In the Australian Curriculum, students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.
Literacy encompasses the knowledge and skills students need to access, understand, analyse and evaluate information, make meaning, express thoughts and emotions, present ideas and opinions, interact with others and participate in activities at school and in their lives beyond school. 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 the content of that learning area.
Becoming literate is not simply about knowledge and skills. Certain behaviours and dispositions assist students to become effective learners who are confident and motivated to use their literacy skills broadly. Many of these behaviours and dispositions are also identified and supported in other general capabilities. They include students managing their own learning to be self-sufficient; working harmoniously with others; being open to ideas, opinions and texts from and about diverse cultures; returning to tasks to improve and enhance their work; and being prepared to question the meanings and assumptions in texts.
This icon shows where Literacy has been identified in learning area content descriptions and elaborations.
The key ideas for Literacy are organised into six interrelated elements in the learning continuum, as shown in the figure below.
Organising elements for Literacy
The Literacy continuum incorporates two overarching processes: Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing; and Composing texts through speaking, writing and creating.
The following areas of knowledge apply to both processes: Text knowledge; Grammar knowledge; Word knowledge and Visual knowledge.
Texts in the Literacy Continuum
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 (AAC), for example gesture, signing, real objects, photographs, pictographs 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, media texts, everyday texts and workplace texts.
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 sharp 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.
This element is about receptive language and involves students using skills and strategies to access and interpret spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts.
Students navigate, read and view texts using applied topic knowledge, vocabulary, word and visual knowledge. They listen and respond to spoken audio and multimodal texts, including listening for information, listening to carry out tasks and listening as part of participating in classroom activities and discussions. Students use a range of strategies to comprehend, interpret and analyse these texts, including retrieving and organising literal information, making and supporting inferences and evaluating information and points of view. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- navigate, read and view learning area texts
- listen and respond to learning area texts
- interpret and analyse learning area texts.
The element of Comprehending texts can apply to students at any point in their schooling. The beginning of the learning sequence for this element has been extended by four extra levels (Levels 1a to 1d) to describe in particular the early development of communication skills. The descriptions for Comprehending texts at these levels apply across the elements of Text knowledge, Grammar knowledge, Word knowledge and Visual knowledge.Learning Continuum
This element is about expressive language and involves students composing different types of texts for a range of purposes as an integral part of learning in all curriculum areas.
These texts include spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts that explore, communicate and analyse information, ideas and issues in the learning areas. Students create formal and informal texts as part of classroom learning experiences including group and class discussions, talk that explores and investigates learning area topics, and formal and informal presentations and debates. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- compose spoken, written, visual and multimodal learning area texts
- use language to interact with others
- deliver presentations.
The element of Composing texts can apply to students at any point in their schooling. The beginning of the learning sequence for this element has been extended by four extra levels (Levels 1a to 1d) to describe in particular the development of communication skills. The descriptions for Composing texts at these levels apply across the elements of Text knowledge, Grammar knowledge, Word knowledge and Visual knowledge.
The following areas of knowledge apply to both processes.Learning Continuum
This element involves students understanding how the spoken, written, visual and multimodal texts they compose and comprehend are structured to meet the range of purposes needed in the learning areas.
Students understand the different types of text structures that are used within learning areas to present information, explain processes and relationships, argue and support points of view and investigate issues. They develop understanding of how whole texts are made cohesive through various grammatical features that link and strengthen the text’s internal structure. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- use knowledge of text structures
- use knowledge of text cohesion.
This element involves students understanding the role of grammatical features in the construction of meaning in the texts they compose and comprehend.
Students understand how different types of sentence structures present, link and elaborate ideas, and how different types of words and word groups convey information and represent ideas in the learning areas. They gain understanding of the grammatical features through which opinion, evaluation, point of view and bias are constructed in texts. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- use knowledge of sentence structures
- use knowledge of words and word groups
- express opinion and point of view.
This element involves students understanding the increasingly specialised vocabulary and spelling needed to compose and comprehend learning area texts.
