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

Extensive opportunities to engage with text

“Students learn most effectively when they have time and opportunity to engage with, practise, and transfer new learning. This means they need to encounter new learning a number of times and in a variety of different tasks or contexts. It also means that when curriculum coverage and student understanding are in competition, the teacher may decide to cover less but cover it in greater depth” 

Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 34

In the context of adolescent literacy, it is important that students get extensive opportunities to:

  • engage with a wide range of texts
  • read, write, speak, and listen
  • learn, practice, and reflect on new knowledge and strategies.

A major problem in some secondary schools is that students simply do not get enough opportunities to read and write. Tatum describes African-American students in some inner-city schools as experiencing an ‘in-school literacy underload’ (Tatum, 2008). Facilitators in the Secondary Literacy Project have observed a similar literacy underload in some New Zealand classrooms

Linking written, oral, and visual language

This is not to suggest that literacy instruction should be solely based around reading and writing. Effective instruction will also develop students’ skills to flexibly use and integrate written, oral, and visual modes.

For example, it is well established that oral language underpins written language; the two are closely interrelated. Effective teachers will plan oral language programmes to promote effective listening and speaking alongside their reading and writing programmes (Ministry of Education, 2006).

Making links between the written, oral, and visual strands are a powerful way of engaging students with text. Walqui (2006) uses the term ‘re-presenting text’ to describe tasks in which students transform their reading from one genre into another. Examples of re-presenting text include summarising written text in a visual form (such as a diagram) or oral form (such as discussion).


Some ways to find out how much reading and writing students in your school are currently doing are:

  • Follow a particular year 9 or 10 class for a day. Keep a record of the time that students spend reading or writing. One way to do this is to simply record the maximum amount of time students would spend reading or writing (if they were consistently on task). Another way is to record the actual amount of on-task reading and writing time.
  • Students keep a literacy learning log for a week. They record the time and types of reading and writing they do in and out of school. Support students to develop a shared understanding of what might count as reading and writing before they start their record.
  • Teachers keep a literacy teaching log for a week that shows all the texts students read and write in their classes.
  • It can be very powerful to collate and analyse this information. One Literacy Leader in the Secondary Literacy Project reported that teachers in her school were ‘absolutely shocked’ when they found out what a small amount of reading and writing students were doing in the course of a week.

Extended opportunities to develop strategies for activating prior knowledge

Make activating prior knowledge a routine your students do whenever they approach a challenging text or writing task. For example, you could:

  • have students engage in a prior knowledge activity such as a brainstorm, concept star, K-W-L, anticipation guide, or discussion
  • teach strategies that students can use to activate their prior knowledge, for example, skimming and scanning a text before reading closely and using that general overview to consider questions such as, “What do I know about this topic?”, “Where have I read a text like this before?”, “What does this remind me of?”
  • cue in their knowledge about the importance of activating prior knowledge, for example, “Remind me, why do we always do activities like this before we read?”

Extended opportunities to learn about and practice using organisational features of text

Draw students’ attention to the organisational features whenever you introduce a challenging text or writing task. For example, you could refer students to this skim and predict poster:

Skim and Predict

Click image to enlarge

Download the following Word document and create your own Skim and Predict poster.

skim and predict (Word 28KB)

Published on: 08 Jan 2018