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Margaret Wright EDLA342

Assessment Task 1 – Critical Essay


Comprehension is an essential skill for both reading to live and reading to think and is
vital for students to successfully participate and contribute to all aspects of learning in, and out of
the classroom (Keenan, 2018) Without comprehension, tasks such as understanding texts,
general instructions and learning in the classroom can become challenging. Comprehension
which is defined as the ability to read, process, recall and most importantly understand and make
meaning from what you have read, is the ultimate goal of literacy learning (Koralek, Collins,
1997). The development of comprehension skills in the middle and senior years of schooling can
also be directly linked to two important theories of children’s literacy development are the
transaction theory and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and scaffolding, both of which
influence the gradual release of responsibility model and aligning teaching strategies. These
theories, models and teaching strategies all contribute to building comprehension skills and the
role of authentic assessment in the middle and senior years of primary school.


The transactional theory, developed by Louise Rosenblatt in the 1970’s, emphasizes the
importance of linking the readers’ prior knowledge and life experiences to the written words.
This means that when comprehending the text, no two readers will interpret the text in the same
way (Flint, Kitson, Lowe et al., 2013). A transactional view of reading emphasizes the fact that
when reading a text, student’s must engage actively in order to integrate the text on the page with
pre-existing knowledge structure, otherwise known as a schema. This allows for interpretation
and comprehension of the meaning of the text (Keenan, 2018). Subsequently, this theory
acknowledges that different people have different thoughts, experiences, feelings, opinions,
attitudes and beliefs and that these differences affect the way we interpret and comprehend texts
(Rosenblatt, 1994). When focusing on developing comprehension skills, the transactional theory
is helpful as the reading transactions involve predicting, questioning, clarifying, visualizing and
making connections, all strategies that produce independent and competent readers (Pressley,
Almasi, Schuder, et al, 1994). The theory’s ability to explain why the interpretation of a text
differs from individual to individual has resulted in The National Reading Panel (2000) recently
deeming the transaction theory as an exemplary method for comprehension instruction.

Vygotsky was a social constructivist who developed the concept of the zone of proximal
development, which captures the differences between what a learner can do with assistance, and
what that learner can do independently (Vygotsky, 1978). He recommended that children learn
from adults, or those more capable than themselves, through modelling. This means that the
child gradually becomes more competent in the task until he/she is able to successfully complete
the task individually. From this theory, scaffolding was introduced as it was well suited to an

Margaret Wright EDLA342

educational context. Scaffolding refers to techniques implemented by teachers to slowly progress

students towards greater independence in their learning and understanding (Greater Schools
Partnership, 2015). Similarly, to the scaffolding of a building, the structure and guidance is
slowly taken away as the child becomes more stable and independent in their learning. When
focusing on developing comprehension skills, the scaffolding theory is considered an essential
element of effective teaching as it allows students to gain independence and apply strategies and
tools when reading that will improve their comprehension skills.


Both the transactional theory and scaffolding theory align with the gradual release of
responsibility model. When building comprehension skills these theories and models can be
made to relate through the necessary strategies of teacher modelling, explicit instruction and the
movement towards creating independent, competent readers. The gradual release of
responsibility model focuses on four steps. Firstly, ‘I do it’, then, ‘we do it’, then, ‘you do it
together’ and finally, ‘you do it alone’. These steps allow the student to move gradually from
explicit teaching, through the steps of the model, to finally become independent in their learning
(Evers, 2018). At each step of the four levels the student has set tasks. Within the direct
instruction step, students are expected to actively listen, take notes and ask for clarification. The
guided instruction/modelling phase expects students to ask and respond to questions, participate
in activities with the teacher and peers and complete the learning process in a group setting
(Levy, 2007). When moving towards the collaborative and independent phases of the model,
students are expected to rely on their notes, understandings, classroom activities and learning to
help with their task. Importantly, there is room for adjustment within the model. At any point,
the teacher can go back and forth between the four steps, so students are able to gain
understanding (Evers, 2018). An example of the practical aspect of this model can be found in a
classroom setting. In the “I do it’ phase, explicit demonstration and modelling of the reading
aloud strategy allows students to understand how skillful readers think while reading and how
they can make meaning from the text (Raudenbush, 2018).

Teaching Strategies and Building Comprehension Skills

Literacy is listed in the Australian Curriculum as a general capability and subsequently,

the comprehension teaching strategies can be used across all contexts of learning, not simply in
literacy sessions (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014). When
integrating comprehension skills within other curriculum areas there are many practical ideas,
instructional procedures, strategies and activities that can be implemented across all year levels.
Thus, it is important to maintain a balanced approach to literacy learning, focusing on both
productive and receptive modes of language skills to assist students in their comprehension
development. Through shared, guided, instructional and independent reading students acquire the
skills, strategies and knowledge required to successfully comprehend texts.

