50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers

I was surprised and delighted yesterday to be contacted by Samantha Miller of Online University Reviews in America, to tell me that The Literacy Adviser had been included in their 50 Best Blogs for Literacy Teachers. I’ve had a look at the other forty-nine and selected a few of them to give you a flavour of the exalted company which I am more than happy to be keeping. Blogging from outside the USA, which let’s face it is quite a big place, makes the inclusion on the list that bit more special.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day : Every day, Larry Ferlazzo blogs websites of particular interest to the ESL, ELL, and EFL communities, making it an excellent and indispensible resource.

 PainInTheEnglish.com : This very delightful blog explores “the gray areas of the English language,” shedding light on the subjective, perpetually changing nature of human speech.

 Grammar Girl : Mignon Fogarty’s extremely popular blog and podcast at Quick and Dirty Tips answers extremely common grammar questions as well as those pertaining to some of the more esoteric corners of the language.

 Language Log : Teachers and students alike who harbour a love of grammar, the history of communication, phonetics, and other related topics simply must read over (and bookmark!) Language Log.

 The Grammarphobia Blog : Both the blog and the surrounding website make for an excellent reference for teachers and students alike who find themselves baffled by some of the oddities in the English language.

 The Punctuator! : With punctuation being one of the most confounding elements of any language for anyone, it pays to understand all the whats, whys, and hows behind the marks.

 Literacy is Priceless : Bon Education founder Anna Batchelder blends together her love of technology and teaching literacy to offer teachers an excellent, comprehensive resource on promoting reading and writing.

 huffenglish.com : Another blog on the intersection between technology and education, focusing its energy and resources on issues regarding how they apply to teaching English.

 Free Technology for Teachers : Although Free Technology for Teachers targets educators in most subjects, there is enough here to engage and interest those emphasizing literacy to warrant its inclusion on the list.

 The Elegant Variation : The Elegant Variation exists as one of the top literary criticism blogs on the web, helping visitors learn how to hone and apply their reading and comprehension skills

 A Year of Reading : Two seasoned veteran teachers – each with over 20 years of experience under their belts – blog about their thoughts regarding the children’s and young adult books they encounter along the way.

 The Book Bench : Indulge in The New Yorker’s highly literate look at the world of reading and writing and the ways in which it shapes society for better or for worse.

 Flashlight Worthy : Flashlight Worthy, though not structured like a traditional blog, fills a definite niche in the online literature community. Any parents, teachers, students, or bibliophiles looking for reads that fit their needs and wants can easily immerse themselves amongst the listings containing hundreds of specialized recommendations.

View the whole list of 50 here.

A blog is only as good as the extent of the networks you create of course, and this particular blog would be much poorer without the steady stream of ideas from those I follow on Twitter, and the blogs I look at on a regular basis, which are listed under the heading ‘Blogroll’ at the bottom of the right-hand panel.


Stitched in Time

There’s more than one way to tell a story effectively, and some of them are almost timeless. Just such a one is The Girl on the Wall: One Life’s Rich Tapestry by Jean Baggott, an intricate autobiographical piece of embroidery consisting of seventy-three interlocking circles, one for every year of the author’s life.

Detail from Girl on the Wall tapestry (click to enlarge)

Baggott, who was born and raised in the industrial town of West Bromwich, and describes having lived her life feeling ‘completely unimportant’, took 16 months to complete the tapestry, which depicts the major events of the second half of the twentieth century as well as the minutiae of her own life, demonstrating in the process that even the most ‘ordinary’ person has an interesting story to tell.

Some of the most vivid stories within the story are those depicting the austerity of the war years of her childhood, a mother whose inverted snobbery prevented her from taking up the grammar school place she had been offered, her subsequent attendance at the local secondary modern which she generously describes as ‘OK’ but where she was assessed by her PE teacher as ‘a great useless lump of lard’, and the story of the local war veteran, held prisoner by the Japanese, whose elation on returning home to his loyal wife quickly turns into an inability to cope with the psychological damage, and ends in a sad tale of domestic abuse.

It would be understandable if this were to turn into a grim memoir of difficult times, but Baggott, who started the tapestry after the death of her husband and the departure of her two grown-up children (the idea came to her on a visit to a stately home while studying for the university degree which had been denied her in her youth) never allows the hardship to overshadow what is effectively a celebration of the ordinary pleasures in life.

 The video clip of the the author talking about her life and the making of the tapestry would make an excellent starter for discussion or creative writing.

Scotland on Screen

Having spent a fun-filled few days recently in the Scottish Screen Archive, watching everything from a  rare Chic Murray comedy drama to amateur footage of the funeral of Robert Burns’ granddaughter in Dumfries (attended incidentally by the then Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald) it was a great pleasure this week to see the Scotland on Screen website, which I had been helping to develop, nominated for an education award at the Learning on Screen Awards 2010.

Launched at last year’s Scottish Learning Festival, the site already has more than 15 hours of digitised clips, a figure which will more than double when the latest batch are tagged, prepared and uploaded. Each clip is between two and twenty minutes long, and comes with detailed introduction and production information. 

Collectively, the films represent much of Scotland’s cultural heritage of the past hundred years or so. Ranging from Oscar-winning documentaries to amateur footage of local gala days, from animated poems to public health films, there is something for every level and area of the curriculum.  Each clip is accompanied by a few starter questions for discussion, followed by suggested activities which can be further developed by the teacher. A selection of high quality, fully-developed ‘feature resources’ is available for those who wish to embark on a more in-depth study.

The films can be searched alphabetically, by date, topic or curriculum area. An additional A Day in the Homefeature, available only to educational users via GLOW, is that each film comes with a high-resolution film strip which allows subscribers to re-mix, edit and incorporate into multi-media presentations, or to create their own digital narratives!  It really is a first-class (free!) resource for teachers. Here’s hoping it gets the recognition it deserves at that awards ceremony.        

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        © National Library of Scotland