Programming guidelines for primary languages teachers

Programming guidelines and advice for language teachers in primary schools using the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022).

These pages provide advice only. It is the responsibility of individual school executive and teaching staff to ensure record keeping is compliant with both NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) and departmental requirements and policies.

We will guide you through the elements of a program and link each element to the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus within the context of teaching a language in K–6.

To help inform and support your teaching practice, it is essential that you explore all aspects of the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus, including the rationale and aim. This will provide insight into the principles underpinning the syllabus and assist in programming effectively.


Programming is the process through which teachers select and sequence teaching, learning and assessment experiences that cater for diverse learners in a particular year or stage.

A program is all the documents involved in the overall planning for each language and year or stage.

Effective programs enable you to:

  • plan for the delivery of syllabus outcomes and content
  • improve student learning outcomes
  • respond to student learning needs, school context, self-reflection and evaluation
  • record planned learning experiences of how syllabus requirements are met.

Programs are evidence of compliance in NESA’s registration process for schools.

The department also sets additional requirements, outlined in the Curriculum planning and programming, assessing and reporting to parents K–12 policy.

Programs also ensure the continuity of quality learning for students. It allows substitute teachers to continue teaching during periods of absence.


Teachers are required to keep a record of what they have taught. Teachers and schools may approach this differently. For example, some teachers may annotate units of work, indicating when activities and tasks were completed by each class and noting any adjustments that were required, including a self-reflection. Other teachers may have their register as a separate document. It will depend on the requirements of your school.

Elements of a program

For each language and year or stage, your program should include the following elements:

  • scope and sequence
  • units
  • assessment.

Scope and sequences are flexible documents that are designed to help teachers respond to student needs, as identified through ongoing assessment. They provide a brief overview of the key concepts and ideas addressed in learning and teaching programs for an individual stage or year.

For example, you may have one unit for each term of learning that focuses on a particular theme or topic.

NESA requires that scope and sequences include (for each unit):

  • the title
  • the sequence for the year or stage
  • the duration
  • syllabus outcomes.

While not required by NESA for school registration, the department recommends including the following in your scope and sequence, for each unit:

  • an overview of the unit
  • a short description of the summative or communicative assessment task.

Incorporating these elements supports a backward mapping approach to assessment and provides a reminder of what skills students will need to successfully demonstrate achievement of the outcomes and content in the context of the unit.

Students need to understand the context, purpose and audience for communication to be meaningful. These elements need to be clearly articulated when describing the communicative assessment task for each unit on your scope and sequence, such as Early Stage 1: Sample scope and sequence (DOCX 95 KB)

With only 3 outcomes per stage, most units in your scope and sequence should address, though not necessarily assess, all outcomes. When designing your communicative assessment task for each unit, avoid targeting the same outcomes and content each time. By assessing all outcomes across a year or stage, you provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their achievement more broadly.

When designing your scope and sequence, ensure that language and concepts are revisited regularly and with increased complexity. The acquisition of a language is a cumulative process, so a continuous and sequenced approach is essential when planning what you will teach.

Revisiting what they have learned allows students to use their language skills to participate in more complex situations. This approach allows students to develop their skills gradually, reinforcing and growing vocabulary and grammatical structures over time. As a result, students’ knowledge is deepened and broadened and they are more likely to feel successful by building on prior learning.

When planning your scope and sequence, use the checklist provided in the scope and sequence checklist (DOCX 61 KB)

NESA's Advice on units states that ‘a unit is a plan of the intended teaching and learning for a particular class for a particular period of time.’

Like a plan, a unit is a flexible, working document that teachers will adapt to suit the needs of their class and individual students.

Units summarise the teaching and learning strategies, resources and assessments, both formative and summative, for a particular set of outcomes and content in the syllabus. They also include planned adjustments to accommodate the learning needs of students where required and opportunities for reflection and evaluation.

NESA requires that a unit includes:

  • a unit description
  • syllabus outcomes
  • the duration
  • the year or stage
  • integrated teaching and learning activities
  • differentiation catering to a range of student abilities and interests
  • opportunities to collect evidence of student achievement
  • subject-specific requirements (where relevant)
  • resources
  • reflection and evaluation
  • adjustments for students with disability, where appropriate.

Although not required by NESA for school registration, the department recommends that you:

  1. design your communicative (summative) assessment task first
  2. backward map your unit including teaching and learning activities and planned formative assessment activities
  3. provide ongoing feedback and allow time for reflection as the unit progresses to keep students engaged in their learning journey and allow them to identify their individual learning goals (learn more in the assessment section).

Organise your unit into sequences of learning that break down aspects of the final communicative task, with clear learning intentions and success criteria. By ‘chunking’ students’ learning in this manner, each sequence builds upon the previous one, guiding students towards achieving proficiency in specific aspects of the final task. This approach effectively supports students in developing the necessary skills to succeed in the communicative task.

