Back of the Net

a man sat against a sofa holding a stack of books in one hand and a football in the other

Season’s greetings, kids! With this year’s Autumn Equinox falling on September 22nd, we’re now definitely into the third quarter of the year, whichever calendar you’re working to. Time to gather in those pumpkins as Ray Davies strums us through his Autumn Almanac!

A few years back, I found myself in the forests of New England for ‘The Fall’. It’s big business out there, absolutely huge. Stunning colours and swarms of ‘leaf peepers’. Also, there was a sniper on the loose, taking pot shots at motorists as they refuelled at petrol stations. Police advised the public against leaving their cars unless absolutely necessary, and, if possible, to zigzag their way to the service hatch. I was OK though; my friend was driving. We sped off to somewhere suitably remote before checking in to a deserted youth hostel with no locks on the doors. Happy days.

Which brings me to another idea – the current season being one of anticipation, the shortening days culminating in the gaudy, gothy climax of Halloween. Just think of all those classic horror movies to revisit as the sun goes down and darkness descends! Or even better, the opportunities to snuggle up with some nerve-jangling page turner!

I remember as a young kid visiting London for the first time one October half-term, and, shocked senseless by the paperback cover of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’, (blood streaming down a disembodied head, gorehounds!), opting for the more PG-13 thrills of the Sherlock Holmes classic ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ instead. Transfixed, I read under the sheets till way past my bedtime, and finished the adventure in two days flat.

Then, as now, books were totally my bag. Often at the expense of the other things boys were/are expected to be interested in, such as, dur, team sports. My dad, by contrast, was your archetypal sports enthusiast. So every summer, lunches packed, we’d be found driving off to some random cricket fixture, and in the autumn it was pretty much the same, but with a thermos, to the football or rugby.

As a child who could get separation anxiety going through a turnstile, you can perhaps imagine how bad I was at spectator sports. Never properly concentrating, I’d always be caught off guard when a goal was scored and the stadium erupted. Once, I was so surprised I nearly dropped my puzzle book.

Fast forward to the present day, and there’s still that same divide, with the sporty kids sprinting off to the nearest all-weather pitch whilst the bookworms forge their own sick notes and head for the warm embrace of the school library.

Yes, I’m generalising. Some students are lucky enough to excel across the board. But for many others, these binary expectations can be limiting. The fact is, in today’s education system, you need a strong linguistic ability to succeed in all subjects, and this includes physical education just as much as English Literature.

As a cross-curricular package, this is where the Lexonik Advance programme really scores. One moment you might be disinterring a piece of vocabulary from the history curriculum, the next, you’re dissecting a word from the biology syllabus. Consequently, it’s always a joy to train up teachers from a range of backgrounds and specialisms as they often hold the key to broadening our appeal.

A few years back, after leading a staff development session at my local secondary, I was approached by one of the PE teachers. Self-confident, always joshing, one of the lads. But he was about to take a risk. He told me about his dyslexia, how it had impacted on his own learning, and how, even now, composing a simple email could be a daunting prospect. He wondered if the programme might help him turn things around.

Knowing that Lexonik was designed specifically with dyslexic students in mind, this was an offer I couldn’t refuse. So we worked through the Advance course, one-to-one, six-one hour sessions, one week apart, just as I would with my students. Unsurprisingly, he loved the quick-fire competitive elements. But he was equally taken by the way it developed his phonological awareness – so much so that he started breaking down vocabulary in his own lessons in the same way.

Initially, some students were taken aback. “But that’s how we do it in Lexonik!” they exclaimed, the conceptual distance between PE and Lexonik being as great as the actual distance between the gym and the literacy mentor’s room. “Well that’s the way I’m learning it too!” he replied, thereby signalling a willingness to develop his own literacy, and convincing a number of wavering teens to come on board at the same time.

So there you have it. You can be sporty. You can be literate. And, with a can-do attitude and a bit of support, you can be both sporty and literate at the same time!

I think I might go for a jog…

If you feel like you want to learn more about our intervention programmes check them out here or if you’re looking for advice, get in touch.

Ian Jones
Lexonik • Senior Regional Trainer