The West Leederville Way
WHOLE SCHOOL PROGRAMS
WLPS has well-established curriculum programs, to support improved student outcomes and engagement with the curriculum. The programs were implemented over a number of years, through a highly-consultative process, to address the specific needs of our students in our context. Staff have undertaken considerable professional learning applicable to the programs, and the implementation of the programs remains a key focus on the agendas of Phase of Learning meetings and whole-staff meetings.
Writing – Talk 4 Writing
The Talk for Writing (T4W) approach is used in all year levels at WLPS. It is a unique, evidence-based program developed by Pie Corbett and advocated for by The Dyslexia Speld Foundation (DSF).
T4W reflects the school’s pedagogical choice of The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. The program moves students from imitating a text, to innovating on a text, to independent application. A key feature of the program is the way in which children ‘talk the texts’ to internalise the required language structures.
The T4W approach relies heavily on formative assessment, which is another priority of WLPS. Through the implementation of ‘cold-tasks’, teachers are able to target their teaching on a whole-class, small-group or individual level, and adapt the model texts to suit. The relevant language structures become clear learning intentions and are taught explicitly through the use of writing ‘toolkits’. Teachers provide regular feedback on these, making learning visible and answering the fundamental questions of “where am I going?”, “how am I going?” and “where to next?”.
Overall, the T4W approach closely matches the pedagogical approaches and strategies of the school. The staff at WLPS has seen a significant improvement in the writing abilities of students since the implementation of the program.
The T4W approach has many commonalities with First Steps Writing.
At WLPS, teachers create print-rich classroom environments which support and nurture their community of readers. Students’ enjoyment of reading is fostered, and they are encouraged to regularly explore and interact with print and to take risks when reading. Our teachers implement a comprehensive approach to reading instruction, which is largely reflective of the First Steps Literacy materials. They:
- Plan for the use of a range of reading procedures. These include: reading to students, modelled reading, language experience, shared reading, guided reading, book discussion groups and independent reading. The use of these reading procedures reflects the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. Modelled reading, reading to students and language experience reflect the ‘I Do’ phase, where teachers lead instruction and students observe. The shared reading and guided reading procedures reflect the ‘We Do’ phase, where teachers guide instruction and students participate. Book discussion groups and independent reading allow students to practise reading strategies, collaboratively or independently. This represents the ‘You Do’ phase.
- Vary student group structures.
- Use a range of assessment tools.
- Use a range of age-appropriate and levelled texts. At WLPS, students are exposed to a vast range of texts, including print, visual and multimodal. This provides them with the opportunity to experience different organisational features, text structures and language features. Texts are chosen for instructional, functional or recreational purposes. For example:
- decodable readers are used in the early years to provide explicit and systematic instruction when students are learning to read and spell
- levelled guided reading texts, of varying text types and genres, are used in a range of year levels to practise reading strategies. These are often integrated with other learning areas.
- novels with increasingly complex themes are analysed by upper primary students. These may also be integrated with other learning areas.
- informational texts of varying levels are used across the school when students are taught to access and use information.
- Explicitly teach reading strategies. These include: predicting, connecting, comparing, inferring, synthesising, creating images, self-questioning, skimming, scanning, determining importance, summarising and paraphrasing, re-reading, reading on, adjusting reading rate, sounding out, chunking, using analogy and consulting a reference.
- Promote the development of students’ semantic, graphophonic and syntactic understandings. In order to comprehend texts, students need to simultaneously draw on each of the cueing systems.
- Semantic cues are associated with overall meaning and the ability to make connections with a text. These cues include the students’ cultural and world knowledge, their knowledge of the topic and their knowledge of vocabulary.
- Graphophonic cues refer to the relationship between sounds and symbols and word structures. Students use this understanding to identify unknown words.
- Syntactic cues involve the structure of language. Focussing on grammar, the order of words in sentences, and the organisation and structure of whole texts, help students to determine if what they are reading ‘sounds right’.
- Integrate reading across different learning areas
In additional to the whole school strategies outline above, within the different phases of learning unique techniques are used that are appropriate to the students’ developmental age and curriculum requirements. Some of these additional strategies include, but are not limited to, Novel Studies, Author Studies, Readers’ Theatre and Co-operative Reading.
Novel studies is a form of reading instruction where students learn and apply strategies to comprehend, see things differently and/or understand that others have different points of view. Students all read the same novel which is selected because it focuses on a ‘big idea, theme or topic. The positive reading experiences gained from reading the novel together, which may include many of these elements – drama, art, music, dance, research and discussion, allow the readers to become truly engaged in the story.
