I’ve railed against the National Literacy Strategy from the start. Creativity went out of the window when it came in and everyone slavishly followed the “guidelines”.
I suppose I mostly get asked to go to nice schools that care about books and have the time, money and energy to organise author visits (even though such visits are recommended in the guidelines!) Working with texts rather than whole books has, I think, been detrimental to the education of average and above average children with parents and teachers who care. The time needed for literacy and the pressure to attain good SAT results has left little time for creativity. Schools just don’t have the artwork displays on their walls that they used to. They are coming back, particularly in Wales, where SATs have been abandoned.
However, I’ve revised my thinking after being allowed to sit in on a literacy session based around one of my characters. I don’t think it was because I felt flattered.
Many of the children came from deprived backgrounds with very little life-experience to draw on for creative writing. Some had problems family, social or attention problems. Let’s just say I was not in leafy Middle-England.
The lesson was well planned and very structured. It was fun idea to create a CV for one of my characters. Using mind-map/radial brainstorming, they picked over the character traits to build up a profile.
Some of the children found it hard work even though they’d been through it and all the answers were on the board. But the structure saw them through. If they’d been asked to read the books and then write an essay about the character, it would not have worked.
So, yes I now can see the point of very structured learning, but it needs to be flexible and suited to the conditions. Every school is different and has a different intake and social intake. It’s the tyranny of the SATs that is the problem. SATs assume that all children are starting from the same place and that the goalposts are set the same distance apart.
Filed in: School & Library Visits