Sunday 15 July 2012

Letter from a primary school teacher in Scotland

Hi there Michael

I am grateful that I teach in Scotland where the curriculum has been freed up so much by Curriculum for Excellence. I teach in a 6 year old community primary school in Aberdeenshire. The school has around 300 pupils and, being near Aberdeen and its oil industry, is in an area with low unemployment and relative prosperity compared to many places in the UK at the moment.

We promote reading in many of the usual ways - reading novels to the class (Krindlekrax by Philip Ridley being my all time favourite class read aloud) basing projects on novels, celebrating World Book Day in a different way each year, paired reading, buddy reading, weekly visits to the library which is in a central open plan area of the school, creating books in extended writing sessions and having a 'book launch' when parents are invited in to share the book with their child, a whole school & community book swap, an ongoing book swap table, sharing ideas about favourite authors and books. In short, lots of activities which take place in many schools.

As we were a new school we had to start a library from scratch. We bought books, but also got books second hand. Creating a library is clearly a huge task so we initiated a scheme which has been very successful - Birthday Books. If a child wants to mark their birthday in school, rather than bringing in sweets, cakes etc they can bring in a book for the school library which gets a special personal acknowledgment plaque/sticker inside it. This is shown and shared in a whole school assembly before it goes into the library. The pupils love being part of this and seeing who donated what. As a class teacher I usually buy the class books for the class library rather than stocking filler type presents at Christmas.

I teach a Primary 4 class (Year 3 in English system) and feel I finally 'made it' with my teaching/promotion of reading recently. A small group was reading The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo, partly with me and partly at home. We all got so into the story that we decided to only read it as a group in class and not individually at home as we wanted to share it together. Not many times as a teacher that I have said 'What a great idea, don't do any reading homework...yes, let's save it to share together!'. Wish I had done more of this over the years but then it is hard to do that with many school readers!

So despite all attempts from on high, there is still a lot of good work going on in schools.

Keep up your good work.