Literacy is the key to all successful history. The three strands of literacy – reading, writing and speaking and listening are all fundamental attributes of great historians. Below are some ideas to improve your students’ historical literacy in each of these strands.
Note: In no way am I claiming these are my original ideas. Good teachers are magpies. A lot of these are ideas I’ve nicked from colleagues over the years and tweaked. You should do the same!
Literacy mats (guidance sheets that sit on the tables underneath books or laptops) are a neat way of spelling out exactly what a great piece of history looks like. I use them in KS3, KS4 and KS5. The danger with them is making formulaic writing but I’ve found that students know when to use and when not to use them effectively and I am sure they have played a part in the improvement of writing in our department.
Students need to see it is normal for people to read. They need to see we, as teachers, are readers and we need to have a dialogue about this. More importantly, as historians, we need to get them doing this about history books. The more they are encouraged to read the better as the more history books they read the more they will be absorbing what academic analytical writing looks like.
This year we have had a big push on making reading more explicit.
One really easy way to do this to change your email signature by adding a line about what you are currently reading. Most will let you add a little picture or a link to purchase the book. At first our students thought this was odd but once it was embedded it began to create a dialogue – between staff and between staff and students. One colleague has three books in his signature – current book, previous book, book to help my A-level studies.
It doesn’t have to be so technological though. In A-level we have a small display board next to the door. On it all the A-level teachers stick up their suggestions about their favourite history books. Some are related to the course, often than not they aren’t. We put a little Post-It next to each with one line about why they are great.
Other colleagues have a laminated bit of paper stuck to the door with “Currently reading” printed on. Then underneath with a dry mark board pen they just add the details. And when their book changes they rub it off and update.
Speaking and Listening
To be updated soon!