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English in the National Curriculum .......................................................................................... 3

What has changed? ................................................................................................................ 4
Defining text ................................................................................................................... 5
Rationale ................................................................................................................................. 6
Key concepts .......................................................................................................................... 9
What are key concepts? .............................................................................................. 11
Pedagogy .............................................................................................................................. 12
Focusing on students .................................................................................................. 13
Principles ............................................................................................................ 16
Supportive learning environment ................................................................................. 18
Prior learning and experience ...................................................................................... 21
Teaching as inquiry ...................................................................................................... 23
Text version of diagram ..................................................................................... 26
Opportunities to learn .................................................................................................. 27
Shared learning ........................................................................................................... 29
Reflective thought and action ...................................................................................... 31
Relevance of new learning .......................................................................................... 32
Assessment for learning .............................................................................................. 34
Achievement objectives ........................................................................................................ 37
Progression .................................................................................................................. 40
Understanding the English curriculum ......................................................................... 43
Teaching practices and strands ................................................................................... 45
Assessment for quals .................................................................................................. 48
Connections .......................................................................................................................... 50
Learning pathways ................................................................................................................ 52
Learning programme design ................................................................................................. 54
Approaches .................................................................................................................. 57
Snapshots ............................................................................................................................. 60
Snapshot 1 ................................................................................................................... 61
Snapshot 2 ................................................................................................................... 64
Snapshot 3 ................................................................................................................... 66
Snapshot 4 ................................................................................................................... 68
Snapshot 5 ................................................................................................................... 70
Snapshot 6 ................................................................................................................... 72
Snapshot 7 ................................................................................................................... 73
Snapshot 8 ................................................................................................................... 76
Snapshot 9 ................................................................................................................... 78
Snapshot 10 ................................................................................................................. 80
Snapshot 11 ................................................................................................................. 83
Snapshot 12 ................................................................................................................. 85
Snapshot 13 ................................................................................................................. 87
Snapshot 14 ................................................................................................................. 89
Snapshot 15 ................................................................................................................. 91
Snapshot 16 ................................................................................................................. 94
Snapshot 17 ................................................................................................................. 96

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Snapshot 18 ................................................................................................................. 98
Resources ........................................................................................................................... 100

Version date: 30 July 2012

Key changes: Version 2
Subject facilitator email:

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English in the National Curriculum

English teaching is guided by the National Curriculum, which is made up of two documents - The
New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium schools and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa for
Māori-medium schools (PDF 2MB).

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is central to both documents.

Learn more about the Treaty principles.

English teachers recognise and affirm the principles of the treaty, our bicultural heritage, the
multicultural nature of New Zealand, and our place in the Pacific. They address the needs of every
student in all circumstances.

The English learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum affirms the identity of akonga (learners)
and places them at the centre of all teaching and learning. The curriculum vision, values,
principles, and key competencies are integral to the planning and delivery of English programmes.

The te reo Pākehā learning area of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa presents the English language as a
tool for communicating and expressing thought, social interaction, and academic learning. It
supports the learning of Māori language as the primary language of instruction in Māori medium

The te reo Pākehā learning area recognises that English is not a foreign language for young
people in Māori-medium schools. For some, English will be their first language.

The vast majority of akonga in Māori-medium settings are proficient speakers of English. Akonga
will be building on prior language knowledge that will enable them to develop as bilingual learners.

< Back to English

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What has changed in the English curriculum?

Re-framing English

The English learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum has made explicit the move towards
shared understandings and the importance of genuine personal response.

Two strands

English has been re-framed into two strands:

making meaning (listening, reading, and viewing)

creating meaning (speaking, writing, and presenting).

Within each strand, the curriculum sets out the knowledge and skills expected of students at each
level. These are expressed as achievement objectives.

Each strand identifies expected processes and strategies students will use. (The processes and
strategies section is highlighted in purple in the curriculum document.)

The indicators in the processes and strategies section demonstrate progression from one
curriculum level to the next and the requirement for akonga (learners) to engage with increasingly
sophisticated ideas, texts, and skills.

The curriculum places a strong emphasis on how these processes and strategies work within and
across both strands.

This reframing also allows for a more holistic and integrated notion of texts.

Defining text

< Back to English

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Defining text

In the English learning area, a text is a crafted work in English that contains ideas or information,
and is designed for a purpose and audience, within and across the oral, written, and visual modes.

Examples (all with fictional and non-fictional source material) include: play scripts, news media
editorials and reports, games, game scripts, poems, speeches, letters, essays, reviews,
documentaries, CG animations, graphic novels, mime, blogs, mockumentaries, video diaries,
electronic journals, lyrics, novels, oral narratives, oral histories, short stories, films, and re-use and
mash-up texts across a variety of platforms.

Consider how New Zealanders use social media and online publishing tools to keep in touch,
share ideas and information, showcase their writing, build and store knowledge, and seek out
reading materials and multimedia works for pleasure and learning.

< Back to what has changed?

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Why study English?

English offers the freedom to explore

English fosters creativity
English enables learning
English develops thinking
English promotes participation

English offers the freedom to explore

English gives us the freedom to travel to other places, discover other cultures, and visit other
times. We explore learning through a wide range of experiences and often choose what and how
we learn. This makes it enjoyable.

Students say:

'English is provocative. It allows you to have your own personal response.'

'English gives me the freedom of self expression, the ability to convey my own personal
thoughts and beliefs.'

'I enjoy the expressive, subjective nature of English.'

English fosters creativity

English enables us to enter new worlds. We can use our imagination to interpret and visualise
these worlds, and they provide windows through which we can view our own world.

English develops creative thinking. It encourages us to use our imaginations both when we
interpret texts and when we create our own. This process is challenging and satisfying. English
gives us a voice.

Students say:

'English offers the chance to express my ideas and imagination on paper and other

'I love exploring the use of language and pondering the themes that literature presents.'


English enables learning

English develops the skills and communication competencies we need to access and engage with
learning across the curriculum.

Through studying English, we work out how to understand and ask questions of ourselves, of
other people, and of texts.

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We learn to consider other ideas and to form and express our own. We broaden our experience
and our perspectives. English opens our eyes to limitless possibilities.

Students say:

'English teaches me to form opinions as well as the skills of writing for a range of

'By studying English I will use my skills to create well-structured pieces of writing,
wherever that is.'

'English is like a stepping stone in your life, a basic thing you need to have, in order to
survive the world after school.'

'English is a fundamental aspect to life and you need a good grasp of it.'


English develops thinking

English gives us the skills we need to take a stand – to research, evaluate information, think,
justify, argue an opinion, and share it with confidence.

English helps us to become critical thinkers and make better sense of the world around us. It
enables us to become “confident, connected, and actively involved” in our communities (The New
Zealand Curriculum, p. 8).

We learn how to use language more powerfully, and how to have our say through written, spoken,
and visual language.

We critique personal, local, and global issues so that we can understand, comment on, and
ultimately control the direction of our lives.

Students say:

'Poetry and literature contain an insight to all types of human feeling that will help me in
later life.'

'There is no real ‘manual’ for English. You develop your own style.'

'English develops an open minded, critical-thinking approach to new ideas.'

'English is truly a holistic study of humanity and the thinking person’s subject.'


English promotes participation

Through studying English, we learn how to contribute with respect, and we learn to value our own
voice, and the voices of others.

We listen to the stories of others, and we tell our own stories from our own experiences, values,
beliefs, whakapapa, languages, culture, and wairua.

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When these are validated in the context of our learning, we learn what makes us unique. We also
learn how to connect with others, how to find common ground, and how to celebrate difference.
English gives us confidence.

Students say:

'I enjoy listening to other opinions, arguments and debates.'

'I have gained a greater understanding of the real world and how a simple piece of
writing can impact the thoughts of others.'

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Key concepts

Key concepts are the big ideas and understandings that we hope will remain with our students
long after they have left school.

Succeeding in the English learning area involves understanding and using four key concepts

Identity | Communication | Story | Meaning


Through English, people learn about and celebrate who they are, where they come from, and
where they’re going. English helps people connect with their communities and to appreciate and
participate in them. Everything we do in the classroom either validates or undermines students’
growing sense of identity. We have a shared responsibility for the impact we have on the forming
of each other’s identities.

'The culture of the child cannot enter the classroom until it has entered the
consciousness of the teacher.'

Basil Bernstein

Learn more:

Listen to Alison Wong talking about her life and writing (Radio New Zealand)
Listen to Selina Tusitala Marsh talking about her life and writing (Radio New Zealand)


People who communicate effectively can:

offer and receive ideas, information, thoughts, and feelings in a range of ways
make effective choices about the language to use to suit their audience and purpose
use language fluently and skilfully to present information, express their ideas, and respond to

Reading, writing and speaking are the interactive tools students need to communicate effectively.

'Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than
at any other time in human history. They will need advanced … [communication skills]
to perform their jobs, act as citizens, conduct their personal lives … [and] to cope with
the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. [They will increasingly have
access to people and information in ways and speeds never possible before]. In a
complex and sometimes even dangerous world, their ability to [communicate
effectively] will be crucial.'

(Adapted from Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, Rycik, 1999, International Reading

Association position statement)

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People use oral, written, and visual English to tell stories, and to read, hear, and view the stories
of others.

Our stories define us. When our stories connect with the stories of others, our lives change.

'… I read the works of Frank Sargeson and started hearing the New Zealand voice for
the first time. And then when I read the work of Amelia Batistich I realised she had a
different New Zealand voice. It reinforced the idea that writers had their own voices. It
occurred to me when I read those works that I had a voice as well …'

Atlantis Journal – An interview with Patricia Grace


People use English to make meaning of stories. By understanding how language is used in texts,
we come to understand different viewpoints, interpretations, and beliefs about the world.

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What are key concepts?

Key concepts are the ideas and understandings that we hope will remain with our students long
after they have left school and have forgotten much of the detail. Key concepts sit above context
but find their way into every context.

Students need time and the opportunity to explore these concepts; to appreciate the breadth,
depth, and subtlety of meaning that attaches to them; to learn that different people view them from
different perspectives; and to understand that meaning is not static.

By approaching these concepts in different ways and by revisiting them in different contexts within
a relatively short time span, students come to refine and embed understandings.

< Back to key concepts

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Effective pedagogy in English

The focus of any effective pedagogy is the students; all effective pedagogy begins with high
expectations for every student:

Whaia te iti kahurangi ki te tauhu koe me he maunga teitei.

Seek the pinnacle of your endeavour and, if you have to bow down, let it be to a lofty

When we have high expectations of them, our students are encouraged to make the pursuit of
excellence a personal value, as envisaged by The New Zealand Curriculum (excellence involves “
aiming high and … persevering in the face of difficulties”).

And it is by having high expectations of them that we encourage our students to become
independent learners who are secure in their own identity, doing well academically, and
succeeding as culturally located young people.

What will I find in this section?

The following sections of this guide discuss where the focus of effective pedagogy lies, introduce
seven teacher actions known to promote student learning, and how assessment is used to further

Focusing on the students

English language learners: Principles
Creating a supportive learning environment
Making connections to prior learning experiences
Teaching as inquiry
Providing sufficient opportunities to learn
Facilitating shared learning
Encouraging reflective thought and action
Enhancing the relevance of new learning
Assessment for learning

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Focusing on the students

Who are my students?

Pedagogy is culturally responsive
Resources for a culturally responsive environment
English language learners

Who are my students?

High expectations are just one aspect of a wider vision for students, a vision that is outlined in the
vision statement in The New Zealand Curriculum and the graduate profile in Te Marautanga o

To pursue this vision with their students, teachers need to build good relationships with students,
whānau, and community. This always means understanding something about the students and the
people behind them.

Ask yourself:

Who are my students?

What do they want to be and achieve and what do their whānau and community want for (or
of) them?
How can I tap into or connect with their particular expertise, interests and experiences,
culture, language and identity?
What are their particular learning strengths and needs?
What understandings, skills and competencies do they need to develop if they are to
succeed in their learning and achieve their goals?

Listen to Joshua Iosefu, a prefect at Mt Roskill Grammar explore issues of identity and stereotype
in this inspirational assembly speech from “one brown brother to another.”

YouTube: Brown Brother

In the achievement objectives, the English curriculum describes a progression of skills,

competencies and understandings. Within any class, individual students will find themselves at
widely differing points on this progression. Effective teaching and learning is deliberately designed
to take students on from where they are.


Effective pedagogy is culturally responsive

The students in our classrooms are increasingly diverse, ethnically and linguistically. Read more:

Population trends (Statistics NZ)

Auckland education statistics (PDF)

For teachers of English, this diversity is a challenge and an opportunity. Like all languages,
English is both an expression of culture and the means by which culture can be explored. All the

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key concepts for English – identity, communication, story, and meaning – are inextricably linked to

Anne Milne, principal of Kia Aroha College in Auckland, says students’ cultural identities are:

“the thread that connects students’ self and academic learning to their future

Milne, 2009, Colouring in the White Spaces; Cultural Identity and Learning in School,
ASB/APPA Travelling Scholarship.

She urges teachers to validate and value students’ cultural identities and norms in our curriculum,
programme design and classrooms to ensure they achieve success both as individuals and in their
academic learning.

To validate and value students’ cultural identities and norms, our classrooms need to become
culturally responsive environments – environments that honour our bicultural heritage and
recognise the diversity of our communities and society – regardless of the make-up of our classes.

“Cultural responsiveness is much more than introducing myths or metaphors into class.
It means interacting with their families to truly understand their reality; it means
understanding the socio-political history and how it impacts on classroom life; it means
challenging personal beliefs and actions; and, it means changing practices to engage
all students in their learning and make the classroom a positive learning place for all

Culturally competent teachers are able to use the learner’s culture/s as a building block
to learn and teach. They understand how to utilise the learner’s culture/s to aid the
teaching and learning process, as well as to facilitate relationships and professional

Bishop et al., 2007, in Tataiako – Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori


The Treaty of Waitangi is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide the
foundations for curriculum decision making in schools. This principle has considerable implications
for our work as teachers.

Learn more:

The New Zealand Curriculum Update: Issue 16 Jan 2012

To see how a teacher took steps towards creating a culturally responsive classroom environment,
see snapshot 9: I am not Esther.


Resources for creating a culturally responsive learning environment

Other resources that can help teachers create a culturally responsive learning environment

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The New Zealand Curriculum

Ka Hikitia 2013–2017
Te Mana Kōrero: Relationships for Learning, 2007
The Pasifika Education Plan 2013–2017
Effective teaching for Pasifika students
Te Kotahitanga
Te Mangōroa – Māori achieving education success as Māori
(This is a portal for English-medium resources.)
Teachers as learners: Improving outcomes for Māori and Pasifika students through inquiry
Ruia: An inquiry and knowledge-building cycle for educationally powerful partnerships


English language learners

Chances are that you will have one or more English language learners in your various classes.

Students who are new learners of English or in an English-medium learning environment for the
first time need explicit and extensive teaching of English vocabulary, word forms, sentence and
text structures, and language uses.

