Designing embedded literacy project work for independent learning – the rough idea


I’ve got this idea for integrating the assessment requirements for the 10 credits worth of literacy unit standards together with highly focused topics or content in an inquiry project that learners can complete (mostly) independently.

The three unit standards are:

  • Unit Standard 26622: Write to communicate ideas for a purpose and audience (Level 1, Credits 4)
  • Unit Standard 26624: Read texts with understanding (Level 1, Credits 3)
  • Unit Standard 26625: Actively participate in spoken interactions (Level 1, Credits 3)

These unit standards are not the same as the literacy achievement standards. However, they count for credit just the same and are designed for embedding into other content areas.

There are four phases to work through… This isn’t fully formed yet, and this probably sounds more complicated than what I mean, but the basic outline is below:

Kicking off the project

  1. The tutor and learner negotiate an area of interest, or alternatively the tutor assigns a specific topic or narrowly defined content area relevant to their general course of study. If required the tutor could formalise this into an embedded literacy learning outcome.
  2. The tutor then assigns a couple of key readings texts that relate to this area. Highly motivated learners may be able to negotiate this content as well. However, the tutor will need to ensure that the reading texts are at or above step 4 in the literacy progressions.
  3. If necessary, the tutor administers some kind of vocabulary pre-assessment. This is to pick up on any key words that the learner might not know (but need) to comprehend the text. For more advanced learners, the focus here would be on the specialised or technical language that the text might be using. A simple pre-assessment might just require the learner to identify unknown words. A more sophisticated pre-assessment could require the tutor to develop something like a 2- item cloze test or similar. I’ll probably have a list of ideas or guidelines for vocabulary pre-assessment.
  4. To lead into to the project work, the learner and tutor may need to have some kind of interactive discussion to draw out or establish prior knowledge about the content area and to front-load any relevant new vocabulary and concepts. This lead in could also involve other literacy activities as required to get things rolling. I’ll probably have a list of ideas here as well for front-loading vocabulary that people can select from if its needed.

Clarifying the output

  1. Before the learner starts the independent project. The tutor will need to clarify the end products or output for assessment or portfolio purposes
  2. The output is going to be something like this for the learner:
    • Read and make notes on at least two key texts according to the checklists and templates supplied.
    • Write at least 200 words to summarise the learning according to some kind of writing frame and checklists, e.g. mini research report, opinion piece, book or film review
    • One of the issues in moderation is going to be the authenticity of the writing. So, if required, I think we can give this a boost by publishing the writing to a learner blog.

First reading

  1. First, there will be some details for the learner to complete in a digital coversheet to record the text name, author, source, and purposes for reading and writing. This is necessary for the unit standard evidence, even though it feels a little contrived.
  2. Then they’ll need to make a written prediction on what they think the text is going to contain. This will also be another opportunity for the tutor or learner to make notes on any other information that they might need to comprehend the text.
  3. As they read the first time they’ll need to complete the following tasks:
    • Identify any other new or unknown words.
    • Find or highlight important ideas or items from a list including things like dates, time, places, people, etc.
    • The intention here is that the learner will identify a range of things that are explicit in the text and then make notes on a few of them.

Second reading

  1. On the second pass, the learner will need to start looking for and thinking some of the more implicit ideas that the text contains.
  2. This is where it gets tricky. I want to create a generic template that anyone can adapt to their own specific content areas. What I don’t want to do is get into lots of materials development that is specific to the actual content. So here I’ll probably have a list of prompts for the learner to get started from, e.g. “Why do you think…? What’s your opinion of…” Still thinking that part through.
  3. Following on from that the learner will need to discuss the author’s purpose, e.g. “Why do you think the writer wrote this…? or something similar.
  4. The final part here will require the learner to evaluate the text in terms of their own purpose for at least one of usefulness, interest, validity, or credibility. Again, these are evidence requirements for the respective standards.
  5. The learner will repeat this reading and note taking process for a second text.
  6. The learner’s notes and cover sheet are (scanned if handwritten and) uploaded to an electronic portfolio accessible by learner and tutor.

Writing up

  1. The tutor then supplies a text frame that suits the writing purpose, perhaps together with a model answer, e.g. a mini-research report with a section on reporting back key facts and an opinion section (or other content based on the implicit ideas found in the text).
  2. The learner then works through and produces evidence for the different steps in the writing process (plan, compose, revise, edit, produce final version) for their own report or written text. This evidence can be handwritten using the templates supplied, but the final version will need to be digital – either a digital document of some kind (e.g. Google Doc) and/or something like a blog post.
  3. I’ll probably produce an editing guide for learners to use as a checklist when self editing the drafts.
  4. All of the planning and composing evidence along with the final digital version is uploaded to the electronic portfolio.
  5. If required, the final digital version can be uploaded to a blog or other online media and published.


  1. Finally, if it’s required, regular assessment procedures can kick in.
  2. Because the goal is to develop an extensive portfolio of reading and writing evidence, not every piece of evidence necessarily needs formal assessment.

The idea is that a generic template along these lines could be adapted to almost any topic or subject area where embedded literacy is required. Once learners got the hang of it, it would get easier with each repetition of the cycle.

This is just a rough outline… any comments or feedback welcome as always.





Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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