Foundations of reading- the final extract

We’re all happy its Friday but we’re also SO GUTTED that today is the last day of extracts from Carol Hayesnew book.


We’ve saved the best for last so enjoy!


When you are reading critically it is important to distinguish whether what the writer is saying is fact or opinion. Sometimes this is hard to ascertain but consider the following and try to decide whether it is fact or opinion.

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This is more difficult and could fall into both camps, as it depends upon your definition of the word ‘good’in this context. If you are saying that Letters and Sounds  receive Government support as a ‘good’ way to teach reading, this may well be fact. However if you are saying that most teachers consider it to be good for their children, this is opinion.

LLC 2 extract 260216

You can see from this that critical reading requires a different approach to that of reading a novel or a magazine. You need to actively engage with the text in a sustained manner, to learn from it rather than simply be entertained by it.

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Development of Writing- the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ new book.


Oh Thursday has come around so quickly and it genuinely saddens me to have to say that this is the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

Each chapter in the book is filled with diagrams, case studies and points of reflection to encourage and promote critical thinking- this extract is a good example of this.

Critical Questions

With a colleague consider the following.

LLC extract 250216

  • Look at the picture below by Lewis, aged 3 years 5 months. What do you think you can learn about Lewis’ stage of development from studying this?
  • Can you guess what Lewis feels is the value of having recorded this?
  • What kind of setting/environment do you think would encourage this type of communication?
  • What do you think this child understands about writing at this stage?


Lewis is at a pre-schematic stage, when there are connections between the circles and lines that make up the drawing. There is a clear attempt to communicate an idea. In this case he has gone beyond the basic ‘tadpole’ shape or ‘head-feet’ symbol. Interestingly in this case he has omitted the arms and this is common at this stage (Jolley, 2006). It could be that his preoccupation is still with the face, which is quite detailed, including ears.

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Receptive Language and Listening

Happy mid-week to all you of you! We have your third free extract from Carol Hayes‘ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

In this lovely snippet, the text discusses the mechanics of the hearing process. Enjoy and please email with feedback!


Do we acquire language through the eye or the ear? 

When you listen to someone speaking, you are not only taking in information from your hearing and auditory processing, but you are also watching them, their physical gestures and mouth movements. Without this capacity to combine the visual sense with the auditory, you would be limiting your ability to understand the information from the receptive language. This combining of information across the senses is called ‘intermodal perception’ or ‘intermodal co-ordination’. One example of this is your ability to understand who is speaking when you hear spoken language.

Most humans are much slower than a computer at numerical calculation or recalling numbers or facts, but humans far surpass computers at language related tasks. Pinker (1994) suggested that the ear, as miraculous as it is, acts like an ‘information bottleneck’ constricting the hearing process. In the 1940s engineers attempted to produce a reading machine for blind and partially sighted people, but discovered that merely isolating the phonemes in words and then sticking them back together again in an infinite number of ways to form words, was completely useless. As real speech is understandable at between 10-50 phonemes a second, this showed that it was not possible for you to ‘read’ speech in this way, at approximately three phonemes a second, (approximately the same speed as a ship’s radio officer ‘reading’ Morse code).  To illustrate this, when we hear the tick of a clock we hear each individual sound, if this were speeded up to 20-30 ticks per second it would sound to the human ear, as a continuous sound, as the spaces between the ticks would be indistinguishable from each other.

Speech is a river of breath bent into hisses and hums by the soft flesh of the mouth and throat.                                                          

– (Pinker, 1994, p 163)

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Learning difficulties- free extract number 2

Enjoy the second extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy & Communication‘.


Case Study


Lewis was six years of age and the youngest of three boys. Two of them learned to read quickly and apparently effortlessly, but Lewis could not understand what all these shapes on the page really meant. In school the teacher was found him ‘hard work’ as he had become the class ‘clown’, distracting other children, noisy and inattentive. Lewis spent most of the day on his own with a craft or drawing activity (which was the only thing that he appeared to be good at). The other children were surged ahead, but as he found reading so difficult most of the traditional school subjects began to leave him behind. Colouring and craft kept him occupied, but really what Lewis wanted was to be able to read.

At night Lewis sneaked a torch into his bedroom and when his mother put out the light he would get out a book, and under the covers would surreptitiously try to make sense of the words in front of him. Often he ended up crying himself to sleep, having found the task just too difficult.

Critical questions

Lewis’ experiences are in line with many children that have dyslexia, now consider the following questions:

  • How do you think this made Lewis feel?
  • What effect do you think this had on his social / emotional development?
  • How could this have influenced his life choices and experiences?
  • What do you think would have helped Lewis and his family at the time?
  • How could the teacher have made Lewis’ experience in the classroom more stimulating and challenging?

