Bluebell unit comprises three Kindergarten classes and one Year 1/K class. Students are involved in a variety of activities each day, focusing on different areas of Literacy and Numeracy. As part of a play-based learning program, students are learning about the social skills associated with Gordon Gold, KidsMatter and Bounce Back!
Literacy skills in early childhood start with a focus on oral language, which underpins reading and writing. The Australian Curriculum: English states the broad aim that students ‘appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power.’ For example, students at Gordon Primary hear rich language every day through literature read-alouds. Kindergarten students play with language to understand how rhyme and alliteration help us focus on particular sounds in words. They may choose a ‘Word of the Week’, learning new words or concepts to increase their vocabulary. Kindergarten students also use the early literacy practice of ‘reading’ the pictures, where they talk about what is happening in the pictures of their personal reading books. This helps them create a sense of the structure of stories in books, along with learning ‘word by word matching’ to match speech to text, in order to start to read the words in simple texts.
Before writing and during class discussions, teachers model verbally constructing a quality sentence. Students may then use a ‘turn and talk’ strategy, where everyone has an opportunity to express their ideas to a partner. Repeating their sentence a few times helps students to hold onto their message, as well as build their concept of a ‘word’ and identify how many words are in the message. Teachers may then use the instructional strategy of ‘interactive writing’, where they model the process of listening for sounds in words and matching them with the correct letters, learning to write common high frequency words (e.g. ‘the, and, is’), practising correct letter formation and ‘bumping up’ writing in order to add more detail and rich language. During this part of the lesson, students may all write alongside the teacher on their own mini whiteboard, before progressing to independent writing in their books.
As a result, students listen, speak, read and write every day in Bluebell, with a variety of modelled, shared and independent opportunities. English is also integrated into the Bluebell learning modules, demonstrating how English links to science, history, the Arts and geography.
Foundational concepts such as an understanding of number underpin mathematics lessons in Bluebell. Students engage in a range of activities to help them look at numbers in different ways – such as using finger patterns and ten frames to recognise and construct numbers. They learn that 4 is one less than 5, or double 2, or the number after 3, by representing the same number in a variety of ways. Developing this understanding and flexibility lays the groundwork for addition and subtraction.
In Kindergarten, students particularly focus on numeral identification and counting. For example, they regularly engage in activities that help them become fluent with counting forwards and backwards from any starting point, initially in the range of 1-20. They also work in non-number areas such as space and geometry, and measurement using informal units.
In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, one of the broad aims is that students are ‘able to investigate, represent and interpret situations in their personal and work lives.’ In Kindergarten, students discover how numbers are used in everyday lives. They may link months of the year to birthdays in the class, count the number of days they have been at school, or graph the favourite colours or foods of their peers.
Learning in mathematics occurs through a variety of structures – sometimes explicit maths lessons with the whole class, and other times through hands-on activities in small groups. Mathematics is also integrated into the Bluebell learning modules, demonstrating how it links to science, history, the Arts and geography.
At Gordon Primary, teachers plan learning modules using the ‘Learning by Design’ approach. In Bluebell, students explore the concepts of special places, memories, living creatures and their environments, as well as the Arts (music, media, dance, drama and visual arts). Starting with ‘experiencing the known’, or identifying familiar experiences and background knowledge, students then move into linking this to new information, processes and skills in the content areas of science, history, the Arts and geography.
Over the year, Bluebell students receive lessons from specialist teachers in a variety of areas – such as Japanese, emotional/social learning and digital technology. They visit the library regularly to learn how to choose books that they enjoy reading. They also have many opportunities to develop gross motor skills through structured PE lessons as well as games involving teamwork.