modern classroom

Are you confused by the NAPLAN test and its purpose, how to assist students in getting through without undue anxiety, or are you hunting for information on student preparation and resources? This time of year we get a lot of questions from teachers, parents and even students so we thought we would put together a quick guide to prepare you in the lead up to the 2016 NAPLAN.

You may have already entered the labyrinthine NAPLAN website, only to become completely disoriented and emerge much later feeling frustrated, dazed, and none the wiser. There really is so much helpful information there, but sifting through it can be very time-consuming and ultimately, somewhat overwhelming. NAPLAN, though, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so we might as well become familiar with it, like it or not, for the sake of our students. Hopefully, this will help to clarify a few significant details for you, including whether or not NAPLAN tests can, or should, be studied for.

shutterstock_287984198.jpg

What is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

Every May since 2008, around a million school students in years three, five, seven and nine, have gathered their collective nerve and poured into exam rooms across Australia to sit our biggest standardised test of literacy and numeracy – NAPLAN. The tests are divided into Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy.

Put simply, this test measures what students have been learning already in school. There is no pass or fail grade, but given the subject matter is very broad many students worry about meeting the challenge when they have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for the tests. There is no actual course of study for it and according to the NAPLAN website, there is no benefit to be gained by trying to study for it by drills or too much targeted practice, because of the purpose of the test.

What NAPLAN Is For and How Results Can Be Used

In a nutshell, the test is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses in students’ abilities, so that parents and teachers can respond individually and the government can act on any apparent problem areas, by addressing them in the curriculum. The marking criteria are available on the NAPLAN website so you can see what features are under scrutiny, if you have a bent for grammar, literacy and maths.

Schools and teachers may get a clearer indication of the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and make whatever adjustments they deem necessary to lesson content and methods to improve students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. That means, scrutinising which errors were made by a particular student, then working on areas of weakness, as well as locating strengths and extending them to a higher level. Individual student’s scores are ranked nationally, so teachers, students and their carers, are free to compare their placing with those of others.

Are test results connected to in-school assessments and grading?

NAPLAN results do not impact upon your students’ school grades or class placement. Individual schools conduct their own assessments for those and NAPLAN is completely unrelated.

What’s Included:

For the Writing component, students will be given the same ‘writing stimulus’ from which to complete their task, and to date, they have always been directed to write one of two text-types, either a Narrative or a Persuasive text. These forms might sound daunting, but children use them all the time. ‘Narrative’ simply means ‘story’, and what child hasn’t used persuasive language when engaging in pester power, or listening to a politician or radio advertisement.

These two genres (Narrative and Persuasive writing) are selected because they are the most suitable for showing what skills and ability a student has and they are deemed essential for successful communication at a higher level, thus improving the students’ opportunities in life.

It’s important to give your students ample learning opportunities for both of these different text-types in order that they can be familiar with the standard format and conventions required for satisfying the task requirements.

The numeracy component assesses problem-solving ability and reasoning across three key learning areas: numbers and algebra; statistics and probability and measurement and geometry.

Preparing for NAPLAN

Students do not need to study for the test but ideally they should be prepared for it. That means, engaging in everyday practice in the areas that will be tested, (literacy and numeracy), and becoming familiar with the test format. The knowledge being tested is developed over time, so it’s simply impossible to ‘cram’ for a NAPLAN test. Completing practice tests beforehand makes it easier for students to go in with an understanding of the format and the kinds of tasks they will be asked to do. Most schools now offer students a practice test, (usually just the test from the previous year) within the fortnight prior to testing.

You could buy expensive sample practice-test packages online and books full of NAPLAN study tasks, but the highest advantage is most likely gained by focusing on everyday curriculum requirements and using the free test samples available on the NAPLAN website via the following link:

According to the education specialists who manage NAPLAN, the best way you can assist your child to prepare for the test is to support them well in gaining and increasing their literacy and numeracy skills. The links included above and those below, are for Australian websites that aim to do just that:

Another valuable resource is the online learning platform, Skwirk, which is used in homes and schools. Skwirk offers an enormous opportunity for students supporting literacy and numeracy across the board, while catering to different student’s individual learning styles. Although it does not specifically target NAPLAN, the underlying learning principles are the same as those sought in the testing and students are able to easily access engaging content across all areas of the NAPLAN testing components.

What is the worst thing that can happen if a student fares poorly in a NAPLAN test?

