Sunday, 29 December 2013

Gifted and talented support

I am inviting my friend Rebecca to be guest blogger on my blog this welcome Rebecca...

Hello, followers! 

My name is Rebecca Virgen and I am a guest blogger and long time follower of Kylie Meyer’s wonderful blog, Ripper Reading Resources.

To introduce myself more thoroughly, I am a graduate teacher who has been working in QLD Independent Schools for the past year now. Although my major in my undergraduate studies was special education, I am interested in all types of exceptionality, and have worked within gifted and talented programs, developing individual programs and IEP goals for students identified as requiring enrichment. 

My first teaching position is in a mainstream, Year 5 classroom, and my vision is to develop skills in enriching all students, while I complete postgraduate studies in gifted education at Flinders University. I still have a long way to go, but I have fantastic mentors and many opportunities to develop my skillset.

Over the holidays, I have been developing a program for a young girl (accelerated to Grade 2 for next year) from one of the schools I used to work in. I had previously worked with this student, and we developed a ‘Stop Motion’ project that incorporated creative and critical thinking. Her dominant learning strengths are reading, writing, and creative pursuits, but the long-term goal is to develop thinking skills, persistence and resilience. These skills ensure that the gifted learner makes the most of their potential, and aims to equip the student with the confidence in their effort, rather than their intelligence. The reason for developing a higher awareness of the power of effort over intelligence is because if students believe their ability to succeed has an innate limitation, such as a fixed cognitive capacity, they will give up, thus selling their potential short. Believing in their effort, however, encourages trial and error, reflection, and self-fulfilment. I have seen this concept in practice and believe it to be true, but it has actually been proven by extensive research. For more information on this topic, read ‘The Inverse Power of Praise’, Chapter One of ‘Nurture Shock’ by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

The program itself, in a nutshell, is a scaffolded project that helps the student become an independent, persistent and self-reflective learner. I have adapted resources from Learning Highway on TPT (see:, and created resources for the student's use.  The student uses step-by-step flip-learning techniques (such as YouTube videos), and then success criteria, to start her own project – an Autobiographical Life Map, which also develops metaphorical thinking. The idea of using success criteria allows the student to self-assess their progress as they develop their first draft and final product. Brainstorming and compartmentalising memory work into categories also helps with organising ideas and metacognition. The teacher acts as a ‘guide on the side’ to assist the student as needed, and to praise effort and persistence.

The PowerPoint also provides examples of successful finished products. This helps the students in emulating a successful piece of work, and gives them a greater idea of what to strive for. The self-assessment at the end of the final draft provides explicit self-questioning for the student to assess their work, and move forward. Once the final copy is finished, the student then has the option to choose a creative way of sharing. This provides closure to the project, and also (for this particular student) draws on creative strengths. The work booklet is a supplement to the PowerPoint and matches the task requirements. It is my hope that the project is organised well enough to run smoothly – watch this space!

Thanks so much Rebecca...

To find out more you can contact Rebecca at or you can check out her blog here:

Thanks so much for sharing Rebecca :)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Trading Places Tuesday

Hi everyone

I am really pleased to introduce my friend Emily from The Reading Tutor/OG blog to do a guest post for us about her amazing work. 

Please scroll down to continue participating in the Aussie Christmas - Santa Down Under Blog Hop or to pick up some freebies for studying Christmas in Australia, or to learn about some Aussie Christmas picture books. It is a couple of posts below this one. If you would like to participate in the blog hop, you are more than welcome to and pick up some freebies or learn more about Christmas in Australia...It starts here :)

So over to Emily...welcome to my blog :)

Hi everyone! I'm The Reading Tutor/OG, and today I'm going to talk about a multi-sensory spelling strategy called S.O.S. S.O.S. (Simultaneous Oral Spelling) is a commonly used technique used as one way to help improve a dyslexic reader's ability to spell. It has been researched that by using a multi-sensory approach to practice spelling, the dyslexic learner would have build better phonological awareness, which is a huge weakness. S.O.S. uses visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning modalities all the same time in during spelling dictation. It takes a great deal of focus and concentration, but once children know the steps involved, they can move through the process easily. If you have struggling readers due to weak phonological awareness and are also poor spellers, this strategy may work very well for them. These are the 6 steps:
The teacher dictates a word to the student(s). Total face contact is necessary so the child sees the formation of the word on the adult's lips.

 The student repeats the word back out loud.

