How Can Literature Be Used to Support and Develop Language and Literacy for Students in the Primary Years?
How can literature be used to support and develop language and literacy for students in the primary years? Rationalise the use of the text (chosen literature) and literature more generally for developing language and literacy in relation to the target year level and give examples from your text. Numerous studies have found that there is a strong link between language problems, reading and overall academic achievement (Konza, 2006, Snow Burns and Griffin, 1998, Justice and Ezell, 2000).
As a result, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority regard the study of English to be imperative to the ‘learning and development of all young Australians’ (ACARA, 2012). The authority realises English is necessary for students to analyse, understand, communicate with and to build relationships with others and the world around them. Literature, language and literacy are the three strands that make up the English component of the Australian Curriculum. The three components are intertwined as literature is needed to be able to read and literature is meaningless if no one can read it.
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Language is needed to write/encode to create the literature and decode to understand it (literacy). This essay will look at the definitions of literature, language and literacy and explore the benefits of using literature (The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland, 2011) to support and develop language and literacy in early primary school students. This Preparatory to Year One book is ideal for this rationale as quality picture books are inspirational, a great source for lesson resources and create marvellous opportunities for improving teaching and therefore learning.
To highlight the tie of literature to language and literacy, this essay will relate the relevant content descriptors from the Australian Curriculum to the rationale, where appropriate. Literature “refers to past and present texts across a range of cultural contexts that are valued for their form and are recognised as having enduring or artistic value. ” (ACARA, 2012) The texts have the potential to enrich students’ scope of experience. They may be narrative, informational or persuasive and include short stories, novels, poetry, plays, films and multimodal texts.
The texts may be spoken, written, printed or in digital format. Language includes the “processes of listening, speaking, reading, viewing and writing” (ACARA, 2012). These processes are symbiotic as learning in one process influences the others. The Australian Curriculum develops students’ knowledge of the English language and how it works, including its continual evolution. The curriculum also looks at how to use language effectively for speaking, reading, and writing and evaluating different texts using the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Literacy is the social and cultural uses of reading and writing. In the Australian Curriculum, students become literate when “they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society”(ACARA, 2012). As this assignment is based on a picture book, the definition of a picture book is a genre in children’s literature where – the pictures stand alone, the pictures dominate the text or the words, or, the pictures are of equal importance in the text (Jalongo, 2004).
To further develop a use of the text in promoting young children’s literacy and language development within the framework provided by the Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority, the children will:- * Engage in conversations and discussions, using active listening behaviours, showing interest, and contributing ideas, information and questions (ACELY1656), (ACARA, 2012). The most important activity for building understandings and skills for reading success is reading aloud to children (Aram and Biron, 2004, Strasser & Seplocha, 2007, Huck, 1987).
Aram and Biron cite a study by Neuman (1999) who found that young children’s literacy development improved through the acquisition of general knowledge and learning from stories to think beyond the immediate. The children also learn about written languages’ rhythms and syntactical conventions when books are shared with them. Numerous researchers have found that there is a direct link between reading (aloud by someone else, or independently) and growth in spoken and written language complexities and literacy concepts (Goodman, 2oo8, Nicoll & Roberts, 1993, Konza, 2006). The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. This is especially so during the preschool years. The benefits are greatest when the child is an active participant, engaging in discussions about stories, learning to identify letters and words, and talking about the meanings of words. ” (Anderson et al, 1985 p33) Picture books are easily shared with early readers, and enjoyed by adults as well. They serve the purpose of engaging young children with literature and are therefore their first major source of written literacy.
If an adult reads appropriately to a child regularly, then the child will develop positive associations with that activity. Positive feelings of warm relationships and pleasure will be associated with literature and literacy that, given the right circumstances, the child will hold onto for life. The child will not only learn to read, but also want to read (Jalonga, 2004, p3). Quality picture books, like ‘The Very Cranky Bear’, will captivate a child with its vivid illustrations, fun characters, bouncy rhythm and comical tale. Understand that the purposes texts serve shape their structure in predictable ways (ACELA1447), (ACARA, 2012). ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011) is an appropriate instructional book for year one as its plot is straightforward and is easy to follow for young readers. The story follows the predictable narrative pattern of orientation, complication and resolution (Derewianka & Jones, 2012). The story finishes on a positive note and the end of the book is apparent which makes it enjoyable for early readers.
Literature that is not directed at the children’s level of reading could de-motivate their desire to keep reading. They may not comprehend the story and become bored or distracted very quickly (Anderson et al. 1985, Stahl, 1998). * Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning about key events, ideas and information in texts that they listen to, view and read by drawing on growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features (ACELY1660), (ACARA, 2012).
Learning to read is essentially learning to decode and understand the words/language written in the story and to construct meanings from those words (literacy) (Nicole & Roberts, 1993). The more language the children (and adults) hear and read the more developed their vocabulary will become (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998, Nicole & Roberts, 1993, Anderson et al, 1985). Reading fluency is enhanced with an enlarged vocabulary as readers don’t have to stop and use their phonetic knowledge to decipher the difficult words. With increased fluency comes increased comprehension of the text (Gibbons, 1991, Stahl, 1998).
During the reading in class of ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011) the teacher would read to the end of a passage and check that all new words had been understood and get the students to pronounce them together. The teacher could also check the students’ understanding by getting them to recap what has previously been read. In this way the teacher scaffolds the students’ learning (Derewianka, 2012). Scaffolding is important because the students need to be encouraged to read at a level just beyond what they can read so that they can extend their knowledge base and maintain their interest in reading.
Another way that the students’ learning and comprehension (literacy) may be enhanced is through repeated reading of the same text (Jalonga, 2004, Konza, 2006). Neuroscience studies have shown that repetition of experiences may enhance memory and recall. Repeated readings of the same story gives the students a chance to bring their experiences to the book and then for the book to become part of their experiences. With each reading the student should understand more of the structure of the language and the story itself.
