We understand the letters and numbers are the symbol systems we use to communicate and learn about our world. This is why we believe in teaching literacy and numeracy in context, within our units of inquiry. This makes literacy and numeracy lessons engaging purposeful.
Our literacy program in the primary years at Boronia K-12 College, is based on the philosophy that students need a rich vocabulary, developed through experience and exposure to literature, in order to access instruction, independently gain understanding from texts and effectively communicate in writing.
Oral language is the foundation for student learning. It is essential for literacy learning, and successful use of language is critical for students’ wellbeing. Almost all classroom-based learning relies on oral language. At Boronia K-12 College, we recognise that it is essential to build students’ vocabulary and oral language skills in the early years of primary, in order for students experience success in all areas of learning. In 2017, the college engaged the support of an expert Speech Pathologist in order for us to develop a unique plan that ensures we are providing opportunities both in the classroom and through targeted intervention programs, for all students to form a strong foundation for future learning.
Our early years classrooms utilise Foundation Q, a scientifically based curricular supplement designed to develop and strengthen young children’s early foundations in language and literacy. Lessons are organised around adult-child readings of high-quality storybooks and supplement – not replace – an educator’s instruction. The curriculum was developed through a two-year collaborative effort in which researchers worked closely with early childhood educators, state-level policy-makers, and speech-language pathologists. It includes two lessons per week, approximately 20-30 minutes which can be implemented using whole-class, small-group, or one-on-one instruction. Findings show that children in classrooms using Foundation Q outperformed children in comparison classrooms in grammar, vocabulary, print knowledge and rhyming skills.
After the foundations a built, student’s ability to decode and comprehend text are expanded. Students’ growth is tracked from primary through to secondary using Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking system. The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System accurately and reliably identifies the instructional and independent reading levels of students in order to:
- document the progression of students through one-on-one formative and summative assessments
- use precise tools and texts to observe and quantify specific reading behaviours
- work with assessment data to plan meaningful, responsive instruction
We know that in order for students to improve their reading ability, they need shared experiences with teachers and parents. In the classroom, assessment data is used to create fluid groupings based on identified reading strategies. The students work closely with the teacher to explore texts, looking at improving Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expression, through the CAFÉ Reading Strategies.
As students progress with their reading, we utilise the Fountus and Pinnell Network of Processing Systems to explore texts on a deeper level. They think about what is happening within the text, make connections and infer, as well as talk about the author/illustrator’s craft.
Students across the college engage in Independent Reading. This lets students practice strategies that they learned during the other instructional contexts along the gradual release of responsibility. During independent reading, students read from texts on their independent reading level or texts that are easy enough for them to decode and understand without a lot of effort. The goals of independent reading are to practice a smoothly operating reading process, to exercise choice, and develop reading interests. For independent reading, students are supported to pick ‘Good Fit’ books, opposed to the instructional-levelled books used in guided reading sessions.
Reading and writing are closely linked, as students develop their understanding of the structures that relate to each text type, specialised vocabulary, grammatical conventions and sentence structures through their reading and replicate it in their writing. Students are provided with explicit instruction on the writing process, a toolbox of strategies to use when spelling and examples of exemplary writing to help them become competent in communicating their thoughts and ideas in writing. Writers’ Notebooks are used by students as a bank of personalised ideas and stimuli for their personal writing. In order for students to progress, they need to be given the opportunity to write for a range of audiences and different purposes, both at home and school. In the classroom, they are given the both structured and free choice writing tasks, to foster a love of writing and a vast skill set across different genres.
Our unique setting allows our literacy teachers from the primary and secondary to collaborate. This ensures our students are always prepared for their next stage of learning. It also allows us to work with teachers and students at higher levels, to engage in meaningful extension task and activities.
Numeracy is a highly valued component of the curriculum taught at Boronia K-12 College. Our goal is to set students up for success by providing them with the skills and strategies to prepare them for real-life situations and problems.
Mathematics lessons are taught daily utilising a variety of approaches, programs, technologies and hands-on materials to cater for all learning styles. Each Maths learning session is structured to include a mental maths warm-up activity, a main teaching activity with an explicit learning intention and time for reflection at the end. The content of lessons is driven by student data, gathered through standardised, pre-and post-testing. All components of the Victorian Curriculum in Mathematics (Number and Algebra, Measurement, Geometry, Statistics and Probability) are integrated and developed through problem-solving tasks, open-ended questioning, investigations and a variety of engaging games and activities. Tasks are differentiated to meet the individual needs of all students.
We are also acutely aware that each child’s journey is different and some children need more personalised intervention to ensure they succeed. To complement the classroom programs, students in years Prep – Year 4 may also be selected to be a part of our Talk Boost program. Talk Boost is a targeted and evidence-based intervention program, which supports language-delayed children to make progress with their language and communication skills. The program is delivered by teachers and assistants and provides a structured programme that boosts children’s progress in language and communication by an average of 18 months after a ten-week intervention. The 40 min sessions, 3 times a week, provide opportunities for students to improve listening skills, expand vocabulary, participate in conversation and sentence/story building.