Writing rich with oral language and a sense of audience…

As we near the end of the year we have been reflecting on the amazing progress the Prep children have made in many areas over the year. Perhaps one of the most visible areas is that of writing.

We have samples taken at the beginning of the year when the students showed little understanding of writing, some being able to write their names or know a few letter sounds or memory words like ‘Mum’ or ‘dad’, but little else. We now have children just 11 months later who can independently write recounts about what they have been experiencing at home or at school, construct narrative stories using descriptive words based on stories they have heard or just from their imagination. Show what they have learnt by putting together information books or posters to show their knowledge about an Inquiry topic, write down their thoughts or responses to questions about a book during Daily 5 after ‘listening to reading’ or ‘reading to self. And we often see children writing messages onto our messages board to explain what they need for their next Investigations sesssion.

All this with, of course, an understanding of the need to write with properly formed letters, spaces between words and with punctuated sentences.

We often say that ‘children cannot write it if they cannot say it first’ and much of our Investigation program and Literacy time encourages students to develop the essential oral language skills to allow them to write their thoughts with such confidence. During letters and sounds sessions the focus is around hearing sounds in words, articulating language and understanding the phonics (sounds) in the words we write. These session give children the basic tools to write and they are then complimented with the rich oral language development that the children have during Investigations time when they are discussing their learning projects with each other, the teachers and other adults in the classroom. The children are also immersed in the language of listening to quality picture story books read to them everyday through our teaching program and of course by parents at home which helps give them the language to become confident writers.

Here are a few examples of some of the fantastic stories and other types of writing that the Preps have produced recently. It is wonderful to hear the students understanding that writing is for an audience and the language and ideas they are including into their writing helping to inform or entertain the audience. We have had occasions this year when children have made information books during Investigations about a topic and then another student has used the book as a source of information for their own research.

We encourage our students to have their writing published in our own the classroom library (a copy to take home and one for the class!) and to include them into their read to self boxes. Much writing is also recorded onto the online blog to be shared with the ‘world’. All of this, has helped with the understanding of writing for the audience.

We recently had one of our students suggest that we needed a special area in the school library for books made by children, so other children could read the stories and learn from the fact books!

This sense of audience is perfectly demonstrated by this anecdote. As one of the story books below was finished recently Mrs Ovens noticed another student was reading the finished book, she remarked that this was nice to see the book being ‘shared’, to which the student informed her that she had asked her friend to read it to ‘check it made sense!’

I hope you enjoy the examples below of the children’s writing.

Short stories written from Imagination

Reflection after listening to reading on the Ipad

A partly written story in the planning phase.

A story written using story planning ideas.

A recount of a holiday to Sydney.

The Prince saves the Princess from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Mr Ramage and Miss O’Bree

Focus on developing story writing and what is a Puggle?

Our preps are showing an increased understanding that a good story needs to entertain the reader and they are beginning to experiment with using descriptive words and starting their sentences with different words to make the story sound like a ‘real book’. We have even had a story written where the student decided to photograph and introduce all the characters first so that the reader would know ‘who was who’ when they were reading the story. Enjoy the books below, read by their authors. Many more are being written at the moment so look out for more posts…

and did you know what a puggle was….we didn’t before Austen’s Investigation!!

Doll house party by Maya from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Granny Saves the Snake by Holly from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Puggles by Austen from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Exhibitions and puppet shows showcasing creativity and confidence in our preps.

What a fantastic week we have had in our classroom. Every day in our room is a wonderful one, but the last week has really highlighted how a creative student led curriculum which is flexible and planned in response to the children’s interests, can create fantastic learning opportunities and foster creativity and confidence.

Last week a group of our boys put on an exhibition of the models they had created of New York City. They built a skyscaper, the statue of Liberty, a road and rail bridge, lake and other details in their city. They used an ipad to research what the building would look like, measured parts of their models using unifix block. After the boys had visited our 5/6 learning area to see some models those students had built to show sustainable houses, they came back to class and decided to have their own exhibition. They worked together to write an invitation, decided when the Exhibition would be, finished their models and then recorded information about the exhibits using talking tin lids. Finally they wrote labels and then hosted family members, their year 5 buddies and other school staff to their exhibition. The boys have been so confident and proud of their achievements and after the exhibition they decided to make a book about it all, so that we would always be able to remember what they did even after the models had been taken down.

