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Phil Beadle on ‘How to Teach Literacy’ – PP68

The topic of the week is Phil Beadle on ‘How to Teach Literacy’



It was great to speak again to Phil Beadle this week. Phil has just published a new book called How to Teach Literacy. Phil has a huge amount of experience working with teachers and students developing literacy. He begins by telling us about the justification for using punctuation which he first heard from one of his own teachers who was a nun. Sister Dimphnahused to use the same justification as 85% of teachers for when to use a comma – when you want to take a breath or a pause. Phil believe this is nonsense. Sister Dimphnah then went on to explain that a semi-colon was for a larger pause and a colon was for a huge pause. Phil believes this attitude exists in most schools in the UK today.

Phil-BeadleLanguage is always changing – why bother with rules?

Phil points out that whatever form you are working in, you need to know the rules. Ballet dancers don’t say plies are old-fashioned – they have to learn them.

What would you change about Initial Teacher Training?

Phil believes that the current review of ITT is led by political ideology and the intention is to get rid of teacher training in Higher Education which are seen as hotbeds of left-wing thinking.

What about oracy?

Phil says that there is a perception that reading is fundamentally important (which it is) but writing (which is a vastly more complex skill than reading) slightly above reading and oracy is a ‘dossy lesson without a marking outcome’.

The ‘Childrens’ Laureate View’ is that getting children to read more is the way to improve their writing. There is no validity in that at all.

Phil mentions Ros Wilson who says, “If you can’t talk it, you can’t write it.” So the first thing you must do is teach children how to speak Standard English fluently. There is no place for regional dialects in the classroom – it must be explicitly respected but if you are only able to speak this way it translates over into your writing. You have to have access to the ‘Lingua Franca’ of Standard English if you want to be successful in life. The idea of telling children to check their slang in at the door…is about empowering young children to do better.

How do you teach children to spell?

Get hold of a book called Unscrambling Spelling by Cynthia Klein and Robin Millar. It’s the spelling bible – a loose-leaf document which is difficult to find but every school should have one.

What about grammar?

Phil believes there is very little you need to know about grammar. It’s a method by which the ruling classes claim intellectual superiority. There will be children coming out of Primary School next ear who know markedly more about grammar than their Secondary English teachers. You don’t need to know a lot of it to be a decent writer, according to Phil.

Stevie Wonder

Phil uses Stevie Wonder’s music as a way of explaining that writing is ‘just music’ – a restrained or constrained form of music. Words and imagery play the melody and the drum kit of the writing -which is the part children find difficult – is the sentence length, the sentence structure and the punctuation. Paul and Phil discuss and agree on the usefulness of Hip-Hop as a way of teaching writing.

There is a huge amount of other hilarious and thought-provoking content to discover in this episode – do listen right to the end!

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