A bit of a rant on streaming literacy and numeracy

We've had a number of in-class conversations about streaming recently, and I took the opportunity to crystalise my thoughts by responding to another student's posting in a discussion forum about a school they had visited that uses streaming for English and Math and is achieving good NAPLAN results. Thought I might share it here for those that are curious…

Without doubt, if high average NAPLAN scores is all you are seeking to achieve within a school, streamed numeracy and literacy classes are probably a sound strategy. Drilling with 'NAPLAN style' tests is also a sound strategy. As is cutting art, sport, and most of HSIE to give more time to maths and English. How far are you willing to go for those beloved green boxes in the MySchool NAPLAN tables?

The questions that are raised by streaming literacy and numeracy might be;
  • Is this being achieved across the board, or is it primarily the result of better outcomes for one subgroup (say the higher achievers) doing much better, and what implications does that have for everyone else?
  • What are the implications for self-esteem, self-efficacy and
  • Are we content with such an individualistic environment, or are we seeking to create a collegial, collaborative classroom?
  • While we are streaming numeracy and literacy, why not stream art and PE? Is there a single valid reason why you would not pull out all the more athletic or more artistically inclined kids into an 'A' stream for that subject?
  • Teaching numeracy and literacy in a streamed mode means that they are taught exclusive of other KLAs. Does this mean we miss out on the opportunity to create meaningful integration across the curriculum?



2 thoughts on “A bit of a rant on streaming literacy and numeracy

  1. brett rolfe

    Streaming is the process of segregating students by ability. You can ‘stream’ across the whole curriculum and get 3A, 3B, 3C etc. (though obviously we are way too politically correct to call them that any more, and probably use Indigenous animal names or something like that).
    The benefit of streaming is that is reduces the need for differentiation within the classroom – you can teach 3A harder stuff, stuck to the basics with 3E. Much easier to keep kids engaged with challenges that suit their level of skill.
    The problems are obvious – entrenching those levels, reinforcing behaviours etc. With whole curriculum streaming there is the added issue that a kid may be great at something and crap at something else, so it is problematic to do.
    We don’t do that as much any more, but what we have started to do is subject streaming. So you will be in 3-Artichoke most of the time, but then you may be streamed for literacy, so if you are a good English student when it is time to do reading and writing you go off with all the other literacy braniacs and all the lesser literates go off to their class. Same for numeracy.
    One variation of this is in-class streaming where you create things like ‘reading groups’ of 4-5 kids within the class, and get all the good readers in one group and give them the harder work.
    An alternative is to put high performing and struggling students together into a group, and create exercises that let them co-participate (and in some instances get the better performing students to support the ones having more difficulty).
    There was an interesting approach mentioned recently, where a whole year (5 or 6 from memory) was brought together for an activity. A number of activity stations were set up (with different levels of challenge) and students were invited to go to whichever they wanted to. Throughout the course of the activity, some students chose to move – either to a harder activity to be more challenged or to an easier one because *they recognised* that they needed more support.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *