Interpret vocabulary

Students who speak another dialect such as Aboriginal English need to be explicitly taught the difference between spoken language such as Aboriginal English and written language, standard Australian English.

Encouraging students to talk about the language in written texts, especially picture books, is an effective way to develop this understanding and at the same time develop their ability to code switch between the two dialects. To teach these differences teachers will need to be careful not to correct students spoken language but instead give students opportunities to use standard Australian English for purposes where that dialect is the most appropriate one to use.

Students will need to be taught metalanguage to describe the language features they will be discussing.

Activity 1

Write texts for purposes that require standard Australian English.

Teachers model how to write a text, and then jointly construct a similar text for a meaningful purpose for an audience requiring standard Australian English. When students offer suggestions during the joint construction do not correct their spoken language. Instead say, 'That is a good idea and in a written text we write it like this ...' Explain the rules of standard Australian English that are different to spoken English. When students create their own texts ensure they are writing texts for an audience requiring standard Australian English not just a letter to a friend which would only require Aboriginal English.

Activity 2

Using iPads and computers

Ensure students use iPads with a partner to encourage discussion around how to use apps and write the text to go with them. This kind of exploratory talk will develop students’ spoken language. Students could record themselves reading their own text written for an audience requiring standard Australian English but related to their interests and backgrounds. For example, a text to go on the school website recounting an event (past tense), creating a community brochure for tourists (present tense) or a text arguing a case for upgrading a local park or building a skate ramp (future tense). Scenarios like these will make the text more meaningful and significant. Students in pairs watch/listen to their reading, discuss the wording and then edit the text based on appropriateness for the audience.

Schools could purchase a reading app: Ngurrara – Australian Aboriginal Interactive Storybook 1.0.

Activity 3

Consider how you can include any of the following 8 ways of learning for Aboriginal students in your teaching.

  • Story sharing: approaching learning through narrative.
  • Learning maps: explicitly mapping/ visualising processes.
  • Non-verbal: applying intrapersonal and kinaesthetic skills to thinking and learning.
  • Symbols and images: using images and metaphors to understand concepts and content.
  • Land links: place-based learning, linking content to local land and place.
  • Non-linear: producing innovations and understanding by thinking laterally or combining systems.
  • Deconstruct/reconstruct: modelling and scaffolding, working from wholes to parts (watch then do).
  • Community links: centring local viewpoints, applying learning for community benefit.

These 8 ways can be considered more simply as:

  • tell a story
  • make a plan
  • think and do
  • draw it
  • take it outside
  • try a new way
  • watch first, then do
  • share it with others.

References

Australian curriculum – ACELA1460: Language variation and change: Understand that spoken, visual and written forms of language are different modes of communication with different features and their use varies according to the audience, purpose, context and cultural background.

NSW syllabus – EN1-6B: Understand that spoken, visual and written forms of language are different modes of communication with different features and their use varies according to the audience, purpose, context and cultural background.

NSW literacy continuum – Vocabulary knowledge, Cluster 7, Marker 1: Knows the meaning of commonly used words in increasingly challenging texts and can demonstrate this knowledge when reading, writing and speaking.

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