Supporting Parents with their Child’s Reading

Supporting Parents with their Child’s Reading

Let’s face it, teaching children to read is not easy. Everybody has their opinion on how it should be done. But as teachers we are only a small part of the puzzle in a child’s reading journey. Much of the ground-breaking work will be done at home, with their parents by their side. So how can we as educators support the parents of our students so that they have the knowledge they need to support their child’s reading progress at home?

1. Get Educated!

Often it is the simplest solutions that bring the greatest reward! Educating your parents on how you teach your students to read will help them not only understand what is happening in the classroom but also how they can then apply the same practices at home while they are listening to their child read.

You may like to do this in the form of a parent information afternoon or evening. Or you may choose to create an informative powerpoint or video that is sent home to your parents that demonstrates the key foundational principles of your reading program. Any accompanying resources, such as phonics rhymes, sounds charts or reading strategies may also be sent home so that they have a copy of the same resources you use in class for the children to refer to when they are needing prompting.

2. Remember the three ‘P’s’: Pause, Prompt, Praise

Explain to your parents that it is important that they allow their child time to work out the word (pause), use clues taken from the context (prompt) and then to praise their child for trying. While accuracy is important eventually, praise for trying will encourage their child to give reading a go without always feeling the pressure to get things right. The more they just give words a go, the more accurate and confident they will become over time. In fact, particularly in the early days of reading, it is entirely appropriate for them to tell their child the word if they notice them struggling. Again, taking the pressure off perfection will give them a sense of confidence and enjoyment of reading longer term.

3. Get Playful

Reading doesn’t just have to happen with a book! Reading is all around us and can be practiced in many ways. Here are some simple ways your parents can be practicing reading with their child without a book:

  • reading signs and posters
  • following a street map
  • reading the back of a cereal box
  • choosing a movie to watch
  • using a recipe
  • reading game rules
  • reading the comics in a newspaper
  • playing word games including crossword puzzles
  • reading instructions
  • reading the grocery list as you go shopping
  • looking at letterbox leaflets
  • finding certain brands at the shops
  • reading magazines, poems, rhymes, song lyrics

4. Consider your environment

It seems obvious but sometimes the obvious can be easily missed: making sure children have access to reading material is vital to reading success. Encourage parents to have a variety of books/encyclopedias/comics/children magazines available for their child to reach. These reading materials need to also be easily accessible to them. Where books are stored and particularly their heights should be considered to encourage easy access to books.

5. Listen to your child read every day

As you listen to your child read, every so often you might like to do the following activities with them:

  • look at the cover, title, pictures and talk about what the book might be about
  • talk about the story so far and what might happen next
  • after reading, talk about the story and ask questions (our reading questions bookmarks will help guide parents to know what questions can be asked)
  • talk about the pictures and how they add meaning to the text
  • take turns when reading a harder book

6. Don’t be afraid to put the book down!

One of the most important things to remember is that reading should never be a chore. In fact, we highly recommend that once it starts feeling that way, then a parent and a child should put the book they are reading down and find something else to do, leaving the book there to come back to later.

7. Learning to read takes time

So with all this said if you share nothing else with your parents, assure them that learning to read takes time. For some children that time may be short, for others a little more patience may be required. Children develop at different rates. This doesn’t necessarily indicate anything is wrong. This is natural. Make sure you encourage them not to compare their child with another child. Their child has unique abilities and developmental progression points that are completely out of anyone’s control. The best thing they can do is make sure they are doing everything else that we have suggested in this article so far and then the reading will come as their child is ready.

I truly hope there has been something in this post to help you encourage your parents in supporting their child to read at home. Do you have any other suggestions? Don’t be afraid to post them below!

