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

Level 6 – Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

Students will:

  • integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully and confidently to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.

Indicators

Selects and reads texts for enjoyment and personal fulfilment

What do I need to know?

Motivation and engagement leads to enjoyment

A reader’s interest and motivation strongly affect their ability to engage in reading. One of the main attributes of effective readers is that they have the interest and motivation to read and to comprehend the meaning of the text. In the PISA 2000 study (Ministry of Education, 2001b), researchers questioned fifteen-year-old students about their attitudes to reading, related these responses to the students’ literacy achievements, and concluded that students’ engagement in reading and students’ performance are closely associated. Engaged readers work on unlocking the text; they find strategies to help them read it because they want to understand it. When students enjoy learning and believe in their own reading abilities, they are likely to engage with their texts.

Effective teachers create the conditions for motivation and find ways to engage the students in their learning. Only when students are motivated, are interested, and enjoy learning do they make the progress they are capable of in their literacy learning and go on to become lifelong learners. An effective teacher connects to each student’s interests, experiences, and sense of identity, shares a love of reading and writing, and generates excitement and a sense of purpose – all this gives heart to a teacher’s practice.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.55 and 159.

Relationship between reading texts and student motivation

Teachers have to create the conditions for motivation; it’s not just a matter of immersing students in learning activities. When students are motivated and have developed the positive attitudes that will lead them to become independent readers and writers, they gain long-term benefits. Studies have shown that students’ recreational reading and writing is a good indicator of their achievement. Teachers’ expectations for students’ behaviour and academic performance influence the students’ motivation and therefore their actual achievement ... Students are more motivated when their learning activity is directed towards a goal that they know, when they receive informative and affirming feedback, and when they can see the links between what they did and successful outcomes. Motivation is affected by self-concept and a sense of self-efficacy. A belief in themselves and their ability to succeed in classroom tasks has an energising effect on both teachers and students. This is why motivation is often a major issue for teachers working with students who have experienced difficulties in reading or writing. Students’ motivation and engagement increase when they have ownership of their literacy learning and are familiar with the language and the tasks expected of them. This is especially so for those students whose backgrounds differ from that of the dominant school culture. When these learners’ cultural values and knowledge are incorporated into their learning activities, they are more motivated to learn.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.159.

Relationship between reading texts and student engagement

Engagement means participating actively rather than being passive in the learning process. Learners engage more readily when they expect to succeed and when they see worthwhile challenge in their learning tasks. In literacy learning, intellectual engagement relates to thinking – the cognitive processing of written forms of language. When learners engage intellectually, they bring mental rigour and focus to their learning task. As they read and write, they need to think consciously about how to use the knowledge and strategies they are acquiring. Emotional engagement relates closely to motivation and interest and is important for both teachers and students.

Literacy learners who are emotionally engaged will have a positive, sometimes even passionate, attitude towards reading and writing and will take ownership of their learning. Learners’ emotional engagement is affected by other people’s expectations and by their own self-concepts. When teachers and students are emotionally engaged in the learning, this enhances the quality of the relationships built between teachers and students and among students. A further concept to consider is cultural engagement. Every learner views literacy tasks through a cultural “lens” because most of the prior knowledge, experiences, and values that a learner brings to literacy activities arise from their cultural background. Culturally based values and knowledge affect each learner’s engagement and interest in the learning activity. Ensuring cultural engagement is particularly important in classrooms where the students come from diverse backgrounds, especially where their cultural backgrounds differ from the teacher’s.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. pp.159–160.

What does it look like?

Example 1

This is an example of a student’s personal response, having selected and read a written text for enjoyment and personal fulfilment. Third student exemplar: personal response to The Red Sari by Apirana Taylor

“This is a thought provoking short story. The narrator is stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of New Delhi looking at the world outside the taxi window. Like the narrator I found it disturbing the way the children had to eke out an existence begging on the street. How could a parent or caregiver 'cut off the fingers and even limbs of their children so the children can go and beg...'? The narrator tried to make himself feel better about the plight of the beggars by thinking that 'the great thing about this poverty is that it's so big. It seems there's nothing you can do about it.' Although this is some sort of justification, it is really just escaping from the problem which is what the narrator literally does when the traffic eventually gets moving and the taxi can drive away. The story made me think about how lucky we are to be living in New Zealand." 

Example 2 

This is an example of a student’s personal response, having selected and viewed a visual text for enjoyment and personal fulfilment. First student exemplar: personal response to ‘Confessions of a Simple Surgeon’ (documentary)

“The documentary Confessions of a Simple Surgeon is about the protest actions of Dr. Evans. This man believes advertising is the reason people still smoke and this is why he vandalises advertising billboards. I do not agree with the action he takes to make his point. Dr Evans made the point that people still smoke even when faced with some pretty graphic images which are used to get them to stop. I did agree that the shock tactics he used in the documentary were more effective than vandalising billboards as a way of getting his anti smoking message across to people. The shock techniques he used in this documentary were extreme close ups of diseased body organs caused by smoking. He also showed us a bucket of tar in graphic detail to illustrate how much tar passed through a smoker’s body in a life-time.”

Example 3 

This is an example of a student’s personal response, having selected and listened to an oral text for enjoyment and personal fulfilment. First student exemplar: personal response to the video of an interview from the Alcohol Advisory Council of NZ, Had Enough?

“When I watched this film it made me realise that stopping drinking is not easy for some people. I know that some of my friends started drinking when they were at intermediate school and they are now drinking more and more. I felt sorry for Jennifer's little children as she said that she can't see herself stopping drinking. I wonder what will happen when they get older and they see her drunk all the time. They may hate her like Jim hated his father. Nina talked about drinking so much that being drunk became 'her usual state.' She and Ted both worked in entertainment and I think that many people who do are like them because they seem to act like life is one big party.”

Example 4 

English OnlineWorth Reading

Assisted by the checklist, students select and read an extended written text for enjoyment and personal fulfilment.  

Extract from teaching unit: Task 3: Deciding on your text

Make a decision on the text you will read and study after some preliminary reading. After reading the blurb, read the opening chapter and make some notes. Use the  checklist to write your responses.

  • What do you know about the characters that have been introduced so far?
  • What would you like to find out about them?
  • Where is the story set in time and place?
  • What is happening in the storyline?
  • Has the story caught your interest?
  • Have you found the text difficult to read or understand?
  • Are you keen to read on?
  • Talk with other students about your impressions of the first chapter of your text.

Refer to the notes you made using your  checklist.

Understands and considers the connections between oral, written, and visual language

What do I need to know?

Connections between written, oral, and visual language

Learning written language cannot be separated from learning oral and visual language.

It is well established, through studies and theories of language learning, that oral language underpins written language: the two are closely interrelated. Through discussion involving both listening and speaking, students focus on specific ideas that arise in their reading and writing, decide how the ideas can best be expressed, and extend their vocabulary and their thinking. These conversations provide students with essential experiences to build on when engaging with texts and delighting in them. Effective teachers plan oral language programmes to promote effective listening and speaking alongside their reading and writing programmes.

Visual language is inherent in reading and writing because print is a visual medium – we see the words and the pictures – and some text forms offer specific kinds of visual support to the reader. In order to find or create maximum meaning in written language, students need to be able to access, process, and present ideas and information by understanding and using many visual features and conventions. For example, when reading a transactional text for information, they may need to interpret subheadings, maps, and diagrams.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.18.

Combining written and visual aspects of texts (reading)

Visuals are an integral part of many printed and electronic texts. Students need to learn about the purposes of visual features and the relationships between visual and written aspects of texts in order to comprehend and interpret such texts. For example, many diagrams present some of the information from the print in an abbreviated form. Students who are unfamiliar with this convention may not realise that they can often fill in the gaps in their understanding of a diagram by referring to the printed text that accompanies it. Before students read a new kind of text, teachers can discuss the ways in which it presents information (including visual ways) and help them link these techniques to familiar ways of presenting information.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.84.

What does it look like?

Example 1

A student recognises, understands, and considers the connections between written, and visual language sources by drawing links between the ideas in Mansfield’s short story and symbolic representation of those ideas in the static image.  Extract from student commentary on this static image, based on Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield: 

The black background in my image represents the dark, confining, cupboard-like room she returned to after visiting the park. The white silhouette with a bun low on the nape of the neck shows that Miss Brill was an old lady. It dominates the page because the story is mostly about what goes on inside her head. Inside the silhouette I have put together a bright collage of all the people, objects and events from the park. They are in colour because to her they are the most real and vibrant part of her life. They are put into the shape of a brain to show that in her mind they are a very real part of her life. I chose the quote because Miss Brill imagined herself and the other people in the park as a company of actors presenting an exciting play. The quote relates to the action, characters and props in the collage inside her head. I wrote the quote in writing that is like calligraphy because I think Miss Brill’s handwriting would be careful and ornate. Also, it is in gold ink because the play she imagined herself to be part of was very precious to her.

Example 2

A student recognises, understands, and considers the connections between written and visual language sources by drawing links between the way the visual techniques, such as colour, font, and graphics, and the written text convey ideas about the life and poetry of Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. Extract from student commentary on web design by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali 

My website is about Oswald Mbuyiseni Mitshali. The colours on the website were chosen because: Black background: Most of his poems related to black South Africa and apartheid therefore the black resembles the dull lives the blacks lived. White writing: The white writing resembles the difference in the people (black and white). It also stands out on the black background. Font: chose the heading font for the poem titles because it is bold and is harsh just like the hard conditions for the black community of South Africa. Pictures The picture on ‘Nightfall in Soweto' shows the houses in Soweto and how the term "matchbox house" is almost true.

Example 3

In developing a monologue and completing the techniques table, a student recognises the connections between oral, written, and visual language [for example, completing a techniques table including point of view, costume, set, voice; annotating their script identifying where oral and visual techniques will be used in the performance to help analyse effects]. Extract from task 3: exemplar techniques table

Key idea / intended effect Technique 1 Technique 2 Technique 3
History teacher costume – wear a tie set – write notes about history on whiteboard. Stand in front of it during performance voice – speak in a loud, deep, authoritative voice
 Believes that discipline is the answer to all his students’ problems   upright posture  prop – a cane  voice – well spoken, formal voice
He’s a lot like Hitler facial expressions -fixed, staring eyes – like a madman gives wave salute in crisp, military style voice – dramatic changes in volume – from quiet to shouting

Integrates information and prior knowledge to make sense of increasingly complex texts

What do I need to know?

Developing strategies for reading

Readers use and integrate information from various sources as they read a written text. To construct meaning from a text, strategic readers consciously integrate their existing knowledge and strategies with the sources of information in the text. A reader’s existing or prior knowledge includes their background knowledge and their literacy-related knowledge. Sources of information in texts include semantic sources of information, syntactic sources of information, and visual and grapho-phonic sources of information.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.52.

Using the sources of information in text

Sources of information in the written text include:

  • Meaning (semantics) – the meanings of the written words and of any diagrams or pictures in the text
  • Structure (syntax) – the structure or syntax and grammar of the language that is used (at word, phrase, and whole-text level)
  • Visual and grapho-phonic sources of information – the visual features of the printed letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs, including print conventions such as punctuation, spaces between words, and the use of capital or lower-case letters and italics or bold fonts.

Students can use these sources of information only if they can make links between:

  • their existing understandings and the concepts in the text
  • their existing knowledge of the structure of language and the structures used in the text
  • their existing understanding of phonics (how sounds relate to print) or of print conventions and the words or conventions used in the text.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.54.

Knowing about features of [complex and varied] texts

Reading involves an interaction between the reader and the text. The teacher needs to consider the ways in which features of the texts in their subject area can affect their students’ ability to gain meaning. Text difficulty or level is usefully thought of as getting an appropriate balance between supports and challenges. Supports are the features of text that make it easy to read, and challenges are the potential difficulties, for particular readers. It’s important to remember that supports and challenges exist only in relation to the reader: what one student finds a challenge, another may find a support.
Ministry of Education 2003a, p.127.

Academic texts used in secondary schools cover a huge range of text forms, including literary texts, worksheets, Internet websites, books setting out detailed information on specific subjects, and short pieces, such as letters to the editor. Academic texts are often complex in structure. The language used in academic texts is often concise, abstract, and highly structured compared with the language that students use in conversation and discussion. Academic vocabulary includes many subject-specific terms. The information in academic texts is often dense; for example, there may be long paragraphs discussing abstract concepts that are removed from the students’ personal experience. Sentence structure is often complex in these texts, which are generally written from an objective or impersonal perspective. Visual features of the text, such as labelled diagrams, may also require interpretation skills that the students have not yet learned.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.54.

Considerations for teachers when selecting texts

In order to choose texts that will motivate and engage their students, teachers need to consider what they know about their students in relation to the kinds of texts used in their subject area. Effective teachers select appropriate texts in order to enable their students to comprehend and respond to meaning. They use their knowledge of the students’ existing literacy expertise to decide on strategies for engaging the students in text-based activities that will meet their learning objectives.

In particular, secondary school teachers should consider:

  • how difficult the vocabulary is and how many new, subject-specific terms there are
  • to what extent new terms are explained in the text and how clear and coherent these explanations are
  • how complex the concepts and ideas are and how densely they are grouped; how long and complex the sentences and paragraphs are
  • how the text is organised and structured (for example, how headings, paragraphs, and italic and bold print are used)
  • how user-friendly the physical layout and typography are (for example, consider the density of the print and the size and clarity of the typeface)
  • how clear the visuals – graphs, pictures, and diagrams – are.

Factors to consider when selecting texts include:

  • students’ existing body of knowledge, repertoire of literacy strategies, and awareness of what they know and can do
  • the students’ familiarity with (that is, their prior knowledge of) the subject content; the purpose for using the text
  • the supports and challenges that the students will meet in the text
  • the text’s relevance to the subject content to be learned
  • how far the text is likely to engage the students
  • how reading the text fits into the planned teaching and learning programme or unit of work.

