We use it a bit here at Ridgy Didge Resources but when we communicate with other members of our Ridgy Didge community about this scaffolded teaching approach to writing we get some blank faces.
So we thought we would clear a few things up by answering a few of our most frequently asked questions about Scaffolded Literacy.
What is Scaffolded Literacy?
Scaffolded Literacy is an integrated and sequential approach to teaching reading, spelling and writing. One of the primary aims of this approach to literacy teaching and learning is to make explicit to struggling or confused learners, the strategies effective readers and writers use.
Think of a scaffold and its purpose to support something, like a contractor painting a house. It is carefully constructed in several parts to help the contractor do his work. Scaffolded Literacy is based on a similar concept of support. It uses explicit instruction and modelling to carefully demonstrate to learner’s how to be a good reader and writer, enabling them to grow and develop the skills they need to achieve.
What are rich texts?
The approach encourages the use of rich texts as models for understanding how specific genres are written effectively. These rich texts are read and re-read for different purposes, including for enjoyment and also as a means for understanding sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and spelling guidelines.
The rich text chosen is usually a level or two above your learners normal reading and writing level. This encourages the learners towards higher level reading, writing and spelling and a deeper understanding and appreciation of rich language and writing standards.
Why Scaffolded Literacy?
Scaffolded Literacy is a highly inclusive approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling. The approach enables a teacher to easily and seamlessly differentiate in their own classroom and meet their learners where they are at. All children can work from the same rich text regardless of their ability and a teacher can scaffold or support each individual student depending on where their skills are. And all with very little extra effort from the teacher.
Have you noticed changes in your students quality of writing?
I personally have seen significant changes in my student’s ability to read and write as I have applied the pedagogy in my own classroom.
Take for example this transcript of a child’s writing from Year 3. It demonstrates the parallels between the kind of writing struggling readers will produce and the text of the books they are given to read. Think Level 8 PM readers. If that is the only kind of texts that a struggling reader is exposed to, then you can understand why their writing is like this:
‘One the weekend I went to bowling it was fun we went to Hungry Jacks we went to the shop it was fun we went to our friend’s house it was nice we saw a video it was cool it was so cool’
It is clear from the example that they have not grasped the idea of punctuation.
Compare this to a Year 3 child who had worked with a Scaffolding Literacy teacher on the text The Twenty Seventh Annual African Hippopotamus Race, a book benchmarked at Year 4 level, over a six week period. Using an extract from the book for text patterning to model effective writing and rich language the student then produced the following text:
‘About eight o’clock last Thursday night, with the wind howling like wolves and the blossoms on the plum tree falling like snow, and our neighbour practising the piano, my Mum got dressed like a tornado. After checking her luggage she whirled right to the front door, gave her two boys a kiss and a quick hug, threw her bags into the car and waved goodbye as she drove off to the airport.’
Need I say anymore!
How does Scaffolded Literacy work?
Text Selection Select a rich text (I’ve outlined points to consider when doing this below)
Text Orientation Here you will introduce the learners to the text as a whole. You will provide the learner with an overview of what the text is about. No opportunity is given for the learners to speculate or guess what the text might be about from clues given by the title or by illustrations. This can be confusing to weak readers and can also result in discussion that draws attention away from the text. The teacher then identifies and explains aspects of the overall text such as genre, author information, etc. Whose ‘voice’ is telling the story or providing the information is another important element of which the teacher needs to draw explicit attention. This is then followed by a brief synopsis of the plot, including information about the setting and characters. Also included in the overview will be an explanation of the reasons why the teacher and learners are going to work on this particular text.
Aural Orientation Here you will read the whole text to the learners. The teacher’s reading will tune learners into the sound of the words and rhythm of the text.
Language Orientation This step in the process will provide a more focused examination of the author’s language features. It is usually carried out by using an extract from the text, ranging from one or two sentences with young readers to one or two paragraphs with older readers. There are many things to consider in this step which I will not cover in order to keep this blog post to the point, but I would highly recommend reading Scaffolded Literacy by Beverley Axford to find out more here.
Scaffolded Reading We don’t use this step in our Writing units as it isn’t necessarily relevant to the writing process but it is here that students are then called upon to carry out the task of reading the text extract on their own.
Preparing the Writing Plan The aim of the writing plan is to reinforce for the learners what the author’s language is doing. This is a high level text analysis but is made possible because the teacher and learners have already built considerable shared knowledge about the author text.
Reconstructing the Author Text As a whole class you can now reconstruct the extract from the book you have been deconstructing together. This is modelled carefully by the teacher, with student input, to replace certain types of words or sentences to jointly construct a new written piece based on the Text Pattern of the extract.
Generating new text using Text Patterning Now your learners can begin writing their own text based on the text patterns they have deconstructed in the extracts you have explored together. This is first done together as a whole class and then learners are given time to work independently on their own written compositions.
Providing Constructive Feedback A great strength of this approach to writing is that the common knowledge about text that has been developed throughout the Scaffolding Literacy work can be drawn on to provide explicit suggestions and constructive feedback to learners on how to develop their writing further.