 Starting with the thumb, the child sounds out the word out loud, holding up one finger for each sound. Make sure they are saying each sound out loud. Step 3 is a critical step. You'll be able to tell which sounds the student hears right away. If a child really struggles with this step, I use a sound slider technique. I have a row of blank Elkonin boxes typed up on a blank card. Then I hand them plastic counters to literally slide one counter up into each box for every sound they hear. Sometimes I see children that can't break beginning or final consonant blends apart, so they need this support.This may be just the thing needed if you have someone with weak phonemic awareness.
 Starting with the thumb, students will finger spell the word, holding up one finger for each letter. Make sure they are saying the letters out loud. Again, you'll be able to assess whether your student(s) is applying the phonics and spelling strategies you've taught them. I notice a lot of self talk and reflection during this step. You can really see those wheels turning in their minds! This step tells me whether they need more practice with a particular phonogram or spelling pattern in future lessons.
Now comes the writing part. The student will write the word out loud as they write it on their dictation paper. They see and hear the word as they write which is one of the hallmarks of multi-sensory teaching.  
Finally, the student reads the word out loud. This is an important time to for them to do a quick self reflection on whether the word looks right to them. Always place that ownership on the child!

You may be wondering after reading all these steps two things:
1. How many words do you give? Answer: I usually give anywhere from 8-12 words.
2. How long does this take? Typically, it will take about 10 minutes max.
You the teacher should always make a judgement call about a child's comfort level. If they are really struggling and frustrated, cut the dictation short. That tells you right away adjustments in pacing need to be made. One last tip: I am a real stickler for a child following these steps correctly EVERY time. I give gentle reminders, but the minute you let up on one step, I find they develop their own variations, Those habits can be hard to break.
If you enjoyed reading about this strategy and would like to try it out, I've created a set of task cards with the 6 steps written on them, as well as a recording sheet. This product is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

Thank you so much for reading my post today! I've love to hear from you in the comments below. Be sure to follow me on Bloglovin, by clicking the book icon with the heart on it in the right sidebar.

The Orton-Gillingham Manual by Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman, 1997 

Now head on over to the next stop in the Traveling Tuesday Blog Swap to Teacher Mom Of Three. Have a great day learning new and exciting Reading strategies!


Friday, 13 December 2013

Twas the Night of Book Talk Thursday Linky

Please scroll down to continue participating in the Aussie Christmas - Santa Down Under Blog Hop...It is a couple of posts below this one. If you would like to participate in the blog hop, you are more than welcome to and pick up some freebies or learn more about Christmas in Australia...It starts here :)

I am linking up again with my international literacy friends to share our favourite Christmas Eve picture books, hosted by Andrea at Reading Toward the Stars.  Hop over to Andrea's blog to check out other favourite picture books for the night before Christmas.

If you scroll down my blog, you can read about some of my other favourite picture books for Christmas in Australia (and a freebie or two).

For the night before Christmas, two of my favourite Australian titles are new to me.  

"An Aussie Night Before Christmas" by Yvonne Morrison is the first one, which is a gorgeous innovation on the original "Night Before Christmas" poem by Clement C. Moore, but includes Aussie colloquialisms, strine and slang, for example leaving Santa "tucker and beer" and Santa arrives in his ute, instead of a sleigh, which is led by eight kangaroos (and one of them just happens to be called "Kylie")!
This text is great for exploring Australianisms, rhyming words and also for critically analysing the Australian content in the illustrations (e.g. lamingtons, saos, gum trees, water tanks, wattle, fairy bread, a keplie pup...).

The other text I have ordered but it is set on the night before Christmas, after a bushfire.  It is called, "Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle" by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King.  Applesauce just happens to be a pig - does anyone else see the irony of that on Christmas Eve?
I really love the theme of this picture book, that Christmas does not need to be about decorations, fancy food or expensive presents, that it comes from the heart.  You can browse inside this title at the publisher's website - I just had to purchase this one as on first glance I thought it would be awesome for teaching figurative language in addition to theme.  If you browse the title on the publisher's website, just looking at the first page gives you a glimpse of the beautiful language used in this text.

This picture book was shortlisted by the Children's Book Council of Australia and I can see why.  Free teaching notes for it and other fantastic Australian titles can be found here at the PETAA website (Primary English Teaching Association of Australia).  How exciting - there are lots of other free teaching notes for great Aussie picture books in this link as well :)  There is a lovely review here from Barbara Braxton that mentions that this book gives hope to survivors of any disaster...I can't wait for it to come into my hands so I can review it properly, as I only had a quick skim in the library.  

