Transcript of The English K–10 syllabus and using texts

SPEAKER

ANNETTE GRAY

OK. Are we ready? Ah, hello, everybody. Welcome to Syllabus PLUS: The English K-10 Syllabus and choosing texts. This is the third in the Syllabus PLUS sessions that we're running from Oxford Street for using the new syllabus. My name's Annette Gray. I'm working with my colleague Catherine Thomson and we're going to be presenting this session for you.

CATHERINE THOMSON

Hello, everyone.

ANNETTE GRAY

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, and pay our respects to elders past and present. We acknowledge the contributions of Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians to the education of all children and people in this country we all live in and share together - Australia. Alright, everybody, now, our learning intentions for this session. We're really going to focus on what we do when we are preparing to work with texts. So, what we want you to have a look at is you will continue to develop your deep understanding of the important role of text in the NSW English K-10 Syllabus. You already have a really good knowledge of how we use text and how we can use text, and we'll be extending that. Secondly, to extend your understanding of ways to use texts when you're planning for students to respond to and compose texts, to explore the range of texts that can be utilised in the study of English in K-10, and to know how to enrich learning in English through texts. Now, I'm not quite sure whether we'll get to all of those today, but we'll see how we go. By the end of the session, we are hoping that you will know the expectations regarding text of the NSW English K-10 Syllabus. The expectations are different from our current syllabus, and it's important that we get our heads around that idea now. I want you to understand how using a wide range of texts in the study of English can address multiple demands of the English K-10 Syllabus, particularly cross-curriculum content. This is looking to be a bit of an issue for some people, but this is a way that we can address it all and address it very successfully. The third part is to be able to apply this new knowledge and understanding to the planning process as we prepare for the beginnings of implementation of the new NSW English K-10 Syllabus. Now they all seem to be self-explanatory, but we want to actually check these are happening on the way through. So keep thinking, make notes, and if you have any questions after this, then please make sure you contact either Catherine or me about them. Just a note here - if we have syllabus outcomes and content pages used in this presentation, they refer to the print version of the syllabus. It's Volume 1 English K-6 because that's our focus for today - although the principles that we're talking about are applicable K-10 - published by the Board of Studies, Sydney, in 2012. I'm going to hand over to my colleague Catherine, who will take us through this diagram.

CATHERINE THOMSON

Hi, everyone. Well, really, we've put this diagram in because we want to show you that the main purpose of the syllabus is to make meaning through language. And how do we do that? We do that through texts, via responding and composing. So responding is reading, viewing and listening, and composing is writing, representing and speaking. Now, texts are central to the study of English because in the rationale it says, "English is the study and use of language in its various textual forms." So right from the beginning, texts play an incredibly important role in the study of English K-10. So let's just have a look at the processes in the syllabus. The first process is engaging personally with texts. Now, from the diagram we just saw, the main processes are responding and composing, but these add to the responding and composing of texts. Engaging personally with texts is about increasing student agency, enjoyment and personal preference. We then look at developing and applying contextual knowledge, and this is where we look at the contextual knowledge of the text, the context that the text was created in, and very often you can be looking at whole text level. We then move down to understanding and applying knowledge about language forms and features. And this is where we're looking at the language structures and features of the text. And we move right down to respond and compose to texts, OK? And this is where students use their own compositions and they respond to texts in... they articulate their thinking and feeling about texts. Now, these processes aren't linear but what they do represent is a woven effect of starting with engaging personally with the text and moving right down to responding but then dipping back into engaging and developing and understanding as we go.

ANNETTE GRAY

The...most important thing, I think, out of what Catherine's just been speaking about is that firstly we're looking at engaging personally with texts and that's what's the focus of what we're talking about today. Because students now have permission and we have permission to keep text right at the forefront of what we're doing, this makes it so important. So the text selection is important too, and this is where we can begin to draw on our knowledge and our understanding about text. The quote from the syllabus is, In this syllabus, the study of a wide range of texts is central to the study of English." Now, what this means is, when we are making meaning through language, when we are composing, writing, speaking, representing, when we are responding, reading, listening and viewing, we cannot just give our students one text or two texts. The whole range of texts. We need a wide range, we need a variety of texts, and we get that guidance from the syllabus. So we select the texts. It's not we just have them in the room. We don't select them on topic necessarily. We have to be looking much more deeply into the texts to see what we're going to be offering to people.