Some significant areas of difficulty have been pinpointed, enabling parents and educators to assist them towards clarification, understanding and move towards a fully functional use of those areas. And remember, the test scores don’t only indicate what a child can’t do, but show us what they have mastered, and provide records of their ongoing progress.

Felicity Wright has taught High School English and English Language for fourteen years, during which, she worked extensively on the range of state and national skills tests including NAPLAN. Now, Felicity works as a freelance writer.

Currently teachers, parents and home educators can subscribe to Skwirk using the discount code NAPLAN for a 20% discount off all individual subscriptions. Offer ends 12th May.

A growing number of teachers across Australia are finding that the internet not only provides a useful medium for accessing relevant information, but helps many students to engage more fully with learning. Skwirk, an online education site that offers premium content on most subjects in the Australian curriculum, is a popular choice for many schools. One of the biggest advantages of Skwirk is its versatility. If you’re new to using IT extensively as part of your lesson delivery, take a look at five ways that other teachers across the country are utilising this exciting resource.

Laptops and PCs

Whether your school has a traditional computer lab or a couple of PC’s in your classroom, Skwirk provides an ideal solution to the problem of providing a single online resource that’s suitable for every pupil in the class. Because information is presented in a number of different ways (text, videos, pictures and animations), differentiation is straight-forward. It’s also ideal for individual learning, enabling each student to enjoy a resource that meets their specific needs.

Interactive whiteboards

A great tool for group learning, whole class teaching and plenary activity, interactive whiteboards can be a forum for using Skwirk resources to bring enrichment into learning. The site is easy to navigate and training for teachers is provided, so there are no worries about wasting time accessing the information you need for smooth lesson delivery.

Worksheets

The clear, relevant worksheets that can be downloaded from Skwirk offer a perfect method of extending and reinforcing whole class learning. The worksheets are ideal as a homework assignment, or can be used for revision. Some teachers prefer to flip the classroom and ask students to research a topic on Skwirk at home, then come to class to discuss their findings and complete a worksheet to reinforce their out of school studies.

iPads and tablets

Whether you want to reward individual learners or provide an engaging small group activity, the use of iPads or tablets in the classroom works well with any pedagogy. Interactive screens are a larger part of many children’s lives, so using them for learning is frequently more effective than more traditional methods. Particularly in core subjects such as numeracy and literacy, Skwirk’s appealing format encourages study, even in children who usually find such tasks a challenge.

Class assignments

As it’s so versatile, Skwirk is a fantastic option for assignments in the classroom or at home. Revision, independent learning, fresh study or reinforcement can all be easily undertaken through the site. Regular emails on pupil progress can let you see whether learning is taking place when online work is set. If you want to add some fresh, exciting options to your repertoire of assignment methods, Skwirk can provide them.

With so many different choices for relevant, flexible and curriculum linked learning, many teachers across Australia and overseas already rely on Skwirk heavily to enrich the learning experience they offer their pupils. Delivering premium educational content that supports the Australian curriculum for four to 14-year olds, Skwirk is the online provider of choice for many successful schools.

Skwirk came to my School at the beginning of last year, showed everyone in a staff meeting how to use Skwirk. The comments after the meeting were so positive because we were all able to just jump on straight away and not worry about questions we might have had because they were already answered! The presentation didn’t go for long and the members from Skwirk were very enthusiastic about their resource that really does save teachers a lot of time!

I have used Skwirk for just over a year now and it has helped me to differentiate for all of my students. I had a class last year that required more one to one teaching. I really enjoyed it because I could see how much they were benefiting from resources such as Skwirk. I created lessons using the lesson editor; I would copy a Skwirk chapter and add my own questions into the lesson catered to my student’s individual needs. It saved me time because the information is already there, the wording is age appropriate and using the lesson editor makes it so much easier!

One of my students in my class last year was working above and beyond year 5, as I had access to all years of Skwirk I was able to move him up a stage using the calendar tool! By allocating specific content to my students they were able to be at the correct stage of learning. My student was also unaware that he was receiving work above his grade level, I found that this stopped the bullying and stigma created when a child is known to be achieving higher than others. The same thing goes for my students who aren’t up to the year 5 level as well. I had a group of students who I felt were only up to year 4 content so during our lessons they would be working on another part of the topic where they were more comfortable with the content.

