Knowledge of literacy learning is one of a set of professional development modules designed to support school leaders as they lead professional learning about the National Standards for years 1–8 within The New Zealand Curriculum. The modules are suitable for use during the cycles of professional inquiry that leaders and teachers engage in to improve outcomes for their students.
See Knowledge of mathematics learning, which is an equivalent module for mathematics.
Introduction to the module
The focus of this module
This module focuses on the knowledge of literacy learning that is needed to work with the reading and writing standards for years 1–8. It emphasises the importance of deepening teachers’ understanding of literacy, literacy development, and literacy acquisition.
For more information on knowledge of literacy learning and effective instructional strategies, see the Effective Literacy Practice handbooks, chapters 2 and 4.
The structure of this module
This module has three main sections.
Key outcome of the module, which:
- states what the module aims to help schools leaders and teachers achieve
- lists indicators that describe what to look for as evidence that they have achieved the outcome
- provides a rationale for the key outcome.
Reflective questions for school leaders and teachers, which:
- helps determine the professional learning needs of the whole staff, syndicates, or individual teachers or leaders
- can be used within activities for leaders and teachers (see next section).
Leading shifts in practice through focused activities, which:
- outlines some professional development activities that relate to the reflective questions
- can be used flexibly to help meet identified needs
- draws on existing resources and professional development opportunities.
A final section, Resources and references, lists texts cited or quoted in the module along with resources that include useful information about knowledge of literacy learning.
How to use this module
School leaders can use this module to identify and explore shifts in practice that might be needed as their school works with the National Standards and students are increasingly supported to use reading and writing as 'interactive tools'.
The concept of interactive tools is based on the competencies model developed in 'The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies (DeSeCo)' (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005). The term 'interactive tools' is defined in the glossary of the Reading and Writing Standards.
Teachers can use the reflective questions and/or activities to guide them through any changes they might need to make as they work with the National Standards.
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Key outcome of the module
The key outcome for this module is that school leaders and teachers develop a shared understanding of the reading and writing demands of their school curriculum.
Indicators that this outcome is being achieved include the following:
- The school’s overall curriculum makes explicit the reading and writing demands for all learning areas and identifies the increasing need for students to use reading and writing as interactive tools for learning as they progress through the year levels.
- Teachers have the literacy knowledge and skills to support reading and writing development at all levels and in all areas of the curriculum.
- Each syndicate or group identifies, in their planning documents, the reading and writing demands within each unit of work.
- Each syndicate or group demonstrates, in their planning documents, how students will build processes and strategies in both reading and writing so that each mode informs the other.
Rationale for the key outcome
The reading and writing standards emphasise the need for students to be able to meet the literacy demands of the curriculum. Their teachers need specific knowledge in order to support their students in developing literacy at appropriate levels.
Teachers need knowledge about literacy and about how students develop in their literacy learning. Such a knowledge base helps teachers to be informed and confident in planning a literacy programme with multiple opportunities and activities through which their students can continue to develop knowledge and strategies for using the written code of English, making meaning, and thinking critically.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, page 43
Each learning area has its own language or languages ... For each area, students need specific help from their teachers as they learn:
- the specialist vocabulary associated with that area
- how to read and understand its texts
- how to communicate knowledge and ideas in appropriate ways
- how to listen and read critically, assessing the value of what they hear and read.
The New Zealand Curriculum, page 16
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Reflective questions for school leaders and teachers
The following reflective questions are designed to help school leaders and teachers understand their school’s current practice in relation to literacy learning. They can then make comparisons with the practices embedded in the National Standards.
Use the reflective questions to identify areas for further exploration through the activities that follow.
1. How explicit is our school curriculum in terms of literacy?
- How can we ensure that students learn to use reading and writing to develop the ability to think, construct and create meaning, and communicate information and ideas? For example, can they use reading and writing to develop a scientific argument, communicate findings in a statistical investigation, and evaluate and reflect on their learning?
2. Do our teachers of years 1–3 have the knowledge and skills to support students as they acquire the foundations of literacy? Do our teachers of years 4–8 have the knowledge and skills to build on the foundations and support students to use reading and writing as interactive tools to help them access the curriculum?
- What teacher knowledge do we need to develop?
- What expertise can we draw on to support our professional learning?
3. How does our planning reflect our knowledge of literacy learning? Does our planning show that we use our knowledge to build opportunities for students to read and write in an integrated way?
4. Are we well prepared (at whole-school, syndicate, and class levels) to support all of our students to meet the reading and writing standards? For example:
- Do teachers have knowledge of how students acquire English as an additional language? (If not, see the module Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners.)
- What do we know about students’ language and literacy practices at home?
- How can we build on this knowledge to support students’ literacy learning at school?
- How often do we reflect on our own literacy-related knowledge and practice as it relates to student outcomes?
