The Literacy Toolkit

Improving students' speaking, listening, reading and writing skills

By: Amanda Sara


£24.99


Size: 297mm x 210mm

Pages : 224

ISBN : 9781845901325

Format: Paperback

Published: November 2009


The Literacy Toolkit is a journey into understanding literacy in our society, its impacts upon our schools and the practical and creative strategies we can use to ensure every pupil’s literacy skills progress rapidly in all subjects. It embraces what we know about literacy learning and how we can move things forward creatively in the classroom and beyond for KS3 and KS4, so that students, learners and teachers will have a positive impact upon learning.

It also embraces the notion that literacy needs to be addressed by all for all students to succeed. It looks at the key issues and alternative ways, to address them in a creative and fun but purposeful manner.

This teacher’s resource is divided into four sections

  1. Literacy in our society, the importance of it and how we put that into practice at KS3 and KS4 with the new KS3 curriculum, and the transition between KS2 and 3.
  2. 50 generic practical literacy strategies for the classroom.
  3. Whole school strategies which need to be addressed for literacy to flourish.
  4. A selection of generic tools to be used for assessing literacy.

Picture for author Amanda Sara

Amanda Sara

Dr Amanda Sara is an author and educational consultant. Previously she was Principal Director of Academies (11 - 16) - Head of two London schools. In addition to her current role, she is also literacy consultant for The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.


Reviews

  1. Michael Proust once said, "I believe that reading, it its original essence, [is] that fruitful miracle of communication in the midst of solitude., In the Literacy Toolkit, Sara reminds teachers of English, that this type of communication happens regardless of the way one reads (beyond its original essence). For example when watching a film, reading a picture, decoding words, listening to a book on tape or doing any of these things simultaneously" there is always a solitary communication that occurs. It happens also through writing.
    So part of the process of supporting literacy development is to help children become critical readers of the messages they will inevitably encounter and critical writers of the messages they will inevitably send and the Literacy Toolkit offers strategies to help achieve this.

    Laura Manni Early Years Coordinator and Pre-School Teacher, American International School of Lusaka and Director of Mukwashi Trust Primary School
  2. What an incredible resource this book is, enjoyable to read, passionately written, theoretically sound, yet firmly grounded in the realities of everyday school life and the world of the modern learner. This exciting, well-researched treasure-trove presents hundreds of creative classroom strategies to help you raise the literacy bar. For leaders and managers, there are plenty of well-conceived ideas for whole school development, cross-curricular literacy, staff training, monitoring and assessment. Whoever you are and whatever you teach, you are a member of your schools literacy development team; Im sure that you will find Amandas ideas illuminating, motivating and empowering.


    Six key themes underpin the authors vision of a modern literacy curriculum. They are:

    1. The ever-expanding world of mass communications directly affects how children and young adults learn about language.

    2. Communications to and between children and young adults are increasingly multi-media, involving images, sound and text.

    3. Oracy is the foundation of good literacy.

    4. Well-designed cross-curricular approaches provide meaningful contexts for learning literacy skills and knowledge.

    5. Helping students to become media and languagesavvy will help them to develop into confident thinkers and willing life-long learners.

    6. The importance of being bold, brave and creative! Developing language and literacy skills should be a satisfying and joyful experience for all learners.

    Sharon Ginnis, author `Covering the Curriculum with Stories`
  3. 'This book encapsulates all the essential tools a teacher in modern day education needs to inspire students to excel and improve their own speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. It brings to light some very important educational ideals that challenge pupils to develop skills in lifelong learning, based around literacy and its importance in modern day society. I would highly recommend any teacher looking for a unique framework of literacy tools to read this book and adapt its practices to their own curriculum needs thereby opening their students minds to the literary crafts of speaking, listening, reading and writing.,
    'He, who speaks not for the sake of speaking, but for the sake of being heard, will inspire those to write and read his message.,
    Mark Thomas Dixon (BPE)
  4. This is a timely, thorough and very practical book filled with approaches to literacy that can work in all sorts of classrooms with all sorts of learners. All teachers will find something of use here along with a reiteration of how literacy is right at the heart of what education should be all about ” the opening up of worlds for young people.
  5. An intelligent mix of substantiating theory, and practical tasks. I will be buying a copy for my department resource library and, more importantly, using it!
  6. The genius of Amanda Sara's Literacy Toolkit is that it satisfies the teacher and the student's intellectual curiosity whilst providing both with stimulating strategies to raise levels of literacy.

