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Teachers' notes – rationale

This rationale provides a background to the English exemplars for written, oral, and visual language.

Please be aware that these exemplars relate to the curriculum levels and achievement objectives described in the previous edition of The New Zealand Curriculum, published in 1994. These, and the progressions of learning described, may not correspond with those described in the current edition (published in 2007).

What is an English exemplar?

An English exemplar is a sample of authentic student work annotated to illustrate learning, achievement, and quality in relation to levels 1 to 5 of English in the New Zealand Curriculum (1994). The English exemplars relate to every strand of the English curriculum, to a range of achievement objectives, and to a variety of associated text forms. 

The purposes of the English exemplars are to:

  • illustrate key features of learning, achievement, and quality at different stages of student development
  • help students and teachers to identify the next learning steps
  • guide teachers in their interpretation of curriculum levels.

The selected exemplars represent the many voices of New Zealand students. Though the settings in which they learned may have differed, each of these students has been exposed to focused, high-quality teaching. The written exemplars are based on students' first or second drafts, rather than their "published" (fully corrected) work. The teachers' comments have been left in place in the original work shown.

What could have been exemplified?

The breadth of the English curriculum and the almost limitless number of text forms that might have been exemplified meant that decisions had to be made on what to include.

The diagrams listed below indicate some of the text forms that might be included in a balanced English programme and that could have been chosen for exemplification.

Purposes and text forms: diagrams

The selections do not represent the text forms that should be privileged in teaching programmes. Such decisions will be determined by the learning needs of particular groups of students.

What is exemplified?

The productive achievement objectives of the English curriculum (speaking, writing, and presenting) are exemplified, rather than the receptive achievement objectives (listening, reading, and viewing). Three factors guided this decision:

  • A concern for validity  
    In English, validity in the assessment of listening, viewing, and reading may be compromised by the fact that evidence of student achievement is often in the form of speaking, presenting, and writing.
  • Existing practices in literacy assessment  
    A range of literacy assessment tools is available, for example, the Progressive Achievement Tests (PATs) and the Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (asTTle) CD-ROM. These tools provide diagnostic information about the progress of individual students as well as reliable data about the progress of individuals and groups, relative to the national cohort.
  • Precedents overseas  
    In other countries, projects that are similar to the New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars also focus on the productive aspects of English.

In each English exemplar, contextual information makes strong links to the receptive achievement objectives, and underscores their importance.

Written, oral, and visual language

Considerations that were taken into account in choosing the text forms to be exemplified are set out in the following paragraphs.

Written language

Poetic writing: Character and personal experience

The choice of these forms of writing acknowledges a breadth of professional opinion that endorses the importance of writing about personal experience, relationships, knowledge, and insights. The closer students are to a real experience or person, the greater the life, clarity, and sincerity of their writing about them. Character writing is also directly linked to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) activity for achievement standard 1.1 Produce creative writing: Creating a Character.

Transactional writing: Explanation and argument

The aim in focusing teachers and students on powerful forms of transactional writing such as explanation and argument is to achieve a better balance with narrative writing, which has long been privileged, especially in primary school writing programmes. Explanation and argument become increasingly important forms of writing as students progress through the education system and into the workforce.

Explanation and argument writing are not included at level 1 of the curriculum. Because students at level 1 are able to explain and argue, often from a personal perspective, progress indicators and exemplars are included for this level.

Oral language

Interpersonal speaking and listening: Discussion

Group discussions are one of the pedagogical tools most commonly used in the English classroom and, indeed, across the curriculum. The full benefits of in-class discussion are not always achieved. The facilitation of such discussion may be enhanced and student and teacher expectations clarified by the oral language exemplars in the next set of English exemplars.

Visual language

Presenting: Static and moving images

Teachers sometimes treat the production of static images (for example, posters) in a way that emphasises the artistic importance of the study. The inclusion of static images in the English exemplars is an opportunity to focus on the linguistic aspects of static images in the English curriculum, while encouraging teachers and students to explore further the dynamic relationship of these linguistic and artistic aspects.

The moving image exemplars emphasise the communicative and conceptual aspects of moving images. They focus strongly on the connections between the visual and verbal aspects. The experience of creating moving images is profoundly important for developing students' understanding of the "constructedness" of film, television, and digital media.

How might the English exemplars be used?

Teachers will use the English exemplars in ways that match their own teaching styles and the learning needs of their students. In particular, they may use them:

  • With their students, to set and illustrate expectations of the students' achievement, particularly through the modelling process. They could discuss points as diverse as how to express personal voice in writing, how to organise and express ideas clearly, or how to use the surface features of communication effectively.
  • To support formative feedback to students individually and collectively, particularly to illustrate specific goals or development points.
  • To help with the assessment of students' progress. Teachers may also wish to use them to guide their decisions on where their students' achievement "best fits" the levels of achievement described for a particular curriculum strand.
  • To plan and teach learning activities from the wide range of learning contexts and resource ideas in the exemplars. 

Links between the English exemplars and asTTle

The matrices of progress indicators developed for written language in the exemplar project are consistent with those developed for asTTle. The terms deeper and surface features are used in both. Each has four categories in deeper features and three in surface features.