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‘Language, Literacy & Communication’- a word from the author


Hello everyone. We have decided to do yet another week of extracts from Carol Hayes book ‘Language, Literacy & Communication‘. This book has received of positive feedback and is commonly credited with being accessible, interesting and necessary, so we thought WHY NOT SHARE a few snippets with our followers!

Just to give you a taster of the kind of feedback this book has received, here is what Dr Amy Palmer from the University of Roehampton thought:

“I really do like the way that key ideas are explained in an accessible way, while drawing on the research literature.  There are also some useful case studies/observation material which could be used.”

To begin the week, we have an entry from Carol Hayes the author.

There are of course, many books written about language development and sometimes students complain that there are too many and that they are dealing with an overload of information. This book however, is written to help to guide students through this and to point them in the direction in which their research can take, by breaking the area down into manageable “chunks” and then drawing these together into an understanding of the holistic and political nature of language development.

Learning more than one language is of particular Importance, in particular to the children of Wales, where a culture of bilingualism has been enshrined in the Early Years Foundation Phase. Students in the Principality often complain that appropriate texts to accompany their courses do not directly refer to education through the medium of Welsh. This book tries to address their particular concerns and integrates this with a general discussion of bilingual and multilingual learners.

Critical thinking is vital to students in higher education and is certainly the difference between a pass and a first class degree or post graduate acceptance. Yet this is an area that students struggle with and tutors find hard to teach. I frequently hear tutors bemoaning their student’s lack of ability to move beyond the descriptive stages. One intention of writing this book was to offer carefully structured activities to guide readers through this complex area of academic development and encourage them to use their practice knowledge to relate theory to practice. These pedagogical features within the book help the reader to go beyond using the text as a ‘gospel’ of information and encourage them to question the unquestionable, thereby enhancing their capacity for critical thinking through a subject specific framework.

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A FREE Short Story for you to Share

It’s National Storytelling Week!

To celebrate this awesome time we’ve got an amazing short-story for you written by Naomi Riley-Dudley, a Creative Writing masters student from Loughborough University.

If you’re a teacher, have a go at reading it to your class. If you’re a parent, why not read it to your kids before bed? If you’re a student, then read it to your mates! If you read this and enjoy it you should definitely SHARE it- after all that is what this week is all about!

This is a great little story about a kid named Arlo who just doesn’t quite fit in at school. Keep reading to find out why!

How to be human

Okay. Breathe, you can do this. Inhale. Exhale. You are normal. I opened my eyes, studying my reflection in the mirror. I smiled, exposing my pointed orange teeth, trying to be positive. I just wanted to fit in. Ever since I’d been on this planet I’d felt out of place. Today was my chance to change everything and I was terrified. I adjusted my purple blazer, staring at the Townsend Church of England School logo emblazoned on it. My blue hands were poking out the sleeves – surely everyone at school would notice. The bare walls of my bedroom were judging me, their simplicity mocking the complexity of my situation. I looked at the clock (what a strange thing time is; where I come from it’s a feeling that cannot be measured; we move to our own beat and dance to sounds that our tears make as they fall to the ground). I needed to leave for school, but the angry rain was falling onto the loft’s arched window, its muskiness filling the air. The sky was grey; even the sun was scared to show itself today. I really wasn’t ready for this. Putting my raincoat on I braced myself for the February downpour. My rucksack was heavy. I wasn’t sure what I needed to pass as human so I filled it with stationary and books. It still didn’t feel as heavy as my brain pounding in my skull.

The school gates were in front of me and I couldn’t remember how to be human. As I walked down Cavan Drive I could hear the thud of my heart and feel the thoughts in my head moving in time with my footfalls. Thud, thud, thud. They were all red, dripping from my hair like hot wax down a burning candle. The muffled sounds of children in the playground talking were painful. My ears became numb, doing their best to forget what sound was. A boy looked at me and smiled. I felt exposed but smiled back, isn’t that what humans do? I tried to focus, putting one foot in front of the other, my grey eyes scanning for the main building. Everyone around me had already endured this place for 3 months; I had so much catching up to do. After spotting what looked like the office, I tried to prepare myself for this interaction. The off-white floor tiles kept squeaking against the rubber soles of my shoes every few paces.

“Hello, my name’s Arlo. Today is my first day and I was told to report to the office once I got here.”

“Ah yes, according to our records you’ll be joining Mr. Heath’s year 8 tutor group. I’ll take you over now. Oh and here’s your planner. The bell won’t be going for another 5 minutes so you can have a look through it.”

“Okay thank you,” I tried to make my voice sound nonchalant, to hide all my fears.

I followed this strange woman down corridor after corridor, getting lost in the posters adorning the walls. Who was Oliver Twist? Why was someone comparing Mice to Men? This was going to be a long day. Finally she stopped outside a dark wooden door, opening its dull metal handle. Mr. Heath didn’t look anywhere near as scary as I thought the teachers would be. I read that they were evil, preying on the vulnerability of aliens like me. He smiled and I smiled back without thinking, maybe this wouldn’t be so hard.

