Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A wider view of Literacy

After exploring, students 'prior ideas' and questions about ANZAC Day, class discussions, and researching articles and pictures, students drafted out, and wrote up, their own thoughts. The challenge included appropriately illustrating the topic. A range of skills ( 'literacies') need to be in place to complete such a task.

The 'new' New Zealand Curriculum asks schools to develop: 'Students who are competent thinkers and problem solvers (who) actively seek, use and create knowledge.They reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuition, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.'

In the future this what classroom, and student research, should reflect at all levels.

To do this it is important for students to be motivated by 'real life', meaningful challenges from across the curriculum that make use of whatever Learning Areas( disciplines) are required.

It would seem obvious that literacy ( and where possible numeracy) programmes should be integrated with current class studies. Students need, the curriculum says, to be able to , 'critically interrogate texts', and to, 'receive, process and present ideas or information'.

Students need both to 'make meaning' of ideas or information as well as 'creating their own meanings' from such information.

A close read of many current student research presentations would show that this is not being achieved. There is little of the tentative , 'I think', 'it could be', 'this suggests'; phrases that show students own 'voice', rather than 'cutting and pasting'.

Students need to be taught stages in research writing following their investigations. They need to be able to focus their research on a few key questions, and to take notes about ideas they feel relevant to their queries. They also need to be shown a organisational format to assist them present their ideas - essentially, their study question, possibly their current thinking or 'prior ideas',their research, and data and finally conclusions and references

They also need to be taught a range of design and presentation formats suitable for the students ages. If a booklet is to be produced of their findings, each page needs to be thought through carefully, including any illustrations and graphical data.

Such design skills are best taught by means of student exercise books which offers a means for each students to observe their growth, both in presentation and content.

That teaching such information gathering and interpreting skills are important is reflected by a recent Nationwide survey that showed that the current workforce is lacking in such skills. The lack of interpretive literacy and numeracy skills suggest a greater emphasis on the applied use of them in the school system. And the earlier the better.

Literacy and numeracy are integral to ensuring students are their own users, seekers, and creators' and to create schools as 'communities of inquiry'; tapping the intellectually curiosity of students.

And developing exciting student studies is the key to achieving this. The 'new' curriculum wisely suggests that students need to do 'fewer thing well' so as to develop this, all to often missing,in-depth thinking.

I look forward to seeing this depth of thought being a feature in classrooms I visit.


Anonymous said...

This is certainly an area that needs serious thought if schools are to equip their students with future literacies beyond basic reading and maths

Bruce said...

It always depresses me that so many primary teachers can't see past their love of reading and their fear of maths ( default modes) to get stuck into real life studies involving both. This is where the energy to inspire learning comes from. Thank goodness there are still some innovative teachers that do.