Literacy and the Curriculum

‘All teachers are teachers of literacy.’
Discuss this statement with reference to your understanding of literacy.

All teachers, including those teaching subjects like maths and science, are teachers of literacy; it is integral to all areas of learning.

Literacy, or being literate, is more than being able to read and write. To me it is about understanding and making connections, and then being able to show knowledge about a particular subject.

For example, in Science, students may need to write science reports after undertaking investigations or experiments. “This requires using language systems including specialised text and language structures, vocabulary and graphics that are specific to constructing knowledge in Science and that may not be learnt in other areas of learning. If these literacy demands are left implicit and not taught explicitly they provide barriers to learning.”

Reading literacy is defined in PISA as the ability to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate effectively in society. This definition goes beyond the notion that reading literacy means decoding written material and literal comprehension.

The focus of PISA is on “reading to learn” not “learning to read” (http://education.qld.gov.au/publication/production/reports/pdfs/literacy-framework-06.pdf).

So it’s important teachers and their schools have the knowledge, skills, leadership and support to make a quantum leap in the quality of literacy teaching – in all subject areas.

Take your own notes about each of six literacy elements.

Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing

This element is about receptive language and involves students using skills and strategies to access and interpret spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts.

Students navigate, read and view texts using applied topic knowledge, vocabulary, word and visual knowledge. They listen and respond to spoken audio and multimodal texts, including listening for information, listening to carry out tasks and listening as part of participating in classroom activities and discussions. Students use a range of strategies to comprehend, interpret and analyse these texts, including retrieving and organising literal information, making and supporting inferences and evaluating information and points of view. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • navigate, read and view learning area texts
  • listen and respond to learning area texts
  • interpret and analyse learning area texts.

The element of Comprehending texts can apply to students at any point in their schooling. The beginning of the learning sequence for this element has been extended by four extra levels (Levels 1a to 1d) to describe in particular the early development of communication skills. The descriptions for Comprehending texts at these levels apply across the elements of Text knowledge, Grammar knowledge, Word knowledge and Visual knowledge.

Composing texts through speaking, writing and creating

This element is about expressive language and involves students composing different types of texts for a range of purposes as an integral part of learning in all curriculum areas.

These texts include spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts that explore, communicate and analyse information, ideas and issues in the learning areas. Students create formal and informal texts as part of classroom learning experiences including group and class discussions, talk that explores and investigates learning area topics, and formal and informal presentations and debates. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • compose spoken, written, visual and multimodal learning area texts
  • use language to interact with others
  • deliver presentations.

The element of Composing texts can apply to students at any point in their schooling. The beginning of the learning sequence for this element has been extended by four extra levels (Levels 1a to 1d) to describe in particular the development of communication skills. The descriptions for Composing texts at these levels apply across the elements of Text knowledge, Grammar knowledge, Word knowledge and Visual knowledge.

Text knowledge

This element involves students understanding how the spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts they compose and comprehend are structured to meet the range of purposes needed in the learning areas.

Students understand the different types of text structures that are used within learning areas to present information, explain processes and relationships, argue and support points of view and investigate issues. They develop understanding of how whole texts are made cohesive through various grammatical features that link and strengthen the text’s internal structure. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • use knowledge of text structures
  • use knowledge of text cohesion.

Grammar knowledge

This element involves students understanding the role of grammatical features in the construction of meaning in the texts they compose and comprehend.

Students understand how different types of sentence structures present, link and elaborate ideas, and how different types of words and word groups convey information and represent ideas in the learning areas. They gain understanding of the grammatical features through which opinion, evaluation, point of view and bias are constructed in texts. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • use knowledge of sentence structures
  • use knowledge of words and word groups
  • express opinion and point of view.

Word knowledge

This element involves students understanding the increasingly specialised vocabulary and spelling needed to compose and comprehend learning area texts.

Students develop strategies and skills for acquiring a wide topic vocabulary in the learning areas and the capacity to spell the relevant words accurately. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • understand learning area vocabulary
  • use spelling knowledge.

Visual knowledge

This element involves students understanding how visual information contributes to the meanings created in learning area texts.

Students interpret still and moving images, graphs, tables, maps and other graphic representations, and understand and evaluate how images and language work together in distinctive ways in different curriculum areas to present ideas and information in the texts they compose and comprehend. In developing and acting with literacy, students:

  • understand how visual elements create meaning.

Texts in the Literacy Continuum

Texts provide the means for communication. They can be written, spoken, visual, multimodal, and in print or digital/online forms. Multimodal texts combine language with other means of communication such as visual images, soundtrack or spoken words, as in film or computer presentation media. Texts include all forms of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), for example gesture, signing, real objects, photographs, pictographs and braille. Texts provide important opportunities for learning about aspects of human experience and about aesthetic value. Many of the tasks that students undertake in and out of school involve understanding and producing imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, media texts, everyday texts and workplace texts.

