About four to five years ago the staff at Mt Roskill Primary School looked at the English curriculum. Especially with the National Standards coming about, we decided we needed to really understand and unpack what was expected at each year level, and what we felt was very important for our students. So we looked at reading, and we looked at writing. We used other resources like the Literacy Progressions, effective literacy, the draft Standards, and the NZ Curriculum. We looked very closely at what we thought was important at each year level. We came up with a set of indicators for each year level, and these are the things that we want children to achieve by the end of that year. The indicators are not just a checklist – there’s a lot that sits in behind each of the indicators. Teachers use the indicators to guide their teaching as they track children formatively, ongoing. With these indicators they can find out where the gaps are in their class or what the next learning steps for each child are, and they can target their teaching with those. Also at the same time they’re assessing children against these indicators and that helps when it comes to moderating and forming an overall teacher judgment. The indicators that we have for reading and writing (going from year one through to year six at the primary school) have helped us ensure there’s coherence in our own curriculum. Children, as they transition from one year to the next – teachers understand what they can do, what their next learning steps are. We’ve been able to extrapolate that through to the intermediate school by working closely with the intermediate teachers, and the teachers at Mt Roskill Grammar as well. So we’ve now formed our indicators going from year one right through to year ten.
As a staff at Mt Roskill Intermediate, we’ve been looking at how we can use exemplars to maximise our student achievement. We’ve been able to share some of the ideas we have around that with our colleagues at the other schools. Just looking at how the exemplar can help us draw out some success criteria for students.
A good example of how that works is with a teacher at the intermediate, Nicky, who wanted to develop the response to text writing of her students. She asked the English department at the grammar school to have a look at some examples. What came from that was just a really good conversation – a really positive conversation – which we could see that the learning of these students, and the craft of their writing, and the clarity of their expression was at a very high level, but in terms of how it responded to the text and how it argued a question, it wasn’t there yet. So the next step is to be able to develop that – feed a challenging question to the students, and they’ll be able to produce a challenging and effective essay.
Our indicators for reading and writing have not remained static. Our teachers have continuously reviewed them, which is all part of our professional development – to ensure that we are all consistent in our understanding. They’re things that we regularly come back to and dig a little bit deeper, “What does that mean?”, “Am I interpreting it the same as another teacher?” The collaboration with the intermediate and the grammar school has also been great in that respect – that we know if we’re working towards a particular piece of learning with a child that there’s a consistent understanding and expectation across the campus.
The English teachers have been working for about five years together. We’ve been sitting around tables and discussing some of the work that our students have been doing, we've been moderating together so that we know what we expect at the different schools, and what are some of the things that we can see are important as we assess our students’ work. So when they come to year seven, we know that we’ve got a streamlined approach to our assessment and we are on track with what we are doing when we mark, when we have our discussions, and when we have our moderation, even within the intermediate school.
So now any of our students going right through from the primary school, to intermediate, to the grammar school – we’re confident that there’s a clear pathway of learning in reading and writing to ensure success for them.