Our Focus

Being an effective communicator is even more important nowadays as ever. At St. Joseph’s,  English language learning is at the heart of each lessson. Learning English in class is not just about the study and use of the language, but also encompasses the enjoyment of being able to express oneself through literature, oral communication, visual elements and in writing, for a range of purposes and audiences and in a variety of forms.

NZ English Curriculum

Our Literacy program at St. Joseph’s directly aligns with NZ  English curriculum and learning area structure: 

“English is structured around two interconnected strands, each encompassing the oral, written and visual forms of the language. The strands differentiate between the modes in which students are primarily:

  • making meaning of ideas or information they receive (listening, reading, and viewing)
  • creating meaning for themselves or others (speaking, writing, and presenting).

The achievement objectives within each strand suggest progressions through which most students move as they become more effective oral, written, and visual communicators. Using a set of underpinning processes and strategies, students develop knowledge, skills, and understandings related to:

  • text purposes and audiences
  • ideas within language contexts
  • language features that enhance texts
  • the structure and organisation of texts.


Students need to practise making meaning and creating meaning at each level of the curriculum. This need is reflected in the way that the achievement objectives are structured. As they progress, students use their skills to engage with tasks and texts that are increasingly sophisticated and challenging, and they do this in increasing depth.”

New Zealand Curriculum Online

As language skills and knowledge develop throughout a child’s life, so do the expectations and outcomes of achievement for each level. Year level achievement objectives for English can be found here.

Resources for Students

Resources for students to use for reading, writing and spelling can be found here.

Resources for Parents


A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever.” —Louis L’Amour

Studies show that children who read at least 20 minutes every day are more successful than students who don’t. At St. Joseph’s we believe in creating lifelong learners and that reading is the foundation of all knowledge and skill. When students struggle to read, it often makes other subjects difficult to master as well.

What can you do to help your child further develop their reading level? There are lots of things both teachers and parents can do to help facilitate a child’s engagement in reading.

  • Don’t make it a chore

Forcing a child to read will generally have the opposite effect of engagement. Try to make it a fun activity by allowing them to pick books that match their interests. Make an event of going to the bookstore or library and let them get their own library card. Offer them a prize or reward after a certain amount of allotted reading time. Allow them to read on a digital platform if possible (ebook readers, tablets, phones, etc)

  • Make it part of the daily routine

Children need structure and if you give them structured reading time (even if it’s 10-15 minutes a day) they are more likely to continue the habit. Try to keep it at the same time each day so they know what the expectation is. 

  • Read together

Studies show that children are likely to mimic the behaviour of their parents. If your child sees you read, they will likely do so as well! 

  • Reading is reading

Ebooks, picture books, easy reading books, graphic novels, young adult novels, beginner chapter books, magazines, biographies, websites, newspapers, bulletin boards, billboards, anything at all with words is reading. Encourage your child to read anything and everything! At home, while you’re out running errands, while on holiday- there is always an opportunity!

Check out these other resources and tips! 

Reading Tips by Year Level

Top Books by age level


  1. Learning to Read: link here.
  2. Ideas to help with reading, writing and maths (by year level): Link here.
  3. Hamilton City Libraries: Link here.
  4. Scholastic Book Club: Link here.
  5. iDeal Learning Approach: Link here.



Strong writing skills are a vital skill to help reinforce English language learning and can help strengthen literacy skills.

Not only does our focus on writing include lessons on grammar, punctuation, and proper sentence structure but also reinforces the enjoyment and pleasure of communicating through a variety of written texts.

Having strong writing skills allow students to better articulate meaning and emotion and can assist them in future learning and occupational endeavours.

Why is it important to write? Alison Davis in her resource “Effective Writing Instruction: Evidence-based classroom practices” states:

“In addition (to learning writing skills), skilled writers are engaged in the process of writing, and learn to write with enjoyment and confidence for a range of purposes and audiences. They learn to use writing to assist their learning in many ways- to respond, to critique, to evaluate, to consider, to examine, to report, to analyse and to reflect.

Becoming a competent and confident writer is an exciting process for learners. It can also be a demanding process and it is far more successful for teachers and students when both are active, engaged and excited about the possibilities or learning to write and learning from writing.”               

What are some tips to help with student engagement towards writing? 

  • Writing should have purpose and meaning

Try encouraging the 5 Ws and H when reading your child’s writing: Who was involved? What happened? Where did it happen?  When did it happen? Why did it happen? How did it happen? While it’s always important to write creatively, oftentimes meaning gets lost and it’s important to keep them on track.

  • Writing and reading are inseparable processes

Encourage variety in your child’s writing by having them read different kinds of texts and mimic those styles in their own written texts. 

  • Receiving support and success when writing encourages further writing

Just like reading, there is always an opportunity to write! Have your child keep a daily journal or diary. Keep a travel journal when going on holiday or vacation. Have them write a book review after finishing a book. Have them create new book covers including a summary of the plot. Get them to write your shopping list. Have them respond to emails or text messages for you or ask them to review your emails or text messages to check for spelling and grammar. 

Check out these other resources and tips!

Writing Tips by Year Level:

Journaling for Kids: Link here.

Scholastic Parents Grammar Practice: Link here.



At St Joseph’s Fairfield, we are in the process of designing and implementing a comprehensive, school-wide approach to spelling. Spelling will be taught explicitly in a systematic and structured way across the whole school.

At the moment, staff are having professional development with the team at “Learning Matters” to increase our knowledge of the most effective methods for teaching spelling. While we are in this transition phase of further professional learning, you will notice a few changes to the way students will learn to spell. One change is that we will no longer be sending spelling lists home to be learned for weekly testing. Research shows this is largely ineffective for learning to spell, compared to explicit, systematic teaching.

We will keep you up to date with our developing programme, and later in the year we will hold a whanau meeting to more fully explain our approach.

So, what can you do at home? If you wish to support your child with learning to spell, parents should focus on the ‘irregular’ words and high frequency or ‘sight words. These are often words that don’t follow phonology, so they can’t be spelled by ‘sounding them out. They have to be learned by committing them to memory. We have lists of these irregular and high-frequency words below which is good practice for students of all ages. It is important to remember that children all learn at different rates and that your child should first be able to read the words, then learn to spell them. We recommend doing only a few words at a time. There are also  2 pages of tips for parents about how to make learning these words fun, not by testing them.

  • Irregular and High-Frequency Words List: Link here.
  • Tips for Helping with Irregular and High-Frequency Words at Home: Link here.