‘Shady characters’ or ‘inky fools’? The proof is in the pudding!

Was it a group of ‘shady characters’ or ‘inky fools’ that met last Friday to discuss approaches to literacy? If we’re teaching literacy by stealth as recommended by @rspear_1 then we might fall into the category of ‘shady characters’! But, although Mark Forsyth’s ‘The Etymologicon’ and ‘The Horologicon’ were on the menu, I’m pretty sure that our hands were clean and not ink stained as we sat down to lunch. Not ‘inky fools’ then after all! If you’re uncertain as to the references here then you might like to look at the following:




These texts informed some lively discussion during the session and they are excellent reads for everyone. Try asking @SimaDavarian about one of her favourite words.

As a group of teachers we were certainly delighted with the opportunity to talk about language and this is how we want our students to feel too. We want our students to be excited about what they see, hear, say and write. One of the key areas that we explored in the session was vocabulary building and some ideas as to how to build vocabulary are included below.

· Using nine letter word grids or word wheels

Introduce topics with nine letter word grids by inviting students to try and find the nine letter word in addition to making as many other three letter words or more that they can find. Use a scoring system that rewards longer words that are spelt accurately.



You might also ask students to write a definition of the word.



Use two nine letter word grids and invite students to find the connection or the link between the words.


(suspicious) + (detective)

· Topic specific vocabulary and key words

Make key words visually interesting by using http://www.wordfoto.com

· Up-skilling

Challenge students to change simple language into more sophisticated language. Try asking students to up-skill lesson aims and objectives or songs!

In pairs see if you can upgrade the language of the following:

Show me the way to go home

I’m tired and I wanna go to bed

I took a little drink about an hour ago

And it’s gone right to my head

Where ever I may roam

On land or sea or foam

You will always hear me singing this song

Show me the way to go home

· PAF (Purpose, Audience and Form)

Provide a different audience for writing tasks. How would students write if they were writing for the prime minister/president, a company director, a newspaper editor etc.?

How about linking up-skilling with writing for different audiences?

In order to develop thinking skills and to promote oracy invite students to identify the odd one out from lists such as the ones below.

· Odd one out

What’s the odd one out between…

  1. a car, a baby and a fridge?
  2. a cello, a saxophone and a trumpet?
  3. Einstein, Pasteur and Stephen Hawkins?
  4. subtraction, division and addition?
  5. Russia, Canada and UK?
  6. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Fleance?
  7. mass, weight and density?
  8. hydrochloric, sulphuric and acetic acid?

Thanks go to @PhilBeadle for sharing the ideas on up-skilling, Purpose Audience Form and Odd One Out at an outstanding literacy teaching course that I attended some time ago.

How well do these strategies work? Well, the proof is in the pudding, so go ahead and try them out!

Clare McConnell @DHSBEnglish

Head of English


I ♥ Google Mail!

As part of a regular feature our resident ‘Google Guru’ Andy Guy @DHSBAndyGuy will be posting out tips and treats related to all things Google.

This post is all about Gmail:

Do you have problems trying to find the right email? Then watch this quick video

Have you tried…

GMail’s Keyboard Shortcuts? Just press ? when looking at
your inbox to see the shortcuts available.

Google Edu-Training

The Google Edu-Training site provides lots of support for using Google Apps in Education. The site has recently moved & can now be found here: http://www.google.com/edu/training/

Can a library improve literacy?


We are in the process of reviewing the way that we use our library.

How can we shape a space, physical and virtual, to stimulate and grow our reading culture?

How do we provide a space that both supports digital learning and provides respite from it?

How can the high-profile one-off events of book days, reading weeks and author visits be supported by this space?

How do we move from an information economy to a knowledge economy? Or is this a leading question?!

Check out our two recent blog posts from Kieran Earley @Kieran_Earley:



What are your thoughts and ideas? Do you have an example of a library that is making an positive impact in your school? Please leave a comment