Students develop strategies and skills for acquiring a wide topic vocabulary in the learning areas and the capacity to spell the relevant words accurately. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- understand learning area vocabulary
- use spelling knowledge.
This element involves students understanding how visual information contributes to the meanings created in learning area texts.
Students interpret still and moving images, graphs, tables, maps and other graphic representations, and understand and evaluate how images and language work together in distinctive ways in different curriculum areas to present ideas and information in the texts they compose and comprehend. In developing and acting with literacy, students:
- understand how visual elements create meaning.
Literacy presents those aspects of the Language and Literacy strands of the Australian Curriculum: English that should also be applied in all other learning areas. Students learn literacy knowledge and skills as they engage with these strands of English. Literacy is not a separate component of the Australian Curriculum and does not contain new content.
While much of the explicit teaching of literacy occurs in the English learning area, literacy is strengthened, made specific and extended in other learning areas as students engage in a range of learning activities with significant literacy demands. Paying attention to the literacy demands of each learning area ensures that students’ literacy development is strengthened so that it supports subject-based learning. This means that:
- all teachers are responsible for teaching the subject-specific literacy of their learning area/s
- all teachers need a clear understanding of the literacy demands and opportunities of their learning area/s
- literacy appropriate to each learning area is embedded in the content descriptions and elaborations of the learning area and is identified using the literacy icon.
The learning area or subject with the highest proportion of content descriptions tagged with Literacy is placed first in the list.
The Australian Curriculum: English has a central role in the development of literacy in a manner that is more explicit and foregrounded than is the case in other learning areas.
Literacy is developed through the specific study of the English language in all its spoken, written and visual forms, enabling students to become confident readers and meaning-makers as they learn about the creative and communicative potential of a wide range of subject-specific and everyday texts from across the curriculum. Students understand how the language in use is determined by the many different social contexts and specific purposes for reading and viewing, speaking and listening, writing and creating. Through critically interpreting information and evaluating the way it is organised in different types of texts, for example, the role of subheadings, visuals and opening statements, students learn to make increasingly sophisticated language choices in their own texts. The English learning area has a direct role in the development of language and literacy skills. It seeks to empower students in a manner that is more explicit than is the case in other learning areas. Students learn about language and how it works in the Language strand, and gradually develop and apply this knowledge to the practical skills of the Literacy strand in English, where students systematically and concurrently apply phonic, contextual, semantic and grammatical knowledge within their growing literacy capability to interpret and create spoken, print, visual and multimodal texts with appropriateness, accuracy and clarity.
Learning in the Australian Curriculum: Languages develops overall literacy. It is in this sense ‘value added’, strengthening literacy-related capabilities that are transferable across languages, both the language being learnt and all other languages that are part of the learner’s repertoire. Languages learning also strengthens literacy-related capabilities across domains of use, such as the academic domain and the domains of home language use, and across learning areas.
Literacy development involves conscious attention and focused learning. It involves skills and knowledge that need guidance, time and support to develop. These skills include the ability to decode and encode from sound and written systems, the learning of grammatical, orthographic and textual conventions, and the development of semantic, pragmatic and interpretive, critical and reflective literacy skills.
Literacy development for second language learners is cognitively demanding. It involves these same elements but often without the powerful support of a surrounding oral culture and context. The strangeness of the additional language requires scaffolding. In the language classroom, analysis is prioritised alongside experience. Explicit, explanatory and exploratory talk around language and literacy is a core element. Learners are supported to develop their own meta–awareness, to be able to think and talk about how the language works and about how they learn to use it. Similarly, for first language learners, literacy development that extends to additional domains and contexts of use requires comparative analysis that extends literacy development in their first language and English.
F-6/7 Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)
In the F–6/7 Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences, students develop literacy capability as they learn how to build discipline-specific knowledge about history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business. Students use a wide range of informative, persuasive and imaginative texts in multiple modes to pose questions, research, analyse, evaluate and communicate information, concepts and ideas.
Students progressively learn to use stories, narratives, recounts, reports, lists, explanations, arguments, illustrations, timelines, maps, tables, graphs, spreadsheets, photographs, images including remotely sensed and satellite images, and realia – to examine, interpret and communicate data, information, ideas, points of view, perspectives and conclusions.