“Hi Arlo, I’m Mr. Heath. How are you settling in so far? I’ll get one of the other students to give you a full school tour tomorrow, but for today I’ve paired you with Ethan. You’re in all the same classes so he can show you the ropes.”

“Okay thank you.” Luckily didn’t seem to notice that I hadn’t answered his question, or if he did, he didn’t bring it up.

I sat down at a table near the back. There was a successive shrill sound that I soon realised was the bell. It was happening. Quickly I put my planner on the beech table and started flicking through it, trying to look busy as I heard the other students getting closer. The chair next to me screeched on the wooden floor as someone sat down. I knew I needed to look up.

“Hey, I’m Ethan, you must be Arlo!” a friendly voice said.

“Hey, yeah I am” I said, trying to match his tone.

“Cool hair, that’s how I want mine to be!”

I couldn’t believe he liked my long hair, I guess I liked it too but it was one of the things that made me different.

“Thanks. Have we got chemistry first?”

“Yeah come on I’ll show you where it is.”

* * *

Walking home I couldn’t believe that I’d survived my first day at school. But more than that, I couldn’t believe how much I’d enjoyed it. Ethan was just as alien as me, and it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t as alone as I felt. When I got home I ran to tell mum about my day.

“Hey you, you look happy! Told you moving schools wouldn’t be as bad as you thought! And I’ve spent the day trying to make the house look more homely.”

“No mum, you were right. I had a really good day!”

I sprinted up to my room, happy to know that the way I see myself isn’t the way others see me.

Naomi Riley-Dudley, February 2016

Hope you’ve enjoyed that as much as I did reading it this morning! Check out our book ‘Beyond Early Writing‘ to see how you as a teacher can ensure that your students can one day write a plethora of great stories too! For details on any other title go to our website where all books are 15% OFF.


Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Naomi at

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‘There can be no more important subject than English in the school curriculum’

– Ofsted, 2012

Hello fellow humans, I hope the week has treated you well and I hope the weekend treats you even better!

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Jonathan Glazzard and Jane Stokoe‘s book ‘Teaching Systematic Synthetic Phonics and Early English‘ (wow what a mouth-full) explores ways in which teachers can increase attainment and achievement in all aspects of Early English. The book highlights how important it is that learners stay engaged, enthusiastic and committed and in turn teachers must ensure that they are implementing the best practices possible to improve standards.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has recently announced (see here) that students that fail to achieve a C grade or above in their GCSE English must now retake the exam.

Teaching Systematic Synthetic Phonics and Early English‘ actively discusses ways in which teachers can improve English at a young age, putting them in a better position to eventually go on to take their English GCSEs.

So, here it is-

Your free extract from a book that, in the current climate, is absolutely necessary.


Lucy is a trainee teacher, undertaking her first placement in a Year 2 class. The children are learning about alternative versions of traditional tales. Lucy decides to use the text The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. The children enjoy listening to the story which is written from the wolf’s point of view. After reading the story the children are asked to sit in a circle and consider the story. In particular Lucy asks them to think about whether they think the wolf is giving a true account of the version of events. The children are firstly given thinking time and then time to talk through their ideas with the person sitting next to them. Lucy then runs a whole class Community of Enquiry where the children listen to different ideas in the circle, build on what other people have said and offer their own responses. Lucy does not dominate the discussion and she lets the discussions evolve, occasionally prompting them to think about specific points. The children are fee to agree or disagree but know that if they disagree with someone’s point of view this must be done respectfully and they must explain why they do not share the same opinion.

  • What support would children need to reach this level of maturity in their discussions?
  • How could you use this approach across the curriculum?

Critical reflections 

Some teachers embrace talk and communication in their classrooms. Their classrooms are busy, lively places and talk is used across the curriculum to promote learning. Other teachers in contrast tightly control children’s talk. Why do you think this is?

Critical points 

This chapter has emphasised the importance of:

  • creating a rich language enabling environment which provides opportunities for talk and communication;
  • extending children’s language development;
  • planning opportunities for children to use language and communication across the curriculum;
  • early identification of children with speech, language and communication difficulties.

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How can you help learners develop their skills in English and Maths?

Good Wednesday morning! I have another fun snippet from Terry Sharrock‘s ‘Embedding English and Maths‘ for you.


Here the text discusses how you do your marking can impact how your learners improve their English and Maths skills. Terry highlights the importance of encouraging your learners to develop these fundamental skills through changing the way you criticise, correct and clarify their mistakes.

How can correcting written work lead to improvement?