Readers’ Theatre is a strategy for developing reading fluency. It involves students reading orally through scripts. In using this strategy, students do not need to memorise their part: they reread to familiarize themselves with the script whilst gaining confidence and fluency. Readers’ Theatre gives students a real purpose to read aloud to an audience.
Co-operative reading is based on Palincsar and Brown’s (1986) research into reciprocal teaching.
Reciprocal teaching is an effective comprehension-building strategy that involves team effort and dialogue among teacher and students using four skills necessary to comprehend text: predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarising. The purpose of reciprocal teaching is to bring meaning to the text by implementing reading strategies that successful readers should consistently use.
Students work in groups of four. Each student is given a different strategy that they are responsible for leading/answering during the discussion time which follows the reading of the text. These roles are summarising, question generating, clarifying, and predicting.
Reciprocal teaching aids students to construct meaning from text as well as providing a means of monitoring their reading to ensure that they are, in fact, understanding what they read. It also scaffolds their use of the reading strategies.
The school has a whole-school home reading program to promote the importance of recreational reading. The program is co-ordinated by the Year 6 student leaders. Students from Pre-primary to Year 6 are encouraged to read at home daily and record their reading in their student diaries. They strive to achieve reading milestones and receive certificates and small prizes to recognise their efforts.
Research strongly indicates that access to reading materials through libraries are critical for literacy development. WLPS has an effective school library that supports, encourages and enhances students’ reading experiences. Our school library provides a stimulating teaching and learning environment and is a vibrant hub for reading promotion.
Phonics is specialised instruction that enables beginning readers to crack a complex alphabet code, English. Cracking this code effectively frees up resources for comprehension. Evidence supports the implementation of explicit and systematic phonics instruction that focusses on developing a sound and deep understanding between the arrangement of the letters in a word (spelling) and its pronunciation (decoding).
Systematic phonics programs help students understand why they are learning the relationships between letters and sounds, teach in a logical and progressive sequence and support student application of phonic knowledge as they read and write. Phonics instruction is necessary but not sufficient. It is important to teach deep orthographic knowledge about morphemes and rules.
Teachers also draw on other programs, including Letters and Sounds, Jolly Phonics/Grammar and First Steps Spelling – all of which complement the Words Their Way program. At WLPS, a synthetic phonics program called Letter and Sounds is taught from Kindergarten to Year 2.
At WLPS, a synthetic phonics program called Letter and Sounds is taught from Kindergarten to Year 2. This program builds children’s speaking and listening skills in conjunction with their phonemic understandings to prepare them for learning to read. It sets out a detailed and systematic program for teaching phonic skills for children.
From Year 2 to Year 6 the chosen spelling program is Words Their Way, a teacher-directed, student-centred approach to vocabulary growth and spelling development, whereby students engage in a variety of sound, pattern and meaning activities, sorting pictures and words. This program caters for differentiated learning in the classroom.
Words Their Way is the spelling program of choice at WLPS and is used as a basis for word study sessions. Words Their Way enables teachers to diagnose, identify and document the spelling stages of students, group students with common needs, and tailor activities to improve their spelling knowledge.
The program is based on the explicit teaching of the ‘features’ of words through word sorts. It is not simply the learning or memorising of word spellings – it is the understanding of words and the ability to generalise. The underlying philosophy behind this is:
“if the average person can spell 48 000 words, then to memorise these, s/he would have to learn 10 words per day for approximately 13 years. If no learning was done at the weekends, it would take 18 years assuming none are forgotten and there is no need to relearn” (Bouffler, 1984).
For this reason, our teachers use the term ‘word study’ rather than ‘spelling’. Many aspects of the English language are woven into word study sessions, including grammar. The aim of word study at WLPS is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of their list words so they are able to apply their knowledge of spelling to unknown words. Therefore, the focus of our word study sessions is on: hearing, reading, writing and saying sounds; long and short vowel sounds; base words and root words; rhyming words; letters; spelling strategies; prefixes and suffixes; syllabification; meaning; and parts of speech.
Science – Primary Connections
Primary Connections 5E Teaching and Learning model
Primary Connections curriculum resources and professional learning program are based on the 5E teaching and learning model. This evidenced-based approach supports active, constructivist learning; students draw on their prior knowledge, pose questions, participate in hands-on experiences, and conduct exploratory and formal investigations, to develop explanations about scientific phenomena. Students are given opportunities to represent and re-represent their developing understanding using literacies of science. They are actively engaged in the learning process. Students develop science inquiry skills and an understanding of the nature of science.
Teaching and learning progresses through five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. The phases of the Primary Connections 5E teaching and learning model are based on the 5Es instructional model (Bybee, 1997).
