Strong literacy skills lay at the heart of a student’s ability to learn and succeed in school and beyond. In 2008 the Melbourne Declaration of Educational goals for Young Australians acknowledged the importance of literacy skills in the lives of young people: “literacy is an essential skill for students in becoming successful learners and as a foundation for success in all learning areas. Success in any learning area depends on being able to use the significant, identifiable and distinctive literacy that is important for learning and representative of that content area. ( ACARA, 2013)
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting authority (ACARA, 2013) classifies literacy as the “ability for students to become literate through the development of knowledge, skills and dispositions, in order to interpret and use the language of learning and communicating within school and life beyond compulsory education.’’ The ability to read, view, write, listen, speak, and create oral, visual, print and digital texts, whilst using language in a way that targets a variety of languages and contexts enables a student to develop literacy skills.
When considering “what is literacy” within schooling, a teacher must also consider literacies beyond the traditional concept of reading and writing; students increasing engagement with digital technology and the increase of multimodality of texts call for teachers to expand the traditional focus surrounding reading and writing (Henderson, 2012).
The teaching of literacy across the curriculum is now firmly embedded in the Australian Curriculum. Whilst the Language and Literacy strand, of the subject English, has as its primary focus the sequential development of the key literacy skills associated with reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening the inclusion of literacy as a general capability in the Australian Curriculum recognizes that “ students need to become literate across a range of subject areas and that each of these areas has specialised and sometimes idiosyncratic literacy practices and conventions. (Henderson& Exlely, 2012, p19)
Wyatt-Smith and Cumming (2003) referred to these as ‘curriculum literacies’ and argue that there is no single literacy that can be spread homogeneously across all curriculums. Instead they argue each field of knowledge has its own sets of knowing (content knowledge) and way of representing knowing (literacies). (Henderson & Exley, 2013, p20)
As students move towards increased subject or learning area specification they experience changing literacy demands that become increasingly complex and challenging. Traditionally, literacy education has focused on the early years of schooling but Henderson (2012) stresses the need for the effective teaching of literacy in the middle years and beyond.
All teachers now, must not only see themselves as teachers of specific content areas, such as mathematics, Geography History but also as...