For teachers of English language learners who are looking for guidance, seven principles are
suggested. See the section English language learners: Principles.

For guidance on effectively integrating content learning and language learning when working with
English language learners, see this professional development DVD:

Making Language and Learning Work 2: Integrating language and learning in secondary
English and social sciences.

Return to previous page

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English language learners: Principles

English language learners need special consideration not only because they lack the language
skills and knowledge (vocabulary, grammar, structures, etc.) of first language learners, they lack
understanding of the embedded cultural knowledge on which interpretation often depends.

Incorporating the following seven principles into your planning will support your English language
learners to learn. These principles are applicable to learning in every curriculum area.

The seven principles

1. Know your learners – their language background, their language proficiency, their experiential

What do I know about my students' language skills?

What do I know about their prior knowledge?
How will I find out this information?
How will it affect my planning?

2. Identify the learning outcomes including the language demands of the teaching and learning

What language knowledge and skills do the students need to complete the task?
Do they know what the content and language learning outcomes are?

3. Maintain and make explicit the same learning outcomes for all the learners

How can I make the lesson comprehensible to all students?

How can I plan the learning tasks so that all the students are actively involved?
Do my students understand the learning outcomes?

4. Begin with context embedded tasks that make the abstract concrete

How can I put these concepts into a concrete context?

5. Provide multiple opportunities for authentic language use, with a focus on academic language

Is the language focus on key language?

Do I give my students many opportunities to notice and use new language?

6. Ensure a balance between receptive and productive language

Are students using both receptive (listening, reading) and productive (speaking, writing)
language in these activities?

7. Include opportunities for monitoring and self-evaluation

Do I use “think alouds” to make my use of strategy transparent to students?

What opportunities am I providing for reflection and self-evaluation?

These principles are adapted from a set on ESOL Online.

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Return to previous page

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Creating a supportive learning environment

A supportive learning environment is less about the physical classroom and resources (though
these are important) than it is about values and relationships.

In a genuinely supportive learning environment, every student feels valued, included, and

For this to happen, each student needs to know that their story matters. For teachers, this means
listening, and taking the time and appropriate opportunities to learn:

where their students have come from

where they are now
where they want to head in the future.

Effective teachers do not teach lessons; they teach students.

Decisions relating to programme design, texts, resources, and contexts are made on the basis of
sound knowledge about the students in the class: knowledge about their students’ linguistic
background, their ethnicity, their turangawaewae, the expectations of their parents and whānau,
their hobbies, their skills, their prior learning and so on. These factors all contribute to the
formation of each student’s identity – who they are and how they see themselves.

Finding out about your students is just part of the broad inquiry cycle that also involves
consciously planning and implementing programmes of learning that are designed specifically for
them. The resources you use will be selected as part of this same inquiry.

See snapshot 4: Learning through poetry and snapshot 9: I am not Esther for examples of how
teachers made resource decisions based on their knowledge of their students.

At the start of the school year

Here are some steps you could take at the start of a new school year to begin to create a
supportive learning environment:

Creating a learner profile

Building relationships with your students
Building relationships between students

Creating a learner profile

Start building a learner profile (paper based or digital) for each student. In it, you might keep track

English curriculum progress (See, for example, progression in ideas)

key competencies progress
the student’s learning goals.

How could you and your students update these during the year? How could your students share
their profiles with their families?

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Enabling eLearning: ePortfolios

Learn about e-portfolios. You may be able to create an e-portfolio using your school’s Learning
Management System or LMS (for example, Knowledge Net, Moodle, Ultranet). Encourage your
students to individualise their portfolios; for example, by linking comments or work to a music
video to track or illustrate a particular learning episode.

Teachers and students at Mt Roskill Grammar School have been exploring how to enhance
learning through the use of online environments. They are using a Learning Management System
to organise and share resources. Teachers have also identified the value of designing tasks and
opportunities that encourage reflective thought.

Taihape High School investigated the collaborative development of e-portfolios to engage whānau
in a learning partnership with students.


Building relationships with your students

How might you go about building relationships with your students that will communicate your belief
that all students have the capacity to be learners and achievers?

Are there ways in which you and your students could introduce yourselves, sharing who you
are, where you are from, your likes, dislikes, and hopes and dreams for the future? Could
you do this orally through, for example, a mihimihi or talanoa?
What about bringing or creating and sharing visual stories, collages, or artifacts? Could your
students make, for example, mind maps, mosaics, tapa, korowai, siapo, taniko, tivaevae,
pounamu design, or coat of arms?
Could you ask your students to share their role models, and what sort of person they aspire
to be? Who do they look up to in their community? What are their strengths and needs?
What are they passionate about (it may not be English!)? How could you use this information
to make English learning relevant for your students?

Read snapshot 5: Video gaming as a context, to learn how one teacher inspired his students to
learn in English simply by using a context that motivated them.

Can you use your students’ personal reading or viewing to recognise and affirm their sense
of identity and belonging?


Building relationships between students

How could you build relationships between students so they feel safe and valued?

Challenge students with an unfamiliar text that is open to different interpretations. Discuss
possible meanings, accept all responses, and encourage students. How can you
acknowledge, respect, and value their voice?
Could you use your school’s Learning Management System to create a discussion forum (for
example, what feature film should we study this year)? How might you engage students in
responding to each other’s posts?
Do you have strategies that will allow students to get to get to know each other and you?

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From such activities, collate information about your students’ writing, speaking, and presenting

Read snapshot 10: Theme-based programme design to see how one school based an entire
English programme around a single theme that was of particular interest to the students.

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Making connections to prior learning and experience

Every student brings to the classroom their own kete of knowledge and experience – their story.
What they have in their kete will be quite different from what you and their fellow students have in
theirs. The contents of that kete will greatly influence what will engage the student in learning, and
how they will engage in their learning.

Read snapshot 6: Mel’s story, to understand how a student’s kete is crucial for both identity and

Read snapshot 1: Nga hau e wha to see how, through the careful choice of poets, a teacher
connected learning to what students had in their kete.

What do my students’ kete contain?

What is in a student’s kete can be discovered from qualitative sources such as student voice,
surveys, previous reports, portfolios of work, and anecdote. The information can be gathered
formally, or informally, through discussion with the students or colleagues.

Watch Hamish Chalmers from Albany Senior High School provide examples of how his students
are at the forefront when designing English courses.

Quantitative evidence can come from sources such as assessment data; for example, MidYis,
STAR, PAT, or asTTle.

Learn more about these assessment tools:

Assessment Online: Assessment tool selector

This information feeds into the focusing inquiry that is the beginning point for the teaching as
inquiry cycle. It needs to be comprehensive enough for you to be able to identify students and
groups of students who are achieving at different levels and have, therefore, different learning

At the start of the school year

What steps can you take at the start of the school year to find out about your students? Here are
some suggestions:

Looking back

Find out where they are at in terms of the broad development of the English curriculum.
Find out what course they took and what texts they studied last year.
Read and discuss with them their profiles from last year.
Survey them: What did they enjoy in English last year?

Looking forward

What would they like to explore this year?

What specific strengths, needs, and goals have they identified for themselves?

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What understanding do they have about next learning steps (for example, do they have
information from e-asTTle)?
Support students set personal goals for learning in English.

Every day

Help them make connections between different aspects of, and across, the curriculum.
Help them to integrate ideas from their own/wide reading into their classroom learning.
Work to make connections between their whānau and communities and their learning in

Read snapshot 8: Salem and the Dawn Raids, to see how one teacher used a local context and
community resources to help students access a play set in seventeenth century America.


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Teaching as inquiry

Teaching as Inquiry is a model of the teaching process, designed to help teachers plan and
implement student-centred teaching and learning. In this cyclical model, the teacher first
determines the direction for learning, then decides which strategies and resources to use, puts
these into action, and investigates the effectiveness of teaching.

This diagram from The New Zealand Curriculum depicts this process:

Teaching as inquiry diagram

If you cannot view or read this diagram, select this link to open a text version.

The focusing inquiry

The teaching inquiry
The learning inquiry
What should I do next?
Sample inquiry

The focusing inquiry

The focusing inquiry establishes the baseline and the direction of the learning. Inquiries can be
short-term (for example, evaluation of one aspect of a lesson or an evaluation focusing on one
student), medium-term (for example, evaluation of a unit of work) or long-term (for example,
evaluating the effectiveness of a year-long theme study).

For example:

At the beginning of a level 6 poetry unit, find out which aspects of analysis the students find
most challenging. Identify a group of students who have difficulty in one area and investigate
possible techniques to try with them. Which strands, processes, and strategies should be the
focus for learning?

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Listening to her level 7 class and reading their analyses, it was clear to the teacher that her
students had limited understanding of the social and historical context of The Great Gatsby.
So she researched possible ways of engaging them with the context.
Following their work in a previous unit, the teacher realised her level 7 students were
struggling to understand and analyse how text conventions work together to create meaning
and effect. She decided to refocus on improving essential writing skills.

Instead of determining the goals yourself, co-construct goals for a programme or unit with your
students (or, as HoD, with your department or faculty).


The teaching inquiry

The teaching inquiry involves asking what strategies will be most likely to help your students learn,
and what outcomes you expect.

As part of this inquiry you could, for example:

Reflect on past practice. What happened the last time you taught this?
Discuss approaches with experienced colleagues and your HoD, RTLBs, and learning
support staff. Ask the students how they best learn, and give them some say in the matter
(for example, they may work best in groups).
Talk to the teacher who took this class the previous year. You could do this over a coffee at

Other sources of support

Do you use the English Online website? It offers a wide range of resources that can be
adapted for your needs.
Have you signed up to the English online email forums so that you can engage in
professional discussions with colleagues around the country?
If you are not already involved in NZATE, the English subject teachers’ association, consider
getting involved.


The learning inquiry

The learning inquiry examines what happened as a result of the teaching and considers what the
implications are for future learning. A variety of measures can be used to evaluate the outcomes.

Ask your students to describe their next learning steps in their e-portfolio, journal, or learning log.


What should I do next?

You could, for example:

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Encourage your students to discuss their learning with their families. Conference with them,
comment on their blog.
Keep your own reflective journal in which you comment on levels of interest, engagement,
enjoyment of the selected text, task, activities, nature and quality of responses. Arrange for a
lesson observation by your HoD or a peer.
Use student attendance data to see if there are patterns that need investigation and possible
Identify particular weaknesses in student work and plan to address these in the next unit.
Identify particular strengths in student work and plan to develop these further in future.
Evaluate how effective the design of the programme was (for example, would a different
sequence be better?).


A sample inquiry: Text study

This example suggests how you might apply Teaching as Inquiry to the selection of a text or texts
for whole-class study.

1. The focusing inquiry

What text(s) will engage my students? What factors should I be taking into account …
culture, reading skills, interests, gender, etc?
Given where my students are at in the curriculum, what levels and achievement objectives
should I focus on?

2. The teacher inquiry

What do my students need to know if they are to engage with this text?
What resources are available to support their understanding?
What teaching/metacognitive strategies should I use to help my students understand this
What do I most want my students to take away from their study of this text?

3. The learning inquiry

In terms of learning/achievement objectives, what did my students learn from this study?
Did they use a variety of processes and strategies in their text study?
How effective were their strategies? How do I know their text analysis skills are developing?
What other texts could I use to extend this group?

Read snapshot 11: Reflective journals to see how one teacher discovered how to get much
greater mileage from her feedback.

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Text version of Teaching as Inquiry diagram

This is a flow chart diagram in the shape of a rectangle, and headed: ‘Teaching as Inquiry’.

Working clockwise, and starting at the top right, there are two overlapping ovals, one contains the
word: ‘Teaching’, the other contains the word: ‘Learning’. There is one arrow going from the middle
of these two ovals, pointing down to the bottom right to an oval containing the heading: ‘Learning
Inquiry’, followed by the words: ‘What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the
implications for future teaching?’

From this oval there are two lines ending in arrows. One line has the words along it: ‘Is there
something I need to change?’ and ends in an arrow and an oval in the top left of the flow chart.
The other line has the words along it: ‘What are the next steps for learning?’ and ends in an arrow
and an oval at the bottom left of the flow chart.

The oval at the bottom left of the flow chart has the heading: ‘Focusing Inquiry’, followed by the
words: ‘What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are
at?’ A line goes from the top of this oval to the bottom of the next oval, which is at the top left.

The oval at the top left of the flow chart has the heading: ‘Teaching Inquiry’, followed by the words:
‘What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?’ An arrow then
leads on to the ovals ‘Teaching’ and ‘Learning’.

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Providing sufficient opportunities to learn

Learning does not usually happen instantly, as the result of a single experience, or for all students
in the same way. For this reason, new learning needs to be introduced, practised, and
consolidated via multiple opportunities using different tasks, contexts, or strategies.

Increasing the opportunities

Why not allow your students to choose how they will present their work? For example, by oral
presentation, essay, video, or blogging.

Read snapshot 2: Microblogging reflections on a novel to see how one teacher used blogging as a
means of challenging her students to reflect in depth during the study of a novel.

Strategies you could consider:

Consolidate learning by, for example, getting students to write an essay on an aspect of a
character and then either (i) writing a second essay on a similar subject or (ii) rewriting the
first essay, making use of feedback.
Embed revision strategies in tasks instead of revising only when a task is complete.
To improve students’ understanding of structure, expose them to similarly structured texts.
Give your students opportunities to work collaboratively to develop the skills and knowledge
they need for a task before they have to exercise those skills independently.
Encourage your students to experiment with their writing, evaluate it and obtain a peer
evaluation, and then keep their efforts and evaluations in a portfolio.
Instead of relying on a single example, encourage students to read multiple examples of the
genre or form that they are being asked to write in or about.
Encourage your students to develop their personal/wide reading by accessing books and
materials in multiple ways (for example, class selections, school library, public library, digital
editions, internet).

Read snapshot 7: Film study to see how one teacher succeeded in getting the students to take
greater ownership of their learning and how, as a result, they began to hear their own critical voice
coming through.



ESOL Online provides resources designed to help teachers meet the different needs of their
English language learners.

Principles of effective teaching and learning for English language learners

The resources PowerPoint on ESOL Online shows a range of materials available to assist
English language learners.

The Conditions of Assessment Guidelines Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3 suggest a wide variety
of English learning experiences that can be assessed against particular NCEA standards.

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(The Conditions are in a Word document accessed from the right-hand menu on the linked

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Facilitating shared learning

Learning in English is enhanced when learners are engaged with their communities and when they
share activities, conversations, successes, and challenges with people they trust. The classroom
is a learning community in which the teacher is also a learner.

View this video clip - Te Mana Kōrero: Culture Counts - to see how one teacher stepped outside
her comfort zone and how the community stepped in to support her.

Ako – the operative principle

Ako is the operative principle of any classroom or community in which every person is supported
and every person is learning. Ako embodies the understanding that learning is reciprocal: we all
have something to teach, and we all have something to learn. It also embodies the understanding
that learner and whānau are inextricably linked.

