Working with a formal reading scheme in 2nd Class – Ginn – Advice for Parents

Dear Parents,

For the time being we are working on a formal reading scheme.

Many children have started the Ginn Readers.

Others are working hard on a separate scheme with Mrs. F 🙂


Advice about reading (Ginn Readers)

First of all don’t feel you have to read a full book in a night!


From Level 4, (Green cover) it is quite ok for you, the parent

to read every 2nd page to the child.

Reading these books takes quite a bit of  ‘reading stamina’,

so if you take every 2nd page, that will help.


Alternating who reads the story in this way,

also helps the pace and the ‘flow’ of the story.


But one of the most useful things about this approach

is that your child will ‘model’ their reading on yours.

This means that they will pick up on

how you use expression when you read

and how you observe punctuation.

Now that your child is reading more fluently,

it is important to check that your child

understands what they are reading.

For this reason, as you read with them it is a good idea

to check their comprehension by asking them

incidental questions about the story.


So you might ask;

‘What do you think might happen next?’

Or after you have read a story with your child you might ask

‘What happened in this story’ or ‘What was your favourite bit?’

Poems feature in some of the higher levels of the Ginn readers.

The vocabulary in them is a bit trickier.

Persevere certainly,

but don’t worry about getting them word perfect.


Throughout the Ginn series I have found that there are book/stories

that boys enjoy more than the girls do and visa versa.

e.g. ‘Helicopters’ (Level 4) and also in the later Ginns (from Level 6).


If your child is finding a story most uninteresting,

there is no need to labour over them.

In this way reading is enjoyable for you and your child.


PS. I have assigned the reading level according to the

Standardised Test results of last term.

If the level is too simple (or too hard) for your child,

not to worry; I will adjust this in a day or two.


I assigned a level that might be too easy rather than too hard,

as it is better for a child’s confidence in themselves as a reader

to be promoted up a level rather than demoted.


When we have finished Level 8,

we will read from Teacher’s box of ‘real books.’

In January we will begin our class novel

‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark’ by Jill Tomlinson.


If you want to see how we are getting along on our Reading Journey

please take a look at This Year’s Reading Journey


I can see from reading over the plan for this year,

that we are ahead of ourselves!

I am happy that we are making steady progess with our reading

and improving in fluency and comprehension every day.

This review from

The GINN series of readers are commonly used in schools and is of a very high standard.

They are well designed, provide a wide variety of stories within each book.

Each book is dedicated to a theme.

The books can include fiction, non-fiction and poetry and cover different cultures.

The stories range from informative, factual, fantasy, amusing and educational both in facts and life.

They often have an amusing twist at the end.

Illustrations are excellent and the pages appealing to the eye.

On many occasions, children will chose to read further than requested by the teacher as they are caught up in the story.

The only slight criticism is that some of the poetry can be much tougher to read within a level than the stories within the same book….but then again, this is true in adult poetry too.

Each level steps up at a reasonable pace so the child isnt swamped at the next level.

Highly recommended.

Just a quick note about spelling for homework

Dear Parent,

1. First Teacher Pre Tests

We are starting with the Dolch List

of most frequently used words.

I am pretesting the children,

so that time is not taken up with spellings they already know.

I have stapled the Dolch List

into the Spelling/Free Writing copy.


I am also sending home an enlarged copy

of  list of the Dolch List  home.

You might find it useful to pop it up on a wall

somewhere at home.


Dolch List

I would suggest that the class levels at the top of this page

e.g. Pre Primer/2nd Grade are certainly American

and probably date back to the last century

when it was compiled by Dolch himself.

I don’t think it has any relevance to us.

2. Then she highlights the ones that need to be learnt

I have marked the misspellings from the pretests

on the photocopied page with a yellow highlighter.

I would like your child to learn five a night.

When they know them I would like them

to put them in sentences.


3. Then the children learn them

Understandably children often ask me

can they put their five spellings in just one sentence.

I would prefer them to write five sentences.


One sentence for each spelling helps practice punctuation

i.e. remembering that sentences begin with capital letters

and end in a full stop.

Also putting five random words in one sentence

can result in some very random sentences.


