Two weeks with Oliver Jeffers: Developing early Language and Literacy with Literature

Robyn Ewing, Kathy Rushton and Jon Callow

Learning to be literate is the right of every child regardless of creed, race, language background, gender, special needs or socioeconomic status. From birth, most young children strive to make meaning with the important people in their lives. They observe closely, listen carefully and explore every aspect of their world through play. For them, learning to make meaning can be filled with wonder because they make good use of their imaginations and creative potential. Early language development and literacy learning continues to be a hotly contested topic in Australian education.

Often there is an overemphasis on finding a singular ‘best’ formula or recipe for literacy learning. This PETAA Paper, however, uses an author study of Oliver Jeffers to focus on the relationship between playing with language, exploratory talk, storytelling, drawing and sharing contemporary literature as part of early literacy development. It will use selected annotated case studies of children learning in different contexts to explore their growing understanding of the multiple ways meaning can be made in the 21st century.

Underpinning this discussion is the critical role of the parent and the educator as enabler, in providing children with appropriate resources, time, scaffolding and safe spaces for imaginative play, exploration and the asking of the big questions to help children learn how to create meaning.

We are one but we are many

(from We are Australian a song by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton)

The five functions of developing protolanguage, the earliest use of language, proposed by Halliday (2004) include demands for goods and services, observations, interactions and the playful, imaginative use of language. Young children learn their first language by making meaning in ways that work well enough to fulfil these functions and satisfy their personal needs. Once they begin to talk they often ask deep philosophical questions and enjoy storying (Lowe, 2002). Children of all backgrounds will try to make meaning by making personal connections with texts and it is especially important to support students from communities which are socially marginalised (Cummins, Hu, Markus & Montero, 2015, page 556) by using their first language or dialect in the process of learning an additional language.

The central role of literature in learning to read

Whether reading a serialised story with a class, sharing a picture book with a pre-schooler or enjoying bedtime stories, reading quality texts with children is not only fun and engaging for all involved, but also one of the most important ways to support children as they continue to learn through and about language. Authentic literary texts are excellent models for a child’s developing language skills and the shared reading of literature is highlighted by both The Early Years Learning Framework (2009) and The Australian Curriculum: English. Quality literature is layered so children (and adults) can take different themes and ideas that relate to their contexts and experiences. Extensive research over the past 30 years has confirmed the importance of quality literature in children’s lives (Krashen, 2013; Saxby, 1997). Interestingly, a recent longitudinal study identified the number of books in a home as one of the best predictors of lifelong success (Literacy Trust, 2008 revised 2011). Parental involvement in their children’s literacy practices is a more powerful force for academic success than other family background variables, including social class, family size and level of parental education. Literature helps children share their own stories, expand their knowledge of the world, reflect on thoughts and experiences, and see their worries and imaginings expressed through the lives of characters. Children can develop empathy and compassion by engaging with the lives and circumstances of others.

Shared reading

Reading to children for pleasure is complemented by shared or modelled reading experiences, where a book’s engaging words, enticing rhymes and new vocabulary can be explored and discussed. Whether children in preschool years are beginning to develop phonemic awareness as they play with language and the sounds of words, or there is a focus on aspects of letter/sound correspondence when more formal schooling begins, shared reading with quality literature will engage children, help them build rich vocabularies and explore the many new ideas and perspectives such books offer. Reading with young children is never a completely quiet affair if there is a connection with the story or theme. While there are moments where each child might silently reflect on the story as it unfolds, there are points when reading with a group that many voices contribute to the telling. Oliver Jeffers’ work offers many such opportunities for engagement and discussion: where children are encouraged to persevere in difficult times (How to catch a star); explore the value of friendship and kindness (Lost and found) and deal with loss (The heart and the bottle).

Jeffers' book covers; How to Catch a Star, The Heart and the Bottle, Lost and Found

Books that provide the reading lessons

While traditionally we may think of teachers as providing reading lessons, educator Margaret Meek Spencer (Spencer, 1989) reminds us that stories themselves can provide ‘reading lessons’. Children and adults can learn the many ways that narratives are set in time (past, present and future). Fictional characters and imagined events can reveal time-honoured truths and wisdom. Different authors develop their own voice and style, recognisable across different stories. Texts teach us the different ways that language lets a writer tell, and the many and different ways a reader reads (Spencer, 1989, page 21).

