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Do you have ‘Literacy Conversations’?

That Reading Thing is still our gold standard one-to-one programme for older struggling readers who need a boost before they feel confident enough to engage in more formal lessons in a group or classroom. That Spelling Thing is much less prescriptive and is home almost anywhere as long as students (of any age) are beyond the emergent reader level. When you combine the two you have a whole school vision for improving literacy across the curriculum.

What is a ‘literacy conversation’? I use that term to describe a key element in any programme we offer: the ability for everyone – students and teachers – to use the same language to talk about reading and spelling. In That Reading Thing we call it ‘talking off ledges’ with a rock climbing analogy. In That Spelling Thing we call them scripts or prompts. In both cases, it’s about giving direction conversationally without giving answers. It’s about allowing students to develop an internal dialogue which gives them confidence in the face of an unfamiliar word when you’re not around.

Here’s my question: how do you and your students/pupils/learners talk about unfamiliar words? What is the conversation you have when someone says:

How do you spell (insert word)?  or  I don’t know this word?

If no one is asking those questions, is it because no one is struggling? Or is it because struggling to read or spell a word is taboo? How do we start the conversations that smash taboos and tear down barriers to literacy?

What does your Literacy Conversation sound like?

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