2 hell with hesitation
2 hell with the reasons why
Prince – Scandalous – Batman
After holidays, lunches out, cups of tea, catching up with my friends and tv shows I decided to do some work: my INSET CPD.
And, what could be worse than preparing to enthuse staff after their summer break, than lots of ppts – but a ppt on literacy! How do you get a whole staff on board with something that is often seen as an add-on?
It wasn’t long after I began preparing my session that I felt some responses/reactions to the topic of reading were scandalous.
When you can, I suggest you read The Literacy Trust research/report on children and young peoples’ reading 2017/18
I found these stats quite worrying:
The fact that 26.2% children/young adults only read once a month or less – that’s 12 times a year! Let that sink in. And then when you look at what they’re reading it’s even more concerning.
Look at the highest % – Text/instant messages.
That’s not “reading”.
Back to my INSET – I borrowed a slide from Helen Ralston’s recent TENC19
(@ralston_h) talk “When you read a piece of text there are a number of individual actions and they are hard to tie together, but for someone who knows baseball, it’s a familiar pattern. A number of studies have shown that people understand what they read much better if they already have some background knowledge about the subject. From Closing the Vocab gap”.
If you look at these 3 1/2 sentences – look at how much “background knowledge” you need to be able to fully understand it!
To show staff how hard this is I have taken
text from BBC Bitesize (KS3) and blocked out 25-30% of the text from various pieces – I am going to challenge them to see if they know what subject and topic they’re about.
And yes, you may guess the subject and topic, but could an 11-12-year-old child?
Attitudes to Reading
What was more surprising than the stats above, but attitudes towards the importance of reading.
I sent out a quick poll. I know this isn’t really robust, however, it does highlight, in my opinion, some serious questions we need to be asking ourselves.
Only 23% of the 1,266 people said they regularly set “reading” as homework.
And the educators who did set reading as homework felt at KS5 it was essential.
At KS4 the words used were: sometimes, less, never, occasionally, not so much, now and again.
And at KS3 they became: no, rarely, never.
Back to my INSET, to show staff that reading in their subject “IS” important I took one question (at random) from GCSE papers for every subject and ran it through a Flesch reading ease test measure – which subject do you think had the hardest score?
My question to all secondary subject teachers is – how do you expect students to be fluent readers if you aren’t giving them opportunities to read? How do you expect them at KS5 to suddenly learn those skills in your subject?
We need to be embedding these skills at KS3 if we want students to be proficient at reading.
All departments/subjects can work together to make your school a school that reads. Reading doesn’t have to be fiction/novels/romance! Reading can be textbooks, websites (visit the British Libary and research a topic). You could then ask students to summarise, compare or evaluate a piece of text they’ve read. I can’t see how reading around a subject will not increase a child’s understanding of it and therefore can’t understand why subjects (all secondary) aren’t setting it as regular homework.
I would suggest you make time to read EEF IMPROVING LITERACY IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS, They have an excellent PDF you can download to support literacy (they also have a primary version).
They “challenge the notion that literacy in secondary school is solely the preserve of English teachers, or literacy coordinators. The emphasis on disciplinary literacy makes clear that every teacher communicates their subject through academic language, and that reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing Science, Art, History, and every other subject in secondary school.”
The EEF states:
“Historically, many secondary school teachers have not seen themselves as literacy experts. Teaching children to read has been the domain of primary schools, or the responsibility of teachers in the English department at a push. Some cross-curricular eﬀorts have held promise, but, in most secondary schools, the challenge of literacy today is greater than ever.”
“Primary and English teachers” that really is Scandalous!
In English, we do read a great variety of writing styles and genres. But if you are looking for ideas on how to promote reading outside of lessons/homework – these are some examples of initiatives we use:
- Run regular reading challenges
- Give a book away to all KS3 on WBD
- We take all our KS3 to the library to borrow/research reading material
- We give books as prizes alongside certificates as rewards
- We work with other dpts to run competitions (eg design a new book cover, take a photo of extreme reading)
- We do book displays
- We recommend books to parents via our newsletter
Possibly the most important – we talk about books!
Finally, I would recommend:
Follow Alice Visser-Furay (@AVisserFuray) on twitter or read her blog: My Resources – Reading for Pleasure
Read the following book, full of lots of practical ideas you can use immediately to raise literacy in your school:
The answers for the readability – Science and PE were the hardest to read and the easiest History and Maths – but please remember only on those questions!
Thank you for reading.