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

Learning task 1

Learning intention(s)
  1.  Make connections to prior learning
  2.  Identify and understand the use of different text features to enhance understanding
KCs/Principles/Values focus Thinking

Activating prior knowledge and introducing them to the topic. Identifying text features and how they help us understand a text/find information

  1. Introduce the topic to students through a picture dictation task (ELP Years 9 to 13, page 48). Explain to students that over the course of this unit they will be exploring issues facing the earth and its inhabitants. The purpose of picture dictation is to get students thinking about what these issues are and how they can be represented in a visual format.Students are also listening carefully to oral text which helps them to identify key vocabulary or ideas. Read each issue out to the students twice. They are to draw an image that they feel represents this issue. Once all 5 issues have been read students first discuss their recollections of the issues with another student. This enables them to clarify their understanding. Students then write down their recollections of what the issues are in their own words. OPTIONAL: Give students a copy of the issues (exactly what you read). The issues can be read directly from the text book ‘Earth Under Pressure’, page 2 or alternatively write 5 statements relating to the issues you have decided to focus on. For the purpose of this unit, students will explore two issues as a class and then complete an inquiry in to an issue of their choice.

    What the teacher is looking for:

    • Can the students understand the statements read and translate them in to visual images?
    • When rewriting the visuals back in to words are they able to use topic specific vocabulary?
    • Do they show an understanding of the words/ideas?
  2. To get students thinking about vocabulary associated with the issues ask them to brainstorm words/ideas that they think are linked to each issue. Students create a mind map of their ideas and then add these to a class brainstorm that can be displayed in the classroom. They can then refer back to this throughout the course of the unit and add to it. This is also a good indicator of what prior knowledge they already have. For example: Are they aware of any topic specific vocabulary already? Can they define these?

Introducing Students to topic specific vocabulary

The following links have valuable information outlining why it is important for students to be exposed to and to understand key vocabulary.



  1. Provide the students with a selection of newspaper headlines that contain specific topic related, technical terms, for example: Biodiversity, recycling, bio-degradable, quota sample headlines.
    Students highlight or underline the words in each headline that they feel are specifically topic related. At this point students create a glossary in their books that they can add to during the unit. This can then be referred to over the course of the unit. The glossary should contain all topic specific vocabulary and the appropriate definitions. It is a good idea for students to include in the glossary their own definition as well as the dictionary definition.
  2. Ask them then to write down the definition for each word (1. Their own definition. 2. The dictionary definition.) Allocate each student with a word that they are then to illustrate for a word wall in the classroom. This activity also provides an opportunity for students to explore the vocabulary associated with the topic in other ways for example root words/prefixes/suffixes.

    An alternative or additional learning task to focus on vocabulary is to do a Term/definition mix and match. Have words and definitions cut up and laminated. Students then match the definition to the key term. This activity is a good pair/small group task which students can collaborate on to get the correct pairs. This can also be used as a clustering activity where students group together words that they feel belong in a particular group, for example words related to endangered species. Can they identify words that belong in more than one group? Students should do the clustering task in pairs or small groups so that discussion is taking place around what the words mean and how they could group together. Students are then able to identify words they already know and be introduced to new words. It also enables peer discussion and support for students at a range of levels.

Orientation to the textbook

“Visuals are a central feature of many 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.” ELP Years 9 to 13, page 84.

More about orientation to the text:


Introduction to textbook - ‘EARTH UNDER PRESSURE, People, Pests and Pollution’. This textbook makes use of a range of text features to convey various types of information. Text features used include: Graphs, tables, diagrams, headings, Photos, sub-headings, bold/italics, colour, activity boxes. As outlined in the ‘Literacy Learning Progressions’ page 18 students at Year 10 are often required to read texts that include the following:

  • complex ideas and multiple items of information (in both longer texts and short, information-dense texts);
  • academic and content-specific vocabulary that expresses abstract concepts relating to a range of topics within and across curriculum areas;
  • terminology, text structures, and conventions that may have different meanings or function differently in different curriculum areas;
  • non-sequential organisation, which may include complex sections and graphics that are not clearly linked to other parts of the text.

To introduce the students to text features choose 1 to 2 pages within the text that make use of a range of features. Photocopy and cut the page in to segments and allocate each segment to a student or pair of students. Students are then required to identify the key ideas that are presented in their segment and report these back to the class. (Refer to page 84, ELP Years 9 to 13). Students then move in to small groups and see if they can identify ways in which the different segments may relate to each other or how they present information that is not referred to in the written text. As a class discuss how the different kinds of information complement and support each other.

What the teacher is looking for:

  • Are the students becoming aware of how written and visual information within a text can support each other?
  • Are the students critically analysing the quality of the information presented?
  • Over the course of the unit:
  • Are the students showing in independent tasks that they are noticing and making use of all the information presented in the text?

This is an activity that may require revisiting over the course of the unit. It is also important to expose students to a variety of texts so when using a new resource with students , brainstorm as a class the text features that they can identify within a particular text and why they think this particualr feature may have been used. Constant reinforcement means that students’ will develop the ability to quickly identify text features and why they may be important. A cross curricular approach to this is also valuable. For example, can the science and maths teachers of this class run a session on text features within their textbooks? This then enables students to develop transferrable strategies for developing understanding. Students then also develop the realisation that their ability to find information within a text is not isolated to one particular area. If students are conducting research it is also valuable to run this exercise with a piece of text from an electronic source as many students struggle to find reliable information due to their inability to find information within a website.

Providing opportunities for reflection

Learning logs or reflection logs provide the opportunity for both students and teachers to reflect on the learning process and identify next steps.

At this stage in the unit introduce a reflection log to the students. The reflection log can be completed weekly, daily or lesson by lesson. It provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their own learning (what they have learnt), what they would like to learn, what they have found interesting and what they might need to relearn (or would like retaught). By reading their reflection logs the teacher is able to gain a picture of what they are learning, what they may need to reteach or explain in a different way and ideas for next steps.

Published on: 20 Dec 2010