Writing concisely and precisely is a common challenge for our pupils in improving the quality of their writing. In order to lead the way here, I’ve tried to model these qualities in our new literacy policy.
The policy, consisting of just nine words, is as follows:
- Question, read, review
- Talk, model, write
- Check, correct, improve
Question, read, review
This relates to the things I spoke about on the inset day and are within our study skills programme to do with reading for information. This is something which departments said they really struggled with: a class read something, whether individually or as part of a group, but are subsequently unable to pick out the key information.
I have been promoting the SQ3R method for this, which is as follows:
Skim read the text: identify the structure and the kind of information that you’re likely to find. Is this a text that we need to read? What will it enable us to do?
Question the text: ask questions that you hope to be able to answer after reading. I ask pupils to write these down at the top of the page.
Read the text: either aloud or as a class, whichever is appropriate. I ask pupils to underline difficult vocabulary and come back to it later.
Recall the text: refer back to the questions and test recall by answering them without referring back to your reading. Did you learn everything you hoped to learn?
Review the text: go back over any difficult sections of the text slowly. Decode difficult vocabulary. Now is the time to take notes relevant to any tasks which follow.
As well as this structured approach, pupils should be encouraged to think in a critical and evaluative way about texts they are reading. Teachers should prompt this by asking questions about the nature of the text before reading. Ideas for appropriate questions include asking about audience, intended purpose, potential bias, text structure/presentation and credibility of the author etc.
Talk, model, write
This refers back to the work on Talk4Writing, which began with the training day in November 2014. Since then, there has been far more modelling taking place to support writing. A reminder of this approach is illustrated in the image below:The basic premise is to build up confidence with target language, both at a word and sentence level, before incorporating this into modelled writing and, finally, independent work.
Check, correct, improve
The final triplet is designed to build on the success of our DIRT initiative, but also to encourage more proof-reading and redrafting. These are skills which we want pupils to display independently and so we need to help them structure this process in the first instance.
A piece of work must be proof-read before being handed to the teacher. Teachers should expect to see evidence that corrections are being made. Finally, we want to see pupils making improvements to their work, both before and after it has been marked. This includes reflecting on feedback, answering specific questions/tasks and redrafting work where appropriate.
…behind this policy is that we have chosen things that can and should be easily integrated into lessons across the curriculum, so that literacy is part of everyday practice rather than a bolt-on. I honestly believe that we could transform the literacy skills of pupils in our school if we were each consistent in doing these three things; there are no magic bullets unfortunately, and this is something we need to address each and every lesson.