CATHERINE THOMSON

We like to say, "Look for the English in the text." And I think when you start looking at the text with that lens, you start to see interesting things in texts.

ANNETTE GRAY

Now, Aidan Chambers wrote in 'Tell Me' in 1994, "If we're going to choose texts to read or to work with our students, then the text..." - - and he spoke about the book because there was really only books and images then - "..will contain within it the potentialities for our talk." And the talk is very much part of responding and very much part of composing. And the elements that we need in there are "subject matter, ideas, language and image, provocations to memory". And for those of you who are working with a focus on reading strategies, that making connections is absolutely crucial to how our students respond to texts. "And so on." So that "choosing a book is a high-value activity". It's a high-value activity because the texts that we choose have to contain a myriad of elements, and these are some of the important ones. Now Aidan Chambers, as I say, was writing in 1994. His website is there. He has engaged with multimedia texts and multimodal texts very actively, and you can check out his website there. Now what the syllabus says is that students in K-6 must - and it's not a possible, it's a must - read, listen to and view a variety of texts that are appropriate to their needs - and that's their needs in English and as students and in other KLAs - their interests and abilities. And the texts become increasingly sophisticated as students move from Kindergarten to Year 6. And this is extremely important that we have that richness of texts so that we can give our students the wide range and they will be able to apply their interests to it, but we have to have that increase in sophistication. We have to help our children move on from where they are. It's no good... It's wonderful when a child discovers Roald Dahl and explores every Roald Dahl book, but it's our job to make sure that they move on from Roald Dahl, and provide them with introductions to many other authors and many other types of texts. In each year, students must study examples of spoken texts, print texts, visual texts, media, multimedia and digital texts. And in the session that we ran recently, somebody asked if spoken texts were just that - that you can't have the print form - and that is correct. So a spoken text is one where you have somebody speaking. We have numerous recordings of spoken texts which are available to use and which we can access, and kids can make their own spoken texts in the classroom as well. When we select texts, we have to consider, first of all, the English concept being taught. Now, we're focusing on this as a strategy for developing our programming and planning skills - that you work with an English concept. And basically all that is is "What's the English in this? Where is the English?" So if we're going to be working on a unit of learning, then we need to have an English idea or a big English idea - paramount. And these ones come out of the syllabus. So the English idea, or the concept, could be characterisation, it could be point of view, or many others of those English concepts that we know and understand. We also have to look at the needs of our students in all modes. So what do my students need as readers? That's certainly very important and we're very good at that. But what do they also need as listeners and viewers? And we need to be really aware of the types of texts that we're going to be presenting our students to provide them with a range, and also what they need to be able to develop these skills. And the third element is the range of texts. They must be spoken, they must be written, visual, media and so on.

