Module 4 Literacy in the Middle Years


1 Literacy defined

   ‘All teachers are teachers of literacy.’

Discuss this statement with reference to your understanding of literacy.


Whilst PISA defines literacy as “the ability to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate effectively in society” (p iv in Freebody, 2007,) Kist (2000) points out “not only of print but of combinations of graphic art, music, mathematics, drama, cinema, and others”.  It means that students are developing the tools and skills to create, comprehend, critique and communicate via a broad range of words and written structures and therefore the definition continues to be hazy. So if literacy is the ability to send and receive communications via media, then all teachers are teachers of literacy.

Teachers are sending and receiving communications with their student body, not only to for the students to learn the subject content, but to develop their own motivations and tools to communicate through the various media available today and in the future.  Different subjects and even different topics within subjects required their own jargon, terminologies and language structures.  For example the teaching of mathematics requires the introduction and use of terms, symbols and syntax not found in traditionally text based subjects such as those from the humanities area of learning.  For students learning fractions, the ability to understand, use and reflect on the use of ‘numerator’ or ‘denominator’ requires the teacher to introduce and develop the student’s understanding mathematical literacy.  Eisner (1997) sums this up as thus:

“In order to be read, a poem, an equation, a painting, a dance, a novel, or a contract each requires a distinctive form of literacy, when literacy means, as I intend it to mean, a way of conveying meaning through and recovering meaning from the form of representation in which it appears.”

As the access to and development of literacies within our society, students and therefore teachers need to be aware of the medias existence, use and teaching approaches require adoption and adaptation to encompass and include these literacies.


2 Literacy and the Australian Curriculum

            Take your own notes about each of six literacy elements

  •  comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing

Students developing the skills to interpret communications and creating an understanding from a variety of media.  This includes the interpretation and investigative skills of the student to identify explicit and implicit meaning and intentions.

  • composing texts through speaking, writing and creating

Students being equipped with the tools to generate texts suited to a variety of situations and via various media.

  • text knowledge

Developing a mastery of text knowledge in identifying the text created and comprehended through the structures and cohesion of words and sentences.

  • grammar knowledge

Developing a mastery of text structure and syntax to identify and to create texts to broaden meaning and interpretation through word groupings and author’s intention.

  • word knowledge

Developing a mastery of words (definition, pronunciation, use and spelling) within the learning area and in cross-curriculum requirements.

  • visual knowledge

The interpretation of visual representations of information such as charts, icons, images, symbols etc and the importance of transferring meaning and/or enhancing the meaning of texts.


With reference to different learning areas, identify some ways in which you can develop literacy in The Arts, Health and Physical Education and Humanities and Social Sciences for Grade 5 & 6.

 Within each of these subject areas, there are inherent literacies requiring the adaptation of new or adjustment of existing words, jargon and comprehension for students.  The inherent requirement to build and develop literacies for students within years 5 & 6 enables teachers to provide opportunities for students to use, create, evaluate and discuss terminologies and structures but to also provide a scaffold to use appropriate language within the subject area.

Some examples include:

  • using correct anatomical terms in Health and Physical Education (as opposed to lay terms)
  • introducing art projects that encompass traditional terms within that field (e.g. the term ‘graphic’ or ‘image’ rather than ‘picture’
  • within Humanities, being more explicit in identifying historic events (e.g. the use of decades or stages rather than a generic ‘olden days’


3 Reading and comprehension

Cueing systems – Record the main features of each part of this model.


  1. Semantic
    • Topic/content knowledge
    • Cultural/world knowledge
    • Vocabulary knowledge


Ability to make predictions as to the content of the text through creating meaning based on our existing knowledge Awareness of the topic and content.  This knowledge is used to predict meaning and confirm meaning or make revisions during our reading process.  This is the most effective of the three parts of this model.


  1. Syntactic
    • Grammatical knowledge
    • Text knowledge

Interpretation of the grammatical structure of the text by identifying and decoding the structure, grammar, tense, word order etc to holistically creating meaning from the text.


  1. Grapho-phonetic
    • Word knowledge
    • Graphophonic knowledge
    • Orthographic knowledge


Least effective of the three parts, this is the high-intensity (i.e. identify each letter or word individually) to decipher meaning.  Visual clues (e.g. images in a picture-story book) can assist in developing meaning for the reader.


Comprehension – How will you use this technique in your teaching?

 Using the comprehension strategies is an important part of developing the mastery of literacy for students.  By working with and encouraging students to learn the words and terms through scaffolded learning environment, it emboldens students to practice these strategies in decoding and extracting meaning from other texts.  The development of not only these strategies, but the confidence to use them is important in the ongoing development of each student’s literacy skills.

4 Writing


 Look at these resources, then identify and explain two ways you will help your students develop their writing skills.

Work with students to identify the differences and importance of written language versus spoken language in terms of the format and content.  Look at the structures in familiar texts in terms of dialogue compared to example dialogue between students and or between student and teacher.

Assist in the differentiation for formal and informal purposes and how the styles, language and layouts used can communicate the intention of the writer and the reception by the reader.


Vocabulary & Spelling – Is it important to teach handwriting to middle school students? Why or why not?

 Whilst the proliferation of information technology devices has given rise to more electronically created and distributed material, teaching the skill of hand-writing is important.  It is an important activity to immerse the student into the activity at hand and is multi-sensory in that there are ideas and thoughts flowing, and a tangible outcome from pen to paper.  With the omni-present qwerty keyboard close by, so too are the digital distractions (such as other, more exciting programs and apps).  The use of handwriting to help students identify words through forming not only the shapes of the letters but meanings of the letter combinations – words.


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