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Literate Learners for Life - Sacred Heart Catholic School Geeveston

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The Literate Learners for Life initiative despite only being in its infancy, is already influencing the students at Sacred Heart Catholic School Geeveston. 

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Cate Doherty is the Literacy Practice Leader and Literacy teacher for one of the three Year One/Two ‘teams’ at Sacred Heart Geeveston. As a Literacy Practice Leader, one of Cate's responsibilities is to be 'on the ground' ensuring system-wide consistency for the Literate Learners for Life initiative. There is a Literacy Practice Leader in every Catholic school across Tasmania, and like Cate, they use the MultiLit program to help support the children in their school. Cate's class began with her students reciting three letter words as the class tried to write them down on mini whiteboards correctly.

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The rather simple and routine task of reading aloud and writing three letter words was turned into a healthy competition between Ms Doherty and her class. Unsurprisingly, due to the fantastic teaching of their teacher, the class managed to win. The class packed away their individual white boards and sat on the mat before listening to Ms Doherty read the classic book written by Melanie Carter, Possum Goes to School. The book while chosen by their teacher, is one of the texts that is made available by MultiLit and is recommended to be used as part of the InitiaLit Program to help develop vocabulary and comprehension in a more engaging approach. 

After reading Possum Goes to School, the class separated into three different groups dependant on their reading ability. A group of around six students went away with one of the teacher’s aides to work through the MiniLit ‘Sage Program’, while the other two groups stayed in the learning space with Ms Doherty to participate in one of two activities. The first activity involved sitting on the mat, as the students took turns reading pages with their teacher. 

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The other group played Bingo with the words that they had been learning earlier in the day, rotating who gets to play ‘teacher’ and read out the words as the Caller. This was an entertaining way to consolidate the learning that the students had completed in their literacy learning earlier in the morning. Cate Doherty said, “Kids love structure and they like that routine. Some of the activities we turn into games, really, simple games. Today they had to read some words and I turned it into a game of them against me just to mix things up.

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The two-hour block of literacy teaching ended with the students creating their own version of the Possum in the School. This was a fantastic way for the intentions of the lesson to be reinforced, as the students created visually what they could see and imagine from the book. The students were encouraged to write a simple sentence from the fantastic artwork. They described what they had created in their workbooks, and to see themselves as writers. “I’m working really hard to help the students see themselves as writers. We call this part of the lesson, writing for enjoyment. A lot of my instructional choices come from Noella Mackenzie.” 
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Literacy plays an important role in the everyday life of all people throughout Tasmania, students, and adults alike. Cate understands that while she is teaching literacy the subject, she is really teaching literacy, the life skill. “It’s not just about me seeing children back in their regular classroom doing other things, when they're doing Maths or RE, where obviously they must use their literacy skills.” Cate explained, “Their regular class teachers have said they're all feeling much more confident about going away and doing whatever the task might be, so they're having a go at writing and responding to whatever that lesson is.

Annie Baker is the Acting Principal at Sacred Heart Geeveston, and praises CET for implementing the Literacy Practice Leaders in each of the Catholic schools. “The fact that CET provided us with funding for a Literacy Leader in the schools makes a huge difference. Cate's able to work with our teachers as well within some of the classrooms to keep everyone on track and make sure that they're understanding the requirements.” The Literate Learners for Life initiative is being rolled out throughout all schools in Tasmania, and Annie sees the benefit of explicit teaching for the staff at her school as well. “I think they're seeing that they can clearly see where the children are at. So, there's the teaching components, but then there’s assessment so they're able to group and then regroup depending on the children's growth.” She said, Staff are liking the explicit teaching and they're liking the fact that the children are not stagnating in groups for too long.

Sacred Heart Geeveston are proactive in ensuring that their entire school community will have access to important information when it comes to their school and the access that parents and families have to literacy outside of the classroom at home. Thanks to the tireless work of Cate, the school received a grant from the Tasmanian Parents and Friends Association to create a video on the importance of developing reading fluency within their school community. Additionally, Cate is working on an initiative developed by Ronita Barratt, who is the Learning Support Coordinator at Sacred Heart Geeveston, which intends to create a series of short video clips to demonstrate how parents can support their children with pre-reading skills. “We're about to make a series of really short videos to explain some of the steps in learning to read.” Explained Cate, “It's always a challenge for some schools getting parents involved and particularly those parents that aren’t feeling overly confident with literacy themselves. It can be really intimidating. We hope that the videos will be a great way to engage parents with their children’s learning.”

The Literate Learners for Life initiative through the work that is being completed in schools like Sacred Heart Geeveston, will continue to support Tasmania in ensuring that state functional literacy rates will continue to grow. The work that is being done in schools to help facilitate this growth is a key responsibility for all educators within Catholic Education Tasmania. Continuing support for this worthwhile initiative is integral to creating better outcomes for Tasmania’s young people.

Literate Learners for Life – Every student. Every Subject. Every Year.


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