The purpose of the Engage phase is to elicit students’ prior knowledge, stimulate interest and gather diagnostic data to inform teaching and learning. Each unit begins with a lesson that mentally engages students with an activity or question. It captures student interest, provides an opportunity for them to express what they know about the concept or skill being developed, and helps them to begin to make connections between what they know and new ideas.
Students carry out hands-on investigations in which they can explore the concept or skill. They grapple with the problem or phenomenon and describe it in their own words. This phase allows students to acquire a shared set of experiences that they can refer to to help each other make sense of the new concept or skill. The Explore phase is characterised by multiple opportunities for students to experience hands-on learning and represent their thinking.
The purpose of the Explain phase is to support students to develop scientific explanations, drawing from experiences and observations, using representations. Students continue to develop knowledge of concepts and demonstrate their developing understanding or alternative conceptions.
This phase provides opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to new situations and so develop a deeper understanding of the concept or greater use of the skill. It is important for students to discuss and compare their ideas with each other during this phase. Investigations in the Elaborate phase build student capability for science inquiry skills in a meaningful context.
The final phase provides an opportunity for students to review and reflect on their own learning, and on their new understanding and skills. Student represent changes to their understanding, beliefs and skills.
Numeracy – Effective Numeracy Blocks
The majority of mathematics learning experiences at WLPS adhere to an ‘effective lesson structure’, which reflects The Gradual Release of Responsibility model and explicit teaching. The lesson structure includes:
- Explicitly stated learning intentions and success criteria
- Introduction of technical mathematical language and use of a word wall
- Linking to prior knowledge
- Worked examples
- Guided practice
- Targeted questioning, feedback and error-training
- May be independent or collaborative
- May be rotational
- Instructive feedback throughout
- Revisit learning intentions
- Seeking of feedback from students – formative assessment
- Short activity (often collaborative) to summarise, consolidate and potentially extend
Teachers use three key resources when planning numeracy lessons: iMaths, Mathspace and First Steps.
iMaths is an investigation-based program, where skills are explicitly taught and practised, and then applied to relevant, real-life investigations. Problem-solving strategies are also explicitly taught and used during the investigations, encouraging the use of higher-order thinking. The program provides plenty of opportunities for differentiation, to cater for the diverse learning needs of students.
Maths Space is an Australian curriculum aligned digital maths program.
Mathspace uses an adaptive learning model, enabling each student to get the most out of the software.
Teachers from Years 3-6 use Mathspace to supplement and reinforce the teaching they deliver to their classes, enabling further differentiation in the activities presented to WLPS students.
First Steps Numeracy is a resource that was created by a team from the Department of Education WA and tertiary consultants at Murdoch University. Although its development coincided with the introduction of the Curriculum Framework, it is still regarded as ‘best practice’; even now that we teach to the Western Australian Curriculum.
The program assists teachers to: build their own knowledge of the mathematics ‘behind’ the curriculum; understand how students learn mathematics; and, plan effective learning experiences for all students. First Steps Numeracy is organised into ‘key understandings’ which students need to understand. The key understandings are:
- Describe the ideas or concepts that students need to learn
- Suggest learning experiences to help students to learn the concepts
- Provide a basis for recognising and assessing what students already know and still need to know
- Point out any common misconceptions
The program includes diagnostic tasks (formative assessment) for each key understanding, and diagnostic maps which describe the characteristic phases in the development of students’ thinking about mathematical concepts.
Social and Emotional Learning – Bounce Back!
Bounce Back! is an evidence-based program that was created in response to research which identified the most significant coping skills that help young people to become more resilient. The aims of the program are to:
- Maximise student engagement in learning through a literature-based approach
- Contribute to a pro-social school culture
- Promote positive relationships and develop social skills
- Develop resilience skills that contribute to wellbeing
- Develop pro-social values
There are two key components to Bounce Back!: Core Values and The Bounce Back! acronym.
The Core Values include: integrity; fairness and responsibility; support, kindness and compassion; cooperation; acceptance of diversity and not judging others; respect; and friendliness.
The Bounce Back! acronym outlines the ten key coping statements:
Bad times don’t last
Other people can help if you talk to them
Unhelpful thinking makes you feel more upset
Nobody is perfect – not you, not others
Concentrate on the good bits, no matter how small, and use laughter
Everybody experiences sadness, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes, not just you
Accept the things you can’t change, but try to change what you can first
Catastrophising exaggerates worries
Keep things in perspective
The school gathers resilience data annually through two Bounce Back! student surveys. The data is collated and presented to staff. One survey measures levels of student resilience and is used to plan teaching emphases. The other measures classroom dynamics and is used to reflect on classroom practice and teacher characteristics.