Foundations for success guideline for extending and enriching learning for aboriginal and torres strait islander children in the kindergarten year


Building literacy and numeracy learning bridges



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2.2 Building literacy and numeracy learning bridges
Literacy and numeracy refer to the multiple, interrelated ways that children create and make meaning within the cultural and social contexts of their community (Kennedy, Ridgeway & Surman 2006, p. 15). From birth, children begin to acquire understanding about literacy and numeracy through their everyday family and community relationships and experiences. By the time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enter a kindergarten program, they will have attained a rich variety of socially and culturally valued literacies, including oral literacies, and numeracies.
For some children, however, a discontinuity may exist between their experience of literacies and numeracies in the context of family and community and the literacy and numeracy practices required when they reach school. Lessons from the Longitudinal Literacy and Numeracy Study for Indigenous Students (LLANS) reports that: 'In Indigenous cultures, young children are surrounded by a rich and linguistically complex environment that provides experiences that support both literacy and numeracy development; however, the intricacies of early childhood experiences in Indigenous communities are often misunderstood or marginalised by educators' (Purdie et al. 2011, p. 14).
Effective educators acknowledge that Western literacy and numeracy is only one form of literacy and numeracy, and develop a kindergarten program which values and builds on what children know and can do. They respect that learning to use and understand non-verbal body language may be a key aspect of literacy development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, along with understanding of the natural environment and the complex relationships in their extended family networks. From an early age, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are encouraged to communicate using a variety of signs and gestures. In addition, although their linguistic systems for representing number may differ from the English language system, many children will have a rich foundation of numerical and other mathematical understanding on which to build (Purdie et al. 2011, p. 15).
Educators build successful literacy and numeracy learning bridges when they educate themselves about the culturally valued conceptual skills children have already acquired; and implement purposeful and meaningful learning opportunities that incorporate and build on the oral traditions and stories, songs, dance, music, symbols, environmental patterns and relationships, and material art and cultures of the community.
They also build successful literacy and numeracy learning bridges when they make intentional connections for children that broaden their experiences with the texts, letter–sound relationships, symbols, pattern systems and mathematical concepts of the broader world; saturate the learning environment with Western and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sounds, signs and symbols, oral and written texts, visual and creative arts, technologies and media; and facilitate partnerships with families that connect the literacy and numeracy experiences of the kindergarten program with children’s experiences in the home.
Educators should refer to the Learning Area Being a Communicator in Section 4 of this guideline for practices that intentionally build successful language, literacy and numeracy learning bridges with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

3. EXPLORING THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
'... there is no written curriculum for Indigenous learning. Rather this is set by philosophies … handed down from generation to generation … the child lets the adult know what they need to learn … time is of no consequence, gaining the skill, knowledge and understanding is. Special knowledge is given at the right time for the child to know' (Coleman-Sleep 2005, p. 31).
The decision-making process described in Foundations for Success supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s learning through connected processes and relationships. Central to the process are children, families and communities, and the knowledge, languages, and ways of learning they bring as active participants in a kindergarten program.
Underpinned by the principles and perspectives outlined earlier in this document, educators support children’s belonging, being and becoming. They make intentional, purposeful and thoughtful decisions that draw on their professional knowledge, including their in-depth knowledge of each child, in partnership with families, to guide planning for children’s learning.
The model of curriculum decision-making is depicted as an ongoing cycle. It is dynamic and aligns planned learning (the expected knowledge, skills and dispositions for children across the kindergarten year), pedagogy (the practices that promote this learning) and documenting and reflecting for children’s learning (making informed assessments to inform new learning).
The decision-making process can be described as everything educators do, in partnership with families and communities, to maximise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s wellbeing and successful learning and development. It also involves educators in critically thinking about what is offered and why.
All aspects of the process are interconnected, and collectively contribute to children’s engagement with, and success in, learning as represented in the diagram opposite.
Each component of the process is explored in the following section.