I would love to hear from anyone who has used these two picture books - please leave a comment below.

The USQ Springfield library staff have done a really special Christmas display based on an advent calendar and each day another Christmas picture book is "unwrapped".  It is such a neat idea!

Please scroll down to read about other Aussie Christmas books, some resources I have made for teachers using them and also a couple of freebies along the way.

Wishing you the very best for the festive season...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Our favourite winter and holiday books

Please scroll down to continue participating in the Aussie Christmas - Santa Down Under Blog Hop...It is a couple of posts below this one. If you would like to participate in the blog hop, you are more than welcome to and pick up some freebies or learn more about Christmas in Australia...It starts here :)

Please also scroll down for the Holiday Cookie Swap Linky Party (next post down).

I am happy to be linking up with Andrea from Reading Towards the Stars for her link up sharing our favourite holiday/winter books. 

Being Australian, I have some favourite Aussie Christmas picture books to share with you.  You can read about these first two in earlier posts on my blog and there's a freebie for one of them as part of the Santa Down Under blog hop:
"Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker" is a gorgeous newly published title where Blossom Possum and her friends try different ways to wake Koala Claws.  "Santa's Aussie Holiday" is a fun picture book where Santa visits different places around Australia when he takes a break before Christmas Eve.

Another recently published Aussie Christmas picture book that I love is, "We Wish You a Ripper Christmas" - very apt for the name of my blog :)  I am listening to the CD that accompanies this book as I am typing and it is a catchy tune using the lyrics from the picture book - how wonderful that the picture book is also a song - sure to be a big hit with the kids!

Another newly published Australian Christmas title which the kids will love is "My Christmas Crackers"  by Bronwen Davies.  It includes Christmas jokes with the most gorgeous illustrations - I was laughing out loud as I read this book!  It's certain to be a hit with all young comedians :)

Magabala books has published a lovely indigenous Australian Christmas title about a boy living in the Australian outback with only a herd of goats who makes a wish on Christmas Eve that leads to magic and adventure.  You can read a review of this book by clicking on the cover image below:

Christmas in Australia happens during our Summer season, so I don't have many books about Winter to share...however, I came across a wonderful title published in 2011 here in Australia, called "Winter's Blanket" by Phil Cummings and illustrated by Donna Gynell.  This is a beautiful picture book, rich with figurative language, onomatopoeia, description and gorgeous illustrations.  Click on the cover image below for a review.

I hope you enjoy sharing these titles with your family and/or students.  I have resources to support a couple of these titles in my TPT store if you'd like to check them out and I will be adding more soon :)

Don't forget to scroll down for the Santa Down Under blog hop (or click on the link at the top of this post). 

Hop on over to the "Reading Towards the Stars" blog to find out more about Christmas and Winter books.

Also, don't forget that the Facebook Frenzies are on again this weekend, so you can grab lots of teaching freebies by participating :)  My freebie is a resource for learning about Winter idioms.  I am in the Year 5 group for the FB frenzy and it starts here if you'd like to join in.

Have a Ripper Christmas everyone :)

You may be interested in:

Grab your freebie here:
Please leave feedback in my TPT store - much appreciated and good karma :)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

First Annual Holiday Cookie Swap Linky Party

Hi everyone

Please scroll down to continue participating in the Aussie Christmas - Santa Down Under Blog Hop...It is the post below this one.  If you would like to participate in the blog hop, you are more than welcome to and pick up some freebies or learn more about Christmas in Australia...It starts here :)

I am so excited to be linking up with Emily from The Reading Tutor/OG blog to participate in her Holiday Cookie Swap linky party.  It's an online free cookie (biscuit) recipe exchange from across continents - just in time for Christmas baking.

My recipe has been passed on to me by a family friend here in Australia and it is for Milo balls.  Milo is very popular over here in Australia and we usually add it to milk.  This is a simple recipe that can be made with the kids and shared at any time of the year, but works as a good alternative to rum balls during the festive season.  I hope you enjoy them :)

Click on the image below to download the recipe for Milo balls. 

Don't forget the FB frenzies that are happening this weekend and also to scroll down if you would like to participate in the Santa Down Under Blog Hop, or click on the link above.

Hop on over to The Reading Tutor/OG blog to pick up some other free recipe ideas for Christmas biccies :)