Decoding school speak.

 IKAN tests, Rainbow reading, Thinking hats! We decode some of the school jargon that’s bound to confuse you during your child’s schooling. Do you sometimes feel your child’s talking a different language? Not teenage slang where “bad” means “good” and “random” means “cool”, but a specific school jargon related to their learning?

It all started in Year 1 when my daughter said she had to learn her doubles. Words with double letters? Numbers with double digits? Took me a while to understand she meant doubling the number, as in “two 2s make 4, two 10s make 20”. Talk about double meanings!

school speak, decoded:

I have my pen licence

When children start school, they write in pencil. Before they make the switch to ballpoint pen, they have to fulfil the following conditions:

  • Stay on the line.
  • Slope the letters.
  • Join letters correctly.
  • Space the words neatly.
  • Use consistent letter size.
  • Use the correct grip.

I’m in the GATE class

GATE stands for Gifted And Talented Education, and some schools have a class for students identified as gifted. It’s worth noting that there is no standard definition of what constitutes a gifted student. Many schools choose not to take gifted students out of their class, preferring instead to extend them within their usual school routine.

I’m a School Councillor

A School Council is group of students elected to represent all pupils on school forums and to improve their school.

I’m a monitor

Monitors are children who are given certain responsibilities within the school. A Library Monitor, for example, checks in library books and monitors behaviour within the library. A Bell Monitor makes sure the school bell rings on time. A PE Shed Monitor writes down who took out what equipment from the recreation shed at lunchtime.

My learning style is

A child’s learning style is the way they take in, understand and remember new concepts. Some children may be analytic (linear), others holistic (global). Some learn best visually, others may be tactile (kinaesthetic) or need auditory input. Time of day, amount of light and background noise they need to learn, preference for mobility and many other elements combine to form a learning style.

We did an IKAN test

IKAN ( Knowledge Assessment for Numeracy) is a written maths test that assesses students’ knowledge of Forward and Backward Number Word Sequences (a fancy name for counting backwards and forwards), fractions, place value (that’s your units, tens, hundreds, etc.) and basic facts (instant recall of addition and subtraction facts up to 10, 20 or 100). For internal school assessment.

We did a (Knowledge) Bank test

This is a short test of number knowledge in which children need to be able to recall basic facts quickly to answer problems posed. Children from Year 3 to Year 6 are assessed using this test for internal
school use.

We did a PAT test

Teachers use PATs (Progressive Achievement Test) to assess listening comprehension in Years 3-6, as well as reading vocabulary and mathematics in Years 4-6. These are standardised (compared nationally) across the country against children of the same year group.

My reading age has gone up

Teachers observe your child’s reading progress. Irrespective of your child’s age in years, your child’s reading age will relate to their skill level. “My reading age is 7”, for example, means that your child’s reading skill is as expected of a 7-year-old. You would expect your child’s reading age to steadily increase with age (more quickly if they are under their expected reading age, and less quickly if they are above) and you would want to chat to your child’s teacher if this was not the case.

I’m in Reading Recovery

A one-on-one, 30-minute class by trained Reading Recovery teachers for children under-7 who haven’t met expected reading levels and have been assessed just after their 6th birthday as needing extra literacy
help. Your child is taken out of class for this daily lesson for a period of about 12-20 weeks. Waiting lists are common within many schools.

I’m in Rainbow Reading at school

Rainbow Reading is a supported-reading programme for children age 7+, initially developed for children who needed to catch up, but is often used in schools as regular readers because it has excellent resources and tracks progress nicely. It is particularly popular with reluctant boy readers who seem to prefer the mainly non-fiction topics. It consists of books at seven colour-coded levels, with accompanying audio support and activities.

We are writing recounts

Recounts are non-fiction writing, a re-telling of what happened. Children typically write what they did in the holidays or what happened in a book they read. Can also be used as an assessment tool by the teacher.

We are learning Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics a fun way to learn reading, with actions for each of the 42 letter sounds and five stages of literacy: letter sounds, letter formation, blending sounds, identifying sounds and memorising tricky spelling.

We are doing Inquiry Learning

Inquiry Learning happens when all the activities at school (reading, writing, spelling, field trips, maths) revolve around a particular topic. The topic may be set for a week or for a whole term; it may be chosen by the child or the school; it may be specific (dinosaurs) or abstract (conflict).

I use Steps

Steps is a literacy software programme for age 5+ designed to support the NZ curriculum.

We used the six Thinking Hats

Edward de Bono’s hats aid creativity and thinking outside the square. It encourages children to think about a specific aspect of a project when they ‘put on’ a thinking hat of a certain colour.

  • White hat – Facts. Think about what we know and what we need to find out.
  • Green hat: Generate ideas.
  • Yellow hat: Benefits of the proposed ideas.
  • Black hat: Disadvantages of the ideas.
  • Red hat: Feelings, intuition, emotions about the ideas.
  • Blue hat: Planning for action.

I’m on the sad face

Children begin the day on the smiley face. If they misbehave, their name progresses to the concerned face or the sad face. The same concept may be expressed by a system of green-yellow-red traffic lights.

I use: visualisation / prior knowledge / asking questions / forming a hypothesis / making connections –

These are all techniques to help the student with reading comprehension.

The student reads the text and then may say:

  • Visualisation – “I have a picture in my head of …”
  • Knowledge – “I know that because …”
  • Questions – “I wonder why …”
  • Hypothesis – “Maybe it’s because …”
  • Connections – “It’s like …”

I’m in the Yellow Book (or school-specific equivalent)

A book in which your child is written up if they did something really, really naughty; something far more serious than a sad-face or red-traffic-light offence. Parents would usually be informed of this by the school.

Not all schools will use these expressions. Some will have terminology of their own. Write in to tell us what learning-related language your child throws at you.

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