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

Appropriate challenge

Teachers can support students in numerous ways to comprehend and produce text beyond their current level of expertise (for example, through teacher questioning, templates, retrieval grids, writing frames and other forms of scaffolding). Such support will be much more effective, however, when teachers make their purpose explicit to students, and provide students with explicit instruction about cognitive strategies that they can employ as independent readers and writers.

Case studies

Imagine two science teachers who both have students who would currently struggle to write an extended essay about photosynthesis.

Teacher A decides to avoid the essay writing activity altogether, and has students record their information as a series of bullet points instead.

Teacher B chooses to provide students with a lot of support to write their essays. Students have opportunities to read similar essays and discuss their features. They brainstorm key subject vocabulary and important ideas to include. They are given tables and writing frames that help them organise their ideas. Students all complete an essay, albeit with considerable support.

The approach taken by Teacher B is a scaffolded approach. Scaffolding can be thought of as the purposeful use of guidance and support (through using instructional strategies) while handing over responsibility progressively to the learner. The ultimate goal is for students to self-regulate their learning and develop independence.

Deepening students’ strategies for activating and making use of their prior knowledge

Connections can be made with Guideline 3 and Guideline 7 of the framework. The following will help guide your thinking when connecting these guidelines in your school context.

Consider what you can do to help your students:

  • activate their own prior knowledge, for example, by surveying organisational features of a challenging text and completing a mental K-W-L before reading in more depth
  • select the most appropriate prior knowledge to activate, for example, when reading a mathematics word problem it may be more important to activate knowledge of the problem type than it is to activate prior knowledge of the specific context
  • review and check the accuracy and relevance of their prior knowledge as they read and write
  • activate analogous prior knowledge, for example, if they do not have a direct experience of that context or text type.

Published on: 08 Jan 2018