Quality literature can be a powerful tool in literacy teaching across all year levels, according to literacy facilitator Kate Tucker.
Actively using literature is critical in the teaching of reading and writing. Although, its use needs to be planned for to ensure it’s effective.
Kate joined literacy expert Sharon Callen on Episode 83 of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy, who provided tips and first-hand experiences on how schools and teachers can best utilise literature.
How teachers can start finding and gathering literacy resources
The first step to finding resources is understanding what the different writing styles looks like across the grades.
“For example, with poetry, we started out by scoping out what poetry had looked like across the bands and what type of poems they would cover,” Kate said.
“So then if a student was at our school from R to 6, they’ve got that complete scope. And so then I started sourcing texts or poems that suited that type of poetry. And those were mostly actual text books.”
Kate said resources can be found from various avenues, whether it’s the school library or online reviews.
“I started within the school because I wanted to use what we have available already. All our classrooms have classroom libraries, and a lot of that has been sourced by our individual teachers, so I used a lot of that as my second avenue,” she said.
“I then spoke to colleagues about if they put out like a little survey or questionnaire to staff to see if they knew of any texts that would suit or they could recommend. And then from there, I literally just started searching, and that was from a Google search to Booktopia emails to reading book reviews.”
How to collaborate with other teachers and facilitators
It’s important for teachers to feel empowered and make their own choices when selecting literature to use in the classroom, rather than just be provided a list of texts.
“For me [as a facilitator], I have learned so much about texts, authors, genres, the styles of writing, all of that stuff. And so at the end of last year, I did some reflecting and thought I feel a little bit selfish in a way that I’ve been able to give myself all of this exposure, and then with my teachers I’m just then handing them the books,” Kate said.
“So last year, I sat down with my literacy action team and I gave them the opportunity to have a look around as well and jump on Booktopia or jump on a Google search and try and find texts.
“By doing this, they got a voice in what they were using as a Mentor Text, but also they were able to expand their ideas a little bit as well. I try and aim for five or six books as a Mentor Text set for them to begin the topic, but by knowing the strategies that I took and some of the process, they’re no longer limited to the ones that I give them and they can absolutely add their own to that as well.
“And sometimes that’s good, because it means it’s a book that they’re familiar with and they like and are passionate about. So they’ve been able to do that as well, which I think has been really beneficial.”
How teachers can provide exposure with Mentor Texts
Kate explained that teachers don’t always need to use the entire text to have success with students.
“We found it’s really important that teachers are exposing them to different authors and different types within that. Rather, if we just had the one text or the two, they’re not getting enough exposure within, within that genre,” she said.
“We’re doing sci-fi narrative at the moment in Year 6 and we had Charlie in the Glass Elevator, but we only read them a couple chapters of it. We didn’t read the whole book because we wanted to give them a taste of it or we wanted to show a certain element.
“But then the students can become really interested, and we’ve got a list of four or five that now want to borrow that book and keep reading it. So sometimes the mentor text isn’t completing the whole book, it’s about intriguing your audience to want to keep reading it.”
Why teachers should continue using physical books
While online resources are more and more prevalent, a physical text will still have one of the greatest impacts.
“In this day and age, it’s so easy to literally type anything to Google and up it comes. And that’s why I think for me, the biggest learning thing is the value and the response from students when I have a physical book in my hands,” Kate said.
“I always thought, oh, they won’t really notice too much whether it’s on the screen or hand. But it’s probably my biggest eye-opener that I have seen, and it’s probably taught me that not everything is on Google, and it’s so important that we still have those hard copies to show what a book looks like, what it feels like, and the illustrations and all of that.
“So that’s why I think the Mentor Texts are so important and that we have ongoing access to them, because the internet is an ongoing access thing, whereas the Mentor Text, if it’s not there and available, it’s easy to say I’ll just search this up online.”
Teachers can build on this by creating a physical display of texts in the classroom.
“So, we have a little display based on the genre that we are currently doing, and then within that we might also have vocab words and we might have illustrations, or if there’s poetry it might be about haiku. So we might have a few examples of that up on the wall as well that students can connect to. So we try and make that visual display a whole focus from our reading and writing,” Kate said.
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