Literacy Across the Curriculum

I invite you to think back to your own time in primary school. If you had a similar experience to me, then you will remember certain subjects, lessons and teachers, in particular those who inspired and ignited a burning love of learning. I remember most vividly the teachers who shared their own interests and passion for learning and the lessons that involved real and purposeful learning to which I could relate.

By Sarah Dean on 08 Nov 2019

Through story we learn how to be brave, how to be ourselves.” Katherine Rundell.

A few short weeks ago, the focus of this year’s One Education Literacy Conference, ‘Literacy through the Curriculum’, prompted memories of my school days, what they mean to me still and how these simple experiences have been so important in moulding who I am today: as a teacher, a learner and my character.

I invite you to think back to your own time in primary school....

If you had a similar experience to me, then you will remember certain subjects, lessons and teachers, in particular those who inspired and ignited a burning love of learning. I remember most vividly the teachers who shared their own interests and passion for learning and the lessons that involved real and purposeful learning to which I could relate.

One of the many highlights of this year’s conference were the keynote speakers, each of whom brought a different career path, different experiences and a wealth of expertise to everyone privileged to hear them.

Karl Duke :

Our first keynote speaker, Karl Duke, an inspirational head teacher at Blyton cum Laughton Church of England School, shared his passion for books and explained how experiences in his early days at the school prompted a new direction for their curriculum. He shared how he has developed a reading-inspired curriculum and ensured an exposure to quality picture books and novels at the primary level. The curriculum is based on Christian values and attitudes and carefully chosen, high quality texts that, in conjunction with learning designed to link concepts, enable pupils to reach their full potential. Below is an example of the Year 1 long term plan of core texts used throughout the year to inspire learning.

At Karl’s school, books are used as the ‘glue’ within the curriculum. Karl understands that, to create a ‘reading school’, he must ‘trickle down’ his love for reading through teachers, staff and parents. Calling himself a ‘Headteacher Reader’, he realised that to imbue his passion for reading he would need to be recognised as the ‘head reader’, to be seen reading, talking about books and sharing books with staff, children and parents. He expressed the excitement of mapping out diverse learning strands within a book with his teachers in preparation for a term’s learning, and also expressed his pride in his PSHE curriculum taught through high-quality picture books for all children to access and explore.

Why not follow @KarlDuke8 to find out more about his fantastic school, his excellent work on #detaildetectives or for a great picture book recommendation.

Rob Carpenter:

With many schools currently in the design phase of their curriculum, it was fascinating to hear Rob Carpenter, CEO of Inspire Partnership, share his journey creating a curriculum providing an education for global citizenship. His schools provide an education that equips their pupils with the knowledge, skills and values required to embrace the opportunities and challenges they encounter; creating a future that they want to live in. Learning is brought to life in a modern context that connects with children’s lives - who they are, how they fit into the world and how they can contribute.

His powerful and inspirational speech demonstrated how, by exploring these ideas and teaching to the specific needs and backgrounds of pupils, the schools within Inspire Partnership have been able to develop reasoning, critical thinking and language across a broad range of subjects, contributing greatly to the success of their pupils.

Ofsted state that a curriculum should prepare learners for life in modern Britain, equipping them to be responsible, respectful, active citizens who contribute positively to society. Many schools, including those within the Inspire Partnership, are adopting key values and attitudes, such as Oxfam’s Global Citizen values below, on which to base their curriculum:

Other schools are using Christian values, or ‘Rights Respecting’ values and attitudes as drivers for their curriculum. Whatever curriculum a school chooses, it needs to be relevant to the pupils and school context.

Wanting more information about Inspire Partnership and their inspirational curriculum? Follow @carpenter_rob where you can gain a further insight. You can also read about the importance of a broad curriculum in his book A Manifesto for Excellence. Check out Rob’s website for a range of documents that he has kindly made available to help and inspire curriculum choices.

Vashti Hardy:

The final keynote speaker was the wonderful Vashti Hardy, author of the amazing books Brightstorm, Wildspark and her latest book Dark Whispers. Vashti explored the ‘Limitless Power of Story’ by using her own novels as examples and also by referencing explorers, adventurers and inventors.

Sharing her own early experiences, Vashti recalled the influence of her teachers. Reading, she said, had the ability to change worlds and how one book in particular had inspired her to become an author. Her inspirational speech described books as portals to other worlds, providing safe spaces for children to explore, but not only the fantasy worlds Vashti has created. Through the plots and characters, it also allows them to explore themselves as individuals, to examine their own beliefs and understanding.

Her books are magical and captivating, developing children’s imaginations through ‘visiting’ and envisioning the different locations. Vashti describes children’s imaginations as their ‘superpowers’ with which they can create any world, populated by whoever they want and where anything can happen. Vashti discussed how forming extended links to a story can raise aspirations, not only in Literacy but in lifelong learning, achievement and fulfilment. We must develop a love for reading within our pupils and encourage them to read for pleasure, providing access to a range of different worlds and characters who will inspire and motivate them.