My students love Skwirk as they can customise their Avatar, earn points which correlate to their classroom reward and they can use it at home! I find that there is less academic stigma within my class during our computer sessions as everyone has their own work to focus on!

Grab a free teacher trial, click here. For the month of June teachers can get 25% off an individual teacher subscription with the discount code ‘blog‘ (that’s a saving of over $35)! Or request a school wide quote (only $6 per student currently) by emailing the Skwirk team: teachers@redapple.com.au

Find out more about Skwirk:

Ashleigh Graham

Primary Teacher WA​

Sacred Heart College is a rural Catholic Secondary College located on the border of Victoria and New South Wales with a total student population of 260 students. In 2010, our College went one to one with Mac laptops and also began integrated curriculum throughout years seven to ten.

After an initial trial of Skwirk, we introduced the website to our students as an additional research method that provided accurate and reliable information on VELS relevant topics.

In year seven, the students are currently studying Ancient Egypt as an integrated unit. With the use of Skwirk, students are able to access information, maps, quizzes, timelines short videos and even podcasts to assist with their research and assessment tasks.

Skwirk enables students of all abilities to achieve success in their studies. Students who have lower literacy levels are able to listen to the podcasts that summarise the topics through iTunes on their Macs, making Skwirk an invaluable classroom tool.

CYNDI GLEESON is Year 7 Coordinator at Sacred Heart College in Yarrawonga, Victoria.

Grab a free teacher trial to Skwirk, click here.

As a teacher, I have taught in various high schools for 17 years. I, like my colleagues am constantly evolving my teaching pedagogy, looking for engaging, interesting and fun ways to challenge my students. One approach is getting onto the technology for learning wave! Every teacher knows that technology can be a powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students. There are many websites that teachers can direct their students to use to research the content but the list becomes endless!

Every teacher knows that technology can be powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students

One such site was Skwirk Interactive Schooling, which was a useful tool for both teaching and learning. The benefit of using Skwirk is that the content is specific to the Australian state-specific syllabus and is written clearly and concisely for students to understand. I came across Skwirk when my school subscribed 2 years ago and was impressed by its clear layout of the units of work the students need to learn. Consequently, I started to incorporate Skwirk into my teaching last year and I would like to take this opportunity to make suggestions on how the learning objects can be used in classroom teaching and learning.

1. Each chapter usually has animations or videos which are designed to help students understand concepts being taught.

These animations can be used to cater to individual learning styles. This may include students who learn better with visual presentation rather than reading the content. Teachers can put together some questions based on the animation that students can answer. The animations are a great way to introduce the concept to the class. A short animation will always gain student attention and after the animation has finished playing the teacher can follow up with a class discussion or learning activities.

2. Students can apply their learning to the content in the chapter with different activities.

For example; a comprehension or worksheet can be designed. The current offerings of worksheets and many more in the pipeline are important learning resources for students to both gauge and apply their learning. Students can also work individually or in groups develop a multimedia presentation such as a PowerPoint, webpage, podcast or a short video. The student laptops issued in public schools enables students in Year 9 or above to make use of voice recording and webcam as well as video editing software. This is a powerful means to enable students to construct and develop knowledge to aid and enhance their learning.

3. Each Skwirk chapter also has a quiz, which consists of 5 or 10 multiple choice questions.

Students can complete the quiz after they have read the chapter. They can complete the quiz as many times as they like until they score 100%. The advantage of the quizzes is that students can go through the course at their own pace while giving the teacher time to assist students one-on-one. At the end of the unit of work, there is a final exam, which can be used as a form of assessment.

I hope this brief article gives teachers some ideas on how Skwirk can be implemented in the classroom as a teaching and learning resource.

‘DANIEL KING is a classroom teacher with extensive experience teaching Commerce.’

Newspapers are all around us yet few of us may think of it as a handy teaching or learning tool in the classroom. The newspaper has many features that can be capitalized upon as shown in the mind-map. Because of its many features, newspapers can be used by all subjects in many different and interesting ways.

READING Newspapers are great for reading and many schools locally and internationally have newspaper reading programmes. Students are encouraged to read the articles and improve not just on language but also knowledge of current affairs, making them more aware as citizens of an evolving world. To encourage a spirit of collaboration and shared learning, students can be given opportunities to share the insight and knowledge gained through reading the articles with the rest of their classmates. This is a strategy that many teachers use to start a lesson – often the first five to ten minutes of classroom time. Such shared learning goes a long way to ignite passion in reading and keep young minds connected to local and world affairs.