Reading secrets can also be found by young and old as they begin to make connections across stories they encounter. They may become familiar with characters across books such as Jeffers’ boy character who appears in How to catch a star, Lost and found, The way back home and Up and down. Janet and Allen Ahlberg’s books are the retelling of nursery rhymes in quirky ways as in The jolly postman and Each peach pear plum. Emily Gravett’s fairy tales (Spells, Wolf won’t bite) are parodies or allusions to bible stories, traditional tales and Greek myths.

Oliver JeffersOliver Jeffers was born in Port Hedland, Western Australia, but grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and now lives and works in Brooklyn, USA. He is an award-winning author and illustrator much loved by teachers and children all over the world. His children’s stories offer many possibilities for enjoyment, discussion, questioning, skill development as well as artistic and dramatic responses. When explaining the development of his style, he talks of drawing on his own experiences (like getting lost) as well as his love of stories, and his work as an artist and many years of practice, trial and error (Penguin Teen, 2010). Reading one or two of his stories, or undertaking an author study of his work enables children to explore not only the imaginative stories and big picture themes across his books, but also to look closely at how the words and pictures work to give meaning and pleasure to readers. His seemingly simple illustrations hide careful design.

Identity, wellbeing and the mother tongue

Oliver Jeffers understands the important role of storytelling in Irish culture. He explains that ‘growing up, I’d be surrounded by adults who were telling stories to each other, to kids, to everyone’ (Richesin, 2012). Most young children master their mother tongue and sometimes another language or dialect in the first few years of life but they have usually only used oral language in familiar situations (Christie, 2005). There may be challenges for students who are learning English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D), when moving from the language of the home to that of an educational setting. Educators need to show children how to make appropriate language choices and how to move from common sense to educational knowledge (Painter, 2006).

To meet some of the challenges EAL/D students face, using ‘we’ in a way that includes the cultures and languages of the families and communities of all the children in an educational setting (Alton-Lee, 2003) is at least a first step. Choosing materials in which the ‘we’ supports all children is also a way to develop a sense of inclusion and to challenge young children to learn new things.

If bilingual students are supported in developing their first language as well as developing English, as suggested by Cummins (1981), they are at an advantage academically. The use of the first language can and should be supported and can be achieved, even by monolingual teachers, by providing opportunities for families and communities to support bilingual learning. EAL/D students often develop Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) quite quickly, but take much longer to develop Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). For this reason, it is also very important when selecting texts for EAL/D students to give them opportunities to reflect on the author’s language choices and to use both the first language or dialect as well as Standard Australian English (SAE).

Choosing texts to support inclusion and honour diversity

The two picture books, Lost and found and The heart and the bottle written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers were chosen because of their universal themes of relationships with friends and family.

Both are supportive for emergent readers as they provide opportunities to draw on personal experiences to participate with the text. It is important to provide as many opportunities as possible for the child to use their own cultural and social understandings about the world to interact with new texts, both oral and written. These texts provide opportunities to learn about the vocabulary and grammar of English as well as the culture in which it is being learnt.

Building the field

In building a context for a shared reading of Lost and found with a Year 2 class recently, the teacher chose to set the scene through a story that would help the children think carefully about the concepts of ‘lost’ and ‘found’ before reading the story. She told the children about losing her daughter after an afternoon visit to the park. Even though it was just for a few minutes, she shared with them a little of how panicky she felt and showed them with her face and voice how frantically she searched. She then asked the children to think about a time when they had lost someone or something precious or a time when they had been lost. The children shared their feelings with a partner and later moved around the room first moving normally and then more urgently as they searched. Alternatively, if friendship is the main theme that you are going to explore you may wish to begin with a discussion around what it means to have and be a friend.

