Sowing the seeds of literacies - old and new


These are the main points from a webinar I delivered for mostly Turkish teachers

 on Saturday 29 May 2021


What is literacy?

What we read / write

Where we read / write it (from books to digital tools)

Engagement with the written word

Learning through literacy – it’s the key to knowledge


We do live in a digital world but

Children do not have equal access to digital technologies due to

·        school focus and resources

·        family circumstances

·        cultural influences (e.g. a focus on traditional education)


Learning to read and write is

·        a fundamental right

·        a gateway to gaining knowledge

·        has never been more important


While many people believe that children’s literacy is declining in the digital age, Professor David Crystal has done research into children’s use of mobile devices

Children using mobile devices have better literacy scores and spelling and are able to process information more quickly.


During Covid

Schools shut and we moved to online teaching

Learning remotely meant using platforms like zoom / videos / links / handouts

So, learners have to be more independent and resilient

And teachers, too


Pros of remote learning for teachers

Explored different resources

Became aware of support e.g. Cambridge websites

Discovered learning could be more flexible



We all missed the real classroom –

people, interaction, humour, variety, spontaneity, encouragement, touch

The fact that learning is often a group experience


We need to learn together:

Leo Vygotsky

Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition = community plays a central role in the process of making meaning.


And we shouldn’t abandon the tried and tested older tools for learning.

Evolution is not simply change, it is development – an accumulation of knowledge


The brain has evolved over thousands of years. It has evolved to be able to take action and navigate appropriate behaviour. In order for the brain to develop in the best possible way, we need to use it for what it’s best at. We need to live an authentic life. We have to use all our senses, be outside, experience all kinds of weather and meet other people. If we don’t challenge our brain, it can’t reach its full potential. And that can impact school performance.

Eva Ose Askvik, F. R. (Ruud) van der Weel and Audrey L. H. van der Meer,  July 2020, Norwegian University of Science & Technology


We need hands on learning because


      need different stimulation / multi-sensory

      learn in different ways

      need the capacity to learn autonomously

      need to be digitally and otherwise competent

      need to learn other skills in class



Motor skills

The use of pen and paper gives our brain more hooks to hang memories on. Writing by hand creates much more activity in in the sensorimotor parts of the brain. A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write .. These sense experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning. We both learn better and remember better.

Audrey Van der Meer, Norwegian University of Science & Technology


There are lots of great Pre-literacy tasks, which develop multiple skills:

Ball-throwing & catching

Cutting out





Sticking stickers

Arts and crafts

Movement games

Using plasticene, spaghetti, pipe cleaners etc to shape letters and words

= they develop motor skills, coordination, focus and aid memory


Learning tasks need to be kinaesthetic and haptic.

Through these kinds of activities they learn to:

Recognise shapes of letters

Link letters to sounds


Recognise words

Link what they see to what they have heard

Are also collaborative and communicative – these are key life skills, children need to develop.


Reading real books is

·        Tangible, tactile and immersive

·        Better for eyesight and sleep

·        Easy to look back

·        Permanent

·        Focus attention

·        Reading is a personal, reflective, imaginative experience


There is an important role for Digital learning as it’s a key skill for our children now and in their future:


‘the importance of developing autonomy / initiative to use technology independently outside the classroom

Elliot et al, 2000


BUT we also need to focus on

·        Online safety

·        Etiquette

·        Addiction

·        Training teachers



·        Is stimulating

·        Offers great language learning opportunities

·        Exposes learner to the world

·        Develops skills for the future

·        Useful beyond the classroom e.g. homework

·        Can still be collaborative & communicative

·        Can be differentiated especially for homework


We want our leaners to be

Keen to learn


Able to work independently

and make choices





Check out these websites / blogs mentioned in my presentation:

My blog: www.olhamadylusblog.com


www.opdome.com – a nice online dictionary (one of many)


www.noredink.com -  a writing resource for older children


www.learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org – for lots of stories, songs, material


as well as Home | World of Better Learning | Cambridge University Presswww.cambridge.org/elt/blog - for lots of support for teachers


I didn’t get round to answering all the questions after my presentation, so I am adding them here:


Sajjad Hussain       12:15 PM

which method of teaching directly deals with online education

 I suggest you have a look at the material that was put together to support teachers on the link below.. Don’t worry if you don’t use any of the CUP books, the advice can help with whatever material you use and any age group you teach.