CATHERINE THOMSON

And it's really nice to look at the links there. The Board have said they need to study spoken texts. Well, that's where you consider their needs are listeners. The Board have said written texts. That's where we look at their needs of readers. And visual texts - that's where we can look at the needs of viewers. So it works really nicely with the text requirements. Alright. Across a stage, students must be given experience of - and here we've taken a screenshot right from the syllabus - texts which are widely regarded as quality literature, widely defined Australian literature, including insights into Aboriginal experiences. Texts from other times and countries. Texts written about intercultural experiences. Texts that provide insights about people and cultures of Asia. Everyday and community texts. A wide range of factual texts. Texts that include aspects of environmental and social sustainability. And an appropriate range of digital texts. Now when you read through this, one of the things that might stand out for you is that many of these texts that students must experience link really nicely with the learning across the curriculum content in the syllabus. And let's just have a look at how that might work. So if we're...when we're... If we want to look at Aboriginal perspectives, we can use texts that give insights into Aboriginal experiences in Australia. So instead of using every text in the unit about Aboriginal insight, we might select a lot of text if we're looking at point of view or characterisation or how information is represented, and one of those texts might be about Aboriginal experiences to give that perspective. Another might be literature from another time, another might be Asia. So students are getting that comparing and contrasting, and we're not stereotyping anything in any way. And we are always getting that point of view the way we weave our text together. So it's a really nice way to explore the text and the learning across the curriculum content together. OK, the syllabus also talks about quality literature. And you see that a lot. It's referenced a lot. And here's a quote directly from the syllabus - in this syllabus, the study of a wide range of texts is central to the study of English." Now, we've just unpacked that part. But "This includes the study of texts which are widely regarded as quality literature." What is quality literature? Well, if you go to the glossary in the syllabus, this is the definition that the Board of Studies have. Literally means anything written, but the term is generally associated with works of imagination, fictional and non-fictional. It is often used to mean texts that are highly regarded examples of their forms and media." So it really walks away from just the written idea, and now we can have multimedia texts, we can have multimodal texts, and we can obviously have print and visual texts. And if we explore some of them here. Film. Film can be literature. Now, this is 'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore', available on YouTube, wonderful quality literature. We also have 'The Diary of Anne Frank'. Of course, quality literature in a more traditional thinking. We have this wonderful site that the ABC has put together, 'Sharing Our Stories'. And on this site, we can listen to Aboriginal people share their stories in their own language. We obviously have traditional texts that we all know, and of course now we can use YouTube to harness things like Paul Keating's Redfern address, which has become a fine example of a speech. And of course it's now regarded as literature. Down here, we have things that you'll know, 'Dear Zoo' - an easy one to say is literature. And something that's new out at the moment, the 'Big Red Kangaroo', which is an informative text but probably over time we will classify that as literature as well. So you can really see that literature doesn't have to be written. It can be film, it can be spoken, and we can now harness that technology to immerse our students in such quality texts. The syllabus also talks about workplace and everyday texts, and if you look in the glossary, there's a lot of examples of workplace and everyday texts. But essentially you can think about workplace and everyday texts as authentic texts, texts that may not be regarded as literature but they are authentic, and that's very important as well. So catalogues, takeaway menus - yes, we all have to learn to navigate them and use them. So they're workplace and everyday texts. Over here, we've got a school newsletter, a fabulous example of a written everyday text. We have this web page splash here. And this is the new ABC site, which is actually called 'Splash'. Now, this is the home page. This is regarded as an everyday text because students need to know how to navigate it, how to find the information, how to know where they are, how to select what they're looking for, and how to interpret digital and multimodal texts. We have up here what we might like to look at as spoken everyday texts - Kevin Rudd's speech at the election and Tony Abbott's acceptance speech. And, of course, we have down here, the speech Malala gave to the United Nations that we could use, again, as a spoken text, or we could print off the transcript and use it as a written text. So we have visual texts, we have written texts, we have spoken texts, and they are all everyday and workplace texts.

