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Tag Archive: reading

  1. Teaching Literacy on World Book Day

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    Happy World Book Day

    They marched into sunlight

    Interesting and well written

    I hope you get a chance to read a good book. I am currently reading “They Marched Into Sunlight” by David Marannis. Do your children enjoy reading? Without a good book (in their terms) it is unlikely they will learn to read well no matter what ill-advised literacy scheme their school introduces.

    If you encourage and enable your children to choose interesting material to read, they will read by choice, rather than through coercion. If this is football match reports, instructions on how to make a fairy garden or the amount of sugar contained in breakfast cereals, it all counts as reading.

    Children often learn to read despite the efforts of education policies, rather than because of them. My children read well because we help them choose interesting things to read, share time with them and take them to the library where the staff share an enthusiasm for reading.

    Frank Smith on Literacy

    world book day

    How children learn

    Frank Smith  wrote two books in the 1970s about the myths and flaws of much language education:

    • “Essays into Literacy”
    • “Reading”

    In them he debunks the obsession by teachers on slowing down the learning process by going through phonics and instead extolls the virtues of learning through listening and sharing.

    It would be difficult to exaggerate the complexity and unreliability of phonics…. Children who believe they can read unfamiliar words just by blending or sounding them out are likely to develop into disabled readers.

    My children’s school told all the parents to encourage their children to use phonic cards when reading. They then abandoned that scheme for another because new teachers found it difficult to understand!

    Why Accelerated Reader Decelerates Reading

    My children’s school introduced a scheme called “Accelerated Reader” about 2 years ago which reduces the process of reading to a competition on who can read the most words. Books are ranked on number of words and each child takes a short term memory recall test at the end of each book.

    Children are rewarded and praised for getting 100% on each test (recommendation is for 90% before going up a level) and targets are placed around the classroom showing which children are Winning. Little communication is done with teachers about the joy and love of the subject of reading, instead the interaction is with an ipad (technology is cool, paper is boring).

    Smith on computers:

    The negative side of computers in literacy education is that children, parents and teachers will become persuaded that these nonsensical and pointless activities are what constitute reading and teaching reading.”

    He also  talks about the anxiety caused when children have to recall facts in the short term: they are reading to pass the test and this disrupts their flow.

    Frank Smith Literacy

    Reading is more than tests

    My daughter, who reads for at least an hour every night of her own volition, was so put off by having to do a test on each book she said,

    Daddy, I don’t like learning anymore.”

    When I explained this to the school and asked them to provide evidence about the long term benefits of this scheme I was given the following reasons:

    • Boys are competitive, so they like it
    • The local secondary schools use it.”

    I reminded them of my daughter’s gender and then asked why they insisted on using a scheme with no evidence to support it and which had stopped one of the best readers from loving reading. No answer was given.

    Smith says “To teach reading and writing as if their most important uses were for completing tax returns and job applications is like using a telescope as a doorstop.”

    If you pick up every book knowing you are going to be quizzed at the end, then you will simply choose simplistic books to get higher scores. My kids have figured this out and know how to “Juke the stats“. Sometimes we have to do this in life, but we should have the honesty to tell children that this is what we are doing.

    However, if you read books, magazines and Pokemon guides which are interesting, challenging and diverting, you will love reading.  Read for fun on World Book Day rather than have the fun sapped out of reading.

  2. Summer reading 2016


    Book recommendations for reading this summer

    Summer reading

    My current Tsundoku

    I hope you get time for some summer reading (if we get a summer). I try to read more fiction or biographies of non work related people whilst on holiday, rather than technical manuals.


    Here are my Top 5  summer reading books for coaches I have read so far this year (in no particular order):

    1. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith
    2. The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine.
    3. Team of Teams: General Stanley McChrystal
    4. Top Performance: Zig Ziglar.
    5. Winners and How They Succeed: Alastair Campbell.

    (full list is below).

    The Japanese have a word for the pile of books that have yet to be read: Tsundoku. I seem to gather recommendations quicker than I can read (and I read pretty fast). I struggle to keep up with those given me to me for our monthly book club.

    summer reading

    Book club poster

    I have a list of books to read after attending GAIN  last monthIt is great to spend time with coaches who read a lot, rather than the “book of the year bandwaggon” (See Bounce, Legacy, Mindset, Grit et al).

