Teaching and Learning
Sts Peter and Paul offers a unique curriculum that takes the excellence of a traditional primary education and blends it with innovative and flexible methods. The curriculum is woven together by a Catholic ethos with an emphasis on values. Through careful design, our curriculum:
- Focuses on the individual
- Aims for deep learning
- Is designed to promote motivation, confidence, self-organisation and independence.
- Music: school choir, keyboard, guitar and violin
- Inter-school debating and Rostrum public speaking, speech and drama
- Lunchtime clubs: coding, art/craft and gardening
- Environment centre
- Camps, excursions and incursions
- Integration with Malkara Special School
- Leadership training
- Before and after school care
- Class buddy systems
Our kitchen garden was created to provide edible, aromatic and beautiful resources for our school kitchen and in turn, teach our students about the natural world. Students develop an appreciation for growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing seasonal produce that uses all the senses. Gardening Club encourages students to help care for our garden and gather and share some fruits and vegetables with the school community.
Students are supported within their classroom learning environment by their class teacher to develop to their full potential. Emphasis is placed on finding, developing and using a student’s strengths and talents to maximise their learning, heighten their self-esteem and develop a love of learning. We understand the significance of educating the whole child and the knowledge that each child is unique in their needs for support.
We have successfully partnered with CSIRO, the Scientists in Schools and Mathematicians in Schools programs, Code Club Australia and parents who are practitioners in coding. Through teaching training and student excursions, we also have connections with our STEM delivery partner, Questacon.
Our cutting-edge STEM program allows students to work creatively with robotics and 3D printing. We have developed a ‘Makerspace’, where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.
At Sts Peter and Paul, Literacy is scheduled for the morning session each day. This Literacy Block is structured to include various Reading, Writing and Word Study activities.
While each classroom’s Literacy Block looks different, depending on the age and experience of the students, the following is a general guide to the session:
- Voluntary Free Reading (VFR)
- Voluntary Free Writing (VFW)
- Teacher and peer conferencing
- Sharing circles and class discussions
- Various Literacy and Word Study activities
VRF, VFW, conferencing and sharing circles were adopted during the school’s involvement in an Early Learning Literacy Initiative, in the second half of 2016. During this time, the key components of the CE endorsed Literacy Block Model were explored in preparation for whole-school implementation during 2017.
This significant shift in pedagogical focus and practice was facilitated by Adjunct Associate Professor, Kaye Lowe, and our assigned Collaborating on Student Achievement (COSA) Officer, Kate Halcrow. Specific areas of focus were identified to support teachers with the implementation of the Literacy Block model across the school.
The Sts Peter and Paul agreed practice towards Literacy consists of:
- A school-wide commitment to 2-hour literacy blocks each morning.
- An agreed proforma for programming in K-6, including teaching and learning opportunities for all English strands of the Australian Curriculum; Language, Literacy and Literature.
- Opportunities for teacher and student conferencing to address needs, collect data, view trends and devise purpose-based groups and activities to support student development.
- A Word Study approach towards spelling, punctuation and grammar.
The Literacy teaching and learning programs at Sts Peter and Paul are organised in line with the Australian Curriculum’s three strands; Language, Literacy and Literature. Each of these strands contain additional sub-strands that are identifiable within the content descriptions used when programming. These contribute to the Receptive (Reading, Listening, Viewing) and Productive (Writing, Creating, Speaking) modes that form students’ communication processes.
At the core of our reading pedagogy, classroom teachers model proficient reading behaviours to students through reading for enjoyment and modelled reading lessons. Emphasis has been placed on teacher-led inquiry to facilitate the introduction, development and consolidation of effective reading behaviours. Small group activities are purpose-based and devised in accordance with patterns and trends reflected in data collected through observations and during conferences.
Reading strategies are explored, and sharing circles and class discussions are facilitated. Reading Running Record data is used to respond to students’ individual reading needs.
Reading is further supplemented with Voluntary Free Reading (VFR) of student selected texts. Books can be borrowed from the school library on a weekly basis or accessed from the classroom library collections. In 2017, class libraries were updated with a variety of books to enable frequent rotation of resources amongst class/stage groups.
Writing at Sts Peter and Paul consists of class constructed texts and Voluntary Free Writing (VFW). Students are exposed to quality literature and opportunities for teacher and peer conferencing and sharing. A specific focus is given to the writing cycle; planning, drafting, editing and publishing of students’ work. The regular publication of students’ writing encourages a community of writers.