I would like the children to work

on the quality of the sentences they write

when they are practicing their spellings

and so avoid very simple sentences

like ‘I am funny,’ ’Where am I?’ or  ‘I am here’.


A post about developing the quality

of these sentences will follow shortly.

When a child completes the Dolch List

they can do ‘free writing’ at this time instead,

for a period of time.


Reading the ‘free writing’

will be a good starting point for me

for establishing words

that are frequently spelled incorrectly.


These are the words that we will work

on when we have finished working on the Dolch List.


Spelling Homework in a nutshell:

Learn five of the highlighted spellings a night.

Use the approach to learning spelling

that you were taught last year

i.e. Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check.

When you are confident that you know the five spellings

write five sentences using each one.

Remember capital letters and full stops.

Good penmanship and presentation is also important.


Other homework this week:

The other homework this week is Mental Maths as marked

and reading one comprehension piece from

‘A Way With Words’


Further information:

Scroll down this link for additional information

about a year’s plan for spelling here:

Class Plan for Learning Spelling 2012

When planning for spelling this year

I came across this very helpful blog:

Johanna Stirling’s ‘The Spelling Blog’

Thanking you, Teacher


And to finish:

a quote from Terry Pratchett:


“Nanny Ogg knew how to start spelling ‘banana’,

but didn’t know how you stopped.”

– Terry Pratchett, ‘Witches Abroad’


I found spellings hard at school and remember the feeling well 🙂

Information for Parents of 2nd Class, upon the return to school.

Dear Parents

Welcome back . I am looking forward

to a happy and successful year ahead.

September will be a month spent revising

what has been learnt in 1st Class.

Revision will provide me with an opportunity

to assess the abilities of the children in the class.

Homework will begin on Monday,

when I will send home my homework policy.

We have a lot to learn and to look forward to this year.


In Maths we will be revising addition and takeaway tables.

Knowing these number facts thorough helps the children

when they are adding and subtracting using tens and units.


In English As well as working through our ‘readers’,

we will be reading ‘real’ books.

I have some enjoyable novels chosen for reading.

We will also be working on improving reading comprehension.


We will be revising the simple grammar that the children have

learned to date and will be working towards paragraphing by

the final term.


I hope to do the ‘Write A Book’ project with the class.

For more details about the plan for reading

please click on the following link:

Reading Plan for 2nd Class, Room 6

Early next term we will begin project work 

in the areas of Science, Geography, History

and the Natural World.

I am also looking forward to teaching

the children to play the recorder

Please Note: Dancing is scheduled for Mondays

and PE is on Thursday.

I enclose a questionnaire to enable me to get to know the

children, their interests and their needs more quickly.

With every good wish,



This questionnaire will help me to get to know your child

and what makes them tick more quickly.

It will also help me with my planning for the year ahead.

Child’s Name _____________________________________

Interests or pastimes______________________________


What he or she is good at ___________________________


What you feels they need help with this year

i.e. anything you would like me to prioritise e.g. reading fluency, tables, social skills.



Will your child be making communion this year? ___________

Any thing else you feel I should be aware of _____________



( I will be aware of medical conditions from school files)



Information Update

First Communions for Room 6 are at midday on Saturday. We are well prepared 🙂 There is great excitement.

Both Standardized Tests i.e. Sigma T and Drumcondra Reading Test have been administered. I am in the process of correcting them. You will receive the results with the children’s school reports.

In a break from tradition and in line with new Department of Education guidelines, school reports will be going home before the end of June.

Please remember a test result is just a ‘snap shot in time’. You will get a better understanding of how your child is doing by also considering the work in the children’s copies and workbooks, that I have been sending home.

We had a very entertaining class with the lady from Junior Achievement today. She was teaching the children about the taxes we pay. The children’s outrage when a proportion of the money they earned was taken by the tax man was very funny.

However they also were given an understanding of how the taxes went to pay for necessary services.

The Passover meal was a great success. Our visitors remarked on how well behaved and interested the children were. I was very proud of all the questions the children could answer about the tradition of the Seder Meal.

