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Applying the Accelerated Literacy pedagogy using Stellaluna
by Janell Cannon

Identify, research and teach background information related to:

  • Latin meaning of name. Stella = star, luna = the moon
  • Bats, in particular fruit bats (see Bat Notes at rear of book which give factual information — feeding habits, roosting, landing, sight)
  • Birds — owls, nesting, feeding
  • Tropical and subtropical climates and environments
  • Nocturnal animals
  • Predicament — define
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Teaching sequence 1 — Introducing the text

Text Orientation

To provide a literate reading (refer to Teaching Strategy Introduction) of the text, the teacher needs to:

  • Make explicit any inferences in the text and how they are made and explain any significant vocabulary. Talk through Stellaluna page by page.
  • Read the text to the class (ensure that all students follow the text — written and visual — as you read).
  • Return to the text and begin to hand over control of the discussion of the text using the Preformulation and Reconceptualisation cycle (see Teaching Strategy Introduction for more detail).

The following example is a literate reading of the front cover and pages 3 and 4 of the text, Stellaluna by Janell Cannon.

Articulate the purpose of the lesson at the start. Complete a literate reading of the entire book before returning to pages 3 and 4 which provide opportunities for: teaching how to make inferences from the text; connecting information in the text understanding the use of adjectives and drawing attention to prepositions and spelling. It also provides a model for writing a descriptive action sequence.

What you could say:

This story is called Stellaluna. It is written and illustrated by Janell Cannon. The name Stellaluna has a very special meaning. Stella is the Latin word for star and luna is the Latin word for moon. Janell Cannon has cleverly given the main character of the story a name that closely matches a bat's true identity. The stars and moon belong to the night and so does Stellaluna because she is a bat, and bats are nocturnal.

Stellaluna is a story about a fruit bat called Stellaluna who becomes separated from her mother after an owl attacks both her and her mother. Stellaluna is a young bat who has not yet mastered the art of flying. When we look at her on the front cover, we can see her grasping a branch quite awkwardly. She has her wings looped over the branch in an attempt to stop herself from falling. Janell Cannon has deliberately drawn Stellaluna like this to help us like her and feel sorry for her and want to read more.

Bats land by crashing and then hanging upside down by their feet. You see Stellaluna's bottom foot feeling for a twig or a branch to hold. Notice her eyes and expression. She is wide-eyed and looks to be almost smiling. Sometimes we look this way when we are learning new and exciting things and we are proud of ourselves for what we can achieve. Notice how the illustrator has drawn Stellaluna's eyes to make her seem proud and pleased with herself.

Fruit bats depend on their keen vision and sense of smell to navigate at night. They can make their pupils — the black part of the eye — large enough to let light in to see in the darkness. However, pupils are neither big nor small. This is because it is dusk time and the light is fading. We know it's dusk because in the growing darkness three birds are making their way home, just as three bats look to be making their way out to begin searching for food. If we look on the back cover we can also see the full moon has risen.

The time of day is very significant because in the story, after Stellaluna is separated from her mother, she shares a nest with three young birds and is cared for by their mother. Janell Cannon has drawn Stellaluna clinging, out on a limb, to represent the predicament she finds herself in. While she feels safe in the nest with the three birds, her new friends, she still yearns to do what comes naturally and feels right for her as a bat. Now let's look at the other pictures in the book and see how the story happens.

Teaching sequence 2 — Read the book to the students

After completing a Text Orientation of the whole book, highlighting meanings represented in the illustrations and adding meanings that are not in the text, read the entire text and then come back to pages 3 and 4. Go to the section of the text you would have previously selected because it provides opportunities to teach about strategies Janell Cannon uses to connect information and because it also provides opportunities for you to teach about strategies the reader might need to understand inferences made in the text. The selected section of text also provides a model for students for how to write in Standard Australian English. The following sample is from page 3.

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Teaching sequence 3 — Text orientation

Using the Preformulation and Reconceptualisation cycle

Language orientation is the key strategy for reducing students' stress and overload during reading. The following preformulation and reconceptualisation strategy is a culturally inclusive way of asking questions about the text that:

  • ensures all students have the knowledge they need to answer the questions
  • ensures all students have the language they need to answer the questions in a literate way
  • provides strong oral language development
  • almost immediately builds engagement and motivation to participate in classroom activities.

The preformulation/reconceptualisation questioning strategy (cycle of P = Preformulation, Q = Question, A = Answer, R = Reconceptualisation) facilitates the rapid handover of literate discussion about the text to the students.

What you could say: a sample of the preformulation/reconceptualistion questioning strategy

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Teaching sequence 4 — Language orientation

In language orientation teachers look at what units of meaning the author used and why they were used (why did the reader need to know this?).

For students struggling to read age-appropriate texts, the language orientation strategy is a key strategy for reducing the stress associated with prior failure to decode and gain meaning from texts.

The teacher, with overhead transparency (OHT) or enlarged laminated colour copy of the page being studied, and students (with photocopies of the page) work through the text, identifying and marking the words used by the author to create the meanings with which they are now familiar. They will be identifying the exact words in the text that the author used and the function of those words in the text.