Teachers can prepare students for reading a particular text by:

  • linking new information to the students’ prior experience and knowledge
  • giving them opportunities to discuss both new and familiar concepts that they will meet in the text
  • clarifying the meanings of unfamiliar terms
  • explaining the overall structure of the text. 

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. pp.55 and 59.

Using prior knowledge

The prior knowledge that students bring to reading is based on their own unique experiences and understandings. Because every reader's prior knowledge is different, the meaning taken from a given text will vary from reader to reader. Students' background knowledge is their knowledge about the world and life in general; it also includes their existing understandings of concepts related to the content of the text. As readers, students relate new ideas in the text to what they already know, using their existing knowledge to help them predict what might follow, to draw inferences, and to make generalisations. Readers who have little background knowledge of subject content find it hard to make meaning from texts in that subject area.

Students' literacy-related knowledge includes their knowledge of:

  • how texts work and what different kinds of text are used for; how oral language is used and the ways in which oral language and written language are structured
  • how print conventions are used
  • the forms and meanings of familiar words and phrases
  • the visual-language features (for example, layout, pictures, symbols, and icons) of the texts that they read.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.54.

What does it look like?

Example 1

An important part of reading any text is making links with what we already know. These links help us understand the text and help us work out what any parts we do not understand might mean. A link is a connection, a tie-in, an association between what is on the paper and what is already in our memory. When we read we sometimes say, "Yes, I understand, I have seen something like that before." This is an example of making a link between what we read and what we know. Many texts will use examples that we already know about to help explain new ideas. Here is an example:

Microwaves inside your microwave oven behave like the light from a torch. When we turn the torch off - the light stops. It is the same with microwaves, the second the oven is turned off, the waves stop.

We all know how a torch works, by linking this with the text we get a better understanding of the way microwaves travel inside a microwave oven.

Example 2 

English Online: ‘Yes...but’

These strategies support students as they integrate sources of information and prior knowledge on the content of written texts to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Teaching strategies to scaffold students towards activating prior knowledge:

Example 3

English Online: ‘Yes...but’:

Students integrate sources of information [for example, newspapers, magazines, or through the internet] and prior knowledge about selected issues purposefully and confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Extract from teaching unit – Task 5: Framing topics

Look at issues raised in newspapers, magazines, or through the internet. You could also record television documentaries and the news to look for issues that interest you.You could also look for topics in  achievement standard 90053 [formal writing]  externals papers. List, on the board, several issues your class has found. Develop them into statements or propositions that could then be developed using a "yes...but" structure. For example, an issue like "boy racers" has been framed as a topic in task 2: "Boy racers should be banned from our roads."

Task 6: Building in information from other sources

You should incorporate two or three pieces of information from other sources that you can refer to in your essay, but your essay will largely consist of your ideas, not material taken from other sources.

Selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence

What do I need to know?

Processing and comprehension strategies for reading

Reading strategies include processing strategies and comprehension strategies. The reading processing strategies are the "in-the-head" ways in which readers make use of the sources of information in the text to decode words. They include attending and searching (looking for particular text features or information), predicting what will be in the text (for example, words, text features, or content), cross-checking to confirm that the reading makes sense and fits, and self-correcting by searching for more information when an error is detected.

The ways in which students learn and apply the processing strategies illustrate the importance of metacognition in literacy learning. For example, readers developing more advanced skills might need to be taught how to search for and identify technical language in a text and encouraged to cross-check its meaning using contextual information. Students whose control of the processing strategies is limited may process text in inappropriate ways, for example, by trying to sound out every single word or by making random guesses rather than using the available sources of information in the text or their own prior knowledge.

Reading comprehension strategies enable readers not only to make sense of a text but also to think about what they are reading and enter into a mental dialogue with the author.

The main comprehension strategies that proficient readers use are:

  • making connections between texts and their prior knowledge
  • forming and testing hypotheses about texts
  • asking questions about texts
  • creating mental images or visualising
  • inferring meaning from texts
  • identifying the writer's purpose and point of view
  • identifying the main idea or theme in a text
  • summarising the information or events in texts
  • analysing and synthesising ideas, information, structures, and features in texts
  • evaluating ideas and information.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.36. 

Developing readers' processing strategies 

Effective teachers provide instruction that is both strategic and explicit when working with students as they refine and extend these basic but essential strategies. For some learners, especially those who need further support in the basics of reading, the emphasis may be on decoding in order to make meaning (though these students should also be encouraged to think critically about what they are reading and to make connections with other texts). But for most fluent, independent readers, the emphasis will be on exploring meaning at deeper levels and making many kinds of connections and comparisons. Above all, the activities should be motivating and enjoyable for all students. The processing strategies are briefly described below.

Attending and searching

Learners need to attend to details of texts in order to decode, find information, determine meaning, and learn about text forms and features. The learner uses the sources of information to look purposefully for ideas or concepts, facts, vocabulary, patterns of syntax, and information in symbols, illustrations, and diagrams. For fluent and independent readers, this usually involves attending to larger chunks of text. These readers slow down to identify and focus on specific words and features only when they need to do so in order to ascertain, clarify, or extend meaning or thinking. For students who need further support in the basics of reading, attending and searching could involve attending closely to most words and to the illustrations.

Predicting

Predicting is a strategy that readers use to anticipate what will come next. It involves forming an expectation on the basis of information acquired so far and drawing on their prior knowledge and experience of the world and of text content, structure, and language. Predicting, then, is strongly related to meaning and is more than mere speculation. For fluent and independent readers, predicting involves using prior knowledge and information in the text quickly, and sometimes automatically, to decide (at least initially) on the meaning of unknown words, terms, and phrases or difficult passages or to anticipate such things as the next event in a narrative or the next step in a procedural text. For students who need further support in the basics of reading, predicting will also involve drawing on prior knowledge and information from semantic, syntactic, and visual and grapho-phonic sources to predict individual words.

Cross-checking, confirming, and self-correcting

Readers need to cross-check their predictions about vocabulary, content, or meaning as they read to ensure that the predictions make sense and fit with the other information that they have already processed in the text. When readers detect an error or suspect an alternative meaning, they need to know what to do about this. For fluent and independent readers, cross-checking usually involves searching for additional information relating to content, meaning, or vocabulary to confirm their initial understanding of the text. Such readers usually check their predictions swiftly and automatically. For students who are still learning the basics of reading, crosschecking might also involve drawing on their prior knowledge of semantic, syntactic, and visual and grapho-phonic sources of information to confirm their predictions. Self-correcting involves readers cross-checking, correcting, and confirming (and often re-predicting) as they read. The reader may self-correct by turning a partially correct response or idea into a wholly correct one. Students need to know that good readers habitually cross-check, confirm, and self-correct and that they take responsibility for using these strategies.  
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.139–140.

Developing comprehension strategies: An introduction

Comprehension is both a pathway to reading and an end product of reading. Whether we are reading silently, reading aloud, or listening to someone read, we enter into a mental dialogue with the writer and explore their ideas or our own in order to make connections, construct meaning, and generate responses and new ideas. And when we clarify, explore, and extend ideas through discussion with other readers, we develop critical-thinking skills. Students need to develop a repertoire of strategies that they can select from purposefully and independently to build and enhance their understanding of text and to extend their critical awareness. These are reading comprehension strategies, which are closely linked to the strategies used for processing text. Proficient readers select comprehension strategies according to the requirements of the reading task. Before reading, for example, a student's set task may require that they make connections in order to activate their own prior knowledge or think of questions in order to set a purpose for the reading. A reader is likely to draw on a wide range of strategies during their first reading of a text. Some strategies are particularly useful as a way of extending thinking after the reading, when the reader has gained an overview of the text, for example, identifying the main idea, analyzing and synthesising, and evaluating. Students will have begun to use reading comprehension strategies when they started learning to read; they refine their use as they develop as proficient readers and apply the strategies to increasingly challenging and complex texts. While it is useful to consider comprehension strategies individually, readers use them in combinations, and these become increasingly complex as readers progress. When identifying the main idea of a text, for example, readers need to question, analyse, infer, and synthesise.

"Comprehension is an active cycle of mental activity... good readers do not sit back and passively wait for meaning to come to them. They talk to themselves about the meaning they are building."
Duffy, G. G. (2003). Explaining Reading: A Resource for Teaching Concepts, Skills, and Strategies. New York: The Guilford Press.

"Comprehension strategies are specific, learned procedures that foster active, competent, self-regulated and intentional reading."
Trabasso, T. and Bouchard, E. (2002). “Teaching Readers How to Comprehend Text Strategically”. In Comprehension Instruction: Research-based Best Practices, ed. C. C. Block and M. Pressley. New York: The Guilford Press.

Making connections, forming and testing hypotheses, asking questions

Helping students to make connections between what they know and what they are reading improves their comprehension. Teachers can model making such connections, and prompt students to make links with their own knowledge and experience, when they are introducing and discussing texts for reading and in writing and oral-language activities. When activating students' prior knowledge for a particular purpose, teachers can help the students to hypothesise, infer, and build their own interpretations as they read.

Readers

  • think about what they already know about the content and text form and draw on their own cultural knowledge, their experience of the world, and their knowledge of text forms to make meaning
  • focus on an aspect of the text, for example, a structure, word, phrase, event, or idea that they want to know more about and relate this aspect to their prior knowledge
  • think about how connecting the aspect of the text to their prior knowledge helps them understand the text better.

Forming and testing hypotheses about texts

Hypotheses are expectations or predictions that the reader forms about the text. They are formed before and during the reading. Proficient readers test and revise their hypotheses as they encounter and act upon new information in the text. Depending on the learning goal, a hypothesis may relate to any aspect of the text, for example, its structure, theme, and characterisation, its possible content, or how it engages the reader. The teacher can usefully model forming a hypothesis when introducing a text. Testing and revising the hypothesis can be modelled later on, during the reading and discussion. This process encourages students to think critically about their own hypotheses, to seek and give feedback about hypotheses, and to revise them in the light of new information. Students often form a hypothesis as a result of asking their own questions about the text.

Readers

  • use clues in the text, such as the cover, the blurb, or specific language features, to make links to prior knowledge and form a hypothesis or expectation about the text
  • read to check whether the text supports this hypothesis or expectation
  • reflect on the hypothesis and revise it if necessary in the light of new information or of the reader's new thoughts about the hypothesis.

Asking questions

Fluent readers spontaneously and continuously pose questions for themselves and attempt to answer these questions (for example, by forming hypotheses) as they interact with the text. They "talk to themselves" about what they are reading, and they do this automatically. They pose questions for themselves about the unfolding content of the text, about the meaning of parts of the text (including particular words and phrases), or about the significance of specific language features. Questioning helps to reinforce the habit of reading for a purpose. The teacher can raise students' awareness of the importance of formulating appropriate questions for themselves by, for example, modelling this strategy during shared reading and asking the students to formulate their own questions that relate to a shared learning goal. Asking questions helps readers to engage with the ideas in the text and with the writer and gives focus to the reading task. After students have read a text, it is useful to help them evaluate the effectiveness of the questions they posed for themselves, to identify the benefits they gained by asking questions as they read, and to give them feedback for further learning.

Readers

  • focus on an aspect of the text that interests or confuses them
  • formulate a question that relates to the content or to a selected text feature
  • record the question, or keep it in mind as they read, so that they can recognise and bring together relevant information as it arises
  • reflect, as a result of the questions they set themselves, on what they've found out and on how this has changed their thinking or helped their comprehension
  • ask new questions in the light of what they've found out.  

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.141–151.

Creating mental images or visualising, and inferring

When readers visualise, they connect the ideas in the text with their prior knowledge and experience to create images in their minds. This often means thinking about their senses and using their imagination to see, hear, feel, taste, or smell parts of the text in their minds. Creating an image can make a text come alive for the reader. The ability to visualise what is being explained or what is happening draws readers into the text. Studies have indicated that creating an image in the memory helps the reader to retain what is read and use it later on. Readers experiencing difficulties often need help with creating mental images and may not realise how this can help their comprehension. Teachers can support students in visualising by asking questions such as "What image do you see in your head?", by explicitly drawing attention to descriptive language or a sequence of ideas, and by sharing their own images. Visualising can be supported by creating graphic representations or mind maps of a text.

Readers

  • identify words that are descriptive or that indicate the content of a text
  • make connections with prior knowledge and use their awareness of their five senses to create a mental image
  • draw on the mental image and use it to gain a deeper understanding or appreciation of the text.

Inferring

Inferring means using content in a text, together with existing knowledge, to come to a personal conclusion about something that is not stated explicitly in the text. When the writer provides clues but not all the information, we read "between the lines" to form hypotheses, revise these, understand underlying themes, make critical judgments, and draw conclusions. The teacher can help students to make inferences by raising their awareness that reading involves more than just literal meaning and by modelling inferential thinking during shared reading or during discussions in guided reading. Or the teacher may pause, when reading a text with students, to draw out clues from the text and prompt the students to make connections between different parts of the text in order to reach a conclusion that makes sense. It's important to ask students to give evidence from the text that supports their inferences.

Readers

  • draw on their awareness that some meanings may not be explicit in the text and question the messages of the text as they read
  • keep in mind their "hunches" about deeper meanings and search for clues or evidence in the text as they continue to read
  • make links between their developing knowledge of the text and the author's style (drawing on their sense of where the author is taking the text) in relation to these clues
  • form hypotheses, based on the links they have made, about implied meanings in the text
  • reflect on the validity of their inferences by taking account of new evidence or clues that arise as they continue reading.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.141–151.

Identifying the writer's purpose and point of view

It is important for readers to recognise that behind every text is a writer, and that the writer has a purpose or reason for writing and a particular point of view. For example, the purpose of the writer may be to:

  • provide or obtain information
  • share the excitement of an event
  • persuade or influence the reader or provoke debate
  • create or enter a personal world
  • stimulate the imagination
  • convey important cultural stories or myths
  • entertain or delight the reader.

