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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Leading literacy in your school

Leading literacy in your school

Leading professional learning about adolescent literacy: The five modules outlined below will help secondary school leaders and literacy leaders to engage teachers in literacy learning across the curriculum.

Developing high impact teaching and leadership strategies for improved student outcomes. A video presented by Stuart McNaughton and Aaron Wilson from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland. Four critical literacy questions for school leaders and teachers were addressed and discussed:

  • Why is subject area literacy important?
  • What do we need to know about effective literacy teaching?
  • What do we know about how to change?
  • What don’t we yet know?

Secondary Literacy Project (2009–2011) – Mt Albert Grammar: This school wide project focused on developing literacy leadership and effective literacy teaching practice across all learning areas. Video clips are included to illustrate the different stages of the inquiry undertaken.

Role of the literacy leader (Word 2007 15KB) : This description outlines aspects of the role of a Literacy Leader within a secondary school context.

Classroom observations play a key role in the Secondary Literacy. This presentation by Trish Holden looks at some ways of ensuring that these observations can be used to effect change that will impact on student learning. The teaching as inquiry template can be used effectively as the basis for classroom observations as it uses student and teacher learning needs as the basis for planning.

Profile of a Literacy Leader

So who is this literacy leader?

Suzy has worked for 6 years in a year 7–13 school; she now teaches in a year 9 Homeroom class building literacy skills across curriculum areas. Suzy has expertise in both Kiwi Phonics and Reading Recovery from her primary teaching experience. The school encouraged the literacy leader to step into the secondary "world" when they entered into Secondary Literacy Project (SLP) at the beginning of 2010. Suzy splits her time now between the year 7 and 8 teaching programme and the work with years 9 and 10 teachers.

School profile: An urban boys’ school with just over a 1000 students; decile 5; a school with a boarding establishment; 33% Maori students, 4% Pasifika students.

What does she do on a daily/weekly basis?

Time is spent teaching students in year 7 (about 20), who have been identified with high literacy needs, four times per week. Suzy carries out observations and also gives feedback to the year 7 and 8 teachers. In addition, Suzy teaches up to 6 hours with a year 9 class (again identified with high literacy needs), teaming up with another teacher, and planning for the interventions used.

Day to day supervision of two designated teacher aides is also part of her work and she also sets up 1:1 programmes for up to 15 students at any one time.

In SLP Suzy has 5 hours per week (year 2 of SLP) to devote to her work in the secondary part of the school. This role includes the data analysis/management role; working with focus group teachers (x 12) across years 9 and 10; designing tasks/ professional development (PD) for the teachers and also delivering PD to whole staff groups.

Learning about adolescent literacy so that she can support all teachers is an integral part of her own professional development, and Suzy likes to find interesting readings that underpin her professional practice. Suzy said: “I needed to read more about the theory to understand what was happening in secondary classrooms…”

What has Suzy learnt?

“I am learning to apply a range of literacy approaches into the secondary school. Developing an understanding of how classes work in secondary subject areas was necessary so I could help and support the teachers.” Her role has changed through the SLP initiative. It has become “more ‘across the curriculum’ flavoured,” she says. She saw that they needed to concentrate more on the in-depth comprehension strategies and encouraged teachers to teach students about using text features to navigate the text more easily, because of the increasing complexity of text and literacy demands in year 9 and 10.

Fortnightly meetings with the focus group teachers allowed them to be introduced to new ideas such as how to teach the use of text features in reading unfamiliar text. Between meetings teachers try out these new ideas and strategies. Now Suzy has also introduced the teachers in the junior area to using text features to their students, which is proving successful. Literacy leadership through SLP challenged teachers to move students through the curriculum levels and achieve at higher levels.

What advice would you give to a literacy leader?

“The most important thing would be to find out where the teachers are at – a starting point.” Suzy is adamant that a Literacy Leader must be well prepared, having an explicit or thorough idea of what you are going to work on. “You can’t address all the gaps at once – after carefully analyzing the data, you have to focus on one thing at a time, for example, using text features.” She believes that she has learnt as much as her teachers through delivering the PD.

She would encourage literacy leaders to read and learn a lot so that you feel confident in leading the professional development for other teachers. “Changing practice takes such a long time,” says Suzy, “and it takes up to 5 years at least to embed literacy into practice.”

Published on: 11 Jan 2011

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Secondary Middle Leaders

This site provides a range of information, tools, and resources to support secondary middle leaders as they lead change in relation to The New Zealand Curriculum and Ministry of Education priorities.