See Jack jump: why kids need to talk and wriggle
November 2005; Pages 56–57
With child obesity, heart disease and diabetes a growing concern, prominent children’s author Jackie French offers ways for teachers and schools to increase students’ physical activity. Kinetic and social tasks appeal to children’s natural abilities and preferences, and help achieve learning success. French suggests ways in which these activities can be managed within a classroom setting. Discussion is an example of a social activity, which can physically animate lessons. Music and dance can engage students, for example by singing and dancing while spelling out words or other activities. Students can become engaged in what a teacher is saying if they take ‘doodle’ notes during teacher-led activities, which also provides practice in the note taking necessary for later education. Improved concentration is often shown when two tasks are undertaken at one time, for example students knitting while listening to lessons. A classroom wall space can become a ‘learning wall’ where students write, draw or add examples of their learning for the day, and improve recall skills in the process. Students can focus in class if they have been effectively ‘debounced’, or settled, after recess. To do this, one school plays music for students and teachers to dance to instead of lining up. Mental and physical activity can be encouraged during recess by teaching active games and providing varied sports and activity equipment, such as chalk, elastics, yoyos and knucklebones. A craft room and materials can be used to inspire activity on wet days.
Wanted: graduates who can teach children to read
12 November 2005
The report Teaching Reading, due for release on 1 December, will argue that teacher education faculties have not devoted adequate time to the teaching of basic literacy skills, and are not giving pre-service teachers enough practical classroom experience. Teaching Reading will recommend that children be tested for literacy and reading skills when they start school and again twice-yearly over their first three years, and that school results be sent on when children move interstate. It will also propose more emphasis on phonics and vocabulary knowledge for text comprehension. Australian Government Education Minister Brendan Nelson is likely to announce a ‘shake-up’ of teacher training in universities in response to the report, which has been prepared by a panel of experts including Ken Rowe. The article includes comments from Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Learning from a Nintendo Kid
Volume 13 Number 3, 19 October 2005; Pages 15–22
According to a study conducted by the Department of Education, Science and Training, students’ literacy gains peak in the third year of school, and then are gradually reduced by the time they reach Years 6 and 7. The popularity of computer gameplay among adolescents makes it an ideal vehicle for engaging students in the middle years in literacy practices, but not all educators are convinced by the potential of the technology in relation to literacy education. In this article, Kearney and Kitson report on a study which considered gameplay in the context of established literacy frameworks, with particular reference to the Four Resources Model created by Allan Luke and Peter Freebody. The study concluded that gameplay involved three of the four ‘families’ of attributes identified in the Four Resources Model, namely Text Decoder, Text Participant and Text User, but was found to exclude Text Analyst. Far from seeing this as impediment to gameplay’s educational value, Kearney and Kitson see this exclusion as an opportunity for teachers to assist students to develop the attributes associated with Text Analyst, and to use it in the context of gameplay, so that the motivational and engaging aspect of games will not be lost to the classroom.
Snakes and Ladders
Volume 4 Number 4, October 2005; Pages 6–7
The National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership (NIQTSL) has been charged with the responsibility of formulating a set of national standards for the teaching profession. This work entails negotiating with, and accommodating the concerns and interests of, the State and Territory education systems, subject associations, teacher unions and universities. The number and diversity of stakeholders greatly increases the complexity of the task, a situation to which Holden draws attention in his consideration of the process of formulating national standards for teaching, and the obstacles which confront those who have undertaken that task. Two of the obstacles include whether a national set of standards should be linked to remuneration and, if they are, which level of government should be responsible for funding such a scheme. A further obstacle, raised by Holden, is the degree of specificity which a set national standards would reflect – whether it is a detailed set of standards or one that merely provides a framework within which other bodies, such as subject associations, would align their professional standards.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
School-based research: a new approach to school improvement
Volume 4 Number 4, October 2005; Pages 8–12
School improvement is more often that not based on inadequate research and data because schools are unable or disinclined to employ full-time researchers on staff. Smith notes that school improvement initiatives are often the result of the school leadership’s ‘gut feeling’, and are not supported by quantitative or qualitative data. Where genuine, data-driven approaches are undertaken, they are often conducted by people external to the school community who have very little notion of the school’s context and culture or, where they are conducted by members of staff (usually for reasons of professional development), they tend to be individual research projects which do not have school-wide applicability. This article argues for schools to employ ‘researchers in residence’ – members of staff whose role it is to lead the school improvement process through data-based approaches. To that end, Smith describes the role of the ‘researcher in residence’, and the type of professional structure in which they would most effectively operate.