ANNETTE GRAY

One of the interesting things about teachers, of course, is that we're all sponges and we all are constantly on the lookout for material that we can use in our classrooms, and this syllabus offers us the opportunity to be able to look at texts with new eyes and to look at new texts in interesting ways, because literature is not static and a given. And it's built on context and it's built on the structures that we use to view texts. So when we are... Sorry. When we are looking at text, something like Paul Keating's Redfern speech may not be literature when it happens, but it may come to be viewed as literature over time. Malala's speech may very well come to be viewed as literature over time. But what we need to be aware of as teachers is these opportunities for us to be able to draw on what is current and interesting and exciting. It doesn't mean we have to lower our standards. What it means is that we can utilise those things that are around us all the time. Now, Robyn Ewing and Alyson Simpson are researchers who have done a lot of work on working with literature with children, working with texts with children, and they suggest that the texts in the classroom should have these characteristics. And I think if we can use these, they will help to drive us and to make sure that our kids are getting the best possible exposure to texts that they can. Firstly, it needs to be real and not controlled language. Even in a speech, the language is authentic, it is real language. It is designed for a specific purpose. Must be rich in words and/or images." If we constantly feed back to our students just the level of vocabulary and understanding that they can understand now, then they don't grow. So it behoves us to extend and explore and show them and give them the opportunities to investigate richness in words and images. Should "be multi-layered in meaning". And there's no real issue with kids not getting all the meanings in a text, but they do need to have that opportunity to be able to look below the surface and really start to see that there are other layers in meanings. And again, the work on focus on reading really helps here because it gets kids beyond that just literal, superficial understanding of text and takes them into what texts can mean. So you can certainly utilise those strategies when you're working with text. They should "be intellectually challenging". And all students are capable of having intellectual challenge. Certainly our Early Stage 1 children are very well aware of many intellectual ideas and many complex ideas. They don't need to just have simplistic text being presented to them. Being provocative. I think it should ask for challenge and ask for change and ask for kids to have their ideas exposed and looked at and to be able to be talked about. This is part of what the intellectual process is about. And texts can do that. And they should "represent life in an artistic manner". This is what English is about. That, yes, it can be raw and it can be hard and it can be interesting and it can be exciting and it can be beautiful, but we need to have that artistic element in there to show that this is a representation of life.

CATHERINE THOMSON

Annette, can I just add that the real and not controlled language is incredibly important for students that have an English background other than English because we need to be modelling to them the real language and not the controlled language that we might find in some texts that aren't quality texts or authentic texts.

ANNETTE GRAY

And this is not a snobbishness thing, and it's not a status thing. It's simply saying, "Let's be careful. Let's use our skills as teachers about what we know about texts. Let's bring that to our students to make sure that their learning is as rich as possible." They only get one go at it. We can keep come back doing it year after year, but our kids only get one go in our class and it's up to us to make that the richest we possibly can. Now, here are some of the resources. And, look, it's some. We haven't even begun to really look and we've got a blank space there ready for the next one. One of the online resources that we offer is 'Engaging personally with texts in K-6'. That's available through the Building Capacity Resources - Catherine, is that correct? Through the Building Capacity Resources, through the DET...DEC website. Jon... Primary English Teaching Association of Australia puts out dozens of books. And every year, they produce excellent materials. This is four of them that have been published relatively recently. 'The Shape of Text to Come' by Jon Callow is a very, very rich text which describes the grammar and the structure of visual text and online text. It's a fascinating book and you will find masses of stuff in there which will inform you and support you as you explore some of these new texts. 'Reading Under the Covers' is another PETAA publication, and that's about authors. It focuses on authors and their different types of texts that they produce and why and gives you some background to them. 'Read & Reflect' is actually a discussion process that you can go through with your students if you're a bit nervous about starting off with... just working through a range of texts, this will help you. The Children's Book Council of Australia puts out their shortlist every year, of course, and we've our winners this year, just recently announced. The website is a wonderful resource for looking at texts and for having a look at what texts are available. The bottom right-hand corner there, 'Suggested Texts', this is a document that's been published by the Board of Studies. I think there's about 350 titles in there, so there are things that we can explore. The other person right smack in the middle there is the librarian. Our librarians know books. They know resources. They know texts. They know visual texts. They have a whole heap of knowledge and information that they can share with us and I'm sure every librarian in the state would be just delighted that they are being foregrounded as a resource for providing masses of texts to our students. Don't be frightened about exploring texts. We need to be going into all sorts of places to find where we can access this interesting and these rich texts. Now, what we also offer is... Catherine's prepared several Pinterest pages. She's got several boards. The address is there. Please use them. And Pinterest is an app where you can take images and put some information there too. So, Catherine has... Would you like to just talk about that, Catherine, and say what the four elements are that you have, the four pages?