Use the understandings gained from discussing the reflective questions to identify the shifts in practice and/or professional learning that may be required in the school. Select from the following activities to support these shifts as part of professional inquiry.
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Leading shifts in practice through focused activities
Consider the principle of ako when exploring practice in literacy learning.
Select activities that will help to deepen understanding of literacy learning. Discussions may reveal a need to explore specific aspects of literacy learning in greater depth.
The activities can be used in a variety of ways for whole staff, syndicate, group, or individual inquiry. For example, teachers working with years 1–3 may carry out some activities differently from those working with years 4–8.
The activities in all of the modules, including this one, are based on the core resources listed in the Overview. Refer to these as appropriate when exploring practice through the activities.
Activity 1: Reading and writing in the school curriculum
How explicit is our school curriculum in terms of literacy? How can we ensure that students learn to use reading and writing to develop the ability to think, construct and create meaning, and communicate information and ideas?
Review the documentation of the school curriculum and The New Zealand Curriculum.
Examine the developing complexity of the literacy demands over time and in each curriculum area. Link these demands to the text characteristics described in the reading and writing standards, or unpack them by considering the meanings of 'across the curriculum' and 'demands of the curriculum'.
To begin this process, use or adapt Table 1: Literacy learning and the curriculum.
Activity 2: Teachers’ literacy knowledge for years 1–3 and years 4–8
Do our teachers in years 1–3 have the knowledge and skills to support students as they acquire the foundations of literacy? Do our teachers in years 4–8 have the knowledge and skills to build on the foundations and support students to use reading and writing as interactive tools?
As resources for the following activity, use the school curriculum and chapter 2 of the Effective Literacy Practice handbooks.
Teachers can split into two groups, one working with years 1–3 and the other working with years 4–8.
Explore what is meant by 'knowledge of literacy learning' and explore the changes to this 'knowledge' that have affected thinking in our school, over time and in different areas of the curriculum.
A framework for literacy acquisition
With teacher support, students develop and extend knowledge and strategies; and also their awareness of how to use them as readers and writers.
Diagram of 'A framework for literacy acquisition' from Effective Literacy Practice.
If you cannot view or read this diagram, select this link to open a text version.
Learning the code
- How are we supporting the development of decoding and encoding as students increase their expertise and work in different areas of the curriculum?
- How do our school documents reflect the changes over time? For example, do our planning documents show how reading informs writing and writing informs reading?
- Do our planning documents reflect strong links to oral language, especially in the early years? What evidence do we have? Can we do more?
- How are we helping students to develop their knowledge, strategies, and awareness in order to make meaning when reading and writing in different areas of the curriculum?
- How do we support students to use their oral language skills to develop their thinking skills?
- As students’ reading and writing expertise increases, how do we help them to use writing as an interactive tool to develop thinking?
- Do we support students to develop awareness of the strategies they use to make meaning in different curriculum areas? What evidence do we have?
- Are we encouraging students to think critically as they read and write in all areas of the curriculum?
- Do we use oral language to support critical thinking?
- Are students able to consider purpose, audience, and impact in learning areas such as science as well as in English? How can we show that this is happening?
- Can students identify when they are using reading and writing as thinking tools in different curriculum areas?
At the end of the discussion, the two groups can jointly discuss their findings and share similarities and differences. Teachers may choose to engage in further study, for example, by reading works like Becoming Literate (Clay, 1991) and by sharing new learning with their group.
Activity 3: Reflecting knowledge of literacy learning in school planning
How does our planning reflect knowledge of literacy learning? Does our planning show that we use our knowledge to build opportunities for students to read and write in an integrated way?
Working in groups, identify ways in which planning does or could reflect knowledge of literacy learning in specific curriculum areas. Create a unit that incorporates reading and writing as interactive tools.
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Resources and references
This section includes details of texts that are cited or quoted in the module and/or that will be helpful to users of this particular module. The full list of core resources is available in the Overview.
- Clay, M. (1991). Becoming literate: The construction of inner control. Auckland: Heinemann.
- Macfarlane, A. H. (2004). Kia Hiwa Ra! Listen to Culture – Māori Students’ Plea to Educators. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
- Ministry of Education (2009). Learning through talk: Oral language in years 1 to 3. Wellington: Learning Media.
- Ministry of Education (2009). Learning through talk: Oral language in years 4 to 8. Wellington: Learning Media.
- Ministry of Education (2003). Effective literacy practice in years 1 to 4. Wellington: Learning Media.
- Ministry of Education (2006). Effective literacy practice in years 5 to 8. Wellington: Learning Media.
- Ministry of Education (Pasifika Education) (2006). Connections and conversations: Making links for learning. Wellington: CWA New Media.
Published on: 19 Feb 2010
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