Two key messages:

Language, identity and culture count – it is important therefore to know where students come
from and to build on what they bring with them.
Productive partnerships strengthen learning – by sharing knowledge and expertise, students,
whānau, and educators achieve better outcomes.

Learn more:

Ka Hikitia: The Māori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017


How can I facilitate shared learning?

English learning requires a high-trust environment. For example, whenever a student delivers an
oral presentation, they are vulnerable and need to know that they are safe and supported. In a
high-trust environment, the teacher can affirm and validate the culture and identity of each student.

Consider the opportunities you have or could create to facilitate shared learning:

In what ways could you encourage group and peer appraisal of draft work?
What opportunities do you have to publish student work? For example, in a blog, magazine,
display, local newspaper or online. For online publication possibilities, have a look at Lulu,
ePubBud, and Youblisher.
How could your students work with a text that is unfamiliar to you?
How could you make more use of ideas from your students – let them teach you?! Do you
co-construct learning and assessment opportunities?

View this video clip - Te Mana Kōrero: Culture counts 2 - to learn what teachers in one school did,
and how being culturally responsive is very different from tokenism.

How could you make better use of assessment tools such e-asttle and PATs and student

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interests, knowledge, and experiences, to inform grouping?

How do you affirm students’ fresh interpretations of texts and encourage them to further
consider and refine them?
Do you invite students’ families to creative writing celebrations, speech evenings, or drama
Have you considered getting your students to lead “parent interviews”?
Do you ever match high-performing students with low-performing students to collaborate on
a piece of work?
Do you keep your own reflective journal (maybe a blog or video blog) and model the
reflective process for your students?
Are you using opportunities afforded by new media to enhance student learning? For
example, the school’s LMS, social networking sites such as Facebook, or Google docs?

Read snapshot 3: Shakespeare on Facebook to see how one teacher used a social networking
site as a means of immersing her students in the characters and themes of Romeo and Juliet.

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Encouraging reflective thought and action

The best learning takes place when students have the opportunity to reflect on what they have
been doing. This reflection helps them consolidate their knowledge, skills, and understanding. It
can also greatly increase their self-awareness as a learner.

Teachers need a strong sense of what progression in senior English looks like. This enables them
to assess forward momentum and to help students recognise it for themselves.

Students engage in reflective thought and action as they evaluate their own work, a text, or a
source of information.

By reflecting on the effectiveness of their actions and the progress of their students, and using the
outcomes of their reflection to inform planning, teachers are engaging in “ teaching as inquiry”.

By engaging students in constructive reflection, teachers encourage them to take ownership of

their own learning – essential if students are to have high expectations of themselves, and to
accelerate their achievement.

How can I encourage reflective thought and action?

Some suggestions:

Consider the use of journals or e-portfolios to record reflections on learning.

Embed revision in tasks instead of leaving all revision until a task has been completed.
Following feedback, co-construct feed forward and next steps with students.
Survey students at the end of a unit of work: What did they learn? What do they need more
help with?
Provide structured time and opportunities (prompts or stubs are useful) for students to think
carefully about the processes and strategies they are using in their writing, reading,
speaking, presenting, and listening.
Model reflection on writing.
Deconstruct and discuss a range of exemplars before students’ plan their own work.

Read snapshot 11: Reflective journals to see how one teacher discovered how to get much
greater mileage out of her feedback.

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Enhancing the relevance of new learning

Students need to see relevance in what they learn.

Learning can be relevant for a variety of quite different reasons; for example, it may relate to their
circumstances, culture, locality, identity, history, or career or leisure pursuits. Teachers who know
their students well are able to connect new learning to student interests. Sometimes, however,
learning can be relevant for no other reason than that it is novel, piques curiosity, or offers a
challenge that just has to be taken up.

When students see the relevance of what it is that they are doing, they are more likely to engage
with and understand it. This in turn encourages them to take greater ownership of learning.

Students appreciate having input into the choice of a learning context, or to have elements of
choice within a specified context.

How can I enhance the relevance of new learning?

Discuss with your students which film, novel, or other text to choose for study.
Seek input from your students when deciding the focus of an upcoming study. For example,
which achievement objectives should be given priority?
Find opportunities to co-construct teaching and learning activities with your students. For
example, the digital tools to be used, the criteria for assessment, the type of assessment,

Read snapshot 5: Video gaming as a context to see how one teacher successfully engaged his
students in a wide range of English learning using a context that they found highly motivating.

Encourage students to make connections between what they are doing in class and their
own experiences.
Encourage students, when doing their own reading, to think about the ways in which their
reading connects with their own life and experiences.
What tools can you use for learning that are familiar to your students, especially new media
tools such as Facebook?

Read snapshot 3: Shakespeare on Facebook to see how students used a familiar tool, Facebook,
as a means of immersing themselves in the characters and themes of Romeo and Juliet.

Choose texts that students are going to relate to and see as being relevant. If a particular
text does not engage them, consider changing it.
Investigate connecting with writers and the community through audio or video conferencing
or Skype.
Make the learning come alive by inviting someone from local iwi or community to contribute
their knowledge and expertise (for example, a soldier grandparent in the context of a study of
Instead of having everyone study the same text, allow students to choose from a list of
suitable texts (or to negotiate the study of another suitable text with you).

Read snapshot 7: Film study to see how students responded when able to select their own film for

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study from a list of suitable films.

Find opportunities to use an authentic audience for student work; for example, students
could write a letter to the local member of parliament or newspaper and then send it.

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Assessment for learning

Assessment for learning is the process by which assessment information is used to answer these
questions for the student:

Where am I going?
How am I going?
What do I need to do to get there?

Assessment for learning positions the student at the centre of teaching and learning and enables
independent learning.

“Teachers also use assessment for learning to enhance students’ motivation and
commitment to learning. When teachers commit to learning as the focus for
assessment, they change the classroom culture to one of success.”

Earl and Timperley, 2009 (Earl, Lorna M. and Timperley, Helen (Eds) 2009.
Professional Learning Conversations: Challenges in Using Evidence for Improvement.
New York: Springer.

Assessment and the student

Assessment and the teacher
Assessment for NCEA
Providing effective feedback

Assessment and the student

Assessment, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked. For the student, assessment provides
crucial evidence to support the learning process. Assessment focuses learning, provides evidence
of progress, and reveals what works and what doesn’t. Self-assessment is closely allied to
metacognition: as students develop the capacity to self-assess, so they grow their metacognitive

Students need regular indications of their progress in relation to the agreed goals or objectives.
Feedback is the means by which they know whether they are on track or off. Feedback is essential
for motivation.

Feedback may come from a formal assessment built into a unit of work; equally well, it can come
from scaffolded peer assessment against agreed criteria or be in the form of regular teacher

Students also need to reflect regularly on their own work, questioning and validating their thinking,
and determining next learning steps.

For more on assessment for learning and assessment in the classroom, visit Assessment Online.


Assessment and the teacher

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For the teacher, the collection and analysis of data is integral to teaching as inquiry.

Assessment information enables teachers to:

plan and modify teaching and learning programmes for students, groups of students, and the
class as a whole
identify students’ strengths and give specific guidance on how to further develop these
identify and address students’ learning needs in clear and constructive ways
involve whānau in their children's learning.

Teaching as inquiry and assessment for learning

Assessment for learning feeds directly into teaching as inquiry: diagnostic assessment data
informs the focusing inquiry; formative assessment informs the teaching inquiry and, along with
summative assessment, is a chief informant of the learning inquiry.

While it can be useful to think of assessment under the headings diagnostic, formative, and
summative, the fact is that assessment can often serve more than one of these purposes. What
matters most is that all assessment is used to benefit the student by furthering their learning.

Assessment data can be gathered from observation, conversations, or by examining examples of

student work. Formal assessment opportunities should engage students in worthwhile tasks and
give them every reasonable opportunity to demonstrate their best skills or work.

This approach helps teachers and students to make connections between assessment and
learning and helps teachers develop their understanding of student contexts. <link to the make
connections section of the pedagogy section>

Read snapshot 1: Ngā hau e wha to see how a teacher got her students to demonstrate their
understanding of poetry using non-standard task types.


Assessment for NCEA

English programmes should be designed around the students and their learning, not achievement

The Conditions of Assessment Guidelines Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3 suggest a wide variety of
English learning experiences that can be assessed against particular NCEA standards. The
Conditions are in a Word document accessed from the right-hand menu on the linked page.


Providing effective feedback

The evidence is that feedback can have a strongly positive impact on student learning. But not all
feedback is effective.

“To be effective, feedback needs to be clear, purposeful, meaningful and compatible

with students’ prior knowledge, and to provide logical connections. If feedback is

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directed at the right level, it can assist students to comprehend, engage, or develop
effective strategies to process the information intended to be learnt. Thus, when
feedback is combined with effective instruction in classrooms, it can be very powerful in
enhancing learning.”

John Hattie, Visible Learning (2009)

To learn more, download the Effective Feedback PowerPoint found on this page at Assessment

While the teacher has primary responsibility for providing feedback, consider training your
students to assess each other’s work – and their own. Besides increasing the amount and
timeliness of feedback going on in the classroom, when students become able to self and peer
assess, they become less dependent on the teacher telling them how they are going.

Increasing students’ assessment capability involves modelling the process and providing suitable
scaffolding (for example, prompts) or frameworks.

For example:

Students identify specific strengths in their own or a peer’s work and provide straightforward
suggestions on how to develop these further. A simple pattern could be “Aim to do X by
doing Y.”
Students self-assess their own work and propose goals for further learning. These proposed
goals become the focus of a conference with the teacher.
Students are paired up for the purposes of providing peer assessment and feedback. They
use a series of prompts that have been well modelled on previous occasions.

Learn more:

NZATE have produced an Effective Writing Strategies DVD that includes a number of video
demonstrations of feedback giving. (Order DVDs online.)

Visit Assessment Online for information and resources related to assessment for learning.

The NZQA website has a range of useful resources relating to assessment for NCEA.

If you are concerned about over-assessment, or that NCEA has taken over your senior
school programme, learn how one school got off the treadmill - Smart planning for NCEA at
John McGlashan College.

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Achievement objectives

Understanding the English curriculum

Progression in English levels 6–8
Teaching practices and the strands
Assessment for qualifications

Understanding the English curriculum


This section of the guide aims to develop teachers’ understanding of what English at levels 6–8
looks like in action, and how students can progress from one level to the next.

Students working at levels 6–8 will already have a wide range of English skills, although they may
be more proficient in one area than another.

The New Zealand Curriculum specifies two strands for English at levels 6, 7, and 8:

making meaning (listening, reading, and viewing)

creating meaning (speaking, writing, and presenting).

it is important that students see and make sense of the many connections within and across these

Learn more:

NZC Online: English curriculum achievement objectives

When making meaning, students receive information and ideas – they listen to, read, and view
texts. When creating meaning, students produce information and ideas – they speak, write, and
present texts. In practice, the two strands are interconnected, and students and teachers will move
between them during teaching and learning.

For both the making meaning and creating meaning strands, students use a variety of processes
and strategies. The processes and strategies can be seen as broad skills that underpin students’
knowledge, skills, and understandings. (In the curriculum document, this relationship is
emphasised by the highlighting in purple of the processes and strategies section on the
achievement objective pages.)

Students apply the processes and strategies as they make and create meaning around four
aspects of English:

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purposes and audiences

language features

The statement underneath each of the aspects describes the intended outcome after teaching and
learning has taken place. Additionally, the curriculum provides indicators for what this learning
looks like when students are working at a particular curriculum level.

Access a diagramatic version of Understanding the English curriculum.


Progression in English levels 6–8

As students progress from levels 6–8, they engage with increasingly sophisticated ideas and texts,
using increasingly sophisticated skills.

'Increasingly sophisticated' may mean that students:

study more substantial and more complicated texts

choose texts with more mature themes and concepts
are more independent in their text choices
use more of their own experiences, ideas, and perceptions to create texts
make more connections within, across, and beyond texts
understand more subtle connections within a range of contexts
produce work that is longer, more intricate, more in-depth, and more crafted
use processes and strategies with increased confidence and sophistication to create texts.

At each level, key words and phrases identify the expected progression; for example, under ideas,
in the making meaning strand:

at level 6, students will show a developed understanding

at level 7, this understanding needs to be discriminating
by level 8, this understanding needs to be discriminating and insightful.

A more extensive example of progression in the ideas aspect of the making meaning strand is also
provided – progression in ideas.

In the creating meaning strand, there are more of these key words. For example, in the relation to
the ideas aspect of this strand:

at level 6, students will communicate connected ideas

at level 7, these ideas need to be sustained
by level 8, these ideas need to be sustained and insightful.

To see the step-up/progressions across the three levels, look at the indicators under each of the
four aspects and note the differences in the descriptions, which indicate how students will develop
their knowledge and skills.

Learn more:

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NZC Online: English curriculum achievement objectives

View student work holistically. Look at how the four aspects (purposes and audiences, ideas,
language features, and structure) work together. The examples of practices below can be used to
help students to progress in their learning.

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Progression in ideas

Level 6 | Level 7 | Level 8

Level 6

Students might demonstrate 'developed understanding' by describing and explaining:

how aspects, such as character, theme, and setting are developed

how different characters have different points of view
why the author has made certain choices.

For example, the writer may choose a particular setting in relation to:

their purpose and the point they are trying to convey

the genre of the story and its codes and conventions
the audience for the text
language features and their effects
how texts are constructed.

Example: Barack Obama’s 'Yes, we can' election victory speech

At level 6, students should be able to describe the purpose of the text.

They may understand that Obama tried to convince all Americans that they had a common goal
and purpose and that they can go on together.

He has a message for the world too – that America will continue to be a force for good.

He outlines the way forward for education, essential reforms, and the economy, and states that he
is the man to lead Americans. They can have faith in his leadership.

He appeals to the listeners’ understanding with examples, including the stories of people such as
Rosa Parks and Ann Cooper.


Level 7

Students might demonstrate 'discriminating understanding' by analysing how:

authors use different techniques to develop aspects such as character, themes, and setting
different people can understand and interpret texts in different ways
the audience of the text is being positioned (encouraged to adopt a particular point of view)
language and structural features combine to contribute to the overall meaning of the text
the author creates a text for a purpose.

They should also be able to identify the means by which texts are created.

Example: Barack Obama’s 'Yes, we can' election victory speech

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At level 7, students should be able to analyse the purpose of the text.

As the first black American president, Obama needed to make a rousing call for unity. He wanted
to emphasise America’s role as a force for right and justice.

Students should support this understanding with specifically identified techniques and examples,
such as the use of contrasting pairs: “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican …”
to encompass the huge spectrum of his audience. Obama also uses anaphora – “It’s the answer
…” to provide a multitude of examples of the responses required by this wide spectrum.

A good level 7 student will understand how different techniques work together for particular
effects, for example, Obama’s use of alliteration and metaphor – “poisoned our politics” to
emphasise that it is the politics that have been corrupted, not the American ideals.