    Top 5  book recommendations from other coaches

    Here are the Top 5 gathered from GAIN, which I have yet to read:

    1. Just Mercy: Brian Stevenson
    2. You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and PracticesSwen Nater; Ronald Gallimore
    3. Physical Education for Children: Bette Logsdon, Kate Barrett
    4. The Gold Standard: Mike Kryzewski
    5. Win Forever: Pete Carroll

    (There were at least 25, but need to filter that down).

    Books I have read so far in 2016

    Here is the full list.

    1. best coaching books

      Must read

      Hellicona Spring: Brian Aldiss. Classic British SF novel.

    2. Leading: Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz. Patchy book from the Manchester United Manager. Some great insights, but poorly written. Epilogue is excellent.
    3. The Dispossessed: Ursula Le Guin. More classic British SF. Thought provoking novel about benefits of true communist, meritocratic society.
    4. This Is Your Brain on Sports: R.E.M. Grand & A.D. Goldberg. Largely anecdotal look at sports trauma stress disorder (slumps, yips, etc.). Some practical exercises at the end.
    5. Anatomy Trains: T.Meyers. In depth look at fascial anatomy. Has many good points, although soft tissue work is outside of my remit.
    6. Canticle For Leibowitz: Walter Miller. SF novel set in post apocalyptic Earth with heavy Catholic bent. Very interesting and thought provoking.
    7. The Hungry Spirit: Charles Handy. Thought provoking book from 20 years ago about quest for meaning beyond capitalism. Much of which has come to pass.
    8. A Void: Georges Perec. Novel without the letter ‘e’. Tortuous in parts, an interesting concept, but hard to read.
    9. My Story: Louis Smith. Lightweight book with some nice pictures, reveals little about gymnastics or training.
    10. Culture And Society 1780-1950 : Raymond Williams. An insightful series of essays about different authors and how they have influenced our (British) culture. Extremely well written and informative.
    11. The Big Gold Dream: Chester Himes. Crime thriller set in Harlem. Punchy, colourful, atmospheric.
    12. The Uses Of Literacy: Richard Hoggart. In depth look at the Northern Working Class in 1957. What constitutes their culture, background and forms of reading. Thoughts on aspirations and constraints of every day folk.
    13. You Win In The Locker Room First: Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Excellent short read about creating the right culture to help you win. Well broken down with good examples from the Atlanta Falcons.
    14. Hellicona Summer: Brian Aldiss. Sequel SF Novel, more royal drama than SF. Less enjoyable than first.
    15. Simple Rules: Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Excellent book on decision making, goal setting and doing what matters most. Very well written, clear examples, useful tips, humorous.
    16. Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness & Training. Michael Yellis and Richard Trubo. 1988 book which starts every paragraph with variation of “Soviet methods are better..” Poor.
    17. Pretty Girls in Little Boxes: Joan Ryan. Whistle blowing account of 1990s ice skating and gymnastics in the USA and its affects on the girls involved. Hopefully things have changed since.
    18. Soul On Ice: Eldridge Cleaver. Powerful, intelligent and very well written series of essays written from within Folsom prison in the 1950s-60s. Cleaver was one of the leading lights behind the Black Panthers.
    19. The Female Brain:Louann Brizendine. Excellent book about the developing female brain and how it changes with age. Well researched, good examples, funny.
    20. Hellicona Winter: Brian Aldiss. Concluding part of this SF trilogy. Poignant story about man and relationship with environment and others.
    21. The Modern Writer and His World: G.S. Fraser. Review of prose, poetry, praise and literary criticism from 1890-1960.
    22. Judas Unchained: Peter Hamilton. Overlong SF novel, high on action and scope, but low on dialogue or maintaining interest. Bloated in attempt to become “epic”.
    23. Team of Teams: General Stanley McChrystal. Very interesting book about working in complex, fast moving environments. Uses examples from the Iraq conflict. Must read for people in big organisations.
    24. Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: Sharkey Ward. Insightful book about the Commanding Officer of 801 Squadron and his combat experiences. Details the bureaucracy and inter-service rivalries even when lives are at stake.
    25. Best coaching books

      Excellent leadership book

      Turn This Ship Around: David Marquet. Excellent book about leadership from this USN submarine Captain. Tells the story of how the USS Santa Fe went from worst performing boat to best. Well laid out and written, with clear action points at the end of each chapter.

