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Our first 2016 focus for our Professional Learning Teams is to use the newly introduced DET Literacy Continuum to help us to place our students on our Data Wall.

Why the Literacy Continuum???

In previous years, our first PLT saw us implementing our school-developed Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Paragraph literacy initiative in Data Teams. I’ve blogged about the success of our HOT Paragraph program before, you can check it out here. Even though this was a really popular initiative and students and staff gained a lot from the process, we decided to change things up a bit for 2016. While we will continue using the HOT Writing resources, our goal is to map students against the newly developed Literacy Continuum and have our teachers become more invested in our data wall by having our entire staff contribute to the collection of the data and by having the teachers place the students on the data wall themselves too. The plan is to revisit this literacy initiative more formally once each term, with the opportunity to identify student improvement in the Aspects of Writing and to move them along the data wall.

So what’s this Literacy Continuum then???

Developed by the NSW DEC, the Literacy Continuum Overview probably explains its purpose most succinctly, so use a few quotes from it to explain the aim in its development.

The Literacy Continuum seeks to “maps how critical aspects develop through the years of schooling by describing key markers of expected student achievement” from grades K-10. It is important to understand that it is not a replacement for other learning outcomes (or standards to our US friends), but its purpose is to help “teachers to integrate literacy into all key learning areas” ensuring that we capture “the literacy connections that are critical to success“. The Literacy Continuum is a terrific tool for Assessment For Learning. It makes the learning (and the learning goals) very visible for teachers, students and their parents and allows us to clearly articulate what we are aiming for students to achieve. Our teachers will use this tool to “identify the ‘where to next’ for groups or individuals with particular learning needs“.


What Parts of the Literacy Continuum???

Although the Literacy Continuum encompasses a variety of components of literacy, the focus of this PLT is on the Aspects of Writing only. After this introduction, we are hoping to use the Literacy Continuum more broadly.

The Aspects of Writing section is broken into markers of student achievement, what students can demonstrate. These markers are then organised into clusters which represent where students should be at the end of each grade of schooling. The K-6 Continuum is broken into 12 clusters (four clusters for Kindergarten, two each for Years 1 & 2 and one each for Years 3-6). The 7-10 Continuum is comprised of four clusters.

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While we are a 7-12 school, we will also be engaging with the K-6 Continuum, mindful that we have students whose writing has not yet progressed beyond the K-6 makers, at least in some areas.

What have we done so far and where to next???

As a Project Based Learning school, our PLTs follow the same general structure as the projects we work on with our students. We completed our Entry Event in our whole staff PD time and took some time to examine some Yr 9 students writing samples from the 2015 NAPLAN exam against the Literacy Continuum. When we met with our PLT teams, we reviewed the Entry Event and met with the Driving Question for the first time: “How can we use the Literacy Continuum in our Professional Learning Teams to populate our Data Wall and to provide targeted intervention strategies to help students improve their ability to compose written responses?”  We completed our Know and Need to Know lists and then we took the time to gain a better understanding of the Literacy Continuum an then planned some writing tasks and resources we will use for our allocated classes.

In our next meting, we will bring samples of student writing to discuss with our teams and start the real work of mapping the students against the continuum using our management system Sentral, and planning interventions to help our students improve the areas we have identified as weaknesses in their writing.

I am really looking forward to working with our teachers and students on this PLT initiative and I’ll definitely be blogging some more about how this literacy focus develops!