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“One Small Step” (Reading)

School Journal, Part 4 Number 3, 2009. Noun frequency level: 11-13

By the end of year 8, students are required to use a range of fiction and non-fiction texts to locate, evaluate, and synthesise information and ideas in order to meet the reading demands of the curriculum, drawing on the knowledge, skills, and attitudes described for the end of year 8 in the Literacy Learning Progressions. The curriculum tasks will also involve the students in generating their own questions as well as answering questions from the teacher.

A year 7 and 8 class is conducting an inquiry into exploration and related challenges and opportunities. This involves the students developing an understanding, within the social studies curriculum, of how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for people, places, and environments. As part of the inquiry, the students are exploring the challenges faced by the Apollo Program – challenges involved in landing a person on the surface of the Moon. They reflect on why people might face and accept such a challenge.

“One Small Step” is a mixed text type: it is a scientific report containing features of narrative texts (including dialogue) and of explanation texts. These features require students to transfer their understanding of one part of the text to other parts as they evaluate and synthesise information. The text includes some challenging topic-specific vocabulary, sentences of varying complexity, and a range of illustrations and photographs, many with labels or captions.

The teacher chose “One Small Step” to develop the students’ understanding of the nature of human endeavour (in particular, of why people take on challenges). The students need to locate information within the text, evaluate whether it is relevant, and then synthesise the information to develop their understanding of why people take on challenges.

The following example illustrates aspects of the task and text and demonstrates how a student engages with both task and text to meet the reading demands of the curriculum. A number of such examples would be used to inform the overall teacher judgment for this student.