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Asia-related resources used to build literacy in primary classrooms.

Ever wondered how you, as a primary school teacher, might go about using Asia-related texts and other resources in your classroom to promote literacy--especially given the imperatives of the new Asia-focused Australian Curriculum--but don't know how to go about doing this or where to start?

Lis Turner, principal at Waggrakine Primary School in Western Australia, along with members of her staff, has got some great ideas, suggestions, practical examples and advice on how teachers throughout Australia might be able to achieve this with sound professional outcomes.

Waggrakine is a government Primary School in Geraldton WA with 450 students from Kindergarten to Year 7.

The school is considered a lead school in Western Australia, with multiple awards, buoyed by its leadership in globalising learning. Waggrakine is also one of 60 Western Australian Education Department Teacher Development Schools, leading the development of the Australian Curriculum in English.

It is one of 60 Worldwide Microsoft Innovative Schools and through this program has had opportunities to develop relationships with schools around the world. The school's focus though is clearly on Asia.

Waggrakine has taken advantage of the numerous projects through the Asia Education Foundation (AEF), Microsoft, ACICIS and more to enrich its development of the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority. These included:

In 2009: participation in the AEF Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia program. As a result of this initial professional learning, staff carried out audits of how inclusive their reading and library texts were of not just Asia but global cultures, Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Islander cultures, and people with special needs. Staff talked about Asia and its impact on the global and Australian community, and made a commitment to focus on Asia across the school.

One of the teachers at the school says a good starting point for promoting literacy through the use of Asian-related texts and other resources on the AEF website.

'The Asia Education Foundation provides some great resources on their website, with links to the Curriculum, that I have added to and adapted to suit my teaching style and students' needs,' says Waggrakine teacher Paula Moses. 'The books the AEF produces and promotes are beneficial in how they support and enhance teaching, especially the Snapshot of Asia big books.'

Ms Moses says being a participant in the BRIDGE Australia-Indonesia Partnership Project has also provided her with a lot of lesson ideas and resources that have a strong focus on life in Indonesia from a child's perspective, such as looking at school and social life, sports, games, modern music and film, rather than just looking at the history and culture of a region.

'I highly recommend schools becoming involved in the program,' Ms Moses says. 'Building relationships with schools in Indonesia also gives the children an insight to life in Indonesia. We have done this through our involvement in both the BRIDGE Project and the Bali Adopt a School project.'

Another colleague at the school, Year 6 teacher Mel Cross, says actually travelling to Asia and seeing the teacher as a resource within themselves can also have many benefits.

'I've found first-hand experience in Asia has been the most valuable resource. I feel confident in teaching and discussing Asian culture and history, purely drawing on my own experiences, no matter how minor--conversations with taxi drivers in Bali, talking to street sellers in Malaysia - as well as involvement in an AEF study tour around Indonesia,' Ms Cross says.

'These experiences have allowed me to gain authentic resources and have given me an insight to 'current' Asia. My students are more motivated and interested as they see the relevance of Asia through their teacher, and become caught up in my own excitement in teaching and discussing Asia.


'I've also found students become more interested when hearing first-hand stories--even when elaborated--and simply seeing snapshots that they know have come from your own personal experience. It's a nice way of sharing and exploring the world with the students rather than presenting a pile of information.'

Ms Cross says many of the staff at her school have travelled throughout Asia and shared their experiences through blogs.

'This allows other staff the ability to access authentic photos and experiences in their own time when it is relevant to their teaching. I find that, at times, being overloaded with information makes it difficult as a teacher to see how I can tie everything in together, therefore I prefer this way of professional sharing.

'Following my own sharing with my students, other students in my class have begun to bring in photos from their holidays, which has brought out very interesting discussion points that can be elaborated.

'One student brought in photos of a building site he came across in Bali; he and his family were shocked to see the difference in safety procedures. This brought on a huge discussion that came from student interest.'


Ms Cross speaks enthusiastically about other great resources she has used in her teaching: 'In the way of resources, I use the Get Connected series to further my own knowledge before starting a topic with students; it has great ideas and resources within it. Students can also use these resources themselves. I have used stories from this in reading groups to reinforce class discussions and to build awareness of the world outside Geraldton, Perth and Australia.

'I have also used the Snapshots of Asia big books within reading groups. It explores many genres within the book and encourages a lot of topic discussion'.

Ms Cross says her class has signed up to www. travelbugs which has been really popular and effective.

'Students "travel" throughout the world after receiving their own log-in and password. They create passports and can visit countries and accumulate stamps, miles and different point-systems based on articles that they write about the places they've "visited" and games that they have played when in a certain country. Students have been accessing this program at home as well as at school. It is age-appropriate for all years and abilities.

'Global buddy classes have allowed my students to get 'real life' knowledge and breakdown many stereotypes that we often refer to. Following my principal's visit to Malaysia, my class has "buddied" with a Year 6 Malay class to discuss everyday life. Students at this age are very inquisitive and get caught up and excited about learning about "real life". They want to know what pets Malaysian kids have, what books they read, what they do after school and what they eat for lunch.

'The most exciting insights my students have learned from contact with our buddies are that they have all read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and they all listen to Rihanna.


'Students have started to get to know each other through a shared 'online discussion' on our blog Students are accessing this at home and it has allowed a conversational tone which brings up these commonalities. I think it's important that our students learn about both the contemporary and traditional Asia.'

And even YouTube can be a great treasure trove of potential resources if used appropriately.

'I've found lots of great resources and videos on Youtube that I use as stimulus for daily writing and other activities.

'Simple videos of traffic at a big intersection in Jakarta, watching Jalan Sesama (Indonesian Sesame Street), different advertisements that are used in Asia (can be studied when looking at persuasive writing), and watching various versions of the Idol series.

'Students love having access to what is current and you can often find short documentaries about traditional dance, rice farming or natural disasters, for instance.'

Lis Turner says that in wanting to promote literacy within a school through the use of Asian-focused texts and resources, teachers need to incorporate but also look more widely than printed-text formats.

'With emerging technologies providing a catalyst to opening the door to globalising learning, now more than ever is there a need to open up new opportunities for schools to reach beyond their own boundaries and be part of a global learning community, networked and sharing with our Asian Neighbours,' Ms Turner says.

'From creating and forming sister schools throughout Asia, to chatting with students over Skype, to involvement in global environmental issues like DeforestAction, technologies have allowed us to demolish traditional confines of classroom walls and take our students into Asia.

'We no longer want to work as an isolated school but rather we want to use technologies to communicate, reach out and extend learning far beyond the school.'

Asia Education Foundation--Fantastic resources!

* The AEF website has outstanding resources for primary and secondary school teachers

* The site contains a wealth of resources including teacher guides and student activity sheets

* The resources have been supplemented with user-friendly guides, indicating where each individual resource aligns with the Australian Curriculum. englishcr/aef_resources_aUgnment_engUsh.html

The school website:

John Watts is a former secondary school English teacher and currently works as a Senior Project Officer at the Asia Education Foundation
COPYRIGHT 2012 Australian Literacy Educators' Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Watts, John
Publication:Practically Primary
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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