Tag archives: literacy across the curriculum

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Factors that support key stage 1 and 2 boys’ literacy and numeracy at home and school

I was delighted to give a workshop for parents and carers and inset on key stage 1 and 2 boys’ learning this week. We had some great discussions, focusing especially on engaging boys with reading, writing and maths.

Boys’ learning improves when what they’re doing interests them. Ever watched boys vying to find the most gruesome fact in the top trumpsGuinness Book of Records? Boys, like everyone else, learn better when they’re doing something they enjoy. Playing games with boys is very valuable. Simple games like snakes and ladders have loads of maths. Computer games like Minecraft are brimming with numeracy, and support literacy too, especially when you factor in all the annuals and cheat sheets boys pore over. Top Trumps have masses of maths and reading.

Parents and carers can do so much to aid boys’ learning: reading to them, getting literacy and maths into day-to-day activities like shopping, following recipes, measuring, checking timetables and maps, helping them work out what to buy with pocket money, looking at the sports pages or the Argos catalogue.

Homes and schools need lots of boy-friendly learning materials. Games, yes, and magazines, brochures, manuals. Books too, needless to say. We all know that many boys enjoy non-fiction, so books on their hobbies are vital. Boys who aren’t keen on English often get the reading bug because of books used in subjects they like. Contrary to the stereotype, fiction is highly popular with vast numbers of boys. Comedy, adventure and horror are favourite genres. School and public libraries play a big role, supporting independent choice.

Learning is more accessible if it has an outcome. Much more interesting to read a novel if you’re going to create a comic-strip version or a computer animation. Drama and role-play help boys a lot. Photos, artefacts and videos are great starting points for learning. Literacy Shed has loads of videos and animations to inspire reading and writing. Mathematics Shed has great puzzles and games.

Of course boys need male role models. Members of the family are the strongest models in their lives, so it’s important to get fathers, grandfathers and brothers on board. How about asking firefighters, police officers, male celebrities to visit school to talk about how they use reading, writing, maths in their lives? Story-tellers and authors can totally change boys’ attitudes to literacy.

I once heard about a Y6 lesson where boys did the most reading their teacher could ever remember. Why? Because it was an art lesson and she’d covered the tables with newspapers. She was a keen motorcyclist, and all the papers were about motorbikes. Not much art happened, but so much other learning.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Great reading promotion ideas for the classroom, the library and beyond

This has been a very busy period, with fascinating conferences and courses on making reading enjoyable. These are some of the wonderful strategies shared by teachers and school librarians. Many thanks to lots of great delegates.

DEAR, drop everything and read, is extremely effective in many schools. The key to success is that all the staff read, including mealtime and site supervisors and office staff, not just the pupils. This week teachers at two primary schools described how several times a year everyone brings in a cushion from home, so that they can sit comfortably, plus whatever reading material they like, which of course makes it especially attractive, with lots of comics, magazines and Argos catalogues in evidence. What a fantastic idea.

During the Olympics, one teacher asked her class to bring in cuttings about the games from newspapers, magazines or anything else to make into a scrapbook. It was an extremely popular activity, and the children still jostle for the chance to read it. She is working out what new event to celebrate in the same way.

I’ve heard some excellent reading group ideas. Instead of a dads and lads group, one school targets all male family members with their FUDGE group – fathers, uncles, dads, grandfathers etc. What about a cross-curricular group? One librarian has plans for activities like recipe reading followed by cookery in the food technology area.

Ofsted and the new curriculum for England rightly stress the importance of literacy in all areas of the curriculum. I’d love to have seen the horses made by KS3 students in DT, while they were reading War Horse in English. At a conference I was addressing in Northern Ireland an inspired PE teacher/literacy coordinator talked about taking books into a swimming lesson. Amazing! Threatened with dire consequences if any of the books got damaged, the students held them above water and read voraciously.