Reading aloud

There are a number of well-established reading aloud principles to guide teachers, particularly when reading a story for the first time. These include:

  • Capturing the children’s interest and anticipation by building the field, as in the section above, or discussing the covers, or doing a picture walk through the book, or asking the children to wonder about what might happen using ‘I wonder…’ sentence starters. Reading expressively using pause, intonation or varied voices and simple gesture is also extremely important in sustaining interest.
  • Encouraging prediction as the story develops – here asking the children to depict these predictions in a frozen moment (still image or tableau) can be helpful – prediction being so important in the reading process. (Ewing and Simons, 2016; Lowe, 2016)
  • Allowing students to spontaneously ask questions or comment (without losing the story thread completely). Asking your own questions at critical moments in the story or stopping to wonder or think aloud at some pages can also be valuable. (adapted from Spence, 2004).

Talking about the story and children’s ideas and interpretations after the reading also allows us to teach our students about various literary features as well as model what good readers do when making meaning from story. With careful attention to a balance of instructional guidance, the joy of reading is complemented by comment on the elements of story including use of time, setting and identifying the main characters. We might then discuss how the author shapes our thinking about themes, such as friendship, sadness, courage or kindness. Other features including the structuring of the events and the style of narration can also be explained when revisiting particular aspects of the story.

In Lost and found there is a relatively small amount of text on each page. Additional support is provided by the pictures as they both illustrate the events and elaborate on the feelings of the characters. For instance, on one double page spread the text uses a simile: ‘They floated through good weather and bad, when the waves were as big as mountains ...’ The huge wave almost engulfing the boat with the boy and his friend, the penguin, clearly illustrates the meaning of the simile ‘as big as a mountain’ and suggests visually the words that might describe the characters’ emotional responses. An image like this supports a discussion which can help to develop vocabulary by pairing student offerings with an alternative from an adult, for instance: afraid/overwhelmed/ khayif (Arabic); drowning/engulfed/ yan si (Chinese). This is, therefore, also a moment in which the use of the mother tongue by EAL/D students can be supported with an offering from a bilingual child, a family or community member, or even using digital resources like bilingual dictionaries or translators.

Enactment and embodiment, and oral language

Educational or process drama strategies (Ewing and Simons, 2016; O’Neill, 1995) can be very helpful in developing children’s oracy as well as their understanding of the story. Initially, if Lost and found is being used for close study, the children can be partnered to sculpt each other. One child will sculpt their partner as the boy opening the door using instructions and modelling, while the other child will be sculpted to embody the penguin standing on the doorstep and looking sad. In turn, all the sculptures of ‘boys’ can be viewed as can all the ‘penguins’. How do we show surprise and sadness with our bodies?

Having embodied this scene using the picture as a starting point, the partners might think about how the conversation between the boy and the penguin might begin. Similarly, each pair might think about one of the conversations the boy has as he tries to find a home for the penguin: with the clerk at the Lost and Found office, the seagull, his toy duck, etc. Would these conversations start in the same way or be slightly different depending on their formality? These conversations can be recorded for later reference.

Having been unsuccessful in finding a home for the penguin, the class might engage in a discussion about what the boy might do. They might then form a conscience circle to provide the boy with advice. As one child takes on the role of the boy and walks around the circle, children with suggestions will offer these so the boy can consider a range of options.

Later, knowing the boy is going to take the penguin back to Antarctica, the class might do some research about where Antarctica is and the children can decide what provisions the boy will need to pack. More suggestions can be found in the unit developed by Ewing and Saunders (2016).

Book covers: The Incredible book eating boy, The Great Paper Caper, This moose belongs to me

Features of picture books

Using some of Oliver Jeffers’ books as examples, some features are listed in Table I.