They learn to use language features and text structures to comprehend and compose cohesive texts about the past, present and future, including: discipline-specific vocabulary; appropriate tense verbs for recounting events and processes; complex sentences to establish sequential, cause-and-effect and comparative relationships; features and structures of persuasive texts; wide use of adverbs that describe places, people, events, processes, systems and perspectives; and extended noun groups using descriptive adjectives.
Students learn to make increasingly sophisticated language and text choices, understanding that language varies according to context and purpose and using language flexibly. Their texts are often accompanied by graphics that provide significant information and are supported by references and quotations, and they understand geography’s scientific and expressive modes of writing.
As students participate in inquiry, they learn to ask distinctively discipline-specific questions and to apply participatory knowledge in discussions and debates. They learn to evaluate texts for shades of meaning, feeling and opinion, and develop considered points of view, communicating conclusions and preferred futures to a range of audiences.
In the Australian Curriculum: History, students develop literacy capability as they learn how to build historical knowledge and to explore, analyse, question, discuss and communicate historical information, concepts and ideas. In history, students progressively learn to use a wide range of informative, persuasive and imaginative texts in multiple modes. These texts – which include stories, narratives, recounts, reports, lists, explanations, arguments, illustrations, timelines, maps, tables, graphs, photographs and images, and realia – are often supported by references and quotations from primary and secondary sources.
Students learn to make increasingly sophisticated language and text choices, understanding that language varies according to context, and they develop their ability to use language flexibly. They learn to use language features and text structures to comprehend and compose cohesive texts about the past, present and future, including: topic-specific vocabulary; appropriate tense verbs for recounting events and processes; complex sentences to establish sequential, cause-and-effect and comparative relationships; features and structures of persuasive texts; wide use of adverbs that describe people, places, events and perspectives and extended noun groups using descriptive adjectives.
In the Australian Curriculum: Geography, students develop literacy capability as they learn how to build geographical knowledge and understanding and how to explore, discuss, analyse and communicate geographical information, concepts and ideas. They use a wide range of informative and literary texts, for example, interviews, reports, stories, photographs and maps, to help them understand the places that make up our world, learning to evaluate these texts and recognising how language and images can be used to make and manipulate meaning.
Students develop oral and written skills, making increasingly sophisticated language and text choices. They understand that language varies according to context and they develop their ability to use language flexibly. They use language to ask distinctively geographical questions. They plan a geographical inquiry, collect and evaluate information, communicate their findings, reflect on the conduct of their inquiry and respond to what they have learnt. Students progressively learn to use geography’s scientific and expressive modes of writing and the vocabulary of the discipline, including complex sentences to establish sequential, cause-and-effect and comparative relationships and wide use of adverbs and adjectives that describe places, people, events, processes, systems and perspectives. They learn to comprehend and compose graphical and visual texts through working with maps, diagrams, photographs and remotely sensed and satellite images.
7-10 Civics and Citizenship
In the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship, students develop literacy capability as they research, read and analyse sources of information on aspects of Australia’s political and legal systems and contemporary civics and citizenship issues. They learn to understand and use language to discuss and communicate information, concepts and ideas related to their studies. They learn to evaluate texts for shades of meaning, feeling and opinion, learning to distinguish between fact and opinion and how language and images can be used to manipulate meaning on political and social issues. Communication is critical in Civics and Citizenship, in particular for articulating, debating and evaluating ideas, points of view and preferred futures and participating in group discussions.
7-10 Economics and Business
In the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business, students learn to examine and interpret a variety of economics and business data and/or information. They learn to use effectively the specialised language and terminology of economics and business when applying concepts to contemporary issues and events, and communicating conclusions to a range of audiences through a range of multimodal approaches. They learn to use language features and text structures to comprehend and compose cohesive texts involving economics and business issues and events, including: discipline-specific vocabulary; appropriate tense verbs for describing events and processes; complex sentences to establish sequential, cause-and-effect and comparative relationships; and wide use of adverbs and adjectives that describe events, processes, systems and perspectives. Students learn to evaluate texts for shades of meaning and opinion, participating in debates and discussions, developing a considered point of view when communicating conclusions and preferred futures to a range of audiences.
