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

Level 8 – Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

Students will:

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

Indicators

Selects and reads texts for enjoyment and personal fulfilment

Selects and reads texts for enjoyment and personal fulfilment

What do I need to know?

The importance of motivation and engagement leads to enjoyment and personal fulfilment

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 itWhen 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. Refer to appendix 4 for information about motivating and engaging students.
Effective Literacy Strategies at Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.55.

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, 2004. 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. p.159–160.

What does it look like?

Example 1

In her evaluation, the student comments on the interest and value a thematic study held for her. The evaluation reflects their personal fulfilment and enjoyment of the texts.

Extract:

Conclusion and Evaluation
I found it really interesting investigating the 'perfect society' theme this year. I realised there is a divergence in opinions of what makes the perfect society. It has helped me realise that we probably will never have the perfect society because human beings will never be satisfied. Changes to improve society often make things worse because of the human instinct to dominate or control society, as occurred in The Handmaid's Tale and The Matrix. This investigation made me consider how far we have to go to attain not even a perfect society, but at least a fair and free one. The strongest impression the investigation left with me was that writers and directors in the texts we read challenged us to consider whether the perfect society could ever in fact exist. 

Example 2

Internal Assessment Resource – Things That Make You Go Hmmm (Word 124KB)

The student selects and reads columns written by various columnists for enjoyment and personal fulfilment

Extract from Task 1:

Columns differ from editorials and feature articles which tend to be more formally expressed, objective and informative. Columnists can be provocative and opinionated and use a wide range of distinctive styles to interest, challenge and entertain readers. Columnists attract regular readers often because their readers recognise and enjoy their writing styles.

Familiarise yourself with the column writing genre and various styles used by columnists by reading columns in a range of publications including major daily and weekend newspapers, New Zealand ListenerNorth and South, and Metro. Having found a columnist(s) whose style(s) you enjoy, read several of their pieces and make notes on the characteristics of their style(s).

Recognises and understands the connections between oral, written, and visual language

Recognises, understands, and appreciates the connections between oral, written, and visual language

What do I need to know?

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

English Online: Exploring Language
Speaking and writing: looking at the connections and contrasts between the spoken language of conversation and the written text.

What does it look like?

Example 1

Internal Assessment Resource – In Their Words (Word 149KB)

Annotations on their oral presentation text [indicating where the student intends to use various oral and visual techniques] demonstrates that the student recognises, understands, and appreciates the connections between oral, written, and visual language.

Extract from Task 2:

Work through your whole text make annotations identifying how you will use presentation techniques in specific places to help convey meaning:

  • How could you incorporate inflection or shifts in your tone and variation in your pace? Your speed and tone or pitch should match your mood. You might speak quickly to help convey a excitement or tension, or speak slowly and deliberately to suggest determination or seriousness.
  • How could you incorporate volume and emphasis to match your emotional state? Vary your volume. Make your voice boom out, or whisper, to match your feelings.
  • How could you incorporate pausing? Pausing can develop a sense of expectation, importance or tension.
  • How could you incorporate stance, movement or positioning? Draw in your audience by addressing them directly. Consider where you should stand. Block out how you should move within the space you will use. In a dramatic performance, how old and physically active is your character? How will this influence the way your character moves?
  • How could you incorporate facial expression? As with your voice, use expressions and eye contact to reflect feelings and emotions. For example, you might look away or look down to convey feelings of self-doubt or reflection.
  • You could incorporate a prop or a item of costume suitable for a classroom performance or reading. If appropriate, you may be able to include lighting, set, music or other sound effects in your performance.

Example 2

Tricksters, Conjurors, Skydancers: Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi

Print and DVD resource available from  Down the Back of the Chair

The example research report reveals a perceptive appreciation of the connections between written language on the ‘family influences’ theme.

Extract from Example Report, [p31: Presenting a Research Report]:

Importantly, each of the writers is a children’s writer, which means, of course, that they are writing about children’s experiences so it follows that the family is a natural setting for many of their stories - though each of them presents family in different ways.

Jack Lasenby’s trilogy (The Seddon Street stories) and his novels, The Mangrove Summer and The Lake, all feature children having adventures away from their families, but their parents are a background presence. The adults in Lasenby’s family stories often represent sadness, threat and secrecy – in contrast to the children who embody innocent play.

The parents in Joy Cowley’s families are much more present characters (Shadrach, Froghopper, and Wild West series), but can represent both loving care (Wild West) and lessons about broken trust (Shadrach). Like Jack Lasenby her children (usually siblings) are often adventuring in the outdoors and pitting their wits against nature and erring adults.

Like Lasenby and Cowley, Margaret Mahy’s teenage novels in family settings are often exploring themes of family secrets and parental failings and different kinds of loss, with adolescents learning how to handle complex family situations and ‘transform’ themselves – often through magical or creative means.

Example 3

English Online: Theme Study

In his theme study report, the student recognises, understands, and appreciates the connections between oral, written and visual language.

Extract from Exemplar D:

Unlike the contrasting characters described above in Gatsby [The Great Gatsby] and Gerry [In The Name of the Father], there are similarities between Gatsby and Hamlet. Both Gatsby and Hamlet are similar in that they both put on their illusionary personas to fulfill a plan. They both intentionally place illusions over their personalities to disguise the reality of who they are.

Hamlet is faced with a situation that goes against his personality. Hamlet is introspective and complex. This is particularly evident when his father's ghost confides in him, telling him of how his uncle has murdered him so that he could become king.

After much dithering, Hamlet decides to put on an "antic disposition" in order to seek revenge for his father as he feels he does not have the strength to carry out this task as himself. Gatsby, however, who is in fact just a poor young man, completely reinvents himself into a fabulously rich upper class New Yorker: "The truth was that Jay Gatsby. . . sprang from his Platonic conception of himself." His motives are to win the heart of his long lost love Daisy.

Example 4

English Online: The Crucible

The activity helps students to recognise, understand and appreciate the connections between oral, written and visual language through oral class discussion, analysis of visual stills and expression of ideas to be used in subsequent writing. 

Extract from Task 4:

There are a variety of approaches teachers could use to help students understand characters and their conflicts. Choices may depend upon time available and the degree of focus on examination preparation.

Starter: View these stills from the film version of The Crucible. Ask students how well the casting for the movie matched their pre-conception of the characters. In what ways were their preconceptions confirmed or challenged!

  1. Students write prose answers to the character questions.
  2. Students group with other class members who became character experts (during the reading - see 3b). The group takes responsibility for their character and present that character to the class using the character questions as a guide and illustrating all points with brief dramatisations from the play.
  3. Or, again using the character questions as a guide students prepare to hotseat characters.
  4. For examination preparation, each group to prepare a one page hand-out for other class members, which answers the character questions.

Example 5:

Combining Written and Visual Aspects of Texts

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.

The purpose of the strategy

This strategy develops students’ understanding of the relationship between written and visual aspects of texts.

What the teacher looks for immediately

  • Are the students becoming aware of how written information and visually presented information in a text can support each other?
  •  Are the students critically analysing the quality and quantity of the information presented both in writing and visually?

What the teacher looks for later

  • Are the students showing in their independent reading that they're noticing all the information presented in a text, whether it is in written or visual language?

 Variations on the strategy

  • Jigsaw activity: This strategy would lend itself well to a jigsaw activity. In their "expert groups", the students could study their own segment, then, in their "home groups", they could put the parts together and compare the different ways in which information is presented.
  • Comparing printed texts with texts in electronic media: The students could examine extracts on the same topic from both printed texts and texts electronic media. The stu students could examine extracts on the same topic from both printed texts and texts electronicmedia. The students could then compare the ways in which the texts present their information.

What the teacher does

  • Choose and photocopy or print out one page of a text (from either print or electronic media) that presents its main ideas through both written and visual language. Cut the page into segments, each segment with a self-contained unit of written or visual text. Hand out each segment to a different pair or group of students to read and interpret in isolation.
  • Ask each group to report back to the whole class on the information in their segment. As a class, discuss the purpose of each segment, comparing the information it gives the reader with the information in other segments, and clarify why the information was presented in different ways.

What the students do

  • In groups, the students study their segment of the text and discuss the main ideas presented in it. They decide on three key ideas and write these on a large piece of paper.
  • Each group presents their three key ideas to the class.
  • The whole class discusses the different ways the information has been presented and considers how the different kinds of presentation complement and support each other.
    Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 84

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

Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge purposefully, confidently, and precisely to make sense of increasingly varied and 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 print.