Types of stories Literary genres
  • While some childrens stories are firmly based in realism, Jeffers books mix and play with genre forms.
  • Realism — The heart and the bottle where real life loss is teamed with the metaphor of protecting ones heart in a bottle.
  • Fantasy — children and animals go on all sorts of adventures such as How to catch a star, Lost and found and The incredible book eating boy.
Story elements
  • Setting — time and place of the story, for example, The great paper caper is set in a forest, This moose belongs to me has a backdrop of snow-capped mountains while in Lost and found they travel to the South Pole.
  • Characters — people, animals or things, often with one or two main characters, for example, a boy and a penguin in Lost and found, or a set of crayons in The day the crayons quit and The day the crayons came home.
  • Theme — Jeffers’ books work on different levels, so while there are themes of friendship and loyalty, there are also more complex themes such as dealing with loss in The heart and the bottle or perseverance in How to catch a star
  • Style — authors may develop particular styles using figurative or colloquial language, humour and conversation. Jeffers’ style has a quirky and understated humour, mixed with some rich vocabulary and phrasing.
Voice/s
  • Narrators — these are generally written in first or third person, and tell the story from their perspective. While the crayons tell the story through letters to Duncan (The day the crayons came home), most of Jeffers’ stories are told by a third person narrator.
  • Character perspective — the story is told through the eyes and experiences of a particular character, such as the young girl in The heart and the bottle.

Table 1: Features of picture books

Learning about words and pictures

Oliver Jeffers has developed a particular style in his illustrations. Table 2 summarises some key features that can inform lesson planning and activities (Callow, 2016).

 Artistic and design features

Media — illustrators may use drawings, paints, inks, pastels, washes, photographs and collage. Digital media can also complement these resources.
  • Jeffers uses a variety of media, such as pen and pencil, watercolours, acrylic and collage. Up and down uses watercolour throughout while The heart and the bottle uses pencil, acrylics, collage and gouache paints.
Line different types of lines convey different meanings; vertical lines suggest height; diagonal or jagged lines create tension; curved lines suggest play or serenity. 
  • Jeffers drawing style is quite minimal, with many of his characters having simple stick legs. His books usually begin with pencil sketches. The day the crayons quit involves child-like crayon drawings, with a mix of straight, curved and jagged lines. This moose belongs to me uses bold and thick brushstrokes for the moose, with more detailed paintings used in the background.
Colour — creates a mood or reaction to a person, place or object, as well as cultural symbolic meanings such as red for danger; blue for sadness; purple for prestige or white for peace or purity.
  • As well as the colours of each crayon representing well known objects as well as different emotions in The day the crayons quit, Jeffers uses colour to strong effect in all his books. Sometimes there is a subtle use of blue or green to suggest sadness, or red for anger or action. Colour also builds background settings, from blue oceans and skies to pastel sunsets and the green hues of a woodland. A simple white background is also common, being used to highlight a character or scene, such as the end papers in Up and down.  

Table 2: Features of design and illustration used by Jeffers

Stuck cover with boy and treeWhen reading a story for the first time, take in the whole story together, perhaps stopping at some points for comments or questions. Upon revisiting the book, there are opportunities to discuss how the words and pictures work together.

The comedy build in Stuck begins as Floyd throws things into the tree to dislodge his kite. As the story progresses, more and more outrageous objects become stuck in the tree. The pictures are accompanied by varied descriptions such as ‘a small boat’ or ‘the house across the street’ building to ‘a curious whale in the wrong place at the wrong time’. The surreal pictures, clearly not to scale, invite laughter as well as discussion as to what other items the children think would knock down the kite.

At points in the story, Jeffers uses swirling lines to show the movement of the objects as they are thrown. Revisit each page and see where you can identify these action lines — sometimes they are drawn, other times the movement of the object is implicit by the direction in which it heads.

Jeffers actually demonstrates how to draw Floyd throwing things in this short video. This exploration can then be the basis for creating and making some images, combined with technology use.

Creating and making images

It is worth looking at this video clip in which Jeffers explains that his art came before his move into books.


Drawing is one of the most underused activities yet so important for children in helping them to represent their ideas and responses to story (Mackenzie & Veresov, 2013). Visual responses to picture books can include drawing and painting as well as digital responses using photos, drawing and video creation. There are also many other creative responses including sculpting, models, collage, murals and puppet making (Gibson & Campbell, 2013).

Images of a boy throwing, a tree, and a whaleTeachers may have children create specific character actions or emotions, playing with the different visual elements and designs that have been explored in a picture book or author study.

