Redefining Literacy – “I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and, what’s more, I don’t believe you do either!”

Literacy – a term that traditionally referred to language and text. A literate person could read, write and process information with deep understanding that enabled them to use words and language to communicate ideas with ease throughout their life.

This definition generally still stands but has evolved to reach into areas of learning beyond language skills and sits in other contexts of education or life skills. The essence of the term remains the same, it’s about a basic ability to define, understand and to then use this knowledge to create and communicate.

So does the teaching of literacy change?

Education constantly changes … 21st century learners require different methods of teaching and learning. The context may change the type of literacy that is being explored but the basic definition of what it is to be literate remains consistent. Educators are more aware now of different approaches of teaching and learning and of how the term literacy refers to a a deep understanding, rather than just a regurgitation of remembered facts. Literacy takes time, it happens in stages, and evolves throughout our lives.

ACARA outlines it’s definition of literacy in the following ways

  • students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills  to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society.
  • Literacy involves students listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.
  • Literacy encompasses the knowledge and skills students need to access, understand, analyse and evaluate information, make meaning, express thoughts and emotions, present ideas and opinions, interact with others and participate in activities at school and in their lives beyond school.
  • Success in any learning area depends on being able to use the significant, identifiable and distinctive literacy that is important for learning and representative of the content of that learning area.
  • Becoming literate is not simply about knowledge and skills. Certain behaviours and dispositions assist students to become effective learners who are confident and motivated to use their literacy skills broadly. Many of these behaviours and dispositions are also identified and supported in other general capabilities. Including students managing their own learning to be self-sufficient; working harmoniously with others; being open to ideas, opinions and texts from and about diverse cultures; returning to tasks to improve and enhance their work; and being prepared to question the meanings and assumptions in texts.


So how do we teach literacy?

We teach it broadly across the curriculum AND we teach it specifically within learning areas.


ACARA. Literacy. Retrieved from

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