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 [complex and varied] 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:

  • the 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 these 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, p.55, 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

English Online: The Crucible
Listing other examples of prejudice encourages students to integrate prior knowledge and information on social situations/issues to make connections with similar themes in The Crucible:

Engaging with the Issues

Extract from Task 1:

Make a three-column grid on the board (with the columns headed: (1) Group (2) Reasons (3) Result) which students copy. Individually, get them to list under "Group" those sections of society (in NZ or elsewhere) who are the subject of prejudice or who tend to be blamed for social, economic and moral ills.

  • Teachers may also wish to draw attention to current events that echo the Salem Witch Trials, for example, the naming and shaming of paedophiles in the UK.
  • List the groups nominated by the students on the board under "Group".
  • Now in small groups, students select from the class list, one of the nominated groups (which preferably appears more than once).
  • Students complete the grid for that group, that is, under "Reasons", they list their understanding of the reasons why that group is subject to blame or prejudice and then the under "Results", list some of the ways that the prejudice/blame is expressed socially.
  • Share findings across the class, completing the grid on the board with students saving a copy to return to later in the Themes section.

Example 2

Tricksters, Conjurors, Skydancers: Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi
Print and DVD resource available from  Down the Back of the Chair

After reading about Kate de Goldi’s approach in her interviews with Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy then viewing interview extracts, students are encouraged to use these sources of information and prior knowledge purposefully, confidently and precisely to engage in greater depth with the writers.

Extract from Discussion, [p.16: Taster]:

As a class, talk about what you’ve found out about Kate and the writers. Based on what you’ve viewed so far, make some comments and predictions about Kate’s role in the interviews. How does her approach help reveal ‘many moments’ about the writers and their work?

Selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence

Selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence and discrimination

What do I need to know?

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.

Processes for engaging with text

Learning from, with, and through text involves a “complex and essentially recursive” set of processes (Wray and Lewis, 1995). The Effective Literacy Strategies programme identifies these processes by the following headings, which are adapted from Wray and Lewis:

  • Drawing on prior knowledge. The learner asks, for example, “What do I already know about the topic?”
  • Establishing a purpose. The learner asks, for example, “Why am I doing this task? What do I hope to gain from it?”
  • Locating information. The learner asks, for example, “Where do I find the information?”
  • Adopting literacy strategies. The learner asks, for example, “What strategies will I use that match both the purpose ands the text?”
  • Recording information. The learner asks, for example, “How shall I record the information I need that matches my purposes?”
  • Interacting with text. The learner asks, for example, “How do I get to the information? What strategies and tools shall I use?”
  • Monitoring understanding. The learner asks, for example, “How does this information link to my previous ideas? What do I and don’t I understand?”
  • Evaluating information. The learner asks, for example, “Have I got the information I need? If there is conflicting information, how do I decide which information source is more useful?”
  • Assisting memory. The learner asks, for example, “What is meaningful in what I have learned? How will I use this greater understanding?”
  • Communicating information. The learner asks, for example, “How could I present my understanding so that it meets the purpose?”
    Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.11.

Using literacy strategies deliberately

One of the main ways that the Effective Literacy Strategies programme helps teachers to make a difference is by encouraging teachers to use literacy strategies deliberately. Deliberate acts of teaching are the instructional strategies that teachers use to equip their students with knowledge, awareness, and learning strategies.

Teachers need to plan teaching acts that will enable their students to learn from, with, and through texts. Teachers who are members of an active and supportive professional learning community have access to support, encouragement, and professional feedback as they try out new teaching and learning strategies and become more deliberate in their teaching to meet the needs of their students.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. p.18.

What does it look like?

Example 1

Tricksters, conjurors, Skydancers, Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi.
Print DVD resource published by the Ministry of Education 2007 provided free to all secondary schools.

Kate de Goldi’s tips for good interviews guide students in selecting and using appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence and discrimination.

Extract from Successful Interviewing, [p.54, 55]:

Research

Select a reasonable range of material for your preparation. For instance: If you’re interviewing a writer about only one of their books, read that and perhaps a review or a critical essay.

If you’re interviewing a writer about themes across a number of books you’ll obviously need to read several books and one or two critical pieces.
If you were interviewing the writer about, say, a radical change in their writing style of subject matter you’d need to read examples before and after the change.

Open Questions

The key is to feel prepared enough to be confident in your questions, to be able to explore in the interview. It’s just like studying for an exam. The better prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll be, and the more successful your outcome.

Prepare questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Make sure your questions are clearly structured and invite the interviewee to give a comprehensive reply.

For example, not: Do you think writing a children's book is more difficult than writing an adult one?

But: You’ve said several times that you believe a childen’s book is more difficult to write than an adult one. Can you explain what you mean by that?

This second version is succinct and clear but invites a full, informative answer.

Questioning

Have more questions than you think you’ll need. Occasionally a writer will substantially answer a question you haven’t yet asked in the course of a reply to a different question. It’s better to have a surplus of questions to take care of this sort of contingency.

Think Ahead

All the foregoing requires you to do quite a bit of thinking and speculating and planning before you actually meet your interview subject. That way you’re assured of getting the most from the interview.

When you first make contact with the interviewee ask if they’re comfortable with you taping or filming the interview. Tape or film if you can, because it frees you from note taking – you can concentrate then on where the interview/conversation is going.

Thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence

Thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence

What do I need to know?

What the research tells us: developing critical awareness

"Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, page 131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary. Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
From Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2004, p. 74.

What does it look like?

Example 1

NZATE NCEA English Externals Exemplars Level 3: Exemplar 1 AS 90722

Order form (Word 246KB)

The essay reveals the student’s ability to think critically about themes in the Merchant of Venice with understanding and confidence.

Extract from Exemplar 5:

The fantasy sequences leave a definite mark of the director Sam Mendes. The way they have been filmed, using slow repeated triple shot movements, make them unique and very recognisable to the film. The fantasy scenes reinforce the idea of lust and desire from the rose petals but also increase excitement and intensity. They make it fast paced and keep the viewer in suspense and not entirely certain whether what they are seeing is happening or is a fantasy. Mendes has also chosen to use very tribal, basic music like the African drums to reveal the animal instincts of the characters. This contrasts with the rest of the film where well known established types of music are used such as piano, band music and well known rock and roll like Pink Floyd. This makes it easy for us to acknowledge that no two film makers have the same style and each leave their own distinct mark on the films they make.

Mendes uses the setting to show his style as a director. Although there is nothing special about the suburban setting of American Beauty, it is the treatment of that setting which makes it memorable and original to Sam Mendes. The delicate acknowledgement of the beautiful things all round that we don’t see like the brick wall with the plastic bag in front of it and the funeral procession down an empty street make the film very memorable.

All throughout the play the differing attitudes to justice and mercy and the differing attitudes of Christians and Jews are revealed. This is seen when Antonio lends money “gratis” to his friend Bassanio who is already heavily in debt, saying that their friendship cancels out this debt. This contrasts harshly with Shylock who is a usurer, lending money out for interest and thriving on people’s misfortunes. This is a main reason for the conflict between these two religions, as Christians believe mercy sin, whereas Shylock sees it as a lifestyle. The hypocrisy of the Christian Antonio and Bassanio is revealed when they spit on and hassle Shylock for “all of which is thine own”. They call him “dog” and “murderer”. In Shylock’s famous “hath not a Jew eyes?” speech he highlights the prejudice and mistreatment of Jews by Christians and highlights his own humanity. This is important as it allows the audience or reader to see and understand why Shylock has such a grudge and want for revenge against Antonio, as they can see what he has had to experience.

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

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

What do I need to know?

Learning to Learn (Word 128KB)

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

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Language is a Manipulator

The evaluation stage encourages students to be reflective about the research process, monitoring and self-evaluating their progress.

Extract from Evaluation Template:

So that you can improve on your research techniques it is a good idea to do some reflective writing on the process you went through.

Example 2

Exemplar

After studying the theme of discrimination this year I have found that society is not very tolerant or accepting of those individuals who do not conform. I have realised just how much pressure society places on individuals to 'fit in' or else face being excluded from society altogether, as we see with the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I think that it is a lack of empathy and knowledge about the individual's situation that can keep society's view on what is acceptable so prejudiced and narrow minded. However, I now know that the fear of being exposed to something new and different is enough to keep society without the knowledge that it needs to be able to recognise and understand that not everyone should have to conform or is able to conform. This is a vicious circle and it appears that although society is becoming more tolerant, there will always be those individuals who are discriminated against for one reason or another.