CLOSED IN Newspapers are a great way to widen an individual’s scope on the world beyond their own immediate locale. One way is to bring in articles from foreign newspapers (these are often readily available through online newspapers) and get students to compare the news – in particular, similar issues and how each country or region manages or responds to issues and events as they happen. This can be a useful teaching and learning point. Learning about such similarities and/or differences can offer important insight into political, cultural and social contexts around the world and can be a platform to provide multidisciplinary teaching.

CASES Newspapers are also great storehouses of real case studies. With real events, phenomenon and people covered, it is a great way to get students to apply and visualize theory in action. From Geography to Science to Economics, the newspapers present a number of case studies that can be picked up and continually added to.

MEDIA FRENZY Because newspapers are multimodal, they are also a great tool to study aspects of media, for example print advertising or even the text type of newspapers or how stories and elements are laid out to aid reading and draw readers’ attention. This is especially important in studies and understanding of popular, everyday discourses which can have a powerful influence on readers and their worldview. So, pull out the newspapers and start learning all the inside tricks of publishing and printing to influence!

There is no end to the possibilities presented in the newspaper as a useful teaching and learning tool. A simple document that is often sidelined, yet it holds within it a treasure trove of teaching-learning opportunities.

So get to the news-stand and get yourself a copy today!

Find out more about Skwirk, click here.

Why We Love Skwirk at Charlestown East Public School

Skwirk was brought to our school after a presentation by a local school who showed us how the resources had not only transformed their teaching and learning program, but more importantly, how engaging and relevant the content is for all students.

As a result, Charlestown East purchased Skwirk and it is now used on a daily basis with our interactive Smartboards and computers (Kindergarten to Year 6) to explore, explain, and engage students, so they can understand key concepts in depth.

Drew Janetzki using Skwirk in the classroom

All of the major KLAs (Key Learning Areas) are covered including Literacy, Numeracy, Human Society and It’s Environment as well as Science and Technology. A unique feature of Skwirk is the Australian voices, as well as the depth of content of all of the above mentioned KLA’s. This was not the only appealing aspect to the program; it was also the excitement students experience from Skwirk.

Students love Skwirk; whether it is playing a game, reading along or playing an animation. Skwirk has cleverly created an educational product that is relevant and meets syllabus outcomes. It is also highly engaging and appealing to all of our students.

Within the English section, students are exposed to highly engaging videos that relate to every strand of the curriculum. Spelling, text types, writing, grammar, reading, handwriting, computer skills, talking and listening, as well as language, are all covered under Skwirk.

The Numeracy section features highly engaging videos that relate to the curriculum. Measurement, Space and Geometry as well as Numbers are all covered.

The choice of animation, the ability to choose an activity, and the option to read along is very appealing to all forms of learners.

Within HSIE, our students in Stage 1 are currently investigating Workers in the Community and in Stage 2, they are exploring Machines. Our Stage 3 students are exploring Global Connections.

All of these concepts have become more engaging thanks to Skwirk.

The unique aspect of Skwirk to our teaching staff, is that all of the units are aligned to syllabus outcomes. This re-assuring aspect ensures that there is no guess work or re-programming for any staff member. It is almost fool proof for any teacher, including those with limited ICT knowledge. From our experience as teachers, there are only one or two clicks and you have the exact content your students require to start their lesson or enhance their learning.

With the introduction of portable tablet computing, Skwirk is being used at the touch of a finger and allows all of our students to follow up on concepts being taught.

With Skwirk being in the palm of our students hands, it has changed the way they learn, engage and interact with technology. Our school librarian has been over the moon because of Skwirk’s vast eBook range, which features over 2, 000 animations that cover all stages.

Luke Dunford, one of our Year 6 leaders and Minister for Technology thinks Skwirk is

“a great classroom asset and is one of the most educational websites that helps me learn.”

Our teacher/ librarian, Mrs. Donna Reinhard, uses Skwirk to target specific Stage 1 outcomes in the strand of Measurement. Mrs Reinhard believes that , “Skwirk is a very enriching and engaging program for all of our students”, and regularly uses Skwirk in library lessons.

Thankyou Skwirk for bringing back the fun to learning for our students at Charlestown East Public School.

Drew Janetzki
Assistant Principal – Charlestown East Public School

Find our more about Skwirk, click this link to get a free trial. 

Check out our teacher tour below: