Fast, Focused and Fun Literacy Learning

kids in school all putting their hands up as the teacher asks a question

Girls, as any Cyndi Lauper fan will tell you, just want to have fun. And, after the year we’ve all had, I’m sure the rest of us won’t be too far behind. Yet fun can be quite the tricky character. Like a much sought after, but elusive, party guest, the more desperately we try to coax it in, the less likely it is to pay us a visit. Who’s up for a bit of forced fun? Thought not!

A lesson from my schooling

At secondary school, I learned Latin. This was the early '80s, I hasten to add, so language-wise it was hardly the new kid on the block. We had to choose from one of three options, with each teacher delivering a little pitch. Mr Roberts promised us that, if we enjoyed puzzles, word games and crosswords, then Latin was the choice for us. We gave him the benefit of the doubt.

So picture the scene. Thirty awkward adolescents rock up at the door of the Latin class and are instructed to sit at any one of the individual desks arranged in rows up and down the room. These are imposing, antiquated desks with wooden benches attached, finished off with inkwells and hand-carved obscenities. They’d fetch a fortune today. But little did we realise how this unprepossessing furniture would become a key prop in our lessons.

At regular intervals, questions were fired at unsuspecting students. An incorrect response was met with a sonorous ‘WRONG!’ followed by ‘Next! Next! Next!’ as our teacher rapidly pointed his way down the aisle. Eventually, someone would stumble upon the right answer, and that student was then invited to take their bag, books and equipment and swap places with the original questionee, whilst everyone else moved down a desk.

Human snakes and ladders, performed at speed. In other hands, a recipe for chaos and anarchy. But Roberts ran a tight ship. His unorthodox methods kept us all on our toes, literally, as everyone aspired to take the coveted seat at the top of the class. We learnt loads despite ourselves and were swept along in the fun.

Fast forward forty years, and fun remains a key watchword for all at Lexonik. One third of our holy trinity ‘Fast, Focused and Fun’.

Fast paced learning

But to begin at the beginning. Before I became a Lexonik teacher, I don’t think I’d ever heard of the word ‘automaticity’, let alone used it. However, I soon learned that instantaneous, automatic responses are a key requisite for the successful reader. As a result, many of our activities are delivered ‘at speed’. A white-knuckle ride on a linguistic roller coaster, if you will.

Face-to-face Advance training generally requires four students to take part in a demonstration group, usually after lunch on the first day. The best ones to work with are often those who shuffle in with most reluctance. They don’t want to put the hoods of their parkas down, let alone take their coats off. You’d think they were auditioning for roles in South Park. But a few minutes later, suitably warmed up and presented with a speed game or a challenge, their joint demeanour is totally transformed and they’re all pulling together to beat both the clock and their previous score.

Focused learning

Next there’s ‘focused’. The focus on words is forensic, just the tonic if you’re missing your regular ‘Line of Duty’ fix. To succeed at Lexonik, you need to become a vocabulary detective. Not sure how to define an unfamiliar word? Well, imagine you’ve just found yourself at a crime scene. Hunt down those clues! And you may need to call on the prefix, suffix and root to help you with your enquiries!

Fun learning

So your lessons are fast. They are focused. But what about the fun? Well, it’s there all along, mentioned in teacher training evaluations just as often as it is by our students. It tiptoes in and takes you unawares as you spend an hour playing with language, rising to challenges and solving puzzles. Listen out for the sound of laughter alongside animated discussions on our new Vocabulary Detectives podcasts and you’ll hear it there too.

Even though nobody gets to swap seats, Mr Roberts would approve. I’m sure of it.

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