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Guided reading follows the same pathway as the transactional strategies in the before,
during and after reading stages, used to develop comprehension skills. In order to read
effectively and build these skills, students are required to actively engage in before, during, and
after reading activities and discussions. Before reading a text is it important to activate prior
knowledge and make way for new information allowing the student to make connections based
on their prior experiences and fit this information into pre-existing schemas. Thus, the student is
able to understand, make meaning from and interpret the text with less difficulty. A teaching
strategy that is often implemented at this stage is a ‘quick write’ where students are invited to
predict what they think the text will be about, what its purpose is and even what style of writing
it is. These predictions are based on the information provided by the title, and front and back
covers. During reading, strategies teach comprehension through the modelling and
implementation of transactional reading strategies such as making connections to prior
knowledge, prediction and re-prediction, visualisation, asking and answering questions,
inferencing, retelling, paraphrasing and summarization (Keenan, 2018). Throughout all four
stages of the gradual release of responsibility model, students are expected to use these strategies
to improve their comprehension of the text. After reading strategies involve making connections
between their prior knowledge, their new knowledge from the text and how they can apply it in
their own lives. To structure this approach transactional strategies can be applied, text to self asks
students to create a connection based on personal experiences, text to text asks students to create
a connection to another piece of text, and text to world asks students to create a connection to a
larger world, focusing on social events or issues (Flint, 2013). Through the active participation in
these activities, students are enabled to build comprehension skills and become independent and
competent readers.


The theories, models and teaching strategies mentioned above are intertwined with
effective assessment practices that inform teachers further instruction of comprehension skills.
When assessing students’ ability to comprehend a variety of texts, it is important to consider the
zone of proximal development. What students can accomplish individually displays their actual
level of progression, however, what they can accomplish with assistance displays their level of
potential development. Assessment methods must target both the actual and potential levels of
development. Formative assessment is an essential element of effective teaching, as it influences
the process in which learning sequences are planned, employed and adapted to cater for the
diverse needs of all learners in the classroom (Davis, 2011). In order for teachers to assess
students understanding of comprehension skills, the students need to have declarative knowledge
(know what the strategy is), procedural knowledge (know how to use the strategy), conditional
knowledge (when and why to use the strategy) and how to evaluate the effectiveness of the
strategy (Oakley, n.d). To assess reading comprehension the most common assessment tool is
known as the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI), which involves a one on one interview with

Margaret Wright EDLA342

the student. During the interview the student is asked to read a short text, along with explicit
questions and detailed questions to gauge their understanding of the text. From this, the student
may be asked to explain what strategies they used and why. With the knowledge gained from
these assessments, teachers are able to implement the teach – assess – reflect cycle in which
informs future teaching instruction, additional support required and the effectiveness of previous
teaching methods.

Summary of Presentation

The lesson sequence revolves around a text, Where the Forest Meets the Sea, by Jeannie
Baker. The story focuses on a father and son visit who a tropical rainforest they can only get to
by boat. Throughout the story, the boy pretends it is decades ago and imagines there are extinct
and rare animals living in the forest, and aboriginal children play there. When it is time to leave,
his father tells him they will come back one day, and the boy wonders what of the forest will be
there when he returns? (Reading Australia, 2018).

The lesson sequence is set in year 3 and focuses on two content descriptors within the
literacy and literature strand of the Australian Curriculum: English. The Literacy strand content
descriptor is ‘use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to
evaluate texts by drawing on a growing knowledge of context, text structures and language
features’ (ACELY1680), and the Literature strand content descriptor is ‘draw connections
between personal experiences and the worlds of texts, and share responses with others’
(ACELT1596). The lesson sequence also focuses on the cross-curriculum priority of
sustainability and general capabilities such as Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking and
Personal and social capability
Throughout all learning catering for the diverse needs of learners is essential, adjustments
in teaching, learning and assessment are grouped into five sections, timing, scheduling, setting,
presentation and response (Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority, 2018). Through the
adjustment of these sections, the specific needs of each individual learner can be catered for,
meaning the student can reach their full potential.

By employing inclusive strategies and adjustments, every student is able to participate in

learning experiences and assessment without altering the way the task is assessed (QCAA,
2018). For example, within the learning sequence, when completing the assessment task some
students may require adjustments related to physical and sensory barriers that prevent their
ability to write their assessment. To cater for the diverse needs of learners in the class an
adjustment can be made in the ‘Response’ section, the mind map and Venn diagram used for
assessment allows students to write their answers in short dot points, an iPad or computer could
also be used to complete the assessment, further adjustments could be made and the teacher or
teacher aid could scribe for the student.

