Extending Knowledge in Practice: Primary English

Series Achieving QTS
Author(s) Jane Medwell, David Wray
Publisher Learning Matters
Published 2008
Pages 117
ISBN 9781844451043
Reviewed by Mrs Tracy Wallis
University of Wolverhampton
Review published 29 May 2008

Building on their previous Learning Matters volume, the authors aim to extend the subject knowledge of newly qualified teachers with this recent publication. It offers a depth of knowledge and understanding beyond obtaining QTS amongst those nearing the end of their initial teacher education.

The book offers practical examples set in the context of teaching strategies to give a broad and rich language curriculum as advocated by the Rose review. The authors go beyond this though by giving the theory behind the practical examples linking directly back to recent research and publications. The example tasks and case studies encourage the reader to be reflective and consider the implications of teaching programmes, observations and assessments on future teaching and learning opportunities. The theme of personalised learning, although not explicit, is carried throughout.

The authors discuss phonics in the light of the Rose Review and succinctly present the aims for phonics in the National Curriculum. Although the book touches upon the analytic vs synthetic debate, it does not exalt one above the other but simply looks at the necessity to implement a suitable phonics programme that is consistent, regular and enthusiastic with a consistent vocabulary and common approach across the school.

It was at this point that I really felt this publication would be useful to any teacher starting out on implementing the new framework and who does not consider literacy to be their main strength. This publication could quite easily accompany the myriad of in- service training taking place in schools in order to aid the smooth transition from NLS to PNS.

The book also enters into the fascinating world of etymology when discussing spelling. It provides useful investigations and suggests websites for working on spelling rules. The book ventures into changes in pronunciation and the changes in English spelling over the last 1000 years. It also looks at the economising of language and how this impacts spelling and the creation of new words via expressiveness. It give strategies for understanding how English words came to be written as they are – to lead to more effective spelling on the part of teachers and children.

The chapter on punctuation acknowledges that although many people find this scary there is very little advice on how to teach it. The useful case studies here show the different uses of punctuation in a move towards a more investigative teaching approach. It makes some very interesting key points here about using punctuation in different ways for different effects – rather than learning strict rules.

Handwriting, a neglected area of literacy, is discussed with the focus on the need to make handwriting more automatic in order to aid children’s ability to compose. Although, as an ardent fan of the fountain pen “an unnecessary evil” (p.67) I found this a little tough to take, this chapter contributes to a thought provoking debate. I found the discourse on touch-typing particularly interesting.

The chapters on reading comprehension I found particularly valuable. Again I felt that this would be useful to teachers who are challenged by this particular aspect of literacy teaching. It looks at the different types of reading across the day and how important these aspects are to the effective teaching of reading. Interestingly the section on Guided Reading echoes the Searchlights model which many feel should not be completely discounted in favour of the simple view of reading.

The final chapter carries forward the debate of the future of reading and books. Like the rest of this book, this chapter does not disappoint in provoking some important thinking and provides some engaging tasks to be undertaken.