By supporting students in identifying and reflecting on an author's purpose and point of view, teachers can help their students to recognise that writers bring their own experiences and insights to their writing. Such activities contribute richly to students' awareness of the functions of texts and of how authors position readers. They also help students to build the habit of responding thoughtfully to what they read. Students then carry their awareness and thoughtfulness into their writing and use it to help them plan and articulate their own purpose and point of view when writing a text.

Readers

  • identify themselves with a writer who is writing for a purpose
  • think about the intended audience of a text and reflect on how this might affect, for example, how the writer chooses what to include and what to leave out
  • search for specific indicators of the writer's personal thinking, such as examples of the writer's choice of content or vocabulary
  • reflect on this information as they interpret the text.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.141–151.

Identifying the main idea, and summarising

This means determining what is central to a text – what the writer most values or wants to emphasise. In a narrative, this might be the theme or themes, which will probably relate to people and how they live their lives. In a transactional text, it might be the key information or the particular idea about the topic that the writer wants readers to understand. In some transactional text forms, such as reports or letters to the editor, the main idea is often made explicit at the beginning. In fiction, the main idea is more often implied, in a variety of ways, throughout the text. A text may have more than one main idea or theme, but this comprehension strategy involves identifying the idea or ideas that are most important throughout the text, not ideas of lesser importance and not those that feature only in one section of the text.

Identifying the main idea does not mean identifying the topic or content of a text. For example, a story might be about a character breaking his leg, but the main idea (theme) of the text might be about the way the character overcomes adversity or discovers the value of friendship. Often it is relatively easy for a reader to state what a text is about, but it may be more difficult to decide what the main idea is. The reader needs to interpret the writer's thinking by making connections to their prior knowledge, hypothesising, inferring, and synthesising several aspects of the text in order to identify the main idea.

Readers

  • identify with the writer as someone who has a main idea to convey (by thinking "Supposing I am the writer of this, what is the main thing that I want the reader to think about?")
  • search for evidence that indicates what the writer's main idea may be (including evidence of the writer's purpose)
  • consider all the evidence in order to decide or hypothesise about what the writer's main idea is
  • check their hypothesis as they read, revising it when appropriate.

Summarising

Summarising helps the reader to see how information or events are related and to understand the content and structure of a text. The reader identifies the important information or events in a text or part of a text and remembers, retells, or records them in a shortened form, which enables the reader to make connections within the text. A summary brings together the essential content of a text succinctly as a clear overview or outline. For example, a written or oral summary may describe the beginning, middle, and end of a narrative or the main facts from an information text or a specific paragraph. In order to summarise a text effectively, the reader needs to have a clear idea of its structure and to be able to differentiate between important points and supporting details. To do this, the reader identifies key words, facts, events, or ideas and notes which parts of the text contain the details that go with each of them. When summarising, the reader puts the important points into their own words, using language as economically as possible and avoiding repetition. A summary may support in-depth work with the text. With certain texts, summarising may not be a useful strategy to support students' understanding. Some poems or sets of instructions, for example, do not include key points with supporting detail.

Readers

  • consider the organisation of the text and use it to help them identify the more important points from each section or paragraph
  • state each important point succinctly in their own words, sometimes in their head and sometimes by saying it aloud or writing it down
  • order and link the important points in a cohesive way that enables them to remember and access the information in order to meet their reading purpose.  

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.141–151.

Analysing and synthesising, and evaluating 

When readers take apart a text they have read, examine it from their own viewpoint, and put it back together again, they make it their own. When they compare different texts, drawing out similarities and differences and deciding on the reasons for these, they create a new web of knowledge. As they analyse and synthesise, readers identify ideas, information, or features in a text, reflect on these in relation to their existing knowledge and cultural values (or to ideas from other texts), and form conclusions, interpreting the text's meaning by drawing ideas together. Analysing and synthesising is a creative process that can enable readers to take ownership of the texts they read and the ideas and information in them. Analysing and synthesising is a valuable strategy to use when bringing a more critical perspective to a text, for example, during a second reading or subsequent, closer readings.

Readers

  • identify and reflect on the ideas, features, or structures of a text (or texts) and consider how they link to the other ideas, features, or structures and to the reader's prior knowledge and experience
  • look for common elements, for example, similarities in the writer's use of imagery within a text or similarities in ideas across several texts, in order to reach a conclusion that relates to their learning goal or reading purpose
  • use this conclusion to inform their thinking and generate new ideas to help them meet their learning goal or reading purpose.

Evaluating ideas and information

Thoughtful readers respond to the texts they read in a personal, informed way. They generalise from the ideas and information in a text and make judgments about them in the light of their prior knowledge and experience (including their experiences of other texts), their cultural values, and their purpose for reading. They examine and evaluate the ideas and information in the text and may consequently go on to confirm, extend, or change their personal views. They may disagree with the message of a text or explain why they find an argument unconvincing (for example, if they feel that the writer has used unsound evidence in an attempt to influence or "position" their thinking).

As students develop information literacy, they learn to recognise relevant and valid information, interpret it, and evaluate it in terms of its usefulness and reliability. Thoughtful readers also evaluate the writer's style, including their choice of language and other text features.

Readers

  • focus on selected ideas and information in the text and consider these in relation to their own world view and their purpose for reading
  • make thoughtful, evidence-based judgments about the selected ideas and information ("What do I think about this? Do I agree, or do I have a different view? What is my view based on?")
  • consider how these judgments affect their response to the text and whether they need to seek further information or check how others have responded to the same text.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.141–151. Teaching the Strategies 

Explicit teaching improves readers' comprehension 

Explicit teaching of processing and comprehension strategies involves:

  • providing an explicit description of the selected strategy and how it should be used
  • modelling the use of the strategy (which includes "thinking aloud" as they model the strategy)
  • scaffolding students to enable them to use the strategy with gradually increasing independence
  • having students articulate what they are doing as they use the strategy; encouraging students to apply the strategy independently as they read a range of texts and reflect on what they are doing.

Being able to articulate how they are processing and comprehending text enhances students' metacognitive awareness. When readers can identify, articulate, and explain the comprehension strategies they use in particular situations, they will be able to transfer these strategies to other reading contexts. Shared and guided reading sessions often have explicit teaching of reading strategies at their heart. The success of such teaching depends on the teacher using assessment effectively to identify which strategies their students most need to develop and practise. Effective literacy teachers continually gather and analyse data that reveals their students' current ability to make meaning of and think critically about the texts they need to read. Too much emphasis on explicit strategy instruction, however, can have a negative impact on student learning.

Researchers have pointed out that: "... some of the more skillful readers in our classrooms find that strategy instruction, particularly in large doses, interferes with their reading ... A moderate amount of strategy instruction seems to heighten these students' awareness of what they do as they read. However, insistence on prolonged use of imposed strategies and scaffolds seems intrusive and cumbersome ... Explicit and systematic strategy instruction should clarify for students what skillful readers do, but it should not constrain them from doing it."
Villaume and Brabham, 2002, pp. 674–675.

The challenge for teachers is to ensure that their students develop mastery of the processing and comprehension strategies through explicit instruction that does not intrude on the message of the text or limit the reader's enjoyment of reading. This challenge can be met if the strategies are learned in context, for an authentic learning goal. "... when readers are taught to use comprehension strategies, their comprehension, in fact, improves." Pressley, 2002b, page 298. "... thoughtful, active, proficient readers are metacognitive; they think about their own reading during reading." Keene and Zimmerman, 1997, page 22.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.152.

Helping students to become strategic readers

Research shows that teachers can make a difference by providing focused instruction to meet the needs of all their students. Effective literacy strategies will work for students in different ways and at different levels. The following chart shows some ways that teachers can use strategies to meet the learning needs of their students, including their reading needs. 

How students learn  What teachers do 
imitate 
  • model
  • demonstrate
identify and face challenges and overcome problems
  • set instructional objectives based on students’ identified needs
  • plan activities with appropriate kinds and levels of challenge
  • provide opportunities for students to solve problems
understand and help set learning goals for tasks
  • help students to understand the learning goals of tasks
  • build shared goals
make connections 
  • show students how to activate their prior knowledge
  • help students to see relationships between what they know and what they are learning
  • monitor to ensure that students make connections
practise 
  • provide opportunities for practice through text-based activities
  • monitor learning and plan next steps
develop the ability to apply their learning and transfer it to new contexts
  • plan opportunities for students to apply learning
  • show students how to use their learning in new contexts
  • monitor this transfer
respond to and seek feedback
  • give timely and appropriate feedback
  • provide opportunities for students to act on the feedback
reflect on and regulate their learning.
  • help students to build metacognitive awareness
  • encourage students to evaluate and reflect critically on their learning.

 Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.58.

What does it look like?

Example 1

Take students through the stages required to select and use appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence, to help them read texts for practical purposes.

Extract from teaching task: The purposes of the reading and the information sought are all "real world" examples using a wide range of common, familiar texts – these should interest and challenge all students. Display a wide range of texts, including items such as a letterbox, junk mail (including spam email), notices, clothing labels, newspapers, and so on. Tip the bag or box onto a desk for dramatic effect.

Explain that we are constantly bombarded with text and that we need to be able to:

  • understand the purpose of each text
  • know what each part or section contains
  • find the information we want 
  • understand the language and abbreviations
  • make a link between the text and what we already know.

Expand upon each of these points explaining the value of each skill to the student. 

Example 2

1,2,3 Strategy

The "1, 2, 3" strategy helps students select and use appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence when encountering a new text for the first time in a close reading activity. The goal is that students learn to operate independently when working with unfamiliar texts in other settings without teacher guidance. Students complete various "readings" of an unfamiliar text. Each reading:

  • builds on the previous reading to develop deeper understandings
  • often looks for a particular specific pattern within the text.

First or "pre" reading (that is, the steps a student takes before making a complete reading of a text) like:

  • considering the title
  • skim reading, marking text layout features like sub headings
  • giving initial impressions or expectations about the text.

Second reading (that is, a first complete reading of the text) in order to:

  • clarify and develop initial impressions (for example, the significance of the title and text layout features).

Third (and further) reading(s) to enable:

  • a close reading aiming for a deeper understanding of particular aspects or "patterns" in the text
  • students to look for significant patterns in the writer's selection of words or images, for example, a pattern observed could indicate similarities or contrasts
  • revisiting and clarifying of earlier impressions.

Thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence

What do I need to know?

Thinking critically

Developing as a discriminating reader and writer involves analysing and interpreting meanings, responding critically to texts when reading, and being critically aware when creating texts. Critical thinkers consider different perspectives and the different intentions of texts. When they read and write, they think about the impact that the text is intended to have on the audience and of how the impact is (or could be) achieved. Another aspect of thinking critically is responding to texts at a personal level, reflecting on them, and finding reward in being a reader and a writer.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.25.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Out of their comfort zones

The student thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence, making personal inferences about the character’s experiences in the short story. Extract from student essay comparing two short stories:

In "The Hills", the boy goes through a terrible experience after being taken to the police station. What starts out as few drinks with his friends turns into an experience that changes the boy for ever. He is assaulted and insulted by the police. The boy thinks that it is all part of a game "only rougher than usual," but he is definitely out of his comfort zone. At the police station the boy is cavity searched which has a huge impact on him. Before this happens the boy has been a "funny man" who imagines the hills look like "bums and boobs." The experience in the police station changes his whole outlook on life. He cannot even look at the hills again, let alone joke about them like he did before.

Example 2

The student thinks critically about written and visual texts with understanding and confidence, making personal inferences about the character’s experiences in the short story and conveying their ideas visually through symbolism, layout, and colour. Extract from student commentary:

My static image portrays the idea that Miss Brill was a lonely old lady whose life was boring and empty. The only colour and joy in her life was in her imagination when she fancied herself relating to the other people and involved in the activity she saw every Sunday when she visited the park.The black background in my image represents the dark, confining cupboard-like room she returned to after visiting the park. The white silhouette with a bun low on the nape of the neck shows that Miss Brill was an old lady. It dominates the page because the story is mostly about what goes on inside her head. Inside the silhouette I have put together a bright collage of all the people, objects and events from the park. They are in colour because to her they are the most real and vibrant part of her life. They are put into the shape of a brain to show that in her mind they are a very real part of her life …

Example 3

English Online: Guided Reading (Word 28KB)

Guided reading is a strategy which engages students more deeply in text and models ways in which students can think critically about texts with understanding and confidence. Introduction from resource:

In guided reading a group of students read a text which has been selected by the teacher and explore the text together through discussion, with the teacher supporting the students' use of appropriate reading strategies. The teacher's role is crucial. The teacher selects the text, based on the learning needs of the students. The teacher introduces the text, sharing with the students the purpose and the learning outcomes. The teacher introduces the text and guides the students as they talk, read, and think their way through the text.

Example 4

English Online: Three Level Reading Guides

This teaching approach supports students and scaffolds them towards being able to think critically about texts with understanding and confidence. It involves reading:

  • between the lines to interpret what the writer is saying
  • beyond the lines and commenting on ideas or issues that the text challenges theme to think about.

Further examples of  three level reading guides are available on ESOL Online

Example 5

Being a text analyst

The student is encouraged to think critically about texts with understanding and confidence, understanding that different cultural and social contexts and purposes shape the way texts are structured:

  • Understanding the purpose of a text and recognising the purpose in using it.
  • Using text types for particular purposes both inside and outside school.
  • Recognising what to do with a text in a particular context and what others might do with it.
  • Recognising that each text type has particular structures and features.
  • Understanding the options and alternatives for using a text to convey particular meanings effectively.

Monitors, self-evaluates, and describes progress, articulating learning with confidence

What do I need to know?

