I can take no credit for the ideas below, the quite wonderful English Department at St. Mary’s has put it together with Miss Preston taking a lead. My only part is to blog it out and push it on twitter. I hope that it might help engage young people in reading, help develop their literacy skills and give you some food for thought along the way. The basic idea is to use twitter as a way of sharing pictures of students reading books in all the wonderful places they will visit this summer. The scheme has been launched by the English Department and form tutors have used a PowerPoint provided by the department to publicise it during form time.
Due to recent changes in the English GCSE curriculum, the issue of literacy has never been more prevalent. With this in mind, the English Department at St. Mary’s have been working tirelessly to begin to address this issue. The students will often score full marks on literacy starters and can easily spot simple errors when asked to do so. Yet the fact remains, they don’t apply this to their own writing. Many of us were born in a generation where literacy was never taught in the classroom, yet we “got it” as the students would say. What made us different to the students we are now encountering on a daily basis? During a recent departmental meeting, the same issue continued to crop up, like the often quoted elephant in the room: reading.
To put it simply, the children just didn’t do enough of it. Or if they did, they were often too embarrassed or reluctant to admit having a huge passion for books. In the pressurised climate of reaching end-of-year target grades, we often only have the chance to study one novel per year with our students. The question we had to ask ourselves was this: how could we encourage the students to read outside of the classroom?
“They’re too busy on the computer to pick up a book,” people often lament with a look of horror on their faces. At St. Mary’s, we pride ourselves on encouraging the use of new technologies and don’t see the use of the internet as a negative thing. The challenge we found ourselves facing was this: how can we incorporate the two? Alongside two other members of staff, we began researching ideas, and read about schools who had asked students to take pictures of themselves reading in exciting places over the summer break. We liked this idea instantly, but felt that we needed a hook to excite our technologically savvy students. This is where the idea for ‘Tweet Where You Read’ was born. We do not profess to have been the creators of this idea (if only for fear of copyright infringement), and I’m sure that similar schemes have been run before, but we felt excited and confident that students would really engage and, dare we imagine, enjoy this.
I put together a simple, yet humorous, PowerPoint (PDF copy at the bottom of this blog), featuring staff in some weird and wonderful places with their favourite books. We laughed immensely and hoped that the students would too. However, as we all know, adults and children often have contrasting views about what is funny and I was concerned that students would not be interested in the idea.
In preparation for this rejection, I decided to trial the PowerPoint on my most ‘challenging’ and hard to please Year 10 class. To my delight, they howled with laughter and frantically began sharing their ideas for where they would be ‘snapped’. This was yesterday morning and we now have 31 followers to our English@SMCC account. We are confident that the number will grow increasingly over the next 7 days.
Whether this will be a success or not still remains to be seen. Students have been given the summer to submit their entries and a winner will be announced in September. What is evident, and in my eyes already makes this successful, is that students are already talking about books. I have no doubt that some of our students will be snapped in a weird place and yet never even open the book they hold. Nevertheless, the fact remains that some of them will open their books and may even read them. Who is to say that once they discover the sheer joy of independent reading they won’t continue? Only time will tell.
Clearly this is an idea that can be extended by asking students to start a blog site and write a review of their book. The winner of the best blog can be announced alongside the winner of the twitter award. A boost to reading, writing & literacy with the advantage of young people constructively occupied and a few less hassled parents. This must be a winner.
If you want to tweet a picture of you reading to the English Department I’m sure they will happily retweet all those pictures that are in good taste.