In her evaluation in their theme study report, the student articulates, with confidence, what she has learned.

Example 3

Learning Logs

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:

  • build 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, for example:

  • Have I clearly answered all my key questions?
  • Did I need to adapt my key questions? How? Why?
  • Why were some types of resources more useful than others?
  • What strategies did I use to find information that matched my needs?
  • Which parts of the process did I do well? Why?
  • Which parts of the process did I find difficult? Why?
    Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2004, Appendix p. 52–54

Purposes and audiences

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

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

Indicators

Recognises and understands how texts are constructed for a range of intentions and situations

Recognises, understands, and appreciates how texts are constructed for a range of intentions and situations

What do I need to know?

Developing students’ understanding of texts

"Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.11

English Online: 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.

Establishing a purpose for reading – understanding that texts are constructed for a range of intentions and situations

Without a clear purpose for reading, students’ interactions with a text may be unfocused and haphazard. Students need a clear idea of why they are reading: what information they need to find; where, in the text, they are likely to find this information; and what they will do with the information when they find it. Preparing for reading involves setting a purpose for reading and predicting what will be in a particular text.

Strategies for establishing a purpose for reading include previewing and predicting text content and asking questions (for example, about what the reader needs to know and where they might find that information). Readers can predict the information that is likely to be in a text by previewing its content. This enables them to set a purpose that describes how they will seek the information that they need in this specific text. Asking questions before they read and as they read enables them to relate what they read to their predictions and to think about how well their reading is meeting the purpose.

To show the importance of preparing for reading, direct students to read a text without establishing a purpose. Afterwards, ask them:

  • how they read
  • what they recorded.

Then give the students a clear purpose for reading the same text or a similar one and ask the same questions again. Discuss the results of this exercise with them.
Effective Literacy Strategies for Years 9–13, Ministry of Education, 2006. p.63

Exploring Language: Patterns of Text: Genre
For further reading on textual intention and situation.

What does it look like?

Example 1

The activity scaffolds students towards recognising, understanding and appreciating how short stories are constructed for a range of range of intentions.

Why Does a Writer Write a Short Story?

When a writer creates a short story s/he has several possible purposes available. These can be to:

  • entertain the reader by telling a "good yarn"
  • make the reader ask questions (For example: Why? For what reason? How did it happen?)
  • take a position on an issue by conveying an opinion
  • make the reader feel sad or happy, angry or pleased, sympathetic or opposed, amused or disgusted.

A short story can have more than one purpose, which becomes clear to the reader through the tone and style of writing used by the author, as well as what happens.

Example 2

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

The essay reveals a student’s ability to recognise, understand and appreciate how a text is constructed for a particular intention.

Extract from Exemplar 1:

To what extent do you agree that novels use a clash of opposites to present ideas? Discuss your views with reference to a novel (or novels) you have studied. In the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, author Ken Kesey makes strong use of a clash of opposites to convey his views on society. As a “protest novel”, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest is essentially a criticism of society’s tendency to repress individuality and natural expressions of sexuality. These ideas are expressed through contrasts of characters such as the protagonist, Randle Patrick McMurphy, and Nurse Ratched; McMurphy and other patients in the psychiatric ward where the novel is set; and different types of female characters in the novel.

The most striking clash of opposites in the novel is that between two of the main characters, McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. It is this contrast that is the novel’s main source of conflict and plot, and which embodies the essence of Kesey’s purpose in writing the novel. From the reader’s first introduction to the character of Nurse Ratched, it is clear that she represents a force of fear and oppression.

Example 3

Internal Assessment Resource – All for the Cause (Word) (Word 379KB)

The research activity scaffolds students towards recognising, understanding and appreciating how speakers construct texts for a range of range of intentions and situations.

Extract from Introduction:

In this activity you will focus on how speakers use language to present and promote themselves and their causes, or use language when speaking in certain contexts for particular purposes. You could research how speakers use language in a wide range of situations, from uniting a country in times of war to raising public awareness about the HIV/AIDS issue. You might decide to investigate how speakers use language in particular contexts, from how newly elected presidents describe their plans and visions in their inaugural speeches to how leaders respond to acts of terrorism.

You will then select a cause or context, identify a range of relevant speakers and complete an investigation into how they have used language with the intention of moulding their listeners’ opinions.

Identifies particular points of view in texts and understands that texts can position a reader

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

What do I need to know?

Developing students’ understanding of texts

Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness.
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p. 11

Reading behind the lines

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”.

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?

4. Knowledge questions

  • Is there support for what the author is saying?
  • Why did the author write the text?

 Adapted from Whitehead, 2001, p. 84–90 
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2006. p.108–109.

Different Points of View
Explores the different ways in which point of view can be used to position a reader.

What does it look like?

Example 1

The activity guides students towards identifying particular points of view within short stories, and understanding how texts can position a reader.

Characters and Point of View: The way the writer chooses to tell the story will also change the way the characters appear. Short Stories show the reader a particular side of a person or his or her relationship to another person. If you look at Frank Sargeson's Boy you will see the story is told by the boy as though he was talking to he reader.

Because Sargeson has told the story in the first person we are told nothing about what the boy looked like, what his parents looked like or the sort of place they lived in. The boy does not think that that information is important because he "wants to tell" about his concentration on his birthday and how he sees his parents' reactions to his behaviour.

A story told by a writer as an observer will often give more detail and information because the observer-author "knows" more than the author as a character. 

Example 2

Internal Assessment Resource – A Question of Language (Word 336KB)

In his research report, a student identifies particular points of view evident within speeches, understanding how language can be used to position an audience.

In this extract the student is discussing how U.S. President Johnson used language to encourage support for American involvement in the Vietnam war:

Extract from Exemplar A:

Another important technique for encouraging support of American involvement in the Vietnam War was the use of positive and negative imagery to describe the opposing forcesPresident Johnson made frequent use of emotionally‑loaded language and metaphor to reinforce negative stereotypes of the enemy. Enemy activities were condemned as "savage assaults", "acts of violence", "hostile operations" and "an outrage". American forces, by comparison, were treated with the utmost reverence. President Johnson glorified the American military in his speeches, acclaiming their "great courage and endurance" as they pursued "mankind's noblest cause" in the "struggle for peace". While Americans decimated the country of Vietnam with bombing and toxic defoliation, President Johnson told the nation that the country's "mission is peace", and that they were in Vietnam "to strengthen world order". This stark contrast in the choice of language with clearly positive or negative connotations is an attempt to create absolute divisions between the work of the American military and the actions of their enemies, the Viet Cong. The descriptive and highly emotive language demonstrated above has little to do with truth or fact, and everything to do with manipulating public opinion in support of the Americans.  

Example 3

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

The essay reveals a student’s ability to identify particular points of view within a film, understanding how texts can position a reader.

Extract from Exemplar 3:

To what extent do you agree that film directors leave a distinctive mark on the films they create? Discuss your views with close reference to a film (or films) you have studied.

“The truth is often so far the reverse of what we have been shown that it is impossible to turn our heads round far enough to see it.” This criticism of the media from historian Howard Zimm would, no doubt, be a sentiment that Michael Moore, director and writer of cinema-screened documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, would agree with. Moore has long been an outspoken advocate for independent, unbiased media coverage, particularly of politics, in America, something he feels the country is sorely lacking. This conviction has led to his production of several highly controversial pieces of literature including films, that are, one assumes, Moore’s attempt to “turn around” simultaneously all the heads of the American public and allow them to see the “truth” that has been kept from them. Throughout his work Moore, like any writer or director has developed a distinctive and instantly recognisable style that leaves an indelible mark on all that he creates. One such work is his most recent film, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, perhaps the most controversial of his films, perhaps of any film to dateFahrenheit 9/11 bears all the characteristics of a Moore production, his unashamedly polemic approach, his use of humour, his clever employment of techniques such as montage to create contrast, and, of course, his portrayal of himself, Michael Moore, and both man and character in the film. 

Evaluates the reliability and usefulness of texts.

Evaluates the reliability and usefulness of texts.

What do I need to know?

