Hints and tips - 5 minute read
Sarah Ash - Subject Advisor for Health and Social Care and Child Development
During this period of lock-down and remote learning we hope that students have taken the opportunity to read, but it’s possible that they have skimmed through a few web pages, not reading in depth and not comprehending what they have read. Is there an opportunity to develop comprehension?
Many of us see that development of reading belongs with the English Department, but comprehension of words is required for students across all subjects. For health and social care and child development students there’s a new vocabulary to learn and the technical vocabulary required for the qualification.
It is our job to make sure that students comprehend what they are reading, not just know the words. This isn’t something we pay lip service to, but it is a requirement of the specification. Teachers know this, but they also know how difficult it is to engage students in learning new vocabulary, especially for Cambridge Nationals students, many of whom do not begin the course with the highest levels of literacy.
The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), part of the Cambridge Assessment family, undertakes evidence-based research to develop formative assessments up to age 16. You may have heard of MIDYis, YELLis and ALis - these are CEM products.
In one of CEM's blogs on 10 essential reads they say that “reading comprehension is crucial for success in school and, alongside the academic effects, poor comprehension can also have a social and emotional impact”.
This made me reflect not only on the social and emotional impact of the remoteness brought about by COVID-19, but the emotional effects that a return to school might bring to some students, who may not have been confident before this all began and whose confidence may be even lower on return.
Could a return to learning a subject, with largely unfamiliar terminology and contexts, be supported by building in an opportunity for reading comprehension?
A focus on keywords and meanings, followed by an example of how this can be applied would be time well spent. It would show your students you are aware of their concerns, to grow trust and build their confidence.
Several of the books in the reading list recommended by CEM are aimed at Primary School teachers, but does this matter? Probably not. If the comprehension wasn’t there to begin with then using a product designed for KS1 or KS2 perhaps wouldn’t do any harm.
Working alongside the English Department to generate some ideas for an approach to teaching terminology could bring about some interesting cross-curricular teaching.
However, I was drawn to the book Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, by Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, Linda Kucan. This book is for use across all age groups and is designed to be a teaching tool to enable you to teach your students' to “notice, understand and use new words”, and how to “select words and introduce their meanings”.
During my PGCE training I don’t recall being taught how to teach my students to learn new words, only that they needed to! I think an introduction to teaching vocabulary would have been beneficial.
The Skills guide to communication explains the importance of effective communication and as part of that the importance of the use of technical language. Effective communication is not just verbal but also written; an essential component of Cambridge Nationals internally assessed units.
These are challenging times for teachers and also for students. Could opportunities to develop understanding of the vocabulary and grammar for health and social care and child development could mean that your students return confident, ready and able to engage?
So perhaps looking at the CEMs blog post and leafing through some of the books on their reading list could go some way to supporting your students’ comprehension and literature skills.
Do you have any comprehensions resources you think might be useful for teachers and students? Let us know in the comments below.
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Sarah Ash - Subject Advisor for health and social care
Sarah was a teacher of health and social care for ten years. This is her main subject area and her degree and PGCE qualifications are in this subject. She has also taught child development along with several other subjects at KS3 and moderated on the A Level Health and Social Care for another awarding body. Sarah worked in secondary schools and a sixth form college in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex teaching KS4 and KS5 and as a teacher in a care home for young people aged 16-18 and supported them in preparing to leave care. She now works as a subject advisor in our Cambridge office.