Frequently asked questions
Accelerated Literacy in the classroom
Working with teaching assistants
Accelerated Literacy in the classroom
How long should I spend teaching one text in AL?
This depends on the length of the text and the year level of the class involved. For early childhood students studying a book with a limited vocabulary, study of the text could take as little as two weeks. On the other hand, studying a passage from a complex novel for secondary students could take a whole term.
To teach a text effectively, teachers need to identify a clear goal or goals for teaching it then work with the class on the text until these goals have been achieved.
Perhaps the most important point to consider for early childhood students is that they will not learn to read if they only work on one book a term, particularly if that book has a very limited number of words. Additionally, spending too much time on a short early childhood text leads students to memorise the text and chant it without engaging with any actual reading. They come to believe that reading is memorising, which is the very misconception teachers are trying to avoid.
Therefore, teachers must closely monitor students’ working level reading on each text and use this information to decide when to move on to a new text.
For further explanation, refer to the Text Selection Practitioner Guide.
How can I make a text that I teach from every day stay interesting for my students?
When preparing to teach a text, teachers analyse it to determine which writing techniques will be most appropriate to teach their class. Teaching how to read, comprehend and write based on these teaching goals forms the basis of lessons. Teachers then need to use their skills and expertise to engage their students in interesting and accessible lessons.
If teachers feel that their lessons are boring they probably are - this should be a ‘wake up call’ for the teacher. One way to address this is to video lessons and review them with a colleague, school coordinator, project coordinator or AL consultant. You can then identify points where students are engaged and where they are not, so that the pacing and challenge of the lesson can be adjusted.
The most common reason for boring lessons is when students do not have a clear understanding of the educational goals of that lesson and do not understand how to participate effectively.
For further explanation, refer to the Practitioner guides.
When do I get to writing with my class?
This question is posed most frequently by teachers who have just started in the program and have only completed PD1. It is an understandable question because AL requires teachers to change their pattern of teaching from setting a task, explaining it to the students, and having them carry it out. AL lessons may seem long to someone who is used to this pattern. Students too react to a change in their usual lesson format. They sometimes don’t feel that they have ‘learned’ anything if they don’t have something written in a book.
To assist in the transition, new AL teachers could carry out the teaching sequence up to Spelling and then do the writing tasks they have always done. Free writing, journal writing and other writing tasks can still be continued as writing tasks until the teacher has completed the PD sequence and is more comfortable teaching the full AL teaching sequence.
How much writing should children be doing in AL?
This question often relates to time spent on literate orientation. If teachers typically spend too long on early parts of the teaching sequence then there won’t be time left in the lesson to spend on writing. Review low order literate orientation particularly and ensure that it is highly focused and not simply becoming a question and answer session.
Another common misconception about the program is that kids should only write independently once a term. Writing workshops should be happening in AL for most of the term.
For further explanation, refer to the Accelerated Literacy Teaching Sequence Support Booklet notes.
Where are phonics taught in AL?
Phonics are an integral part of teaching AL to students, particularly in the early years. It is important that sound/symbol correlation is taught in the lesson without losing the ‘meaning’ of the text you are teaching.
- Letter formation, including the name and sound of the letter, is consolidated during the Spelling part of the teaching sequence.
- The teaching and integration of phonic understandings should occur throughout the day.
- Students’ ability to state the sound and name of initial sounds must be carefully assessed and monitored.
- The classroom environment should be rich in print and include an alphabet frieze (for students in the early years) and other evidence of text from the story.
It is important that teachers consider the spelling knowledge their students have and what they need to know when they are planning AL lessons.
How is oral language part of the AL program?
Oral language is a major feature of the AL program, particularly since each lesson is constructed around oral interactions. The explicit teaching and promotion of students’ use of the language of the text is fundamental to AL. When a text is being introduced, the teacher models and shares the literate language of the text, then in subsequent lessons actively encourages students to use this language. The teacher also models how to discuss the text in an educational context, including the metalanguage associated with such settings.
For more information, refer to the Accelerated Literacy Teaching Sequence Support Booklet notes.
How should I set up my AL classroom?
A literate classroom environment should include:
- the instructional text (your AL book – multiple copies)
- informational texts
- concept maps about the text being studied. Displayed around the classroom, these provide opportunities for students to read and interact with the text
- a class library that contains books students can read for enjoyment and practice. This library should include extra copies of the books that have been taught to the students in previous teaching sequences.
