Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Guidance to parents - Literacy Across the Curriculum

Tomorrow, I am going to give a talk to parents about how they can help their son or daughter by helping with literacy at home. This is a handout to go along with the presentation and talk, given by me. Obviously, some of it needs further explaining, but I think you can get the general gist.  

I am looking for some comments about the things here. Any suggestions?

Creating a culture for learning
What does the ‘impossibly perfect student’ look like?
Warning: this child does not exist. Some of our students will show evidence of one or two of these things, but no student demonstrates all of these skills.
·         Spend time thinking before they write.
·         Always check over their work and improve it.
·         Proofread work and spot mistakes.
·         Always have equipment.
·         Ask questions about the concept rather than what they have to do.
·         Have the confidence to follow instructions without the need for further clarification.
·         Work independently without any guidance or support.
·         Present work neatly and appropriately without instruction.
·         Will read for pleasure and for learning.
·         Gets engaged in the learning by relating it to their experiences or knowledge.
·         Makes links between different aspects.
·         Will take the learning out of the classroom.
·         Make detailed and original points.
Effective students reflect, refine, re-evaluate and redo work.  We work to develop these skills, but the home environment is the key to instilling and fostering these aspects.
It may be through discussion or by seeing their parents do things of an academic nature that allows these students to develop this attitude towards learning.
Where do students get the message that learning and education is important to them?
We know that the home plays a pivotal role in a child’s opinion of learning. If students see the value of education in the home, then that is reflected in their behaviour and attitude towards learning in school. If it is valued at home, it is valued at school.
The message students get from you is so important. But, how do we get the message across to them?
·         Talk about their aspirations.
·         Discuss progress and what they think they need to do to improve.
·         Discuss what they have learnt. Ask them questions.
·         Focus on their learning and not their behaviour in school. What have they learnt?
·         See everything as a learning opportunity. Show interest in finding out something new.
·         Offer them support and guidance as to how they might solve problems. Place emphasis on the ability to solve things rather than the understanding of a concept.
The problem is that they are that special breed of person - teenagers. They prefer to communicate in grunts, and everything is so ‘unfair’. However, we do not want them to get to Year 11 and feel stressed and anxious, knowing that they haven’t done enough preparation.  If we put the ground work in now and the systems in place, your son or daughter will feel confident, prepared and ready to face the exams and the rest of the world.
The following are a list of areas that you could work on with your son or daughter:
The Environment
The GCSE examinations are about testing knowledge and a student’s thinking skills.  Sadly, today isn’t the best time for a student to refine and develop their ideas. There are too many distractions and not enough peace or quiet time.
·         Make sure there is a dedicated time for no distractions. A time when work can be done and the house is quiet. It is hard to concentrate, if you know that somebody is watching something you want to in the house.
·         Limit the use of computer, electronic devices or TV.  They are great and they have a lot of benefits, but they are more appealing than reading or writing. Aim to have dedicated times in the week when they can watch or do things for fun.
·         Give them a place to work where they can work without distractions.
Give students an option of reading, watching a film or playing on a computer and most times they will usually avoid reading.  The problem with reading is that it takes a long time to get involved in the story and it can be seen by students as a lonely thing to do.  
·         Let them see you read. It is important that boys see their dad reading as that sends the message that reading is fun.  Read books (fiction or non-fiction) and have them in the house. 
·         Make books part of your conversation.  Talk about them and show them how good books are.
·         Be careful you don’t push books on students. Because you liked a book when you were younger, doesn’t mean your child will. Often students want to find their own path in books.  Give them a hook into a book, but don’t force it on them.
·         Give them an opportunity to buy books. The start of a holiday is a good time. There are hundreds of books and they are very appealing. Children will judge by appearance and book publishers have understood this for a long time.
·         Get them to have the habit of filling quiet moments with a bit of reading.  It could be before bed or in the middle of the day. Get them to avoid jumping straight onto the computer or the phone.
·         Read the same book as them. I would argue that some of the best books for teenagers and children are the best books available. Share books and talk about them.
·         Ask them to read some of their book out loud to you. Then, ask them some questions about it. Question their understanding rather than their ability.
·         Have a newspaper in the house. Newspapers are great for dipping in and finding something interesting to read. Plus, they are not scary and you don’t have to read the whole thing. Or, use online resources.
·         Research a topic. Students will always be working on a topic in each lesson. Get them to research it on the internet, so that they can go into the lesson prepared.
·         Avoid computers – technology is great, but it also masks the real problems with writing. When using a computer, students often let the computer do the corrections or assume that the computer will make it correct for them somehow. Stop them using the computer. Nothing can replace a pen and paper for making them write more effectively. Good writing takes time.
·         Slow them down - give students a realistic time-frame for completing work. They have to write to that limit and not finish it before the time is up. The slower they write, the better their writing will be within reason. Obviously, the exams will limit them, but the habit of crafting writing is an important skill to develop.  
·         Be a critical reader – tell them of some of the problems, but don’t tell them where it is. Get them to search the text to find the problems. They need to take ownership of the problems.
·         When writing, have another piece of writing before them. If a child is writing a letter, it helps to have a letter before them so that they can borrow some ideas, sentences or phrases.
·         If it is of a poor standard, make them do it again.
·         Remind them of the need to proofread or the fact that they always forget to use the correct version of their, there and they’re.
·         If you correct a child’s spoken grammar, you are more likely to improve their written grammar.
·         Get a child to explain a concept to you that they have learnt. If they can explain it to you effectively, then they can explain it to an examiner effectively too.
·         Use phrases that help to signal the direction of a conversation: however, furthermore and on the other hand.
·         Get your child to write down all the words they struggle to spell. Stick them on the fridge or by their bed. Give them a quick test.
·         Look in their exercise books. What words have they got to spell correctly?
·         Get them to focus on learning a spelling. Keep testing them on the same word again and again until it is understood.
Reading is, for me, the most important aspect. It is the one thing that helps students improve in leaps and bounds.  The following are just a few books that I recommend to hesitant readers. 
Recommended Reading


  1. It is obvious that anyone learning a new language would gradually become confident to speak and write it correctly. This is a natural phenomenon, and it is equally applicable for English students.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Great advice Chris. Especially for men to read in front of their boys instead of always being on the computer which is a hazard of mine.

  4. oops! Did you spot the missing comma from my previous comment?


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