Tuesday 21 July 2015

Ted Hughes, radio and Secondary Modern School children

When we were making the programme about Ted Hughes's 'Poetry in the Making' ('Poetry in the Re-making' Radio 4 Sunday) I visited the BBC written archives in Caversham. In one of the first letters that the BBC Schools producer, Moira Doolan wrote to Hughes asking him to do some poetry programmes (and a couple for children on how to write a novel) , she says that she wants them to appeal to 'secondary modern' pupils (the assumption was that grammar schools would listen to the programmes anyway or could look after themselves). It's worth pondering a moment on this (and I know I have a vested interest in thinking that BBC School Radio was and is a good thing). A BBC producer is asking one of the finest up and coming poets of that time (it was the early 60s) to think of all children and school students and to think of them all as writers of poetry and fiction; don't 'stream' or 'select' or 'segregate' your comments. So, while the education system of the day WAS selecting and segregating with the eleven plus, Doolan and Hughes are thinking of how their broadcasts would and could not segregate.

BBC speakers sat in pretty well all state schools - they were big brown wooden things - and those few words that Moira Doolan said - and Ted Hughes responded positively to - represent an outlook to education and learning at that time. It was a commitment to a humanist and creative outlook towards all pupils.

"I aspirationally abstained…."

"As your Labour MP, I would like to say that I aspirationally abstained last night on the grounds that people have told me that they are in favour of poor people becoming poorer and I am aspirationally unable to explain to them why that might be unfair or unjust. It has been pointed out to me that 'poor people' might include some 'people' and that presumably such 'people' (if they are 'people') might not think it's OK for poor people to become poorer. Interesting point but not aspirational. Thanks for supporting me."

'People' didn't know about the Nazis in 1933. Apparently.

Thank you Newsnight for providing excuses for why it was possible for the Royal Family to have a larf doing Hitler salutes in 1933. Thank you Newsnight for not doing half an hour's research on what the left was saying about the Nazi party in the late 20s early 30s. Thank you Newsnight for not checking out what those monitoring anti-semitism were saying about the Nazis at that time.

Yes, there was a quick mumble about 'laws against trade unionists and Communists' (i.e. the Reichstag and 'Enabling' laws that were enacted in Feb and March 1933) but that was quickly diffused into how the Nazis were seen as the party of 'order'. Even in bourgeois democratic terms, what the Nazis did in those first two months was end democracy. Both guests seem to think that people wouldn't have really known about all this…

That's because the 'left' aren't 'people' in that version of history. There is only parliament and the privately owned mass circulation press. That is what they mean by 'people'.

,,,but Cameron loves segregation

Don't know what Cameron was on about when he was talking about 'segregation'. Posh Tories like him love segregation. People like him are segregated from birth, sent off to schools where they only meet other boys like him, a place waiting for them at Oxbridge or Durham or Bristol, a business where someone in the family is employed, or in his case, in the Tory Party, where people like him enact laws which help society become more segregated, none more so than in education where the creation of academies and free schools has encouraged groups of parents and/or teachers to set themselves apart and create a kind of 'only-us' type schools, of many different kinds - our religion, our outlook, single-sex and so on.

Mixing is anathema to people like him. Their phoney notion of freedom is entirely based on people's 'choice' to be in public institutions separated off from whoever 'I' might think of as 'them'. And if 'I' am not given that choice then if 'I' have money, 'I' am told it's 'freedom' to buy that separation and segregation.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Odysseus hears how the people (and Penelope) are on the streets

…and messengers came from Ithaca with news from Penelope, Odysseus's long-suffering wife.
'O Odysseus,' said the messengers.
'It's alright, I know what you're going to say. Penelope has heard that I lingered too long on the Isle of Ogygia in the arms of Calypso.'
'No, my lord,' said the first messenger, 'that's the least of your worries.'
'Really? What else can be bothering her?'
'She and all of Ithaca is starving, my lord,' said the messenger, 'and they all looked to you to relieve them of their hunger pangs.'
'To me?!' said Odysseus incredulously, 'but I saved them from the horde of men in long grey pants. If it wasn't for me, they would be at our door.'
'Yes, my lord, but the point is, they've come through the door. They're now supping at your table…and mine…and all of our tables.'
'My Penelope!' screamed Odysseus in a jealous rage, 'O my Ithaca!'
'Well, actually,' said the messenger who was a Cynic.Or a Sceptic. Or an Epicurean. Or all three…'Penelope isn't at home. She's on the streets.'
'On the streets?' shrieked Odysseus.
'Not like that, you fool,' said the messenger, 'she and all of Ithaca are on the streets. You would do well to harken unto them.'
'What does that mean?' said Odysseus who was unacquainted with ancient Greek.
'Listen. Note. Take heed. Learn from the people…, that sort of thing.'
'Hmmmmmmmmmm, 'said Odysseus, remembering the last time he was afflicted by self-will and how that had brought the wrath of Poseidon upon himself and his men….'hmmmmmmmmmm, ' he repeated.