Based on Jeffers’ book Stuck, the images in Figure 1 were made using a variety of media. The picture of Floyd, drawn using Jeffers’ video instructions, was photographed and imported into the app Explain Everything (a collaborative app for interactive whiteboards). The tree was sketched using a simple drawing and painting app called Tayasui Sketches, while the whale was drawn using crayons and markers on paper, then imported as a photo.

Depending on how your classroom is set up, students could be involved in drawing Floyd and any other objects they think may have knocked the kite out of the tree the first time, as well as using iPads to create trees and other creatures or objects. Bringing each object into Explain Everything also allows size and scale to be explored.

For example, in Figure 2, Floyd and the whale are similar in size, while in Figure 3, each image has been changed to show a scale more like the one used in Jeffers’ illustrations. More and more objects can be added to the tree, building up a collage which includes each student’s own art.

Boy throwing a whale into the tree, and a biiger whale in Figure 2

Learning about language structures and features

Language is socially constructed and developed through choice so learning about the use of language structures and features is learning about language choices. It is very important to recognise the difference between spoken and written language as young children usually write what they say and, in this way, oral language becomes the starting point for writing.

In The heart and the bottle the main theme of the story is that to experience happiness we will have to risk sadness by opening our hearts. The girl, who is the main character, loses a close family member and to protect her heart she puts it in a bottle until another young girl ‘someone smaller and still curious about the world’ shows her how to release it again and to live a full and happy life. These abstract ideas and the continuing use of the metaphor of the heart in the bottle would be challenging if not for the pictures which help to tell the story.

We need to be able to predict what a text may be about by making a connection between the text and our own experiences. In this story, the loss of a loved one is symbolised visually by an empty chair, a metaphor reminiscent of Granpa (Burningham, 1984). Language reflects the purpose and context in which it is used; this is known as register (Gibbons, 2006). The three variables which make up any register are field, tenor and mode (Halliday, 2004): what the text is about (field), what connection it makes to the reader/listener/viewer (tenor) and how it was developed (mode). This story is told as if it were a literal sequence of events, ‘she found an empty chair’ and ‘the heart was put back where it came from’, but the story told through the pictures enables us to see the girl grow to a woman who wants to learn to love again.

These serious themes, and the use of sophisticated language features like metaphors, will challenge young readers but they will be able to make meaning through connecting their own experiences alongside the combination of words and pictures.

Viewing

The Australian Curriculum: English now mandates the importance of becoming knowledgeable about multimodal texts. Children can watch the films based on some of Jeffers’ books and discuss the decisions made by the book’s creator compared with the film’s director. For example, the award-winning film based on Lost and found can be viewed and compared with the text (trailer below). The film can also can be bought from iTunes.

Conclusion

The author study in which children spend ‘two weeks with Oliver Jeffers’ emphasises the importance of playing with language, exploratory talk, storytelling, drawing and sharing contemporary literature. Whether in early childhood settings or in the first years of school, parents and educators are enablers of language and literacy development when they choose engaging books, make time for play and explore the big questions of life with young children. This sets a solid foundation for understanding how the reading process works, and where other key elements, such as phonics and phonemic awareness, comprehension skills and critical literacy can be integrated and developed in a balanced fashion. Enabling children’s language and literacy development, where they enjoy, understand and think deeply as they read, using a range of culturally relevant literary texts with rich stories and illustrations cannot be overstated.

Readings

How to catch a star

Stuck

Another reading of Stuck

Resources

The Children’s Book Council of Australia has a strong commitment and a long history of promoting and supporting children’s books, and its resources include the Reading Time website with news, reviews and interviews. PETAA publishes curriculum-based classroom units of work in annual Teacher’s Guides to the CBCA Book of the Year Awards shortlist.

Reading Australia, created by the copyright agency with partners including PETAA, showcases the work of leading Australian writers and illustrators online, and has partnered with ABC Splash to also produce a range of interviews with writers and illustrators.