    26. CEO Strength Coach:Ron McKeefery. Surprisingly useful read about how to become a strength coach at a US college/ pro team. Quite short, but easy to follow. Useful for undergraduates and those aspiring to become S&C coaches.
    27. Enemy Coast Ahead: Guy Gibson. Enthralling book by the Dambusters leader. An account of his 174 sorties over enemy territory, culminating in his most famous mission.
    28. It’s Not About The Coach: Stuart Haden. Great title, but then goes down hill. Self indulgent waffle, badly written with lots of typos and ill constructed sentences.
    29. Nelson Brittania’s God of War: Andrew Lambert. Interesting biography of the great sailor, leader, diplomat and national hero. Inspiring and insightful.
    30. The Last Stand: Nathaniel Philbrick. Detailed account of Custer and Sitting Bull. Revealing story of the poor leadership from Custer, Benteen and Reno amongst others. Very well researched.
    31. Top Performance: Zig Ziglar. Excellent book about developing yourself and others. Written with sales people in mind, but applies well to coaching.
    32. Why We Get Fat and What To Do About it: Gary Taubes. Light weight read about diet and fat. Interesting look at insulin.
    33. Frankenstein Unbound: Brian Aldiss. Timeslip SF novel featuring, Shelley, Byron and Frankenstein. Clever and interesting.
    34. The Energy Bus: Jon Gordon. Interesting, easy to read fable about taking control of your own life.
    35. The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck. Re read after 25 years. Outstanding novel about the Depression struggles of economic migrants in 1930’s California. Resonates today.
    36. A Guide to the Good Life: William B. Irvine. Very useful guide to Stoicism in the 21st Century. Applicable, relevant and meaningful.
    37. Eagles at War: Ben Kane. Historical novel about massacre of 3 Legions by Germanic tribes.
    38. summer reading recommendations

      Much better than expected

      The Pressure Principle: Dave Alred. A look at performing under pressure by kicking coach/ psychologist. Some good points, but simplistic.

    39. Winners and How They Succeed: Alastair Campbell. Excellent book looking at strategy, vision, will to win and managing in a crisis from Blair’s spin doctor. No Campbell fan, but great use of case studies and interviews from many successful people.
    40. Born to Run: Christopher McDougall.  Interesting, but highly anecdotal tale of Long distance running in Mexico.
    41. 21st Century Guide to Individual Skill Development: Brian McCormick. Excellent short book for players who are looking for ways to improve their game. Well researched, transferable to other sports.
    42. The Silo Effect: Gillian Tett. Quite academic book about how silos have led to insularity and lack of oversight. Heavy on financial institutions, but also offers insight into Chicago PD, Facebook and the Cleveland Clinic. Interesting, but dry.

    Other book recommendations:

    If you have read any other worthwhile books, please leave a comment below. It is always great to hear what people have enjoyed, or where they have found a useful insight.

    Thanks as always to our Book Club members , Castle Books in Beaumaris, Devon Libraries, Pete Bunning, Chris Brown, Topsy Turner, Andy McCann and Abe books.

  3. Athlete empowerment- gone too far?

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    One of the buzz catchphrases for the last year has been “athlete empowerment” when dealing with young athletes. The young athletes (a loose term, most of them are recreational games players)are supposed to be able to choose what type of training programme they follow, and even give feedback on it.

    Has this gone too far?

    Is this an excuse for athletes to dictate how and where they train,

    I liken this to the difference between the original Star Trek series where the crew went out and explored and got on with things and The Next Generation where Deanna Troi wanted to cuddle everything in sight. Guess what, the original series stands up quite well (except for the effects) but TNG looks dated.

    At some point you have to stop the cuddling and get on and toughen up a bit; unless your sport requires cuddling at International Level.

    For me, it doesn’t make sense for 16-17 year old school children with 3-4 years of recreational playing experience to dictate whole training strategies to coaches. If I “empowered” my daughter when we went to the supermarket she would stock up on olives and ice cream. O.k for one meal, but disastrous as a long term diet.

    The whole point of having coaches who are experienced and educated, is that it helps shape the training programme for the athlete. I empower the athletes as far as gaining feedback and asking questions of them. but I shape the programmes, in conjunction with their sports coaches.

    I think a lot of it comes down to some youngsters wanting to get a tracksuit, feel part of a squad or team, but not actually having to confront the reality of hard work and dedication that is necessary to succeed at International sport.  By molly coddling them and allowing them to dictate in the short term, we are actually harming their long term prospects