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Literature’s lasting impression: what can memories of reading at school tell us about teaching with novels today?


Most people remember ‘reading round the class’. Typically, discussion develops as classes share a book together, students elaborating responses collectively under teachers’ guidance. The approach has been used for decades though there is little research accounting for its merits or how students view the practice.

This seminar shares findings of a project investigating shared novel reading, first by surveying adults about their most vivid memories of reading novels together in school. It also shares transcripts drawn from primary and secondary classes, public reading groups and university seminars to illustrate how shared reading works in practice today. What can the public of all ages tell us about the value of this experience, and how to guarantee shared reading as an enjoyable, powerful and enriching experience in the context of curriculum and examination requirements?

Transcripts representing classroom discussion of literary texts will also be shared, with a focus on how teachers guide and frame students’ encounter with study text narratives. What is distinctive about teachers’ own narrative work and how does it relate to the text narrative studied by the class?

John Gordon
Dr John Gordon is a Senior Lecturer in Education in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. His research interests include English education, literary response, poetry in schools, teachers’ subject expertise and young people’s participation in arts-based research. During a 2016-17 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship he led the project Literature’s Lasting Impression, investigating reading in class and its lifelong impact on learners. He has published two monographs, A Pedagogy of Poetry and Teaching English in Secondary Schools, and articles for international journals including English in Education, Curriculum Journal and Educational Research (NFER). His doctoral thesis considered learning around poetry and how children respond to poetry they hear. His new project is Akenfield Now: a Suffolk community 50 years after Ronald Blythe’s oral history. It explores cross-curricular links at A-level around oral history, film and heritage archiving.

This event is free to attend, however please email to confirm attendance.

Other events in this series

The story of school English and the lessons from the past
15 February 2018

Contesting the territory: How English teachers in England and Australia are remaining resilient and creative in constraining times
17 May 2018