IMF: Circe Lagardos chides Odysseus

..and Odysseus returned to the wood where Circe Lagardos lived.
'O Odysseus,' she lamented, 'did I not warn you of being brought low at the hands of the men in the horde of men in long grey pants?'
'Actually, no,' said Odysseus, 'what you actually said was that it's always best to stay well in with the horde of men in long grey pants.'
'Did I?' said Circe.
'Yes, you do seem to forget things these days. I have heard from the oracles that you are insistent that we Ithacans pay our tribute to the city and yet you yourself pay none.'
'You must learn to overlook petty detail, Odysseus and look to the bigger picture. My message to you today is that no matter what is the agreement you have made between you and the horde of men in long grey pants, it is no more use to you than swine turd.'
'How come?' said Odysseus looking deep into the wine-dark sea.
'Because, dear Odysseus, even people like me have come to realise that a people who eat nothing, make nothing. People who make nothing, are unable to furnish the likes of me with any drachma at all.'
'How strange to hear these words from you, Circe,' said Odysseus ruefully rubbing his beard.
'Never fear, Odysseus, such humanity on my part won't last long. Soon I will be back to turning people into swine.'
'And will you be paying your tribute to the city at any point in the future?' Odysseus queried.
'Never,' said Circe and returned to her offices.

I wonder if we could sell swine turd to travellers who visit Ithaca, Odysseus pondered….

Tragedy ("when the feeling's gone…" ), Giovanni Aurispa, musty ole books etc...

I often get interested in 'cultural transmission' and 'cultural mediation' because no matter how much energy we devote to interpreting 'texts', we only have those texts because people (for a variety of reasons) made it possible for us to read them and who are themselves part of institutions and fields of thought. So, there is a wonderful book called 'The Past We Share' by E.L.Ranelagh which tries to show the routes of transmission of certain kinds of story-telling from Sanskrit and Arab cultures into the West. This kind of transmission is often below the eyes of scholars because it's 'just story' (as if this story-telling was NOT at the basis of our means to narrate and understand narration). Be that as it may, of much more interest to scholars of so-called high culture has been the cultural transmission of ancient Greek culture to Italy and from there all over Europe and the world.

I don't want to subscribe to the one-great-man theory of history here, but just occasionally you do come across individuals in this process who have a catalytic effect - which is not to say that others wouldn't or couldn't have done the same or similar; nor is it to deny or omit the fact that the wider picture of WHY such people did what they did, and WHY people were interested.

Anyway, preamble over: here's one such individual who, as a result of what he did (much of which can probably be described as plunder) we ended up looking at, for example, 'tragedy' (care of Shakespeare in particular) and how that structuring of the human condition (self-brought-on disaster permeating down through families and society) ends up in e.g. Zola, the Godfather, the Sopranos and, I suppose, ultimately the BeeGees….

Please note, I'm not telling the history of culture here as one in which there is a corridor of writers and scholars handing each other texts down through the centuries, and audiences just buying into this stuff because it's 'good' or 'great' or 'universal'. At each moment in the cultural transmission there have to be social, political and material reasons why a writer or scholar is assembling and reassembling such texts, and why audiences become (or do not become, in the decades of silence) interested in them.

Anyway, like I say, here's one such individual in the social mix I'm talking about:


Monday 13 July 2015

Who was a Communist?

My parents didn't tell us which of their friends and relations

were Communists and which weren't,

so we had to do it ourselves.

A group of teachers and their partners came over

from my father's school,

Len got out his guitar and they sang,

'I'm the man, the very fat man who waters the workers' beer'.

They must be Communists, I thought.

A group of teachers came over from my mother's school,

and a man called Wally told stories about an engraving firm

controlled by 'the masons', he said.

My dad was fascinated by Wally's stories and kept saying,

'Christ, would you believe it?!'

So I asked my mum if Wally was a Communist

and she said, 'Of course not, you mustn't ever say that.'

Then we went on a camp with the Hornsey Communists

and a woman spilt meths on her groundsheet

and it burst in to flame.

My dad said she was a bloody fool

so I reckoned that though she might have been a

Communist once

she wasn't one now.

We went camping with Fred and Lorna,

and when we sang 'I'm the man the very fat man

who waters the workers' beer' Lorna didn't join in

and said, 'Oh Fred, come on, there's no need to

sing that one,' so Lorna, I thought, was not very Communist.

Sometimes we went to see two families who

lived upstairs and downstairs in a house.

Upstairs was Francis the Armenian who was so Communist

quite often he wasn't there - he was working for peace

in Czechoslovakia. Peggy, his wife, though

was very Communist, I thought, because

she not only talked about peace, she talked about

peace-loving peoples.

My father said that she sounded like a bloody gramophone

record, but as we often used to listen to bloody gramophone

records of the Red Army, I didn't know why there

could be anything wrong with that.

Downstairs there was Roy who was the most miserable

man I have ever known. Even his hands was miserable.

He said that everything was bad. As my parents

said some things (but not everything) were bad as well,

it was possible, I thought,

Roy was more Communist than them.

Roy's wife, was sometimes ill and had to go to bed for

months. But when she came out of the bedroom

she was very smiley and seemed to say that

everything wasn't as bad as Roy said it was.

