The School That Got Teens Reading

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I finally got to watch the BBC2 programme, “The School That Got Teens Reading” (on iPlayer until Nov 27th). Most of the show was about encouraging a group of year 10 teens, who can but don’t read, to engage in the wonderful prose poem, One by Sarah Crossan. That’s not the remit of That Reading Thing, but the one student who did spark my interest was Olivia. Olivia is in year 10 and diagnosed as dyslexic. It was hard to … Read More

A Conversation with Amy

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Amy was in Year 10, almost 15, very artistic, and refused to read even one multi-syllable basic code word on the TRT assessment. “I don’t read words like that.” Me: Amy – when you read, do you get pictures in your head? (This is a standard That Reading Thing question for teens who often say, “I didn’t know I was allowed to do that anymore.”) Amy: (with feeling) I hate reading. I just hate it. I hate reading. Me: Well, … Read More

Grammar Schools: the cost of excellence

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When I arrived on the Wirral*, all bright-eyed and Canadian way back in 1994, I learned four things in quick succession: Liverpool is not at all like Manchester. The other mummies don’t wear wool socks and Birkenstocks. Tea is something you eat. And 4. My children were going to write an IQ test called the 11+ (even though one of them would only be 10 at the time) which would essentially determine their educational futures and probably colour their whole … Read More

The Long and Short of Vowels

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Alison Clarke of Spelfabet wrote this great post about vowels. If you read it, I don’t have to explain my 20 different vowels to you. They sound different from Alison’s but I have them – and so do you, give or take. I wanted to give my own brief rationale for not using the terms “long” and “short” in remedial setting of That Reading Thing. Our learners are all older and the only ones who might actually need the terminology … Read More

How to make phonics suitable for teens and adults

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When people hear “phonics” they think “childish”, and not without reason. Most phonics programmes are childish, but not because they teach reading using the sounds and symbols of the language. They’re childish because they’re created for little children, emergent readers who have no history of trying and failing to learn to read. There are some wonderful programmes for little ones. The problem with using any teaching method intended for young children is that you automatically infantilise the learner no matter … Read More

Who’s in Control?

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This question is for anyone who delivers literacy to older struggling readers. “Older” here can mean 12, 20 or 68 – that is, anyone who’s old enough to be embarrassed by their poor reading. How much control does your student have in your lessons? I ask that because a new TRT tutor emailed with the following: So, I have been working with _______ who is ______ years old. (fill in your own student name and age) I think he has … Read More

Education in Prisons

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Dame Sally Coates’ review of prison education was published recently and I’d like to add some thoughts. Having spent fourteen months working in the pre-release unit of a large men’s prison, I come to this with huge respect for the fact that prisons are complex environments in which to achieve almost anything. Most of what interested me is in Chapter 3: “A personalised and inclusive approach to learning” and I want to discuss the disconnection between recognising the huge proportion … Read More

Literacy Methods: Shame or Safety?

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I was speaking at a high school where I had one hour to train 30 staff members in spelling with the English code which meant no time for the usual asides, quips or soapbox moments. I found myself saying, “I love the idea of very high expectations, but…” and moving on before I could expound. I did get to share this slide, but, again, with no time to discuss the concept of every classroom being a “shame free learning space”. … Read More

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