In the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, students use literacy to develop, apply and communicate their knowledge and skills as artists and as audiences. Through making and responding, students enhance and extend their literacy skills as they create, compose, design, analyse, comprehend, discuss, interpret and evaluate their own and others’ artworks.
Each Arts subject requires students to learn and use specific terminology of increasing complexity as they move through the curriculum. Students understand that the terminologies of The Arts vary according to context and they develop their ability to use language dynamically and flexibly.
In the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, students develop literacy as they learn how to communicate ideas, concepts and detailed proposals to a variety of audiences; read and interpret detailed written instructions for specific technologies, often including diagrams and procedural writings such as software user manuals, design briefs, patterns and recipes; prepare accurate, annotated engineering drawings, software instructions and coding; write project outlines, briefs, concept and project management proposals, evaluations, engineering, life cycle and project analysis reports; and prepare detailed specifications for production.
By learning the literacy of technologies, students understand that language varies according to context and they increase their ability to use language flexibly. Technologies vocabulary is often technical and includes specific terms for concepts, processes and production. Students learn to understand that much technological information is presented in the form of drawings, diagrams, flow charts, models, tables and graphs. They also learn the importance of listening, talking and discussing in technologies processes, especially in articulating, questioning and evaluating ideas.
Health and Physical Education
The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education assists in the development of literacy by introducing specific terminology used in health and physical activity contexts. Students understand the language used to communicate and connect respectfully with other people, describe their own health status, as well as products, information and services. They also develop skills that empower them to be critical consumers able to access, interpret, analyse, challenge and evaluate the ever-expanding and changing knowledge base and influences in the fields of health and physical education. In physical activity settings, as consumers, performers and spectators, students develop an understanding of the language of movement and movement sciences. This is essential in analysing their own and others’ movement and levels of fitness.
Students also learn to comprehend and compose texts related to the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. This includes learning to communicate effectively for a variety of purposes to different audiences, express their own ideas and opinions, evaluate the viewpoints of others, ask for help and express their emotions appropriately in a range of social and physical activity contexts.
In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students learn the vocabulary associated with number, space, measurement and mathematical concepts and processes. This vocabulary includes synonyms, technical terminology, passive voice and common words with specific meanings in a mathematical context. Students develop the ability to create and interpret a range of texts typical of mathematics ranging from calendars and maps to complex data displays. Students use literacy to understand and interpret word problems and instructions that contain the particular language features of mathematics. They use literacy to pose and answer questions, engage in mathematical problem-solving, and to discuss, produce and explain solutions.
In the Australian Curriculum: Science, students develop a broader literacy capability as they explore and investigate their world. They are required to comprehend and compose texts including those that provide information, describe events and phenomena, recount experiments, present and evaluate data, give explanations and present opinions or claims. They will also need to comprehend and compose multimedia texts such as charts, graphs, diagrams, pictures, maps, animations, models and visual media. Language structures are used to link information and ideas, give descriptions and explanations, formulate hypotheses and construct evidence-based arguments capable of expressing an informed position.
By learning the literacy of science, students understand that language varies according to context and they increase their ability to use language flexibly. Scientific vocabulary is often technical and includes specific terms for concepts and features of the world, as well as terms that encapsulate an entire process in a single word, such as ‘photosynthesis’. Language is therefore essential in providing the link between the concept itself and student understanding and for assessing whether the student has understood the concept.
In the Australian Curriculum: Work Studies, Years 9–10, students develop literacy capability as they adopt an appreciation of the skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing and interacting with others. They are given opportunities to locate and evaluate information, express ideas, thoughts and emotions, justify opinions, interact effectively with others, debrief and reflect and participate in a range of communication activities to support the development of literacy skills.
The development of critical workplace-related literacy skills is essential for students to become effective workforce participants who can access, interpret, analyse, challenge and evaluate the knowledge and skills required in a constantly growing and changing world of work.