Month: May 2017

5 reasons why secondary schools should establish a Language Leads team.

5 reasons why secondary schools should establish a Language Leads team.

I’ve had the real privilege of establishing a Language Leads team this year at my school. I’m constantly surprised by the fruits of this group; comprising one capable teacher representative from each faculty or department.

With full intention to build on our successes and learn from the relative trials we’ve faced so far, I present five reasons below that demonstrate why I feel a group of this nature is so valuable in a secondary school setting:

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  1. A Language Co-ordinator may be worthwhile, but only if there is built-in capacity to scale initiatives upwards and outwards. A team such as this provides a mechanism robust enough to disseminate research-informed language principles through regular context-specific opportunities, across the academic year.
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  2. Secondary teachers may not have been trained in how to teach the art of reading and/or writing. When I transitioned from teaching primary to secondary, my eyes were widened to the stark reality that some teachers had never been coached to teach writing, and yet were expected to apprentice classes into a particular style of academic writing. A team of this kind offers a scaffolding framework where Language Leads can meet half-termly and cascade information to their colleagues around specific areas of literacy and language.
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  3. Bringing together subject knowledge from across the school is vital. In order for core vocabulary to be chosen and planned for effectively, Language Leads must possess a deep understanding of the concepts covered within their subject. With systems in place, students can build a bank of Tier 2 and Tier 3 words across the curriculum, receiving multiple exposures to new words through repetition and quizzing, thus consolidating understanding of key concepts over time. This year, we’ve had a particular focus on Marzano’s work around vocabulary, ensuring that recommended strategies are being implemented in the classroom – with support.
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  4. Empowering teacher representatives from every department results in greater ownership at a school-wide level. If training is only ever delivered by the English team, colleagues tend to consider language as an optional bolt-on that sits apart from their subject. In fact, in order to implement change of any value, teachers must embed language instruction within the context of their subject domain. We’ve explored the Genre Pedagogy approach to teaching extended writing this year, which has led to a real shift in the expectations teachers possess around language.
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  5. A team such as this offers a forum for Language Leads to voice concerns, celebrate successes or raise questions on behalf of their department colleagues. While a clear vision and a certain level of strategic planning are necessary in order to move new ideas from the abstract to the concrete, the group should be ever-evolving to meet the needs of learners and allow room for creativity, so long as this feeds into the overarching aims of the team’s purpose. And this purpose, ultimately, is to have a positive lasting impact on the development of literacy and language – for all students.

It’s an organic collaborative process – both the formation and ongoing shaping of this team – but one I’d highly recommend other schools exploring. To have dedicated, knowledgeable professionals who are motivated to drive language in this way at a school-wide level; it’s a wonderful thing.

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