In English at NASHS our focus is on being the key driver of literacy within the school. As well as being responsible for this promotion within our own department, we are an impetus and reminder to other Learning Areas that they too are responsible for being language rich in the manner that they teach their specialist areas. They too are responsible for modelling and correcting students’ use of Standard Australian English.

In order to promote literacy, departmentally have frequent meetings for

on-going discussion about standards, cross marking, post assessment analysis and focus on teaching points linked to year level expectations with respect to texts on a whole text, paragraph, sentence, clause, group and word level. An ongoing point of emphasis has been question analysis and deconstruction and understanding of key terms within questions and scaffolding the teaching of key words within questions such as analyse, assess, compare, evaluate, critically analyse, define, demonstrate, describe, discuss, distinguish, evaluate, examine, explain, identify, investigate, justify, outline.

Within the school as a whole English has promoted whole school strategies which have included the promotion of “word walls”, grammar posters, recurrent whiteboard prompts within classrooms in many Learning Areas. These have been willingly adopted across the school in LA’s outside of just English.

There are regular silent reading sessions at the beginning of Lower School classes, and in the Library, as one of our Literacy Committee priorities there has been a range of structured and guided reading activities with year 8’s and 9’s that has resulted in a tangible increase in book borrowings, especially fiction. There was also a modest improvement in our average NAPLAN Reading results, from 530 last year to 538 points this year. Anecdotally in classes, there has been a noticeable improvement in students’ willingness to read in most classes.

In line with our prioritisation of best performance in NAPLAN, our focus, both within the LA and in the school as a whole has been a focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation. In English we continue to drill persuasive and other forms of writing.

A focus area has been the use of statistical information to inform teaching practise. NAPLAN results are used to identify strengths and weaknesses in both year 8 and 9 students. Year 8 students are tested with previous NAPLAN tests and these results are analysed. Individual areas of weakness are identified and work programs are modified to target specific areas of need. IEP’s are constructed for students performing at a D level or lower.

A literacy handbook has been constructed and promoted for use across LA’s this year. The handbook articulates common understandings of text types, structures, and language use at a text, paragraph, sentence, clause, group and word level. The handbook is available in e-form on the server, is being printed in hard copy form to construct a class set for each LA and has been promoted during the course of the year. Promotion and explicit instruction in its use across the school will continue.

Exemplars and rubrics have been constructed, shared and discussed within the LA and used to scaffold the teaching of concepts, text types, grammar use and punctuation. Scaffolding in general has been an on-going priority so as to be as inclusive as possible. Within individual classrooms there are students with widely different abilities. Open ended tasks are used as assessment pieces to allow students to demonstrate skills and understandings and extensive scaffolding is provided during instruction. Particular focus has been on emphasising NAPLAN preparation in year 8 throughout Semester Two and Term One for year 9’s.

An upper school Stage 2 and 3 English handbook has been constructed and is on the required booklist for 2014. The handbook is extensive in its content and scope with respect to higher level literacy, Upper School curriculum and essential skills and concepts in Stage 2 and 3 English. It will also form a part of our top stream year 10 English teaching focus.

In English and HASS there has been a focus on constructing detailed feedback after class assessments and using this feedback as an explicit teaching tool to identify and address demonstrated areas of literacy weakness.

Classroom Management and Instructional skills (CMIS) has been an on-going focus this year. Active Participation strategies in classrooms have been the subject of Whole School Professional Development and English Learning Area meeting discussions in order to ensure classrooms are safe and accountable learning environments. Pedagogical tools such as Set, Framing Questions and Cooperative Strategies have been discussed and used in daily pedagogy. The Head of Learning Area for English has been trained in Conferencing Accreditation Training and is currently “A” Conferencing staff both in and out of the English LA, with the aim of promoting Active Participation.

Guided Reading has been a focus this year in second semester especially and will continue to be so. There is ample data to support the worth of such strategies in improving literacy skills.

There has been on-going explicit drilling and repetition of spelling, using NAPLAN word lists and Spelling Handbooks constructed during 2012. These handbooks will be reprinted and used in 2014.

For any information regarding our English Department ask to speak to Marc Ruffell Head of Learning Area for English and Humanities and Social Sciences, North Albany Senior High School.