An Incentive to Read

At the moment, in order to maximize the value the children get from the school library I have told them that if they read 10 chapters or 100 pages of particular books they can have a night off homework.

These books are;

any of the Charlie Bone series, by Jenny Nimmo,

any ‘Naughty Little Sister’ book by Dorothy Edwards

or any Roald Dahl,

Anne Fine,

Jill Tomlinson

or Allan Ahlberg book.

I have chosen these authors to encourage the children to try authors they haven’t tried independently before.

These books relate to books we have read in class during the year.

I have also included the Ben 10 books and Enid Blyton’s ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’.

Of course the wonderful new library and all the new books purchased by the Library Ladies and funded by you, the parents is a great incentive to the children to read.


Completed Workbooks.

I will be sending one or two completed workbooks home each day this week. To my mind these give a better indication of how your child is progressing in school that test results. I would hope that you would have a good look at them.

If pages haven’t been attempted…

It may have been that your child was absent on that day

or that they were attending Learning Support at the time.

But a page isn’t finished…

It can be an indication that productivity was low on that day for whatever reason.

Sometimes children can be tired or unwell in class.

On other occasions they can be chatty or daydreaming.

Most of the children in the class have finished all their workbooks except ‘Maths Matters’ by now.

Things to bear in mind when looking at the work that is going home.

Presentation can vary too. At this point I ask all children to complete their work using joined writing. This isn’t always the case.

I have also reminded the children that if a word is spelt correctly on the printed workbook page, when they themselves go to write down on the page, it should be spelt correctly.

The children know that sentences begin with a capital letter and end in a full stop. However you may see from their work that they don’t always remember this.

I was a bit dismayed to see that some children are getting words like ‘to, too and two’ mixed up as we did a lot of work on this during the year. I think, in theory, the children know the difference, but when doing an exercise involving them, some children seem to lose focus. I intend to keep revising them.

Having said this I feel the children in Room 6 have worked very hard and made excellent progress.

I feel all students are ready for 3rd class. Their listening skills are greatly improved.

I am very happy with the work the children have done memorizing their tables and number patterns.

I feel we have done a great deal of reading and language work.

You will see great story writing which the class did in their green writing copies.

You will note that these stories aren’t corrected word for word. This is accepted practice and is done so as not to discourage the children’s creativity.

If you are learning to read, you need to practice reading. When you are learning to write you need to practice writing.

Plans for the next six weeks

We will be very busy in the next six weeks. I want to continue the work we are doing on repeated addition as a preparation for learning multiplication next year. I intend revising addition and take away tables.

I have a little more work to do on the Dolch List and then I will be doing a ‘blitz’ on spellings that sound alike and are spelt differently. In this way I hope to iron out the difficulties children are having with words like ‘where’ and ‘were’, and ‘their’ and ‘there’.

We are also embarking on our most challenging read of the year; ‘The Snow Spider Trilogy’ by Jenny Nimmo; all 480 pages of it!

I am really looking forward to doing more recorder and knitting and project work.

There is also the school tour to the Chocolate Warehouse, Sports Day and a Seaside Scavenger Hunt to look forward to.

For that reason I would hope that the children come to school every day in the six weeks we have left.

With every good wish,




Visitors to the classroom

I have been struck this year by the number of visitors we have had to our classroom. We love having visitors and making new friends. So far this year we have had Chris, Aisling and Madison visiting us on work experience. A number of Mums and a Grandmother came in to help us with our knitting. The Community Guard has been in to see us twice. Paul comes in to us regularly to talk to us about the ‘Do It In Memory of Me’ mass. We had two visiting teachers Ms.McN and Ms. H and a visitor from the Department of Education. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our visitors, who made our school year so much more interesting and enjoyable.

Beginning on the 3rd May we are having a visitor from Junior Achievement. She will be coming in to teach us about the world of business over five weekly, forty five minute lessons. This is a regular event in the school and I know the children will enjoy it.

Later in the month, Simon is visiting to present a Passover Meal. This is an annual event for 2nd class, which has proved hugely enjoyable in the past. I know you will hear all about it from the children at the time. I thought you would be interested in a little more information about what happens on that day.