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Catering for diverse learners can be seen through the explanation of comprehension
strategy ‘inferencing’, for EAL/D students this strategy can be challenging as inferences are
created through cultural knowledge and a range of vocabulary. To cater to this diversity, the
teacher would provide these students with explicit instruction and examples, enabling the
students to understand the language features and grasp the meaning of the text (ACARA, 2014)

The zone of proximal development, scaffolding and the transaction theory all play a role
in assisting teachers to best accommodate for diverse learners’. The zone of proximal
development can assist teachers in gauging students current level of development when they are
working individually, whereas, what students can accomplish with assistance displays their level
of potential development. Scaffolding is a helpful theory as it assists teachers in structuring
learning activities to the ability of each student, giving struggling students the assistance, they
need, while also extending students who are progressing faster.

Overall, comprehension is a vital skill to have not just in a schooling environment, but in
a number of aspects of life. As a result, it is important that students know how to read, and make
meaning from various bodies of text. The development of the transactional and scaffolding
theories have influenced the development of the gradual release of responsibility model. This has
positively influenced the way in which teachers teach and students learn comprehension skills so
that they can become competent, independent, and skilled readers.

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Year Level: 3 Term: 2 Duration of lesson: 1.5 hours Learning Area: English

Year level description: (highlight the specific section)

The English curriculum is built around the three interrelated strands of language, literature and literacy. Teaching and learning programs
should balance and integrate all three strands. Together, the strands focus on developing students’ knowledge, understanding and skills in
listening, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating. Learning in English builds on concepts, skills and processes developed in
earlier years, and teachers will revisit and strengthen these as needed.

In Years 3 and 4, students experience learning in familiar contexts and a range of contexts that relate to study in other areas of the
curriculum. They interact with peers and teachers from other classes and schools in a range of face-to-face and online/virtual

Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment. They listen to, read, view and interpret spoken, written and multimodal texts in
which the primary purpose is aesthetic, as well as texts designed to inform and persuade. These encompass traditional oral texts including
Aboriginal stories, picture books, various types of print and digital texts, simple chapter books, rhyming verse, poetry, non-fiction, film,
multimodal texts, dramatic performances and texts used by students as models for constructing their own work.

The range of literary texts for Foundation to Year 10 comprises Australian literature, including the oral narrative traditions of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, as well as the contemporary literature of these two cultural groups, and classic and contemporary
world literature, including texts from and about Asia.

Literary texts that support and extend students in Years 3 and 4 as independent readers describe complex sequences of events that extend
over several pages and involve unusual happenings within a framework of familiar experiences. Informative texts include content of
increasing complexity and technicality about topics of interest and topics being studied in other areas of the curriculum. These texts use
complex language features, including varied sentence structures, some unfamiliar vocabulary, a significant number of high-frequency
sight words and words that need to be decoded phonically, and a variety of punctuation conventions, as well as illustrations and diagrams
that support and extend the printed text.

Students create a range of imaginative, informative and persuasive types of texts including narratives, procedures, performances, reports,
reviews, poetry and expositions.

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Year level achievement standard/s: (highlight the specific section)

Receptive modes (listening, reading and viewing)

By the end of Year 3, students understand how content can be organised using different text structures depending on the purpose of
the text. They understand how language features, images and vocabulary choices are used for different effects.
They read texts that contain varied sentence structures, a range of punctuation conventions, and images that provide extra information.
They use phonics and word knowledge to fluently read more complex words. They identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas
in different parts of a text. They select information, ideas and events in texts that relate to their own lives and to other texts. They listen to
others’ views and respond appropriately using interaction skills.

Productive modes (speaking, writing and creating)

Students understand how language features are used to link and sequence ideas. They understand how language can be used to express
feelings and opinions on topics. Their texts include writing and images to express and develop, in some detail, experiences, events,
information, ideas and characters.

Students create a range of texts for familiar and unfamiliar audiences. They contribute actively to class and group discussions, asking
questions, providing useful feedback and making presentations. They demonstrate understanding of grammar and choose vocabulary and
punctuation appropriate to the purpose and context of their writing. They use knowledge of letter-sound relationships
including consonant and vowel clusters and high-frequency words to spell words accurately. They re-read and edit their writing, checking
their work for appropriate vocabulary, structure and meaning. They write using joined letters that are accurately formed and consistent in

Learning objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will:

Have read and viewed the book ‘Where the Forest Meets the Sea’ by Jeannie Baker, have built their understanding and comprehension of
the text by implementing strategies inferring and making connections before, during and after reading. Students will also apply their
knowledge and understanding of the text to a new context.
Learning intentions: (Written in language for the students to comprehend what they will know, do and understand…)
Today we are learning to use our comprehension skills inferring and making connections before, during and after reading the book
‘Where the Forest Meets the Sea’ by Jeannie Baker. We are also learning to apply our new knowledge and understanding in a new area.