Evaluating ideas and information in texts

Every day, we seek and use information to help us make decisions. In today’s world, students are faced with many challenges that require sophisticated literacy skills. To become lifelong learners, they need strategies to cope with new communications technologies and the profusion of information in print and other media. Students need to become expert in selecting information sources appropriate for their purpose and evaluating the information they find. Encourage students to judge the accuracy and relevance of the information they find.

"Developing the abilities and willingness of students to be critical of what they read will involve encouraging them to use a variety of criteria to judge the accuracy, relevance and status of the information they find. Students will constantly come across misleading, incorrect, intentionally or unintentionally biased information, and they need to know how to recognise this and what to do about it."
Wray and Lewis, 1995, p.7

Teachers can help their students to develop critical and creative thinking strategies, problem-solving strategies, and information-handling strategies so that they will be able to judge and evaluate the information they find. p. 101

Knowing what teachers can do

Teachers can model the process of evaluating the information in a text. Sometimes students believe that everything written by adults is true, so an initial strategy could be to deliberately introduce out-of-date, biased, or contradictory written material. The teacher can demonstrate, by “thinking out loud”, how to recognise and respond to evidence that a text contains unsound information (perhaps in the context of a shared reading). Students need opportunities to learn how to judge the authority or reliability of a particular text. p.102

Developing independent learners

To help their students learn to use the evaluating and recording strategies to process information independently, teachers can:

  • identify the specific strategies that are needed
  • explicitly teach these strategies in manageable steps – initially by modelling
  • explain why and how these strategies are useful
  • give the students many opportunities to practise the strategies, both collaboratively and independently
  • provide the students with support and feedback as they learn and apply the strategies.

Working in small groups enables students to discuss both their learning and the usefulness of a particular strategy in helping them meet the purpose of a task.

The following questions can help students to monitor their understanding. Students could use their learning logs to help them think about some of these questions.

Evaluating information

  • Is the information in this text relevant to my purpose?
  • Who wrote it? Has the writer a particular point of view that I need to take into account?
  • How will I go about selecting information from this text?· Is the information in this text sufficient for my purposes?
  • What other sources of information could I use?
  • How does the information in this text compare with that in other texts that I have read?

What does it look like?

Example 1

In their theme study evaluations, students evaluate the value, interest and effectiveness of texts to their theme studies.

Extract from exemplars:

Extracts from Theme study reports concluding evaluative paragraphs:

I found it really interesting investigating the 'perfect society' theme this year. I realised there is a divergence in opinions of what makes the perfect society. It has helped me realise that we probably will never have the perfect society because human beings will never be satisfied. Changes to improve society often make things worse because of the human instinct to dominate or control society, as occurred in The Handmaid's Tale and The Matrix. This investigation made me consider how far we have to go to attain not even a perfect society, but at least a fair and free one. The strongest impression the investigation left with me was that writers and directors in the texts we read challenged us to consider whether the perfect society could ever in fact exist.

This theme study made me more aware that the differences between reality and illusion are not always clear cut. It made me think beyond these texts to how much reality and illusion are intertwined and blurred in our own lives as they are in the lives of characters like Gatsby, Gerry and Hamlet. With some texts [especially Hamlet] I was often wondering what really is the reality here and what is the illusion? I found it interesting how illusion seemed to be easier to cope with than reality for some characters.

After studying the theme of discrimination this year I have found that society is not very tolerant or accepting of those individuals who do not conform. I have realised just how much pressure society places on individuals to 'fit in' or else face being excluded from society altogether, as we see with the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I think that it is a lack of empathy and knowledge about the individual's situation that can keep society's view on what is acceptable so prejudiced and narrow minded. However, I now know that the fear of being exposed to something new and different is enough to keep society without the knowledge that it needs to be able to recognise and understand that not everyone should have to conform or is able to conform. This is a vicious circle and it appears that although society is becoming more tolerant, there will always be those individuals who are discriminated against for one reason or another.

Example 2

Internal Assessment Resource – A Question of Language (Word 336KB)

In the research report, a student evaluates the reliability of language used in the ‘herbal highs’ debate.

 Extract from Exemplar A:

What are some main language techniques used to describe ‘herbal highs’? One technique which stands out is the use of hyperbole. Examples of this technique are plentiful. The expressions used by promoters to describe the effects of the pills as "extreme euphonic pleasure" or "an elevated mood with mental alertness and massive physical activity" [from the magazine article `Party Poppers'] show how language is used freely to sell products. Both examples present the picture of a harmless but supposedly incredible experience of pleasure, good moods and energy, both mentally and physically. An advertisement in the dance music magazine `Infusion’ provides more examples of hyperbole, such as "futuristic research and technology" and "most superior formulas” used when describing the process of making the pills. The use of this technique in publications supporting ‘herbal highs’ attempts to present a similar harmless image.

It is not only supporters of ‘herbal highs’ that use language to exaggerate, as seen in some news reporting. The expression “amphetamine-like substances" from ‘The Press’ article Herbal Highs' Headache links ‘herbals’ to stronger, illegal substances without any further definition or explanation. This sort of undeveloped comparison can create the image that ‘party pill’ products are as powerful and dangerous as other illegal drugs that are generally regarded from legal and social perspectives as much ‘harder’ and more sinister.

Example 3

English Online: Language is a Manipulator

During the research process, a student uses the evaluation criteria to evaluate the reliability and usefulness of web resources.

 Extract from web evaluation template:

Content Is the subject content relevant and appropriate to my students' learning needs?
Coverage What is the scope of this resource? Does it cover all aspects of the topic, with valid and appropriate examples?
Accuracy Is the information and the presentation accurate, or could they be misleading?
Authority Is it clear who is responsible for the resource, and all that is in it? Is this author an expert on this subject? Are links to other Web sites acknowledged?
Objectivity Is the information well balanced or can I detect some prejudice or bias? Is the perspective appropriately bicultural or multicultural, non-sexist, non-racist, or how can I redress the balance?
Currency Is the date of publication or update available and acceptable?
Presentation Is the resource appealing? Is it clearly and logically presented? (And for online use, there are many more considerations, e.g. Is the information accessible and the site easily navigable? Is it unencumbered by advertising or other diversions?)
Usability Will this be useful for my students? How will I give them access to it?

Ideas

Students will:

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

Indicators

Makes meaning by perceptively understanding sophisticated ideas

Makes meaning by perceptively understanding sophisticated ideas

What do I need to know?

Responding to teachers’ questions about texts: Monitoring and extending understanding

Asking questions about text content before, during, or after the students have read a text is probably the most common way in which teachers try to check and extend students’ understanding. Effective questions guide students as they search for meaning and help them to understand the ideas in the text. However, as Nicholson discovered (1984, 1988), students can answer some kinds of questions by reading the text superficially or even without reading it at all. This is because many of the text-related questions teachers ask are about facts only, and so students can answer them by quoting directly from the text or by using their general knowledge, without needing to understand or interpret the text.

One way for teachers to improve their questioning is to consider the levels of thinking that the questions demand. Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive processes (1956) provides a useful framework for questions. This model describes three levels of thinking:

Teachers can begin by setting some simple, factual questions that all students can answer, and they can follow these with questions that will encourage the students to interpret the information. They can conclude with one or two high-level questions that require the students to critically evaluate and apply the information in the text. This will help to extend the students’ thinking.
Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 93.

Suggested question prompts to extend thinking, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • the 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 these 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.

What does it look like?

Example 1

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

A student makes meaning by perceptively understanding sophisticated ideas within a demanding text, such as contrast within characterisation, the wider significance of the American Dream and the importance of wealth and power.

Extract from Exemplar 6:

The clash of characters, be it rich or poor, kind of heart or cruel, also shows Fitzgerald’s ideas on the kind of people a society focused on superficiality can create. The wealthy socialites of New York are often compared with poor people like Wilson. The wealthy come across as vain and vacuous and are only interested in the pursuit of money and possessions. Daisy and Jordan are often described having conversations “as cool as their white dresses and their empty eyes in the absence of all desire” where as Wilson is portrayed as “pitiful small figure struggling to make something of his life.” When Nick sees him for the first time he describes his grey face as blending into his surroundings, certainly not glamorous like the wealthy in New York. This clearly helps to show us the failure of the American Dream as those who have supposedly “achieved” it are still just as unhappy as those struggling to. Within the wealthy there are also contrasts of character. Gatsby is essentially a figure good and pure of heart, and possesses “a certain romantic readiness and undying gift for hope” whereas Tom is arrogant, cruel and selfish. He even describes Wilson as “being so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”. This particular clash of opposites shows us the effect that the pursuit of wealth and power can have on people.

