Key ideas

Key ideas

Texts

Texts provide the means for communication. They can be written, spoken, visual, multimodal, and in print or digital/online forms. Multimodal texts combine language with other means of communication such as visual images, soundtrack or spoken words, as in film or computer presentation media. Texts include all forms of augmentative and alternative communication; for example, gesture, signing, real objects, photographs, pictographs, pictograms and braille. Texts provide important opportunities for learning about aspects of human experience and about aesthetic value. Many of the tasks that students undertake in and out of school involve understanding and producing imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, in media, everyday and workplace contexts.

The usefulness of distinctions among types of texts relates largely to how clearly at each year level these distinctions can guide the selection of materials for students to listen to, read, view, write and create, and the kinds of purposeful activities that can be organised around these materials.Although many types of texts will be easy to recognise on the basis of their subject matter, forms and structures, the distinctions between types of texts need not be sharply defined or formulaic. The act of creating texts, by its nature, involves experimentation and adaptation of language and textual elements from many different writing styles and categories of texts. As a result, it is not unusual for an imaginative text to have strong persuasive elements, or for a persuasive text to contain features more typically seen in informative texts, such as subheadings or bullet points.

Communication processes

  • Listening, reading and viewing

These are the language modes or communication processes through which individuals process, decode, comprehend, interpret and analyse spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts. These processes share a receptive approach to imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, as they involve retrieving literal information, making and supporting inferences and evaluating information and points of view. When students listen and respond to spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts, they apply topic knowledge, vocabulary, word and visual knowledge to interpret the given information, with or without the aid of augmentative and alternative forms of communication. They also use text processing skills and comprehension strategies to receive, make and monitor meaning as it is being developed.

  • Speaking, writing and creating

These are the language modes or communication processes through which individuals express and create spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts, including those made with the aid of augmentative and alternative forms of communication. These processes share a productive approach to the creation of imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, in spoken, print or digital forms, for an extensive range of everyday, workplace and literary purposes. When students plan, draft and publish texts, they use applied topic knowledge, vocabulary, word and visual knowledge to make considered and deliberate choices about text structure and organisation to coherently express and develop ideas and communicate information in formal and informal social contexts.

The English language

The Australian Curriculum: English provides students with a broad conceptual understanding of what a language is, and its importance in and out of school. Language as a body of knowledge draws largely from historical and linguistic accounts of the English language which draw attention to the ways in which languages change, and to the distinction between language in use and language as system. These accounts acknowledge that students’ cability to use grammar will exceed their ability to explicitly reflect on grammar. Young children, for example, will use complex sentences before they can explain how these are structured. These accounts, in describing language, also pay attention to the structure (syntax) and meaning (semantics) at the level of the word, the sentence and the text.

The Australian Curriculum: English uses standard grammatical terminology but applies it within a contextual framework, in which language choices are seen to vary according to the topics at hand, the nature and proximity of the relationships between the language users, and the modes or processes of communication available.

Literacy is language in use

There are many approaches to concepts of literacy, ranging from the traditional focus on print literacy to the inclusive, multimodal and social basis for language use. The Australian Curriculum: English holds that literacy serves the big and small practical, everyday communication purposes associated with living and participating in societies such as contemporary Australia. Literacy is the capacity to interpret and use language features, forms, conventions and text structures in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts. It also refers to the ability to read, view, listen to, speak, write and create texts for learning and communicating in and out of school. Literacy learning is based on the development of language and communication skills, social and psychological growth, and critical and cultural knowledge. The Australian Curriculum: English draws broadly from a range of approaches and emphasises:

  • fluency in letter-sound correspondences of English
  • an expanding vocabulary and grasp of grammatical and textual patterns sufficient to understand and learn from texts encountered in and out of school
  • fluency and innovation in listening to, reading, viewing and creating texts for different purposes and contexts
  • the skill and disposition needed to analyse and understand the philosophical, moral, political and aesthetic bases on which many texts are built
  • an interest in expanding the range of materials listened to, viewed and read, and in experimenting with ways of expressing increasingly subtle and complex ideas to create effective and innovative texts.

Language features, visual features and text structures

When creating and interpreting written, spoken and multimodal texts in the Australian Curriculum: English, authors make choices about language features, visual features and text structures. These are the interrelated elements which shape and support meaning-making in texts. The choices and the effects they create vary from text to text to suit different purposes and contexts. The features of language include language choices such as vocabulary and punctuation, sound devices such as alliteration, and language devices in literary texts such as imagery. In visual and multimodal texts, visual language choices include visual features such as salience, social distance and camera angle. Various text structures enable different ways of organising information and expressing ideas in texts, and include such structural elements as overviews, subheadings, topic sentences, concluding paragraphs and cause-and-effect statements. The choices that authors make in language features, visual features and text structures work together to define the type of text and create certain meanings and effects which shape the way that texts are interpreted, analysed and evaluated by their audiences.

The appreciation of literature

There are many different ways to engage with literature, ranging from personal preferences for literature to the way in which texts reflect the context of culture and situation in which they are created. The appreciation of literature in one or more of these ways provides students with access to mediated experiences and truths that support and challenge the development of individual identity. Through engagement with literature, students learn about themselves, each other and the world.

English educators use many ways of categorising texts. The descriptions of texts used in the Australian Curriculum: English are based on practical as well as conceptual considerations. The specific designation of a strand labelled ‘literature’ is aimed at encouraging teachers working at all year levels not only to use texts conventionally understood as ‘literary’, but also to engage students in examining, evaluating and discussing texts in increasingly sophisticated and informed ‘literary’ ways.

The term ‘literature’ includes literary texts from across a range of historical and cultural contexts that are valued for their form and style and are recognised as having enduring or artistic value. While the nature of what constitutes literary texts is dynamic and evolving, they are seen as having personal, social, cultural and aesthetic value and potential for enriching students' scope of experience. Literature includes a broad range of forms such as novels, poetry, short stories and plays; fiction for young adults and children, multimodal texts such as film, and a variety of non-fiction. Literary texts also include excerpts from longer texts. This enables a range of literary texts to be included within any one year level for close study or comparative purposes.

The range of literary texts for study from Foundation to Year 10 comprises classic and contemporary world literature. It emphasises Australian literature, including the oral narrative traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, as well as the contemporary literature of these two cultural groups. It also includes texts from and about Asia.

The Australian Curriculum: English acknowledges a variety of approaches to the study of literature. Each makes different assumptions about the purposes of literature study, the nature of literary texts and methods of analysis. The Australian Curriculum: English draws on a number of approaches and emphasises:

  • enjoyable encounters with a wide variety of literary texts
  • the different ways in which literature is significant in everyday life
  • close analysis of literary works and the key ideas and values on which they are based; for example, the detailed stylistic study of differing styles of literary work
  • comparisons of works of literature from different language, ethnic and cultural backgrounds
  • historical study of the origins, authorship, readership and reception of literary texts
  • exploration of the relationships between historical, cultural and literary traditions.

Teachers and schools are best placed to make decisions about the selection of texts in their teaching and learning programs to address the content in the Australian Curriculum: English while also meeting the needs of the students in their classes.

Links to lists of illustrative texts appropriate for students at different levels are provided below. These lists also include texts relevant to the cross-curriculum priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia and Sustainability. 

Premiers’ reading challenges

Other websites that may be of interest include