Tips and News

Year One Phonics Testing  Do we need it?

Email to ALEA members from the President

I write to you in the midst of the public discussion around the proposed Year 1 Phonics Screening Check. In the lead up to the Ministers’ meeting of the “Education Council” on 8 December in Hobart, it is prudent that those of us working in the fray have access to a balanced discussion, complete with hard-hitting evidence.
The Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham, and Dr Jennifer Buckingham, educational policy writer for CIS and op-ed author, have been pushing one side of the debate – that which privileges synthetics phonics screening assessments and by default, synthetics phonics teaching programs, such as the one that Buckingham heads called “Five from Five”.
This email is to advise of access to a kindle version of a new hard-hitting evidence-based publication edited by Emeritus Professor Margaret Clark OBE from Newman University UK called “Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning”. This publication details the experience of a national synthetics phonics assessment in the UK, with chapters written by Emeritus Professor Greg Brooks from University of Sheffield UK as well as Australia’s Associate Professor Misty Adoniou (University of Canberra), Dr Paul Gardner (Curtain University) and Associate Professor Robyn Cox (Australian Catholic University).
The ink is drying on printed versions, some of which will be available in Australia in the weeks ahead. The online kindle edition is available immediately for approximately AUS$10:
This new publication critiques the misinformation that has been dominating the  discussion in the UK and Australia. I commend this publication to all early childhood teachers and educational leaders with a vested interest in a balanced approach to early years literacy learning and teaching and who also believe in the professionalism of Australian teachers to continue to roll out a comprehensive assessment program for the children in their classrooms.
For more information about the upcoming availability of hard copies of this book, check into ALEA’s facebook page
Yours in literacy,
Beryl Exley, PhD
ALEA National President 2017-2019


Setting up a Book Club

Book Club.pptx

Steps for Setting up a Book Club

Book Clubs can have many purposes as discussed in our New Orleans presentation. Below we describe a Book Club format to promote the enjoyment of reading. This Book Club was run at lunchtime so was completely voluntary, however to raise the ‘status’ of the activity, those wanting to join had to complete an application form.

Step 1. Advertise by displaying posters around the school.

Book Club Poster

2. Provide an application form

Book Club Application Form

3. Set meeting times.

Our Book Club took place fortnightly at lunchtime in Library.

4. Select quality texts

We began with a variety of books including picture books to ‘get started. We then moved  to more complex texts guided by the group’s choices. Having students select their own texts became extremely important.

Book List

5. Once students are reading and readily discussing the themes and the author’s craft, try and organise an author visit either face to face or via Skype. Most authors have fabulous websites and we made good use of them. Often there is a facility to email an author via the website and we found those we contacted incredibly generous in responding to our well crafted messages.

6. Make use of technology

There are lots of ways to have students talking about books between sessions. Blogs, and wiki spaces can be used. We set up an edmodo site which was restricted to the book circle groups and a place they could talk about books. It proved to be secure, easy to use and very popular with the Book Club students.

7. Communication between sessions

Once again blogs, edmodo and other options can be used for this. We produced a newsletter which was posted on edmodo but also provided in hard copy as many students did not have home access to the internet.

Sample Newsletter

Book Clubs are fun. In the example described we did not ‘teach’ because our focus was to increase reading for pleasure. We talked, sometimes had treats, looked at author websites, shared favourite ‘bits’ from the book and delicious words we discovered and talked some more.

The following year,  several Year 6 students (who had participated in Book Club in previous years) ran their own Book Club, inviting younger students to attend. With minimal support from the librarian, the students organised themselves to rotate leadership of the discussion, prepare the newsletter and provide reminders to group members. It proved to be very effective and popular with the students who applied to attend.

When asked about the experience, the responses were very positive. See the response from J below.

What have you enjoyed most about leading Book Club?    Being able to organise special things at Book Club like organising visitors or a special book (being first to read new books).
What has been the biggest challenge?    Making sure everyone enjoys book circle and the books we read. We vote, ask for suggestions and mix up the authors.
Which book have you enjoyed the most?    White Ninja by Tiffany Hall. I had read it before and liked discussing it with the group. It was kind of exciting knowing what was going to happen.

If you could change one thing about Book Club what would it be?    I can’t think of anything as it is good, the types of books we read are good and the people in Book Circle seem to love it.


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