10 of the Best Back to School Picture Books

10 of the Best Back to School Picture Books

Picture books are a great way to connect with our students. A relatable character’s experiences can provide reassurance or help voice complex emotions. Events in books can generate excitement for what’s to come or be a tool for reflecting on what’s happened. The start of school is filled with emotions for kids; every year is a transition of some sort. When I was in the classroom, I loved selecting books that would resonate with my students as the school year began, to help ease them back into the classroom and welcome them into the learning environment you have so carefully crafted for them. If you’re looking for such picture books that will inspire your students, check out our 10 most favourite back to school picture books of all time!

Old Friends, New Friends by Andrew Daddo

In Old Friends, New Friends, a young child embarks on what I suspect is her second year of primary school. She’s excited about going back to school and seeing all her best friends from last year only to walk into her new classroom and discover that none of her friends are in the same class as her this year.

For a young child, this is one of the most troubling discoveries and one that has the potential to cloud their perception of school. In Old Friends, New Friends, Daddo and Bentley have weaved the perfect story to give children (and adults alike) a fantastic arsenal of tools and coping mechanisms to not only overcome these problematic realisations, but to embrace change and make new friends.

The Pigeon HAS to go to School by Mo Willems

Mo Willems has done it again with our old friend Pigeon. But now he is embarking on a new adventure… Going to School! Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH!?! Ask not for whom the school bell rings; it rings for the Pigeon!

First Day by Andrew Daddo

With endearing illustrations drawn upon lined paper, and contemporary references to BFFs and a first day selfie, this book is perfect for children of Gen Z. But First Day is also an ideal book for parents to read as they help to prepare their child for their first day of school.  After all, first day anxieties are not limited to children.

The story sees a conversation take place between a mother and her daughter as they get ready on the first day of school. What seems like comforting affirmations from a parent to a child are actually reassurances from the child to her mother.

Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen

Our Class is a Family is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud, students are sure to feel a special sense of belonging.

When I Grow Up by Andrew Daddo

When I Grow Up is a delightful picture book celebrating endless dreams and possibilities. As the title suggests, When I Grow Up is an exploration of the endless possibilities that await children when they grow up and tackle the professional working world. It pays homage to the big dreams we all have as kids, while clearly demonstrating that anything is possible for everyone, no matter race, colour, gender. The only inhibitor to your future, is your imagination. Goal setting for the year would be a great activity to follow on from the reading of this book.

A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen

This heartwarming picture book helps teachers in welcoming their new group of students on the first day of school. Through a letter written from the teacher’s point of view, students are given the message that their new teacher is someone they will get to form a special bond with. Their teacher is not only there to help them academically, but also to cheer them on, and to provide a caring, safe environment for them to learn and grow.

There is a blank space on the last page for teachers to sign their own name, so that students know that the letter in the book is coming straight from them. With its sincere message and inclusive illustrations, A Letter From Your Teacher is a valuable addition to any primary school teacher’s classroom library.

The Colour Monster Goes to School by Anna Llenas

This book follows The Colour Monster on a brand new adventure, as he navigates his way through his first day at school! But what exactly is school? A spooky castle filled wIth terrifying animals? A place in the sky, amongst the rainbows and clouds? From music lessons, to lunchtime, to making new friends, the Colour Monster’s first day of school is filled with exciting new adventures.

The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf

The Crayon Box that Talked considers questions about discrimination, prejudice, cooperation and identity. A girl goes into a shop and overhears crayons arguing. Yellow and Green hate Red and no one likes Orange. So the girl buys the box of crayons and uses all colours to make a picture, showing all the colours how each of them contributed to create something beautiful. This book is a great one to introduce at the beginning of the year to introduce the idea of each of your students being unique but an equally important member of the whole class.

All Are Welcome Here by Alexandra Penfold

Every child deserves to attend a school as beautiful in spirit as the one in this book. Families of every color and composition cross a city street together to greet diverse, smiling teachers. Children move through each aspect of the first school day to an echoed refrain, “All are welcome here.” While there are obvious opportunities for sharing this book as a classroom read aloud, enjoying it one-on-one is worthwhile as well, as kids will want to pore over details in the illustrations.

