Improving Academic Literacy in Our Senior Students

Notes and links from the SAETA State Conference session, June 3rd 2017.

Hope you enjoy the presentation!



Functional Grammar – Field, Tenor & Mode

Register Continuum

Handouts / Factsheets


Germanic vs Latinate


Clarity and Conciseness

Readability Statistics


  • University of Alberta’s fact sheet on Science Writing:
  • The DECD Literacy Secretariat had some excellent resources which are now mostly available on the DECD Intranet. One that was particularly useful is available via DECD intranet > Educating >  Numeracy and Literacy > Literacy resources > Engaging and Exploring writing in the secondary years. Sorry Non-DECD schools, these are only available for DECD employees.
  • If you haven’t already, every English teacher in Australia really really needs to check out the English Textual Concepts website developed by the English Teachers Association of NSW. It is basically a catalogue of the content we need to teach. Our primarily skills based subject can sometimes feel content-lite, especially to new teachers. Go here if you want to know what it is we actually need to teach and when. This is a brilliant achievement.
  • If you can get someone to pay for you, I recommend the How Language Works course. If you have to pay the $4000+ fee for yourself, give it a miss. Literacy for Learning is How Language Works lite; I don’t recommend it. More details here:


Word Study / Spelling Contract / Vocabulary Study

What is it?

A spelling / vocabulary program of small word study activities. A friend gave me a copy of a basic spelling contract which I adapted for use in my classes; it has been further developed over the last few semesters with feedback from students. Ideally the program is self-directed: it can be set as homework. I’ve also used word study as a regular activity in the first five minutes of lesson while I set up.

Adapt the included checklist and spelling activities to suit your program.

How it works:

The process I use:

  1. I develop new vocabulary words each fortnight, taken usually from the content of the class or the novel we are reading.
  2. I do ‘Have A Go’, a mock test where I read the words aloud, and students give them a try. This is to allow students to connect the way a word is pronounced with its written form.
  3. Students copy the words into their book.
  4. Students complete a worksheet or activities where students match vocab to definitions (matching or crosswords work well); or with grammar or cloze activities. Word Search and Crossword generators are useful here.
  5. Then students choose which word study activities they would like to complete. They have two weeks to complete 5 points of tasks.
  6. Each term, students get a new word study checklist.

Battleship Vocab:

A suggestion from several spelling websites, very popular. Students play Battleship but with vocabulary words instead of ships. Included is a printable chart.

Stencil Art:

I keep a collection of stencils in my classroom for projects and word study. They were all bought from a dollar shop.

Alphabet Sampler:

For the Word Art activity I mention an alphabet sampler. Find it here.


As part of our History of English unit we did a quick fun lesson on how to do cursive, an unusual thing for high school students to try.

Australian students don’t learn cursive when they are learning to handwrite; they learn some silly thing called ‘Linked Script’.

My main motivation for wanting to do a lesson on cursive was to help students understand how to read it. Some of the kids actually enjoyed writing in it, so it was included in the Word Study.


  • The checklist is set up for fortnights. You can adapt easily to weekly, if you prefer, by adding columns.
  • Provide a new sheet each week with the words and four or five activities to complete rather than use a new checklist.
  • Choose for the students which activities they are to complete each week.
  • Vary the points required: 5 points is very low.
  • Change the activities.
  • Ask the students which activities they prefer and have them come up with new ones.


Let me know if you feel there’s a copyright infringement here. There is nothing original about this Word Study except its layout and design; all of the activities were compiled from suggestions across the web or from students themselves. It is adapted from a photocopied spelling contract given to me at some point; and others have taken my spelling contracts and adapted them to suit themselves.


2011 300 Word Study DOC

2011 300 Word Study PDF