I wasn't sure if that meant she was more or less

Communist than Roy.

There was Moishe and Rene who weren't just

Communists they were almost my parents.

Moishe went to school with my father and

Rene went to school with my mother.

They had even camped together.

When they talked it was like they were

a moishe-rene-my mother-my father Communist camping club.

Then there were the relatives or 'meshpukkhe' as

my father called them.

My father's mother was so old and so Communist, she was the first

Communist. And her father they said, was a


My mother's mother, 'Bubbe', kept

chickens and said the woman who did the 'bag wash'

was trying to diddle her. My father said that she

wasn't a Communist, she just 'kvetshed' (complained)

but she made the best shmatena (a kind of yoghurt)

in London so maybe that made her some kind of

a Communist without knowing she was.

I asked my mother if 'Zeyde' (her father) was a

Communist and she said very angrily that he was

'some kind of Trotskyist'.

That sounded terrible. And yet he was so nice.

He took me to Hackney Downs where he

showed me to his friends who said, every time,

'Is that your Grandson, Frank?'

'Yes,' he said every time,

'He's a nice looking boy,' they said every time,

and went on talking in Yiddish.

As i didn't speak Yiddish I had no way of knowing

whether they were Trotskyists too.

In 1957, we went to Communist East Germany

and there was a row between everybody on the

delegation about whether Stalinallee (Stalin Alley)

looked like a public lavatory or not.

We saw the Carl Zeiss camera works,

Frederick the Great's house,

Goethe's house, Schiller's house, Bach's house,

Luther's castle, Buchenwald concentration camp

and Hitler's bunker.

When we got back, my parents stopped being


They called me and my brother in and said

that they didn't agree with the Communist Party

and democracy.

I had no idea what that meant. Not a clue.

The ones who were Communists went on being

Communists and now we weren't Communists.

Every so often Roy came over and said

everything was getting worse.

Odysseus sails to the Isle of Urop and meets the horde of greedy men in long grey pants

…and then Odysseus and his men sailed on and came to the Island of Urop where a horde of greedy men wearing long grey pants fell upon them. 'Ithaca is a ruin,' they shouted, 'and we must have it.'
Odysseus and his men said, 'Be that as it may, but let us sit down, talk and eat hummus.'
The horde of greedy men said that they eschewed (not chewed) hummus and preferred the red blooded meat of Ithacans.
'Never!' cried Odysseus but went on supping with the horde.

12 hours later, the horde of greedy men owned Ithaca and Odysseus said he would return thither and tell the people that their dignity was assured.
"It will be better in Hades,' muttered one of the sailors.
'Nay,'said another, 'I liked being one of Circe's pigs. I got to quite like the acorns she gave us.'
'Just as well,' said another, 'because that's what we'll be eating when we get back.'

[to be continued]

Friday 10 July 2015

Urgent message

Urgent message: the terrorism of George Osborne is a danger to you and your families. Not content with stealing your standard of living, he is now intent on dressing this up as being done on your behalf. This man and the evil organisation he fronts should be avoided at all costs. We recommend that you leave the country immediately. If not, get together with anyone you know who agrees with the sentiments expressed in this message and do what you can to remove Osborne and his organisation from power. In fact, forget that thing about leaving the country immediately, and instead allow yourself to dream a moment and imagine Osborne and his organisation packing their bags and leaving in much the same way as the last US troops packed their bags and jumped on a helicopter when they left Vietnam. Another world is possible.


I found myself thinking that money-lending made some sort of sense when things are productive. You lend me money, I do something or other that alters the value of something, I get richer and I pay you back more than you lent me. Then these moneylenders got the idea you could lend money to people who were lending money. Or you lent money so that people could gamble on more than their own productivity - like property that could or might go up in 'value' simply because of where it is. Or you could buy someone's debt and then sell it on for more than you spent on it….and the link to something being productive stretches longer and longer.

And when you live in a country like the UK that can issue its own currency and seems to have so many international links all this can seem distant and convoluted and not matter very much. But if you're in a country like Greece, it suddenly becomes stark and clear. Moneylenders lend to anyone they think can return the dosh with brass knobs on. And the speculation gets crazier and crazier until there comes a point that the people taking the loans are speculating more and more. And, though it appears as if it's all going on 'up there', suddenly the chain of moneylending turns on the people at the very end of the chain,people in flats, low-paid jobs, with tiny pensions, and suddenly they are the ones 'responsible' for paying the money back. The big boys turn on them and say, 'You owe the money'.

And they demand that the poor people's governments clamp down on the poor people and ensure that they can be sacked, that they work till they drop that their healthcare becomes more expensive that their wages are frozen that they pay more tax on the meagre earnings they have….

And the moneylenders go on and on and on and on lending money, to whichever outfit they can and this is all good, all fine and all part of what makes the system go on and on and the crises go on and on and on…

Dear Mr Tsipras, What are politicians for?

