Edfest: Barton

Geoff is speaking on the habits of the word rich. He’s basing it on a book called the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, who says that 40% of our daily actions are habits! because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. This is why parents sign up their children to music and sports lessons: developing habits and encouraging social interaction.

A rough guesstimate of word knowledge among the word rich is around 60,000 words. It is unusual to find someone with a word rich vocabulary partnered with someone lacking it. He then talks about the difference between a student who writes “it says” instead of “he suggests” which makes me think of Richard Kennett’s work with his year 12s on evaluative words.

Geoff considers how things have moved on over the past few years. He explains the Matthew Effect: well-invested talent pays dividends; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 30% of UK households have 3 or fewer books which is not going to pay dividends in terms of language acquisition. Silent reading hours don’t help either because they associate reading with authoritarianism. Geoff references the Book Whisperer, which claims that there is no such thing as a non-reader. He talks about verbal rehearsals and improving the quality of discussions; that the brightest students write the shortest sentences because they know the power of short and long sentences.

We do some tasks.

1. The Habits of Talk: we have a brief discussion on, are public schools better than state schools?

2. The Habits of Spelling: a short spelling test. I don’t know whether he means, for the last word, funny, or that bone.

3. The Habits of Decoding (I think – I missed it): we read some poetry. Sometimes language is difficult and it is hard to figure it out.

4. The Habits of Writing (a): dictation

It’s really beautiful out there. In here, however, it’s quite claustrophobic.

5. The Habits of Writing (b): describe your journey here today.
We were confused, because the satnav brought us in a different direction to the way we drove yesterday, but the route was much prettier.
C/D borderline students will default to the most tedious, but fail safe, methods: “My journey here today was….” And telling them to make this more interesting is pointless.

Habit 2: playfulness
We look at things like local newspaper trivial headlines and discuss why they’re funny – cultural knowledge and understanding. This is something we need to teach to our students to help them become word rich.

Habit 3: prior knowledge
We consider the little discussion we had earlier. He predicts that we wondered what he meant by better, a prediction that is correct.

Habit 4: writing well.
We self-regulate as the word rich. When I wrote the sentence above, under number 4, I didn’t make a conscious decision about the capital, the apostrophe, the correct there, the punctuation. He suggests you dictate a sentence every lesson and allow points scoring for each one, to demonstrate what our habits are and encourage students to develop their own.
Lexical and syntactic variety: encourage students to start their writing in a different way. You need to add input into their writing in order to upskill them.

He suggests sneaking in books everywhere: sixth form common room has been the first stop at his school.

Loved this – could have stayed and listened for hours!

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