Because the teacher is constructing the questions to elicit the exact words of the author in the response, questions need to be carefully prepared so that the tense is the same as the text.

What you could say: a sample of the preformulation/reconceptualistion questioning strategy for Language Orientation

P = Preformulation, Q = Question, A = Answer, R = Reconceptualisation

Text:

One night, as Mother Bat followed the heavy scent of ripe fruit, an owl spied her.

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Follow up

Continue through the passage, highlighting the text as appropriate and making sure to include key vocabulary.

After students have completed a Language Orientation on a section of text, they have more knowledge and understanding of the text and its meanings and are ready to develop their skill about the use of Standard Australian English at the word level e.g. using prepositions, identifying adjectives etc.

Complete further text and language orientations for pages that provide opportunities to teach specific skills. In this text there are opportunities to work on prepositions that are sometimes not used in Aboriginal English. There are also opportunities to work on Standard Australian English pointing words (demonstrative adjectives), this, that, these and those, which are replaced by them in Aboriginal English.

Teaching sequence 5 — Learning about writing

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Use pictures from the text to demonstrate the difference between the 'pointing or demonstrative adjectives' used to describe objects and people that are near or far:

'This bat is clinging to a branch.'

'These three bats are flying closer than those three bats.'

'These three birds are flying together.'

'That bat looks like it is flying away.'

Create a table of the pointing adjectives for future reference.

Pointing adjectives or demonstrative adjectives.

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Ask students to find and highlight examples of demonstrative adjectives (occurring before nouns) in chosen excerpts from the text e.g. 'I will not let you back into this nest unless you promise to obey all the rules of this house' (page 13), and pronouns e.g. 'That makes me right side up!' (page 27), 'I think this is quite a mystery.' (page 41). Pronouns occur on their own and take the place of, or refer to, previously mentioned nouns, noun groups or clauses.

Learning to write

Model the use of 'this, these, that and those' based on the following selected text:AbSt_table_08

Matching statements and questions to visual text


Provide students with a series of pictures from the text and a list of questions or statements. Ask the students to match a statement or question using demonstrative adjectives with the picture. Then ask the students to role play, then write, their own conversation to match a series of two or three of the

Create a large version of the text from Stellaluna pages 7, 9, and 11. After completing a Language Orientation for these pages, which focuses on the function of the words in the text, highlight phrases containing prepositions: in a soft downy nest, from the nest, out of sight, below it, into the nest, at night, by her feet, up here, of the nest.

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Repeat this activity at an independent level using the whole text. Using appropriate pictures from the text or photos of class activities, match captions containing prepositions. Then have students write their own captions which must include an adverbial phrase to provide more detail about how, where or when the action was done.

Teaching sequence 5 — Aims of teaching spelling using the Accelerated Literacy pedagogy

  • To remove fear and guesswork from spelling.
  • To help students effectively use graphophonic information in reading and writing.
  • To help students understand complex spellings.
  • To help children develop literate resources.

The following words have been identified to teach spelling from the passage on page 3.

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Look for opportunities to teach spelling rules appropriate for the Stage e.g. dodging (remove 'e' before adding ' ing' ) and spied and tried (change 'y' to 'i' before adding 'ed'). Look for discussion that shows students drawing on spelling knowledge from other lessons. Students may be able to articulate why words are cut up in certain ways or offer other words with similar patterns.

Teaching sequence 6 — Joint Reconstructed Writing

Joint Reconstructed Writing provides a context for successful writing for students with little or no previous experience of literate writing in school. This strategy forms a link with the writing strategies in that students and teacher work together to reconstruct the text the way the author wrote it. They use the actual words of the text. The activity reduces cognitive overload for students as they can use the author's wording, they know how to spell these words and, as they work through the reconstruction, they also discuss the author's possible thinking in making particular language choices in the text.

Cowey, 2007

Using page 3 in Stellaluna as an example, work with the students to jointly reconstruct the passage using the PQAR (Preformulation/Question/Answer/Reconceptualisation) cycle to elicit exact words. Model for the students on the board and ask students to write in their own books.

Recall the sentence structure to write each part of the sentence. When spelling a word (see examples above) pause and allow the students to write the word first, emphasising that students need to write in chunks. This allows students to practise the spelling strategies they have learnt previously by putting them back into context. Always explain when capitals and punctuation need to be used and why.

Text Patterning

When text patterning, ensure students use a familiar text as a sample to assist in organising the structure of a new text. Develop a writing plan based on the language orientation text (page 3 of Stellaluna) and focus on the author's language structures. Work through the writing plan with the students and identify each section as Janell Cannon wrote it. Together with the students, next decide on a new context for writing and use the writing plan as a model.

Note: Text patterning allows all students at any one time to be:

  • guided by the teacher, or
  • working on another joint construction, or
  • writing independently.
  • The following is an example of an action/reaction writing plan for students to brainstorm new texts.AbSt_table_11