Literacy: A Parents’ Guide
What is Literacy?
Literacy covers the three keys aspects of: reading, writing; speaking and listening. Mastering these skills is not only essential for life, but will also ensure the full curriculum can be accessed. They are important for success in all subjects, not just in English.
How is Literacy promoted at Wilsthorpe?
- A cross-curricular approach with regular staff training
- Support and resources in lessons
- A ‘Word of the Week’
- Fortnightly Grammar and Library lessons at KS3
- Explicit vocabulary teaching: ‘Word Power’
- Intervention and Enhancement Lessons
- Buddy Reading Programme
- Reading and writing challenges and competitions
- Extensive student library with texts suitable for all
- ‘Drop Everything and Read’ sessions throughout the year
- Participation in World Book Day and National Poetry Day
- ‘Read for Good’ sponsored reading programme
- Extra-curricular activities such as: BBC Young Reporter and the School Newspaper; Drama Club, School productions, Book Club, Debate Club.
How can parents support their child’s literacy?
The most important thing that parents can do is talk to their child about their literacy and encourage them to read regularly – for a minimum of 15 minutes every night.
Reading for pleasure is vital for improving your child’s literacy.
Each pupil has their reading ability tested each year, which produces a reading age. This information is used by staff to check for improvements and provide support and challenge where necessary.
Regular reading is proven to:
- Improve vocabulary, spelling, writing and speaking skills.
- Develop imagination.
- Create empathy towards others and develop critical thinking skills.
- Improve mental health.
- Increase confidence.
- Improve your child’s chances of getting better grades in all subjects.
- Improve career prospects in later life.
- Be fun and enjoyable!
Establishing routines around reading can be helpful. For example: insist reading is completed before rewarding with screen time. An alternative could be to ensure reading is done in bed before sleep: this is much healthier than looking at a screen just before sleep and will also improve sleep quality. You could start by getting your child to read out loud to you before leaving them to read independently. Ask them questions on what they have been reading to encourage them and check comprehension. Being read to or listening to a story via audiobook is still beneficial.
At KS3, the Knowledge Organiser includes a Reading Log to fill out. These are checked once a fortnight in Library lessons. Please ensure your child has read and sign the log to confirm they have done so.
Fun activities completed during the reading of a text can increase understanding and engagement for your child, as well as improve their writing skills. Try one from this list: 81 Novel Activity Ideas.
It is important that your child is reading a suitable book. At KS3, the fortnightly Library Lesson is an opportunity for pupils to get advice from a Librarian and English teacher and recommendations from peers. We expect all of our pupils to have a reading book in their bag at all times.
What to Read
Each pupil receives a ‘Reading Challenge’ bookmark at the start of each year, to provide guidance on what to read and ensure enough range and challenge. You can view the bookmarks and guidance here:
Not finding the ‘right book’ can be a barrier to reading, however, it is not an excuse – there are millions of books out there!
The internet is a fantastic resource for discovering new reads. For example, Books for Keeps is an online children’s book magazine which is full of recommendations.
Our own Library recommended reading lists:
Classic Literature and Young Adult Fiction (aimed at stronger and more mature readers) are clearly labelled in the Library.
Our Library is always well-stocked and so it is not necessary for parents to purchase reading books. However, if you wish to we ask you to do so through the Scholastic Book Shop as the school receives rewards to buy new books. There is free delivery if you choose to have the books delivered to school.
We also welcome any donations of good quality used books suitable for teenagers and young adults.
Writing and Speaking
Encourage your child to write for pleasure: a diary entry, a story, letters to family, an opinion piece – fiction or non-fiction - anything goes!
Planning: encourage your child to plan before attempting an extended piece of writing.
Proofread: Teachers at Wilsthorpe encourage pupils to check their written work before they see it as ‘finished’. Encourage your child to check for full stops, capital letters and spelling mistakes as the very basics.
Read aloud to punctuate: Get your child to read out their completed work and they should hopefully hear where the punctuation should go. If not, try reading it to them with the correct pauses for punctuation (rather than simply telling them where the punctuation goes).
At KS3, the Knowledge Organiser contains spellings to be learnt, which will be tested fortnightly in Grammar lessons. Encourage your child to use the ‘look, cover, write, check’ method to help them to learn these.
Discuss the ‘Word of the Week’ with your child: these are on Twitter and will be written in your child’s journal.
Make your fridge a word wall: Using magnetic fridge letters, you could create vocabulary lists (such as alternative words for ‘good’) or put up commonly-misspelled words on the fridge door! A variation on this is to put up words that are incorrect and ask them to spot the mistakes.
Encourage your child to engage in face-to-face conversation with others where appropriate: i.e. with the cashier when shopping.
Ask your child to read some of their reading book or writing work out loud. Encourage them to speak fluently and clearly, in Standard English, and to vary the intonation and pace of their speech. Using eye contact, open body language and gesture is also important.
Online Learning and Literacy Leaders
The Literacy folder in the Student Shared Google Drive is full of resources and activities that your child can access and complete at home.
To access, your child needs to:
Go to Google Drive (drive.google.com) and login using their school details (email and password).
Once logged in, go to Shared Drives > Student Shared Drive > Literacy.
Part of the ‘Wilsthorpe Leadership Academy’, the Literacy Leaders are a group of pupils who aim to promote literacy across the school. They have won the ‘Wilsthorpe Inspire Award’ for several years running, in recognition of their work. They support Miss Meller (Head of Literacy) with her projects, but also establish and run their own initiatives. They work with younger and primary school pupils and regularly teach lessons.
The Literacy Leaders meet with Miss Meller in Room 102 during Monday lunchtimes. New members of any age and ability are welcome.
See the Literacy Leaders’ advertisement here.
Download an application form here.
Literacy at KS4 & KS5
Literacy at GCSE
All of the above is important and relevant to GCSE study. However, it is important to note that many GCSE exams, not just English, award marks for SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar). For success at GCSE, it is essential that pupils can read and understand exam questions and communicate clearly in their writing, often under time pressure.
To maximise success at GCSE, encourage your child to:
- Keep reading for pleasure
- Practice timed exam responses
- Plan any extended responses in exams
- Proofread their writing in exams
- Break down and highlight key words in exam questions to aid understanding
- Revise connectives – these can ensure extended answers are logically structured and developed
- Ensure your child is confident with exam command words and the words on the Academic Word List – many of which often appear in GCSE exam questions. Encourage them to complete a Word Study for words they don’t know.
In English, pupils will have to deliver a spoken presentation to their class, which is filmed and assessed for their GCSE Spoken Language grade.
In Year 10, pupils will complete a one-week Work Experience placement. In Year 11, pupils will have to attend interviews when applying for Post-16 places.
Confident speaking skills are essential for success in all of these; encourage your child to prepare and practice for their assessment and interviews.
Literacy at Sixth Form
Strong literacy skills are essential for pupils to meet the demands of Post-16 study and all of the above is relevant our Sixth Form pupils.
A special Sixth Form Reading Area has been established in the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) which contains specific recommendations about wider reading for each subject.
As the majority of our Sixth Form students aim to attend university, wider reading really helps university applicants stand out in their personal statements and at interview.