3.1 Children, families and communities
Family is the cornerstone of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, spirituality and identity. As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child grows up, maintaining their connections to family and community forms the basis of the development of the child’s identity as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, their cultural connectedness and their emerging spirituality (SNAICC 2010, p. 19).
Educators implementing Foundations for Success understand that the active engagement of children, families and communities will be central to the teaching–learning process. Children thrive when families and educators work together in partnership to support young children’s learning (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 9).
Each kindergarten program will emerge as children and families discuss and contribute to rules, boundaries and the conventions of everyday living, and policies are negotiated and considered side-by-side with families, Elders and community members.
Strong relationships among and between educators, children, families and communities will be critical to understanding and sharing each other’s expectations and attitudes, and subsequently in building on the strength of each other’s knowledge. When educators respect the diversity of families and communities, and the aspirations they hold for children, they are able to foster children’s motivation to learn and reinforce their sense of themselves as competent learners. They will make curriculum decisions that uphold all children’s rights to have their cultures, identities, abilities and strengths acknowledged and valued (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 13).
The attitude of the educator in this process is crucial, and their effectiveness will depend on an understanding that their practices and the relationships they form with children and families have a significant effect on children’s involvement and success in learning (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 10). It will also depend on their willingness to share the learning and teaching process with children, their families and the community, while at the same time maintaining a clear learning focus, and the recognition that their commitment to ongoing learning and reflection is critical to children’s learning.

3.2 Planned learning
What knowledge, skills and dispositions will children be learning?
The planned learning of Foundations for Success is communicated across five learning areas that lead to achievement of the outcomes of the national EYLF:
1. The learning area Being Proud and Strong leads to the EYLF outcome ' Children have a strong sense of identity'.

2. The learning area Being an Active Participant leads to the EYLF outcome ' Children connect with and contribute to their world'.

3. The learning area Being Healthy and Safe leads to the EYLF outcome 'Children have a strong sense of wellbeing '.

4. The learning area Being a Learner leads to the EYLF outcome Children are confident and involved learners'.



5. The learning area Being a Communicator leads to the EYLF outcome Children are effective communicators'.
The EYLF outcomes represent a national set of priorities for young children’s learning. They draw on conclusive international evidence to provide broad direction for children’s learning and development from birth to five years. They cover the most crucial aspects of learning relevant to the early childhood phase of life, and are known to significantly influence later learning and life chances (Early Childhood Australia 2011, p. 4).
The planned learning in Foundations for Success specifically describes the expected knowledge, skills and dispositions for children across their Kindergarten Year.
Key components of this learning are expressed through 11 learning statements — the sub-elements of which are drawn from the sub-elements of the EYLF outcomes (see Appendix 2), and are described in detail in Section 4 of this guideline.
The planned learning reflects the holistic nature of young children’s learning. The knowledge, skills and dispositions developed in one learning area will often be used by children as they learn across the others. While described separately in this guideline, most learning experiences will integrate all five learning areas as demonstrated in the example Bringing it all Together in this guideline.
It is also made clear in the following statement from the EYLF: '… educators … see children’s learning as integrated and interconnected. They recognize the connections between children, families and communities and the importance of reciprocal relationships and partnerships for learning. They see learning as a social activity and value collaborative learning and community participation (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 14).
Educators use their knowledge of the planned learning to guide intentional and spontaneous curriculum decisions that build on the rich cultural, linguistic and conceptual skills that children bring to their Kindergarten Year.

3.2.1 Being proud and strong
In this learning area, a kindergarten child builds a knowledgeable and confident identity, and a sense of belief and confidence in themselves.
Being proud and strong supports the achievement of a child’s strong sense of identity. Having security of personal and cultural identity provides children with an understanding of the world, a sense of where they belong and who they are, as well as shaping how they think and communicate. The development of a strong cultural identity is increasingly recognised as being important for health, development and wellbeing in childhood, adolescence and adult life (Family Law Council 2004; National Health and Medical Research Council 2004; Terrini & McCullum 2003, p. 9).
Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enter a kindergarten program with a strong sense of belonging to family and community. They learn and experience their culture and spirituality through their families — whether through knowledge, stories and songs from parents, grandparents, Elders or uncles and aunts; or through the everyday lived experience of shared values, meaning, language, custom, behaviour and ceremonies (Larkins 2011).
Children’s sense of belief in themselves is enhanced when educators understand that children may already be active members of the community, who are entitled to make decisions on their own behalf. Experiences in this learning area will involve children in developing pride and confidence in their cultural and social heritage. Teaching strategies will support the notion of the strong child who is an equal member of society with the right to act autonomously and make his or her own decisions (Warrki Jarrinjaku ACRS Project Team 2002).
By ensuring children experience many opportunities for success, educators help children to feel confident, build resilience in approaching new situations and cope with frustrations. This will ensure their healthy development and contribute to their success in life and learning.

