The newsletters for the last two weeks have discussed the improvements made by our teachers and students with literacy over the past 12-15 months, and they really are exceptional!
But what else are we doing with literacy and why have our results improved so much?
All teachers understand what literacy is and their role in developing it in every subject across the school.
Literacy is not the subject of English….you can be literate in any language! Literacy is choosing what language tools to use in different contexts. So our students learn the language tools (reading, writing, speaking, listening) in English lessons but then use these in different ways in other subjects like Mathematics, Science, Health, Music, and so on. Each subject area uses literacy skills in different ways.
Every lesson is an opportunity for literacy development, and all of our teachers make sure they maximise these opportunities. They clearly know their responsibility in teaching the language tools well too; children won’t choose to read, write or speak if they aren’t confident with them.
All teachers analyse our school NAPLAN literacy data.
Over the last 12-15 months we have all learned a lot about data. We know how to ‘drill down’ into the data and look at the choices made in multi-choice questions for example, by every student! We talk about why students might be making these choices and whether we could be teaching things differently so that they don’t make incorrect choices. We look closely at each student’s writing tasks and make notes about whether they need extra support with paragraphing or spelling and so on. If many children are making the same mistakes or need help with certain areas, we make that a priority for the whole class or the whole school. In 2015 we found that spelling was a priority for all years and hence devised strategies to raise our spelling levels…this we did, as our results indicate!
Our teachers meet weekly after school as Professional Learning Teams (PLT's).
We have two PLT's in the Primary years for K-2 teachers and one for 3-6 teachers. In the Secondary years we also have a literacy PLT. At these meetings we discuss our data, our strategies and whether they are working. We consider alternative strategies if they are not producing significant improvements. We discuss the professional learning needs of our teachers – do we all know the best ways of teaching spelling, for example? If not we research and sometimes even go to externally held professional development courses.
We have recently made plans to have a full-time Literacy Coordinator at our Primary Campus for 2017.
We are very excited about this and know that this teacher will add considerable value as a coach for our teachers. They will be given targeted time to support teachers in analysing their data and putting strategies in place for students.
We are also running a number of literacy programs.
Accelerated Reader program for Years 3 to 6; on-Entry testing for Pre-Primary to Year 2 (more data to work with!); Bright Path – a whole-of school scale on which to place every student and determine their next steps; guided reading program in the lower primary; Spelling Oxford list for all classes so we have consistency about what words children and learning to spell and when; and SoundWaves to teach phonics across the school.
These are just some of our current strategies to maximise student literacy learning to help us maximise the literacy attainment of each student at MCC, starting at the very early years, to give them the best possible start in their learning.
Dr Thelma Perso
Director of Teaching and Learning