Dear Mr Tsipras,

What are politicians for? The majority of them are there to ensure that the ways in which the majority of people are exploited and oppressed carry on. And we despise them for it. Most of them use their opportunity to do this to personally enrich themselves until they die in a haze of over-consumption. You know all this.

Just occasionally, we are delighted when politicians emerge who not only remind us of how venal and disgusting these people are who prop up such an unequal unfair system, but who suggest ways in which this situation can be challenged or even overcome. It happens rather rarely and when it does, it is often difficult for such people to be heard through the din of voices telling us that exploitation and oppression make for a fair and just world. You know all this.

You and your party emerged at a time of great crisis for the Greek people. But when I say the 'Greek people', I don't mean the great moguls, bankers, and property owners - or the previous generations of politicians. I mean the Greek workers, small-time farmers and small-time shop-keepers who do the work to keep Greece going. I've only been to Greece twice but I've seen the people running fishing boats, tending olive groves, working the ferries, coming out of small-time factories, cleaning, cooking, washing, putting hummus and olives on my table as I sat out at night looking at the sea. These people are in crisis. You know all this.

And you know that it wasn't these people who borrowed the money. They got up, went to work and went to bed. And when they couldn't do this in the winter, they travelled to Athens or Italy or Britain or America or wherever to pick up some more work. These people didn't have the power or the clout to make the big deals that brought in money from Europe. These big deals are made in the money exchanges and stock exchanges and banks by the owners and controllers of big, big money. The people I'm talking about didn't have the power to do that. They trusted the politicians and the bankers and the rest to be doing the right thing…to make sure that the tourists like me came in and bought their meals and slept in the beds and bought the trinkets and that the people in Europe bought the olives and the olive oil. And for the vast mass of these people, doing this work has never made them rich. They've just gone on doing it. Yet up there in the banks and exchanges, a tiny, tiny minority of people did get rich and go on being rich and go on swanning round the world dodging taxes, buying properties, buying and selling money. You know all this.

And you told the world you know this. You won the confidence of the Greek people I'm talking about. They believed that you would find a way for them to not have to pay back the loans they didn't make. Somehow, you and your party would claw back some of the wealth sloshing around the richest families, somehow you and your party would find a way to tell those in power who want to claw back their losses from the poorest people, to go hang. Lending money is a risky business. Just tell them they lost. Tough. You know all this.

And last weekend, it looked like you pulled off one of the great moves of this kind of politics. You returned to the people and the people told the world that they wouldn't and couldn't take the rap for the rich people's risk-taking. We rejoiced. You know all this.

And yet today, we read that, far from returning to the people and using all your powers of invention and cunning to resist the power of bank notes, and electronic euro-clicking, you seem to have said, yes, the poorest people in Greece - the great majority of Greek people will pay. They will pay with their hands, their hearts, their bodies, their hours of work and extra work and extra extra work. And this mass of labour will produce bit by bit some kind of compensation (is it?) to the great bankers of Europe sitting in their mansions across the world. You know all this.

And you know that no matter what 'compensation' these banks receive, in truth, what they win is an affirmation of their own power. They strengthen their warnings and threats to the mass of people of Europe: don't you ever dare tip up the apple cart, don't you ever dare suggest that there can be any other way of organising your lives so that you benefit from the work you do. There is only one way: the way whereby you do the work, and we benefit the most. That is the order we live by and we order you to live by it. That was the message they wanted you, Mr Tsipras, to deliver. And surprisingly, shockingly, amazingly, it seems as if you have.

Why? What's the point? What has been the point of your life? Why have you spent the last five years, being a person who has said the opposite of what you have done today? What's it all been for? What is a socialist who makes it easier for capitalism to exploit and oppress people? What kind of socialist is that? But then, I fear, you know all this, you know all this, you know all this.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Teachers discuss comprehension


