Teaching and Learning The West Balcatta Way


West Balcatta Way

‘The West Balcatta Way’ teaching and learning approaches have been chosen as they are evidence-based, high impact teaching strategies. Our teachers are supported to apply these strategies across all learning areas.

Selecting from approaches that range from teaching strategies to effective technology integration, our teachers design learning experiences that cater to the wide variety of learning needs of our students. The use of consistent approaches and strategies ensures our students can seamlessly move from lesson to lesson, teacher to teacher, and year to year, with confidence.

Explicit Teaching

When teachers at West Balcatta adopt explicit teaching practices, they clearly show students what to do and how to do it. They decide on learning intentions and success criteria, make these transparent and demonstrate them using worked examples and modelling. The teachers check for understanding throughout all stages of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, the learning intentions and success criteria are revisited.

Explicit instruction is underpinned by:

  • the information processing model, which suggests that learners only remember what they think about and keep thinking about, and
  • the cognitive load theory, which suggests that there is a limit to how much new information the human brain can process and how much can be stored in long-term memory.

Gradual Release of Responsibility

The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model is a teaching strategy characterized by a sequence of learning activities that shift the responsibility from the teacher to the student. The goal of this approach is autonomy and efficacy on the part of the student, supporting their them to transfer understanding on their own.

High Impact Teaching Strategies

Within the gradual release of responsibility, West Balcatta teachers employ high impact teaching strategies to support the students in acquiring knowledge, concepts and skills.

Cooperative Learning

Co-operative learning is a social instructional strategy which enables teachers to create rich and varied learning environments. It occurs when students work in small groups and all participate in a learning task by actively negotiating roles, responsibilities and outcomes.  Co-operative groups have five elements: positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, social skills and processing. The ‘West Balcatta Way’ encourages teachers to incorporate a range of co-operative learning structures into all learning areas, to carefully engineer student Interactions for learning – to ensure they are effective co-operative groups.

Research demonstrates that the effective implementation of co-operative learning can result in higher self-esteem, higher achievement, increased retention, greater social support, more on-task behaviour, greater collaboration and development of collaborative skills, greater intrinsic motivation, increased perspective taking, better attitudes towards school and teachers, and the use of higher-level reasoning (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1990).

Integration and Inquiry Learning

  • Walker Learning: In Kindy and Pre-Primary students engage in daily ‘Discovery Time’ which is based on the Walker Learning Approach. Discovery Time provides opportunities for students to be involved in play-based open-ended experiences that allow them to investigate, explore, manipulate, create and interact, and link to the knowledge and skills being taught in literacy, numeracy and other curriculum areas. Teachers of Kindergarten and Pre-Primary students plan for whole-class and individual learning intentions for Discovery Time which are based on the needs and interests of students. Teachers and Education assistants interact with students to guide, scaffold and support them to achieve learning intentions
  • HASS (humanities and social science) & Literacy: The teaching of non-fiction has been carefully aligned with Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) content and skills. Students use information acquired through their application of research skills to devise non-fiction texts, thereby demonstrating learning in HASS.
  • Technologies: West Balcatta prides itself on the effective integration of technologies, including Chromebooks as part of the Year 5/6 BYOD program. Technology is utilised as an effective tool applied where it enhances teaching or learning activities.
  • Science: At West Balcatta, the science curriculum develops an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and the ability to use a range of scientific inquiry methods. It allows students to develop the scientific knowledge, understandings and skills to make informed decisions about contemporary issues. Students experience the joy of scientific discovery and explore their natural curiosity about the world around them. They develop critical and creative thinking skills and challenge themselves to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions using scientific methods.

Whole School Programmes

  • Synthetic Phonics K-2: Synthetic phonics is an embedded approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling in the Early Years at West Balcatta PS. Our scope and sequence document has been carefully developed to introduce new concepts and skills and build on these in a systematic way. We use the Rainbow Assessment Tool to assess students and target teaching to the needs of students within the classroom. It is also used to identify those who require additional support through our Tier 2 & 3 Phonics Intervention program.
  • Word Study: West Balcatta Spelling Scope and Sequence Y3-6 is a continuum of word study including deep orthographic knowledge about morphemes and rules. A diagnostic spelling assessment allows teachers to diagnose, identify and document the spelling stages of students. They then group students with common need and, using the scope and sequence, tailor activities to improve their spelling knowledge
  • Numeracy Block: Our West Balcatta maths scope and sequence document outline the skills, content and vocabulary students need to acquire in each year group. Lessons use The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model and employ daily reviews to revisit and embed prior learning. We use the POLYA approach for word problem solving in maths.
  • Talk for Writing: The Talk for Writing (T4W) approach is used in all year levels at West Balcatta Primary School. It is a unique, evidence-based program developed by Pie Corbett and advocated for by The Dyslexia-Speld Foundation (DSF). T4W reflects the school’s pedagogical choice of The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. The program moves students from imitating a text, to innovating on a text, to independent application. A key feature of the program is the way in which children ‘talk the texts’ to internalise the required language structures.
  • Explicit Teaching of Reading Strategies includes: predicting, connecting, comparing, inferring, synthesising, creating images, self-questioning, skimming, scanning, determining importance, summarising and paraphrasing, re-reading, reading on, adjusting reading rate, sounding out, chunking, using analogy and consulting a reference. The teaching of reading is integrated into Talk for Writing and across all learning areas.
  • Health and Wellbeing: We use the Aussie Optimism Programme across all year groups. It was developed to reduce and prevent anxiety and depression in children and adolescents and develops and promotes positive mental health in children, adolescents and school communities.