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Let It Be Said You Added Your Voice

January 20, 2010

Bill (Literacy Adviser) Boyd has a great post on his blog about the importance of reading aloud. As an English teacher myself, I can only echo Bill’s stressing of

the importance of reading aloud in the development of literacy skills

My second year class are currently working on Aidrian Flynn’s play Burning Everest and I am determined to break away from the stilted reading that typifies pupils when they read aloud. There is nothing guaranteed to kill a poem or play more than a kid stopping at the end of every line! I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time getting them to a) read to the punctuation, followed by b) read as if they mean it.

I’ve taught Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est for as many years as I care to remember, and I still get a kick out of hearing a pupil ‘get’ the cadences and rhythm of the poem… which only happens when they stop reading the lines and start reading the words (Incidentally, I’ve found that presenting it to them as a piece of prose can often be all it takes to break bad habits!).

Another happy (and I think related find) is Dizraeli‘s rap/poem 21st Century Flux (video below). I defy anyone with an interest in the English language to be unimpressed with the message, and the medium. The notion of a 21st Century Flux is one that we are all to aware of in education, and I feel that we would do well to remember that language has changed and adapted and been alive through countless changes… just as education has. Trying to lock language or education down to one ‘right’ way of doing things is futile. Both are fluid and flexible and will change, no matter what those who cannot see do to prevent this.

So, enjoy the poem, and maybe enhance your enjoyment by reading it out loud yourself! You will feel self-conscious, which is a rather neat way of putting yourself in the position of those in your class that you ask to read out loud… Mmm… now that will be a fun lesson!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. literacyadviser permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:32 pm

    Neil,
    To my shame I had never heard of Dizraeli but this is amazing. That delight in the sounds and rhythms of language remind me of the great John Cooper Clarke, whom I never tire of hearing, or of Linton Kwesi Johnson. Thanks for sharing.

  2. January 20, 2010 11:47 pm

    Funny – I’ve got to help an adult group to do this very thing on Saturday. The number of people who reach (almost) to my age without being able to read with sense is alarming – and I wonder how many of us think of our pupils turning into these adults when we’re tempted to despair!

  3. January 20, 2010 11:57 pm

    @literacyadviser — No shame to be had. He’s a new find for me to. I’m very tempted to take the poem and try it with a class or two… I too love the rhythm and sounds, and also the not so subtle politics of change!

    @goforchris — I know exactly what you mean. I take my own ability to read for granted (hence my playful suggestion for trying to read this with/for a class). I think it behooves us to remember that reading out loud is an invaluable tool for gaining an insight into a person’s understanding. As Bill pointed out in his post, we have allowed our desire to avoid singling people out to make our jobs that much more difficult…

    • Gordon Brown permalink
      January 21, 2010 12:40 pm

      Hi Neil,
      Re Bill’s comments about John CC, what a pity we can’t use Evidently Chickentown in schools!

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