For example, if the final communicative assessment task for Stage 2 requires students to create a video demonstrating how to prepare a culturally relevant recipe, you may consider breaking your unit into the sequences, learning intentions and success criteria provided in this table.

Sample learning sequence (condensed)

Learning sequence focus

Learning intentions

Success criteria

Formative assessment opportunities

Types of food

Students will learn:

  • vocabulary related to different types of food and ingredients
  • information about culturally relevant food

Students can:

  • name a range of common foods, used in recipes
Students read a culturally relevant recipe and identify the deliberate mistakes with the food vocabulary. (ML2-UND-01)

Time connectives and imperative verbs

Students learn:

  • how to say common time connectives, for example: firstly, then, next, finally.
  • how to say common imperative verbs related to cooking, for example: cut, pour, mix.

Students can:

  • pronounce [Language] words correctly
  • match [Language] words with the English translation
Intentional observation of students playing a memory game with time connectives and imperative verbs written in [Language] and in English (ML2-UND-01)

Students learn:

  • how to write a simple recipe in [Language]

Students can:

  • write sentences that include time connectives, imperative verbs and ingredients.
  • write words and/or sentences using script or diacritics (markings such as accents)
Students use a scaffold to write a recipe of a simple cultural dish (ML2-CRT-01)

Assessment provides opportunities for teachers to gather evidence about student achievement in relation to syllabus outcomes, including a range of student work samples.

The primary role of assessment is to establish where students are in their learning so that teaching can be differentiated, and further learning progress can be monitored over time. It provides information that assists teachers to target their teaching at the point of student need. Assessment is most effective when it is an integral part of teaching and learning programs.

Assessment involves:

  • establishing where students are in their learning
  • ongoing monitoring
  • formative and summative tasks
  • providing feedback about student progress.

Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2022.

Five elements of effective assessment practice

The five elements of effective assessment practice should be embedded in units. The practices are:

  • establishing learning intentions that are drawn from the relevant syllabus and clearly describe what students should know, understand and be able to do at the conclusion of a unit of work
  • creating success criteria that describe what success looks like in relation to the learning intentions and are co-created by students and teachers
  • providing explicit descriptive feedback to students in a timely manner and ensuring that it is clearly understood by students
  • building the capacity of students to peer assess and self-assess using the success criteria as a reference
  • developing the capacity for individual goal-setting by students, which includes students asking questions, such as ‘What do I need to improve?’ and ‘What is my next step?’

Formative assessment

Formative assessment aims to close the gap between where a student is now and where they need to be, to successfully demonstrate their achievement of the outcomes. Teachers use evidence of students’ knowledge, understanding and skills to both guide their teaching and provide feedback to students on their learning and ways to improve.

It is important to plan opportunities that allow students to discover where they are now and enable them to plan how to progress to the next stage of their learning.

For example:

  • pre-testing for prior knowledge before starting a unit
  • providing teaching and learning activities that allow students to practise new vocabulary and skills and receive feedback to support their success in the summative assessment task.
  • using the intentional observation checklist (DOCX 73 KB) when students are engaged in activities
  • providing effective feedback, including peer feedback and self-reflection opportunities.

Summative assessment

Summative assessment provides evidence of students’ achievement of learning intentions and outcomes against standards, measuring student success at a point in time. Like all assessment, it provides an opportunity to provide feedback to students on their progress.

For students in K to 2, you can provide a visual rubric that demonstrates how successful they have been in meeting the agreed success criteria.

For students in Years 3 to 6, it is good practice to provide them with an assessment task notification at the start of the unit. This notification should include a clear task description, marking criteria and marking guidelines to help them plan and link their learning. Allow time to discuss the task, then revisit the task at various points throughout the unit, so students are reminded of why each sequence of learning is relevant.

As communication is the central goal of language learning in the syllabus, summative assessment should take the form of real-world or simulated real-world tasks. Students should understand the context, purpose and audience of the communicative act.

For example: you’ve recently moved in a new neighbourhood and have lost your pet. Talk to your neighbour and describe your pet in [Language] so that they can help find your pet.

In this task the students are conducting a conversation. The context is that they have lost their pet, the audience is their neighbour and the purpose is to describe the pet to their neighbour and ask if they would help find the pet.

By designing your summative assessment first, then backward mapping your teaching, learning and formative assessment opportunities, you are supporting your students to develop the skills required for effective communication.

Assessment opportunities must be inclusive of and accessible for all students. It is important to consider how you will support the needs of all students by, for example:

  • providing a scaffold
  • allowing the use of assitive technology to communicate
  • negotiating a plan to prepare students for a summative assessment task.

The syllabus

Most language teachers in NSW primary schools use the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus for planning, programming and assessing purposes.

