The teaching of literacy is a high priority at Donvale Primary School. The school has fully implemented the Victorian Early Years Literacy Program in Foundation – Year Four. We ensure all students have their literacy needs met through the provision of small group instruction, programs tailored to meet individual needs and regular assessment.
In the Early Years, student skills and knowledge are closely monitored and learning needs are addressed in small group learning programs. This continues as students work in Years 5 and 6 as they progress towards secondary education.
The Early Years program operates in the Foundation to Level 4 classrooms with the Literacy block comprising an hour of reading and an hour of writing each day. The reading session follows the Early Years model of whole class/small group/whole class format. During the whole class section a particular reading focus will be looked at; while in the small group component the teacher will conduct a guided reading session with one group while other groups are involved in a range of literacy activities. There will be time at the end of the session for all groups to come together to share their learning. The strength of the Early Years program is that it matches the appropriate text level to the students’ reading ability.
The Early Years writing program follows a similar format of whole class/small group/whole class. During the whole class section the teacher may involve the class in some modelled or shared writing; while in the small group component students may be engaged in interactive writing with the teacher and independent writing at their tables. Again there is time at the end of the session for students to share their writing with the whole class. Throughout their primary school years the students will develop their skills to enable them to write on a range of text types including information reports, procedural, persuasive and narrative.
Reading is such an important skill to develop that it takes a large chunk of primary school learning time. We need to develop this skill to function well in our society and there is the side benefit that many of us appreciate – that of escaping into the wonderful world of books. We continually develop children’s appreciation of literature by reading good literature and discussing the ideas, situations and people. This discussion helps later when they are reading to acquire knowledge about a particular topic or subject. We aim to firstly teach the technique and skill of reading and then increasingly work on thinking about what we read and relating it in a logical and clear manner either in a spoken response or a form of written work. As the level of skill develops to independent reading, children are expected to take more responsibility for choice of appropriate books and authors. They are supported in this during their Library sessions.
Developmental Play Program – Foundation
Research on this approach has found that children learn better when engaged in meaningful, active tasks. This program supports our many other Literacy Activities and gives a framework for each child’s learning.
Speaking and Listening
These skills are encouraged throughout the school. Foundation students learn to share their ideas, comment and ask questions – these skills develop through to our level five and six students who are able to participate in formal debates. They create their arguments, develop the skills of rebuttal and learn to focus on the topic not their opinion. Oral presentations about themselves, Power Point presentations, work related topics and speaking to the whole school at our weekly Assembly all contribute to well spoken, confident public speakers.
Seven Steps to Writing Success
Developed by Jen McVeity this approach to writing has the advantage of grabbing the children’s interests and encouraging strong, effective writing that is succinct and effective. The whole school uses many of her approaches for developing the skills of writing effectively whilst maintaining the interest of the reader. Staff and children particularly like the ‘Sizzling Starts’ activities.
Writer’s Notebooks are developing at Donvale as a worthwhile approach to teaching writing skills and genres. It is a way of addressing this area of the curriculum that uses the children’s interests and experiences as the stimulus for their writing. It was developed by well-known educational consultant Debra Sukarna. She uses a book of ‘seeds’ that the children collect and develop. The children then choose their topic and genres of writing from their personal book of ideas. This creates a strong personal link for each child and allows them to use their interests and skills to create strong writing. The skills of review and editing are addressed in ‘needs based’ focus groups.
The Spelling Program at Donvale PS aims to guide our students to recognise and develop the strategies and habits of competent spellers. It best occurs in an environment where both the teacher and the students recognise the students’ spelling strengths and needs, whether there are specific plans to work on the needs, and where there is a real-life purpose for learning about spelling.
The overall goals for our students are to:
- understand that the primary purpose for learning about spelling is so that others can read their writing;
- know that their writing is valued regardless of the stage of development of their spelling;
- develop an interest in words and spelling and want to do their best;
- learn how to apply spelling strategies that will help them to write or learn any word;
- learn specific words that they use frequently and so become able to correctly spell these words automatically; and
- know how to use a variety of resources to help with spelling.
Premier’s Reading Challenge
Donvale Primary has been involved in this program since its inception. We have a very pleasing participation rate, with many classes having 100% of students enrolled. There are set requirements for children in different levels and these are supported through the class library sessions, normal class activities and of course home reading. Children receive a certificate for their effort and if they wish their name is published in ‘The Age’ newspaper at the conclusion of the challenge. This is a great support for our reading program.
Book Week Celebration
Every year Donvale uses Book Week to celebrate the wonderful books and literature that is available to our children. In the lead up to the week, the short listed books are eagerly devoured during library lessons, discussed and rated. We like to see if we agree with the judges.
Each class also publishes an agreed style of writing prior to book Week. One year every child wrote and published their own narrative story, last year we focused on creating class books of the children’s poetry. This year each level is going to produce writing that reflects and fits in with their particular learning focus for term 3.
Book Week itself always involves dressing up, a parade, a whole school multi-aged activity day. We form multi-aged groups from Foundation to Year 6 and work together discussing books and creating some form of art to reflect their thinking about the chosen book.
For more information about the school’s literacy program and how Donvale Primary School can assist your child’s literacy education, contact your child’s teacher or the Literacy Co-ordinator, Ian McKinlay.