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Meet the author of English Stars – Lesley Englert

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Meet the author of English Stars – Lesley Englert

English Stars 12/5/16

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In her long and distinguished career Lesley Englert has been a successful classroom teacher, an administrator and literacy consultant (at primary and secondary levels), has clocked up nearly two decades in principal and executive principal positions throughout Australia and has held the title of Assistant Director General (Curriculum) for the Queensland Department of Education and Training.

After recently completing a six-year stint on the ACARA Board, Lesley began working with Firefly Education to create our flagship blended teaching and learning program: English Stars.

We recently sat down with Lesley to reflect on the last three years which saw English Stars go from conception to reality, and to ask what sparked the desire for the program in the first place.

Why do you think English is such an important subject?

English is the foundation for all learning! We rely on literacy for nearly every aspect of life; it helps us develop our knowledge and potential; allows us to fully engage with our community and culture. Our ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen means we can understand and communicate effectively in the world we live.

What challenges do you think teachers face when delivering a comprehensive English program?

Being a teacher is a lot harder than most people realise! I know first-hand how much time it takes to put together a lesson. Teachers are expected to do so much more than just teaching: there’s also planning, finding quality resources, marking, and managing behaviour. Now, imagine this workload across five or more subjects! I wanted English Stars to include everything teachers need, so they can focus on what’s most important — their students.

What was your motivation for developing an English program?

The implementation of the Australian Curriculum for English was the subject of many discussions I had with Peter (Stannard) and Ann (Smales) – the Directors of Firefly Education. All of us have been in the classroom and know the kind of pressures that teachers face.

We incorporate English learning into just about every subject, but until now there hasn’t been a comprehensive English program available to teachers.

We wanted to create a program that would be teacher-led… Something with all the lesson resources, planning and assessment tools that teachers could use to deliver an effective English program. After a lot of late nights and long phone calls, working through our shared vision, we decided the time was right to make it happen– and that’s how English Stars was born!

What makes English Stars so different from other programs?

Where do I start! English Stars isn’t just the same old workbook exercises — we really wanted to make the most of all the new technology that has been making its way into classrooms. At the same time, we didn’t want to arbitrarily digitise everything, just for the sake of it. There are things that technology allows us to do that we could never do before. But sometimes, it’s better to have students writing things, or collaborating, or interacting with real, material objects.

So, we created a program that could have the best of both worlds. We use digital technology to save time on things like automatically marking activities, monitoring progress in real time, or capturing results and collating them in interesting and meaningful ways. That said, we haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater! There are still abundant opportunities for kids to engage in handwriting, and hone their listening and interaction skills. It’s all there!

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the talented people who helped create the amazing learning videos, and teaching slideshows and all of these clever interactive tools and activities that I believe are both delightful and useful.

Which areas of the Australian Curriculum does English Stars cover?

The curriculum is pretty crowded – there’s a lot to cover! A big advantage of English Stars is that it does cover, in detail, all the content descriptors for English. (The only exception is explicit handwriting instruction.) Some English Stars content even has links to other areas of the curriculum, such as history, geography and science.

What is next for English Stars?

Well it’s been a long three years of writing and rewriting content to make sure we have the best possible English program, but I’m ecstatic with our end product and can’t wait for teachers around Australia to start using it!

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