Literacy for all pupils

6th April 2001 at 01:00

SUCCESS IN THE LITERACY HOUR. Edited by Dorothy Smith. NASEN pound;10. Tel: 01827 311500

INCLUSIVE EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE: Literacy. By Teresa Grainger and Janet Tod. David Fulton pound;14

COMMUNICATION, CURRICULUM AND CLASSROOM PRACTICE. By Clare Latham and Ann Miles. David Fulton pound;17.50

These three handbooks focus on literacy work with children with special needs, particularly learning difficulties. For Success in the Literacy Hour, members of NASEN were invited to describe their successes and failures with the literacy hour in relation to special needs, and to give information about programmes of work and organisational arrangements. Responses came from mainstream and special schools, primary and secondary.

Unfortunately, many of the contributions simply do not contain enough detail to be of any use to other teachers, and frankly I cannot see why NASEN has thought it useful to publish them. A list of "20 Ways to Make the Hour Work" that includes suggestions such as "Speed up independent working by using a timer" or "Some publishers have published structured courses which can be very useful" seems to me unbelievably patronising and extraordinarily out of date.

One or two contributions do stand out: the detailed "Literacy Profiles" for children with severe and profound learning difficulties, developed within the SLD schools Literacy Consortium in Kent; and some detailed planning for secondary special school children, from Tor View School, based on The Canterbury Tales and Treasure Island.

In contrast, Inclusive Educational Practice: Literacy reflects the reality of the literacy hour in a mainstream classroom where there are learning difficulties. It refers to government imposition and teacher exhaustion, and of the challenge to "vlue, nurture and monitor the processes of learning with as much enthusiasm as is currently afforded the level of output".

Here are detailed plans and suggestions for inclusive literacy, questions for institutional self-review and ideas for action, with clearly explained underlying principles and a strong evidence base. There are sections on assessment and target setting, speaking and listening, reading, writing, ICT, and working with parents and with learning support assistants. This book is full of excellent, usable, inclusive ideas to make the literacy classroom a place of learning for all children, not neglecting the more able while supporting those with special needs.

Communication, Curriculum and Classroom Practice offers a complete scheme of work in English (communication and literacy) for those working with children and young people with severe and profound learning difficulties, mapping P-levels (pre-level 1) on to a framework of descriptors and objectives.

At each of four stages a cycle of assessment and planning is provided, with many detailed and practical suggestions and examples offered, to take the child from a developmental language level of nought to five months up to three to five years. Explanations of theory and underlying principles are clear, user-friendly and well researched.

The work is designed to be used in partnership between teachers and speech and language therapists. Many of the excellent ideas at Band 4 could be of use to teachers of children with less severe learning difficulties who are at the developmental language level of three to five years.

Sue Jennings is a former literacy support teacher at The Friars primary school, Salford, and member of the national Teacher Research Panel


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