Primary Literacy – Fresh Ideas for English

APP encourages us to set up creative situations for children to be able to demonstrate their learning through innovation. This can often be difficult within the confines of the curriculum but by making use of changing technologies and fresh opportunities the English curriculum can be delivered in a very creative way.

In my class, English used to be met with groans, especially from the boys who saw it as a chore, but with a little research and thought, my school managed to get those same boys champing at the bit for their English lessons.

One of the real bugbears used to be comprehension – a piece of text, ten or more questions, sit there, read it, then answer in full sentences. It was over simple for all but the ones who struggled. The answers for the questions were sequential in the text so the child didn’t need an understanding of the whole text to be able to answer. They might have provided the answers but they were little more than cut and paste exercises, especially when we tell the children that the words and spellings they need are in the questions and the text. There’s then the huge leap when we expect them to answer questions where the information is inferred.

Likewise with story writing. How much of the written material a child encounters is presented in the style we expect them to produce? We ask for paragraphs, speech marks etc, without realising that these are rarely encountered in today’s world unless a child is reading a reasonably challenging book. Even then they are not likely to have taken note of them as they read.

It’s often said that for children to engage in lessons it’s important that they are fun. Poorly informed critics scoff, saying

‘How can a child be learning if all they’re doing is playing games. They might be enjoying it but are they learning?’

I think that the concept of ‘making lessons fun’ is a rather superficial one. What is needed is a closer look at why they’re fun and it’s not too difficult to see that the reason is because they are relevant to the child’s out of school activities they enjoy.
Few children would go home to their parents and tell them they are going to settle down and write a story or do some comprehension. No, if anything they’ll be in front of the TV, playing mock battles, kicking a ball around, playing with their toys or on computer games.

So if we can make their school experiences like their home ones but with the learning still in focus, we will carry them with us more easily.

I’ve put together some of the ideas I’ve used with my class to help them feel more appreciative of English and hope that you find them helpful too.

Dave Lewis, Primary teacher

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