Literacy at Hele’s

We are delighted to offer a comprehensive literacy programme which focuses on developing students’ Reading, Writing, and Communication skills across all areas of school life.

All Hele’s staff are aware of the importance of ensuring our learners are effective communicators and we take every opportunity to guide and enthuse learners with a love of the English language in all its forms. Our commitment to improving literacy is outlined in our Literacy SOP which can be downloaded here.

Please click on the tabs below to browse the selection of literacy strategies which are part of every student’s day-to- day life at Hele’s School. If you require any further information regarding our literacy programme please contact Mr Fonseca (Assistant Principal) at fonseca@heles.plymouth.sch.uk

Our School Library

Our Library is open to students before school, during break and lunchtime and after school. The Librarians and their team of staff and students are always on hand to help and advise the students. The Library is also used regularly by class teachers to encourage students to read for research. As well as an excellent range of books and e-books, which is regularly updated, students have access to computers and a range of online sources that the school is registered to use, including Issues Online and the Newspapers for Schools NewsLibrary website. All Year 7 students have a dedicated ‘Library Lesson’ twice a term as part of their English curriculum and older students are given ‘refresher’ sessions to help them make good use of the library.

The new fresh re-design for the School Library is very appealing to staff and students alike. There is a welcoming feel on arrival in an open plan setting. Comfortable seating is arranged throughout the ground floor and creative use of moveable shelving allows our students to browse freely for books to satisfy their reading interests. Fiction is arranged into genre categories downstairs where there is also dedicated Accelerated Reader area to support Year 7 and Year 8 in their daily use of the AR programme. Non-fiction books can be found at the top of the stairs, arranged in Dewey Decimal order. More comfortable seating is a very welcome addition to the mezzanine floor level, particularly during lunch break when small groups like to gather to read factual books like the ever-popular Guinness Book of World Records. The Study Area upstairs is light and airy and an ideal place to concentrate on school work. It also has 15 laptops available for student use, a flexible resource for our school community.

DEAR Time and Accelerated Reader

DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) Time

All Y7 and 8 students are given 30 minutes of lesson time every day for reading. Students are expected to read a book of their choice on most occasions, although the reading may, on occasion, be directed by the teacher.

Accelerated Reader

AR encourages students to make challenging and enjoyable reading choices, and monitors how well the students are reading the books they have chosen. It also has an impact on improving key literacy skills, such as spelling, vocabulary and sentence structure. The programme is tailored to meet each student’s individual needs through personalised targets and progress checks.

Once a student completes a book they will take a quiz. The students aim to achieve 85% or above in each quiz they take, and this also enables them to accumulate points towards a target. Their point score enables them to qualify for a range of prizes, including certificates, pens, bookmarks, trophies, vouchers and reward trips.

Accelerated Reader has had a significant impact on our students’ engagement with books and reading, however, from time to time, some may need a little more support. We monitor students’ progress throughout the programme, and we offer a reading mentor programme for students who require support.

Subject Specific Wider Reading

Wider reading and research plays a vital role in consolidating and reinforcing deeper learning. This will become increasingly important as the new GCSE specifications come into effect. As a result our curriculum teams supply carefully chosen reading material (fiction or non-fiction) which extends and enriches learning in their subject area

Some suggestions for texts have included:

  • Novels with thematic links to the subject
  • Research articles
  • Magazine/newspaper articles which focus on subject related issues
Post 16 teachers have also created a recommended reading list for current and prospective students. Details of the suggested texts can be found here.

Challenge 100

The English Department are challenging students of all year groups to read their way through as many of the 100 classical texts (that are on a set list) as possible.  They have a range of texts that can be selected, from the epic Greek tale of The Odyssey to the crazy sci-fi of H.G. Wells. My personal favourite so far has been Dracula, Mrs Wolf is moving on to the Fall of the House of Usher,  or they could join Mrs Pomfret in reading Crime and Punishment! This challenge is about promoting a love of reading but also the importance of wider reading for developing vocabulary and understanding. There will be prizes at the end for different categories! For more information email Miss Bensaid bensaid@heles.plymouth.sch.uk

E-Books & the E-Reader project

The School Library is able to offer access to the Library Service for Schools e-book platform, managed by Wheelers. The link here  will take you to the site. Please contact Mrs Wolf in the School Library to be given a unique login. Each e-book is on loan for two weeks and will automatically expire after this time, though there is also an option to extend the loan period by renewing it. Currently, the choice of books isn’t huge but it will grow as more students make use of this exciting alternative to paper books.

