Tangara literacy program builds staff and student skills

Students and their teacher work on a literacy task using small white boards

Online learning has helped strengthen teacher collaboration and moved students towards their literacy goals at Tangara Public School.

Tangara is a school for specific purposes that educates students from 4 to 18 years with multiple complex disabilities.

While students were learning offsite, the school continued an ongoing program that sees students do uninterrupted literacy work for an hour every school morning. Staff were allowed to view any online learning session taking place across the school in order to encourage open conversations around student progress.

The team received feedback from other teachers on their practice and worked together to improve resourcing for student groups, which place students together who have similar literacy goals as part of their personalised learning plans.

Staff hope the groups will eventually allow for greater collection of data that will help them further refine their practice.

Principal Sarah Hillyer introduced the groups to ensure every student spent time every day working towards his or her specific goals in literacy.

“In order to do that they needed to be able to work in a group at a similar level of ability regardless of their age, and have feedback to make their learning visible and increase engagement,” Ms Hillyer said. “Not allowing interruptions during the literacy hour has showed the importance we place in literacy skills and resulted in an increase in respect for what we’re trying to achieve from allied health and parents.”

Ms Hillyer says there are many additional ways parents can be helping their child improve their literacy skills. All children will benefit from discussions that require them to think critically or from reading with a parent.

Whether you’re reading a book or out for a walk, she suggests repeating words a child is learning and asking questions based around what a child can see and what pages, characters and settings they like best.

“Even if the child is young and the book is all pictures, they’re still engaging with a story,” she said. “Make conversations as engaging as possible and ask questions. This teaches children how to make choices, which builds autonomy.”

We’re always eager to celebrate programs that are helping schools improve outcomes for students or build the capacity of staff. Share your story with us at: disability.strategy@det.nsw.edu.au.

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