    Amanda embraces a definition of literacy that encompasses all its new technological forms and enables students to “crack these codes” in ways that will develop and support all other learning and to assess progress.

    Amanda's book will motivate teacher and student and actually allow both to enjoy creative, fun and purposeful activities.
  7. This book provides an excellent balance of traditional theories, current thinking and practical activities. Teachers who would not necessarily think of themselves -˜experts' now have a handbook which they can use to brush up on their own literacy skills before standing in front of a class. The activities are engaging and will appeal to today's students and will provide an essential framework of skills, especially for EAL learners.
  8. For many years we have been saying that literacy is not the sole responsibility of the English Department. We have been encouraging all our staff to see themselves as literacy teachers who should actively and consciously develop our students' abilities to speak, listen, read and write in increasingly developed and complex ways. Many schools have made great progress in these areas but we are all looking for ideas and strategies to move our collective practice forwards. As Ms Sara says, “Literacy should be seen as a vital part of the school culture”. The aim of this book is to support Middle and Senior Leaders, not just Literacy Coordinators, in doing just this.

    Drawing on her years of experience as teacher, mentor and literacy adviser, the author sets out first the principles and theories of literacy and literacy development, then offers fifty strategies, all of which can be modified and personalised to particular subjects and groups of students, before offering advice and guidance on whole school or whole department/year group strategies.

    The book is aimed primarily at Key Stages 3 and 4 and takes on boards the new National Curriculum. The book however could also be valuably applied to Key Stages 1 and 2 as well as to post-16 and adult education. It would be extremely useful in developing a school's Learning to Learn course and/or their pastoral and tutor time. Many of the strategies could be used regularly during tutor time, which can often be wasted as an opportunity for learning.

    To begin with the author sets out a broad, workable definition of literacy. This looks beyond the written word to take in a wider understanding of communication. Theories of literacy are explained as well as overall approaches which will best support students' skills and confidence. The author is a strong believer in the use of visuals and images to develop students' literacy. She sees value in texts which are sometimes looked down upon in terms of literacy, such as comic books and computer games, and highlights the complex narrative structure of these mediums as well as their potential to develop reading skills and understanding of plot structure and characterisation.

    The central part of the book explains fifty practical activities for developing literacy across the curriculum. These focus on reading, writing, speaking and listening and can be used in a wide range of subjects, including Maths and PE. They are sufficiently open as to be adaptable to different subject content while still keeping a strong Literacy focus. The author is particularly keen on the development of speaking and listening skills, two things we often taken for granted, in the hope they will naturally develop. Yet we know that reading and writing relies upon them.

    Taken together the strategies provide a wealth of possible approaches to literacy which are suitable for real classroom situations and curriculum subjects. They can allow the whole school, or a team of teachers, create that positive experience of literacy which will allow students to become increasingly independent in their learning and confident about their ability to make progress and achieve. They will also help a school develop consistency across all teachers and subjects in approach to aspects such as paragraph or sentence structure, skim reading or scanning, apostrophes or capital letters.

    All the strategies come with the necessary proformas and sheets. Detailed instructions are given, with an emphasis on group and paired work as well as on the use of fun and the competitive element to motivate and inspire students. The author is particular keen to stress the ways in which the activities support a Learning to Learn curriculum as well as the Every Child Matters agenda.