E-books are also available through the City of Plymouth’s Library Service and staff and students with a public library card are strongly encouraged to try this option. The public library e-book website can be found here . To contact our nearest public library please ring 01752 305630 or email library@plympton.gov.uk and the staff will help set up a PIN to let you gain access to an excellent range of e-books.

The School Library E-Reader project has the use of 17 tablets donated to Hele’s School by The Rotarians. We use e-reader technology to overcome barriers to reading enjoyment with selected groups of year 7 and year 8 students. E-readers allow the reader to quickly find out a word’s meaning without disrupting the flow of reading. This helps with developing a broad vocabulary and helps improve fluency of reading. E-readers also allow the reader to change text size, background colour and font, according to the needs of the reader.

Readathon

Last year, Year Nine English classes participated in a ‘Readathon’ which seeks to promote reading for pleasure, whilst simultaneously raising money for the charity which provides storytellers for children in hospital. As their own website attests, ‘the money raised provides children’s hospitals with regular storyteller visits, plus a mobile bookcase jam-packed full of brand-new books, which are replenished every six weeks’. We will be looking to undertake a brand new Readathon this year, so watch this space!

Carnegie Awards Shadowing Event

Six students in Year 7 last year represented Hele’s School at the annual shadowing event of the Carnegie Children’s Book Award, which on this occasion we were delighted to be hosting in the Lecture Theatre. Having welcomed schools from across Plymouth, the students performed their presentation on Francis Hardinge’s ‘The Lie Tree’ with style and vivacity, communicating the characters and themes with undoubted enthusiasm! A much larger group of students had worked on the text in the prior weeks and had enjoyed taking part in the shared reading of this story. We are already looking forward to finding out which book we will be allocated next time around!

National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day, Hele’s staff found their inner poet and surprised students with spontaneous readings of their favourite poems! Our anthology of poems can be viewed here.

‘The Big Write’

Students currently undertake extended writing tasks on a regular basis in a wide variety of subjects. Building on this, every department will work with students to produce an extended piece of writing each year which will be completed in a number of stages, including drafting and redrafting, and will be developed over a period of time, consolidating the techniques learned in English.

NOTE: We are in the process of redeveloping our Extended Writing policy to maximise student progress. Please check back here for details

Literacy Marking

All staff use the school’s standard symbols when marking work for literacy. These symbols are made available to students through classroom posters and on p19 of their planners. Through consistent feedback across all subject areas, we are able to support students’ vocabulary development and technical accuracy.

DIRT Time (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time)

Students are given regular class time to read and respond to teachers’ feedback, including improving and extending their responses and correcting any spelling or grammatical errors. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for the quality of their work and to take every opportunity to move it closer to excellence. Find details of DIRT Time here.

Year 7 Word of the Week

Since September 2016, the Year 7 students have been using something known as Tier 2 Vocabulary. This initiative has already been trialled in several states in America. There is a wealth of research that suggests mastery of these types of words can lead to quick educational gains by empowering students in having confidence in their own intellect. The research goes on to suggest that this work can even enrich the students’ everyday lives as they become more able to express themselves.

Tier 1 vocabulary involves words that we use in our everyday conversations (book, pencil etc.) whilst Tier 3 vocabulary are low frequency words that are very specific to a certain area (isotope, alliteration etc.). Tier 2 vocabulary consists of words that occur in mature conversations.

As this is a trial, we have only focused on one word a week as a year group and encouraged all Year 7 teachers to incorporate the word into their lessons. The words so far include variable, hypothesis, sustainable, chronological, adjacent, unanimous and more. The plan is to check recall of these words as well as spelling and usage and then to continue if these checks prove to be successful.

Voice 21

Hele’s School is proud to be one of only 11 schools across the country participating in an Education Endowment Fund project with national charity Voice 21 to focus on developing students verbal communication skills. The pilot has been launched following concerns that young people’s social mobility and job prospects are hampered by a lack of focus on developing speaking skills in schools.

The pilot is supported by new research which calls for a much greater emphasis on teaching all children and young people spoken communication skills, to improve social mobility, employability, educational achievement and well-being.

Research has shown that the majority of teachers and school leaders in the state sector think verbal communication is as important, if not more so, than traditional areas such as literacy and numeracy.

