We offer practical, tailored professional development for middle to secondary school teachers on a variety of topics, including:
Many reading practices in high school classrooms are pedagogically obsolete and do not foster the creation of meaning, which is why we read. Generally, high schools teachers have not been trained to teach reading so revert to ineffective practices that they remember from their school days. When the purpose of reading text is for learning, then students must be set up to achieve this goal. Therefore teachers must establish a clear purpose for reading; break down the barriers, which may prevent comprehension from occurring; ensure that students do their own reading and select a post reading activity that achieves the purpose.
Writing is the art of composing the written word. It is not copying or answering questions. Writing is difficult in any context as it requires the simultaneous control of many processes and skills. Students must be supported at every stage of the writing process including considering purpose and audience; developing topic knowledge (what to write about); planning of the structure of the writing; composing sentences and editing and proof reading. Evidence suggests that students do not do enough writing particular short sharp episodes, which are more effective than infrequent longer amounts.
Spelling is an ongoing concern, but approaches to teaching spelling have traditionally been limited to decontextualised spelling tests, set apart from the vocabulary or the content of learning or assessment. During workshops, teachers of all subject areas learn: - What is the purpose of being able to spell? - Common practices, pitfalls and better practices when teaching spelling - 4 Spelling Knowledges: Phonological, Etymological, Morphemic and Visual - Principles of spelling instruction – source; purpose; context; timing; strategies - Spelling strategies – practical ideas to teach and reinforce the 4 spelling knowledges - How to embed spelling instruction into teaching and learning for maximum meaning
Listening effectively is vital to academic success in all subject areas. While students are expected to listen, however, the skills of listening are rarely taught explicitly. Whereas it is widely accepted that reading, writing and speaking need to be taught directly and thoroughly, listening if often an assumed and therefor neglected skill. Further, listening tends to be relegated to the realm of English as a second language, with a focus on de-contextualised activities involving recorded texts. Given the amount of listening expected of students, and its impact on understanding, listening needs to receive just as much focus in teaching and learning as other literacies. logonliteracy can provide a framework for teaching students to listen to the teacher, multimedia texts and other students in the classroom, as well as giving teachers a number of practical strategies to use with students. Teachers are given vital tools to integrate listening into their lessons, regardless of content.
Questioning is an important classroom skill for teachers. Many teachers ask students questions to check for understanding, promote discussion and to redirect off-task students. Most of the time, however, there are far more efficient methods of achieving these aims. Strategies for involving every member of the class, holding students accountable and listening to others are explored. Using a range of question types to suit particular purposes is also addressed.
Most teachers know that oral language is important, but how can we ensure that student speaking in our classrooms is purposeful? Like writing or reading, oral language is most effective when taught explicitly. Strategies to use oral language to learn and consolidate vocabulary are explored, as well as ways to incorporate oral language into reading, writing and listening activities.
Effective Peer Interactions
Peers can be a valuable resource for learning. Often, however, meaningful peer interactions do not occur during lessons. In whole class settings, students regularly listen to their teachers, but fail to listen to other students. Strategies are provided to maximise the chances of students listening and responding to each other in whole class and small group discussions. Ideas for generating discussion, debate, clarification and evaluation through peer interactions are also explored.
Academic writing and speaking requires the control of the use of the subject specific or academic vocabulary that is a key part of understanding the subject. Whilst four encounters with a word do not reliably increase an understanding of a word, twelve exposures do. Therefore, much more needs to be done to develop academic vocabulary. Many words tag abstract and conceptually loaded ideas – the understanding of which does not develop through repeated telling by the teacher of what words mean. Teachers need a repertoire of strategies to enhance students’ academic writing. Without these, vocabulary development is superficial and this manifests itself in the way students use the vocabulary in their writing.
Use of Graphic Organisers
Most teachers know about graphic organisers and, whilst some use them as an integral part of their teaching, most use them sporadically or with limited effect. Graphic organisers are ‘maps’ to record the thinking that occurs when the demonstration of particular skill is required and, therefore, should not be used randomly but in a planned and deliberate way. For example, we know that students’ ability to systematically compare using an appropriate graphic organiser such as a Three Column Venn and their ability to summarise (again, using a suitable graphic organiser) enhances their learning to a great extent than any other two skills.
Literacy in Subject Specific Areas
For several decades, subject area specialists have been require to be literacy teachers and content teachers. This requires significant changes in teachers’ practices and for them to move beyond to vocabulary lists, cloze passages, Find-A-Word and crosswords. Literacy is a word that closes more doors than it opens because teachers understanding of the term can be quite narrow. It is, therefore, much more useful to think of the skills of the subject area, especially of any assessment pieces. It is only by explicit teaching of these skills can a teacher claim to be a literacy and a content area teacher.
Designing Quality Assessment Items
There are several key features of a quality assessment item. It must align in both content and skills with the curriculum document from which it is developed. It should be written in such a way that it is clear to students what they have to produce. Assessment that requires significant input from others e.g. is socially unjust to those students how do not have access to this help. Assessment should be rigorous and contain stretch i.e. part of the task only ‘A’ students can complete. Scaffolding of process and product should be clear. Reduction of the cognitive load of assessment can be achieved by the teacher ‘helping out’ with the parts of the assessment that are not directly assessed.
