Improving your child’s oral reading skills

In this article, we share some simple strategies designed to improve your child’s oral reading skills.

First, ask your child to read a few pages silently before reading them aloud to you. This will both:

  • allow him/her to become more familiar with the text;
  • help reduce performance anxiety.

At the end of each passage, it’s a good idea to have your child ask YOU questions  about the story, rather than the other way around. This will ensure that he/she is reading for meaning, not just decoding words.

Tip: Make sure you throw in a few incorrect answers. Your child will love correcting you and it’s also a great way to keep him/her on the ball.

When reading, if your child gets a word wrong but is close with his/her guess, don’t interrupt. For example, “Jack and Jill went up the mountain” is fine, as the meaning of the passage isn’t altered.

If your child doesn’t know a word, don’t get him/her to ‘sound it out’. This won’t be helpful long term as there are too many inconsistencies in phonics. Instead, put your finger over the word and read around it. Ask your child to tell you what word would best fit in the space. This encourages the use of contextual cues (analysing the meaning of the passage).

It is also a great idea to read along with your child. That is, you read out aloud, leading the way with fluency, tone etc. You will find that your child will read with you about half a second behind. This gives him/her a very good, practical model. You should aim to do this for about 10 minutes at a time. After some practice reading together, ask your child to reread the passage to you alone. The focus here is on fluent reading.

Remember: Kids respond very positively when they see themselves improving over a fairly short time frame. When you notice effort and improvement, offer a suitable (small) reward, e.g. a sticker.




Can you identify the different strategies employed by the writer in this article? What is the intention of each technique?

Consult your study guide, ‘Reach for the Sky’, for a complete list of techniques to look out for, and of course, plenty of handy tips on crafting a high-quality language analysis essay.

Graffitists are not budding Banksys, they’re vandals

It seems as if the scourge of graffiti is still with us. And that urban blight — or modern expression of the cries of the oppressed and misunderstood, depending on your viewpoint — is in the news again, on two fronts. Firstly, NSW upper house MPs have refused to pass the O’Farrell government’s new graffiti law, which gave magistrates the power to strip offenders of their driver’s licences among other measures. “For every small business, home or train targeted by a graffiti vandal, I will be holding Labor, Greens and the Shooters to account,” the Premier, Barry O’Farrell said.

This coincides with the announcement that a collection of 23 works by graffiti artist Banksy will take pride of place at the street art festival Outpost Project in November at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Banksy’s documentary — dare I say “mockumentary” — Exit at the Gift Shop was a hot Oscar favourite this year, leading to the possible thrilling public revealing of an artist who has kept his identity a closely guarded secret. The film was pipped at the post, but it still added a patina of establishment respectability to Banksy, and by extension his graffiti work.raffiti by ‘Banksy’

Graffiti has been with us a long time, ever since the days of ancient Greece and Rome and early urban civilisation, so it is whimsical to suggest that the urge to scratch, spray or paint a message into public and private works is going to disappear. Something else that hasn’t changed is the belief of many that graffiti is not a legitimate art form, but rather an excuse to commit vandalism under the guise of art. What can also be forgotten are the dangers. A 17-year-old boy died in South Australia at the weekend after falling while trying to tag a bridge.

Sadly, the evidence that this is vandalism, not art, is all around us.

Put your graffiti detector on as you travel to and from work and you’ll be astounded by how many instances you will spy. Hasty scrawls on power plants. Words winding up power poles. Tags on buildings. Tunnels completely covered in drivel. Schools covered in pubescent angst. Then consider your reaction to it. Do you ever feel uplifted? Amused? Entertained? Has a clever pun ever tickled your fancy? Has an important message ever been passed on? Have you ever stopped and thought, “Hmm, knowing ‘Gordo has herpes’ is something that really has brightened my day”? Are public parks improved with black and blue scrawls everywhere? Or do they add a sense of urban decay to the swings and greenery? In short, does graffiti fulfil the proper function of art? Because I’ve yet to see some that has moved me like a Carvaggio. Or even the Ginger Meggs cartoons in the newspaper. Or Garfield.

Certainly, many councils feel the same. They spend a frustratingly large amount of time and money cleaning up the mess our urban graffiti ninjas leave behind. They’re not handing out grants in the search of the next Basquiat.

We were all young once. We weren’t all “squares”. We, too, once fought “The Man”. We wore onions on our belts, which were the style at the time. We understand the thrilling desire to scrawl on the forbidden. We want people to have freedom of expression. But people like Banksy are giving false hope to the illicit masses that their work is art rather than bilge. I have yet to see compelling cases of graffiti adding anything to the urban landscape. Banksy’s works could be seen to legitimise an army of youths with cans rampaging through our streets, leaving incoherent colour schemes everywhere.

In short, I could probably get behind the graffiti argument if it wasn’t mainly all awful. If there was some kind of beauty behind it. If there was evidence of deep themes. Or even something rendered with a future master’s touch, not a hand whose owner has one eye looking out for the railway security guards. Fellas, throw me a bone here — or a spray can.

No doubt the libertarian intelligentsia will leap to the defence of these Antipodean Banksies and their inalienable right to scrawl on any surface around. That is, until it comes anywhere near their homes, their cars or their favourite inner-city parks. Then they’ll put down the chargrilled quail and porcini mushrooms just long enough to whinge about reduced property prices and where are the cops when some spotty oik fancies some freelance self-expression on their Prius.