Finally, follow @vashti_hardy on Twitter where she has retweeted a huge collection of schools reporting amazing outcomes and ideas from her books. Look for inspiration on how to use her novels to explore adventure and fantasy in your classroom.

For ideas on how to use Brightstorm as a hook into learning across the curriculum and to see how schools have utilised this incredible book, check out Vashti Hardy’s website.

The Importance of Literacy Across the Curriculum:

We know that Literacy is fundamental to all areas of learning, as it unlocks access to the wider curriculum. A literate individual is granted greater life opportunities and the foundation for lifelong learning and employment, which strongly contributes to the development of all aspects of social and academic life. In 2018, Ofsted said that it was hard to overstate the importance of early literacy, as reading is the gateway to almost every other subject and to children discovering their own unique interests and talents.

With this in mind, and remembering that Ofsted’s focus is now the quality of learning, the ‘what and how’ of learning, schools must ask themselves: What does their curriculum offer the pupils?

They must clearly identify what their children need to learn and provide a diverse range of reading and experiences in order to build a robust vocabulary and ‘unlock the door’ to their curriculum.

Everything has a story. The wider curriculum is made up of stories. History consists of life stories, Geography is the story of people and places. Science is the story of what and how, RE the story of belief and culture (@WatsEd). Children not only need to be able to read and comprehend information, they also need to form opinions and questions orally about what they read. We must help them by providing diverse and informative texts, introducing different writing styles and opinions.

Competence and confidence in literacy, includes competence in grammar, spelling and the spoken word, which are all essentials for progress across the whole curriculum (Curriculum for Excellence, 2017). All teachers have a responsibility for promoting language and literacy development across all subjects within a well-designed curriculum. They must encourage young people to explain their thinking, debate their ideas and read and write at a level which will help them to develop all their skills, values and attitudes. This requires careful consideration and sequencing of learning to ensure children are provided with the opportunities to develop these skills and apply them to a wide range of situations.

Opportunities must exist to further explore topics within various fictional and non-fictional texts, which will in turn provide further knowledge, vocabulary and ideas to apply in their own writing. In this way they confirm and demonstrate their understanding. There now exists a plethora of non-fictional books in which the focus has changed over recent years, with an increasing crossover between fiction and non-fiction. The result of this union is narrative non-fiction and fiction that is grounded in fact. We often consider informative books as completely factual, but this is not necessarily true. How we interpret non-fiction, information and facts is affected by our personal experiences and how we see the world. The writer may view a topic differently to us, maybe a bias creating a focus on certain issues. Studying non-fiction is a great way for children to develop their critical literacy.

An Example Scheme of Work:

To see how Literacy in general can support subject learning, download this free resource - an example scheme of work centered on global citizenship values – ‘Protecting the World from Plastic Pollution’ based on the core text Plastic Sucks by Dougie Poynter.

The unit explores current issues caused by plastic pollution and climate change through speaking and listening activities, such as debates and campaigns. It provides opportunities to develop subject knowledge using maths in the examination of statistics on plastic pollution and further reading about plastic banks. Study the science and history of plastic through supplementary non-fictional texts such as What a Waste by Jess French, Plastic, Past, Present and Future by Eun-ju Kim and, of course, develop pupils’ opinions and views on the topic by watching environmentalist David Attenborough’s Blue Planet.

Children can then apply what they have learnt by writing and producing their own texts to inform parents of the impact plastic pollution on marine animals. Or they can write letters from marine animals to persuade humans to recycle, reuse and reduce plastic to reduce the amount of pollution in the ocean.

We will be looking in more detail at how you can introduce values into your Literacy curriculum at our first Y2 and Y6 network meetings on 20th November 2019. Find out more or book a place:

Download all the free resources in this blog

With thanks to...

Yet again, inspirational key note speakers, fantastic workshop hosts and exhibitors all contributed to making this year’s conference another resounding success and we thank you all.

Thanks also go to the likes of @Petersbooks and @StorytimeMag for exhibiting a fantastic range of reading content and hosts such as @MissSMerrill and @kathleenvoice21 for their workshops on reading and writing through art and the importance of oracy throughout the curriculum.

Year 2 and Year 6 Network Meetings:

Join us on Wednesday 20th November 2019 where we will be hosting our first network event of the year for Year 2 and Year 6 teachers to gain valuable insight from experienced school leaders, Manchester Moderators and DfE curriculum advisors.

The network will take place once a term and will ensure teachers are up to date with current DfE recommendations whilst gaining knowledge and skills on invaluable, practical ideas to adapt within the classroom.

There will be a focus on:

  • DfE and National updates
  • Latest research and how to effectively apply it
  • Supporting and improving standards
  • Embedding English across the curriculum
  • Developing knowledge and skills
  • Practical ideas to teach Reading, Writing and GPS effectively
  • Sharing good practice
  • Network opportunities

The other two Network Meetings will take place on Thursday 23rd January 2020 and Thursday 21st May 2020. All Year 2 meetings take place from 9am-12pm and Year 6 from 1pm-4pm. To find out more or to book a place here.

Please get in touch or visit this page for more information.

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