Level 8

Students might demonstrate a 'discriminating and insightful understanding' of ideas and of the
effects of language features by responding critically and evaluating, with an increasing awareness,
familiarity, maturity, and knowledge:

why authors use different techniques to develop aspects such as character, themes, and
why different people understand and interpret texts in different ways
why the audience of the text is being positioned (encouraged to adopt a particular point of
why the author created the text and identifying the means by which texts are created
why and how a text relates to other texts and contexts (for example, historical, cultural,
social, political)
the wider significance of the text for the student and for society.

Example: Barack Obama’s 'Yes, we can' election victory speech

At level 8, students should be able to discuss and critically evaluate the purpose of the text.

Obama had to allay a huge number of fears and address many problems – war, economy,
education, and a divisive election campaign fought on racial lines.

The credibility of America had been damaged over the past decade, and so the message he gave
to world leaders had to be forceful, unifying, and optimistic. If he was to regain support for his
country, he also needed to project himself as the right statesman for the job, with the right qualities
of intelligence, dignity, and integrity.

Students at level 8 will evaluate whether Obama has achieved his purposes. They will support
their understanding with specifically evaluated techniques and examples. For example, Obama
alludes to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Obama knows his American audience
would recognise the reference to Abraham Lincoln’s words “We are not enemies but friends”.
Obama wanted to emphasise the core of American values, the values eroded in recent years –
inclusiveness and having a voice.

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Obama’s use of inclusive first-person plural pronouns, most characteristically in the epiphora “Yes,
we can” throughout the speech, reinforces the importance he places on unity. It’s also a catchy
slogan that was made into a song of the same title.

Students will also understand how the wider audience, especially outside America, can interpret
this text. They may also see its relevance to their own situation and that understanding it will
enable them to listen to other speeches in a more discerning way.

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Understanding the English curriculum

Understanding the English curriculum_1

In English, there are two strands: "making meaning" and "creating meaning". When making
meaning, students receive information and ideas – they listen, read, and view texts. When creating
meaning, students produce information and ideas – they speak, write, and present texts. In
practice, these two strands are interconnected and students and teachers will cross over between
them during teaching and learning.

Understanding the English curriculum_2

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For both the making meaning and creating meaning strands, students use a variety of processes
and strategies. The processes and strategies can be seen as broad skills that underpin students’
knowledge, skills, and understandings.

Understanding the English curriculum_3

Students apply the processes and strategies as they make and create meaning around four
aspects of English: purposes and audiences, ideas, language features, and structure. The
statement underneath each of the aspects describes the intended outcome after teaching and
learning has taken place. Additionally, the curriculum provides indicators for what this learning
looks like when students are working at a particular curriculum level.

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Teaching practices and the English strands

Making meaning
Creating meaning
Enhancing the English curriculum: English Online

Examples of teaching practices that enable students to progress when making


Practices in English involve deliberate teacher actions promoting student learning.

Learn more:

NZC Online: Effective pedagogy

All teaching practices focus on the student at the centre of learning. Teachers make deliberate
choices with regard to students’ interests and needs and the relevance of what is to be studied.

The aim of these teaching practices is for students to develop independent knowledge and skills.
Teachers should help their students to become increasingly independent.

Practices could include:

journaling/reflecting on/recording existing knowledge on genre conventions and adding to

these in the course of the text study
identifying sources for further research in all areas (teachers, peers, community, electronic,
online, hard-copy, and oral texts, and so on)
using and incorporating local and community experience when interpreting texts, for
example, grandparents, kaumatua, faife’au/faifekau
gathering knowledge and content of the text and genre within and beyond the school
environment and between texts, text types, content, and the students’ own stories
using multiple methods for readings of texts and comparing these with each other’s readings
including using secondary sources
basing studies of texts on specific teaching and learning around conventions of genre
basing the learning on the context and cultural perspective of the learners
collecting feedback from multiple sources and establishing the most important task and
strategy-specific next steps for deeper readings and understandings
explicit teaching to provide students with competencies in the selection and use of
increasingly complex and flexible tools for inquiry into texts, for example 'three level' guides
and tools for developing specific vocabulary, stylistic and linguistic features, literary devices,
sentence constructions, and grammatical control, and how these make meaning
providing processes to encourage increasing independence – clear scaffolding of the inquiry

Learn more:

Costa's Three Story Intellect (PDF 33KB)


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Examples of teaching practices that enable students to progress when creating


As with the making meaning strand, all teaching practices put the student at the centre of learning.
Teachers make deliberate choices with regard to students’ interests and needs and the relevance
of what is to be studied.

The aim of these teaching practices is for students to develop independent knowledge and skills.
Teachers can help their students become increasingly independent.

Practices could include:

explicit teaching of genre and their relevant conventions, and applying these to students’
own work
explicit teaching about audiences and how writers and designers select oral, written, and/or
visual language techniques that will be most effective for their purpose
using examples and exemplars, including authentic student work, to examine how other
writers have structured/sequenced their ideas
scaffolding students by providing more detailed help at first, then gradually removing the
support to foster independence
using a wide range of planning methods such as brainstorming, mind-mapping,
story-boarding, templates, listing, diagrams, note-taking, and collaborative digital methods
such as wikis or learning management systems.

Students need to know when to use a particular planning method. They can practice different
methods to find those that suit them.

Further practices could include:

exploring the particular effects of language techniques, for example, to influence and
persuade through the use of rhetorical questions, and then experimenting with a variety of
techniques to find out which are most effective in their own creation of texts
selecting and developing ideas for a specific audience and/or purpose, for example,
identifying what ideas will be relevant (in a speech about role models) to a year 9 audience
in the school
adapting traditional methods of oratory, for example, whaikōrero, ngā mihi, whakapapa
adapting traditional methods of story-telling, for example, tukutuku panels, pou manawa,
tokotoko, sagas, myths, legends, ballads.

There also needs to be an explicit focus on the power of language features and why writers select
them so that, when students create their own texts, they are aware of the need to make deliberate
language choices.

Students may need repeated exposure to a variety of texts in order to understand connotation,
subjectivity, and bias. They need to learn that language features can include oral, written, and
visual language.

Students will also benefit from the practices of critiquing and conferencing, using self, peer, and
teacher feedback. Feedback can be written, visual, and/or oral. Critiquing and conferencing are
good ways to get feedback from an authentic audience. Students can see how successful their

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choices have been.

NZC Online: English curriculum achievement objectives


Enhancing the English curriculum: English online

English Online unpacks achievement objectives at levels 6, 7, and 8 for both English strands to
show what is important for each and what each looks like in practice.

Learn more:

English Online: Enhancing the English curriculum

Please note: The references to achievement standards and unit standards on the English Online
pages may refer to expired or expiring standards. For up-to-date information about the standards
alignment and the correct standards visit the NZQA English page.

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Assessment for qualifications

All the English achievement standards have been derived from the English curriculum
achievement objectives.

A teaching programme reflects first and foremost the curriculum and how individual students can
gain an understanding of the key concepts, knowledge, and skills that enable them to progress
through the achievement objectives at each curriculum level.

Support students to gain an understanding of how the key concepts work across different areas of

Choose learning content and contexts based on students’ strengths, needs, and interests, and
assess the learning using the relevant achievement standards.

Guide students to understand how the development of knowledge, skills, and understanding in
English relate to what is being assessed through the chosen achievement standards.

Achievement standards

At the time of publication, achievement standards were in development to align them withThe New
Zealand Curriculum. Please ensure that you are using the correct version of the standards by
going to the NZQA website.

The NZQA subject-specific resources pages are very helpful. From there, you can find all the
achievement standards and links to assessment resources, both internal and external.

Learn more:

NZQA: English subject resources

The achievement standards assess either making meaning or creating meaning, but, in the course
of a unit, students will typically do both. The progressions between the three levels of achievement
standards fit well with a multi-level teaching and assessment programme.

The externally assessed standards involve close reading of texts. Students apply the processes
and strategies of the curriculum to engage with the four aspects within each strand (audiences and
purposes, ideas, language features and structure). They communicate their reading of the texts
and the knowledge and insights gained, in a written response.

The internally assessed standards also involve students in close reading to gain an understanding
of how the curriculum aspects (purposes and audiences, ideas, language features, and structure)
are used to create texts and then to create their own text.

The standards allow for students to respond in a variety of modes – oral, written, and/or visual and
combinations of these.

Level 3 achievement standards

91472 English 3.1 Respond critically to specified aspect(s) of studied written text(s),
supported by evidence (Written language); External, 4 credits

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91473 English 3.2 Respond critically to specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s),
supported by evidence (Oral language); External, 4 credits

91474 English 3.3 Respond critically to significant aspects of unfamiliar written texts through
close reading, supported by evidence (Written language); External, 4 credits

91475 English 3.4 Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops,
sustains, and structures ideas (Written language); Internal, 6 credits

91476 English 3.5 Create and deliver a fluent and coherent oral text which develops,
sustains, and structures ideas (Oral language); Internal, 3 credits

91477 English 3.6 Create a fluent and coherent visual text which develops, sustains, and
structures ideas using verbal and visual language (Visual language); Internal, 3 credits

91478 English 3.7 Respond critically to significant connections across texts, supported by
evidence (Written language); Internal, 4 credits

91479 English 3.8 Develop an informed understanding of literature and/or language using
critical texts (Written language); Internal, 4 credits

91480 English 3.9 Respond critically to significant aspects of visual and/or oral text(s)
through close reading, supported by evidence (Visual language); Internal, 3 credits

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Connections with other school subjects

English has particularly close links with subjects such as media studies, drama, history,
languages, and art history.

But English also links to all subject areas because the skills that students acquire in English are
universally useful and applicable:

All students need certain literacy and language knowledge, skills, and attitudes to meet the
reading and writing demands of the curriculum. Reading and writing, listening and speaking,
and viewing and presenting are required tools in every curriculum area. Literacy in English is
therefore a crucial factor in student success.
All learning areas depend on students being able to understand, respond to, and use a
variety of written, oral and visual language to think about, locate, interpret, and evaluate
ideas and information and to communicate with others. The key competencies similarly
depend on these skills for their development.
The critical thinking and analytical skills developed in English are important in all areas of the
English plays a major role in developing the key competencies and values that are also of
benefit in other subjects.

The four aspects in English (purposes and audiences, ideas, language features and structure) can
also be a way of embedding literacy in all senior subjects.

“As language is central to learning and English is the medium for most learning in The
New Zealand Curriculum, the importance of literacy in English cannot be overstated.”

The New Zealand Curriculum

Connections beyond the classroom

English learning extends well beyond the classroom. Most schools provide opportunities for
students to get involved and be part of:

school productions
debating clubs
book clubs.

Many schools provide opportunities for students to participate in competitive activities such as:

Sheila Winn Shakespeare

Debating competitions
Poetry and short story competitions
Stage Challenge
Ngā Manu Kōrero (English and te reo Māori oral speaking).

Pasifika festivals now often include regional speech and drama performances.

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Learning pathways

Tertiary level
Learning for life

At school

English can be a very important subject for senior students, especially as they are working
towards NCEA. They can meet the level 1 literacy requirement largely or wholly with level 1
English achievement standards. Similarly, level 2 English achievement standards can contribute
significantly to the University Entrance qualification.

For up-to-date information on University Entrance, visit the NZQA website.

Through English learning students develop the literacy skills they need to access learning in other
subjects. Studying English also develops the critical thinking and analytical skills that are valued in
all subjects. Read the “Why study English?” (rationale) section of this guide.

Students say:

“By studying English I will use my skills to create well-structured pieces of writing, wherever that

“English is like a stepping stone in your life, a basic thing you need to have, in order to survive the
world after school.”


At tertiary level

Studying English is essential preparation for all for tertiary study. English can be included as a
major or minor part of numerous tertiary programmes. Studies in English lead to many career
options. Many tertiary courses, including those in the health sciences, require proficiency in

Students say:

“I’m getting As in geography at Victoria and one of the main reasons is that I learned how to
structure a university level essay in year 13 English.”

“The best preparation I had for university was the reading and thinking I did when doing my year
13 research, not to mention that I learned how to do referencing properly.”

“It was really useful going so deeply into those poems and texts because that’s the kind of thinking
I’m doing in my law course.”


Learning for life

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To make the most of their life opportunities, all students need to become effective oral, written,
and visual communicators with the capacity to think critically and in depth.

Literacy in English gives them access to the understandings, knowledge, and skills required for full
participation in social, cultural, political, and economic life.

The four key concepts at the centre of English study – identity, communication, story, and
meaning – are relevant in every area of life. By exploring these concepts in their own work they
discover more about who they are, and, by entering into the experiences of others through their
works, they enlarge their own experience.

Studying English enhances employability. According to Business New Zealand, the single most
important attribute looked for by employers is the ability to communicate effectively. ( Careers NZ:
The 10 skills most valued by employers)

The study of English can open up all kinds of interests, activities, and explorations. Every time a
person engages in any of the following, for example, they are using and/or building on what they
learned in English:

Reading a book, magazine or newspaper

Going to the movies
Listening to a friend
Writing an email or blog
Forming and expressing an opinion
Speaking at a tangi or wedding
Creating an internet document
Devising a set of instructions
Discussing why they like a particular novel or movie.

Magic happens when stories connect.

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Learning programme design

When planning programmes, an English department/faculty needs to have at its fingertips a

comprehensive analysis of the diverse learning needs of the students concerned. Although quite
different programmes may answer the purpose, all effective programmes in senior English:

are designed to address student needs

are coherent and have meaning for students
support a broad vision and goals (these may be school-wide goals or relate to community,
special character, curriculum concepts, competencies, values, etc)
include content and contexts that students will connect with their wider lives
facilitate collaborative learning
offer students an element of choice
are tied into appropriate curriculum objectives
generate authentic opportunities for assessment
set up assessment so that it will inform further learning.

Curriculum design: practical considerations

Curriculum design: other considerations
Approaches to programme design

Curriculum design: Practical considerations

Get to know your learners

While prior planning usually has to be done before the composition of classes is known, these
plans should be modified as necessary as students’ needs come to light and teachers analyse
assessment data. Any programme should be designed to address the learning needs of the
particular group of students.

Key questions

How do you respond to, respect and value your students’ beliefs and cultures? For example,
if there are Pasifika students in your class, would you discuss with them what Pasifika writers
they would like to read?
What cultural norms are validated and valued in your classroom? How could you become
more culturally responsive to Māori, Pasifika, and students of other ethnicities, validating and
valuing their identities and cultural norms?
How does your department provide continuity and flexibility between year and curriculum
levels? For example, do you offer modules that students from different levels can take or
multi-level assessments for students who have studied the same text?
How do you support students to realise their potential? For example, do you use a range of
approaches, including digital, so students can demonstrate their learning in a variety of
What opportunities for extra assistance or extension do you make available to your students
(for example, having resources on a class blog or the school intranet)?
How are you equipping students to meet goals beyond school? What opportunities are you
giving them to develop understanding of culture and identity and to shape responses through

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speaking, listening, writing, reading, presenting and viewing.