    Do the KS 1 or KS2 teachers here do any particular kind of work that is called 'comprehension' or work designed to 'improve comprehension'? Who planned it? Is it any good? Is any of it crap? Why is it crap? If it's good, why is it good? Does any of it go beyond 'retrieval' and 'inference'? If so how? Are you asked by senior staff to do things that you think don't work? Is there 'comprehension work' that the children specifically don't like/do like? Why? What do they say?
    Like · Comment · 
     · 825324
    • Glawen Phandaal Law · 5 mutual friends
      EWducational theory is a load of shite
    • Ruth Bennie · 2 mutual friends
      I prefer the radical idea of reading a book and talking about it....
      Like · Reply · 48 · July 2 at 9:33pm
    • Glawen Phandaal Law · 5 mutual friends
      Primary: teach em to read;teach em to write; teach em basic maths; don't let them leave until they can do it.
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 2 at 9:34pm · Edited
    • Ruth Bennie · 2 mutual friends
      Create memories. Make learning fun so they want to keep doing it.
      Like · Reply · 18 · July 2 at 9:37pm
    • Glawen Phandaal Law · 5 mutual friends
      The number of kids who come into secondary without 3 r's is ridiculous. The number who leave secondary in the same state is a shame on the nation.
      Like · Reply · 6 · July 2 at 9:39pm
    • Shirley Brooks · Friends with Alison Martin
      The Government make our Y2 children tick some boxes and write phrases about something they are given to read unseen (Not statutory, much!). Mostly, when left to our own devices, we find well written, interesting stories, poems and information books, read them, share them and talk about them. My Y2 class adore unpicking a good story.
      Like · Reply · 14 · July 2 at 9:40pm
    • Kate Jackson · Friends with Nick O'Brien and 1 other
      Yes, but I find that trying to collect evidence really inhibits good development of book talk and deeper discussion. I am an NQT though, so perhaps those super-powers are yet to develop. (KS1)
      Like · Reply · 15 · July 2 at 9:43pm
    • Glawen Phandaal Law · 5 mutual friends
      and still the few filter through without any 3 r's
      • Emma Lucey · Friends with Claire Melhado
        How much blame for that do you place on the parents rather than the school? I taught both my girls to read before they started primary, also basic writing, their address, money and numbers. I'm not a teacher but I've worked as a TA, in Early Years and family support. I would say that the kids leaving school without these basics are the victims of their upbringing rather than their schooling. It is a disgrace to the nation indeed but I don't think it's fair to place the blame on schools.
      • Maria Pye · Friends with Debbie Goldsmith and 1 other
        Not all parents have the ability or time to teach a child . If a child comes from a disadvantaged background , their access to learning at school is even more vital than ever !
      • Rob Smith Time? They should all have the time. It takes 15 minutes a day
      • Alexandra Moir · Friends with Becky Marks
        Far too much (blame/responsibility) is placed upon teachers and schools. Children need a supportive home to really thrive. It doesn't need to be a pushy home, just a supportive one...
      • Deborah Caulfield · 15 mutual friends
        And if the kids have the bad luck not to live in a supportive home, what then? Blame the parents and absolve the schools? Pathetic.
        Like · 17 hrs
      • Michael Rosen

