At St John’s Grammar Junior School, we are passionate about helping every student develop the confidence to soar. Our teachers are committed to providing a learning environment that is nurturing and contributes to the development of students’ self-esteem and enthusiasm for ongoing literacy and numeracy learning. What gives our students the literacy advantage?
At the Junior School, we wanted to develop programs that make a real difference. Therefore, in addition to our engaging year level English programs that align with the National Curriculum, we have developed a unique and comprehensive genre-based literacy program called Learning Teams AND a rigorous, synthetic phonics program called Spelling Teams. Both Team programs custom design and individualise the literacy program for our students to help maximise opportunities for support, enrichment and extension. Our aim is to provide an English program that balances all 3 strands of Language, Literature and Literacy.
How do these literacy programs support your child?
Learning Teams (genre writing):
Learning Teams is an initiative that focuses specifically on the development of writing skills. It teaches a range of different genres across different year levels, including creative narratives, procedures, persuasive writing, right through to information reports. The common learning intentions are to develop skills such as: planning, organising ideas when writing, applying grammar, self and peer editing, reflection and applying feedback.
During Learning Team lessons, your child will experience:
Smaller groups to enable higher teacher/student conferences (we cater for 4 learning teams per year level)
Specialised, student-friendly genre templates and rubrics to help engage and demystify the assessment and feedback process
Thoughtfully developed resources pitched at the appropriate learning need of your child
Research into brain function, particularly into the way long-term memory works, shows that effective learning occurs when fewer topics are covered but at greater depth. “Curricula that run a mile wide and an inch deep run the risk of developing disconnected rather than connected knowledge.” (School Excellence Initiative)
Raising the bar on teaching clear strategies on how to read and spell is at the core of our Spelling Teams program. This program is underpinned by the Letters and Sounds Framework. Letters and Sounds is a systematic, high-quality phonics program based on best practice from international research. This program explicitly teaches students how to segment and blend words.
At St John’s Grammar, your child will experience the Letter and Sounds program from Reception right through to Year 6. We have deliberately extended the program across all year levels to methodically teach each sound in depth across every phase. The aim is to give enough time and practise to support your child to transfer their new spelling learning into their everyday writing.
The Spelling Teams program is differentiated into three groups. These groups are fluid, whereby your child is able to move in and out of these groups based on their individualised data and understanding of their learning needs.
Our Speech Pathologist consultant, Jen Roberston, believes that our program offers quality, individualised learning to suit all students. In speaking about our program, she said:
“It is impressive that St John’s Grammar uses a whole-school approach to reading and spelling, via an evidence based, best practice program such as Letters and Sounds. This ensures that each student receives quality literacy training and, for those students who experience difficulties, Letters and Sounds fits seamlessly with supported learning, such as Speech Pathology, should it be required.
New Initiatives in our Reading Programs
Developing the love of reading is the heart of our English programs. Reading feeds the imagination, develops creativity and opens our minds to many wonderful and fantastical worlds. Therefore, another new and exciting initiative that we have introduced into the Junior School is an extension of our pre-reading Phonemic Awareness Program. This program helps our students identify syllables, onset rime and phonemes. Developing such skills is a precursor for reading success and gives students extra advantage in developing and consolidating this fundamental literacy skill during their formative years.
These skills will then be further supported by the introduction of a new reading program, Decodable Readers, in the Junior Primary classrooms. Decodable Readers will dovetail with our Phonemic Awareness Program and Letters and Sounds approach of teaching our students how to decode words for meaning.
It is through this intentional structure of weaving these three programs together that we feel your child is going to receive that extra educational advantage in Literacy learning. Our aim is to give students many opportunities and experiences to develop explicit reading strategies and a lot of reading success to entrench a life-long love of reading.
What gives our students the numeracy advantage in our Junior School?
Change in our Maths pedagogy this year is a result of our desire to create more vigour and a comprehensive and cohesive approach to teaching Numeracy in the Junior School.
