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Literacy in History


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#1 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 04 December 2003 - 11:04 PM

It appears that Jane Spilsbury is rather busy at the moment and has been unable to join us as a guest seminar leader for the time being.

Literacy is a major issue witin many History Departments. Be it SEN students who struggle to spell key words or Gifted and Talented historians who are unaware of more advanced technical terms, there is always something that needs development and the attention of teachers.

As I'm only filling a gap here, I'll start this Seminar with a few questions. On a personal note I'd lhope that this is an area that is responded to by many people as it is certainly something that my own depratment needs to develop and is recognised as an area of weakness in my local area.

A few points for discussion then:

How can teachers of History develop the Literacy skills of their students?

How can a students progress in terms of their Literacy skills be monitored within a KS3 History curriculum?

Please feel free to pose any questiosn you would like to add to this thread, the idea is to share good practice. Hopefully Jane will be able to join us soon and offer her thoughts.

#2 neil mcdonald

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 05:05 PM

The idea of progression could be seen to be measured by the Level Five skill of being able to create strucutred work - i.e. the application and use of paragraphs for extended pieces of writing. The concept of terminology also has to be a vital ingredient in good history writing. But what I tend to see most off in literacy work within the History teaching are simple starter activities and bolt on tasks that do not integrate themselves well within the normal lesson or main activity. One question I would like to ask is how can we integrate these ideas or strategies more successfully? (and if we do, do we lose the history skills?)
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

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Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#3 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 08:59 PM

On a basic level:

You teach your classes how to structure their answers. This is developing their Literacy, certainly for students at Level 5. A simple way of doing this is to develop their understanding of a 5 part answer: Introduction, idea 1, idea 2, evaluation, conclusion. This often matches up with the 'Burger' type writing frames.

On the forum we have seen regular mention of the PEEL idea. Teaching students how to do this is an obvious example of the Literacy strategy being implemented in the classroom. The teacher delivers the idea, models it on the board. Highlights aspects of an answer that relate to the P, E, E and L of the parapgraph and then ask students to form their own response to a slightly differn, but similar, question. Using highlighters to indicate which part of PEEL each phrase relates to enables students to instantly see flaws in their answers - lots of explanation, no evidence appears to be the most popular self evaluation I get. Such a technique is as valid in KS3 as it is in KS5, it shows students instanty what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Incidentally, your comment about Level 5 requirements reminds me that there are distinct differences between the intakes of various schools - I've not assessed a single student in KS3 at Level 5 or above yet this year.

#4 Lesley Ann

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 09:34 PM

An excerpt from my literacy policy:
The History Department believes that it has an important role to play in the enhancement of literacy across the curriculum. We aim to promote this in the following ways:
1. Employ/devise strategies which encourage pupils to use and understand historical vocabulary (taboo, word searches, cross words, word games)
2. Display historical vocabulary around the classroom.
3. Produce laminated spelling mats including definitions of subject specific vocabulary.
4. By giving clear and precise instructions on the tasks and activities to be completed during the lesson.
5. By ensuring that presentation to pupils on boards, display, worksheets, and in textbooks is appropriate, clearly written/word processed and that spelling and punctuation are correct.
6. Organise regular spelling tests of subject specific vocabulary.
7. Producing and displaying subject specific vocabulary in classrooms.
8. Encourage pupils to collaborate in terms of reading, discussion and writing.
9. Providing pupils with opportunities to present their written work in a variety of forms. Producing clear guidance on how to write using writing frames.
10. To encourage pupils to put across their own point of view and to ask and answer pertinent questions during the plenary sessions.
11. Give less able pupils a length of laminate with a red line drawn in the middle, to be used to follow lines on a page/source.
12. Correcting literacy errors in a helpful and constructive manner.
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#5 Elle

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Posted 09 December 2003 - 02:51 PM

I am now literacy person for my dept. (as well as for the whole school now too!), so I am going to watch this seminar with interest (and hopefully nick a few ideas). I think History is a subject which lends itself very well to literacy, which is one of the reasons why I was appointed! The problem is in my school literacy has not really had a very high profile, the budget was taken away ( I have since got it back) but generally the previous head was more into getting Specialist School Status than improving literacy. On the positive side we have a new head, and the direction in which the school is being taken has shifted, and literacy is now very much on the agenda. However I have noticed that many of the students have a very limited knowledge of simple things such as full stops or capital letters. I find this very worrying, especially when it is in an A level essay... What concerns me is we are now supposed to be teaching students who have been through the primary literacy stratagy and yet I am not seeing that much improvement. Obviously in history we can go some way to rectifying that problem with a good literacy policy, however I fear it will end in us teaching literacy and nothing else!

