Literacy Skills: How Far They’ve Come!

I am always telling people how much my students’ literacy skills have improved through blogging.

In my seven year teaching career, I have not come close to finding another medium that helps students to refine their reading and writing so well.

Through advice from the amazing, Linda Yollis, I have been able to set very high standards for my students this year and, with support and practice, so many of them have excelled.

I have provided clear guidelines on writing quality comments which my seven and eight year old students didn’t take long to get a clear grasp of. The students in Mrs Yollis’ class were also role models for my students with their writing (12,000 kilometres away!).

Blogging is authentic. Students are reading and writing for a purpose and genuine audience. It is ongoing. Unlike other approaches to teaching literacy, where you may study a genre or style for a few weeks, blogging is a daily occurrence in our classroom.

Throughout the year, we have been able to discuss the the following (and more) in an authentic context.

  • spelling structures
  • paragraphs and organising writing
  • a wide range of punctuation (commas, capital letters, full stops, brackets, exclamation marks etc)
  • planning, proofreading and revising
  • writing voice
  • similies, synonyms and antonyms
  • verbs, nouns and adjectives
  • vocabulary
  • using bold and italics appropriately
  • tenses
  • how to ask quality questions and engage in conversations.

It has been so much more authentic to teach these conventions in the context of writing on the blog rather than as stand-alone, one off lessons. That’s not to say we don’t do regular lessons and units of work on various conventions and genres, it’s just that blogging is always there and the progress the students make with writing on the blog are transferred to other areas.

In her book Radical Reflections, well known children’s author, Mem Fox, states that

“we’re currently wasting a lot of time by giving unreal writing tasks in our classrooms….You and I don’t engage in meaningless writing exercises in real life—we’re far too busy doing the real thing”

If we want our students to be motivated to use their emerging writing skills, we have to make writing purposeful, challenging, and real-to-life. Blogging offers this.

Many of my students have transformed from emergent writers to very independent, competent writers who produce higher quality comments than some adults!

Rather than just talking about the improvements my students have made, I decided to look back at some comments from throughout the year to find evidence of this.

The presentation below shows how three students have progressed with their blog comments throughout the year.

(Tip: Press play then click on the square on the bottom ride hand side of the presentation to view in full screen. Press escape to get out of the presentation)

How do you think blogging improves students literacy skills?

Super Teacher Worksheets

super teacher worksheets

Super Teacher Worksheets is a useful site for primary teachers that contains free, printable worksheets.

The worksheets are divided into the categories of

  • maths
  • reading and writing
  • grammar and phonics
  • spelling lists and worksheets
  • puzzles and brainteasers
  • holidays
  • science and social studies
  • teacher helpers

In each of the categories, there are activities suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities.

I have found some great activities for my grade two students especially for place value and reading comprehension.

Check out Super Teacher Worksheets and see what activities may suit your class!

Leave a comment. Do you use Super Teacher Worksheets or any other sites for ready-made resources?

StoryIt: Word Games

StoryIt is a website that doesn’t look amazing with its simple layout and advertisements but has some great resources for the junior primary classroom.

While there are stories to read and print, seasonal resources, printable shapes and more – the resources I’ve found most useful are the word games.

There are about fifteen word games available to play online that involve making sentences, making words, spelling, changing words etc.

In the Wiz Game, the goal is to make as many words as you can from the letter tiles. Get the question mark tile to the bottom and a vocabulary question appears. Select the best meaning of the word and earn extra points.

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The Odd One Out: Word Family game involves choosing the word that doesn’t belong.

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There are games on the StoryIt site that would be suitable for students in at all levels of primary school.

These games could be used as a lesson introduction or closure on the IWB, with a small focus group or individual students could use the games on classroom computers.

Have you used the StoryIt Word Games?

How could you use these games in your classroom?

New Blog: Teaching Literacy in the Early Years

This year I have been team teaching with Kelly Jordan. Combining our two grade two classes has so many benefits and we are finding we are really meeting the needs of our students this year.

Our open plan classroom is a fantastic place to teach and learn!

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Kelly has recently started a blog called Teaching Literacy in the Early Years. If you or someone you know teaches in the junior primary area you should definitely check this blog out.

Kelly posts about Literacy sites, ideas, thoughts, resources and strategies with others.

Teaching lit in early years

Drop by “Teaching Literacy in the Early Years” and leave Kelly a comment!

Clasroom Resources: Teachers Pet

I have been using the website SparkleBox for quite a while to find a wide range of printable resources for my primary classroom. I was therefore surprised to discover that the SparkleBox website has been been undergoing a troubled time recently with it’s creator and editor, Samuel King being imprisioned in January 2010 for child pornography offences. Read about it here. As a result of the convictions, many teachers felt compelled to boycott their use of SparkleBox.

sparklebox

This week on Twitter, I found out about an alternative new website called Teacher’s Pet. The site that was launched on April 14th 2010 is the combined work of a teacher, Christina and Flash programmer, Jay. The site contains free printable PDFs and will soon contain IWB resources and music. The website is nicely designed and the resources are clear, colourful and purposeful. While this is a UK site, it looks like it could be useful for primary teachers worldwide. This site is very new, however new resources are being upload regularly and hopefully it will eventually become a site that is as comprehensive as it’s comparable website, SparkleBox. Check it out!

Teachers Pet

Postscript: I have just come across another new similar site called Twinkl. There must be a few SparkleBox alternatives popping up on the web. This is good news for teachers!

Leave a comment if you know any other sites with printable resources for teachers.

Fun Spelling Games

GamesGames.com is a site with lots of fun and free games. Some of these games are simply “for fun” but there are some educational games which are very worthwhile for use in the classroom. My Grade Two students are enjoying the Spelling Games. There are 18 spelling games where students have to build and find words in a very appealing format.  These would probably be best suited for Grades 2 to 5. The site also has some good puzzle and logic games that could be used in the classroom.

spelling games games