Standards for Teachers of English Language and Literacy in Australia
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2.1 Teachers plan for effective learning

2.2 Teachers create and maintain a challenging learning environment

How does the teacher plan for all students to have the confidence to take risks in English/Literacy learning?

How does the teacher enable students to engage with and make connections between school and community-based literacies?

  Writing narrative
Years 3/4
Gayle Adams

In primary schools today, teachers usually teach through integrated topics of work, planning and catering for English within the context of the topic. Teachers model a variety of genres through careful choice of text (to fit the topic), and provide a spelling focus which comes from topic-related vocabulary.

Tina and her team of Year 3/4 teachers decided to have a 'stand alone' English topic once or twice a year to ensure coverage of the English CSF outcomes (this follows on from an audit of English over the past two years). The topics might include a specific focus on Literature, or perhaps give high priority to drama.

In term two, the teaching team chose to focus on reading and writing narrative during their English topic. The topic chosen was 'Fairy Tales', but provision was made to include an additional study of both stereotyping and bullying. Tina was keen to build in a student welfare dimension as she provides a very strong student welfare component to her teaching. She was able to pick up the bullying aspect through the topic, relating characters from texts to situations which had happened at school. Students were able to role-play a variety of situations without needing to highlight any personal involvement.

Tina always plans thoughtfully when introducing a new unit of work. She realises the importance of teacher 'modelling' before asking students to 'do'. In this instance she immersed her students in narrative texts through the sharing of reading experiences and the modelling of narrative writing.

As in all primary classes, Tina has students with a vast range of abilities and background experiences. Some students find writing difficult, but Tina encourages them and allows time for personal writing. These students are now eager for the opportunity to write. Others are able to write quality pieces which reflect their ability and the teaching that has extended their development.

Tina also ensures that students understand the proof-reading and editing processes. She spends much time at the beginning of the year teaching, explaining and modelling editing techniques with small groups or the whole class, using 'wall stories' or examples of student's writing on overheads.

A recent example of introducing narrative writing which Tina planned, involved writing about things that are 'special' to us. She discussed with students that these could be objects, people or places, and focussed on the feelings engendered by that special thing. Because of her strong commitment to welfare as well as good English teaching, her students respect and value the contributions of each other and have a great empathy for individual experiences.

Tina had brought to the class examples of special items that had some significance for her, and she also discussed a personal relationship she had with her grandmother. When it was time for the students to write, no child had any difficulty getting started, or in producing a piece of writing appropriate to their level of development. All of them were able to write a narrative and to share it with others.

For Tina, and many of the students, a piece written by a young boy who is in foster care, and whose siblings are in various other foster care situations, provoked real emotion and many tears amongst his class mates and teacher. The student wrote about the specialness of his family, and his desire for his family to be together again.

That children of this age who would normally write about a special toy, pet or holiday experience, could be so moved by such a narrative and also value its implications, shows the dedication and special nature of this great teacher.

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Australian Association for the Teaching of English A L E A ~ Australian Literacy Educators' Assoication
Department of Education & Training (Victoria) Education Department of Western Australia