Communicating is what language is all about and this includes listening, speaking, reading and writing. In the names of the strands for the progressions, however, the term communication is applied more specifically to productive language – Speak to Communicate and Write to Communicate. Writers, as well as speakers, use strategies to communicate and they both plan and compose the texts they produce. The different wordings reflect a difference in emphasis rather than a different process.
Speak to Communicate: Using Strategies to Communicate progression
A central need for adult learners is to be able to communicate information and ideas effectively. Speakers plan and make decisions about when and how to use particular language features or information in order to communicate their meaning or message clearly. They do this using strategies that are similar to those used by writers.
As they gain expertise, speakers are aware of their audience and can use verbal and non-verbal strategies to modify their communications as they speak.
The concept of fluency in spoken language is an important part of expertise in spoken language – it is described in the accompanying resource, Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy and Numeracy: Background Information.
Write to Communicate: Planning and Composing and Revising and Editing progressions
In order to meet the text-based demands of being a worker, a learner and a family and community member, adults need to communicate ideas and messages in writing. As they progress from beginner to expert writers, learners become more expert in using the various steps in the writing process.
The writing process
The writing progressions in this publication are based on the understanding that writers follow a recognisable and flexible process as they write - planning (deciding what to say and how to say it), composing (translating ideas into written text) and revising (improving existing text). Through these processes, writers solve new problems and construct new meanings. The writer may repeat any part of the writing process at any time. For example, revising can occur at any time during the process of composing and the writer’s plan may change as the writing progresses. In the process of writing, learning takes place as the writer discovers or changes meanings.
Planning and composing. Planning is the part of the process in which a writer has an awareness of wanting to convey something in writing at the very least. At the early stages of development, writers may need strong support or scaffolding (such as writing frames) in order to plan. As the writer develops expertise, these supports can be gradually removed. Expert writers have plans that are flexible and they take time to pause and think as they plan. A writer’s plans can change as the writing continues. The learning progressions reflect the development of independence, flexibility and expertise in planning for writing.
Beginner writers usually have little knowledge of composition to draw on beyond a basic knowledge of content, vocabulary and language features. The writer simply puts basic information or ideas directly into written text and may not monitor to check whether the ideas are well developed and make sense. As their expertise develops, writers are able to bring together what they know about the content and what they know about the language and text structures they can use to convey it. Where beginner writers translate their thoughts directly into written form, expert writers move between the content and the form of the text, drawing on an extensive knowledge of content, vocabulary, grammar, text features, audience and text types.
Revising and editing. As expert writers compose, they are constantly reviewing what they write against their purpose, plans and goals. They are able to judge what to change and how to do it as they strive to convey their messages clearly and effectively. Many beginner writers are not aware of the need to review by rereading or, if they do reread their work, they are not sure what they are looking for. They may be unaware of the quality of what they have written, focusing instead on getting the surface features right. They may correct surface features (such as spelling and punctuation) if they reread, but they may miss obvious errors in meaning because they often tend to read what they intended to write rather than what they have actually written.
Expert writers also proofread their work, checking for legibility, spelling, grammar and punctuation. More importantly, they review their writing as a whole, checking, restructuring and adjusting the text to make sure it matches their intentions.
The use of technology for writing extends the options available to adult learners. Email, text messaging and writing for the internet all provide learners with engaging contexts for writing. Each form has its own rules and constraints, as well as providing fast access to a wider audience than print forms. Computers can support writing development because they enable users to revise their text quickly and easily. Computer spelling and grammar checks provide non-threatening tools for checking accuracy. Learners may need some instruction in using these tools.