A brief look at the 2016 NAPLAN Writing Marking Guide (ACARA) shows us that that high achieving students use concepts of English that go well beyond the basics of literacy.
From the additional information in the Guide it is clear that students are expected to be able to show some awareness and use of:
•genre, its purpose and form
•narrative, its structure and the role and type of narrator
•characterisation as flat or rounded
•point of view, in narrative stance, and
•figurative language, the use of connotation, visual and aural imagery.
Yet, as the substantial support for the teaching of literacy that is readily available comes from government, educational sectors and publishing sources, the literary and textual aspects of the discipline of English may not be given their due attention.
This issue is of particular interest for primary teachers. The introduction of the NSW K-10 English syllabus several years ago has brought with it an increased profile for literature in the primary school.
Teachers of primary English, expert in the literacy components of the curriculum, have asked for support in teaching the English elements of the syllabus. This shows their awareness of their subject and how it has been traditionally taught in K-6.
These concerns have been addressed by the English Teachers’ Association. In a joint project with the Department of Education, we have mapped the textual concepts stated and implied in the English syllabus in a new resource. In this work, we have identified and explained 16 concepts and the six processes through which they are learned; we have described them at each stage of learning from K-10 and have provided links for each of these to the syllabus content.
This resource, the English Textual Concepts, is now available to all teachers at http://englishtextualconcepts.nsw.edu.au/.
The concepts identified are: argument, authority, character, code and convention, connotation, imagery and symbol, context, genre, intertextuality, literary value, narrative perspective, point of view, representation, style and theme.
The processes through which they are learned are: understanding, engaging personally, connecting, engaging critically, experimenting and reflecting.
While concepts such as argument and narrative are obviously connected to NAPLAN writing, it is the interaction of all the concepts that adds to the depth and complexity of thinking at the same time as supporting the skills necessary for effective writing.
Professional learning in the English Textual Concepts has created closer curriculum connections between primary and secondary schools, so facilitating a learning continuum for students. Listen to teachers of Years 6 and 7 commenting about their experience with the concepts in these transitional stages. http://englishtextualconcepts.nsw.edu.au/content/what-is-it
Educational systems in NSW and states across Australia have acknowledged the strength of the resource and have requested professional development to explain how it may be used in classrooms. The ETA will be running face to face professional learning and webinar series for secondary and primary teachers in 2017. More details of events may be found at www.englishteacher.com.au/events.