“Literacy arouses hopes, not only in society as a whole but also in the individual who is striving for fulfilment, happiness and personal benefit by learning how to read and write. Literacy... means far more than learning how to read and write... The aim is to transmit... knowledge and promote social participation.” UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg, Germany
Literacy is just reading isn’t it?
It’s a common misconception that literacy is just reading, or reading and writing, but it’s much more than that – literacy is about how we communicate and how we understand the world around us. In fact we could just as easily get rid of that scary word ‘literacy’ and replace it with the more inviting word ‘communication’, since that’s what we really mean by literacy.
Poor literacy/communication skills can be a major barrier to success in life. We all know that in exams, being able to communicate ideas effectively and understand what a question is actually asking are crucial aspects that students need to be prepared for. However, the importance of being able to communicate effectively in many different forms will be essential for many aspects of our students’ life, from filling in a job application correctly and performance at interviews to everyday issues like making an online order, making new friends or even fully understanding a television programme.
What are we doing at the King’s?
"Reading and writing float on a sea of talk." (James Britton)
At the King’s we are clear that our students need to be given as many opportunities as they can, across all subjects and enrichment activities, to nurture their literacy/communication skills. In lessons across the curriculum students undertake tasks which help develop not just their reading and written communication, but also their speaking and listening; with lessons offering students chances to clarify and express their ideas and explain their thinking orally and through a range of other mediums. We teach students how to adapt their speech to a wide range of audiences including both their peers and adults and provide, for example, through lessons like our PHSE days, Chapter and assemblies, opportunities for our students to listen to their peers and adults with understanding and to respond sensitivity and appropriately. We encourage our students to develop their vocabulary as widely as possible, introducing students not just to keywords within our subject areas, but through developing work on the etymology of words, we aim to teach students how to unpick and understand unfamiliar words, giving them the tools to address their own gaps in knowledge.
This year we are developing a Literacy Ambassador Programme involving both staff and students in order to promote the development of strong literacy skills. Our Student Literacy Ambassador’s will be undertaking reading mentoring with younger students and supporting a range of literacy based activities. Following the first lockdown, we implemented a push to reinforce the use of correct SPaG, which had been a casualty of the lockdown. During lockdown from January 2021, our Literacy Ambassadors have been keen to support the idea of reading for pleasure and the importance of reading to younger children, producing recordings modelling reading aloud:
We have also set students a 60 second challenge – to talk for 60 seconds on a subject which interests them. With lockdown limiting student’s ability to communicate with a range of people, we thought it important to give a forum for students to practice their speaking skills.
What can you do at home to support?
At The King’s our priority has always been our students, but that is a shared enterprise and we look to work together with parents and guardians to this end. Here are a few ideas to support your child’s literacy/communication skills:
- We often underestimate the importance of talking to each other at home. Taking that little bit of time, maybe over dinner, to switch off any electronic devices and talk can do wonders in developing communication skills. What you talk about doesn’t matter, just listen, ask questions and encourage them to expand on their answers.
- Be your own GoogleBox – try sitting down together and discussing a programme on television. Critic it, pull it apart, suggest improvements, have fun with it. Watching a documentary, like David Attenborough’s Perfect Planet, will also help exposure students to a wider vocabulary (as will watching the news).
- To practice and reinforce their SPaG encourage your child to access the Achieve English section of GCSEPod. ‘Module 12: Language, Punctuation and Sentences’ is particularly good for recapping SPaG and includes an online Check and Challenge quiz to check understanding. Every child at The King’s has a GCSEPod account. Encourage your child to use these SPaG rules in all their home learning and homework tasks.
- Encourage your child to create Word Clouds for each subject using key words with one of the many free online tools for this.
- The website https://wonderopolis.org/ considers a different question every day, encouraging students to read on a range of topics.
- Encourage your child to take part in the various competitions, activities and Master Classes (to be set through WEDUC) designed to boost their literacy/communication skills.
There are a number of free apps available to try to expand student's vocabulary. These are some of the best apps we've found:
- 'Word of the Day' gives 'words of the day' from various online dictionaries, along with the chance to play vocabulary quizzes
- Another app allowing you to take quizzes to develop your vocabulary is 'uvocab' and also allows you to revisit words you have been unsure on
- Finally, 'elevate' has the advantage of allowing you to practice and develop various literacy and numeracy skills. You can subscribe, but there is a free version which allows you to do a few 'brain training' quizzes each day.
We hope that the links and resources contained in this section will help support you in supporting the literacy/communication skills of students at The King’s. We will be looking to add to and improve our provision so please contact us if you have any suggestions or questions firstname.lastname@example.org