        Write a reply...
    • Glawen Phandaal Law · 5 mutual friends
      Primary - I couldn't do it. I am in re-engagement.
    • PL Miller That would be me. One of my things. Shall I wax lyrical? (I will get the sack)
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 2 at 9:55pm · Edited
    • Rosie O'Kitty I find that lots of it is very prescriptive and not open to interpretation. It is a real shame because when it comes to marking these comprehensions, some children may see things in different ways and be able to justify their ideas using the text, however, if it's not in the mark scheme we are supposed to mark it as wrong. Which I think is wrong...
      Like · Reply · 24 · July 2 at 9:55pm
    • Josephine Walmsley · Friends with Tracy Hager
      I guess you could say all work that is based on a text is some sort of comprehension. Reading a real text, responding to it, being inspired by it and then writing yourself is all comprehension. 'Proper' comp though, answering usually written questions about a text has its place. But I write my own questions so that it is based on the books that I want to read the kids. The worst stuff is based on tiny extracts from real books that the kids haven't read, or may never read or even worse is based on 'pretend' texts. I find the kids like doing it if the text is interesting enough, if they are asked their opinion and if they can show their comprehension in different ways, by using pictures for example.
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 2 at 9:58pm · Edited
    • Janet Walton · Friends with Sam Ud-din
      Yes we do 'inference'. The children really like it. It's a simple intervention to follow and generates lots of discussion as well as highlighting much misconception.
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 2 at 9:56pm
    • Emma Davey · Friends with Claire Frawley and 1 other
      reciprocal reading is quite trendy at the mo and a good starting point to develop comprehension questioning and skills.
      Like · Reply · 5 · July 2 at 9:58pm
    • Tracy Hawdon · Friends with Andy Kershaw
      My year 2 class love 'role on the wall' and 'zone of relevance' activities but we base lots of our understanding of books in drama and practical reading activities. Making film clips to encourage someone to pick up a book. Creating their own reading corner/station. Making their own story sacks etc. Fun stuff, you know!
      Like · Reply · 6 · July 2 at 10:02pm · Edited
    • Helena Clare Cook · 3 mutual friends
      I do reciprocal reading with my class... It's great for getting children to read and discuss what they're reading...
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 2 at 10:07pm
    • Leigh Taylor · Friends with Lucy Worsley
      New curriculum and it's SPaG and planning, drafting, writing, editing sequence has squeezed regular reading comprehension off the timetable this year. Lit coordinator though has consulted with staff and found we believe it needs to be reinstated in some form. We have also tried it as part of guided reading time but poorer readers, for both decoding and comprehension skills, needed adult input to support meaningful learning. More able decoders appear to be independent, but often the quality of their understanding wasn't developing due to lack of discuss / exploration etc.
      In KS2, the difficulty we have ( even with a high achieving intake) is that fluency is very variable, so pitching the text with the right amount of challenge is a struggle. Tasks are predominantly old Af2 &3 type with occasional forays into word choice/ sentence structure. Af4-7 seem to be best explored through class text, which is used as vehicle for writing genre or when exploring other text types eg non fiction. Poetry is rarely explored - I wonder if it is because it isn't a major writing focus.
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 2 at 10:09pm
    • Helena Clare Cook · 3 mutual friends
      We also do straightforward'comprehension but only on books/poems/artwork that we've been reading/looking at them selves...
    • Leigh Taylor · Friends with Lucy Worsley
      What do you think about teaching similes? It only seems to appear as a terminology term in 2014 curriculum Y5 statutory programme.
    • Fiona Weir · Friends with Jo Haslam and 5 others
      Terry Buckley, you might be interested in this discussion. smile emoticon
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 2 at 10:11pm
    • Leigh Taylor · Friends with Lucy Worsley
      Some of our staff have just had Reciprocal Reading training and it seems we might use it as an intervention strategy. Has anyone any experience it with small groups or in some way with whole class?
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 2 at 10:14pm
    • Vicky Ayech · Friends with Andy Roberts
      Grandson, now just 9, has for the past 3 years had to read a book or part of one and write about it each week in a reading diary. At first it was just write anything about it but the last 2 years there have been questions each week like Who is your favourite character in the book? What questions would you like to ask them? Describe a scene in the book where someone is scared and say what words the writer uses to show it is scary. Some have been ones I've found quite difficult.
      Like · Reply · 2 · July 2 at 10:24pm
    • Rosie Joyce · Friends with Betty Hall
      I was intervention teacher for year 1 before going on Mat leave and I did comp sessions within my guided reading groups. We'd do guided reading one day, mainly focussing on phonological awareness and some basic comprehension/ discussion, then next day we would discuss yesterday's story, draw up basic story map from memory with key names/ words/ phrases and then re-read the story which would improve both comprehension and phonics and mainly confidence of the group. They could then add to story map at the end with more detail. I was working with those with low level reading skills and often short term memory issues so this kind of work was at the correct level. It would need to be extended for the more able readers.
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 2 at 10:24pm
    • Hazel Danson · Friends with Alan Gibbons and 27 others
      Phonics Test & SPAG have reduced the teaching of reading and writing to just doing the bits that are easy to test. I think primary teachers understand this is wrong but are increasingly squeezed for time and space and professional control to do what's right for the children we teach. What's the point of reading if you can't understand and comprehend and discuss and enjoy it. It's become mechanistic teaching and we are losing the confidence to do anything other than what we are told. Language is power and we need to give our pups the tools and imagination and confidence to use it to effect. Our current curriculum and hard core accountability system are taking that away
      Like · Reply · 22 · July 2 at 10:27pm
    • Morven Brown · Friends with Louise Young and 1 other
      Graham Holman - any thoughts?
    • Leigh Taylor · Friends with Lucy Worsley
      Thank you Eleanor, that's how we envisaged it working as whole class strategy. 
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 2 at 10:28pm
    • Dani Dub Dub · 3 mutual friends
      We have used New Reading & Thinking successfully in KS2 especially. The strength of it is that using fairly short texts, it succeeds in asking questions that go beyond the text, requiring inference, visual clues, and more than one possible answer. We also use Rapid Reading, but I have not had much personal experience of that.
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 2 at 10:30pm
    • Karen Bernard · Friends with Janet Hetherington
      Hazel I've been out of the classroom for 6 years having my boys and don't know what SPAG is unsure emoticon but your post there sums up everything I felt about Literacy teaching even before I went on maternity leave. I dread to think that it has got worse at the point where I'm now hoping to return to the classroom, even if only in a supporting role as a TA.
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 2 at 10:33pm
    • Zoe Zeero · Friends with Joe Duggan
      Funny enough we do loads around SATS time... Bores them
      And me to tears...
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 2 at 10:34pm
    • Zoe Zeero · Friends with Joe Duggan
      Yep Karen lots of spag and vcop now... Barely have time to do the actual lesson by the time all that's done! Spag= spelling punctuation and grammar. Vcop= vocabulary connectives openers punctuation. Boring...!!!
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 2 at 10:36pm · Edited
      • Karen Bernard · Friends with Janet Hetherington
