Words of Wisdom: Tips from a Year 2 Teacher

Last week at uni, we had the pleasure of hearing from a teacher who finished her Masters program last year and is now teaching a Year 2 class. She provided some great general classroom tips as well as some specifically focused on literacy. Here are some of her words of wisdom:

Classroom management

  • Classroom management is the most important element in ensuring effective teaching and learning. Make sure you have clear expectations for behaviour and give students a “brain break” such as a short video, dance or game, from time to time
  • Timing – always keep the pace moving briskly
  • Talk up your lessons – it really works to get your students excited about learning
  • She uses WALT, WILF and TIB in her class (she always uses WALT, and occasionally the others)
    • WALT = We are learning to… – this makes the concept, understanding or skill they are learning explicit to students. For example, “we are learning to write persuasively”. This helps students understand the actual learning rather than simply the task or activity they are doing.
    • WILF = What I’m looking for… – this makes clear to student what they are expected to produce. For example, the teacher might highlight that she/he is looking for quality of argument
    • TIB = This is because… – this describes the purpose of learning and might make connections to other skills previously learnt.

Literacy activities

  • During ‘crunch and sip’ every day, she will read a chapter to the class for 10 minutes to give them a model of good reading. She scans the chapter and puts it on the IWB so they can follow at the same time. This is time consuming but it really helps them.
  • Every day she will have guided reading with one group, while remaining groups do independent reading and play literacy games
  • For writing, the whole class examines quality texts as models of good writing. She talked about ‘bump it up’ models (I LOVE this idea), where she will put together a basic work sample, a sound work sample, and an outstanding work sample so that students know what they need to do to ‘bump up’ their work to the next level. She said this is time consuming, as it needs to be done for expositions, recounts, persuasive texts etc. but is very worthwhile. She said the ARC student samples can also be useful for developing ‘bump it up’ models and providing a framework for giving feedback at Parent Teacher Nights http://arc.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/go/k-6/
  • They have a list of writing goals hung up in the classroom. These include things like – write neatly, rub out mistakes properly, use capital letters to start a sentence. She gets students to check the writing goals before finishing their writing to ingrain the process of editing and reviewing.
  • For spelling, each student has their own ‘have a go book’. If they don’t know how to spell a word, they try three different possible spellings before checking with her. This encourages them to think about sounds and word patterns found in English. She also has ‘word towers’ on each desk and ‘word walls’ around the classroom with subject-specific vocabulary.
  • They have weekly handwriting lessons and also focus expressly on speaking and listening skills, doing oral presentations, oral recounts and Reader’s Theatre. She tries to get members of the community to come in and talk, getting students to prepare questions in advance and then write about the experience afterwards.
  • She said in terms of assessment, she looks to their reading journals, does running records, records a portfolio of evidence week to week, and relies on rubrics. She said using ‘bump it up’ rubrics can really help as evidence for Parent Teacher Interviews to show where each student is tracking and how/whether they are trying to move their work to the next level.
  • She said with feedback to students, it is really easy to give them feedback on everything, all the time. She said you need to really focus in on the thing you are assessing.
  • Her final words of advice were – keep your connections with great teachers and don’t be afraid to seek guidance from more experienced teachers.

Resources that she uses:

  • Antonym diamante poems – these are often good ways to synthesise learning of different concepts. They are short poems that are seven lines long, start with a word i.e. sustainable and finish with the antonym i.e. unsustainable. There are various different rules you can apply such as adjectives only on line 2 and verbs only on line 3. More info here.
  • Often you can find great clips on Vimeo or YouTube of picture books that bring them to life – for example ‘The Curious Garden’ by Peter Brown
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