Starting School by Jane Godwin

Starting School gives children a very realistic picture of what to expect of school.  Five diverse children approach their first day of school differently, each with unique thoughts, worries and experiences.
Although the story is a whole, it can be read separately, with each page representing a different aspect of school from ‘Getting Ready’to ‘Doing Work’.

Anna Walker has created beautiful pages combining her watercolour illustrations with intricate collage details using photo imagery, patterned paper and stationery.

What book will you share with your students as they head back to school this year?

Back to School Student Gift Ideas

Back to School Student Gift Ideas

Back to school time is almost here! Get ready for the first day of school or your parent/teacher night with these creative {and sometimes yummy} treats for students.

  1. Get Ready to Shine! A multi-pack of Glowsticks from Kmart make the perfect little gift for your new little shining stars!

2. This Year is Going to be Sweet! Admittedly these are a little on the more expensive side but if your school allows you to hand out lollies as gifts to your students then you may like to consider this fun little gift for your students.

3. A Colourful School Year! You could replace these pencils with crayons or textas, depending on your style but they are a great little gift that your students an put to use in the classroom straight away.

4. Dough-lited! These particular labels are designed to fit the cheap Kmart brand mini playdough tubs but there is room to cut the circle a smidge bigger to allow for different sized tubs from other brands as well.

5. Make No Mistake! Any eraser could be used to accompany these labels. The erasers pictured here were purchased from Kmart.

6. We are going to have a ball! Children love bouncy balls! These ones were again purchased from Kmart’s party section in a bag of 6 from memory.

7. Let’s stick together! Instead of this sticky hand (purchased from Kmart’s party section) you could use a glue stick if you preferred.

8. You’re Just Write! These pencils could be replaced for a biro perhaps for the upper primary students.

9. Bubbling to Meet You! Kmart’s party section has the goods again in the form of these mini bubble wands. A very inexpensive purchase as they come in a mini pack of 8.

10. Highlight of My Day! This may be a better one to give to your students at the end of the first day or at the end of your parent/teacher night.

There you have it – so many back to school gift ideas that are easy and inexpensive to pull together. Which one will you be gifting to your students this year? Don’t forget, all the templates for these gifts can be found in our Free Resource Library.

5 Keys to a Successful HASS program

5 Keys to a Successful HASS program

Teaching all of the HASS content in the Australian curriculum can be overwhelming! Particularly as the grades go up. Add in Civics & Citizenship in Year 3 and then Economics in Year 5 and your head can just be spinning with all the different content your students need to know by the end of the year.

Trust me… I know the feeling. After moving around a few different grades, year after year; re-writing HASS programs for each grade; I know the juggle of cramming it all into one year all too well – particularly in those upper primary years. It can almost seem ridiculous what your students need to learn in such a short period of time.

BUT… It is possible to fit it all in. And today I’m going to share with you some of my biggest tips for doing just that.

How to plan successfully for HASS:

1. Keep the Achievement Standard in mind!

The HASS Achievement Standard is what you will be reporting against. It is from here that you will be writing report card comments and formulating rubrics. Basically if it isn’t in the Achievement Standard you should be reconsidering whether you really need to teach it or not. The wording of the Achievement Standard can be a little vague though and lack context.

This is where the Content Descriptors come in. They will break down for you the appropriate content for that year level that will help you successfully meet the outcomes of the Achievement Standard.

You can break down Content Descriptors further with Elaborations. These give great examples of how you may approach teaching the Content Descriptors. It can become very tempting to try and teach all the examples in the Elaborations as most examples are really good… BUT… in order to teach the content in a meaningful way, it is just not possible to cover all the Elaborations. You will need to show some self-control here and just pick the ones that you feel will be most helpful and relevant for your students.

BUT… neither the Content Descriptors or the Elaborations should be what you base your assessment and reporting on. The Achievement Standard is for this. Therefore, don’t get distracted by all the ‘fluff’ of Content Descriptors and Elaborations. Keep the Achievement Standard in mind and its goals and then this will help keep your HASS program simpler.