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#6 John Simkin

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 11:30 AM

Ofsted yesterday published its latest report on the government's national literacy strategy. David Bell, chief inspector of schools, warned that the government will continue to miss its primary school improvement targets. The report points out that eleven-year-olds' English scores have been stuck at 77% (reaching national targets) since 2000. Bell claims that the main reason for this is that too many teachers still had too poor a grasp of English to help struggling pupils. The chief inspector called for more training for teachers to boost their subject knowledge and teaching techniques.

http://www.ofsted.go...summary&id=3442

The report also points out that people entering the teaching profession have never been better qualified. Is Ofsted passing comment about the reliability of our national examination system? It does seem rather strange that qualified teachers do not have enough subject knowledge to teach English at primary level. The message seems to be different to the recently leaked report, Workforce Reform - Blue Skies, that calls for “teacher numbers being cut to pay for more support staff; other staff being bought in from agencies or coming in on secondment; support staff being supervised by one qualified teacher only – the headteacher; and reducing overall teacher numbers to pay for a better adult-pupil ratio.”

http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=2548

#7 neil mcdonald

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 04:34 PM

John this isn't really the area to be discussing this issue. The focus of the seminar is on literacy, not the discussions of think tanks and Ofsted. Surely we need to be focusing on the disseminating best practice of the literacy strategy within the forum. I am intrigued by some of the ideas mentioned and I think over the next few weeks I'll try to design some resources around them.
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#8 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 06:30 PM

Surely we need to be focusing on the disseminating best practice of the literacy strategy within the forum.

Neil, "Best practice" may well be to question the comparative motives and agendas of Ofsted and the government in these circumstances. It may certainly help us to protect the educational entitlement of future generations which in my view is in grave risk with the phased deskilling of the teaching profession

#9 Andrew Field

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 06:59 PM

Surely we need to be focusing on the disseminating best practice of the literacy strategy within the forum.

Neil, "Best practice" may well be to question the comparative motives and agendas of Ofsted and the government in these circumstances. It may certainly help us to protect the educational entitlement of future generations which in my view is in grave risk with the phased deskilling of the teaching profession

This may indeed by true, but the focus of the seminar was on how we as teachers can improve the literacy of students through the teaching of history.

It is of course correct to be aware of all the issues and thoughts of government behind of all of this, but Dan, who started this seminar did state

the idea is to share good practice.


Perhaps the other area that John brought up could be debated in an alternative thread.

With this focus, my school has been involved (as I am sure many others have) in a literacy audit, where we had to take an honest look at what stage we were at in terms of our whole school literacy provision. It has involved departments examining what they do well, and where they would like to improve.

Some of the important ideas that have developed are making sure we focus on our literacy too - making sure the lessons are accessible by students, that they are aware of and understand the key words used in the lesson, techniques to allow students to access challenging and difficult language. I will see if I can get the Head of English to post a brief overview of what the school has done.

I'm sure there are some extremely helpful suggestions and ideas for this. It's probably something that we all do anyway, but focus on glossaries of key words in the middle / back of exercise books or in homework diaries, it's having word banks and sentence starters on the walls to create a 'literacy rich environment', it's about schools having a policy for consistent marking of literacy errors such as how best to highlight spelling errors... This is a seminar with massive potential. It can certainly be re-visited in the new year when we've all got a bit more energy!


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#10 John Simkin

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 10:42 AM

John this isn't really the area to be discussing this issue. The focus of the seminar is on literacy, not the discussions of think tanks and Ofsted.

