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


Principle 1 - Effective teaching develops students’ own literacy skills and strategies

Teachers need to support students to read and write challenging texts, as well as prepare them to cope when their teacher is no longer there to assist. The ultimate aim of literacy instruction is to develop students’ own literacy skills and strategies. The difference between teacher support and student independence is illustrated below.

Teacher support Student independence
  • Teacher provides activities such as brainstorms and concept stars to help students activate their prior knowledge before each reading or writing task.
  • Student surveys organisational features of text before reading and asks him/herself, “What do I know about this topic / type of text?”
  • Teacher teaches new vocabulary items.
  • Student uses strategies to solve unfamiliar words when reading and writing, for example, re-reading, knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, context clues.

The diagram below is a framework for developing students’ own literacy skills and strategies.

Developing Independant Learners: A Framework.

Figure from Ministry of Education, 2004, p.22.

Because ‘literacy’ is a continuum, the stages in the diagram are recursive: once students achieve greater independence in using one strategy at one level of text difficulty they will start on a new cycle. Once again students will be in the ‘dependent’ stage of the diagram – but this time in relation to a new strategy and more complex level of text. There is no limit to the number of times this progression will be repeated, with more strategies and greater complexity of text.

To what extent do your students:

  • understand why you use particular literacy activities?
  • show evidence of having internalised these approaches?
  • gradually take ownership of strategies such as writing frames?

Principle 2 - Effective teachers have adaptive expertise

To be effective, teachers need to do much more than teach a range of practical literacy teaching activities. All the clozes, clines, clusters, concept maps and K-W-Ls in the world will not improve students’ literacy – unless teachers have the expertise to understand when, where, why, how and for whom these activities are likely to prove effective.

Teachers often develop their deeper knowledge of effective literacy practice after they have seen how literacy activities engage students.

Principle 3 - Literacy pedagogical content knowledge

“Effective teachers know much more than their subjects, and more than ‘good pedagogy’. They know how students tend to understand (and mis-understand) their subjects; they know how to anticipate and diagnose such misunderstandings; and they know how to deal with them when they arise. This kind of knowledge has been termed ‘pedagogical content knowledge’” 

Grossman & Schoenfield, 2005, p. 205

Literacy pedagogical content knowledge is a vital part of effective content area teachers’ expertise: You cannot be an effective subject teacher without being an effective teacher of the language of that subject.

Published on: 08 Jan 2018