Saturday, November 9, 2013

Be The Change

There’s a few reasons why I love teaching lower primary so much. A big one is it is so easy to see the growth and learning in the time children spend in your class.

At the start of the year I took writing, reading and spelling samples so I would have a point of reference at the end of the year. In terms of reading, using PM levels, students have gone from reading level 1 or 2 to now almost all can read above level 10 and I have about 8 students who are able to read and comprehend level 24 (which is the highest book I brought). I wish I had thought to video little interviews with children as it would have been a way to capture their spoken English abilities at the start of the year to contrast with now. They would make for fascinating viewing I think!

I wanted to share in particular the ‘then and now’ writing samples as they show how far the students have come. The first week of school I asked the children to write about what they did on the weekend. I wrote a simple three sentence example first and then asked them to write. It was apparent that they were not able to write independently so I wrote a couple of basic sentences on the board for them to copy: 'I went to ......' and 'I played ......' and wrote places and things they were likely to have done.

Fast forward 10 months and the children have not only learned to write, but have learned English!

In Australia we spend a lot of time teaching kids to write in various genres: recounts, stories, letters, procedures etc. But they usually have the basis of a good level of mastery of spoken English to begin with at six to seven years of age.  Here the children have learned English(as a third or even fourth language) from the ground up in a year to get to a point where they can independently write on a given topic. We’ve written poems, procedures and recently they wrote their own ‘lift the flap’ stories after receiving one written by a student in Australia.

I couldn’t be happier at the end of this year: at the end of class 2 they are well on their way. I hope they have passed that critical point in their language learning that they will just go from strength to strength and not look back. They speak without hesitation or obvious ‘thinking’; they are young enough to have internalised the difficult structures of English and with more reading and more learning as the years go by I’m confident they will have a good basis from which to embark on high school studies in English.

The writing samples below are warts and all. I haven't edited or corrected them with students as I usually would. Teaching friends at home will be able to read these samples and they are a cute and at times poignant insight into the childrens' lives. Obviously there are grammatical and spelling errors, and they are not sure about which tense to use. But there is a lot they can do. Most have a sense of a sentence, they spell high-frequency words well, and attempts at spelling new words show a good understanding of letter sounds. They use a variety of forms of punctuation and most important of all can, express themselves independently. These samples are a useful assessment tool to see a) what they can do and b) what they need to learn next to improve. If I was here next year I can see 100 microskills to teach and refine, but unfortunately I will not be here so I hope and pray someone will pick up where I leave off and build on all we’ve achieved.

Congratulations Class 2 on your beautiful writing!

'Then and now' samples taken in February and October.




 And I can't resist these other little examples of self-expression:

Thank you Sangay, I wish I could xxx

It makes me smile :)


  1. I love these Andrea - what a great job you (and the students( have done!

    1. Thanks Heather. It makes it all worth it :)