Example 2

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

The student makes meaning by perceptively understanding sophisticated ideas within a demanding text, such as the director’s exploration of the way memory can be manipulated and distorted and the techniques used to present this to the audience.

Extract from Exemplar 4:

Memento further explores the ideas, delving into the manipulation and distortion of memory. Leonard is not only manipulated by Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Teddy (Joe Pantoliamo) but interestingly enough by himself. The opening scene of Memento shows us just how distorted this film is going to be. The entire visual is shown in reverse, with blood running up the walls, bullets going back into the gun and glasses flying back onto Teddy's head. We can tell purely from the use of this sophisticated editing technique that memory and the mind in Memento will be distorted and manipulated. We further see this distortion through the juxtaposition of shots. We view an image of Lenny for two frames placed within a shot showing Sammy Jankis sitting in a psychiatric hospital. This makes us wonder about how real the Sammy Jankis story is and whether Leonard conditions himself to believe that his story is the story of another man. We must wonder whether Leonard has manipulated his own memory "to be happy". Editing brings forth this idea of the manipulation of memory to a great extent.

Example 3

English Online: Voices and Signs: The Piano

A student makes meaning by perceptively understanding sophisticated ideas about Ada in the Piano, such as what her decisions reveal about her character.

Extract from Decision Making Grid:

Student Instruction: Ada makes several key decisions in the film which tell us a lot about her. For each of the following, outline what you think the event shows us about Ada, and give a piece of evidence that you would use to back up this statement in an exam or essay.

Decision What it shows us about her character

Evidence

(Phrase, image, camera shot etc.)

To have Flora out of wedlock    
To stop talking    

Makes connections by analysing, evaluating, and synthesising ideas within and between texts

Makes connections by analysing, evaluating, and synthesising ideas within and between texts from a range of contexts

What do I need to know?

Making connections: Preparing to read

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.

Factors to consider when selecting texts include:

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

The teacher and the students need to prepare collaboratively for the reading task. The teacher can model how strategic readers deal with the challenges of reading new kinds of texts, for example, by “thinking out loud” about what they already know about the subject content or by setting themselves a clear purpose for reading the text. Such modelling helps students to understand how to prepare for reading a text and builds their confidence in the reading strategies they’re already using.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2006. p.59.

Modelling 

Questions to extend thinking: analyse, evaluate and synthesise
Suggested question stems to extend thinking, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy: 

  • the 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 these 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.

What does it look like?

Example 1

A student makes connections around the concept of society’s attitude to individuals by analysing, evaluating and synthesising ideas within and between two texts, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Blade Runner.

Extract from Exemplar E:

Discrimination because of non-conformity

Blade Runner and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are also similar because they both illustrate how societies are not very empathic to individuals that do not fit in. In Blade Runner the androids are not accepted into human society and are denied the right to live for more than four years even though they are essentially no different to the humans. This is shown when Deckard is given permission to kill the androids and does so without hesitation. Similarly, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the patients are locked away in a mental hospital so that society doesn't have to deal with them. Those who voluntarily isolate themselves in the hospital choose to stay there because they are unable to conform or fit into society. We can see this through the character Bromden when he describes society's pressures as the "combine" and he is unable to live his native American style of life because of these modem pressures. With these two novels we can see the lack of empathy for those individuals who do not readily conform to society's ideas or want to live their lives differently.

Extract from Presenting A Research Report:

Importantly, each of the writers is a children’s writer, which means, of course, that they are writing about children’s experiences so it follows that the family is a natural setting for many of their stories - though each of them presents family in different ways.

Jack Lasenby’s trilogy (The Seddon Street stories) and his novels, The Mangrove Summer and The Lake, all feature children having adventures away from their families, but their parents are a background presence. The adults in Lasenby’s family stories often represent sadness, threat and secrecy – in contrast to the children who embody innocent play.

The parents in Joy Cowley’s families are much more present characters (Shadrach, Froghopper, and Wild West series), but can represent both loving care (Wild West) and lessons about broken trust (Shadrach). Like Jack Lasenby her children (usually siblings) are often adventuring in the outdoors and pitting their wits against nature and erring adults.

Like Lasenby’s and Cowley’s, Margaret Mahy’s teenage novels in family settings are often exploring themes of family secrets and parental failings and different kinds of loss, with adolescents learning how to handle complex family situations and ‘transform’ themselves – often through magical or creative means.

Example 2

Extract from Exemplar C:

How important is the main character’s sense of masculinity?

One of the key issues of masculinity brought forward in Once Were WarriorsThe Tomcat, a poem by James K Baxter and The Book of Fame is fighting, being tough and the macho attitudes involved. In Once Were Warriors, Jake is considered "the man" because of his very physical and violent nature. This sense of masculinity is very important to Jake. However, when Beth says "Our people Jake, once were warriors... they had mana", she suggests that having mana and respect is what masculinity is, and that drunken brawls and wife beating will not bring this about. Similarly in The Tomcat Baxter implies that fighting and violence is an important part of masculinity. Baxter uses the tomcat to be symbolic of masculinity with "badges of bouts and fights". The touring rugby team in The Book of Fame are treated as heroes, because of their rugby ability. Rugby at that time in New Zealand was considered a real man's game because of its toughness and its brutality. Because of New Zealand's tough colonial past, macho attitudes are frequent in both literature and society today.

In conclusion, I have found many issues relating to masculinity were raised in the texts I studied. From alcohol's role in New Zealand through to macho attitudes to sport and violence, the way masculinity was explored in these is still a disturbingly accurate reflection of aspects of New Zealand society today. Our society's weaknesses – the violence, the anger, the alcohol - rather than our strengths have been the inspiration for the way our authors and directors have presented masculinity.

A student makes connections around the concept of masculinity by analysing, evaluating and synthesising ideas within and between three texts.

Example 3

Tricksters, Conjurors, Skydancers: Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi
Print and DVD resource available from  Down the Back of the Chair

 In the example research report, perceptive connections are made between Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy’s writing by analysing, evaluating and synthesising ideas about the ‘family influences’ theme revealed in their work.

Understands that there may be multiple readings available within a text

Understands that there may be multiple readings available within a text

What do I need to know?

Identifying multiple voices in text: reading behind the lines

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”.

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?

 4. Knowledge questions

  • Is there support for what the author is saying?
  • Why did the author write the text?
    Adapted from Whitehead, 2001.

Developing students’ understanding of texts

Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness. Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2006. p.108–109.

What does it look like?

Example 1

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

A student understands that there may be two views of Othello available within the play, and quotes two opposing critics to prove this.

Extract from Exemplar 6:

There is without doubt a shift in the Moor’s character however, I feel this is due to one sole factor; Iago. Academic writer F R Levis argues that “Othello is blind” and “is responsible for his own downfall and demise” while A C Bradley supports the antithesis of this arguing “Othello is noble and heroic” and “character change is forced as a result of the “Evil Iago”. In this debate I am in full support of the writings of A C Bradley, as I believe it is Iago’s persistence in antagonism which drives Othello to act in ways he knows are not right; that is, killing Desdemona. Had it not been for Iago’s evil ways, the play would have ended with the same Othello it began with.

English Online: The Merchant of Venice

Through completing a Three Level Guide, students are encouraged to engage with multiple readings on the theme of appearance and reality within The Merchant of Venice.

Extract from Three Level Guide:

Level 2

A "noble friendship" exists between Antonio and Bassanio

The inner person is often hidden by a mask

Make up and appearance are important features of our lives

Bassanio's loss of the ring shows that he does not value deep love symbolized by the ring

Telling lies can be justified in certain situations

Shylock treats Antonio honestly

Level 3

Racism is derived from appearance

Mercy is an inner value rather than an outward value

Justice is the outward symbol of our civilisation

Portia's ring deception is to test Bassanio's inner nature

Faces act as a motif for appearance and reality in the play

Portia is the spokesperson for inner reality as against outward appearance

Example 2

English Online: Voices and Signs – The Piano

Following background reading, students are encouraged to make multiple readings of The Piano, including from  Victorian feminist and  post-colonial viewpoints.

Makes and supports inferences from texts independently

Makes and supports inferences from texts independently

What do I need to know?

