Riverstone Public School Preschool

Riverstone Public School Preschool shares how their local community informs their literacy and numeracy teaching program and how their curriculum builds continuity through the transition to school.

Could you tell us a bit about your service, and about the Aboriginal land which your service operates on?

Riverstone Public School Preschool is on Dharug Land and is part of Riverstone Public School, which services Preschool – Year 6. We have 80 Preschool places across the week.

Our purpose is to provide a rich and playful school readiness program throughout the year before Kindergarten, for Aboriginal children, locals, and those most vulnerable in our broader community. Our service’s philosophy is embedded in the rights of the child, is family centered and takes a holistic approach to ensure high quality, age and stage appropriate teaching and learning is afforded to every child in our care.

Children are empowered to connect with the land, learning about the wisdom and culture of the First Australians on the land on which we play and learn. To demonstrate this, together with our school’s Dharug language teacher, children and educators created our own daily Acknowledgment of Country. From 2022 we will be using Dharug words for class names, inspired by the connection birds have to this place and as another way we can learn to connect to Country and learn more about caring for each other and our shared spaces.

How does your service ensure literacy and numeracy are a focus in your program?

Our preschool educators have a thorough understanding of the foundational skills children need to feel successful when starting Kindergarten. Embedding school initiatives into all areas of the preschool curriculum, including the areas of literacy and numeracy, is one way we build continuity through the transition to school.

Our school has a strong focus on formative assessment and data informed practice. Tracking student learning and progress against key literacy and numeracy progressions is a school wide focus. An example of this focus in practice is our close tracking of oral language development in literacy along with a focus on number patterns and algebraic thinking in numeracy.

We use assessment practices aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and evidence-based research on the developmental stages of oral language, number patterns and algebraic thinking, as detailed in quality Early Years curriculum documents, together with the National Literacy and Numeracy progressions, to maintain our data sets. From our observations (data) and analysis, we can efficiently identify areas of focus for groups and individuals, which informs ongoing program decision making.

This process offers a continual point of reference during our reflection meetings with families, children, and each other as educators. Analysis, planning for, implementation and evaluation of children’s programs using the EYLF and these documents offer a guide map of sorts. Understanding of how young children learn best and having a guide for where to next, developmentally and in progression of skill complexity, helps us articulate clear learning goals with children. This enables development of specific teaching strategies, whilst ensuring the planned experiences are play based and open ended, enabling children agency and multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.

Key reference documents, in addition to the EYLF for assessment and programming for children’s learning in oral language are detailed here:

Focusing on literacy and numeracy, how do you utilise each child’s learning, development, and interests to support curriculum decision making?

Responsive to our community and context, we localise and prioritise aspects of the curriculum in literacy and numeracy. For example, many Aboriginal children come to preschool sharing stories of their totems. This has led to a focus on building our shared oral language vocabulary of Dharug words, phrases and short sentences, referencing and acknowledging the Aboriginal English many children come to preschool speaking. It’s understood there is an echo of Australian languages in Aboriginal English.

For our Aboriginal children, when they learn Dharug at preschool, there is a grammatical similarity that resonates with their own Aboriginal English. Gesture is a significant part of interaction in many Aboriginal communities, so integration of explicit teaching of gesture is also a scaffold for comprehension and retainment of new vocabulary that we pay attention to. Hearing themselves in the curriculum as taught at preschool and across our whole school P-6, enables building of meta language of English, nurturing foundational literacy development in both languages and is a key motivational aspect for attendance. It also has significant impacts on building prestige in Aboriginal culture and identity within our school and local community.

Key elements of the planned program are communicated with children and in fact, co-constructed with them. An example of this is the creation of explicit ‘class wide’ daily or weekly ‘in focus’ learning intentions based on observations of children’s learning interests and strengths. We weave either literacy or numeracy learning intentions and possibilities into this, quite intentionally. At our morning circle, we co-construct success criteria for the stated learning intention in focus for that day. We record children’s voices, discussing and elaborating the success criteria with them, adding provocations and display as a point of reference we can return to at any time. We share the documentation of the day’s learning focus with families and throughout the day or week, reflect with children and provide feedback, individually and as a group on progress towards these learning intentions. In this way, children actively self-assess and are supported through use of intentional and responsive teaching to focus on and extend their depth of learning in the area of focus for that period.

During learning from home, intentions are still made clear and developed based on conversations with families and observations of children’s shared work over our digital learning platform. We provide feedback through voice recordings, accompanying each experience shared. Images below show examples of planning and responding to meaningful, playful and rich literacy and numeracy, based on children’s learning interests and strength. The feedback we provide intentionally responds to their efforts in relation to the stated learning intentions and their unique developmental stage.

How are families supported in understanding how the program relates to the development of their child’s learning and development?

The preschool is a welcoming and safe environment, providing a platform for parents and carers to work in partnership with educators, from pre-enrolment throughout the year and into transition to school. An example of how we actively position families at the centre of children’s programs, is to use the conversations we have with them and their children about things that matter to them, as springboards for enriching and individualising the learning program.

We consciously articulate through our digital learning platforms, the learning that is happening, directly related to what families may have discussed and on occasion, their musings about their children’s play, which may have otherwise been dismissed as trivial or aside from what might be considered the ‘real’ learning. An example of this has been families asking about the ABCs and learning to write and read. We were able to discuss a game their child had invented in collaboration with peers. This led to documenting agreed rules of the game by an educator, which was a responsive literacy learning session using modelled writing, that was purposeful and meaningful to the children.

Children had been referring friends and their families to the documented rules and over time, children started recording their own messages and rules confidently as they applied them in their play. As these examples of writing and reading were shared proudly with families by their children, educators were able to unpack the rich literacy learning the experiences offered within them. Families could see the value in playing with letters, words, numerals, images, drawings, maps and symbols in playful but ‘real’ learning experiences as important precursors to the formal ABCs and oh so much fun!

See examples of children’s writing and interactions between educators and families supporting literacy learning here.

Thank you to the leaders, educators, children and the families of Riverstone Public School Preschool for lending their voices to the development of this article.

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