Reading written language

Economic and Business texts that students read might include, but are not limited to,

  • textbooks
  • reports
  • news articles
  • material on websites (e.g. media releases, blogs).

The language demands of each of these types of texts vary based on the level of sophistication of the language used and the degree of multimodality, for instance.

Reading texts in Economics and Business can be challenging for students as they need to understand:

  • highly specialised curriculum-specific terms that they might not use in everyday discussions (e.g. consumer sovereignty, relative scarcity)
  • how to explain abstract concepts and processes that students might not have personally experienced (e.g. supply chain)
  • multimodal features (e.g. text, diagrams such as graphs, statistical data) and how these features are connected to create meaning.

In Economics and Business, students read objectively and critically to:

  • develop an understanding of Economics and Business concepts
  • identify and evaluate evidence about an economic issue or problem, and
  • determine the reliability and validity of Economics and Business proposals or solutions.

Teachers can support students to read effectively in Economics and Business by:

  • stating the purpose of reading to students before their reading.
    • This will help students to focus on the key features of the content.
  • explicitly teaching students about technical features. For example,
    • specialised vocabulary
    • the structure of the genre
    • language features of the genre
    • multimodal features
    • explicitly teaching contextual aspects of the content that they are reading (e.g. who produced it, when and why) (Luke, 2000).

Explicitly teaching how to read and respond to a case study

One strategy that teachers can use to support students to read texts in Economics and Business is to explicitly teach how to read and respond to a case study.

Case studies are used frequently in Economics and Business to teach students about issues and problems from a micro level (e.g. personal and community) to a macro level (e.g. regional, national and global).

Hypothetical or real-life case studies assist students to see how these issues might present themselves, or play out, in a given situation or context.

There are three stages to explicitly teaching students how to read and respond to a case study, each is described below.

Pre-reading stage

  1. Tell students the purpose of reading the case study. For example, to:
      • learn about economic or business concepts that they haven't learned about yet
      • apply economic or business concepts that they have already learned about.  
  2.  Ask students to scan the case study. At this stage, encourage them to pay attention to:
    • the heading/sub-headings – What does it/do they say?
    • visual representations – Are there any graphs, tables, charts or cartoons in this case study?
    • bolded, underlined or highlighted words or sections – Where are these words or sections located in the case study? Have they seen these words before?
  3. Ask students to predict what the case study might be about based on their scan in the previous step. Students share their predictions with a partner in a think-pair-share. Select two or three student pairs to share their responses with the class.
  4. Instruct students to consider the context, purpose and audience of the text in the case study.  Questions that teachers can ask students to assist them to do this is:
      • Look at the author of the case study. Who produced the case study?
        • Was it a government department, a news organisation?
      • What individuals or groups is the case study targeted at? Who is the audience for this case study?
        • Is it written for the general public, the business community?
        • What evidence in the case study supports your response?
      • Why did the author produce the case study? What is the purpose of this case study?
        • Was it to inform readers of an issue? Or to convince readers to agree with their opinion?
        • What evidence in the case study supports your response?

    These questions can help students to:

    • identify whose perspectives might be represented (or neglected) in the case study
    • to establish how valid or reliable the information in the case study might be
    • whether there might be any bias evident in the presentation of the information in the case study.

Reading stage

  1. Instruct students to read any comprehension question(s) associated with the case study carefully. These could be teacher-created or part of the case study. The question(s) might be framed as:

    • who, what, where, why, when and how questions
    • key question terms such as identify, describe, explain, analyse, etc.

    Students should note the type of question(s) asked and the key business or economic terms referred to in the question(s). Instruct students to underline the question verbs (e.g. explain, identify) and highlight the key business or economic term(s) referred to in the question.

  2. Students should skim-read the case study to search for the key business or economic words highlighted in the questions. Students should also highlight any of these words in the case study.
  3. Instruct students to draw on their prior knowledge of where, and when, they have seen and used these business or economic words previously.
      • For instance, the class might have completed a word wall as a class and the terms might be at the back of the classroom or they might have a glossary of key business and economic terms in the back of their workbooks. Encourage students to use these sources to activate prior knowledge if required.
  1. Instruct students to read the case study carefully to:
    • identify any words that they do not understand in the case study by circling them
      • As students read the case study, walk around the classroom and visually sight which words have been circled by several students. These words can then be defined to the whole class before students begin responding to the case study (refer to joint construction of definitions).
    • annotate by writing the number of the case study question (e.g. Q1) beside the information in the case study that addresses the response to this question. To locate where the answers to the questions might be in the case study, students should use:

      • the highlighted concepts from Step 2
      • the circled words from Step 4
      • the information on business or economic words from Step 3.

      Each of the steps in the reading stage is illustrated in the case study below:

      In this example, the question verbs have been underlined (e.g. identify, explain), economic terms have been highlighted in the questions and preceding text (e.g., shortage, price increase), question numbers have been written in the preceding text to indicate where answers to questions might be found

Curriculum links for this example are: VCEBR011, VCEBR012, VCEBR021

Post-reading response stage

  1. Model a worked example of a response to one of the case-study questions [HITS strategy 4] to show students how to link relevant business or economic knowledge to the specific information from the case study to answer certain types of questions (e.g. 'analyse' or 'evaluate').

    For example:

    Question 4

    Explain what might lead to a food price increase in Australia.

    Modelled response:

    With farm production falling due to the drought, producers like Annabelle and Dave or the supermarkets that sell their food produce will increase their prices as they will see an opportunity to make a profit. If consumers are willing and able to pay a higher price to get the food produce that is in short supply.

  2. Instruct students to answer the rest of the case study questions using their annotated case study.
  3. Ask students to check that they have responded to the key question terms (e.g. 'describe', 'explain') appropriately. They should ask themselves: 'Have I done what the question has asked me to do?'
  4. Higher-order questions that ask students to 'Recommend', 'Evaluate' or 'Justify' can be more challenging for some students as they often require a more detailed, extended response. Students should ask themselves: 'If the question asks me to make a recommendation or justify my opinion, have I included this in my answer?'
  5. If students need to provide a recommended strategy/theory/approach in their response, instruct them to demonstrate why this is an appropriate solution. Pose questions such as:

    • 'How does this strategy/theory/approach address the issue or problem in the case study?'
    • 'Is there another strategy/theory/approach that could also address the issue or problem in the case study?'
    • 'What does your stated strategy/theory/approach do that an alternative one does not?'
    • 'What will happen to the business/economy if your stated strategy/theory/approach is implemented? What are the advantages to the business/economy? What are the disadvantages to the business/economy?'
  6. Students discuss answers to their questions, with their teacher clarifying any misconceptions or ambiguities. This can be done in pairs, small groups or classes.