    In the final section, the author explains various whole school strategies which could be used by Middle or Senior Leaders as well as Literacy Coordinators to assess and evaluate literacy across the whole school, to plan strategies, to develop and train staff, to monitor impact and celebrate achievements. In particular there are strategies and lesson plans for using Form Time (i.e. PSHE and/or Registration time) to develop literacy including oracy.

    As the author says at the end, “Imagine a school in which every student loved to read, loved to talk, loved to write.” This book will help any school in moving closer to that ambition. “Begin the journey now. Together we can make a difference.”
  9. Anyone involved in education will know the immense value of high quality tools for teaching and learning. With this book Amanda has crafted a clear, compelling and useful toolkit for the most fundamental of issues.
  10. This book encapsulates all the essential tools a teacher in modern day education needs to inspire students to excel and improve their own speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. It brings to light some very important educational ideals that challenge pupils to develop skills in lifelong learning, based around literacy and its importance in modern day society. I would highly recommend any teacher looking for a unique framework of literacy tools to read this book and adapt its practices to their own curriculum needs thereby opening their students minds to the literary crafts of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

    He, who speaks not for the sake of speaking, but for the sake of being heard, will inspire those to write and read his message.
  11. What an incredible resource this book is, enjoyable to read, passionately written, theoretically sound, yet firmly grounded in the realities of everyday school life and the world of the modern learner. This exciting, well-researched treasure-trove presents hundreds of creative classroom strategies to help you raise the literacy bar. For leaders and managers, there are plenty of well-conceived ideas for whole school development, cross-curricular literacy, staff training, monitoring and assessment. Whoever you are and whatever you teach, you are a member of your schools literacy development team; I'm sure that you will find Amandas ideas illuminating, motivating and empowering.

    Six key themes underpin the authors vision of a modern literacy curriculum. They are:

    1. The ever-expanding world of mass communications directly affects how children and young adults learn about language.

    2. Communications to and between children and young adults are increasingly multi-media, involving images, sound and text.

    3. Oracy is the foundation of good literacy.

    4. Well-designed cross-curricular approaches provide meaningful contexts for learning literacy skills and knowledge.

    5. Helping students to become media and language savvy will help them to develop into confident thinkers and willing life-long learners.

    6. The importance of being bold, brave and creative! Developing language and literacy skills should be a satisfying and joyful experience for all learners.

  12. It is perhaps advantageous that Amanda Saras The Literacy Toolkit has appeared just when the emphasis in education has once again returned to literacy. Supported as it is by a mix of theory and practical advice, this seems a useful addition to a teachers bookshelf. The text opens with its theoretical basis, which sets out a literacy which is not dependent on the written word but acknowledges both oracy and visual literacy, mentioning multimedia texts with a familiarity of which the authors of the new curriculum would approve. There is, however, an emphasis on the secondary classroom which seems apt given the authors background.

    Sara is able to talk convincingly about literacy and has the experience of both classroom practice and research to underpin her ideas.

    The second section of the book which deals with practical activities to address literacy skills is fun and dominated by a sense of competition. It is important to mention the boy-friendly nature of many of these activities and the use of metaphors which concentrate on different car and fuel types. Each activity is also framed by a quotation from a famous person/thinker which makes reading enjoyable for one such as myself.

    The whole school emphasis of the final section of the text is interesting and takes the opportunity to reiterate several key points: one being the connection between being literate and being successful. Sara is able to demonstrate a passion for the subject beyond her own remit of English teacher and make a convincing argument for integrated and far-reaching approaches to raising the profile of literacy and reading within the curriculum. A major strength is the plethora of proformas and tables which are immediately of use for teachers, each activity is clearly explained but allows for the personalisation of tasks in order to suit a specific class or group. This is a useful text which would be a valuable addition to any teachers professional library.
  13. The Literacy Toolkit is packed full of ideas which classroom teachers can use to inspire students to love words.
  14. The Literacy Toolkit is a must-read for teachers, literacy co-ordinators and school leaders. It provides a one-stop resource for getting your school buzzing with literacy practice that will raise results and deepen learning. Based on up-to-date research about how learning really happens, all suggested practices are linked to the Learning to Learn and Assessment for Learning agendas. This book delivers a clear and integrated vision of what twenty-first education should look like. Amanda clearly demonstrates that literacy is at the very heart of pushing education forward, underpinning not just achievement, but also enjoyment.