        I may sound really old fashioned now but surely children learn those things more naturally if they are both spoken with and read to/ with? All this focus on making them jump through hoops for testing rather than making time for more quality interactions in the classroom seems insane to me and extremely depressing frown emoticon
      • Alexandra Moir · Friends with Becky Marks
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    • PL Miller I have been asked by Yr 2 coordinator, "Pls can you help these borderline chn get a level 3?" "They can read but not accurately enough and they can't do comprehension?" (Yes they can, says I) We have approx 8 - 10 sessions - extra to the normal day - before or after school. We start by reading books that are not cutting edge difficult but 'can we sum up what they are about in 3 sentences?' Great skill to pull out the gist of what this book is about. I model what I would say about a book / story. I believe in learning hard or new concepts using not too difficult content. (Hard concept - easy content. Hard content - easy concept) We work on reading accuracy - many children skim over some words they don't know / can't be bothered with, because they have been abandoned too soon to read by themselves, and if nobody is there to be interested and they can usually get the gist, why should they bother with every single word?)
      We learn to read syllable by syllable etc, not first syllable dribble waffle skim mumble. We work on working out what certain words mean from their context - fantastic skill. 
      We decide that it is not helpful to read certain words and not know what they mean? We treat the unknown as a puzzle, a game, and try to work out the answers. 
      And then we work on the SATs paper type questions (It amazes me that 7 yr olds call it a 'paper' - incredible) I work on the premise that if they have to jump through a hoop, I will help them get through that hoop. 
      We work on reading the text, reading the question and then reading the text again, pinpointing where is the answer to the question. Children will read and think the answer to a question must be in their heads - it is alien to them to search the text for the answer. 
      We work on "what do you think" and "explain why" questions - that the answers are not there so blatantly but they have to answer based on what they have read.
      We work on taking time to think / giving others time to think. We make overt that in a group, somebody might take a bit longer to think, but will probably know the answer just the same as somebody who can answer straightaway. We work on people noticing if they have made a mistake and fixing it themselves. We work on giving each other time and not jumping on somebody's error.
      This all sounds very mundane but we do our best to have fun and take the mick if necessary out of the texts and the process.
      Like · Reply · 12 · July 2 at 10:45pm
      • PL Miller Management don't tell me what to do. And we succeed.
      • PL Miller Children seem to enjoy? Small children enjoy because they know you; they do it for you, not necessarily because the work is intrinsically thrilling for them. I think this applies across the board? Little kids like Milwall because their adults like Millwall.
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    • Isabel Reid · Friends with Alex Grace
      Seems that if we just felt able to spend more time in class reading stories and talking about them we wouldn't need to be 'doing comprehension '...
      Like · Reply · 10 · July 2 at 11:59pm
    • Caitriona Ward · Friends with Jakki VB
      I am a reading recovery teacher and totally agree that comprehension teaching has been squeezed out of the curriculum . Parents want to know why their children children are not flying through the coloured book bands and the answer is usually comprehension. After a parental questionnaire which indicated parents wanted to know more I prepared a presentation on comprehension and nobody turned up!!
      I've spoken to the head about training the teachers in how to teach comprehension partly based on comprehension training I received on the Inferential comprehension course produced by Leicester County Council. 
      She is keen for this to happen.
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 3 at 12:03am
    • Isabel Reid · Friends with Alex Grace
      But yes, we do do comprehension, we buy schemes, we download things, we practice SATs questions and some kids like them and some help their understanding of what they read and some are a waste of paper and all are done to improve SATs scores and none increase children's enjoyment of reading...and at GCSE level my kids have found reading comprehension tests equally pointless and unconnected to books and reading!
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 3 at 12:06am · Edited
    • Emma Lucey · Friends with Claire Melhado
      When I was at primary school two things happened that profoundly affected my reading ability and love of books, words and stories. Our teacher had time to read to us every day in an exciting, expressive way and when we were ready to go up a level in reading books we had to go and read to our fantastic headteacher Mr Lamb. He'd let you have a sweet out of the jar and you could go and swap your book up. So motivating and inspiring. I'm glad I'm not a child now!
      Like · Reply · 4 · July 3 at 12:33am
    • Sarah Phoenix · 3 mutual friends
      My boy was tested using the York Reading Test for comprehension. Apparently, he missed a question on inference (where his answer differs slightly from the one given but was still valid) and subsequently he spent a term reading ORT books 4 levels below what he had been reading previously and bored silly. At home he reads every night and we look at all sorts from his mini encyclopedia to the Usborne rewriting of King Arthur. He loves reading and stories but this was a huge setback for him because of a comprehension test.
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 3 at 12:40am
    • Jennie Jones · Friends with Sara Tomlinson and 3 others
      We do some official paper sheets for comprehension practice as we are year 2. The much more fun stuff happens in guided reading where the children read their chapter then write their own questions for a partner to answer. They like to make these very difficult and particularly enjoy making multiple choice questions! Thy also enojy the challenge of working as a group to make a question for me to answer.
      Like · Reply · 2 · July 3 at 6:42am
    • Judith Kahn · Friends with Amanda Smith and 1 other
      Lizi Patch - I think you have some trenchant observations about this
    • PL Miller We also draw scenes that have been described - learning to visualise what we are reading; get a picture in our heads of what is going on; talk about what the author is trying to do to us; make up questions for others to answer; read aloud 'as if we are putting on a show'. I have also watched films with children, discussing and analysing what is being shown, how and why, and predicting what might happen next - what is the director trying to do to us, what are we supposed to be thinking, feeling, what are we supposed to know from this scene, how do we know that's the baddie etc? Working with books is similar. Some children don't cotton on that we can 'do things with our minds' and not just react to externals. Some children need to have it made overt that they can switch on and direct their thinking onto stuff that might be challenging. Some children need to have it made overt that they are 'just as clever as so and so, but this is what so and so does...' I have seen this make a big difference to certain children, overnight. Marie Clay, who studied what 'good readers' do, not just what 'poor readers' lack, talks about what children are attending to and asks us to keep working out how to get them attending to what will be most useful to them at this time, getting the children to learn that they can decide what to attend to and be flexible i.e. not over-reliant on rote formulae and linear schemes.
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 3 at 8:29am
    • Dave Harry We base our stuff within the Talk for Writing model - lots of book talk, role play, empathy, reading as a reader and then as a writer, etc. The children are totally immersed in the world, language and 'talk' of stories and texts. We always gauge initial responses, thoughts and feelings before moving into any kind of analysis. Alongside this we run guided reading workshops focusing on specific texts, drawing out certain techniques and tools that will help us understand and interpret (individually/collectively) a text. This philosophy/approach runs throughout the school but it also encourages individual creativity and spontaneity. It's fun and helps raise standards! As necessary, we then nod to the ever changing goalposts but without losing our soul or integrity! 

