New project promotes child literacy

Thursday September 10, 2015 Written by SW/Release Published in Education

A collaborative project in the Cook Islands aims to improve literacy for children in grades one, two and three.


The Ministry of Education is teaming up with the University of South Pacific and the University of Auckland on the project, and to build content richness in children’s writing.

“Composing is the most important aspect when teaching our children to write. Composing a piece of writing comes from the heart and soul of the child,” says coordinator Anna Roumanu.Thirteen schools were selected to take part in the programme and since last year, Roumanu  says they have participated in a number of significant activities.

From conducting research observations, to analysing data on student achievement and patterns of learning, Roumanu found a common pattern, and that is a need for more writing. Not handwriting or printing as such, but in the generation of ideas for composing pieces of writing. The “Akapa’anga Apii; Akamanako, Tuatua e te Tata” or “Think, Talk, Write” framework was developed by the Pacific Literacy and School Leadership programme and the Cook Islands Ministry of Education.

It was developed with the belief that more guided discussion between children in class, can assist in the development of writing. Hence, the connection and flow between akamanako or thinking, tuatua or talking and tata, to write.

Facilitated by three advisors with the participation of more than 50 staff across three clusters of schools, Roumanu says a nine-day workshop on the newly-developed framework took commitment and dedication from everyone.

“The first part of the workshop was to share the framework with staff. Teachers were given time to read through and discuss the framework with each other and with facilitators.”

Divided into four parts, Roumanu says the framework includes elements of composing writing, editing writing, examples of teacher practice and samples of work at each level.

The benefits of the ‘Think, Talk, Write’ framework, are that teachers can clearly moderate samples of work to identify next steps in learning for children, she says.

In the workshop, teachers had the opportunity to use the assessment to analyse samples of writing, find a best-fit level and then identify “next steps.”

“This process allows for an automatic fit and filter system that provides formative analysis for teachers,” Roumanu says.

In the Cook Islands, it is common for schools to have more than one centre of interest in one year, and often times this creates an environment of only surface level change.

Leaders are being encouraged to spend more time analysing a problem along with their staff, to really understand the problem, before working towards a solution.

Leaders need to be involved in learning with staff so that they can understand the challenges that teachers and students face.

Nurturing a collective responsibility of whole school learning is integral to effective management of programmes in a school. Learning how to resource strategically has also been a focus, which means they focus on what schools do have, instead of what they don’t.

The Writing Framework is currently being translated into various Maori dialects.

Roumanu says teachers and principals are encouraged by the Framework, and although still in its early stages of development, they are happy to have a start. 

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