Subject HeadingsEducation research
Crisis, what crisis?
Volume 4 Number 4, October 2005; Pages 4–5
Keese addresses the finding in a recent study, Why our schools are failing conducted by Kevin Donnelly, that Australian schools and education systems, generally, are in crisis. Keese contends that Donnelly’s report paid scant regard to the social contexts in which teachers have to work, and the findings of international studies, such as those conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Teachers, according to Keese, given the social background and disadvantage that many students face, are actually ‘helping to prevent a crisis’, and this is evident in the progress made by students whose life chances have been improved through education. In regards to educational outcomes, Australian students perform near the top in international comparisons with similar nations, which also would not lend support the perception of a crisis. While he acknowledges that students are leaving the public education systems for the independent school system, he emphasises that this trend has been a ‘drift’ as opposed to an ‘exodus’, and that it has been influenced by the government funding of private schools.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Education and state
When the principal is the new kid at school
Volume 47 Number 10, October 2005; Pages 1–3
While much has changed in the mentoring and preparation of aspiring school leaders for the principalship, new principals can still be overwhelmed by the demands of the position and by the many and varied facets of their role. In a series of interviews with serving school principals, Franklin uncovers some of the responsibilities of the position to which new principals should pay particular attention, and includes advice on what new principals can do to fulfil those responsibilities. Principals’ responsibilities can include maintaining relationships with staff, parents and the community; decision making; maintaining a visible presence around the school; and taking an interest in student learning. With regards to decision making, principals should not hesitate to change practices which no longer serve a purpose, nor should they be afraid to reverse decisions of their own that have proven to be ineffective. Keeping a visible presence around the school is necessary, but principals should take the opportunity to inspect areas of the campus and their uses, as well to get to know students. Establishing a rapport with students allows principals to talk to them about their learning and this, along with classroom observation and building professional communities in schools, is essential to the principal’s role as instructional leader.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
After third grade
Volume 63 Number 2, October 2005; Pages 16–22
The drop in the level of adolescent literacy achievement in the United States has resulted in much effort to improve research into adolescent literacy in that country. Biancarosa was part of one such research initiative, and in this article she shares some of the findings of that endeavour, which are published in full in Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy. According to the research, the key literacy strategies in the middle years should include approaches to comprehension which teach students how to summarise texts, identify text structures and use visual clues. They should also entail integrating comprehension strategies with content across the disciplines, increasing students’ capacity for self-directed learning by providing choices in their reading, engaging students in collaborative work with texts so that they can learn literacy strategies from their peers, using different kinds of texts to enable students to apply their literacy skills across text genres, and employing formative assessment practices to improve literacy instruction.
Learning from what doesn’t work
Volume 63 Number 2, October 2005; Pages 9–14
Improving students’ literacy skills requires school leadership that is disposed to finding the resources – staff, funds and time – to help students achieve in this area of the curriculum. It also requires teachers to critically reflect on their literacy pedagogical practices, and to abandon those strategies which are ineffective. The authors highlight ineffective strategies in literacy education and juxtapose them with more effective practices. For example, they encourage teachers to think about their own motivations for reading and to abandon practices that force students to read without interest, purpose or choice in what they are reading. Equally, they discourage teachers from just interrogating students about what they are reading, which reduces literacy to mere comprehension and, instead, to negotiate the text with students, so that students become sensitive to interacting with, and reflecting on, texts.
The power of purposeful reading
Volume 63 Number 2, October 2005; Pages 48–51
Expert readers understand that they need a purpose to read a text. That purpose may be in the application of the information in the text, or in its mere interpretation. Whatever the purpose, it provides a reason for reading a particular text, and it gives the reader a focus for their attention. Tovani points out that students are often overwhelmed by text because of the absence of a clear purpose for engaging with their reading. He notes that students do not always know what is important in a text because the purpose of reading it has not been explained. This affects their ability to comprehend the text, to summarise the main points and to remember what they have read. Teachers can assist students to make their reading purposeful by being specific in their reasons for having students read a text, and being more explicit about how the text should be read. There are also general approaches to creating purposes for reading that can be imparted to students, such as engaging with the text at a personal level, through reflecting on how the text affects them, and by linking it to their own experiences.