3.2.2 Being an active participant
In this learning area, a kindergarten child broadens their sense of belonging to groups and communities and becomes increasingly independent and interdependent.
Being an active participant promotes the achievement of a child’s connection with and contribution to their world.
A significant feature shared by many Indigenous cultures is the belief that it is important, for the health of the entire community, to place children at the centre of decision-making within the family and wider community (Warrki Jarrinjaku ACRS Project Team 2002, p. 20). Emphasis is placed on children learning to share and have compassion for others; generosity and selflessness are seen as desirable behaviours (Priest 2005, p. 31).
As children move into a kindergarten program, the experiences and relationships they encounter will broaden their sense of belonging to many groups and communities. Over time, and with opportunity and support, the ways in which children connect, contribute and participate with others increase. Through a widening network of secure relationships, they become increasingly able to recognise and respect the feelings of others and interact positively with them. Educators assist children to learn about their responsibilities to others, to appreciate their connectedness and interdependence as learners, and to value collaboration and teamwork (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 12).
In broadening children’s understanding of their world, educators provide opportunities for children to learn about similarities and differences, to respond to diversity with respect, and to learn about interdependence and learning to live together. An integrated, holistic approach to teaching and learning also focuses on connections to the natural world. Educators foster children’s respect for the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 14).

3.2.3 Being healthy and safe
In this learning area, a kindergarten child becomes strong in their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Being healthy and safe contributes to a child’s strong sense of wellbeing. Sound wellbeing results from the satisfaction of basic needs — the need for tenderness, affection and security. It includes happiness, effective social functioning, and the dispositions of optimism, openness, curiosity and resilience (Commonwealth of Australia 2010a, p. 30). A strong sense of wellbeing provides children with confidence and optimism, which maximises their learning potential.
For young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, a positive sense of wellbeing is promoted in emotionally fulfilling environments, where responsive and respectful relationships and community connections are nurtured and valued. A culturally safe and caring environment will support children’s health, wellbeing, and sense of belonging and security.
Experiences in this learning area promote good health, nutrition and physical activity as integral to children’s participation and engagement in learning. Time, space and encouragement is required for children to practice personal care skills, and to develop and challenge their physical capacities. Attention to fine and gross motor skills will provide children with the foundations for their growing independence and satisfaction at being able to do things for themselves (Commonwealth of Australia 2010a, p. 30).

3.2.4 Being a learner
In this learning area, a kindergarten child becomes a confident and involved knower and learner, and explores, investigates and connects with people, land, place, time and technology.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are expected to learn through observation and participation in daily extended family activities (Williams-Kennedy 2004, p. 80). In addition, they may have experienced learning situations that are free from adult–child hierarchy (MCEETYA Taskforce on Indigenous Education 2001a, p. 25). It is through these eyes that they see and interpret their world.
Being a learner contributes to a child’s confidence and involvement in learning. Educators value and support the diverse ways children represent their learning and thinking. Experiences harness their curiosity and provide many opportunities to express ideas creatively through dance, music, movement, drama, the visual arts, and information and communication technologies.
Open-ended learning opportunities will support children to resource their own learning, find their own solutions, and transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another. Problem-solving, exploration and investigation are embedded within the environment, providing opportunities for children to invent their own cultural forms and symbols and explore unique and innovative approaches to understanding their worlds.

3.2.5 Being a communicator
In this learning area, a kindergarten child explores and expands ways to use language, engages with multiple forms of literacy that build bridges between family and community contexts and new learning, and engages with numeracy concepts that build bridges between family and community contexts and new learning.
Being a communicator embraces the diversity of languages, literacies and numeracies that a child brings to a kindergarten program to support their effective communication.
Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are generally proficient communicators who draw on various verbal and non-verbal expressions to convey their feelings and thoughts, and to be understood. These rich spoken languages, as well as their gestures and actions, underpin the development of literacy and numeracy concepts.
Experiences in this learning area build on the range of experiences with language, literacy and numeracy that children have with their families and communities. There are many opportunities to interact verbally and non-verbally with others, to engage with a range of texts, to explore and make meaning, and to begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work.
By interpreting the visual cues and symbols their cultural group has framed for them and expects them to know, children will be constantly ‘reading’ their world. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, children may be expected to ‘communicate appropriately within kinship systems, as well as being able to read and interpret local symbols of nature, in order to sustain and maintain family and culture’ (Williams-Kennedy 2004, p. 87). Visual cues may include the natural environment, seasonal cycles, stars and constellations, animals and their tracks, art, material culture and technology, dance and ritual. These early understandings will be closely tied to children’s developing literacy concepts.
Pattern, too, plays an important role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, many of which make sense and order of their world through kinship patterns and relationships. Since mathematics is the science of pattern (Steen 1988, p. 616), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are taught sophisticated kinship patterns from very early ages are well-placed to be able to generalise about numbers and operations that form the basis for Western mathematics and numeracy. Similarly, in learning to read and interpret the land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children develop an acute sense of spatial awareness; they have an intuitive feel for their surroundings and the objects in them. These skills can be highly developed.
By building on these experiences, educators support children’s awareness of the relationships between oral and visual representations, and ability to recognise patterns and relationships and the connection between them.
A summary of the planned learning is provided on pp. 38–39. More detailed information about the specific knowledge, skills and dispositions for each learning area is provided in Section 4 of this guideline.
Indigenous children usually like to feel in control of their choices, decisions and learning so they can explore, discover, practise and solve problems in their own way and time without adult interference unless needed. They usually watch very closely. Children’s learning … is individualised with encouragement, guidance, modelling and, at times, step-by-step teaching. The learners are decision-makers about what they want to learn and are given plenty of time, space, learning moments and modelling to do so (Coleman-Sleep 2005, p. 32).