      We try as much as possible to set our course by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship. Gove, Morgan, tweaked systems wrapped up in political rhetoric, etc are the passing ships (we do wish they'd pass through quicker however...) 

      This approach provides as much security as possible for the teachers, TAs and children.
      Like · Reply · 11 · July 3 at 8:46am
    • Karen Parkin · Friends with Kevin Courtney and 2 others
      Our education system is now almost entirely based upon short term targets and easy to measure outcomes. Any child not meeting their (our) 'goals' is deemed to be 'lower ability ' 'failing' or having SEND. Labels which stay with them for life. The long term view of a child's education doesn't matter because voters might not attribute any successes to the Govt currently running the schools. And no, privatisation is not the answer. 
      If only we had thousands of educated, inspiring, dedicated, caring, experienced professionals to nurture, teach and invest in a long term vision for our children....
      Like · Reply · 3 · July 3 at 8:59am · Edited
    • Michael Rosen Does anyone use this? What do they think of it?http://readingformeaning.co.uk

      This research project makes explicit links between theory and practice, and evaluates three approaches to...
      • Nina Curran · Friends with Alison Wilde
        I heard about this last week at the Hull L.A English meeting and I intend to research it further. Sorry but just on way out.
      • Alice Tuckett · Friends with Polly Tuckett and 1 other
        It looks really interesting. I try to develop children's comprehension through whole class studies, guided reading, individual reading and comprehension style questioning. I've found that in KS2 children are increasingly left to read on their own and the discussion that they would get if reading with an adult leaves a gap between their decoding and comprehension abilities
      • Michael Rosen

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    • Rob Smith We use lots of film and images to supplement reading, children enjoy the visual aspect and it makes them more confident when using the skills with text
      Like · Reply · 2 · July 3 at 11:20am
    • Rob Smith This is my guided reading blog - it worked effectively and had impact. If I went back in time I would change some of it but it's a good starting point http://www.literacyshedblog.com/.../guided-reading-just...
    • Tony Dowling 'Reading recovery teacher'!? Pft!
    • Rob Smith Here is Mrs P's blog about whole class reading sessionshttp://www.mrspteach.com/.../the-problems-with-guided...

      I no longer teach in the UK but was fascinated by this...
    • PL Miller I am not the oracle, but: I saw research somewhere that showed any scheme will work if it is done properly, consistently - (the current phonics regime had not been started then!). 'Properly' includes training, ongoing top up training and evaluating practice, as well as delivery. Teacher training does not include 'How to teach children to read. From scratch to fluency, including 'comprehension'.' It pretends it does but it doesn't. Lots of local authorities and schools and teachers developed best practice which has mainly been discarded and replaced by tick box-able lists of items of knowledge. The DfE pretends that phonics is the way to teach reading - they know it isn't. They need to stop telling lies. They need to stop forcing others to lie about what reading really is. We need every primary school teacher and manager to be an expert in the teaching of reading and for schools to be resourced accordingly with appropriate books.
    • Emiko Daly · Friends with Jasey Ò Dàlaigh
      I am Japanese and I didn't learn phonics but I can still read most of the words I don't know. I just learned how to pronounce words and it works. Anyway there are lots of words you can't read with phonics rules.
      By the way, "Teacher training does not i
      nclude 'How to teach children to read. From scratch to fluency, including 'comprehension'? So it wasn't my imagination... Also teaching 'how to write' wasn't that good I think...
    • Lorraine Tovey Cooke Reciprocal teaching methods. Lots of discussion, clarification, prediction. A very interesting way of teaching compression. The unexpected often pops up
      Like · Reply · 1 · July 3 at 8:54pm
    • Lindsey Oakman · Friends with Ginny Dougary
      I find the best way to teach comprehension is to read to them (range of genres e.g. we just read Terry Jones and now doing Louis Sachar) and discuss as we go along, modelling thought process and guiding them through 'wondering about' stuff... but since I can't then evidence their learning, I can appreciate why the extract / worksheet approach is so widely used. That's why I'm off out of it!
    • Jennie Evans · Friends with Debbie O'Brien
      We do daily guided reading throughout the school from year 1-6, sessions being around 20 mins long. In year 1 we look at all sorts of things from answering direct retrieval questions (and inference for more able) to text features, opinions about the book to predictions, characters motivations to using context to try and identify the meanings of unfamiliar words. It does seem to help and a lot of my children make accelerated progress in reading although not sure it would work so well on it's own without having such supportive parents who, on the whole, do read daily with their children.
    • Michael Rosen

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