Confronting child labour
Volume 3 Number 3, September 2005; Page 11–16
The author, a teacher in the USA, guided her Grades 4 and 5 students to undertake extensive research, confront and become active on the issue of child labour. Motivated by accounts from child labourers around the world, her students struggled through challenging material to produce a high standard of work. Through teacher modelling, collaborative learning in small groups, one-to-one assistance and debating, the students developed maths, geography, reading, researching, speaking and writing skills. The project began with student research into the countries where their own clothes and shoes were produced and the instance of child labour in these countries. After reading and researching personal accounts, the UN Declaration of Rights, articles, images and books, the students spent an afternoon 'in character' as a real child labourer, explaining details of their life to classmates. Teachers encouraged a social view of the issue by introducing debating techniques. Small groups developed arguments for abolishing and regulating child labour, identifying strong reasons to support the arguments, seeking new evidence and responding to opposition. Each individual student then chose a personal standpoint on which to base a persuasive essay. Using a graphic organiser to structure ideas, the students explored writing techniques. The project culminated with students developing their own strategy of selling magnets at an annual fair to raise awareness and funds for child labourers. The article is also available online from the original publisher, Rethinking Schools.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Social life and customs
Inquiry based learning
United States of America (USA)
Critical literacy in high school preparation language programs: challenges and possibilities
Volume 25 Number 3, 2005; Page 44–49
Fee-paying foreign students, mainly from Asia, are being actively encouraged to take up secondary schooling in Australia. They typically undertake 10–20 week high school preparation (HSP) courses managed by private language colleges, where they are taught ‘general survival English’ and discipline-related language used in science, maths, social sciences and English. Some ESL teachers are concerned that these students are not being prepared for the critical approaches to language study found in mainstream English courses. Critical literacy aims to look beneath the surface meaning of texts to examine how readers are being influenced by them. The article addresses a number of concerns about teaching critical literacy to ESL students. While critical literacy is sometimes described as subversive or offensive to foreign students who are used to a transmission style of learning, these students may welcome the chance to re-examine texts in relation to their own values and backgrounds. Critical literacy does not centre on ‘controversial content’ but on a critical approach to interpreting the social meaning of any text. Critical literacy is sometimes opposed simply due to its challenge to teachers’ own cultural assumptions and traditional authority in the classroom. It is sometimes argued that young or adult foreign students should not be exposed to critical literacy until they have proficiency approaching that of native speakers in late adolescence or adulthood; however, this approach is contested by teachers who have successfully introduced critical approaches in stages to young students. Critical literacy can offer a change from routine text-based activities. Choosing not to introduce critical literacy is a political act. ESL teacher ‘Linda’ offers an example of successfully applying critical literacy to ESL students. She provided scaffolded critical literacy to students aged 14 to 16 from NESB backgrounds. As a science topic her class examined the issue of parents choosing their babies’ sex. She began with pre-reading vocabulary exercises. She then asked the students to answer questions of increasing complexity about the text. Questions included ‘What does the writer of the text want us to know?’ and ‘Who benefits from the text?’ Teachers in this industry should try to resist market pressures to limit ESL teaching to conventional methods. The endnotes include a reference to a 'useful list of questions in critical language study' provided by the Department of Education in Tasmania.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsTransitions in schooling
English language teaching
English as an additional language
The SACSA Framework: unsettled policy for unsettled times
Volume 25 Number 3, 2005; Pages 26–36
The South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability (SACSA) Framework emerged through a contest between ‘incoming economic rationalist and market ideologies and socially just definitions of education’. A new educational leadership in South Australia espoused neo-liberal policies and emphasised accountability measures, the devolution of management and financial responsibilities to schools and retention of centralised policy making, and encouraged competition between schools in the name of parental choice. Within this approach, the goal of education is to provide human capital for the work force. Terms such as lifelong learner, knowledge society, enterprise and innovation ‘naturalise the encroaching economic logic into educational, communal and personal life’. Curriculum can be seen as a purchasable commodity, and in this case