Literacy – how to attack it head on

One of the issues surrounding the idea that ‘we are all teachers of literacy’ is lack of knowledge on how to tackle it in subjects outside of English.

In my current school, literacy is a huge issue. Incorrect spellings, using the wrong ‘there’, not writing capital I, not beginning sentences with capital letters, not using question marks… the list goes on! It is some of the worst literacy I have ever seen and they are all basic primary school mistakes.

Teachers are expected to mark for literacy, currently we write sp for spelling, gr for grammar and p for punctuation. I usually correct it and ask the student to write it out three times for themselves as it saves time when they do their responses. This is doing nothing. The same mistakes appear next time I mark. I also find that students can’t spell the months when they write the date and incorrectly spell things that were spelt correctly on the whiteboard. Why is this happening? In my lessons, I am guilty of glossing over this in favour of covering RS content. I would rather they know the religious content than teach a literacy lesson but my students cannot write essays very well.

I have to tackle this head on. I am going to introduce 5 new things into my ks3 classroom lessons to ensure that this changes.

  1. Regular spelling tests as part of the lesson or for homework. The introduction of a new homework software at my school means I could use homework to work on spellings and thus not use too much of my precious lesson time for this.
  2. More writing in lesson. A simple but effective solution; the more they practice, the better they will be. Paragraphs/Essays as a plenary is the most effective way of ensuring the students are writing more.
  3. Highlighting mistakes in marking but during feedback lessons encouraging the students to find the answer for themselves. Either by asking or by using a dictionary. This does impact on time but it is a laborious task which may mean they put more effort into SPaG.
  4. More reading in lessons. The most improvement I have ever witnessed myself with literacy is in students who are reading every day. This means I will have to differentiate resources more precisely but it may pay off if they are reading more in my lessons.
  5. Correcting verbal responses. Students who speak things incorrectly will often write incorrectly. A student who uses incorrect tense for example can easily be corrected during verbal feedback in lesson.

I expect that if I adhere to my own rules, I will see some improvement between marking cycles.