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Strands of the learning area: Content Descriptors (include codes):

Literacy Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to evaluate texts
by drawing on a growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features

Draw connections between personal experiences and the worlds of texts, and share responses
with others (ACELT1596)

Cross-Curriculum Priorities and General Capabilities (only highlight the pertinent ones):

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia
ICT Capability
Critical and Creative Thinking

Personal and social capability

Ethical Understanding

Intercultural Understanding

Margaret Wright EDLA342


Timing Teaching strategies and organization Learning experiences Assessment of,

for or as
(mins) What the teacher will do… What the students will do…


Meditation Introduce meditation time

Reinforce expectations
- Eyes closed - ask students to listen to the sounds
- Mouths closed of the rainforest and reflect on their
- Ears open own experiences in the rainforest
10 mins
- Move students to the carpet, either
sitting or laying down
Introduce the lesson
Today we are going to do a shared reading of Where the
Forest Meets the Sea, then we will split into our English
groups and complete different comprehension activities
to enhance your understanding of the book.

Discuss learning intention and success criteria

Remind students of behaviour expectations


Margaret Wright EDLA342

40 mins
Before reading: Students sit on carpet in front of teacher
1. Introduce text

Activate prior knowledge

When we were meditating before what rainforest
Turn to your elbow buddy and share your
experiences did you think of?
rainforest experience
- What did you like?
Hook and Hold
- What did you do there?
Arouse curiosity, recall knowledge about rainforests
(investigating and sharing ideas)

2. Introduce Strategies

What does it mean when we infer?
(reading between the lines) Assessment for
learning –
teacher can
- Raise hand to ear when asking question to gauge student
indicate to students they can call the answer out understanding
Students call out answer
of what the
Making Connections strategies are
and how to use
How do we make connections when reading? (thinking
it to inform
about our own experiences and the world around us, are
there similarities or differences between the book and
your experiences?)

Margaret Wright EDLA342

- Raise hand to ear when asking question to

indicate to students they can call the answer out
Students call out answer
Throughout our shared reading session, I would like
you to concentrate on using these two strategies
During reading:
Pause on different pages to allow students to make
connections and infer
Ask questions
After reading:
Students talk about text and make text-to-
Group discussion self and text-to-world connections
(evaluating and understanding)

- Split students into groups of 3 or 4 (ability
- Set up comprehension questions around the
- Set a timer for 2 minutes
- Teacher to rotate
- This line of questioning follows the ‘literal, Groups rotate around stations, discussing
inferred and beyond meaning’ lesson sequence their thinking with peers and recording their
used in visual literacy answers

Go around to each question and allow

Whole Class discussion students to provide their understanding and

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Catering for Diversity: (provide accommodations/ modifications for any particular students’ needs…

Adjustments to teaching, learning and assessment is grouped into five main areas, through this lesson sequence and assessment these
five areas have been covered to cater for the diverse needs of learners in the class.
1. Timing – this lesson sequence uses many different sections of work that focus on the same topic, keeping students engaged
and on task while having fun and exploring different ways of applying their knowledge.
2. Scheduling – some students may experience anxiety and frustration when faced with completing an assessment task, if
necessary, these students would have the option to complete the task at another time, with a smaller group and calmer
3. Setting – some students may become easily distracted, have sensory issues or experience anxiety and frustration, if necessary,
the assessment could be completed at another desk in the classroom, sitting individually on the floor, or if aid is available – in
another room with teacher aid support
4. Presentation – when giving the assessment task, graphics are used to further explain the task and model to students what they
are required to do, some students may require further scaffolding through examples of responses
5. Response – some students may require adjustments related to physical and sensory barriers that prevent their ability to write
their assessment, with the mind map and venn diagram students are able to write in short dot points, an iPad or computer
could also be used to complete the assessment as handwriting is not being assessed, further adjustments could be made and the
teacher or teacher aid could scribe for the student

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Meditation video watch?v=pPrO2jlay40
Where the forest meets the sea

Venn Diagram – past, present

and future of the forest

Margaret Wright EDLA342

What can you see on this page that might show what the little boy was imagining?

Margaret Wright EDLA342

Looking closely at this page, what can you see that maybe you didn’t before?

Margaret Wright EDLA342

• What does the illustration make you think and why?

• How does the illustration make you feel?
• What message do you think the author is trying to convey? And what tells you this?
• What strategy can you use to figure out what the author is trying to say through her words and illustrations?

Margaret Wright EDLA342


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Margaret Wright EDLA342

Beginnings. Retrieved from

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Transactional Instruction of Comprehension Stategies: The Montgomery County,
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and Processes of Reading (6th ed., p. 923 – 956). Newark, DE: International Reading

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