Literacy immersion toolkit (Lit) is a reminder of best practice when teaching in an Australian indigenous context.  Due to high absenteeism, trauma and the wide range of birth languages, students’ range of literacy abilities will broaden the further they progress through school.

Ensuring that Standard Australian English (SAE) and numeracy are taught in a holistic way, literacy immersion is the central focus of your lesson planning.

From a one-off lesson to a term-long study, if a unit is not based around text then develop a group negotiated text and scour it for literacy and numeracy teaching opportunities.

But most importantly because SAE is such an intense focus you must ensure that the content of your text is educational and part of a comprehensive syllabus that integrates the Australian Curriculum (AC) with Indigenous Language and Culture (ILC).


You are the students’ model of the English language.
Speak and write Standard Australian English.

Know your students. 

Choose your text carefully.

Plan ahead.

Be explicit.

20 steps for every text.

1. Listen, speak, read then write.

It can’t be said often enough. Listening is the first step in the literacy process. Students need to hear Standard Australian English (SAE) often and clearly. Always use your sound field system and model reading to the students. Listen to your students, at every level, there are always new words and sounds for students to practice. Use but do not get distracted by phonics programs such as this excellent document from CDU. Immersion is the key to learning.

2. Discover the Text (Build the field of knowledge; set students up for prediction).

Talk about the contents of the text.  Discuss and record what the learners already know about the topic and theme of the text. Represent this in the form of a semantic web or notes on a retrieval chart. Use information from the title, chapter headings, introduction and the summary of the text to discuss what the text might cover/be about (prediction).

3. Prediction
Using the headings, prior knowledge, illustrations etc. brainstorm and discuss with the students what this text could be about.

4. Read the text aloud with the students.

●     Modelled. Just the teacher. (I do)

●     Shared. The whole group with the teacher. (We do)

●     Guided. Individually. (You do)

●     Independent. Individual extended reading. (You do)

5. Complete oral cloze exercises (Checking the students’ linguistic accessibility to the text)

6. Confirm predictions, check for understanding, resetting predictions

7. Read the text to the students with fluency and expression.

●     Make links between the written text and the real-world experiences of the students. Talk about similarities and differences.

8. Retell (Assessment)

Have the students retell the text in groups of two or three, stating their opinions and their reasons for them. Give students different sections to retell and comment on. Record audio or video for assessment.

9. Word Walls

10. Reconstruct the text

11. Independent writing (assessment)

(Expect independent writing only after students have been part of group-negotiated writing and they have seen a model of what the final product can look like.)

Organise for the students to begin writing.

●     Lead a class meeting to discuss the writing so far and to make suggestions which individuals may take up as they continue their writing.

12. Check for comprehension.

Sort scrambled text, use longer chunks of text such as paragraphs/ the contents of a page.

13. Deconstruction of the text with the students to produce a visual representation that summarises the structure of the genre of the text or the main events/time sequence/actions in the text – a story map or graph.

Have students draw and annotate diagrams and illustrations for everything. It helps them consolidate their learning and it also lets you check for understanding.

14. Check comprehension.

Use the new words and phrases learned to construct sentences that mean the same as the original. (Show how the same meaning can be constructed differently in English)

Create alternative endings and beginnings for sentences and larger chunks of text.

15. Practice listening skills.

Students need to learn to hear the sounds in English that are different to the sounds in their language Once these listening exercises have been introduced, do some of them for 10 minutes every day. Listening exercises should cover the areas of stress, intonation and rhythm and pronunciation of English.

16. Practice pronunciation.

(As well as learning to hear the sounds of English, Second language learners need to be taught explicitly how to pronounce some English sounds that are not part of their repertoire.

Use any of your texts to concentrate on particular aspects of English pronunciation. Include sounds, words, phrases, whole sentences incorporating intonation and rhythm.

17. Examine the differences between spoken and written English.

Language is constructed differently for writing than it is for speech. The formal construction of written English needs to be explicitly taught to second language learners.

Examine the differences between spoken (free-flowing spontaneous) and written language.

Analyze some recorded English from any aspect of a previous activity and compare it with the writing of the group-negotiated text.

18. Check comprehension

Decide about true/false statements based on the information from this unit.

Use multiple-choice questions based on the text.

Recognise and correct substitutions or errors in the text.

19. Oral presentation

(Formal speaking is a specifically taught skill. Allow students to practice with material that is familiar to them, that they have been taught about and scaffolded into.)

Explore the text through an oral presentation. Discuss and plan the presentation. Make group notes, use headings e.g. what, who, where, when, how.


For each unit of work, assess oral language. Make notes about the student’s knowledge, understandings and use of language. A group of students should be targeted for assessment in each unit of work. Engage the students in discussion during the activities, record the students using Standard Australian English and write anecdotal notes about the student’s use of English as observed.

Record the student as they:

Give their ideas, opinions, and feelings about the stimulus text or retell the text. And make notes and/or record the student’s responses to the listening, oral cloze and intonation exercises or pronunciation of the target sounds/words/phrases for the unit.

Also, observe and note students’ level of participation in whole group songs or recitations. Note their confidence and clarity of words.

20. Library

Take the class to the library at least once a week. Expect each student to take out a book to read for enjoyment.

21. Mathematical Literacy (bonus points)

Every activity needs to be examined for opportunities to integrate mathematical concepts and thinking. Our students need to practice problem-solving and reasoning in practical everyday situations. Use mathematical language at every opportunity.

Consider how to incorporate;

Students need to understand the reasons and usefulness behind Maths rather than the process to solve equations. Activities must start from concrete physical manipulatives before moving to abstract numerals and functions. Teach methods of simplification and estimation.

Look at years 2&3 of the Australian Curriculum where students move from the concrete to the abstract.

Use the NTs Mathematics Essentials student tracker to gauge where your students sit. 

Lit draws on resources from Fran Murray’s Walking Talking Texts which is a comprehensive framework for teaching and assessing in our indigenous context. When you have time, explore Fran’s Walk Talk Teach.


Reading Test

The child should read the words left to right. When a word that gets a little difficult, ask the child to sound it out. If the child can’t say what the word is, then go on to the next one.

The person supervising the test will give one mark for each word correctly pronounced – even if the reader self corrects. The supervisor will not suggest corrections. No prompting. No hurrying. If the reader mispronounces slightly as in postage with a short ‘o‘, the first time, then ask for the word again, marking it correct if the reader has self-corrected. Otherwise, do not ask for a word to be re-read.

If you do not give away the pronunciation of words that the reader does not know, then this same test may be used again at a later date to assess progress as a result of a teaching programme.

Reading age = (Number of words correct / 10) + 5

Spelling Tests

Choose what you believe will be an appropriate point to start the test.

Dictate each word in turn, saying the word individually, then putting it into a sentence and finally repeating the word.

e.g.       time                     Can you tell me the time?                 time

Dictate slowly and clearly. Never hurry the learner and repeat the word as often as is needed.

Continue until the learner has made at least 5 consecutive errors. 


Strictly speaking, you should not re-test within a year of the previous test if you are using a standardized, normed test. Six months is an acceptable time delay, but it is usually unwise to retest within six months. Re-test using the B version of the test and alternate each subsequent time.

Spelling age = (Number of words correct / 10) + 5

Reading Test                     



Spelling Test A


Spelling Test B


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