Janet and bloody John! When I was about 7, my primary school teacher told my parents that I would probably never learn to read. Apparently, the suspicion was that I might be mentally subnormal. My mother wasn't having any of that. Although she had no experience of teaching reading, she took me out of school, borrowed a set of the Janet and John reading scheme and set about teaching me to read. We spent several hours a day ploughing through the mind numbingly tedious 'adventures' of the flaxen-haired tykes. God I hated them Some weeks later she took me [...]
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In the latest edition of the British Psychological Society's Research Digest, Bradley Busch writes about a new study which compared the effects on memory of reading in silence to those of reading out loud. Noah Forrin and Colin MacLeod's paper, This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself, explores what's been termed the 'production effect' - a neat name for the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. The speculation is that the effort of saying something out loud appears to make information more cognitively 'sticky', creating stronger schematic connections in long-term memory. This advantage appears [...]
Following on from a recent post on the folly of forcing children to read along as they are being read to, I presented my thoughts on reading fluency and the problems with 'reading along' at researchED's English & MFL conference in the stunning surroundings of Oxford University's Examination Rooms. For those who might be interested, here are the slides I used. The importance of reading fluency from David Didau
It has become an unwritten law of teaching that when reading aloud to students, the teacher must ensure students are reading along in their own copy of the text. This is, I contend, a bad idea. To understand why we need to consider working memory in some detail. It's well-known that the capacity of working memory is strictly limited - estimates range from anywhere between 4 to 9 items at any one time - but it's less well-known that working memory is almost certainly not a single edifice. Baddeley and Hitch's widely accepted working memory model contains four distinct components. The central [...]
About 20 years ago, I read Tolstoy's uber-novel, War and Peace. The perfect set of conditions all came together: I'd just been sent a copy of the book by a friend who was keen that I read it, I was in my third year of an English literature degree and fairly convinced of the benefits of reading improving books, and I was ill and was living in a world where home internet access wasn't really a thing - at least not for students - and so I had little to distract me. I devoured it in about 2 weeks. Although long and [...]
In my last post I wrote about sociologist, Frank Furedi's views on reading and whether we do a good job of fostering a love of reading in young people. In this post I want to explore his view that reading has become 'medicalised'. Is reading unnatural? The other startling point to come out of Frank's talk at researchED was when he said that although he begun his research into reading as a confirmed advocate of phonics, as the deeper he delved the more sympathetic he became to whole-language teaching. Cue, sharply drawn breaths and restless muttering. When prodded he seemed to suggest that, despite [...]
This sounds like a really obvious question but, after listening to Frank Furedi at researchED on Saturday and subsequently reading his book, The Power of Reading: from Socrates to Twitter, I've realised it isn't something I've given much thought. At one point during his lecture Frank said that few of the people interested in the teaching of reading actually value passing on a love of reading. My initial reaction was to reject this. I asked a question afterwards to challenge this view and his response was to ask why so few young people - especially boys - value reading if we actually value passing on [...]
Reading's a funny old business. Generally, secondary school teachers expect kids to come with a pre-loaded reading module. If they have it, all well and good. If they don't, we're stuffed. Luckily, the vast majority of students can read by the start of Year 7, even if they say they can't. But being able to read and being able to access the kind of material required to be academically successful are not at all the same thing. When I started teaching I knew next to nothing about reading, and I was meant to be an English teacher! Because it was something I [...]
The following is a guest blog from Dr Chris Wheadon of No More Marking. The reformed GCSEs in English present new challenges for pupils in critical reading and comprehension. Teachers across the country - and pupils - are studying mark schemes and trying to interpret what they mean and how they may relate to standards. No More Marking, working with David Didau and a group of 11 schools took a different approach. David created some stimulus material for pupils in Year 10 in line with the reformed GCSE English questions. Pupils were given an unseen text and then asked to write [...]
Education is a technology that tries to make up for what the human mind is innately bad at. Children don’t have to go to school to learn how to walk, talk, recognize objects, or remember the personalities of their friends, even though these tasks are much harder than reading, adding, or remembering dates in history. They do have to go to school to learn written language, arithmetic, and science, because those bodies of knowledge and skill were invented too recently for any species-wide knack for them to have evolved. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: the modern denial of human nature I've visited [...]