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Key concepts

Key concepts are the big ideas and understandings that we hope will remain with our students long after they have left school.

Succeeding in the English learning area involves understanding and using four key concepts effectively.

Identity | Communication | Story | Meaning


Through English, people learn about and celebrate who they are, where they come from, and where they’re going. English helps people connect with their communities and to appreciate and participate in them. Everything we do in the classroom either validates or undermines students’ growing sense of identity. We have a shared responsibility for the impact we have on the forming of each other’s identities.

'The culture of the child cannot enter the classroom until it has entered the consciousness of the teacher.'

Basil Bernstein

Learn more:


People who communicate effectively can:

  • offer and receive ideas, information, thoughts, and feelings in a range of ways
  • make effective choices about the language to use to suit their audience and purpose
  • use language fluently and skilfully to present information, express their ideas, and respond to others.

Reading, writing and speaking are the interactive tools students need to communicate effectively.

'Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced … [communication skills] to perform their jobs, act as citizens, conduct their personal lives … [and] to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. [They will increasingly have access to people and information in ways and speeds never possible before]. In a complex and sometimes even dangerous world, their ability to [communicate effectively] will be crucial.'

(Adapted from Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, Rycik, 1999, International Reading Association position statement)


People use oral, written, and visual English to tell stories, and to read, hear, and view the stories of others.

Our stories define us. When our stories connect with the stories of others, our lives change.

'… I read the works of Frank Sargeson and started hearing the New Zealand voice for the first time. And then when I read the work of Amelia Batistich I realised she had a different New Zealand voice. It reinforced the idea that writers had their own voices. It occurred to me when I read those works that I had a voice as well …'

Atlantis Journal – An interview with Patricia Grace


People use English to make meaning of stories. By understanding how language is used in texts, we come to understand different viewpoints, interpretations, and beliefs about the world.

Last updated February 23, 2015