Teacher Talk

Welcome to Teacher Talk, where our authors 'talk' early literacy with teachers.
You'll find practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as personal stories and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice.

All writers will at some stage have difficulty getting started writing. Skilled writers, as well as young students who are learning to write, can develop “writer’s block”. Writer Kerrie Shanahan explores how teachers can help their students overcome this frustrating problem and get ready to write. She includes quick tips for students to avoid “writer’s block”. Read

Every child should have the opportunity to read accurately. Susan Hill draws our attention to an article in which the authors list this as one of the six elements of reading instruction that every child should experience every day. Susan notes that it is exhausting for struggling readers to always be reading too-challenging texts and provides a link for you to read this worthwhile article. Read

Recently, early literacy author Jenny Feely received an email about a young student who brought the same book home from school every day. This favourite book was Jenny’s book, Stay Away!, about poisonous animals. Delighted by a young reader’s response to her book, Jenny reflects on the importance of allowing children to choose what they read in order to discover what they like. Read

Learning to spell enhances students’ reading and writing, but the rules for spelling are very complex, and can produce frustration in the classroom. As teacher and writer Jenny Feely notes, at times even highly literate adults struggle with spelling. Jenny suggests ways teachers can appease students’ concerns about spelling, and includes some helpful spelling tips. She reminds us that although the many layers of the English language do make it harder to spell, they also provide us with a rich vocabulary. Read

Early intervention for students with reading difficulties is widely recognised as making a significant difference in the long-term reading abilities of children. Research indicates that 95 per cent of children who have difficulty learning to read can reach grade level if they receive specialised help early on. As a literacy researcher, but also as a volunteer tutor giving one-to-one instruction, Susan Hill describes her recent involvement in a successful early intervention. Read

Talking about the letters and sounds that make up words helps improve reading and writing skills. On a recent visit to a foundation-level classrooom, author and teacher Kerrie Shanahan discovers students confidently using technical terms such as phonemes, digraphs and syllables. This experience is a reminder of how young students are able to understand and appropriately use technical terms to support their learning. Read

Finding the right name for a character in narrative texts is a challenge for published authors as well as for students. Author and teacher Jenny Feely shares a variety of classroom ideas to help students find appropriate names for their characters and take a step towards more successful narrative writing. Read

The importance of reading aloud to children from birth has been well established by research. Recalling a surprising encounter with teenagers enjoying a read-aloud, teacher and writer Jenny Feely implores us to remember that enjoying a read-aloud is a lifelong experience that reinforces the joy of reading and provides memorable experiences
 with great
 books. Read

Children’s reading fluency is improved when they can automatically recognise high-frequency words. Publisher and literacy consultant Lyn Reggett discusses a guided reading lesson where a supportive book, which features the systematic use of high-frequency words, helps a young student discover the thrill of being able to read. Read

Have you ever tried the word tricks where numerals replace letters or where medial letters in words are rearranged? These demonstrate how highly skilled readers are so practised with text that they can still access meaning. They are a reminder of how much prior knowledge helps reader understanding.


To get students hooked on a new book, teachers need to have conversations with students as they guide them into the book. Whether reading narrative or informative books, talking and engaging with students, as they begin to read, sets the scene for successful guided reading sessions. Read

Writing a journal is a familiar literacy experience for many students in the classroom. Reflecting on the sometimes uninspired efforts of students and her own experiences of journal keeping, teacher and writer Jenny Feely argues that journals should be as useful to student writers as they are to professional writers. For students, journals should provide opportunities for writing imaginatively and be useful resources to inform their other writing. Read

Recalling her personal experience of losing meaning while reading and the strategies she used to get it back, literacy researcher Alison Davis argues that students need specific classroom instruction to help them access a range of comprehension strategies and lay the foundations for a lifetime of successful reading. Read

What are the similarities and differences between reading traditional books and multimodal books and games on iPads? The iPad educational apps of levelled books and word games look very inviting. But in one research project a teacher, Carly Willamowski, found that five- and six-year-old struggling readers soon became tired of the apps and continually wanted interaction with the teacher. Read

A recent survey into young children’s media use in the United States found that 20 years after the birth of the World Wide Web and a year or so after the first iPad sale, the media world that children are growing up in is changing at lightning speed. For literacy teachers this changing media world is of great interest and many people are exploring ideas in the area. Read

Now that Developing early literacy: Assessment and teaching is in its second edition, the area that really engages me is how to teach early reading and child-centred approaches to learning. When most five-year-olds begin school they expect to learn to read quickly. How can we build on the knowledge that children bring to school, their interests, oral language, vocabulary and understanding of how print works? Read