Literacy is the flexible and sustainable mastery of a repertoire of practices with the texts of traditional and new communications technologies, via spoken language, print and multimedia. Literacies particularly relevant to us include computer literacy, media literacy, cultural literacy, visual literacy and critical literacy.
The Importance of Literacy “Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations so they can create the world of the future. In a complex and sometimes even dangerous world, their ability to read will be crucial.” Moore et al, 1999
But isn’t this the responsibility of English teachers? All teachers are teachers of literacy because all students learn through language. Literacy strategies are vital for successful learning and achievement in all our secondary school classrooms.
Literacy and language is a shared responsibility Literacy and language demands are integral in all teaching and learning activities and underpin all content-learning. Teaching literacy skills is complementary to the subject- specific skills of accounting/business/economics. It is necessary so that students can unpack the jargon of our subjects.
Literacy should be taught, not caught Teachers need to be able to use a range of deliberate acts of teaching in flexible and integrated ways within literacy-learning activities to meet the diverse literacy learning needs of our students. These deliberate acts include modelling, integrating, prompting, questioning, giving feedback, using, sharing, presenting, telling, explaining, and directing …
A challenge for many of us is that the development of literacy and language have thus far been an implicit part of our teaching. We must step up. To succeed, students require explicit teaching of both content and literacy/ language knowledge/skills in each learning area. These are intertwined.
Key competencies “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.” The New Zealand Curriculum, page 16
Literacy skills fall into two categories Receptive – what you receive and how you make meaning (read, listen and view) Productive – what you produce and how you create meaning (speak, write and present) Students are better at understanding commerce vocabulary than they are at using it.
Consider the new ~ subject- specific ~ language students of our commerce subjects have to cope with …
Basic Literacy ~ skills such as decoding and knowledge of high-frequency words that underlie virtually all reading tasks. Intermediate Literacy ~ skills common to many tasks, including academic language, generic comprehension strategies, common word meanings and basic fluency. Disciplinary Literacy (subject specific) ~ literacy skills relevant to Accounting, Business Studies or Economics.
Subject-specific literacy Plant in Accounting this means … in Biology this means … Capital In Accounting this means … In Economics this means … In Geography this means … In English this means …
Students need specific help as they learn The specialist vocabulary associated with our subjects How to read and understand its text (which may or may not include ‘texts’ in the traditional sense) How to communication knowledge and ideas in appropriate ways How to listen and read critically, assessing the value of what they hear and read
Vocabulary Students need to know vocabulary to develop language and in-depth thinking They need activities to learn, use and practise the vocab they need to communicate in Accounting/Business or Economics They find it useful if they can link new words to their existing knowledge Write key words for each lesson on the board Students should not be expected to learn more than 6 or 7 new words in one lesson Students need to hear and speak new vocab to learn it, and only then can they use it in reading and writing
Reading is the link Students need to draw on prior knowledge They need to establish a purpose for reading They need to decide where they can locate the information they need Students need opportunities to discuss both new and familiar concepts they will meet in text Unfamiliar terms need to be clarified Students need the overall structure of the text explained, including the use of diagrams/illustrations/graphs
Now we can write Students need to clarify ideas, choose vocab, compose and revise text when they write Effective teachers continually make explicit the connections between reading and writing Once students have a structure they are more able to generate ideas and organise those ideas coherently and logically Students find it useful to see models and examples of the kinds of writing required
Students may need help constructing complete sentences, structuring information within a paragraph, recognising elements of a coherent text and using the conventions of written language Sharing ideas verbally helps students to prepare for writing, generate and clarify ideas, practice the relevant vocabulary and think through and organise their ideas
Learners learn best when language learning is amplified, rather than simplified.
The teacher believes students will be unable to cope with definitions, learning materials, case studies, assessment material, etc. In response, the teacher gives them fewer opportunities to read, and when they do, the texts are simplified Therefore, they get less exposure to rich and authentic texts than they need to succeed So, the students do not experience success in assessment activities
For our priority learners Maori Pasifika Those with special needs There is an even greater need for scaffolding
Some students begin the year with lower literacy skills than their peers In response, the teacher gives them fewer opportunities to read, and when they do, the texts are simplified Therefore, they get less exposure to rich and authentic texts than their peers So, the gaps in reading comprehension between the two groups get even bigger
Embedding literacy in commerce teaching requires us to Understand subject-specific literacy demands Analyse and use literacy data alongside subject data Identify the literacy learning needs of individuals and groups Build literacy leadership within learning areas