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Literacy across the Curriculum

In 2005 the Aboriginal Curriculum Unit of the Office of the Board of Studies organised a project to trial literacy teaching in the context of the new English Years 7-10 Syllabus. The broad aim of the project was to research strategies for integrating literacy teaching with the secondary curriculum, using the English Years 7-10 Syllabus as a model. The trial targetted secondary schools in metropolitan Sydney and rural north coast NSW, focusing on schools with a high proportion of Aboriginal students.

The project demonstrated how:

  • literacy teaching can be successfully integrated with teaching the secondary curriculum
  • learning needs of Aboriginal students can be successfully met within classroom practice
  • literacy skills of all students can be accelerated at the same time
  • teachers' skills in literacy teaching and knowledge of language can be enhanced with appropriate professional development.


The approach to teaching literacy

The literacy strategies trialled in the project are known as Reading to Learn, a program that teaches students to read texts in each curriculum area, and to use what they have learnt from reading in their writing. This program was developed particularly to meet the literacy needs of Indigenous students, but has been proven to give all students greater success at all school levels.


Meeting the literacy needs of Aboriginal students

All teachers agreed at the start of the project that a significant proportion of their students, including Aboriginal students, were rarely engaged actively in classroom activities and discussion, and many more students were not optimally engaged. The approach taken by Reading to Learn is not to withdraw or treat any of these students differently, but to train teachers to support all the students in their classes to successfully achieve the syllabus outcomes.


NSW English Years 7-10 Syllabus

The NSW English Years 7-10 Syllabus aims to engage junior secondary students in the study of literature, including literary fiction, film and other modalities, as well as encouraging them to develop their own creative skills. The project used the findings of literacy research in secondary schools to correlate the syllabus outcome statements with the literacy demands of the curriculum.


The professional learning program

Teachers were trained in the Reading to Learn strategies through four two-day workshops over the course of the year. Two or more teachers from each school supported each other to implement the strategies, and tracked the progress of their Aboriginal students.

Skills acquired by teaches included the strategies for classroom interaction, planning lessons for reading and writing, selecting and analysing texts in the curriculum, and analysing students’ writing for assessment.


Literacy outcomes

Analysis of students’ writing provided by the teachers, before, during and after implementation of the Reading to Learn strategies showed that students had improved by an average of two to three years' expected literacy development, over three terms of implementation.



Two reports were produced for the project:

  • an independent evaluation by Erebus International,* which focuses on the impact of the approach on teachers’ professional learning, with a view to sustainable change in teaching for Aboriginal students
  • a report by the project consultant, Dr David Rose,** which focuses on the teaching approach and its outcomes for students’ learning


** Dr David Rose is an Associate of both the Faculty of Education and Social Work, and the Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney

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These materials are provided for research purposes and may contain opinions that are not shared by the Board of Studies NSW.