    Not only providing background, research and educational vision, The Literacy Toolkit contains a wealth of practical, cross-curricular activities and resources for the classroom. For literacy co-ordinators it sets out clearly how to strategically plan and lead a whole-school approach, while tailoring it to the school's individual circumstances. A book of tricks to motivate and engage staff and students alike!
  15. Michael Proust once said, “I believe that reading, it its original essence, [is] that fruitful miracle of communication in the midst of solitude.” In the Literacy Toolkit, Sara reminds teachers of English, that this type of communication happens regardless of the way one reads (beyond it's original essence). For example when watching a film, reading a picture, decoding words, listening to a book on tape or doing any of these things simultaneously ” there is always a solitary communication that occurs. It happens also through writing.

    So part of the process of supporting literacy development is to help children become critical readers of the messages they will inevitably encounter and critical writers of the messages they will inevitably send and the Literacy Toolkit offers strategies to help achieve this.
  16. At the heart of this book is the recognition that society, the continued development of ideas and the ability of individuals to properly engage with life is dependent upon a command of literacy skills. Language after all should not merely be the preserve of intellectual elites but the means by which every person develops their ability to play a full and active part within the society in which they live.

    Yet it is equally clear that whilst we may live at a time when there are more published materials than ever before, we are also living in a post literate world in which the power of the moving image, modern technology and the spread of text speak seems to dominate the lives of the young, often at the expense of traditional forms of language acquisition and its deployment.

    Amanda Sara begins by highlighting a key point namely, that the young spend less time reading than utilising visual interactive stimuli in their learning and day to day living. Moreover she makes the extremely important point that is so often missed in schools, namely that literacy is an issue which all of us as teachers need to address irrespective of the subject we teach.

    The Literacy Toolkit delivers a very clear message and is clearly based on a thorough appreciation of modern day research which includes significant reference to government and DCSF policies and initiatives. These references, however, whilst useful and contextually pertinent, are not the key strengths of this work. What is presented is a series of simple yet effective strategies and practical examples that can be used and manipulated in a variety of different contexts to help focus the attention of young people to appreciate language and the means by which they can acquire a greater command of it.

    All too often in works that focus on literacy, too much space is given to identifying the issues and much less focus is given to providing practical solutions; not so The Literacy Toolkit. By focussing on three key questions What is literacy about?, How are you going to overcome resistance?, and What do you want children to be able to do as a result of achieving better literacy skills?, Amanada Sara not only provides a relevant, useful and accessible commentary, but she also provides a host of practical solutions that will help stimulate the imagination and the purposeful engagement of learners.

    Regardless of the subject taught, The Literary Toolkit will help teachers to support their pupils in being better learners by providing useful methods for them to acquire and deploy language in a meaningful and productive manner. Herein lies one of the means by which we can help turn pupils into real learners and active participants in society and not just whilst they are at school. The Literacy Toolkit is less an academic tome than a very practical and worthwhile volume for all classroom practitioners.
  17. The literacy Toolkit by Amanda Sara is a comprehensive book of literacy explanations and suggestions, which provides in-depth knowledge about the importance of literacy in todays society. Whilst offering simple and effective strategies, which can be used in a wide range of curriculum subjects, this book highlights the importance that every teacher is a teacher of English. The literacy toolkit offers all teachers clear and specific guidelines on literacy learning activities and allows scope for all students to develop their literacy levels further.

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