Supporting English-related teaching and learning at all levels

Shakespeare and Teaching English

The text below is from the Shakespeare and website run by James Clements. There are links on the original page to further materials on: teaching reading; teaching writing; assessment and feedback; talk in English; homework; teaching grammar and punctuation.

Here’s some of the things we think about teaching English at primary school:
We should teach English not literacy
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with teaching literacy. Learning to read and write are very important, but so are the many other things we can learn from great books and stories. English lessons should give children the chance to consider ideas beyond their own experience and encounter concepts that have never occurred to them before. They should encounter beautiful language, and experience what its like to lose yourself in a story, caught up in excitement, laughter, fear and joy. We think that introducing children to the very best books and literature can help to do this.

Everything should have a purpose
Every lesson should be planned in such a way that everyone gets to learn as much as possible. It’s impossible to stamp every lesson out into the same structure, because children need to learn different things in every lesson. No lesson should be organised so it is ‘best practice’ and we feel like we ought to be doing it that way. No one has to teach a ‘three-part lesson’ unless that actually is the best way to teach something. Children shouldn’t have to complete piddly little exercises just so that there is work in books at the end of every lesson.

Everything that happens in lessons is there to make children better readers, writers, speakers or listeners, or to help them to understand an idea a little bit better.

Lots of talking
We believe a classroom where genuine discussion is allowed to flourish and where meaningful dialogue happens between the teacher and pupil and between pupils is one where good English learning happens. No one learns much from a teacher droning on all lesson or ‘being interactive’ by firing a series of closed questions at the class. Everyone needs to talk and roll some ideas around in their heads.

Lots of doing
We want children to love these stories as much as we do. We won’t get that by making children complete endless worksheets. We’ve got to get children reading, talking, acting, arguing and exploring ideas in lessons.