How do you use student voice?
– Do you involve students in planning? For example, they might suggest the genres and
films that they are interested in viewing or provide feedback on their learning needs vis-à-vis
the focus achievement objectives.
– Do you provide specific opportunities for your students to tell you how their programme is
engaging them? For example, by recording their reflections on a piece of work
– How do you gather evidence of achievement (both academic and in terms of other valued
outcomes)? What kind of evidence do you gather? What kind of data? Do you deliberately
and systematically ask your students to discuss their progress with you?

To learn more about using evidence for learning see Assessment Online.

Consider The New Zealand Curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum gives you the flexibility to design learning programmes that meet the
needs of your students.

As you do this, you should consider not only the achievement objectives for English, but also the
vision, principles, values, and key competencies.

Key question: How do these underpin your curriculum/programme planning and design?

Consider the key concepts for English

The key concepts for English, found elsewhere in this teaching and learning guide, are identity,
communication, story, and meaning.

These concepts sit behind and above everything that goes on in the English classroom. Every
discussion and every activity comes back in one way or another to these four core ideas.

Key question: How can you embed these concepts in your students’ minds and keep them to the
forefront whatever text or activity is currently the focus?

Review measures of progress

Consider the sections progression in English at levels 6–8 and the strands in English.

Key question: What does English at levels 6–8 looks like in action, and how do learners progress
from one level to the next?


Curriculum design: Other considerations

What constraints are already in place: term dates, calendar events (for example, assessment
deadlines, sports fixtures, exams, major production), events in other subject (for example
field trips, camps)?
How should we allocate classes, taking into account teacher strengths and passions,
workload, and other equity-related considerations?
How do we ensure that our year 11 and 12 programmes offer students ample opportunity to

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satisfy NCEA level 1 and university entrance requirements?

How do we manage resource availability and budget constraints? (For example, by finding
resources online at sites such as Te Papa, swapping and collaborating with other schools,
using the National Library service.)
How do we keep assessment and marking loads reasonable?
How do we manage a transient student population?

Read snapshot 13: Shifting the focus onto learning to see how an English department shifted its
focus from assessment to learning and, as a consequence, increased programme coherence and
student interest. At the same time, the students’ assessment results improved markedly.

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Approaches to programme design

Programme design can begin at any of a number of different starting points. This section
describes some of the possibilities. Whatever the starting point, the primary purpose of all
programme design is to meet the learning needs of all the students in a specific group or class.

Student interest and choice as the starting point

Reflection as the starting point
Connections as the starting point
Key concepts as the starting point
Planning for differentiated approaches
Starting with vision, principles, and values
Starting with AOs, processes and strategies, and aspects

Student interest and choice as the starting point

Consider how the programme(s) might:

allow students to choose texts, activities, and products

allow students to negotiate assessment opportunities and appropriate achievement
make use of student surveys and student voice to ensure that the learning experience is
authentic for students
be given room to evolve in response to ongoing student feedback
make use of texts and resources that are in the public domain
scaffold students to own, reflect on, and set goals.

Read snapshot 5: Video gaming as a context, to learn how one teacher inspired his students to
learn in English simply by using a context that motivated them.

Read snapshot 7: Film study to see how students responded when able to select their own film for
study from a list of suitable films.

Read snapshot 12: Choice, engagement, ownership to learn how a small school increased choice
and student ownership through the introduction of a modular programme.

Watch this teacher describe how his students are involved in course design - Putting students first
in English at Albany Senior High School


Reflection as the starting point

Starting with reflection, planning might involve:

departmental discussion on the effectiveness of current programmes

collaborative planning of new programmes
re-envisioning and re-framing existing programmes in light of changing circumstances and
new opportunities (for example, when new technologies become available)

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establishing review dates at specific points in the year to evaluate progress and set future
designating responsibility for data collection and review of different parts of the programme
to specific teachers.

Read snapshot 14: Getting out of a rut to see how an English department reflected on its
lacklustre performance and then went back to key documents to find new direction.


Connections as the starting point

Consider how the programme(s) might:

utilise a range of texts that have similar settings, ideas, or characters

connect with what students have learned in previous years
allow teachers and students to co-construct programme content
connect with students’ real lives – their cultures, interests, experiences.

Read snapshot 16: Pasifika poetry and English classics to see how a class of Pasifika students
explored themes such as identity and belonging first in the works of Pasifika poets, then in English
literature texts, thereby enhancing their understanding of both.


Key concepts as the starting point

See key concepts of English.

When planning a programme around the key concepts, you might:

begin with a departmental discussion in which you tease out teacher understandings of
identity, communication, story and meaning
deliberately select texts that will offer students good opportunities to explore these concepts
devise activities that explore one or more of these concepts from a variety of angles
explore opportunities for students to engage with the wider community.

Read snapshot 17: Planning around the key concepts for suggestions on how a focus on the
English key concepts can bring coherence to programmes.


Planning for differentiated approaches

When planning programmes that offer differentiated approaches to learning, you might:

ask students what approaches to learning work best for them; use their feedback
investigate common contexts that students at different levels can explore in quite different
investigate allowing different students to be assessed in different ways or against different

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achievement standards
allow students to choose a context from a short list of possible contexts, in discussion with
the teacher
make assessment for qualifications accessible to a wider range of students.

Hear how Mangere High School developed a programme that connects the English and physical
education departments, with a focus on literacy.


Starting with vision, principles, and values

Challenge yourself and/or your department by inverting the traditional paradigm and beginning
your planning with the curriculum vision, principles, and values instead of the achievement
objectives (or achievement standards).

When planning in this way, you may want to:

ask yourself what kinds of teaching and learning are most likely to develop young people
with the attributes described in the vision
take time to focus on the principles one at a time and consider how they are worked out in
your programme(s) and school
consider how values questions as they arise can be exploited for their learning potential
set up opportunities that allow/require students to engage with the wider community
emphasise links across curriculum areas and interests, encouraging holistic thinking.

Read snapshot 15: Trusting students and community to see how one English department
redesigned its level 8 programme from the ground up to give students greater choice and agency
in their learning, and parents and community much greater involvement.


Starting with AOs, processes and strategies, and aspects

See Understanding the English curriculum.

When planning from this starting point, you may want to:

build a teaching and learning programme around the aspects of English

expose students to a wide range of texts and connections between those texts
equip students to make explicit links between the four aspects, and the processes and
strategies when making and creating meaning.

Read snapshot 18: Using the AOs to identify learning needs to see how the teacher of an all-boys
class went back to the curriculum to identify and plan for the learning needs of their students –
with results that surprised everyone.

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Snapshots 1–11 capture examples of teachers using specific content or contexts to support the
learning of diverse students. They are intended to whet the appetite, not to provide a model or a
plan for others to follow. Each snapshot captures just part of what the teacher did.

Snapshots 12–18 capture examples of teachers and schools rethinking their English curriculum
and planning/implementing significant change.

1. Ngā hau e wha

2. Microblogging reflections on a novel
3. Shakespeare on Facebook
4. Learning through poetry
5. Video gaming as a context
6. Mel’s story
7. Film study
8. Salem and the Dawn Raids
9. I am not Esther
10. Theme-based programme design
11. Reflective journals
12. Choice, engagement, ownership
13. Shifting the focus onto learning
14. Getting out of a rut
15. Trusting students and community
16. Pasifika poetry and English classics
17. Planning around the key concepts
18. Using the AOs to identify learning needs

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Snapshot 1: Ngā hau e wha

This snapshot describes how a school used close reading of Māori and Pasifika poetry to address
the diverse needs and interests of its students.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


Our school is a special character, integrated school affiliated to Te Haahi o Weteriana (the
Methodist Church of New Zealand). Teachers get to know their students in a range of contexts
including chapel, cultural groups, hostel, and sport – as well as in the classroom. Over 90 percent
of our ākonga/students identify as Māori or Pasifika.

Māori learners come from as far north as Kaikohe and Hokianga, from the various sub-tribes of
Nga Puhi; and from as far south as Kawerau and Whakatane, from Tuhoe. The college is located
in Tainui territory and has strong connections with the Kingitanga movement. Pasifika learners
come from the wider Pacific and from cultural strongholds in Auckland, with the Tongan and
Samoan cultures predominating. Inevitably, ākonga come with an extremely diverse range of
linguistic abilities and experiences: some are fluent in multiple languages while others have only
limited ability in a single tongue.

This unit came about through a collaborative process across the English department. The trigger
was the desire of students to hear their own voices in the poetry of Aotearoa, and the need for
teachers to develop multi-modal learning competencies.

Poets were chosen because their themes resonated with the experiences of the students and, in
some cases, because of whanaungatanga between poets and teachers. It was believed that the
students would identify with these poets and their works.

Pasifika poets
Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua, Konai Helu Thaman, Karlo Mila, Tusiata Avia, Selina Tusitala
Marsh, Darren Kamali.

New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: Pasifika poets

Māori poets
Apirana Taylor, Robert Sullivan, Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera, Hirini Melbourne.

New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: Authors


Curriculum focus

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Level 6 reading, speaking, writing, presenting

Processes and strategies

Students will integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully and
confidently to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.

[Indicators: Uses an increasing understanding of the connections between oral, written and visual
language when creating texts … thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence.]

Purposes and audiences

Students will show a developed understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and


Students will select, develop, and communicate connected ideas on a range of topics.

[Indicator: Ideas show an understanding and awareness of a range of dimensions or viewpoints.]

Language features

Students will show a developed understanding of how language features are used for effect within
and across texts.

[Indicators: Identifies a range of oral, written, and visual language features and understands their
effects … Uses a wide range of oral, written and visual language features fluently and with control
to create meaning and effect and to sustain interest.]


Students will organise texts using a range of appropriate, effective structures.


Teacher action

The following four activities are from this poetry unit. We chose this sequence because we know
our students experience success in rote oral language activities in the church.

Four voices
In groups of four, students choose a poem (from a selection) to present. Collaboratively, they
divide the poem into parts. These parts may be phrases, single words, repetition markers,
stanzas, parts of speech, parts defined by punctuation or inflection, etc. The choosing process is
itself part of the deeper understanding. Students experiment with reading the poem in different
ways, and finally present the result to the class in four voices.

Play dough “keyholes”

Students work individually or in pairs (pairs are advised if students require scaffolding or if you are

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trying this activity for the first time). Using play dough, they create an image, scene, or
representation of a poem they have chosen from the selection.

If they think of the poem as a “keyhole”, their task is to look through that keyhole and depict what
they see. They then present their poems and discuss their representations.

Critical reading square

Students work in groups of four. Each member has a designated role. Student A summarises the
poem in no more than eight words, student B identifies one or more important event in the poem,
student C comes up with two questions for the poet or a character in the poem, and student D
identifies key vocabulary or language features in the poem.

This activity is different each time.

Play to your strengths

Students interpret the poem in a manner and medium of their choosing; for example, through the
use of static images, dance, mime, dramatisation, rap, painting, song, journal response, model,


What happened?


added entries to their anthologies of short written texts, and to their reading logs;
presented their chosen poems and discussed ideas, intended effects, and language;
further developed the key competencies thinking (through creative and performance-based
study), relating to others (through listening and sharing ideas and viewpoints), and
participating and contributing (in discussions and group work).

The students were able to access poems and themes kinesthetically, orally and visually. They
were able to interpret the texts in ways that made sense to them and, in doing so, deepened their
understanding and engagement.

They were enthusiastic about this experience of poetry. In their feedback at the end of the unit,
they asked for more poetry, and to be able to branch out into and explore a wider variety of texts
and themes.

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Snapshot 2: Microblogging reflections on a novel

This snapshot describes how a teacher used microblogging to support her students to reflect in
greater depth on their reading of fiction.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


Three of the students in my class were Koreans for whom English was a second language; one
student was a recent immigrant from the UK; two students were recent immigrants from South
Africa; one student was Māori; the other students were New Zealand European. Collectively, they
ranged over levels 5–7 of the curriculum.

Some students had considerable ground to make up in terms of their writing and listening skills. It
was clear from a survey that I had carried out at the beginning of the year that they were not in the
habit of reflecting on their predictions or their reading. Particularly with the novels they read in
class, they would hurry to finish without pausing to consider narrative perspective and plot
structure and the effect these had on the reader.

I wanted to find a way of helping them develop the skills described in the achievement objective:
“Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully and confidently to
identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.” As a means to this end, I decided to
get them to journal their reflections as they read Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, The Hunger


Curriculum focus

Levels 5–7

Making and creating meaning through writing.


Teacher action

The students had chosen the “dystopian themes” option line for their English study, and about a
third of the class had a strong interest in science fiction, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian texts.

As they read the set novel, the students were required to complete specified microblog activities.
They could access the microblogs via computer or a simple alternative such as Twitter’s sms
system (important for those without convenient computer access).

Each week I set questions and sentence starters to prompt the students’ reflections. For example,

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“By the end of chapter 3, Katniss is ...”, “good plot lines reveal things by ...”, or “Peeta's actions in
this chapter were … because ...”

As the questions and prompts were linked to the unfolding structure of the novel, the students
needed to keep up with their reading so that they could answer or respond to them.

The students were also required to follow the blogs of at least two other students in the class and
leave at least one comment per week on someone else’s blog.

At the same time I would make my own reflections on the novel and encourage the students to
agree or disagree with my readings, giving reasons.


What happened?

A number of students became highly engaged in debating different readings of the text. Others
were more into their own reflections and did not always seek feedback from their peers. At first I
found this frustrating, but concluded that what mattered most was the impact of the reflecting on
the students, especially those who had not previously been interested in personal reading.

Some students did not have regular access to computers. A small group never really focused on
the blogging and used their access to school computers to play games both during and out of
class time. This latter group recorded written reflections infrequently or not at all. When asked
why, they all said that they had thought about the questions and prompts but just hadn’t got
around to writing anything down.

In future, I may try audio diaries with these students.

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Snapshot 3: Shakespeare on Facebook

This snapshot describes how a teacher used Facebook as a means to get her students deeply
engaged with the characters and themes of Romeo and Juliet.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


I was teaching an accelerated year 10 co-ed class in a decile 4 school. The students were working
at level 6 or beyond on the English curriculum. All were digitally literate and had access to the
internet at home.

Relationships and interactions in the class were positive but the students had had an intensely
academic year and were close to burnout.

I wanted to offer them Romeo and Juliet in a way that was refreshing and invigorating, and that
would make its relevance transparent. I also wanted an approach that would be student-driven
and collaborative.

I asked the class for ideas, saying that I’d like to find an approach that would allow them to
respond digitally to the text. After discussion, they decided that they would like to try using
Facebook for this purpose.


Curriculum focus

In previous units, the class had worked hard on language and structural elements, so I wanted this
unit to focus on thinking about ideas, and deep understanding, rather than deconstruction or
critical analysis of text. Essentially, I wanted the students to make meaning of the text as a whole
– to engage with and respond to character, situation, events, and ideas.

My expectation was that students would develop understanding and discrimination as they
engaged fully with the play and that they would understand the nuances and experience the
conflicts as if real.

Level 6

Creating and making meaning in response to text(s).

