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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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The Key to Increasing Student Motivation to Write

There’s a funny idea that floats around in education, that the way to increase student motivation for learning is to make things more engaging.  This can mean a variety of things including making learning more ‘authentic’, giving more choice in learning activities and (heaven forbid) making learning fun.  

Let’s talk about why authenticity, choice and fun can lead us down the path to instructional ruin if not applied in moderation.

  • Authenticity is a concept that we hear often. It is often ac…

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When 'What We Have Always Done', Just Doesn't Make Sense.

I spend a lot of time interacting with teachers. Whether it is through social media, emails, Teach Along Course sessions or on the phone, they all say the same thing about writing instruction. “It just doesn’t make sense to ask a student in the early years, who can barely write a simple sentence, to write a complete text”.  Here are some of the things that I have heard:

“We skip to full pieces of text far too quickly.”

“I feel like my students just aren’t writing enough.”

“Asking all Foundati…

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How to teach writing pages

'How to Teach Writing in the Early Primary Grades'

We have all known the feeling of frustration (and maybe helplessness) that comes with not really knowing how to get children writing.  Some kids just seem to 'get it' and will happily sit down to write a story or information report for us while others struggle along, unable to complete the task no matter how many times we go through the 'modelled, shared, guided and independent' cycle that we have been taught is the key to good writing instruction. 

When we try to figure out what we need to tea…

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Three Simple Ways to Make Oral Language a Priority

Have you ever reached reporting time in your semester, had a look at the ‘speaking and listening’ part of the achievement standard and realised that you don’t really have any strong evidence to assess? 

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There’s also a really good chance that you haven’t intentionally planned for this beyond having children ‘do news’ and maybe participate in a group drama activity.  This is such a common story, not because teachers aren’t diligent in their duties, but because speaking and listening is somethin…

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Moving on from Sounding Out

Sometimes our students get stuck in an apparently endless beginning phase of reading, sounding out word by word.  Where other children make steady progress in building fluency, reasonably quickly arriving at the point where they can recognise and read many words, our ‘stuck’ kids make little progress. 



We know that the first step in learning to decode is to use our knowledge of phonics and combine it with our phonemic skills to sound out words. Everyone works through this phase …

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sight reading

Unsightly Sight Words

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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What About the Play?

There is a huge push (and rightly so) for strong literacy foundations  to be built in the first year of school, but with children entering formal schooling as young as four and half years old, the question is to be asked, “What about the play?”.

If you have been reading my blog of any length of time you will know that I am a MASSIVE advocate for explicit teaching in early literacy skills.  I write and teach others about teacher led, systematic, instruction in reading and spelling. What you …

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The Strugglers Among Us

Here in Australia the school year is a few weeks in and teachers have been busily getting to know their new students.   As part of this process, it is customary to spend some time learning to understand the needs of our students with additional needs.  We meet with parents, review files and familiarise ourselves with individual education plans.   But what of the students who don’t have a diagnosis, individual education plan or record of ongoing additional needs?  How do we identify and support t…

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5 Classroom Practices to Boost Language

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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