References

  • Ahlberg J and Ahlberg A (1989) Each peach pear plum, Puffin Books, London.
  • Ahlberg J and Ahlberg A (1986) The jolly postman or other peoples letters, Heinemann, London.
  • Alton-Lee A (2003) Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best evidence synthesis, Ministry of Education, Wellington, viewed 15 March 2017
  • Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Government (2009) Belonging, being and becoming. The early years framework for Australia (EYLF), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  • Burningham  J (1984) Granpa, Jonathan Cape, London.
  • Callow J (2016) Viewing and doing visual literacy using picture books, Practical Literacy: the early and primary years, 21(1), 9–12.
  • Christie F (2005) Language education in the primary years, UNSW Press, Sydney.
  • Cummins  J (1981) Four misconceptions about language proficiency, Bilingual Education, NABE Journal, 5:3, 31–45.
  • Cummins J, Hu  S, Markus  P & Montero, MK (2015) Identity texts and academic achievement: Connecting the dots in multilingual school contexts, TESOL Quarterly 49,3, Sept 2015, pp. 555–581.
  • Daywalt D & Jeffers  O (2013) The day the crayons quit, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Daywalt D & Jeffers O (2015) The day the crayons came home, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Explain Everything (2015) viewed March 22, 2017
  • Ewing R, Callow  J & Rushton, K (2016) Language and literacy development in early childhood, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
  • Ewing R & Saunders  J (2016) The school drama book: Drama, language and literacy in the creative classroom, Currency Press, Sydney.
  • Ewing R & Simons J (2016) Beyond the script, Take 3: Drama in the English and Literacy classroom, PETAA, Sydney.
  • Gibbons P (2006) Bridging discourses in the ESL classroom: Students, teachers and researchers, Continuum Books, London.
  • Gibson R & Campbell V (2013) Playing with puppetry, in R Ewing (ed.), Creative arts in the lives of young children: Play, imagination and learning, ACER Press, Camberwell, Victoria, pages 114–128.
  • Gravett E (2009) Spells, Pan Macmillan, London.
  • Halliday MAK (2004) Three aspects of childrens language development: Learning language, learning through language, learning about language, in JJ Webster (ed.), The language of early childhood, Continuum Books, New York, pages 308–326.
  • Hornsby D & Wilson  L (2011) Teaching phonics in context, Pearson Education, Melbourne.
  • Jeffers O (2004) How to catch a star, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2005) Lost and found, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2006) The incredible book eating boy, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2007) The way back home, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2008) The great paper caper, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2010) The heart and the bottle, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2010) Up and down, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2011) Stuck, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2012) This moose belongs to me, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2014) Once upon an alphabet: Short stories for all the letters, Philomel Books, New York.
  • Jeffers O (2010) Author video #2. Viewed March 22, 2017


  • Krashen S (2013) Reading aloud: What to do and what not to do Language and Language Teaching (3), 1–7.
  • Literacy Trust (2008, revised 2011), Literacy: State of the nation. A picture of literacy in the UK today (.pdf 87 KB) viewed 15 March 2017
  • Lowe K (2002) Whats the story? Making meaning in primary classrooms, PETAA, Sydney.
  • Mackenzie N & Veresov N (2013) How drawing can support writing acquisition: Text construction in early writing from a Vygotskian perspective, Australian Journal of Early Childhood 38, 4, December.
  • ONeill C (1995) Dramaworlds. A framework for process drama, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH.
  • Painter C (2006) Preparing for school: developing a semantic style for educational knowledge, in Christie, F (ed.) Pedagogy and the shaping of consciousness, Continuum Books, London.
  • Richesin N (2012) Oliver Jeffers on writing, illustrating and bookmaking — interview, The Childrens Book Review, November 13, viewed 22 March 2017
  • Saxby HM (1997) Books in the life of a child: Bridges to literature and learning, Macmillan Education Australia, South Melbourne.
  • Spence B (2004) Reading aloud to children PEN, 146, PETAA, Sydney.
  • Spencer, MM (1989) How texts teach what readers learn, Thimble Press, South Woodchester England, in association with PETAA, Sydney.

