The Quality of Teaching in Years 4 and 8: Reading (February 2005)

Reading in the New Zealand Curriculum

The curriculum for the New Zealand school system follows an ‘outcomes-based’ rather than a ‘syllabus’ approach. Responsibility for course content and planning is devolved to the school and individual teacher level:

The New Zealand Curriculum [11] provides for flexibility, enabling schools and teachers to design programmes which are appropriate to the learning needs of their students.

English in the New Zealand Curriculum [12] states that, through their learning in English, students should be able to:

  • engage with and enjoy language in all its varieties; and
  • understand, respond to, and use oral, written, and visual language effectively in a range of contexts.

To achieve these aims, students will: [13] develop control over the processes associated with using and responding to English language purposefully and effectively through reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and presenting;

  • develop an understanding of the grammar and conventions of English;
  • develop an understanding of how language varies according to the user, audience, and purposes;
  • respond personally to and think critically about a range of texts, including literary texts;
  • use language skills to identify information needs, and find, use, and communicate information; and
  • understand and appreciate the heritages of New Zealand through experiencing a broad range of texts written in English.

The curriculum statement for English consists of three strands – oral language, written language and visual language. The written language strand has two substrands: reading and writing. Each strand has achievement objectives that span eight levels of the curriculum. The achievement objectives are of two types: language functions and processes.

Language functions: Two functions are identified for reading: personal reading and ‘close reading’. In personal reading, students select and read for information and enjoyment from a range of text types. Close reading (also called intensive reading) is defined as:

reading to develop detailed understanding, involving the identification of distinctive language features such as vocabulary, imagery, and structure, and how these contribute to meanings, implications, and effects. For example, close reading of a poem may also involve examination of rhythm and sounds. [14]

In effective reading programmes, students are encouraged to read widely, analyse and evaluate written texts, and develop their ability to make meaning out of increasingly challenging text. They think critically about what they read, and understand that written language varies according to context. [15]

Processes: The processes that underpin the language functions are crucial for language development. [16] The same three processes are specified for the three strands of English in the New Zealand Curriculum. The processes are exploring language, thinking critically and processing information.


New Zealand Curriculum Framework.


English in the New Zealand Curriculum, p.9.




English in the New Zealand Curriculum, p.139.


ibid, p.33.


ibid, p.19.

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