Put down your pens and pick up language

Two diocesan schools certainly talked the talk recently. St Joseph’s Primary School, Denman and Holy Cross Primary School, Glendale put down their pens in order to pick up language.

NPDW is a whole-school initiative where staff and students put down their pens/pencils for an entire day and speak and listen to complete all lessons.

“Our NPDW was a huge success with all children highly engaged in the fun, language-based activities” said Sharon Sawyer, leading teacher at Holy Family. “Instead of writing a co-constructed story, Year 6 recorded themselves using the school iPads.

“Year 1 and 2 worked together to make pizzas using Barrier Games, and all children were bursting to share their mathematical reasoning with Number Talks.”

Research shows that oral language alongside the explicit teaching of phonics, is an integral element of reading and writing development. Schools that include speaking and listening in a planned and structured way see improvement in students’ classroom involvement, academic achievement and behaviour.

The aim of participating in NPDW was to encourage the use of oral language activities across all key learning areas in teacher planning by engaging in lessons where the use of pens was not allowed.

“This day had something for everyone as it was able to challenge every student and engage those who might find the onerous task of writing so difficult that it can prevent them from showing their true potential,” Ms Sawyer said. “Phrases like ‘this is freedom’ and ‘can we do this again’ were echoed across the classrooms.”

By reducing the focus on writing, students and teachers increased their use of oral language across the day and provided teachers with new skills, confidence and ideas for including speaking and listening in their lessons.

Students in Year 1 at St Joseph’s Denman displayed their understanding of natural water catchment areas by creating hills, rivers and dams in the playground and then observing heavy and light rain moving through the catchment area, said learning support teacher Renee Gavin. SJD students at times had to remind the staff to “put the pens down and find another way of showing what you know”.

At Holy Cross, Year 4 engaged in “character hot seat” where students role-played from their text, and all classes had dedicated “NPD detectives”.

Glendale students evaluated the day using paddle pop sticks to construct a graph, putting their mathematical language and problem-solving skills to work. The graph was presented to school principal Debra Hawthorn with the results. It was a resounding success.

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Megan Baird Image
Megan Baird

Megan Baird is education officer (speech pathologist) for Catholic Schools Office. 

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