Is there a behaviour management policy as part of AL?
It is a misconception that there is an Accelerated Literacy behaviour management policy. There is not. All behaviour management issues are part of each teacher’s teaching style and contribute a great deal to the success or otherwise of each teacher’s lessons.
At every moment of the day in every subject area a teacher builds trust and rapport with students through the interactions he/she has with them. Some of the positive interactions used by skilled Accelerated Literacy teachers include:
- Ensuring that instructions are explicit and include an explanation of the reasons for a task and how to carry it out.
- Preparing carefully for each lesson so that equipment and materials required during the lesson are easily accessible.
- Asking questions that are framed in a way that all students know how to answer. Preformulating questions so that students can enter discussions successfully. This strategy includes asking more than one student to answer and always responding positively to their attempts to answer. Reconceptualising answers effectively broadcasts the importance and correctness of an answer for all students to access.
- Recognising that they, not the class, are responsible for planning and sustaining a successful lesson.
What about the ‘good kids’?
An enormous anxiety for many teachers is providing demanding work for their most able students. A key premise of Accelerated Literacy is that all students have the potential to be ‘good kids’. ‘Good kids’ are students who have been taught well by parents, in some cases, and by teachers. Each child is taught, not born, with a predetermined ‘potential’.
In an AL classroom it is important to ensure that all students are taught about the same text. It is also important to ensure that all questions asked and all aspects of the text discussed provide cognitive challenge for all students, not just those considered most able.
What is the purpose of each type of assessment?
There are three main assessment types used to assess students participating in AL:
WL - Working Level assessments
- determine how students are progressing with the passage being taught
- inform teaching practice
- can be used to inform students of how well they are progressing
- should be done regularly on small amounts of texts
- provide a non-threatening, confidence-building opportunity
- should not be memorised by the students.
IL - reading an unseen text
Individual Level assessments are carried out once per year. They:
- gauge student ability to transfer decoding skills to unseen texts
- determine students' true independent reading level
- When students score above 95% accuracy they are tested on a text one level up, if they score less than 90% they are tested on a text one level down.
TORCH: Test of Reading CompreHension
TORCH tests are a professionally developed, norm-based, standardised comprehension assessment.
- TORCH assessments are administered when students achieve an IL at year 4 or above.
- If a student achieves above the 6th stanine in the TORCH test they are tested on the next assessment up. If they receive below the 4th stanine they are tested on the assessment one level below.
For more information, refer to Assessing Literacy Development in the NALP Classroom Support Booklet notes.
How often should children be assessed?
Assessment of each student should be carried out formally twice a term, as well as informally to determine how students are progressing with small amounts of the text you have taught. In/out context sheets are carried out once a term and informal spelling tests should be given once a week, and formally twice per text. Oral comprehension is built into the teaching sequence and is carried across the lesson. Written comprehension assessments (using MAP type questions) should be carried out fortnightly.
For more information, refer to the Assessing Literacy Development in the NALP Classroom and How to Analyse and use Assessment Data in NALP Support Booklet notes.
How much planning is required for each AL lesson?
Effective AL teaching assumes thorough planning. AL will NOT achieve results if it is adopted in an ad hoc fashion. Prior to the lesson, you need to have planned your overall focus, as well as the purpose for each stage of the teaching sequence. In the early stages of learning this program it is best to practice (write out) preformulation/reconceptualisation for your lesson. However it does get easier (and less time consuming) the longer you practice.
Working with teaching assistants
What role can my teaching assistant play in AL lessons?
Indigenous teaching assistants bring with them a powerful knowledge, language and culture base regarding the world view of the families and local community. In educating students in remote area schools, teaching assistants play a vital role in providing continuity for their students.
The more a teaching assistant knows about how students are going with literacy achievement, the better the chance of success will be in their joint role to improve students’ literacy outcomes. As part of the roll out of NALP, teaching assistants are taught how to work with students one-to-one. However, the inclusion of teaching assistants in AL lessons will only be successful if the teacher has provided them with a clear understanding of his/her role throughout the AL lesson. It is up to the teacher to make time for this support, and to plan what part of the passage/which sentences and which students they need to work with.
For teaching assistants who have previously been in a student support role, and who are moving into a more active teaching support role, initially it may be easiest for them to do teaching support during just one stage of the teaching sequence and increase this gradually.
For more information, refer to the Working with Assistant Teachers Practitioner Guide.