Making the links: Integrating spelling, vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension across the curriculum

Grace Oakley, Valerie Faulkner, Elaine Lopes, Alex Solosy

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This is the final report for The Making the Links: Integrating Spelling, Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension project. The project was designed around a two years and three months collaborative learning initiative aimed at helping learning area teachers (Years 7 to 9) incorporate the teaching of literacy into their disciplines. The purpose of the project was to lead instructional improvement and bring about change in the ways that literacy across the curriculum is perceived and taught in the middle years. Teachers from a range of learning areas were encouraged to participate and, as a result, a cross-section of disciplines was represented by teachers of English, Mathematics, Science, Society and Environment, Religious Education, Art/Design/Technology, Drama, Physical Education and Media. This program combined theory about spelling, vocabulary and reading comprehension development; demonstration of how to support spelling, vocabulary and reading comprehension across the curriculum; and opportunities to practise with students within their school context. The project approached professional learning as developmental, drawing on the work of Guskey, who suggests that “change is primarily an experientially based learning process for teachers” (2002a, p. 384). It also drew heavily from Hattie (2009) and Darling-Hammond & Young (2002) and Darling-Hammond & Richardson (2009). This resulted in a professional learning approach that identified a six step process whereby teacher participants were encouraged to engage in a sustained and substantial conversation over a considerable length of time. These steps included: collection and analysis of baseline and diagnostic data; identifying areas that required targeted support; challenging teacher assumptions in relation to literacy and literacy teaching across the learning areas; extending teacher knowledge around literacy and instructional literacy strategies linked to different learning areas; implementing structures to extend good literacy learning and practices, and exploring ways of sustaining the change process for meaningful and effective pedagogical renewal. A change that occurred in the 2011 phase of the project was the introduction of the mentor teacher role for each participating school. The purpose of this role was to enhance the sustainability of the initiative. Assessment data were collected using the Progressive Achievement Tests in Reading – Revised (PATR) (ACER, 2008). This included pre- and post-test data which were analysed to determine student achievement across the 2011 phase of the project. The overall impression gained from the data was that students’ comprehension skills and vocabulary knowledge had improved; however, spelling, although slightly improved, continues to provide challenges for both students and teachers. The outcomes for the 2011 phase of the Making the Links project highlights a number of ongoing challenges, especially in light of the Australian Curriculum, where literacy is recognised as a ‘general capability’ across the curriculum (ACARA, 2011a). Other challenges include continuing to build teacher pedagogical knowledge of spelling, vocabulary development and reading comprehension, and maintaining the momentum necessary when building a sustainable initiative that supports student literacy across the middle years of schooling.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPerth
PublisherCatholic Education Office of Western Australia
Number of pages73
ISBN (Print)978-0-9872482-0-6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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