 Covid Support | Cambridge University Press


 Erdoğan Dalmış       01:13 PM

As we know that the average of literacy is increasing, why do people try to be brutal to each error? I mean sneaky people are supposed to be good but they are not. Why?

 I think traditionally errors were regarded as BAD things and not as signs of development. If our students don’t make errors, they should be teachers!!


Muhannad AlAli       01:53 PM

Do you think digital literacy will dominate the future of teaching?

 Rewatch my webinar! I was very much suggesting that we can’t let go of traditional face-to-face learning practice that WORKS. If we only teach online, students will miss out on so much stimulation, community learning and collaboration and FUN. There will be more learning online, but I hope (and pray) that it won’t be dominant.


Mark Demirtan       01:54 PM

what do you mean by "you want your students to be resilient

 Resilience is the ability to deal with difficult situations. The world is getting more and more complicated, confusing and challenging and we all need to have the skills and mental strength to deal with what it throws at us.


ozan tekin       01:54 PM

What do you think about interactive literacy teaching among students?

 The more interaction, the better. 😊


Theresa Sarigüllü       01:55 PM

Thank you for the wonderful seminar, what can we do for ss the are determined to learn but don’t have enough tech?

 We need to work together to find solutions. The school could buy laptops for students to share or to be used at school, students could team up with classmates who do have the tech. Most importantly teachers must be aware of this problem and not assume that all their students have the tech and find ways of reaching and supporting all students.


Hüseyin Subaşı       01:55 PM

What kind of activities do you suggest to abolish the silence between the students during the class as a teacher?

 Start the habit of speaking English together from lesson one, plan lots of speaking activities and make sure you as the teacher model speaks English all the time in class. They will understand. Even when I teach 4 year olds I only use English. Plus don’t over-correct them. Build up their confidence.


May May Win       01:56 PM

How should we correct the language (grammar) in kids’ writing?  Thanks

Don’t correct it all for a start! Make notes of grammar mistakes common to many students and plan activities to go over that grammar and help them all progress.

If students are making a lot of mistakes when they write, it means they weren’t well-prepared for the task. Make sure you build up the skills and language they need before setting a writing task for them. Also let them write in pairs or small groups, so they can support each other – remember Vygotsky!


Beatrix Ivannovita       01:56 PM

Very young learners are easily distracted. Would you share some tips to get them actively engaged?

 Don’t forget they are young children and it’s normal to be distracted for a start! But plan your lessons so there is a good variety of short activities, challenge them in different ways e.g. have a song, a movement game, some writing, making something etc in a lesson. Look up Multiple Intelligence Theory online – this will help in your lesson planning.


Rafi Ergün       01:57 PM

You haven't mentioned oracy skills in this seminar, do you ignore it?

 The webinar was about other skills! I think developing Oracy is crucial. Focussing on oracy means language learning is purposeful, communicative and authentic. Check out this great website -  oracycambridge.org


 Anonymous Attendee       01:58 PM

What is the difference between collaboration and co-operation?

 Good question! They are very similar, but co-operation can be achieved working independently e.g. students can create a magazine by each writing a small part of it. That’s cooperative but they aren’t actually doing the writing together – that would be collaboration.


ozan tekin       01:58 PM

Do you think that individuals are responsible for their own learning in the face of a lack of techs? What about equity and equality?

 No. We need teachers to plan, support, encourage, help, diagnose, encourage etc etc. And students who need more help, should absolutely get it. Yes, we are trying to help students be more independent but not by leaving them to learn all alone!


Anonymous Attendee       01:58 PM

In your own opinion , what do you think is the best way for students to improve on English speaking?

 Practise, practise, practise. And have lots of good models – listen to as much as possible in English including songs, films, each other and their teacher.


Merve GÜRSAÇLI       02:00 PM

what is your opinion about Bilingualism? Do you have any  advice to read about  it?

 I think there are different definitions of the word. The one I have always understood was when children grow up with 2 languages. I am bi-lingual I was born in England to Ukrainian parents, so learnt both languages from birth.

 In education there is a trend to call schools bi-lingual, where many lessons are taught in English. This is also called immersive learning. It’s a good way for students to develop their English in many contexts with a lot of exposure to the language and reasons to use it.

 I would just google what aspects of it you are interested in.


Ebru Topal       02:01 PM

You know during the online teaching road, parents were with us but we as teachers and schools mostly are keen to show how much they we could cover in the process so we are doing online portfolio, any ideas?

 Check out this website for learners:


and this one for teachers:

Tips for Teachers: Creating a Teaching Portfolio Online - Blog


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