Supporting reading of texts

In Health and Physical Education (HPE), students read for a variety of reasons, including to:

  • develop understanding of new concepts and procedures
  • interpret and evaluate health promotional material
  • identify and evaluate data and statistics
  • assess health claims.

While each of these purposes for reading require students to adopt an objective position, they require students to ask different questions as they read. Teachers can support students to read more objectively and actively by helping students to identify the purpose of reading. This should help students to focus their reading and to identify, select and interpret content in a text.

In addition to varied reading purposes, another challenge for students reading in HPE is that texts are often multimodal, requiring the reader to move between text and images to develop meaning. Strategies to help students to interpret visual and non-text-based representations are also included in this section.

Providing a range of reading strategies and scaffolds to support students to read and interpret texts in HPE will help them to both develop their understanding of HPE concepts and to become an independent learner.

Explicitly teaching text structure

A simple strategy to begin supporting students to develop literacy within HPE is to explicitly teach them about text structure, organisation, and visual supports.

While the texts students encounter in HPE range in text type, length and complexity, many of them contain similar features, including:

  • headings and sub-headings to organise and categorise sections of text
  • diagrams, images, graphs, and other non-text-based representations to supplement written language
  • in-text references to direct the reader to view non-text-based representations
  • use of colour, formatting, and other textual features to highlight words and sections of the text.

Explicitly teaching students about these common textual features will help them to better understand how to interpret and access information in a range of texts relating to health and physical education. These text features can be used to generate pre-reading questions (see Generating text-dependent questions).

The example below is an annotated page from an information booklet, Contraceptive options: Which one is best for me? (2018) produced by Family Planning Victoria, and could be used from Years 7 to 10 (VCHPEP126, VCHPEP130, VCHPEP145, VCHPEP149).

an annotated page from an information booklet about contraception. The page is about condoms, and the annotations are about the purpose of different text features. Annotations include: ‘Name of device is emboldened and located at the top centre of each page”, “different colour schemes for each device are also used to separate content”, “bullet lists are used to keep written text brief and to the point”, “similar icons are used throughout the booklet to quickly indicate key features of contraceptive choice”

Predicting and word scanning

Predicting and word scanning are pre-reading tasks that students perform before reading a text in detail.

Good readers make predictions about what they are about to read based on available information whether from the text or their own experience (both lived and textual).

Word scanning helps students make predictions about the text as they identify key terms and repeated vocabulary.

Teachers can also use word scanning to jointly construct definitions of HPE vocabulary (see 'Joint construction of definitions' and 'Modelled word solving'). As many of the terms in both health and physical education are context-specific, students need to be familiar with the terms and vocabulary before reading. This ensures that they are more familiar with them once they read it within context (HITS 6: Multiple Exposures).

The below example relates to a Year 7 or 8 unit on studying risk-taking behaviours around road safety (VCHPEP125, VCHPEP126). It uses the article, 'Streets have turned into battleground for older pedestrians' (2015) from The Age. Student responses are in italics.

To assist students to make predictions, teachers can use the following questions:

  • What does the heading indicate?
    • Crossing the street for old people is like going to war.
  • Is there a by-line or sub-headings that provide more information? If so, what do they suggest the article is about?
    • There is no by-line or sub-headings. The heading is quite detailed, so no by-line is needed to add further information. There are no sub-headings because these are not a common feature of newspaper articles as they are quite short.
  • Describe any images in the article.
    • Images are of old people crossing the road. In one of them, the old man doesn't look happy. In another, two old women are crossing the road together and a car is behind them going over the crossing.
  • Explain how you think the headline and images relate to each other.
    • The old people don't look happy, so it's not safe for them to cross the road. The car moving behind the old women suggest they might get run over.
  • What do you already know about this topic?
    • Old people move more slowly than younger people and take more time to cross the road. Old people can't react as quickly as younger people. Drivers can be impatient.
  • What do you think this text will be about?
    • Old people aren't safe crossing the road. It might also tell you about some accidents old people have had.

To assist with word scanning:

  • Ask students to scan the text for words that may appear 'difficult' or 'unfamiliar.' For longer texts, teachers may have students work in groups to split up the reading.
    • Examples for the above article might include: T-intersection, asphalt, reconstructed, compensation, Traffic Accident Commission.
  • Share as a class the words which will become a glossary of terms. These can be recorded on the board or poster paper. (See, for example, how visual and illustrative glossaries are used in Geography and Visual Arts.)
  • The class creates shared definitions of terms (see 'Joint construction of definitions').