Levels 6-7

Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing, with a focus on ideas, and purposes and


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Teacher action

Facebook became the vehicle for a class study of Romeo and Juliet.

Each student was randomly assigned (by drawing names from a hat) a character from the play.
Only I knew which students had been assigned the various roles. Each student then created a
gmail account in the name of their character and used that account to set up a Facebook page for

Two students took responsibility for setting up a class Romeo and Juliet page, which all the
students joined. Students then created Facebook profiles for their characters. Protocols for the use
of these Facebook accounts were discussed and established. Parents were informed of these
protocols and invited to log in and follow the action.

Interactions began immediately – before we had even begun reading the play in class. As the
reading progressed, the students’ homework was to respond in character to the unfolding events.

In addition to class reading, we looked at different film versions of selected scenes. The students
would compare their interpretations with those of the directors and the actors.

At the end of the unit, we had a celebration in which the students who had assumed the various
roles were revealed. A class vote established which three characters had been most effectively
characterized in their Facebook page. The students responsible for these pages each received a
small prize.


What happened?

The students responded to the events and relationships in the play as if they were real and
happening now. It was exciting to see their characters developing in new and individual ways.

Because the students were following their particular character it was easier for them to find a path
through the play and they were more interested in decoding the language so they could see what
to comment on. And because they had greater ownership of characters and events, their
responses to film versions were far more opinionated than would otherwise have been the case.

Responding via Facebook reinforced the idea that the characters had an “offstage” life, and that
Romeo and Juliet were part of a community who were all reacting to events.

From their responses, it was clear that the students had met the level 6 outcomes that were the
focus of this unit. In terms of the key competencies – a second focus – the unit gave them the
opportunity to further develop all five competencies. Facebook provided them with an ideal means
to collectively manage and solve problems.

Learn more:

Interface Awards

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Snapshot 4: Learning through poetry

This snapshot describes how a teacher used poetry to change her students’ experience of
learning in English.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


This year 11 class comprised almost equal numbers of Māori and Pākeha students, plus one
Asian and one Sāmoan student.

The students had a wide range of issues, medical and behavioural. As a result, their capacity to
concentrate or maintain focus was limited and their experience of learning largely negative.

I wanted to find an approach to poetry that would make it both relevant and accessible for my
students, and for them to gain confidence in reading and writing, participate positively in class, and
feel proud of their work.

Our learning outcomes were defined in terms of the key competencies – particularly participating
and contributing, relating to others, and using language symbols and texts – rather than external
(NCEA) assessment.


Curriculum focus



Reading, writing, speaking, and listening with a focus on the language features sub-strand

Key competency focus

Participating and contributing, relating to others.


Teacher action

I chose the book Love that Dog by Sharon Creech because the language is accessible and the
narrator/speaker voices many of the negative opinions and struggles that my students relate to.

I introduced a structured process and reinforced it through repetition so that students had the
security of knowing what was coming up.

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The process was:

1. Read aloud from the start of the book, checking understanding, until the narrator mentions a
2. Turn to the back of the book and read the poem.
3. Turn back and see the narrator’s response.
4. Write your own response to the poem.
5. Share your response in a pair, then a group, then (by the end of the unit) the whole class.

Initially the focus was on sharing. As the students grew more comfortable, I introduced learning
about techniques. For example, before we looked at the poem “Love that Boy” by Walter Dean
Myers (the first stanza appears in the book), I removed the line breaks and, as a class, we decided
where they might go.

This led to a discussion of the purpose of line breaks and punctuation, which then became a focus
for the next poem they wrote. When they shared this poem, I asked other students to comment
and critique.

As a final step, once each student had created a portfolio of work, they chose one piece to read
aloud. We invited their dean, the deputy principal, and the principal to the reading and asked them
each to also bring and read a poem.


What happened?

The outcomes of this process were:

a more positive classroom environment, with students critiquing each others’ work in a
specific and constructive way
an increased understanding of the reasons for word choice and form, including syntax and
ownership of and pride in their own work, culminating in the public reading of a poem
the students feeling valued by the school/senior management (reinforced when the principal
distributed chocolate fish!)

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Snapshot 5: Video gaming as a context

This snapshot describes how a teacher used the creation of a video game as the context for a
year 11 English programme.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


The students who took this level 6 English course knew that making their own video game would
be the context for their learning. They were an eclectic, mixed ability group, mostly boys. A
number had been disengaged in their previous English classes.

As the year progressed, the students developed their English language skills at the same time as
they learned how to create their own video game.


Curriculum focus

Level 6

Creating and making meaning

Key concepts

Identity, communication, story, and meaning


Teacher action

The students learned about formal writing by playing a PS3 game in class, and then staging it as
an event release, which required them to write a review of the game.

They close-viewed the video game The Prince of Persia (before it became a film) for storyline,
setting, and characterization. They also close-viewed the graphic novel Maus I and II.

They then devised and wrote a back-story for their own game concept as part of a creative writing

The students presented a product pitch (oral presentation) for their game concept based on the
television programme Dragon's Den.

As part of their theme study, they analysed the presentation of heroes and villains in various texts.

The class viewed the completed video games and each student explained how they had

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constructed their visual text.


What happened?

From the start, the students were fully engaged and showing wicked creativity. Many of them had
not previously written more than a page in English and now they were:

writing long video game reviews

writing creatively
persuading an audience to buy their game concept.

Some parents were amazed to see what their son/daughter had achieved.

The students believed in what they were doing. They were the experts in their game. They owned
the knowledge and they had to develop and use many English language skills to create their
game. These included:

Reading: Make connections by interpreting ideas within and between texts in their analysis
of heroes and villains.
Writing: Understand how text conventions work together to create meaning and effect.
Presenting: Show a developed understanding of how to shape and organise texts for an
audience and purpose.

The students demonstrated resilience as they encountered frequent new challenges with the
software. As teacher, I learned a great deal from my students. They often helped solve the issues
that we encountered and showed me facets of the game-making software that were new to me.

Games use a lot of storage space, so before you offer a course like this, discuss your plans with
the IT department.

FPS Creator is a drop-and-place software package that allows students to create without having to

Platinum Arts has low-level, violence free software. Find it using any search engine.
Sauerbraten-cube2 is another free software resource, but I have only recently discovered it so I
am not sure how well it works. One student also found a software free install on the video game
Far Cry 2.

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Snapshot 6: Mel’s story

Two of the writers of this guide wrote this story to illustrate how crucially important it is to validate
the identity, culture, values, beliefs, stories, and experiences of our students. We share it with their

Mel’s story

Imagine a girl named Mel. She is six years old. She is in Mr Smith’s class. Every day she comes to
school, excited about the new things that she will share and experience. While every day she
brings her lunch, she also brings with her a kete. Her kete is full to the brim with her knowings, her
values, her beliefs, her whakapapa, her stories, her languages, her culture and her wairua. Every
day her kete sits next to her – untouched.

Time passes. Mel is thirteen. Her kete is much bigger now. It is even more full with her knowings,
her values, her beliefs, her whakapapa, her stories, her languages, her culture and her wairua.
Every day it sits under her desk – untouched. Mel wonders why her kete doesn’t belong in the


Nau te rourou naku te rourou ka ora ai te iwi

With your food basket and with my food basket the people will be fed

How do we live out this whakataukī as we work with our students?

EVERYTHING we do in the classroom either validates or undermines our students’ growing sense
of identity.

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Snapshot 7: Film study

This snapshot describes how a level 7 teacher supported their students to take greater ownership
of a film study by giving them choice and refusing to tell them what to think.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


This class was one of eleven level 7 English classes in a decile-10, urban, co-educational state

Quite a few of the students in the class were also taking media studies, so the teacher felt their
knowledge and understandings would be a resource that could be used to advantage in a film
study – they would be able to actively support other students to develop their knowledge and their
skills of analysis.

Rather than have everyone study the same film, the teacher got the students to choose from a
short list of suitable films. Part of the reason for this was that there were a variety of really good
films from which to choose and the teacher was unsure which would work best.

By building on and utilising the existing knowledge of the media studies students, the teacher was
confident that a film study approached this way would be less daunting than might otherwise be
the case.


Curriculum focus

Level 7

Creating and making meaning

Purposes and audiences

Show a discriminating understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and

Show a discriminating understanding of ideas within and across texts.

Language features
Show a discriminating understanding of ideas how language features are used for effect within
and across texts.

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Show a discriminating understanding of a range of structures.


Teacher action

As a focus for their study, I asked the students to choose a film from this list:

A Beautiful Mind – Ron Howard

V for Vendetta – James McTeigue
Gattaca – Andrew Niccol
Road to Perdition – Sam Mendes
I, Robot – Alex Proyas
The Shawshank Redemption – Frank Darabont
The Sixth Sense – M. Night Shyamalan

To help them make an informed choice, I showed them the trailers of all the films and gave a brief
synopsis of each film. The students then selected the film they wanted to study and viewed it in
their own time. If necessary, I helped them find a copy of the film. I encouraged them to view it at
least twice.

I gave each student a booklet that outlined the process they were to follow. This booklet focused
them on the processes and strategies sub-strand and supported them to critically reflect on, make
meaning of, and respond to the ideas, features, and structure of their chosen film. It included:

information on what is meant by analyse: the how and why of film

the key aspects to be analysed: plot, structure, setting, context, production techniques,
characterisation, theme, purpose, director’s intention, conflict, and symbol.

Students worked at their own pace. I would check their progress periodically (once a week was my
aim), conferencing with them and helping those who were struggling.

To help them develop the discriminating understanding of visual language expected at level 7, I
would choose scenes from the different films to demonstrate visual language features that the
students could look for in their own films. On each occasion, we would look at three or four films.

I would also screen scenes from other films, such as the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (to illustrate,
for example, the framing of a shot/angle for a particular purpose). We would spend time discussing
the scenes and how techniques had been used. I learnt a lot from their insights.

If you are thinking of a guided independent study along these lines, consider choosing films with a
common theme or selecting a range of films in negotiation with your students. In either case,
ensure the films demonstrate sufficiently sophisticated visual language features and ideas for
them to be suitable for level 7 study.


What happened?

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Some of the students felt insecure studying film in this way because they were used to having
everything presented to them “on a plate”. They got what I call “speed wobbles” – they panicked
because I wasn’t covering “their” film in enough detail. As they began to provide written responses
and saw their own critical thinking and personal voice emerging, they found they were becoming
more discriminating viewers. They then started to settle down and gain confidence in their ability to
analyse texts and communicate their ideas in depth. What surprised me most was how varied their
responses were. They identified aspects of the films that I had not initially noticed, and not once
did they parrot back my ideas. This increasing reliance on their own resources was developing the
key competency, managing self.

At the end of the unit, the students filled out an evaluation/feedback sheet. To validate the
approach, they reflected on their choice of film and the usefulness of the various tasks.

Our students often expect us to tell them what they need to know. This time I pushed back. While
it took my students time to adapt and to gain confidence in their own ability to analyse and
respond to texts, they did get there.

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Snapshot 8: Salem and the Dawn Raids

This snapshot describes how a teacher used a local context and community resources to help
students get into the text and the themes of a play set in seventeenth century America.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


Our small decile-2 school comprises primarily Māori and Pasifika students.

I like to use American playwright Arthur Miller’s 1952 play The Crucible with my level 8 students.
To engage them and help develop the “discriminating and insightful understanding” called for in
the curriculum, I encourage them to explore parallels with the Dawn Raids carried out in New
Zealand in the mid-1970s.

The raids are an important chapter in our nation’s history: the memory of those turbulent times
continues to have an impact on many of our people and on our collective conscience.

Learn more:

NZ Peoples: Samoans – History and migration

Ethnic and religious intolerance – Intolerance towards Pacific migrants

NZOnScreen: Dawn Raids documentary (2005)


Curriculum focus

Level 8

Creating and making meaning

Show a discriminating and insightful understanding of ideas within … texts.


Teacher action

First, I get the students to find out from members of their ‘aiga/whānau what they know about the
Dawn Raids. Then we share what we have learned.

Next, I invite a retired police officer in our school community to come in and talk about his personal

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experiences during that time.

The following day, I invite a Pasifika member of the community to come and speak about the
impact of the raids on Pasifika families and communities.

These different sources provide a range of perspectives and flesh out historical events that the
students can easily relate to. This local context provides them with a window through which to
view the hysteria that provoked the Salem witch hunts and the anti-communist purges of the
1950s that are the subject of Miller’s play. It also helps them understand the fear that hysteria can
generate, and how hysteria can paralyse people, stopping them doing the right thing.

By using the community as a resource, this approach also validates the voices and experiences of
the community and strengthens the partnership between school and home. As teacher, I also
learn from the reports that my students bring from home, and from our visiting speakers.


What happened?

I have found that by engaging my students with real events in this way, they are able to
understand and analyse the text and the themes of The Crucible more easily and in greater depth.
They learn that history can repeat itself, that it takes a brave person to stand alone, and that
maintaining personal integrity may be costly.

The anti-terrorism raids of 2007 provide another local context that could be used in conjunction
with a study of The Crucible.

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Snapshot 9: I am not Esther

This snapshot describes how a teacher used the theme of “identity” to engage students in reading
and responding to the novel I am not Esther.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


This class comprised year 11 students in a wharekura. They had diverse learning needs, with
achievement ranging from level 2 to level 8 of the English curriculum. They had been a
challenging group and many were not at all motivated to learn in English.

I chose I am not Esther as our study novel because most of the class did not read for pleasure and
I wanted to enthuse them about good writing. Also, it fitted in well with a school-wide theme that
year: healthy living.


Curriculum focus


Multi-level (but the following achievement objectives and indicators are level 6)


Reading, writing, speaking, and listening

Processes and strategies

Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully and confidently to identify,
form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.

[Indicators] Selects and read texts for enjoyment and personal fulfillment … Integrates sources of
information and prior knowledge purposefully and confidently to make sense of increasingly varied
and complex texts … Thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence

Purposes and audiences

Show a developed understanding of how texts are shaped … and how to shape texts … for
different purposes and audiences

Show a developed understanding of ideas within, across and beyond texts … Select, develop and
communicate connected ideas on a range of topics.

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Teacher action

To hook the students in, we focused on the key concept identity and what gives us our identity.

An early task was to get the students to work in groups and brainstorm what made them who they
are. Most had never thought about this before, so it proved a neat exercise.

The ideas they came up with included DNA, religion, parents, town, money, iwi/hapu, whakapapa,
kura, how close they live to their marae, appearance, name, etc. What delighted me most was
their dawning realisation that identity is predominantly cultural.

The charts they created when brainstorming were up on the wall for ages and helped provide
ideas for later essays.

From this point on, the students were able to empathise with the main character in the novel. They
understood that the story was about what happens when all the markers of identity are taken

Some of my students were unable to read the novel independently so I read it to them.
Interestingly, even though I set tasks for the independent readers to do during this reading-aloud
time, many of them also wanted to listen to the book being read.


What happened?

Everybody engaged with the novel. Many of the students had never written a formal essay in
English and were not confident they had the skills to do so.

By taking their own ideas about identity (surfaced in the brainstorming) and relating them to events
in the novel, the students found the process accessible, and everyone wrote an essay. I was able
to use these essays as practice for a formal writing assessment later in the year, focusing on their
theme study reports.

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Snapshot 10: Theme-based programme design

This snapshot describes how a school designed an effective, whole-year programme based
around a theme that was of particular interest to its students and aligned with their needs. The
programme was integrated across English and physical education.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


We are a decile 1 school in South Auckland. Most of our students are Pasifika; many of whom are
English language learners. The three largest groups are Sāmoan, Tongan, and Cook Islands
Māori. 12–15 percent of our students identify as Māori.

This particular programme was designed to develop students’ literacy and language learning
knowledge and skills so that they were prepared for the literacy demands of everyday life,
learning, and work. Like all our programmes, it followed a thematic approach. Used alongside The
New Zealand Curriculum, the adult literacy learning progressions provide the framework for the
level 1 literacy unit standards that were a goal of this programme.


Curriculum focus




Making meaning; creating meaning

Adult Literacy Learning progressions

The literacy learning progressions provide a framework that shows what adult learners know and
can do at successive points as they develop their expertise in literacy learning. Although
constructed for adults, they are also suitable for use with senior secondary students – if teachers
understand the progressions, they can help their students develop the required literacy skills.

The progressions framework can be used as a guide to identifying next steps. Each progression
covers a particular aspect of literacy learning.


Teacher action

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Most of the students in this year 11, level 4–5 English class were boys who were seriously into
sport (like all year 11 students at our school, they were also taking physical education). Most were
not particularly motivated to improve their literacy and language skills. Having identified their
strengths and needs from past records and beginning-of-year diagnostic assessments, we thought
that the theme of sport would engage their interests and offer many opportunities to develop their
skills. So we based the entire programme around this theme.

Throughout the year, we were able to develop the students’ literacy, language, and thinking skills
via a range of written, oral and visual tasks, all based on sports-related contexts.

To ensure greater ownership of learning, we also involved the students in decisions about what
activities they would do.

Topics for the various reading, writing, speaking, and presenting activities included:

non-mainstream sports such as BMX, bungy jumping, windsurfing

famous sports people
games rules
sport events (Rugby World Cup, Olympics)
sports safety
health and fitness.

Wherever possible, we selected authentic tasks as activities; for example, letters of thanks to the
Eden Park tour guide after a field trip to the Māori All Blacks exhibition or emails to the sports
coordinator about issues that concerned them (e.g. marking of fields or quality of jerseys). We
would follow viewing a film or creating a static image with related reading, writing, and oral tasks.


What happened?

Overall, we were very pleased with the results in terms of both academic and personal
achievement. We had succeeded in connecting learning in English with the students’ own
experiences, identities, and cultures – as young people engaged in sports, and as young Māori
and Pasifika people.

The programme helped the students develop the skills to think about, record, and communicate
experiences, ideas, and information orally and in writing. For some, the writing was a challenge as
they struggled with the mechanics of grammar and spelling; for others – those who were shy and
lacked the confidence to speak up in a group – the oral tasks were the bigger challenge. However,
all students had many opportunities during the year to strengthen their writing skills and gain
confidence in front of others.

As the students became engaged in their learning, their attendance and attitudes improved. At the
same time, they had many opportunities to develop all five of the key competencies: participating
and contributing, thinking, managing self, relating to others, and using language symbols and

The students were also given the opportunity to gain NCEA level 1 literacy via the literacy unit
standards. 100 percent gained the reading standard, 76 percent the writing standard, and 76
percent the speaking standard. The programme was not however driven by formal assessments:

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we collected naturally occurring evidence from the students while they were engaged in learning
things that interested them.

To learn more, watch this video of students and teachers discussing the programme.

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Snapshot 11: Reflective journals

This snapshot describes how a teacher greatly enhanced the effectiveness of her feedback by
introducing her students to the use of reflective journals.

Curriculum focus
Teacher action
What happened?


A couple of years ago I went to an Auckland Association for Teachers of English Language
(AATEL) workshop where Jennifer Glenn (Thames High School) was talking about her research
into and experiences using reflective journals with students.

A light went on for me when she described how teachers spend a great deal of time providing
detailed feedback at the foot of pages, where it remains, never to be looked at again. I sat there
thinking, “Yep, that is my year 13 class that you are talking about.”

Read more: BES Exemplar 5 describes Jennifer’s research into the use of learning logs in a
format that teachers can use for their own or departmental professional learning.


Curriculum focus



Providing feedback and feed forward


Teacher action

At that time, I had some essays that my students had already submitted. I decided to start my
experiment immediately, with these essays. Instead of writing all over the essays, I glued each
one into a 1B5 exercise book and wrote comments at the end. I then returned the book to the
student, who read my comments and wrote in their own words what they thought I had said, plus a
goal for their next essay.


What happened?

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Very quickly, I started to become aware of things that I had previously not noticed; for example,
there was the student who didn’t know how to paragraph accurately. Both she and I realised that
she needed some teaching on this point.

Then there was the student who was able to turn a particular idea relating to the narrative point of
view in the novel into an interesting thesis. She gained excellence in the external assessment at
the end of the year.

The other really positive thing for me was entering into dialogue with students who were reluctant
to speak up in class but comfortable with asking questions or making comments in their reflective
journal. I wish I had copies of the journals, but the students all took them away and used them as
a study tool when preparing for end-of-year examinations.

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Snapshot 12: Choice, engagement, ownership

This snapshot describes how a small school increased the engagement and ownership of its level
7 English students by setting up modular programme and allowing students to choose what they
would take.

Teacher action
What happened?


We are a small school with a total roll of 260 and only four level 7 English classes.

Our department was concerned with the low level of engagement of some of our senior students,
and that we needed to do more to challenge students who were excelling in English.

Teacher action

To cater for the wide range of interests and abilities and best use our own areas of passion and
expertise, we decided to create and trial a modular programme.

The intention was that, despite the small size of our school, students would be offered a range of
language and literature to be studied in a variety of ways. They would also be able to choose the
content and text types that most interested them. All level 7 English classes were timetabled
concurrently, which gave us the flexibility to offer this choice.

The modules offered in term 1 were:

Pacific poetry: Students will study poetry of the Pacific and complete two poetic
presentations, two static images and a research assignment, as well as preparing for
external examinations.
Drama studies – Romeo and Juliet: Students will explore the Romeo and Juliet script
dramatically and present two scenes from the play. They will also construct and deliver a
speech on a topical teenage issue and prepare for the external examinations.
Pacific film studies: Students will complete studies on Pacific film and the themes, plot and
characters of Sione’s Wedding, No 2, and Matariki. Students will work towards completing
extended writing such as essays and reviews as well as prepare for the external
University literacy: Students will work to complete units of work that will give them university
entrance. This is a basic reading and writing module for university purposes module.

Different modules were offered in the other three terms but literacy for university entrance was
offered each term. Depending on their selection of modules, students would change classes and
teachers each term.


What happened?

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Some students were initially resistant to changing teachers and moving around, but in the end we
had a whole cohort with completely individual learning profiles who were conscious of making their
own choices and who were beginning to manage their own learning. Because they were able to
choose their own programme, the students were more engaged in their literature and language

In response to student feedback about the number of changes of teacher, we now offer just three
modules (one in each of the first three terms), with students returning to their first teacher for the
final term. The first (and last) teacher kept an eye on the student’s portfolio and had responsibility
for assessments that took place during the learning.


English is compulsory at our school but none of the modules were. The modules empowered
students as they had freedom of choice.
Teachers could teach topics and texts that they were passionate about and used their
expertise; as a result, the students were inspired to be passionate about and engage with
the texts.
Students became managers of their own learning and assessment.
Students could choose to go with their strengths or challenge themselves with different or
more complex texts.
Students now had individual learning profiles that moved with them through the rest of their
time at school.
Student portfolios moved from being the responsibility of the teacher to being the
responsibility of the students.


Some modules had greater take-up than others, making the enrolments uneven. Fortunately,
the teachers concerned did not mind the big classes. If more than 28 students had wanted to
take a module, we would have split the students into two groups and repeated the module at
a different time.
Management of class rolls and data (including NCEA entries) became more complicated,
making more work for administration staff. Because our department was unanimous that this
was the best way to cater for the learning needs of our students, we fought for it. In the end,
the school’s MNA officer congratulated us and affirmed our efforts on behalf of the students.
While it was great in the end, it took some time for students to get used to being responsible
for their own portfolios. The portfolios records of assessments and work that the students
wanted assessed. Although they kept the folders in the classroom, the onus was on the
students to keep track of their assessments.

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Snapshot 13: Shifting the focus onto learning

This snapshot describes how one English department shifted its focus from assessment to
learning and, as a consequence, increased programme coherence and student interest. At the
same time, the students’ assessment results improved markedly.

Teacher action
What happened?


Three years ago our level 6 programme was organised entirely around achievement standards,
and the learning process driven by assessment. Internal submission dates dictated the
assessment points across the programme and how staff taught and allocated time.

Students were not engaged in the learning and made little connection between the processes and
strategies and aspects of the curriculum across the standards. We would, for example, study a
novel so the students could respond to the extended text external standard and then move to a
formal writing piece for the formal writing standard, but the students would not see any connection
between the two parts of the programme.

We were dissatisfied with this state of affairs; also, the students’ results were far from impressive.
Students were credit counting and some would only participate if there were credits involved.

The programme lacked any cohesion and on reflection we felt it was designed only for
assessment and not for learning.


Teacher action

It was the introduction of the New Zealand Curriculum and the subsequent alignment of NCEA
standards that provided the impetus for a rethink. Out of our reflection came the decision to base
our level 6 programme around a theme, “man’s inhumanity to his fellow men”, instead of around
set texts. We hoped that this would give the programme greater coherence for the students.

Now, the teacher involved the students in the selection of texts. The chosen texts included plays,
novels, short stories films (both short and long), poems, and various articles and talks. Instead of
focusing on achievement standards throughout the year, we focused on the level 6 achievement
objectives. Different tasks challenged the students to write in a variety of styles, present static
images and create web pages, deliver interviews and speeches. They filed their draft texts in a

We then looked carefully for achievement standards that were appropriate for the students and
what they were learning. In the third term, the students selected written, oral, and visual drafts
from their folios and edited them for presentation and assessment.


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What happened?

We surveyed the students, collected and analysed results, talked to other teachers.

The overwhelming response from the students was that they had enjoyed the learning. They felt
they had been able to pursue interests, develop core skills, and gain greater appreciation and
understandings of English, both in and beyond the classroom. They felt good about the fact that
they had spent the year learning, not just “chasing credits”.

An interesting and important outcome was that, in the external standards, the proportion of
students gaining merit and excellence increased markedly, indicating greater depth of

Teaching based around an authentic context turned out to be a great deal more enjoyable for both
teachers and students.

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Snapshot 14: Getting out of a rut

Finding itself caught in a rut, the teachers in this English department turned to key documents and
asked themselves how they could do things differently.

Teacher action
What happened?


Our department decided to develop a new level 7 English programme, exploring the possibilities
offered by:

The New Zealand Curriculum

our school charter and
the recently-aligned achievement standards.

Our reasons were:

to increase students’ pride in themselves and their learning (our school mission statement is
“Pride: in learning, in ourselves, and in the school”)
to refresh our teaching (student evaluations suggested that, year in year out, English
courses covered the same ground in the same way and had become boring)
to develop our own cultural competencies (we felt we needed to explicitly focus on the
relationship between our cultural competencies, programming, and student outcomes).


Teacher action

We have tried to design a programme that:

is driven by the key competencies (student skills focus)

demands development of our own cultural competencies (teacher professional learning
is explicitly derived from the achievement objectives for English
considers student learning before assessment
is informed by documents such as Tataiako
gives students as much choice as possible (in terms of both content and learning)
offers flexibility in terms of assessments and tasks wherever possible (constrained by
teacher workload and timetable).

Our level 7 programme for 2012 is in two parts:

Part 1: Meeting and communicating.

Part 2: Thinking widely

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What happened?

By hyperlinking key competencies, possible learning sequences, achievement objectives, and

assessment tasks to resources, we are able to make changes quickly in response to feedback
from both students and teachers.

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Snapshot 15: Trusting students and community

This snapshot describes how one English department redesigned its level 8 programme from the
ground up to give students greater choice and agency in their learning, and parents and
community much greater involvement.

Teacher action
What happened?


Our school is high-decile, culturally diverse, and with a strong Māori presence. Parents and
community are keenly supportive of the school, and the students (well, most of them, anyhow!)
demonstrate good independent learning skills.

The catalyst for a redesign of our level 8 programme was our realisation that, as a department, we
needed to be more open to new opportunities and to new voices/viewpoints. In particular, we
realised that we were missing out on opportunities to engage parents and whānau in the students’
learning. We had been keeping them at arms length in the belief that if they got involved, work that
students presented for assessment might not meet the authenticity criterion.

Also, our department comprised mainly women of European descent, so our programme reflected
our particular cultural lens, not that of the students. From reading The New Zealand Curriculum,
we were convinced that we needed to re-think our programme so that it was more inclusive of the
diversity of the learners in our classrooms. We decided to use the vision, principles, and values of
The New Zealand Curriculum as the starting point for the redesign process.


Teacher action

We decided to aim high in the first instance, and worry later about how to put our ambitions into
practice. In the resulting discussion, we came up with the following as features of our ideal

Offers assessment opportunities outside the classroom, and digital submission of work.
Activity-based rather than desk-based.
Critical thinking and student engagement embedded in every aspect of programme.
Uses new technologies to extend learning opportunities.
Group work, peer conferencing, review, and assessment are integral.
A high level of interaction with the community, including mentoring, visits, and exchanges.
Project-, rather than content- or assessment-based.
Incorporates self-review and peer-review cycles.

When we stepped back and looked at this list, we realised that implementing a programme with
these features would involve big shifts for us all, and could be very daunting. Nevertheless, we

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took a deep breath, decided to put greater trust in our students and community, and set about
devising such a programme. To give ourselves a security blanket, we wrote down the steps of our

Our process

1. Getting to know each other and community: “Me and my turangawaewae”. We decided to
spend time getting to know the class and our community and on letting them get to know us.
We brainstormed how we might go about this, and teachers chose/adapted ideas to use with
their own students.
2. Communicating with community: we “spread the word”. The students all wrote letters and
articles (which went into their portfolio) for the school website. We began a Facebook page
and a YouTube channel. We described our intentions and hopes for the programme, and
invited community members to participate by mentoring, visiting, or otherwise exchanging
3. Policies and guidelines. After class discussion, we decided on and documented authenticity
policies and review/feedback guidelines. These were then sent home to that ensure all
interested parties were aware of the requirements and restrictions.
4. Project ideas and scoping. Students explored own areas of interest/projects around which
their year’s work could be based. We used teacher–student conferencing, peer and class
discussion, and communication with parents and possible mentors (via Facebook and
e-mail) to help students finalise their ideas.
5. Proposal and acceptance. Students wrote a formal proposal for their project (this also went
into their portfolio), which they submitted to their teacher. Teachers then collectively read
and approved (or suggested amendments to) proposals.
6. Resourcing. All proposals were shared, and resource ideas collected and collated. Resource
lists included texts, people, and places. Students used teachers, other students, and people
from the school (for example, the librarian) and wider community to generate their resource
7. Assessment. In consultation with teachers and classmates, students made decisions about
which standards they would be assessed against, what they would offer for assessment, and
8. Shared teaching and learning opportunities. With class input, teachers decided on
opportunities (content and timing) throughout the year to work in groups or as a class. It was
understood by all parties that there was a degree of fluidity about these decisions and that
details would be finalised as needs were identified.
9. Individual Education Plan (IEP). At this point, students were required to generate and submit
an IEP summarising their project, resources, and assessment (achievement standards,
checkpoints, and timing).