the development of SACSA was outsourced jointly to UniSA and the CEASA, with educators involved through consultation rather than negotiation. The process was led by a Steering Committee drawn from universities, government, and the Catholic and independent sectors. Expert working groups reported to the committee, representing academics, teachers, parents and other stakeholders. The current paper is informed by interviews with participants in this process of curriculum development. Some educators contested the neo-liberal approach, and saw the reforms as a chance to strengthen social justice elements in schooling and to give teachers more freedom to interpret curriculum. Rather than a struggle between ‘teachers versus bureaucrats’ the agents on both sides occupied ‘a variety of positions across the Department, UniSA and schools’. During these debates two distinct concepts of social justice emerged. The ‘transformative’ concept of social justice aims to challenge the unequal distribution of wealth and power in society. It identifies and challenges a tendency in the curriculum to reproduce social inequality. The ‘affirmative’ concept of social justice calls for a celebration of social and cultural diversity without addressing issues of wealth and power. Often linked to the concept of equity, it tends to localise the discussion of disadvantage to individual schools. The affirmative model is acceptable within neo-liberal ideology and the ability to prepare curriculum material around this view of social justice was a selling point for the successful tenderers for SACSA.
Subject HeadingsSouth Australia
An update on PIRLS-05
Volume 84 Number 20, 7 November 2005
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study for 2005 (PIRLS-05) is a large international comparative study of the reading literacy of young children around the world, conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The Comparative Education Research Unit at New Zealand's Ministry of Education is implementing the second cycle of PIRLS, testing 6,500 students in 248 primary schools across the country. PIRLS-05 measures children’s reading literacy achievement and collects information about their reading practice at home and in school. The international study is designed for Year 5 classes, which in New Zealand's case involves Year 5 students from across several composite classes. The next phase of the study will involve marking, data entry and data submission.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Deep-level comprehension of science texts: the role of the reader and the text
Volume 25 Number 1, 2005; Pages 65–83
The article discusses cognitive difficulties in comprehension of science texts and ways to overcome them. Problems in science textbook comprehension are especially significant at primary and middle school levels, where students are most likely to be exposed to demanding scientific ideas when their knowledge and reading strategies are both underdeveloped. Deep-level comprehension requires an ability to integrate the meaning of individual sentences within the total meaning of a text. One element in comprehension is the reader’s capacity for ‘backward causal inferencing’, ie making inferences about textual meaning using logic, syntactic knowledge and recall of earlier content in the text, as well as prior subject knowledge. Kintsch’s Cognitive Integration (CI) model suggests that comprehension can be improved when the text is cohesive, ie when sentences can be understood with few inferences. 'Global cohesion' refers to the overall cohesion of the text, through techniques such as subheadings and introductory and summary paragraphs. 'Local cohesion' refers to the relationship between adjacent sentences, for example sematic overlap. 'Explanatory cohesion' refers to the degree to which background information is needed for comprehension. Science texts commonly lack explanatory cohesion, assuming unreasonably high levels of prior content knowledge. Apart from memory capacity, readers’ ability to generate inferences depends on their prior domains-specific knowledge and their reading strategies. Research indicates that readers with low knowledge levels have better comprehension when reading high-cohesion texts. However, high-knowledge readers demonstrate better comprehension when reading low-cohesion texts, perhaps because such texts spur them to higher levels of mental activity. Research also suggests that readers with high knowledge and high reading ability perform equally well with high- and low-cohesion texts. High-level reading strategies should be explicitly taught to these students, but rarely are. Most reading comprehension teaching focuses on low-level skills, such as word decoding, that do not help students when confronted by unfamiliar topics. Readers should also be matched to suitable texts types. However, the typical methods used to select and classify texts rely on simple indices such as word frequency, word length and sentence length. In fact, texts characterised by short words and sentences tend to lack cohesion since the sentences are less likely to include connectives, making more not less demands on readers. New readability measures that take into account the local and explanatory cohesion of texts, such as the iSTART and Coh-Metrix tools currently under development by the author and other researchers, are needed.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
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