Literacy Week 2015

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Gabriella Hunter, ITT in the English Department, takes a closer look at Literacy.

Can you identify the venue for this concert?

1-in-16 adults cannot identify a concert venue on a poster that contains name of band, price, date, time and venue.

With Literacy week upon us, I wanted to take a moment to think about the term ‘literacy’ and what it actually means for our students to be literate.

Most of us would agree that literacy has the power to transform our lives. It encompasses such a vast wealth of skills: the ability to interpret and understand texts; skills of manipulating language for effective communication and possessing the knowledge to make sense of the world around us. At the heart of literacy, though, remains the essential foundation of being able to read and write, both confidently and successfully.

We want our students to be confident communicators with the understanding and ability to express themselves with conviction, in whichever way they choose. Providing students with a solid groundwork of secure literacy skills will enable them to communicate their ideas and be successful learners both academically during their time at school and beyond. With the move towards further extended writing at GCSE, we can give our students the opportunity to develop and hone these skills to set them up to succeed and achieve their personal best. Confidence with literacy underpins the ability to access a variety of texts and interpret meaning; without doubt it is an essential life skill.  Good literacy skills will follow students as they enter society as young adults and apply for the next stages of their learning careers – whether this is through pursuing the route of higher education or securing their first job.

Any Google search on ‘tips from employers for getting your CV accepted’, will also highlight the biggest ‘no-no’ for any employer: poor spelling and grammar.

Three-quarters of employers would be put off a job candidate by poor spelling or grammar, a survey suggests.” BBC

This is a clearly a huge issue, yet it is one that we can address in our lessons. Errors in spelling and grammar can suggest a lack of attention to detail and give an impression of carelessness or a lack of self-awareness. Allowing students to leave education with poor literacy skills is almost ensuring that their job applications will make it straight onto the rubbish-pile.

Promoting and celebrating literacy this week (and beyond) is incredibly valuable and we can continue as teachers to take steps to be supporting our students as much as we possibly can.

So, how can we actually help?

Here is a sample of ten ideas you might find interesting or want to try out in your classroom if you haven’t already.

  1. Implement M.A.D (make a difference) time within your lessons focusing on literacy– give students time to reflect on your marking and comments and then space below to improve a section of their writing.
  2. Target grammar with games: use ‘snap’ cards with examples of commonly misspelled words in context for students to recognise and understand homophones (too/two/to – their/they’re/there).
  3. Target punctuation: show students the power and importance of punctuation by asking them to punctuate this sentence: A woman without her man is nothing – (elicit the double meanings – 1. ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing’ and ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing’. Or Let’s eat Grandpa / Let’s eat, Grandpa).
  4. Set aside allocated time, perhaps five minutes, within your lesson where you ask students to answer in full and complete sentences during this time only.
  5. Have a word of the day / word of the week per class. Give out small edible prizes or achievement points for the most interesting word shared that week (Student must be able to define and spell this word to the class to win).
  6. Provide students with key words for your subject area and spend time learning how to define and spell these words at the beginning of any new unit.
  7. Using the register in an interactive way, for example: answering with alliteration, an adjective, a proper noun etc.
  8. Encouraging and practising proofreading of written work. Give your students different coloured pens and ask them to self/peer mark written work – giving students the skills of role-playing the teacher will teach them to recognise errors in spelling and grammar.