Six interrelated communication processes or language modes

The fundamentals of language learning can be divided into six interrelated communication processes or language macro skills. Listening, reading and viewing are the receptive language macro skills, and speaking, writing and presenting are the productive skills (Barrot, 2016). All six are explicitly addressed in this teaching and learning episode:

listening to texts

Listening is easily overlooked as a passive skill in literacy pedagogies (Bozorgian, 2012), but essential for students to understand and follow explanations and instructions, and to socially participate in the class. The provision of visual support, paralinguistic cues and talking with clear pronunciation and emphasis are important means to support aural language comprehension in literacy learners (Vandergrift, 2015).

reading texts

Reading is the skill where the reader creates meaning from written text. In the the early primary school years, students are “reading to learn” while in upper primary years are increasingly expected to “read to learn” (Duke et al., 2003). This requires critical literacy skills that go beyond developing decoding competence in what Peter Freebody and Allan Luke refer to as the four roles of the reader (Freebody & Luke, 1990; Luke & Freebody, 1999; Luke, 2000): code breaker, text participant, text user and text analyst.

 viewing texts

Viewing is a recent addition to the traditional four language macroskills on account of the increasing importance of visual media (Barrot, 2016). Viewing is making meaning from non-print multimedia and visual images and can be used as tool to develop cultural knowledge. As the receptive mode addressing multi-media and digital literacies, it has been included in a reconceptualised version of the ‘four resources model’ (Serafini, 2012; Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014).

speaking texts

Speaking is the productive skill in which students convey their ideas and understanding to others. Academic oral communication shares many features with written communication (Barrot, 2016). Oral competency is based on the knowledge and practice of vocabulary, pronunciation and functional grammar (Nation & Newton, 2008). Literacy students need opportunities to develop and practice English phonetic and phonological skills. These include the pronunciation of new words based on speech sounds, sound patterns, word and sentence stress and intonation patterns (Brown, 2014). Further, students need to develop fluency in speaking in applied social contexts by participating and engaging in task-oriented classroom conversations (Williams, 2001; Gibbons, 2008; Gibbons, 2015). In particular mixed-ability group work provides all learners with the opportunity to practise speaking in socially-meaningful task-oriented context (Gibbons, 2015; Im & Martin, 2015).

writing texts

Writing allows students to capture and document their ideas and understanding. It provides knowledge to both writer and reader (Barrot, 2016), which is why it is often the preferred active mode for summative assessments. For over thirty years, Australian schools have been following the genre-based approach towards teaching writing which informs the Australian Curriculum (Hammond, 1987; Derewianka, 2012).


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Four Roles of Literacy Learners

Peter Freebody and Allan Luke developed a four-tiered approach to early reading instruction that expands the traditional focus on decoding texts towards a critical literacy constructing meaning and analysing texts in socio-cultural contexts (Freebody & Luke, 1990; Freebody, 1992). The extended model (Luke & Freebody, 1999; Luke, 2000) was influential in the design of the AC literacy education (Ludwig, 2003). The ‘Four resources model’ is now widely adopted in Australian classrooms (Riddle, 2015) and further re-conceptualised and expanded for multi-modal (Serafini, 2012) and digital literacies (Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014).

The Four Resources Model of Reading

The Four Resources Model of Reading by Freebody & Luke (1992) as compiled by the Barefoot Literacy Project.


  • Freebody, P., & Luke, A. (1990). Literacies programs: Debates and demands in cultural context. Prospect: Australian Journal of TESOL, 5(7), 7-16
  • Freebody, P. (1992). A socio-cultural approach: Resourcing four roles as a literacy learner. In A. Watson, & A. Badenhop (Eds.), Prevention of Reading Failure. Lindfield, NSW: Scholastic Australia. 48-60.
  • Hinrichsen, J., & Coombs, A. (2014). The five resources of critical digital literacy: a framework for curriculum integration. Research in Learning Technology, 21. 21334.
  • Ludwig, C. (2003). Making sense of literacy. Newsletter of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association, 1-4.
  • Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1999). A map of possible practices: Further notes on the four resources model. Practically Primary, 4(2), 5-8.
  • Luke, A. (2000). Critical literacy in Australia: A matter of context and standpoint. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(5), 448-461.
  • Riddle, S. (2015). A teacher’s spelling doesn’t necessarily affect their teaching. The Conversation.
  • Serafini, F. (2012). Expanding the four resources model: Reading visual and multi-modal texts. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 7(2), 150-164.