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

Module 1 - Introduction

This resource aims to assist you to:

  • better understand the notion of literacy demand within your subject area
  • include subject area literacy teaching and learning into your programmes of work
  • use the ‘teaching as inquiry cycle’ as the basis for your planning and teaching decisions.

The resource has been organised into 5 modules:

Module 1: Introduction

Module 2: Subject area literacy for students in years 9–13

Module 3: Exploring aspects of subject area literacy within a technology context

Module 4: Exploring aspects of subject area literacy within a science context

Module 5: Exploring aspects of subject area literacy within a social studies context

Modules 1 and 2 are designed for school-wide use. They may be used to work with all staff or as background for the subject specific modules. Modules 3, 4, and 5 are designed for use by teachers of Technology, Science, and Social Studies. However, all teachers may find the modules provide a useful framework for considering the literacy demand within their own subject area.

To complete modules 2 to 5, you will need:

Literacy and language in The New Zealand Curriculum

The following extract, from the introduction to the  learning areas section of The New Zealand Curriculum, makes it clear that students will be most successful when all of their teachers provide literacy and language teaching and learning experiences in their subject areas:

“Each learning area has its own language or languages. As students discover how to use them, they find they are able to think in different ways, access new areas of knowledge, and see their world from new perspectives."

For each area, students need specific help from subject area teachers as they learn:

  • the specialist vocabulary associated with that area
  • how to read and understand its texts
  • how to communicate knowledge and ideas in appropriate ways
  • how to listen and read critically, assessing the value of what they hear and read.

As language is central to learning and English is the medium for most learning in the New Zealand Curriculum, the importance of literacy in English cannot be overstated”

(Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 16).

The definition of literacy

Literacy is the ability to understand, respond to, and use those forms of language that are required by society and valued by individuals and communities.

(Ministry of Education, 2007).

  • Forms of language: The written, oral, and visual texts that students use in their everyday lives – at school, at work, at home, and in their communities.
  • Text: A piece of spoken, written, or visual communication that is a whole unit, for example, a conversation, a poem, a web page, a speech, an article, or a poster.

Defining literacy in this way is based on two key understandings:

  • Literacy is reading and writing, underpinned by oral language. These are the interactive tools that students use to engage with the world, including all learning areas of the curriculum; they underpin students’ development of the key competencies. These skills are cumulative. Without this knowledge and skills, students’ further development in learning will be limited.
  • Literacy is a set of social and cultural practices that is integral to each student’s identity.

Literacy can be thought of as a tool for learning. Reading, writing, and oral language are the basis for the development of the key competencies outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum. They enable students to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas to personally critique the issues surrounding them as they live, learn, and work. Having this toolkit supports students to understand, make decisions, shape actions, and ultimately control the direction of their lives.

The increasing specialisation of literacy development

As students progress through the curriculum, the texts and the tasks they undertake become increasingly complex, abstract, and specialised. For each subject area:

  • texts become longer
  • text purpose and style varies
  • structural complexity increases
  • word complexity increases, with the use of academic and content-specific vocabulary
  • sentence complexity increases
  • graphic and/or visual representations become more important
  • conceptual challenge increases - students are required to read across multiple texts to locate, analyse, evaluate, and synthesise information and ideas and present them in increasingly sophisticated formats.
The increasing specialisation of literacy development

Download the image above:  LSSCdiagram2_SpecialisationLiteracy (PDF 125KB)

Note: While basic literacy is the learning that occurs in the early years, the ‘intermediate literacy’ referred to in the diagram does not translate to intermediate years at school. Research tells us that students begin to face the demands of disciplinary (or subject area) literacy from year 4 or 5, as the specialisation of literacy and language knowledge and skills increases within each subject. This literacy progression is explained in more detail in  Module 2, Part A.

Teaching as inquiry

This resource is guided by the teaching as inquiry approach described in The New Zealand Curriculum

‘Since any teaching strategy works differently in different contexts for different students, effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students.’

Features of the teaching as inquiry approach:

  • Teachers use a range of assessment information on student learning to inform the next teaching steps.
  • Teachers seek feedback from students and colleagues on what works and why.
  • Teachers make and act on decisions, based on evidence about what to teach and how to teach it.
  • Teachers use a range of teaching approaches to meet different purposes and needs.
Teacher inquiry diagram

 Download the image above:  LSSCdiagram1_TeacherInq (PDF 78KB)

The New Zealand Curriculum Online explores aspects of teaching as inquiry and makes links to key research.

Published on: 09 May 2016