David Didau’s new book, the ‘Secret of Literacy‘ landed on my desk this past week with great anticipation. His last book, the ‘Perfect Ofsted English Lesson‘ was a great success and being an avid reader of his blog and enjoying many of our conversations over the years, I was looking forward to reading this new book.
Before I go any further, you might think I may have some pecuniary interest in writing this review. It’s true I know David. I know his family. In fact the piano in my house was even given to me by him and his wife for my children to use. He’s spoken at Teachmeets I’ve organised. We’ve shared the occasional drink together. We’ve worked together at Clevedon School and the list continues. But. We don’t always agree. I’ll always remember his reaction to calling one of his opinions ‘poppycock’ and we certainly don’t always see eye to eye, even if I don’t write about it or always say it to his face. All that said though – I’ve written this review for me. He doesn’t know I’m doing it. He might even not like it. But having read it – I think it’s a book that should be on everyone’s shelves. Well read, thumbed, annotated, learned from, acted upon and used.
Like my book, his is squarely pitched at teachers – not English subject teachers, but all teachers. His view, like mine, is that we are all teachers of English. We all correct spellings when marking work; check grammar; worry about the quality of written communication in our student responses to mock exams and in coursework…. we ARE all teachers of literacy. We are all teachers too and so throughout the book, the hallmarks of great teaching and learning are there.
His book works through seven chapters:
- Why is literacy important
- The teaching sequence for independence
- Planning lessons for literacy
- How written feedback and marking can support literacy
You would probably think from looking at this list that the book is, as the title suggests, about literacy. Having read it through, whilst there is a lot there about working with students and helping to develop their writing, reading, oracy (and now I’m re-reading this post worrying about my grammar), this is a book which oozes reference and pedagogical context. It could well be a game changer. It is 100% focused on improving teaching and learning alongside ensuring that literacy is at the heart of what we do. Taking on board the ideas of solid classroom practice such as critique, assessment, connectives, hexagons, lesson structure, starters, questioning, reflection, TIM, DIRT, slow writing, mnemonics, differentiation, so forth and so on – this is a book about what great teaching and learning should be.
We should all really know these things already but if I’ve learnt one thing in my 17 years of teaching – not all educators are born equal. These things which from our training and classroom practice which should be explicit, aren’t. And so whilst David’s strap-line says ‘making the implicit explicit’ – for me, he’s making the explicit explicit. Reinforcing the very best of our pedagogical practice, supporting it with sound research and reference, Didau makes a compelling case for going back to basics, embedding great pedagogy and exploring the wonders of learning with all of your students.
Share this books with all of your staff. I’m going to be seeing if I can get a copy for all of my colleagues, or at the very least their departments.
And no. You’re not having my copy.