This event was followed up today with a grand premier of two puppet shows which have been created by 2 teams of creative prep story tellers. After the boys exhibition last week the girls realised that they too could make an invitation and invite their families and year 5 buddies to see the product of many Investigations learning sessions. The confidence that the children showed this morning was wonderful as they explained the work and learning which had gone into this. They began by planning, drawing and writing a cript for their puppet shows. They then built puppet theatres out of boxes and created backgrounds and character puppets for their stories. After that, they practised their stories and filmed them using our Media room with a flip camera. During the filming they decided that they needed to add narration to help tell the story. Finally, they wrote invitiation which they took home and delivered around the school. We hope you enjoy their puppet shows and photos of today’s premier!

Charlotte and Aleiyah’s puppet show from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Rebecca’s and Brigette’s puppet show. from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

We think they have all done a fantastic job, what do you think?

Developing news telling and narrative skills ..(Show and Tell)

We are constantly looking at purposeful ways to lift the quality of students speaking, listening and questioning skills. To help with this we have introduced a ‘show and tell’ session where once each week 4 children from the class have an opportunity to present something interesting to the class. We are using prompt cards to help develop the presentations. These are shown on our IWB in the background incase students ned a prompt. Ultimately we would like each student to use the questioning cards to interview another student about their show and tell. Our presentations started this week and the quality of items and effort that the students put into their presentations was fantastic.

After the presentations the children worked with a teacher using an Ipad to make a comic strip to show the photos with captions of their presentation.

We had a really great start to our program, with interesting presentations about a worm farm, and talking moving puppet and wonderful items from a recent family wedding.

Enjoy the comic strip photos below. Also posted is the timetable for our presentations incase you have misplaced it. It is a great idea to practise at home and follow the prompt cards which we sent home with our last newsletter.

Click here for Show and Tell Term 2 & 3

Reading with fluency and expression

In the last few weeks we have been focusing on helping our students understand why they are learning to read. Just a few reasons of course are…so we can enjoy story books, laugh at a funny story, find out about the world in an information book, read signs and messages or entertain others by reading stories to them.

This has led us to discussing with the preps that reading needs to sound fluent and expressive as it help us to understand what we are reading….and ‘understanding’ what we read is really the most important aspect of reading as without this reading has no meaning.

We have set the children a challenge (which they were all very keen on) and that is to bring in a favourite book, poem or nursery rhyme from home that they would be confident to read to the class with fluency and expression. It doesn’t need to be very long, or could be part of a book (such as the Cat in the Hat)…it can even be a book that they have read so many times that they can remember the words. The focus is trying to read with fluency and expression so that the audience can understand what is happening. If you can help your child at home to select and practice their reading that would be great…they can even choose a book from school.

We will post the reading performances into this voicethread below and if you log into ‘voicethread’ (it is free) then you can post a comment around any of the video. Blake was our first volunteer and he has engaged the class today with his reading of Hattie and the Fox. Well done Blake.

We have now had Eowyn, Riley, Maddex, Jayden, Ethan and Tynan entertain us to. To see each of the videos you need to click on the small icon at the bottom right side of the voicethread link and this will show you all the video clips…please leave a comment on the blog or around the voicethread…it’s great for the children to get feedback about their reading.

Enhancing Oral Language through the use of Technology (teachers)

Last Thursday evening (October 20th) our prep unit hosted a professional development session for other teachers in our Network. This was to share the work we have been doing with a range of technologies in our classroom to support the student’s Oral Language skills and their Inquiry Learning.

The event was really well attended with over 40 teachers coming along and it was great to be able to share the way in which our teachers and the prep students have been integrating new technologies into their learning.

We are lucky to have had the opportunity to purchase a range of technologies thanks to the department funded research project with Monash University that we have been part of this year. We hosted the PD session as part of the Literacy and Numeracy week Network sessions.

Here are my notes from the session:

Notes oral language technology pd

Here is a list of the technologies with approximate prices and details about where to purchase them.

