The following essay will consider some of the components of the literacy hour and discuss the strategies teachers use to utilise these methods within the classroom. Literacy is at the heart of the drive to raise standards in schools (DfES, 2001, pg2) The above quote is taken from the National Literacy Strategy framework for teaching which, since 1998 has highlighted the importance of teaching English to all schoolchildren.
The framework was introduced to couple the National Curriculum document and builds on theories and ideas from previous reports (such as the Kingman report: 1988 and the Cox report: 1989) and documentation which since 1975 have highlighted the importance of having certain attainment targets that children should be achieving. These targets are the acquisition of good speaking, listening, reading, writing and spelling skills, and the Literacy strategy influences teachers in planning and delivering at least an hour long literacy lesson each day, focusing on one or more of these targets.
According to the National Literacy document children use a range of strategies, or searchlights, when reading to help them make sense of text. These searchlights fall into four categories. These are; phonic knowledge, grammatical knowledge, knowledge of context/word recognition and graphic knowledge (DfES: 2001. p 4) When teaching reading teachers will break their lesson down into shared (whole class) and guided (independent with support from teacher) sessions.
When delivering shared and guided reading session’s teachers can model to children how to draw upon all four of the searchlights to aid them in their reading. Shared reading normally focuses on word and text level work and so teachers will plan for a whole class read in which specific features such as spelling patterns, alliteration, punctuation or the intention of the piece that is being read will be highlighted for to the class.
(Ibid). Practitioners are also able to model how clues contained within the piece (such as pictures, exclamation or speech marks) can be used to predict how the story is to be read. However, during guided or independent reading children have to use what knowledge they have of the English language to read on their own. It is for this reason that practitioners will plan to teach the use of phonics to children from an early age.
As young children find it hard to discriminate the sounds of letters automatically the teaching of phonics or letter sounds is used by teachers to help children to recognise the correct spelling of a word (DfES 2001). The most effective practitioners will teach children how to identify the phonemes in spoken language and then build an understanding of how each phoneme is correctly spelt. When children have acquired a sound knowledge of these phonemes, practitioners will educate them in two new skills known as segmentation and blending.