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Ashfield Public School

Ashfield Public School

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Literacy is everyone’s business

Literacy is the lynchpin of an effective education and should not be relegated to the subject of English. Instead literacy skills must be explicitly taught in all key learning areas. A student’s achievement in Mathematics, Art or Physical Education, for example, depends on well-developed literacy skills relevant to that subject.

Lyn Sharatt, author of Clarity What matters most in learning, teaching and leading, identifies eight components of high impact literacy development:

1)    Oral language which is about social interaction and hence, one way that everyone develops literacy. Therefore, all lessons should include opportunities for students to use oral language to engage in group and team learning, ask or answer questions, and express their understanding or point of view.  

2)    Reading comprehension which is about students reading fluently with understanding. Therefore, all lessons should provide students with the opportunity and support to analyse spoken, written and/or visual texts with a focus on inferring, comparing, visualising, predicting, synthesising, questioning, connecting, contracting and summarising information.

3)    Critical literacy which is about analysing and evaluating the complete meaning of a text and the author’s intent. Therefore, effective teaching instruction should provide students with the opportunity and support to engage with known and unfamiliar texts, and to engage in deep thinking and reflection about these texts.  

4)    Writing which is about being a writer to become a better reader. Therefore, to develop literacy skills teachers must treat reading and writing as inseparable and ensure that both occur every day in all key learning areas.

5)    Accountable talk which is about students developing literacy by owning and presenting their thoughts, and reflecting and responding to the thoughts of others. Therefore, teachers must develop the personal and social capability of students to be collaborative and active learners and explicitly teach them the techniques required to articulate their deep knowledge and understanding of a text.

6)    Gradual release and acceptance of responsibility which is about scaffolding learning from high teacher support to low teacher support. Therefore, teachers must have the high expectation that students will take ownership of their reading and writing for learning through independent practice and application.

7)    Differentiated instruction which is about matching teaching instruction to student ability and interest to meet learning outcomes. Therefore, to improve literacy, teachers must know what students need, why they need it and what teaching strategies and resources will meet those needs.  

8)    Higher order thinking is about students developing literacy by engaging with information to solve problems and create new (for them) meanings and understandings. Therefore, teachers must access and use a range of quality and challenging texts that stretch their students’ thinking.

Every teacher should use these eight components to explicitly teach literacy skills in every subject area. All teachers must see themselves first as literacy teachers with literacy learning being the foundation of all teaching instruction and student success.