Early Stage One Conference – From Curiosity to Independent Thinking


This whole day conference will focus on the particular needs of students in their first year of schooling as they transition from the Early Learning Framework for Australia to the NSW English and Mathematics syllabi. Our goal for the first year of schooling is to use children’s natural curiosity to develop independent thinking. Through the many options offered on the day teachers will gain an understanding of how the Early Learning Framework informs early stage one teaching and learning. We will examine effective teaching using the English syllabus. Developing student understanding in maths and effective speaking and listening will be explored.

There will be 7 speakers. All are experienced K-6 teachers. Mary-Ellen Betts, Jenny Williams and Sandra Rowan work as educational consultants in a number of NSW schools. Susan Yabsley works as an Early Childhood consultant. Teachers who are currently teaching early stage one classes will be sharing their experiences.

The day will consist of a plenary talk: ‘I’m ready for school! Are you ready for me!’ as well as a number of workshop sessions.

Participants will be able to select three elective sessions across the day.

Plenary: ‘I’m ready for school! Are you ready for me!’

Presenter: Susan Yabsley

Understanding the experiences children have had before they come to school is crucial in providing a quality, engaging and smooth transition into Kindergarten. Having an awareness of the principles, practices and outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework will give you an insight into the life of a pre-schooler.

Elective Sessions:

A: Using Quality Literature to Develop Independent Thinking

Presenter: Susan Yabsley

Children’s literature can provide the opportunity to explore the world beyond their own experience, to imagine what it is to be someone different to themselves or to understand that we can share the same ideas, thoughts and feelings. This workshop shows you how quality literature can be used to develop comprehension and critical understanding as well as the sheer joy of sharing beautiful stories.

B: Using talk to learn

Presenter: Mary-Ellen Betts

Most children love to talk. This session looks at capturing that enthusiasm and using it to deepen learning by teaching routines, using props and posing questions to spark curiosity and thinking.

C: Change it up with poetry, rhymes and jingles

Presenter: Jenny Williams

Using poems, rhymes and jingles shows children how to have fun with language and interact with each other. Poems expose students to a variety of language patterns, cultural experiences and rich vocabulary. Curiosity about language supports student learning in reading, writing and spelling in early Stage 1. Starting with short and easily remembered texts we will explore how to create a love of language in your classroom using poetry, rhymes and jingles.

D: Phonics: more than a sound a week

Presenter: Sandra Rowan

Phonics is currently a topic of debate. In this course we will review the department of Education’s policy advice, “namely, that phonics should be explicitly and systematically taught, within an integrated and balanced program.” We will review the role of phonics in reading, writing and spelling. Resources that encourage students to think and become curious about how language works will be discussed.

E: Harnessing play for learning

Presenters: Nicole Tainsh and Maree Constantini

Play is how children learn. A play based approach to learning sparks curiosity. Combining play with intentional teaching is a powerful tool to create independent thinkers. This workshop is the story of one school’s journey in harnessing play for learning

F: Teaching for understanding in maths:

Presenter: Sandra Rowan

Kindergarten students bring mathematical experiences and knowledge to school. Student curiosity is the starting point and teachers further develop student understanding through rich experiences including play situations. Early mathematical concepts lay the foundation for future learning and a sound understanding of these concepts is crucial. We will identify key mathematical concepts and activities to support understanding.

The goal for Kindergarten students is to be confident, independent learners who demonstrate interest and enjoyment and understanding to solve everyday problems.

G: Cross Pollination: reading into writing

Presenter: Jenny Williams

The English syllabus emphasises the key process of responding and composing. The reciprocity between what a student learns in reading and can use in writing and vice versa is a powerful tool. We will discuss how to harness this reciprocity to develop writing in a Kindergarten classroom. Shared reading experiences builds into writing. Teachers can build vocabulary through reading and writing experiences. Students develop their thinking skills as they reflect on and use reading experiences in their writing.

H: Dice hoops, chairs and sorts

Presenter: Mary-Ellen Betts

Continuing the theme of curiosity to independence in Kindergarten this workshop examines hands on and playful ways to teach grammar in the first year of school. Starting with quality literature, a range of hands on activities is shared to demonstrate the ease and importance of teaching grammar to our youngest learners while having fun!

I: Goal Setting in Kindergarten- Can we do it? Yes we Can!

Presenter: Margaret Dooner

Kindergarten students are natural learners! Our task is to create a classroom where students are engaged in their learning through goal setting and reflection. During this workshop we examine the techniques currently being used in a kindergarten classroom where goal setting and reflection is practiced daily. We explore how the teacher can help students see what they have done well and what steps they need to improve. Students enjoy sharing what they are learning and feel successful when they can see the progress they are making.

Closing Session: ‘From inspiration to reality.’

Presenter: Jenny Williams

This short session will help participants to clarify what they can effectively integrate into their current practice to enable students to move between curiosity and independent thinking.


Completing a Early Stage One Conference - From Curiosity to Independent Thinking conference will contribute 5 hours of NESA Registered PD addressing: 6.2.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.



Target Participants

Teachers in DoE pre-schools, ES1 teachers and executive, teachers differentiating to meet student needs in Stage 1.


There will be a plenary talk and a range of workshop sessions with some choice for participants. Discussion and sharing by participants will be a feature of the day