The text layout of ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011) is arranged so that the pictures are viewed as the text is read. This gives emergent readers the chance to make associations with the pictures to give them clues/prompts to aid their word recognition, comprehension and reading fluency. The use of rough, progressively enlarging font for “Roar” and its repetition in ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011), encourages young readers/listeners to join in and be part of the story. They become active participants, which makes learning a pleasurable language experience.
Repeated words, phrases or sentences help to increase the students’ word recognition and fluency (Konza, 2006). Bland (2011) narrates the story by an omnipresent voice and uses dialogue for the characters’ involvement. This gives the readers the sense of being there and being a part of the story. Being connected means that there is a greater chance of enjoyment and engagement with the novel. Having this connection assists to increase the emergent readers’ love of literature and entice them to read or listen to more stories. Nicoll and Roberts (1993) believe that the core of any reading programme is ‘attitudinal’. Manipulate sounds in spoken words including phoneme deletion and substitution (ACELA1457), (ACARA, 2012). This includes recognising and producing rhyming words. Bland (2011) has used verse with rhyming couplets to build a lovely rhythm when the story is read (“So Zebra fetched a tin of mud and lion, some grass of gold. Moose got two big branches, and Sheep……well, Sheep got cold. ”). It has been shown that the use of rhyme and rhythm helps young emergent readers develop sound awareness which contributes to their growing phonological awareness (Konza, 2006, Jalongo, 2004) and their ability to be fluent readers.
According to Konza (2006), rhyming also helps emergent readers learn the sound patterns that belong to letter clusters that belong in words (like gold, cold, bold, fold). This in turn helps them with spelling and reading and literacy development. * Manipulate sounds in spoken words including phoneme deletion and substitution (ACELA1457). This includes recognising words that start with a different sound. Recognising sound letter matches including …. consonant blends, (ACELA1458), (ACARA, 2012). Figurative language, with its picturesque descriptions, is a rich source for stimulating imagination and building vocabulary.
Alliteration is used by Nick Bland (2011) in his story (“In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, four little friends found a perfect place to play. ”). Alliteration like rhyme and rhythm help young readers become proficient. An early skill of emergent readers is being able to hear and distinguish the sounds (phonemes) that make up the beginning of words. Children are attune to words with the same initial sound and will be drawn into the story because of this this (High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2005). It also makes it fun to read – it s much better than writing ‘In the jungle four little animals found a place to play. ’ Bland (2011) uses the cohesive function, ellipsis, to entice the reader to want to turn the page to see what might happen – “Sleeping in that cave was a very cranky ……”, “And then, from in the cave came a very cranky ……”. As well as increasing the reader’s curiosity and enthusiasm, the use of ellipsis gives the teacher or parent the opportunity to demonstrate prediction. They can cue students by asking them what might ‘be in the cave’ or ‘coming from the cave’?
The opportunity to make predictions encourges the students to think about the book they are listening to, looking at and discussing. * Discuss how authors create characters using language and images (ACELT1581). Explore different ways of expressing emotions, including verbal, visual, body language and facial expressions (ACELA1787), (ACARA, 2012). The illustrations in ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011) are simply beautiful and interact harmoniously with the text, adding another dimension of understanding for the young readers.
Children will delight in the pictures that are vibrant and extremely detailed. The detail in the pictures extends the story and adds a sense of fun, for example, the four jungle friends playing cards (Derewianka, 2012). The animals are anthropomorphised with their feelings and personalities conveyed through their expressions and facial features (the ‘I’m so Handsome,’ look of the lion, the disbelieving look on the sheep). The use of illustrations also enhances the emergent reader’s visual literacy skills, the ability to interpret images (Jalongo et al, 2002).
Discussions about the illustrations, and the text that students are hearing enables them to make connections, between what they do when they speak and listen in everyday conversations to what they do when they hear and talk about a book being read aloud. Visual literacy supports literacy with print by helping the students with their literal comprehension and recall as well as being able to draw inferences (Jalongo, 2004). * Explore differences in words that represent people, places and things (nouns, including pronouns), happenings and states (verbs), qualities (adjectives)and details such as when, where, and how (adverbs) (ACELA1452).
Identify the parts of a simple sentence that represent “What’s happening? ”, ‘Who or what is involved? ’ and the surrounding circumstances (ACELA1451), (ACARA, 2012). ). Visualisation and comprehension in ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ (Bland, 2011) are also aided by the abundant use of descriptive words (noun groups and verb groups) throughout the story (cold and rainy day, four little friends, marvellous antlers, fantastic stripes, golden mane, very cranky bear, thoughtful sheep, stormed back inside, gnashed his teeth, stomped his feet). Explore different ways of expressing emotions, including verbal, visual, body language and facial expressions (ACELA1787) The very cranky bear written by Nick Bland (2008) is a great literary text as it holds many valuable lessons, enriching students understanding of human experiences. It teaches us about problem solving and the wrong assumption that many people make trying to impart their solution onto other’s problems. Sometimes just sitting back and looking at the big picture can solve the problem.
May be there wasn’t a problem to solve, it just some animals not minding their own business? It also teaches us to respect and the text provides a valuable lesson about diversity and not to focus on ‘looks’. Literature is a faucet that can give flow to language that creates ideas and floods the imagination and gives rise to knowledge. Literature can provide access to beliefs and attitudes in foreign social and cultural contexts.
It can allow children to explore their emotions and provide them with practical skills. Literature provides a safe environment for children to explore and be mentally challenged. Literary techniques facilitate the ability to learn strategies for predicting and understanding so that children can develop and be supported in their educational journey in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Literature is a powerful tool when linked to the development of language and literacy.