Year 7 pupils have a dedicated hour of oracy each week as part of their English curriculum. Pupils are taught how to find their voice, speak confidently, perform for an audience and develop cognitive and reasoning skills. This enables them to confidently speak to a wide variety of audiences and use rhetoric to argue and debate their ideas. The feedback we have received so far from teachers and pupils is very positive. They are both thoroughly enjoying the experience!

Debating society

The debating society was started in 2015 as a vehicle for our students to express themselves, find their unique voice and become effective orators. We meet each Wednesday and are an eclectic bunch of year 8-13s. We use the Mace style of debating, which is quite formal but can still lead to some very exciting and interesting debates.

We compete in the English Speaking Union’s national debating competition and reached the regional finals last year. We have one-off workshops with expert debaters and will be working with the University of Plymouth’s debating team shortly.

Being part of the debating society enables pupils to explore the thorny issues which affect their day to day lives and wider matters of social importance. They develop excellent argument skills and become accomplished public speakers; skills which will serve them well in the world outside of school.

‘Speed Up’ Handwriting Intervention

On beginning at Hele’s School all students sit an entry handwriting assessment where they are asked to write a piece of writing about themselves and their life. This piece of writing is then carefully assessed by highly expertise members of staff who will comment and evaluate the presentation of handwriting and identify which students will require handwriting intervention.

These students and their parents are then informed of the handwriting intervention programme we run in school called ‘Speed Up’. This programme helps the student improve the presentation and quality of their handwriting.

The ‘Speed Up’ programme is based a range of exercises and fun activities without the use of traditional pen and paper. This programme has helped our students make excellent progress and achieve excellent exam results.

The programme runs once a week for 8 weeks. Students will attend a 1 hour session each week during school hours where they will be withdrawn from a non-core subject.  Students will be assessed at the beginning of the programme on how many words per minute they can write and then again at the end of the 8 weeks programme to see if any progress has been made to their words per minute score.

Group and Paired Reading support

Some students benefit from additional support to develop their reading skills so we run two kinds of groups in the Library, paired reading and group reading. In both cases, students gain confidence from further reading practice and are helped to develop techniques to improve their understanding of the books they choose to read.

Whole School Focus

Each half term we have a different whole school focus for literacy. This is communicated to students through assemblies and daily notices and is a focus during their lessons for that half term.

SOUND Training

English students in Year 7 have recently benefitted from taking part in a six-week-long programme of reading improvement entitled SOUND Training. This programme works on developing students’ abilities with regards to recognising the building blocks of our language, the phonemes which represent the sounds of particular letter patterns, and thereby improves their sight-reading competence. By working with a SOUND Training coordinator for an hour per week for six weeks, the students gradually worked through ever more complex vocabulary, with the result that the twenty-strong group demonstrated a vastly improved reading age by the end of this short programme. We will be looking to relaunch the scheme with a select group of students this year.

READ/WRITE Inc.

In addition to their modified SOLs, a select group of students are working through parts of the Read Write Inc. programme as part of their English lessons. Though initially under the oversight of the SEN department, intervention class teachers are now using the published booklets of the scheme to develop both reading and writing through a phonics-based approach. Read Write Inc. has proved to be an incredibly successful development strategy in several other schools and we are confident that our students will benefit from being part of this exciting project.

‘Fifteen Minutes of Literacy’

During daily tutor sessions, students in KS3/4 are given time, once a week, to read and discuss their books and to change them in the School Library.

Parental Involvement

In July 2015 our Literacy Parent Focus Group met for the first time to talk through our plans for Accelerated Reader. Thank you to all parents who attended or gave their thoughts via email. This was a great start to our new initiative and we look forward to working closely with parents in future. If you would like to be part of our Parent Focus Group please email fonseca@heles.plymouth.sch.uk so that we can keep you updated regarding forthcoming events.

Our Parents’ Book Club was held in October 2015.  If you would like to take part, please email Sue Ellerton ellerton@heles.plymouth.sch.uk

We know that many of you do not have the time to take part in our organised events but we are keen to ensure you are kept up to date with your children’s progress in literacy. From September, we will be asking parents to sign planners regularly to indicate that they are aware of their child’s reading progress and to give them the opportunity to communicate with key staff. Letters will be sent home, both celebrating success and highlighting concerns regarding students’ reading. We encourage parents to take an active involvement in their children’s reading. Please follow the link here for suggestions from the Literacy Trust on supporting your Secondary School child with their reading.

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