From Scared Straight to Reading Wrong

2015-10-24T10:56:16+01:00October 24th, 2015|reading, research|

He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alters things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end? Francis Bacon In 1978, Scared Straight! won the Academy Award for the best documentary film. It followed a group of teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks who, as part of a new crime reduction programme, were taken to a maximum security prison to be threatened, humiliated and intimidated by a bunch of murderers and rapists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri7G7xHj5LE The premise [...]

Reading is a rebel act: on the role of school libraries

2015-07-13T18:24:44+01:00July 13th, 2015|reading|

"My library was dukedom large enough" The Tempest, Shakespeare "The act of poetry is a rebel act." Farewell to English, Michael Harnett Some people are never happy. After writing my last post on how it might be possible to get students to read more, one commentator criticised that there was no mention of school librarians. Well, it was a blog post: the list of things which went unmentioned dwarfed what was written about. This post seeks to rectify that omission. Changing the culture of a school is a big ask. By the time they reach secondary school, many children are aware that reading isn't [...]

How do you get students to read for pleasure?

2016-03-03T10:40:33+00:00July 11th, 2015|reading|

"There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book." Marcel Proust Reading seems to make us smarter. Here's Keith Stanovich explaining why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF6VKmMVWEc&feature=youtu.be&t=45s For most people, this is uncontroversial. We talk a lot about the power of books and the need to get more children to read for pleasure. But how do you get students to read for pleasure? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else, not really. This is an endemic conundrum which troubles all teachers and parents. But it's a bit of an odd question when you think [...]

Magic glasses and the Meares-Irlen syndrome

2016-05-25T21:54:58+01:00May 27th, 2013|literacy, myths, reading|

In case you missed it, I published a post on the dubious existence of dyslexia this weekend. A few people have been in touch via Twitter to tell me about the remarkable effect of Irlen lenses and that their miraculous success is clear evidence of the existence of dyslexia. Well, despite their apparent impact on some people's ability to read, I'm not so sure it has much of a bearing of on whether we can agree that dyslexia definitely exists. I have a good friend who wears plain, very pale yellow spectacles when reading. She is dyslexic and convinced that she's unable to read any but [...]

The Matthew Effect – why literacy is so important

2013-09-24T19:58:38+01:00September 30th, 2012|learning, literacy, reading, training, writing|

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matthew 13:12 In the world of the 2012 Ofsted framework very few schools are going to quibble with the prominence being given to the teaching of literacy but I'm far from concerned that we're clear on precisely why teaching literacy is so important beyond the fact that Big Brother is watching you: running scared of Wilshaw is not enough. I saw the fantastic Geoff Barton deliver a presentation called Don't Call it Literacy at the Wellington [...]

Some thoughts on silent reading

2012-07-01T16:21:23+01:00July 1st, 2012|English, literacy, reading|

Is silence is golden? "And Johnny, what makes you think that is suitable for silent reading?"  "Because Sir, you really would not want me to read it out loud" Jim Smith, The Lazy Teacher's Handbook Apparently silent reading hasn't been around as long as you might think. The 4th Century church leader Saint Ambrose's reading habits were unusual enough for Saint Augustine to note in Book 6, chapter 3 of his Confessions that: When [Ambrose] read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone [...]

What to know: the importance of cultural capital

2012-04-04T22:02:48+01:00April 4th, 2012|reading|

Let's face it, we need to know to stuff if we're going to have anything resembling a successful life. But what is it we need to know? As an English teacher I have a fair bit of fairly arcane knowledge that few others outside my profession and subject specialism would see as useful. Doctors know all kinds of stuff, and they save lives. Surely everything they know is vitally important? Well, if it is I've muddled along without knowing the vast majority of it. The same goes for anyone from green grocers to figure skaters to lion tamers: the knowledge we [...]

How should we teach reading?

2015-10-23T20:58:41+01:00February 29th, 2012|English, Featured, literacy, reading|

A few months ago I posted a piece in which Roy Blatchford (founder of The National Education Trust) outlined his manifesto for ensuring that every child gets at least a C grade in English. But, reading is complex. So how exactly should we teach children to read? This vexing question is utmost in many teachers' minds and is tangled up in three separate issues: Decoding - the process of turning symbols into sounds - generally taught using synthetic phonics Understanding - actually comprehending what's been read after it's been decoded Enjoyment - it's World Book Day tomorrow and getting kids to enjoy [...]

Reading List

2012-02-16T15:00:11+00:00February 16th, 2012|reading|

Am in the process of trying to digest a number of education texts at the moment. Here is my current stack of reading courtesy of the lovely people at Crown House: My thoughts so far: The Little Book of Music in the Classroom by Nina Jackson The effect of music on students isn't something I've put much thought into before. Yes, I know playing Bach is meant to be good for brainwaves or something, but to my shame, this is an area of my practice which has been sadly neglected. A colleague of mine makes a point of playing deliberately cheesy, [...]

Creativity, analysis and comparison

2013-09-22T15:22:20+01:00February 11th, 2012|English, literacy, reading, writing|

English teachers have a tough gig. We need to constantly hone the hard-edged skill of analysis whilst simultaneously encouraging the fluffy stuff of creativity. There’s a lot said and written about creativity these days, much of it by Sir Ken Robinson. Basically, Ken's argument goes along these lines: schools should value the Arts more highly and find ways to foster creativity in those subjects where it doesn’t necessarily appear naturally. We should do this because creativity (the ability to have new ideas which have value) is increasingly important in a world where jobs that don’t require creativity have disappeared or outsourced to [...]

Zooming in and out

2013-07-19T12:08:59+01:00July 11th, 2011|English, learning, reading|

For some years now I have been using what I call The Grade Ladder with students to help them understand the skills required to perform at different grades. This isn't particularly original and has been around for quite while. I first encountered the terms 'evaluate', 'analyse', 'explore', 'explain' and 'identify' in GCSE English specifications but it's obvious at even a cursory glance that these skills are underpinned by Bloom's Taxonomy.   So, to IDENTIFY, students had to be able to give an opinion and support it with textual evidence; to EXPLAIN they had to show they understood the relationship between their [...]

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