I would have thought that an Ofsted report that evaluates the Literacy Strategy would be very relevant to this discussion. However, as the report points out, we currently have a problem with the training of teachers to implement this strategy.

#11 stevenyelland

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 08:35 PM

Encouraging Reading

A tip to engage pupils with texts and sources. Create a crossword on puzzlemaker.com (criss-cross puzzle) and theme it to a specific page from textbook. I have found with some success that this encourages weaker students to access text. It enables to pupils to readily engage with the textbook and pupils like the competition element of finishing first.

#12 Lesley Ann

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 08:58 PM

A strategy I find works well...

Description type questions.....for some reason more able students find this task very difficult as they have higher order skills and what to evaluate, discuss and analyse in their answers...while lower ability pupils find description questions easier but sometimes fail to pick up the marks because their answers lack the required detail.....

Give the pupils a description GCSE question, e.g. Describe the conditions on the Western Front......give the pupils between 20 & 30 key words and ask them to answer the question, but they muct include these words in their answer....
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#13 Andrew Field

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 09:14 PM

I have found with some success that this encourages weaker students to access text. It enables to pupils to readily engage with the textbook and pupils like the competition element of finishing first.

Very true this is a great starter. I always think I'm somehow cheating doing this though. Is that the case or does this really allow students to access text? What I do with the http://www.puzzlemaker.com page is type the words in and then create 3 different versions. Give these out carefully mixed together and tell them not to copy. There are soon complaints to which you can ask how they know if they aren't copying.

Lesley Ann's literacy link there is really effective. Giving them a large bank of words with the stipulation that they should use all but 2 or 3 gives them real material to work with, helping them see how they can write more than one sentence.

When creating a newspaper front page task - which work really well - there are some fabulous links with English and Literacy. Knowing what they study for KS2 Literacy actually creates the expectation that they should know it. With a bit of encouragement, you get Year 7s all responding with correct terminology about captions, sub-headings and so on. This is very much within the context of history and history making use of what they've already learned at Primary school.

I actually find rather than creating the newspaper frontpage, actually creating a design for a frontpage, with a rough mock-up of a newspaper in the middle of a double page works well. Students then draw arrows to the different sections - for example they draw an arrow to the headline but instead of just writing it in, they justify why they've chosen that headline. Same for an image - not just drawing it in, but labelling why they've chosen that image. Doing it in this way really allows you to draw out the concepts of interpretation and bias. This really is designing a frontpage rather than simply coming up with a quasi-historical headline and filling up the spaces on a blank frame.


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#14 Lesley Ann

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 09:26 PM

another strategy I have used in the past with KS3 pupils in both RE and History:

Good old fashion story telling...I told a year 7 RE class a creation myth story from Africa. It is a short story....I told the story once, then on the second telling of the story they wrote down 30 words from the story. The pupils drew a huge rainbow snake...and wrote the best 15 words to retell the story onto the snake. For homework they were asked to write the story down in as much detail as they could remember. Good for lower ability year 7 classes....
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#15 Lesley Ann

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 09:41 PM

Want to motivate your pupils? B)
I got this idea from Alistair Smith from an INSET on Accelerated Learning.....
Anything to do with their brains and they are fascinated…..

Good literacy starter:
I ask the pupils about upgrading computer memories and ask how much it costs?....after quick response I ask the pupils if they would like their brain capacity upgrading, I tell them that I can upgrade over half the classes memory….(many don’t believe you).
:woo:
1. Give the pupils a piece of scrap paper.
2. Inform them that they must stay silent and they are not allowed to write anything down until you tell them….
3. Choose between 10 and 15 words…..it could be from a history story in order….
4. Read the words clearly and slowly. When you are finished tell the pupils to write down as many as they can…don’t give them too long to do this, wait to see 3 to 5 sigh!
5. Ask them to count up how many they got.
6. Repeat point 4 and 5. (make sure they do not cheat by looking at list)
7. Ask by show of hands how many pupils improved their list? You have improved their memory….absolutely free! More than half of class if they have concentrated should have improved….they will think you are wonderful…..
;) (:beer: AF)
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