River of words - teaching demonstration

Explores children’s vocabulary, as each child thinks of ways of how the Yarra moves.

In this video, the educator facilitates children’s vocabulary, as each child thinks of ways of describing how the Yarra River moves. The educator then guides a discussion of what each child’s word means, developing children’s higher order language and vocabulary.

Watch the video on Vimeo : River of Words - Extending Vocabulary

Reflective practice


  • The educator’s use of natural materials when she set up a representation of the Yarra River with the children (before the video).
  • The educator’s description of her discussion with each child individually to hear their ideas and descriptive words about the Yarra’s movement.
  • The educator’s use of language and gestures to scaffold the children’s explanations.
  • The connections created by the educator between lived experiences (by the Yarra), to discussions, back to lived experiences (releasing words on gum leaves into the Yarra).

Reflection questions

  1. What evidence did you observe of children using descriptive words for how the Yarra moves?
  2. What evidence did you observe of children explaining meaning of words they used?
  3. What are the strengths of this experience, for building children’s vocabulary?
  4. How did the educator use the discussion to develop children’s higher order language?
  5. What did the educator mean by the “children being the Yarra’s voice”?
  6. In your centre, what natural and built environments could children explore and describe in a similar way to this video?
  7. What are some everyday situations where you could discuss with children what words mean?
  8. What would you plan next to consolidate children’s learning?

Learning experience plan

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • language and emergent literacy learners (40 - 60 months)
  • learning foci: concept development and vocabulary; higher order language
  • teaching practice: discussions and investigations plan.

Outcome 5: communication

Children interact verbally and nonverbally with others for a range of purposes:

  • show increasing knowledge, understanding and skill in conveying meaning
  • contribute their ideas and experiences in play and small and large group discussion
  • use language and representations from play, music and art to share and project meaning.

Victorian Curriculum Levels F-2: language and literacy

Understand the use of vocabulary in familiar contexts related to everyday experiences, personal interests and topics taught at school

Listen to and respond orally to texts and to the communication of others in informal and structured classroom situations using interaction skills, including listening, while others speak.

Learning intentions

These include:

  • developing children’s vocabulary for describing how the Yarra moves (winding, dashing, trickling)
  • explaining the meanings of the word(s) they have chosen.

Assessment of learning

This is demonstrated when children:

  • use a descriptive word for how the Yarra moves (when scaffolded by the educator)
  • explain their own meaning for their chosen word (using words, gestures, or movement).


  • wood, pebbles, and other materials (to create the river bank)
  • paper and pens, or other writing materials (for educators to write down children’s words)

Group size

Medium group (if appropriate) or small group (2-5 children).

Experience process

Before the experience

Take children on a nature walk, discussing the natural environment they encounter, and modelling the use of descriptive words when discussing what you see.

  1. Spend time individually with each child, to ask them about what word they would use to describe the Yarra’s movement. For example:
    • “When we saw the river this morning, how was it moving?”
    • “How else can the Yarra flow?“
    • Use a closed sentence where the child finishes your sentence when you pause: e.g. “The Yarra is flowing, the Yarra is ____”
    • Write down each child’s word on an individual piece of paper
  2. Invite the group of children to create a representation of the Yarra using the natural materials provided.
  3. Discuss each child’s word with the group of children, and facilitate a discussion about what each word means (children can use words, gestures, or movements to explain).

Going further

This experience can be extended by completing a fine arts or writing experience where educators and children work to write the child’s words on gum leaves. This can be followed by another visit to the river, where children can send these words as messages all the way to the sea.

Additional/alternate resources

This experience can be adapted by making any natural or built environment the theme of discussion.

Related videos and learning experience plans


Experience Plans