The aim of the English Department is to improve student literacy. Whilst our subject matter is literature, the focus is on developing students’ overall literacy ability. Literacy skills are needed across the curriculum, in every subject. Good literacy is needed for life skills. Students need to engage in literacy at every opportunity – it is the essence of living and learning.

Developing literacy skills is the same process as developing sport skills (or any other skill for that matter). To learn how to dribble a ball, kick a goal, hit a basketball hoop or swim a lap requires practice, over and over and over again. Better performance does not happen by osmosis; it happens because of the practising. This applies to literacy. In order to be better at reading and writing, students need to do these activities over and again. Research shows that students who engage in these activities are the higher achieving students – they achieve better results across all of their subjects.

What can we do to improve student literacy?

As parents there is a great deal that you can do to support the work of the English teachers at St Patrick’s College. Whilst we encourage reading, provide a literacy textbook and explicitly teach the skills of literacy, students must be engaged in activities outside of the classroom such as:

  • Reading novels, non-fiction books, plays, poetry and online texts (e-books) – every night for 10 minutes in Years 5 and 6, 20 minutes in Years 7, 8 and 9 and 30 minutes in Years 10, 11 and 12.
  • Writing – writing every night. Writing homework answers, writing PEEL paragraphs in response to questions, creating their own questions and writing PEEL answers, keeping a diary or journal, and so on.
  • Engaging in discussions with adults (parents and relatives) about world issues. Keep students interested in life beyond themselves and encourage them to ask questions about the amazing world we live in – the biology of life, traffic rules, how our government operates, how to create meals with good nutritional value, and so on. All of this background supporting knowledge assists teachers in the classroom and builds student literacy.
  • Reading comprehension – reading the online news together and asking questions, discussing answers, becoming aware of the wider social and political issues of our times.

For the holidays it would be great if parents could encourage their sons to read a novel (or two) and write in a journal. These simple strategies will work wonders in the long run.

As far as English is concerned, the Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 English teachers have set homework from the textbook, Complete English Basics. There are 22 chapters in each book and students need to complete all chapters by the end of the year. This means that students should complete all chapters up to Chapter 5 by the end of the holidays. This textbook has reading comprehension, language skills, vocabulary building exercises and writing tasks. Teachers are tracking student performance using this textbook and students are required to meet their targets. It would be great if all students could work on this on the holidays.

Of course, some classes already have assignments for next term. Working on these is optional but it would be good to have a discussion about the requirements of the assignment. Assisting your son with his learning is a three-way partnership with the teacher-parent-student involved. If we all support one another, literacy skills will improve across the school.

Drafting Policy

The English Drafting Policy can be found through the link here ». Please discuss with your sons. Our English teachers have spent a great deal of their time checking drafts and providing feedback to your sons about how to improve their writing. It is disappointing that in some cases, some students do not read and fix up the areas needing improvement in their writing. The draft returns to the teacher as the final copy – no adjustments made. In order to improve writing, students must respond to the feedback provided. Please read the copy of the policy and assist your son to be proactive in his learning.

The policy also states that some tasks allow “open access to resources” as per the English syllabus. Open access to resources includes access to the internet, spellcheck, grammar-check and human resources such as parents. This means that students could be asking for feedback on their work, not just from the teacher but from parents as well. Of course, this does NOT mean writing their work for them but it does mean reading what they have written and asking them if it says what they think it says. Sometimes just the act of reading it aloud highlights the areas needing greater carity. If parents could assist teachers, again working in the three-way partnership of teacher-parent-student, this would benefit your son. Checking that your son has addressed the feedback would enhance his overall performance.

Above all, have a great holiday – enjoy reading and writing, they are fun activities and amazing food for the brain.

Ms Susan Werba - Head of Curriculum - English