Metacognition

Metacognition is often used to describe the processes that learners use to think and talk about their learning and about how they can adapt what they have learned to new contexts. Articulating what they know and can do as readers and writers enables literacy learners to set themselves new goals and meet new challenges. A metacognitive awareness also helps students to understand the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing. When we read, we construct meaning by making connections between the text we read and what we already know and can do. The reader integrates prior knowledge with sources of information in the text to decode and gain meaning. The writer starts with a communicative intent and integrates prior knowledge with an understanding of how language works to encode and create meaning for a purpose that relates to an intended audience.

Students need to be able to use their knowledge and their metacognitive awareness to decide which strategies will help them solve particular kinds of problems. An effective teacher finds out which strategies their students need to acquire or apply and helps them to select and use appropriate strategies as they read and write.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.27–28.

Giving feedback
This presentation can be used to update, review, and reflect on providing feedback.

Self-Assessment
This presentation can be used to update, review, and reflect on self- and peer-assessment strategies.

Learning to learn: Informed strategy training

Informed strategy training makes use of the learning to learn approach to education and it makes students aware of what they need to do, and why, in order to become proficient readers. It provides students with scaffolding and insight into the higher order thinking skills that they need to develop in order to make sense of a piece of text. Informed strategy training requires individual students to look at the following two questions: What do proficient readers do? What do you need to focus on to improve your reading? Teachers often underestimate the extent to which modelling of effective reading behaviour and the coaching of thinking skills are necessary to extend their students' ability to comprehend and process information.

Thinking with students about their learning

Students need to deliberately prepare for learning. Students have to learn how to learn. The evidence from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2000 study (see Ministry of Education, 2001b) shows that students need to develop a range of information-processing abilities (both cognitive and metacognitive) and that it is just as important for them to deliberately prepare for learning. Students and teachers need a shared language to talk about the types of thinking associated with classroom tasks and about literacy strategies and thinking strategies. Many students who already know some terms to describe the writing process – “revising”, “editing”, and so on – and who are familiar with some pre-writing strategies, such as brainstorming or mind mapping, may not know how to describe their own thinking and learning. Even students who describe instances of creative thinking and memory thinking in conversation may not realise how these processes form part of their learning. It is very helpful for students to keep learning logs. By using learning logs, students can develop the language, knowledge, and awareness to think strategically and reflectively about their learning and the literacy strategies they use. Monitoring students’ learning logs also helps teachers to relate their teaching practice to their students’ learning.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.23.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Worth Reading – a student template This student template helps learners record their responses to reading; it scaffolds them as they monitor, self-evaluate, and describe progress, articulating learning with confidence while they read a text independently.  Extract from teaching unit on Bookmarking templates: Students independently read and study self-selected [and teacher-approved] extended texts. To help them record ideas about understandings they have developed that go beyond their text, students complete a book-marking template as they read.

Bookmarking template As you read your text, complete several bookmarks. Bookmarks are written responses to starter statements or questions you make during your reading. Later in this activity you will develop a piece of writing from your bookmarks about important ideas in your text. Write at least three bookmarks as you read your text and one bookmark when you finish reading. There are two sections to each bookmark you complete: Reading the lines: Write down two important facts and details that you have found at this point in your reading. Reading between and beyond the lines: What can I say at this point about ideas or issues in this text? Write down your responses to important ideas or issues revealed up to this point in your reading.

Example 2 

Learning logs help students to monitor, self-evaluate, and describe progress, articulating learning with confidence regularly over a period of time, such as during a teaching unit.  A learning log or journal is a student’s own ongoing record of their learning. Students can use them in a number of ways, for example, by recording any difficulties they have and how they deal with them. But they can use learning logs for more than this. They can use them to understand and reflect on their learning processes and on the learning-to-learn strategies that they use. They can use them to:

  • identify what and how they’re learning
  • identify the types of thinking they’re using to learn
  • process the information they’ve gathered
  • develop learning strategies that are effective for them
  • monitor and evaluate their own learning
  • become increasingly independent as learners.

Teachers need to explain the purposes and uses of learning logs to their students, making it clear that the logs will not be assessed because they are a private dialogue between each student and the teacher. At times, teachers may suggest that each student shares their log with a partner if they are happy to do so. In planning for students to use the learning-log process, teachers can:

  • organise the writing of the log into a regular routine over several weeks
  • give students a set, limited time in which to write in their logs – probably at the end of the lesson
  • focus on a specific task, activity, key concept, or learning strategy in each lesson
  • use a variety of approaches, such as free writing, questions, or sentence starters
  • model reflections by writing on the board as students write in their books
  • check logs regularly and write short feedback comments to each student.

Logs may be kept in separate books, but they can also be part of students’ everyday work. For example, students could rule a broad margin on the side of their page and use that space to reflect, ask questions, jot notes, and so on. 

Starters for writing a learning log

Students may simply write what they wish, or they may be given open-ended questions or sentence starters. Sometimes teachers may want the learning-log entries to focus on specific areas.
Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, Ministry of Education, 2004. Appendix pp.52–54

Example 5

SQ4R: Survey, question, read, review, recite, reflect

Through using the SQ4R strategy when reading, students monitor and self-evaluate their understandings. Students preview text to develop predictions and set a purpose for reading by generating questions about the topic. Students then read actively, searching for answers to the questions they have generated. By summarising information students are able to monitor their own comprehension. Finally, students evaluate their comprehension through review.

By using these processes and strategies when listening, reading, or viewing, students will:

Purposes and audiences

  • Show a developed understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and audiences.

Indicators

Recognises, understands, and considers how texts are constructed for a range of contexts

What do I need to know?

All texts have meaning and purpose

Readers and writers need to know that all texts have meaning and purpose, and they need to be able to distinguish between different text purposes. They need to know, for example, that some texts are intended primarily to raise reader or writer self-awareness, some to entertain, and some to communicate ideas or information.

A major purpose of most texts is to affect the target audience in a particular way, often by conveying the writer’s point of view effectively. Students need to know that many texts have several purposes.

Students should understand that all texts are intended for an audience (the audience is sometimes the writer) and that effective texts have an impact on their readers. They also need to know about the text features that writers use to achieve the desired impact. The deeper features of a text generally relate to the writer’s purpose and voice and include the structure and language features of the text. Its surface features include grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Young readers and writers will also learn that accurate or inaccurate use of surface features affects readers’ ability to make meaning of texts.

Readers and writers need to know that there are different text forms and that these are generally characterised by a particular structure and certain other features. Forms such as stories, recounts, reports, procedures, arguments, explanations, varieties of poetry, and plays all have characteristic structures and features that are linked to their different purposes.
From Effective Literacy Strategies for Years 5–8, Ministry of Education, 2004. p.34.

Features of Text Forms
Teaching about text forms can help students understand how text is structured and why. We need to be careful, however, to be flexible about the features in a text form. Authentic text forms are often mixed. Text forms evolve and change.

What does it look like?

Example 1 

These activities scaffold students towards recognising, understanding, and considering how texts are constructed for a range of practical purposes, audiences, and situations. A text is something that is written down, often on paper, such as:

  • newspapers
  • signs
  • emails
  • phone books.

 All texts will have a subject.What it is about. Some subjects are:

  • A birthday party
  • A shoe sale
  • A dangerous hole in the ground.

 All texts will have a purpose – what it is for, or the job of the text. Some purposes are:

  • to sell you something
  • to warn you of something
  • to tell you about something.

A text might tell us something important. A text might tell us something that is not important to us. We see so many different texts every day. We need to be able to find out the purpose and subject of each text so that we can see which ones we need to read, and which ones we do not need to read. Every time we see a new text, we must ask "What is this text for?" or "What is the purpose and subject of this text?"

Example 2 

English Online: Worth Reading

A student recognises, understands, and considers how a novel is constructed for a purpose, audience, and situation; in this case, to convey an inspiring idea of optimism and determination in the face of adversity.

Extract from student response to: Describe an inspiring idea in an extended text I Am Not Esther, by Fleur Beale. Explain why the idea inspired you. I Am Not Esther has an inspiring idea about keeping positive. Fleur Beale is trying to show that even though life can be tough, that you hate it and you do not think that life will get any better, it will. All you have to do is to hold your head up high and make the best of the situation. I learned that I should try to keep positive. I saw this in the novel when Kirby is deserted by her mother and left with her Uncle Caleb who is a member of a cult. He makes her do things that she does not want to do, like braid her hair and wear their clothes. He even makes her change her name to Esther. Kirby hates her life and does not think her life will get any better. She has a dream that one day she will be back with her mother and her life will go back to normal. Kirby knows that if she does not stay positive her dream will never come true … 

Example 3 

Activity scaffolds students towards recognising, understanding, and considering how websites are constructed for a range of purposes, audiences, and situations. 

Task 1: What makes a good web design? Read the Elements Chart below. Web pages are likely to have most of these features. Discuss which techniques are visual or verbal, or a combination of the two. Effective web pages integrate these elements to create unified designs.

  • a) Explore the Internet to become familiar with web page elements and for ideas for your own web page.  
  • b) Identify the elements listed in [a] on several web pages. Look at the way design relates to content. Sketch or take notes on ideas that you think are effective. 

Example 4 

English Online: Write all about it! – Newspapers

Through identifying and analysing differences between facts and opinions, students are scaffolded towards recognising, understanding, and considering how texts are constructed for a range of purposes, audiences, and situations.

Fact and opinion – In a hard news story, the facts should be reported as they occurred. A reporter should not include his/her opinions in the story. Phrases such as "the attractive librarian" or "he foolishly tried to continue" show the reporter's bias. Opinions are only acceptable on the editorial pages and in reviews.

  • a. Select an editorial, a letter to the editor, and a front-page news report. Underline the facts in red and opinions in blue. Why is there a difference? 
  • b. Stories can be written objectively or subjectively. Select an opinionated article. Practise changing it into a completely factual one and vice versa.
  • c. Using the facts listed below, write an article from the developer's point of view for Developer's Monthly, a building magazine. Then, using the same facts, compile an article for Green Weekly, a conservationists' publication.

Identifies particular points of view within texts and recognises that texts can position a reader

What do I need to know?

Identifying the writer’s purpose/point of view

 It is important for readers to recognise that behind every text is a writer, and that the writer has a purpose or reason for writing and a particular point of view. For example, the purpose of the writer may be to:

  • provide or obtain information
  • share the excitement of an event
  • persuade or influence the reader or provoke debate
  • create or enter a personal world
  • stimulate the imagination
  • convey important cultural stories or myths
  • entertain or delight the reader.

By supporting students in identifying and reflecting on an author’s purpose and point of view, teachers can help their students to recognise that writers bring their own experiences and insights to their writing. Such activities contribute richly to students’ awareness of the functions of texts and of how authors position readers. They also help students to build the habit of responding thoughtfully to what they read. Students then carry their awareness and thoughtfulness into their writing and use it to help them plan and articulate their own purpose and point of view when writing a text.
From Effective Literacy Strategies for Years 5–8, Ministry of Education, 2004. p. 47.

What does it look like?

Example 1

NCEA English Externals Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 4 AS 90055

Available to order from  www.nzate.co.nz Identifies two poets’ particular points of view on war within two poetic texts and implicitly recognises that these texts can position a reader.

Extract from student response: The narrators of these poems were both soldiers. These soldiers look at the topic of war and patriotism, although they look at this topic from completely different aspects. Brooke’s poem "The Soldier” was written in the very beginning of war. The soldier had not yet experienced the full glory of war. He did not fully understand what he was writing about. Owen’s poem "Dulce et Decorum est" was written later in the war. The soldier talked about the death that was surrounding him. He wrote what he saw rather than what he was brought up to believe. Brooke’s soldier wrote as if he was going to die. He believed that dying for your country was an honour and he wished to die no other way. “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is forever England.” He believed that his remains were a symbol of what England was said to represent. “In that rich earth, a richer dust concealed…"

Example 2

English Online: Out of their comfort zone

Identifies two particular points of view within a short story, the man in the taxi, and Fatima, and recognises that these texts can position a reader to feel sympathy for one or the other.

The man in the taxi in the story "The Red Sari" is stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of New Delhi. He feels out of his comfort zone because he does not know what to do. He is faced with beggars like Fatima asking for money. He cannot get away from the situation as the traffic is completely grid locked. The man tries to ignore Fatima and others like her around him. He thinks to himself, "Look straight ahead. Close your eyes. That's like admitting something's bothering you." He wishes he couldn't hear her calling to him or see her unmistakable sign language for eating. He tries to reason his way through the problem by thinking that the poverty is so big that there is nothing that he can do about it. As soon as the traffic starts to move, the man can drive away from the beggars and pretend the problem that made him feel uncomfortable no longer exists.

Example 3 

English Online: Arguing a point

Students identify particular points of view developed within the documentary [for example, the police; the parents of the dead boys; Kevin, who killed his friends] and how they can position a reader.

Extract from teaching unit: Task 2: Listening and responding to arguments: A key discussion point developed from the radio documentary, Kevin's Sentence, is the nature of the sentence given to a young Canadian man who drove while drunk and killed his two friends. Guided by the resource sheets, listen to selections from the tape, recording what you hear, and giving your opinions on the issues raised.

Example 4  

Being a text analyst

This approach can help students understand how a writer, speaker, or director can construct a text to position a reader, by scaffolding them towards constructing "theme sentences" [for example, the theme explores "the importance of loving relationships", rather than the theme is "relationships".]

Extract: We ask students to analyse the idea[s] in texts, but what is an idea? Students often express an idea or theme in a single word such as "relationships" or "love". They then write answers which focus on describing the relationships or identifying examples of love. An answer which identifies the idea as "the importance of loving relationships" is more likely to focus on analysis and evaluation by writing on aspects such as:

  • which relationships were important to the character[s] and why?
  • how important were these relationships?
  • what positive effect did love have for this character?

This approach helps develop student awareness that the reader/viewer has been positioned to view relationships in certain ways and that the writer/director has constructed the text to do this.