Language and Literacy Develpment in Early ChildhoodThis PETAA Paper has been created following the publication of the authors’ recent book, Language and Literacy Development in Early Childhood (Cambridge University Press). The book provides preservice and practising teachers with an integrated approach to language and literacy learning in early childhood, connecting theory and current research to practice.

About the authors

Dr Jon Callow is an experienced teacher, having worked in primary schools, universities and in professional development for teachers. His areas of expertise include primary English and literacy teaching. His research areas include visual literacy, multimodality, the use of ICT to support literacy and multimodal learning, as well as student creativity and engagement.

Professor Robyn Ewing AM — a former primary teacher, Robyn is Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts and is passionate about the role quality arts experiences and processes can and should play in creative pedagogy. In the areas of English, literacy and the arts, Robyn’s research has particularly focused on the use of educational or process drama with literature to develop students’ imaginations and critical literacies.

Dr Kathy Rushton has worked as an English language teacher, teaching English as an additional language to adults and students in primary and high schools. She also worked as a literacy consultant for the NSW Department of Education and Training and has continued to provide professional learning for teachers through her membership of professional associations and through her work at the university. Her interests include all aspects of language and literacy development especially with Aboriginal students and students learning English as an additional language. All three authors work in the Sydney School of Education and Social work, at the University of Sydney.

How this content relates to AITSL teacher standards

Standard 1: Know students and how they learn

  • 1.1.1 Graduate Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Sitting and listening

  • 1.1.2 Proficient Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students. Use teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Creative space for speaking and listening

  • 1.2.1 Graduate Understand how students learn. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.
  • 1.2.2 Proficient Understand how students learn. Structure teaching programs using research and collegial advice about how students learn.
  • 1.3.1 Graduate Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • 1.3.2 Proficient Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Design and implement teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Formative assessment of students emerging understanding and teaching accordingly

Standard 2: Know the content and how to teach it

  • 2.5.1 Graduate Literacy and numeracy strategies. Know and understand literacy and numeracy teaching strategies and their application in teaching areas.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Modelling recount writing and creating text adaptations using technology

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Strategies for developing early literacy and numeracy skills

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Developing critical reading skills using the SQ3R method

  • 2.5.2 Proficient Literacy and numeracy strategies. Apply knowledge and understanding of effective teaching strategies to support students’ literacy and numeracy achievement.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Improving Sentence Structure knowledge using oral language in Year 1

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Using storyboards to develop multimodal texts

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Achieving multiple literacy outcomes through developing and composing multimodal texts

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Developing early literacy through explicit connections between meaning in text, oral language and image

Standard 3: Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning

  • 3.3.1 Graduate Use teaching strategies. Include a range of teaching strategies.
  • 3.3.2 Proficient Use teaching strategies. Select and use relevant teaching strategies to develop knowledge, skills, problem solving and critical and creative thinking.
  • 3.4.1 Graduate Select and use resources. Demonstrate knowledge of a range of resources, including ICT, that engage students in their learning.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Using group work and technologies to enhance learning in a primary English classroom

  • 3.4.2 Proficient Select and use resources. Select and/or create and use a range of resources, including ICT, to engage students in their learning.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Using ICT and other resources to differentiate group work when learning about figurative language in writing

Standard 4: Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments

  • 4.1.1 Graduate Support student participation Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities

AITSL Illustration or Practice: Approaching differentiation in the early weeks

  • 4.1.2 Proficient Support student participation. Establish and implement inclusive and positive interactions to engage and support all students in class activities.

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Differentiating language access to engage a variety of students in learning

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Using drama and performance based approaches to explore and engage with texts

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Using music to support inclusion and language development in early learners

AITSL Illustration of Practice: Holistic care to support learning

Standard 6: Engage in professional learning

  • 6.2.1 Graduate Engage in professional learning and improve practice. Understand the relevant and appropriate sources of professional learning for teachers.

Illustration of Practice: Using professional learning to improve teaching with ICT resources

  • 6.2.2 Proficient Engage in professional learning and improve practice. Participate in learning to update knowledge and practice, targeted to professional needs and school and/or system priorities.