Inferring

Inferring is the ability to “read between the lines” or to get the meaning an author implies but does not state directly. For instance, readers must usually infer the traits of characters because authors seldom state character traits explicitly but, instead, imply them by describing what a person says or does. It is up to the reader to infer the character traits. Similarly, readers must usually infer to determine mood because authors seldom tell us the mood directly but, instead, imply it by describing the physical environment or the behavior of the characters. It is up to the reader to infer the mood.

But, in a larger sense, inferring dominates virtually all comprehension because, to one extent or another, comprehension always involves trying to “get inside the author’s head” to see what he or she really meant when the text was composed. The reader, operating from one set of background experience, cannot precisely know the mind of the author, who is operating from a different experience background. The reader must make a calculated guess as to an author’s meaning. Even when an author says something straightforward, such as “the dress was red,” the reader must infer the shade of red, the style of the dress, and so on. In this sense, virtually all comprehension requires some inference.

Therefore, inferring is a crucial comprehension strategy. Students should learn from the very beginning that reading is a matter of actively building meaning, based on prior knowledge about text information.
Duffy, Gerald G., Explaining Reading: A Resource for Teaching Concepts, Skills, and Strategies, (Guildford Press, 2003), p. 102

Assessment Resource Banks: Inferring
For further readings on inference.

What does it look like?

Example 1

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

 A student independently makes and supports inferences around the concepts of wealth and power within ‘The Great Gatsby’.

Extract from Exemplar 6:

... conversations “as cool as their white dresses and their empty eyes in the absence of all desire” where as Wilson is portrayed as “pitiful small figure struggling to make something of his life.” When Nick sees him for the first time he describes his grey face as blending into his surroundings, certainly not glamorous like the wealthy in New York. This clearly helps to show us the failure of the American Dream as those who have supposedly “achieved” it are still just as unhappy as those struggling to. Within the wealthy there are also contrasts of character. Gatsby is essentially a figure good and pure of heart, and possesses “a certain romantic readiness and undying gift for hope” whereas Tom is arrogant, cruel and selfish. He even describes Wilson as “being so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”. This particular clash of opposites shows us the effect that the pursuit of wealth and power can have on people.

The clash of characters, be it rich or poor, kind of heart or cruel, also shows Fitzgerald’s ideas on the kind of people a society focused on superficiality can create. The wealthy socialites of New York are often compared with poor people like Wilson. The wealthy come across as vain and vacuous and are only interested in the pursuit of money and possessions. Daisy and Jordan are often described having

Example 2

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

A student independently makes and supports inferences around the manipulation of memory within Memento.

Order form (Word 246KB)

Extract from Exemplar 4:

…, Memento further explores the ideas, delving into the manipulation and distortion of memory. Leonard is not only manipulated by Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Teddy (Joe Pantoliamo) but interestingly enough by himself. The opening scene of Memento shows us just how distorted this film is going to be. The entire visual is shown in reverse, with blood running up the walls, bullets going back into the gun and glasses flying back onto Teddy's head. We can tell purely from the use of this sophisticated editing technique that memory and the mind in Memento will be distorted and manipulated. We further see this distortion through the juxtaposition of shots. We view an image of Lenny for two frames placed within a shot showing Sammy Jankis sitting in a psychiatric hospital. This makes us wonder about how real the Sammy Jankis story is and whether Leonard conditions himself to believe that his story is the story of another man. We must wonder whether Leonard has manipulated his own memory "to be happy". Editing brings forth this idea of the manipulation of memory to a great extent.

Example 3

Tricksters, Conjurors, Skydancers: Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi
Print and DVD resource published by the Ministry of Education 2007 [provided free to all secondary schools]

The research question frames encourage students to closely examine the interviews with the writers, then independently to make and support inferences centred on a selected area of investigation.

Extracts from Your Own Investigation [p34]:

Propose research questions which expand understandings of your chosen area. As a starting point for framing questions that will allow you to make judgments, look back at the questions developed in the ‘family’ theme investigation. You may decide to adapt one or more of these questions as follows:

  • What are the ………… that preoccupy the writers?
  • How do the writers explore …………..?
  •  “Chiming and combining”: What connections can be made between the writers’ treatment of ………… ?

Present well supported conclusions that develop judgments in a written report. Look back over the exemplar as a guide to how you might develop sections within your report. Look closely at how the report develops judgments.

Language features

Students will:

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

Indicators

Identifies a range of sophisticated language features and understands their effects

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

What do I need to know?

Understanding how texts are constructed

In order to be successful readers and writers, students need to learn the code of written text (so that they can translate written language into spoken language and vice versa), to make meaning from texts, and to think critically about the messages in the texts. Teachers are responsible for helping students to develop the knowledge and strategies that will enable them to decode or encode particular texts, discover their intended meanings, and question the texts effectively. Teachers should also encourage and monitor the students’ growing awareness of how and when to use the literacy strategies that they learn.

Sometimes teachers may assume that direct instruction in reading and writing is no longer needed. However, new emphases in teacher instruction become important as students increasingly encounter texts in subject areas with new demands in terms of specialist vocabulary, presentation of content, and concepts. Approaches like reading to students, shared reading and writing, and guided reading and writing remain relevant throughout the school years. The teacher’s support and guidance are ... still needed ....
Ministry of Education 2003a, page 149

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. p. 53

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.11

Exploring Language
This resource helps teachers support students in the identification of oral, visual and written language features in order to understand their effects.

What does it look like?

Example 1

English Online: Voices and Signs: The Piano

The activity encourages students to identify a range of sophisticated visual language features [for example, use of motifs] and to understand their effects.

Extract from Unit Plan: Lesson 6 - Motifs

Teacher Instruction: Write a definition of "Motif" on the whiteboard: "Theme that is repeated and developed in an artistic, musical or literary work."

View: Opening montage from the film, where Ada has her hands in front of her face. Look at what areas are dark and what areas are light. Brainstorm associations and ideas of white/light and black/dark on the whiteboard. Explain the one motif from the Piano is the contrast between darkness and light and the associations that we bring to them. Divide the class into 4-5 groups and give each group a copy of Motifs Cut Up Exercise.

Light: White Piano Keys. Dark: Black Piano Keys. Ada uses the piano to express herself. She can show great emotion by using the piano to express both the lighter and darker moments in her life.
Light: Hope. Dark:Despair. Being passionate, Ada sounds optimistic at the beginning when speaking of her new husband. This hope, however, quickly turns to despair when she meets Stewart.
Light: Outside, where everyone can see. Dark:Inside Baines' cottage. How we view what happens between Baines and Ada depends on whether it is inside or outside his cottage. Outside, in the light, their actions become much more dangerous for them.

Example 2

In their research report, a student identifies a range of sophisticated written language features [for example, use of hyperboles, euphemisms and connotative language] and understands their effects.

Extract from Exemplar B:

How do people with contrasting views use language to present their points of view?

Contrasting views are presented by those supporting ‘herbal highs’ and on the other hand, those opposed to their use either for ethical reasons like concerned parents or for medical reasons like emergency ward workers. These two sets of ‘for or against’ views are apparent in the initially confusing mix of language techniques.

Those who profit from the sale of such products employ a particular type of language in order to promote what is essentially a cattle parasite treatment. This safe, fun feel is created quite effectively by the use of hyperboles, euphemisms and connotative language with marketing clearly in mind, as evident in expressions from the 'Infusion' advertisement such as "dedicated pharmacologists", "most superior formulas", "ideal social space" and "stunning physical and mental stimuli". The effectiveness of these techniques on the target market is clear from the number of ‘herbal highs’ outlets springing up to meet demand, but also in the increasing numbers of people being admitted to emergency wards unaware of the dangers of such "safe" products. Of course the negative effects are not the concern of those profiting so long as their desired product image is maintained.‘Consumer’ magazine offers a different view in the ‘herbal highs’ debate. While supposedly presenting the issue objectively, I feel the detailed use of medical jargon and undeveloped comparisons go some way to depicting ‘herbal highs’ in a more loaded way. Medical jargon, as found in descriptions of side effects found in the `Party Poppers’ article, like "insomnia, fever, vomiting and anxiety" or "range from mild (dehydration, heart palpitations, muscle aches, dilated pupils, teeth grinding) ...to severe (seizure, renal failure)" presents a negative view. Undeveloped comparisons present an impression that the products are far stronger than they are, by comparing them to harder drugs without mentioning the extent of their differences. An example of this is: "BZP has similar effects to MDMA (ecstasy) and metamphetamine (P)" [from the same source]. If this is true, the image presented by this comparison would be a significant cause for concern and would attract much more official attention to the issue. It is interesting to see that these supposedly `unbiased' reports are still guilty of influencing perceptions of the pills…

Example 3

English Online: Language is a Manipulator

In their research report, a student identifies a range of sophisticated oral language features [for example, use of emotive language] and understands their effects.

