Thursday, 10 November 2011

Help. I'm going back into the classroom.

I need help.

Some would say that was obvious, and that I needs lots of it, but on this rare occasion I can be more specific.

My son’s school is currently running with ‘literacy’ as its topic. All their current work and endeavours are linked by this common theme. And because of my expertise (yeah, stop laughing and clean the coffee from your keyboard) I have been asked if I would come into the school to address the children.

The purpose of my visit to school is specific, to see if I can get the reluctant readers – predominantly boys – to engage better with their literacy learning.

This is a subject I demonstrate an overt interested in. Over on the Tidy-Books blog I have written several times about helping reluctant readers.

While at high school I became reluctant to read. My strong belief is that this was due to pressure to simply improve from my English teacher.

Because I was naturally strong in maths and science I was also placed in the top set for English.

I was one of the weakest in this class.

This was made obvious to me, and English became a real chore and pain. It meant a young love of reading was eroded, almost killed.

It took many years, and my best friend to force me to read a novel, for my love of literature to return.

So, when the school asked if I could help with reluctant readers I was instantly keen to offer what help I can.

I know the premise of what I am going to talk of them will be.

Reading and writing – in isolation – is completely boring, it’s what you are reading or writing about that adds the interest.

I’m planning on attempting to motivate the children by showing examples of what you could be writing about, and what perks there are.

Getting into sporting events for free, gaining access to their favourite stars for interview, getting to test drive cars they like, getting trips to Disneyland, getting toys to review, getting VIP treatment at the cinema reviewing films and any number of things.

If you are interested in something, anything, you can read and write about it.

Reassuring children that not everyone finds literature easy, and that sometimes there will be hard work to get access to those opportunities and perks,

They also need to know it isn’t always the child with the highest scores that makes the best writer.

Computer programmes don’t make spelling mistakes, but just how much imagination do they have?

However, what I need help with is how to engage with the children and how I may structure my address.

Last year I was invited to speak to the whole school about joining a charity walk along Hadrian’s Wall.

I bombed.

The kids just sat there, motionless, emotionless, then I got a few questions at the end.

I know this is partly what kids do, I’ve watched that awful children’s programme Friday Download, and even in that ‘jubilant’ studio audience atmosphere is pin-dropping cringe worthy at times.

So, how do I take on this daunting challenge?

Do I start with a joke?

I’m guessing not.

I shall be in the classroom this time. One with eight to nine year-olds, and another with six to seven year-olds.

What will work?

And - more importantly - what won't?