Something to think about

I read the headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 31st December 2017 with sadness. The demise of Reading Recovery. Certainly not unexpected but sad nevertheless. I remember first hearing about Reading Recovery at university in the late 1980’s and being intrigued by the research coming out of New Zealand. Then I had the opportunity to train in 1992 and I learnt so much about teaching reading. My school was also caught up in the enthusiasm and we changed elements of our teaching program to incorporate some of the Reading Recovery ideas. There was definitely an impact on classroom practice and student learning.

Sadly over the ensuing years much has changed in education but not in the world of Reading Recovery. While ideas of best practice have evolved, Reading Recovery clung to what Marie Clay had said in the 1970-1980’s with the reverence of true believers. I personally feel that Marie herself had she been alive would have rethought elements of the teaching program  as current research has changed what we know about learning and meeting student needs. The clinging to rules and regulations didn’t endear many tutors to schools grappling with how to effectively use limited resources.  Thus Reading Recovery has become a convenient way to cut costs.

Nevertheless all we learnt from Reading Recovery will not be lost. Despite a phonics test being introduced all teachers know the ‘reading is about meaning’ to quote Marie Clay. There are three sources of information that readers use to make meaning. They are visual information, syntax (grammatical structure) and meaning. We need a balanced approach to the teaching of reading.

Reading Recovery taught us to look for the firm foundation of what a student knows and build on that with new learning. This notion has never failed me in all my years of teaching. Also Reading Recovery lessons were based on the reciprocity between reading and writing and guess what… our current English syllabus also emphasizes this point with the key process of responding and composing.

As experienced teachers the challenge is to sift through political expediency and keep hold of basic principles and mesh them with current thinking as we strive to improve the student learning outcomes of all students. (Please note this article reflects my personal viewpoint)


Living in a visual world

We live in a very visual world and our students need to understand how multi media works. All media is constructed and contains belief and value messages which attempt to position viewers. Every viewer interprets messages differently. Each medium has its own meta-language, conventions and forms. This is reflected in the NSW English syllabus where teachers are asked to support students to become multi-literate as they explore multimodal texts in reading and learn to compose visual and multimodal texts. In a multil-literate classroom students learn that context, audience and purpose influence how a text is constructed, the selection of content and the appropriate mode of delivery ( digital – electonic, live, paper). Teachers teach critical literacy as part of English. Community and everyday texts have a place in English as do quality picture books and a range of digital resources. This can be challenging for teachers but there is plenty of help at hand. I have had a great time writing a course called ‘Composing multimodal texts in English K-6 – Visual literacy in practice.’ This course will be run twice in term four at Surry Hills and Blacktown. Click here to go to the CPL website to see the details.

Poetry Pack

I admit to loving poetry and I enjoy sharing poems with the classes I teach. I appreciate that, ‘poetry is the best words, in the best order about something important.’ Imagine using poems in guided reading or a literature circle. Poems are succinct texts filled with amazing language. Exposing students to poetry develops comprehension skills and supports developing writers to play with language.

Do you find teaching poetry daunting? If so then poetry pack may be a useful resource for you. This A4 download comprises an introduction to teaching poetry. The poetic devices and poetic forms mentioned in the NSW English syllabus K-6 are unpacked. A number of step – by – step sheets guide you and your students to produce a variety of poems. Take a look by clicking here.

TRIO on tour


TRIO is excited about the range of courses we are presenting in 2017 with the Centre for Professional Learning. CPL is the professional learning arm of the NSW Teachers Federation. We value the CPL desire to provide professional learning  for teachers not just in city areas but in regional NSW as well. During the year we will be visiting: Tamworth and Newcastle in Term 2: Parkes, Wagga Wagga and Coffs Harbour in Term 3 and Queanbeyan in Term 4. For a full list of courses, venues and registration go to:

Below are the  courses TRIO is conducting with CPL in Term One.

Wednesday 1st March: Implementing a Daily English Block using the English K-6 Syllabus at Surry Hills

Thursday 2nd March:  Improving your pedagogy with Assessment in English K-6 at Surry Hills

Wednesday 8th March: Effective Programming using the English K-6 Syllabus at Blacktown

Thursday 9th March: The Essentials of Teaching Mathematics K-6 at Blacktown

Wednesday 15th March: Teaching Reading, Comprehension and Critical Thinking using the English Syllabus at Surry Hills

Thursday 16th March: Teaching Students to Write Imaginative, Informative and Persuasive Texts using the English Syllabus at Surry Hills

Monday 20th March: The Essentials of Teaching Mathematics K-6 at Surry Hills

Tuesday 21st March: Effective Programming using the English K-6 Syllabus at Surry Hills

Wednesday 29th March: Teaching Students to Write Imaginative, Informative and Persuasive Texts using the English Syllabus at Blacktown

Thursday 30th March: Teaching Visual literacy K-6 at Surry Hills

Monday 3rd April: Implementing a Daily English Block using the English K-6 Syllabus at Blacktown