The presentation takes about two hours. The desks are moved so that it feels like we are all sitting round a big table. There is a lot of singing and high spirits. The enjoyment of the celebration brings the children closer together.

Traditionally this special meal is a happy family occasion which is held in Jewish homes on Passover. Through this ceremony, the history of the Jewish people is told. Jesus was celebrating Passover at The Last Supper.

Simon will bring flat bread or matzah crackers, parsley or watercress, horse radish, haroset (applesauce mixed with nuts), eggs and juice.

The story of Passover is told in words and by the food on the table.
*Bitter herbs symbolize how bitter and hard these people found their lives as slaves in Egypt.
*Charoset, a paste made of apple and nuts represents the mud bricks which the slaves were forced to make.
*A hardboiled egg reminds the Jews of a New Life of Freedom.

On the table there is also flatbread, salt water and wine. The Bible tells us that when the Jews escaped from Egypt, they did not have time to bake proper bread and could only make the bread that did not have time to rise.

Salt water is a symbol of the tears which the slaves shed.

The meal ends with a search for a piece of flatbread which, earlier on, has been hidden.

The children do not eat much as the food is mostly mentioned is in small quantities and some of it is bitter or salty. But the meal is punctuated with several lively ‘toasts’ in fruit cordial.

Partaking is the Passover meal helps the children making communion to understand the links between the Passover Meal, The Last Supper and what happens at Mass, when at the Offertory, The Last Supper is revisited.

Hope you find this informative,

As the Parent Teacher Meetings draw to a close…

Dear Parents,
Your child just has reading homework tonight as the ‘Library Ladies’ have requested that the children are rewarded for all the reading they are doing at the moment. We will do Thursday night’s homework in school so as to maintain continuity.

As the Parent Teacher Meetings draw to a close I thought it would be useful to recap on what was said. At the PT Meetings you saw our system of record keeping in the school and reports from other years. We examined the recurring themes in those reports; the positives and where we may need to focus with your child. In many cases this was in the area of English comprehension and problem solving in Maths. Certainly I will be attending to both areas in school.

We looked at standardized test results from other years. The test results we looked at were from First Class, a time when children would not have developed ‘exam skills’. A test is just a ‘snap shot’ in time. Looking at your child’s copybooks and workbooks give a much better overview of how your child is progressing.

As your child progresses in school, the ability to work independently becomes more and more important. I also rely on the children to work independently so I can hear reading. If possible you should encourage your child to do their written work for homework independently. The Spelling Workbook is so repetitive; this should be possible.

Many parents spoke about the difficulty of fitting in time for tables. At the moment we are learning how to take away using the ‘decomposition’ or ‘renaming’ method. In class I see that not knowing take away tables (‘as well as they know their own name’) is slowing up many children. They worry that they are not getting the sums right because they aren’t ‘renaming’ correctly, but more often than not it is that they have made a mistake when they take away. At the moment they are using number lines in school to help them with their computation. Ideally I would like them to know their addition and take away tables ‘up side down and inside out’. Until Christmas we will have a ‘blitz’ on addition and take away tables at school and for homework. To enable this, there will be no Mental Maths for homework.

Where reading homework is concerned
– one approach that seems to work is to do the rest of the homework and save the ‘reading’ homework for bedtime.
– Another approach is to continue ‘reading homework’ over the weekend.

The difference between what boys like to read and girls was also discussed at many meetings. Research shows whereas girls prefer fiction that many boys have a preference for non fiction. Though girls might like these too boys like graphic novels, information books, adventure, humour/joke books. The Guinness Book Of Records and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not are popular. Roddy Doyle ‘The Giggler Treatment’ and ‘Captain Underpants’ though not ‘politically correct’ do encourage some boys to read.

The ‘Beast Quest’ series by Adam Blade is popular with independent readers.

Then there is Irish author Kieran Fanning’s Code Crackers series. These books are not read from beginning to end. Children reading these books have to solve clues, codes, problems and other puzzles to continue with the story.

The staff in bookshops and your local librarian can also be very helpful if you ask them about books that are popular with boys or girls of this age.