Using think-alouds to deconstruct texts

Modelling and assisting students to respond effectively can be enhanced by having them participate in activities where they explicitly break down a set text. Deconstructing a text requires teachers to breakdown the various elements of a model or mentor text to allow students to understand the various structural and linguistic features of the text.

These strategies are useful in HPE as this level of close analysis requires detailed reading of a text to:

  • Identify key ideas presented in the text
  • Identify what may be missing or excluded
  • Highlight the language features of the text
  • examine how the text is composed and can later be reconstructed (or recreated) by students.

Teachers can use the think-aloud strategy to break down elements of a text genre, as outlined below. Teachers may also use model texts to teach genre. More information about think-alouds can be found in the English section of the Toolkit.

  1. The teacher identifies the genre of the text (e.g. report, procedure, argument).
  1. Discuss the structural elements of the genre. For example, a report on a health issue, such as smoking, could include:
    • Definition of the issue and outline of the report
    • Health outcomes/impact
    • Statistical data and/or information
    • Current health campaigns
    • Recommendations to address the issue.
  1. In pairs, students annotate the text to identify the key elements - they may choose to highlight different elements in contrasting colours.
  2. Select one or more parts of the text to highlight specific language features. For example:
    • use of connectives to sequence ideas: to begin with, additionally, finally
    • expanded noun groups: multiple short-term and long-term effects; potentially harmful effects; long-term exposure to second-hand smoke; damage from exposure to cigarette smoke
    • use of modal verbs to indicate the degree of certainty or possibility: should, could, might, will  
    • nominalisation: exposure (from the verb expose), development (from the verb develop).

The example below is possible think-aloud for the information sheet, 'The impacts of smoking and the benefits of quitting', published by the Cancer Council (VCHPEP126, VCHPEP145).

So, the title is 'The impacts of smoking and the benefits of quitting' and in the top right corner, it says this is an information sheet. Both 'the impacts of smoking' and 'the benefits of quitting' are expanded noun groups. Looking at the first one, 'the impacts of smoking,' the head noun is impacts – this is another word for 'effect', but has a more negative meaning, and the post-modifiers 'of smoking' mean that the impacts are related to smoking. So, I'm expecting to find a lot of facts, figures and other information about how smoking affects the body. The second expanded noun group in the title is 'benefits of quitting.' Like the first expanded noun group, the head noun is 'benefits' and has a post-modification 'of quitting.' So, as well as the negative impacts of smoking, I'm expecting to learn why it's a good idea to quit smoking.

[Teacher reads the first two paragraphs.] That second paragraph clearly outlined what information is in this information sheet: first, the negative impacts of smoking, and second, the benefits of quitting. So, my prediction based on the title was correct.

Before I read further, I can also see the sub-heading 'The impacts of smoking' on the first page, and there are also two further sub-headings under that: 'The health effects of active smoking' and 'The health effects of passive smoking'. There is also a graph of tobacco-related deaths in Australia. Looking at the graph, I can see that smoking caused the most deaths in Australia in 2003—over 15,000 …

The example below outlines a possible think-aloud for an instructional video on how to kick a drop punt (VCHPEM134, VCHPEM135). While showing the video to the class, the teacher would pause it often to model the think-aloud process.

This is an instructional text about how to kick a drop punt. The purpose of the upbeat music is to make the video appealing and engaging to the audience. After Jeremy Cameron introduces himself, he explains why it's important to know how to kick a football when playing Australian Rules Football.

When Cameron explains how to kick a drop punt, he uses ordinal numbers to outline the sequence of steps. This means that the explanation is a sequential one: you must complete the steps in sequence, one after the other. As well as being spoken, a video of Cameron performing each step is displayed in slow motion, with a blue arrow pointing to the area of the body that you should be focussing on. Also, each procedural step appears in a modified written form on the screen. For example, the first step is written as '1. Hold the ball like this.'

Each step in the procedure is also written in the imperative form, or as a command, each starting with a verb, for example: 'Hold the ball …,' 'Guide the ball down ….' Some of the procedural steps include a prepositional phrase which adds additional information, instruction or guidance. For example, for the first step, 'with your hands making a heart shape' is a prepositional phrase which explains in more detail how to hold the ball.