Extract from Exemplar B:

Highly emotively charged words are used to exaggerate the negative characteristics of men. In her 1892 speech Elizabeth Stanton says "the male element is a destructive force, stern selfish, aggrandizing, loving war, violence, conquest, acquisition, breeding in the material and moral world alike, disorder, discord, disease and death.". To describe women, however, she uses emotive words with strongly positive connotations: " nature, like a loving mother.....that space, harmony and beauty may reign supreme..." In her 1892 pamphlet, Kate Sheppard asks " Is it right... that a mother......should be thought unworthy of a vote that is freely given to the blasphemer, the liar, the seducer, and the profligate? Quite obviously, these two contexts are directed at a female audience and would have the effect of convincing women that they are every bit man's equal or superior.

Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning

Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning

What do I need to know?

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, p.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).
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. p.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 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 wallcharts for students to refer to when appropriate.
Effective Literacy Strategies in Years 9–13: A Guide for Teachers, NZ Ministry of Education 2006. p.27–31.

Academic headwords list

Sublist 1 (most common headwords)

analyse approach area assess assume authority available benefit concept consist constitute context contract create data define drive distribute economy environment establish estimate evident export factor finance formula function identify income indicate individual interpret involve issue labour legal legislate major method occur percent period policy principle proceed process require research respond role section sector significant similar source specific structure theory vary

Sublist 2

achieve acquire administrate affect appropriate aspect assist category chapter commission community complex compute conclude conduct consequent construct consume credit culture design distinct element equate evaluate feature final focus impact injure institute invest item journal maintain normal obtain participate perceive positive potential previous primary purchase range region regulate relevant reside resource restrict secure seek select site strategy survey text tradition transfer

This word list gives the first two sublists from An Academic Word List, compiled by A. Coxhead (1998). The full list contains 570 word families subdivided into ten sublists according to the most frequent words found in texts of twenty-eight subject areas.
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2006, p. 158.

What does it look like?

Example 1 - Othello

The activity encourages students to use an increasing vocabulary [for example, figures of speech, sound devices, different syntax, diction/vocabulary choice, irony, punctuation, grammar, symbolism] to make meaning of Othello’s language.

 Extract from Task 3:

Othello's language in the play has been referred to as "music". As we all know, music can be melodious or cacophonic. Analyse how and why Othello's language starts off as melodic, descends into cacophony, and then regains some melody as the tragedy unfolds.

Select relevant quotations that follow this tragic journey and analyse the effect of these quotations. Fill in the following grid, remembering to identify the language features used.

Language features include: figures of speech, sound devices, different syntax, diction/vocabulary choice, irony, punctuation, grammar, symbolism and any other language techniques associated with written text.

Change in language Quotations Language Features Effect, function, purpose – why used?
Melodious      
Cacophonic      
Melodious      

Example 2

Internal Assessment Resource – All for the Cause (Word 281KB)

In their research report on language used to justify war, a student uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning of the manipulative language techniques.

Extract from Exemplar A:

Another important technique for encouraging support of American involvement in the Vietnam War was the use of positive and negative imagery to describe the opposing forces. President Johnson made frequent use of emotionally‑loaded language and metaphor to reinforce negative stereotypes of the enemy. Enemy activities were condemned as "savage assaults", "acts of violence", "hostile operations" and "an outrage". American forces, by comparison, were treated with the utmost reverence. President Johnson glorified the American military in his speeches, acclaiming their "great courage and endurance" as they pursued "mankind's noblest cause" in the "struggle for peace". While Americans decimated the country of Vietnam with bombing and toxic defoliation, President Johnson told the nation that the country's "mission is peace", and that they were in Vietnam "to strengthen world order". This stark contrast in the choice of language with clearly positive or negative connotations is an attempt to create absolute divisions between the work of the American military and the actions of their enemies, the Viet Cong. The descriptive and highly emotive language demonstrated above has little to do with truth or fact, and everything to do with manipulating public opinion in support of the Americans.

Example 3

NZATE NCEA English Externals Exemplars Level 3: Exemplar 4 AS 90723

Order form

In their essay on the use of film techniques to reveal theme, a student uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning of the manipulation and distortion of memory in Memento.

Extract from Exemplar 4:

Memento further explores the ideas, delving into the manipulation and distortion of memory. Leonard is not only manipulated by Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Teddy (Joe Pantoliamo) but interestingly enough by himself. The opening scene of Memento shows us just how distorted this film is going to be. The entire visual is shown in reverse, with blood running up the walls, bullets going back into the gun and glasses flying back onto Teddy's head. We can tell purely from the use of this sophisticated editing technique that memory and the mind in Memento will be distorted and manipulated. We further see this distortion through the juxtaposition of shots. We view an image of Lenny for two frames placed within a shot showing Sammy Jankis sitting in a psychiatric hospital. This makes us wonder about how real the Sammy Jankis story is and whether Leonard conditions himself to believe that his story is the story of another man. We must wonder whether Leonard has manipulated his own memory "to be happy". Editing brings forth this idea of the manipulation of memory to a great extent….

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

Understands, analyses, and evaluates how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect

What do I need to know?

Developing students’ understanding of texts

"Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, page 131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.11

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 and text forms evolve and change. 

What does it look like?

Example 1

In a close reading activity on Othello, students are asked to understand, analyse and evaluate how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect.

Extracts from assessment activity:

The Language of the Play

Analyse the effectiveness of at least seven of the words or phrases in bold in the extract from Act 3 Scene 3. Be detailed and specific in your response, which must be linked to the ideas and context of the text.

You must correctly identify the language feature used. Analyse each in terms of their effect. You must get five language techniques completely correct. (PC 1.3)

Consider: Why has Shakespeare chosen the word(s)? How do the words relate to the ideas in the text? Why is the word choice effective? What is the effect on the reader?

The Structure of the Play

It is claimed that this scene, Act 3 Scene 3, is the "keystone to the play's action".

Evaluate how well Shakespeare has used at least two techniques to shape the text and bring Othello to this point. You could consider structure or narrative techniques such as act structure, turning points, answering questions with questions, caesura and so on.

You must correctly identify each technique and refer to relevant sections of the text to support your answer. You should provide examples and quotations from the rest of the play to give further weight to the points you make. (PC 1.4)

Example 2

Internal Assessment Resource – All for the Cause (Word 281KB)

In their research report on language used to justify war, a student understands, analyses and evaluates how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect.

Extract from Exemplar A:

How did the President use language to justify their involvement in the War on Iraq?

The first, and most obvious objective of the President's speeches was to rally the country around him in support of the war; to achieve this, Bush worked to present an image of an America united by the nobility and the immediacy of their role in Iraq. This effect was achieved through consistent use of inclusive language with positive, uplifting connotations. For example, President Bush began many of his speeches with a reference to "my fellow Americans" or "my fellow citizens". This greeting was designed to be inclusive and encourage the audience to feel that what was being said was of immediate importance and relevance to them. When announcing the start of the war, Bush followed such a greeting with an intensely emotive statement such as "the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you". This statement was powerful enough to leave the listener struggling for breath. Making full use of the tradition of chronic hyperbole that seems to come with political power, Bush was intending to inspire the kind of intense patriotism that would send young soldiers to war.

President Bush spared no effort in his constant vilification of the enemy. He used words such as "atrocity", "threat", "peril", "disorder", "chaos", "brutal", "extreme", "terrorism" and "hate" when describing Saddam Hussein's forces and their activities. In contrast, American forces were "decent," "honourable," "united," "stable" and "free" and their mission "a blessing". The discrepancy in language use was obvious and entirely simplistic, the purpose clear. To undermine American’s opposition to the war, Bush took to constantly degrading the enemy ‑ a relentless criticism fuelled with barbed words and barely hidden contempt.

Example 3

NCEA English External Exemplars Level 1: Exemplar 1 AS 90055

Order from NZATE

In their research report on film techniques and their link to theme, a student understands, analyses and evaluates how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect.

