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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org READERS’ COMPETITION WINNER 7 children come to school with poor oral language development as a result of a multimedia infusion that floods children with images and texts that don’t involve oral communication. Reading comprehension, in particular, is affected if a child has poor oral language skills. Constructed in 2010 with funding from the Commonwealth government’s Building the Education Revolution program, our $1.8 million Interactive Learning Centre comprises a large open space, library, computer lab, student kitchen and a soundproof room used for multimedia presentations. It’s an engaging and adaptable space that enhances the social nature of learning by encouraging both formal and informal communities, as is recommended by the Ministerial Council on Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs’ 2008 Learning in an Online World: Learning spaces framework. For oral language development sessions, the Interactive Learning Centre is set up with around a dozen work stations, each containing a unique and thought-provoking activity or resource that inspires children to investigate and challenge their thinking and learning while developing their oral language skills. The approach draws on the teachings of educational expert Professor John Munro from the University of Melbourne, who explains that oral language is developed through play. There’s a real need to set time for students to play and explore their own wonderings. Indeed, as ACER’s Elizabeth Kleinhenz and Lawrence Ingvarson point out in Standards for Teaching, international early childhood education research recognises that effective teachers use content knowledge confidently to support and extend children’s learning in interactive and play- based situations. Our students are given an ‘I wonder...’ statement that relates to the work station resources, and they’re then invited to take their wondering wherever they decide to explore. Some of the ‘I wonder...’ statements used in the oral language sessions include, ‘I wonder how magnets work’ and ‘I wonder what we need to run a restaurant.’ Cooperative learning skills are also relied on as children move through different groupings, and listen and speak while exploring their sense of wonder. Music marks the end of ‘play’ and time is allowed for reflection. Some students are then invited to share their reflections with the whole class. Life is so busy now that children are rarely allowed time to stop and reflect, even though reflecting is what sustains learning. Wondering does for the brain what exercise does for muscles and, with practice and encouragement, we hope to enable all students to reach their cognitive potential. Children’s innate curiosity draws them toward questioning, finding out about and making sense of the world in which they live. Thought and oral communication are the central vehicles for learning. Maria Smith is Deputy Principal and Religious Education Coordinator at Holy Name Primary School, Melbourne. Pictured, students from Holy Name Primary School. Photo by Guy Lavoipierre. Enter the June Inside Teaching readers’ competition on page 5. REFERENCES Kleinhenz, E. & Ingvarson, L. (2007). Standards for Teaching: Theoretical underpinnings and applications. Wellington: New Zealand Teachers Council. Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. (2008). Learning in an Online World: Learning spaces framework. Melbourne: Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. Munro, J. (2011) Teaching Oral Language. Melbourne: ACER Press.