Technologies with information

There are also a documents relating to Ipad uasge DEECD iPad support booklet for special education and screen shots below from one of our classroom Ipads with some of the good apps shown on it.

We have also added a link to the excellent UK Letters and Sounds Program which gives excellent phase by phase activities to help develop young learners phonic and phonemic awareness. Phase 1 is very useful and you can download any phase (1-6) free from the UK website.

(for letters and sounds)

If you attended the PD and have any questions or would like to post a comment on whether you found the session useful then we would welcome your feedback via the comments section of this blog post. If you want to be notified of a reply to your comment, please tick the small box before you send the comment.

Many Thanks
James Ramage and Katherine O’Bree

Talking Tin lids to support Instructional Writing.

Our prep children love the Talking Tin lids in our classroom. They are simple to use, portable and allow children to record, reflect and correct the message they are giving with their oral language and here if what they say makes sense.

There are so many ways to use the tin lids in any literacy activity. One of the ways in which the prep children have used them is to help structure  Instructional or Procedural writing. We often find that when children have conducted a lengthy Investigation they want to share the steps to take for their project if another child want to follow their learning. This gives an authentic reason for teaching the genre of instructional language and writing.

Or if they have invented a game then writing instuctions about how to play the game also gives  a real life context for the writing genre.

The  video and photo below demonstrates the use of the tin lids to help create an interactive classroom display to assist another student wanting to play a matching game that Maxton had made.

The example below speaks for itself and is an extension of work that we have previously posted about on our blog.

This is the finished writing produced through interactive partner writing assisted by one of our parent helpers.


Story telling supported by video technology.

As we have mentioned previously, the children have been using Wallace and Gromit to explore settings, characters and simple stories. Mrs Lynch set the children the challenge to create their own Wallace and Gromit adventures.

The preps were up for the challenge and they worked together in pairs to plan a setting and characters for their stories. They then watched a video of Mr Ramage telling a Wallace and Gromit story to the camera and went to find a quite spot in the classroom where they could tell practise telling their story on the video camera. This was quiet a challenge and after a few takes and some teacher guidance they returned to tell their stories to the class and this was captured onto the video as a plan for writing.

What do you think of these stories Mrs Lynch?

Wallace and Gromit video plans from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Watch students use flip cameras to help record stories about Wallace and Gromit.

In the following writing session the children were set up to write ‘Interactively’. This process involves both student with a different coloured pen writing collaboratively together with teacher input when needed. The children were able to re-watch and review their story from their flip camera or ipod touch video as they progressed through writing their stories.

Wallace and Gromit -A Grand Day Out


The students have been really enjoying watching the short animation film ‘A Grand Day Out’ to help build their reading skills of making predictions, comprehension and retelling a story. Many of the children had not seen the animation before and because the film has very little dialogue they really needed to concentrate on the pictures telling the story. This is one of the key reading strategies that we have been focusing on so that the students use all the information in the pictures to gain as much comprehension of a text before they begin to read.

We used a flip camera to record some of their predictions based on the title of the story about what they thought was going to happen. We think a couple of them might have seen this story before!

Wallace and Gromit -making predictions from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

Building on this initial stimulus we are now using the film to explore the different settings of the story and the characters. The students have drawn and written about their favourite setting from the story. We think they have produced some really great pictures of the settings in the story and have used their writing skills to produce a short caption for their pictures. Awesome work Preps.


Have a watch of this clip from the film and discuss the setting and what has happened with your child. You could help your child to add  a comment to the blog. What is your favourite part of the film, which character do you like best and why?

Talking tin lids to enhance oral language

The prep children are starting to explore the key elements that make a narrative story, such as the beginning, middle, end of a story and settings, characters and plots. We have used the talking tin lids to provide the students with an opportunity to use their oral language to record the beginning, middle and end of a familiar fairytale story. Working in small groups this gave the children an opportunity to use their oral language and to practice summarizing parts of the story in their own words. They then had to move to another story and listen to another group’s recording before deciding how to order the talking tin lids as beginning, middle and end of the story.

Using talking tin lids to enhance oral language from Mr Ramage on Vimeo.

This is a great way to allow children to use oral language while also building up their understanding of how to retell and summarize a story.