Whole School Literacy Strategy: Building a Strong Foundation for Student Success

An update on our Clonard literacy journey:

As a member of the Melbourne Archdiocese of Catholic Schools Secondary Disciplinary Literacy Project, in 2023, the Learning Team developed our Visionary Literacy Statement:

In our Clonard College community of learners, all students will be taught explicit strategies to decode new language. Students will engage in programs that enrich their reading capacity and acquisition of skills and knowledge in their subject. We want students to acquire reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills that enable them to succeed and flourish in their learning and society.”

Accompanying the vision was the development of a Whole School Literacy Strategy to ensure that every teacher across all subjects from Years 7 to 12 plays a role in achieving this. It includes a variety of elements.

Subject teachers are well-versed in the specific language of their disciplines. Key vocabulary and authentic, complex texts are integrated into all units of study, with explicit vocabulary instruction and classroom displays to reinforce learning. An authentic text is one that models how to write effectively in a particular discipline; it could be a practical report for Science or a source analysis for History. In Maths it is often a worded problem. Ensuring students can read these and then learn to write in the same way is key for literacy development.

Teachers use a Literacy Pedagogical Framework of tell, show, explain, imitate, innovate and distribute to engage students with these authentic texts. Key vocabulary is taught before assessments and students are taught the meaning of new words in a subject through understanding the etymology (origins) and parts of words (morphological knowledge) so as to have agency over building their own vocabulary. We are beginning the process of auditing units in 2024 to build in time for reading and writing instruction, all of which are supported with professional learning.

Unlike traditional general literacy approaches, our literacy framework works through subject disciplines, where the focus is clear on what success in reading and writing looks like in each subject and scaffolds how to achieve this. It has student empowerment at its centre.

Regular data collection from a variety of sources helps us assess impact and informs teaching strategies. To foster a reading culture, learning areas collaborate with the library to incorporate a variety of texts, and the college hosts activities throughout the year to celebrate and promote reading.

Embedding this comprehensive strategy involves regular reviews of our progress through student and teacher voice, subject teams, the Learning Team and the Extended Leadership Team.

Liz Sullivan
School Improvement Leader: Learning