Jointly deconstructing multimodal texts

Multimodal texts such as diagrams, flow charts and videos are often encountered in HPE. However, multimodal texts have complex reading demands, related to collective, embodied, and sequential meaning (Chandler-Olcott, 2017).

One of the challenges of reading multimodal texts is to understand how the individual pieces of information or ideas create meaning together. By “unpacking” the separate elements of multimodal representations, teachers help students to break it into pieces of information (Fredlund et al., 2014).

One multimodal text used often in sport is a play diagram. Although it uses simple symbols, such as crosses, noughts, lines, and arrows, these may be numbered, and the lines and arrows may be straight, squiggly, or dotted. These different variations in representation carry a different meaning, and so students must be taught the meaning making (semiotic) system of these texts to understand what each symbol means and what they are meant to do when play begins.

For example, in the diagram below, teachers need to explain:

  • this is a play for a short corner in hockey
  • the blue circles represent the seven attacking players
  • the orange dot is the ball at the start of play
  • solid lines show the path of the ball
    • straight solid lines show the path of a hit ball
    • squiggly solid lines show the ball is being dribbled by a player
  • dotted lines show moving positions of attacking players.

a play diagram of a short corner in hockey. The attacking team have been drawn as numbered circles, from 1 to 7. The defending team are not drawn. The movement of the ball is represented by solid arrows. The movement of players is represented by dotted arrows

Curriculum links for the above example: VCHPEM134, VCHPEM135, VCHPEM152, VCHPEM154.

To begin to unpack visual representations, teachers can ask students a series of questions to focus on different elements of the multimodal text, such as:

  • What modes of communication does the multimodal text include? (For example, written language, still image, spoken word, music, moving image)
  • What information is provided by each of the modes of communication?
  • Is a process shown? If so, how?
  • Is colour used in a purposeful way?
  • Is sound used in a purposeful way? (adapted from Polias, 2016, p. 59).

To jointly deconstruct a multimodal text, the teacher can answer the above questions with the class while viewing a text.

Alternatively, teachers can present students with a graphic organiser or table, like the one below, to allow students to note down different modes of communication and their intended effect.

 a table to support students analyse the different modes of communication in a multimodal text. The table consists of three columns: mode of communication, description (of the mode of communication) and intended effect.

In Practice

The steps below show how a teacher might jointly deconstruct two water safety advertisements produced by Surf Life Saving Australia: The Facts about rip currents and How to survive a rip.

  1. The teacher explains that the students are going to watch two health promotion advertisements.
  2. The teacher explains the modes of communication that are present in the ad, such as:
    • written language or text
    • spoken language or voiceover
    • sound (music, effects)
  3. The teacher distributes a table to assist students to note down their interpretations or understanding of the intended effects of different modes of communication in the ads.
  4. The students watch the first ad several times, taking notes about the modes of communication they see or hear.
  5. The students watch the second ad several times, again taking notes about the intended effects of the modes of communication used.
  6. The teacher leads a discussion about how the modes of communication were used in each add to create meaning or an intended effect. As the students share their analyses, the teacher writes notes on the board.
  7. For example, the below notes were generated by the class about the use of sound (music) and spoken word in the two ads.

    Facts about rip currents

    • Deep, male husk voice is intimidating and commanding
    • Repeated use of the word myth, with ominous music playing in the background
    • When the fact is mentioned—that young men are most likely to die in rips—music changes in intensity with a hard, percussive beat, emphasising the danger of rips.
    • Advertisement ends in a challenge to find out more about rips.
    • Purpose of the video is to shock the viewer to realise they are at risk.

    How to survive a rip

    • Male voice is authoritative and clear, but not intimidating.
    • Music is calm, with a regular beat and acoustic guitar; it doesn't change throughout the video
    • Advertisement ends in a challenge to find out more about rips.
    • Purpose of the video is to explain how to survive a rip and remind the viewer to stay calm if they get in a rip; the music and tone of the narrator supports this.
  8. Once both videos have been deconstructed, teachers could then support students to compare how meaning is constructed.

Curriculum links for the above example: VCHPEP126, VCHPEP129, VCHPEP144, VCHPEP148.