Higher Order Thinking
Much has been written about the need for 21st century citizen to be both critical and creative thinkers. Teachers rarely assess ‘thinking’ because logistically it is difficult to do. It takes time for students to both think (slow thinking) and articulate their thoughts and teachers do not have time to listen to every student. So, higher order thinking is mostly assessed through writing. Question intent must demand higher order thinking and teachers need to be familiar with the questions stems that promote it. Graphic organisers support the thinking that occurs during any thinking process but especially that of a higher order. Sentence starters that are used to demonstrate higher order thinking support students as they express themselves.
All assessment places demands on students and where there is a mismatch between the demands of the task and the knowledge and skills that students bring to the task, the task is not do-able. Whilst most teachers teach content systematically and clearly, they are often disappointed by the quality of the work they get from students. This is probably because insufficient attention has been given to the skills of the assessment which must be explicitly taught. An assessment audit makes it clear to teachers what must be taught – knowledge and skills. These form the learning intentions of lessons and it is very difficult to write a quality learning intention without having completed an assessment audit.
Unit and Lesson Planning
By front-ending assessment and auditing a piece of assessment to identify the knowledge and skills that need to be taught, teachers can develop quality units and lessons. A glance at most unit plans and lesson sequences reveal that they are organised according to the topics of the unit. Rarely is there evidence of the skills of assessment being embedded in the teaching sequence. As the Australian Curriculum is a skills based assessment, this is a concern. Lessons should not be driven by resources but by a deep understanding of the unit planning process from the curriculum documents to the individual lesson.
Ideas for Beginning Teachers
It is important that teachers begin their careers equipped with evidence-based practices that we know make a difference. Many early career teachers feel ill-equipped in this area and revert to many of the practices that they remember from their own schooling. Some of these are ineffective and become entrenched in practice. Whilst it is dangerous to provide a grab bag of strategies, beginning teachers do need a repertoire of practices that are effective. They are appreciative of practical, easy to implement strategies that have worth rather than just being time fillers. In time they will be able to match the strategy with the purpose of the lesson.
Embedding the Skills of the Australian Curriculum
The Australian Curriculum is a skills based curriculum designed to allow students to develop the skills they need for life in the 21st century. By reading the Achievement Standards for each grade or band level, teachers can be clear about the skills that have to be taught. Skills are best developed in the context of use so lesson planning in the light of this new curriculum must take into account how best these skills will be taught with relevant and meaningful content rather than in isolation. Many of the skills such as analysing, evaluating, justifying, etc. are complex and take time to acquire. Embedding of these skills is not easy; it requires deep understanding of the curriculum and the planning process.
NAPLAN Writing Preparation
The NAPLAN writing task is a focus for many schools. It is helpful, therefore, to understand how the NAPLAN writing task is marked, common areas of weakness and ways to help students to achieve maximum results. As a NAPLAN marker, Catherine explains and models the marking process, giving participants the chance to assess and discuss sample texts. Whole school strategies to improve the quality of writing are also provided.
The Queensland Core Skills Test (QCS) tests a number of generic learning skills called the Common Curriculum Elements (CCEs). There are 49 of these and, as the name suggests, they are common to two or more of the senior subjects. Whilst the QCS Tests will no longer be used as a means of providing students with an OP (Overall Position) rating from 2018, their importance lies in the fact that, as skills, the CCEs will not disappear. Ways of embedding these skills into teaching not just in the senior years but from an early age will ensure the acquisition of these key skills. Logonliteracy has developed a QCS Preparation Pack designed to support the preparation work that schools currently do.
Effective Use of Logonliteracy's Resources
Logonliteracy has produced a number of resources to support the teaching of literacy and the skills of learning, particularly writing. The How to Write What You Want to Say series (General, Science, Maths, Primary, University and Business) and Pat’s Posters for teaching core curriculum skills by providing graphic organisers for planning writing, and sentence starters and connectives for demonstrating skills through writing are key parts of these resources. Many schools have purchased copies of the books for students and teachers and teachers are planning using Pat’s Posters. The resources have demystified the process of writing for many students enabling them to write in a more formal, academic way.
Inference is a particularly difficult skill and one with which students struggle. When an inference is made, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Students are required to combine what they know with what the text says. Often their world knowledge is limited and this makes the process of inference especially challenging. Teaching students to recognise text dependent questions will ensure they do not stray too far from the text when they make an inference. An inference must always be able to be supported by what is in the text. Developing world knowledge must be a key part of the teaching if students are to be successful making inferences.
Teaching Research Skills
The word research is a deceptively simple one. The skills of researching are particularly difficult because students must be able to search from information that is relevant and not so difficult that it cannot be processed. When students ‘copy and paste’ it is often the result of trying to use texts that are too difficult. Critical literacy is important because students must be sceptical about what they read, especially if the source is web based. Summarising and the art of making relevant and useful notes are also key skills in the research process. All these skills need to be taught well and repeatedly. If assessment requires research, then teachers need to ask themselves if they are teaching these skills or assuming students are in possession of them.
Effective Literacy Strategies for Time Poor Teachers
Teachers are time poor and getting busier by the day. Often the quality of their classroom practice is affected by the amount of time they have to spend on the other ‘stuff’ of school. Many of the activities that teachers use and ask their students to do are not best practice. If we are to maximise learning, we need to ensure that all work in class is not just 'busy work’ but provides meaningful learning opportunities for students. Strategies and activities need to be worth doing, first and foremost, and easy and quick to prepare.