Literacy for real…

I spoke in my last post about how literature and literacy, although they should be two sides of the same coin, often do not work together in the ways we would like to help students become literate in the real world. As I mentioned in that post, functional skills offers a great opportunity to bridge that gap, but there are great ways to do it when teaching literature too. Here are a few I’ve tried and loved over the years.

1. Relating things to now.

This technique is one I find particularly useful when teaching literature at GCSE – especially Shakespeare and Victorian literature. Often students find the physical language used a barrier, which prevents them from interacting with the text efficiently. 

A good way to combat this is to ask students to write a diary entry as a character – but from a modern perspective. For example, how Hermia feels because she can not be with Lysander. There are two key concepts at play here. First, students have to understand the original text in order to complete the exercise. But they must also understand the world around them in order to translate it in to modern circumstances. This allows them to understand the text at a deeper level, but also to increase their social and emotional literacy.

2. Change the method of transmission.

An excellent way I’ve found to cement understanding is for students to rewrite scenes from the book or play in a different format – a blog post, tweet, radio speech or film trailer all allow students ways to condense and translate information they’ve learned, as well as increasing media literacy.

3. Teaching someone else.

Especially good for advanced students, having students prepare a lesson aimed at children younger than them to explain key concepts of a work – having them prepare games and worksheets – really allows students to consolidate their knowledge, as well as increasing their communication skills.
I hope these are helpful, and that they are strategies you can try in your own lessons.

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