Thursday, 18 July 2013

Literacy for newbies

This is like one of those cheap midseason American TV shows where they cobble clips from old shows to make a new episode on a tiny budget.  Thankfully, they don't do this often, now, but if you are like me, you have seen enough bad TV programmes to see this a few times in the last decade. Anyway, this is a compilation of all my 'Literacy across the curriculum' blogs. I have been writing for over a year now and I think I can allow myself a 'cheap' blog of rehashed bits of old blogs. I wanted to have an entry that would be good for all new coordinators (the hyphen depends on personal preference) of literacy. If that is you, congratulations - it is a great role and it can be incredibly rewarding. This week has been a very good week for me as we had a literacy day and the student were left buzzing from it.
The following are a set of key questions and a link to the relevant blog that deals with the question in more detail. I have also included a small extract as a taster.

What is you vision for literacy in your school? What are the main problems?

But, what I have done is design a Literacy strategy with my school and my students in mind. My strategy isn’t a blanket approach of 'one size fits all'. My strategy is one that I think is the best for us.  Time will tell if it works. Like a child, I have the teething, weaning and inoculating stages to go through.

How are you going to make sure people follow your vision?

Sadly, with Literacy you don’t see quick results. It isn’t something that is going to change results over night, but the culture of Literacy will be the one that improves results. The culture of improvement. The culture of writing. The culture of reading. The culture of wanting to be better. That is where Literacy comes in. Students want to improve. There are very few that I have come across that don’t want to. They often mask it with poor behaviour or a negative attitude. Everyone everywhere wants to be a little bit better – even me. Literacy is where students can make those improvements. If they improve their reading and writing overall, it will benefit every subject, and not just English.

What's the students' writing like?

With my ‘subjective’ glasses, I have always concentrated on the finer details or grammar, construction, accuracy and techniques.  But I think parents have it right. They are the outsiders on the writing process, like a possible employer.  However, an employer will not pick you up after a night out, and they will certainly not give you a hug if you have had a bad day.  What are the initial things that an outsider will judge a piece of writing? Spelling and hand writing. When an outsider has formed opinions about spelling and handwriting, they will then focus on the grammar. Therefore, first impressions do matter.

What's the students' reading like?

We need to work harder to avoid superficial reading in lessons. I could adopt David Didau’s idea of ‘Slow Writing’ at this stage and consider that we adopt ‘Slow Reading’; however, I think ‘Deep Reading’ is far more suitable.  Most of the students I read with ( and I have done this with a large number of Year 7s this term as well) read quickly and that is generally fine for most, because they get the overall gist and understand the key parts of the text and then that helps them when they read for questioning. However, some students don’t get the initial gist of a text because of these stumbling blocks.

This is how I approached the main problems with reading in the classroom.

What resources have you got?
I think I can safely say that we are in the Google era. Everything possible in existence is accessible through a search engine, it seems. How many times do we say or hear ‘just Google it’? Knowledge is now like entertainment. It is instantaneous. It has to be quick or people will switch off. The same applies with learning in lessons. It has to be quick, fast and done in seconds. Everything seems to be done by focusing on the clocks. The moving finger of Ofsted and leaders points to pace and making lessons have pace, but I will always argue that fast learning can be superficial learning.

This is how I explored the library and its role in the school's approach to literacy.

Have you got the parents involved?

This is how I got parents involved in the new focus on literacy.

This came out of the discussions with parents.

Have you prepared for Ofsted?

Luckily, I got another meeting. All that training in the mirror had helped. You do really have to fight. Not in an aggressive knives and guns way, but a words and arguments way. I had my meeting, which was very brief. This was mainly because it was towards the end of the inspection on the second day. They had, in my opinion, at that stage had most of their evidence. This is where I think inspections are making their opinions on Literacy. It is through triangulating things. They look at the teaching, the exercise books and the students, and from all these they then form an opinion. What the schools says is only one part of this triangle. This happens towards the end, so prepare your argument for the end of the inspection.



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