Plotting students on the literacy continuum

The better we understand student development in literacy, the more able we are to support achievement of syllabus outcomes and enhance student learning.

There are several ways to use the continuum to track and monitor student progress, depending on

  • which students you wish to track
  • the purpose of the tracking
  • your familiarity with the critical aspects.

The continuum helps us with questions such as:

  • What is expected at this time?
  • Where are my students now?
  • What next for my teaching?

Step 1

Locate the cluster closest to the current year or stage of the students.

This gives you a sense of what is expected of students at a point across each of the aspects of literacy. Read through all aspects first. This will give you a perspective on the whole cluster.

Note: Most clusters represent the end of the year behaviours, so the cluster is what students are working towards.

Step 2

Focus on one critical aspect at a time.

Examine all the markers in the cluster. Then read through the markers for clusters before and after this cluster.
This will help you get a sense of the development of the skills, knowledge and behaviours.
Collect work samples to support your impressions.

Step 3

Identify where the majority of your students are. This is where you focus your teaching.
Draw on work samples, your existing data, and your knowledge of the students at this point to make your judgement.
There may be particular markers that you are unsure of and may need to gather more information. These can be the focus for further teaching/assessment.


The interactive version of the continuum has a compare function. Click on three clusters of markers, to examine them side-by-side. These can be printed.

Where to next with your students?

Most students Some students A few students
You will have identified markers that the majority of students are ready to work on. You may have identified markers that a particular group of students need to focus on. You may have identified a marker that a few students find challenging.
This is the ideal starting point for teaching. This can be a target for differentiation. These students will require further differentiation.


1. Regularly revisit the continuum – The NSW literacy continuum K-10 is most informative when used for multiple viewings. The more observation of your students that you do, the more you will understand how the eight critical aspects develop in different subjects. By using and revisiting the continuum, you will also build further knowledge about student literacy development across the curriculum.

2. Whole – part – whole – Look at all the aspects for one cluster for a clear description of literacy behaviours for the whole student. You will be able to see how the critical aspects interrelate. Then you can focus on one or more particular aspects. Look back at how these connect, and how they differ in different subjects.

3. Look forward – Develop your knowledge of where your students need to be, in order to access stage appropriate outcomes in each syllabus (i.e. the cluster closest to their year). Focus on what students can do, and use these strong aspects to build connections across weaker areas.

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