Improving the literacy outcomes of all students at Swan Hill College is a priority area, with goals outlined in our Strategic Plan. Specific programs in the school support students who need additional assistance as well as those ready to be extended. The Literacy Leader is responsible for developing and monitoring literacy programs, as well as providing professional development for both the English KLA and whole school in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s).
Year 7 and 8 Reading Program
In Years 7 and 8, every class has a designated reading lesson each week, where an expert reading teacher joins with the General Studies teacher to explicitly teach reading comprehension strategies. A reciprocal teaching model is used with a focus on developing students’ awareness of their thinking. Students are provided with time for independent reading each week, both in the reading lesson and for ten minutes at the beginning of each class. They also read aloud to a teacher at regular intervals. Reading lessons take place in the well-resourced Learning Centre and regular visits to our excellent library provide students with easy access to books. Students are also given the opportunity to join literature circles where groups of students read and share their ideas about texts suited to their reading level and interests. We encourage parents and guardians to monitor their child’s reading at home by signing a reading record once a week, with the goal that all students aim to independently read at least 20 minutes each day. Able students are encouraged to read more challenging books and their learning activities are designed to challenge their thinking. Twice a year, PAT-R is used to track student improvement and reading interviews take place where students discuss their progress with a teacher.
To assist students who find themselves well below the expected level in reading, literacy support groups exist in Year 7 and 8. After benchmark testing in Term 1, using the Fountas and Pinnell system, parents of identified students are contacted and students offered a place in the program. Expert reading teachers run small instructional groups which meet three times a week, where students with similar reading levels work on improving their reading fluency, word recognition and comprehension. Work in the missed classes is modified. Students stay in the program throughout Years 7 and 8 unless their progress deems the program unnecessary.
Whole School Literacy
In PLC’s, teachers work together to ensure that the best pedagogical approaches are used in each classroom to assist the development of students’ literacy skills. Professional development is regularly provided by PLC leaders to improve teachers’ knowledge of strategies to use when students read or write texts. Both John Munro’s High Reliability Literacy Teaching Procedures (HRLTP’s) and the Victorian Education Department’s High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) inform the PD. Staff regularly reflect on their practice, set goals and observe each other with the aim of ensuring consistency in our approach to the teaching of literacy across the college.