An Introduction to the ACT project

"Schools should provide a BALANCED English Language program that includes a range of different approaches to learning and supports students ‘learning English Language, learning about English Language and learning through English Language’."

 ESF Essential Agreement for Language 2015


In September 2014 teachers from across ESF kindergartens and primary schools were invited to join an ACT Professional Learning Community exploring the concept of BALANCE within the reading programs offered by our schools and exploring the question:


What is a BALANCED reading programme?


All the schools involved follow the IB PYP curriculum framework and use an ESF Language Scope and Sequence based on the PYP Language Scope and Sequence and other key resources including First Steps. In most schools First Steps has been used as a key resource to support the teaching of reading and writing.


In addition to these curriculum expectations ESF has developed an essential agreement for language that stresses the need to provide a BALANCED programme:


“Although there is no set amount of time specified for explicit English Language teaching, it is understood that all students should be: reading and writing, speaking and listening and viewing and presenting on a daily basis. Schools should provide a BALANCED English Language program that includes a range of different approaches to learning and supports students ‘learning English Language, learning about English Language and learning through English Language’. As part of units of inquiry students are expected to have opportunities to learn through modeled, shared, guided and independent practice. Schools should seek authentic, real-life and creative opportunities to learn language in the context of transdisciplinary units, but must also provide time for direct instruction and inquiry into explicit language concepts.”


(ESF Essential Agreement for Language 2015)


Five teachers (Cathy Boon PS, Katie Trethewy and Katie Jackson QBS,Jeff Moore KS and Loretta Romano DC), together with an ESFC mentor (Jason Boon), used the “Compass of Inquiry Process” to establish dreams, wonderings, actions and evidence of impact linked to the idea of balance within their reading programs.


 Following discussions and sharing about classroom experiences, curriculum expectations and student learning the collaborate team decided that the dream for the professional learning community was to explore ways of maximising student reading passion, reading power and reading potential through a balanced approach to instruction. The 3Ps of reading were defining in the following way:


Reading Passion:

  • The motivation students display for reading,
  • The personalization of the reading programme to meet the needs and interests of the students
  • The element of student choice within the reading programme

Reading Power:

  • The skills, understanding and application of strategies linked to the decoding and comprehending of texts)

Reading Potential:

  • The awareness and understanding students have of themselves as readers
  • The stamina, habits, attitudes they display
  • The knowledge they have of where to go next
  • The embedding of life long skills for reading.

Establishing the Field

Initial Wonderings...

After establishing the dream the team had a variety of wonderings that drove their initial phase of research. These included:


  • To what extent are students knowledgeable about quality authors and illustrators? 
  • What impact does our school and home reading programme have on student motivation?
  • Are student able to articulate and use a range of comprehension strategies?
  • How does classroom organisation and environment support student outcomes in reading?
  • How will increasing the amount of student choice about text impact on student outcomes and engagement?
  • Will the systematic inquiry into and explicit teaching of comprehension strategies impact on student achievement?
  • How will balancing time between explicit instruction, guided practice, independent practice and student conferencing impact on student outcomes?
  • How can we improve student self-awareness of themselves as readers?
  • How will increasing the opportunity for students to discuss reading impact on student outcomes?
  • Do online reading programmes impact on student outcomes?
  • How can a reading workshop approach impact on student outcomes? 
  • How do we effectively balance time between decoding and comprehension instruction in the early years?
  • To what extent can we further develop units of inquiry to create authentic and real-life contexts for reading?
  • In what ways can we further build parent-school links to impact on student outcomes in reading?

Each team member gathered initial data about student attitudes, knowledge, understanding and reading behaviours through:


  • conducting interviews using adapted versions of First Steps Reading Questionnaires and the Burke’s Reading Inventory
  • analysed assessment data including PM Benchmark, Probe Assessments, ISA and PIPS results
  • conducted observations of reading conferences, small group instruction and whole class instruction
  • gathering work samples linked to reading

They also researched recent practice in the teaching of reading focusing on a number of key authors and attended the HKIS Literacy Conference 2015.

Initial Research

The Case Studies

Following this initial inquiry the teachers then narrowed down the focus and chose a specific aspect of the dream to investigate in their own classroom context with the aim of adapting practice to positively impact on student reading outcomes. This process resulted in the following four case studies:


Case Study 1

To Guide or Not To Guide: Developing a balanced Reading program in Year 3 and 6


Case Study 2

Comprehension That Sticks: Explicit Strategy Instruction in Year 2


 Case Study 3

Creating a Community of Readers: Adapting a Reading Workshop Approach in Year 1


Case Study 4

Student Choice: Attitudes towards Reading in Year 4