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What is Your School's Approach to Literacy?


The ONE question leaders need to ask to increase literacy achievement:

Seven simple words, yet powerful and profound in their implications.


This question underpins the basis of your school’s educational and literacy philosophy, reflecting your values, beliefs, and aspirations. Asking this question can provide insight and opportunities for growth, it can highlight a clearer purpose and sense of direction, and it can strengthen collaboration and collective efficacy.




When teachers and leaders are able to answer this question unanimously, it suggests there’s a clear and collective literacy focus, they’re aware of the direction they’re heading, and they understand the purpose for engaging with certain resources, professional learning and support.




If teachers and leaders from the same school respond with varying answers to this question, it highlights a lack of clarity, uncertainty for what they’re working towards, and an inconsistency regarding their literacy intention and the support they’re using- they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. 




CLARITY


Based on the work of Lyn Sharratt, establish 'Shared Beliefs and Understandings' to underpin the rationale behind all teaching and learning decisions. You and your team need to consider if there’s a shared vision and collective understanding around your school’s approach to literacy, as well as believing in high expectations and achievements for all teachers, students and leaders.


Grounding team members in shared beliefs and understandings, not only justifies reasoning, but it also supports cohesive collaboration and encourages accountability in achieving your school’s literacy goals. Becoming clear on the intention behind actions leads to clarity and consistency. Think of it as a ‘literacy vision statement’. 


Example: As a Junior School, our literacy vision is to foster a culture where every student becomes a confident and proficient reader, writer, and communicator. We aspire to create an inclusive environment where diverse voices are celebrated and respected. Through innovative teaching practices and a commitment to equity, we aim to empower learners to engage critically with texts, learn the fundamentals, think creatively, and solve complex problems. We draw on inquiry-based approaches, such as The Inquiry Cycle, to foster curiosity and creativity. We use instructional practices, such as The Gradual Release of Responsibility to ensure the learning is explicit, accessible and differentiated. Our vision is to prepare students to thrive academically and contribute meaningfully to the world around them as active, global citizens. 




DIRECTION

Once you've clearly established your school’s approach to literacy, you can work towards outlining your collective literacy goals and how you’re going to achieve them...together.

Setting clear, purposeful, meaningful and measurable literacy goals (teacher practice or student focused) is essential for providing direction and focus to your energy and efforts in the classroom or as a leader. Whether it's improving reading comprehension, embedding a new literacy strategy or enhancing writing skills, articulating specific objectives

ensures that everyone is on the same page

and working towards a shared purpose.


As a school leader, provide a range of opportunities for professional learning to build teacher capacity in reaching these goals, now that you know what you're working towards. As classroom teachers, you can strengthen your practice by applying intentionally selected literacy and instructional practices that align with the direction of literacy outcomes. This sense of direction encourages collaboration, collective and self-efficacy, trust and growth.


Example:

Annual Action Plan or School Improvement Plan or School Strategic Plan

LITERACY OUTCOMES:

  • Increase student growth in the PAT R data to have X amount of students in Year 5 and 6 working at or above the expected standard over X amount of time. 

  • Implement a school-wide writing initiative to improve students' writing skills and apply writing skills across other subject areas. 

  • Provide targeted professional development for teachers to enhance literacy instruction strategies in alignment with best practices.




RESOURCES


Once teachers and leaders are clear on literacy beliefs and are working towards collective literacy goals, support is crucial to maintain momentum and achieve success- sustainability is key! As mentioned in a previous blog, without support, it's difficult to achieve literacy success; teachers become confused and overwhelmed with what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. As a school leader, strategically allocate the time, energy, and money to support your school’s literacy initiatives. Use the literacy vision and direction to justify the rationale for these resources.


Time- It’s the one thing we all desperately want more of and can’t get enough. Allocating time for collaboration, planning, and ongoing professional development ensures you refine your instructional practices, share resources, and learn from each other. Invest in your teachers to invest in your students, and this time investment demonstrates your commitment to your school’s approach to literacy to effectively implement strategies in the classroom. 


Energy- Creating a positive and supportive learning culture where all educators feel heard, valued, seen and acknowledged is essential for sustaining efforts to improve literacy outcomes. Connecting with teachers and their practice, and communicating with leaders ensures a sense of belonging, being valued and collaboration. 


Money- After clearly establishing your school’s approach to literacy, strategically prioritise the instructional materials and professional learning opportunities required to strengthen teacher capacity. This may look like purchasing a variety of professional reads and books, providing access to digital learning platforms, or investing in specific professional development or literacy training for teachers. 


Download this resource to help you lead literacy discussion with your teams.




Asking 'What is our school’s approach to literacy?' serves as a guide and offers insight into the direction and purpose of literacy initiatives in your context. This question encourages a partnership approach, accountability and collective efficacy amongst your teachers and leaders, as you work towards literacy success for all.

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