Teachers of Aboriginal Languages, Auslan and Classical Languages may find this information relevant to their needs.

The Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022) states that ‘communication is the central goal of language learning’. All teaching, learning and assessment activities designed for your program should focus on developing students’ ability to communicate in the target language.

Students apply knowledge of language systems (including the sounds, vocabulary, grammar and script of the language) and develop intercultural capability (the capacity to exchange, understand and create meaning between people and across languages and cultures), as they communicate across 3 focus areas of interacting, understanding texts and creating texts.

Each focus area has 3 stage-based outcomes

Stage Interacting Understanding texts Creating texts
Early Stage 1


exchanges meaning through play and actions by reproducing culturally appropriate modelled language


responds to information in simple texts in a variety of ways to demonstrate understanding


creates simple texts by reproducing culturally appropriate modelled vocabulary

Stage 1


exchanges meaning by selecting culturally appropriate modelled language


recognises and responds to information in simple texts to demonstrate understanding


creates simple texts by selecting culturally appropriate modelled language

Stage 2


exchanges information in familiar contexts by selecting culturally appropriate modelled language


identifies and responds to information in texts to demonstrate understanding


creates texts for familiar communicative purposes by selecting culturally appropriate modelled language

Stage 3


exchanges information and opinions in familiar contexts by using culturally appropriate rehearsed language


identifies and responds to information and opinions in texts to demonstrate understanding


creates a range of texts for familiar communicative purposes by using culturally appropriate rehearsed language

Syllabus groups and content

Syllabus content groups and content are annotated. The heading 'Exchanging meaning in oral interaction in the target language' is labelled as 'Content group'. The dot points that fall under that heading are the 'Content'.

Image: Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2022.

All content is considered ‘essential learning’ for students to demonstrate achievement of the outcome. As such, when designing units, you should program for all the content and adjust the time required for attainment, depending on student ability and proficiency. While most of your units will address all outcomes, each unit does not need to cover all the content points for each outcome. These can be covered across a stage of learning.

The examples in NESA’s digital curriculum and the teaching advice provide guidance on how the outcomes and content should be interpreted and applied. For example, ascertaining students’ pre-existing knowledge, including their existing target language skills and interests, means you can design learning that is more engaging.

Organisation of content groups

Syllabus content is represented through content groups and dot points. Each outcome has 3 content group headings:

  • The first describes how students can demonstrate the required communication skills and functions.
  • The second describes how students can use their knowledge of language systems to communicate.
  • The third content group heading describes how students can demonstrate intercultural understanding through language learning.

When reviewing and planning for the content, the following diagram may assist you in understanding the layout of the syllabus.

Image: Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2022.

Macro skills

The syllabus also identifies which macro skills, or language modes (speaking, listening, reading and writing), are addressed in each focus area. When designing your teaching and learning activities across the unit as a whole, all 4 macro skills should be addressed through a range of contexts.

Image: Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2022.

When planning your unit, use our unit checklist (DOCX 64 KB).

Resource evaluation and support – All curriculum resources are prepared through a rigorous process. Resources are periodically reviewed as part of our ongoing evaluation plan to ensure currency, relevance, and effectiveness. For additional support or advice, contact the Languages and Culture team by emailing

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs – Curriculum Planning and Programming, Assessing and Reporting to Parents K–12 Policy

Alignment to the School Excellence Framework – This resource supports the School Excellence Framework elements of curriculum (teaching and learning programs).

Alignment to Australian Professional Teaching Standards – This resource supports teachers to address Australian Professional Teaching Standards 2.2.2, 2.3.2, 3.2.2.

Consulted with – Curriculum and Reform and subject matter experts

NSW syllabus – Modern Languages K-10 Syllabus

Author – Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners

Publisher – State of NSW, Department of Education

Resource – Programming guidelines

Related resources – Further resources to support Modern Languages can be found on the Languages curriculum page.

Professional learning – Relevant professional learning is available through the Languages statewide staffroom (entry survey link for staff only).

Creation date – 8 September 2023

Rights – © State of New South Wales, Department of Education

This resource contains NSW Curriculum and syllabus content. The NSW Curriculum is developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority. This content is prepared by NESA for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales. The material is protected by Crown copyright.

Please refer to the NESA Copyright Disclaimer for more information.

NESA holds the only official and up-to-date versions of the NSW Curriculum and syllabus documents. Please visit the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website and the NSW Curriculum website.

Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2022.

NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) (2022) ‘Advice on scope and sequences’, Programming, NESA website, accessed 10 August 2023.

NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) (2022) ‘Advice on units’, Programming, NESA website, accessed 10 August 2023.

NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) (2022) ‘Proficient Teacher: Standard descriptors’, The Standards, NESA website, accessed 10 August 2023.


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