O’Farrell’s solution to take an offender’s driver’s licence away from them does seem somewhat harsh. Yet given graffiti’s prevalence in our neighbourhoods, perhaps that is what the situation requires.




Here is a chance to develop your analytical skills as you attempt to make sense of this news item. Your task is to explore the issue using the question prompts we have included. You can then see if you can plan and write a concise response of 250 words to this controversial news article.

1. What is your reaction to Aubrey de Grey’s predictions?

2. Would you want to live until 150, or 1000, for that matter?

3. What is more important — a long life, or quality of life?

4. What about overpopulation and already dwindling resources?

Who wants to live forever? Scientist sees aging cured

If Aubrey de Grey’s predictions are right, the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born. And the first person to live for 1,000 years could be less than 20 years younger. A biomedical gerontologist and chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research, de Grey reckons that within his own lifetime doctors could have all the tools they need to “cure” aging — banishing diseases that come with it and extending life indefinitely.

“I’d say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I’d call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so,” de Grey said in an interview before delivering a lecture at Britain’s Royal Institution academy of science.

“And what I mean by decisive is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today.”

De Grey sees a time when people will go to their doctors for regular “maintenance,” which by then will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.

De Grey lives near Cambridge University where he won his doctorate in 2000 and is chief scientific officer of the non-profit California-based SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation, which he co-founded in 2009.

He describes aging as the lifelong accumulation of various types of molecular and cellular damage throughout the body.

“The idea is to engage in what you might call preventative geriatrics, where you go in to periodically repair that molecular and cellular damage before it gets to the level of abundance that is pathogenic,” he explained.

Click here for the rest of the article.



Here is a chance to develop your analytical skills as you attempt to make sense of this news item. Your task is to explore the issue using the question prompts we have included. You can then see if you can plan and write a concise response of 250 words to this controversial news article.
1. What are your thoughts on the UK Government’s recommendations?
2. Is it necessary to target children under 5 years old?
3. Given Australia’s battle with childhood obesity, should we be offering similar advice to parents?
4. Do we need to focus more on the issue of over-eating? See the table below, which illustrates the amount of exercise (in minutes) required to burn off the calories found in various junk foods.

Under-fives should exercise for at least three hours a day, say experts

Children under the age of five should exercise for at least three hours a day, new government guidelines will suggest.
Babies should be taken swimming and play on “baby gym” mats while toddlers should walk for at least 15 minutes of routine journeys such as to nursery, chief medical officers will say.

The exercise guidance, to be issued this week, targets under-fives for the first time. “For children that are not yet walking, there is considerable evidence that letting children crawl, play or roll around on the floor is essential during early years,” said England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies.

“Play that allows under-fives to move about is critical and three hours a day is essential,” she told the Sunday Times. “I think there are parents who are not aware how important it is for their children to be physically active for a minimum of three hours. Other parents are very busy and may not see how important it is to get that prioritisation and balance right.”
According to NHS figures, nearly a quarter of children aged four and five are overweight or obese. Experts predict that by 2050 this could apply to 63% of children.

Professor Fiona Bull, chair of the scientific committee behind the guidelines and co-director of the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity at Loughborough University, said parents should “turn the TV off”.
The advice follows warnings this month that England faces a liver disease “timebomb” because so many children are overweight. Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver at the Department of Health, said a culture of overeating was putting the lives of more than 500,000 young people at risk.


Statistics based on a person weighing 50 kilograms.



Can you identify the different strategies employed by the writer in this article? What is the intention of each technique?

Remember: Consult your study guide, ‘Reach for the Sky’, for a full list of techniques to look out for.

People-power victory on live exports

Michelle Grattan

June 8, 2011

THE government’s suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia is, in substantial part, a rare victory for people power. While not the only factor driving the decision, there’s no doubt that the huge public reaction had a large influence.

It is also a win for the animal welfare movement that obtained the devastating footage aired by the ABC, and for the GetUp! push that maximised the pressure, including with an online petition of more than 230,000 signatures.

The outrage expressed in caucus last week pushed the government into action on the run. Julia Gillard was surprised at the strength of Labor MPs’ feeling – caucus is usually a docile audience for her. Amid the outpouring by Labor MPs, Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced a partial suspension.

It was soon clear this would be inadequate. Dozens more slaughterhouses were as bad as the dozen that were banned, and it would be impossible to track where cattle went from the feedlots.

If nothing more was to be done, Australia’s reputation abroad would be affected, as would that of the meat industry at home, a point sections of the industry seem to have appreciated. And the PM would have faced another bruising caucus meeting next week, discussing a motion from two backbenchers for a total suspension until Australian standards were met. Cabinet on Monday accepted that it had to act comprehensively.

Neither government nor industry comes out of this affair well. Never mind the government having to revisit its decision in a week; its officials should have been alert to what was going on much earlier. It’s appalling it had to fall to the animal welfare lobby. Certainly the industry did know and its subsequent feigned surprise was not convincing.

Last night Gillard said the suspension would remain ”until we can make sure cattle from Australia are treated properly at every step of the supply chain”. When that point comes, let’s hope there is the closest monitoring. A permanent ban would be preferable.