My last parent teacher meeting is tomorrow 25th November, which leaves us with approximately a month to the Christmas holidays. I will sent home an update at that point about how your child is progressing.

Finally three small matters under the general heading of ‘housekeeping’. If your child is not tidy in the bathroom at home, it is possible that the same is true at school. If you feel it may be necessary I would be very grateful if you could talk to your child about leaving the bathroom tidy after themselves.

The children are allowed have their drinks bottles on their desks and they drink from these at any point during the day when they feel thirsty. If the drink is sugary, this means that their teeth are in contact with a sugary substance for some time each day. Perhaps you might like to review this.

Most of the drink bottles have ‘sports lids’ but we are averaging about five major ‘spills’ a week where the top of the bottle is an open one (i.e. no sports lid). Inevitably a spill like this destroys copy books and text books. So I would be grateful if bottles coming to school had the kind of lid that minimizes spills.

I found the Parent Teacher meetings very helpful. I feel I know your child much better now. I was more than pleased to hear how hard the children are working on their reading at home. I am very grateful for your continued co-operation and support,


You may find the following useful…Answers to questions asked at the P/T meetings

I was asked these questions at parent teacher meetings to date, and thought parents in general would find the answers of interest.

Are the children sight reading when they play the recorder?
I am teaching the children to sight read and read the ‘lines and spaces’
but generally, at the moment, I feel the children are playing ‘by ear’.

Could books be sent home more regularly for parents to see progress?
As you know the ‘Mental Maths’ and ‘Spellbound’ go home almost daily.
Occasionally I have sent exercises in ‘What A Wonderful World’, ‘A Way with Words’ and ‘Modern Handwriting’ home for homework. I have sent Alive-o home too.
The difficulty has been that the next time we go to work in a particular book, a number of children may be without it because it is left at home.
Certainly I will send home textbooks from time to time. Just don’t forget to send them back!

How can you help your child with problem solving in Maths?
Problem Solving:

The following strategies are useful in relation to problem solving
• Discussing the problem
• Rephrasing to make the meaning clearer
• Using concrete materials where possible
• Using smaller numbers
• Setting out problem on paper using diagrams, drawings etc.
• Estimating

Some teachers use the word RUDE to remind the children of problem solving strategies.
So the children are encouraged to Read, Underline key words, Draw, Estimate (Answer).
This is the simplest approach. ‘Drawing’ the problem can be very effective. It gives the child time to think and ptocess the information.

Another approach is
We LUV 2 C word stories!
Look, Underline (the key word), Visualise(draw), Calculate and Check.

In tandem with these approaches you could ask your child:

What do I have? (what info is given?)

What do I want to have at the end? (What am I being asked to do?)

How do I get there? (add or subtract or a combination)
From next year this will include the options to multiply or divide

When I am teaching addition and take away number facts, the children will have opportunities to compose problems based on the number facts. The children choose one number fact and express it as a number problem. These problems can be turn expressed as number facts by their class mates.

1. Number fact 10-7=3
Turn this into a problem
Problem: Ten ducks on a pond. A fox came along and frightened away seven of them. How many were left?

2. Problem: Seven bats hunting for insects.
Three went home to roost. How many were left?
This can be turned into a number sentence.

When children get used to doing these, they find word problems much less daunting.

This is a good website. It teaches a visual strategy for problem solving:
Problem Solving with Thinking Blocks

4. How do I help my child with comprehension?

When you read with your child check that they understand what they are reading by asking them questions.
I have noticed that when children aren’t observing the punctuation on a page they lose the meaning of what they are reading.
Sometimes, in the early days when children are doing comprehension exercises in school, they attempt to answer the questions without reading the piece!

1. To start with, I ask the children to read a piece of comprehension.
2. To read the questions underlining what they are being asked.
This means they will be reading the piece with the questions in mind. They will be reading with a purpose.
3. To read the piece again with the questions in mind…underlining what they think would be useful.
4. Then to go through the questions one by one, looking for the answers in the comprehension piece and writing down the answers.
As they get good at this, there is less need for underlining.

You could even do them orally. Try the Second Grade Ones. When these are complete have a go at some of the Third Grade ones.