In all of our units we make sure you are fully aware of the Achievement Standard components that you are covering. Like in this example from our Year 6 Australian Government Unit.

Year 6 Government Unit Plans | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia

2. Integrate, integrate, integrate!!

Another great way of keeping things simple is to integrate HASS either just within its own strands or with other Learning Areas.

When you are reading the Achievement Standard and its associated Content Descriptors, consider what other subjects may compliment the unit or whether there is content from either of the HASS strands (History, Geography, Civics & Citizenship, Economics & Business) that would work well together.

Be careful though! Don’t overthink integrating HASS with other Learning Areas. If it isn’t coming naturally, don’t force it. Sometimes we can try to integrate different Learning Areas and all that ends up happening is a unit that is a hot mess resulting in disjointed teaching experiences and disconnected learning. Keep things simple!

English and History are great together! And likewise Geography and Maths can be a match made in heaven. We particularly love integrating English and History, like in our First Fleet Lapbook Unit for Year 4.

First Fleet Unit | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia

3. Consider your audience

When you are planning and teaching the content of the Australian HASS curriculum, it is important to consider your student’s backgrounds and experiences. This is particularly important when teaching content related to cultural and Indigenous studies.

Student’s experiences and backgrounds may influence how they receive and connect with some of the HASS curriculum content. In order for your HASS program to be a success, you will need to make sure you are sensitive to these students. Speaking with their parents or other members of your teaching community may be helpful here.

We have taken much care and done a considerable amount of research when developing our Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander units to ensure they are culturally sensitive and accurate. Our Year 3 My Place Unit is a great example of this.

My Place | Australia | Ridgy Didge Resources

4. Make the content engaging

Let’s be honest… some of the content of the Australian HASS curriculum can be quite dry. Alright… REALLY dry! But it doesn’t have to be. We have a few favourite ways of making the content come alive and more exciting for your students.
a) Youtube – there are so many great Youtube clips that explain different concepts in a far more engaging way than any teacher could.
b) Use technology – if you have it available, there are a number of apps or even just word processing software that can increase the engagement for your students on any topic. Our favourite: Microsoft Powerpoint, iMovie, iMotion, Canva, Quizzam, Google Earth, Sock Puppets, Popplet
c) Lapbooks – I can not tell you how much students love presenting their learning in a lapbook. If you don’t know what a Lapbook is, you can find out more here.
d) Flipbooks – This is another fun way for students to record their learning and research. We have a large selection of flipbooks over a variety of Learning Areas. You can view them here.
e) Factballs – Another fun way for students to record their learning. Find more about factballs here.
f) Powerpoints – Some content in the Australian Curriculum can be hard to find, particularly if you want it in child-friendly language. Our selection of Powerpoints designed to tackle some of the most difficult to teach content in the Australian HASS curriculum can not only help you teach the content but students can also use them independently to walk through the content at their own pace.
g) Field trips – Depending on your current Covid-19 restrictions this one may or may not be possible but we had to put it in here anyway because sometimes a field trip can cover more content than you could ever cover in a whole term, due to the hands on experiences students can engage with and the expert knowledge that often comes with those that run them.
h) Virtual Field Trips – If real field trips aren’t an option than virtual ones can be just as engaging. Just google Virtual Field Trips to see if there are any that cover the content you are trying to teach.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel – draw on knowledge around you

Most of the content in the Australian curriculum isn’t new. Teachers and educators have been teaching about the Australian gold rush, colonial life in Australia and the First Fleet for years (just as examples). Use their knowledge and expertise to help guide your teaching.

You would also be amazed at the wealth of knowledge that parents can offer to your HASS lessons. Don’t be afraid to ask for guest speakers from your own parent community to help teach the content.