Teaching students to use a phrase or sentence to make a statement about the idea[s] of the text enables them to demonstrate their abilities as text users and analysts. Identifying the idea of a text as "war", "change", or "hope" does not set up students to write a critical response. However, statements such as "the director demonstrates the futility of war" or "it is important in modern society to be able to adapt to change" or "the film shows the need to hold on to hope" establish a basis for developing an argument.

In class approach: Encourage students to develop their own theme sentences. They won't all get the same message from reading the same text. If they are considering short texts with a similar theme, ask students to look at similarities/differences in the message and make comparisons about the difference in impact on the reader/viewer. Students who demonstrate perception and insight are those who show they are aware of the writer's, speaker's, or director's purpose and make some judgments about the effectiveness of the crafting used to achieve that purpose. What does this text do to me?

The emphasis is on understanding that written, spoken, visual, and multimodal texts are not neutral but represent particular points of view and silence others. This includes:

  • recognising the writer, speaker, or shaper’s purpose in creating a text and that texts influence people’s ideas
  • recognising opinions, bias, points of view, gaps, and silences and dominant readings in a text
  • understanding how texts are crafted according to the values, views, and interests of the writer, speaker, or shaper
  • identifying the ways in which information or ideas are expressed and represented to influence and position readers, viewers, or listeners
  • presenting an alternative position to the one taken by a text or deciding to endorse the position taken by the text.

Evaluates the reliability and usefulness of texts with confidence.

What do I need to know?

Evaluating ideas and information in texts

Thoughtful readers respond to the texts they read in a personal, informed way. They generalise from the ideas and information in a text and make judgments about them in the light of their prior knowledge and experience (including their experiences of other texts), their cultural values, and their purpose for reading. They examine and evaluate the ideas and information in the text and may consequently go on to confirm, extend, or change their personal views. They may disagree with the message of a text or explain why they find an argument unconvincing (for example, if they feel that the writer has used unsound evidence in an attempt to influence or “position” their thinking).

As students develop information literacy, they learn to recognise relevant and valid information, interpret it, and evaluate it in terms of its usefulness and reliability. Thoughtful readers also evaluate the writer’s style, including their choice of language and other text features.

What readers do:

  • Focus on selected ideas and information in the text and consider these in relation to their own world view and their purpose for reading.
  • Make thoughtful, evidence-based judgments about the selected ideas and information (What do I think about this? Do I agree, or do I have a different view? What is my view based on?).
  • Consider how these judgments affect their response to the text and whether they need to seek further information or check how others have responded to the same text.

How teachers can support learners

  • This information fits with what I already know about … I think that the writer uses it in a very sensible and logical way to support her point of view ...
  • Would you please say that again for everyone to hear? That puts the whole question of how the boy shows that he cares about his brother into a new light for me.
  • Does the writer convince you that the information he presents is valid? If so, how does he do this?
  • Would you want to read another book by this writer? Why? Why not?
  • This article put forward an argument for … that I hadn’t heard before. Reading it has led me to change my views in some ways; I used to think that …, but now I believe that …
  • If you were the writer, what part of the text would you feel most proud of having written? Why?

 Effective Literacy Strategies for Years 5–8, Ministry of Education, 2004. p.151

What does it look like?

Example 1

A task which scaffolds students as they evaluate the reliability and usefulness of websites by considering a range of sites against a list of visual and verbal criteria (p. 4 of the task).

Task 1: What makes a good web design?

Web pages are likely to have most of these features. Discuss which techniques are visual or verbal, or a combination of the two. Effective web pages integrate these elements to create unified designs.

Example 2

English Online: Arguing a point

This is a task which scaffolds students as they evaluate the reliability and usefulness of oral texts by considering a range of interviews which offer conflicting opinions on a criminal case.

Task: Listening to an argument

This activity should take about four periods. It is based on the radio documentary, Kevin's Sentence.

This task is based on a radio documentary about a case in Canada involving a young man who drove while drunk and killed his two friends. The argument is whether or not he should be sent to jail – the penalty under Canadian law. Students are asked to listen to selected comments from the documentary and respond with their opinions.

To make this manageable for the classroom I recorded a selection of material from the documentary.

Side 2 - the maker of the radio documentary gives a background account of the events leading to the accident 

Side 1

  • extracts giving the different opinions about what his sentence should be (police and parents of the boys killed)
  • the judge's comments on his decision about Kevin's sentence
  • police response to the decision
  • Kevin himself, talking to other students.

I started the lesson by asking students to form a continuum indicating what sort of sentence should be given to someone who drove drunk and killed somebody. The line went from 10 years in jail, to community service. I asked students to explain to the person next to them their opinions. I then gave further information, saying that the person had killed the friends who were in the car with him, and I asked students to move if they thought the penalty should be different.

This then led on to listening to the documentary.

Example 3

ESOL Online: Trash or treasure activity

Through this activity students evaluate the potential reliability and usefulness of texts for addressing key questions.

Extract from Trash or treasure activity:

Have the students form small groups.

  • Collect a number of newspaper articles on a topic and give copies of the articles to each group of students.
  • Ask a question and tell the students to sort the articles into two groups according to whether they are relevant to the question (treasure) or not (trash).
  • The students can then rank the articles from the most to the least useful and justify their rankings.
  • Ask another question and let your students reconsider their selections to show how the relevance of the information depends on the question.

Ideas

  • Show a developed understanding of ideas within, across, and beyond texts.

Indicators

Makes meaning by understanding comprehensive ideas

What do I need to know?

Identifying the main idea

Identifying the main idea means determining what is central to a text – what the writer most values or wants to emphasise. In a narrative this might be the theme or themes, which will probably relate to people and how they live their lives. In a transactional text it might be the key information or the particular idea about the topic that the writer wants readers to understand. In some transactional text forms, such as reports or letters to the editor, the main idea is often made explicit at the beginning. In fiction the main idea is more often implied in a variety of ways throughout the text. A text may have more than one main idea or theme, but this comprehension strategy involves identifying the idea or ideas that are most important throughout the text, not ideas of lesser importance and not those that feature only in one section of the text.

Identifying the main idea does not mean identifying the topic or content of a text. For example, a story might be about a character breaking his leg, but the main idea (theme) of the text might be about the way the character overcomes adversity or discovers the value of friendship. Often it is relatively easy for a reader to state what a text is about, but it may be more difficult to decide what the main idea is. The reader needs to interpret the writer's thinking by making connections to their prior knowledge, hypothesising, inferring, and synthesising several aspects of the text in order to identify the main idea.

What readers do

  • Identify with the writer as someone who has a main idea to convey (by thinking "Supposing I am the writer of this, what is the main thing that I want the reader to think about?").
  • Search for evidence that indicates what the writer's main idea may be (including evidence of the writer's purpose).
  • Consider all the evidence in order to decide or hypothesise about what the writer's main idea is and check their hypothesis as they read, revising it when appropriate.

How teachers can support learners – some example questions

  • So you've decided that the writer's real message isn't the one he stated at the beginning – and I think you're right! How did you work that out?
  • I think this text is giving us a message about how sometimes it's OK to break rules. To work this out, I've thought about how the writer has got us to sympathise with the main character even though she breaks rules and causes trouble – the emotional language ensures that we're on her side.
  • Track the subheadings and see if there's a pattern developing to help you work out what the writer thinks is most important.
  • What do you think the theme of this text is? What do you think we are meant to be left wondering about at the end? How did you come to this conclusion?
  • We've come up with two main ideas for this text. Let's go back through the text and find evidence for our thinking. Maybe both of them are right.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.148.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Out of their comfort zones

The student makes meaning by applying the concept of dealing with challenging situations to the text, understanding the comprehensive ideas of character and characterisation, social and cultural themes, and setting.

Extract from student response: In "Ka Kite Bro", Tama has to find his way of saying farewell to his friend who has been killed. Tama feels out of his comfort zone because the people around him do not understand that he needs to say goodbye to Darryl in his own way. When Tama tries to explain about the hongi to a teacher at his school, she tells him that it's "disgusting" and that "you should keep your culture and your nose to yourself." At the funeral Tama has the courage to farewell Darryl in his way. As Tama leans over his friend in the coffin he whispers, "all I wanted was to see you and say goodbye the only way I knew how." Finally he can bow and hongi his mate.

Example 2

The student makes meaning by considering the symbolic significance of motifs and settings in the text and using prior knowledge and inference to comment on the nature of time. S/he understands the comprehensive ideas of character and characterisation, social and cultural themes, and setting.

Extract from student commentary: The meeting house in my static image is yellow and red. I have used these colours because in the story the old kaumātua says that the meeting house is the heart of the Māori. I used red to represent this. In the meeting house he has experienced love, friendships, joy and sadness. I used yellow to represent all the memories that dwell within the meeting house’s walls. The crack down the middle of the wharenui is black. This symbolises the unknown pakeha ways that are breaking through. It symbolises the unknown ways that are corrupting the Māori, destroying the Māori traditions. The spears lying on the grass at the kaumātua’s feet represent the immensity of this situation. The weapons on the grass have been discarded showing that no weapon great or small can stand against the weapon of time. Time changes everything. It shows that we can’t stop the inevitable, we can try but eventually we will fail. 

Example 3

English Online: Worth reading – 

By developing a three-level guide, the student makes meaning by understanding comprehensive ideas within their text and in particular ideas that go beyond the text [Level three].

From Task 5: Three-level Guide: Students independently read and study self-selected [and teacher approved] extended texts. They design three-level guides to help them think about important ideas in their texts. Designing a three-level guide can help you think about and respond to important ideas in your text. A three-level guide includes three different sorts of statements based on the text you have read: 

  • Level one (reading for literal meanings): reading the lines to work out facts and details. The level one focus is on information in the text. 
  • Level two (reading for interpretative meanings): reading between the lines to interpret what the writer is saying. 
  • Level three (reading for applied meanings): reading beyond the lines and commenting on ideas or issues that the text challenges you to think about, or what the text has taught or shown you. This is the area you will focus on most. 

Makes connections by interpreting ideas within and between texts from a range of contexts

What do I need to know?

Students comprehend better when they make different kinds of connections:

  • Text-to-self
  • Text-to-text
  • Text-to-world.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Out of their comfort zones

Makes connections across two different texts by interpreting ideas such as similarities in character behaviour, cultural references, setting and theme.

Extract from student response: Willie Davis's "Ka Kite Bro" and Witi Ihimaera's "My First Ball" both feature Māori characters who feel out of their comfort zones. Both the main characters, Tama and Tuta, find different ways through the situations they face. I think that both Tama and Tuta are similar because they are prepared to do something about the situations they face. They both show strength of character to find a way through their problems. 

Example 2 

Makes connections between the behaviour and situation of the character, Miss Brill, within the short story by interpreting ideas such as setting, characterisation through the use of symbolism, colour, and layout. 

Extract from student commentary: My static image portrays the idea that Miss Brill was a lonely old lady whose life was boring and empty. The only colour and joy in her life was in her imagination when she fancied herself relating to the other people and involved in the activity she saw every Sunday when she visited the park. The black background in my image represents the dark, confining cupboard-like room she returned to after visiting the park. The white silhouette with a bun low on the nape of the neck shows that Miss Brill was an old lady. It dominates the page because the story is mostly about what goes on inside her head. Inside the silhouette I have put together a bright collage of all the people, objects and events from the park. They are in colour because to her they are the most real and vibrant part of her life. They are put into the shape of a brain to show that in her mind they are a very real part of her life. I chose the quote because Miss Brill imagined herself and the other people in the park as a company of actors presenting an exciting play. The quote relates to the action, characters and props in the collage inside her head.  

Example 3 

Pacific pride

Students read three articles on (for example): Nesian Mystik, rapper Feleti Strickson, Scribe and the Losefo siblings.

Students make connections between role models by interpreting ideas about their accomplishments, influences, and ongoing impact. Students prepare and video a 5-minute presentation to the class on an important aspect of a selected Pacific personality/hero/role model who demonstrates "Pacific Pride" or demonstrates Pasifika values. To prepare this presentation students work in groups of three to research contemporary and/or traditional Pacific role models. Each student should incorporate an original work featuring their chosen personality. This could include a role play, performance of a poem, or a scene from a play, using appropriate language and visual or dramatic techniques to enhance their presentations.

Recognises that there may be more than one reading available within a text

What do I need to know?

Identifying the writer’s purpose/point of view

It is important for readers to recognise that behind every text is a writer, and that the writer has a purpose or reason for writing and a particular point of view. For example, the purpose of the writer may be to:

  • provide or obtain information
  • share the excitement of an event
  • persuade or influence the reader or provoke debate
  • create or enter a personal world
  • stimulate the imagination
  • convey important cultural stories or myths
  • entertain or delight the reader.

By supporting students in identifying and reflecting on an author’s purpose and point of view, teachers can help their students to recognise that writers bring their own experiences and insights to their writing. Such activities contribute richly to students’ awareness of the functions of texts and of how authors position readers. They also help students to build the habit of responding thoughtfully to what they read. Students then carry their awareness and thoughtfulness into their writing and use it to help them plan and articulate their own purpose and point of view when writing a text.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.147

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Out of their comfort zones  

Student recognises that the writer is offering two possible readings of a situation, through the eyes of the man in the taxi and through Fatima’s actions, exploring the tragedy of poverty and the discomfort felt by those who are not poor.

Extract from student response: The man in the taxi in the story "The Red Sari" is stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of New Delhi. He feels out of his comfort zone because he does not know what to do. He is faced with beggars like Fatima asking for money. He cannot get away from the situation as the traffic is completely grid locked. The man tries to ignore Fatima and others like her around him. He thinks to himself, "Look straight ahead. Close your eyes? That's like admitting something's bothering you." He wishes he couldn't hear her calling to him or see her unmistakable sign language for eating. He tries to reason his way through the problem by thinking that the poverty is so big that there is nothing that he can do about it. As soon as the traffic starts to move, the man can drive away from the beggars and pretend the problem that made him feel uncomfortable no longer exists.

