The Changing Definition of Literacy in Australia

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Literacy is a fundamental life skill; all children should have. As Australia is an increasingly multicultural country, migration has directly affected teachers whose classrooms nowadays have an array of linguistically diverse students. As a result, the definition of literacy is no longer considered the ability to read and write. Theory suggests that language acquisition is enhanced by social interaction with peers and more knowledgeable others, combined with explicit instruction and a supportive learning surrounding. Therefore, teachers are required to consider the linguistic backgrounds of students, whilst valuing this diversity to build proficiency in Standard Australian English, using culturally relevant content within a knowledgeable and stimulating learning environment.

Literacy is the act of conveying, analysing and understanding messages to make meaning of interactions. Therefore, literacy can be defined as a multifaceted, continually evolving multimodal process using numerous semiotic systems for communication purposes. A literate individual is required to make sense of information received in order to articulate or express an appropriate response; although, literacy strengths will vary depending on the context or social situation. In an increasingly multicultural and technologically "savvy" classroom, the teaching and learning of multiliteracies is of particular importance as it ensures students gain the skills needed to successfully communicate in a modern world. Therefore, it is necessary for literacy to be described as multimodal, which includes the use of aural, gestural, linguistic, spatial, and visual modes with a purpose to send and receive information. The term multimodal also incorporates the use of art, digita...

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...lues diversity and promotes SAE as do wall charts where students are able to monitor individual developmental progress. Additionally, the introduction of an appreciation day celebrating and embracing all types of diversity would promote an inclusive and understanding classroom.

Literacy is an integral part of the Australian Curriculum encouraging cognitive and social development as it lays the foundation for future learning. A combination of age appropriate, challenging and educationally relevant activities used on a regular basis alongside supportive instruction will support the development of language and more specifically SAE. It can be concluded that effective instruction combined with culturally and linguistically adapted content incorporated effectively into the curriculum, contributes to higher learning, enabling students to reach their full potential.

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