3.3 Pedagogy
Pedagogy refers to the practice of educators intended to promote children’s learning and expand their understanding of the world. It is described in the EYLF as the: 'holistic nature of early childhood educators’ professional practice, especially those aspects that involve building and nurturing relationships, curriculum decision-making, teaching and learning' (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 13).
Pedagogy also involves educators continually reflecting on their practices to inform culturally and linguistically responsive interactions and relevant learning experiences for children.
This guideline identifies four contexts that educators will use to extend and enrich children’s learning, development and wellbeing — play, intentional teaching, investigations and extended projects, and shared rituals.
With the support of the practices outlined in the EYLF, educators ensure they integrate a rich repertoire of teaching and learning strategies across all four contexts, in both the inside and outside environments, at all times and with all children. They continually strive to find equitable and effective ways to ensure that all children have opportunities to achieve learning outcomes (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 13).

3.3.1 Play
Play is a child’s natural learning strategy. It is a context for learning that allows for the expression of personality and uniqueness and enhances dispositions such as curiosity and creativity. It enables children to make connections between prior experiences and new learning, assists them to develop relationships and concepts, and stimulates a sense of wellbeing (Commonwealth of Australia 2009a, p. 9).
As children experience a kindergarten program rich in play, they are practising the knowledge, skills and dispositions they require to be successful in life and learning. Play empowers them with the ability to be decision makers, communicators, thinkers, negotiators and collaborators. Through play, children develop thinking and problem-solving strategies. They extend their capabilities in oral languages, literacies and numeracies, and explore diverse ways to develop their imagination and creativity and symbolise their experiences.
Children use play to: '… participate in their culture, to develop the literacy of their culture, to order the events in their lives and to share those events with others. Through play, children develop an understanding of their social worlds. They learn to trust, form attachments, share, negotiate, take turns and resolve conflict' (Commonwealth of Australia 2010a, p. 30).
Educators promote learning through play when they provide multiple opportunities for children to discover, create, improvise and imagine, and pay attention to children’s physical, personal, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual wellbeing, as well as cognitive aspects of learning. They also promote learning when they create welcoming and flexible physical and social learning environments and respectfully enter children’s play to stimulate their thinking and enrich their learning. They should engage children in decision-making about their play and the resources, materials and spaces they use, respect differences in play styles and guidance practices, and actively support the inclusion of all children, helping children to recognise when play is unfair, and offering constructive ways to build a caring, fair and inclusive learning community.

3.3.2 Intentional teaching
Educators are crucial to children’s success as learners, and their engagement in children’s play will often turn a spontaneous moment into a learning opportunity. While children’s everyday play experiences provide a fertile ground for learning, it is the engagement of active and responsive educators that supports children’s deep and lasting understanding. Effective educators skilfully weave intentional teaching as they engage with children in their play to extend their ideas, ask questions and encourage complex thinking. They watch for what is unfolding and determine the support and challenge, both verbal and non-verbal, required to invite children into deeper learning, while at all times remaining clear about the intent of the learning.
It is important educators understand that a focus on intentional teaching does not preclude children’s active involvement in the learning process, rather: '… educators plan for a balance of types of experiences including child-initiated, child-guided and adult-guided ... Educators take on intentional roles in child-guided experiences and children play active and important roles in adult-guided experiences. Each takes advantage of planned or spontaneous, unexpected learning opportunities' (Epstein 2007, p. 3).
Effective educators plan opportunities for intentional teaching as they move flexibly in and out of different roles, and draw on different strategies as the context changes.
For children learning SAE as an additional language, intentional teaching may require visual prompts and access to FL-speaking adults.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators are ideally placed to use their languages and cultural understanding to provide appropriate support and scaffolding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (Perry 2011, p. 23).
Educators promote learning through intentional teaching when they make deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful curriculum decisions, foster high-level thinking through worthwhile and challenging experiences and interactions, and use strategies such as modelling and demonstrating, open questioning, explaining and problem-solving to extend children’s thinking and learning (see Appendix 3). They also promote learning when they provide opportunities for children to complete tasks independently and interdependently with a degree of autonomy, and provide a balance between child-led, child-initiated and educator-supported learning.