Example 2 

On slide 2, the student recognises that the writer is offering more than one reading of the injustice in the society of the novel, through the different perspectives of Scout, Atticus, and Tom Robinson.

Example 3 

English Online: Worth reading - 

By developing a three-level guide, the student can begin to recognise that there may be more than one reading available within a text, particularly when a text is read for its for applied meanings [level 3].

From Task 5: Three-level Guide: Students independently read and study self-selected [and teacher approved] extended texts. They design three-level guides to help them think about important ideas in their texts. Designing a three-level guide can help you think about and respond to important ideas in your text. A three-level guide includes three different sorts of statements based on the text you have read: 

  • Level one (reading for literal meanings): reading the lines to work out facts and details. The level one focus is on information in the text. 
  • Level two (reading for interpretative meanings): reading between the lines to interpret what the writer is saying. 
  • Level three (reading for applied meanings): reading beyond the lines and commenting on ideas or issues that the text challenges you to think about, or what the text has taught or shown you. This is the area you will focus on most. 

Example 4 

Reading behind the lines  

This strategy supports students as they look closely at the way values and beliefs are communicated in a text, and, in so doing, they can recognise that there may be more than one reading available within a text. Written texts, whether in print or electronic media, are never neutral, and students need to be able to identify the author’s voice in any text. The values and beliefs of the author affect the messages that are communicated, and so it’s important to know who is “behind the lines".

The purpose of the strategy

This strategy (Whitehead, 2004) helps students to recognise the author’s purpose in writing the text, the author’s viewpoint on the subject, and any consequent bias that may be presented. The strategy builds on the three-level thinking guide strategy and adds a fourth level – reading “behind the lines” in order to identify the author’s voice.

What the teacher does

  • Develop four sets of questions that will help students to think critically
  • Model, by thinking aloud, how some of the questions may be used to read “behind the lines” of a particular text
  • Ask the students to apply the same questions to a different text that is similar in form and content.

Questions to promote critical thinking include:

1. Power-relation questions

  • Acceptance: Should we accept that ... (for example, that the majority culture should have power over a minority culture?)
  • Benefit: Who would benefit if ... (for example, if the minority culture had power over the majority?)

2. Values and beliefs questions

  • What are the author’s values and beliefs?
  • What kind of life would you have if you accepted these values and beliefs?

3. Identity questions

  • What is the role of each person or institution in the text?
  • Whose voices are not heard in the text?
  • Whose interests are being served in the text?
  • Share the excitement of an event
  • Persuade or influence the reader or provoke debate
  • Is there support for what the author is saying?
  • Why did the author write the text?

Adapted from Whitehead, 2001, p. 84–90

What the students do:

  • The students attend to the teacher’s modelling with the first text in order to find out how to complete their task.
  • They read the second text independently.
  • In small groups, the students discuss the questions, decide on answers, and justify their decisions.

What the teacher looks for:

  • Are the students thinking critically about the texts rather than immediately accepting the information?
  • Are they using the critical-thinking questions appropriately?

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, Ministry of Education, 2004. pp.107–108

Example 5

Identifying the writer’s purpose and point of view 

This strategy supports students as they look closely at the way authors position readers in a text, and, in so doing, they can recognise that there may be more than one reading available within a text. It is important for readers to recognise that behind every text is a writer, and that the writer has a purpose or reason for writing and a particular point of view. For example, the purpose of the writer may be to:

  • provide or obtain information
  • share the excitement of an event
  • persuade or influence the reader or provoke debate
  • create or enter a personal world
  • stimulate the imagination
  • convey important cultural stories or myths
  • entertain or delight the reader.

By supporting students in identifying and reflecting on an author’s purpose and point of view, teachers can help their students to recognise that writers bring their own experiences and insights to their writing. Such activities contribute richly to students’ awareness of the functions of texts and of how authors position readers. They also help students to build the habit of responding thoughtfully to what they read. Students then carry their awareness and thoughtfulness into their writing and use it to help plan and articulate their own purpose and point of view when writing a text.

What readers do:

  • Identify themselves with a writer who is writing for a purpose.
  • Think about the intended audience of a text and reflect on how this might affect, for example, how the writer chooses what to include and what to leave out.
  • Search for specific indicators of the writer’s personal thinking, such as examples of the writer’s choice of content or vocabulary.
  • Reflect on this information as they interpret the text.

 How teachers can support learners:

  • We’ve gained an idea of the author’s point of view from the examples of emotive language in the introduction. Keep this in mind as you read on.
  • What do you think the writer’s purpose was in writing this text? How does this affect your response to the text?
  • Who do you think is the intended audience of this text? How do you know?
  • If this text had been written by Jason’s mother rather than Jason, how would it be different?
  • When writers feel strongly about a topic, they often try to manipulate their readers so that they are more likely to agree with them. Here are some things to look out for.

Makes and supports inferences from texts independently

What do I need to know?

Inferring

Inferring means using content in a text, together with existing knowledge, to come to a personal conclusion about something that is not stated explicitly in the text. When the writer provides clues but not all the information, we read "between the lines" to form hypotheses, revise these, understand underlying themes, make critical judgments, and draw conclusions.

The teacher can help students to make inferences by raising their awareness that reading involves more than just literal meaning and by modelling inferential thinking during shared reading or during discussions in guided reading. Or the teacher may pause when reading a text with students, to draw out clues from the text and prompt the students to make connections between different parts of the text in order to reach a conclusion that makes sense. It's important to ask students to give evidence from the text that supports their inferences.

How teachers can support learners:

  • Think about how the images in this explanation help us to form ideas about the immense distances described.
  • This character seems haughty and supercilious. The way she interacts with the other characters isn't how I expect people to behave. I'll read on and check out my tentative thinking about her.
  • Find the words that suggest that ...
  • What do you think is really happening here? What did you have to do to make those inferences?
  • Even though the writer doesn't state her opinion explicitly, you've inferred that she doesn't approve of ... You've noted the examples that she has used and linked them to your own knowledge of ... to help you reach this conclusion.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.146.

What readers do:

  • Draw on their awareness that some meanings may not be explicit in the text and question the messages of the text as they read.
  • Keep in mind their hunches about deeper meanings and search for clues or evidence in the text as they continue to read.
  • Make links between their developing knowledge of the text and the author's style (drawing on their sense of where the author is taking the text) in relation to these clues.
  • Form hypotheses, based on the links they have made, about implied meanings in the text.
  • Reflect on the validity of their inferences by taking account of new evidence or clues that arise as they continue reading.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Out of their comfort zones  

The student makes and supports inferences about how and why the character of the boy changed in the story.

Extract from student response: In "The Hills", the boy goes through a terrible experience after being taken to the police station. What starts out as few drinks with his friends turns into an experience that changes the boy forever. He is assaulted and insulted by the police. The boy thinks that it is all part of a game "only rougher than usual," but he is definitely out of his comfort zone. At the police station the boy is cavity searched which has a huge impact on him. Before this happens the boy has been a "funny man" who imagines the hills look like "bums and boobs." The experience in the police station changes his whole outlook on life. He cannot even look at the hills again, let alone joke about them like he did before.  

Example 2 

Student static image based on  Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield – Shaping Up (Exemplar F) 

Student makes and supports inferences about the inner life of the character of Miss Brill in the Katherine Mansfield story using symbolism, layout, and colour.

Extract from student commentary: My static image portrays the idea that Miss Brill was a lonely old lady whose life was boring and empty. The only colour and joy in her life was in her imagination when she fancied herself relating to the other people and involved in the activity she saw every Sunday when she visited the park.   The black background in my image represents the dark, confining cupboard-like room she returned to after visiting the park. The white silhouette with a bun low on the nape of the neck shows that Miss Brill was an old lady. It dominates the page because the story is mostly about what goes on inside her head. Inside the silhouette I have put together a bright collage of all the people, objects and events from the park. They are in colour because to her they are the most real and vibrant part of her life. They are put into the shape of a brain to show that in her mind they are a very real part of her life. I chose the quote because Miss Brill imagined herself and the other people in the park as a company of actors presenting an exciting play. The quote relates to the action, characters and props in the collage inside her head. 

Example 3 

English Online: Worth Reading – 

This student template helps learners record their responses to reading; it scaffolds them as they move towards making and supporting inferences while they read a text independently. 

Extract from teaching unit on bookmarking templates: Students independently read and study self-selected [and teacher approved] extended texts. To help them record ideas about understandings they have developed that go beyond their text, students complete a bookmarking template as they read.  

Bookmarking template 

As you read your text, complete several bookmarks. Bookmarks are written responses to starter statements or questions you make during your reading. Later in this activity you will develop a piece of writing from your bookmarks about important ideas in your text. Write at least three bookmarks as you read your text and one bookmark when you finish reading. There are two sections to each bookmark you complete.

Reading the lines: Write down two important facts and details that you have found at this point in your reading.  

Reading between and beyond the lines: What can you say at this point about ideas or issues in this text? Write down your responses to important ideas or issues revealed up to this point in your reading.

Example 4 

Assessment Resource Banks: Making inferences 

This comprehension task involves a poem being disclosed in stages. It assesses a student's ability to use evidence in the poem to predict what it could be describing. The student makes and supports inferences about what the poem could be describing, then gives evidence from the poem and their knowledge that supports their predictions. Note that access to the ARBs requires registration of a username/password to log in.

Example 5 

1,2,3 literacy strategy 

Student makes and supports inferences about the poet’s attitude to her new surroundings. Students complete various readings of an unfamiliar text, a poem. 

Literal / inferred levels:

On a literal level, the poem is about a girl and her mother moving into a new house. When you look at a subject more closely in a text, you often investigate the writer's attitude or perceptions towards their subject and at what can be inferred from the text.

It can be inferred (for example, from the title "This Other Place", as well as from other aspects) that the poet feels uncomfortable and out of place in her new surroundings. As you read the poem again, underline expressions that develop the inference that the poet feels she doesn't fit in or feels out of place

Language features

  • Show a developed understanding of how language features are used for effect within and across texts.

Indicators

Identifies a range of oral, written, and visual language features and understands their effects

What do I need to know?

Knowledge of texts and of how they impact on readers and writers

Readers and writers need to know that all texts have meaning and purpose, and they need to be able to distinguish between different text purposes. They need to know, for example, that some texts are intended primarily to raise reader or writer self-awareness, some to entertain, and some to communicate ideas or information.

A major purpose of most texts is to affect the target audience in a particular way, often by conveying the writer’s point of view effectively. Students need to know that many texts have several purposes. Students should understand that all texts are intended for an audience (the audience is sometimes the writer) and that effective texts have an impact on their readers. They also need to know about the text features that writers use to achieve the desired impact. The deeper features of a text generally relate to the writer’s purpose and voice and include the structure and language features of the text. Its surface features include grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Young readers and writers will also learn that accurate or inaccurate use of surface features affects readers’ ability to make meaning of texts. Readers and writers need to know that there are different text forms and that these are generally characterised by a particular structure and certain other features. Forms such as stories, recounts, reports, procedures, arguments, explanations, varieties of poetry, and plays all have characteristic structures and features that are linked to their different purposes. The characteristic features of any text form (which can be used to identify the form of a text) are likely to include specific structural and language features and may include specific kinds of content, vocabulary, and/or surface features. 

From Effective Literacy Strategies for Years 5–8, Ministry of Education, 2004. p.34.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: City life

The task: Identify one technique used to shape the extract. Explain its effect and support your answer with specific detail from at least one place in the text. Three written language features are identified and understanding of their effects within the short stories is shown.

Student response:

  • Example: “… thrusting through them was like struggling through a land of giants …”
  • Term: simile
  • Description of effect: The children feel small as they are surrounded by adults. It is a struggle to push through the crowd. This description shows the children feel out of place and vulnerable in an adult world.
  • Example: “… He looked back and glimpsed her fluttering in the crowd …”
  • Term: metaphor
  • Description of effect: When I think of the word "fluttering" I imagine the movement of a butterfly or small bird. This makes Janey seem delicate and vulnerable like one of these animals. She is especially so in this story as she is a small child in a busy city.
  • Example: “… He felt eyes staring at him like sharp needles …”
  • Term: simile
  • Description of effect: This describes the sharp looks Hema received as he took his sister off the road. It emphasises how afraid the children feel and how uncaring and violent the city seems to them.
  • Example: “The lights from the houses above the winding Bay Road dribbled into the harbour like rain running down a window.”
  • Term: Simile
  • Description of effect: The weather matches Penny’s mood before she goes on her bike ride. She feels sad and gloomy like the weather. The part of the simile “like rain running down a window” makes me think that Penny feels trapped and that is why she wants to get out on her bike.

Example 2 

English Online: Every picture tells a story – Static images

This is an extract from a teaching unit on static images. This extract explores the use of symbolism as a visual feature in students’ images. By analysing symbols drawn from several contexts students identify a range of visual language features and understand their effects. 

Visual Elements – Symbols

It is possible for someone to represent a whole range of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and views with a few artfully placed items on a piece of paper. A key visual element is the symbol. Record and discuss the definition of "symbol". Symbols are powerful visual elements and care must be taken in choosing them to communicate ideas. Even symbols that could be regarded as similar in theme have their own unique associations and connotations. Work through the Activities - Thematic Symbols. Symbols can be combined in one image to create powerful messages. The arrangement and relationship between them are crucial. A conventional symbol can form the basis of an image but be skillfully manipulated and presented to communicate a message that contradicts the initial emotive responses to the source symbol, thus enhancing the message.

Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning

What do I need to know?

Expanding students' vocabulary

All texts are made up of words and phrases. It's important to expand students' awareness and appreciation of language and to help them build up their personal vocabularies. Developing an extensive vocabulary enables students to improve both their reading comprehension and their writing.

