Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Knowing and Planning: A Framework for Planning in English

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Knowing and Planning: A Framework for Planning in English

Article excerpt


The internet and Facebook groups provide teachers with a wealth of resources for teaching and opportunities to make requests or share ideas, resources and teaching units. The generosity of teachers is apparent in text recommendations, links to handy websites and unit plans ready for downloading.

As a curriculum writer, I also get involved in those discussions and, when relevant, direct teachers to the English for the Australian Curriculum (e4AC) (Education Services Australia Limited, 2013) or Reading Australia (Copyright Agency, n.d.) websites. I need to declare here that I have been employed as a unit writer for both sites. However, while I have written for, and promote the value of, such sites and 'off the rack' units, I also assume that teachers use the sites critically, selecting, amending and deleting as they go to address their particular contexts and students. No matter how generous the English teaching community, all teachers must build their own knowledge of the texts they teach and they cannot always rely on receiving resources or plans from others. This is particularly true when introducing new texts or unique combinations of texts.

A framework for the planning of inclusive, rigorous teaching

The approach to planning outlined in this article is provided for teachers at any stage of their career, with the hope that individuals, pairs or teams of teachers might test the framework to suit the relevant curriculum and needs of their students. And like 'off the rack' unit plans themselves, you might read, modify and borrow from this framework to inform and improve your own planning, but with the exception of Step 1. This first step demands that teachers have a thorough knowledge of any text and content they will teach. Without this foundation, students will be short-changed and outcomes compromised. Reading and viewing widely, together with continuously building textual knowledge, are the signature of English teacher expertise and professionalism, and so there can be no shortcut to replace Step 1 or to avoid devoting time to analysis of the text as suggested in Step 2.

The planning process detailed and illustrated in this article includes seven steps and it is quite deliberate that the sequencing of lessons (Step 6) occurs late in the process:

Step 1: Know the texts Step 2: Analyse the text Step 3: Choose: What's the value in this text, for these students, at this time? Step 4: Content descriptions and learning outcomes Step 5: Design assessment tasks and rubrics Step 6: Grid lesson outlines Step 7: Ongoing review

Step 1: Know the texts

One of the challenges for any English teacher is to build professional knowledge of the texts used in English. And this is where no online exchange or downloads from Facebook can help, because whatever the text, and how ever long you have been teaching, you simply need to know the text inside out. If it's a novel, read it closely twice, or at least each time you teach it, and if poetry, drama or journalism, read it over and over so that it is familiar and that you have developed the voice and knowledge to read it aloud with authority and confidence. If it's a film, watch it closely twice, and the second time can be on fast forward with subtitles to save time.

There is absolutely no way of getting around this if you want to engage students and support improvement and success in English. Using a text in class without solid knowledge and analysis is like trying to teach maths without knowing or understanding the formula to solve problems.

Step 2: Analyse the text

With a close knowledge of the text, you are in the best possible position to plan with your own context and students in mind. However, faced with an unfamiliar text, a framework for analysis can assist and ensure that you are covering the text from necessary angles and teaching the textual analysis that is at the heart of subject English. …

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