When the changes to GCSEs were announced, English teachers across the land were bereft. George and Lennie had been “canned”. Like Candy’s dog, they had been cast aside and denounced as useless. What would we do now? The frustration felt was not so much that years of experience teaching this great book would be lost, but that hundreds of young people wouldn’t get to know George, Lennie and the other characters on the ranch.
“Thinker”, “Hero”, “Avenger”, “Pioneer”, “Lover”, “Gossip”, and “Fool” are all words that remind us of types of characters in movies, plays, books, and perhaps our own lives. These one-word character descriptions immediately paint vivid portraits in the reader’s mind and can be a useful way for pupils, age 8+, to bring characters to life.
Let us get one thing straight - you are not alone. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island”, and this statement quite rightly includes the busy role of a literacy coordinator. This may not always seem like the case. You may feel a little like Dick Van Dyke’s one man band from Mary Poppins, but remember: you are repeatedly highlighting and drawing people’s attention to an aspect of education that is not only essential to teaching and learning, but to the personal development of students that your colleagues have the opportunity to develop as individuals on a daily basis.
Last year, I was approached to see if I would be prepared to lead a new subject in my school. I say ‘new’ in the loosest of terms, as it was Latin I was asked to teach! Being a geeky linguist, and having studied the History of the Spanish Language at university, I did get a little excited at first, but then was overcome by a cloud of hesitation – how would my students take to a language that is no longer spoken? How would they see the relevance to their current studies? And what skills would it provide them for today’s world?
A new resource to help students to learn the early stages of phonic spelling, the Spellzone Starter Course is an entry-level resource aimed at older students who are still struggling with basic spelling concepts, Primary pupils, and lower level users of English such as ESL and EAL students.
I love technology. I also love teaching. You would therefore think that teaching using technology would be right up my street. However, I often hear of technology being used for technology’s sake and it makes me cringe. When applied effectively we can all agree that edtech is an incredibly effective and engaging tool. But what about the more traditional approaches to education; should we throw out decades of proven pedagogy because “there’s an app for that”? I have spent the last academic year working with small groups within my school experimenting with fusing traditional methodologies with technological advances. Pedagogy smashing if you will. What follows is a short record of some experiments from this year.
15 / 07 / 2015, Diana’s diary entry (EAL student, arrived two years ago from Latvia):
“In period 1 today we do History and Mr Smith asked us to write happen on the day when World War 2 start in 1939. That was quite easy, actually. It was fun looking at the pictures and writing little sentences about what went on. After tutor, in period 2, it is Maths, and we do something named word problems. They are small stories and we answer with numbers. But Miss Brooke said they are like stories – so why do her problems say, “Molly buys 6 CDs” and not “Molly bought”? I don’t get it! And then in Science we did about metals, but I don’t understand. Mr Hutchinson talked about “is done” and “is made” and “are formed”, but why is he using two verbs? – this is nonsense!”
Whether or not you subscribe to the digital native ideology or believe it’s a fallacy, on the whole our students today are more au fait with social media than ever before. Schools have become adept at limiting student access to social media and at managing their own accounts, but it’s often seen as an additional PR tool rather than a legitimate learning activity. Whilst I don’t believe that unrestricted access to Facebook in lessons is necessarily a valid form of pedagogy, I do think the concept of social media is a useful way to break down topics and help to engage students.
Technology plays a huge part in our everyday lives, whether at school, at work or at home. Many of us rely greatly on being able to use our mobile phones and devices for a multitude of reasons. But the bottom line is we’re generally communicating with someone. Even young children attending nursery or just starting school are familiar with iPads, tablets and interactive whiteboards. So what of the simple pencil? Is it redundant, or is there still a place in the modern classroom? What does it mean to be able to write and what are the benefits?