As part of the instructional programme, teachers need to plan to expand their students' vocabularies. Students need a substantial and ever-increasing bank of sight words, and they also need to be taught about how words work. The teacher's role is to:

  • develop a class community of people who are curious and enthusiastic about language and keen to experiment with new vocabulary and language structures
  • encourage students to notice, savour, and share interesting words at every opportunity, for example, when reading literary and transactional texts and during class or group conversations
  • introduce, explain, and model the use of new words, including the academic and specialised words that the students need for their ongoing learning
  • explicitly teach aspects of English language, such as morphology, including the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes and interesting morphemes derived from other languages
  • explicitly teach strategies that readers can use to work out unknown words and terms in texts (for example, by using information in the words themselves, by making links to known words, and by using context clues)
  • give students opportunities to use their new words and terms in authentic oral and written language contexts and encourage them by constructive feedback. By exploring language with students and giving them opportunities to practise their new learning, teachers can develop their students' sense of enquiry and adventure and help to build a vibrant community that thrives on discussion of language and how it works. This is invaluable support for new learners of English and also for those who are experiencing difficulties in their literacy learning.

Teachers can help their rapid-progress students to extend their vocabulary development by giving them experiences with texts that make demands on the reader, for example, in terms of the complex abstract ideas they present or the issues they offer for debate. These students need to be challenged to add depth to their writing by choosing language that has fine shades of meaning.

Every classroom needs a thesaurus, a comprehensive dictionary, and multiple copies of student dictionaries. Bilingual dictionaries in students' first languages should also be available where possible. Instructional reading and writing sessions, cross-curricular work, and discussions of current events can be used as springboards to launch students into the study of words – investigating synonyms and antonyms, collecting and discussing examples of homophones and homonyms, or sharing the discovery of a new and unusual word or figure of speech.

People need to know words and terms in order to develop language and in-depth thinking. Research ... indicates that students who have a wide vocabulary generally show greater proficiency in learning than those with more limited vocabularies. A learner's vocabulary knowledge strongly influences their ability to comprehend what they read and to write effectively. (Ministry of Education, 2004a, page 27)

It's part of a teacher's planning to think carefully about the vocabulary in any text that they are planning to use in their literacy programme (for example, in guided reading).

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.126–127. 

Vocabulary: Research and Challenges

What the research tells us: Knowing about learners' vocabulary needs

Students usually need direct teaching to acquire the specialised vocabulary that is vital for academic success. Many students whose oral vocabulary is quite adequate for everyday communication have not yet acquired a rich store of words to use for reading and writing. In particular, they may lack knowledge of the academic vocabulary that's important for success at secondary school. All students need planned opportunities to learn, use, and practise, in authentic contexts, the vocabulary that they need in order to communicate about the subjects they are studying.

There is more than one level of knowing a word or term. We can understand many words when hearing them spoken or reading them in a text, even though we do not use these words in speaking or writing ourselves. This is known as our "receptive vocabulary". Our "productive vocabulary" consists of those words that we can actually use accurately, either in speech or in writing.

Students need to be able to use the specialised words that they learn. Students learning English as a new language have an urgent need to acquire more vocabulary. Not surprisingly, new learners of English have considerably less knowledge of English vocabulary items than first-language English speakers of the same age (Nation, 1990, 2001). Cummins (1989) estimates that it takes two years for new learners of English to be able to communicate effectively at a conversational level. It can take five to seven years for these students to learn to use academic language proficiently.

All students need many exposures to the vocabulary that is new to them. Effective teachers help their students to link new words to their existing knowledge and give them opportunities to reinforce their learning during meaningful communication.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.27–31. 

Knowing about different categories of vocabulary

The following vocabulary categories may be useful for teachers to consider.

  • High-frequency words: High-frequency words are the words most often used in a language and make up over eighty percent of most written text. There are about two thousand high-frequency word families in the English language. These include all the basic words needed for communicating in English. A teacher who is aware that some students may not know the high-frequency words in the language they are using at school can plan to teach them these words first, along with a few other words that they need to know, such as the teacher's name.
  • Specialised academic vocabulary: Students need to learn new, subject-specific terms for every subject that they study at secondary school. For example, in the resources and economic activities strand of social studies, they need to be able to use the terms "supply and demand", "productivity", and "access to goods and services". Many students know only the everyday meanings of words that also have different, specialised meanings. One reason for students finding certain academic words difficult to learn is that many words have a general, everyday meaning as well as a subject-specific meaning. For example, "volume", "range", and "function" all have both everyday and specialised meanings. Nicholson (1988) found that many students had very strongly established understandings of the everyday meanings of certain words and so they found it hard to grasp that these words also had specialised academic meanings. When discussing subject content with their students, teachers can explore this issue and model using the words correctly in different-contexts.
  • General academic vocabulary: General academic vocabulary includes terms used across the curriculum. Some of these terms, such as "define" and "assess", are often used when giving instructions to students, and others, such as "method" and "survey", are used to describe concepts, processes, and strategies common to many subject areas. General academic words are often used in tests and examinations, and students need to be confident about using such words to "show what they know". Coxhead compiled her academic word list (a list of general academic terms) by analysing which words were most often found throughout twenty-eight subject areas in university texts in New Zealand and around the world (Coxhead, 1998).

From Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.27–31.

The challenges for teachers

Are the students aware of the context-specific meanings of the words they need to use?

To understand subject content and achieve their learning goals, students need to know the relevant vocabulary, including specialised words and terms. The challenges for teachers are:

  • to establish what vocabulary expertise the students bring with them (that is, to know their students)
  • to establish ways of building on the students' expertise and teaching them the vocabulary they need (that is, to know what teachers can do)
  • to help the students develop strategies to identify and solve unknown vocabulary (that is, to enable them to become independent vocabulary learners).

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.27–31.

Knowing the students’ vocabulary knowledge

Students need to know the vocabulary of specific subjects.

Teachers can collect useful information about their students' vocabulary knowledge in their subject area by devising a simple test using the key words of the subject. Monitoring the students' work as they use new words will also provide valuable evidence to use when planning future vocabulary teaching.

Teachers can provide an environment that is rich in subject-specific words. This raises the students' consciousness of words and their awareness of the power and fascination of words. For example, a class could develop a display of "words of the week" or a "word wall", where the students write up new words that they have learned (see Ruddell and Shearer, 2002). This activity need not be limited to newly learned or subject-specific words – it can include any interesting words.

As well as giving the message that words are fun, such a display can provide the teacher with useful evidence of their students' developing vocabulary knowledge. One student (quoted in Ruddell and Shearer, page 352) said, "I used to only think about vocabulary in school. The whole world is vocabulary." All students benefit from thinking and talking about new vocabulary. For students from non-English-speaking backgrounds, it may be best for them to use their first language for this, or to find first language equivalents for new English vocabulary.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.27–31

Knowing what teachers can do

Introducing students to new vocabulary

Teachers can identify the key terms needed for understanding and communicating about some specific subject content. This is the vocabulary that the students need to know in order to understand, discuss, and write about the subject content appropriately. When deciding which key terms to teach, consider:

  •  how often the terms are used
  •  how important they are for relevant subject-specific learning
  •  how important they are for general academic use.

For some words, a simple explanation from the teacher may be all that is needed. For many other words, the teacher will need to plan how to integrate the vocabulary learning into their teaching of the subject content. Simply giving a word's definition or presenting it in a glossary may not be effective. Students need to link new words with the words they already know and with related words and terms. It is important to remember that there is a limit to the number of vocabulary items that students can take in at one time. Within one learning session, students should not be expected to learn more than six or seven words.

Helping students to solve unknown vocabulary

Encourage students to actively monitor their own understanding of text. When students get "stuck" in their reading, they should be aware that they can decide to try one or more appropriate strategies. Teachers can help them to adopt and use effective literacy strategies when they come across unfamiliar words and terms. Giving students opportunities to use new words and terms. Students need many exposures to new words in meaningful contexts.

Plan to provide many opportunities for students to integrate their new words into their spoken and written vocabularies. When students practise using new vocabulary soon after learning it, they are more likely to remember it and to use it appropriately and with increasing confidence.

Teachers can promote vocabulary learning by exposing their students to new words in a range of meaningful contexts and by setting purposeful tasks that require the students to use the words many times. Vocabulary learning should occur in oral language contexts as well as written language contexts. Speaking and listening provide the platform for learning new vocabulary, which can then be used in reading and writing. Discussion and other oral-language activities that are part of the classroom culture help to establish students' newly learned vocabulary as part of their "usable memory".

Developing independent learners

Students need to be aware of the strategies that they can use to help them decode and understand unfamiliar words and terms. They will be more successful in learning new words when they consciously take an active part in the learning process. By teaching them strategies that they can use to develop their knowledge of words, teachers empower students to become independent vocabulary learners.

Teachers should encourage all students to try to identify the meaning of unfamiliar words by themselves, first by using context clues and other strategies to work out the meaning and then by checking in their dictionaries. Teachers can model strategies for learning unknown vocabulary, and students practise using these strategies.

Teachers could suggest that students use the following questions, at appropriate stages as they learn new vocabulary, to help them think about their understanding.

  • What key words do I know already?
  • What related words do I know?
  • What new vocabulary can I now use confidently to explain my understanding of the subject content?
  • What new understandings have I gained?
  • What are some examples of context clues that may help me to understand new vocabulary?

These questions could be included in students' learning logs or put on wall charts for students to refer to when appropriate.

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp. 27–31. 

Developing students' knowledge of English 

Teachers should not delay literacy instruction for students who do not yet speak English fluently, nor should they limit their teaching to low-level skills that focus on the surface features of texts. Rather, teachers should act on their awareness that reading in English improves the reader's knowledge of English – reading is one of the best ways to learn a language, particularly in the later primary and secondary years. Like all literacy learners, new learners of English need many rich experiences with texts that interest and challenge them, right from the start. However, teachers do need to choose texts carefully for these students. Only texts that are at the right levels will enable new learners of English to develop their strategy use as they learn more about their new language.

The two most important variables (affecting success in reading English texts) that distinguish new learners of English from their English-speaking peers are differences in prior knowledge (including cultural knowledge) and differences in English language proficiency. It's very important for teachers to demonstrate that all the students' cultures are an important part of the classroom culture. It's also important for teachers to scaffold their students into the classroom ways of doing things and into unfamiliar cultural aspects of the texts they read. Effective teachers encourage their students to query what they don't understand and are ready to explain and clarify. New learners of English need support to develop their English language proficiency, especially their knowledge and understanding of English grammatical structures and vocabulary and their ability to use them. Some learners with limited English language knowledge resort to reading slowly out loud, sounding each word out carefully. The disadvantage of this is that they are often not able to carry the meaning across the length of the sentence or paragraph.

Students are better able to learn oral and written English through literacy activities when:

  • they are exposed to substantial spoken or written English that is within their zone of proximal development – not too hard and not too easy
  • their teacher helps them to notice language items and language patterns in the English that they hear and read (for example, when reading a story to students, the teacher can select words for attention in passing and write them on the whiteboard without interrupting the flow of the story)
  • the literacy activities are carefully sequenced and linked to students' needs. For example, when new learners of English are given opportunities to rehearse spoken language with their peers, it's very important that they have opportunities to take the risk of trying out language by speaking and that they receive constructive and supportive feedback from their peers or from the teacher.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.129

What does it look like?

Example 1 

Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning of the imagery and word choice which describe the situation of mother and baby in Latitudes by Mario Petrucci

Extract from student exemplar:  A particularly moving example of imagery that the author uses is found in a stanza where we learn about a “fifteen-year-old mother”, who has drowned herself and her child in Galway Bay, Ireland, due to the lack of support for her as a single mum. The words “bloated marble doll” explain the baby, and this is a very effective example of imagery. Not only does it make us think of the lifeless, cold, bloated child being “rocked” by the waves, but it also reminds us what an expensive, priceless, infant, thing that little child is, just like marble, and how sad it is that she has been wasted like thatThe words “rocked“ provide a certain sadness as well, as we know she should be rocked in the arms of her mother, or in her cradle, but instead she is being rocked by the gentle slap of the waves.” 

Example 2 

Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning of the imagery and word choice described by Hone Tuwhare in "Rain." Shows understanding of tone and vocabulary used by Tuwhare, as well as the symbolic nature of water. 

Extract from student exemplar: “A very interesting image that Tuwhare has made is found in the poem "Rain." When Tuwhare states to the rain that “you would still define me disperse me wash over me rain”, you are given a clear image of the rain somehow sensually washing over Tuwhare, or the narrator, and making them clean or whole again.”

This text is also used to exemplify other substrands. See: Listening, Reading, Viewing, Language Features: EN2

Example 3

Every picture tells a story – Static images

In this teaching activity, students develop and use an increasingly technical vocabulary to make meaning of static images.

Extract: Task 2: Techniques Matching Game: Copy each of these onto separate pieces of card and distribute them individually to the class. Students then have to match themselves up with their corresponding technique/definition.

NCEA English External Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 1 AS 90055  Order from NZATE

Understands and interprets how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect

What do I need to know?

Knowledge of texts and how they impact on readers and writers

Readers and writers need to know that all texts have meaning and purpose, and they need to be able to distinguish between different text purposes. They need to know, for example, that some texts are intended primarily to raise reader or writer self-awareness, some to entertain, and some to communicate ideas or information. A major purpose of most texts is to affect the target audience in a particular way, often by conveying the writer’s point of view effectively. Students need to know that many texts have several purposes.

Students should understand that all texts are intended for an audience (the audience is sometimes the writer) and that effective texts have an impact on their readers. They also need to know about the text features that writers use to achieve the desired impact. The deeper features of a text generally relate to the writer’s purpose and voice and include the structure and language features of the text. Its surface features include grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Young readers and writers will also learn that accurate or inaccurate use of surface features affects readers’ ability to make meaning of texts.

Readers and writers need to know that there are different text forms and that these are generally characterised by a particular structure and certain other features. Forms such as stories, recounts, reports, procedures, arguments, explanations, varieties of poetry, and plays all have characteristic structures and features that are linked to their different purposes. Students need to know about the structures and features associated with each of these text forms.