This sounds great: an English teacher divides his students into groups, and gives each a different chapter of the current set text to make into a short radio play, with music, sound effects and so on.

I’m very intrigued by the notion of a Tardis in a library. I must get hold of a photo. The picture here shows a fraction of the bunting festooned all round King’s School Worcester on World Book Day. Each flag is a book recommended by a student or teacher. Brilliant. The librarian’s new plan is for a pets reading competition, on the lines of an extreme reading challenge, with photos from students and staff.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Ofsted and literacy

Literacy is featuring extremely highly in Ofsted inspections and reports now, with inspectors showing particular interest in reading across the curriculum and reading enjoyment. These are both issues that have been highlighted in a number of Ofsted publications over the last couple of years, in particular Moving English Forward, Reading, Writing and Communication (Literacy) and Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools: A Shared Responsibility.

I have recently checked out Ofsted’s grade descriptors in relation to literacy, to be found under various headings in the School Inspection Handbook. They are very interesting. Not all school staff are aware for example that a school is likely to be judged inadequate if inspectors judge pupils’ progress in literacy to be inadequate. Conversely, these are some of the grade descriptors for outstanding:

  • There is excellent practice which ensures that all pupils have high levels of literacy appropriate to their age. (Pupils whose cognitive ability is such that their literacy skills are likely to be limited make excellent progress appropriate to their age and capabilities.)
  • Pupils make rapid and sustained progress throughout year groups across many subjects, including English, and learn exceptionally well.
  • Pupils read widely and often across all subjects.
  • Pupils develop and apply a wide range of skills to great effect in reading, writing, communication.
  • The teaching of reading, writing, communication is highly effective and cohesively planned and implemented across the curriculum.
  • There are excellent policies which ensure that pupils have high levels of literacy, or pupils are making excellent progress in literacy.

Food for thought here for school leaders, teachers and librarians.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Latest reports and articles about children’s and young people’s reading

Time for my occasional round-up of reading related reports and articles.

First though, a delightful conversation I overheard the other day in the car park of our local woods:

Dad: Let’s go for a walk.
Little girl: I don’t want to go for a walk.
Mum: Let’s look for the Gruffalo.

All set off happily.

In the light of this, it’s interesting that picture books that tell a story help toddlers learn language more effectively than vocabulary books. A Sussex University psychologist has discovered the best way to aid pre-school children’s language and literacy is to read familiar stories to them again and again – just what children ask for, in fact. New Australian research proves the benefits of reading to children in terms of reading and cognitive skills. It is sad and disturbing however to find that many parents now read to their children not for pleasure but to get them ahead.

Still on the topic of young children and reading, this piece questions whether picture books reinforce materialism.

The other articles that have caught my eye relate to an older audience. Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, has written a thought-provoking piece on the importance of reading for pleasure in the teenage years, and the challenges of making it happen, highlighting, among other things, the role of the school library. School librarian Barbara Band has written a very interesting response. ‘Beyond World Book Day’, in the latest edition of Books for Keeps, also explores how school librarians are promoting reading enjoyment. Librarians and teachers can find further inspiration from this valuable list of 12 alternatives to school book report, and from school librarians’ list of their top 100 titles.

Finally, an important report on improving literacy in secondary schools from Ofsted, with lots of useful ideas for supporting literacy across the curriculum, and yet more on the benefits of good school libraries.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Reading corners and class libraries

I loved giving inset the other day on developing exciting class libraries and book corners. These are such a crucial part of primary classrooms, with so much potential for supporting the curriculum, and particularly for developing literacy skills and reading enjoyment. Yet somehow in many schools they are given very little attention. It was great to have the opportunity to explore how to create collections that meet pupils’ needs and interests, and that support teaching and learning effectively. There was a real buzz in the room, as everyone discussed ways they were going to improve the look and feel and contents of their class libraries, and ideas for incorporating them into lesson planning.

Thank you Lowton St Mary’s Primary School for the lovely picture.