In looking at hundreds of pieces of marked work over the years, one thing that strikes me is how little improvement results from tutors’ feedback on written work. Post-16 educa­tors spend a lot of time going through work and correcting it but often without an effective 14 Embedding English and Maths

system to ensure that these corrections are adopted and lead to improvements in written work. Typically comments are ‘Watch your spelling’, ‘Be careful with capital letters’, or words that are spelt incorrectly are circled or underlined, possibly with ‘sp’ in the margin. Tutors spend a lot of time and effort on this, but does it lead to improvements? Ask learners what they are expected to do with this feedback and you might be surprised to find that you are met with blank looks. It is important to put time and effort into establishing a system for what learners do with feedback on written work. For example, you might want them to establish their own paper or electronic spelling logs. These can be referred to when writing. Chapter 3 looks at what works in improving skills such as spelling and Appendix 2 contains an example of a spelling log that you may wish to adopt. For now, try this simple strategy.

Practical Task

Next time you write ‘sp’ in the margin or underline an incorrect spelling of a word add the num­ber ‘3’ to it, so you might write ‘sp3’. Help learners out by underlining only the part of the word which is incorrectly spelt. Learners rarely spell whole words incorrectly. Look at the example from the computer animation student above. Even here, only parts of words are misspelt. Get learn­ers into the habit of knowing that when they see ‘sp3’ next to a word, it means that you would like them to find and write out – or add to their spelling logs – three words that end in the same pattern. For example, the learner above has written ‘improve’ as ‘inprove’. Using ‘sp3’ you might encourage her to find the correct spellings of three words with a similar spelling pattern. At first you could provide vocationally relevant words as she is on a computer games design course, eg, ‘import’. You might expand this to more general words such as ‘important’ or ‘impress’. As her confidence grows she may be able to find words herself when she sees the ‘sp3’ on her work. The point is that there is a system which is understood by the learners that records improvements in spellings.

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Our Penultimate Extract From ‘Observing Children and Families’

Our books always encourage critical thinking and Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ is especially successful in finding clear and concise methods for achieving that.

We have a pretty morbid extract today, (sorry folks), on child death. A very interesting read so take a look.

Note: She is commenting on studies of child death enquiries discussed on previous pages.



As I have read these, and many other reviews I was struck by the reliance on how parents presented and on what they told practitioners, in contrast to the limited attention paid to listening to children, observing and understanding their lived experience.  The impact of scepticism about the competence of children is illustrated in an analysis of some 45 child abuse inquiry reports between 1973-1994 undertaken by Munro (1999: 752). She found that in the ten cases where communication with children was considered, what children said was listened to when it corresponded with the social worker’s existing view and ignored when it did not. Hence, in three cases where the children said they were abused and it was true, they were not believed.   This does suggest that careful thought needs to be given to perceptions of children and the value, or lack of value, that we accord to what they say, what they do and to time spent being with them.

What also emerges is that the reasons why the parents and carers of these children have killed them are inevitably complex and whilst a better understanding of the impact of our perceptions of children should be very helpful, it is clearly not the only reason for the persistence of the difficulties in really seeing and hearing children.  It does however provide the context that frames individual practitioners thinking.  So next, we will begin to consider issues that emerge at a personal level that may contribute to these difficulties.

To have a look at these case studies yourself, see here. Why not formulate your own opinions and contact us with feedback?

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Observing Children: Free Extract Numéro-Deux

So today I have another snippet of Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ book. For those of you that haven’t seen yesterday’s post, we will be giving you some exclusive extracts throughout the week just to share with you why this text has received an ample amount of great feedback.

In this chapter Gill discusses four main perceptions of children: children as victims, children as incomplete adults, children as a threat, children as redemptive. These perceptions can be problematic to practitioners.

This next extract discusses the first perception (children as victims) and shows how the text encourages the reader to be interactive and responsive with the text through the use of activities.


Similarly attitudes to children working have also changed, so within the framework of the law, there is now a ‘protectionist discourse’ (James, James and Prout 1998) that regards the employment of young children as intrinsically problematic. Cunningham suggests that this has had a problematic impact:

So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience. To think of children as potential victims in need of protection is a very modern outlook, and it probably does no-one a service.  (Cunningham 2006:245) 

My tendency to view children in this way was vividly illustrated when I was visiting South Africa some years ago.  I saw a young girl, at most six years old, carrying a baby (approximately 9-12 months) on her back, purposefully making her way along and across a busy road.  She did this carefully and competently. The baby on her back had his arms curled around her; he looked chubby and alert.  The image has always stayed in my mind, as it was a sight that did not fit with my view of children’s competence and the level of responsibility that they should be afforded.


Do you agree with Cunningham’s view, stated above, that it is unhelpful to see children as potential victims? Compile a list of the possible advantages and disadvantages.

For more on the book, click here. Please contact us if you have any queries, and keep an eye out for tomorrow’s extract.

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