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Stages of Learning in English

The VELS take account of the developmental stages of learning young people experience at school. While student learning is a continuum and different students develop at different rates, they broadly progress through three stages of learning. General statements about characteristics of learners in these three stages are available at Stages of learning.

The following statements describe ways in which these characteristics relate to learning experiences and standards in each of the three stages of learning in the English domain.

Learning in the domain of English takes place along a continuum; it is developmental in nature, with texts and language being central at all stages. As students progress through school, their knowledge and skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening deepen as they compose, comprehend and respond to an expanding range of increasingly complex texts.

Years Prep to 4 – Laying the foundations

When children enter school, they bring a wide range of prior experiences with language in verbal, visual and written forms. The diversity of their social, cultural and linguistic experiences means that they arrive at school with different starting points. Their prior experience with language, especially oral language, provides the basis for literacy learning. They learn to connect what they read and view with their own knowledge and experience. They begin to respond to informative ideas and beliefs from contexts beyond their immediate experience.

In these years students develop foundational skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Oral language plays a key role in learning to read and write. At this stage, learning to read and use written language effectively is crucial; the development of strong literacy skills in these years provides the basis for future success in learning.

Students learn to use spoken language to establish and maintain social relationships with adults and peers in the classroom. They learn to use appropriate language, both formal and informal, in the new contexts of school and classroom. They ask and respond to questions, and participate in discussions in the classroom, learning how to take turns and listen to others.

In the first years at school students learn how sounds in English are represented alphabetically. They use their background knowledge and vocabulary knowledge in reading to obtain meaning from print. They practise reading different kinds of texts to achieve fluency. They progressively gain control over strategies for comprehension and repairing misunderstandings. With teacher support they develop personal interest in reading, and the motivation to read for a variety of purposes. They develop an appreciation of the ways reading, writing, speaking and listening provide opportunities to acquire knowledge, explore ideas, express opinions and listen to the opinions of others.

As they progress through this stage students extend their use of language for a variety of purposes in composing and responding to print and non-print texts. They begin to develop a terminology or metalanguage to identify some features of spoken and written language. They expand their spoken and written vocabulary. They learn strategies and processes for reading and writing, and begin to develop critical perspectives on texts. They enjoy opportunities to engage with a wide variety of literary and factual texts, and make connections with their own experience. The rich diversity of language experiences students engage in at home and in the community extends their literacy skills.

Years 5 to 8 – Building breadth and depth

In Years 5 to 8 students consolidate and build on their knowledge and skills related to language and texts. Typically they are independent readers and writers who take more responsibility for their learning. In these years they develop more structured and critical appreciation of the texts they respond to, comprehend and compose.

As students progress through this stage they become more observant of the world around them and more aware of the influence of socio-cultural conventions and expectations. They learn how to use informal and formal language appropriately in a wider range of social contexts and for a range of purposes, including school purposes and those relevant to their lives beyond school. They develop terminology, or metalanguage, to talk about and describe structures and features of language in their own and others’ spoken and written texts.

They read, view, write, speak and listen to an expanding range of texts that present challenging ideas and issues. Students compose, comprehend and respond to literary texts in increasingly considered and critical ways. They also compose, comprehend and respond to everyday and media texts including texts that combine modes of English, for example, the spoken, written and graphic texts that may occur in Internet websites. They engage with abstract and unfamiliar ideas, and can justify their interpretations and views of texts. They present their own ideas and arguments in both spoken and written language, and continue to develop critical awareness of context, audience and purpose. They make connections between their own experiences and ideas and the experiences and ideas they encounter in texts drawn from many contexts.

Years 9 to 10 – Developing pathways

In Years 9 to 10 students listen, speak, read and write for their own learning needs and a wide range of purposes both in and out of school. At this stage, students encounter a range of communicative conventions and language practices that apply in the workplace and the wider community. They further develop their skills in working in different kinds of groups, including informal, unstructured groups, and in formal group presentations.

Students explore and interpret multiple perspectives on complex issues, and construct spoken and written responses relating these perspectives to a personal understanding of the contemporary world. They critically examine sociocultural dimensions of language and texts. They comprehend, interpret and reflect on texts that deal with more complex and abstract themes and issues. They continue to develop a critical understanding of the contextual factors involved in the construction and interpretation of texts, including the role of the audience. They use metalanguage to discuss how written and spoken texts work, and to talk about specific technical vocabulary and words, syntax and grammar, and text structures.

Students write appropriately and effectively about their experiences, thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas in a range of forms for school and other purposes. They can construct sustained and coherent narratives, present and justify a point of view, and speak appropriately and confidently in informal and formal situations, both in school and in the wider community.


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National Statements of Learning

The Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) incorporate the opportunities to learn covered in the national Statements of Learning (www.mceetya.edu.au/mceetya/statements_of_learning,22835.html). The Statements of Learning describe essential skills, knowledge, understandings and capacities that all young Australians should have the opportunity to learn by the end of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in English, Mathematics, Science, Civics and Citizenship and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The Statements of Learning were developed as a means of achieving greater national consistency in curriculum outcomes across the eight Australian states and territories. It was proposed that they be used by state and territory departments or curriculum authorities (their primary audience) to guide the future development of relevant curriculum documents. They were agreed to by all states and territories in August 2006.

During 2007, the VCAA prepared a detailed map to show how the Statements of Learning are addressed and incorporated in the VELS. In the majority of cases, the VELS learning focus statements incorporate the Statements of Learning. Some Statements of Learning are covered in more than one domain. In some cases, VELS learning focus statements have been elaborated to address elements of the Statements of Learning not previously specified. These elaborations are noted at the end of each learning focus statement.


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National Literacy Benchmarks

National Literacy Benchmarks are used for reporting achievement in three aspects of literacy – reading, writing and spelling – at Years 3, 5 and 7. The benchmarks define nationally agreed minimum acceptable standards for literacy at these years.

Full details of the National Literacy Benchmarks are available in Literacy Benchmarks Years 3, 5 and 7, Writing, Spelling and Reading, Curriculum Corporation, 2000.

The benchmarks describe minimum standards. For this reason, the Year 3 benchmarks relate to Level 2 English standards, the Year 5 benchmarks relate to Level 3 English standards and the Year 7 benchmarks relate to Level 4 English standards. Links to the literacy benchmarks are located in the English standards.


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Learners of English as a Second Language

Many students in Victorian schools learn English as a Second Language (ESL). They are of all ages and at all stages of learning English and have varying educational backgrounds in their first languages. While the broad objectives of English programs will ultimately be the same for all students, those learning English as a Second Language need time, support and exposure to English before being expected to reach the standards described in the English domain, and will come to this achievement via a range of pathways.

Standards have been developed to assist teachers to devise effective learning and assessment programs for ESL students. The document includes an overview of the broad stages of English language development with learning focus statements and standards for each stage.

See ESL Companion to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards.


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