What happened?

As the year progressed, it became clear that communication and consultation – between teachers,
between teachers and students, between students, and between teachers, students, and
community members – was essential.

When we review the programme for next year, we have decided we will work on ways to ease

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teacher workload, but overall, student engagement and success has been at an all-time high.

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Snapshot 16: Pasifika poetry and English classics

In this snapshot, a teacher describes how she designed a year 13 course specifically for her class
of Pasifika students and how, by making thematic connections across Pasifika poetry,Othello, and
The Crucible, their understanding and appreciation of the literature of both cultures was enriched.

Teacher action
What happened?


I wanted to put in place an English programme that would provide learning experiences relevant to
my class of Pasifika students – experiences centred on Pasifika themes and Pasifika ways of
being and knowing.

To go with the Pasifika texts, with their themes such as identity and belonging, I selected English
texts (Othello and The Crucible) that had similar themes.

All teaching was designed around the learning needs of the students. There was a strong
emphasis on learning verbally and visually, collaborative learning, and co-construction of content.

I wanted to build specifically on skills that are valued in Pasifika cultures, such as formal oratory. In
this way, I was aiming to align my teaching with the principles for Māori achievement set out in Ka
Hikitia, with its emphasis on Māori students achieving education success as Māori.

The students differed greatly in terms of their depth of cultural knowledge and knowledge of their
Pasifika language. Some were functioning at a high level in the language and their own cultural
communities; others had only limited knowledge of either. It was important that, in our English
programmes, we valued the students’ cultures and gave them every opportunity to relate what
they were learning to what they knew, and vice versa.


Teacher actions

We started the year with Pasifika poetry, by Konai Helu Thaman, Albert Wendt, Karlo Mila, Selina
Tusitala Marsh, Mua Strickson-Pua, and DJ Kamali.

These poets set the tone for the year, introducing themes of identity and belonging, as well as
representation, loss, justice, personal integrity, and binary opposed absolutes (such as
black–white and love–hate).

These are universal ideas, but because they were considered in a Pasifika context, the students
were able to relate them easily to their own experience. By encountering them first in a Pasifika
context, the students were then well prepared to encounter them in less familiar or accessible
contexts in the selected English texts.

Shakespeare’s Othello was the first non-Pasifika text studied. We introduced it via talanoa, which,
according to Havea (2010) “refers to the content (story) and to the act of telling, unpacking and

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unravelling (telling) that content, and to the event of engaging, sharing and interrogating
(conversation) the content that is being unpacked and unravelled.”

We followed this up with many other oral activities that allowed the students to explore these
universal themes and work from their strengths to link their learning back to the discoveries they
had made in the earlier Pasifika poetry unit.


What happened?

Student feedback was positive about the programme because they felt they were able to walk tall
in both cultures (Pasifika and Pakeha). Their culture had been validated and the connections they
had been able to make enriched their learning. They had demonstrated “a discriminating and
insightful understanding of ideas within, across, and beyond texts” as is required at level 8 of the

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Snapshot 17: Planning around the key concepts

This snapshot shows how an English department used the English key concepts (found in this
guide) as a means of bringing greater coherence to their programmes.

Teacher action
What happened?


Our 10-teacher department decided to evaluate and revise our level 5-7 programme to ensure
greater continuity with junior programmes. Also, we wanted to reduce the emphasis on
assessment, which had been the driver during our first year with the recently aligned standards.

Teacher action

We began our review by looking at the English teaching and learning guide and we came across
the key concepts, which we loved: identity, communication, story and meaning. We decided to
look at the possibility of using them as a focus for our revision.

We had also been struck by the importance of “connection”, and decided to make this idea a
connecting thread of our programme, too.

After lots of discussion, we arrived at the idea of connecting the four key concepts to teaching,
learning, and assessment via the notion of story:

Identity: Telling our stories

Communication: Engaging with story
Story: Connecting story
Meaning: Creating story

Under each of these headings we wrote a brief rationale, using the explanations of the key
concepts in the TLG as our starting point. These concepts/rationales then became the basis of a
four-part overview of our revised programme. The key competencies, values, and achievement
objectives were already bedded in.

When the philosophy of the programme was in place, we started looking at assessment
opportunities. For example, we decided that, under the banner of identity, students could speak
about something that interested/engaged them (AS90857: Construct and deliver an oral text) and
respond to what they were reading (AS90854: Form personal responses to independently read
text, supported by evidence).

This is what we came up with:

Identity: Telling our stories

Through English, people learn about and celebrate who they are, where they come from, and
where they’re going. English helps people connect with their communities and to appreciate and

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participate in them. Everything we do in the classroom either validates or undermines students’

growing sense of identity. We all have a shared responsibility for the impact we have on the
forming of each other’s identities.

The learning would focus on:

Speeches: of introduction, interviews, likes/dislikes, whakapapa, impromptu, opinions, verbal

presentations of personal reading, snapshot tasks (for example, role activities, like telling
class what superhero you’d be and why). Listening.
Letter writing: time capsule tasks of goals/anxieties/reflections, to the teacher explaining
learning needs/interests/types intelligence/preferences for learning (individual, group), to
Drafts/expressive writing: personal memories, family stories, similes/metaphors/images that
define you (can be snapshot or springboard for poetry. How would you like to be
remembered? What would you like your report to say? What would you like your friends to
say about you?

Next, we devised a sample programme outline, to see if the idea would work in practice. In this
outline, each key concept was addressed separately in a module lasting roughly seven weeks. We
decided that teachers could use this outline or amend it in negotiation with the HOD.

Our intention is that each teacher will use the concepts to generate sequences of teaching and
learning. They may focus on the concepts one at a time, or in combination.


What happened

We have aimed (not always successfully) for flexibility in the timing of assessments. One
constraint is limited access to digital technology. By being as flexible as possible, we have tried to
ensure that all students get access to computers, cameras, etc., without undue delay.

The next step will be to trial it and see how it goes!

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Snapshot 18: Using the AOs to identify learning needs

This snapshot describes how the teacher of an all-boys class went back to the curriculum to
identify and plan for the learning needs of their students – with results that surprised everyone.

Teacher action
What happened?


At the start of the year, my English class consisted of twenty year 12 boys and three year 13 boys.
The year 12s had mostly gained NCEA level 1 credits; the year 13s wanted to gain a few extra
level 2 credits.

During the first week of term I ran a few diagnostic assessments to see how skilled the students
were at close reading. The results were very disappointing. The students seemed to have very
little understanding of language features and they had left lots of gaps in their responses, with
many questions unanswered. I asked them why. It turned out that they didn’t understand what they
were being asked. I realised that if I were to carry on as planned, they would not achieve much, so
I decided to redesign my whole programme.


Teacher action

I carefully read the level 7 achievement objectives to try to identify what my students needed. As I
read, the following really resonated with me:

Integrate … strategies purposefully, confidently and precisely …

Thinks critically ...
Show a discriminating understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and
Show a discriminating understanding of how language features are used for effect …

I made these objectives the focus of the entire first term and decided to see how things went
before planning the rest of the programme in detail. I was not confident that the students would be
ready for any formal assessment this term, so I decided to wait for a month or so to see how their
learning was progressing.

I planned the first term programme around American oratory because the ideas and language
features are usually more obvious than in New Zealand oratory. I started with some really explicit
teaching about language features and their effects.

We also looked closely at purpose and audience. The students realised that the purpose of a
Barack Obama campaign speech is quite different from Ronald Reagan’s eulogy after the
Challenger shuttle disaster. We used lots of YouTube clips to help us understand audience. For
example, we considered the different audiences for Barack Obama’s “Yes, we can” speech in
November 2008 and his 2012 State of the Union Address.

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They started to get it. I was thrilled with their growing confidence.


What happened?

The students became far more able to articulate their ideas. They wrote longer, more
discriminating responses and started to think more deeply about speeches.

I offered them the chance to do some assessment for NCEA and they took it. I suggested that,
since we had been making meaning when studying oratory, it was time for them to create their
own speech.

Pinching an idea from a colleague, I had the students deliver an address as if they were US
President, or Prime Minister of New Zealand. It had to be a six-minute, full-fat, high-calorie,
maximum-energy, locked-and-loaded presidential-style address, jam-packed with juicy language
features like motifs and historical allusions.

Some of the speeches were sensational. One announced that North Korea had just invaded South
Korea and that the world was on the brink of nuclear war; another praised the “stoical” and
“blitz-spirited” people of Christchurch for their “brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by
calloused hand” rebuilding of their garden city. At times, I would have goose bumps listening to the
students! I have never before set an activity that so captured student interest.

The year 13 students in the class did not present a speech for assessment. After discussion with
me, they decided to look at a range of connections across five or so speeches, so we selected a
task to be assessed by the level 2 standard, AS91104: Analyse significant connections across
texts, supported by evidence.

One student wrote an amazingly insightful report that was well beyond anything I was expecting. It
was significantly better even than the excellence exemplar. After discussion, and a closer look at
what was required for level 3, the student reworked his report. I then assessed it against a level 3
language research standard – it gained excellence.

I then started planning the rest of the programme with the aim of moving into ideas and language
more subtle than those found in political rhetoric. As a class, we decided to look at film next. I felt
that, by heading down this path, it was likely that the students would maintain their newfound
confidence. Now that the rest of the year’s direction was clear to me, I planned to make the
programme more challenging as we went, ending with a poetry study that would be externally

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English teaching and learning resources

Assessment and professional support
Resourcing ideas
Professional development resources

English teaching and learning resources

New Zealand Association for the Teaching of English (NZATE)

This site offers information about the annual conference and regional associations, and resources
that are available to support implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum and raising student

English Online
A portal for English teachers wanting to access teaching and learning resources. Teachers can
also engage in online discussions about topical issues.

Literacy Online
A portal through which to access resources for developing teaching and learning programmes
based on the literacy needs of learners.

ESOL Online
A site with content designed to help teachers respond to the needs of their English language


Assessment and professional support

NZQA subject pages

Everything you need to know in relation to English and NZQA including the standards,
clarifications, moderators’ newsletters, benchmarked samples for internally assessed standards
and sample external examinations.

Assessment Online
This key community covers assessment in the classroom, effective use of evidence, and reporting
to families and whānau. It offers news, assessment tools and resources, research, a glossary,
FAQ, and related links.

The linked site Consider the evidence promotes "evidence-driven decision making for secondary
schools" and supports secondary educators in making best use of evidence to improve student

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For a view of how assessment can best serve learning, see Directions for Assessment in New
Zealand, a report by Michael Absolum, Lester Flockton, John Hattie, Rosemary Hipkins, and Ian
Reid (also available as a Word or PDF file).

Education Review Office

In 2007, ERO published reports on schools’ effectiveness in the collection and use of assessment:

The collection and use of assessment information in schools

The collection and use of assessment information in schools: Good practice in primary
The collection and use of assessment information in schools: Good practice in secondary


Resourcing ideas

The following references will help you to plan teaching and learning activities.

The National Library of New Zealand Curriculum Service

Over 500 000 items are available through the Schools Collection, including books, videos, and
DVDs. Schools can also interloan music, books, and serials from the National Library’s general
collections through their local curriculum information service centre.

The Film Archive

The On Disk library of audiovisual teaching resources for secondary schools includes over 40 titles
covering a range of subjects, with more titles to be added. ON DISK has now ceased to operate as
a lending library, however, all titles can be screened and guided by teachers from the Film
Archive's team.

Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

Te ara in Māori means the pathway. Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand offers many
pathways to understanding New Zealand. When complete, it will be a comprehensive guide to the
country’s peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

This website provides an online biographical database on the people who have helped shape New


Professional development resources

The New Zealand Curriculum Online

As well as the HTML version of The New Zealand Curriculum, this interactive site offers a variety

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of support and strategies, news updates, digital stories of schools’ experiences, and archived
material relating to development of the curriculum.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
This site includes an English translation of the main sections of the draft marautanga. Only
learning levels 1, 4, and 6 have been translated in the learning areas.

Key Competencies Online

This companion site to the New Zealand Curriculum online offers specific guidance to school
leaders and teachers on integrating the key competencies into the daily activities of the school and
its teaching and learning programmes.

BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis) programme

BES is a collaborative knowledge-building strategy designed to strengthen the evidence base that
informs education policy and practice in New Zealand. Visit this site for all the BES syntheses and
related resources.

The Secondary Education Portal

The secondary education portal provides links to information, resources and guidance, to support
secondary teaching and learning.

The home page now makes a clear distinction between resources for aligned standards and
resources for non-aligned standards. Access to these is now much improved.

Secondary middle leaders

This site provides a range of information, tools, and resources to support secondary middle
leaders as they lead change in relation to The New Zealand Curriculum and Ministry of Education

Leading from the middle: Educational leadership for middle and senior leaders
This resource describes the qualities, practices and activities middle and senior leaders need to
lead in ways that enhance learner outcomes. It is the third in a series that includes Kiwi
Leadership for Principals and Tū Rangatira: Māori-medium Educational Leadership.

Down the Back of the Chair

Use this site or phone 0800 660 662 for copies of Ministry of Education teaching and learning

Ka Hikitia
Ka Hikitia–Accelerating Success 2013–2017 is a strategy to rapidly change how the education
system performs so that all Māori students gain the skills, qualifications and knowledge they need
to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.

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Te Tere Auraki
This Ministry of Education professional development strategy focuses on improving outcomes for
Māori students in English-medium schools. This strategy supports four main projects:

Te Kotahitanga
Te Kauhua
Ako Panuku
Te Mana Kōrero

He Kākano
He Kākano supports school leaders to become relational and pedagogical leaders with the
capability that will enable schools and teachers to build educational success for and with Māori

Rangiātea: Case studies and exemplars

Five Rangiātea case studies and exemplars examine five secondary schools, each of which is on
a journey towards realising Māori student potential.

Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners

Tātaiako sets out competencies integral to creating culturally responsive learning environments
and contexts, based on knowledge, respect, and collaborative approaches to Māori students, their
whānau, and iwi. Successful teachers of Māori learners need to develop these competencies in
each phase of their careers.

Pasifika education
The purpose of this website is to support the achievement of Pasifika learners by providing links to
quality resources, research and other materials for teachers and school leaders to use.

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