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35 ideas for improving literacy that actually work

  • by: Anna from Pobble
  • On: 24, Sep 2020
37 min read

At Pobble, we’re on a mission to support schools with improving literacy skills, be it reading, writing or speaking. To help out our fellow teachers, we wanted to share with you a few of our favourite ideas for keeping your literacy sessions enjoyable, engaging and most of all effective. Here are 35 fun ideas for the classroom that will keep your class inspired and improve those essential literacy skills.

1) Set aside a dedicated reading time each day and make it a big deal! Consider having a theme tune that you play to start and finish the session. Have a box for recommended books that the children can choose from or put in their own recommendations, create a reading culture in your class rather than it being a chore.

2) Share what you’re reading - Let the children see you enjoy reading too. Why not create a display of what teachers are reading in your school?

3) Create a synonym word wall in your classroom - It’s a place where children can go to select an alternative word to use in their writing. We’ve collected some awesome examples to inspire you!

4) Engage reluctant readers by finding a book they love. If they aren’t enjoying something, ditch it and try something else.

5) Let your class see you write or, even better, write with them! Giving them the opportunity to observe you writing too is a real motivation booster.

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6) Give them a one sentence starter. Children often struggle to start a piece of writing, give them an opening sentence or a selection to choose one from, then see where their imagination takes them.

7) Pause for thought – take a class break halfway through a piece of writing. Some can write too much and get carried away; others trail off and get stuck. Take some time to pause, discuss and refresh the end goal.

8) Make spelling fun; it is possible! Oodles of ideas right here.

9) Share children’s work outside the classroom; never underestimate the power of an audience. Celebrate it in assemblies, with parents, on social media or go one step further and share it with people around the world on Pobble.

10) Make handwriting fun, it is possible! Just check out these examples if you don’t believe us.

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11) Role play. Don’t just leave the kids sitting at their desks during your literacy session. Get them moving about the classroom in character or acting out a few sentences of their work. This adds variety, a change of pace and plenty of opportunities for language production; it’s also heaps of fun!

12) Run a reading challenge throughout the term. Keep a class tally somewhere that the kids can update. Can your class read 100 books collectively before the end of term?

13) Make your room a literacy rich environment to emphasise the importance of writing, reading, and speaking. You can do this by ensuring your class have access to a huge variety of resources. Provide lots of choice of everyday literacy materials such as recipes, menus, signs and maps and expose them to varying genres such as magazines, books on tape and word games like Boggle. Have literacy-based resources wherever possible, notepads and phone books in the role play/dress up area for example.

14) Invite guest readers in the classroom. This could be the head, parents, or community members. Ask them to visit your class to share and read aloud their favourite story or find videos online of celebrities reading stories.

15) Use exciting writing prompts to stimulate your budding authors. We use the most inspiring images we find for our daily writing resource Pobble365.

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16) Use props. Every object has a story and visualising the object can help to inspire, especially if you’re focusing on descriptive writing.

17) Healthy competition in the classroom can be great fun. Create a little contest where the winner of the best writing of the week gains a special prize or role in the classroom; a VIP chair, cushion or cape works well. Have the children vote for their peers each week. They’ll strive to make their work better to become the VIP. Better still, make your VIP writer of the week a published author, by sharing their writing on Pobble.

18) Try different forms of mark making to keep things exciting, even with older kids! Trays filled with sand, shaving foam or stamps in play dough work well.

19) Hold a class debate. Choose a topic (as random as you like), split the children into two teams and have them discuss and deliberate the subject. Great for promoting discussion, but also increasing speaking confidence and language skills.

20) Get social, use ideas from social media. Can they write tweets or status updates as a character from a book you’ve read? Or write a sentence using only 280 characters? There are loads more ideas for using social media in the classroom here.

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21) Create a story bag. Fill it with a random assortment of items, anything from teddy bears to train tickets. If the children are struggling for inspiration let them dip into the bag and use their chosen item as a prompt.

22) Change location. Get them off their seats and allow them to choose where they sit to write. Let them lay on the floor or under the table if it helps! 

23) Let your class assess their own work or with a peer-partner. Letting them take responsibility is empowering and gives them pride in their learning. Pobble's new pupil tools empower self and peer assessment.

24) Videos can be a great way of psyching your class up to write. Short animations and clips can really hook the child in and give them a clear idea of the characters before beginning a piece of writing based on the clip. Find a few of our favourites here.

25) Get your class involved in hot seating. The person on the chair could be a mystery character from a book and the others have to ask questions to discover their identity. Other variations could be to ask them how they felt about a certain situation they were involved in. E.g. How did Goldilocks feel after the event with the bears?

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26) Make your classroom more sensory. Can you play music based around your class topic or have certain lighting and props to match the theme? This is sure to get your class inspired.

27) Create a writing station. Don’t limit writing to lesson times. Having a dedicated writing area with a wide selection of mark making instruments, different sizes/colours of paper and envelopes will promote a culture of writing in the classroom. If they want to write during free time they will have an area for them to do so ready prepared with all the tools they need.

28) Try writing a story or poem as a whole class. Brainstorm ideas on the board and discuss what works best. This is great for letting them magpie ideas from their pals.

29) Write about something they love! Get down with the kids. It may not be something you’re knowledgeable about like Pokemon, Fortnite or Minecraft, but if the kids are passionate about it their writing will flow!

30) Provide a variety of writing materials. Let’s face it, school pencils are boring! Let the kids use funky pencils, smelly pens or glitter pens, as long as they’re writing, it shouldn’t matter!

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31) Print their writing and turn it into books for the class/school library. Not only will this make the authors super proud, but it gives other children the opportunity to see what their peers are up to.

32) Use technology to improve literacy. Can they write an email to someone, read a story on the computer or practise their spellings on the iPad? Perhaps you could try augmented or virtual reality to inspire writing!

33) Host a class ‘open mic’ session. Encourage children to read out their poems or stories to the audience. Great for improving confidence and language skills.

34) A mixed bag. Get everyone in the class to choose a story setting and write it down, put them in a bag and then everyone chooses one at random. That’s the setting for their piece of work. Repeat with different characters, or even interesting words to include.

35) Random pages. Choose a random page from the middle of a book that your class hasn't read and read it out. Can your class write the story leading up to that page? Or write the story of what happens after it?

Ready to improve writing in your school?

Pobble provides everything you need to teach writing. Visit our website to find out more.

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