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. pp.34–35 

Features of Text Forms
Teaching about text forms can help students understand how text is structured and why. We need to be careful, however, to be flexible about the features in a text form. Authentic text forms are often mixed. Text forms evolve and change.

What does it look like?

Example 1

NCEA English Externals Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 4 AS 90055

Available to order from  www.nzate.co.nz 

Understands and interprets the way in which text conventions, such as imagery, connotative vocabulary, and verb choice, work together to create the effect of a harsh environment and sympathy for the mother and child in the text Latitudes by Mario Petrucci.

A particularly moving example of imagery that the author uses is found in a stanza where we learn about a “fifteen-year-old mother”, who has drowned herself and her child in Galway Bay, Ireland, due to the lack of support for her as a single mum. The words “bloated marble doll” explain the baby, and this is a very effective example of imagery. Not only does it make us think of the lifeless, cold, bloated child being “rocked” by the waves, but it also reminds us what an expensive, priceless, infant, thing that little child is, just like marble, and how sad it is that she has been wasted like thatThe words “rocked“ provide a certain sadness as well, as we know she should be rocked in the arms of her mother, or in her cradle, but instead she is being rocked by the gentle slap of the waves.

Example 2

NCEA English Externals Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 4 AS 90055

Available to order from  www.nzate.co.nz 

Understands and interprets the way in which text conventions, such as pronouns, writer’s point-of-view, verb choice, and repetition work together to create the effect of a rich and symbolic moment in the poem. A very interesting image that Tuwhare has made is found in the poem "Rain." When Tuwhare states to the rain that “you would still define me disperse me wash over me rain”, you are given a clear image of the rain somehow sensually washing over Tuwhare, or the narrator, and making them clean or whole again.

Example 3

Understands and interprets the way in which text conventions, such as background, layout, shape, choice of image, and colour, work together to create the effect of a contrast between Miss Brill’s inner and outer lives, and to reflect the character’s experience of isolation in the story. The black background in my image represents the dark, confining cupboard-like room she returned to after visiting the park. The white silhouette with a bun low on the nape of the neck shows that Miss Brill was an old lady. It dominates the page because the story is mostly about what goes on inside her head. Inside the silhouette I have put together a bright collage of all the people, objects and events from the park. They are in colour because to her they are the most real and vibrant part of her life. They are put into the shape of a brain to show that in her mind they are a very real part of her life.

Example 4

English Online: City Life 

These answers to the close reading activity on Ihimaera’s "Big Brother, Little Sister", indicate that the student understands and interprets the way in which text conventions, such as simile and metaphor, work together to create the effect of a hostile urban setting that the two children find themselves in.

  • Example: “… thrusting through them was like struggling through a land of giants …” 
  • Term: simile
  • Description of effect: The children feel small as they are surrounded by adults. It is a struggle to push through the crowd. This description shows the children feel out of place and vulnerable in an adult world.
  • Example: “ …He looked back and glimpsed her fluttering in the crowd …"
  • Term: metaphor
  • Description of effect: When I think of the word "fluttering" I imagine the movement of a butterfly or small bird. This makes Janey seem delicate and vulnerable like one of these animals. She is especially so in this story as she is a small child in a busy city.

Understands authors different voices and styles, and identifies and explains these differences

What do I need to know?

Knowledge of texts and how they impact on readers and writers

Readers and writers need to know that all texts have meaning and purpose, and they need to be able to distinguish between different text purposes. They need to know, for example, that some texts are intended primarily to raise reader or writer self-awareness, some to entertain, and some to communicate ideas or information. A major purpose of most texts is to affect the target audience in a particular way, often by conveying the writer’s point of view effectively. Students need to know that many texts have several purposes.

Students should understand that all texts are intended for an audience (the audience is sometimes the writer) and that effective texts have an impact on their readers. They also need to know about the text features that writers use to achieve the desired impact. The deeper features of a text generally relate to the writer’s purpose and voice and include the structure and language features of the text. Its surface features include grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Young readers and writers will also learn that accurate or inaccurate use of surface features affects readers’ ability to make meaning of texts.

Readers and writers need to know that there are different text forms and that these are generally characterised by a particular structure and certain other features. Forms such as stories, recounts, reports, procedures, arguments, explanations, varieties of poetry, and plays all have characteristic structures and features that are linked to their different purposes. Students need to know about the structures and features associated with each of these text forms. 

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5–8, NZ Ministry of Education, 2006. p.34–35. 

Features of Text Forms
Teaching about text forms can help students understand how text is structured and why. We need to be careful, however, to be flexible about the features in a text form. Authentic text forms are often mixed. Text forms evolve and change.

What does it look like?

Example 1

NZATE NCEA English External Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 1 AS 90055

Understands that the two poets, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, have different voices and styles in their contrasting war poems, and explains these differences by referring to their contrasting content, point-of-view, and, implicitly, tone. 

The narrators of these poems were both soldiers. These soldiers look at the topic of war and patriotism, although they look at this topic from completely different aspects. Brooke's poem "The Soldier" was written in the very beginning of war. The soldier had not yet experienced the full glory of war. He did not fully understand what he was writing about. Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorumest" was written later in the war. The soldier talked about the death that was surrounding him. He wrote what he saw rather than what he was brought up to believe. Brooke's soldier wrote as if he was going to die. He believed that dying for your country was an honour and he wished to die no other way. “If I should die, think only this of me that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” He believed that his remains were a symbol of what England was said to represent. “In that rich earth, a richer dust concealed.”

Example 2

To Kill a Mockingbird

By working through an exercise assessing Scout’s perceptions of various characters, students build an understanding of how Harper Lee has used Scout as her narrative voice and is able to explain, for example, why this might be different to Lee’s own voice.

Student extract: Because Harper Lee invites us to see the events of the story and the people in it through Scout's eyes, a good deal is revealed about Scout by what she notices and reports, and the comments she makes as she tells the story. This puts the reader in an interesting position. We hear about what happens in such a way that we can form some opinions about the characters in the story but also about the narrator. Because Scout is a narrator who is recalling events that occurred in her childhood, we get a child's version of what happens. Things take place that Scout cannot explain. Some of these events are mildly mysterious, others are more frighteningly so. We as readers are sometimes able to understand the meaning of certain events before Scout does, in other instances we remain as confused as she is.  

Example 3 

Teaching voice with Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park

This teaching unit, which can be adapted to any year level, uses Browne’s Voices in the Park to help students to understand that authors have different voices and styles, as well as being able to identify and explain these differences. The unit is also designed to scaffold students towards thinking about voice in their own writing.

Extract:

1. Have four readers stand so that they are spread apart, preferably one in each corner of the room. Readers will perform the book for the class by reading it so all four voices may be heard.

2. Ask students to discuss the literal voices they have just heard. What made each character sound different from the other? Be sure to focus this discussion solely on the readers’ theatre presentation of the book.

3. Students then list the “facts” of the story – things that remain the same regardless of who tells the story. For example, each voice includes two dogs who play together, two children (a boy and a girl), a woman, and a man. Each voice sets the story in the park where the man looks ragged and the children play together.

4. Assign one voice to each student and group students according to their assigned voices. Explain the  Character Analysis Chart with a brief model. I choose to use the first voice. For a fact, I say that she is rich because she has a “pedigree Labrador” and the illustrations show her in a neighborhood with a large house. For a personality trait, I say that she is judgmental, maybe even prejudiced, because she describes the other dog as “some scruffy mongrel” and has a pinched up face in the pictures. Encourage students to find multiple supports for each of their assertions.

Structure

  • Show a developed understanding of a range of structures.

Indicator

Understands the characteristics and conventions of texts, and how they affect meaning

What do I need to know?

Knowledge of texts and of how they impact on readers and writers

Readers and writers need to know that all texts have meaning and purpose, and they need to be able to distinguish between different text purposes. They need to know, for example, that some texts are intended primarily to raise reader or writer self-awareness, some to entertain, and some to communicate ideas or information.

A major purpose of most texts is to affect the target audience in a particular way, often by conveying the writer’s point of view effectively. Students need to know that many texts have several purposes.

Students should understand that all texts are intended for an audience (the audience is sometimes the writer) and that effective texts have an impact on their readers. They also need to know about the text features that writers use to achieve the desired impact. The deeper features of a text generally relate to the writer’s purpose and voice and include the structure and language features of the text. Its surface features include grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Young readers and writers will also learn that accurate or inaccurate use of surface features affects readers’ ability to make meaning of texts.

Readers and writers need to know that there are different text forms and that these are generally characterised by a particular structure and certain other features. Forms such as stories, recounts, reports, procedures, arguments, explanations, varieties of poetry, and plays all have characteristic structures and features that are linked to their different purposes. Students in years 5 to 8 need to know about the structures and features associated with each of these text forms.

The characteristic features of any text form (which can be used to identify the form of a text) are likely to include specific structural and language features and may include specific kinds of content, vocabulary, and/or surface features. 

Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 5–8, Ministry of Education, 2004. p.34.

Features of Text Forms
Teaching about text forms can help students understand how text is structured and why. We need to be careful, however, to be flexible about the features in a text form. Authentic text forms are often mixed. Text forms evolve and change.

What does it look like?

Example 1

Student identifies and understands the structural characteristics and conventions of this static image, such as layout of the figures against the background and the shape of the path, and considers the way they contribute to and affect the way the image explores Mr and Mrs Martins' contrasting views on life and death.

Extract from student commentary: "Mr and Mrs Martins" by Edla Van Steen. In my static image the background of clocks with no hands represents how time stands still and how they are preparing to die before their time. The black gravestone represents death and it has Mr Martins’ year of birth on it but he hasn’t died yet. The green path is the path of life. The green symbolizes living, growing and doing things. The path is windy to show that although it ultimately leads to death you don’t go straight there; there are lots of challenges along the way. The rough edges show that life isn’t easy and everyone has hard times. Mr Martins is older so he is further along the path of life. But it is also because he is more accepting of death. He is grey because although he is still alive he is inactive and might as well be dead. He is looking away because he has forgotten about his wife. While he was preparing her for life without him, he failed to realise that all she wanted was to be with him and cherish the time they had left together. Mrs Martins is hanging back because she still wants to enjoy life. She is in colour because there is still some life left in her. She is holding her hat and basket which shows there are still things she wants to do. But when her husband says they must prepare for death she doesn’t object and her head down indicates her submissiveness. The quote shows that they’re not dead yet but they’re not making the most of the time they have left. “We” indicates the two of them, “go on” refers to progress on the path of life and “waiting” refers to the fact that they are preparing for death.

Example 2

English Online: Heroes 

This task is part of a larger unit on reading texts closely; in this task, students are guided towards identifying and understanding the characteristics and conventions of structure and towards a consideration of the way they contribute to and affect text meaning in transactional texts on inspiring New Zealanders.

Task 5: Shaping the Text 

a. Structural devices

Some techniques that can be used to shape a text include:

  • connections between beginnings and endings – cyclical effect
  • chronological sequence of events
  • thematic organisation of context
  • use of flashbacks
  • use of foreshadowing
  • digressions
  • repetition of ideas or word.

This text has an introduction, a development of ideas and a conclusion. Record the main ideas of the Hayley Westenra biography as a linear timeline diagram showing how it is constructed. Label it with structural techniques. See Resource D for a completed diagram.

What effect does this structure have on the reader's understanding of the material?

How has the beginning and the end of the biography been linked? Give a reason for your answer.

b. Method of narration

With a partner consider the following questions: A text can be written in the first person, second person, or third person. This is known as the method of narration.

  • What is the Hayley Westenra text written in?
  • What effect does it have on the reader?
  • Do we hear the writer's voice in the writing? If so, how? Look for words that show how the writer feels about Hayley Westenra.

Example 3 

English Online: Out of their comfort zones

This task is part of a larger unit on producing transactional texts; in this task, students are guided towards identifying and understanding the characteristics and conventions of structure and towards a consideration of the way they contribute to and affect text meaning in an exemplar literature essay which explores similar themes in two short stories.

Task 2: Focusing on structure and style Tama ["Ka Kite Bro"] and Tuta ["My First Ball"] are the characters who face these challenging situations.

Read exemplar A which describes the situations Tama and Tuta face. Explain how the writer has expanded the ideas from their stories  into paragraphs and structured the piece with:

  • a short introduction linking the two stories: [for example, from introduction: "Both the main characters, Tama and Tuta, find different ways through the situations they face."]
  • two paragraphs each focusing on one short story. [Note how each paragraph links to the topic by referring to the "out of their comfort zones" topic: [for example, link to the topic shown in bold: "Tama feels out of his comfort zone, because the people around him do not understand that he needs to say goodbye to Darryl in his own way."]
  • a short conclusion making a summary point linking the stories to the topic[for example, from the conclusion: "I think that both Tama and Tuta are similar because they are prepared to do something about the situations they face."]

Student identifies and understands the characteristics and conventions of structure, having considered the way they contribute to and affect text meaning in a written response to a visual or oral text: for example, the student’s use of three paragraphed points each with an example and an explanation of the example’s importance, is appropriate for revealing a good knowledge and clear understanding of the important features of this text type.

Example 4 

1,2,3 literacy strategy

Identifies and understands the characteristics and conventions of a poem [for example, use of capitalisation; bracketed sections; stanza structure] and considers how they contribute to and affect text meaning [the girl’s dislike of her new domestic arrangements]

Task: Students complete various readings of an unfamiliar text.

Skim read the poem. As you skim read, underline these text features:

  • Capitals used in the middle of sentences for pronouns: "Her", "He", "His", "She" (The first example has been completed.)
  • Nouns: Mother, Girl (First example completed.)
  • Bracketed sections of text (First example completed.)
  • Talk about the use of capitals. What difference would there be if these words started with lower case letters (for example, "she" not "She")? or if names were used (for example, the person's name rather than just "His"?)
  • Talk about the bracketed sections. How are they different from the rest of the poem?

Published on: 03 Jun 2014




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