The 15 Minute Forum was led by English teacher and whole school Literacy Leader, Lucy Darling. Lucy started the session by stressing that literacy is not an add on to our teaching, nor is it just the responsibility of English teachers. We are all teachers of literacy – in terms of supporting students with reading, writing and speaking & listening, within the context of our own subject.
Some food for thought:
So, it’s an important issue for all of us to consider. An issue which is of course amplified, when we consider students that come from a disadvantaged background. If they are not supported at home to develop their literacy skills, for example by not being given access to books, they will struggle to articulate their ideas, get frustrated and switch off – and so become disenfranchised.
Spoken language – reinforce importance of accuracy at verbal and written level. Use and insist on subject specific academic language.
In the same ways that we use ‘sentence starters’ for written work, why not do the same for verbal responses.
Are key terms and vocabulary clear and explored with pupils to ensure that they recognise and understand them? Root words and associations?
Read any text that you are going to use beforehand, so that you can anticipate any difficult language and support them.
Spelling strategies and grammar rules – so model spelling difficult words on the board and discuss with them e.g. photosynthesis – photo=light, synthesis=making.
Core skills – skim and scan – when they are looking for specific information within a text.
Expectations – are they clear? Only accept work when it is perfect. So insist on capitals, correct grammar and spelling etc. ‘Dot marking’ is useful here – go around the room and if you see an error, put a dot in the margin beside it with a highlighter. Say nothing to the student – they have to spot the error and correct it.
Marking – does your marking support for correct spelling, punctuation etc?
Make explicit the implicit – teach the reading writing skills that others take for granted
Know your texts and model how to produce subject specific writing e.g. a history essay, a geography case study, a science experimental report etc.
Some other points to consider
Speaking comes first – allow time for students to articulate and discuss openly (do not insist on SE at first – but highlight the difference and the importance of it).
Then encourage students to use ‘formal’ ‘standard’ English.
Move towards “how we would phrase this in an exam answer.”
Consciously model and reflect on your own language use – think out loud – rephrase out loud.
Post a list of ‘banned’ words in your classroom.
Post a list of ‘formal’, ‘technical’, ‘standard’ alternatives to the banned words.
Avoid EVER using the word ‘posh’, when you actually mean ‘Standard English’ or ‘formal language’.