould products’ and discover a wonderful looking bottle of mould killer that promises to eradicate all of your bathroom problems. You take it home, spray your bathroom liberally and regularly and the problem seems to clear up (you can forgive the bleached areas of paint on the untiled sections of your bathroom. After all, the mould is gone). Except, that it hasn’t. Your tiles look lovely and c…

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No More Three Cueing! What's Next?

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There has been a lot of talk lately about the very encouraging announcement that Arkansas in the United States has banned teach children the three cueing method in reading instruction.  This means that teachers will need to find an alternative to teaching children to do any of the following:

  • Look at the first letter, look at the picture and think about what makes sense
  • Skip the word, read on and then come back after you think about what makes sense
  • Trying a word that makes sense
  • Using …

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Using Decodable Texts to Meet Student Needs

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We have all heard about decodable texts and the need to ditch 3 cueing.  It is now well established that children should only be given material to read in the early stage of learning to read that contains graphemes and high frequency words they have been taught and that 'sounding out' is the only strategy we should be teaching when children are lifting the words from the page.  However, even this switch to decodable texts does not mean that one size fits all. 

Before I talk about stud…

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How Do You Know What You Don't Know?

Every teacher I have every met (bar a couple who really needed to work somewhere else) has wanted to do a good job for kids. Usually we enter the profession with the genuine desire to make a difference to children and contribute something positive to society. The caring nature of teaching means that we often invest deeply in our students and give of ourselves in countless ways. Practices come and practices go and we do our best to adjust to the 'new way'. Teaching reading is no different. Prac…

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Unsightly Sight Words

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There is much commentary about teaching sight words, with good reason.  This ineffective practice still runs rampant in most  Primary Schools.

Some of the most common questions I see asked in early years Facebook group are about this very topic.

How do you teach them?

What activities do you do with them?

How do we help students who are having trouble learning them? 

The answer to all of these questions largely lies in the definition of sight words and our understanding of how we learn t…

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5 Classroom Practices to Boost Language

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Oral language is at the heart of all academic learning. After all, If you can’t say it, you can’t read it and you can’t write it.  As teachers, we know this to be true, but often struggle to understand exactly what we are supposed to do to make it happen.  So, here is a handy list of things to take into consideration when planning for oral language teaching in your classroom:


  1. Make your classroom a language rich environment where discussion and use of complex vocabulary is the norm.  D…

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Using Rich Text to Build Language

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 Once we understand the need for explicit language and writing teaching, the question becomes, “Exactly what does this look like in a classroom?”  This post aims to begin to answer that question.  


Quality picture books.



A particularly engaging and effective method of building language is through the use of quality picture books.  This is by no means a new way to explore and contextualise grammar.  I highly recommend Joanne Rossbridge and Kathy Rushton’s book “Convers…

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Show AND Tell

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The start of a new school year (or term, or week, or day) brings with it a desire to establish routines and expectations in our classrooms.  It is usual to spend time with students talking about rules and outlining what will be expected of all members of the class.   These will be reinforced each day as you give instructions to students. You might ask them to enter the classroom quietly or move quickly to pack up.  

This is all great if students understand what it is you want them t…

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Time to Break Up with Running Records

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“What’s his level?” It’s a question repeated over and over again in Australian Schools.  It seems that everywhere you look kids are being tested using a popular benchmarking kit that ends up providing an instructional and independent level for reading.  Let’s be honest. The idea of a ‘level’ is attractive. It gives us an easily measurable way to track progress in a child’s reading.  The problem with this system is that it doesn’t effectively measure a child’s reading progress at all.   This sy…

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