CATHERINE THOMSON

Yeah. I... I'll just... There's that arrow. I've foregrounded four boards. I think we've got more than that now. 'Short films for the study of primary English'. We've got documentaries and we've got all sorts of things on there. And they're all short. I don't think any one goes for longer than 15 minutes. We've got a board for 'Texts for Teachers' where we're adding texts that we think steer teachers in a really good direction and are practical. We've also got 'Apps for responding and composing' because obviously, just as well as viewing and reading those digital texts, we have to compose digitally as well. And there's some fabulous apps for that that will record our speaking and we can create and represent and do all sorts of things. The syllabus is very big on the idea of playing with words. And so we've got some texts here that we've selected that really play with words in a beautiful way. We've also got other boards as well. So if you go up here to the main address, you'll see all our boards. And please follow us or pin it. And the reason I've done Pinterest is because it is visual. And it's very easy for you to say, Oh, yes, I've seen that in my library. Oh, yes, I've seen that in the bookshop and know what it is" and I think that's nicer than reading a title and trying to remember what it is.

ANNETTE GRAY

Now, with all of our work, we need to come back to quality programming and the documents, of course, that inform that are the 'Quality teaching in NSW Public Schools'. And what we're looking at, what we need to be doing, what we need to be providing for our students in our classrooms is making sure that we are providing the best possible teaching and learning that we can. Now, our job is to translate the syllabus, not to give the kids the syllabus but to translate the syllabus into specific classroom programs, lessons, and learning activities. And what we need to do - and this is why we're emphasising this preparation for planning and planning for programming before we launch into actually producing units of learning - is...what we need to do is really select and organise all that essential knowledge, the understandings and the skills and values from the syllabus, but with this new syllabus we have to do it around central concepts or those main ideas. It's coming back to that 'What is the English here?' So we can do a unit of work on loneliness or on making friends but that's not in the syllabus. So, while the idea is a good one, it doesn't fit in English. We can provide books about this, we can have a look at the book, we can study one text, but it's not going to give us the English. So if we're interested in dealing with something like that, then we need to really think carefully about where it fits. If we're talking about loneliness, then what that is - it's about interpersonal communication, interpersonal relationships, and that fits very firmly in PD, Health, PE. It can be represented in English and we can look at it that way through some books, but we must keep coming back to - what is the English that I'm supposed to be teaching? Once our lessons are focused on the concepts or ideas - that what is the Englishness? - the main task... Our main task in those lessons is developing students' deep understanding of the selected English knowledge, the selected English understandings, the English skills and values, and the connections among them. We need to keep that paramount at the top of our thinking.

CATHERINE THOMSON

And through our text selection, that is one way of developing the deep understanding. OK, so we're just going to wrap up now and we're going back to this idea that I mentioned at the very beginning. That "English is the study and use of the English language in its various textual forms." So that is why selecting texts is so incredibly important. Really, it's at the centre of everything we do in English. And, of course, "These encompass spoken, written and visual texts of varying complexity through which meaning is shaped, conveyed, interpreted and reflected." And this comes back to - what are the students doing? They're composing and responding, or they're responding and composing. They work together like Yin and Yang. If you would like to explore these definitions of 'responding and composing' further - because for some primary teachers, there's a few nuances that we have to iron out - use this and go back to the syllabus, look at the definition, find some sample content from the syllabus, and then think about what this might look like in your classroom. And this is a really nice activity to do as a stage or a team to really further develop your understanding of responding and composing. And this was developed by a wonderful ESL teacher at Canley Vale Public School, Mira Najdovska. So thank you for that, Mira. Now, we have another session coming up next term. We have another two sessions. We're exploring literacy and the English syllabus, and then we're looking at teaching strategies and the new English syllabus as well. But as you know, at anytime, please email either Annette or myself, or give us a call, and we can help you in any way that you would like. Annette, did you have anything to add?

ANNETTE GRAY

Nothing, except to say good luck with it. Go and explore as many books as you possibly can. Choose the texts that are going to be rich. Don't focus on one only. Get out there and have a really good look at what's available. This is a really exciting time. We're not expected to get this syllabus absolutely right before January or February in 2014. What we're doing is getting ready to make sure that as we explore this syllabus with our students and as we explore this new approach to texts, we are able to learn and to develop our skills so that our students get the richest possible learning that they can. Thanks, everybody. Good luck with it.

CATHERINE THOMSON

Goodbye.

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