SDD at Bungendore PS

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Two TRIO presenters were lucky enough to visit Bungendore PS for the first day of 2017 school term. We were thrilled that teachers arrived happily for a whole day on the effective teaching of grammar! This might not sound like an easy start to the year but teachers volunteered to be parts of a sentence, or adjectives in a cline and their enthusiasm saw the day pass quickly. We love to spend time with teachers and be a part of their learning journey and the teachers at Bungendore PS were an enthusiastic audience. I am sure that their grammar lessons this year will be very lively. A final word to the school canteen lady who organised lunch and morning tea. The TRIO award for best catering goes to her. You can’t beat home cooked scones with jam and cream for recess unless it is chicken satay pie for lunch.  Thank you to Bungendore PS for their hospitality and involvement in our SDD course.

Books on the Bookshelf No. 2

Women book

How could anyone resist a book with the title: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. This book by Kate Pankhurst looks at a very diverse range of women from Frida Kahlo, Anne Frank, Coco Chanel  to Mary Anning. Some you will know and some you may not have heard of before. The characteristics that connect this diverse group of women are,  in the words of the author, ” They achieved extraordinary things simply by following their hearts, talents and dreams.” If you are wanting to explore perseverance, this text will be useful. I was drawn to it as I am thinking about encouraging students to produce  informative texts in a variety of ways. I am exploring any format that is NOT an ‘information report.’ This book provides great characters to research, interview and film. Use this book as a mentor text and examine the layout. Use this layout  to produce your class book on great people who came from your local area or are our heroes or achieved something significant in 2016. The options to compose a written, digital or multimodal text using this book as a model are endless.



Books on the bookshelf No. 3

Planet kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten‘ by Sue Ganz-Schmitt is a book worth looking  at regardless of what primary grade you teach. This book is an extended metaphor comparing space exploration to starting school.  In this story the new student enters a new world as he begins school on planet Kindergarten : a place where ‘gravity works differently… We have to try hard to stay in our seats.’ The colours are bright and the layout is interesting. There is a message for all students beginning a new adventure. This story is funny and reassuring at the same time. I am looking forward to sharing this book with class soon.


Books on the Bookshelf No.1

Books on the Bookshelf

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Although it is still school holidays our thoughts are starting to turn to the start of school. When we plan the starting point is always the texts. We want to start 2017 sharing some new books from our bookshelf.

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting the author Simon Longstaff at the Ethics Centre in Sydney. Simon wrote this book to encourage students to think about big ideas and ethical issues. His book The Spider’s Song is a text suitable for primary students. Children who enjoy Geronimo Stilton books will recognize a similar layout, coloured text and different fonts. For us there are echoes of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl. The text is full of rhyme and strange and wonderful creatures created by the Boffin. The messages in the book and there are many, are important and very current for today’s children. Preserving and valuing the natural environment, human values and the hope that we can make things right if things go wrong are the author’s main messages. In the world today it is important as teachers that we give students hope and encourage understanding of others. Next time you are in your favourite bookshop find a copy and have a look.


Hurray for holidays!


At last the 2016 school year draws to a close and teachers all across the state are contemplating a well earned rest and a happy holiday season. I  don’t know about you but I know that as I relax I also reflect on the past year. Maybe the holidays are a time to catch up on some of the professional reading you have been meaning to do? What about some ‘research’ in a bookshop. I would choose a bookshop with coffee options close by and spend a few pleasant minutes opening up the covers of some books you haven’t seen before. For the sake of our work TRIO are dedicated bookshop wanderers and it is amazing what you find. Finding some new books to use in the next school year as well as enjoying a coffee makes the trip worthwhile. I will also be chatting to all the children in my life over Christmas about what they are reading and enjoying. This keeps me up to date with what kids are enjoying at the current moment.

Let me share our newest find with you. You may already be familiar with the author Brendan Wenzel from the book, The Three Pigs. The book They all saw a cat is about point of view and how perspective shapes what we see. I can see endless possibilities for using this text with a range of different classes. If you have a bookshop moment why not share your finds with us.

For the love of language, teach poetry


I have been thinking about all things poetry over the past few weeks as I prepared a full day course on teaching poetry for the Centre for Professional Learning. Teaching  lessons about poetry and writing poems with a number of students has refreshed my love of poetry. Poetry is the perfect text to explore in any classroom. Why? Poems come in all shapes and sizes. Think about songs, raps, riddles, tongue twisters, bush ballads: there is a type of poem for every student to enjoy. Many poems are quite short but packed with ideas and emotion. This means they are accessible even for reluctant readers. Explore using poems in guided reading and literature circles. The poems above were written with two of my grandchildren and remind me of the value of choice. Allowing students to write about what they choose promotes ownership of the text. Parker isn’t at school yet so his diamante poem came from a conversation we had about his favourite animal. As he is currently interested in animals he brought lots of ideas to writing about his favourite animal. I just asked questions and scribed his answers. So if you have avoided poetry, my suggestion is give it a go and have some fun in your classroom!