English teachers know that one of the hardest skills to teach young writers is concision. George Orwell, who knew a thing about writing, urged us, in his essay 'Politics and the English Language,' to adhere to the following rules:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
It's helpful when a competition comes along which encourages students to be inspired and concise. '247 Tales' does just that. It challenges students to create their own stories in 247 words or less. Each month a famous writer creates a 247 tale of their own on a certain theme. This is then posted on the Bloomsbury website: www.247tales.com. The competition is for young writers between 10 and 16 to send in their own masterpieces on the same theme. A variety of prizes are on offer, including having their 247 I tale published on the website. To find out more, visit the website cited above.
Recent research undertaken for Pearson Education has indicated the extent to which the shorter concentration spans, allegedly shown by boys, can cause trouble for teachers working on long texts. The findings suggested that any book more than 200 pages caused the lights to go out and the lads to switch off. On 17th May 2011, BBC Breakfast News ran this story with Sian and Bill interviewing an expert on literacy. She told them that the research matched her own views but she'd managed to use longer books, such as texts on Greek Mythology, where the short chapters and different stories managed to keep the boys' interest alive.
To counter these difficulties a new series of shorter action, adventure and mystery texts, specifically targeting reluctant boy readers in secondary schools will be available from Heinemann in summer 2011. The texts offer teachers the chance to get their hands on a variety of books that are, 'Short enough to enjoy all the way through, and will deliver thrills and spills and laughs,' according to Frank Cottrell Boyce, the series editor. At the heart of the project is the notion that 'reading for pleasure' is vital for all and that students should be given the chance to put themselves in the shoes of the characters as they experience their 'edgy, sharp and contemporary adventures'. Each tale will be supported by a host of engaging digital resources supporting the teaching of the text. The series includes plays and novels. The teaching resources have been trialed in a variety of UK schools. For more information visit: www. pearsonschools.co.uk/HEROES
'Excellence in English' highlights reading for fun.
A new report from Ofsted has underlined the importance of English departments doing all they can to support reading for pleasure. The report examined the work of 12 schools where English was judged to be excellent. It presents a series of case studies looking at different elements in moving schools towards excellence in English. Linked to reading the report stated,
'Schools that take the business of reading for pleasure seriously, where teachers read, talk with enthusiasm and recommend books, and where provision for reading is planned carefully, are more likely to succeed with their pupils' reading.'
To read the full report visit: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Publications-and-research/ Browse-all-by/Documents-by-type/Thematic-reports/Excellencein-English
2011/12 Schools Guide to Literacy: How to improve your pupils' literacy
A helpful document for all teachers working on the development of literacy in schools can still be freely downloaded from the National Literacy Trust website at: www. …