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Snapshot 17: Planning around the key concepts

This snapshot shows how an English department used the English key concepts (found in this guide) as a means of bringing greater coherence to their programmes.


Our 10-teacher department decided to evaluate and revise our level 5-7 programme to ensure greater continuity with junior programmes. Also, we wanted to reduce the emphasis on assessment, which had been the driver during our first year with the recently aligned standards.

Teacher action

We began our review by looking at the English teaching and learning guide and we came across the key concepts, which we loved: identity, communication, story and meaning. We decided to look at the possibility of using them as a focus for our revision.

We had also been struck by the importance of “connection”, and decided to make this idea a connecting thread of our programme, too.

After lots of discussion, we arrived at the idea of connecting the four key concepts to teaching, learning, and assessment via the notion of story:

  • Identity: Telling our stories
  • Communication: Engaging with story
  • Story: Connecting story
  • Meaning: Creating story

Under each of these headings we wrote a brief rationale, using the explanations of the key concepts in the TLG as our starting point. These concepts/rationales then became the basis of a four-part overview of our revised programme. The key competencies, values, and achievement objectives were already bedded in.

When the philosophy of the programme was in place, we started looking at assessment opportunities. For example, we decided that, under the banner of identity, students could speak about something that interested/engaged them (AS90857: Construct and deliver an oral text) and respond to what they were reading (AS90854: Form personal responses to independently read text, supported by evidence).

This is what we came up with:

Identity: Telling our stories

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 all have a shared responsibility for the impact we have on the forming of each other’s identities.

The learning would focus on:

  • Speeches: of introduction, interviews, likes/dislikes, whakapapa, impromptu, opinions, verbal presentations of personal reading, snapshot tasks (for example, role activities, like telling class what superhero you’d be and why). Listening.
  • Letter writing: time capsule tasks of goals/anxieties/reflections, to the teacher explaining learning needs/interests/types intelligence/preferences for learning (individual, group), to principal/dean.
  • Drafts/expressive writing: personal memories, family stories, similes/metaphors/images that define you (can be snapshot or springboard for poetry. How would you like to be remembered? What would you like your report to say? What would you like your friends to say about you?

Next, we devised a sample programme outline, to see if the idea would work in practice. In this outline, each key concept was addressed separately in a module lasting roughly seven weeks. We decided that teachers could use this outline or amend it in negotiation with the HOD.

Our intention is that each teacher will use the concepts to generate sequences of teaching and learning. They may focus on the concepts one at a time, or in combination.

What happened

We have aimed (not always successfully) for flexibility in the timing of assessments. One constraint is limited access to digital technology. By being as flexible as possible, we have tried to ensure that all students get access to computers, cameras, etc., without undue delay.

The next step will be to trial it and see how it goes!

Last updated July 17, 2012