Teach Through Not To


That’ll do.
I’d been watching one of my students quite closely over the last two weeks as we were heading into the electrical storm that is the end of year exams.

Having started the year very slowly, the heat of impending assessments had awoken him. He had become more attentive and inquisitive. There was a sit-up-straightness about him that hadn’t been there before.

He was also getting his folks to sign his reading diary more frequently and, at last, the old Kung Fu Punctuation seemed to be having some impact on him.

He passed the tests. Just.

What a relief and what a nice story for his parents. And what a danger to his sense of what it means to succeed.

I checked his reading age – both my records and our external, online assessment – and he was still tracking behind his age.

He’d passed the test, but no reader yet was he.

He had passed. I had failed.

Is there a test for “does he enjoy reading?” If there is, please let me know. My tests of SPAG, writing and reading comprehension tell me so much about the run-up and the exam hall, but so little about what seems to be the foundation of literacy: an enjoyment of reading.

“Do you like reading?” I should have asked him. And then peered right into him to see the truth. Asking that question and delving deeper to find the reasons and the remedies would have saved me so much time spent ‘weighing the pig’ and teaching the symptoms of good literacy rather than the big ideas that joyously pull us by the nose through a discipline.

“Do you love reading?” I shall ask now. And let silence speak.

Yes, there are nuts and bolts to be polished – tests to be passed. But without a clear trajectory mapped through the test to a greater goal, a passed test is a fail.


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