Spotlight on a speaker - PETAA's 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners


Dr Bronwyn Parkin: Understanding the jigsaw of reading: putting the pieces together to benefit all of our students

Bronwyn Parkin has 30 years' experience in supporting language and literacy teachers beginning in Aboriginal Education: remote and metropolitan through the South Australia Accelerated Literacy program focused on disadvantaged schools; through the recent PETAA research grants investigating academic language pedagogy with educationally marginalised students; and as a consultant working in disadvantaged contexts. Dr Parkin has been a member of the Literacy Education Advisory Committee of South Australian Department of Education. She is the Vice-President of PETAA and co-author of Teaching with Intent 1, Teaching with Intent 2, and Teaching the language of climate change science

Bronwyn will deliver a workshop session at PETAA's 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners. Read our interview below to find out more about Bronwyn and her work, and don't forget to register for the Conference, taking place on 15 -16 October online, with extremely limited passes available to attend in-person at the Aerial UTS Function Centre in Ultimo, NSW.

You’ll be speaking at our 2021 Conference, ‘Powerful Practices for All Learners’. What does that phrase mean to you?

The goal of education is participatory citizenship, the right and privilege to have an active role in a democratic society, and to have agency in bringing about positive changes for the common good. To achieve this goal begins with teaching students to read, spell and write, but it’s much more than that. Powerful literate practices reduce the risk that marginalised students may become marginalised members of society. They include the ability to make meaning, both receptive and productive, in a wide range of social contexts. This requires a broad repertoire of language, and the ability to strategically choose words so that they achieve the purpose intended.

My most recent interest is in the language of science, helping teachers and students to control the language for Climate Change. 

Can you tell us what attendees can expect from your session?

Teachers are faced with so many different models of the Reading process: the Big 6, the Scarborough Model, the Simple model, the cueing system. I will begin the workshop by showing how these models emphasise different aspects of the reading process; how they each have their affordances and constraints.

I will then move the focus to comprehension, particularly inferential comprehension, and the affordances and constraints of a range of pedagogic strategies.  

Can you tell us about a time that you saw positive change in the classroom from embracing these ideas?

I was supporting the Indigenous students in a metropolitan Year 6 class who were studying 'Good Tip for Ghosts' from Uncanny! by Paul Jennings. In my group was Lateesha, who, every English lesson, pulled her hair across her face like a curtain so she wouldn’t get called on to contribute. Across the term we systematically worked from text marking to fluent reading to spelling to brainstorming writing ideas, to jointly constructing a text, and finally independent writing.

Gradually, as the process began to make sense, Lateesha began to take part. At the end of term, on class camp, we had a ‘Ghost Fest’ when the students read their ghost writing from the term. Lateesha stood out the front in a darkened room, with a spotlight on her, and read her own ghost story, fluently and with expression, to 60 students. I had tears in my eyes.  

If you could change one thing about Australian classrooms, what would it be?

My heart sinks at the ‘siloed’, compartmentalised, incoherent teaching of the various aspects of literacy, as a ninth subject, separate from the learning areas. It’s such hard work for teachers and students.

What's one thing every teacher could do right now to make their classrooms more inclusive?

You need to understand how language works; in other words, have a model of language and its role in social contexts and in the learning areas. With that, the little ‘bits’ fall into place. The work of teaching language and literacy begins to make a lot more sense and the workload is reduced.  

Join Bronwyn and the rest of our brilliant speakers at the PETAA 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners. Register now to attend online, or join us in-person at the UTS Aerial Function Centre in Sydney on 15-16 October 2021.

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