The usefulness of distinctions among types of texts relates largely to how clearly at each year level these distinctions can guide the selection of materials for students to listen to, read, view, write and create, and the kinds of purposeful activities that can be organised around these materials. Although many types of texts will be easy to recognise on the basis of their subject matter, forms and structures, the distinctions between types of texts need not be sharp or formulaic. The act of creating texts, by its nature, involves experimentation and adaptation of language and textual elements from many different writing styles and categories of texts. As a result, It is not unusual for an imaginative text to have strong persuasive elements, or for a persuasive text to contain features more typically seen in informative texts, such as subheadings or bullet points.

 

With reference to different learning areas, identify some ways in which you can develop literacy in The Arts, Health and Physical Education and Humanities and Social Sciences for Grade 5 & 6. 

In the Arts in general, students use literacy to develop, apply and communicate their knowledge and skills as artists and as audiences. Through making and responding, students enhance and extend their literacy skills as they create, compose, design, analyse, comprehend, discuss, interpret and evaluate their own and others’ artworks.

Each Arts subject requires students to learn and use specific terminology of increasing complexity as they move through the curriculum. Students understand that the terminologies of The Arts vary according to context and they develop their ability to use language dynamically and flexibly.

More specifically, Year 5/6 Media Arts, literacy can be developed by “exploring representations, characterisations and points of view of people in their community, including themselves, using settings, ideas, story principles and genre conventions in images, sounds and text. For example, understand how visual elements create meaning. Content description ACAMAM062

In the Humanities and Social Sciences, students develop literacy capability as they learn how to build discipline-specific knowledge about history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business. Students use a wide range of informative, persuasive and imaginative texts in multiple modes to pose questions, research, analyse, evaluate and communicate information, concepts and ideas.

Students progressively learn to use stories, narratives, recounts, reports, lists, explanations, arguments, illustrations, timelines, maps, tables, graphs, spreadsheets, photographs, images including remotely sensed and satellite images to examine, interpret and communicate data, information, ideas, points of view, perspectives and conclusions.

They learn to use language features and text structures to comprehend and compose cohesive texts about the past, present and future, including: discipline-specific vocabulary; appropriate tense verbs for recounting events and processes; complex sentences to establish sequential, cause-and-effect and comparative relationships; features and structures of persuasive texts; wide use of adverbs that describe places, people, events, processes, systems and perspectives; and extended noun groups using descriptive adjectives.

As students participate in inquiry, they learn to ask distinctively discipline-specific questions and to apply participatory knowledge in discussions and debates. They learn to evaluate texts for shades of meaning, feeling and opinion, and develop considered points of view, communicating conclusions and preferred futures to a range of audiences.

For example,

Humanities and Social Sciences / F–6/7 HASS / Year 7 / Inquiry and skills / Communicating / ACHASSI163

Content description 

Present ideas, findings, viewpoints, explanations and conclusions in a range of texts and modes that incorporate source materials, citations, graphic representations and discipline-specific terms, conventions and concepts.

The particular elements of Literacy addressed by this content description

Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing

  • Comprehend texts
  • Navigate, read and view learning area texts
  • Interpret and analyse learning area texts

Composing texts through speaking, writing and creating

  • Compose texts
  • Compose spoken, written, visual and multimodal learning area texts
  • Use language to interact with others
  • Deliver presentations

Text knowledge

  • Use knowledge of text structures

Grammar knowledge

  • Use knowledge of sentence structures
  • Express opinion and point of view

Word Knowledge

  • Understand learning area vocabulary
  • Use spelling knowledge

Visual Knowledge

  • Understand how visual elements create meaning

 

Health and Physical Education assists in the development of literacy by introducing specific terminology used in health and physical activity contexts. Students understand the language used to communicate and connect respectfully with other people, describe their own health status, as well as products, information and services. They also develop skills that empower them to be critical consumers able to access, interpret, analyse, challenge and evaluate the ever-expanding and changing knowledge base and influences in the fields of health and physical education. In physical activity settings, as consumers, performers and spectators, students develop an understanding of the language of movement and movement sciences. This is essential in analysing their own and others’ movement and levels of fitness.

Students also learn to comprehend and compose texts related to the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. This includes learning to communicate effectively for a variety of purposes to different audiences, express their own ideas and opinions, evaluate the viewpoints of others, ask for help and express their emotions appropriately in a range of social and physical activity contexts.

 

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