I work full-time talking, reading and writing about teaching literacy in an effective and pleasurable way.
From the outset, I would like to propose that my work and this blog’s purpose is not to advocate for nor prescribe a certain theoretical or ideological stance on the best way to teach English. This would be difficult to achieve in any circumstance because the articles, resources and work continually evolves from reading research, undertaking projects, attending and contributing at conferences/workshops as well as networking with other professionals.
Again, I’m not here to promote a particular closed view on the subject of English, but to seek practical ways by which to potentially improve children’s motivation and outcomes in literacy. I try to harness theoretical ideas and research which may shed some light on the practical challenges faced by schools, teachers and children more widely and tentatively provide unrealised reflections and possible solutions on these ideas in both a holistic and broad way. I hope that this website and its articles will help other interested parties to investigate their own practice and develop the subject of literacy in new ways.
No article on this blog is a criticism of a teacher, teachers, senior leaders in schools or even local authorities – who all have incredibly difficult jobs to do. If any criticism is made, it will be due to what English has become given the history and pressures of the past 30 years, and the impact of deprofessionalisation, centralisation, government intervention and accountability measures on the teaching of English. Alternatively, criticisms will be as a result of the findings of educational research, papers and writings undertaken by other authors.
I studied French and Russian at Birmingham University, and later gained two MAs, one in Linguistics and the other in Children’s Literature.
I’ve been a Primary school teacher of many years’ experience. I have worked in both the maintained and the independent sectors as SENCO and Deputy Head. With a strong background in language and literacy I have worked with School’s Television, developing storypacks to support children new to English. I am currently interested in the possibilities of teaching literacy through process writing throughout the Primary phase of schooling.
I began my teaching life on a Wednesday morning in a tiny Victorian school building inside a square of iron railings up a backstreet in Handsworth, Birmingham. I was there because I needed to earn some money to support myself in beginning a Ph D, and the Education Office had sent me to St. Silas’ C. of E. school where they had no teacher for ‘Infant 2’. Thus I found myself on that day without preparation, training or support, required immediately to take charge of a class of thirty six infants, some of whom were new to English. I can’t remember exactly how I passed the day, but I do recall that the next day I took in my copies of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Just-so Stories’ because I had loved them as a child. Amazingly, they went down well. After this initial baptism of fire, followed by several months of surviving mainly by picking up tips from other teachers, I gradually began to feel that I might be getting somewhere. In the end, ‘Infant 2’ won out over the urban poetry of Baudelaire. I have never regretted this development.
Later, doing an MA in linguistics and one in children’s literature gave me an academic background which convinced me of the rightness of the psycholinguistic theory of reading and writing, which foregrounds the achievement of meaning and communication. This has always been the one for me and I’ve based my teaching on it. I’ve stayed firmly in the classroom because there is no better place to discover and try out ways of enabling children to read and write with enjoyment and commitment. Through this website I am hoping to share the kinds of “quality” experiences we can give children at home and school which might create and enhance for them the pleasures of being literate.
I can provide training, CPD, advice & resources in the following:
Improving standards and enjoyment of reading for teachers and pupils school-wide.
Including training & resources in: ‘book talk’, the ‘bedtime-reading’ model, creating parent partnerships, primary language records, quality assessment, book-lists, multi-strategy approach to teaching reading, teaching beyond phonics, 4-week reading programme – to improve standards in reading, making progress with SEN & G&T readers.
Improving standards and enjoyment of writing for teachers and pupils school-wide.
Including training & resources in: Writing For Pleasure,’Talk-4-Writing’, functional-grammar, writing study, process writing, poetry writing, teaching of fairy-tales, myths & legends, helping children use high-quality literature to produce great writing, children as ‘published’ authors, becoming a ‘writing’ school, making progress with SEN & G&T writers.
Provide training in effective use of assessment for both reading and writing – which teachers will enjoy.
Assessment without levels, writing development scales, pupil-conferencing, primary language records, school-parent partnerships, assessing reading & writing holistically.
Assess book stocks & school environments to help promote reading and writing for pleasure.
Provide targeted book-lists, ideas for reading & writing spaces.
Here are some of the things we’ve been involved in:
- Have written materials to accompany Schools’ Television literacy programmes.
- Carrying out INSETs – focusing on aspects of reading & writing.
- Have worked as SENCO, helping children with literacy difficulties.
- Have contributed to working groups on reading at the University of Brighton.
- Have a wide knowledge of excellent books for children of all abilities – I have a strong belief in the importance of a good text in helping both children with reading difficulties & reluctant readers.
- Have worked in a specialist children’s book shop.
- Have completed an MA in Children’s Literature at Roehampton
- Have contributed to book lists produced by CLPE (Centre for Language in Primary Education – London).
- Spoken on the subject of writing in primary schools at the UKLA international conference in Glasgow (2017).
- Spoken on the subject of memoir writing with children at The Oxford Writing Spree (2017)
- Spoken on the subject of writing for pleasure at the UKLA international conference in Cardiff (2018)
- Member of The National Committee for UKLA.