When the changes to GCSEs were announced, English teachers across the land were bereft. George and Lennie had been “canned”. Like Candy’s dog, they had been cast aside and denounced as useless. What would we do now? The frustration felt was not so much that years of experience teaching this great book would be lost, but that hundreds of young people wouldn’t get to know George, Lennie and the other characters on the ranch.
Let us get one thing straight - you are not alone. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island”, and this statement quite rightly includes the busy role of a literacy coordinator. This may not always seem like the case. You may feel a little like Dick Van Dyke’s one man band from Mary Poppins, but remember: you are repeatedly highlighting and drawing people’s attention to an aspect of education that is not only essential to teaching and learning, but to the personal development of students that your colleagues have the opportunity to develop as individuals on a daily basis.
Do you teach pupils who can’t read as well as they should? Do they skip words or lines when reading? Or struggle to read long words? Do they struggle to copy off the board? Do they need to run a finger or ruler under their place when reading? Or lay their head on their arm, to cover up one eye, when reading or writing? Do they have difficulty catching a ball? All of these problems can be symptoms of convergence problems.
Last year, I was approached to see if I would be prepared to lead a new subject in my school. I say ‘new’ in the loosest of terms, as it was Latin I was asked to teach! Being a geeky linguist, and having studied the History of the Spanish Language at university, I did get a little excited at first, but then was overcome by a cloud of hesitation – how would my students take to a language that is no longer spoken? How would they see the relevance to their current studies? And what skills would it provide them for today’s world?
I love technology. I also love teaching. You would therefore think that teaching using technology would be right up my street. However, I often hear of technology being used for technology’s sake and it makes me cringe. When applied effectively we can all agree that edtech is an incredibly effective and engaging tool. But what about the more traditional approaches to education; should we throw out decades of proven pedagogy because “there’s an app for that”? I have spent the last academic year working with small groups within my school experimenting with fusing traditional methodologies with technological advances. Pedagogy smashing if you will. What follows is a short record of some experiments from this year.
A recent study by the National Literacy Trust has revealed a sharp increase in the number of pupils aged between 8 and 18 who read regularly outside of the classroom. In 2014, 41% of pupils read outside the classroom, a 32% year-on-year increase from 2013, and this is a hugely encouraging sign for literacy development.
15 / 07 / 2015, Diana’s diary entry (EAL student, arrived two years ago from Latvia):
“In period 1 today we do History and Mr Smith asked us to write happen on the day when World War 2 start in 1939. That was quite easy, actually. It was fun looking at the pictures and writing little sentences about what went on. After tutor, in period 2, it is Maths, and we do something named word problems. They are small stories and we answer with numbers. But Miss Brooke said they are like stories – so why do her problems say, “Molly buys 6 CDs” and not “Molly bought”? I don’t get it! And then in Science we did about metals, but I don’t understand. Mr Hutchinson talked about “is done” and “is made” and “are formed”, but why is he using two verbs? – this is nonsense!”
Pupils have a huge amount of technological potential at their fingertips, but how to best go about making sure that they’re fully-set to take on the digital world beyond? Downe House’s Jane Basnett gives her top eight tips.
What if, like many schools, your school has not gone down the tablet route? What if your school is simply trying to make the most of the excellent web-based tools that are available? It really does not matter whether you are or you are not a tablet school; a programme still needs to be made to ensure that students leave school digitally prepared for what lies ahead.
Pupils at Mayflower Community Academy are some of the latest inductees into a global writing project. By working alongside the team at LendMeYourLiteracy, the primary school’s teachers are enabling the kids to publish their writing work online, thus receiving feedback from other pupils around the world. According to the Plymouth Herald, the organisation operates in over 100 countries.