Literacy Tips- Archive


The words ‘women’, ‘men’, ‘people’ and ‘children’ are plurals even though the words don’t end with an ‘S’, as plurals usually do. Students find it confusing to use possessive apostrophes with irregular nouns. In these instances, the possessive apostrophe belongs before the added ‘S’. A women’s refuge / Men’s viewing habits / People’s sense of fair play / A children’s play centre – these apostrophes are correct.

Notice when students get this right / wrong in your subject and tick or correct their work so that literacy is addressed across the curriculum.



Before you leave for Easter or at the start of next term, try to spend ten browsing the ‘Literacy’ folder. The folder is saved in ‘Whole School Information’.  You will find practical resources – organised by Writing / Reading / Speaking & Listening.  This folder may be particularly useful in tutor time, as there are some non-fiction news extracts which students could read if they do not bring their own book.



Look at this dedication, found at the front of a book.

‘This book is dedicated to my parents, Margaret Thatcher and God.’

How many people / deities does this extraordinary offspring credit at the start of his book – four or two?  Punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence.  Contrary to popular belief, sometimes you DO need a comma before the ‘and’ in a list of items.  Be guided by the sentence.



Promote clarity in writing.  At the end of written work, ask students to check the frequency of sentences beginning ‘This shows…’.  (or This proves… / This reflects…etc.)  If many sentences begin in such a way, you could prompt students to insert a word after ‘This’.   Using ‘MRI’, students then clarify by inserting ‘This data shows…’ / ‘This policy proves…’ / ‘This attempt reflects…’).  Model the process if necessary.  An example is attached and available in the Literacy folder.


(Student) ‘Sir!  What’s a ‘tyrant’?’   (Teacher) ‘Think of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and there’s your answer’.

If vocabulary is unfamiliar, give students time to come up with as many words as they can think of containing the root. Another example is ‘durable’, which gives duration, endure, enduring, endurance, Duracell, etc.  Students can then begin to deduce meaning themselves, so learning is more likely to be committed to memory.


Attached is a photocopy of a textbook (not an English textbook!), which suggests ways to increase language awareness. Highlighting literacy could happen at the beginning of a lesson, at a transition stage of a lesson, to the whole class, or to an individual student. It need only be a swift ‘literacy moment’, so as not to intrude on the teaching of your subject. Even pointing out a subordinate clause makes a valuable contribution.


Spot the deliberate mistake:  I should of improved my expression.  I would of done, if I’d known how.

‘Should / would / could’ (and the other modal verbs) must be followed by ‘have’, and not only in English lessons!  Aim to challenge this error whenever you see it in written work – you won’t have to look far, regardless of your subject.  Write ‘exp’ for expression in the margin.  Students can then change ‘of’ to ‘have’ in purple pen.


Headlines this week stated, “English teens most illiterate in developed world”.  The OECD (Operation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) has published research concluding that, of 23 developed nations, English teens have the lowest literacy rates.  Help your students to better literacy by teaching the style of texts in your subject.


If someone loses their place when reading, encourage scanning. Don’t state exactly where to start – avoid, “Turn to p9; go to the first paragraph and start two lines down”. Instead, tell students to turn to page 9 and locate, for example, the word “June” so that students participate in a more active way. This tactic works best with upper-case words.



Every member of staff can contribute to literacy by using colons and semi-colons: regular encounters with the range of punctuation means it will feed into students’ own work. Use semi-colons in your PowerPoints; try to use colons and semi-colons in worksheets. For maximum benefit, be sure to sound the pause when reading aloud.