Home' Capricornus Quarterly : CQ Oct 2015 Contents 15
and community corners that ‘kids these
days can’t spell or write proper sentences’.
Whilst it’s an easy generalisation to make, it
insinuates that young people are regressive,
lazy or have bad attitudes when it comes
to using commas and capital letters.
However tempting it is to throw
our hands in the air in despair
and disappointment, we must
hold fast. Solutions always develop
with understanding the whole
picture – from both sides.
If Literacy is about communication,
then we must seriously consider
the communication demands on
children of the 21st centur y.
For instance, students are often expected
to use the internet to conduct research
and this requires a great deal of Literacy
agility. Performing a simple Google search
is a skill unto itself, let alone being able to
separate trash sites from treasures. Add to
that the ability to read with a discerning
eye whilst sidestepping temptations to play
a quick round of Warcraft or Facebook
a friend. Suddenly, three hours pa ss
and the research hasn’t even begun.
Because we live in this interesting,
complex, and contextually and culturally
diverse setting, it’s no wonder our youngest
generations require more literacy support
than prev ious generations. They need
an array of literacy skills if they are to
engage productively in this increasingly
rich, dense textual landscape.
Literacy holds the key to genuine
engagement in any context.
Sadly, for some students, a lack of
literacy skills can be the wall that
separates them from the action.
As Stephen Hawking so eloquently
said, ‘Quiet people have the loudest
minds.’ His words capture the tragedy of
literacy limitation. For what is the use of
knowledge if it cannot be communicated?
So you see, now more than ever, Literacy
warrants urgent, serious attention...
and an approach that reckons with
this complex, exciting future.
The analogous concept of giving
someone a fish so they may eat for
a day, or teaching them how to
fish so they may eat for a lifetime,
is apt here. As educators, we could
prepare students for biennial
literacy tests or we could aim to
teach them to read, write and
speak so that they may readily and
productively participate in life.
At RGS, we value life-
long Literacy learning.
As such, our literacy mission
intensifies in Secondary School
and works perfectly as part of
our new Learning Framework.
For instance, our Year 8 students
have recently embarked on a
year-long Literacy programme
that continues into 2016. The
programme has been custom-
designed and is implemented as
part of English. It involves intensive focus
on five key areas: Parts of Speech, Sentence
Mechanics, Writing Enhancement,
Spelling and Punctuation, Reading
Comprehension and Researching,
Vocabulary and Note-taking.
The programme continues beyond
the cla ssroom a s students complete
a daily reading log via the Student
Cafe and undertake literacy learning
online through Literacy Planet.
At present, the aim of the reading
log is to encourage a regular reading
habit, hence students are able to select
any appropriate text they consider
personally interesting and challenging.
From surfing and pig-hunting
magazines to classic novels, the selections
have been surprisingly diverse and
topical. We are finding that students
are more interested in discussing their
reading and sharing new knowledge.
Above all, we must allow reading to be
personalised, encourage diversity and
respect choices if we have any hope in
fostering a life-long love of reading.
Understandably, grappling with the
virtues of nouns, verbs and adjectives
isn’t as appealing. In fact, it can seem
as fulfilling as building sandcastles
with dry sand, especially if it’s taught
in the traditional way through drills,
arbitrary contexts and textbooks.
So, we’ve added water.
We’re presenting grammar in a way that
has shape, form and creative possibility.
All Year 8 students attend weekly gallery
sessions in the auditorium. Here, theory
is contextualised into thematic, vibrant
present ations that involve generationally-
appealing music, audio visual clips and
images that bring grammar ‘to life’.
It’s no secret that we all learn
more effectively when we have
reasons for learning.
This premise drives our approach
to teaching grammar. Our objectives
and materials are carefully selected
according the meaning they
have in our students’ lives.
For instance, teaching future tense
through stories about ‘Dick and Jane’s
trip to the market’ has its place, but
why limit ourselves? Instead, we have
turned to real-world texts that our
students will more likely be familiar
with, engage in and remember.
Honestly, who can resist a Bear Grylls’
scene where he uses his bare hands to
snag a catfish in the murky depths of
a southern American bayou? We even
analyse the excellent use of tense in Doc
Emmett Brown’s 1885 letter to Marty
McFly in Back to the Future. From there,
it’s only a small step to the past tense
requirements of Science Prac reports.
So, learning traditional grammar
needn’t be pedestrian. Nor should it be.
After each gallery session, students
work with their English teachers
to put theory into practice. This is
where the real magic happens.
Witnessing students ‘sw itch on’ and
become empowered by linguistic
knowledge is awesome. In essence,
we see our students beginning to
“catch their own fish”.
This programme is not a magic
Literacy wand. Nor will it at once
bring students to the forefront
of linguistic mastery, but it will
go far in their development
to becoming more confident,
As educators, it is our responsibility
to maintain this objective and
ensure that the quiet minds of
our generation are fostered,
developed and heard so their
contributions to the world are
celebrated and appreciated.
This is what Literacy at
RGS is all about.
English Teacher Julieanne Harris
is The Rockhampton Grammar
School’s Literacy Coach.
Because we live in this
interesting, complex, and
contextually and culturally
diverse setting, it’s no wonder
our youngest generations
require more literacy support
than previous generations.
An example of
Literacy at RGS
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