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
- Coding club
- Environment centre
- Camps and excursions
- Integration with Malkara Special School
- Leadership training
- Before and after school care
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 of the senses.
We have successfully partnered with CSIRO, the Scientists in Schools and Mathematicians in Schools program and have connections with our STEM delivery partner Questacon. We have also partnered with Code Club Australia and parents who are practitioners in the field of Coding.
Our cutting-edge STEM program allows students to work creatively with robotics and 3D printing. We are working towards developing a Makerspace - a place where studentscan gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.
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. Emphasis is on educating the whole child and that each child is unique in their needs for support.
Saints Peter and Paul, was invited to take part in the Early Learning Initiative–Literacy, towards the end of 2016. During this time staff were made aware of the key components of the CE endorsed Literacy Block Model in preparation for whole school implementation during 2017.
This significant shift in pedagogical focus and practice with regard to Literacy was facilitated by Adjunct Associate Professor Kaye Lowe and our assigned COSA Officer, Kate Halcrow. Specific areas of focus were identified to support staff in achieving the overarching goal of implementing the Literacy block model across the school. These areas included the following components:
- Daily 20 minutes Voluntary Free Reading (VFR)
- Daily 20 minutes Voluntary Free Writing (VFW)
- Weekly conferencing in reading and writing
- Use of conferencing data to inform teaching
Our 2017 COSA Project centred around the process of collecting and using data obtained through conferencing to; address student needs, detect reading and writing trends within class groups and across the grade and make pertinent links with the curriculum. Consultants facilitated staff in refining the conferencing process to support the collection and interpretation of data, as a means of devising purpose-based groups to support student achievement in Literacy.
Adjunct Associate Professor Kaye Lowe modelled how best to incorporate the key elements of the Literacy Block Model to staff during her visits to the school. Staff were also afforded the time to meet with Kaye in grade/stage groups to seek further advice and clarification pertinent to their classroom contexts.
Sts Peter and Paul have adopted an agreed practice towards Literacy which is in place from K-6 and guide our Literacy practice.
- A school-wide commitment to a 2-hour literacy block
- Use of a consistent proforma for programming K-6
- A consistent approach to tracking and recording curriculum content
- An Agreed Practice regarding conferencing protocols with reading and writing
- An Agreed Practice regarding a whole school approach to teaching spelling, grammar and punctuation
The Literacy teaching and learning programs at Saints Peter and Paul are organised in line with the Australian Curriculum, into three strands; Language, Literacy and Literature.
These all contain additional sub-strands which are identifiable within the content descriptions. Evidence of each of these areas is found within teaching and learning experiences at Sts Peter and Paul. Each of these strands contributes to the Receptive (Reading, Listening, Viewing) and Productive (Writing, Creating, Speaking) modes which form students’ communication processes.
At the core of our reading pedagogy, classroom teachers model proficient reading behaviours to students daily through reading for enjoyment or modelled reading lessons. As part of the schoolwide implementation of the Literacy Block model, emphasis has been placed on teacher led inquiry to facilitate the introduction and consolidation of effective reading behaviours. Small group activities are purpose-based and devised in accordance with patterns and trends reflected in data collected during daily reading conferences.
Teachers also make use of Reading Running Record data to respond directly to students’ individual reading needs. Students read and complete an activity each day related to the strategy being explicitly explored. Students share their responses at the end of the reading session with the teacher and their peers.
Reading is further supplemented with Voluntary Free Reading (VFR) of a student selected text. Texts can be borrowed from the school library on a weekly basis or accessed from the classroom library collections. The school has been committed to the regular purchasing of books, to sufficiently stock classroom library collections to enable frequent rotation of resources amongst class/stage groups.
Writing at Saints Peter and Paul is characterised by the associated key components of the CE endorsed Literacy Block model:
- 20 minutes daily voluntary free writing (VFW)
- Regular exposure to good literature
- Weekly conferencing with students about their writing
- Term by term publication cycle.
The interconnectedness that exists between reading and writing is clearly emphasised as students are exposed to a variety of genres and authors via daily VFR. Data collected during student writing conferences allows teachers to respond directly to students’ 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 Collaborating On Student Achievement (COSA) project included the investigation of how data gathered during reading and writing conferences with students, could best inform our teaching of Literacy. Staff worked in conjunction with our 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.
Teachers are using a term by term publishing cycle to celebrate and publish students work at least once, preferably twice, a term. Regular publication of students’ original compositions has seen students increasingly view themselves as members of a community of writers. Parents within our community have been invited to support teachers in the publication process by attending the Tea and Typing sessions introduced in the latter part of the year.
SPELLING, GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION
In an effort to achieve consistency in the teaching of spelling, grammar and punctuation, Saints Peter and Paul staff spent two years
working with Literacy Consultant, Christine Killey to develop a whole school approach to the instruction of students in these three areas of the English Curriculum. This also formed the basis of our school’s COSA focus in 2016. Christine’s model of instruction in spelling, grammar and punctuation centres on an inquiry-based, word study approach, that includes the investigation of sounds and words within the various contexts within which they typically function in the English language.
During the school’s two-year partnership with Christine, staff were afforded the opportunity to:
- participate in 4 twilight sessions regarding an integrated approach to teaching spelling, grammar and punctuation
- observe Christine working directly with children
- become familiar with associated key resources
- develop a repertoire of easy to administer formative assessment activities to gauge student performance and guide future instruction
- Interpret student work samples to inform teaching practice
Exposure to mathematics creates opportunities which enrich the lives of all Australians. At Saints 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 are able to call on the more numerate you will be’ (Faragher, 2013).
So, 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, particularly 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, 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.