Archive of ‘Literacy Block’ category

Differentiation and Explicit Teaching

This one looks great for providing clear explanation of explicit teaching and differentiation in the areas of Spelling, Reading, and Punctuation and Grammar. We have identified the need at our school for more focus on explicit teaching in terms of sentence structure, and differentiation is continually an important factor in meeting the wide ranging needs of individuals and cohorts within any class.

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Text Complexity

Novice readers are unable to recognise when to access prior knowledge. Explicit teaching of this skill required. Here meta cognitive thinking is really important – thinking about one’s thinking.
A key aspect of meta cognition is self-management – which consists of: evaluation, planning and regulation. Evaluation refers to analysing the task characteristics and personal abilities that affect comprehension. “Planning involves the selection of particular strategies to reach the goals that have been set or chosen. Regulation is the monitoring and redirection of one’s activities during the course of reading to reach the desired goals.”
Instruction about meta cognitive thinking led to increased comprehension and performance.

By providing reading materials related to field trips or current areas of study, a student’s field of knowledge about that topic can be expanded.

Exploring the task
Selection of texts will depend on what the teacher is expecting students to do with the text. If independent reading is required then the text needs to be something matched to their performance level. If teachers want students to access more complex texts they have to teach the text. The Australian Curriculum is about increasing the rigor of what students can read through high-quality instruction. The teacher has an important role here – not just setting the work.

Explicit teaching and a supportive framework is required. Opportunities for students to practice strategies with others, discuss ideas and listen to how more able readers interpret and think about texts, and then apply these strategies (gradually) more independently are really important factors in a quality teaching program.

Teacher-Led Tasks
As apprentices, students need to have thinking made visible. There are a number of components that can be modelled, including comprehension, word solving, text structures, and text features.
Comprehension – teachers can model- visualising, inferring, summering, predicting, questioning or monitoring. These should be used as appropriate to the text being explored not curricular used with a certain number of weeks allocated to each strategy. Readers have to learn to notice clues that trigger specific, useful cognitive strategies. Students need to see these as problem solving strategies to be used when meaning breaks down.

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Words Their Way in the Upper Primary Classes

Over the past three weeks in our Year Level Team meeting, our upper primary group has focused on the planning and implementation of Words Their Way into our literacy block. We started by completing the Upper Spelling Inventory and then used the on-line tool to assess what features of language students were already familiar with, and where our starting points would be. The on-line tool also helped to establish groups for instruction, clearly indicating the developmental stage each student is at. This gives a clear starting point for instruction and allow for tracking of progress.

We discussed our findings as a group and decided that to get our heads around the process and to introduce students to a routine, we would start with the same word sorts. This helped both students and teachers. We established the aim of word sorts – to categorise words as determined by sound and then visual cues, and to look for patterns in our language. Routines and ways of working were also practised. Students worked in small groups and pairs on activities such as: word sorts, speed sorts, blind sorts and word hunts. Support staff were utilised during these sessions to support individual students targeted through the assessment process.

The Professional Development session run by Christine Killey helped us to develop our understanding of the important aspects of language to communicate to students:

  • sounds each letter makes – including the letters that make more than one sound
  • vowels and consonants – and how ‘y’ makes a vowel sound in many words
  • syllables – including open and closed syllables
  • identifying part of speech – noun, verb, etc.
  • alphabetic layer – pattern – meaning
And the process to use:
  • demonstrate, sort, check and reflect
  • make it fun! and active – Mexican Wave, YMCA (vowels and Consonants) – ‘V’ Power – Every syllable has a vowel sound, every sentence has a verb. Identify syllables by using robotic movements – or jumping, zombies, etc.

As an upper primary group we are following a weekly routine, which looks similar to this:



Monday – Introduce words in groups. Demonstrate. Independent sort

Tuesday – Sort and write in Word Study Book. Discuss patterns.

Wednesday – Blind sort with partner, Blind writing sort, Sentences – focus on different types

Thursday – Word Hunt, Draw and label, Brainstorming, Dictionary

Friday – Test, Dictation – Use of words with similar patterns.


In our evaluation of the program so far we have found:

  • students are active and engaged in the learning process at their level
  • the discussions that are taking place are valuable
  • shared language is being established amongst students- vowel, consonants, open and closed syllables, short and long vowels and the symbols that represent these
  • meeting the needs of each student
  • clear goals are established for each student
  • targeted intervention is occurring
  • shared practices are providing consistency across classes

Possible next steps are:

  • involving the students in short term goal setting
  • using goals to focus help from support staff and parents
  • extension activities to challenge more able students



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Literacy Block

Successful elements of Literacy Block this term:

  • Class novel which links with the focus area
  • Comprehension strategies modelled through the use of the class novel, e.g. visualisation, think aloud, questions, predictions, etc.
  • Finding examples of the focus in students individual texts e.g. dialogue – explore the punctuation patterns, similes, metaphors
  • Students practising the comprehension strategies during independent reading – showing proof via post it notes, records, blog entries, goal setting and review.
  • Applying author’s craft to their own work – using dialogue – characters from the class novel (Shadow Puppets), then applying this technique to their own story writing
  • Using multi-media elements to communicate their story
  • Reading the great student written stories aloud to the class

Expand next year by including:

  • Guided Reading – as per last term, but limit to three in each group to ensure engagement.
  • Regular partner reading sessions, focusing on the reading comprehension strategies
  • Build in CAFE approach by involving students in regular goal setting – Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expand Vocabulary
  • Develop fluency further by adding recording of students reading aloud on their blog – Audioboo, Audacity, Educreations, Show Me
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