ALPAA

Accelerated Literacy Practitioners' Association Australia

Frequently asked questions

Is Accelerated Literacy suitable for all year levels?

You can use AL pedagogy at any year level. Some teachers have also used the strategies successfully with adult learners. 

In preschool, before children have had much formal instruction in literacy, you can still use the strategies of literate orientation to engage children with stories and other texts.

In secondary settings Accelerated Literacy is most often used in the English subject area.

Can we use any genre as a focus text?

You can use the Accelerated Literacy teaching routine with any text type (narrative, as well as non-fiction genres such as information reports, explanations, and argument).

It can be very effective to work with narrative texts, particularly when students have very low levels of literacy.  One reason is that students with little literate knowledge can engage more easily with the interpersonal and emotional ‘hooks’ of stories. Another reason is that the language in narratives is often more accessible than the language in factual texts.

If you are new to using Accelerated Literacy teaching strategies, we suggest working with narrative to start with, and then branching out to working with other genres.

Is Accelerated Literacy a balanced literacy program?

Accelerated Literacy pedagogy contributes to balance in a number of ways. For example, 

  • Accelerated Literacy allows students to adopt the four roles of the literacy user (code breaker, meaning maker, text user and text analyst) across the teaching sequence. Different roles are emphasized at different stages of the teaching sequence.
  • While narrative is often the focus of the teaching strategies, you can use your skills in text analysis and systematic planning to help you work with other text types too.
  • You can explicitly teach all the literacy skills at age-appropriate levels. These include phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, reading fluency, vocabulary development and oral language.
  • As well as giving explicit lessons focusing on the study text, you can also expose students to other texts in all areas of the curriculum and you can create opportunities for students to read and write regularly. In doing so, they will be able to consolidate what they have learned from the explicit lesson at other times of the school day.

Where are phonics taught in Accelerated Literacy?

Phonics are an integral part of teaching AL to students, particularly in the early years. It is important to teach sound/symbol correlation without losing the ‘meaning’ of the text you are teaching. You can do this by doing the following:

  • consolidating letter formation, including the name and sound of the letter, during the Spelling part of the teaching sequence
  • teaching and integrating phonic understandings throughout the day
  • assessing and carefully monitoring students' ability to state the sound and name of initial sounds
  • making sure that the classroom environment is rich in print and includes an alphabet frieze (for students in the early years) and other evidence of text from the story.

Finally, when you are planning literacy lessons, it is important that you consider the spelling knowledge that your students already have and what they need to know.

How is oral language part of Accelerated Literacy pedagogy?

When you use the Accelerated Literacy teaching strategies, you will build each lesson around a conversation about your focus text with your students. The teaching sequence is predicated on you explicitly teaching and encouraging your students to use the language of the text. When you introduce a text, you should model and share the literate language of the text, and then in subsequent lessons you should actively encourage students to use this language. You should also model how to discuss the text in an educational context, including the metalanguage associated with such settings.

How long should we study a book?

No set time can be applied to the study of a text.  It depends on the length of the text and the goals you set for its study.  For example, older students may study several passages from a novel over a whole term, while younger students studying shorter texts may study several such texts a term.  Perhaps the most important point to consider for early childhood students is that they will not learn to read if they only work on one book a term, particularly if that book has a very limited number of words. Additionally, spending too much time on a short early childhood text leads students to memorise the text and chant it without engaging with any actual reading. They come to believe that reading is memorising, which is the very misconception we are trying to avoid.

For more information, please refer to the Text Selection Practitioner Guide.

Do teachers and students get bored?

Students don’t get bored; they get successful. Students new to the teaching routine can take some time to adjust to working with one text in detail, but once they become familiar with the approach, they will settle into the deep learning that occurs.

If students are bored, you may need to focus your discussion more on the impact the text has on the reader, and the purpose of language choices. It is this discussion that engages high levels of thinking. You may also need to think about how often you give students the chance to apply their knowledge in creative ways.

It is also a good idea to video your own lessons and review them with a colleague or a mentor. You can then identify points where students are engaged and where they are not, so that the pacing and challenge of the lesson can be adjusted.

How can I use Accelerated Literacy to differentiate for different ability levels?

If you walk into an Accelerated Literacy lesson, you are likely to see the whole class working together on a task. The reason for this is that it takes time for literate resources to be unpacked from a text and shared. The AL approach emphasizes the importance of building common knowledge across the whole group through conscious and careful teaching and negotiation among the teacher and the class.

We have become accustomed to the idea of students working ‘at their own level’. We often also take for granted that ability groups allow higher performing students to ‘reach their potential’ while others work at a level that does not put them under stress as they reach their lesser potentials.  This is highly inequitable because it makes it next to impossible for students to transition from the low levels. 

The purpose of the AL teaching sequence is to provide the support necessary for all students to be successful in working on age-appropriate academic and literate material.

How should I set up my literacy classroom?

A literate classroom environment should include:

  • the instructional text (the book you are studying with your class – multiple copies)
  • informational texts
  • concept maps about the text being studied. Displayed around the classroom, these provide opportunities for students to read and interact with the text
  • a class library that contains books students can read for enjoyment and practice. This library should include extra copies of the books that the students have already studied.

Is Accelerated Literacy only for Indigenous students?

You can use the Accelerated Literacy pedagogy with students from many backgrounds. These include Indigenous students in remote schools, but they also include students in mainstream schools with heterogeneous classes of immigrant, Anglo-Australian and Indigenous students. You can also use the Accelerated Literacy approach with students identified as ‘gifted and talented.’