The interconnectedness that exists between reading and writing is emphasised by students’ exposure to a variety of genres and authors. Data and observations collected during conferencing and from student’s work allows teachers to respond to individual interests and needs. This level of support provides the framework upon which students’ identities as young writers are shaped.
CONFERENCING AND ASSESSMENT
The central focus of our 2017 COSA project included the investigation of how data gathered during reading and writing conferences could best inform the teaching of Literacy. Teachers worked in conjunction with the COSA Officer, to determine ways to effectively interpret conference notes to devise teaching and learning experiences responsive to the needs of the students, and directly linked to the Australian Curriculum.
SPELLING, GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION
Sts Peter and Paul have adopted a Word Study approach to the teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
A Literacy Consultant, Christine Killey of Learning Made Easier, spent two years working with staff to develop a consistent whole-school approach to support students’ development in Literacy. Christine’s model of teaching and learning in spelling, punctuation and grammar centres on an inquiry-based, Word Study approach. This includes the investigation of letter-sound relationships, spelling and grammar strategies and words within context.
Typically, a Word Study lesson includes the following:
- Emphasis on letter-sound relationships and consonant, vowel and syllable knowledge
- Exploring words origins
- Understanding words in context
- Identifying and experimenting with parts of speech
- Use of the Words Their Way (WTW) spelling resource for developmental spelling stages and whole class exploration of age-appropriate patterns/strategies
- Use of Christine’s Spelling and Grammar Magic cards and books to explore spelling and grammar strategies
- Administration of WTW spelling inventories to determine students’ spelling level and plan further development.
Exposure to mathematics creates opportunities which enrich the lives of all Australians. At Sts Peter and Paul Primary School the content and skills that form the foundation of our teaching in Mathematics come from the Australian Curriculum. The Australian Curriculum: Mathematics provides students with essential mathematical skills and knowledge in Number and Algebra, Measurement and Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. It develops the numeracy capabilities that all students need in their personal, work and civic life, and provides the fundamentals on which mathematical specialities and professional applications of mathematics are built.
We believe that quality Mathematics teaching develops numerate students. Mathematics underpins numeracy: ‘…as numeracy is about using mathematics and this implies you must know mathematics before you can use it. Numeracy is not just number work but also includes geometry, statistics and algebra. Therefore, the more mathematics you know and can call on, the more numerate you will be’ (Faragher, 2013).
Mathematics and its application across the curriculum are of critical importance to the development of numeracy. Mathematics is composed of interrelated and interdependent systems and concepts which can be applied to other disciplines. It is these connections that we have begun to utilise when developing RICH STEM units which pull together concepts from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The learning activities within Numeracy are developed using a variety of resources that promote mathematical experiences, investigation and inquiry. Chief amongst these are Maths 300, NRICH enriching mathematics, Calculating Changes, Teaching and Assessing Maths Through Open-ended Activities, and Open-Ended Maths Activities: Using ‘Good’ Questions to Enhance Learning in Mathematics. These resources assist with the delivery of a balanced and varied approach which is based on the knowledge that ‘concepts need to be experienced, strategies need to be scaffolded, and everything needs to be discussed’ (Siemon et al. 2011, p. 15).
Research across the globe, mainly that gathered from nations with excellent numeracy levels, reinforces that students learn best when they are experiencing concepts through ‘doing’. Professional Development in 2018 with Leonie Anstey has developed the evidence of learning approach to the planning of numeracy lessons. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate four elements into their lessons as evidence of learning:
The more elements are evident in an assignment, the more powerful the learning.
Ongoing assessment enables teachers, and students, ‘to decide where learners are at in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there’ (ACT Teachers Guide to Assessment, 2011, p. 6). Assessment to inform learning includes:
- observation, questioning and discussion;
- formal assessment; and
- feedback to guide students.
Regular classroom assessment tasks include diagnostic, formative and summative tasks and are supplemented by tools that focus on number sense including SENA and the Learning Assessment Framework. Scheduled home learning activities are provided to consolidate student learning that takes place during school hours and to develop the partnership between home and school. The following platforms are used to provide these experiences:
- Kinder – Year 4 use the Mathletics platform.
- Years 5 & 6 use the Maths Online platform.