With a little bit of googling too, you can find resources to support the content you are trying to teach. BUT… if you don’t have time for this and would rather it all done for you… then just head here to all our HASS resources to take your pick of our ‘done-for-you’ units.

Hopefully these tips will get you HASS organised in no time this year.

Don’t forget to comment below with any other great planning tips to share with our RDR community here!

Yours in teaching,

Keys to a Successful HASS program | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia
Teaching Puberty the Sensitive Way

Teaching Puberty the Sensitive Way

As a requirement of the Australian Curriculum, Year 5 and 6 students need to be taught about the basics of puberty and the changes this phase of life may impose on an individuals life.

Puberty, however, can be a sensitive topic for many primary school students. Teaching it therefore requires a lot sensitivity and care to ensure the needs of your students are met while also meeting the requirement of the curriculum.

Things to Consider when Teaching Puberty to Primary School Students

Puberty Frequently Asked Questions | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia
  1. Teach boys and girls separately:
    Now this is controversial and as always when teaching puberty we recommend that you are sensitive to your students needs. Teaching boys and girls separately can make students feel far more comfortable and willing to participate. However, if the resources in your school do not allow for this then you may need to be creative or simply teach the content to the whole student body at the same time. Once again just be sensitive to your students and what their needs are. For inclusivity it may be more appropriate to teach as a whole class.
  2. Teach boys and girls the same content:
    Whether you are teaching about the changes that happen in a female body or a male body, it is important to make sure you teach the same content to both genders. This is not only a requirement of the curriculum but part of your duty of care to ensure your students are fully informed about life. Even though boys won’t experience the changes the female body will go through, they will be impacted by these changes. And likewise for girls. Knowledge of the changes that occur in the male body will help them navigate through life.
  3. Students may get uncomfortable and fidgety:
    Sometimes students can get uncomfortable and fidgety during these lessons. If this is the case, it is helpful to stop and have a physical activity break. This can be as simple as having the students “shake” out their discomfort and having them stand for a full body shake.
  4. Allow opportunity for your students to ask questions:
    Many times students have a lot of questions on these topics, however; there are some challenges in taking questions directly from students. Some students might feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of their peers. Some students may also ask questions that you are uncomfortable answering, or unprepared to answer on the spot. Doing anonymous questions can help with both of the scenarios. Provide students with slips of paper (similar to those included in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit activity pack) and explain that students can use the sheets to ask questions that they would like to ask in private. At the end of the class, everyone will put a sheet in the box, that way we have no idea who asked what questions. You can either then choose to:

    – Draw questions directly from the box and answer them in class,
    – Have another questions session at a later date, or
    – Create an “answer sheet” that students can take home with all the answers on it.

    The last two options offer you the most flexibility in answering the questions and preparing your responses. The Puberty and Hygiene Frequently Asked Questions Sheet included in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit can help you prepare your responses.
  5. Communicate with parents about the content you will teach their students prior to starting the topic in your classroom:
    It is recommended that before you commence this unit with your students that you send out the letters to your student’s parents regarding the content that will be taught in the upcoming lessons. We have included a letter template in the Year 5&6 Puberty Unit for you to edit with your own school logos and any other additional information you feel you need to include.
Puberty Parent Letter | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia

Teaching Puberty Needn’t Be Overwhelming

With so many things to consider when teaching puberty, it is no wonder teachers get overwhelmed!

Teaching sensitively; meeting student needs; ensuring students feel comfortable; engaging students in the content; working out what content needs to be taught… it can just feel like too much sometimes.

But no need to fear!!

We have done a lot of that thinking for you in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit.

With our unit you can open a safe, age-appropriate classroom conversation that normalises puberty. Relatable and informative, each lesson and associated activities thoughtfully steps your class through the puberty changes your students will face.

As always, we truly hope this post has helped inform your teaching practice. If you have any suggestions on other tips and tricks for teaching puberty please feel free to add them below!

Yours in teaching

Teaching Puberty | Ridgy Didge Resources | Australia