We investigated the teaching methods behind the success of the highest-ranking countries in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a test conducted with 15-year-olds in Reading, Science and Numeracy. Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong have all ranked top of the tables consistently for many years in Numeracy. Education in these countries is highly valued and highly competitive.
We wanted to underpin our teaching of Numeracy by adding a dynamic, highly sequenced, comprehensive resource to our teaching toolkits. We chose the PR1ME Maths program (developed by Scholastic) based on the Pedagogy of the Ministry of Education in Singapore. The PR1ME AUS books are newly released in Australia and have been modified to complement the content and outcomes of our Australian Mathematics Curriculum at each year level. What gives us the advantage is PR1ME pushes students to be working in advance of what would normally be expected of the Numeracy skills at each year level.
Our students in Years 1 to 6 are now using PR1ME text-based learning. This system promotes a CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) approach. This structure means that our students are learning through the use of hands-on materials, transferring that knowledge to pictures or images before cementing the concepts by recording in symbols. Another significant feature of PR1ME is the carefully sequenced spiral curriculum that ensures that concepts are taught in the correct order for maximum understanding and retention. Our teachers have access to the text on our Prowise boards, and each PR1ME lesson starts with explicit teaching.
The structure of each lesson is as follows;
Let’s Remember – At the start of a new topic on the Teacher Hub is a section called ‘Let’s Remember’ which revises the learning of the previous semester or year.
Let’s Learn – Teachers use the Prowise boards to teach the new learning explicitly. This is a time that teachers can also address misconceptions and use hands-on equipment to teach a concept.
Let’s Do – In this section, students record their thinking and calculations in their books at the same time as the teacher. This is a time for students to confirm their thinking and learning as they work together.
Let’s Practise – This section is intended to be student-driven recording to demonstrate an understanding and mastery of the concept. Some students are ready to work independently, and others will still need support. Teachers and our School Support staff will record whether children were able to do this independently or needed more assistance.
PR1ME Digital Assessment
All students in Years 1 to 6 also have access to PR1ME Digital Assessments. Pre-tests, end of topic or review tests are completed online. The test formats are similar to what students will experience in online NAPLAN testing in future years. Results are immediately available to students and teachers. Teachers can look in more detail at the answers students give to inform their programs and teaching. Teachers continue to use traditional pencil and paper assessments, observation and group work to assess student capabilities.
Matific is a personalised, interactive teaching and learning platform that all Reception – Year 4 students (and select Year 5 & 6 students) are subscribed to.
This excellent learning resource engages students in games and activities in a fun way using digital technology and complements learning through PR1ME. Teachers can differentiate the learning experience by assigning activities to suit the abilities of individual students. Students can work through activities set by the teacher in the ‘Schoolwork’ or ‘Homework’ sections. Student success is reported back to teachers in real-time. Teachers can also reassign tasks that will enable students to show learning improvement.
In Semester 2, we commenced our new Maths Teams Programs. These are two lessons each week where students break into smaller teams to work on problem solving.
Our class teachers and our Maths Specialist teachers take targeted learning groups. Our open-ended weekly challenges are based on the work of Emeritus Professor and highly acclaimed educator, Peter Sullivan (Professor of Science, Maths and Technology at Monash University). These challenges are differentiated according to student needs and are designed to develop and promote verbal and written reasoning of Maths. Our smaller student-to-teacher ratio enables our teachers to carefully monitor and assist each student with recording their thinking and sharing of their understanding.
A crucial element to these lessons is building a positive attitude to Maths, whilst also developing persistence, resilience and flexible thinking abilities.
Would you like to know more?
If you would like to find out more about our new Literacy and Numeracy initiatives, please feel free to contact Joyanne Gardner, our Literacy Coordinator, or Amanda Hinton, our Numeracy Coordinator. They would both enjoy the opportunity to talk further with you.
Joyanne Gardner & Amanda Hinton
Literacy Coordinator & Numeracy Coordinator