How do you choose a rich text?
As the aim of the Scaffolded Literacy approach is to make explicit the practices good readers and writers use, the teacher needs to go for depth rather than breadth. Teachers should choose a few well-selected texts and examine them in great detail and over time rather than using many different texts to model the same thing. This applies even to young readers.
Your selected text should contain examples of complex and syntactically rich language.
The text should be difficult but not too difficult. Vygotsky provides the theoretical bases for the assumption that for learning to take place the learner needs to work on tasks that are above their existing level of competence, but not so far above that success at the task will be beyond their reach.
The selected text should be interesting for both the teacher and the learners.
The text should be appropriate to a learner’s chronological age not their reading age. Because the strategies allow learners to work on texts they would not be able to read independently, teachers can choose texts with age-appropriate themes and language.
The selected text should included examples of the type of writing style or technique the teacher wants to teach the learners.
So there you have it! A super brief overview of Scaffolded Literacy.
Hopefully it gives you enough of an insight into why we so strongly believe that this style of teaching writing, reading and spelling is effective and why we use it as the basis for all our Genre Writing units here at Ridgy Didge Resources.
Got any questions? Leave them below and we will do our best to answer them for you!
Teaching children about life cycles is a perfect way to help them understand the world around them and to connect them with nature – as well as obviously fulfilling the Year 2 and Year 4 Australian Curriculum Science content requirements.
Children love learning about life cycles and you will quickly discover that they will have loads of questions. So making sure you have the answers on hand will ensure you are able to satisfy their desire for information. Ensuring you also have the activities to support their questions is crucial. So what activities are best and where are they going to find the information?… Read on!
Life Cycle Fact Sheets
Facts Sheets are a great way of giving your students independence as they search for the answers themselves… and they are also a great way for developing comprehension skills! The other added bonus is that you avoid the dreaded wrestle with your school internet network as your little people all try to log in at the same time to find the answers to their questions – we all know how fun that can be?!
Real Life Cycle Images
Using real life images is a great way to help your students connect with what they are learning and broadens their understanding on the topic.
Life Cycle Hands-On Experiences
Learning through hands-on experiences should be foundational to any science program – and learning about life cycles shouldn’t be exempt from this. From life cycle wheels to mini books. Playdough mats to puzzles. Children should be given the opportunity to explore life cycle concepts through a variety of hands-on experiences.
Life Cycle Pets
Allowing your students to observe life cycles in action is probably the most important component to any successful unit on life cycles. Whether you watch Youtube videos on the cycles in time-lapse or establish a classroom pet for them to observe, seeing the cycles in action can not be surpassed as the most effective way of engaging and teaching children about life cycles.
It is always so fun to explore life cycles! You can get all of these activities, including detailed lesson plans and rubrics in our Year 2 Growth and Change Unit.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Children can’t wait to start school. Kindergartners and preschoolers often talk passionately about what they are going to learn and do when they get to school. But unfortunately, with a crowded curriculum, these children can quickly lose their love for learning as teachers take to a more sedate classroom environment all in an effort to cram in everything they need to teach. In their zeal to raise test scores, too many teachers wrongly assume that students who are laughing, interacting in groups, or being creative with art, music, or dance are not doing real academic work.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Research suggests that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are enjoyable and relevant to students’ lives, interests, and experiences. When students are engaged and motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely through their brains and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. Such learning comes not from quiet classrooms and directed lectures, but from classrooms with an atmosphere of exuberant discovery (Kohn, 2004).
So how can we make our classrooms fun (and still continue to meet the needs of the curriculum)?
Let’s take a look at a few approaches:
1. Change things up – Don’t just settle for the same way of teaching and delivering lessons. Look for new ways of delivering content such as videos, YouTube, picture books, invited guests, excursions, etc. These are ways our children are familiar with and can bring automatic engagement with very little effort.
Taking your students outside for lessons can spark so much joy that what was once dull content, is now more alive and engaging.
You may even like to let your student’s take their shoes off in your classroom while they work. Researchers at the University of Bournemouth found that pupils who leave their shoes outside the classroom are more likely to arrive to school earlier, leave later and read more widely – ultimately resulting in better academic achievement overall.
2. Dress up – Now I appreciate that this one may not be for everyone, but seeing a teacher dressed up in a costume is certainly bound to bring a smile to your student’s faces. Dressing up doesn’t mean you need to go hire some flamboyant Mary Poppins costume either. Simply a wig, hat or glasses may be enough to engage and capture the attention of your students and increase their recall of what you are teaching. You may like to do this when reading a book, when introducing a new topic or even when conducting a science experiment. Dressing up can be a truly powerful engagement tool in your classroom.
3. Be silly – Now when I say this I don’t mean go crazy. And certainly moderation is needed with this as well. But simple changes in your voice and body language can help maintain student engagement and increase retention. Use funny voices as you read picture books. Sing your instructions to the class rather than speak it. Use body language and hand signals as you are explaining a concept to your students. Your movements and expressions help keep the focus on you and what you are saying and not other distractions that are always present in a classroom.