3.3.3 Investigations and extended projects
Investigations and extended projects provide opportunities for children to be competent and capable participants in their own learning. A quality kindergarten program provides many opportunities for children to generate and discuss ideas, make plans, research, brainstorm solutions to problems, and share reasons for their choices. Educators contribute to children’s investigations and projects by asking questions, posing problems, developing ideas, challenging thinking, suggesting alternatives and involving children in decision-making. They help children to plan and follow through and to draw conclusions.
Children should be given significant time to pursue their ideas in increasingly complex ways with both peers and adults across all areas of a kindergarten program. The flexible arrangement of furniture and equipment together with open-ended materials encourage children to become flexible thinkers and investigators (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority 2011, p. 98). As projects evolve, educators can look for opportunities to extend them beyond the program by involving other children, families or the community.
Educators promote learning through investigations and extended projects when they respond to children’s expertise, cultural traditions and ways of knowing; provide for long periods of uninterrupted play, and space for works-in-progress to be left out and revisited over days and even weeks; and introduce new and familiar materials, including digital technologies, to provoke interest and more complex and increasing abstract thinking. They also promote learning when they invite children and families to contribute ideas, interests and questions to the learning environment; foster an appreciation of the natural environment and develop environmental awareness; and find opportunities for children to go into and contribute to their local community.

3.3.4 Shared rituals
Shared rituals are those moments throughout the day when adults and children share warm and responsive interactions. A shared ritual could be the sharing of a book, an arrival or departure ritual, a sleep-time ritual, toileting times, or a meal. Shared rituals might involve an individual child, a small group of children or sometimes the whole group. Each shared ritual provides an opportunity to develop trusting relationships, and engage children in warm and responsive interactions with adults and other children. Shared rituals also provide opportunities for educators to foster relationships with families, particularly during arrival and departure times, to build bridges for children between the routines of home and a kindergarten program.
When incorporating shared rituals into a program, educators need to consider that children may have never slept on their own or been left to cry, or may, when not in a kindergarten program, choose when and where they can fall asleep (Priest 2005, p. 23). Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are taught to be independent and self-sufficient from an early age. Some children are also responsible for other family members, including babies, siblings and cousins. This knowledge should determine approaches within a kindergarten program to the pace of the day and the expectations of children’s competency in caring for themselves.
The concept of time in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures may be very different from Western experience. Educators should consider the significance of the ‘right time’ to do something. For example, the ‘right time’ for a child to sleep may be when they fall asleep. This differs from mainstream Western practices where adults usually establish routines for sleeping, eating and activity (Priest 2005, p. 52). Additionally, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, being safe may mean a person having time to make decisions when they are ready to do so, not when someone else says so (Coleman-Sleep 2005, p. 52).
Shared rituals in a kindergarten program become valuable opportunities for learning through sustained interactions, conversations and yarns. Yarning, in both FLs and SAE, will provide many opportunities for children to organise their thoughts into stories, as well as to listen to the stories of others. In addition, learning will be enhanced when culturally valued songs, music, dance, movement and physical activity are embedded within shared rituals. Through negotiation with children and their families, shared rituals will enhance children’s learning by providing predictability and security to the day, while remaining flexible to diverse needs and contexts.
Educators promote learning though shared rituals when they implement culturally sensitive and responsive routines and transitions that value and build on children’s ways of being, belonging and becoming; and recognise the connections between children, families and communities and the importance of reciprocal relationships and cross-cultural partnerships for learning. They also promote learning when they empower children with choices about when and how they engage in particular experiences or interactions; and create fluid and peaceful transitions between experiences, for instance, from play to a shared meal time, in ways that are sensitive to cultures and respectful of children.



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