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Introducing literacy standards

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Pam Drake discusses the literacy unit standards trial at Mount Albert Grammar. She notes that students benefit from literacy learning in a range of real life situations, and outlines how the school has tracked and monitored their learning across the curriculum areas and in relevant community settings.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Discuss Pam’s approach. How and from where do you gather data to track your students’ literacy learning? Pam talks about some of the challenges when gathering data from students as they make oral presentations in church or at work. What opportunities are there to gather naturally occurring data from your students’ learning in the community beyond school? Discuss challenges this might present, and some possible solutions.


I decided to use these new functional literacy standards when they were still in that trial stage (and when we have other alternatives) because it seemed to me that we wanted to make sure that it was possible while it was still not something that was inevitable.

As soon as I saw them and I recognised the spirit of what they were saying about it being not just classroom based assessment - but actually coming from real life opportunities, I realised how much it fitted in with our ASDAN programme. The fact that the children were already doing the self directed learning programme which encompassed a whole lot of real life learning opportunities, and a lot of it is writing, and reading, and recording, speaking to people. We already have our ASDAN course set up quite well. They use a portfolio system which the children manage themselves. So we set up a duplicate portfolio which we explained to the children very clearly that when they had work in one portfolio that we could transfer over we would do so. They monitored that themselves particularly at the beginning of the year - as it got further through the year they had to get more involved. I had to start speaking to other people on the staff and explain why a child needed to have a piece of work from their class or I had to speak to people out in the community (to a lesser extent) and explain how they had to fill out the forms. We found the speaking ones particularly difficult to get outsiders filling in with enough detail.

We've got a Kamar system for our school management and we're lucky that does record the literacy and numeracy for each child. We have a person in the school who is designated to manage and oversee the tracking of students. He became involved because I needed to start collecting data from all of the other places that the literacy was being recorded from across the whole curriculum areas of course and so the children themselves were so were not aware that they had got literacy in a biology unit or literacy in a maths unit or something else.

We started off with 50 that I had down to do this course, and by the end of the year I'd reduced it to seven, by careful tracking and monitoring with the children about where they were up to. It is really an ongoing process and I don't think you can fix this whole literacy accumulation of data over a whole year into a particular system it has to evolve and match up with what happens. You also have to be able to deal with members of the public. The speaking ones often they will speak at church, but they don't want to be recorded speaking at church. They will speak in a shop, when they're a shop assistant, for example, and that would be valid but then, they don't want their boss standing there with a piece of paper ticking boxes while they're doing what is their work.

My most exciting successes would have to be dealing with the kids and finding their sense of value in what they're doing in their learning, and engaging in their learning, and transferring ideas and practices and skills from one thing to another. For example there's a boy who is now really really aware of his need to work consistently through the year in order to gain what he wants. So this year he's come into Year 12 and he's a different, much more mature learner than he was last year. He can attribute that (when you talk to him) to the fact that he realised that every little thing that he collected along the way last year actually helped him get where he wanted to be.

What I would say to you if you were thinking of doing this, is that you need to know very clearly the students that you want to target. Those children need to be gathered together, the whole process explained to them, and you need to have a very regular meeting with them whether that's in a form time, or after school, or a tutor group session, or you take them out of a particular class, but very, very regularly. The children need to be part of the whole process of collecting the information up. There needs to be somebody in the school who is monitoring the whole literacy process, whoever that is and that person needs to be targeting that next layer of children up. The nature of these standards is that they have to be over a length of time so you can't just pull the children in in the last six weeks of school and say, 'Hey, here's some work to do. Do this and we'll push you through.'

Published on: 23 Jul 2012