4. Allow students to work together – There has been extensive research on using cooperative learning strategies in the classroom. Research says that when students work together, they retain information quicker and longer, they develop critical thinking skills, and they build their communication skills.
5. Give your students choices – One strategy that teachers have found to be effective is offering their students the ability to make their own choices when it comes to learning. Choice can be a powerful motivator because it helps to foster student interest and independence. The next time you’re planning an activity, try making a choice board. Print out a tic-tac-toe board and write down nine different tasks for students to complete. The goal is for each student to choose three tasks in a row.
6. Games – Whether you’re 5 or 25, playing a game can be fun. Games are also a great way to keep lessons interesting. If your students need to remember their spelling words, conduct a spelling bee—a contest in which participants are eliminated when they misspell a word. Or if the students need to practice math, have a math bee, which is similar to a spelling bee, but with math problems or facts instead of spelling words. Games make learning fun, and games in class are a prescription for happy kids.
7. Use Technology – Technology is a great way to keep your lessons interesting. Children love electronics, so try incorporating it into your overall teaching strategy. Instead of standing in front of the room and lecturing, try using a Smartboard interactive display. Expand your cooperative learning activity lessons by connecting to a classroom in another city or country via videoconferencing. Use technology in a variety of ways, and you’ll see the interest level in your classroom increase by leaps and bounds.
8. Make your lessons interactive – In a traditional classroom, the teacher stands in front of the room and lectures to the students as the students listen and take notes. Unfortunately, this is not the most effective way to hold students’ interest. Make learning interactive by creating hands-on lessons that involve students every step of the way. Maybe try a hands-on science experiment. When you involve students and make your lessons interactive, your class becomes more interesting.
9. Connect learning to real life – Try to create a real-world connection to what your students are learning. This will give them a better understanding of why they need to learn what you’re teaching. If they’re constantly asking you why they need to learn something and you’re always answering with “because,” you will soon lose credibility. Instead, try giving them a real answer such as, “You’re learning about money because in the real world, you’ll need to know how to buy food and pay your bills.” By giving a straightforward answer, you’re helping them make a connection between what they’re learning in class and how they’ll use this information in the future.
10. Bring ‘mystery’ to your lessons – Learning may be the most fun for your students when they don’t know what to expect. Try to incorporate a sense of surprise and mystery into your lessons. When you’re about to unveil a new lesson, give students a new clue each day up until the last day before the start of the lesson. This is a fun way to make your lesson mysterious, and you may find that your students are actually looking forward to finding out what they’ll be learning about next.
So which strategy are you going to start including in your classroom today?
Okay, so now that you have a plan in place for your day, I bet you are asking yourself the question, ‘What on earth do I need to teach my child?’
This virus has certainly forced us all into roles we weren’t expecting, as educators to our children, but there are some very clear and simple guidelines you can follow to ensure you child is progressing and you are teaching them what they need to know.
From the very start I will tell you there is a very easy way of finding out what you need to teach to meet the requirements of the Australian Curriculum. They are found here on the Australian Curriculum website. But if you aren’t a teacher, all this information can be a little bit overwhelming. So let me simplify it for you and make it manageable for a homeschooling context.
If nothing else in your homeschooling day you need to make sure you are covering the following subject areas:
These three curriculum areas are the pillars on which you can then base everything else. But what does Maths, Reading and Writing look like in your home context?
That really is totally up to you. Remember this is your classroom. How you teach is up to you but here is a helpful diagram explaining what these three pillars actually entail:
There are definitely more types of writing and reading strategies and maths topics but these are the very basics. It causes you to kind of wonder how on earth your child’s teacher actually gets all that done in a year doesn’t it?!
Well let me let you in on a secret!
The key to pulling all of this together and making the learning experience enjoyable for your child, is to use overarching topics/themes to teach these three pillars.
For example you may be doing an under the water theme. To start with you might do some READING to research the topic. You may then do some WRITING to record what you have found. You may then do some science experiments which involve measuring and recording data so this brings in your MATHS. You may draw some pictures of under the sea creatures and paint them. You can then WRITE some sentences describing what is happening in the picture. You then might like to do some more READING to find out more about the topic or simply READ some picture books relating to the topic. You may print off some whale pictures and write numbers on them that are relevant to your child’s age, have them put them in order, have them write them down using words and numerals and other ways of representing to draw in a bit more MATHS.
Can you see how one topic can cover so many areas of the three pillars?! It really is magic! And by teaching this way you are making the content engaging and fun for your child/ren.
The Australian Curriculum is very specific about the topics that need to be covered in every year level. So to save you time sorting through the curriculum website, I have simplified it for you in our Homeschooling Curriculum Overview document. Available now, in our Free Resource Library.
Have a read and let me know what you think by commenting below. Was this helpful for you? Is there something I’ve missed? I want this to be helpful for you so please let me know if there is anything I can add to it.
And while you wait for the third and final blog post in this series focusing on the resources you can use to teach the Australian Curriculum content in your home, have a go at integrating the three pillars into some of the topics outlined in our Homeschool Curriculum Overview. I hope you find it as fun as I do!