Frank Smith Essays Into Literacy Test

Essays Into Literacy: Selected Papers and Some Afterthoughtsit was amazing5.0 · Rating details ·  2 Ratings  ·  1 Review

This volume contains a number of Frank Smith's classic papers and others from sources not always easily accessible. It also contains some Afterthoughts in which he responds candidly to the questions and challenges he most frequently receives. They include, Why are you so rude about teachers?, What you say is impossible, How can you teach a child who isn't interested?, HowThis volume contains a number of Frank Smith's classic papers and others from sources not always easily accessible. It also contains some Afterthoughts in which he responds candidly to the questions and challenges he most frequently receives. They include, Why are you so rude about teachers?, What you say is impossible, How can you teach a child who isn't interested?, How will children learn if they are not continually corrected?, and What would your ideal school be like?...more

Paperback, 157 pages

Published August 9th 1983 by Heinemann Educational Books

A grass-roots educational research project

Frank Smith

"As long as writing remains a natural and purposeful activity, made available without threat, then children will be willing to practice it and consequently will learn."
Frank Smith, 1983: Essays Into Literacy (80)


2: Frank Smith, 'Writing and the Writer', 1982

Smith advocates holistic experiences of writing rather than practising skills separately. He favours a focus on the learner rather than the teacher. He advises the teacher to facilitate pupils saying what they want, rather than instructing pupils to conform to pattern's of the teacher's devising.

"Writing is not learned in steps: there is no ladder of separate and incremental skills to be ascended." This is a cautionary reminder of the abuses to which some UK assessment systems are currently put.

Smith says that skills are best acquired when needs are identified, and when the messiness of composition is anticipated and allowed.

He is convinced that creativity and growth are inhibited by an over-eagerness to classify pupils (e.g. levels and sub-levels) and to demonstrate 'progress'. (In this way, the current appetite for measurement is counter-productive, holding back the very learning it claims to advance.) "A child who believes that the main purpose of writing is to get a grade and an evaluative comment from a teacher is clearly not likely to develop into an interested or particularly competent writer ... Tests are almost inevitably based on very poor theories of what writing and reading involve; they are constructed by people whose expertise is in test constructions, not in writing or reading." ( Michael Morpurgo and Michael Rosen made similar criticisms of the SATs, and in 'Words not Numbers', Myra Barrs disputes the validity of the assessment of writing not based on the normal conditions in which writing is undertaken.)

So after his critique, what does he positively advocate? I've got it down to four things for teachers to do:
  1. Create a stimulating and trusting language environment with plenty of opportunities for learners to learn from each other, interleaving all the following experiences: discussion, role-play, reading books and watching films, and reflection on writing.
  2. Show pupils what writing can do to flesh out their intentions (modelling stages of the writing process) and what writing can look like.
  3. Balance when we help, intervene and allow freedom.
  4. Arrange regular and purposeful reading and writing.

In a later publication, 1985, Frank Smith wrote:
"People who don't trust children to learn or teachers to teach will always expect a method to do the job."

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