Extract from Exemplar 2:

Tykwer’s use of fast camera shots in the ‘Die Tasche’ scene also highlights the fact that time is of the an essence. Tykwer uses 36 different shots in one minute and 17 seconds. The fast paced cutting between these shots shows that this a crucial moment in time, the bag ‘Die Tasche’ has been lost and there are only 20 minutes left in which to recover it. These fast paced shots are ideally suited to the treatment of time because the viewer sees them and immediately thinks Lola must win. The fast pace reminds viewers of their own hectic lives and allows then to fully understand Lola’s need for more time.

Understands that authors have different voices and styles and appreciates these differences

Understands that authors have different voices and styles and appreciates these differences

What do I need to know?

Developing students’ understanding of texts

"Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level. It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Ministry of Education, 2003a, p.11

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

Tricksters, Conjurors, Skydancers: Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy in conversation with Kate de Goldi
Print and DVD resource available from  Down the Back of the Chair

In introducing the three writers, Kate de Goldi encourages students to understand that Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy have different voices and styles and to appreciate these differences.

Extract from The Interviewer’s Perspective [p.9]:

The most obvious connection is, of course, that they all write for young people and all acknowledged the crucial influence of their own childhoods and education in their writing and on the high regard they have for story. But more than that, all three writers – roughly the same ages – have been shaped by the very particular events of their growing years: Depression and War. Similarly, all three have been further shaped – and their writing shows it – by cultural developments since the War: prosperity, feminism, ethnic diversity, national identity, a global economy, scientific discoveries, huge technological changes, and the growing status of writers.

Each writer has a distinctive writing style and particular preoccupations, but also many themes and approaches in common. The importance of landscape is a feature in all their work; animal characters recur; the different shapes of family are common themes; adventure, loss, transformation, anarchic characters, mythology, language play – all have varying degrees of importance in the three writers’ work.

Example 2

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

Order form (Word 246KB)

In his essay on whether directors leave a distinctive mark on their films, a student reveals an understanding and appreciation of Michael Moore’s particular style.

Extract from Exemplar 3:

“The truth is often so far the reverse of what we have been shown that it is impossible to turn our heads round far enough to see it.” This criticism of the media from historian Howard Zimm would, no doubt, be a sentiment that Michael Moore, director and writer of cinema-screened documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, would agree with. Moore has long been an outspoken advocate for independent, unbiased media coverage, particularly of politics, in America, something he feels the country is sorely lacking. This conviction has led to his production of several highly controversial pieces of literature including films, that are, one assumes, Moore’s attempt to “turn around” simultaneously all the heads of the American public and allow them to see the “truth” that has been kept from them. Throughout his work Moore, like any writer or director has developed a distinctive and instantly recognisable style that leaves an indelible mark on all that he creates. One such work is his most recent film, Fahrenheit 9/11, perhaps the most controversial of his films, perhaps of any film to dateFahrenheit 9/11 bears all the characteristics of a Moore production, his unashamedly polemic approach, his use of humour, his clever employment of techniques such as montage to create contrast, and, of course, his portrayal of himself, Michael Moore, and both man and character in the film.

Example 3

As part of their close analysis of short stories, students are encouraged to understand that authors have different voices and styles and to appreciate these differences.

Extract from ‘Close Analysis’ activity on ‘The Short Story...’ teaching unit:

As you read and write a short story you should keep the following questions in mind:

[Q. 7] What is the language and style like? The impression the writer wants in the story will be affected by the language he/she tells the story in or has the characters use. Frank Sargeson uses the colloquial, chatty style that creates an impression of 1930-50s NZ 'mateiness'. Yvonne Du Fresne, writing about new settlers in NZ, uses a style that reflects the confusions of word meaning and usage that a non-English speaker will have. The language is important to develop the character and action. The realism of the dialogue will influence our reading of the story and our attitudes to the characters involved.

Example 4

Internal Assessment Reference – Things That Make You Go Hmmm (Word 122KB)

In preparing to write their own column pieces, students are encouraged to understand that authors have different voices and styles and to appreciate these differences.

Task 1: A Matter of Style

Columns differ from editorials and feature articles which tend to be more formally expressed, objective and informative. Columnists can be provocative and opinionated and use a wide range of distinctive styles to interest, challenge and entertain readers. Columnists attract regular readers often because their readers recognise and enjoy their writing styles.

Familiarise yourself with the column writing genre and various styles used by columnists by reading columns in a range of publications including major daily and weekend newspapers, New Zealand ListenerNorth and South, and Metro. Having found a columnist(s) whose style(s) you enjoy, read several of their pieces and make notes on the characteristics of their style(s).

Structure

Students will:

  • Show a discriminating understanding of a range of structures.

Indicator

Appreciates how the characteristics and conventions of texts contribute to and affect meaning

Identifies and understands the characteristics and conventions of a range of text forms, and appreciates how they contribute to and affect text meaning

What do I need to know?

Developing students’ understanding of texts

Students need to develop strategies that they can use deliberately and purposefully to enhance their understanding of text and develop their critical awareness.
Ministry of Education, 2003a. p.131

Readers need to understand texts at surface level and also at deeper levels of understanding. The depth of a reader’s understanding of any text depends on their prior knowledge and their ability to engage actively with the ideas presented in the text.

The different levels should be seen as part of a continuum. This continuum of understanding begins where the reader understands the meaning of the text at a literal level.  It extends to where the reader can interpret the author’s implied meanings and then continues to the deeper levels of critical reading, where the reader evaluates the content, responds to the author’s ideas, and integrates those ideas with their own existing knowledge. Students need to use strategies to effectively employ the processes needed to engage with text at these different levels.

Reading and writing are reciprocal processes: comprehending and composing text are complementary.

Writing draws on the same sources of knowledge as reading.

"Talking and listening are the two sides of spoken communication, and reading and writing are just as closely linked. Readers and writers use their knowledge and experience: readers to construct meaning from text and writers to construct meaning in text. ... To communicate in written language successfully, learners need to read like writers and to write like readers. ... In setting their instructional objectives, teachers need to plan to make students aware of these links."
Effective Literacy Practice in Years 9–13, NZ Ministry of Education 2006. p.73.

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 and text forms evolve and change.

Texts are structured in different ways to achieve their purposes.

The purpose of a recount is to tell about a past experience – to tell the reader what happened. The focus is on a sequence of episodes, all usually related to one particular event. The time sequence of the episodes structures the text. A recount usually begins with an orientation, giving the reader sufficient background information to understand the text. The reader is told who is involved and where and when the event took place. A series of episodes unfolding in a chronological sequence then follows. Linguistically, this type of text can be identified by the use of verbs that describe actions or events and sentences that are joined by connectives such as after, then, next, and that.

The purpose of an argument, on the other hand, is to persuade the reader to agree with a point of view. Arguments often begin with a statement of position and some background information about the issue. There is usually a logical sequence to an argument, with points being raised and supported by evidence and finishing with a summing up of the position. The resulting text can often be linguistically identified by the use of emotive words, verbs in the timeless present tense, and connectives associated with reason such as so, because of, first, therefore.

The structure of texts is so much part of the whole that it usually goes unnoticed by the readerSometimes this inherent internal structure is referred to as "global coherence", and it is only when it breaks down, or changes in some way, that we become aware of the structure itself. In the following extract from Julius: the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes, the language patterns change when Lilly tells her story to the baby.

One morning, while Lilly was busy playing opera, her mother said, "Why don't you put some of that verbal exuberance to good use? Why don't you tell Julius a nice story?"

"He's too little to understand a story," said Lilly.

"He can understand it in his own way," said Lilly's mother.

"Okay," said Lilly, smiling.

"JULIUS, THE GERM OF THE WORLD. BY ME," said Lilly.

"Once upon a time," said Lilly, "there was a baby.

His name was Julius.

Julius was really a germ.

Julius was like dust under your bed.

If he was a number, he would be zero.

If he was a food, he would be a raisin.

Zero is nothing.

A raisin tastes like dirt.

The End," said Lilly.

The story earned her ten minutes in the uncooperative chair.

The author changes the physical layout of the text at the same time as it changes from conversation into the narrative tale. Repetition of sentence beginnings is used, along with more emphatic statements and simplified vocabulary. These changes help make Lilly's story stand out from the rest of the text.

The purpose of the writing influences the overall structure of texts.

Published on: 03 Jun 2014




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