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Tapestry

The FSF Bookshelf

100 Ideas for Teaching Literacy

In Bookshelf Resources for Practical Activities

Review

I think therefore I am ... I think therefore I can...
This book presents for the reader a journey through a series of Literacy lessons suitable for children from the beginning of the Foundation Stage to the end of Key Stage 2. It is not an instruction manual, nor is it a set of photocopiable lesson plans. It is more of an exploration and explanation of Sedgwick's philosophy of Literacy teaching.

Sedgwick spends a considerable amount of time drawing the reader's attention to the range of Literacy experiences that very young children have including their developing speaking and listening skills, their mark making attempts on the road to emergent writing and their involvement with environmental print. Sedgwick's point is that Literacy skills are something that you are part of actively, not something that simply happens to you. The reader is reminded that children need time to think and time to be motivated and that teachers must demonstrate their own thinking skills when they are engaging with children (in scaffolding writing for example). Teachers have to compete with a fast moving 'instant fix' world of TV, and film which discourage children from having their own imaginative ideas - Sedgwick implores teachers to make themselves, their environment and their lessons exciting enough to motivate children.

There are some useful ideas about ways in which a teacher can present a magical picture book to young children. Sedgwick explains how to deconstruct the pictures with a group of children, he explains how to use ‘book language' when talking about the text. He advocates using ‘proper' terminology with children and not to be drawn into using simplified language (talk about ‘the illustrator' not ‘the person that drew the pictures'). For me, this was obvious but maybe for a student teacher or a teacher less confident with their Literacy teaching this was a necessary point to make. However, all these issues were highlighted in the original Literacy Hour document so are not new.

Sedgwick believes that having a culture of Literacy within a school is the way forward - a culture where everyone in the school is a writer (or a reader) and everyone behaves as such. Having such a culture in the school allows every child's contribution to be valued and worthwhile. Sedgwick talks of teaching Literacy through other subjects - teaching positional language in PE lessons for example.

There wasn't anything that I disagreed with in this book - I think that all good teachers who have a solid understanding of the way that children develop their Literacy skills would be in agreement with Sedgwick and his beliefs. The book did remind me why displays at child level were important, why sustained shared thinking is so crucial, and why good teachers use open questioning rather than closed questioning when encouraging children to think.

My problem with the book was to establish who the intended audience was - it is probably not sufficiently theoretical for research purposes nor is it a scheme of work for experienced teachers. I think for student teachers the book would be a useful starting point explaining, as it does, why high quality literacy teaching is so crucial.

This is a book that I would borrow from the library; it's not a book I would buy.

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